June 1st, 2010

24. Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins

Warning: Spoilers as to who won The Hunger Games in the previous book.



24. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins – 480 pages (3.5 stars)


Background/Synopsis:


Katniss and Peeta return from the Hunger Games to live in big, comfortable houses in the Victor’s Village. But, of course, everything has changed. Gale, Katniss’s best friend/other potential love interest, is cool and reserved towards her, and she is not at home in the big, strange house. Katniss and Peeta are required to go on a tour of the districts as winners of the Hunger Games, and of course, trouble abounds.

President Snow is angry at Katniss and Peeta, for at the end of the first novel, in a typical star-crossed lovers scenario, they were going to both have poison rather than kill each other. They were both allowed to live because their near death nearly caused a revolt in Panem.

And so, because this is an action book, President Jon Snow gets the bright idea to hold another Hunger Games…this time with the victors of previous hunger games from the last few years. And then we have a repeat of the first book, more or less.

Strengths:


Interesting characters, fast-paced, and the arena for these games is more interesting than the first because it’s a swampy jungle.

Weaknesses:

Déjà vu—nothing new is explored. Panem is still corrupt and kills its people. Shocking.

Musings:

I didn’t like this book as much as the first. Not much was added, nor was the world developed further. Katniss doesn’t grow as much as a character as she does in the first one. Peeta is a little useless. My attention kept wandering and I wasn’t as sucked into the world. However, I do find this premise slightly more believable. The people of Panem would want to watch the Battle of the Victors, and it’s more interesting because they are people who have killed people before and know how to win.

Recommendation:

If you like the first one and go into the second one knowing that it’s more of the same, it should suit you fine for a quick read. Again, it’s nothing mind-shattering, but it’s better than many other young adult series out there.

P.S. New friends welcome.

Miss Potter: A novel, Richard Maltby Jr

I was worried that Miss Potter, which tells the story of the English children's book illustrator and writer Beatrix Potter, might be a bit too twee, and it was a little, but I enjoyed it anyway. She led a remarkable life and her story is worth telling. I don't know quite how much artistic licence Richard Maltby Jr uses in this, but the back says the author blended "historical fact with imaginative interpretation". So it's not to be relied on as an autobiography, but it means he can tell the story from Beatrix's eccentric viewpoint as she talks to her animals and falls in love. We join her at the age of thirty-six, as she takes The Tale of Peter Rabbit for an interview at a publishing house.

Beatrix had certain advantages which helped her work. Her family was wealthy, meaning they could go on holidays to the Lake District where she could paint the local wildlife and farm animals. She also escaped having to marry young or go out to work, as a woman from a poorer family would have done. Instead her parents (who come across as rather lazy) appointed her as their housekeeper, although with a team of servants to do the housework Beatrix still had plenty of time to fill her room with her drawings - "Sketches of her story characters adorned the walls. Shelves were lined with artifacts from her childhood that she couldn't bear to part with: an animal skull, a microscope, Bertram's first collection of butterflies and moths."

Additionally she had a certain stubborn streak which helped her. She was not afraid to stand up for her books, telling her publishers "I'm quite particular about book size and price. And colour. Rather than that dreary brown wash your children's books usually have, I'd really much prefer black and white. And I would also like to avoid that dreadful Gothic typeface you use." However, on finding out that colour will be affordable for "little rabbits" if the book is printed in a certain format, Beatrix spends hours at the printers with her publisher, Norman Warne, getting every colour just right.

Norman and Beatrix fall in love, but her family disapprove as he is a tradesman (her father was a barrister, although he hardly practiced and the family lived from inherited money, ironically made from trade). After much protesting and threats from Beatrix a secret engagement was eventually allowed, but tragically Norman died a month later from pernicious anemia, a disease caused by the loss of ability to absorb vitamin B12 - fatal at the time but treatable today with regular B12 supplements. I felt that one of the best sequences in the book was Beatrix's subsequent nervous breakdown, as she locks herself in her room and finds her animals begin to talk back and even jump around, "calling furiously to each other" and forming "a carpet of wriggling, chattering life".

Eventually, with the help of Norman's sister Millie, Beatrix recovers from her loss. She decides she needs a fresh start in new surroundings, and buys a farm in the Lake District with her considerable income earned from her stories. The book ends as she begins to find love again with a local solicitor, William Heelis, a man she first met in her childhood as a handsome young gamekeeper. On her death in 1943, aged 77, she left 4,000 acres (16 km²) of land and 15 farms in the Lake District to the National Trust.

Miles

May Bookpost: More Duds than Usual

There were some real jewels in this month’s reading—Steinbeck and Bulgakov and Pico Iyer and most especially The Watchmen. Overall, though, many of the things I picked up to read proved more disappointing than I expected. And the books by Kafka and Fruttero and the Marquis de Sade were downright BAD. Those books, I’ve read and commented so that you don’t have to. The good ones—maybe you’ll be inspired in the better way.

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Carnival

#51 Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

There are spoilers in this book for previous Mercy books (specifically Bone Crossed). No real spoilers for Silver Borne

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Rating: four stars
Length: 342 pages
Source: Lewiston Public Library
Similar Books: Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld Series, and Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville Series. Also Check out the Alpha and Omega Series, which takes place in the same universe as the Mercy books
Other books I've read by this author: Moon Called, Blood Bound, Iron Kissed, Bone Crossed (my review), Homecoming (my review), Cry Wolf, Hunting Ground (my review), and The Hob’s Bargain (my review). I’ve also read the novella Alpha and Omega from On the Prowl.

xposted to temporaryworlds , bookish , and goodreads
han shot first

The Price of Spring by Daniel Abraham

If you haven’t read the previous three books in Daniel Abraham’s The Long Price Quartet, I suggest you not read this review and come back when you’ve done so. There will inevitably be spoilers as this is the fourth—and final—book in the series.

Fifteen years have passed since Sterile was called into the world. Galtic men and Khaite women are still suffering the price for Maati Vaupathai’s failed binding; his shame and misguided optimism has left him roaming the countryside to hide from Otah, the third Emperor of the Khaiem. Maati’s wanderings are filled with fantasies that are fueled by a bitter hatred and jealousy of his one-time friend and now enemy. In his imagination, Otah is apologetic and debased before the superiority of Maati’s genius—in his daydreams, he has successfully bound an andat that will correct his earlier mistake and bring him back in favor with the man and the world. It’s a mistake that has developed as a slow decay threatening to overwhelm Otah with old rivalries rather than encourage any sense of cooperation. Even Eiah, Otah’s only daughter, has left in disgust of her father’s plan to save both Galt and his Empire: bring in Galtic women for the men of the Khaiem in this new currency of fertility, leaving generations of Khaite women feeling worthless and without cause.

( Continue the review at Jawas Read, Too )
Caleb- snug as a bug!

Book 31: Firefly Lane

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Firefly Lane
Kristin Hannah
Fiction; chick lit
479 pages
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Hannah (On Mystic Lake) goes a little too far into Lifetime movie territory in her latest, an epic exploration of the complicated terrain between best friends—one who chooses marriage and motherhood while the other opts for career and celebrity. The adventures of poor, ambitious Tully Hart and middle-class romantic Kate Mularkey begin in the 1970s, but don't really get moving until about halfway into the book, when Tully, who claws her way to the heights of broadcast journalism, discovers it's lonely at the top, and Katie, a stay-at-home Seattle housewife, forgets what it's like to be a rebellious teen. What holds the overlong narrative together is the appealing nature of Tully and Katie's devotion to one another even as they are repeatedly tested by jealousy and ambition. Katie's husband, Johnny, is smitten with Tully, and Tully, who is abandoned by her own booze-and-drug-addled mother, relishes the adoration from Katie's daughter, Marah. Hannah takes the easy way out with an over-the-top tear-jerker ending, though her upbeat message of the power of friendship and family will, for some readers, trump even the most contrived plot twists.

I thought this was a quick and easy read. I did like the beginning, but the middle seemed to drag on. It was a bit too long, to be honest and I felt like a lot of the story could have been cut down and still be a good read. I really didn't care for Tully. It was quite the tear jerker and if you like sappy and sad endings, then this is the book for you.

***Next read: I just started reading Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott