Tuesday, February 14, 2012

January Reads: The Trilogy, Christian romance & Montaigne

I read 5 books last month, and yes I did pat myself on the back. There are just so many books that I want to read and I bought as many books in January as I read. Oh man. Barnes & Noble's sale table in the front. Have you been there? They have quality books at around $6 each! How can I be expected to not buy them, especially when they're actually on my to-read list. (That's a rhetorical question.)


The Hunger Games, Mockingjay & Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – Several people told me to read these books, but it wasn't until I saw the movie trailer for the first book that I decided to go for it. Unlike other extremely popular young adult fiction that has made teenage girls sweat and fawn, there are no vampires, shirtless werewolves or wizards. So for those of you who haven't read these thinking there was some relation to those other two series (no offense HP fans), trust me when I say--give them a chance. Have I steered you wrong in the past?

It's hard to describe the books without giving away too much important information, but here goes...

The Hunger Game Trilogy takes place in Panem, a country built on the ruins of America. Made up of 12 impoverished districts, all control is from the ever watchful Capitol--an outrageously lavish place in stark contrast to the rest of the country. Each year 2 young tributes are chosen at random from each district to be part of the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death.

Our narrator, 16 year old Katniss Everdeen of District 12, volunteers to take her sister's place when she is chosen as tribute and so sets in motion the events of the three novels. Katniss is a wonderfully flawed character--she's tough, a hunter, a survivor, but also honest and not immune to weakness. When she leaves her family and best friend Gale to go to the games, she fully expects to never return.

After a life of hunger and hardship, Katniss has little patience for her fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta Mellark, the son of a baker who once gave her much needed bread and their drunken mentor Haymitch, the only other District 12 winner.

As Katniss and Peeta train for the grueling games, its obvious there is more to the baker's son than meets the eye and while Katniss knows little about him, Peeta has watched her from afar for years. Yet Katniss can't afford to trust anyone because only one person is coming out of the Hunger Games alive, and once they're in the arena it's every man for himself. What follows are ingenious twists and turns as well as the internal struggle Katniss experiences as someone who is tested in every way.

Honestly, I can't do justice to these books with my summary--what you need to know is that these books are page turners. Once you've finished the first, you'll find it nearly impossible not to pick up the second. I'm not exaggerating when I say that my heart was pounding and I was perspiring for the last 100 pages of Catching Fire.

The books are quite thought provoking as well. They're not cheesy at all and instead portray a communistic society at its breaking point. The Hunger Games as well as the events in the following books show the effects of war and violence (especially the psychological ones) without flinching. Thought it is science fiction, most of the details are not particularly outlandish and the characters are realistic, unpredictable and multifaceted.

Yes there is a love triangle (it's great!), but it doesn't take over the novels. (Warning: You will be in love with Peeta. As my friend KT says, he is a great Christ-like figure.)

Ok go read it.

Oh and I read two other books.

How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell  Now that's a title. A few girlfriends and I read this book and I must confess I had an internal struggle because I mistakenly started the Hunger Games at the same time. Don't make the same mistake. Anyway. Bakewell takes the life of writer and nobleman Michel de Montaigne through the question 'how to live?' By examining his Essays, she looks at Montaigne's views on death, politics, religion, parenthood, etc. Some answers were more compelling than others but it was an interesting if somewhat academic read. I  finished it thinking Montaigne was a thoughtful spaz who had some good points on living, but ultimately was extremely self-focused. That's over simplifying it, but I still have one book to summarize.

Shadow in Serenity by Terri Blackstock (spoiler alert) – Christian romance? Really? Ya. I read it for my church's women's book club, cause I need friends. This book was not as bad as I thought it was going to be but it was pretty bad, but the main character was named Carny and she grew up in the carnival. That's right. The other main character is a conman named Logan Briscoe. Carny, a widow and mother, who became a Christian after being embraced by the small quiet Texas town of Serenity, knows a con when she sees ones. When Briscoe blows into town and charms all the residents into signing onto his plans to boost the local economy, will Carny be able to convince them he's not legit or is she all wrong about him? Answer: She's not wrong, but he becomes a Christian. They makeout, he goes legit, and they get married. The End. I've just saved you 250 pages. To be fair, I'm told Blackstock's other books are better.


Nicole said...

Love your book reviews! Especially the one for Shadow in Serenity...LOL! And yes, Terri Blackstock's other books are WAY better. This one was below par, for sure.

MORE reviews, please!

Mango Sticky Rice said...

Your review prompted me to finally pick up The Hunger Games. My page-turning frenzy lasted the better part of a week; I would have devoured them in two days for sure had it not been for that place I needed to be the better part of Monday-Friday called 'work.'

Oh, and I definitely have a Peeta crush. It's bad. I'm afraid I'm going to slip up and call my husband 'Peeta' because his name is so similar!


Flynn said...

Awesome! Another convert. I can imagine you going "Hey Peeta----er."