Title: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Genre: YA Lit./Dystopia
Summary (off Goodreads): In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love
Review: It has been quite some time that I've read a book that has grabbed my attention like The Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins presents an exciting, emotional, and often times disturbing story that has you completely unable to put the book down.
The Hunger Games are games that were started by the Capitol to, essentially, punish the districts. The districts, 12 in all, once upon a time tried to rise against the Capitol. The Capitol won and now requires that each district, once a year, give two children between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Those twenty-four kids will be put into an arena and fight until there is one victor left alive.
Katniss ends up in the Games to save her twelve year old sister. Peeta, a boy who once saved her from starvation even though it resulted in a beating for himself, is the boy that is chosen to compete in the games.
The story is really heartbreaking because you can see the vehement hate that everyone has for the Capitol but are completely powerless to stop it. Peeta wants to do something to defy them, to show them that they don't completely control him. Others, like Katniss, have just accepted their fate. It's tragic because you see how much fire and passion Katniss has and it's all being sapped away by the society she lives in. She constantly has to fight just to keep her and her family alive, especially after her father was killed.
The Captiol is a very different place from District 12. There is food in abundance and only the richest and most elite live there. They are also the ones who derive enjoyment from The Hunger Games, mostly because their own children are safe. Like any other type of game, the challengers are interviewed and analyzed before being released into the arena to kill each other. And for the first time, District 12 is seen as a contender. Partly because of the amazing outfits their dressed in; the other angle is that Peeta confesses he has always loved Katniss and that they are entangled in a tragic love story.
When they are actually released into the arena, Katniss does what she has always done. She hides, using her hunting skills to avoid the other challengers. It's this stealth that introduces her to Rue, a twelve year old from District 11.
The story between Katniss and Rue is the most heartbreaking of all. You know, as the reader, that eventually, everyone has to die. There can only be one winner of the games. But Rue and Katniss form an alliance. Katniss, despite the front she puts on, easily lends her heart to people like Rue. Katniss sees her younger sister in Rue, this girl who can jump from tree top to tree top, who is so quiet that no one ever knows she's there. The two team up to take out what they called "The Careers"; kids from the richer districts who usually win these games and are essentially trained to win the games.
Katniss and Rue manage to destroy the food supply of the Careers, who don't know how to Hunt like Katniss and the other contenders from the poor districts who hunt to survive, who have learned to go hungry. Unfortunately, though the plan to destroy the food works, Rue is captured and killed. Katniss takes out the assailant but Rue dies in her arms as Katniss sings to her, something that Katniss hasn't done since the death of her father.
The scene is just so moving because you really see, for the first time, what the Capitol is doing. Katniss, for the first time, really hates everything that the Capitol stands for, everything that they've done and the fact that people like Rue die for nothing other than their entertainment. It's the first time we really see the fire ignited in Katniss.
We learn that Peeta has been protecting her this entire time and has been severely injured. We also earn that if the boy and girl from the same district are the last two alive,they'll both win the games. Katniss finds Peeta, almost dead and attempts to nurse him back to life. Unfortunately, his wounds are deep. Katniss has to brave a confrontation with the remaining players, only four others at this point, to retrieve the medication that she needs.
The entire time the two have been playing up their romance for the audience. The problem you see is that Katniss is really just doing it to survive. If pretending to love Peeta is how she's going to make it back home, she'll do it. But Peeta actually IS in love with her, something that Katniss can't quite grasp. Watching her fall for him but not quite fall for him and watching him so in love with her is hard. It really hurts your heart and you desperately hope they get out of there so that they can figure things out.
There were also some crazily disturbing parts of this book. For instance, the Capitol has always done a LOT of genetic mutations, creating animals to do the things they needed them to. For instance, at one point in the book, Katniss releases a hive of genetically engineered wasps on her opponents; bugs that track you down if you disturb their nest and inject you with a venom that can kill you almost instantly if there's too much of it in your system. As it is, the one sting Katniss gets causes her to hallucinate for days. When the competition is down to just three opponents, Katniss, Peeta and Cato, a career who has an especial hatred of Katniss, the Capitol sends genetically engineered dogs after them.
Katniss learns that these aren't just any dogs. They're wolf like creatures that have been combined with the DNA of the dead opponents. Katniss sees the girl she killed with the bees, the girl she deemed Foxface who died from her own incompetence of berries and even Rue is present. Really the scene is so wrong it's grotesque. The three contenders are stuck within spitting distance of each other, being chased by parts of people they already had to kill once.
Throughout this book you always have an impending sense of dread. Finally, the last contender falls into the pack of dogs, leaving just Peeta and Katniss. They think they've been saved and Katniss is relieved; Peeta's leg was ripped apart by the dogs and is all but dead. If the hovercraft didn't come and rescue them, he would die. They wait... only to find that the Capitol revoked the rule and one of them would have to kill the other.
Collins puts in a very Romeo and Juliet moment here, each willing to kill themselves for the other, neither wanting to live without the other only it's so much more than that. Peeta wants to see the girl he loves live and Katniss wants to defy the Capitol. While she may have feelings for Peeta, she doesn't know what they are, only that she refuses to let him die. She she decides to kill them both to save them both. The Capitol needs a winner, so they both pop deadly berries into their mouth, and then are told to spit them out; they both win.
The thing I liked most about The Hunger Games is that it's never quite over. The Capitol hates that it was shown up, that they both lived when one should have. They hate that these two kids caused them to lose control. Katniss and Peeta manage to convince everyone it was because they were in love, not because they were trying to incite rebellion.
Even when they make it home alive, even when Katniss is finally able to return to her life an family, you're still left with a feeling of dread. Peeta finds out that it was mostly an act on Katniss's part, that she isn't sure WHAT she feels. For Peeta it was all real and that betrayal on her part is too much. He draws away from her almost instantly.
This book was so emotional and well written and one of those books that just refuses to let you go until you finish every last work. I recommend it to everyone. You will be engaged and thrilled and sad and happy and angry all at the same time. While it does end, it doesn't end in happiness because, in reality, things in the world are not happy. I loved this book and simply can not wait to get my hands on the second one.
Title: The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
Genre: Children's lit./Fairy Tales
Summary (off Goodreads): The adventures of Desperaux Tilling, a small mouse of unusual talents, the princess that he loves, the servant girl who longs to be a princess, and a ...more The adventures of Desperaux Tilling, a small mouse of unusual talents, the princess that he loves, the servant girl who longs to be a princess, and a devious rat determined to bring them all to ruin.
Review: I don't really know what to say about this book. It was recommended to my by my roommate, a third grade teacher. She reads it to her kids every year. It was cute but that's about it.
I liked Despereaux the best. He was easily the most likable character and so endearing. He was brave but still showed all his weaknesses. He was strong because he had to be, because he really had no other choice. You really felt for him, being the outcast of all the mice, constantly punished only to rise above it all in the end.
You felt terrible for Miggery Sow. She never really could catch a break throughout the book. It seemed like everything was against her and her ending, while not sad, wasn't exactly happy either.
The book fell into a lot of cliches that children's books fall into. Good wins over evil, the evil is very identifiable, love wins out over everything. Also the religious overtones got to be a little much in this book. It wasn't quite as strong as it was in, say, The Chronicles of Narnia, but the difference is, C.S. Lewis made it work for the books while Despereaux didn't really.
However, at the end of the day, it was a cute children's book. Despereaux is completely endearing and pulls emotion from the reader, the princess is a little flat but brave, the villain even has redeeming qualities. The narrator was humorous and was constantly breaking the fourth wall, which I liked.
I recommend the book to anyone looking for a quick, cute read. It's a good book for kids. I mean, there's a lot of references that will probably go over their heads but it's one of those books that will give them fond memories when they're older and maybe make them go back later in life and read it and rediscover all those things that they once missed. It's one of those books that will give you two different reading experiences if you read it when you're a kid and then again when you're an adult and both will be pleasurable.
Title: The Singing by Alison Croggon
Genre: Fantasy/ YA Lit.
Summary (off Goodreads): The Singing follows the separate journeys of Maerad and Cadvan, and their brother Hem, as they desperately seek each other in an increasingly battle-torn land. The Black Army is moving north and Maerad has a mighty confrontation with the Landrost to save Innail. All the Seven Kingdoms are being threatened with defeat. Yet Maerad and Hem hold the key to the mysterious Singing and only in releasing the music of the Elidhu together may the Nameless One be defeated. Can brother and sister find each other in time to fight the Nameless One, and are they strong enough to defeat him?
Review: The Singing was the last book in the Pellinor series. It was a heartfelt exciting and mostly satisfying ending. However, despite my enjoyment, there were one or two major things that were dissatisfying things.
The books starts with Hem and Mearad looking for each other. Most of the book is spent that way, one sibling looking desperately for the other because they know that they need to find each other. They're not sure why or how but the book keeps switching between Maerad and Hem, each going through trials while desperately trying to find the other.
Hem and Saliman actually travel with actors but, upon reaching a deserted town, Saliman contracts the white sickness, a disease that kills almost every single person it infects. Even those who have survived are extremely scarred and blind. The players leave Hem with Saliman. Hem is determined to heal him, and heal him he does, miraculously. It is directly after this healing, he feels Maerad call to him and knows how to find her.
Maerad is traveling with Cadvan. The last of her powers seem to be eluding her and she doesn't know how to find that last piece of herself. Cadvan is against it because it means exploring the darkest part of herself. However, Maerad knows that there is no other way. Inevitably, she does it, Cadvan at her side and opens up a flow of worlds that she can't quite handle but it's those powers that allow her to draw Hem to her.
This part of the book was one of the biggest problems I had with the book. Things seemed very rushed from this point on. I liked how it happened, Hem and Maerad came together and the Tree Song started but it didn't work like it should. They discovered that they had to go to the city that The Nameless one had completely decimated, a city that no one knew where it was located. The thing that bothered me was suddenly all this information was coming to light when we had heard nothing about it for three and a half books. We had briefly heard about The Nameless one's destruction of the city when Maerad and Cadvan had traveled through it. It was the same place that they had found Hem but really, we haven't heard about any of it for three books now.
I liked their trip there. Maerad's power has opened her vision to different worlds. She now sees the dead all around her, so much so that she is never quite sure which world she is in. She doesn't eat, doesn't sleep and being in both places at once nearly destroys her. It isn't until the reach the unknown city, where the Tree Song was born, that it all finally dissipates and she is able to return to the real world. The dead, all those killed by The Nameless One wanted her to feel their pain so that she would be that much stronger when she battled him.
The second part that bothered me was her battle with the Nameless One. It wasn't a physical battle, but a mental one. She disconnects him from this world when the Tree Song is reunited, ending his life and therefore the life of all of his Hulls. It's very anticlimatic I feel. I was waiting for this great battle and I never really got it. It was also very rushed.
Another thing that felt a little rushed was Saliman's romance. He meets Hezikiel, a player, and within a book they fall for each other. I think the love that he felt for Hem was more real and endearing than anything he felt for Heikiel.
Cadvan and Maerad's romance finally came to fruition and I think it was well done. I liked that it wasn't the focus of the series, that you weren't really waiting for it to happen yet you knew that it would. I think it worked because it really let Cadvan and Maerad's relationship grow strong into something romantic. You knew Cadvan cared for her always but he never pushed it onto her, never really pined for her and never let it get in the way of what needed to be done.
Overall, I enjoyed the story I just thought that it was a bit rushed for a final book. I expected more out of a final book and in fact, the battle at Innail was more exciting for me than the actually destruction of the Nameless One. We never really get to see anything about the Nameless One which is also kind of annoying because he doesn't really seem like a well formed villain.
I recommend this book, and series, to anyone who enjoys a good fantasy read. It's been a long time since a fantasy series has really been able to draw me in and keep my attention for any length of time and this one did. It's definitely worth the time.
Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
Genre: YA Lit.
Summary (off Goodreads): One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.
Hilarious, poignant, and deeply insightful, John Green and David Levithan’s collaborative novel is brimming with a double helping of the heart and humor that have won both them legions of faithful fans.
Review: I was expecting big things from this book. David Levithan and John Green are two of my favorite authors of all time. The love I have for them has only been increased by this book.
The writing between the two is drastically different and they create two extremely different Wills. Green's Will is a funny, entertaining kid who wants to keep to himself, wants to go unnoticed by the world, wants to not care about anything but seems to find himself caring frequently. Levithan's Will is a kid with a lot of problems. He's got a lot of emotional problems, has a hard time connecting with anyone, even his single parent mother and has a general distrust of mankind. It's a distrust that is increased tenfold when he finds out one of his few friends betrayed him. She pretended to be a boy, created a fabricated person that Will fell for, trusted only to be betrayed.
It's this betrayal that allows Will to meet Will. Green's Will was kept out of a concert because his fake ID wasn't fake enough. Jane, the girl he might or might not like, and Tiny, his larger than life gay friend, went into the concert together, leaving him to go entertain himself elsewhere. Levithan's Will was there to meet whom he thought was the love of his life and turned out to be the biggest disappointment.
Because of this interaction, Levithan's Will meets Tiny and there's an instant attraction. While this is not uncommon for Tiny (who falls in love with a different boy just about every week), it's incredibly hard for Will, who never seems to find a person who he can really care for and trust. These emotions don't dissipate with his meeting Tiny, which I liked. Tiny made Will TRY to be a different person, try to trust again, try to honestly think that it was a relationship that could work. And while Tiny seems to finally find someone he doesn't want to give up after a week, Will can't get over all those doubts he's always had about people. I like that Tiny and Will don't have this "cure all" relationship. They still have all the problems they always had and it causes turmoil.
Green's Will also gets caught up in all this. He figures out his real feelings for Jane, only to find she's gone back to her ex. Tiny, his best friend, is so involved with the other Will and the school play that he wrote/is directing/is the star of that Green's Will is starting to feel abandoned. I love watching Will's turmoil. When Green wants to portray grief, he always does it spectacularly. Green makes me FEEL more than any other author that I've ever read and this was not different. My heart ached for Green's Will, this boy who felt like he was losing his life, his best friend and everything he's always seem to known. Being in a fight with your friend is hard enough but losing that friend slowly because the understanding between the two of you has disappeared is unbearable. They fall so far apart that Tiny doesn't tell Green's Will that he and Levithan's Will broke up.
The ending I think is what really made this book. Green's Will and Jane do end up together but I feel like this romance, despite being the only one that works out, is so minor. This was a book about relationships, but not romantic ones. Green's Will finds Tiny right before the play starts and they have the most heartfelt conversation. Yes, they're best friends. They both admit that, had they a choice, they wouldn't have ever picked the other as a best friend. Yet, at the end of the day, Green's Will tells Tiny that he loves him, that he is a part of his life no matter what and he knows that no matter what happens over the years, that won't change. It's a beautifully done scene that just warms you from the inside out and is something that's hard to pull off without being overly sappy. However, scenes like this, pulling emotions like this, is Green's specialty and once again, pulls it off simply beautifully.
At the end, Levithan's Will shows up to the premiere of Tiny's play, gives him that grand gesture. He calls up every other Will Grayson in the phone book to tell Tiny that he's appreciated, that everyone loves him because he's him.
Over all it lived up to every expectation that I had for the book. While I did enjoy Green's chapters more than I liked Levithan's, both Wills were engaging and interesting and the book drew the reader in. I recommend the book to everyone who just needs a feel good, emotional story in their lives.
You can read these reviews and all others atim_writing or my Goodreads account.
Books so far this year: 34/75
Currently Reading: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson and A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire