Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Hunger Games co-review

Twitter can be a wonderful medium. In December me, Shannon from and Memory from started reading The Hunger Games about the same time, and we decided to co-review the book.

Here is the result of those conversations:

Maree’s questions:

1) Team Peeta, Team Gale, or Team Boys Kissing (#teamboycolt)


I'm team boys kissing \o/

Team Boys Kissing. I don't feel like we saw enough of Gale that I can really judge between him and Peeta.

I think I lean more toward Team Peeta, but I am always up for
Team Boys kissing. I loved the idea of Peeta genuinely being in love
with Katniss, but Katniss being unsure if she believed him or not.
Call me a sentimental mushball, but there we are. Plus, we didn't get
to know Gale so much, and Peeta's just so darn likeable. On the other
hand, I feel compelled to note that if Katniss ends up with Gale, or
with anyone else, I will somehow manage to go on living.

2) How did you find Collins' worldbuilding of Panem? Liked it? Hated it? Were horribly confused by it?

I liked it mostly; it's an intriguing idea for a world, brutal though it is. I thought she kept hold of the strands very well, which I find is something that can easily go wrong with worldbuilding. I wanted to know more - more about the history, about how the Districts came about, how their specialties were allotted, etc

I liked it. It felt like a realistic dystopia, complete with the struggling masses and the privileged few intent on keeping the rest down. I appreciated the way she structured the society (though I certainly wouldn't want to live there), and I think she began the story at the perfect time in her world's history. The people have been downtrodden for so long now that it's about time for a change--which is where Katniss comes in.

I liked it. Like Memory said, I wouldn't want to live there, and like
Maree said, the horror of the situation was intense. I think I need
to read further, because I have other questions. Because, honestly,
the capital seems like such an awful place and they oppress the
districts so much. Is the one reality show seriously all they have
hanging over the Districts? Would people really sit there for 74
years and be like, "Well, no we don't actually like sending our kids
to be slaughtered, but... I guess. Have fun, kids. Try not to die."
It just doesn't say very good things about people.

3) The Hunger Games is a brutal reality show, which is basically young people killing each other for the entertainment of the masses. Did you have trouble with the concept?


I did and I didn't, I think? I loved the book, and I loved Katniss, but every so often I would stop and think, "My God. These children are killing each other," and have an urge to take them all home and feed them soup.

I think I had less trouble with it than I should've. I really enjoyed the book, but I was still able to maintain some distance from it. I think the brutality would've affected me a lot more if I'd been deeply involved.

A little bit. Like I said, I had trouble believing that was the only
thing the capital was holding over the districts. And I guess maybe I
would have believed it was more of an effective thing if Fatness or
anyone had mentioned names of past people from the districts who'd
died. It was just like, "Yeah, our district sucks and we just have
this one drunk mentor dude who won." But that's pretty much all the
recognition of the people who participated before Katniss and Peeta,
and that doesn't seem realistic. Then again, I should add that this
sort of thing didn't bother me while I was reading.

Memory’s questions:

4) Do you thing THE HUNGER GAMES lives up to the hype?


Yes and no. I often fell into that oh-so-destructive "just one more chapter... and, okay, maybe one more after that...” pattern as I read. I liked Katniss, I found her world convincing and I was always eager to see what would happen next--but I was never desperate for more. It was a diversion, and an entertaining one, but it hasn't become part of my life.

But at the same time, I can see exactly why so many other people have gone gaga for it. It's got a fantastic heroine, it's fast-paced, it's action-packed, it's well-written, there's a real emotional core and Collins leaves her characters with something to fight for. It's blockbuster material, through and through.

Yes, it does. It wasn't on my favorites list of the year, but I did
read it in a couple of sittings, and pretty much plowed through the
last part. I tend to be pretty hype-averse most of the time, so I was
kind of looking for stuff to gripe about, but I didn't really find
anything, and I really want to read the sequel now.

I think it did. I wouldn’t put it in the same category of The Knife of Never Letting Go, but it was still an excellent read. I kept wanting to sit down and read just a little bit more, and make time for it, because it’s one of those fast-paced books that you just have to keep going with.

5) What did you think of the present-tense narration?

I thought it gave the book a wonderful sense of immediacy. We were in Katniss's head, living all this alongside her. Present tense always adds a sliver of doubt into the mix, too. If the book's narrated in the past tense, you can be reasonably sure the narrator gets out of it alive. That's not the case with present tense--and since much of the tension depends on the reader's constant awareness of Katniss's mortality, present tense was absolutely the way to go.

I didn't even notice it. I don't think it would have worked had the
story been told in past tense, because the present tense gave the
story an immediacy that it really needed. But that being said, in
response to one of Memory's comments, I didn't have any doubts in my
mind that Katniss would make it. After all, there are two more books
in the trilogy to go, so I guess for me the tension wasn't quite as
strong as it could have been.

I loved the present-tense narration. I felt like I was right there with Katniss the whole time, and that’s what really kept me on the edge of my seat. The immediacy it gave the story was perfect for it.

6) Did you manage to remain spoiler-free, or were some scenes ruined for you?

Well, I basically knew who would live or die, based on some heated Twitter conversations I've been privy to! Mostly, though, I went in spoiler-free. I knew the basic premise, but there were still plenty of surprises along the way.

I remained pretty spoiler-free. I quit reading reviews for The Hunger
Games, and haven't been reading them for Catching Fire, when I
decided I really should read the book. I think that's the best way to
go into it, though.

Despite the fairly heated Twitter debates, I managed to stay spoiler-free. I didn’t read any reviews, and so I went into the story not knowing exactly what was going to happen, and I liked that. 

Shannon’s questions:
7. Do you want to read the sequel? What questions do you hope will be answered?


I definitely do. I want the Team Peeta or Team Gale question to be
dealt with, and I want more information about the political situation
in Panam. I also want to know what Katniss's life will be like, post-game.

I own the sequel already – I have no impulse control, although I haven’t read it yet. Yes, I definitely want to read the sequel. I want to know what Katniss’ life is like post-games. I’m a little meh on the team Peeta/Gale debate; I’m far more interested in what Katniss is going to do now, and how she’s going to navigate the changes winning the Games is going to bring.

I'll definitely be reading it, as soon as my library can give me a copy. :) I'm looking forward to seeing more of Panem than just District 12 and the Capital, and I'm eager to see how the love triangle plays out.

8. How does this book compare to other dystopic novels you've read?


Mostly, I can't read too many dystopian novels too close together,
because they're generally kind of depressing. But I liked that this
one ends on a hopeful note. Katniss and Peeta are victorious, and
even though their personal lives aren't happy, I did like that they
stuck it to the man. I wasn't left feeling like, "Oh, God, the author
is going to make them suffer more' the way I was at the ending of,
say, The Knife of Never Letting Go. I really appreciated that.

Hmmm … I love dystopic fiction, but I’m bad at making comparisons. (Is that a cop-out I see? Sort of.) I loved The Chaos Walking books to the point of near-madness, and while I do love The Hunger Games, I probably enjoyed Chaos Walking more. But that was more about the writing, I think, than the worlds. Both worlds are incredibly well-realised and equally heart-breaking. (#teamboycolt)

I haven't actually read many dystopias yet; the only other ones I can think of are THE ROAD and THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH. THE HUNGER GAMES was by far my favourite; even though Collins uses the dystopic setting as a backdrop, the focus is always firmly on Katniss and what she's going through. The characters never feel like an excuse for the plot, which I'm afraid was the case with the two others I've read.

9. Would you read other dystopian fiction?

Yes. Like I said, I can't read too many too close together, but I do
enjoy them when I'm in the right mood. Again, if there's that kernel
of hope at the end, where I feel like the characters' struggles mean
something, I am all about that.

Oh yes. Like I said, I love dystopic fiction. The worlds and ideas are always so intriguing to me. 

I'm definitely open to reading more--starting with CATCHING FIRE.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Under the Misty Mountains ...

Time for a readalong check-in with The Hobbit, courtesy of Eva, right here:

On to Eva's questions:

Where are you in the story?
Just past the chapter with the trolls. I'm reading very slowly at the moment.

So far, has the book lived up to your expectations (for first-timers)/memories (for rereaders)? The Hobbit always lives up to my memories :D

What’s surprising or familiar?
I re-read The Hobbit a year or so ago, so at this stage it's all wonderfully familiar. :)

Have you been bogged down anywhere in the book?
Not so far, no.

Let’s talk about the songs…are you skipping over them to get back to the prose? Why or why not? I'm skimming the songs. Probably because I've read the book so many times, I think.

What do you think of the narrator’s voice?
I love it. I feel like I'm being read a bedtime story. :D

Does your edition have illustrations or maps? Have you been ignoring them or referring back to them? Just a couple of maps, and a few pen-and-ink sketches. I'm terrible with maps, so I never look back at them.

Now it’s time to play favourites! Who’s your favourite main character?
Oh. Goodness. Gandalf. I always loved Gandalf :D

Who’s your favourite minor character (i.e.: villains, random helpers, etc.)?
Elrond, I think. Oh! The Wood Elves. Hmmm ... Might revisit this one ;)

What’s your favourite scene?

Anything in Rivendell. I love Rivendell

Do you have a favourite quote to share?
The very first line "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." :D

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sanctuary by Edith Wharton

Go here: for details. :D

Dammit, I just looked at the blog and this is two days late! I thought I was scheduled for the 15th, not the 13th - really sorry!
Um. The nicest thing I can say about Sanctuary is that I finished it. It's 94 pages long, and it really kind of dragged.
I understand it's an early work of Wharton's and I haven't read anything else by her, so I can't compare, but Sanctuary - to me - read like a tired, dry little morality tale. And it IS a morality tale, but I felt like I was eating sand. Which could have been my mood, or the fact I nearly fell asleep while I was tring to finish it, or any one of a dozen things.
Kate Orme is about to get married when her husband-to-be lets her in on a family secret that is set to inform the rest of Kate's life.
She chooses to marry Denis Petyon anyway, and the story picks up in the future - Denis having passed away several years ago, leaving Kate to raise their son, Dick.
A rising architect, Dick finds himself with a moral dilemma after the death of a friend and colleague.
There's a lot going on for such a short piece, but I nearly found myself skimming parts of it that felt more like exposition than anything. The best thing in Sanctuary is Clement Verney - a young woman of unashamed ambition, who breathes life into the pages and the characters.

4/10 Why am I here?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

It's January! Do you know where your Hobbit is?

Yes, it's time!!! I'm so excited for this! It's my only challenge this year (IsweartoGod) apart from the Graphic Novel one (which I keep forgetting I signed up for), and it's going to be so much fun! :D
Here's the kick-off post from the lovely Eva - - and here are my answers to her questions:

When did you first hear of The Hobbit?
In primary school. One of my teachers talked about it :D

What made you decide to join the read-a-long?
I'm an insitgator :D

Have you read it before?
Yes. Many, many times

If so tell us about that experience.
Oh, gosh! When I was a kid, it was my favourite book to read if I was off sick from school. It always made me feel better. I used to borrow my brother's very battered copy, which had a page missing.
If you’re new to The Hobbit, do you have any preconceptions going into it? N/A

J.R.R. Tolkien pretty much founded the modern fantasy genre. So let’s take a moment to think about the genre as a whole; have you always loved fantasy? Or perhaps you still feel rather skeptical towards the whole idea of wizards and dwarfs and magic? What was your introduction to the genre?
The Hobbit and LOTR were my introduction to the genre, I think, although I loved Narnia and the Dark is Rising sequence as well; and I spent the bulk of my teens avidly reading anything I could get my hands on. I love fantasy still, but I've veered away from high fantasy, I think, and I love that the genre is so broad now. :)

Do you have a certain plan for reading it? A few pages a day, spacing it out over the month? Or are you just going to race through it? Let whimsy decide?
Let whimsy (and time!!!) decide.

The road goes ever on and on ... come and take the journey with us :D