18 May 2012

Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games #2
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia, Sci-Fi
Published:  September 2009
Pages: 472
My rating:

The BlurbKatniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark won the annual competition described in Hunger Games, but the aftermath leaves these victors with no sense of triumph. Instead, they have become the poster boys for a rebellion that they never planned to lead. The Capitol is very, very angry ... and wants revenge.

So… after dying to find out what would happen next to Katniss, Peeta, Gale and the others I threw myself into ‘Catching Fire’, practically starved. In some ways the book satisfied me, in other ways not even remotely. In retrospective, it was somewhat disappointing even. Which is why I kept postponing this review.

The structure of this book is almost similar to the one of the first book, where the first part is merely an introduction of sorts. At first, things develop slowly. Very slowly. Nothing seems to have changed, even when everything has. Katniss and Peeta still live their lives separately and despite Katniss’ riches, she still hunts whenever she can. Not to provide for her own family though, but for Gale’s family, since he won’t accept her money.

The strongly written characters are interesting enough. Even the new side-characters are interesting and developed sufficiently to be more than just background noise. Katniss definitely grew further in this instalment but surprised me by still being insecure (maybe even dimwitted) about so many things. Like her feelings regarding Peeta and Gale. It’s refreshing to read a book not entirely focused on romance, but on real emotions and doubts. Not the standard formula.
I love Katniss’ (self-)wits and her interactions with Peeta, for example. The humour is a welcome change in the (mostly) heavy story.
The consequences of Katniss’ actions during The Hunger Games -and the sign she gave off with those actions- dawn on Katniss. At first she’s convinced she will have to keep up the charade of the romance she and Peeta have, up until the point of marriage even. Soon she realises it’s not about her own future or happiness, it’s about the lives of everyone she loves. It’s about the entire country even. It takes a LOT of time until she realises her true worth though. 
‘I am the Mockingjay. The one that survived despite the Capitol’s plans. The symbol of rebellion.’
I like the artistic way Peeta deals with the events that happened, the way he tries to right his wrongs, not aware that his good deeds will backfire. I love how Katniss starts developing feelings for him once again because of his kindness. How he’s the one person whose presence helps her sleep when every single night she is haunted by nightmares. But Gale feels so right for her, according to her own thoughts and feelings. She and Gale trust each other with their lives, and I know this sounds weird: in a totally different way than Katniss and Peeta do. Born from something entirely different, not forced in any way, naturally.

Everyday life gets more gruesome in ‘Catching Fire’. Punishments had been lacking until now, starvation was the District 12 inhabitant’s greatest enemy, instead of whippings when one was caught hunting. How heart wrenching it was to read this cruel scene. But the realisation Katniss has then, is kind of worth it. Sadly this incident is only the beginning of a totally reinforced District 12 where nothing illegal is tolerated anymore, making life so much harder for everyone. Which only makes the people eager to revolt more.
Of course the question that must be playing on many people’s minds is whether or not District 13, once brutally destroyed by the government to stop its rebellion, still exists or not.

I was as shocked as Katniss herself was at the turn the story took at the announcement of the third Quarter Quell rules. Shocked at the cruel, too coincidental, concocted crime conveniently cooked up by the Capitol. I had not seen this coming at all and kept thinking maybe it wouldn’t happen. But it did. Obviously, since there is still another sequel, it was clear Katniss would survive once more, but whose lives would have to end this time?
Actually, after finding out this twist, the disappointment part kicked in. It felt less creative and original, because I had been there already. No matter how different the surroundings were this time. It felt like a break in the actual story, the actual plot. I wanted to get ON with the rest of the story and not be stuck in this part again!
Which is why this book appealed less to me than its predecessor. Also, I assume it is why I haven’t yearned to read ‘Mockingjay’ yet. I will though, soon. Don’t get me wrong. This was still a very good read, yet not quite what I had expected. I guess it’s hard to be the middle book in a trilogy.

The pace of this book is something Suzanne Collins seems to struggle with. There are pages full of information only covering hours, then months are skimmed over just as easily within mere paragraphs. Overall it was written very well again though, very vivid. I will leave you with some of my favourite quotes, powerful words in my opinion, expressing feelings with heavy mental imagery.

‘I breath in the smell of snow-dampened leather and smoke and apples, the smell of all those wintry days we shared before the Games.’ 
 ‘And I’m left staring out of the window, watching District 12 disappear, with all my goodbyes still hanging on my lips.’ 

5 May 2012

Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games #1
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia, Sci-Fi
Published:  January 2008
Pages: 454
My rating: 

The Blurb: Sometime in the future after the destruction of North America in a nation known as Panem, the 74th Hunger Games begins. As punishment for a previous rebellion against the Capitol, every year, one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district are selected by lottery and forced to participate in the Hunger Games, a televised event in which the participants, or "tributes," must fight to the death in a dangerous, outdoor arena, controlled by the Capitol, until only one remains. The difference this year is District 12 has had its first volunteer probably in the whole history of the District... Katniss Everdeen, who volunteered to take the place of her younger sister, Prim; and she's already making an impression.

Yes, I’m late. Very late even. How late? I’m so late the first movie’s already showing in cinemas! Which, ironically, is what made me decide to read this book after all.
Yes, I loved the movie. Very much. Which isn’t helping when it comes to writing a review for the book, because there’s no denying the similarities, as there is no escaping the omitted -as well as added-  flavour.

Despite my reading the occasional dystopian book – I do not dislike dystopian books at all- the theme of ‘The Hunger Games’ did not appeal to me. Ever. No matter how many raving reviews it got. I simply felt it wasn’t my cup of tea, reading about so much grim violence. However, I was up to seeing the movie. And the movie did a good job convincing me to finally read the series: the weirdly dressed/groomed citizens of the Capitol, the surreal beauty of that same Capitol, the contradictions between everyday life in some districts and the Hunger Games, the harshness of the society, but most importantly Katniss Everdeen. Katniss really got under my skin and I wanted to explore her more, wanted to know what she was really about, what her true feelings regarding Peeta and Gale were and… how things would continue for her and her family from now on.

From the first sentence of the book, I was drawn in. Which means quite a lot considering it’s written not only in present tense but also in the first person. For the life of me I cannot figure out why so many writers use present tense nowadays. As of late stories written in the first person are slowly but steadily creeping up my skin-crawling-list as well. However, the beautiful prose and images planted immediately in my head (I am about to contradict myself on this subject a little further down, but I hope you understand my explanation) made me forget all about my list. Or should I say Katniss made me forget about my minor irritations? The unconditional love she feels for her little sister Prim (and those projected feelings onto Rue), the responsibility she takes for keeping her mother, sister and herself alive since the day her dad got killed, her vulnerabilities, her strengths, her doubts, her fears, her physical pain even. The way she is so very human.
So you see, there’s definitely  nothing wrong with the characters. They’re not cut-outs, they’re real. Actually Katniss’ point of view adds more depth and interest to them. You get to know people from her perspective, rather than know everything there is to know at once. You get to feel her confusion of what’s real and not.
Some people call the romance awkward and I agree. But only because it has been written to be awkward. Imagine being in Katniss’ shoes, trapped with almost no future prospects, and finding safety with someone. The world turns to a very weird place, as does your mind. Imagine having to play out a romance between you and the guy who could end up having to kill you, or the other way around. Imagine his presence as the only one you can rely on – and not rely on at the same time. Imagine the confusion when you feel you want to be near him because you actually desire it and not because you’re expected to. I am all for reading about romance but the ‘lack’ thereof in this book came very natural. It’s been done just right, not too much focus on romantic feelings when survival is the main issue. No clear feelings when the world isn’t clear.

After seeing the movie it’s hard not be biased. But if I had to judge the book without having seen the movie, I’d say it lacks some description. The movie put better images in my head than the book ever could have. (Don’t get me wrong, everything came across the way it was supposed to be. The writing was vivid enough and even poetic at times. Quote-worthy lines throughout the book.)
I don’t think the moviemakers were too liberal regarding the images, I think they had the possibility to be that liberal because the book left many things open. The world building could have been better, I guess. As well as the descriptions of people. Yet it seems that lately many books I have read are written  that way, a bit ‘open’. Maybe it’s just my personal opinion though, wishing things to be thoroughly described. Maybe, had I read the book before watching the movie, I would not have agreed with the images I saw. Maybe I would have though. No telling now…

As far as plots go, this one is an original. Yes, I am old enough to know ‘The Running Man’ movie. Yes, I have read other peoples’ reviews comparing the plot to that of ‘Battle Royale’. Since I haven’t read that book I can’t state my opinion on the similarities. I do propose this: point me to a book with an original plot, something NEVER before written about and I’ll be convinced it is possible to truly write the unwritten. Everything has been done before. Before ‘Twilight’ was even thought of, ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ had fallen  hard for a vampire already. And before Buffy there have been others as well. I’m just saying.
The idea of ‘The Hunger Games’ seems somewhat preposterous, what government would allow such things to happen? Although… more gruesome truths have existed throughout history, and still do. And in the light of the story it works. Suzanne Collins made me believe in the possibility of this reality.
The story has slower passages intermitted with action-packed blood-spattering scenes, not for the faint-hearted. But it is constantly the story itself (the emotions) that prevails. There’s not a single uninteresting moment, no matter how small the events may seem.

The almost-ending was nothing short of heart-wrenching. I don’t understand why they changed it so much in the movie. Did they run out of time? The book-ending was more fitting and especially more satisfying. From the chaos back to the sterile environment, Katniss unaware in all areas: Peeta, her feelings, the future. The weirdness that is Panem to its full extent.
Thankfully, that weirdness is not finished. Katniss is not finished. Her life, her feelings, her future: everything needs sorting out. And you bet your @ss I’m sorting them out in the sequences ‘Catching Fire’ and ‘Mockingjay’!

Maybe I was late in joining the craziness that is ‘The Hunger Games’, but I’m here now and I won’t go away until I’m satisfied! If you haven’t joined the bandwagon I suggest you do so, you won’t be disappointed.

30 April 2012

'In My Mailbox' becomes 'Stacking the Shelves'

Hey everyone! 

Well, I feel like I'm the last one to know about all the recent drama surrounding Kristy @ 'The Story Siren'!
Through a fellow-blogger I heard she was accused of plagiarism and after scrolling through my blog roll, I saw the evidence myself. Like anyone else, I don't condone plagiarism

However, this post is not me attacking anyone, taking sides or stating my opinion on the matter. This post is simply me announcing I'm switching to a different meme for showcasing my book loot :) Because I don't want to join in a meme where nobody else participates anymore. Or where my participation will send off the wrong vibe. 
Because even though I want to remain neutral (the plagiarism did not concern me and I wasn't there so it's not fair for me to judge) I do not like what's going on. Especially since lately there has already been too much drama concerning bloggers/reviewers/authors. 

It's like we've lost track of what really matters: enjoying a good book. And being entitled to our own opinion about it. No matter how harsh that may be sometimes. As long as things don't get personal and we act like civilized human beings there's nothing wrong with voicing an opinion. As longs as it's substantiated and about the book's content, not about the writer's background. But especially, as long as it's our OWN opinion, not someone else's because they happen to voice the way you feel better than you ever could. Deal with it. There'll always be people out there who are better at something than you are. It's called life ;)

Anyways, since I like showing off my book loot and enjoy watching other bloggers loot as well, I'm gonna be participating with 'Stacking the Shelves' over at Tynga's Reviews from now on. I hope you'll follow along!

Oh and... Happy Reading! :)

Because that's what matters ;)

29 April 2012

In My Mailbox (14)

is a weekly recurring meme hosted by The Story Siren
Every Sunday, Kristi shares her mailbox contents 
and gives us bloggers the opportunity to leave a link 
sharing our own mail!

Hey everyone!

Last weekend hubby and I went to see 'The Hunger Games' movie in the cinema. 
Guess what? Even though the theme of this trilogy never appealed to me -despite its many lyrical reviews and despite my liking the occasional dystopian novel- I was hooked instantly! Ask me and I'll go see the movie again, it's that bad! There were so many details I would love to explore further. 

And Katniss... she really got under my skin. Jennifer Lawrence is a damn fine actress in my opinion. She convincingly made me believe Katniss was human, not a flat character. She's such a strong and wise girl, with a good heart. Righteous, standing up for her beliefs, self-sacrificial, but still filled with insecurity. I need to get to know her better, find out what her true feelings towards Peeta and Gale are. I need to know she'll be okay. 

Which is why I ordered the 'The Hunger Games' Trilogy. And yesterday the mailman delivered it. I was hooked after reading the first few sentences already! Which is a compliment because I normally strongly dislike books written in the present tense (and lately the first person gets on my nerves as well). However, the prose was so beautiful I hardly noticed. 

So, did the mailman spoil you too this week? Do share with a comment, and I'll come and stop by your mailbox as well!

Happy reading! :)

15 April 2012

In My Mailbox (13)

is a weekly recurring meme hosted by The Story Siren
Every Sunday, Kristi shares her mailbox contents 
and gives us bloggers the opportunity to leave a link 
sharing our own mail!

Hey everyone!

Once more I've been a bad blogger, and reader! I am sorry for not stopping by your blogs as well, can you ever forgive me?
I didn't order many new books lately, since I'm having trouble reading the ones I have already. Occasionally a pre-order makes it to my doorstep, though. And a book with an interesting premise slips through the cracks of my I'm-not-buying-any-more-books-for-a-while intentions...

'A Temptation of Angels' by Michelle Zink
has been on my wish-list for a while, ever since I found out about it. The blurb sounds amazing! And the cover is even more gorgeous in real life!

'The Vampire Stalker' by Allison van Diepen
popped up somewhere on Goodreads recently and the premise sounded intriguing.

What if the characters in a vampire novel left their world--and came into yours?

So I caved in and ordered it. I actually finished it already, in one short sitting! You can find my review here.

So, was the mailman nice to you as well? Leave a comment and I solemnly promise I'll repay you with a visit. Pinky swear! ;)

Happy reading! :)

Review: The Vampire Stalker

The Vampire Stalker, by Allison van Diepen
Series: None
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal, Supernatural, Romance, Sci-Fi
Published:  July 2011
Pages: 250
My rating:

The Blurb: What if the characters in a vampire novel left their world--and came into yours?
Amy is in love with someone who doesn't exist: Alexander Banks, the dashing hero in a popular series of vampire novels. Then one night, Amy meets a boy who bears an eerie resemblance to Alexander. In fact, he IS Alexander, who has escaped from the pages of the book and is in hot pursuit of a wicked vampire named Vigo. Together, Amy and Alexander set out to track Vigo and learn how and why Alexander crossed over. But when she and Alexander begin to fall for each other, Amy wonders if she even wants him to ever return to the realm of fiction.

Despite some of the less positive reviews I wanted to read this book for myself anyway. I certainly don’t regret reading it. It wasn’t a waste of time, because it didn’t take up that much of my time, fortunately. The 250 pages can easily be read in a few measly hours. And a few hours later you will have forgotten all about the book already.


No matter how promising the premise of this book is - a fictional character suddenly comes into our world- the execution of the story seriously lacks. Which is a shame, because the idea of ‘Literary Physics’ (writers who unknowingly tap into other dimensions while they are writing) is very original. It could have been epic, if written the right way. It deserves to be explored more, further, deeper. ‘Otherworld’ (the parallel Chicago from this book) deserves more world building. It is a very interesting place in my opinion. Imagine all sorts of technical and medical developments never happened because of a vampire-dominated society. Imagine an evening curfew because of those dangerous creatures out there. Imagine the shortened life expectancy because of the dangers and lacking means to aid people. Imagine people fleeing, immigrants never showing… I imagined those things, because besides the mere mention of these points, we never got to know the real ‘Otherworld’. A shame.

The story seems to be told simply because the writer wanted to tell it. It feels like reading the fan fiction often referred  to in this book. Contemporary, simple, fluently, shallow, a bit juvenile even, but never poetic. I love it when a book grabs me with beautiful prose, which was never the case here. Another shame.

I seriously missed some elaborate world and character building. I hardly knew what the characters looked like! Besides their appearances not much detail was provided about their inner selves either. We were told Amy had it bad for Alexander, but the feelings weren’t conveyed. I couldn’t feel her crush, nor did I understand it. Alexander was a flat character, a cardboard cut-out. There was no spark of life in him, or any sparks between him and Amy for that matter. He didn’t make sense either: thinking it’s not normal Amy isn’t engaged to be married yet, at age 16, but still kissing her, thus possibly ruining her reputation. Yet, another shame.

And what about Amy’s gullible mom? If I showed up with an attractive guy she’d never seen, or even heard about, she sure as h*ll wouldn’t let him stay over at the house, for indefinite time! Without making any fuss or asking too much questions. Seriously?!

That is one example of how ‘easy’ (fluently if you will) the story was written. Everything happened neatly the way it was supposed to go, the plot ‘twists’ were predictable, the villain came from a Disney movie, the plot was rather simple and the ending? Yup, saw it coming from the start. Quadruple shame.

But still this was a pleasant story to read. Seriously. Despite its many flaws I didn’t hate it. Why? It’s a quick, fun, romantic ride. Which, in my opinion, could do with some more fan fiction. To spice things up a bit. To finally tell the untold story that deserves to be told...

11 March 2012

In My Mailbox (12)

is a weekly recurring meme hosted by The Story Siren
Every Sunday, Kristi shares her mailbox contents 
and gives us bloggers the opportunity to leave a link 
sharing our own mail!

Hey everyone!

I'm aware it's been a while since I've blogged... 
Honestly, LIFE got in the way! Since a week or 7 I'm trying (and succeeding) to become more healthy (read: skinny), which takes up enormous amounts of time! I'm walking and exercising and blending smoothies with veggies. If I'm not out or busy or at a birthday (it's those times again...) I'm too tired to even read. 

Thankfully, the mailman doesn't care and still brings me the pre-ordered goodies, most of which I cannot wait to read! 

'The Nightmare Garden' ('The Iron Thorn' #2) by Caitlin Kittredge
'Pandemonium' ('Delirium' #2 )by Lauren Oliver
'Timeless' ('The Parasol Protectorate' #5) by Gail Carriger

Did you receive any good books this week? Do share with a link and I'll visit!

Happy reading! :)

19 February 2012

In My Mailbox (11)

is a weekly recurring meme hosted by The Story Siren
Every Sunday, Kristi shares her mailbox contents 
and gives us bloggers the opportunity to leave a link 
sharing our own mail!

Hey everbody!

This week I finally received my 'Blythe Collection Guide Book'! 
It has many beautiful pictures of every Blythe doll manufactured, starting 2001. There were even some Blythe dolls I didn't recognize. 
The only downside is the Japanese... I don't understand why they use English titles but simply write the rest in Japanese... Does anyone know of a simple way to translate this? Like with some smartphone-app?
Also, the book would have been better if there had been something in it about the original 'Kenner' Blythes. Then again, had they written that in Japanese as well, it wouldn't have made any difference to me...

I'm hopelessly behind on my recurring blog-posts ever since I started to become more active again. I'm so tired after my quick-walks my brain stops functioning, LOL. I wanna read because I'm behind with that as well, but again, the brain-mush doesn't co-operate... Ah well, health is more important, and if I want to change my appearance again it's gonna take some effort! Alas... ;)

Did you get anything in your mailbox this week? Share with a link and I'll stop by!

Happy reading! :) 

11 February 2012

In My Mailbox (10)

is a weekly recurring meme hosted by The Story Siren
Every Sunday, Kristi shares her mailbox contents 
and gives us bloggers the opportunity to leave a link 
sharing our own mail!

Hey all,

In the nick of time the postman brought me the book I already blogged about in my first WoW (Waiting on Wednesday) post: 
'Scarlet' by A.C. Gaughen... Yay! 

I was extra happy I got book mail this week, because I finally took some pictures to go with IMM! 
Winter has finally kicked in here in The Netherlands with temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius at night and -6 degrees Celsius during the day. So I decided to go out to a nature area near our house, tagging along my (pink!) camera, Blythe doll and mini mailbox. 
First, some teens were frolicking about on the ice on the spot I wanted to take my pictures. So, I walked a little further and took some pics of the frozen lake when a huge, white swan walked over to me. Maybe he thought I had food, maybe he was gonna end op chewing off my (expensive!) doll's head, so again, I walked a little further.
I got my thingies from the bag and tried to jam the stick of the mailbox into the ground. That was like trying to jam it into solid rock.... DUH! 
I couldn't seem to balance the letterbox and my doll together, plus my doll's arms were coming loose too. 
I gave up. I walked home through the blistering cold and changed into my warm house-suit.

Today, I took some INDOOR shots of my Blythe doll and her mailbox with packages, as you can see up top. It looks like she's in heaven instead of snow :P

Anyways, did you receive any books in the mail, or paid the library a visit? Leave me a link and I'll come visit!

Happy, warm, indoors reading! :)

10 February 2012

Feature & Follow Friday (3)

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read
Every week there's a new feature bloggers can respond too!

This week's feauture: Goldilox and the Tree Weres

What would you prefer: reading your favorite book over and over again until you got sick of it OR reading 100s of mediocre books? And why?

Tough choice! If all I had left in the world would be my ONE fav book, then yes, I would read that one over and over again. BUT I think I would have to get creative and write another book myself!

However, since that's not an option I am going to stick with reading many mediocre books instead. Because no matter how much I like my fav books, I want to read new things, in different genres. Who wants to eat the same meal every day, no matter how jummy the dish is? No one I'd guess. The flavor would be lost after a while until it becomes just as mediocre as every other meal you've ever had.

You know, if things got really bad... We could always swap books!

But hopefully I'll never have to choose ;)

Leave me a link with your FFF post, let me know if you're a new follower and I'll return the favor! Happy reading! :)