Thursday, March 25, 2010

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Oops, missed my Wednesday goal.
For those of you who haven't read Hunger Games yet, I'm going to try and review this carefully.

So, I had to start Catching Fire the day after I finished Hunger Games because it is so intriguing. But, I have to say that the beginning seemed a bit slow for me. Of course I was going on very little sleep, but I just couldn't get into it for a bit. THEN I did not care for the big surprise, and got a little annoyed with the whole thing.

While I'm at it, another thing that annoyed me was Katniss's self-doubt. I just kept thinking, come on, you have to know you're amazing. You know? But sometimes I think that comes with age and that I need to remember that she's just a teenager. Oh and also, I was so annoyed that it took them SOOO long to ask Haymitch how he won his season. It seemed like something they would have asked in the first book. But, they finally do. And it is important, like you knew it would be.

Now that I have my criticism off my chest, I would recommend this book. But only if you liked the first one. Duh. I did like it. I think the characters are very interesting. The plot is strong, and it is cool to see how the events from the first book have affected the second book. Did it seem weird to anyone else that Peeta's mom is never mentioned? I think the way the media handles the events in the story is very telling. I think it is good social commentary.

For some reason I couldn't help but think of the Twilight series when I read this book. Like Gale vs. Peeta. Katniss having self-esteem things. Doing forbidden things, but they seem morally right. Maybe when you are old, all young adult books seem to evolve around related themes.

So, those of you who've read it, how do you think it compares? I did like it, I did. But as I sit down to write this, it's the negatives that are coming to mind.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos

So this is the follow up novel to Love Walked In. You should read that one first. And if you really like it, read this one. I loved the first one, and I loved this one.

Belong to Me begins a few years after Love Walked In ends. I don't want to divulge too many details because I want you to read the first one! But this one continues Cornelia's narrative, and adds two new ones. One is a woman who is Cornelia's new neighbor, the other a young man whose path will cross her's. I missed Clare, but she does play an important role in the story too.

I like these characters. Even the seemingly un-likable Piper is so well developed that you are rooting for her in the end. And she's not un-likable anymore.

I have to say I'm a huge Marisa de los Santos fan right now. I can't wait to see what she'll write next.

Here are some quotes that I liked:
"The fact that I was thus diverted from my self-righteous indignation didn't mean I wasn't still indignant. And the fact that my indignation was self-righteous didn't mean it wasn't also righte
ous. Right?"

"So the rest of the day Dev walked around with the sentence 'What Dev said yesterday made me think of this poem' stretched over him, like a rainbow only he could see." (And his whole experience at his new school make me want to teach highschool, and be that kind of cool teacher--in my dreams.)

There is this perfect paragraph that I have to share even though it is so long.....

"As she performed these tasks, Piper had a sense that they were more than tasks, that they were the edge of something large that would unfold, pushing its way into the future. As Piper tidied Emma's ponytails, wiped peanut butter off Peter's chin, assembled potatoes and wedges of onion around the chicken, she understood that she would go on to fill days and weeks with helping, would wake up mornings feeling the day's emptiness, how it stood waiting to be filled with duties the way you'd fill a jar with coins." (It makes me want to cry having just re-read it because a) I've felt exactly that way, and because b) it is written so beautifully.)

There is a great excerpt from a letter written to Cornelia by her sister that says while men operate on the "fight-or-flight" response in a new environment, women cope with stress through "tend-and-befriend" behavior. I love it.

"Whenever Dev remembered that night, and he'd remember it for a very long time, what never stopped amazing him was how normal it felt. Not everyday, no-big-deal normal. More like extragalactic, superradiant, night-in-a-million normal. " I think this is a good description of how you feel after spending time with a new friend or group of people that you just know are going to be important to you for a long time, but that feel completely natural to be around.

And just like the comments Teo makes in the first novel about mental illness, he has some great insight on to suicide on page 276. "Maybe she wasn't even really thinking about death, but just about ending how bad she felt right at that particular moment." (Spoiler--she didn't die, and she's not a character from Love Walked In. Just in case you are worrying.)

I'm so happy to have read this book. Don't you love the title and the cover art? They work perfectly for me.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

So many trusted friends recommended this series to me, that I knew it would be worth it. Even my husband, who knows me best, thought I would like this book that centers on a cruel game where teenagers fight to the death. I was nervous. I'm glad I finally dove in. I think that because the book seemed so far removed from real life, I didn't really register the deaths. It wasn't as horrific as I would feel if it was closer to something I could relate too. Make sense?

I did read this book almost non-stop until I finished it. It's not difficult to read. At my last book club a friend of mine mentioned the term "plot-driven." I think The Hunger Games is a great example of a plot-driven book. I didn't feel compelled to read because I was loving the story, so much as I was dying to know what would happen next. The story is captivating.

I thought of a few different books as I was reading this. The first was City of Ember. The whole post apacolyptic genre and bright teenagers that are going to save the day theme was similiar. I also thought of Lord of the Flies. It's been ages since I've read it, but the Careers' mentality seemed similar.

So I really like The Hunger Games, but I didn't love it. I think the story is good, if not a little bit predictable.

Here are some quotes I liked:

"I stand there unmoving while they take part in the boldest form of dissent they can manage. Silence. Which says we do not agree. We do not condone. All of this is wrong."

"The saltiness reminds me of my tears."

"When I fully awaken, I'm momentarily comforted. I try to hold onto the peaceful feeling of the dream, but it quickly slips away, leaving me sadder and lonlier than ever." Such a bittersweet side effect of dreams. This has happens to me a lot.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo

I recently discovered that there was a novel by Kate DiCamillo that I hadn't read yet, so I did, and I liked it. The Tiger Rising feels more like a short story to me. Obviously it's longer, but that's just the feel. I read a quote about DiCamillo when I was researching the order of her novels (I'll get to that in a minute,) that said she was "opting for the economy of poetry over elaborate prose." I agree.

The Tiger Rising is Kate DiCamillo's second novel. Because of Winn-Dixie was her first. Which I also didn't know. I think it remains my favorite. I read The Journey of Edward Tulane, and The Tale of Despereaux back to back awhile ago, and while I liked them, they were dark and tragic. The Tiger Rising is too. Rob is the 12-year-old main character, and is treated horribly by many characters. He has recently lost his mother and his father is distant and harsh. He discovers a tiger in a cage in the forest, a new friend at school, and gets great advice from a woman who works as a maid at the hotel he lives in. I especially liked his imagining and dreaming.

I have been trying to think of the target audience for this book. I love that DiCamillo's books all seem to have a magic element. Part fairy tale, part morality tale, and full of symbolism and metaphors. They seem like children's books, upper elementary I'd guess, but have such meaningful themes and layers of meaning that I think kids of that age would miss a lot of what I think is great. With this book in particular I could see high school students studying it and looking for meanings within the different symbols.

The writing is so nice. Here are a couple excerpts that I like and I think represent the book.

"He imagined himself as a suitcase that was too full.....He made all his feelings go inside the suitcase; he stuffed them in tight and then sat on the suitcase and locked it shut....Sometimes it was hard to keep the suitcase shut."

"And the whole way home, while his brain doubted what he had seen, his heart beat out the truth to him. Ti-ger. Ti-ger. Ti-ger."

"That sounded right. If God was going to talk though somebody, it made sense to Rob that he would pick Willie May."

"That was another truth he had known without knowing it, the same as he had known that Sistine's father was not coming back. He must, he realized, know somewhere, deep inside him, more things than he had ever dreamed of."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle

I read about this book in last month's Costco Connection. I'm glad I did.

This is a story about a family that lives on and owns a horse ranch in the desert. The desert is in Colorado, which I never knew had a desert. It is told by a 12-year-old girl. Their situation is sad, even desperate sometimes. But good things happen too, and the ending isn't the happiest, but it is hopeful.

I liked the writing style, and I appreciate that there are no angels in the book. Every character has flaws. I even struggled with Alice (the 12-year-old), who, although I felt sorry for her, wasn't always super likeable. I do think that is nice, making your characters realistic. I liked the characters she created, and I appreciate that she stayed away from common stereotypes.

I'm not the kind of person who keeps her emotions and feelings bottled up. I don't have a dad that did that, so I was frusterated by the interactions between these two. Sometimes I just wanted to scream, "give her a hug and tell her you love her," or "just tell him your clothes are too small," you know, stuff like that.

Here are some quotes to give you a feel for it:

"Tomorrow, in the honest truth of daylight, our own private swimming pool would be only what it was: a rusty bucket made for watering livestock."
"(I) wondered how I could have believed I was protecting anyone from anything. The world was what it was. There were no secrets. There were only things that went unsaid."
"The places we come from don't leave us as easily as we leave them."

I really liked how the weather was a reflection of the events in the story. For so many months they are enduring a heat wave and drought, then the moment something amazing happens for Alice, the rains come. At the end the snow comes at the onset of their grieving.

I liked reading this book, it's an unintimidating 300 or so pages, but does have obscenities. The story is creative and the characters original. It gave me a glimpse into a life much different and much more difficult than mine.