The reading bug has reared its head…

Magical Books

Finally! I was wondering if this was ever going to regulate for me again! I love reading, and over the last few months I have done virtually none, which in itself is bizarre. It may be the fact that I have been overly busy, or trying to read books that are really just doing nothing in terms of reeling me in. I blame that for my despondency to read!

It all began with Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy. Just like that, I was hooked again, but still trying to stretch out the time it takes me to finish them. Maybe that way the desire to read will not end when the books are over? Who knows, we will see, but I can see many books being read in my foreseeable future, as well as a few new ones, but they are not so much novels as biographies. I have a suspicion I will be revisiting the Potter universe soon enough, too, as well as Stephen King’s Darktower series… Any suggestions out there as to good authors and great reads?

Wish me luck, I am on this mission to consume as much as I can! What do you do to free yourself when you get into a reading slump?

Review: The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

the hunger games book cover

Hunger Games #1

SYNOPSIS: Winning will make you famous.
Losing means certain death.

The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The ‘tributes’ are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.

When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature. – via Goodreads

GRADE 7I understand the concept of it being a book for young adults, but it was pretty decent. I know there are people that are comparing this to Battle Royale, but I never read that, so for me this was new and on it’s own. I did not like the way the love component was written in, it seemed a bit childish and flaky, but at the same time I need to remember that this was a book aimed at a younger generation. I liked it in a sense, but became very frustrated at other times. I was rooting for Peeta and Gale both at the same time, but you can see that Katniss is confused about them, and thinks purely about herself first, she is rather selfish in that sense. Both are good men, but who does she feel for? The story was refreshing, something new, and the books really were very easy to get into and get hooked on. The only thing I had to get used to was the fact that the book was written in the first person and present tense, which for me is very different from my usual stuff, and every now and then it throws you. I did not suffer from that reading it the second time around, because I knew how the writing  style worked. I must say, you can see that it is a book written by a woman and about a woman, there is a lot of fashion and beauty stuff that goes down that the average man is not overly familiar with, but it is bearable and you can overlook it the moment Katniss enters the arena. Suzanne Collins wrote it well that every now and then the full force of the injustice of murdering children for sport and punishment smacks you squarely, and again I was reminded about how terrible people can be to one another. A pretty decent read, I must admit.

SPOILER: I wish that Katniss would have been honest with Peeta on the train on the way home and told him how she felt, the last few paragraphs on the train that Collins wrote about. I really think that that would have changed the dynamic between them completely, made things more bearable. Again, her selfishness wins out, however, and Peeta is left to flounder about what happened with them in the arena. If he knew where he stood with her, everything would have been so different. 

Recently impressive films

This time I have compiled a list of movies that have impressed me as of late, unlike the previous list of disappointments from last week. These are not reviews, just what I felt about the films.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

I did not just add The Dark Knight Rises to this list because I vastly enjoyed the last two installments offered by Christopher Nolan into a monstrosity of a film conglomerate, but because he again brought so much to the table with this installment, and I was not disappointed. I did not fear as so many did to be let down, as Nolan is truly an awe-inspiring director. Again, he had the villain/hero ratio down perfectly. As much as you want Batman to succeed, so you want to see what Bane has up his sleeve, and what shall become of Gotham should a hero not rise?

I was completely blown away with the manner in which Tom Hardy brought Bane to life on screen for the world to see. I have to give him immense credit for how, although the majority of his face is obscured for the duration of the movie, you felt every emotion he had to offer. I also appreciate how Christopher Nolan gave Bane existence that was closer to what it should have been (albeit not his entirely correct back story), but he was no longer Ivy’s bitch.

The overall story was immensely engrossing, and entertaining. A stellar cast that works so tightly and seamlessly you get drawn in altogether. I thoroughly enjoyed having the Scarecrow featured in this film as judge, jury and executioner, but I saw that a lot of the audience that did not know the Batman story or the past movie characters too well, totally missed this little gem.

I feel that this was a tremendous way to close what I feel was one of the best film trilogies since The Lord of the Rings. It was excellent. It drew all the subplots together, concluded Bruce Wayne’s story so well, and gave the audience what it wanted. I personally felt no bitterness about the finale of this three part story, I only felt slightly saddened that this was the end. I mean, this is how you bring a superhero to life, after all. This was the most successful rendition I have ever seen of bringing a comic to screen. Christian Bale is Batman, there is no denying that, but I am glad the Christopher Nolan had the good sense to end it on his own terms, instead of it dragging out and having it fall apart at the seams.

50/50 (2011)

Then there was 50/50. I really feel this movie should have gotten far more acclaim than it actually did.

50/50 is a story about a young man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) of 27 being diagnosed with an extremely rare cancer, with a survival chance of only 50%. The movie takes us through the understanding of the life of a cancer patient, the friendships that are developed, the effect that cancer has on friends and families as well as how the process of cancer works. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I could laugh, get angry, get sad, get hopeful, feel despondency, and so I highly recommend this movie to be watched.

The humour was excellent, looking at dealing with things in life in a different manner, how people react to certain social events and how people sometimes use the most flawed reasoning. The film greatly balanced the humour and more somber side of the movie, having the mix perfectly right. You never get the feeling of mockery, scorn or ridicule off of this movie, and it is that that makes it work. It is heartfelt, and warming. This is not what I anticipated when I got ready for this movie, at all. I was slightly worried I would take offence of something like cancer being made fun of. That was definitely not the case.

The Hunger Games (2012)

Then.. The Hunger Games. I have mentioned in a previous blog that I was astounded that they conveyed a first person narrative so effectively to screen. The cast was strong and solid, and I think having Suzanne Collins on board for the screenplay must have made an insanely large positive contribution to the film.

I enjoyed how you could follow the story, and get wrapped up in it. The betrayal, anger and suffering of the people was brought predominantly well to the screen, and it was mesmerizing to watch. The cast was amazing, slipping into the roles ever so easily. I still find Katniss difficult to identify with at the best of times for varying reasons (not so much from this movie as from the books, however). Do not chalk this up as a children’s film and move on, as it really is so much more that that. It bears the story of hope and rising up against a regime of unfairness and oppression, and is truly worth the watch.

I am holding out for Catching Fire, which is due next year. I am sure that if they can keep the next two movies in the same line as The Hunger Games, they will have a remarkable trilogy. So let us hope for the best and see where this goes. 🙂

Are there any films that you can recommend that I see?

Distance Book Club, I present to you, The Hunger Games!

Somewhere along the line we would be destined to find decent books again. I have said, time and time again, discovering an impressive book is like coming across a great movie… there are millions of options, but a true gem? Few and far between.

I will admit, I was initially skeptical about reading The Hunger Games, mostly because they were recommended to me by someone who is, a) not a reader, and b) a pubescent teenager. I have learned not to take someone who is not a reader seriously when they recommend books, as this is how you end up with books such as Fifty Shades of Grey and the likes becoming overnight phenomena. It does not take much to impress someone who is not a literary veteran, who has not read tons of books, who has no idea what it is to stick by their authors through thick and thin, even when you know they have churned out some rather ghastly work.

Foolishly, in my mind’s eye, I chalked them up to be silly children’s books. I continued without them (but please, let me point out, I have burned my fingers horribly due to book recommendations from said pubescent teenager). I then got my hands on a few movies to watch, and The Hunger Games was among them. It took me a few nights to get to it, as the other movies were, of course, watched first. I had no high hopes. I had read such mixed reviews that even did not know what to expect. I certainly did not foresee enjoying it so tremendously!

I thought the film was a great rendition of the book as it is no simple feat to bring a first person story to life so successfully. But it was done (maybe because they actually let Suzanne Collins have a hand in the screenplay?), and it was done well. The movie kept me interested, they had a strong cast, they portrayed the book effortlessly, and who can deny that Woody Harrelson was a superb choice for Haymitch Abernathy?

The first thing I did was to go out finally and get my hands on the books. I started reading them immediately. It took me a really long time to get into the story, as I really don’t like anything written in the present tense, and I also do not like reading in the first person unless it is a autobiography, in which case I can appreciate. I soon discovered that this was a book I would have to share with my friend. Distance Book Club, here we come!

My friend and I read and discussed the books in minute and extreme detail. This was definitely something new, something different. I heard a lot of people say that it was so similar to Battle Royale it could have been called plagiarism, but I have as of yet not had the time to see what all the fuss is about. I hope, in future, to get back to you about that.

The books do have gaps in between them, there are flaws, but overall they are duly entertaining if you bear in mind the primary reading group is young adults, who are not so finicky about all the little particulars. It has been a while since I read something new that actually kept me hooked successfully. Thumbs up, Suzanne Collins! You cannot miss the fact that a woman wrote the books, though, that is unavoidable. The attention to fashion detail, makeup and beauty is enough to sometimes drive you clean around the bend, but bear with it. Every time I read about it, I failed to get around the awfully loud voice in my head screaming, “it’s a revolution people, not a fashion parade!”. Maybe the dystopian future will be extremely fashion conscious, even when at war, who knows?

Even with the flaws of the story, a box set has been placed prominently on my Christmas wish list (may the odds be ever in my favour 😉 ). It would be a lovely addition to my burgeoning bookshelf (which reminds me, I am desperately in need of a new one!). Ah, to read, to buy books, there is almost no greater comparable joy!

What are your thoughts on The Hunger Games?