Thoughts from The Hunger Games: Not so Different from the Capitol

The Hunger Games is a pretty explicit commentary on reality TV and sensationalized news stories in America. It’s disturbing how much Americans enjoy seeing people’s suffering play out in real time, whether it’s their failing love stories (Married At First Sight, *cringe*), physical challenges (Survivor), or even death (George Floyd’s murder being broadcast repeatedly on the nightly news). Even when it’s horrible, we just can’t look away.

But what really stood out to me as I re-read The Hunger Games this past month was the subtle way in which Suzanne Collins would relate me, the reader, with the viewers at the Capitol. Especially poignant to me was this quote close to the end of the book:

Well, Foxface died almost a day ago, so there’s been plenty of time for the audience to place bets and get bored.

The audience, i.e. the reader, has had a pretty “boring” couple of chapters. Nobody has tried to kill anyone, it’s just been Peeta and Katniss snuggling in a cave trying to not die. Presumably Cato and Thresh are fighting it out off-screen, but YA readers who like a fast plot are probably starting to wonder when something is going to happen to our protagonists.

And that’s the moment that got me thinking. Why is it so appalling to us that the Capitol would enjoy the spectacle of children killing each other, but it’s totally fine for us as readers to enjoy the same thing?

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Middle Grade Review: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

Series: Tristan Strong
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Maturity Level: 2
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Seventh-grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he’s going to spend on his grandparents’ farm in Alabama, where he’s being sent to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie’s journal. Tristan chases after it — is that a doll? — and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature’s hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world. Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American gods John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?


I feel like in writing a review of a Rick Riordan Presents book it’s impossible to not compare the book to Percy Jackson. Tristan Strong was just about as different from Percy Jackson as possible while still falling under the same modern-mythology umbrella.

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Favorites February: Catching Fire

Welcome back to Favorites February 2021! This year I’m re-reading the Hunger Games trilogy for the first time in (maybe) a decade. And here you are, just in time for the sequel that actually lived up to it all! I didn’t love Catching Fire the first time I read it, but the more I read it the more I love it.

As always, spoiler alert.

Summary

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol—a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest that she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

Why I Love This Book

  • Finally getting to know Peeta and Haymitch as people.
  • Seeing the other districts.
  • The revolution themes, especially because they are obscured and uncertain.
  • Cinna’s amazing design for Katniss’s opening ceremonies outfit.
  • How Collins explores that killing a person never really leaves you and Kanitss’s PTSD.
  • Seeing Katniss fall in love with Peeta in the arena, and watching everyone else figure it out even though she doesn’t.
  • Even though it’s longer and the Games don’t even start until the last 75 pages, it’s still so compulsively readable.
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Classic Remarks: Favorite Couples

This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: Who are some of your favorite classic couples?

Thank you, Krysta and Briana, for asking who are “some of” my favorite couples. Because I could just tell you all about Elizabeth and Darcy for a whole blog post, but I’m assuming that isn’t what anyone wants to read, lol.

No surprise that most of my favorite classic novels have great romances at the center of them. The only question will be whether I can keep this list to a reasonable length…

Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy

Is there anything more cliche? But I admit, Pride and Prejudice is probably my favorite book in the whole world. I love watching Elizabeth fall in love with Mr. Darcy. I love watching Mr. Darcy pretend to be indifferent. I love all the ridiculous characters. I love how they become better people for one another. But mostly I love Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth. *sigh*

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Review: Maybe in Another Life

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genres: Fiction, Chick Lit
Maturity Level: 4
Content Warning: Miscarriage
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆

At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.

Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?

In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her. As the two alternate realities run their course, Maybe in Another Life raises questions about fate and true love: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps, most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?

Hannah believes there is. And, in both worlds, she believes she’s found him.


Maybe in Another Life is entertaining enough, but compared to some of Reid’s more recent books was just kind of lackluster.

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Favorites February: The Hunger Games

Welcome to Favorites February 2021! This year I’m reading The Hunger Games trilogy, and had an absolute BLAST kicking it off with the one that started it all. I can’t believe it’s been a DECADE since I discovered this series. And I was already an adult… Geez Louise, I’m old aren’t I?

I’m assuming that everyone who is ever going to read The Hunger Games probably already has, so spoilers in the discussion. You’ve been warned.

Synopsis

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weight survival against humanity and life against love.

Why I Love This Book

  • Compulsively readable
  • Katniss is such an unusual protagonist: cold, calculating, and ruthless.
  • The complexity of the love story
  • Of all the dystopias I’ve ever read, this one is the most eerily plausible.
  • Rue! My broken heart will cry forever.
  • The elimination-style competition has turned into a kind of bad trope, but it is so compelling and convincing in this book.
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Classic Remarks: Classic Fanfics

This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: What is your opinion of prequels or sequels written for classic works that are out of copyright (i.e. not written by the original author)? Should authors be able to use other writers’ characters and plots for their “own” stories? Are there any classic prequels or sequels you recommend?

I am going to answer this question with a question. Why is it than when people do this with Sherlock it gets taken seriously, but when someone does it with Harry Potter it’s borderline plagiarism?

Because y’all, these books are really just fanfiction.

Now, it’s worth being said that there is a big difference in legal terms between Jane Austen fanfiction and Percy Jackson fanfiction. Because the classics are out of copyright and in the “public domain”, authors and publishers are free to publish any works written about those characters. Since Percy Jackson is still under copyright, to do so would require consent from Rick Riordan and probably include payment. So in that way, fanfiction is questionable in terms of legality. (We won’t go into fair use today, but let me tell you, I could and have written a whole essay about it!)

My beef with this subject is the scorn for which a lot of readers treat fanfiction, but then those same readers will gush about books like The Eyre Affair.

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Discussion: How Often Do You Re-Read Books?

I realize that for book bloggers this question comes with a little baggage. We love re-reading our favorite books, but we also feel a lot of pressure to keep up with new releases or read ARCs or finish our never-ending tbr. I know that a lot of us don’t prioritize re-reading. But I’m still curious.

My first year blogging I didn’t re-read a single book. My second year I started doing “Favorites February” and re-read the Percy Jackson series, but then didn’t re-read anything else for the entire year. By my third year blogging I knew that if I wanted to re-read books (which I did), I was going to have to be methodical. That was around the time I started doing my genre rotation, so I worked a re-read into that. These days I force myself to re-read something after I’ve read four new books. So about 20% of the books I’ll read this year will be re-reads. Maybe a little more, because of series. That being said, I abandoned by genre rotation last summer, so we’ll see if I can keep it up this year!

Do you re-read books? How often to you re–read? Let me know in the comments!

Middle Grade Review: The Wild Robot

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

Series: The Wild Robot
Genres: Middle Grade, Science Fiction
Maturity Level: 1
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is all alone on a remote, wild island. She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is–but she knows she needs to survive. After battling a violent storm and escaping a vicious bear attack, she realizes that her only hope for survival is to adapt to her surroundings and learn from the island’s unwelcoming animal inhabitants.

As Roz slowly befriends the animals, the island starts to feel like home–until, one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her.


What a delightful book! Everything about it was just so CHARMING and NICE and SWEET. Literally, I am dying from the adorableness and the feels and the lovely illustrations.

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Review: The Guest List

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Genre: Thriller
Maturity Level: 5
Content Warnings: self-harm, suicide, abortion
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?


I guess it is just time for me to finally admit that I don’t like thrillers and just give up on the genre. If I didn’t like this one, I’m not going to like any of them.

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