The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. 374 p. Published September 2008.

I’ve known about The Hunger Games since it climbed the bestseller lists a few years ago but haven’t had the chance to actually read it myself until now.

With her mother not up to the task, Katniss Everdeen has had to fend for her family since her father passed in a tragic mining accident. despite being only 16, She’s perfected the hunting and foraging skills he taught her and, together with her friend Gale, managed to eek out a living with daily forays into the forbidden forests beyond the distrtict’s border.

Katniss lives in The Seam, the poorest part of Panem’s Twelfth District. The 12th, known mainly for it’s coal production, lies farthest from the capitol of what remains in a post-apocalyptic North America. The Capitol, in an effort to remind the districts where the power lies, hold a yearly competition dubbed The Hunger Games. 2 contestants, heralded as idols, are drafted from each district outside the Capitol to participate in this twisted reality series where fame and riches await the victor. The catch: they must outlive the other 23 contestants, all of whom are out to murder them.

Katniss is horrified when her younger sister is picked in the lottery and is quick to volunteer in her place. She knows that it’s a death sentence – no one from her district has survived a Hunger Games in decades. This is driven home when her compatriot, a childhood friend, is drafted and the pair meet their notoriously inebriated trainer.

What follows is a mesmerizing tale of wit, love, despair, and heartbreak. Collins immerses the reader into the paranoid mindset of a girl hellbent on survival with almost dizzying rapidity. Mixing in elements of science fiction, this young adult title does a fantastic job of drawing the reader into it’s world and characters. The complaint I hear most often from dissenters is how infuriated they get with the protagonist’s paranoid perspective as she reacts to imagined or misinterpreted slights. I, however, find this to be a true mark of Collins’ skill developing a character – after all, have you ever been around a teenage girl without becoming irritated at the irrationality of the experience?

While I’m not sure I’ll enjoy the movie when it comes out in 2012, I’ll probably see it. However, I’ll definitely be reading Catching Fire, the 2nd book in the series, as soon as I get through the current stack of novels on my shelf.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Other Reviews of The Hunger Games: FyreFly’s Book Blog, Caribou’s Mom

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The Deceived

50. The Deceived by Brett Battles. 358 p. Published June 2008.

This novel is the sequel to Battle’s debut thriller, The Cleaner.

When Quinn is called to clean up a body, he prepares for a normal job. What he didn’t prepare for was discovering that the body belonged to one of his closest friends, Steven Markoff, who was left to die in a shipping container. With only a cryptic message scrawled in his friend’s blood, Quinn feels obligated to inform Markoff’s lover, Jenny. But Jenny, a Congressional aid, has gone missing, and Quinn finds a bunch of men ransacking her house.

Quinn, with the help of his apprentice Nate and Orlando, a tech-savy compatriot, jumps around the country tracking Jenny’s trail. Along the way Quinn begins to unravel a devious plot by forces within the U.S. government. Finally, Quinn tracks Jenny to Singapore, where the story begins to take on a whole new level of intrigue and danger.

The Deceived continues to develop and refine the world of The Cleaner. Improving on his skills at character development and pacing, Battles combines technique, technical detail, and a gift for sudden plot twists to carry the reader along. While a number of scenes in the novel still come across as unfinished or even unecessary, The Deceived exhibits Battles’ skills and potential in a bloated market.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Havana Nocturne

49. Havana Nocturne: How The Mob Owned Cuba – And Then Lost It to the Revolution by T.J. English. 396 p. Published June 2008.

In 1959, Fidel Castro overthrew General Batista to take control of Cuba. But for almost 30 years prior, Cuba’s political strife and corruption served as the perfect atmosphere for organised crime to make a profit.

After the end of prohibition, mobsters knew they needed to diversify and find other sources of income. Gambling soon became one of the most profitable ventures for most gangsters, but increasing regulation and government pressure loomed in their future. Two mobsters, Meyer Lansky and Charles “Lucky” Luciano, foresaw the need for a base of operations outside of the U.S. – setting organised crime and North American politics on a collision path.

What most people know of the mob’s involvment in Cuba comes from the second Godfather film. And all of it comes down to myth and suposition. In Havana Nocturne, English composes dozens of accounts and testimonials to formulate the facts and reality of the Havana Mob’s rise to power. In doing so, English reveals Lansky’s vision for Cuba – an island of pleasure, gambling, and graft – and the steps he took to stear others toward that goal.

I found this book to be an amazing and in-depth look into the mob’s heyday and a great read for anyone who enjoys true-crime or politics.

Rating: 5 out of 5

A Midsummer Night’s Challenge

I wanted to celebrate the 1-month mark for A Chain of Letters by hosting a small reading challenge of my own. I’d like to think of it as a thank you to the bloggers out there who have helped me by leading with such strong examples.

June is a special month that marks the half-way point of the year. In much of the world, a prominent part of this comes with the Midsummer celebration centered on the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. Conversely, Midsummer’s eve, when much of the celebrating takes place, is the shortest night of the year.

In celebration of Midsummer, I propose this small challenge:

  1. Read A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. Your copy from High School (if you still have it) is fine.

  2. Then read at least one other book/graphic novel connected to or based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream (possible works listed below).

  3. Blog about this supplementary work, comparing it to the original.

  4. Link to your review here via comment or Mr. Linky (click button for pop-up). I will update the list as often as possible.

The challenge begins June 1st, 2008 and ends with all reviews linked here by June 25th, 2008 (the day after Midsummer Day). That should leave plenty of time for those who find this a little late.

A big thank you to Wendy over at A Novel Challenge for getting the word out.

Continue reading

Casting the First Link

I’ve decided to keep a record of the books I’m reading and my reviews of them. As I progress and grow more comfortable with the process, I intend to begin a few of the reading challenges I’ve found on the net.

I hope that you find these reviews illuminating. If there is a book or author you wish to recommend, feel free to leave a comment to this post.