"Mockingjay" by Suzanne Collins

Well . . . I finished The Hunger Games series. While I will stand by my two previous claims that Suzanne Collins is a truly excellent writer, I have to admit that Mockingjay was so depressing that I almost regret reading the series. Almost.

Katniss is the symbol, the Mockingjay, of the rebellion against the Capitol. She and her friends, whether they like it or not, are now in the middle of a nation-wide war. Only now, Peeta has been captured and Gale's views on the lengths the rebels should go to in their push for freedom go against everything Katniss has been fighting against. She is forced to form new alliances, both pleasant and unwanted, and to finally choose how much she is willing to do in order to protect herself and her family.

When I finished this book, I immediately picked up the closest Jane Austen novel I could find. While I appreciated that Collins did not turn into Stephenie Meyer and serve me, her captive reader, a fairy-tale-happily-ever-after ending, the end of The Hunger Games was so sad that my first thought was, "Wow. This entire series may have been Suzanne Collins very own anti-war propoganda!" Anti-war propoganda written for teenagers. Go figure.

My final judgement on this one: Suzanne Collins did something brilliant with The Hunger Games. Perhaps the most brilliant thing about it is that many of the characters are so lovable that I wish I could go back and save them myself. If you're thinking of reading this series, be warned that the violence and sadness is ubiquitous. I told my mom the basic storyline and she was slightly mortified. I won't lie. I'm a little mortified myself after reading it. But whatever your opinion is of these novels, my hat truly goes off to the author.

I'd like to know what everyone else thought of this one. Did others have the same response I did? Which characters are you missing the most? I think I'd chose Cinna as a best friend if I could.


"Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins

I finally got around to reading the second Hunger Games book this last week. I only read the first one because I wanted to know the story before the movie came out, but was surprised that I thoroughly enjoyed both. Did you know that Suzanne Collins did the screenplay for the movie? Which is probably why it followed the book so well and that the changes that inevitably had to be made did not destroy the integrity of the original text. I liked that.

And I enjoyed the second book, as well! Catching Fire seemed to be more fast-paced than the first book, mostly because there was no time lost introducing characters or explaining the background of Katniss's life. Now that she and Peeta have returned from their joint victory of the 74th Hunger Games, it seems at first that life may go back to some form of normal. However, Katniss quickly finds out that the Capitol is furious with her for her act of defiance in the arena and that the president will stop at nothing to keep her from inspiring a country-wide rebellion.

The fact that this book did not include children killing one another made it a lot easier to handle. While there is still fighting and somewhat graphic violence, at least it is between adults (is that a blatant justification or what? I'll admit it, I'm looking for justification). Katniss is as conflicted and stubborn as ever, but I really love her and this book made me love the other characters even more. While I resisted joining the fan-base of this series, I will not deny that I admire Suzanne Collins for her writing. It is smooth, captivating, and (thank goodness) almost completely devoid of errors. The continuity is seamless - something that an English Literature major like me can truly admire, regardless of the content.

I'll be starting Mockingjay as soon as I can get my hands on a copy. Chances are that I'll finish that one before I finish Martin Luther King, Jr., but that's ok. I still have 46 weeks to go to finish my list. Maybe I should turn it into a race and see how quickly I can read every text!


"The Elegance of the Hedgehog" by Muriel Barbery

Although this book was not on my "list" for the year, it was recommended by a friend when I did a social networking request for book suggestions. I had also seen it on the shelves at various book stores, so I thought I might as well consume this one along with the others. What I did not realize is that this book was written in French and then translated into English. So, of course, it is set in Paris.

Ah . . . I love Paris. Regretably, I did not love this book. It is about a 54-year-old concierge and a 12-year-old girl who live in the same building. Both characters are brilliant intellectuals, but hide their true brilliance in order to protect themselves from a world that is not always fair. The characters themselves, Renee and Paloma respectively, were easy to fall in love with, but the story was painfully slow. I found that for 300+ pages there was more philosophy and introspection than plot. It jumps back and forth between Renee's musings and Paloma's, which is easy enough to follow, but toward the end I was skipping over entire pages that had no storyline, but simply the observations or ideas of the characters. Now if you like that type of book then I'm sure you would love this one, but I guess my personal preference requires a little more "action" to keep the story going.

My other complaint about this book is that I absolutely did not like the ending. I won't spoil it, but will say that I certainly expected more to come from the relationship between Renee and Paloma. It was a means to an end, but I felt that the author could have chosen a happier, more satisfying way to end the book. While the entire novel was beautifully written, the plot choices of the author were quite disappointing. Does this mean I only like the fantasy type, happily ever after endings? Perhaps. I will let you judge this one for yourself.

*Note: This book also contains a few swear words, including three uses of the BIG bad swear word. That usually takes my opinion of any book down a couple of notches.