Book Review: Mockingjay

When I looked over my performance based on the Amazon’s 100 Books to Read Before You Die, I noticed one easy way to knock three titles from the list was to read the Hunger Games series. I think Amazon messed up by making each book a separate entry, but you know, whatever.

The Book

51zkheo7x8lCatching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
2010
Amazon Link

The first book, The Hunger Games, outperformed my expectations. The second book, Catching Fire, was somewhat interesting, but it felt like a repeat of the first book. I’m hoping this addition to the trilogy adds something new, but I don’t see how that’s going to happen and be successful. I don’t think Katniss is good enough at pushing the plot forward for her to be active in the last book.

Non-Spoiler Review

I will give this book one thing: it wasn’t a repeat of the first book. I didn’t like how book 2 was basically the same as book 1, so I’m glad Collins didn’t just have another Hunger Game for Katniss to finish.

That being said, I can’t believe how disappointed I was with this book.

I don’t think a civil war/rebellion was a bad direction to take the plot. The problem I had was that Katniss’s ability to influence events at the same time that she always discovered information after everyone else made this book feel a bit unreal. For example, early in the book she’s asked to be the “Mockingjay,” the symbol of the rebellion. She doesn’t know what to do until Prim (the younger sister) tells her to make demands in return for being the Mockingjay. She didn’t make the decision herself, just like every other event in the book.

I also had major issues with Katniss being ‘the best shot’ as opposed to people who were soldiers for their entire lives. I had issues with Katniss bringing down bombers with a bow and arrow, no matter her skill or specialness of the arrows. I had issues with the supply chain mechanics of District 13’s total war machine, but I understand few people study that kind of war strategy.

Overall, the problem I had with the book was lack of any semblance of believability. I think it almost pulled its rather ambitious premise off and almost seemed hardcore, but then it would defeat itself by doing something far beyond unbelievable.

2/5 Discoball Snowcones

2 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Ok, I’m going to talk about the very end here.

First off, I agree that President Coin wasn’t that great a person, and she was somewhat power hungry. Her desire to reinstate the Hunger Games one last time was a bloodthirsty move, but Katnis agreed to it. Then she shot President Coin instead of Snow.

WTF?! That was such a letdown. It seemed to me that she made an incredibly destructive decision, and I can’t bring myself to believe the rebellion was able to hold itself together after coin’s death.

Then there was the epilogue. For three books, Katniss was bound and determined never to have kids in the crappy, post-apocalypse world. In the end, she talked about her PTSD-induced marriage to Peeta (which I didn’t really like, after what happened to Peeta) and her children. It just felt so disjointed, sort of like the Mass Effect Blue Ending.

Also also, I found out that the Capitol was probably supposed to be Salt Lake City, which indicates to me the author intended them to be Mormons. I found that a wee bit religionist (is that a word?).

Next week:

It’s March next week – if you were around for last March, you might be able to guess what those books are going to be about!

Book Review: Catching Fire

When I looked over my performance based on the Amazon’s 100 Books to Read Before You Die, I noticed one easy way to knock three titles from the list was to read the Hunger Games series. I think Amazon messed up by making each book a separate entry, but you know, whatever.

The Book

51tk519fuhlCatching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
2010
Amazon Link

The first book, The Hunger Games, was perfectly ok. It outperformed my expectations, though I found some of the word choices and style a little stifling. What I’m looking forward to with this book is the relationship with Gail and Peeta. I also don’t have any idea what’s going to happen – after the first book, what can the characters do that will be even half as exciting? Now that the games are over, how can Collins come up with something that will even come close to as heart-pounding?  Since the series was so popular, I have to think there’s a surprise waiting for me!

Non-Spoiler Review

We still have too many instances of the words “blood” and “roast,” but stuff like that isn’t enough to keep me from reading. Collins’s style isn’t my favorite, but she does very cleverly get into Katniss’s head and uses her first person narrator well.

However, this book wasn’t nearly as exciting, sensible, or creative as the first one. A lot of time is spent establishing why Katniss is (spoiler for the first book) now considered a rebel for her act of eating the berries at the end of The Hunger Games. I didn’t think her act all that treasonous, and even more so I thought the Capitol’s response to her actions altogether ridiculous. Similar to the first book, as well, Katniss is often the last person to find out about conspiracies and problems at which she is the center, and it just doesn’t feel reasonable. The first book could get the benefit of the doubt because 1) It’s YA, and some melodrama is excusable 2) Katniss was literally ripped from obscurity and put in the spotlight 3) It was pretty exciting. This book didn’t have 2 and 3 going for it, so the entire problem felt out of place to me.

If I ignore the premise’s unlikelihood and the melodrama of it all, I suppose the book was “Ok.” I wouldn’t tell someone they were wrong for enjoying it, and I’d still say continuing the series after book one isn’t a complete waste of your time. Similarly, I’d also assert that you don’t need to continue if you don’t want to.

3/5 Discoball Snowcones

3 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Too quickly, I found out what happened between Katniss and Gail after the games: a fairly contrived idea of rebellion forces Katniss toward Peeta, and Gail is just ‘far away’ now. It was a disappointingly quick resolution to what I thought was the only exciting thing remaining unfinished from book 1. There was some more development, but it felt forced and Katniss didn’t really have much say in whether she chose Peeta or Gail.

Next… was this plot basically a dumb repeat of the first plot? Katniss and Peeta are thrown into the arena then defy the capitol by defeating their games. It’s kind of nutty, really. The idea that all the victors are thrown back into the arena for the quarter quell was silly in the first place (as was the explanation that it was all a plan to kill Katniss). The idea that so many competitors were in on a plan that Hamich, the coach, failed to tell Katniss about? Ludicrous.

I would say this was a terrible book, but it still had some elements of tension even if they felt really contrived. I don’t have high hopes for Mockingjay, though.

Next week:

I will finish this series next week as I read Mockingjay. Stay tuned to see how it goes!

Book Review: The Hunger Games

When I looked over my performance based on the Amazon’s 100 Books to Read Before You Die, I noticed one easy way to knock three titles from the list was to read the Hunger Games series. I think Amazon messed up by making each book a separate entry, but you know, whatever.

The Book

51fpao2bjxlThe Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
2008
Amazon Link

I have never read this series because I’ve always found the premise of televised child murder to be an unlikely future for pretty much any current society, much less the future of America. I guess other people would disagree with me, but that’s the way my dice rolled.

Even so, it’s critically acclaimed, there are movies (which I haven’t seen), and I suppose it’s relevant to a modern audience. Let’s see what’s inside!

Non-Spoiler Review

I will admit that this was a fun read. I’m not sure I liked the juxtaposition of clearly YA-characters beside brutally murdered 12-year-olds, but I can also see myself finding the book edgy and “real” if I were a teen. So it probably fits a YA audience well, but parents might want to think about letting an advanced 9 year old read it without guidance or discussion.  

Anyway, I thought the pacing was excellent. The chapters left me hanging perfectly such that I wanted to keep going and find out what happened. I thought Katniss’s struggles were compelling, even if naggingly contrived.

I even think the touches of romance were well done. While I will say more in the spoilers, just know for now that I am VERY picky about my romance in books.

Lastly, my beefs with the book. I still think the premise is crazy, but if I could put that behind me, it was worth the time I spent reading. Collins also used a lot of weird word choices repeatedly, like ‘roast,’ and I kept getting drawn out of the immersion because of this. Finally, some of the plot points felt contrived, and the final solution felt too easy.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

4 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

I’m going to shock some of you: I thought the romance subplot in this book was good.

Honestly, I kind of want to know how things go with Katniss and Gale when she gets back home.  Her experience with Peeta was harrowing, and now they share a bond which can’t be simulated otherwise.  Katniss pretended to love Peeta in order to eke gifts from sponsors and viewers, so the entire nation thinks they’re in love, further complicating matters.  However, Gale has much more history with Katniss, and he’s shown a long-term devotion.  I actually liked this subplot, which is very unusual for me.

Lastly, I’d like to complain about the contrivance concerning the ‘rule change.’  During the middle of the games, the announcer declared 2 people could win the Hunger Games if they were from the same district.  Then, right at the end, when Katniss and Peeta had won, they revoked this rule change.  Katniss and Peeta decided to commit suicide simultaneously.

Honestly, what did the game makers expect?  Force the competitors to work together, then suddenly pull the rug out from under them?  I felt like this change right at the end was such fake BS, invented just so Katniss could ‘insult’ the capitol.

Still, overall, I’d say my complaints are weak sauce.  I definitely intend to finish this series, now.

Next week:

I’m reading the second book in this series, Catching Fire.

Catch It Soon – Fire’s Hope by E. Kathryn

Fire's Hope

About the same time I got serious about blogging, I started beta reading a book for the indomitable E. Kathryn!  After several months of waiting and holding back on y’all, I’m proud to say that her labor of love has borne fruit.  Check out the snazzy cover she made!

The book releases in November, but I’m just so excited to see how this process is coming together.  I’ll be getting a copy myself, and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be posting a review here on this site!  Stay tuned for that when it gets closer to the release date!

For those who may be interested, E. Kathryn’s The Shadows series is a collection of YA tales starting with the explosive Fire’s Hope.  You’ll love how much care was put into each of the characters, and you’ll leave this book feeling satisfied while still hungry for the next installation!

(Full disclosure: I did beta read this book, and I’m super pumped to see something I helped work on come to full fruition!  Can you trust my review?  DOES IT MATTER?!  Take a look at her blog and twitter feed so you can get on the hype train too!)