Friday, November 26, 2010

Where I've been: An explanation

I'm still alive!

Even though I haven't been posting frequently (I have about nine reviews to write...), commenting on other blogs, hanging out on Twitter or even reading, I am still around. I've just been having an interesting few months, and hopefully I'll be able to get back to my regular schedule here in the near future.

Where have I been, you ask?

Well, at the end of August, I officially became an ex-librarian and went to work at Starbucks. I work super-early hours (I have to be there at 5 a.m.) and have a 30-minute-plus drive each way to work. Not to mention the fact that I haven't had an on-my-feet-all-day job in about three years, so I'm absolutely beat by the time I get home from work.

Doesn't really leave much energy for blogging or tweeting.

But, the new job is nothing compared to the REALLY BIG NEWS.

Ready for it?

 That's right, there's a new addition on the way to our household! I've had a major case of the first-trimester lazies, but I'm hoping that eases up a bit so I can actually do things besides hold down the couch.
This is a super-old sonogram (This was only at a little over 7 weeks, but I'm now 14 1/2 weeks), but I think this kid looks like me already! :)

We'll find out whether it's a boy or girl after the first of the year, and we're planning a homebirth (I have an AWESOME midwife) for sometime around May 24, 2011.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Show Me 5 Saturday: Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) From That's A Novel Idea and Find Your Next Book Here

1 book I read: Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2)

2 words that describe the book: Young adult dystopian (Three, but it works!)

3 settings where it took place or characters you met:

Finnick Odair - One of the former tributes from District 4, Finnick initially comes off as pompous and confident, qualities which make Katniss dislike him. Eventually, during the Quarter Quell Games, he shows that outside appearances aren't all they seem to be.

President Snow - Although we heard of him in the first book, we never actually met the man at the head of the Capitol. He's just as cruel and sadistic as he's portrayed from afar, and the worst of him is yet to come.

Mags - Another victor from District 4, Katniss takes pity on her advanced age and teams up with her early in the Quarter Quell Games. She proves to be much more useful, and incredibly self-sacrificing, than Katniss originally thought she was, once again proving to Katniss that she can't always trust first impressions.

4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it:

I liked that, even though things seemed horrible and bleak in the first book, they just keep getting worse. I know this sounds really terrible of me, but it's the whole "The night is darkest before the dawn" thing: Things can only get worse before they get better, and people have to be tested to their absolute limits to find out what they're made of.

I liked that, in the midst of all the horrible things brought on by the Capitol, Katniss still has time to worry about "typical" teenage things such as love. It made the horrors of Panem seem a little less relentless.

I liked that there are hints of what's going to happen in the final book of the trilogy, but you don't actually piece together the puzzle until you've read it all. That thread of the story is what makes other series, such as Harry Potter, so appealing.

I liked that Katniss evolved as a character, even though less than a year elapses between the end of the first book and the start of this one. She's even more jaded and angry than before because of what she witnessed during the Games, but her experience also taught her to hold her loved ones a little bit more close.

5 Stars or less for your rating?

I'm giving the book 5 stars. Although I can't put it exactly into words, this was my favorite book of the trilogy.

The Whys and Wheres: Personal library

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review: The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games: Book 1Title: The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1)

Author: Suzanne Collins

Pages: 384

Source: Library

Rating: 10/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

Summary (From back of book):

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 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 weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

My Two Cents:

I was pretty late to the Hunger Games train, but I'd read the buzz about it on Twitter for months before I picked up the series. I'm big into dystopian literature, but I was a bit hesitant as to a young adult series involving a fight to the death. Just seemed a little too brutal for me.

Boy, I'm glad I finally picked up this trilogy.

Collins creates a world where people have just enough freedom to talk about how much they despise their government, but not enough that they can actually do anything about it. They all hate the Hunger Games and the controls the government puts on them. They all try to find small ways around the controls. But, they can't (Or don't) actively fight the Powers That Be. It's all pretty classic dystopian, but for some reason the people of Panem seem a little less settled into their world than the people of, say, 1984 or Brave New World.

Katniss was a great choice for a main character. She's got just enough fear of the Capitol to keep her in line, but she's openly rebellious (Which sets her up for later in the series), so her defiance during the Games doesn't come from nowhere. And while she's had to take care of her family for many years, she's still naive enough in a lot of ways to be a believable teenager. Collins strikes the right balance between making Katniss a strong hero and an inexperienced young girl.

A lot has been made by critics of the trilogy that it's too violent and disturbing to be marketed at young adults. They feel the concept of a people oppressed by their government is valuable, but that pitting teens against one another in a fight to the death is barbaric. I say it's a ridiculous criticism.

Literature's job is to make its readers think. In this case, Collins wants the reader to think about what life could be like if we allow the government to have too much control. While much of the traditional dystopian canon isn't so violent (1984, Brave New World), Collins shows that humans can resort to terrible things in order to keep control. These are important issues that a lot of adults don't even think about, and I believe that using young adult literature to get kids thinking about these possibilities early is commendable. I'd much prefer my teen reading a book that raises incredibly important, disturbing questions that lead to family discussion than if he or she read nothing but books about sports teams or mean girl cliques (Not saying these type of books are all bad, but there's a difference between books that are just there for entertainment and books that actually make a person think). The issues Collins brings up are ones that a lot of adult authors are afraid to broach, and I laud her for being gutsy enough to make her readers uncomfortable.

This is a book (Series, actually) that kept me up at night and held the need to do laundry at bay. I couldn't stop reading even though I felt sick to my stomach much of the time at the sheer barbarity of the words on the page. It got me thinking and talking, and one co-worker and a customer of mine have since read the trilogy and we still talk about it from time to time. This is, I think, one of those enduring works of young adult literature that everyone, young or old, needs to read at some point.
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