Monday, April 22, 2013

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my review the first time I read this book:

With around 30 pages to go, Captain America told me it was time to get ready for bed. I said, "I'm reading THIS book," and he asked if I was going to cry. I said, probably not. Boy, was I wrong.

I'm a crier when it comes to books. Sometimes it's just a few tears. This time it was full on sobs. I haven't cried like that since Dobby died. And it wasn't even over someone dead; it was over a friendship that could not be made whole.

Having taken a few hours to calm down, sleep, and then discuss the series with a friend who also loved them, I have concluded that Hunger Games was the best book in the series, and that while I did enjoy them, the pacing was strange in the last two. Sometimes months would go by very quickly and without much explanation, and sometimes several chapters would span just one or two days. And a lot of events become totally chaotic in the last half of this book. Not it an I-can't-follow-this sort of way, but more like, what-is-going-on!?!?!

To me, one of the most truthful, real moments in the book is when Katniss loses her mind and thinks she can yell at dead people.

Overall, the book is worth the three days it will take you to read it.

A couple of other things to add: I didn't really like how you never learn if it's Gale's parachutes that kill Prim. I mean, Coin, or someone must have ordered the drop. It's as if Collins was afraid her readers would hate her if they were Gale's, but that the readers would also hate her if they weren't (and Katniss ended up trusting  Snow when she shouldn't have, although Snow's arguments that it wasn't him are pretty solid). But I think it was pretty obvious that Coin was not an ideal choice for a new president, so I'm not sure what the concern could have been. And, I think other series, including Harry Potter and GOT, indicate that as readers, we will stick by you, even if you kill off people we really like, even if we think the wrong guy gets the girl, even if you make us wait years between the books, as long as they're worth the read.

Also, there was really no conclusion with Johanna. We never learn what happens with her.

Finally, because this entire series is told from Katniss's perspective, every time she is sedated, or in some other way incapacitated, we, the readers, don't know what's going on until she comes to and someone fills her in. So there's all sorts of things we don't know. For example, Haymitch comments (somewhere in the series, although it may not have been this book) that the Capitol killed his parents and his girl, but never really why this happened, or the effect it had on him (although it's fairly obvious given his drinking). There seems to be something that happens to the survivors of the Games that makes the rest of their lives colored by that experience (which totally makes sense), and my imagination is active enough that I can imagine how that would be, but the horror isn't fully expressed. Even Katniss's nightmares, while scary, didn't grip me with terror.

I loved reading this series, but I also know that it could have been more.

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the review I wrote the first time I read this book:

This book took me three days to read, mostly because my reading was interrupted by having to go to work. I haven't enjoyed reading a series this much since Harry Potter came out. Although that's about as far as I'd go with comparing the series: you're reading enjoyment level will be high.

I generally don't write much about the plot in my reviews, because I always think, I'll learn about the plot from the cover and when I read the book. What I want to know from reviews is, should I read the book? And the answer is, yes!

Because I read this one (remember...I listened to Hunger Games on CD), any young-adulty stuff was less bothering. Or maybe there was just less of it in this book.

I like Collins' writing style. What I really like is that around page 250, you know there's no way you're going to get to "...and they all lived happily ever after." It's both frustrating and thrilling, because you so badly want to find out what happens next. At least I do. But then again, I become a little obsessed with books I love. And the best you get at the end of this one is "some people lived, but not before they were seriously hurt and a lot of other bad things happened."

I can't wait to read Mockingjay!

Having reread it, I wouldn't make any changes to my review, although in the second reading, I noticed more literary gaffes. Most notably, at the very end of the book Katniss and Haymitch get into a huge argument  Except you don't read the argument  You are simply told: Then we are both screaming terrible, terrible things at each other. I think the editor should have said to Collins, alright,  let's hear these terrible, terrible things. It's very easy for the reader to imagine what these things are, but still, it seems a bit of an oversight.

But still, I love this series!

When I told a friend I was rereading the series, she asked me if I wanted to be Katniss yet. I've never found myself reading a book and wanting to be the protagonist. More often, I've wanted to know the protagonist, but as some yet unknown character. My imagination never allows me to be an already created character. I don't know why this is.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling AuthorHow I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an incredibly easy-to-read book. I think that because I read it on the heels of the screenwriting book, I found it to mirror a lot of the same sentiments.

I think an important thing to note is the subtitle: Secrets of a Bestselling Author. In reading this book, I realized that a number of things that I find to be petty or sophomoric about Evanovich's writing are actually intentional: the shortish stories, the simple, linear plots, the formulaic-ness of those plots.

It completely makes sense to me that once you find a formula that works, you should keep doing it, especially if you want to be a bestseller.

I don't know that this is the most useful guide to writing (although to be fair, it isn't advertised as such), but it is fairly entertaining, and Evanovich provides some resources and references, and reinforces that writers write.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Word vomit, or why I drink

So, for fun last night, I was in charge of making dinner. This doesn't actually happen a lot in my house because Captain America works the night shift, and as far as I'm concerned, raisin bran is THE ultimate dinner. (We had a house guest one time who observed me having Baileys on the rocks (why is there no apostrophe in that?), cereal, and chips for dinner...while watching 8 Mile. He was duly impressed. Captain America was decidedly unimpressed when he learned of it.)

Anyway, our CSA sent us beets in our box last week. As you may or may not know, beets taste like dirt, and that's where they should stay. They are only marginally above peas in edibility tests, and peas, as far as I'm concerned are NOT food. I cannot conceive of a situation in which I'd be hungry enough to put a pea in my mouth. There is no scenario in which I'm that hungry AND that's the last thing left on the planet to eat.

So somehow I magically turned beets into food, and even incorporated the celery we got in the box. And, to top things off, I quoted Ogden Nash at dinner (fun trivia fact: when the post office made Ogden Nash stamps, it was the first time the word "sex" appeared on a postage stamp). The poem I quoted had nothing to do with sex, though. It was "celery raw is hard on the jaw, but celery stewed is more easily chewed." I mean, really, when was the last time someone quoted poetry to you at dinner?

And after all of this fine dining (did I mention there was wine? and cloth napkins?...of course, there are always cloth napkins in my house), Captain America's take away was that somehow, in the midst of all of this excitement, I got salad on my eyelid.

See if I ever turn beets into food for him again!

And then, because we don't see each other all week to catch up and tell random stories, the weekends end up being a lot of thought vomit. At least on my end. Which is preferable to regular vomit.

So I asked Captain America if he had noticed that our meth addict neighbors had not only built a fake brick well structure, but had adorned said structure with the most phallic-looking mushrooms I have ever seen.

Somehow this had escaped his observation (and yet he notices when I floss in the "wrong" bathroom). Our crazy neighbors have built a brick circle. It looks like either a tree or something should be growing out of it, or it's a very decrepit well that lost it's roof thing with the winch and pulley. Except it's just a circle of bricks, about 10 bricks high. And it's displaying four very phallic mushrooms.

These are the sorts of things that if you were at a street fair, and you had a friend who had just bought a new house, and you saw these, you'd think, you know what would be totally hysterical? If I bought my friend this collection of pseudo-pornographic lawn art. Wouldn't that be funny? And you'd wrap them up and take them to the housewarming party, and you'd be all, look what I got you! Penises disguised as fungi! We should give them names. Like Peter and Harry! And then you'd giggle a lot, like I did when I was trying to explain all of this to Captain America.

And finally, for extra fun, Captain America declared himself the luckiest man alive. I thought this statement was going to be followed up with how his amazing wife turned beets into food and came up with a fun housewarming gift for some unsuspecting friends, but no. He's lucky because HIS COWORKER DROVE OVER HIS FOOT IN A TAHOE AND IT DIDN'T BREAK. As far as he knows. Because he didn't actually bother to get it x-rayed.

THIS is why I drink!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4)A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first time I read this book, I gave it four stars, but I've revised that down to three. This book is tough to get through. It's obvious Martin needs to move the plot forward and set things up for what really happens next, but this book is just a bunch of characters running around and nothing really gets done.

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Writing Movies: The Practical Guide to Creating Stellar ScreenplaysWriting Movies: The Practical Guide to Creating Stellar Screenplays by Gotham Writers' Workshop
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is written by several different authors. I would have liked some information on the authors so I'd know how to value what they were saying.

The tone of the book was very literary. For example, on p. 25, in discussing Orson Welles and his dedication to the craft of storytelling, as well as his daring choices in Citizen Cane, Alexander Steele says: Orson Welles wasn't a know-it-all. He was a student, a human sponge who absorbed everything around him then let it rain down in a fresh way. That's how you innovate.

Except that doesn't really tell you anything.

However, I did find the book useful in providing information on how to organize a story, how to keep it interesting, and how to plot key developments.

I bought the book because, when I envision writing, I see everything very clearly, which I thought would lend itself more towards writing screenplays than novels. However, after reading this book, I don't think writing screenplays sounds like very much fun, but I do think the information in the book will be helpful in writing novels.

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