Book Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

I’m a little ashamed that it’s taken me several weeks to prepare this review because I want everyone to drop what they’re currently reading and read this trilogy straight through. I’m waiting. First of all, I want to thank my friend Leslie for sharing the second and third books in the series with me. She saved me a fortune and made me love my Nook even more because of the LendMe option that it proudly boasts. Take that Kindle. Ok, down to business. The Hunger Games trilogy begins with the first book, aptly titled The Hunger Games. The heroine is Katniss Everdeen, a fiery girl who is chosen to represent her sector of Panem, a post-war United States lead by President Snow in The Capital, which I believe is a representation of Colorado is my memory serves me correctly. The Hunger Games are the way the Capital exerts control and power over all of the members of the sectors and it’s mission is to have young people “randomly” selected from the different sectors fight to the death for all the citizens of Panem to watch on television. Sounds riveting and sadly, I can imagine Americans watching something like this on tv for sport as long as it wasn’t happening in our country as long as it was entertaining.

 So blah blah blah, she goes into the Hunger Games, is conflicted by love (which is a little too reminiscent of the Twilight series for me and I was almost rooting for Team Anyone but Katniss) and eventually pisses the Capital off with her antics during the games. And that’s book one. Books two and three (The Girl on Fire and Mockingjay respectively) continue to follow her struggle against the Capital and how she becomes a figurehead for a rebellion against Snow and his beliefs.

I’m not going to spoil the whole thing, but it really is an enjoyable read and good for these dog days of summer while you get those last few minutes out by the pool. It’s a young adult book, but it’s got much heavier issues than Twilight did and I’ll say it’s as entertaining as a vampire-human-wolf love triangle since all of these people are human. Though I wouldn’t mind if when they release the movie Taylor Lautner makes a cameo without his shirt on.

Book Review: I Know This Much is True

I Know this Much is True: Wally Lamb  4 1/2 stars…maybe 5 but I’m not feeling generous this AM.

I usually avoid Oprah’s Book Club like the plague.  First of all (gasp!) I don’t care for Oprah, and while I appreciate that she gets the masses reading, I just don’t feel confident in her picks.  I’m probably being unfair, again, not feeling generous this morning.

I Know This Much is True is definitely an exception to my rule of thinking Oprah sucks at books.   Although very long, the book was definitely a smooth read and I felt compelled to knock out at least 100 pages a day (oh what will I do once I have the baby?!)  I’ll start with my criticism to get it out of the way so we can focus on the goodness of this book.  My two criticisms are as follows:  Wally Lamb is wordy to a fault, but it doesn’t distract from the story.  Also, the ending was terribly predictable…I didn’t read 900 pages to go “oh yeah, that’s pretty much how I saw that going”.  Having said that, the story along the way was fantastic.

The protagonist is Dominick Birdsey, one half of a set of very different twins.  His brother Thomas is a schizophrenic and the book basically chronicles that dichotomy between the inseparable nature of twins and Dominick’s insatiable desire to separate from his “weaker” brother.  The story flashes back between the twins’ youth, teen years and the present day when they are in their early 40’s.  This book has love, sex, confusion, politics; the whole gamut.  Dominick has continually struggled with who he is: raised by his subservient mother and abusive stepfather, he has always wondered where he came from and who he really is.  He felt so different from his sweeter, gentler, weaker brother that he tried so hard to be the strong one; and that strength often turned into anger that alienated those around him.  In his quest to find himself he discovers a memoir written by his Grandfather and he submerses himself in understanding all that made his Grandfather tick, and how those ticks affected Dominick’s upbringing by his mother.

I definitely suggest this book to people who enjoy reading about the inner frustrations of a man who isn’t sure who he really is because he isn’t sure where he came from, but I wouldn’t recommend this book if you’re more into your standard, easy read novel.

This might be my worst book review ever, but the reality is, I hate telling people too much about a story-I think those who know me know that I have fairly decent taste in books and that if I liked it, there’s a good chance it’s worth reading.  (I’ve gotten worse lately-if I don’t like the book at all after 100 pages, it goes back to the library. There are just too many good books out there to waste on a crappy one)

Book Review: Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go: Kazuo Ishigaro

This book got great reviews on Amazon, Good Reads and was the feature book in Time Magazine. Just like my friend Sarah though, I was highly underwhelmed by this book. The book just sort of…was. I was reading it and for most of the time it seemed like the author was trying to keep this big secret from me and I had to keep reading to understand what the heck was going on in the book. I’ve always found that to be a bit of a dirty trick; cryptic writing just hides that fact that you don’t have a better way to spin the tale you wish to spin.

This book is touted as a coming-of-age-missing-childhood kind of story. However, after slogging through the first 100 pages or so, it turns out this book is sort of a sci-fi, conspiracy story; falling painfully short of 1984, Brave New World, and the movie The Island. It’s sort of a strange conglomerate of all of these stories told from the point of view of the not terribly loveable Kathy H. and her experiences at Hailsham, which is essentially a boarding school for gifted art students (or so you think). The two people closest to her are Ruth and Tommy and the reader basically slowly reads through the intricacies of their late teen years as they leave Hailsham and venture off into the world. Only their world is very different from the world we live in.
Here’s the deal; I’ll tell anyone who wants to know the total plot of this story, but I won’t put a spoiler in this post. The moral of the story is, this book is stupid and I read a review where someone said it seemed like a meeting occured with the author. “Hey Kazuo, we need you to churn out another book, it doesn’t matter if it sucks” And this is that book.

I might be curious enough to watch the movie, mostly since I lay in bed all the time.

Book Review: Room

I just finished the book Room, by Emma Donoghue about an hour ago.  My mind is still reeling over the story told from five year old Jack’s perspective.  Jack’s entire world is an 11×11 room with his Ma.  They sleep there, eat there, run “track” there and live what Jack considers a full existence within the cork covered walls.  He watches TV on an ancient set, where he learns about “The Outside”; a world of make believe where Dora and Barney and Animal Planet live.  The only negative thoughts he has are about Old Nick, the man who comes into Room at night and creaks Bed at night with Ma.  Old Nick abducted Ma when she was a 19 year old student and is held captive like the true stories of Elisabeth Fritzl and Jaycee Dugard.

If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I’ll never tell anyone anything that isn’t on the dust jacket, so I will simply say that the book is incredibly moving and poignant.  It’s written so well and we truly understand Jack and his simplified perspective of the world around him.  His Ma is a complicated character as well, and we understand how fiercely she loves her child and how blessed she feels to have him with her in Room.

Room really was an amazing book and I was so engaged in the story that I read it over the course of just a few evenings.  It’s a fairly quick read, but it will make your head spin a bit, especially at the beginning as you learn to live in a world where there’s just one of a very limited number of things.  Duvet, Melty Spoon, Door, Skylight; these are the world according to Jack, and his is a beautiful, heartbreaking world.  But isn’t ours too?

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book has been recommended to me several times, from friends to the ever-pushy Amazon Recommends. I finally broke down and bought it when I was at our local used book store (that took me 4 years to discover). I thoroughly enjoyed this book, though the format of letters was a little annoying to me. It broke up the story nicely, which was cool, but I found it slightly annoying as I wondered how long the delay was to get the news to the people on the other side. I guess that’s just the Logistician in me.
I think the main take away from this story is that I really want to see Guernsey as it sounds like the quaintest, most wonderful place in the world. The characters were developed really well and I found myself really relating to them during the time of the Occupation. It made me interested to know that true stories of those during the Occupation, though I’m not sure that they would be nearly as interesting. The only drawback of this book is that you can see the climax of the story coming from a mile away, but sometimes it’s ok. It’s nice to have things turn out the way you want them to.

The Liberation of Kate

I’m freeing myself from the chains that bind me. Despite my competitive desire to always overachieve, I’m going to bow out gracefully with a second place status of Lorelai. No, I’m not talking about the Biggest Loser competition on base, though I won’t likely win that unless I put a donut trail that leads into a deep, dark, inescapable ditch. I’m talking about the Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge. That’s it, I’m done, I can’t take anymore. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the books, it’s that I hate being bogged down by these particular picks. I’m not in the mood to finish Sophie’s Choice right now, and I’m not medicated enough to think that Catch-22 makes any sense whatsoever. So that’s it, I’m done. I found a lot of the books at the used book store and I’ll get around to reading them, but I’ll read them on my own time, thank you very much. So here’s the last count…

  • Jane Austen: Pride & Prejudice
  • Emily Bronte: Wuthering Heights
  • Charle Dickens: Great Expectations
  • DH Lawrence: Lady Chatterley’s Lover
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald: Tender is the Night
  • Margaret Mitchell: Gone with the Wind
  • George Orwell: 1984
  • JD Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye
  • Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse Five
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald:  The Great Gatsby
  • Joseph Heller: Catch 22   (I read 50 pages before giving up)
  • William Faulkner: The Sound & the Fury
  • Anthony Bourdain: Kitchen Confidential
  • William Gibson: The Miracle Worker
  • Jack Kerouac: On the Road
  • Jeffery Eugenides: The Virgin Suicides
  • Henry Farrell: What Happened to Baby Jane?
  • William Styron: Sophie’s Choice  (I’m over halfway through this, but I’m just not in the mood.  The suspense is killing me.  WTH happens?  What is her choice?  I know it has something to do with her kid (s?) and I keep having flashbacks of Meryl Streep on the tv when I was young.
  • Nick Hornby: High Fidelity
  • Erich Segal: Love Story  (I can’t get the song out of my head!)

So that’s it, I’m done.  I’ve got a virtual stack of books I want to read at Goodreads, and I’m looking forward to reading what I feel like, when I feel like.  I’ve read so many books this year, but they just weren’t on the list.  So my challenge for 2011 will be simple:  Read and review 25 books.  I’ll read way more than that, but it’s the reviewing that becomes tedious for me.  So I’ll start out small and go on from there. 

Ahh, liberation feels great.  I’ve already read two books this week to celebrate the freedom. 

Book Review: The Boleyn Inheritance

I read The Other Boleyn Girl about a year ago and despite my disinterest in historical fiction totally loved it.  When I was at the library a couple of weeks ago I saw The Boleyn Inheritance audio book and picked it up.  What a fun book to listen to.  The narration was done by three different women and their voices really bought the characters to life.  I definitely recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a little scandal and an overall quick read.  I have never been a fan of period pieces, I don’t give two craps about the Tudors or any of that jazz, but Phillipa Gregory writes very interesting stories about the women in King Henry’s royal court and the tyrannical whims that Henry himself committed against them.  Gregory adds a depth to these historical figures and offers up insight into their behavior in history.  I’m not a “story spoiler” so all I can say is read it yourself, particularly the ladies.  It’s an easy read and if you want a great audio book this is the one for you.  And it’s a little sexy, which caused me to blush on  more than one occasion on my drive into work. 

On a side note, I recently watched the movie The Other Boleyn Girl.   It was a horribly hurried adaptation of the book and I found myself saying “they glossed over all the good stuff” and while it would have been a 6 hour movie, it should have been.  There was so little detail in the movie and very little dialogue that I can’t understand how the screenplay passed muster.  I can’t say it was a bad movie; it just didn’t have an 1/8 of the substance from the book.

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