Friday, November 26, 2010

Week 47: Catching Fire (Hunger Games #2) - Suzanne Collins (391 pages)

Catching Fire starts up not far from where The Hunger Games ended. Katniss is living in the Victors Village with her family. You'd think that she'd finally be able to relax and live the cushy life. Well that wouldn't make a good book. There are rumors of rebellion and since Katniss and Peeta won the Hunger Games in defiance they have become the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol, particularly President Snow, is not happy with them. Now Katniss has to worry about looking as in love with Peeta as possible to quiet down the rebellion, but is that what she really wants? 

This is an intense book, I found it difficult to put it down. The threats, betrayal, actions, and compassion just seem to be deeper in this book. I am sure that all of these qualities lend to the addictive nature of this series. Suzanne Collins is genius at turning a phrase in just a way that pulls a gasp from the reader. 

I wasn't sure what was going to happen in this book and it took about 40 pages for me to fully commit, but the twist came pretty quickly and amazingly and I was in and hanging on for the ride. I find it hard to fully review this book without giving too much away. Catching Fire is a great second book and moves the story along quite nicely. We get some more development of the main characters and meet some new people who's intentions are not immediately easy to determine.

This is a great series of books and number two is well worth your time. Next week I will complete the trilogy!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Week 46: The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins (374 pages)

I have been having a tough time writing this review, though I finished this book early this week. I have been contemplating what it all means and how Suzanne Collins told such a wonderfully compelling story through the eyes of a young protagonist, Katniss Everdeen without introducing vampires or werewolves! Trust me - I am first in line for a vampire story, but we all need a break. I know I have been all over the YA genre throughout this project and I was beginning to wonder if I was digressing into a more juvenile mindset - but as I pondered more, I think not. The YA genre is telling stories now in a much deeper fashion than when I was a kid. They are tackling subjects like the environment and world peace as well as love and whimsy. The fact that they use young people to tell these stories makes it more compelling. Maybe it's because my grown-up self is just too consumed in the day to day, or maybe it's because I have become too jaded to think that I can change anything. The heroes and heroines in these stories have balls and they are steadily kicking ass.

Katniss lives in the ruins that was once North America. She is a resident of District 12, known for mining coal and nothing else. They are a very poor people, as are everyone in the nation and they live under the rule of The Capitol. The Capitol is pretty hardcore and the way they keep citizens in line is by forcing all districts to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the Hunger Games. Unfortunately - this is not much of a game, since the participants are forced to fight to the death while it is all being televised. Talk about reality TV!!

Katniss' twelve-year-old sister, Prim, was pulled to represent District 12, but Katniss steps in to take her place. Thus begins this amazing adventure. This book captured me from page heart raced and I was yelling along with the crowd. Katniss is a wily young woman and uses her wit and skill to survive and to try to outwit the Capitol. Against all odds, she becomes a contender and this puts her in an even more vulnerable position. She has to make decisions that will affect her and the citizens of the nation.

Lots of adventure and a little bit of romance this is an engrossing tale. I was both saddened and encouraged. I couldn't help but wonder if this was a future that could happen to us all...maybe not in such a grotesque manner, but in smaller more subtle ways. I can't get this book out of my head and in the next two weeks, I will be reading the remainder of the trilogy.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Week 45: Tinkers - Paul Harding (191 pages)

This book opens on George Washington Crosby laying in his living room in a hospital bed preparing to die. A very heavy topic. George sees the walls cave in around him and he starts the process of moving back and forth in time remembering and re-living seven decades of his life. 

Though this is a beautifully written book - I found myself reading some sentences over and over again to get at the author's meaning. This is Paul Harding's first novel (bravo on the Pulitzer) and it was great effort, I think it was a bit too dull for me at times to fully commit. I don't need a book to have bells and whistles, but this one was almost too laid back and somewhat contrived. I felt that the book was oftentimes trying to prove that it was much smarter than I could ever be. That is unfortunate, because the premise was intriguing. 

Many of George's memories were witty and there were many lessons to be learned - but Harding wrapped so much "other" around those stories that oftentimes I no longer cared. Many, many people love this book and offer rave reviews - I am not one of those people, but there were some moments of greatness here, too bad there weren't enough to sustain me. 

Week 44: Dash & Lily's Book of Dares - Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (260 pages)

“I’ve left some clues for you. 
If you want them, turn the page. 
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.” 

What a great way to start a book and what a great way to capture the reader. I was hooked from that quote and I am so glad that I took the journey. 

Lily leaves this first dare in a red notebook in a favorite bookstore in NYC and Dash is the recipient. Dash - a brooding young man (sometimes called "snarl") that prefers to spend most of his time alone...going so far as to lie to each of his parents so that he can spend Christmas home alone. Lily loves, loves, loves the holidays and is saddened by the fact that her parents decide to spend Christmas in Fiji while she is left home alone with her older brother. The notebook is her chance to break out of her protective shell and learn some things about herself.

Through a series of dares the two develop a relationship and though the dares are an integral part of this book - this is a very character-driven story. Written for those that are 13 and up, this book uses above average vocabulary and seems deeper than what is "typical" behavior from today's teens (but what is typical). The authors trade off writing chapters (Levithan is Dash's voice and Cohn Lily's) and even the font slightly varies for each of the characters. What the book turns out to be is a love story, not the typical kind, but a love story to New York and to Christmas and to language. 

This was a beautifully written book and I was truly sad when I reached the last page. From the cover to the gorgeous words to the last sentence, this was an absolute pleasure to read. This is the third book from writing partners Cohn and Levithan ("Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" and "Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List"). This is the first book that I have read written by this duo, but I did see the movie adaptation of "Nick and Norah..." and was smitten. I heard this book has already been optioned for the Hollywood treatment - I am hoping  they do it justice. Run and pick this one up sooner rather than later. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Week 43: Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch (Montana Mystique) - B.J. Daniels (250 pages)

We have all heard about "guilty pleasures" and apparently we all have them. I have all types of pleasures but I am not a fan of calling them "guilty". I love what I love and I don't feel any shame in that. I mean, don't let there be a cheerleader competition on ESPN because I will camp out all day and watch the flips, the dances and the cheers! It is great fun. I am also a sucker for a silly romance novel. Yes - I know how they are going to end, yes - the language is often so silly that it is laughable and yes - I know that life doesn't happen this what? Part of the fun of reading, is being able to escape into a story that is just fun and light. This book met this criteria.

A friend of mine let me borrow this book and initially I pooh-poohed it. Not because it was a Harlequin Romance (although- come on) but because I am not a big lover of stories set on ranches, etc. She stated that it was a fun and light read (my pre-requisite this week) and that it was a fast read. So - I dipped in.

I'm not going to reiterate the story but suffice to say, there was a jilted lover, a kooky old lady, a body found in a well, a past lover returning and a happy ending. These stories work because they stick to a pretty tried and true formula and they have millions of readers every year. 

Instead of turning your nose up at these "silly" books - pick one up. If nothing else, your mood can be lifted for a few moments.