Curse of the Chupacabra

Monday, June 10, 2013

Book Review: Catching Fire & Mockingjay

I’ve always felt that I have been a better writer than reader.  I will proudly admit that I read at a snail’s pace.  I am not exactly sure why that is, but whether I’m fully into a story or struggling just to get through it, my speed does not fluctuate by much.

Reading also tends to put me to sleep if I’m not completely enthralled, which is why I’m extremely fussy about the books I read, which is also why my bookshelf is pathetically scarce of titles when compared to other authors.  However, I’ll read anything as long as I am extremely interested, no matter the genre.  That being said… I do still read whenever I can.  It has more to do than just loving a good book; it’s loving a good story with dynamic characters, engaging plots, and thrilling conflict, be it in the form of the written word, film, theatre, or video games (don’t laugh, some of the best stories have come from gaming.)

So, getting to the point of this—because I do have one—I’ve decided to put my two obsessions for reading and writing to proper use and publish the occasional review on books I’ve read.  Realistically, I’ve already started, having been registered with Goodreads for a while now.  For the first few reviews, I’ll post my more recent comments.  Unfortunately, I will not be going back to review books read more than a year ago, which I never wrote a review for.  I do not believe that would be acceptable since the details would not be fresh, no matter how much I loved or hated the book (unless I reread it, of course).  And, by the way, FYI, I am a hard-ass… I just can’t help it.

To start, I’d actually like to begin with a double review since the freshest review was on “Mockingjay” – the third book in “The Hunger Games” trilogy.  It only makes sense to post my review of “Catching Fire” – the second book – along with it.

(4 of 5 Stars) After toying with the idea of reading this book for nearly a year, I finally decided to crack the spine once I discovered that the story dealt more with the restricting utopia of Panem and their reaction to being outsmarted by a teenage girl, and having a little less to do with the actual Hunger Games. I'm not saying that I think Book One (The Hunger Games) is a bad story (Note: as of this review, I have only watched the movie and not read the book), but I personally have trouble swallowing the concept of children killing children.

Catching Fire spreads its wings beyond the annual Hunger Games and encompasses the suppressive world and their districts lead by a Nazi-like ruler, President Snow. I found this to be a more appealing story. The Hunger Games are still prominent, but this time, they are told in a way that doesn't have me question my own morals about being entertained by youth violence. But that is not to say the Games are without another - different - moral compass that brought its own special brand of tension. The somber romance of the original story returns on a slightly grander scale, as well as a cast of interesting new characters. Some of my favorites: Johanna, Finnick, and Wiress.

Overall, a very good story that gives a clearer understanding of the world they have to survive in whether it is inside or outside of the arena. I did come across a few minor plot holes or "far reaches" that momentarily knocked me out of the story, but none were major and I found it easy to get back into Collins' dystopia. I am looking forward to reading Mockingjay (Book 3) and will not be waiting a year to do so.

(3 of 5 Stars) So, coming off reading The Hunger Games #2 (Catching Fire), I decided to jump into #3 after not being able to get past the first 40 pages of another book (which shall remain nameless). I was very excited to begin "Mockingjay," and although The Hunger Games series did not end as I had hoped, I was not thoroughly disappointed.

To begin with the negatives, the story did not evolve with the same excitement that only this dystopia could create. This may be partly because the writing was not as precise as its predecessor, but that point is completely subjective to the reader. Normally, the third act of a trilogy that is centered on violence and oppression is filled with more tension, better excitement, and parallels of the inciting moment of the first book. Though there were reminiscences of Suzanne Collins attempting to achieve those occasions, they were not present. There were moments when I struggled to keep my eyes open while reading.

But as for "Mockingjay"s positive points, the relationships between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale were worthy of a final installment, and the torment of what Peeta goes through after the end of Book #2 was imaginative and unpredictable; a story highlight. Additionally, there did not appear to be any unanswered questions or gaping holes in the plot once the last page was turned. The series ended wrapped up in a tight package, I just thought it could have used different wrapping paper.

Overall, there was much more to be expected from a series that has been so widely received. Although I would recommend this read, I would do so with a cautionary suggestion for the reader to ignore all the hype and add some leniency to their expectations. Perhaps the movie will be more entertaining.

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Born in Blood by Kate Paulk. $1.99 from
Vlad Dracul, known later in life as Vlad the Impaler, suffered more than any should at the hands of Mehmed, son of Sultan Murad. Of all the pain and indignities brought upon him at the behest of the future ruler of the Ottoman Empire, the curse was the worst. All the young Vlad can do is try to survive and plot his vengeance.