TWoP Fan's CBR-III Review #4 – Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I read Catching Fire about a week after reading The Hunger Games and it definitely colored how I reacted it. The plot in this book seemed a little weaker and frankly, somewhat redundant. I'm going to do my best to avoid spoilers, although I think that this book really added very little to the overall narrative of the trillogy.

So Katniss and Petra made it out of the games and now they are ensconced in the Victor's Villiage in District 12. Both of the familes have relocated and Katniss is coming to terms with no longer needing to provide everything for her family and with the nightmares that follow her participation in the hunger games.

I found myself wanting more description of Katniss coming home and putting her life back together. We don't get to see her return to her family and her district, which seems more pronounced, given the description of the Victory Tour and Katniss and Peetra reacting to the families of the fallen Tributes, which was beautifully written and quite touching. The allusions to the rebellion that brews underneath the surface are subtle and well played. I found much more interest in Peeta as a character this time around. I feel like he was given more depth, which served his arc well.

This book needed more time with Gale. Gale and Katniss can see each other more now and have some weak sexual tension. For her part, Katniss doesn't really seem that interested in Gale OR Peetra, save for liking them enough not want to see them dead. And hey, sometimes that's enough. I feel like Gale was the weakest of the characters. I understand his motivations and drive because of his past, but the character never expresses anything solid, making the reader piece together the emotional conflicts.

I felt that some of this book was really a revisit to the previous book and had me less interested. There were so many ways that this book could go and I feel like it took the easiest way to get to the next book. I was honestly a bit disappointed.

Rating: Not as satisfying as The Hunger Games, but an interesting read. Comparatively, The Hunger Games took one day to read, this took three.

TWoP Fan's CBR-III Review #3 – Obsession by Karen Robards

I've never read Karen Robards before. I kind of assumed she was a Danielle Steel kind of writer. You know, girl meets boy, girl and boy fall for each other until some embarrassing plot point drives them apart, boy and girl get back together in a predictable way.

I was pretty close. Just toss in a contrived mystery and you've got the formula.

Now, formulas exist for a reason. They generally work. This one really wasn't terrible as books go, but it there was no heart to it, and no real voice. Our protagonist is Katherine, who lives a normal life until she is the victim of and break and enter where her friend is killed. While she's in the hospital, she doesn't recognize her face or her clothing. Interesting, right? Aren't you going, oooh? Then she meets a doctor, who seems familiar but she can't place him and all her instincts say to run away from her boyfriend Congressman and her life. So she does. She goes on the run with the doctor and for awhile it's entertaining. It gives enough detail to make you wonder where it's going, but soon you can see where it's going and it's not that great. The ending is predictable and the 'twist' ending isn't really. It's surprising in the fact that you saw it coming and then thought, 'No, that would be stupid'. And it was.

It could have been a stronger book with better writing. The characters are bland, don't really do anything interesting and the protagonist never really gets past mild anxiety after being repeatedly shot at, chased and run down. Shock doesn't really translate well to a novel, especially one that's not strongly written.

Rating: The best way to tell if it was good it to see how long of a review it gets. This is one that can be skipped.

TWoP Fan's CBR-III Review #2 - Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Full Dark, No Stars is a collection of short stories by Stephen King, who is the most prolific retired writer ever. I feel like King does better with short stories. At this point in his career, his editor seems to have trouble telling King when he's been too wordy or too folksy, and he's often both. When he gets into a short story, he seems to have a much better internal editor. On top of that, he seems to be much better at finding the end point to his stories, rather than abruptly stopping or wandering off point to find his way back twenty pages later.

The first story is “1922”. It's your basic man marries wife, has kid, murders wife, gets haunted. It's the perfect setting for King's sayings he's always dragging into his EW column, which are annoying as all get out unless they are well-set into a story. Fortunately, it works well here. The story evokes the rural setting and the desperation of a man in a hard life that's never going to get easier. It's an easy read, not unforgettable, but a nice way to spend some time. He does give the main character the middle name of Leland, which was the name of the evil proprietor in Needful Things, which is my all time favorite King novel. Just an FYI.

The second story, “Big Driver”, is a bit different than the usual supernatural horror. This is about the real horror of a woman attacked and left or dead and what it does to her in the aftermath. It's hard to describe without delving into spoilers, but it is very raw and surprising. King does a nice job with female characters and this story feels real.

"Fair Extension” was an interesting concept that I think hits the mark. A man makes a deal to extend his life at the consequence of a man he hates, who is also his best friend. It's an exploration in jealousy, revenge, betrayal and the idea of getting what we deserve. Can we ever really be happy for someone we love who seems to have so much more than we do?

"A Good Marriage" was my favorite story. It's a simple story of when a wife discovers that he husband of nearly thirty years has a side she's never known about. It's well done and the discoveries are grisly and believable. It's more about what the wife discovers about herself rather than her husband. I was a little hesitant to sleep by my husband that night. Really, what do I know about that guy?

Rating: Fine stories, but not King's best. Also, read Needful Things. Trust me.

CBR 3: Review #1: The Hunger Games

Book 1:
The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Read: December 19, 2010

I've actually been avoiding reading The Hunger Games for a few months now. I'm one of those people who when everyone says 'Oh my god, this book is so good, you have to read it!', I avoid reading it. Maybe I have too high of expectations and I don't want to be let down. Or find out that the people I consider friends have horrible taste. It was a poor decision this time, because The Hunger Games was phenomenal.

I'm a big believer in reading books from different genres and for different age-groups and audiences. I've read some great and some terrible Young Adult novels. The Hunger Games is written well, the language is concise, but descriptive. The world that our heroine Katliss lives in is vivid, but it's not so wordy that you get lost in the description and lose the plot. The first thirty or so pages were so bleak that I almost gave up on it. I wasn't really up for a book about starving children forced into gladiator combat with no hope of survival. After the reaping, the book really picks up. The story is that our world collapses and it is redrawn into 12 Districts. Every year each district draws two tributes (kids) that compete in a fight to the death call The Hunger Games, that is televised. It's has all the glorification (and sponsors) of our Olympics. The Hunger Games are to remind the people of the country of how lucky they are to live their meager lives without the Capital making it worse. It sounds goofy and ridiculous and in the hands of a less author it would be. Collins infuses the material with life and fleshes out details of characters and setting that make everything overwhelming with emotion and realism.

The preparation for the games and the look into how the Society works is fascinating and well-drawn out. Everything seems futuristic, but not to a point where it is too unbelievable for the story. The characters are interesting and they are developed well, for the most part. I enjoyed the fact that Katniss wasn't romantic about the past or the future, that she was practical, resourceful and cold. It's just how someone who had to scrape together meager amounts of food for her family to subsist on would be. Her sister Prim was just as sketch of a character, but she is more a part of Katniss than an actual person to the story. Peetra, the baker's son and Katniss' fellow tribute from District 12, is written as one of the few good characters and without the moments of rebellion or anger, it would feel forced, but it doesn't. The romantic point of plot isn't overly forced, though I felt that Gale, Katniss' hunting partner in District 12 needed to be given more time if he was going to work as a potential partner for Katniss.

Overall the setting is inventive, the characters are real and resourceful and the plot and pacing are clever and quick. Don't let the YA stamp fool you. Read this book.

Rating: A must read.

Cannonball Read 3

Okay, so I write the occasional Big Love review for the website Pajiba and every year they have a book read and review contest called the Cannonball Read. I joined up this year, so I'm going to be posting my reviews here and on the CBR3 blog. Which means there will be actual posts here. Awesome!