The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The second book in The Hunger Games series, Catching Fire, is probably my favorite of the three. (Almost my favorite movie of the four.) We catch up with Katniss and Peeta six months after their Games, trying to live a normal life – as normal of a life and Victors can have. Both now, due to their victory, are richer than they were before. While we only get glimpses of how Peeta feels about the change, we fully understand Katniss’ feelings since this volume continues the first person narrative.

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Katniss is unsettled with her new life. She tries to make the best of it, but she can’t shake the nightmares of the Games. Her mother and sister Prim seem to be adjusting to their new ways, and for their sakes Katniss tries as well. But the Victory Tour is approaching, and she is not looking forward to visiting the districts of the Tributes she has slain. Worst yet, President Snow pays her a visit on the eve of the Tour. He believes Katniss’ play with the night lock berries is a sign of rebellion, even though Katniss only wanted to save both herself and Peeta. But rebellion is stirring and Panem, and President Snow wants Katniss to quell the unrest – or he will harm everything she loves. Katniss does her best but the rebellion is building momentum even without her involvement.

After the Tour, things seem to go back to being quiet…until the 75th Hunger Games, a Quarter Quell, is announced. Each Quarter Quell, to celebrate another 25 years of the Games, has a different set of rules to choose Tributes. This year the Tributes are picked from surviving Victors of each district. Being the only female Victor from District 12, Katniss is by default a Tribute and finds herself in another Hunger Games. This year everything is different; this year, everything changes.

Catching Fire is more fast paced than its predecessor. There is more action once the actual Games begins. But the real action appears to be in the characters’ interactions and development. Once the Games begin, while they accumulate allies Katniss and Peeta can only trust each other.   As the story progresses, Katniss finds herself more and more connected to Peeta. In The Hunger Games, she wants both herself and Peeta to survive. Her actual feelings for him are platonic, even though they feign at being lovers (or at least on Katniss’ part, Peeta really does love her). But in Catching Fire, you start to see Katniss genuinely care for Peeta. It may not be love – not yet – but she really cares about what happens to him.

The one thing that drove me a little nuts was the fact, like its predecessor, the Games don’t actual begin until almost halfway through the book. Then it seems like the Tribute Parade, the interviews, and all of the Games happens so fast, far too fast. While I am glad we don’t linger on the actual Games too long, it just feels a little rushed in the end. Still, overall, a great book and addition to the series.

My rating: 4.5/5

Fangirl

The first time I saw Fangirl was in my local bookstore (now sadly closed) as I was perusing the racks of young adult novels. Just the title stood out to me. When I read the summary, I was suddenly propelled back into my college years, when I wrote a lot of Lord of the Rings fanfiction. A LOT. I didn’t read Fangirl right away, but I came back to it about a year later.

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The story follows Cath, a freshman in college living on her own for the first time away from her single father and twin sister. Cath’s sister, Wren, is outgoing and friendly but Cath is a little more introverted. She spends a good deal of her free time writing Simon Snow fanfiction (Rowell’s equivalent of Harry Potter, I assume). Cath initially cowrote fanfiction with her sister, but Wren has since moved away from the Simon Snow fandom. This leaves Cath feeling a little abandoned. She has a lot of fans online, but not a friends in real life. But she soon warms to Reagan, her roommate, and Levi, who initially is introduced as Reagan’s on again, off again boyfriend. Cath starts to realize that there’s more to life than fanfiction (but she doesn’t give that up in the end).

Fangirl is a growing up story that I relate to a lot. Though I didn’t live Cath’s life, I lived a lot of her experiences. I spent a good amount of time reading this novel and thinking “I remember doing that” or “OMG I did that!” It was a great nostalgia read and seems to follow Rowell’s lightheaded story telling. (Admittedly I haven’t read any of Rowell’s other books, but Eleanor and Park is on my list.) I found it a little slow at times and struggled to pick it up again once I had put it down. I’m not sure that I would read this one again but it was still nice for the nostalgia.

Since I originally borrowed Fangirl from the library, I didn’t actually have a copy. Recently I was perusing the book aisles of Target and happened upon an exclusive collector’s edition. What made it exclusive? Fan art of Fangirl.

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Both front and back covers sport 4 different fan art illustrations of either Cath and Levi, Cath with Simon and Baz, Simon and Baz, or Cath with Levi and Regan.  My favorite is the front covers, as you can see above.

My rating: 4/5

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

I attempted a read of City of Bones back in 2013 when the movie starring Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower was released. While I liked the story premise, I had a difficult time getting into it because I couldn’t fully relate to the main protagonists, Clary and Jace. Maybe it was because I just hit my 30s and they were half my age. I’m not sure.

Fast forward to today, three years later. I fell in love with the Infernal Devices trilogy and really want to read Lady Midnight. To get from one to the other, however, requires reading all six books of the Mortal Instruments series. It was time to revisit City of Bones again.

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It still like the premise. Cassandra Clare’s reading is easy but not elementary. Her world is richly imagined while still being grounded in the modern world we all live in. We’re all familiar with the stories that alluded to; stories of vampires, werewolves, fae, and other mythical creatures. I think because Clare uses elements that we are all already familiar with while still putting her own spin on some aspects that it makes this story tangible and real.

However, I still can’t relate to Clary and Jace. Not fully anyway. I do understand Clary’s point of view, feeling like an outcast with only one real friend to speak of. But there is something about their characters that I – as a now mid-30s individual – just can’t grasp. I have a much easier time relating to Isabelle and Alec (and more so with Magnus) that I do Clary and Jace. I’m pretty sure it if I were closer to my teen years I would relate to them better, but that’s just a minor detail.

I still plan to continue with the story. I’m looking forward to seeing how it progresses as I make my way through the story.

My rating: 4/5

 

The Hunger Games

Likely most people have read The Hunger Games at this point. I began reading it just one month before the first movie release. I mentioned before that I spent some years not reading; occasionally a book would catch my eye during that time. The Hunger Games was one of those books.

I devoured the first book in a matter of days. And then I read it again. Yeah, I read it twice, in the span of half a month. I will probably end up reading it again in the near future.

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Of all the characters, I really love Katniss. She was the first heroine of a story who I felt was strong and confident, yet had her faults and wasn’t perfect. She’s confident in her abilities with a bow and hunting, but she’s not confident in her ability to survive the Hunger Games. She isn’t good with people, she isn’t charismatic, and she doesn’t care about winning hearts – only about surviving. And yet, she is loved.

She was also the first heroine I really identified with. Before that I was always drawn to the male characters for their strength but I never found a character that I went “Wow…that’s kind of like me.”

What I really like about the story is the reality of it. Suzanne Collins never specifies a date in the series other than how many years the Hunger Games have been occurring. It could be in the distant future, it could be in the near future. It’s a reality that some of us might live to see and others not. It’s a harsh reality, but a reality that could happen. And, I think, that’s what really makes this story intriguing.

My rating: 5/5