Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Weekly Read: 33

Sorry I am getting so behind with these things. Life seems to run away with me at times. But no worries, I am still reading! :) This was an exciting week for me, as Mockingjay, the third and final book in the Hunger Games trilogy, finally came out!

READ: Catching Fire | Suzanne Collins
I have been putting off re-reading Catching Fire until this week, so I could have an almost-uninterrupted reading segue into Mockingjay when my pre-order arrived on Tuesday. Imagine my surprise when I got home from work on Monday and there was my box from Amazon, at my house a day early! :o I was thrown into a whirlwind - what do I do? Mockingjay is here, and I need to read it RIGHT NOW, but I still hadn't re-read Catching Fire yet, that was my plan for Monday night. What do I do? WHAT DO I DO??? After I calmed myself down, I set Mockingjay aside and sat down for my Catching Fire re-read, like a sensible person. And yes, it only took me one night (with very little sleep) before I finished and dove into the new book. So, do you want to hear about Catching Fire? Since this blurb is supposed to be about that particular book? It sucked me in all over again, made me cry again. When you truly come to love these characters, it is hard to see them in pain, even when you know exactly what is going to come. And I do love Katniss, and Peeta, and Gale. I want to see them happy, and I know that probably isn't likely. This book is thrilling, though, and full of exciting action, as well as emotional moments. Now onto the third! :D

READ: Mockingjay | Suzanne Collins
This is the #1 book I have been waiting for this year. You could characterize the height of my anticipation by calling it Harry-Potter-sized. It's always hard to write about the last book of a series, because no matter how awesome, there will be disappointment, if only because you are hearing the last about characters you have grown to love. This third book in the Hunger Games trilogy is somehow even more violent and real than the first two, because we get a glimpse of the true story of civil war: people die, on both sides, who don't deserve it, and others have to make excruciating, no-win decisions. Katniss is in a horrible position - she knows that she needs to step up to help the rebels, but in doing so, she keeps the people she loves on the front line with her. Much has been built up about the love triangle of Katniss-Peeta-Gale in this series, but to be honest, I feel like any romantic love they have for one another comes secondary to the absolute need of maintaining their friendships. It's hard to believe that their relationships could degenerate to the point that friendship is being questioned, but there it is. My heart ached for Peeta, who was made to endure the biggest turnaround character-wise, because most of the time, if he could see himself, he would have been shocked and ashamed.  For the most part, I think events unravelled in the only possible way they could. The action was fast-paced and realistic, and characters, both new and old, were engaging and real, to the point that their deaths were truly horrific and painful to read. I think they can be compared with the deaths in the last Harry Potter book - they are significant, yet matter-of-fact and unromanticized. In most ways, I find the ending satisfying. There are a few estrangements that I don't necessarily believe, but with all that Katniss and the others went through, they are not that surprising. Such traumatic events really change a person, and as much as we would like to see relationships as unbreakable and unchanging, that's just not the case. I'm not going to talk about the people who died, because honestly, I don't want to spoil anything for anyone that happens upon this review. Also, I am tired of crying. Despite the short epilogue, there is much about their futures we don't know, and will never know. I, for one, am OK with that. Most of the time.

READ: The Lonely Polygamist | Brady Udall
After one more marathon session at the bookstore, I finally finished this book this week. For the most part, I enjoyed this book, much more than I expected to. Writing that makes me think, why didn't I expect to like this book, and why, if I had such low expectations, did I go to such effort to read it? I think my main concern was the subject matter - would it be ok to come to care about characters who are polygamists? To like them, despite their strange and awkward way of life? As to why I read it, despite these concerns, part of it was stubbornness - I'd placed a hold on this at the library when I first hear about it, and had waited months for it to come in, so by golly, I was going to read it. And then, I HAD to finish it. Plus, there is just something about books that make your brain stretch, think, and form opinions. I don't always want that, but I do need it at times. As for my concerns about liking the characters, in some ways, didn't have too much to worry about. Golden Richards is a hard man to like. Not only does he have 4 wives and 28 children, who he barely sees, but he seems sort of confused as to how he ended up here. Add to that his recent infatuation with a married woman and his snowballing lies to the rest of his family about his job situation, and you come up with a guy you just want to yell at for about an hour straight. Slowly, though, we get to know Golden - his sad and lonely childhood, his confusing entrance into the world of plural marriage, his overwhelming grief at the death of a beloved daughter, and his desire to be happy. In the end, I still can't say that I really liked Golden, but I certainly sympathized with him, wanted him to turn his life around and be happy, and rejoiced when he started taking control of his life and responsibility for his own actions. Despite the overwhelming number of characters, this book really centered on Golden, his 4th wife, Trish, and one of his many sons, 11-year-old Rusty. Like Golden, Trish and Rusty both struggle with the seemingly impossible feeling of loneliness in the midst of a large, polygamist family. Trish is the most isolated of the wives, living by herself in a tiny house with her one daughter, mourning the stillborn death of her most recent son. What Trish wants more than anything is to really be a part of this large, loud, overwhelming family, to be loved and treasured by her husband, and to have more children, and after pursuing what she wants, she gets it.  Rusty. Poor, confused, unloved, desperate Rusty. Despite being kind of a jerky kid, Rusty comes out as the most likable character in the book for me. He is one of those kids that can't figure out the "right" way to act to get what he wants. Yes, he wants attention, but not the kind he's getting. What Rusty wants to just to be remembered and loved, but he'd settle for just being remembered. Instead of being accepted, Rusty becomes the butt of everyone's jokes, the family punching bag, and experiment in the effects of punishment. So it's no surprise that Rusty ends up acting out the way he does. And it's a fitting end that it is Rusty, the seemingly least-lovable son, who brings the family together.  In the end, all of the many characters in this book are well-written and realistic, which is truly a feat with a novel and cast list this size. The prose is engaging and enjoyable to read, and at times I had to fight to put it down. I think the enduring message everyone can take away from this one is treasure your family, whether it's chosen or otherwise. Enjoy and love everyone while you still can.  And maybe one more thing: don't be a polygamist, because it's just too hard.

READ: Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don't Float: Classic Lit Signs on to Facebook | Sarah Schmelling
When I first heard of this book, I found the concept really amusing: characters from classic novels interacting in a modern, internet-focused setting. It was fairly inexpensive on Amazon, so I ordered a copy, figuring I could pass it amongst my friends once I'd finished it. And it is pretty darn funny at times, especially if you've read the books and authors parodied inside. And are a facebook user, of course. Some, of course were funnier than others. I think my favorites were Romeo and Juliet with its teen over-exaggeration and angst ("Juliet OMG hooked up with random guy! Don't even know his NAME"), Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with its differing font sizes and comments from a wide range of characters and authors (Morpheus and Neo from the Matrix, Charlie, Jack, Kate and Sawyer from Lost, Dorothy Gale, Harry Potter, Gregor Samsa, Dr. Jekyll, Peter Pan, James Joyce), and Lord of the Flies with its 20th Reunion page (Jack still pisses me off, for the record). It definitely got slow in places, though, and I would say this is more of a book to leave around the house and flip through every once in a while instead of reading straight through.  But overall, it was a good bit of amusement, and hopefully my friends will think so, too.

READ: Wildwood Dancing | Juliet Marillier
When I started reading this, I was pleased to discover that not only was this a fairy tale retelling of sorts, but it combined several fairy tales, and quite well. The best sort of retellings are like this - themes and aspects of the story are borrowed, but not just regurgitated. The re-imagined setting was also wonderfully built - a mountainous area of Transylvania, complete with fairy lore and roaming vampires! Jena is a compelling heroine - she is strong and independent, passionate and loyal to her family. I agree with the advice everyone gave her throughout the book, however - what she needed was to look after herself, and not worry about her sisters. I loved Gogu, and am so glad that he also got the ending he deserved. I couldn't bring myself to hate Jena's cousin, Cezar. Mostly, I felt sorry for him. He was clearly jealous of his brother, and guilty about the life/death he wished on him. In the end, though I hated the way he was treating Jena and her sisters, trying to take over their lives, all I could do was pity him. I could just see him as a sad little boy, who wanted to be loved and be the favorite for once. The other characters were interesting as well, though they could have used a little more character development past their initial descriptors. I'm glad this is a series, so we can hear more about Paula and the other girls. In the end, I enjoyed reading this one quite a bit, and had a hard time putting it down, and even feel like re-reading the ending. And what better can I say?

What's up for next week? Finishing up a last book or two for the Summer reading challenge, possibly a book for bookclub, maybe a little reading break. We shall see!

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