Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mockingjay--Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press, NY 2010
390 p.

Please note that this review will contain spoilers for "The Hunger Games" (review here) and “Catching Fire” (review here) if you have not finished reading them yet.

The highly anticipated sequel to “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire” is just as thrilling and emotionally exhausting as the first two. “Catching Fire” ends with an unbelievable cliffhanger—Katniss has just shot an arrow through a weak spot in the arena force field during her latest Hunger Games causing explosions and chaos. She is picked up by a hovercraft and taken away from the games, leaving her precious Peeta behind.

In the final book of the series, “Mockingjay,” we learn that rebels, including her mentor Haymitch, rescued Katniss from the arena and she is recovering in District 13 where they are preparing her to be the spokesperson of the new rebellion against the Capitol. Katniss doesn’t want to be the rebel’s pawn anymore than she wanted to be the Capitol’s, but President Snow’s cruel games leave her no choice.

Amidst the political intrigue and dangerous warfare, Katniss must also sort out her feelings for Peeta and for Gale, her childhood best friend. Her confusion over her feelings is realistic. Collins does a good job of showing why Katniss is torn between the two boys. (In other words, it's nothing like that other book with the TEAMS and the girl who can't choose between two boys...)

“Mockingjay” is a satisfying conclusion to “The Hunger Games” trilogy. The series is perfect for book discussion groups and the underlying political lessons make it mandatory reading for teens as well as adults.

I loved this book. I loved this series. I freely admit that I ignored my children so that I could continue reading it. If you haven't gotten around to reading this yet, do so now! I'm glad I waited (unintentionally) to read the first two so I didn't have to wait so long for "Mockingjay" to come out.
I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the links for the books I review I might make a tiny bit of money.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Freak Magnet by Andrew Auseon

Andrew Auseon’s latest novel “Freak Magnet” is not your typical romance story. There’s plenty of boy-girl romantic angst, but this novel is so much more than just a love story. Charlie, the freak, and Gloria, the magnet, alternate telling the story in chapters appropriately titled “Freak” or “Magnet”, until the very last one called “Freak Magnet.” Although Gloria gets her chance to speak, this is very much Charlie’s story and the novel begins with the first time he sees Gloria and is instantly attracted to her.

Charlie is different. He has his head in the clouds and has more interest in the stars and tracking potential comets than anything reality has to offer, until he sees Gloria. Lacking in social skills or the ability to control anything he says, Charlie chases Gloria out of a coffee shop so he can tell her that she is the most beautiful person he has ever seen. Gloria is used to freaks trying to get her attention and quickly dismisses Charlie as just another entry for her freak folio, her logbook of all freak encounters, but there’s something about him that makes her take a second look.

Both Charlie and Gloria are at a crossroads in their lives when they need to make a connection with someone else or risk letting their individual grief overwhelm them. Although Gloria has shut everyone out of her life, Charlie is able to penetrate her angry exterior. The freak becomes the magnet.

Auseon manages to write Gloria’s perspective just as well as Charlie’s and reading both points of view enhances the story. Interspersed throughout Gloria’s chapters are poems written by Auseon’s wife Sarah Zogby. “Freak Magnet” is well written and has enough humor and action to entice readers who don’t normally read romance. But readers looking for a good romance will not be disappointed. One gets the sense that “Freak Magnet” is a little biographical and that Auseon drew from his own relationship with Zogby and that definitely adds to the romance.

All of that came from my examiner review (apologies if you already read it there.) But I can be more informal here and use words like "I." So let me add that one of the reasons I loved this book is because for most of the novel Charlie wears a Superman costume underneath his clothes. He does it to give himself strength, to make himself feel like he had things in control. We all say "I'm going to channel my inner so-and-so" when we need a little extra help in a situation, well, Charlie took it one step further. One of the reasons I loved this so much is because I DO THIS. Not with a full Superman costume. But when I feel like things (i.e. the three wee ones in the house) are slipping out of my control I tend to put my Wonder Woman shirt on. When I'm planning a run on the treadmill and know I need an extra boost, I wear my Wonder Woman shirt. I didn't think Charlie was crazy. While I was reading I remember thinking "I hear ya brother!"
I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the links for the books I review I might make a tiny bit of money.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Catching Fire--Suzanne Collins

"Catching Fire"
Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press, NY 2009
391 p.

Please note that this review will contain spoilers for "The Hunger Games" if you have not finished reading it yet.

After breaking the rules and tricking the gamemakers of the Hunger Games to let both Peeta and herself stay alive, Katniss lives in fear of retaliation from the Capitol and President Snow in "Catching Fire", the sequel to the engrossing "The Hunger Games". Although she and her family are no longer starving back home in District 12, she does not live the relatively free existence she once did. She is still the darling of the Capitol Hunger Games viewing audience, even if the government wants her dead, and so must continue to pretend to be in love with Peeta much to the chagrin of her longtime friend Gale. Katniss learns of a rebellion that her daring exit of the Hunger Games inspired and must decide if she will stop it--like President Snow has ordered her to do--or join it. She's not given much of a choice when the unthinkable happens and she must return to a place she never imagined she would see again, except in nightmares.

"Catching Fire" is just as engrossing and thrilling as the novel it follows. It is nearly impossible to put this book down. It is full of surprises and twists and ends with a cliffhanger that has people pre-ordering "Mockingjay" before it has even been released.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book, and this series, and cannot wait for the conclusion. I know middle school boys are reading this, as well as adults. It seems like this is a good cross-over series, it has a strong female main character, but it has a lot of action and violence and suspense to appeal to boys.
I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the links for the books I review I might make a tiny bit of money.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


You might have noticed some changes around here. I've added links to my examiner articles over to the right (go on and read them, I'll wait). I've also added some new widgets from Amazon... because I am now an Amazon Associate. I *think* what that means is that if you need something from Amazon and you get there from my blog then I'll get a tiny percentage. I'm not 100% sure if it only counts for the books I review or you could buy anything you want. If you're familiar with how it works feel free to comment and correct me!

I also changed my About Me over to your left... My big kid is starting 1st grade, my medium kid is starting preschool, and that leaves me with just my little kid (before the next one comes along). So I think I can devote a bit more time to this (and the examiner) and not do sucky reviews anymore. To that end, I will now accept donations from up and coming authors. I HATE writing negative reviews because I always feel bad for the author which is why I always refused donations before. But if you're an author trying to get your book out there and you promise not to cry if I don't like it then I will give you a fair shake.

I hope to have some giveaways and fun things like that and get some more followers and try to reclaim a little of my pre-baby standing in the book review world.

I'm an Amazon Associate now. If you click on the links for the books I review I might make a tiny bit of money.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

YA Authors You Need to Read

FYI-- Over at the examiner, you know, that other place that I write about YA fiction?, I've been doing a series of articles of "YA Authors You Need to Read." Not the classic YA authors like Paula Danziger or Norma Fox Mayer, or even Francesca Lia Block. These are the newer YA Authors that are writing good stuff and getting YA literature a lot of well deserved attention.

If you're interested, this link should work to get to the listing of all of them: http://www.examiner.com/x-36817-Albany-Young-Adult-Fiction-Examiner~topic927085-YA-authors-you-need-to-read?selstate=topcat#breadcrumb

If it doesn't work you can just go here, http://www.examiner.com/x-36817-Albany-Young-Adult-Fiction-Examiner and click on the category "YA Authors You Need to Read"

If you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to comment over there.

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Hunger Games--Suzanne Collins

“The Hunger Games”
Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press, NY 2008
374 p.

When “The Hunger Games” begins it is easy to think that it takes place in a long ago primitive time when people had to live off the land and were brutal and cruel just to survive. Although Katniss is just a young teen she is the hunter of the family, bringing home rabbits and squirrels to feed her starving mother and younger sister. Food is scarce in her district and the hunting is illegal but mostly overlooked. As Katniss tells her story we learn that it does not take place long ago, but rather is in the future. War has obliterated the United States as we know it and has been replaced by 13 districts called Panem. Like the 13 colonies that created the United States, they rebelled against an oppressive government. Unlike those 13 colonies, they lost. In retaliation the government of Panem destroyed the 13th district and rule the other isolated 12 districts with an iron fist.

One of the methods the government uses to control its people is with an extreme reality show called “The Hunger Games.” Each district sends one boy and one girl tribute to the games every year. The tributes must survive in the wild on their own, much like today’s “Survivor”-type reality shows, while cameras show their every move to the audience at home. The winner of the games is the last tribute standing—after killing all of the tributes. The games are violent and sadistic. Tributes have no choice but to participate—it’s either kill or be killed. The gamemakers manipulate the weather and cause natural disasters to force the tributes to come together in one location and fight to the death.

“The Hunger Games” brings together the horrific entertainment of our past—the Gladiator games—with the voyeuristic sadism of our present—reality shows—and gives us a future with human nature at its worst. The dystopian story continues in “Catching Fire” and concludes in the upcoming “Mockingjay.”

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