Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mockingjay (**CONTAINS SPOILERS**)

written by Suzanne Collins


As with my other immediate reaction posts, this will probably not be the most organized, coherent blog I write. This is because I literally just finished reading Mockingjay, and it was sufficiently mindblowing. Congratulations, Suzanne Collins, for successfully making my brain explode. Obviously, my thoughts were all over the place while reading, and are in no better state at this moment. The suspense of this book kept up throughout the entire read, down to the very final pages. I found myself sitting here, grasping the last few pages in hand, completely clueless as to how Collins could successfully wrap everything up so quickly. She did. She freaking DID.
The book starts with a one month time jump since the events of Catching Fire. Everything that happened there is explained, which, by the way, put Catching Fire in a new (and better) light in my mind. There's a lot of preparation and build up for all the big battles, and trust me, big battles there are, literal combat and raging inner psychological wars. All the while, Katniss' every move is still being filmed, a move I didn't quite appreciate (and, well, neither did Katniss!). Both Katniss and I really wanted to see more of her in combat rather than on camera.
I was really glad to see the romance toned down. Very early on, Collins makes it clear that Katniss is in no state to be choosing her "Team", at one point blankly making a statement through Katniss: "The very notion that I'm devoting any thought to who I want presented as my lover, given the current circumstances, is demeaning." This isn't to say that her inner struggle between Gale and Peeta doesn't exist, just that there are obviously bigger issues at stake. She does eventually (very eventually, it's not until the last page, plus the epilogue) make her choice, and while I am not at all a fan of the choice she makes, it's still written in an incredibly powerful emotional (or, as the case is, emotion-less) way. The way her castoff "Team" is treated, though, just slightly enrages me, as it is a character plenty of fans were very emotionally invested in.
Anyway, to more important things. I do not like the epilogue. I do not think Katniss going back to District 12, popping out babies and living a normalish life with Peeta is in-character at all.
There is so much effective foreshadowing done in this book, as well as throughout the first two books in the series as well. It's still extraordinarily difficult to tell exactly where the plot will take the reader, but ohh, after finishing the book, it's amazing how well all the pieces, laid out from the very beginning, all fit together. There's nothing I like better than a book that sets up an intricate mythology and mysteries surrounding that set-up, and then resolves all of the plot threads.
For the longest time, I was convinced that Gale would flat out sacrifice himself so that Katniss could end up with Peeta. Guess I was looking at this book and its author incorrectly. They would never dumb themselves down to that level of desperate romantic plot, and I'm so thankful I was proven wrong.
I came to a big realization while reading this series. It is very rare for me to like a main protagonist in a book or series, and for once, I do. I love Katniss. She was, surprisingly enough to me, my favorite character. Such a complex girl (and that complexity is fully fleshed out in this book, as is...well, pretty much the complexity of everything), with so much to face. Her realizations throughout this book about herself, her place in the world she inhabits, are emotionally raw in their realism, and her end emotional state left me paralyzed in its intensity. The story is darker than the first two, darker than most books I've read, and the progression of Katniss's emotional state is the most compelling and, in a twisted way, beautiful, part of the series for me.

Rating: A much deserved 5/5

I can't wait to see everyone else's reactions to the book! Leave me a comment with your thoughts (or a link to your review) if you've finished. =)

Randomish side note, I was shocked that Madge/her family played such a small role. I read this article and was convinced they'd be the key to the story, haha, so to not even see Madge in the book was a huge shock.

Also in the series:
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie

currently reading: Dragon Rider-Cornelia Funke
want to read: What else, Mockingjay!
reading next: Probably going to reread the first two Hunger Games books

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie
written by David Lubar


As always, it's really great to see realistic YA geared towards high school boys, about a high school boy who doesn't quite fit in and is just learning his way around the ways of his new high school and in a way, his new life. If you're a reader in high school, or about to enter high school, it's a neat look at a little bit of what high school life might be like, and if you're out of high school, well, it's a good reminder of a place you are probably really glad to be rid of. I've read books about awkward girls and popular girls in high school, but other than John Green's books, it's a rarity to read about a regular, albeit slightly-awkward, young boy maneuvering through high school. To me, this was a boy-version of The Princess Diaries, with a boy journaling his thoughts through his freshman year. I think it would really reassure boy readers that it's okay to be awkward, it's okay to not be athletic or well-known, and it's really okay to just be a creative, quiet kid. The writing voice is authentically that found in a typical teenager, discussing things like school schedules, the tricky new world of romance, and dreaded homework assignments. The book really succeeds at showing all the different roles one person has to take on in high school. The repetition and continuity of various motifs through the book are also a great touch and add to the fun appeal of the book.

Rating: 4/5

I got this book from...:Swaptree

I definitely have something I'd love to hear comments on. Some of the "typical" high school experiences discussed in this book...didn't seem very typical to me. I've always wondered, with movies like Mean Girls and books like this one, is high school life over-exaggerated in books/movies/tv shows, or are there actually high schools like those? Am I just a very sheltered child? Do high schoolers actively drink, go to parties, do drugs, etc? I'd love to hear your own high school stories!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kissing Kate

Kissing Kate
written by Lauren Myracle


I suppose this is one of the very few LGBT young adult books I've read, and like any other book, it had its strengths and weaknesses. The thing that definitely stuck out with this book was the vital element of realism. The moments described in the book are very down-to-earth, honest moments that teenagers experience, no matter their orientation. One of the things I didn't really like about Lauren Myracle's Internet Girls series was that, while funny and good reads, they were nothing like what I experienced during my teenage years. Moments of that series were extremely overdone and overdramatic. Kissing Kate was more down-to-earth and, in my opinion, a more genuine portrayal of the average teen's life. On the other hand, while being honest and down-to-earth, this was definitely a unique book in terms of content. It was one of the earlier mainstream LGBT YA books out there, and it goes more in depth covering the full length of a relationship, from beginning to end, as well as the oft-forgotten fallout from the end. My one real complaint with the novel was the introduction of lucid dreaming. I understand the significance of it, the reason Myracle decided to include it in her book, but the whole metaphor felt awkward and forced. My favorite thing about the book was the lack of labels. The main character, Lissa, has typical teenage emotions, but her orientation is never explicitly stated, something I found really great. Everything seems to be about labels nowadays, everyone has to be all gay, all straight, whatever, and sometimes, it feels like there's no room for anything in between. This was a great portrayal of a questioning teen who doesn't quite know what to label themselves as, which is what most teens are, when they're first figuring themselves out.

Rating: 4/5

I got this book from...:Bookmooch

Friday, August 6, 2010

Green Valley Book Fair swag picspam

So a couple weeks ago, my friend George and I went to this amazing book fair we have in Virginia, called the Green Valley Book Fair. It's about an hour away from where I live, and it's basically this old warehouse filled with new overstocked books.

I got to buy some fantastic books that I'd been holding off on buying simply due to price, and I'm really glad I got to go.

Books I bought:

I also picked up this fantastic shirt...

(it says 'got books?', I just got the picture at an odd angle, with the shirt slightly crumpled :P)

...and left nerdfighter notes...

...and really wanted to get one of THESE...


All in all, a fantastic adventure! I loved finding those books, getting to spend time with George, who I haven't seen all school year, since she goes to a different college and all, and driving through downpours. Whee!

That's all from me for today :) Tell me happy fun book shopping stories!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Reading Habits Meme

Lizzie over at The Book Obsession is planning on doing this weekly meme thing, and I'm a sucker for book memes. Check out her intro post!

Q: Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?
A: Nope, when I'm reading, I just read, and occasionally listen to music, either very softly or lyricless music.

Q: What is your favorite drink while reading?
A: See above.

Q: Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
A: I hate the idea that people write in books! >.<

Q: How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ear? Laying the book open flat?
A: Bookmarks! I used to dog-ear pages, but I grew out of that thankfully.

Q: Fiction, Non-fiction, or Both?
A: Fiction :) Nonfiction's okay if written on a topic I really am fascinated by, or written in a way to make me fascinated by a certain topic, but I tend to avoid it. If I wanted nonfiction information, I'd look it up on wikipedia. Books are my escape, and I'd rather escape into something that's not real.

Q: Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or you can stop anywhere?
A: I stop anywhere.

Q: Are you a person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if it irritates you
A: ...why would you do that to a book? =O

Q: If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?
A: Not usually, unless it's used in a really crucial context.

Q: What are you currently reading:
A: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Q: What is the last book you bought?
A: was actually a birthday present for a friend.

Q: Are you a person that reads one book at a time , or can you read more than one?
A: I usually read one at a time, but yes, there are occasionally times when I read more than one, particularly if I have something to read for school, where I absolutely *have* to have something fun to read on the side.

Q: Do you have a favorite time/place to read?
A: Anywhere, anytime.

Q: Do you prefer series or stand alone titles?
A: Series, definitely.

Q: Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
A: Thirteen Reasons Why. I honestly believe everyone needs to read that book.

Q: How do you organize your books? By genre, title, author's last name, etc?
A: My books are currently all in boxes/bags, but if they do ever get organized, it'll probably be series clumped together, authors clumped together, and then possibly sorted by the approximate order I read them in.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Get Well Soon

Get Well Soon
written by Julie Halpern


You all know how much I adore books that address teenagers dealing with mental illness, so it's no surprise that this book struck such a chord with me. It greatly helped that it was also written in epistolary form, and if there's any form of book I love most, it's by far epistolary. I love letters, I love writing letters, I love getting letters (who doesn't?), and I love the small glimpse I get of another person's life by reading letters, even if they happen to be fictional. I had read this book and Ned Vizzini's wonderful It's Kind of a Funny Story around the same time, and they are the only two YA novels I've read that do take place in a psychiatric hospital ward. Vizzini's novel appealed to me more, but I was really glad I got the chance to read Halpern's as well. She brings up some really great points throughout the novel, such as the idea of eliminating stereotypes. Her character, Anna, finds herself in a psychiatric hospital ward, where she has to force herself to step back and stop making snap stereotypical judgements, since she's hit rock bottom and has no point in disliking the people who are sharing the space. Anna gets to know people of all walks of life and all kinds of personal struggles, and along the way, finds out a lot about herself. It's ironic--you'd think a novel set in such a depressing setting about depressed people would, in fact, be depressing, but it's really not! Halpern manages to show the humor in a really bad situation, and you'll find yourself laughing throughout the book. The ending was a little strange, but it does fit with what I've heard, that going home and readjusting to "regular life" after a hospitalization is the hardest part. The writing in this book could have used some work and still carried the same authenticity, but as a debut novel, Julie Halpern really proves herself to be in touch with the way teenagers function and tackles a very difficult and critical topic that I always say needs to be depicted in YA fiction much more than it is.

Rating: 4/5

I got this book from...:Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh