Monday, April 04, 2011

Book Review: Hunger Games Trilogy

I finished reading the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins this weekend. I finished The Hunger Games on the airplane I rode home for my ten-year high school reunion, and I wanted to read the next book, Chasing Fire, so badly that I downloaded it on my Nook while I was waiting at the baggage claim carousel.

You've probably heard of these books, so there's no need for me to go into a long description. The basic set up is that the books are set in the post-apocolyptic, future North America. The current government is called Panem, and it is divided up into 14 districts. Districts 1 though 12 exist solely to provide the Capitol district with supplies. Everyone in the numbered districts lives in near poverty while the residents of the Capitol live in excess. This scheme is maintained because, 74 years ago, District 13 rebelled and a huge war broke out. District 13 was annihilated, and to force the other districts to recall their fate, the Capitol puts on the Hunger Games every year. Each district has one boy and one girl chosen at random, and they travel to the Capitol to participate in the games. Basically they put all the kids in an arena and make them fight to the death. The winner gets to live in luxury, and everyone in their district gets more food.

Needless to say, the heroine of the book, Katniss, ends up going to the Hunger Games. That part of the story is interesting on its own, but you know me, I'm a sucker for romance. Luckily there's a bit of that, too, because the boy that is chosen from her district, Peeta, has been secretly in love with her since they were little children. I pretty much kept reading for the Katniss-Peeta storyline. I just love Peeta. He would do anything to protect Katniss, and he is so inherently good that eventually she can't help but want do to do the same for him. Even though she doesn't return the intensity of his romantic feelings for him, she can't help but care about him.

I really enjoyed these books. The last book, Mockingjay was my least favorite, and it took the story somewhere I wasn't happy for it to go. But I think in the long run it was necessary to get the satisfactory ending that I wanted. So, read these books! They are addicting. Dark and sad, but still addicting.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

I first heard about Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches in People Magazine when they gave it a four-star review. It has also been marketed as a romance, so I thought I would give it a try. I even bought it in physical, hardback form. Needless to say, I was looking forward to this book.

Briefly, the story centers around Diana Bishop, an American historian who is at Oxford University studying in preparation for a presentation she is to give as a convention. Diana is a witch, but she hasn't used magic since she was seven years old and her parents, both witches, were murdered. The book begins with Diana at the Bodleian Library, where she recalls an ancient book from the stacks during her research. While she's at the library, Harkness describes the world the book is set in. There are four kinds of people in this world—humans, witches, daemons, and vampires. They all live amongst each other but don't really interact. After she reads the ancient book, however, Diana is suddenly the focus of attention for all sorts of creatures who believe there is a significant secret to their worlds hidden in the book's depths. One of those creatures is Matthew Clairmont, a vampire.

To make a long story short, Diana appears to be the only person who can recall this book, and so everyone wants a piece of her. Matthew, it appears, wants to protect her. And the two of them are quickly attracted to each other.

I can't even begin to describe how much this look reminded me of Twilight. Matthew is overly protective of Diana. Matthew withholds sex from Diana. There is a council of creatures that doesn't want vampire and witches mixing. Etc, etc, etc. It's not necessarily Harkness's fault; I think of lot of these elements are present anytime there is a male vampire involved with a female non-vampire. But at the same time, a lot of the general elements to the story felt familiar and unoriginal.

A Discovery of Witches also reminded me a bit of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane in that the heroine was an academic from a family of witches who was looking for secrets within ancient books. As you may or may not recall, I did not like that book in large part because the heroine was such an obvious extension of the writer. The same is true here. Harkness is a scientific historian, and Diana's area of historical expertise is also science, particular alchemy. When this is the case, I feel like I get a glimpse into Ivy League academia, and I don't really like what I see. It all feels so... self-absorbed and out of touch. For instance, Diana spends day after day after day just sitting in a library reading old books. Then she goes and rows in the river. She also likes to ride horses. All rich people luxuries. It gets kind of annoying after a while.

But my biggest problem with this book was the fact that it didn't have an ending. Clearly there is going to be a sequel, but it would have been nice to know that before I started reading it. Seriously, I am pissed. At least in Twilight there was some closure at the end of the first book. Sure, the story was wrapped up, but if a person wanted to stop reading they could have. Not so here. We are left completing hanging. Grr.


So, I've been away from my book blog for a looong time. Sorry about that. Now that I am back at work (rather than in school) I have not been reading as much as I usually do. I bought a Barnes and Noble Nook last fall, though, and I absolutely love it! When eReaders first came out I was convinced that I would hate them because I love physical book so much. But I was wrong. Instant access to books is great, but not turning page is also great. Reading on the treadmill at the gym is so much easier with an eReader.

Anyway, I have mostly just bought romance novels on my Nook, and none of them really moved me to blog. But I just finished a book, and I have something to say about it.