Tag Archives: books

5 Books You MUST Read

6 Oct

There are many more books that I’ve read that I can recommend than those that I can’t. I’ve put together a short list of books that are near and dear to my heart, hopefully getting a little of several genres. I’ve also included some runner-ups that I couldn’t include because of my genre and number restriction. The Bluest Eye, The Sound and the Fury, and Beloved were all pining for the same spot. And here we go…

Runner-up: The Bluest Eye, The Sound and the Fury

5. The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King – This is a book I read when I was either in 8th grade or as a freshman in high school. I read it twice, both within a year of each other, but it has remained on my top list of books to tell people about. There are a few great things I love about this book. First, it takes the fantastical elements you’ll find in all historical fiction and combines that with the writing style of Stephen King. From page one you’ll be hooked, and soon after you’ll be lost in the characters that are spun so well by Mr. King. Secret passages and scandal make this book a must-read!

4. Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll – These books epitomize the wonderful place that vague meets descriptive. While I do prefer the former, I had to include both to do Carroll a justice. Whimsical in nature, the imagery of these books is the best kind of original. There is enough to decipher, here, that we can easily interpret and adapt to what we need this book to serve as. From the darker Through the Looking Glass adaptation of Disney/Tim Burton to the possibly drug-induced classic by Disney to the Czech stop-motion film Něco z Alenky (Something from Alice), we can find a little something for everyone.  We can look at this book as a child, curious about the world and tired of daily monotony, or as an adult in which we find a commentary on the contrast between adult and child that lends the former to reservation and control and that latter to excess and imagination. You can actually read these books online for free!

3. Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood – Now we’ve reached a place where our last three books are interchangeable in position based on my mood. This book I read in my 20th Century Fiction course about four years ago. It is a dystopian novel, which already places it high on my list of books that I like. This book serves as a commentary to the current state of the United States focused on our sexual needs and the decline of our fertility. Any book with sex as a theme is probably on my list of books to read, and this one deals a lot with sexual dysfunction. We get to see the contrast between how things stayed the same and how things are drastically different (think underground strip clubs vs. ritualistic fertility sex orgies) in a society designed to save the human race.

2.  Beloved by Toni Morrison – This is also a recent read, but is a beautiful and sensual novel in none of the classical ways. The premise of this book is very dark, but each word has a purpose. The flow of her words on the page is nothing less than sensual. Throughout the book Morrison alluded to the ending, and while my suspicions were correct, I did not imagine the book would end like it did. With nothing even close to a happy ending, the book still ended in the best way possible, and left me very satisfied.

1. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg – I’m cheating by having this on the list, because I haven’t actually finished it. To give you an idea of what this book is about, let me list some key words for you: rape, sex, sexuality, race, gender, love, suicide, depression, oppression, police brutality, civil rights, poverty. Do I have your attention? You wouldn’t expect all of these to be able to fit into one book without being overwhelmed, but it is eye-opening how cohesive and spot-on Feinberg illustrates each of these struggles. One main character is faced with all of these challenges and more and you can’t help but gain a better understanding for how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. This a novel that will transcend generations and will continue to be relevant, even decades from now.

 

Have you read any of these books? Do you disagree with any of my choices?

5 Books You SHOULDN’T Read

6 Oct

Without further ado, I present to you the books I would never recommend anyone read (I tried to get a variety of genres):

5. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – This was a leisure read I’ve been meaning to read since my freshman year of high school. I’d heard it was a good book, but like many books, never got around to reading it until recently. My opinion might have been different had I read it at a younger age, as it is a self-discovery coming-of-age type of book, and I did go back and forth between including it or not. For lack of a 5th book off the top of my head, I included it. My biggest reason is that this is the only book I’ve ever read that was worse than the movie hands down. I enjoyed the way the book was written, but sometimes lacking insight from an outside source made it a little too vague. If you’re interested in the story, I would recommend just watching the movie. The writing itself isn’t terrible, but again, its just a little too vague and sparse with detail to call it a need to read.

4. Maurice by EM Forster – I was required to read this for my 20th Century Gay and Lesbian Fiction course, an elective I took while obtaining my bachelors. While the premise seems like it would make a good novel, reading it was a very different story. It lacked excitement, and was predictable.

3. Firestarter by Stephen King – I recently read this novel, and for the first 200-250 pages I had to force myself to pick up the book. Again, the plot seemed interesting enough (college experiment goes awry and leads a couple to develop psychokinetic powers, the offspring of which causes them to go on the run to avoid being a government experiment), but until the very end of the book it was a struggle to maintain concentration. The book also jumped around a bit between characters, but often in a way that interjected boring dialogue between what would otherwise be an interesting storyline. I would like to say that the last 100 pages or so were worth the wait, but that would be a lie.

2. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – This is a book I read in high school, as part of my AP Literature course. Described as heavy and a difficult read, I wouldn’t disagree. If I was to revisit the book almost 10 years later, I can’t say that I would like it any more than I did at the time. If I remember correctly, the metaphor was thick and instead of contributing to the books purpose, detracted.

1. War of the Worlds by HG Wells – This is a book I read in high school, probably as a sophomore or junior. The lore surrounding the book itself, along with a love of the classics led me to its pages. This is a book that makes the bore of Firestarter look like child’s play. The details Wells uses are descriptive to the point of excess, making his sentences frequently take up an entire paragraph, and sometimes even spanning multiple pages. To err on the side of caution, this book didn’t get interesting until the last 10 pages (I want to say 4, but that could be an exaggeration).

 

5 Books You MUST Read

 

As someone who loves a good book, I actually welcome you all to read the above, especially to be able to discuss my statements. Which of these have you read? How did you feel about them? 

Strangers & Harry Potter [and a Funny Tidbit About a Penis]

30 Aug

About a month ago, maybe a bit longer, I started re-reading the Harry Potter series. I checked the first book out from the public library, but when I went to get the second book, they were all checked out. Little did I know that when I checked out the second book from my university library, that I would find a note with a phone number (pictured above).

Fascinated and quite intrigued, the first thing I did was post it to Facebook asking if I should call it.

The response was overwhelmingly “YES!”

So I decided, sure. I was skeptical, considering this stranger’s name was Seamus, who just so happens to also be a character in the book. It could have very well been some Harry Potter fan’s idea of a little prank or joke.

Once I finished the 2nd book, I decided to text the number. If it was a joke, or if it was an old number, texting would be best either way. Very simply, I texted:

“Hi…this is Michelle and I am looking for a fellow named Seamus”

Indeed, a fellow named Seamus put a note in a book for folks to call him. And it just so happened that he was spending the summer doing organic farming in the south of France, so we moved the conversation over to email, so that it wouldn’t cost so much to chat.

A month and 5 days after I first sent that text message, we met at a local cider bar named Scrumpy’s.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t even slightly nervous. The great thing about meeting strangers is that there is absolutely no expectations to live up to. You go there, you be yourself, and either they like you or they don’t.

I get to the bar (slightly late…one of my fatal flaws) and he is already there, so I awkwardly ask if he is the person I’m looking for.

Luckily, the first person I asked was him (I had done a tad of background research). He was average height, with strawberry blonde hair accessorized with a strawberry blonde beard and brilliant blue eyes. He was wearing rather short shorts with a t-shirt that had a sewn on pocket in a cartoon dinosaur print.

It turns out he has already eaten, so he doesn’t get food, but they have the best cucumber dill dip so I had to get some. He gets the Hopricot and I get a flight, and we turn our conversation from Harry Potter to the south of France to our respective life goals and what we like to do.

I don’t consider it a date, but it very much went like I would expect a first date to go (with someone who I haven’t previously been friends with). Once we got our drinks and my dip, we tried to play Scrabble, but it was seriously lacking in letter tiles. Instead, we decided to play cards.

I asked him “weird or weirder?” He replied “weirder.”

You see…I always carry at least one pack of cards with me, and on this particular occasion I had two. One deck was a standard set of cards and the other, the weirder set, was a deck of Friskies cards with cat breeds on them.

So we played Rummy with the cat cards. He seemed amused.

After playing cards and chatting for a while longer, it turns out that he had plans at 9 o’clock (we got together at 7). I thought this was kind of odd, but who am I to judge. We got up and hugged (as I find customary), and I bid him off. Neither of us seemed to fully want to commit to hanging out another time, but we made the standard ‘oh yeah lets get together sometime’.

And now, the tidbit about the penis.

Immediately once he left, I texted a coworker friend (Brianne*) with a simple “that was interesting” because…well…it was. How can meeting a stranger not be interesting? Her phone was out of commission, though, so I didn’t get a response and went on my way to run a couple of errands.

As I’m getting gas for my car, I get a phone call from another coworker (Cale*) out of the blue. Curious and slightly confused, I answer. It turns out Brianne was hanging out with Cale, and she got my text message, and told him to respond. Our conversation went like this:

Brianne: What does that mean?
Me: What does what mean?
Brianne: Just the tip!
Me: What? Like…just the tip of the penis?
Brianne: What? Did he just whip it out?
Me: What? No?
Brianne: But you said it was interesting and then when Cale texted you what was interesting you said ‘just the tip’.

It turns out that Cale had texted the wrong Michelle, and she had responded back with “Just the tip”.

In all honesty, if you’ve read my stuff for awhile, or known me any length of time, you know that weirder things have happened.

But Seamus did not show me his wiener. He was a perfect gentlemen. He likes to get out of his comfort zone, be outdoors, speaks French fluently, and might want to be a teacher, or go into the peace core, or who knows. I haven’t heard from him, and I haven’t texted him. I don’t know if I will or not but he was quite nice and I thought we got along well enough.

His reason for putting the note in the book: People often recommend books to each other, and this is a way for books to recommend people.

Ever done anything like this? Ever went on a blind date? How did it go? Would you have called or texted the mysterious number? Are you sad that this isn’t yet another penis story? Should I text Seamus back? 

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

21 Aug

 

After much debate, I decided to go ahead and watch The Hunger Games (movie).

It did not deliver in a way that I had imagined it could. Katniss was a pretty good character, but Peeta was not what I had wanted at all. The movie also left out some parts that I thought were very important to the story. For example, Peeta wasn’t mad at Katniss for pretending at the very end of the movie. I can’t even imagine how the second move is going to be if they left out such a vital part. That is a huge part of their character development.

Did you watch the movie? Did you read the book? What are your thoughts? 

The Morning After: Mockingjay

25 Jun

 

As I was mulling over my thoughts about what to write about the final book, I realized I hadn’t actually mentioned why I chose to write each review the morning after I finished each book. I’ll confess that sometimes it wasn’t the morning, but the major reason I wrote each review the next day was because it gave me a chance to sleep on it. When I finished The Hunger Games, it was about 1 o’clock in the morning and I felt absolutely disconcerted. I couldn’t sleep that night and what little I did was filled with dreams about the book. I was in no condition to give an accurate description or review; I had to let my feelings settle. The next day I felt much better and I was able to write. Its true that nothing was as fresh in my mind, but I also had the book at hand for any references I needed to make.

As my final installment of the trilogy, I would like to mention how I feel about it in its entirety, and how I feel about Suzanne Collins as a writer. That will all come after I talk about the book at hand, because that is my main focus.

Spoiler alert: I’ll be talking freely about the book toward the end of this post, so if you haven’t read it and don’t want me to ruin it, don’t read in between the lines! I also apologize that its a little lengthy.


When I cracked open the third and final book in The Hunger Games series, I found myself at a place that made the most sense. I wasn’t shocked by the amount of time that had or hadn’t passed, and I like that. After the last two books, I needed a little bit of comfort to hold on to. There also wasn’t a lot of back story information to sift through, and what little there was had been woven into the story very well.

That actually sums how I feel about most of the beginning of the book, and by beginning I mean the first few chapters. Other than a few incidents, I felt it was at a comfortable pace. Being already invested in the series at this point, I didn’t need some giant hook to keep me reading, but I also didn’t want to have to sit through chapters of mindless boring material. It was a nice medium.

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The beginning of the book takes us back to District 12, so that Katniss can assess the damage done to her home. She has been relocated to District 13, but some times you just need to see things to accept them; I think this was one of those times.

After finishing the task of seeing it, as well as taking a few choice objects from her intact home in Victors Village, she is wished goodbye by a single rose from President Snow. Knowing that the only meaning of it is a sinister one, her and a few of her peers – Gale included – head back to District 13. She meets up with her family, but is immediately called to watch programming from the Capitol. This is when Katniss and the reader both find out that Peeta is alive, and apparently doing well. This comes as a relief to Katniss, but only for a short period, as she realizes due to his call for a cease-fire, he immediately becomes an enemy to the rebellion. Its at this realization, that Katniss decides to be the face of the rebellion: the mockingjay.

It doesn’t take long before the reader comes to terms with what District 13 is actually like. By page 38, when Katniss finalizes her decisions of her terms for being the mockingjay, we already know how strict the rules of the district are. You have a predetermined schedule you have to uphold. You can only eat a certain amount of food. You don’t make your own decisions. Katniss’ terms include immunity of people such as Peeta, Gale must be there to help her, she must be allowed to hunt, her sister’s cat must be allowed to stay with them, and that she must kill Snow. Not all of her terms are met with approval, but in the end they are all recognized publicly.

Also in Part I, we find that Katniss’ prep team is still alive, and that she is to visit District 8 to record unscripted, televised, rebellion propaganda. True to who she is, Katniss ends up ignoring orders and joins in the action by helping shoot down various air attack hovercraft, with the help of Gale, of course.

After being taken to the hospital and treated for her various wounds, she watches the footage from her hospital room. After it airs, another interview with Peeta airs as well. He makes an attempt to warn Katniss that she might not know what she is getting herself into, which weighs on her for quite a while after the interview stops. After visiting District 12 a second time for more propaganda shots, the final interview with Peeta airs before the decision is made to rescue him from the Capitol. He warns that Katniss will be dead by morning, and is rewarded by being beaten to the ground. The closing image is of his blood splattering on the floor.

Part II picks up immediately after the news Peeta gives. This causes an immediate evacuation of the city, taking all of its members into its depths to avoid the imminent attacks. There is quite a bit of characterization of Finnick, and of Katniss, while they are down in the bunker. We get to figure out little by little who Finnick really is, and who Katniss was before the Games.

After the bombing ceases, Peeta is rescued from the Capitol, and everyone is hoping for happy a happy reunion between him and Katniss. The opposite is true, as Peeta has been brainwashed and his only new desire is to kill Katniss. The time spent trying to get him back is painful for everyone involved, and thus Katniss tries to find a way to take her mind off of it. She travels to District 2, where they finally penetrate their forces, and yet another attempt is made on Katniss’ life.

There is even more character development in part II. Finnick does a propaganda shot revealing all the things that President Snow has done. Prim takes on a whole new personality of her own as she helps Katniss deal with what has happened to Peeta. Gale takes on a new perspective as he helps invent new ways to kill the enemy.

Finally, after taking District 2, it becomes time to head to the Capitol. Soldiers are grouped and sent out for battle. Katniss gets cleared for duty, and joins forces with Gale and several others as sharp shooters. Peeta has also been placed into the same unit, with speculation that the goal is to kill Katniss so that the leader of 13, Coin, won’t have a problem taking new power once the Capitol falls.

In part III, the reader is finally introduced to the recovery process Peeta is still undergoing. They have no choice but to take him along as part of their party, but this quickly turns sour. Peeta makes another attempt at Katniss’ life while in the midst of battle, but this looks to be the final breaking point. Their game, Real or Not Real, has become increasingly more useful in helping get him back after this.

As the battle continues, they are all thought to be dead after the last fight, which gives them a certain amount of time to relocate. They do their best, but eventually end up with only 5 surviving members of their troop. A variety of mutts and pods designed to remotely kill them pick them off little by little. Finnick dies, as does Boggs and Jackson. Miraculously, however, Gale and Peeta are still alive. They make it to the Capitol, and with the help of a friend there are able to infiltrate all the way into President Snow’s yard. Here, we suffer the death of Gale and Prim, without knowing if Peeta is alive or dead.

Once the final battle ends, Katniss once again wakes up in a hospital room. She learns that Gale didn’t actually die, and that Peeta is alive. Time wears on, and it becomes time for her to kill Snow. This wouldn’t be a big problem, if they didn’t have a final conversation the day before. Snow through blame on Coin for killing Prim, and tells Katniss that this is the real threat, not him. Katniss must make a decision to believe him, or cast him away as trying to use her again.

On the day in which she must kill him, his words ring true to her. She kills Coin, and Snow just happens to die as well; his health has been decreasing. This causes pandemonium, and Katniss is taken prisoner to await her trial, but not until after Peeta stops her from taking her own life with the nightlock pill.

In the closing pages of the book, Katniss is pardoned and a new leader has been elected. She moves back to District 12 with Haymitch to live in Victors Village again. Greasy Sae also accompanies them as her cook and maid. Her mother doesn’t join her, and Gale ends up doing work in another district. We find that Peeta comes back to District 12 as well. Him and Katniss begin to get things back to normal, and work on mourning the loss of their loved ones. They begin to keep their memories in places other than their heads, as they write them down and illustrate them in a book.

On the final page of the book, we understand why Gale is not with her. Its because the two of them are too much alike, and they only fuel a fire. Peeta can balance Katniss out in ways that Gale could never do. The last line of the book confirms that Katniss loves Peeta, just as much as Peeta has always loved her.

The epilogue is filled with Katniss singing, and questioning how to explain the past to their children.

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First, I must say that Catching Fire was my favorite of the three. I’m not sure why, because The Hunger Games didn’t let me go to sleep, and there were many, many times in Mockingjay in which I had to stop, put the book down, and read. If I think back, I might say that I had to yell out loud at Catching Fire, just to let my emotions be released before they destroyed me.

My favorite part of Mockingjay, however, was the character development. We see it in so many characters because they all have this chance of being able to be around Katniss more than they had previously. I would venture to say that the most developed in this book was Gale, which makes sense considering he is just as important as Katniss and Peeta are. Second to that is Finnick, followed by Haymitch and Prim.

Originally, I was almost indifferent with Gale as a character. He has a quality about him that reminds me of a few of my friends, but nothing about him was striking in the first book. In Mockingjay, I began to dislike him. I think the reasons are the same that Katniss had. He was full of fire, and revenge, and I can see him doing whatever it took to get the job done, but none of those are things she needed more of in her life. He was an attractive man, and it is easy to see how Katniss was confused about where he should stand, but he also could’ve done something about his feelings. Don’t get me wrong, there are many redeeming points for him in the book, and I love the scenes in which they kissed, but I loved the scenes more in which they fought together. When they took down the hovercraft in 8, and again when they were in the Capitol, they just had a great ability to compliment each other.

It was also great to see development of Finnick. He seemed so ridiculous inCatching Fire, but only because Katniss didn’t understand who he was. Once they talked about him being forced to sell his body, and his beloved Annie, Katniss was able to better illustrate who he was on the inside. It gives me no doubt that had he always acted like who he truly was, that Gale and Peeta would’ve had more competition for Katniss’ heart.

Prim also finally gets her time to shine in the third book. We see that she is older now, if only a little, but that she has had to grow like Katniss had to. The difference between them is also clear, and the reader can see that Prim deals much better with pain than her sister does.

Finally, Haymitch sees more characterization as well. Most of the moments that Haymitch is of importance I have to say that I don’t like him. It doesn’t matter if he is drunk or if he is sober, I just think that he has been worn too thin to have many redeeming qualities. The only moments I enjoyed him as a character were when he consoled Katniss. This goes for the other two books as well. I enjoy how clever he is when he works with Katniss in the first Games, but other than that I can’t say I really like him.

After all is said and done, I’m still much in love with Peeta, and I’ve decided that Katniss is okay. I like her ability to freely think about everything, even though many of those thoughts are misguided. Her inattention to orders also gives her points in my book. Her inability to let her emotions flow freely is also a selling point, because I feel much the same way about myself.

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I give praise to Collins for finishing out the revolution to its end. I’m also glad that the rebels won, and that Katniss killed Coin. I can’t say that I believe what Snow was saying was true, but I don’t think Coin would’ve helped the cause in the end. Her strictness, and the belief among her peers that she wanted Katniss dead, would both work in favor of more “dark days”. Snow was also in failing health, and wouldn’t be difficult to kill at all. If you have the ability to take out the strongest right away, then anything else will be extremely easy.

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I also think that Katniss’ decision to initially run, and then her change of heart and decision to stay and fight were very true to the cause. I think people’s initial reaction to most difficult things are to restart, rather than to rebuild. Had it been fewer people who needed saved – Gale and his family, Katniss and her family, and Peeta and his family – running might have been an option. If Katniss was able to take just one other person, running might have been a valid option, but even from the beginning I knew that running would never work with such a large group of people. It also rings true to Gale’s nature that he wanted to rebel, and probably had long before Katniss and Peeta threatened to kill themselves in defiance in the arena.

I do speculate that District 13 was almost a little too convenient, but then again, it would take a lot longer than 3 books to tell a story about 12 districts who planned to rebel, but needed to prepare well in advance. It took 75 years before District 13 was ready, and it might have taken even longer if Katniss hadn’t helped fuel the fire. The fact that District 13 was such a well-kept secret was a nice addition to the books, though. I think it was very necessary to keep order, and in such a well-oiled machine that the Capitol had under its power, it doesn’t seem very far-fetched to think they fed the thoughts into everyone’s mind.

The one thing that always leaves me puzzled about post-apocalyptic books such as these are the lack of information about what actually happened. Each book gives a few details, but nothing is every precise. We also are rarely told the scope of disaster that set everything into motion. Did it involve all of earth, and thus the only known survivors are those involved in the story? Was it only the nation of interest (e.g. United States) that was destroyed? Under what premise should we believe that no one else on the planet has never cared about or visited Panem? Sure, I can’t name every town on the planet and say what they are or are not doing, but I feel as though the lack of information is beyond my realm of understanding.

War. Defiance. Love. Family. Decisions. Growth. Death. I think all of those things are important themes through the three books. In order to change anything, the characters must go to war to overthrow the current goverment. In order to overthrow the government, you must defy it. Katniss, Peeta, Prim, and Gale are all involved in some way in love in this book. Katniss’ fathers death is one of the biggest problems with who she is at any one time. Half the book is about Katniss and Peeta and Gale and their weird love-triangle. Those closing line is even about love. Prim is the entire reason this book can exist like it does. Had Katniss not had such a sense of family when it came to her sister, it would’ve been Prim who was forced to play in the Games. We also see every single character in this book grow. Katniss, Peeta, Prim, and Gale are all in the midst of growing into their own. Just when you think that people who have been forced to mature so quickly couldn’t grow any more, you find a 17 year old girl having to support a revolution on her shoulders. And death is in every word, in every line, and on every page of each of these books. Her fathers death has caused Katniss to be who she is, the potential death of her sister sets it all in motion, her own death drives her to survive through the Games, thoughts of Peeta dying keep them both alive. The deaths of her peers, however damaging, keep her going throughout all of the books. Prim’s death causes her to kill the biggest threat since the rebels won. They are all important to what these books are.

Unfortunately, the most controversial theme in the book is love. It isn’t war. It isn’t that government is corrupt. It is love. The reason behind this isn’t even someone’s conscious decision, either. The reason love is controversial is because we aren’t allowed to consider it a valid theme. Well, my dearest readers, I’m here to tell you that none of these books is a love story, but that within all three there is the story of love. Without love, Katniss wouldn’t be the hunter she is. Without love, Prim would be a player in the Games. Without love, Peeta would be dead. Hell, without love, Katniss might even be dead and we wouldn’t have a story to read! Don’t tell me this story isn’t supposed to be about love. I’m fully aware what it is and is not about.

In the The Hunger Games, we learned that Katniss was grateful to Peeta, that Peeta loved her, and the she might love Gale. In Catching Fire, we learned that Gale loves Katniss, that Katniss loves Gale, and that Katniss loves Peeta. In Mockingjay, we learned that Peeta loves Katniss, Gale loved Katniss, and that Katniss loves Peeta.

The details are important, but most of it is speculation. Collins could’ve taken any route she wanted to at any point. One different move and Katniss ends up alone. I’ve already admitted that I’m not a huge fan of Gale, but from the beginning I felt bad for him. I knew he liked Katniss, and I also knew that I didn’t want them to end up together. I felt like a terrible person for wanting this, because I know how terrible unrequited love feels, but they just weren’t right for one another. I think that kissing Gale was a very important development point for Katniss to allow her to take control of her feelings. It was even more important that Gale acknowledged that she wouldn’t have kissed him had he not been hurt. It speaks to her inner healer that she refuses to accept.

I also fell in love with Peeta right away. Its this love that makes me not want to watch The Hunger Games the movie. I don’t want to lose the image of him I have in my head. From the moment that Katniss set off to find Peeta after she realized he [might have] saved her life, I knew that she loved him. It wasn’t a question for me. Katniss was using herself as a puppet, and wasn’t letting herself actually think about what Peeta was saying when he admitted he loved her. She wasn’t letting herself think about how she felt about him either. It upset me that it took her so long to acknowledge it, and that also says something about who I am, and how I make my decisions.

I was genuinely upset when Peeta came back from the Capitol in the state he was in. I was also upset when Katniss didn’t reason with him. I was the most upset at how the book ended. I know that with tensions dying down, and things beginning to resume to normal, it was a very normal way to end things. I was hoping that it would be at least a little exciting, though. It isn’t a stretch to hope that Katniss has a nightmare one night, and wakes to find Peeta comforting her. I would’ve even enjoyed a scene in which Peeta does something that is reminiscent of him trying to kill Katniss, and she responds, but then realizes he is back to normal, and would never kill her.

Overall, I think this book is rated at about a 3.5 to 4 out of 5. The books as a whole I would say rank at a 4 or 4.5. They brought out emotions in me I forgot books to find, and they are definitely not lacking in exciting. I can’t ever rank anything as perfect, because I’m not perfect, and thus cannot judge anything as perfect, because there are definitely flaws I have missed. And with that, I leave you with a single thought, and final question. I think its strange how long it takes Katniss to deal with anything.

The Question: What do you think?

The Morning After: Catching Fire

22 Jun

Spoiler alert: I’ll be talking freely about the book toward the end of this post, so if you haven’t read it and don’t want me to ruin it, don’t read in between the lines! I also apologize that its a little lengthy

It took me a little while to actually start this book, but only because my friend didn’t know where her copy was. After reading The Hunger Games, I wasn’t actually gunning to read Catching Fire right away, anyway. Not because The Hunger Games wasn’t good, but it was a roller coaster that I needed a little break from.

In the span of time in which I wasn’t reading either book, I had a few discussions, and people kept telling me that it wasn’t a love story. I’m fully aware of that, and have been from the start. That doesn’t change the fact that Peeta and Katniss caused a great stir in my being by how the first book ended.

When I finally started reading Catching Fire, it didn’t take long to get into the book, like it did in the The Hunger Games. It might be that I was already invested, and needed to know what happened, but I like to think that it wasn’t necessary to havve as much background information. That being said, there was still quite a bit of background that may have been unnecessary. It was a little redundant, but I chalk it up to making the book independent of the first. If you wanted to, you could probably just read Catching Fire and be able to understand what is going on.

I wasn’t sure if it would start at just about the same moment the last book ended, or at what point later in their lives it would begin. This worried me, because like I said, I needed to know what happened. A little to my comfort (and slightly to my dismay), the the book starts about 6 months after the other ends. Not a bad frame of time, and it appeared as though not a whole lot had happened in that expanse of time. Having to hear a 17 year old talk about the 6 months in between exciting things would probably make for a dull read, so I understand.

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Part I begins with what seems as almost normal life for Katniss. There is a sense of sadness or depression in her words that make you understand that it isn’t actually normal, but that life has resumed after her victory in the games. The reader is made aware that Gale isn’t around as often, and that Katniss and Peeta have an anything but romantic relationship. As part I goes more in depth, we find that Peeta and Katniss are starting their Victory Tour, and that its a little more important than they realize. Katniss is visited by President Snow, who makes a sinister impression. He is not convinced that Katniss’ revolt against the Capitol was actual done out of love for Peeta, and that if she wants her loved ones to survive, she must find a way to convince him. It also becomes apparent that she has been watched, and that the kiss she shared with Gale wasn’t a secret as she had thought. It is at this point that the turmoil within Catching Fire begins.

This is followed by a trip with Gale to the forest, to explain what has happened, and to explain what should be done. Katniss decides to run, and wishes to take Gale and his family, her family, and Peeta and his family. No one takes the news as well as she hopes, but Katniss presses on and plans out the details in her mind. Gale thinks they should rebel, and Peeta is unsure about what to do in its entirety. You see that Peeta still cares for Katniss, and Gale definitely cares for her, but that they are both hurt for different reasons. Katniss, on the other hand, seems to have feelings for both, but refuses to deal with them.

A turning point in the book is when they return from the woods, and find that the head Peacekeeper has been replaced. This new man punishes Gale, and takes over District 12 for the worst.

In part II, we learn of riots and uprisings in the other districts. Katniss learns that district 13 might exist outside the power of the capitol, and that two people she meets in the woods are headed there. It is at this point that she finds her mockingjay has become a symbol of revolution, and decides that she should not run, but should find a way to rebel like the other districts.

Katniss and Peeta became engaged in the height of the Victory Tour, and at this point in the book, Katniss goes on television to show the people of Panem the wedding dresses that have been picked out for her. After this programming, everyone is required to watch the news about the upcoming Quarter Quell. This is the special Hunger Games that happens every 25 years after the inception of Panem. There are special rules or conditions for the Quell and this is what the choose to announce. This years Quarter Quell will use only tributes reaped from past victors. This means Katniss has no choice but to partake, and that her partner can only be either Haymitch or Peeta.

She is distraught with the news, as one would expect. Victors have always been safe from playing in the Games again, and now she has no choice but to play again, and against two of the most important people in her life. This upset me, but I expected something like this to happen.

Once the Reaping occurs, we find that Peeta and Katniss will once again be batting against each other, but this time Katniss makes sure that Peeta will be the one to return to District 12.

All of Panem is in unrest because of the tributes being victors. Uprisings only increase, and even those of the Capitol are rebelling against their ruler. Cinna transforms Katniss’ interview dress – the final wedding dress chosen for her by the President – into the mockingjay that is the symbol of revolution. Peeta mocks the capitol by lying and saying her and Katniss are already married and expecting child, and all of the victors join hands to show that they are united against the Games this year.

Part III opens up with all the tributes on their metals plates within the arena. This time they are all in the middle of water, and only a select few can swim. Alliances form between Katniss, Peeta, and a few other tributes to understand the arena. They discover that the events that happen are clockwork, and that the arena itself is designed as a clock. Almost all of the tributes outside the alliance are taken out, when they seem to turn on one another. Johanna seems to turn on Katniss. Katniss is unsure of any of her other allies, and only seeks to find and keep Peeta alive.

At the very end of the story, Katniss (along with the reader, of course) finds out that the goal of her ally, Beetee, was not to kill the other tributes, but to destroy the force field surrounding the arena and to get Katniss away from the games. The existence of District 13 is confirmed, as is the uprisings all over Panem. We end the book with the realization that although Haymitch, Gale, Prim, and Finnick are alive, District 12 no longer exists, and Peeta has been kidnapped by the Capitol.

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In my opinion, Catching Fire was definitely better than The Hunger Games,whether it was the level of rebellion surrounding it, the increase in character development, my investment in the story line itself, or just better writing from Collins. I think that Collins chose well by putting Katniss back in the Games, and it didn’t seemed forced at all.

I think the arena was brilliantly done, and the alliance allowed Peeta and Katniss to become more rounded characters.

I still absolutely adore Peeta, but Katniss gives me mixed feelings. I really disliked her character throughout part I, but I was on the fence throughout the rest of the book. I understand she is young, but I feel like all of her decisions are harder then they should be, and her mind changes often. I still think she needs to take a moment to assess her feelings for Gale, and for Peeta. Peeta obviously brings her comfort, and she wants him with her so much of the time it seems ridiculous to me that she wouldn’t know that he means something more to her than just a fellow tribute. She has a tendency to illustrate herself as selfish, but I think that often enough she gives up so much without it being acknowledged.

One thing I must address is the writing style of both books. One of my readers commented that the idea of the books themselves was great, but that the writing really sucked. I don’t disagree, and there were a few moments when I had to stop and re-read something because it just didn’t flow right or the words seemed put together strangely. That being said, as readers we have to understand that this book is from the point of view of a 16 to 17 year old. It wouldn’t be true to Katniss as a member of District 12 in a post-apocalyptic society for her speech level to be extremely advanced. We can’t expect her to talk like she was popped straight out of the books we consider classics. A perfect example is in The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. It is narrated by different people, and with each comes a different style. Benjy’s chapters are a challenge within themselves, as he is severely mentally retarded. There are points at which you aren’t even sure what he is referring to.

When I finished Catching Fire, I immediately wanted to start on the last book of the trilogy. I refrained, but only because I needed to write this blog in the same manner I wrote the other one. I wasn’t as upset as I was when I finished the first book, and I had more of a sense of closure, even though the cliffhanger at the end of this book did seem more elaborate than the first book. I didn’t think I would have a problem sleeping like I did after The Hunger Games but I definitely did. I’m not sure what to credit it to, but I slept like crap last night. I would also likely gives this book 4 out of 5 stars, maybe 4.5 out of 5, or I might lower the first book to 3 or 3.5 out of 5. I was less level-headed after the first book, so my rating was likely a little skewed. I still don’t like the idea of watching the movies, but I do like the idea of having a mockingjay necklace. I also didn’t really have any unanswered questions like I did in the last book.

What did you think of Catching Fire? What did you think of Katniss? Do you have any unanswered questions? 

The Morning After: The Hunger Games

3 Jun

Spoiler alert: I’ll be talking freely about the book toward the end of this post, so if you haven’t read it and don’t want me to ruin it, don’t read in between the lines! I also apologize that its a little lengthy.

I’ve been meaning to read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for quite some time. Its been recommended to me by all sorts of people, and I usually don’t read a book any time near the opening of a movie, but I had to make an exception for this one. It was recommended so highly, that it was very necessary.

This book was phenomenal. I’ll be honest and say that it was hard to get started on, but once I found my footing, I couldn’t stop reading! It was probably around chapter 7 when it finally picked up and grabbed my interest fully, and then once it got to probably chapter 10 or 12, I couldn’t stop reading. I finished the last 11 chapters of the book last night, in one setting. That alone tells you that its a good read.

The Hunger Games is set in North America, some time in the future after what we know of life has been completely lost – think 1984, Brave New World, orThe Handmaids Tale. Collins does an excellent job creating the imaginary nation, Panem, for the readers right down to what each of the 12 districts specializes in, what foods they eat, and how their actions differ. The world that she creates is a harsh one – at least for our main character, Katniss – and causes the reader to question morals, entertainment, and government. This world is definitely not too far fetched for any reader to believe as a possible ending for the one we live in today, and that is one of the biggest things that attracted me to this book. If you love post-apocalyptic novels, this is one for you.

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The story opens with Katniss, waking up and going into the woods to hunt with her friend, Gale, on the day of the reaping. This is the day where the two tributes from each district are selected – one boy and one girl – to battle it out to the death in what are the hunger games. As we are introduced to her, her family, and her story, we come to understand how drastically different Panem is from the nations we are familiar with now. The Capitol controls the districts with the hunger games, by forcing them to enter the names of their children, in hopes that they will win and bring wealth and pride to their respective district. Katniss’ district, District 12, is a poor one, with only one winner to show in all the years that the hunger games have been happening. We also learn what matters most to Katniss: her sister, Gale, and feeding her household. She is a master archer and hunter, and uses this to bring food to the table to feed her mother and sister, and to sell at market to buy other necessities.

At the reaping, which is supposed to be a celebration, we learn that each child gets one entry for each year they are over 12. 12 year old children get one entry, 13 year old children get two, and so forth until age 19. This is mandatory, but children are also able to give more entries, in exchange for food. Its all cumulative, so Katniss ends up with 20 entries at the age of 16, and Gale has 42 entries at the age of 18. Our first encounter with who Katniss is deep down is her action when her 12 year old sister, Prim, gets selected as the female tribute. She can’t allow it, and instead takes her place.

We also meet Peeta, the male lead in our story and the male tribute from the district. Peeta, the bakers son, and Katniss know of each other, and we discover that Peeta provided Katniss with food once, to which she still feels in debt. Katniss’ thoughts are conflicted about what she owes him, knowing that her life may not last longer, and understanding that she may have to kill him.

They take them off to the Capitol, where they put on a tremendous show for the viewers of the hunger games, who will place bets and decide who to sponsor. There are interviews, numerous costumes, and a lot of anxiety for the coming days. During their preparation for the games, we start to see a relationship, however weak, develop between Katniss and Peeta.  Its hard to put your finger on what it is right away, but you know there is something there, lying just under the surface.

As the games come closer, the tension rises. During Peeta’s interview, he admits he is in love with Katniss. As far as Katniss is concerned, its just a ploy to get more sponsors and to make them appealing to the audience, but its hard to dismiss his feelings as false.

Once they are transported to the arena, their relationship changes drastically. Katniss seems to get betrayed by Peeta, who joins the Careers (pledges whowant go participate in the hunger games, and have been training for it for years). Its at this point that this book really picks up. The pace has become gradually faster, and more exciting, but once the games actually begin, the pace is fast, and easy to read. I found myself fighting the urge to skim over large portions just to know what happened.

The tributes get picked off one by one – some more gruesome than others – but remarkably I found the detail of each death to be very modest. Don’t get me wrong, the detail was great, but it wasn’t over the top. It wasn’t shocking, and that might be what makes this book even better. It didn’t need over the top visualization of each intricate wound to make it readable.

Then everything changes. It is announced that two tributes from the same district can win, making it possible that Peeta and Katniss won’t have to kill each other. This is perfect for the “star-crossed lovers”. Katniss immediately sets out to find Peeta, who is believed to be badly injured, so that they can collaborate. This also means that when Katniss thought Peeta saved her life, it wasn’t a hallucination. She finds him badly injured, and camouflaged, waiting to die. He has a terrible infection, multiple stings, and the wound on his leg is unable to be fixed. Peeta comments multiple times about how she is more than welcome to kiss him. Eventually, she plays along and realizes that he is being smart to try to lure in the audience. The viewers are the only ones that can fix Peeta’s leg.

From here on they love each other and fight for each other. Katniss works her hardest to bring Peeta back from the brink of death, and almost dies herself when she battles it out with the other tributes as she tries to get medicine for Peeta. Once she gives him the medicine, she wakes up some length of time later to find Peeta taking care of her, and finds comfort in his arms and in the strength they pull from each other. They use each other to stay warm at night, and eventually they make it to the final battle. They survive, and should be dubbed the winners, but they aren’t. They choose to take their own lives, and are stopped just before their charade fails them. They won. I knew that she would win, because thats just how it would be, but I’m SO GLAD that Peeta won too. I would have been devastated.

They go back to the Capitol, get fixed, and put on their lovers charade once more. Katniss plays along wonderfully, but is faced with conflicting feelings of how she feels about Peeta and how she feels about Gale, and they don’t seem to resolve. Then, she and the reader find out that what Peeta feels is not a charade. He actually loves her. Katniss mentions how wonderfully Peeta’s acting skills are to him, and I can only imagine how his heart dropped.

The book ends with Peeta, upset with Katniss, and Katniss still dealing with what her real feelings are. They don’t get resolved, and the book ends.

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Once I finished, I realized how upset I was at their situation. I’ve fallen for Peeta, I must say. He reminds me of a friend of mine, for reasons unknown, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I’m a little upset that Katniss thought the whole thing was being made up. I understand that neither of them actually, really addressed it, and that they are both new to matters like this, but its so frustrating! I went to bed shortly after I finished, but I couldn’t sleep. I just kept mulling their situation over and over in my head. They feelings they gave me, and how they weren’t real for me, just seemed to trouble me so much I couldn’t sleep.

I woke up this morning feeling remarkably better. I don’t think I’m going to see the movie until I’m done with the trilogy, or maybe even at all. I don’t know if its the feelings the book gave me, the fact that I naturally try to fight the bandwagon urge, or something else, but as much as I want to read the next book, I almost feel that it can wait. I don’t feel pressed to read it right away.

Overall, it was a great book! I’d give it probably 4 out of 5 stars because its good, but whatever it may be that is stopping me from being driven to read the second book brings it down a little (I’m also really hard to get full points from). Other than the unresolved issue that the book ends with, most everything else is resolved. We aren’t supposed to see the full extent of the aftermath, so not knowing what happened to Gale and Prim and her mother isn’t a big deal. I do have one burning question, though.

What happened in Peeta’s training? Its hinted at a few times, but it doesn’t really make sense as to why he was trained by himself. Why keep it from Katniss?

I still feel a little upset, but hopefully that will cease soon.

Have you read The Hunger Games? Seen the movie? Plan on doing either? What did you think about it? Did the end make you feel like I felt? Whats your take on Peeta’s training? The fun part: how do you imagine each of the characters?