I said yes to Hunger Games and I would give this sequel the same resounding affirmation.
I finished this book this morning before work. I only had abo...moreI said yes to Hunger Games and I would give this sequel the same resounding affirmation.
I finished this book this morning before work. I only had about fifty pages to go, so I just got up a little early. (I know, how did I manage to fall asleep at that point in the book, right? But you underestimate the bone-weariness of a weekend trip with two overnight train rides. Flat surface to sleep on = some form of heavenly gift.)
It would be hard for any book to live in the shadow created by Hunger Games, at least for me. Like most trilogies, this is not as strong as the first, but it convinces me that Collins has a spectacular finish in her. Nonetheless, Catching Fire holds its own. The aftermath of the stunning, rebellious finish of the Games for Katniss and Peeta grabs hold and doesn't disappoint. President Snow (a creepy villian if ever there was one) wastes no time letting Katniss know what he thinks of her charade with Peeta and leaves Katniss examining her options and her motivations while hurtling herself and her loved ones towards destruction.
It's much more complex than that, naturally, and there is a bunch of stuff that I would love to discuss but I won't, because I refuse to wreck it. Just know that when you finish it, you will be scouring the interwebs for any prospective publication date for the third book. (Fall 2010, in case you're wondering, then they're planning to ruin it with a movie in 2011. Just say no now. )
I first read this book in high school, when I found it while shelving books at the public library (I have that job to thank for so many favorite reads...moreI first read this book in high school, when I found it while shelving books at the public library (I have that job to thank for so many favorite reads!) and I'm sure I read it 5 times between then and graduating from college. I just reread this book for the first time since college this past week, and was not disappointed.
This book is sweet, sincere and touching. Julie's innocent, earnest journey from confused seven-year-old to confident seventeen-year-old. In short, manageable chunks we observe her struggles with her very similar and strong-willed guardian, her struggles to feel loved, her first boyfriend and subsequent understanding of the difference between love and enabling. What I like about it the most, though, is the reliance on family, functional or dysfunctional.
Julie's family supports Aunt Cordelia through her first meeting in years with the boy who broke her heart. Cordelia gently asks about Julie's father's feelings when considering where Julie should stay through high school. The joy when Julie recovers from the scar of first love lost. Julie's consideration of her niece's feelings.
Maybe because my family is so important and vital to me, I understand how you can love the very things about your family that drive you crazy, and how precious it is to have a family when the road we walk is sad or confusing. They don't always do the right thing, but sometimes the littlest gesture is the one we remember for years.
I cried this read-through, in that very early chapter where Julie is crying inconsolably in the closet and Cordelia crawls in and holds her and cries with her. When I came home for Thanksgiving right after Cori died, I got into my parents water bed and went to sleep. When I woke up, my sisters were there, one on each side, and we just talked quietly, remembering when Cori visited and just being together. I love this book because it reminds me of moments like that, when being a family is what's holding you together, imperfections and all.
Wow. Um. I don't know if this is a coherent review at all, but I feel like I should mention one more thing. One of the main negatives mentioned in other reviews about this book is Aunt Cordelia's statement that a woman becomes a woman when she loves a man. Perhaps, being a bit on the old-fashioned side, I don't find fault with this because I agree with her, but I think this statement is more than just an strong support of marriage. This statement is made in a context of not just love, but of self-sacrificing love. Not love that annihilates an entity, but a gracious love like that of Cordelia for Jonathan, a love that encompasses his frail, dying wife and supports him long after her hope of being his wife herself has died. I don't think Cordelia is suggesting that a single woman is incomplete, so much as that a person who has never truly loved someone more than themselves is incomplete. And you know, loving someone else unconditionally is a challenge that everyone should try to live up to, single or married, young or old.
And that is what I have to say about that. Katie, I hope this isn't too verbose for you. Talk about being a chatterbox. (less)
I was so disappointed. I didn't connect to Elvira at all, and Fernanda didn't have enough personality to really believe, and the Chinese people ran in...moreI was so disappointed. I didn't connect to Elvira at all, and Fernanda didn't have enough personality to really believe, and the Chinese people ran in and out of the story so fast I could barely catch them. Serious sad face here. :-((less)
This was the FUNNIEST book I have ever read about working retail. While you are laughing until you cry, you are remembering how the exact situation ha...moreThis was the FUNNIEST book I have ever read about working retail. While you are laughing until you cry, you are remembering how the exact situation happened to you just weeks ago. The only book that made me laugh during the Christmas rush. Really. I'm serious. If you work in customer service at all, you have at least one of these stories of your own.
One of my favorites was when we were sold out of Al Gore's book about global warming and when I informed a customer that I didn't have any copies but I could put her on the list to get a call when they were in was told "But how could you be sold out?! Al Gore is still alive!" Yes. That's true. But it's funny, that's not really the only thing that affects supply and demand.(less)
I liked this book. It's like the snack food version of usability. He explains each of his points clearly, concisely, and with strong examples. There's...moreI liked this book. It's like the snack food version of usability. He explains each of his points clearly, concisely, and with strong examples. There's not a lot of meaty here's-how-you-can-accomplish-this involved, which Krug claims is because there's no one answer to software/web usability, which is definitely true. Still, I would love to read a follow up about usability testing and how to use the results of such tests in development. As a relatively inexperienced computer person in software QA, I suppose I know a lot of the answers without realizing...but still. I did enjoy the part about how to express to others what you found wrong with the usability of a particular piece of functionality.
Yes. I read this for work. And I enjoyed it. At least I do things whole-heartedly. :-) Is it sad that this is really my first read of 2009?(less)
So, I read it. Twilight. All of it, every dad-gum page. And I'm not entirely sure how to review it. I had a hard time even giving it three stars, but l...moreSo, I read it. Twilight. All of it, every dad-gum page. And I'm not entirely sure how to review it. I had a hard time even giving it three stars, but lots of people I really love and respect enjoyed it, so I'm going to give you the positives first and then behind the break, the negatives.
Once Meyer gets into her stride (say...150 pages in, when we finally get into the Edward/Bella goo-mance) she drops into a more comfortable swing and shows us the majority of her talent. Setting her vampires up in a new and original way, we are as intrigued as Bella as she falls in love. Mind-reading, seeing the future, controlling people's emotions - who knew that vampires were each special snowflakes? I thought they were just blood-sucking soul-less mammals. I found Meyer's version of Dracula much more entertaining and less whiny than Ann Rice. I enjoyed the "family" dynamic of the Cullens, the backstory about where they had been and how they lived.
Meyer also was very good at getting her audience caught up in the all-consuming passion of those first months of falling in love. We feel as obsessed as Bella. We want to know all the answers to her questions. We're frustrated with her about his unwillingness to answer our every query. And hey, who doesn't wish that their significant other wanted to know their favorite color and favorite gemstone and favorite childhood memory. I literally devoured the book once I hit page 200. We find ourselves completely consumed with Bella.
Which brings me to the other side.
This is seriously one of the most screwed up teenage relationships I have ever seen. Would anyone here be okay with their teenage daughter's boyfriend if they found out that he had been staying overnight in her room (even just watching her sleep (cue the Clay Aiken song used in the title)) without her knowledge? He consumes her life literally overnight, and she abandons her few budding friendships (although they're so one-dimensional, I can't say I blame her) and heads into situations where she lies to her parents and skips classes...
I would ground my daughter.
And the writing. Oh, like fingernails down a chalkboard, the writing. On the one hand, her writing is not that different than the choppy style I adopt when blogging. I use paragraphs with the key thoughts in pithy short sentences that sometimes improperly begin with a conjunction. But I'm blogging, not writing a #1 New York Times Bestseller. Which to me, makes all the difference. I guess what I'm saying is that her editor should crawl into a small, dank hole and die of shame. The second chapter's second paragraph is four sentences long, talking about why Bella hates her new home. They start out, respectively, with the phrases "It was worse...", "It was worse...", "It was miserable...", and "And it was worse..." Do I even need to point out what's wrong with that? If the "miserable" was the last one, I would understand, but it's just chucked in the middle.
Meyers is also overly fond of the adverb. Now, I admit, I like a juicy adverb or two, since it's nice to grin ecstatically and laugh maniacly and dance joyfully. However. Not every verb needs an adverb of its very own. By page 200, I was so tired of everyone doing everything enthusiastically and glumly and unwillingly and significantly. For one, the sheer volume was killing me, but also, who in the world uses the phrase "teasingly outraged." Um. What?
I think that this issue tied into her general problem of over-description. This could probably have been at least a hundred pages shorter if Meyers hadn't felt the need to tell us what kind of ravioli Bella at at the restaurant, or how she normally made her steak and potatoes, or exactly what off of the full tray of food Edward brought her she pretended to nibble on. Worse than that, she over-described every emotion. We should be able to tell how Bella feels without her explaining every fleeting mood to us. Does anyone who has ever read The Witch of Blackbird Pond doubt for a moment how much Nate loves Kit? Does Nate ever tell Kit this? Does Speare ever have to tell us that Kit is falling in love with Nate in return? No. She doesn't. Because it's obvious, in every little interaction. Part of what makes The Witch a masterpiece of children's literature is the very understatedness of the romantic tension. See, and that's what's wrong with Meyers. Her tension is literally spelled right out in front of us, and I feel like some of the joy of our own imagination is stolen from us. The brain work is already done.
Nowhere is this more obvious than right smack on page 14. "I can do this, I lied to myself feebly. No one was going to bite me." Seriously. Seriously. I don't really think you can call that foreshadowing. That's the whole friggin' eclipse of the moon. (See how I did that? Smooth, huh?) And yet, it is not until two-thirds through the book (page 328, I think) that we finally get to a plot other than "I love you." "Don't love me." "I love you." "I'm dangerous." "You're beautiful." "I'm so strong and powerful and will keep you safe. I'm dangerous." This is the point where we discover that Alice sees some visitors in the future, finally pointing us to the drama that we remember from the preface. By all rights, the werewolf subplot introduced with Jacob at the beach should be the danger, because it's introduced at the correct point in the plot line, followed through by some awkward Billy/Edward moments and reeks of future conflict. Instead, we get random vampire #8 who just really feels like a fight and surprisingly has the answers to burning questions we really weren't asking.
Don't get me wrong. I'm really tempted to read the others. I really enjoyed the feeling of falling in love, the remembering what it feels like to be consumed by another person, and was completely drawn into the mystery and intrigue of loving something so dangerous and other. But I've already been warned by a little bird that they are much of the same, and I know that Jacob doesn't win out in the end, even though I kind of already like him more. Perhaps if I was more into bad boys who are moody and dangerous than straight-forward fellows who tell it like it is, I would be more into Edward. As it is, I'm going to go feed my brain some sterner stuff. (And if I relapse and read the rest of them, I'll be sure to let you know.) (less)
Yes. That is what I have to say about this. Just yes.
This is a teen book with a strong dystopian twist, relatable characters. Katniss finds herself in...moreYes. That is what I have to say about this. Just yes.
This is a teen book with a strong dystopian twist, relatable characters. Katniss finds herself in a horrible situation, where not trusting the people around her leads to just as dire of consequences as trusting. (less)
Do you have to like the narrator of a book in order to appreciate it? Do you have to respect them? Identify with them?
I was pondering that the other m...moreDo you have to like the narrator of a book in order to appreciate it? Do you have to respect them? Identify with them?
I was pondering that the other morning on my drive to church, having set down Waiting, by Ha Jin when I finished my coffee and gathered my Sunday School materials. I don't like Lin Kong much at all. I'm sure I don't respect him. I'm not sure I can really even identify him. Married in his youth to a woman his parents feel will be able to take care of them in their old age, he supports her back in his home village while working at an army hospital far away. Shuyu is not what Lin considers presentable in his city life, so he visits on his leave and feels content with how his dying parents are cared for.
Enter Manna. A nurse at the hospital Lin works at, she strikes up first a friendship, then a relationship bordering on the romantic with him. Finally, she asks him whether he is going to divorce his wife and marry her. The first line of the novel tells us "Every summer, Lin Kon returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu." Every year, Shuyu backs out at the last moment, or is saved by her brother's vehement opposition, and Lin returns to the hospital to let a disappointed and increasingly dissatisfied Manna know the news. For seventeen years he continues this, until in the eighteenth year of separation he is allowed to divorce his wife without her consent.
We wait with Manna and Lin, watching their struggles, his changes of heart, her anger and frustration. We wait with Shuyu, who seems simple-minded in her affection for her estranged husband. The ending of the book, too, is rather well-done, where Lin finds himself again waiting, again in confusion.
Lin is not particularly unlikable. He's honorable in his own way, refusing to sleep with Manna until they are married, supporting his ex-wife after the divorce. He's intelligent, if a little brainwashed by the political system. But he's such a spineless fellow. His entire life is guided by what is expected of him, by Shuyu, by his superior officers, by Manna, by his daughter. He questions and re-questions the decisions he's made, even after making them, and seems unable to throw himself wholeheartedly into any of his relationships.
Manna, on the other hand, is frustrating. She refuses to understand what sort of claim Shuyu might have on Lin's life and time, even after giving up her life to care for his parents and their daughter. She only sees how the waiting has affected herself, and she ends up taking it out on Lin in passive-agressive arguments and insecurities even after they finally are married.
Other reviews I have read have claimed that Shuyu's pure heart and easy-going commitment to the people in her family regardless of technicalities like divorce make her the only admirable character in the book. I'm not sure what I think about that. I do think that this was a good novel for considering how often we throw all our eggs into the WANTING of something and forget to appreciate it once we have it. Oh, how lovely my life will be when I finally...get a job that pays all the bills, get married, can stay at home with my kids, retire, etc. We start to build our life around the desire for a certain situation or conclusion, and then when it comes (college is over!) we don't know how to enjoy where we stand because we're so used to the discontent.
And I'm not saying that we shouldn't live with discontent. I think that's what drives us forwards, and it can be a positive thing. But sometimes, it's good to read a novel that reminds me to look around and see all the things I've come through and all the longings I've had fulfilled and how wonderful that is. To dwell in the moment and revel in where I am. I have graduated, both from college and with an M.A. I have a good job. My family is safe and solid. I am not alone.
This book makes me wish that I could write a book about the friendships with women that have saved my life.
The book itself was slow, quiet and sad. Th...moreThis book makes me wish that I could write a book about the friendships with women that have saved my life.
The book itself was slow, quiet and sad. The women in it were passive, the majority of their lives' experiences and sorrows perpetrated by or because of the men around them. This made me thankful for my dad. Well, my mom, too, but mostly for a father who thinks that I am one of the most intelligent and incredible women in the world.
So while I enjoyed this book, it was beautiful and well-written, I didn't love it. I'm not big into stories about victims, even less about women who are victims because they were not encouraged or taught to stand up for themselves.
The book's ending, though, the realization that your life's sorrows do not mean the end of your life's joys made the book worth it. So true, and so hard to believe sometimes. (less)