taralovesbooks’ #CBR5 Review #51: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

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Cannonball Read V: Book #51/52
Published: 2009
Pages: 391

Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian

This is going to be a short review because this series has been reviewed to death already and this is a re-read for me. I wanted to read it again before I saw the movie since I already forgot half of what happened since I last read it several years ago. I’m not going to re-hash the plot, because if you don’t already know it you’ve probably been living under a rock for the past two years.

Read the rest in my blog.

reginadelmar’s #CBR5 reviews #49-51 The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

I haven’t posted multiple reviews in one post before today.  One could argue that the Trilogy is really one long book, but hey with five days left in 2013 and one more book to go, I’m erring on the side of hurry up and finish. Write the three reviews together and dive into that last book!

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games works by itself or as the beginning of the trilogy because it comes to a relatively satisfying conclusion. The book introduces Panem, a country that exists in the ruins of what was once the United States. The Capitol tightly controls 12 districts and demands retribution from each district for a rebellion it crushed 75 years ago. The retribution is the Hunger Games in which each district must send two children (male and female) over the age of 12 to compete to the death until one victor remains. The Games are televised and are literally “must see TV,” citizens are required to watch the fate of the children.

The story is told in the first person by Katniss Everdeen, a 16 year old from District 12, the mining district. She lost her father 5 years ago which caused her mother to suffer from severe depression. Katniss was left to fend for her younger sister, her mother and herself. Katniss is angry with her mother, she’s become a hunter and a loner except for her friend Gale. Continue reading

KimMiE” ’s #CBR5 Review #12: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

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The Hunger Games had a “first episode in a trilogy” kind of feel to it (which makes sense, being the first episode in a trilogy and all). By that, I mean that while the story is left on a questioning note, it also stands nicely on its own, the way that Star Wars or The Matrix ended with a future of possibility, but if that was the last you saw of that world, you would have still been happy with it (in the case of The Matrix, you would have been much happier, in fact). The point is, second books/movies in trilogies often have a tough time: they are the bridges between the often self-contained story of book/movie #1 and the conflict resolution of book/movie #3. The worst episode #2 books feel like filler material, killing time until we get to the climax of episode #3. The good ones feel bigger than episode #1, drive the story forward, and build excitement for the final installment. Catching Fire is a great second episode.

Catching Fire feels much bigger than The Hunger Games. While politics served as a backdrop in The Hunger Games, the true state of Panem and the oppression of the people in the districts comes to the forefront in Catching Fire. For the first time we get to witness a confrontation between Katniss and President Snow, a conversation which reveals the true depth of the danger Katniss has put herself and her family in by defying the Capitol at the end of book one. We get more insight into the Peace Keepers and their relationship with the people of the district, and how brutally citizens can be treated. During the Victory Tour, we get to see how life is even harder for some of the other districts than it is for District 12. When the tributes gather on stage the night before the games start, talk is nearly treasonous as the victors try to turn the audience against the games. It’s an exciting time to be a revolutionary, certainly!

We also get more of the “love triangle,” although I think that phrase is selling the relationships between the characters short. Katniss is certainly a conflicted individual who has feelings for both Gale and Peeta, but are any of those feelings romantic in nature? She has too much at stake to allow herself to even explore that question and she doesn’t expect to live long enough for it to matter. But in not facing it, she reveals as much about her character and her feelings as she would if she were to wear her heart on her sleeve.

While The Hunger Games took us into the brutal world of a regime that would force its citizens to murder each other, Catching Fire pulls back and gives us a larger view of that regime and the citizens that live there. True to its name, Catching Fire sets the spark of anticipation, preparing us for the final battles that episode three is sure to bring.

KimMiE” ’s #CBR5 Review #11: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

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I’m usually well behind the curve when it comes to popular culture. I don’t think I even started reading the Harry Potter series until somewhere around the time when Goblet of Fire was published, so  it should come as no surprise that I saw the blockbuster hit The Hunger Games in theaters before deciding to read the book.

As a general rule, I actually do prefer seeing a movie adaptation of a novel before reading it. To me, novels are generally much richer in detail and create a more vivid world, so that I am usually at least a little disappointed when I see a film version of a novel I’ve enjoyed. There are exceptions, of course: The Lord of the Rings trilogy did a tremendous job of adapting books that seemed unfilmable; and there have been occasions when I’ve read a book after seeing a film only to discover that the two versions shared very little beyond the title (Bernard Malamud’s The Natural springs to mind, but I’m sure there are better, more recent examples).  Books and film are different media, and I do try to approach them as as independent of each other and revel in the strengths of each. At any rate, seeing and enjoying the film version is what finally motivated me to read The Hunger Games.

Perhaps because the film adaptation was so strong, I was mildly let down that the book didn’t include a tremendous amount of additional material and plot points. That’s not really fair, I know, but my usual strategy of seeing a film and then “getting more” by reading the book kind of failed me this time. Mainly, I was surprised that the book was written in first-person narrative. I like first person-narratives as much as the next reader, and Katniss Everdeen is a compelling protagonist to be sure, but the world of Panem is full of colorful characters and I was hoping I’d get more insight into how and what they were thinking. Wouldn’t you just love to know what, if anything, is going on inside Effie’s head, or learn more about Cinna’s past? What did Katniss’ mother feel when first her younger daughter’s name is called, and then her elder daughter volunteers to take her place? What did the people of District 12 think as the games progressed—did they feel hope that their tribute might come home alive? Did they even care? Maybe that’s why the movie adaptation worked; the book doesn’t contain much nuance or subtlety for the movie to miss.

Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy reading The Hunger Games. I did. Very much. Katniss is a complex character full of strength, anger, doubt, and love, and she kicks ass to boot. She is the protagonist that young adult readers deserve and can relate to, and adult readers can embrace as well. The plot is well paced and drives forward to a tense climax, and it did leave me wanting more. Fortunately for me, there are still two more books in the series.

faintingviolet’s #CBR5 review #28: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

You probably already know the plot of the book. By now, with the movie out, it’s well-known.

What I think I’d like to talk about in my review is the theme of love. I wrote a blog post almost two years ago about what I like to think of as pure love, and I think Katniss and her various relationships can explore that quite easily. Most, if not all, of her decisions are based on love.

One of my chief complaints about the movies (although I enjoyed the second so much more than the first) is that they don’t really get into Katniss’s difficulty with emotions.  They do a great job dealing with her fears for everyone’s safety, and that is evident on Jennifer Lawrence’s face every time her character has to think about those who are in peril thanks to her actions in the Games. But JLaw’s Katniss is not the emotionally unavailable Katniss I read in the books.

So let’s talk about the conversation that my group of friends of having, and I’m sure lots of groups are having right now too: Is this really a love triangle? I vote no.

I’ve always been firmly in the camp that Katniss does love Peeta from somewhere in Book 1 (sometime between training camp and finding him in the arena), but that it scares her. Because she had already decided that she would never marry and never have kids and Peeta is the kind of guy who is all about the marrying and the kids. I also agree that while she loves Gale it’s more like the love she has for her family. Katniss is fiercely loyal and loving of her family, as seen by the extent that she loves Prim. And even though their relationship is strained from her mother’s weakness following her father’s death that is still an incredibly strong bond of love. This is where her love for Gale fits, she loves him the way she loves her family. But because Katniss does not have the language to sort out these emotional differences, she sees it as a conflict to the love she feels for Peeta, which is the love that dominates most of her actions.

And because she is so unused to her own emotions she doesn’t know how to process them even as they are influencing every choice she makes. So, she makes herself content to put Peeta off to the side because 1) they share terrible memories and 2) she doesn’t want to hurt him any more than she already has. She goes back to Gale for reassurance and to ‘run’ because he’s the partner she knows in her normal life. But it’s all very complicated because Gale has the feels for her. It’s predominately one-sided.

So, not really a triangle, just a brilliantly complex layered look at love.

Moving on from that, my other complaints about the movie adaptation of the book include that there is no plant book interlude with Peeta, and that really robes some great character development from both of them. And, it’s criminal that the movies cut Madge, because that storyline, and the layers it adds to Haymitch, are some of my favorite stuff in the book.

Also, a growing part of me wishes these books were from Peeta’s POV.

loulamac’s #CBRV review #56: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

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I really enjoyed The Hunger Games when I read it. The movie wasn’t so good, but JLaw could make a film adaptation of Cinderella’s Secret Diary worth watching (you can read my review of that turd here). Catching Fire was ok, but towards the end, the story and my patience with the dystopian world Collins had created was starting to wear thin. And then there’s Mockingjay. Dear dear. It isn’t very good.

**The Hunger Games/Catching Fire spoilers will follow**

The plot picks up immediately after Katniss’ rescue from the games arena by the rebels. She has been reunited with her family and Gale, and is stashed away in their underground headquarters in District 13. While some of her allies from The Capitol have been saved, Peeta is still in the hands of President Snow, and out of a desire to save him Katniss agrees to become the figurehead for the burgeoning rebellion. The rest of the novel charts the exploitation of her celebrity/talisman/cult status by the top brass of District 13, against a background of the progress of the battle against the Capitol. Luckily for her (although perhaps not the reader), her celebrity affords her considerable freedoms in this totalitarian state, meaning there are the usual interludes of Katniss not being able to decide who she prefers kissing, hunting small furry things in the woods, and having panic attacks/tantrums. And then the book ended, thank goodness.

I think the biggest problem I had wasn’t the clunky writing and preposterous dialogue (books one and two had plenty of them too), it was the complete collapse of Katniss as a likeable or believable character. I went from caring about and rooting for her in The Hunger Games to totting up how many pages I had left to wade through and thinking ‘oh for God’s sake stop whining’ in Mockingjay. She goes from being a feisty, independent spirit who kept her family alive despite her grief at the loss of her father and made it through a horrific contest in one piece, to a pathetic, feeble mannequin, who spends most of her nervous breakdown worrying about boys. By the end, her twisted thought processes and absurd decisions are on a par with Bella Swan’s, and feel like a complete betrayal of the Katniss of old. Not good.

faintingviolet’s #CBR5 Review #23: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

After a two month drought I’m back with one of the most popular books from last year’s cannonball. I put out a plea to friends, loved ones, and tweeps for quick, easy reads to reinvigorate me after a summer of no luck. (I picked up and put down at least 4 books in the past few months and am fighting with another as we speak.) So, two of my colleagues who adore The Hunger Games set me up with the first book.

I read it in two marathon sessions over the course of a week. Drought broken.

The story by now is familiar to almost everyone, particularly with the movie out last year. In the future North America is now the country of Panem with a ruling Capital district and 12 other districts who, after an uprising quelled a generation ago, serve the capital. To be reminded of the sins of their forebears each year a Reaping is held and a girl and boy ages 12-18 are selected to fight to the death in the Hunger Games. One victor is named and he or she will bring pride to their District and money to their family.  Our eyes to this world are Katniss’s. She’s 16 and an outsider. In order to survive following her father’s death in one of District 12’s coal mines Katniss sneaks out to the forest surrounding District 12 to hunt for her family. However, her normal life is thrown to the wind when her sister Prim, just 12, is selected at the Reaping and Katniss volunteers to go in her place.

We spend the second two-thirds of the novel with Katniss in the training and actual games. It is at times a bleak read. We are talking about children killing other children. What I found most interesting in the transition to the movie (which I watched within 24 hours of finishing the book, thanks Netflix) is how they both sanitized some of the most horrendous deaths and also took away some of Katniss’ insights and turned them into physical promptings from her mentor, Haymitch. I felt it weakened the character. However, I did enjoy deploying the play by play analysts as our narrators throughout the Games.

But I think why this novel is resonating with non YA audiences is that it dives into some greater themes while leaving plenty of surface action for those who only care for the ‘who wins and how’ storylines. For instance Haymitch, a previous Victor of the Hunger Games who is now in charge of mentoring District 12’s two Tributes each year is depressed and has a serious drinking problem. We are also given a view into the cost of the Games to Katniss and the other combatants, an easy opening for discussions about Post Traumatic Stress.   There is also plenty to unpack in the dialogue between a Capital unable to support itself and instead focused on entertainment and diversion, surely a topic relevant to us today.

This review and all other CBR4 and CBR5 reviews can be found here.