RSS Feed

Tag Archives: review

The Hunger Games

Posted on

I know, I know. This post has been a long time coming. I first read The Hunger Games Trilogy in 2010, for heaven’s sake! I re-read them last year, and I expect that I will continue to come back to these books. They are that good.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you’ve probably heard of The Hunger Games. With the premiere of the movie quickly approaching, Hunger Games mania is at a fever pitch. Even as little TV (well, commercials anyway) as I watch, I’ve been seeing more and more trailers for the movie. I’m checking in every few days on getglue.com to unlock stickers bearing images of the characters. (Remind me to tell you more about Get Glue sometime soon.) I watched the premiere of Taylor Swift’s Safe & Sound music video on MTV and snagged the MP3 for free from Google Play. Have I mentioned that I’m really getting into this?

So if you don’t know what it’s about, The Hunger Games is the first book of a trilogy that goes by the same name. It takes place in a future, dystopian North American country called Panem. Apparently a long time ago, the districts of Panem revolted against the Capitol. They lost, and now the Capitol keeps them in line in part by forcing each district to send two tributes, a boy and a girl, each year to play in the Hunger Games. The winning tribute receives status and privileges. The losers die in the game arena. Our heroine is Katniss Everdeen. She ends up as the female tribute for her district, number 12. The first book tells the story of how she became the District 12 tribute, her training, the Games, and the aftermath.

Like many first entries in a series, The Hunger Games could have been a standalone novel. However, it was a smashing success, and author Suzanne Collins went on to complete Katniss’s story with two sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. It’s hard to talk much about the next two books without spoiling the first, so I’m not going to say much about the plot. Unlike the first book, the second one does end on a pretty big cliffhanger, so you will probably want to dive straight into the third. Luckily, I didn’t start reading these until all the books had been published, and I pretty much read straight through them all as quickly as possible.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I highly recommend these books. They were published as YA (young adult), but most adults seem to enjoy them immensely as well. I certainly did. I’m also anxious to see the movie, and I’ll let you know how I feel about it once I have.

Twilight

Posted on

So, yes, I admit it, I read the Twilight saga. The whole series. I was going to say the whole series except for Midnight Sun, but I started reading it when I went to get the link, and I ended up reading the whole thing on the computer over two days. (If you didn’t know, Midnight Sun is the story told through Edward’s eyes. Stephenie Meyer was working on it when it when someone leaked it to the Internet. She freaked out and stopped working on it, but she did release what she had to the fans on her website.) Yes, I am a woman over 30 who is procrastinating by reading an unfinished manuscript about sparkly vampires.

So, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, the Twilight saga is about a girl named Bella, her vampire boyfriend Edward, and, the third point of the mandatory love triangle, Jacob. It’s typical YA in a lot of ways – lots of angsty teen drama and everyone has flawless skin. But it’s extremely popular among teens, and, if you like YA and understand what you’re getting into, it’s not a bad read overall.

I thought the first one (Twilight) was pretty good. I know some people don’t like the whole emo vampire concept, but I don’t mind it; I kind of liked the direction she took the vampire mythology. It’s fantasy, people.

On the other hand, I didn’t like the second book, New Moon, as much. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so suffice it to say, both Bella and Edward behaved like twits for most of the book.

I thought the third book, Eclipse, was better, maybe the best of the series.

And now we come to Breaking Dawn. It started off pretty good. Then there was a long section in the middle where Jacob took over the narrative. (The rest of the published series is told in first person from Bella’s point of view.) Now this perspective shift was kind of necessary – Bella was incapacitated at the time. But I thought it went on way too long, and I liked Jacob much less by the time it was over. Then we came to the true conflict of the book. It was not great, but okay. Until the end. They pulled out this total deus ex machina, and then wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am, it was all over.

I guess I should comment on Midnight Sun, too. At first it was fascinating to see the story from Edward’s perspective. But if you thought Bella was just too, too perfect in the published books, this one will make you physically ill. He never tires of rhapsodizing about how beautiful she is, how loving, how selfless, etc. It’s just too much.

Bottom line: It’s worth the read if you have a kid who’s reading it (or wants to) so you can talk to them about it. If not, there are lots of other YA books out there that are better.

Outlander

Posted on

So I am finally caught up with the published Outlander books – I just finished An Echo in the Bone last weekend. Just in time, too, since school started for me this week.

Outlander is a series of books that form one epic story, so I can’t talk much about the plots of later books without spoiling you on what happens in the previous ones. The story starts with Outlander. (In the U.K., it’s called Cross Stitch). It’s primarily told from the first person point of view of Claire, a young, English newlywed trying to reconnect with her husband after being separated from him during World War II, where she was a nurse and he a soldier. The premise is that while they are enjoying a second honeymoon in Scotland she is exploring a local stone circle (similar to Stonehenge) that somehow transfers her 200 years into the past. Alone and friendless in the eighteenth century, she falls in with a band of roguish Scots. I’m going to spoil you just a tiny bit to tell you that she ends up being forced to marry one of them in order to protect them both.

The series continues with Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, and the latest, An Echo in the Bone. As you read the series, there are a few more comings and goings between the two times, although the journey is both unpleasant and dangerous, so it’s not something the characters do on a whim. Time travel is not necessarily limited to the main characters, either. The cast of characters expands greatly over the seven massive tomes, and the settings span two continents.

The author, Diana Gabaldon, has described the series as being in multiple genres, from romance to science fiction. If I had to pigeonhole it, I would call it simply historical fiction. Of course, it is also heavy on romance, has the time travel fantasy component, even military battles and strategy. If you’d like to hear the author herself talk about the series, she has (or had – it hasn’t been updated in two years) a podcast that you can find on iTunes or import directly from Random House (copy the link into your RSS reader or podcast manager). Careful, though; there are some minor spoilers for some of the later books. You can also follow her blog at dianagabaldon.com. I’ve heard that she also contributes often on the message boards at the fan site Ladies of Lallybroch.

If you enjoy Outlander, you may also want to check out Gabaldon’s Lord John series, which is about a minor character from the Outlander series. Some Outlander devotees are less than ardent fans of Lord John, though. I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t read the Lord John books yet myself, and I’m not sure whether I will or not. In some of the later Outlander books, scenes are told from Lord John’s (also his son, William’s) perspective, and I tend to find many of these tedious. I was particularly annoyed when a plot point was injected into An Echo in the Bone that referred to previous events that I believe were written about in the Lord John series. Perhaps Lord John is more interesting when he is allowed to stand alone, though.

The author has stated on her blog that she hopes that the next installment will be published sometime in 2012. I think I told you before that I had heard that An Echo in the Bone ended on a cliffhanger. It kind of did. The story being told was wrapped up, but a side plot was introduced near the end and left completely hanging. I’m somewhat hopeful that this is next-to-last-book syndrome (see, for example Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Catching Fire). However, I’ve also heard that she intends to write Jamie and Claire up to about 1800, which is still a ways off since we left off in the middle of the American Revolution.

So I highly recommend that you check out Outlander. I must warn you that the first book starts off a little slow. I read entire the sample on my Kindle, which is supposed to be around 10% of the book, and Claire still hadn’t gone back in time. I thought that the book was too slow, deleted the sample, and forget about it. However, so many people just raved about it that when the price dropped to $1.75 on Kindle I grabbed it. I continued reading, and I’m glad I did. If you’re not sure whether you’ll like it and don’t want to purchase it, check it out from the library or something to give it a fair try. I’d say that if you aren’t drawn in and caring about the characters by the time Jamie and Claire get married, the series probably isn’t something you’ll enjoy.

In Defense of Lost Season 3

Posted on

As you may remember, I’ve been rewatching Lost along with Jay and Jack. (At least, I’ve been trying to keep up, especially since they’ve started watching four episodes per week.) We’ve just (last week) started season 4.

I know that lots of people weren’t crazy about season 3. First, they did that weird thing where they aired a few episodes, then had a long break before airing the rest of the season. That was just painful, especially since they ended on that cliffhanger with – spoiler alert – Jack being in the Others’ clutches and liking it. They didn’t have an end date for the series, so a lot of season 3 turned out to be relatively unnecessary to the series as a whole.

Even after all that, though, I still really liked season 3 overall upon a rewatch. Of course, there was the part about being able to move on to the next episode immediately rather than stewing about it for a week or more. That really helps you get past a mediocre episode. And even in the “throwaway” episodes, it seemed like you got a little more insight into the characters. Yes, even Jack in Thailand showed him from an angle we hadn’t seen before. Why did he go there? How long was he there? We don’t know, but it’s fun to speculate. And “Exposé” would have made a great Halloween special, if Lost did that sort of thing. And, seriously, who can hate season 3 after the best finale ever? Just after watching those last moments, I can guarantee that none of you were thinking about the Nikki and Paulo fiasco or cage matches. In fact, I bet you weren’t thinking much at all besides, “Huh?”

Sunday Comics

Posted on

Since it’s Sunday, I’m going to talk about comics today! I’ve previously mentioned some that I like in this post, but, lucky you, now I’m going to tell you why I like them.

Calvin and Hobbes

My oldest-favorite comic is Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson. I remember (vaguely) when it first came to my little hometown newspaper. I liked it immediately. The irrepressible Calvin has the usual kid-ventures with home, school, friends, and play, but with the added twist of his stuffed tiger, Hobbes, whom he sees as completely real. Some people say that Hobbes is a manifestation of Calvin’s conscience; he is often telling Calvin that a particular exploit might not be such a good idea. I think he may be more of an older version of Calvin, though. He is still fun-loving, but he thinks through the consequences of their actions a little better, and he thinks kissing girls might not be so bad.

XKCD

The modern comic I’ve been following the longest is probably xkcd. This is an Internet-only comic by Randall Munroe. It’s sarcastic and nerdy, two of my favorite things. Although it is generally inhabited only by stick figures, a few regular characters have emerged, including the main guy, a geeky girl (possibly named Megan), a really weird guy with a beret who likes scones, and a sociopathic (but lovable) guy with a flat hat. This comic often has punchlines that involve math, physics, and other science-y things. If you don’t get it, you can always check the forums, where someone has likely already explained it. It is also sometimes about relationships, and can be risque, so it’s not always family-friendly.

Sheldon

Another webcomic I love for its nerdy content is Sheldon, by Dave Kellett. Sheldon is a 10-year-old who wrote some kind of software and now owns a multi-billion-dollar company called Sheldonsoft. Sheldon lives with his Gramps; a talking duck named Arthur; Arthur’s “son,” a lizard (don’t ask) named Flaco; and his pug, Oso. I got into it because of Oso; the author owns a pug himself and occasionally does a pug comic that is just right on. Dave has also started a second webcomic called Drive, a space opera. It’s more serial and less laugh-out-loud funny than Sheldon, but still fun.

FoxTrot

FoxTrot is an oldie that I’ve just discovered. It’s fun comic about a family with three children who get up to all kinds of antics. My favorite is, of course, the younger boy, who is a huge nerd. It’s pretty widely syndicated, so look for it in your paper.

Cul de Sac

I found Cul de Sac, by Richard Thompson, not too long ago after seeing quotes from Bill Watterson about how great it was. This is another strip about a family, the Otterloops, but this one is centered around 4-year-old Alice. There is a supporting cast of her little friends at Blisshaven Preschool, each with their own personality. I love the way Alice is portrayed – Mr. Thompson really gets preschoolers. Alice is often bossy, and occasionally mean for no apparent reason, but she is generally a bright, creative, energetic child just doing her best to figure out the world around her. Then there is her family: a mom and dad, plus big brother Petey, and and occasional appearance from a grandmother. I think Petey is supposed to be around 8 years old. He prefers laying on his bed reading comic books about a boy who lays on his bed to any sort of actual physical activity. He does have a few friends, including a girl named Viola, on whom he may or may not have a crush, and who may or may not have a crush on him; Andre and Loris, whom he met at comic book camp; and Ernesto, who may or may not be imaginary. Petey is more of a caricature than Alice (I guess a normal 4-year-old is funny enough), but he may be my favorite character. In fact, I think Cul de Sac is probably my favorite comic right now. You should check it out.

I am Legend

Posted on

I know, I know. I promised this post a long time ago. What can I say? I forgot a little bit.

So, I bought I Am Legend a few weeks ago from Amazon’s Sunshine Deals (now unfortunately over).

I’m not writing spoilers beyond a few basic plot points. However, some of the links may contain major spoilers.

I had caught the movie a few years ago on TV. I thought it was OK. I do like Will Smith, but there were some odd things about it. There were some bits that I thought would be important later but never panned out. I later found out that they had scrapped the original ending and written a new one. (Spoilers in the link, obviously.) Wow. The alternate ending wasn’t the same as the one in the book, but it was closer than the theatrical one, and, I think, truer to the spirit of the book.

The premise of both book and movie is that humanity has been wiped out by a mysterious disease that turned everyone into vampire-like creatures. One man, Robert Neville, remains, alone, defending himself against the monsters. In the book he is just a guy, but in the movie he is actually a doctor who was involved in creating the plague. In both, he is trying to find a way to reverse the disease. I can’t really say much more without spoiling it for you more than I want to.

The book was written in the 50s, so it’s a little dated, but actually not too bad. When there’s only one man left on earth, social issues are pretty much irrelevant. It’s a fairly quick read. Amazon says the hardback is 320 pages, although it didn’t seem that long on my Kindle. (Although that may be because I’ve been reading really long books lately.) It’s not guaranteed that you’ll enjoy it if you liked the movie, but I thought it was a good read. I recommend it.

Like I said, the movie stars Will Smith, so I like that about it. It’s probably worth the watch, as well. If you’re like me and it makes you mad when they change a perfectly good book into an almost unrecognizable movie, you’ll definitely want to watch before reading the book. I’d also get it on DVD (buy or rent) rather than trying to catch it on TV or Netflix so you can check out the alternate ending.

So, in conclusion, I am Legend: worth it for both the movie and the book.

Frankenstein, Complete

Posted on

Well, I finished Frankenstein. It took me about a week. (Alright, 8 days.) It was OK, not my favorite, but pretty good reading. At least until the end where there are these huge, moralizing speeches from the characters. (I’m really trying not to spoil anybody who hasn’t read it, although I’m assuming that you know the basic plot.)

The subtitle is “The Modern Prometheus,” and I couldn’t quite remember who Prometheus was, although I did know that he was from Greek mythology. So, like any good Internet addict, I googled it. There was some interesting background on Wikipedia. In case you don’t want to read it, it turns out that Prometheus was the Titan (kind of the gods that came before the Greek gods that we are familiar with) who created mankind. That is an obvious parallel with Frankenstein, who created the “monster” in the story. Prometheus also gave mankind the gift of fire, although he was severely punished for this by Zeus. (I guess Zeus and company had taken over by this point. I seriously need to read up on my mythology some more.) That is also very like the story of Frankenstein, where the eponymous character is punished for his “gift” of life to a monster.

Frankenstein is certainly tragic, very gothic. Like I said, though, I didn’t think it was great. A lot of people have said that they sympathize with the monster much more than Frankenstein himself, and I do get that. It’s not like he asked to be created. The story he told in the middle of the book about life on his own is pretty good. However, at the end, when he started moralizing about all the things that he did wrong, I quickly lost sympathy for him. It’s hard to be sympathetic with someone so boring.

So what’s the verdict? I guess it’s worth the read if it sounds interesting to you. If not, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. It’s a classic, so it will always be there if you change your mind.