What’s left of North America has been divided up into 12 districts. Katniss lives in district 12, the poorest district. She’s learned to buck the syst...moreWhat’s left of North America has been divided up into 12 districts. Katniss lives in district 12, the poorest district. She’s learned to buck the system and hunt to keep her family alive. But one day something happens that leaves her thinking only of her own survival.
I was surprised by how much I liked this. Several of my friends have loved it, but this sounds pretty dystopic and I’ve realized that’s not my thing. But I decided to go ahead and give it a try after it was chosen for one of my groups’ monthly reads, and I’m so glad I did. The dystopia thing is there, but I was so busy rooting for Katniss to survive that I didn’t really even notice it too much. I was also worried that it would be horribly violent, but it wasn’t too bad. I’m probably about middle-of-the-road in terms of my tolerance of that kind of thing.
I really liked Katniss. She’s a born survivor--rough, tough, surly, fierce, and fiercely protective. She’s also pretty clueless about any kind of relationship and a big softy underneath that hard-as-nails exterior.
At times, I did feel like the author was manipulating the story just to get herself out of corners that she had painted herself into. But once I thought about it, that manipulation was absolutely in keeping with the situation in which Katniss found herself.
I was so caught up in this book that I hated the ending. I knew going in that this was the first in a series, but it still felt like a huge cliffhanger. It was really probably the only place she could end this installment, but I’m chomping at the bit for the next one. Luckily, I don’t think I have too long to wait.(less)
After a mysterious illness decimates the population of the US, if not the world, a town on the Mexico/US border finds itself in a literal no man's lan...moreAfter a mysterious illness decimates the population of the US, if not the world, a town on the Mexico/US border finds itself in a literal no man's land, not part of any country but serving as an army outpost for soldiers fighting the mysterious Mexican guerilla, El Segundo. Carmen Garron lives in Outpost, where prospects are non-existent. Still, she meets two nice guys at different times in her life and has a child by each of them.
The second man is not quite...human. He's been part of a genetic experiment and his DNA has been hybridized with that of a wolf. He thought he was sterile, so he's shocked when Carmen turns up pregnant. He has to flee those who would turn him in to the US government for the reward money. He warns Carmen that the child will probably be like him, with superhuman abilities.
And she is. Loup (from loup-garou, French for werewolf), knows no fear and has amazing strength and stamina. Might she be the hope that the citizens of Outpost have been waiting for?
This was not what I expected, but I'm not complaining. I expected more of a science-fictiony werewolf story and that's not really what this is. The nonhuman? superhuman? other-than-human? side of Loup definitely defines a large part of her life, but it's not really what drives the story. Not really.
Loup has a group of friends that call themselves the Santitos, the little saints. They're good kids and they are trying to make a difference in their town. I never really got all of them straight, but a couple did stand out. Mack has such a good heart underneath his tough shell, and he tries so hard to be with Loup. He's there for her in all the ways that really matter. And then there is Pilar. She's a bit generic, but we all do know girls like her. They want a better life and they'll do whatever they have to in order to get it. Pilar's just sideswiped when her heart gets in the way of what her head wants.
I really liked Loup though. I got a good feel for what life is like for her. She just feels a little too solid to everyone who touches her and it freaks them out. She learns to avoid touching people as much as she can. Can you imagine a life where everyone who touches you immediately draws back a little? Because she doesn't know fear, she has to constantly think about things more than other people do. "How would other people react to this? Well, I'd better do that then." The last thing she wants is for the wrong people to find out her heritage. Externally calm and uninvolved, she has passions that go deep. Her loyalty and drive are amazing. When something big happens in her life, she makes up her mind what she wants to do about it and goes after it with single-minded determination. She knows the process of getting where she wants to be will take years, but she takes those first steps in her plan, when a lot of people would have sat at home and thought that it was too hard.
I either didn't realize or I'd forgotten that this is a series. As I was coming up on what I knew had to be the big finale, I got a little nervous. There wasn't much of a page count left on my nook. And then I realized it was a series and I was a little disappointed. What's happened to the standalone novels? Remember those? They're hard to come by these days. This one does wrap up pretty well, with enough left hanging for me to be curious about the next book, but enough resolved that I don't feel like I've been cheated out of an ending.
There is sex here, but I didn't find it to be as graphic as Carey's Kushiel novels. Still, it is mostly older teen sex and that might put some readers off.
I've already added the next book, Saints Astray, to my to-read list. This might not have been what I expected, but I still got a good book, and I'm curious to see where Loup's story goes next.(less)
Daisy has been sent from NYC to live with her aunt and cousins in the English countryside. Shortly after her arrival, her Aunt Penn has to travel out...moreDaisy has been sent from NYC to live with her aunt and cousins in the English countryside. Shortly after her arrival, her Aunt Penn has to travel out of the country for work, leaving the teens alone for a few days. Terrorists strike and nothing is ever the same.
This just wasn't really my kind of book. I want to call it dystopic, but my grasp of the meaning of that word is so tenuous that I could very well be wrong. Whatever it is, it's very bleak and end-of-the-world feeling and I'm more of a head in the sand, optimistic kind of person. But I picked it up and gave it a try because it won the Printz award and I've had good luck with the few of those I've picked up. Oh well. They can't all be winners for me, I guess.
I have to say that Daisy's voice was very distinct and felt pretty authentic to me. But she presents herself as a know-it-all to her cousins at the beginning (while admitting secretly that she doesn't know anything about the country) and that irritated me. I just had to try to train a know-it-all at work, and I really have that button out there to be pushed right now.
Daisy does grow past all that and it was interesting to see how she and her cousins dealt with the situation they found themselves in. But that's about all that happens. There is a little action but mostly it felt like a character study of how these kids deal with this new world. Characters can make or break a book, but a good story is equally as important to me.
The ending felt very rushed. There's sort of a fade-to-black and then the story picks up some time later. I had a hard time figuring out when this was taking place and what had happened. I was really just confused. I think I finally got it, but I would have liked it to be clearer from the beginning.
I can see how this would appeal to teens who are more realistic and worried about the state of the world than I am. I wouldn't recommend it for people like me who choose not to think about what might happen. It's definitely for older teens. There's some very vague but still inappropriate teen sex (trust me--it's not gratuitous, I'm not a prude, but it is inappropriate) and some violence that's not very graphic but maybe all the scarier for the lack of details about what just happened.(less)
Picking up a few months after the end of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire maintains the same rip-roaring pace established in the first book. In fact,...morePicking up a few months after the end of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire maintains the same rip-roaring pace established in the first book. In fact, it doesn't take long to bring the action to a whole new level.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but this is one of those rare books--a second that is actually better than the first. In my humble opinion anyway. I read all 391 pages in two sittings, really in one day. I picked it up, got sucked into Katniss's world, and never looked away. We got to see a little more of Gale in this story, but we got to see even more about Katniss and Peeta and how they're dealing with being victors of The Hunger Games. There is trouble brewing in Panem and Katniss is an unwilling face to the people's discontent. She's trying to deal with that, she's trying to deal with the Capitol's anger, and she's a 17-year-old girl who's trying to deal with her feelings for the two guys in her life. The whole thing is believable and Katniss is believable. And Peeta. He seemed a little too good to be true in the last book. He still does a little bit, but he shows a different side of himself here. He gets to say the one line that had me laughing out loud. Luckily, my husband was the only person around and he's learned to ignore me and my quirks. I don't know if I was supposed to laugh, but man! I have to admire the guy. He certainly knows how to work a crowd.
There is a tiny, rational part of me that's a little disappointed in the direction the story took. But the reader who just wants to be entertained has informed the rational part that it just needs to shut up. It all worked, I loved it, and that's without mentioning the ending. Oh, the ending. No spoilers here, but oh man. I can't believe I actually have to wait for another book to be written. I never read series books back to back, but let me tell you, if I'd had the third book lying around, I would have started it and finished it today. Yes, I promise it really is that good. Go ahead and pick these up. This did not sound like a series I would like, and yet here I am gushing to the best of my ability. I'll say it again--I loved this.(less)
Tally lives in the future, in a world where, at the age of sixteen, everyone is made superhumanly pretty. The thinking is that by leveling the playing...moreTally lives in the future, in a world where, at the age of sixteen, everyone is made superhumanly pretty. The thinking is that by leveling the playing field, so to speak, racism, bullying, low self-esteem, and all the negative things that can be associated with personal appearance can be eliminated. But not everyone wants to be made pretty.
I love, love, LOVE the idea behind this novel. A book that points out how obsessed we are with appearances, is very readable, and is aimed at a young adult audience? In a way, I wish there were more of them. This is a terribly important message. Add to that the less-obvious-but-still-there message about sustainability and the environment? Sounds like a winner to me!
And it kind of was. Westerfield pulled off the "preachy" stuff without sounding preachy at all. The story was pretty action-packed and I really did keep turning pages. There was just something missing. I'm having a very hard time putting my finger on it. Partly, this truly felt like a young adult novel. I do read a fair amount of YA, so that's not typically an issue for me, but this really did feel young. I think I wanted a little more meat to the story. (I really am having a hard time with this.) I felt like there should have been more history between Tally and Shay in order for everything to happen the way it did, but then that would probably have changed everything. So I guess the storyline feels a little forced initially. I think I was partly frustrated with Tally for just not telling everything she knew. I'm a firm believer in confessing what you did wrong, getting it over with, and then generally finding out that things go a little easier for you because you just admitted it. But it didn't happen that way and I wanted to shake her. I really wanted to shake her when I got close to the end. "Did you really think they wouldn't think of that!?!?!" Okay, she's sixteen. I was pretty stupid at sixteen too. So it's probably realistic, but that didn't make it any less frustrating for me.
Oh, and I really dislike the titles of these books. I was mildly embarrassed to be seen reading it at work.
And that's the best I can do. I'll pick up the next one. And I really do recommend this for teen girls. Anything to get them thinking about how unhealthy our society's ideal body image really is.(less)
Katniss is living in District 13. The Capitol has sought revenge for the rebels' assault on the Hunger Games in a brutal, unbelievable way. The rebellion is gaining momentum, and the leaders are begging Katniss to become their figurehead--the living Mockingjay.
This was still good, it just wasn't exactly what I expected, and I think the biggest reason I say that is because of Katniss.
I felt like I'd lost her. She's so heartsick. She feels responsibility for so many deaths. She spends a large part of the book wandering around lost. There are flares of the Katniss that I love, but they aren't consistently there. Do I buy her reaction? Absolutely. Am I happy about it? Obviously not. Katniss's fire is what has drawn me to these books, and she's down to embers.
Otherwise, the book twisted and turned and I had no idea what to expect or who to trust. I was thrilled to get to see more of Gale. I've always felt like he hasn't had a fair chance with Katniss, and he does get his chance here. There are so many losses, my heart just broke over and over again. There were losses in Catching Fire that I still hadn't reconciled myself to, so these new ones just felt terrible. That should say something about how lost I get in this world, shouldn't it? I'm still mourning.
I still love the series, I still recommend it, I just want fiery Katniss back.(less)
Thomas suddenly awakes in a box as a group of other teenage boys looks down at him, calling him unfathomable names like "shank" and "greenie." He has...moreThomas suddenly awakes in a box as a group of other teenage boys looks down at him, calling him unfathomable names like "shank" and "greenie." He has no idea how he got there or where he came from. All he remembers from his past is his name.
He eventually learns that this group of 50-60 boys live in the heart of a maze. They've been looking for a way out for years and haven't found it yet. They must return to the Glade every night, or else they'll be locked out and left for the Grievers. Thomas starts to have a feeling that he knows more about the maze than he first thought. Turns out he's right.
Ya know, dystopian novels are just not my thing, yet I keep trying. At what point do I give up? Is it good that I keep trying or is it a waste of my time? I just don't know.
My problem with this book was that absolutely no one would tell Thomas what was going on. Granted, they don't know a whole lot about what's going on either, but someone could at least say, as soon as they get him out of the box, "Look, dude. You're in the middle of a gigantic maze. None of us knows how we got here. None of us remembers anything before waking up in that box. We get supplies weekly. Don't get caught outside the Glade after dark because these horrible monsters that we call Grievers will kill you. Yes, we've been looking for a way out but we haven't found it yet. Any questions?" Instead it's just a whole lot of, "Shut up with the questions! We'll explain tomorrow." And then, when tomorrow comes, it's "Shut up with the questions! I'll get to that in a minute." And then they don't get to it for days. It felt like a cheap way to build suspense. I don't think realistically that the whole scenario would play out like that. I know, I'm talking about "realistically" in a novel that has very little to do with reality (we hope), but human nature is human nature. We generally like to tell what we know.
I really--really--hated the ending.
The narrator, Mark Deakins, did do a good job. He has a fairly impressive cast of voices to keep track of, and they all did sound different, whether in pitch or in accent.
Dystopian fans will definitely like this better than I did. I won't be continuing the series.(less)
I didn't love this one. I'm not really a fan of dystopian novels in general so that could be the problem. Mostly though, I didn't like anybody. There...moreI didn't love this one. I'm not really a fan of dystopian novels in general so that could be the problem. Mostly though, I didn't like anybody. There was one guy that I kind of liked, really wanted to like, but his role turns out to be fairly small. The other characters were just jerks. And since everybody was a jerk, I wasn't sure who I was supposed to be rooting for. I don't think there was really a good guy. There was just bad and less-bad.
Maybe this world felt a little too...possible. It's set in a future where the big food companies basically control everything. We think the guys with the money control the world? Wait till the guys with the food decide to hold it back. Calories are some sort of commodity, energy is scarce, but at the same time, genetics has made huge leaps forward. How would you like some rice with only half the caloric content of "regular" rice so that you have to buy twice as much? You see how bad this place is?
I wanted to like Emiko, the windup girl, and I think I could have but all the scenes with her in them disturbed me. She's been genetically engineered to give pleasure, no matter what her own thoughts are on what's being done to her body. I almost gave up on the book completely in a couple of scenes where a woman was practically raping her for the pleasure of the crowd at the strip club they were both working at. She is different from most other windup people though (so called because they have been genetically engineered to have jerky body movements so that "normal" people know they've been genetically engineered); she wants a different life. She doesn't accept where her life is leading and she starts trying to change her fate.
There was a whole lot more about revolutions and governments but I couldn't follow it all very well on audio. With Jonathan Davis's narration, I had a very hard time keeping up with which character was speaking. Emiko had a kind of breathless voice but all the men sounded basically the same. I would probably have done better with this in print but I still don't think I would truly have enjoyed it.
This wasn't my cup of tea but others who enjoy dystopian novels more than I do might want to give it a try. (less)
Wade Watts is just your average kind of guy, living in his aunt's trailer, trying to get through the last months of high school, playing video games,...moreWade Watts is just your average kind of guy, living in his aunt's trailer, trying to get through the last months of high school, playing video games, and trying to solve a multi-billion dollar puzzle. Yup. Billion with a b.
See, it's 2044 and video game designer James Halliday has just passed away without an heir. He's left a video will for the entire world, promising his fortune to whomever can find the "Easter egg" he's hidden within the OASIS, a virtual reality video game he created that everyone is addicted to. In order to find the "egg," egg hunters, or gunters, as they come to be called, must solve riddles and challenges that Halliday designed around his favorite things, and they all center around the 80s.
Wade knows he's got this. He's watched War Games something like 32 times. He can sing lyrics to obscure 80s hits. His mind is overloaded with video game history and trivia. This should be a piece of cake. But things get complicated, as they always do, when a multi-national conglomeration finds a loophole in the will and starts tempting other brilliant minds to play as a team to solve the riddles. Wade is determined that these guys will not win at any cost.
What a fun book! I don't remember a lot about 80s pop culture, but I had a blast recognizing all the little tidbits Cline worked into this novel. The world of the OASIS was fully realized and I could see the appeal.
My one complaint with the book is the world-building though. While I did enjoy it for the most part, I felt that Cline got a little too involved in it and that led to some unnecessary info dumps. There would be a few pages in a row of a description or history of the OASIS that didn't serve any purpose I could see. Still, it was fun, and the author has obviously spent a huge amount of time figuring out how his virtual world was going to work.
For all his obvious love of the OASIS, I felt like there was a little warning about the seduction of such an absolute escape from reality. Maybe I'm projecting my own feelings, but I really think it's in there.
Wade, or Parzival as his avatar is called in the OASIS, is a gutsy, smart guy who's starting from next to nothing, and I enjoyed him immensely! But I really loved Art3mis. She's the only girl who is seriously in the running to win this contest, and she does not pull any punches. She comes across as super-intelligent and a little insecure at the same time. She is ultra-cool and a celebrity in the OASIS and the blogosphere. She's sort of a role model who isn't too perfect to relate to. And Aech! I can't say much about Aech except that he's such a loyal smartass that it's impossible not to love him. I was blown away by the direction his story took!
I've been practically shoving this book at my husband, who does know a lot of 80s trivia, and demanding that he read it. So consider this my virtual shove at you. Just read it.(less)
If you've read Cinder, you know where it leaves off. If not, I won't spoil it for you. So let's just say that Cinder's story arc continues. Meanwhile,...moreIf you've read Cinder, you know where it leaves off. If not, I won't spoil it for you. So let's just say that Cinder's story arc continues. Meanwhile, in France...
Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing and has been for about two weeks. Scarlet is worried sick but doesn't know where to start looking for her. None of the villagers are willing to help because they think eccentric Grandma has just finally gone off the deep end and wandered away. A new street fighter shows up in town and he seems to know something about Grandma's disappearance. But can Scarlet trust him?
I didn't like this quite as much as Cinder but I definitely still enjoyed it. By introducing Scarlet, Marissa Meyer managed to avoid my common complaint that the second book in a series is just filler. Had she stayed exclusively with Cinder's story, I'd probably be complaining. By shifting the focus, she fills in a lot of back story without a big info dump and we learn everything in a way that feels very natural. Hats off for that one! It's apparently a hard thing to do.
My problem was with Scarlet herself. She was angry and yelling for at least 85% of the book. At least it felt that way. If she wasn't yelling, she was thinking about yelling, and very occasionally she was crying. The girl goes through a lot of stress, so to a point it felt authentic. But after that point, I wanted Scarlet to grow emotionally and feel something other than anger or sadness. That's a little unfair but not completely so. I'm not sure if that's how the author wrote her or if that was just the narrator's interpretation. And while I'm picking on that end of things, it irritated me that Scarlet was the only character in the book with an accent. There are other French people who don't have accents. I guess it was a way to remind me that this was Scarlet and not Cinder speaking? I don't know but it bothered me.
I really liked the other new characters though. I liked Wolf, the street fighter, a lot. I thought I had him figured out but I was never entirely sure of where he stood or what was going on with him. Even narcissistic Thorne won me over. He is what he is. I appreciate that kind of self-honesty. There are hints that there are bigger things to be seen from him, but right now, we're good.
As for poor Emperor Kai--I just want to tell him that everything's going to be okay, even though I have no idea at this point if it will be or not. He has no idea what's going on with Cinder. He has no idea if his emotions for her are real or if he's been manipulated. But while he's dealing with his own personal pain and confusion, he's doing his best for his people, even at great personal cost to himself. I really, really like this guy.
Other than Scarlet's...anger issues...I still like Rebecca Soler's narration. Her voice is age-appropriate and she gives the characters life and emotion. I'll keep listening to the series on audio, at least for one more book. I may have to switch to print if Scarlet stays this shrill though.
I highly recommend this one for anyone looking for a very different take on some classic fairy tales. This series gets huge points for originality.(less)