**spoiler alert** And here we have yet another one of my readings for school, also from my Contemporary Fiction class. Unlike Burger's Daughter though...more**spoiler alert** And here we have yet another one of my readings for school, also from my Contemporary Fiction class. Unlike Burger's Daughter though, this book was a re-read for me. I found this book in a box my grandmother had sent home with me one time to give to my mother. My mom never ended up touching the box, but I read every single one in there, and The Poisonwood Bible was one of them. I read it when I was 15, and still a fairly unexperienced reader, in regards to picking apart themes and literary devices, so while I did enjoy the book, a lot of it went over my head. Also, I had zero knowledge of British imperialism and the colonization that went down in Africa way back when, so while I learnt A LOT reading this book, there was a lot of things I didn't understand because of my lack of knowledge prior to reading.
All of this is to say that I enjoyed my second reading of this book A LOT more than my first go-around. Because I already knew most of the events that happened in the novel, I could concentrate on the deeper meanings. I also have a lot more knowledge in regards to African history and imperialism.
The story is told through five perspectives, or all the women in the Price family: we have Leah, who wants nothing more than her father's respect and believes fiercely in the word of the lord; Adah, Leah's twin sister with cerebral palsy which has left half her body paralyzed. She's bitter and much more cynical and definitely doesn't believe in religion; Rachel, the vain oldest sister who just wants to be home and like other girls; Ruth May, the youngest, head-strong, five year old sister; And finally, Orleanna, their mother, whose chapters are retrospective accounts of things that have already happened and who is trying to find redemption.
Each perspective was unique and distinct. Never at any time was I confused whose chapter I was reading. Every perspective brings a different angle, or slant to what was going on around this family. The same events were presented from different sisters, but would bring different insight. Kingsolver used the multiple perspective very effectively, and it also helped that it was very easy to read without actually dumbing anything down.
The prose was beautiful and there are a lot of really nice passages throughout the entire novel. I didn't copy any down, but I wish I had, because Kingsolver writes very ornately without being flowery.
What really sold me on this novel though was that it made me FEEL. I was angry at that asshole Nathan Price for constantly putting his family in danger because he was too close-minded to see that the people of Kilanga didn't want to be changed, that they couldn't be changed. I bawled my eyes out when Ruth May died, at the unfairness of it. I was angry at the unfairness of the situation in Africa, at how North America abetted in it. I just noticed that I can't think of anything that made me particularly happy about this book. This is not a happy book, though it does have glimmers of hope (especially at the end, in a way.)
The only criticism I would have about this book is that it does tread a little bit on the preachy side, especially in the latter half of the novel with Leah's chapters. I didn't mind this too much though.
Final Verdict: I wish I had more to say about this book, but I really don't. It's a beautiful book that does a lot of things, and does a lot of these things right. It's beautifully written and is extremely heart-felt, as it made me very empathetic and invested in the characters. I'm really glad I had a chance to re-read it, as I enjoyed it this time around a lot more than the first (and I already liked it the first time I read it.) (less)
As this is the first book in the series, I've avoided spoilers, so read on! If you're paranoid, skip to 'Final Verdict'. :)
Guys. I love this book. This is seriously one of my favoritest books of all time. I mean, yes, I enjoyed it quite a bit in high school (though back then I found it a little slow at the beginning -- didn't have that problem this time; maybe it's because I was expecting it this time?) but this time I LOVED it to pieces. It's just such a riveting adventure, and I love the creativity behind Pullman's world. I don't know if the whole notion of the daemons has ever been used in another popular fantasy work, but I've yet to see it, and the way that Pullman uses it to expound on all kinds of themes, such as religion and growing up... I don't know how I didn't catch on to most of it in high school. Also, they're just friggin' COOL. I want a daemon.
That's what's awesome about this series; it's something that adults can get a lot of food for thought out of (I can't even begin to describe how many academic papers there are this trilogy) but it's got so much fun and imaginativeness for the kids as well. At the book store at work, this series is in almost every age group: adult, middle grade AND teen. I think that's a testament to how wide of an audience this book can, and has, reached out to.
The cast of characters is fantastic. Lyra Belacqua is easily one of my favorite literary heroines of all time. She's absolutely wild and crazy (though of course that changes over the course of the series) but still manages to be likable. Probably because of her resourcefulness, even when that resorts to lying, which sometimes gets her into a spot of trouble. Despite her initial rabidness though, she's actually an extremely caring individual. Also, can I say that I love that there are so many important adult characters who help Lyra A LOT throughout the course of the series, even when she's off on her own? Young adult fiction falls into the trap of eliminating adult characters a lot, but Pullman embraces them. I loved Lee Scoresbee and Serafina Pekala, and almost all of the adults in Lyra's life who guide her.
I also need to make a special mention of the polar bears. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Iorek Byrnison. He is easily the coolest character in this series and I love the role he plays in Lyra's life. And polar bears in armor? I don't know WHY I'm so enamoured with that notion, but they're just so BADASS. So, um, yes, I especially loved Iorek.
Final Verdict: This is a book that I'll treasure forever and ever. Pullman has created an amazingly rich and imaginative world. It has a great cast of characters, and despite being a yound adult book (though this book really appeals to all ages) there are plenty of adult characters who are almost equally important to the kids. In essence, it's got something for *everyone*, and I think that's why it's so popular and has gone done as a modern children's classic. This is a book that I press on everyone, and if I were to ever have kids one day, I'd be super stoked to read this to them and get them hooked too.(less)
***WARNING: This is a review of a sequel, so spoilers for the first book may crop up here. Read with caution. :)***
While I didn't like this book quite as much as the first, it's still a very awesome sequel and I'm very glad I picked it up.
The first thing I noticed is how differently this book reads from its predecessor. TNS had a little more tension going on because Stanton and Emily were being pursued through the whole thing, so they were always on the run. In this installment, there's no immediate danger (well, not right away anyway), so it feels a little more leisurely. I have to say that I really liked the fast paced feeling in the first novel, but it wasn't detrimental to this book that it wasn't; it's just felt different. Reading about Emily's obstacles as she tries to fit into high society was really entertaining though.
Also worth noting; if you really loved Stanton in the first one, don't be too upset but his absence in this sequel. He is around of course, but not all the time like he was in the first. I loved seeing him and Emily together in this one. They still bicker a little bit (how could they not?) but their relationship was pretty touching, even when Stanton was a jerk and kept all kinds of secrets from Emily.
And Emily! How I love that lady. If she were real, I would want to be her friend, because she's kind of awesome. Emily doesn't quite fit in society because she can't seem to conform to the standards that is expected of one who is 'high-class'. I think I relate to that because I'm really one of the most ungraceful people I know (not for a lack of trying). Not that Emily is ungraceful herself, but she doesn't fit into the norms of high-class femininity despite her efforts, and I can sympathize with that, to a certain degree. Like TNS, Emily is head-strong, resourceful and is not afraid to stick her neck out to get stuff done.
Stanton, on the other hand, wasn't quite as awesome. After everything that Emily did in TNS, I was frustrated that he didn't want her around more often to help out; he, and pretty much everyone working for him, kept whisking Emily off because she was a 'distraction', when she's proven (especially to him!) that she's quite capable of taking care of herself and helping out. I was frustrated with all the secrets he kept from her as well, but I eased a bit on that later on. I mean, what was he supposed to say, really? "Oh yeah, Emily, by the way, I totally had an affair with a crazy blood-thirsty sangrimancer, thought you should know." Or "I could have been cured from being burned, but I *haven't* because I'm actually this super-ultra weapon person in case of the end of the world." So while he secret-keeping frustrated me a bit at first, I was more than able to forgive him. So he was still kind of awesome, even if he bugged me sometimes.
In TNS, we didn't get to see how magic was used by others all too much. We mostly just got to see Emily and Stanton use animancy and credomancy (and a little bit of sangrimancy on Stanton's part). In THG, we see a lot more of how magic works in society, which was really neat.
The supporting characters were quite strong in this installment as well, especially Ms. Jecsiezka (is that how you spell her name? I can't remember.) At the beginning of the novel, I thought she was going to be a total bore, but she ended up being really sweet and caring towards Emily, and really did want the best for her and Stanton.
One other little thing that bothered me... what was with the whole Dmitri kissing Emily thing? I thought it was totally unnecessary. I am glad that it didn't devolve into some huge misunderstanding, or melodrama though. It happened, but I felt like there was no point to it.
To my knowledge, The Native Star was meant to be a duology, and I really got that sense from the ending presented here as well. This saddens me a bit because I really like these books. They're not DEEP or anything, but they're so much fun and I really enjoy them. I really hope that Hobson writes other books in this universe or something. Even if she doesn't though, I'll more than likely check out whatever she puts out next. :)
Final Verdict: This is a really great sequel. It's quite a bit of a different feel to it than The Native Star because there's no running from constant danger, but it's still a lot of fun watching Emily navigate in high class society. Emily is an extremely likable heroine, which makes her following her journey all the more enjoyable. Stanton is a lot less present in this installment than the first, and he did a lot of things that irked me, but by the end he completely redeemed himself. Watching him and Emily be in a loving relationship (but still remaining true to themselves) was really sweet. The minor characters were well done, especially Ms. Jecsieka, who I especially liked. :) We get to learn all about Emily's past in this installment, as well as her relationship with the Sina Mira, which was only touched on briefly in the first novel. The way the book ends and from what I've heard around the web tells me that this is the last book in the Native Star series, which makes me sad because I've really enjoyed these. I can just hope that Ms. Hobson comes out with more books in this alternate history universe. However, I'll take a look at whatever she comes out with next. :) (less)
**spoiler alert** I read this book for calico_reaction's Monthly Dare Challenge over on her LJ. Like the book club pick, I was super excited to have a...more**spoiler alert** I read this book for calico_reaction's Monthly Dare Challenge over on her LJ. Like the book club pick, I was super excited to have an excuse to read this book. I've been wanting to read it since it's release almost two years ago because the premise sounded amazing. I've always liked the debate that an unreliable narrator can spark, and that's the whole point of this title. Well, when I actually got around to reading this, I was... perplexed. When I finished, I put the book down and was still sort of reeling from disbelief, and was initially disappointed. The book wasn't what I thought it was going to be AT ALL. It's been a couple of weeks since I've read it though, and since then I've had more time to let the whole experience sink in. That's actually a good way to describe Liar: an experience. Anyway, I think if someone asked me now, I would say that I liked the book. No, it wasn't what I was expecting, but the fact that it has me STILL thinking about it as a testament to how powerful it was. Now, I want to really dive into this and get into my interpretations of the book (and there're a lot of ways this book can be interpreted), so if you haven't read this, DON'T LOOK UNDER THE CUT. There WILL be major spoilers.
I guess I'll jump the gun and go right into why this book threw me through such a loop. Reading the back of the book, I thought that this title would be classified as 'contemporary'. By that I mean that I didn't think there would be any supernatural elements involved. Well, you can imagine my surprise when I got to the second half of the book and Micah drops the bomb that she's a werewolf of all things. The first part of the book gave little to no indication that there was going to be any supernatural elements either, so when I got to that part, it felt like a smack to the face. For the rest of the book I was just waiting for Micah to own up to the werewolf bit as a huge lie. I just couldn't for the life of me bring myself to believe her. It didn't help that throughout the rest of the book she mocks the reader for being so gullible when she does admit to lying about other things. She also mentions at one point in the book of her fear of becoming a pathological liar, where one starts to actually believe their own lies.
My interpretation for the whole werewolf thing, and I'm not saying this is word of God, is that it WAS all a lie. I interpreted it as a way for Micah to deal with several things about her life that she disliked: her disease which covered her body in hair (which is an actual condition), to cope with the favoritism she felt her parents gave her younger brother and to deal with the death of her kind-of-boyfriend Zack. I think it also enabled her to better cope with the estrangement she felt from her peers at school. I think she was starting to fall into the "pathological liar" category, because she never did say she was lying about being a werewolf. Doing so would've also diminished almost all debate one could have over the book too, so I think stylistically it was a good choice on Larbalestier's part. Of course, there is always the possibility that Micah WAS actually a werewolf. But like I said, I just couldn't bring myself to believe it.
Now, this is a book that really needs to be re-read. I think I picked up on one or two of Micah's smaller lies, because Larbalestier does use detail very well. I think reading it again now I would be able to pick up on a lot more things.
As far as writing goes, it's great. Micah has a very distinct and unique voice. This is a very in-depth character study, and it's really more that than anything else. I also liked how events weren't presented in chronological order. It just made sense to have them presented in the order they were, and it shed light on different things when it was necessary (even though you're never sure which of these things are true or not.) Larbalestier is clearly very talented at her craft and I really want to read her other works now.
Final Verdict: I'm not too sure what else to say. This book is DIFFERENT, and unlike anything I've ever read before. I was initially disappointed at first because this wasn't at all what I was expecting, but having let it simmer in my brain for a few days really made me realize how much I enjoyed the overall experience. Just the fact that it stayed simmering in my brain for a few days is testament to what this book does: it makes you think, it makes you question everything, and it's a great book for discussion and debate. Don't pick this up expecting clear answers to everything though. Much is left ambiguous and up to interpretation, and while that took me a little getting used to, in the end, it's what I love most about this book. I need to buy this book now, because this is a title that I think I could re-read over and over again and get something new out of it every time. Larbalestier is a new author for me to look out for, and I intend to check out her YA fantasy series in the near future, because this is a great bit of writing. It's so nice and refreshing to read something like, what with the YA market being flooded with so much supernatural and dystopian romance fluff (not that there's anything wrong with these when done right, but there's just SO MUCH of it right now.) This book actually transcends YA completely. It can be enjoyed by teenagers AND adults. (less)
I picked up this book because back in 2008 I read one of Block's novellas (I really don't consider them novels -- they're really short), Psyche in a Dress, and I ended up really liking it. Since then, I've read Block's famous Weetzie Bat books and Waters and the Wild, both of which were fantastic little gems, despite their short lengths. Block is really good at making little books pack a big punch. When I saw Pretty Dead at the bookstore for a mere $4.99 (for the hardcover!), I just had to have it. However, while this book is definitely written in Block's distinctive style, it didn't quite hit the mark with me. It has some charm to it, but it didn't win me over like the other stuff from Block that I've read thus far.
I do have to give points for the book's writing though. Block has a very lyrical (I know that adjective is overused when commenting on writing style, but for Block's case, it really is -- it reads like free-verse poetry a lot of the time) that has some kind of magical quality to it. At times, I think she tries a little too hard to be hip and whimsy (ie. mentioning really obscure bands), it's still very enjoyable to read and has a nice rhythm to it, if that makes sense.
Her main character, Charlotte, is also very sympathetic. The 'tormented vampire' isn't exactly a new concept, but I did actually feel kind of sorry for the girl. She also really did seem to love her friend Emily, and I do love strong female friendships. Because of the length of this book, we don't get to delve deep into the relationship between the two, but I did really buy that Charlotte loved her, even though she does end up sleeping with Emily's boyfriend (which DID bother me, but more on that later.)
The other characters didn't do much for me. I relate to Emily a little bit, because what girl doesn't feel plain and wants to achieve the beauty and wealth that Charlotte seems to represent for Emily? Jared bored me, as well as the 'villain'.
While I really enjoyed the writing of the novel, and found myself liking the two female leads enough, what really made this book 'meh' for me was the plot. I'm sorry, but I can't root for a couple like Jared and Charlotte -- I do NOT think it's cool to sleep with your best friend's boyfriend, even if she is dead. I also got the impression that Jared and Charlotte didn't really talk, even when Emily was alive, so their sudden romance just didn't ring true to me, at all. Also, the 'Forrest Gump' sequence of the novel, where Charlotte goes over all the historic moments that her and the dude who changed her (can't remember his name) experience together, was really boring. Oh, I also didn't buy that Charlotte doesn't recall killing Emily. Just.. what? I get that you might want to forget killing your best friend, but that whole aspect of the novel seemed forced and tacked on for the sake of the plot; it just didn't make sense. And how was Charlotte transformed back into a human? Maybe I just read too fast, but that also didn't make much sense to me.
Final Verdict: This novel (novella?) has Block's signature writing style, which is really lyrical and whimsical and fun to read (though I find it a bit too 'hipster' at times), which is always a plus, but almost everything else felt lacking for me. The main protagonist was sympathetic, but everyone else was quite boring and just didn't do anything for me. Also, the plot felt really... lacking. I didn't buy into the major plot twists of the story. Now, usually with Block's novels, it's all about the characters. But because they fell so flat for me, I turned to the plot for redemption, so it's unfortunate it didn't deliver on that front either.
Overall, this novel was a miss for me, which is too bad, because I really do like the other stuff by Block that I've read. Because I love her so much, I'm still glad I read this, but I wouldn't recommend this for Block newbies; read the Weetzie Bat books instead.(less)
So, we come to the final, epic conclusion of this epic series.
The first thing I want to address here is God, or as He's called in this novel, The Authority. I was really surprised by how frail and weak he was. I mean, I thought he was supposed to be friggin' GOD. But no, he's this frail, dying, old dude. I did find it funny when Lyra and Will find him and he dies right there, and they're all "Oh no, poor guy", when he's pretty much the Big Baddy. I guess that crazy angel with the name that reminded me of a Transformer (sorry, his name eludes me at the moment and I can't find it on wikipedia) holds that role.
Seeing Lyra's parents redeem themselves was kind of nice, even if they were The Worst Parents EVER. They do save the world though by sacrificing themselves (while getting brutally beat up in the process), so I guess they were all right in the end.
Now, the ending. When I first read this book back in high school I was... shocked, to say the least, by what happens between Will and Lyra. I mean, I picked up that they had a crush on each other -- that was pretty obvious -- but it was the making out that really startled me. They're only 12-13 years old. However, after reading it a second time and picking up on the whold Paradise Lost parellels and whatnot, it becomes a lot less.. strange. I don't know. Am I weird for being startled by 12 year olds making out? Am I being a prude here? Kissing I can see, but the book describes them kissing pretty passionately. But oh well. It *was* really heart breaking when it was revealed they couldn't be together though, and that the one window they were allowed to keep open with the subtle knife had to be for the passage for the dead. At the parting scene in Will's Oxford, I actually shed a tear or two. Poor kids.
Seeing the growth that Will and Lyra made was also really touching. Thinking back to the first book, Lyra changes a lot over the course of the series without losing herself. It was such a seamless transformation that Pullman pulled off perfectly. You don't see as much with Will, but it's still there as well. Amazing.
All in all, it was a good conclusion to the series. This one is a little slower moving, but that's to be expected when it's clocking in at almost 500 pages.
Iorek came back in this one too, which made me really happy. :)
Final Verdict: This one is quite a bit slower than the first two installments, but it's got an epic ending that really packs a punch. This is seriously one of my favoritest series of all time, and it's one that I would re-read time and time again (though I don't get the chance to do that much nowadays with the teetering TBR pile.) I was really happy to have an excuse to re-read this series and I liked it A LOT more the second time around, which is saying a lot because I REALLY liked it the first time I read it. If you haven't read this series yet, please go and do so. I don't think you'll be disappointed. I plan on reading Pullman's Sally Lockart series, and I can't wait! (less)
All right, I know I've mentioned this before, but I'll say it again for people who don't know: I'm actually an avid anime watching/manga reader. I've been fascinated with anime since I began watching Sailor Moon back when I was a wee lass of six years. My fervor for anime has died considerably since high school, but it's still something I enjoy.
Anyway, I was introduced to the anime adaptation of TMoHS back in my first year of uni (so almost three years now), heard it was amazing and was the "next big thing" in anime. So, I watched the first two episodes... and absolutely hated it. I couldn't stand the lead titular character and it seriously turned me off completely from the show. Jump ahead about a year or so, and I try watching the show again... with the same results. Then, for some reason I still don't understand to this day, I decided to read the manga and strangly, maybe because I didn't have to actually listen to Haruhi *speak*, I was able to get through the first three volumes and actually found myself enjoying it. So, for the third time, I tried watching the anime. Well, third time's the charm I guess, because I watched all 28 episodes and actually really, REALLY enjoyed it. I've since also watched the movie (which is an important and latest installment in the series) and I've loved that as well.
I am a converted Haruhi fan.
Anyway, the point to all this is that I read this novel having watched the entire anime and a chunk of the manga (which is pretty exactly the same anyway.) I knew I was probably going to like this book, unless it was a horrible translation and/or it differed substantially from the anime. It did neither of these things, so needless to say, I enjoyed this quite a bit.
HOWEVER, this is not a book for everyone.
For one, the whole premise of this series is absolutely ZANY. Haruhi, for reasons unknown, is essentially the creator of the universe that the characters find themselves in, and thus, is able to change the universe to her whims and fancies (just because -- though the supporting characters [except for Kyon] are actively trying to figure out WHY.) That being said, this series is extremely hard to classify. It's science-fiction because we have characters who are aliens and time-travelers, and people with psycho-kinetic abilities, but this almost all takes place in a day-to-day high school setting. It's also got a very over-the-top sense of humor, as the series rarely takes itself seriously. It is the most un-scifi novel I have ever read, while still being sci-fi. Once you get over the initial weirdness of it all though, it really is an enjoyable premise; you learn to love the crazy.
Another reason this series is not for everyone is because of how genre-savvy it is. The whole point of the series is to satirize other anime genres (such as the moe genre, and high school slice-of-life setting, to name a few) and anime tropes, and this series does so in SPADES. So if you're not familiar with anime genres, tropes and cliches, a lot of the jokes might be lost on you.
One needs to have a fairly decent understanding of Japanese culture and Japanese school-life as well. I've watched enough anime over the years that I have a pretty decent handle on this, but I can see why some things might confuse other people who aren't (such as knowing that the school year in Japan starts in April, instead of September, or why school clubs are so important, etc.) They're little things, but still things that I can see deterring people from enjoying the series.
While this translation isn't a boy one by any means, it still might throw the typical western reader off. One of the things that first jumped out at me was a particular description. I didn't write it down, but basically Kyon is described a look on Haruhi's face and says that she was frowning and her mouth was in an upside down V shape. At first I thought: "huh?" but then this image popped into my head:
It's not a V shape exactly, but as soon as I was able to picture this, I knew what the author was going for. My point is, I think the descriptions, and some of the translations may come off as strange if you can't picture what's going on like in an anime, you know?
Now, enough of that mumbo jumbo. I'm going to get into what I like and dislike about this series, and how the reading experience differs from the viewing one.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, the main thing that turned me off from watching the anime was the titular character herself: Haruhi Suzumiya. To put it bluntly, SHE IS A BAD PERSON. She is horrible, she is mean, she is bossy and she has to have her way, otherwise she'll destroy the frikken universe. Also, a lot of her stupid shenanigans get people into horrible situations (ie. grabbing a member of the computer's club hand and putting it on her friend's breast, in order to take a picture with which the blackmail said club member into giving Haruhi a free computer for the SOS Brigade -- this whole scene is presented comedically, because sexual harassment IS SO FUNNY.) This is REALLY hard to put up with, but thankfully it's something that lessens over the course of the series, as Haruhi learns how to properly interact with people and grows as a person (aka Becomes Less of a Self-Centered Bitch.)
While I absolutely loathed Haruhi with every once of my being, there is Kyon to counter-balance her. Kyon, who is the narrator of the story as well, is a very sarcastic, very cynical, and very realistic dude. The problem with a lot of anime male characters is that they're either a) perfect and all swoon-inducing, b) pigs (though they're sometimes still lovable), and are present purely for comic relief or c) take the role of the villain. Kyon fllls none of these roles; he's a very normal guy. He's not perfect by any means, but he's mostly likable. He's also the anti-thesis to Haruhi and they make for an interest contrasting pair.
The rest of the cast is also fairly likable, though this first book doesn't delve too much into their character; we only really get the surface. They're all fun takes on the typical high school student tropes found in anime, but with the sci-fi twist.
Final Verdict: All in all, I was pleased with the english translation of this novel, and it's a series I plan to continue reading. I recommend it, but with HUGE reservations: if you're not a fan of anime, or you're new to anime, this series might not be a good place to start. It's a very genre-savvy title, and if you don't have a grasp on anime tropes and cliches, a lot of this might go over your head. But if you have a taste for the weird, and want to read something completely different? Give this one a shot. And if you like it, watch the anime. Haruhi's character was really tough for me to swallow at first, but if you can stick with it, she becomes significantly less annoying. You might not see these changes in this first novel though, so a bit of patience (and teeth gritting) might be in order. She gets better though, I promise! (less)
Why I Read It: I actually read this back in 2010 because I had been hearing mad-hype for this series (especia...moreReview can also be found on my blog here.
Why I Read It: I actually read this back in 2010 because I had been hearing mad-hype for this series (especially with the release of Mockingjay looming at that time) and just needed to know what the deal was. To be completely honest, I wasn't blown away. I mean, I *liked* it well enough, but I wasn't chomping at the bit to read the sequel, and I ultimately didn't (until recently). What DID make me pick this series back up was I went to go to see the movie adaptation on opening night. I wasn't expecting to love the movie because of my feelings for the book, but I ended up liking it so much more! It made me need to know what happened in Catching Fire and Mockingjay, but I felt a re-read of this first installment was in order.
Okay, so I actually read this back at the end of March and it's now nearing the end of April (stupid school, keeping my so busy) so this review is probably going to be lacking. Actually, I think I'm just going to review this like I did for The Monstrumologist, in that I'm going to make a list of Pros and Cons to map out my thoughts. Just makes things easier.
PROS - This is an easy, and fast-paced read. The 370+ pages fly by and even though this book has its faults, it's a real page-turner.
- I loved how this was a commentary on reality televsion. [info]calico_reaction talks about this in her review quite in depth, and I agree with everything she said: we get so attached to people we watch on reality television shows, that the whole concept of the Hunger Games as a blown-out-proportion reality show just made so much sense. And the whole idea of the sponsors and having to sell your personality, and to tweak it for the cameras accordingly, to the people was really smart, I thought.
- The ending. It's pretty obvious from the get-go that Katniss is going to survive, but the move she pulls on the Capitol was awesome.
- I actually like how Collins handled the romance. It never takes precedence of the Games, and I liked how level-headed Katniss was about it most of the time, such as using the romance angle developed between her and Peeta to get them sponsors to save their lives. And I like that the thought of liking him back never really crosses her mind (it does at times, kind of briefly, but it's never really a serious consideration), because she honestly has much more pressing matters on her mind, like uhh, her LIFE. I say that because so many YAs are so dependent on the romance angle to make things interesting, and I can't help but wonder if had this very same story been in someone else's hands, if they would have made Peeta and Katniss end up together by the end of this first installment.
CONS - This story is told from Katniss's first person POV in the present tense and I don't think Collins has really pulled it off. Despite it being told in the present tense, it still feels we're being told this story by Katniss after the fact. She's an emotionally distant character, so whenever she's talking about how she FEELS in any given scene, I never felt like her emotions were coming from HER -- it felt like she looking at herself from outside herself and then telling us her reactions/thoughts/feelings/etc. I hope that makes some kind of sense.
- Being stuck in Katniss's head drove me crazy sometimes. Some of the things she thought actually made me mad (like throwing away the bread Peeta's father gives her -- what the hell?) and I understand why she was so mistrustful of everyone, but friiiggg, I wish she had been slightly more friendly.
THE IN-BETWEEN - I'm still on the fence about Katniss. I love a lot of things about her: she loves her family, even if her relationship with her mother is tenuous, but I loved her and Prim, and her alliance with Rue. But because of the emotional distance that I mentioned earlier, I had a hard time warming up to her. I personally preferred the Katniss from the movie adaptation -- there was a much better balance of toughness and vulnerability there, I found. I don't know what how fair it is to compare the book and the movie here, but it coloured my opinion so I feel it's worth mentioning. I definitely don't DISLIKE Katniss though. She's by no means a bad character.
- I'm on the fence about Katniss's involvement in the killing that goes on in the Games. Katniss never really has to face any morally ambiguous choices in regards to who she kills and I think it's too bad that Collins didn't jump on that. At the same time however, I found myself admiring how Katniss played the Games and how she stayed true to herself, which is kind of a running theme throughout the entire series. So on the one hand, it felt like Collins was playing it safe, but on the other hand, it didn't feel super contrived to me, and it actually made me like Katniss's character more. I'm kind of torn.
Final Verdict: I had some issues with this book (though my main issue was with the narrative voice) but it was an overall addictive and fast read. I loved the commentary on reality tv because it rang so true with how we watch reality tv NOW, and I like how Collins handled the romance (or the lack thereof I guess). I never totally warmed up to Katniss's character, and I was kind of iffy about the lack of moral ambiguity presented here, because the novel could have been rife with it, but those things never made me DISLIKE the novel. It was a lot of fun and I'm glad I re-read it. (less)
Back in February, I read Shadowbridge for calico_reaction's February Dare and really liked it. Before I even finished Shadowbridge I went out and bought Lord Tophet. I had originally intended to read Lord Tophet as soon as I finished Shadowbridge, but March got super hectic with school and then April was even worse. I suppose I could have read it a bit sooner than now, but oh well, it doesn't really matter, because I finally got to it! I'm glad I didn't wait much longer to read this, because Lord Tophet picks up *right* where Shadowbridge left off (which was a huge cliffhanger by the way.)
My number one favorite thing about this duology is its focus on stories, and how stories/fables/tales/whathaveyou can shape a people and a culture, and how stories change over time because of culture. It also helps that these stories are some of the most beautifully realized fairy tales I've ever read. They're all imbued with this magical quality that I found mesmerizing. Leodora's story, while not written in quite the same way, feels very much like these tales that she conveys to the people through her puppets -- it's full of magic. The only story I found kind of odd was the story of Meersh and his talking penis. That ... uhh.. caught me off guard? Still a great tale, I've just never read a story with so much focus on a talking male member.
Leodora has definitely made it on my list of "Favorite Literary Heroines". She's headstrong and resourceful without having to fall into that "female badass" mold. No wonder Diverus had such a crush on her -- she is quite the lady. Soter drove me crazy with how mean he was to Diverus, who did nothing to deserve it, and with his overall surliness. He did however redeem himself quite a bit by the end when he finally spills the beans to Leodora about her parents' demise and his relationship to them both.
There's a bit of romance between Leodora and Diverus, and while I do think they'd make a very cute couple, I'm glad Frost didn't focus on it TOO much. I'm not sure why I feel that way, but I do, and I think Frost handled it perfectly.
And the ending. How I love the ending. It was seriously perfect. :)
Final Verdict: This is a very short review, but I'm really not too sure what else to say. Most of my feelings for this book were said in my review of Shadowbridge, and really, this feels like I'm reading the same book, seeing as its a very, VERY direct sequel. Frost has created a unique vein of fantasy with these two novels that highlight the magic behind stories and their malleability. The world-building, like the first volume, is stellar and has all kinds of magic and wonder at every turn that I absolutely loved. Like Pullman, Frost blows me away with his imaginativeness. This duology also boasts a cast of memorable characters, especially Leodora, whom I love quite dearly. I definitely recommend everyone to check this series out; it's just too bad it was published as a duology when it really could've been one volume. That being said, for the love of god, do NOT read Lord Tophet without having read Shadowbridge first. You'll be very, VERY confused if you do. (less)