Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book Review: Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

A two-in-one this time. I was going to post just a review for Catching Fire this week, but I didn't stop reading at the end. I just flipped the page (this was the entire trilogy in one ebook) and kept going into Mockingjay.

I don't think anyone needs me to tell them about these books. All three were bestsellers and continue to sell well. I read The Hunger Games quite a while ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, but held off on reading the other two until now. It wasn't because I didn't want to read them. Quite the opposite. But my chronic cry is "So many books, so little time." It seems like I've always got a book I've reserved at the library coming in or I hear about something that I have to read now. Anyway, I recently came to a pause and had a friend Lend Me his nook copy of the trilogy.

These are the kind of books that make you remember why you love to read. I've been disappointed in a lot of what I've read recently. The books are formulaic or something unbelievable happens or the characters are poorly drawn or it just gets boring somewhere in the middle. There was only one short section in Catching Fire where I felt like the story was dragging. This was when Katniss et al were participating in the Hunger Games for the second time. Since the first book had covered the challenges of this environment, some of the novelty of the idea had worn off. But I understand that the author had to have a set of similar challenges in the second book to make the story work. And it didn't last all that long.

Katniss and Peeta have returned to District 12 and now live in the Victors Village, a dramatic change from the poverty they knew before they participated in the Hunger Games. But despite not having to worry any longer about feeding her family, Katniss is restless. Gale, her best friend and hunting companion, is now working in the mines. His family is still poor. So Katniss starts hunting alone, bringing her game to Gale's mother.

Then she gets a visit from President Snow. It's hard to say a whole lot about this without giving away plot elements from The Hunger Games. I suppose I can say that Katniss needs to prepare for a wedding. Her decisions in the prior book have forced her down a path she's not sure she wants to take.

And the second twist is that she must take part in a second Hunger Games. Every twenty-five years, there's something known as the Quarter Quell. This involves doing something different, something more intense, than a normal game. This time, it's decided that the participants will be chosen from the victors of previous games. Now, the rules have been that once you participate in the games, you can never be called on to play again. But the Capitol has changed the rules.

And so begins a story not only of surviving the games, but revolution and the survival of mankind. An awesome tale, full of action and emotion. Memorable characters. I doubt I'll ever smell roses again without thinking of President Snow. And, despite being YA novels, I never felt like I was being talked down to. The writing was more mature than some of the "adult" books that I've read.

Highly recommended.
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