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Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Brief synopsis (Goodreads): The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The ‘tributes’ are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.

When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

Rating✈  Travel companion

Long story short (no spoilers): On the whole I thought this was a very enjoyable read. The premise was equal parts intriguing and horrifying, making me very curious to know more about it. After reading this I’m eager to find out what happens in the next book.

So, let’s get into it!

What I liked:

  • A complex female character takes center stage. I always find it refreshing to see a female protagonist be the hero of a book/TV show/movie that would usually fall under the “roles for boys” category. While representation is getting better, there still aren’t very many leading action roles for women, so it’s still an important achievement to celebrate. In particular it’s Katniss’ complexity I like; not only is she a match for her adversaries in the Hunger Games, but she is more than just a “strong female” archetype. She is also resilient, empathetic, lonely, and disillusioned. And that makes for a much interesting protagonist.
  • Themes in the book are (sadly) relatable. Voyeurism, materialism, desensitization, wealth inequality, tyrannical oppression…I’d go on, but it’s too depressing.
  • Good pacing, good action. The amount of time spent on each stage seemed fitting. The book is divided into two parts: the first comprises Katniss’ introduction, the Reaping, and getting ready for the Hunger Games; the second follows the actual Hunger Games and is almost three times as long as the first part.

What I didn’t like:

  • The limited perspective. A minor vexation, but it would have been nice to know how other characters were dealing with their respective circumstances, specifically Peeta, Gale, Prim, and Haymitch. It would have added to their development throughout the book as well as allowed us to get a more complete understanding of Katniss through their eyes.

Keep reading for a spoiler book and movie review!

Continue reading “Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins”

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Review: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Brief synopsis (Goodreads): Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the starchart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she’s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

Set against a backdrop of curious cultures and distant worlds, this episodic tale weaves together the adventures of nine eclectic characters, each on a journey of their own.

Rating🌴 Island collection

Long story short (no spoilers): This was such a fun book to read, and to think it may never have been published were it not for Kickstarter! Okay, well it may have been published eventually, but I’m glad it was sooner rather than later.

Chambers created a wonderful new galaxy and filled it with some of the most interesting and honest characters I’ve ever encountered. I appreciated the realness of the writing (the dialogue and actions stayed away from classic cliches), and I particularly loved that the character development was the primary focus of the novel more so than the story. That did slow down the pacing of the narrative, but I welcomed the tradeoff. There are also some pretty cool issues that are discussed including species/race relations, laws regarding artificial intelligence and genetic tweaking, and the consequences of cloning.

If you enjoyed watching Firefly, you’ll likely enjoy this book.The next book will focus on some of the secondary characters introduced in this novel. I am SO looking forward to it! Have you read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet? Is it on your TRL? Let me know in the comments!

Currently reading…

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Have you read it? Thoughts?

Review: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

Brief synopsis (Goodreads): It’s America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco, the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some twenty years earlier the United States lost a war—and is now occupied by Nazi Germany and Japan.

This harrowing, Hugo Award-winning novel is the work that established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction while breaking the barrier between science fiction and the serious novel of ideas. In it Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which it may just be possible to wake.

Rating✈  Travel companion

Long story short (no spoilers): Last week my brother persuaded me to watch the Amazon original series The Man in the High Castle. I didn’t know until about five episodes in that the show is based on a book by Philip K. Dick (who has had other film adaptations of his books, most notably Blade RunnerMinority Report, and Total Recall), and then obviously I had to read it.

The book and the show differ a bit when it comes to characters and plot, but the main premise is that the story takes place in an alternate reality in which the U.S. lost World War 2 and has been taken over by the Germans and the Japanese, who are in a sort of arms/technology race with each other. In this different reality there is a book (film reels in the show) written by “the man in the high castle” which offers a glimpse into a world in which the U.S. won the war (i.e., our current reality).

The web series adaptation didn’t mirror the book 100% (I didn’t expect it to), yet both were fascinating in their own ways. I liked the novel for its insights into characters’ psyches, and the way it laid the social and cultural foundations for this different reality; I liked the show for its exciting plot, character development, and satisfying ending.

Continue reading “Review: The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick”

Review: Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Brief synopsisWatchmen is a graphic novel published by DC Comics as 12 issues from September 1986 to October 1987. It was a collaborative piece with Alan Moore as the writer, David Gibbons as the artist, and John Higgins as the colorist.

The novel takes place in 1985, but in an alternate universe where masked vigilantes affect the course of history. In this timeline the United States wins the Vietnam War, President Nixon is still in office, and the start of the Cold War is delayed.

Despite their help during the Vietnam War, vigilantism is outlawed and the masked heroes find themselves shunned. Some adjust and fall back on other careers, while others are less able to cope. The story begins when ex-superheroes turn up dead or go missing. Who is watching the Watchmen?

Rating✈  Travel companion

Long story shortWatchmen was the first graphic novel I’ve read cover-to-cover. I know, I know…took me long enough, right? It was a little difficult to get in to at first, mostly because the images were overwhelming. I’m used to novels being more text-heavy and so adjusting to the format took some time, but I was completely hooked after the first 20 or so pages and finished all of it in a couple of hours.

Continue reading “Review: Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons”

Review: The White Mountains by John Christopher

Brief synopsis: Centuries ago the Tripods, giant walking machines with shiny silver domes and trunk-like tentacles, took over the Earth and enslaved all of humanity. Small metal caps wired into the skull shortly after a person’s 13th birthday allow the Tripods to control all thoughts and actions, thereby crushing rebellions before they start. Will Parker will be 13 soon, but he has heard stories of free men and women living in the White Mountains and is on a mission to join them in their fight against the Tripods.

Rating✈  Travel companion

Long story short: I first read this book in 5th grade and it made such an impression on me that 15 years later (in January when I was at Powell’s in Portland) I bought not only The White Mountains but also the other three books in the Tripod series.

What caught my attention right from the beginning was how difficult it was to pin down exactly when the story takes place. The year isn’t mentioned, but as you learn more about Will and his environment you gather that humans are living in a feudal society, much like Europe in the 10-15th centuries. Yet humans coexist with the Tripods, machines in command of futuristic technology and the ability to do and see things that Will’s peers can’t fathom.

Continue reading “Review: The White Mountains by John Christopher”

Review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Brief synopsis: If you thought your day was going badly, at least you’re not Arthur Dent: first his house gets paved to make room for a highway, then minutes later the Earth is destroyed to make way for an intergalactic bypass, then he learns that his closest friend is actually an alien and the book he’s carrying with large letters screaming “DON’T PANIC” isn’t helping the situation. And…I really don’t want to say anymore; I think the less you know about the series, the better you’ll enjoy it.

Rating✈  Travel companion

Long story short: Sometimes when you don’t get around to a book/movie/TV show quick enough, the hype is too strong and expectations become unrealistic. Thankfully that was not the case here. After being told I had to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide or else I wasn’t a real fan of sci-fi/fantasy, and after not reading it because I was too far down that shame spiral, I bit the figurative bullet and added the book to my reading challenge.

If you’re easily annoyed by ridiculous plots, this is probably not the book for you. The entire story is absurd and requires the reader to suspend her disbelief through to the end. If you’re a fan of the nonsensical, you’ll find the story is equal parts brilliant and crazy (maybe it’s brilliant because it’s so crazy?). Anyway, I had lots of questions, none of which were answered, so I had to push myself to keep reading. Kind of annoying and frustrating at times, but I guess it’s all part of the story.

No spoiler review for this book. If you haven’t read it, why not? If you have read it, what did you think? Comment below!

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