These books are weird to me. The plot draws me in and the writing is apparently excellent because I actually care what happens to the characters, desp...moreThese books are weird to me. The plot draws me in and the writing is apparently excellent because I actually care what happens to the characters, despite Bella being one of the most unlikable heroines of a popular fantasy series that I can recall. Edward, 80 or 90-yr-old Edward, has absolutely no reason to like such a self-centered teenager besides her "scent." But the books get me to suspend disbelief and enjoy them. The action/fighting/chases are fun in all three books.
Concerns as a teacher/parent: Obviously, the overt sexuality in Eclipse. But the whole sensual relationship and lack of perspective or esteem is disturbing when dozens and dozens of my seventh grade girls WORSHIP these books and want an Edward. Bella is unbalanced and selfish, and the whole plot of New Moon basically revolves around that. Forgetting to breathe all the time and kissing his collarbone and constantly fantasizing--it just seems like a BYU female self-esteem clinic waiting to happen. Eclipse does finally begin to address balance and perspective in Bella's life, e.g. need for friends, merits of human relationships outside of Edward, importance of family, etc.
And despite all of that, I loved these books. Like I said, these are hard for me to characterize in my head. Good writing and new take on the vampire and werewolf mythos.(less)
Fabulous! This was waiting for me after driving back from Phoenix all day, and I foolishly started the book before bed. I finished at 2:00 in the morn...moreFabulous! This was waiting for me after driving back from Phoenix all day, and I foolishly started the book before bed. I finished at 2:00 in the morning and loved it. It is very violent though, so I think some of my friends may not like it.
Suzanne Collins is a fantastic author. I am the perfect target for a book like this and loved it. The premise and plot of the book are fun, but the ethical dilemmas presented (even in the midst of a voyeuristic killing field) create tension about much more than just killing people. (less)
OK, so I stayed up until 3:00 on a school night and finished it. It's awesome! I think that it won't have quite the "Wow!" factor of Book 1, but it's...moreOK, so I stayed up until 3:00 on a school night and finished it. It's awesome! I think that it won't have quite the "Wow!" factor of Book 1, but it's a different story. The world is established and violence isn't quite as surprising any more. The complicated relationships left hanging from the last book are just excellent--I think that key relationship is the best part of the story. Katniss is a great character who feels real.
The escalation of tension as Katniss navigates the political waters is great. There is a major plot twist halfway through that at first I didn't love, but it quickly became mixed in with the other plot threads I enjoyed and was very interesting. I love the political and personal scheming going on throughout the book. The ending is much like the first book--some big things are resolved, but there are huge questions that you will have to wait a year to find out.
Suzanne Collins is a little-known, major talent.
Oh yea! My wife is reading this and remarked on something I had forgotten to mention. It's another girlfriend/boyfriend (well, pseudo boyfriend here) sleeping together, but only for chastely for comfort. I have to say it makes a heck of a lot more sense and is not creepy in Catching Fire, unlike the Twilight Series. I mean the kids are basically experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome after being in a gruesome warzone and are still under threat of death and torture. But my mom just read a book with another couple hanging out in bed and it seems to be a quirky trend in YA fiction.(less)
**spoiler alert** I just reread Hunger Games and Catching Fire the last couple days with only 3 more days to go. I'm glad. I thought I remembered them...more**spoiler alert** I just reread Hunger Games and Catching Fire the last couple days with only 3 more days to go. I'm glad. I thought I remembered them well, but I had forgotten lots of details.
8-24-10 12:20 am -- I am now reading this one. =) There was almost a severe disagreement at the WalMart when they opened the box in electronics instead of in the book section. I got 1 of 25 copies, but some people didn't get one and there was some slightly heated discontent. The people who didn't get copies ended up heading to the Barnes and Noble which looked like it had a good crowd when I drove by.
8-24-10 WARNING, MANY SPOILERS BY NECESSITY--THIS WILL RUIN THE BOOK FOR YOU IF READ BEFOREHAND--I'M VAGUE ABOUT SPECIFICS, BUT MY COMMENTS AND TONE WILL COLOR ALL OF YOUR PERCEPTIONS
OK, finished. I'm not 100% sure how I feel about this one. 3.1 stars for now. The story is easily the most dark and depressing of the trilogy, which is saying something after the first two. Many characters we are fond of die, bad things happen to those who don't, and many issues are not resolved to our satisfaction--especially the rough handling of the love triangle. The neat symbolism of the excellent covers of this series (a metal mockingjay pin on first cover, live bird, but still in metal ring in 2nd cover, the live mockingjay soaring free on the 3rd cover) is arguably misleading in this case. If you've read the Gregor series, this definitely tries to impart much of the same lesson about the gruesome, "everyone loses" nature of war and its effects on individuals. But just as Hunger Games is a step up on the realism, theme, and characterization scale from Gregor, it's also a step up on the brutal, life-is-cheap scale.
Suzanne Collins definitely doesn't take the easy route and this story does not conform to hero-save-the-day conventions. Katniss is one of my favorite "unlikable" protagonists who is actually very sympathetic. One side of me admires what Collins has done with her in this book--she's often freaking out about things and dealing with her loved ones badly. She makes many questionable decisions and ends up NOT saving the day. It seems like this very realistic development (Post-traumatic stress syndrome, huge divorce rate and high incidence of depression and mental illness among veterans, etc.) is probably ignored too much [--Would it really be so easy for the Fablehaven kids to be so well-adjusted after being stalked for months, kidnapped, hurt, seeing epic warfare and knowing that mankind was almost wiped out? Or Harry and Ginny & Ron and Hermione to show no mental effects of their seven year battle? Will and Horace and the Rangers can just jovially joke after watching thousands of soldiers be wiped out in close, bloody, medieval combat multiple times? This applies to most of the Lord of the Rings characters too, but Frodo and Sam actually seem ahead of their time discussing the meaning of their struggle, all the deaths, etc. and Frodo being psychologically damaged afterward.--:], BUT...we just love our heroic quests and triumphs, me included.
It is really hard to see the protagonist fail and spend much of her time in confusion, indecision, bitterness, and failure, no matter that this is probably 90% more likely than one person carrying a series of books and continually overcoming all dangers to heroically save the day.
What the author does with Peeta, Prim, and Finnick is going to be hard for people to read too. War is hell and I honestly can't decide if I love the book for sticking to its guns and not minimizing that to produce our triumph, or dislike it for being too depressing and melodramatic.
The decision to go so unusually realistic is not made easier when the ending just seems rushed in too many ways. I think Collins got herself in a bind by committing to the Aug. 24 release date and big promotional campaign a year ago and really wasn't able to believably arrive at her chosen conclusion. The trap-infested, funhouse of the capitol just seems too B-grade sci-fi movie, Plutarch is too one-sided (contrast him with Cressida the camera lady and Katniss' prep team), and the cat would not have made it back to somewhere it flew away from in a bag. Coin's deception near the end (and Gale's indirect involvement and quoting terrorist tactics in the heavy foreshadowing) seems too blunt and meant to make the social commentary clear rather than act as a believable plot element.
But the worst is an almost non-sensical vote near the end about the Hunger Games where the people turn their huge governmental negotiation over to former Hunger Games winners...Huh? Dumb. And what Katniss says and votes, and the comment about her and Haymitch knowing each other in this context, make no sense as well. The entire story and Katniss' previous actions have been building AGAINST her position at the weird council. Then the huge deal they vote about is never referenced or explained, and the negative inferences about Katniss' and Haymitch's character are not resolved or referenced either. I can come up with plausible explanations, but none are offered. It's almost as if this council played a big role in some previous draft and was accidentally left in when the ending was drastically changed, and NO ONE noticed. It just was a jarring, glaring plot hole that seemed again to be intended to drive home the author's theme, but didn't come close to making sense. Did the sales staff override the editor on getting this book out on deadline?
I also agree with another review that Plutarch's assistant lady is included too much as a character to be seriously not mentioned in the second half of the book after her one plot development. Either resolve her a little, or cut half or more of her plot space from the book.
And after all this violence and psychological drama, the more personal, introspective ending was rushed too and seemed kind of slapped on. As if Collins had written the ending she wanted on a napkin like Rowling, but not been able to gracefully arrive there. The ending in terms of relationships is something that should be satisfying in the circumstances, but I don't feel like it was quite natural. It is also bittersweet. It reminded me of the ending to Milkweed if you have read that. Damaged person finding a measure of peace, and the same sort of realistic-but-rushed feel, but there is so much more left unexplained and unresolved in this fictional setting.
Gale's character development also seemed too one-sided, but I think I'm OK with it and that it also sheds light on Katniss' influences pre-Hunger Games. As some flashbacks reveal more of that side in his previously mentioned rants in the woods from the backstory (we basically did not know Gale in the first two books besides being skilled and handsome), it also makes Katniss' developed apathy and self-centeredness to avoid trouble make even more sense. I just feel that I can understand and empathize with Katniss' faults with her growing up a poor slave, dad blowing up, almost starving, Hunger Games, constantly being used, etc. And I think it is definitely possible to be in love with two people and sympathize with her love triangle.
So that seems a tangled mess and it is. The book is just hard to nail down in my mind. I know I've had other thoughts that I've forgotten as I've typed what I have. I lend out the first two to my seventh graders, but I'm not sure if I can recommend this one to them.(less)
That's really a 4 1/2 star, but it's a good 4 1/2.
Small spoiler warning: I'm being general, but I am talking about the ending, so stop if you don't w...moreThat's really a 4 1/2 star, but it's a good 4 1/2.
Small spoiler warning: I'm being general, but I am talking about the ending, so stop if you don't want to have a general idea of the ending.
The first 130 pgs of this book were just really annoying to me. And the sexuality is in my mind really inappropriate for my students. But after that the plot just is awesome. What warped wheels within wheels must work in Stephanie Meyers' head to come up with this stuff? As Bonnie said, Meyers surprised me once again. The ending is very different than I expected--and really interesting in a realistic sort of way. Books and movies are by definition stories of exceptional, non-common experiences in order to make them fun to read. Obviously, this whole vampires-right-under-our-noses story is framed that way, but having the ending NOT escalate into something more dramatic, very differently from the first 3 books and most fiction in general, was satisfying and annoying at the same time. A lot of life is like that--some things are kind of partially resolved leaving lots of potential for good or bad. So I see that the ending is one of the dividing points on those who like or dislike the book...I'm OK with it, mostly.
The parts about their physical relationship were amusing and actually logical in the warped vampire reality she's set up, but again, my 7th grade girls ADORE this series and I would be very uncomfortable with my daughter reading this at age 12. I am constantly telling my girls to discuss the book with their parents and making fun of Bella in class. The whole attitude in the series towards love and relationships to me is Hollywood skew--when have Edward and Bella ever discussed some deep attraction that is not physical? Blah, blah, they occasionally say the other is unselfish, but I don't see it. Utterly selfish 18-yr-old high schooler and "wise, selfless," 80ish-year-old undead guy don't have anything to build a relationship on other than "she smells good" and "he's beautiful."
That said, I just figured out why I really enjoyed the last 500+ pages of this book, and I think why Shauna did too. Bella is not self-centered and an idiot! Maybe not perfectly so, but pretty darn good. She's totally worried about everyone else and the previous books' pages of angst and pathos are replaced by some sensical guilt over necessary deceptions and interesting vampire X-Men.
So with that semi-ramble, I conclude I like the series. But it's probably the weirdest, most ambivalent experience I've had with a series in a long time. And talk with your young nieces who are reading this and make sure they realize Bella's version of love through most of the series is not normal or healthy.(less)
I just wrote a note on my friend's review of this and decided to copy most of it as my review of the series.
I think the hubbub and all the emails over...moreI just wrote a note on my friend's review of this and decided to copy most of it as my review of the series.
I think the hubbub and all the emails over this were way overblown. This first book is about as tense and thrilling and fun as YA fantasy can get. The characters are exciting (Anyone have bad dreams about golden monkeys?), the plot twists are perfect, and the mood just keeps you on the edge of your seat as you try to figure out what is happening to the characters and in the overall alternate reality/ philosophy of the series. I love it! I want to read it again because we finally watched the movie a couple weeks ago.
(The movie is OK--pretty choppy. The portrayal of Lara using the alethiometer itself is pretty lame in the movie. I can see that it would be really hard to translate Lara's thoughts and slow discovery of how the golden compass works to film, but it really makes one of the most important parts of the book almost pointless in the movie.)
This series generated a lot of controversy in the run-up to the movie and I received about a million email forwards about it right before it came out. The series is definitely not the "anti-Narnia" as the shocked Christian emails claim--people are often surprised that this has been a popular YA series for over 10 years. Hundreds of thousands of kids have read it and not become atheists. It's not organized or presented as an allegory--it's high fantasy adventure. When I first read the series, it didn't strike me as literally about religion. The bad guy calls himself God, but is obviously nothing like our conception of God. I don't recommend it to kids, but it's otherwise pretty normal fantasy stuff with evil deceiving the world via false religion. (Elantris, Wheel of Time series, many others I can't come up with right now, albino in Da Vinci Code, etc.) If you changed Sauron's name to God, the Lord of the Rings would present just as bleak a picture--the bad guy spawns evil creations, is all-powerful, almost all-seeing, and it's really only luck or ironic fulfillment that allows the weak good guys to overcome him. (See sidebar below.)
I've since read some interviews with the author and his avowed atheism definitely influenced his choice of plot, but I still enjoy the series as a mythological adventure rather than religious parable. I am very serious when I say that I am much more comfortable with my Jr. High students or my own children reading this than Twilight. The Dark Materials series sort of obliquely deals with historical abuse of religion and philosophy of what your soul is--it will go over most kids' heads and you should be talking to them about what they read anyway. The Twilight series subtly sells losing your identity to another, cynicism, and physical wish fulfillment in relationships with no rational basis. That sounds like thousands of actual, current broken dating relationships here in high schools and universities, and I think most Jr. High age girls will have their expectations shaped, but be unable to perceive that influence. You better darn well be talking about that series with your young teenage kids! (I still rate Twilight 5 stars by the way--it's fun to read!) And when they have to read Candide or Wuthering Heights in college, or even Night in high school, hopefully they'll have the analysis skills and confidence to deal with it.
Anyway, I agree the 3rd book is really weird with the Adam and Eve stuff and I wish the author hadn't resolved the dust situation the way he did with that parable. (I'm not being more specific because I'm not sure if you've read it yet.) The 3rd book in general is more random and not as well-written as the first two--all of the characters act inconsistently and the random plot twists seem more contrived. It kind of makes you finish though because there's no way you're stopping after all that.
The first two books are just intense, scary, fun stories. I know this sounds weird, but the suspenseful mood of the books and "darkness" of the story remind me of the movie, The Sixth Sense. They have similar creepy suspense in my opinion. So if you like The Sixth Sense, I think you will like these books. If The Sixth Sense creeps you out, I don't think you will like this series.
(Philosophical sidebar--I've never really understood how Lord of the Rings is supposed to be Christian. Gandolf has the obvious Messianic allusions with his rebirth, but he doesn't really do the saving. He kind of distracts the all-powerful evil. The characters find the strength in their humanity and friendship or destiny saves them. It's really very humanistic. Maybe people read the series in the light of Tolkien's known Christianity, and maybe they do the same with this series because of Pullman's atheism?)(less)
This is an interesting series. If you don't know, this home-schooled fantasy nut wrote the first draft of this when he was 15 and eventually got it pu...moreThis is an interesting series. If you don't know, this home-schooled fantasy nut wrote the first draft of this when he was 15 and eventually got it published at 17. The 2nd book was published when he was 19 or 20. He then served an LDS mission and the 3rd book is finally coming out this summer after a long wait.
The first book is OK. The author is smart and knowledgeable, but the book really feels like a mish-mash of all the fantasy series the kid has read. Some more obvious influences are Tolkien, Terry Brooks (Shannara series), Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time series), and the lady who wrote all of the Dragon Riders of Pern books whom I'm too lazy to look up right now. There's lots of action, lots of characters, lots of mysteries, lots of species, lots of magic, and lots of heroics by the headstrong, but good-hearted young hero. And the author throws in all of the big words he can think of to make sure you know this is a serious book.
Eldest is much better. There is a lot less action (he sits around and learns from an old guy for half the book), but the story improves. You learn more about the main character, the world he lives in, and the philosophy behind all of the powers and magic in the book. A second plot thread featuring minor characters from the first book is also well-developed and a few plot twists really got me, but they fit naturally and were not forced. The writing is just more mature and individual. I really enjoyed Eldest.
I'm excited to see how the series turns out. Shauna liked the series too.(less)
Oh. Just found that I hadn't reviewed this. This is a great series based on Greek/Roman mythology in our day. The characters can fit onto typical teen...moreOh. Just found that I hadn't reviewed this. This is a great series based on Greek/Roman mythology in our day. The characters can fit onto typical teenage categories of lovable, misunderstood hero, smart aloof girl, tough girl, etc., but the author does a great job with their dialogue and Percy's thoughts. There is also an unavoidable dark side to this theme because many of the heroes and characters are demi-gods, the product of a god or goddess hooking up with a mortal. The book deals with the kids' anger, feelings of abandonment, and motivations springing from the flaky nature of the gods fairly well.
The books are full of action. If you like YA fantasy lit, I can virtually guarantee you will love this. And if you also love mythology like I do, I can absolutely guarantee you will love them.
The dialogue and events are funny and how the mythology is worked in is extremely clever. The minotaur, Medusa, harpies, the Fates, cyclops, characters from the Odyssey (Circe transforms them into guinea pigs in this version), the monsters and tasks faced by Hercules, etc. are all here and updated in funny ways. Ares drives around in a leather jacket on a Harley while Poseidon is usually in shorts, Hawaiian shirt, and fishing hat. Athena's children are smart, tough, but scared of spiders (Arachne) and Aphrodite's children are prissies. There are also tons of minor, but often scary, characters and monsters included, which I find fun to learn about.
Fabulous series! I think the next book, number 5, will be the last one. And incidentally, I met the author briefly at a book signing and he seemed like a nice guy. He has a great website with all kinds of lesson plans and activities to use for teaching the book or mythology.(less)
I have hated these covers for years and not read these. But most who have read them have told me positive things, so I should really see for myself so...moreI have hated these covers for years and not read these. But most who have read them have told me positive things, so I should really see for myself sometime.(less)
Good and dumb. I generally enjoyed the story, and it was definitely intense. The main character, Tris, is only semi-likable which makes it hard for me...moreGood and dumb. I generally enjoyed the story, and it was definitely intense. The main character, Tris, is only semi-likable which makes it hard for me sometimes. I agree with her external goals, but her internal goals for personal development really aren't particularly admirable.
But my biggest problem with the story is the overall situation. I am pretty darn good at necessary suspension of disbelief to enjoy fiction and especially dystopian fiction, but the whole set-up seemed stupid and counter to human nature. The Giver, Matched, The Hunger Games, Uglies, Unwind, Epitaph Road, etc.. -- all huge stretches, but at least a kernel of truth and believability because I do believe some would go to great lengths for power and control.
So I believe what is happening right now in the plot with the power grab in the city, but that anyone would originally set the city up in such a dumb way for supposedly noble purposes just seemed stupid. The problems of the world were caused by cowardice so we should be macho idiots? Dumb. The other 4 "problems" are more believable...but the solution is to turn into OCD unbalanced zombie people? Dumb. Faction over blood in anyway matches a peaceful, unselfish, intelligent, or honest approach to life? Not believable. And I don't believe everyone could be conditioned to be so one-sided in terms of personality. Misinformed and compliant like Giver, Matched--probably an exaggeration, but at least conceivable to me in a worst case future. But to actually have the same personalities--no. I think most people would be "divergent." So I just had a hard time with the premise and everything was just a little jarring to me in an otherwise OK plot. I will end up reading the next one. (less)
I love books like this! A fast, fun, exciting one-day read. The series is great--see my Lightning Thief review. The series in general has good charact...moreI love books like this! A fast, fun, exciting one-day read. The series is great--see my Lightning Thief review. The series in general has good characters and gives some personal touches to classic myths. It's just fun and clever. I love the little references to history--in this one, there's a quick comment about Harriet Tubman being a half-blood daughter of Hermes.
Loved this one! My kids have been reading these for awhile now, but I for a long time assumed they were teenage angst, relationship type books. They a...moreLoved this one! My kids have been reading these for awhile now, but I for a long time assumed they were teenage angst, relationship type books. They are instead semi-apocalyptic, YA sci-fi--think The Giver mixed with 1984.
I really enjoyed the characters, action, and dilemmas in this first book. Be warned, it is definitely not a sweet, happy ending type book. (less)
**spoiler alert** Wow. I loved it! Total spoilers coming so click away or don't complain. This means you Mom. =)
I sometimes criticize books for being...more**spoiler alert** Wow. I loved it! Total spoilers coming so click away or don't complain. This means you Mom. =)
I sometimes criticize books for being too heavy-handed with their message, but I think The Last Olympian found the balance perfectly. I want there to be morals, lessons, and learning in the process of saving the world, and I think the classic background of the unchanging, selfish Greek gods just set off the lessons to even greater effect. Some of what is coming is obvious, but it's still powerful and good. I just totally enjoyed the ending in all it's goodness and symmetry. The gods sorta kinda learning their lesson is satisfying, but still true to the source material in that the gods refuse to learn in varying degrees.
The action comes fast and furious. The plot is great. And some events in the final chapter along with the first line from Riordan's acknowledgments "As the first Camp Half-Blood series draws to a close..." lead us to the idea that another series will come along eventually. That's good, but I hope Riordan is very careful. A similar series where Kronos just comes back again would be sad. He will have to come up with an extremely creative situation to threaten the demi-gods again and not have it be a rehash. (less)
This is fun. It's in the vein of The Giver and Uglies. The “utopian” society is more subtle than Hunger Games, instead dominating every little aspect...moreThis is fun. It's in the vein of The Giver and Uglies. The “utopian” society is more subtle than Hunger Games, instead dominating every little aspect of life while convincing the citizens of how fortunate they are like The Giver. The narrator is a believer who slowly learns more like those books as well. The Orwellian society may be over the top, but what story in this genre isn’t? Dystopian fiction in general is meant to push the “what if” boundary.
It’s clean. It’s interesting. The characters are very sympathetic. I especially liked the heartbreak and realistic split feelings Cassia has for the two boys in her life. I also like the dual roles her family members play as both parents and dreamers AND officials who uphold the societal norms. The author make this more thought provoking than Jonah’s bland parents in The Giver.
I think most of my Goodreads friends would enjoy this. (less)