Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review of The Hunger Games

It's a hot topic right now, as The Hunger Games movie was just released in theatres last weekend. Many people have gone to the movie without reading the book. Still others have read the book in advance of going to the movie.

I admit that I am not really interested in going to see the movie, but was curious about the books. I remember hearing people talk about them a couple of years ago when they first came out. But the idea of a bunch of starving kids fighting to the death was not interesting to me at all. I had picked up the book a couple of times to read it, but could never get past the first few pages. This past weekend, I made a concentrated effort to at least get through the first chapter. I wanted to give it a truly valiant effort. And by the end of one chapter, I was hooked.

Katniss Everdeen is 16 years old. She lives in District 12 in the nation of Panem, formerly the place known as North America. All of the districts are run by The Capitol. As punishment for an uprising some years ago, most of the inhabitants are kept in extreme poverty. People are forced to scrounge for food and often die for hunger, though the cause of death is often listed as something like pneumonia. Katniss takes care of her mother and her beloved 12 year-old sister, Prim, by illegally hunting in the woods outside of the fenced-in area and trading some of the meat for other foods and items. Their father was killed by a mine some years ago. Their mother was too depressed to care for her family, so Katniss took charge.

Once a year, The Capitol forces a battle between the Districts known as The Hunger Games. One boy and one girl from each district is chosen to compete. The 24 kids are forced to battle to the death as inhabitants of Panem watch on live TV.  This year, the girl from District 12 is Katniss's sister, Prim. Katniss quickly steps up to take her sister's place.

Survival comes naturally to Katniss, but so many other factors come into play during the Games. When she inadvertently becomes a national sensation prior to the Games, her chances of survival increase in the eyes of the audience. But it also marks her as one to remove as far as the other players are concerned. Will she be able to survive and bring pride to District 12? Can she win the big prize and care for her family in a way that she has never been able to before? Or will she succumb to the survival instincts of the other players?

I loved this book. I didn't think that I would. Katniss is the narrator and tells the story in real time. That makes you a part of the action as being told. You see the world through her eyes and witness events as she does. The pages turn quickly as you are engrossed in her life. It is action-packed, without being gory or obnoxious.

I want to point out that there really is not a lot of gore in the book. The killing scenes give enough detail to make a point, but are not so detailed that you will be completely grossed out. This is not just a story about teenagers fighting each other to the death. While a couple of the characters appear to be out for murder, it is more of a survival instinct that keeps them fighting and killing. They don't have any other options if they want to survive. To give in and lie down to defeat is suicide. What would you do?

For those who really want to, you can get into deep conversations about how this book parallels history and other cultures. Naturally, one of the historical societies that comes to mind is the Romans with their gladiator battles. It also makes a strong statement about society and the problems that come with too much governmental control.

Other than its message, it is just a good read. I was reminded a lot of Stephen King's book The Long Walk (which was written under his pseudonym Richard Bachman). I read a lot of Stephen King starting when I was about 10 years old. But I was the kind of kid who could handle that type of subject matter without a lot of problems.

My advice to parents who are questioning this book for their own kids is to read it first. As an adult, you are going to get more out of it than teenagers will. Assess the book for yourself and then think about your own child. Everyone's child is different, so you can't say that it is more appropriate for a 17 year-old vs. a 13 year-old. And definitely read the book prior to seeing the movie. I have heard that you understand the movie a little bit better if you do, which is usually the case.

As always, I would love to hear your feedback on the book. I'd even love to hear your thoughts on the movie adaptation.

You have many options for how you read the Hunger Games. Click on one of the links below to purchase your own copy.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Free YA Kindle Reads: Hockey, Mystery & Mermaids

I am not a huge fan of the vampire/werewolf genre. So, finding something I am interested in downloading for free from the Amazon Kindle in the YA genre can be tricky at times. However, I did manage to come across a couple of promising leads and am sharing them here with you.
No Kindle? No worries! I currently do all of my e-book reading by using the free Kindle apps for my Droid and my laptop. But soon I will own a Kindle Fire!
Face-Off (Book One)

This book was originally published when the author was a mere 16 years old. Twin brothers T.J. and Brad used to attend different high schools. Brad was at the public school and was the star of the hockey team. T.J. went to a fancy prep school and their father's favorite. But now T.J. has gotten out of the prep school and comes to the public school. He starts to compete to take over his brother's starring role on the hockey team, as well as stealing his brother's girlfriend.
Get your Kindle copy here.
Mississippi Cotton

Young Jake takes a bus to visit relatives in the Mississippi Delta in 1951. What is supposed to be a fun summer vacation takes a turn when an unknown body is found in the Mississippi River. The cousins decide to try their hand at detective work and start snooping around, but really should leave it to the adults.
Get your Kindle copy here.
 Deep Waters (The Lemoso Legends)

Okay, I do somewhat enjoy mermaids and have lived near the Great Lakes my entire life. In this book, a species of mermaids, known as the Lemoso, live in the Great Lakes. But environmental pollution and disasters have been threatening their way of life. Raymos, their prince, decides to take a stand and ends up in a forbidden relationship with a human. Both of them seek to save the Great Lakes.
Get your Kindle copy here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Wanderlove Giveaway on YA Highway

Kirsten Hubbard on YA Highway is ecstatic to share that her new book, Wanderlove, is being released today! It's a story about finding yourself and love while traveling in Central America. It is also about art and travel. The book is a personal journey for the author, as it contains her favorite travel destinations and illustrations.

To celebrate, she has 26 different giveaways happening on her blog. Enter to win prize packages ranging from signed prints of Wanderlove illustrations to Mayan bracelets and several others in between.

Up to 5 international winners will be chosen, so no worries if you live outside of the USA. The contest stays open until Saturday, March 24th. Winners will be posted on Sunday, March 25th. So, head over to YA Highway to make your entry. And while you're waiting, purchase your own copy of Wanderlove and start planning your own travels.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sisterhood Everlasting: The 5th Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Book

Young adult readers fell in love with the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. The story of Lena, Tibby, Carmen and Bridget (a.k.a. Bee) and their infamous magical jeans brought to life the bonds of sisterhood that happen between girls who have been friends for life. These four young girls were all born in the month of September, to four moms who bonded during their prenatal classes. The four babies, though as different as the four seasons, became closer than friends, closer than sisters. They were a part of each other.

Flash forward a decade from the end of the fourth novel. In Sisterhood Everlasting, the foursome are now approaching their 30th birthdays. They are scattered in four different directions, leading four different lives. Time and distance has had its toll on them. Each one is feeling her own kind of pain without her other selves, yet doesn't know how to handle it. Finally, Tibby surprises all of them with tickets to Greece for a sort of reunion.

Upon their arrival, they are met with great tragedy. Their differences cause them to drift further apart as they deal with their own personal demons. Follow them on their quest for self-discovery and healing as they find their ways back to each other again.

This is a beautiful story. As an adult a few years older than the characters, I can relate to their struggles. But even teens who read the first four books may be able to relate on some level to the struggles going on in their lives. If anything, it can serve as a reminder to young girls that adulthood doesn't mean that all of your problems are over. With the love and help from friends and family, you can endure any obstacles that come in your way. It is also a powerful reminder to cultivate true friendships and bonds and to cherish them forever.

Readers will be able to find a way to relate to all four of the girls on some level. While this book has enough background information to be a stand alone novel, I recommend fans read the entire series to truly understand and feel their plights. Keep a few tissues on hand!

I was provided a preview galley of the paperback version of this novel by the publisher for the purpose of reviewing through my association with NetGalley. All opinions are strictly my own.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Vampire Hunter's Daughter Part IV: Divided

Chloe's story is heating up. She is nursing her injury from the fight with the vampires. But instead of feeling defeated, she is even more eager to vanquish them all.

But in the meantime, she has her hot date with Gavin to the New Year's Ball to worry about. For one night, she gets to forget about vampires and get all dressed up. But why is Drew acting so jealous? It sounds like a love triangle is brewing.

Vampires are getting closer. Chloe's vampire blood is also starting to heat up a bit, though she is trying hard to ignore it. I see some foreshadowing in this installment.

Luke is slowly recuperating in the hospital. But then he has a sinister visitor. Chloe is forced to make some major life decisions and abandons this new life to which she has just started to become accustomed.

The Vampire Hunter's Daughter Part IV ends with a cliffhanger that will make you impatiently wait for the fifth part. Rumor has it that Part V will become available at the end of March. I am looking forward to it, because I have been completely sucked into this story!

The Vampire Hunter's Daughter series is one that will appeal to those who love vampires, as well as those of us who traditionally don't. It's fun young adult reading that will keep you glued to the screen and escape reality for a short while.