American Sports: Basically The Hunger Games

I know, I know, what a ridiculous hot take. But hear me out!

So I was scrolling through Instagram, like you do, when I saw an ad (does anyone else get SO MANY ADS these days???) for Nike. It was a super cool video of girls playing football in the dark and rain, exciting music, and so on. The final message was that Nike is spending some large sum of money to promote having women’s flag football in every school in America by 2023. Cool! I would totally have played! I opened the comments, curious if anyone else was annoyed they weren’t all pushing for the boys to play flag football too. Well. I should have known better.

“You make football better?! I dont understand why they dont just give ’em pads and put them on the field with the boys then.”

“If they’re so tough and they sacrifice just as much, make them play real football, where men sacrifice their memory and their body sometimes.”

“How does flag football makes football better?”

“Why flag and not tackle ???”

These are the tame version of the comments, after the platform has taken down some of the most offensive offerings. But the attitude is the same. It ain’t football unless they’re hitting each other.

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Favorites February: Mockingjay

Welcome to Favorites February! This month I am re-reading The Hunger Games trilogy for the first time in a long time, and then taking some time to discuss and celebrate each book when I’m done. This is the final week, and I’m of course going to discuss Mockingjay.

I feel like I should start by saying I actively disliked the final book the first time I read it. I think the plot is objectively less strong than the firsts two books, and I still hate how the last third played out. It all seemed so pointless and unnecessary. However, every time I read this book I enjoy it a little bit more. This is also probably the most thought-provoking book in the series, so there should be plenty to discuss!

As always, spoilers ahead.

Summary

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans—except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay—no matter what the personal cost.

Why I Love This Book

  • Katniss’s PTSD is extremely intense and compelling, and I think important for young people to read in this bloody series.
  • Man, Snow is EVIL.
  • When they play “crazy cat” with Buttercup ❤
  • The ethical and moral questions brought up by the war.
  • What happens to Peeta is so terrible, but for some reason so unputdownable?
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Classic Remarks: Are Genre Classics Respected?

This week Krysta and Briana at Pages Unbound are hosting the discussion: Do you think genre books receive the respect they deserve, even if they are considered classics?

I think this is such an interesting question, and I’m really looking forward to hearing some of the discussion around it. The short version of my answer is: sometimes.

Classic science fiction tends to get a lot more respect than classic fantasy, but only if it’s not *too* science fiction-y. Romantic mysteries and adventures get taken much more seriously than the gothic adventure novels of the Regency era. Classic romance novels get taken seriously until about the19th century.

Examples. Fahrenheit 451 is generally taken seriously as “literature,” and is even studied in school by most American students. It was written around the same time as The Lord of the Rings, which is generally dismissed by the literary folks as perfectly fine to read for fun, but not on par with, say, Catch-22. Frankenstein, widely regarded as the first science fiction novel, is likewise beloved and respected. Dracula (which, to be fair, was never meant to be “serious”) and the stories that inspired it are not. Isaac Asimov’s work is generally well-regarded, whereas HG Wells is an oddity. Brave New World has successfully made the literary canon, Dune has not.

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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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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.
Continue reading “Favorites February: Catching Fire”

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!