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Catching Fire

Book #4 (of 2012): Catching Fire
by Suzanne Colins (young adult fiction)

If you haven’t read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, then please note that Catching Fire is the second book in that series and this review will be littered with The Hunger Games Spoilers. Please don’t read this unless you’ve read the first book, trust me, you won’t regret it!

This is a good book, although the beginning, the Victory tour, didn’t keep my atention very well so I had some trouble getting into the book to begin with and was beginning to worry that the whole book would be Victory Tour, but it’s not, so once the tour was over and the plot twist came I was caught and really into it! I liked the book and how we first portrayed Finnick and the others as enemies (but especially Finnick I think, Katniss just really didn’t like him at first) but then began to get to know them and like them more and more.

I like what happened at district eleven during the tour, the whistle and the salute. Even though it was dangerous it showed where the country was going and what was beginning to stir up in the districts.

I loved the way Cinna turned on the President with what he did with Katniss’ dress that she had to wear to the interview for the Quarter Quell games. The transformation and the fact that not even she knew, it was wonderful. The way Suzanne Collins writes as well, is very descriptive and it feels like you’re seeing the transformation happen as it goes on. We feel Katniss’ panic as the flames appear, we understand her confidence in Cinna and then we see her wonder as she sees herself transformed into a mockingjay. That was probably one of my favourite parts in the book.

Read with caution… ūüėČ

The book begins back in District 12. Peeta and Katniss have both won the Hunger Games together, something unheard of before they both threatened to commit suicide rather than kill each other, and now live in new houses with their families. They have enough food and telephones and luxuries they’ve never had before now. Katniss’ mother is using these things to be a healer or a doctor in the village as she has ready access to medicine now and Katniss uses their old house as a hideout, somewhere to get away from people, or get her stuff together before or after going hunting. Katniss is struggling with maintaining the public appearance of loving Peeta when she doesn’t and it’s all strained her relationship with Gale who was publicly portrayed as her cousin throughout the Games.
Katniss and Peeta are awaiting their prep teams and Cinna to arrive from the capitol to help them prepare for the “victory tour” which is ¬†when the Hunger Games winner (well winners this time round) tour the districts making speeches and being congratulated by people in the districts of those they killed in order to win. The tour concludes with a big party at the capitol and then a big party and the winners’ home district.

The morning of the prep team’s intended arrival, Katniss arrives home from hunting (alone, Gale now works in the mines, so she doesn’t see him often), her mother seems anxious. A capitol official is in the kitchen with her mother and escorts her to the study where Katniss is greeted by none other than President Snow. This is not protocol, the president doesn’t visit people in their districts, not unless it’s very important. As it turns out, he’s there to warn her, but more threaten her, before she embarks on the victory tour, not to try stirring anything up, not trying to start a rebellion because he will kill Peeta and he will kill Gale and her family and everyone she loves if she does anything out of order. She must play up the romantic tie between her and Peeta perfectly and to Snow’s satisfaction or they’ll all be punished. After the “visit” Katniss lies to her mother and tells her that it’s normal for the president to congratulate the victors, it’s just not televised so they never knew. Soon after Cinna and the prep team arrive and she’s whirled back into the commotion of being plucked and pruned into some beautiful creature of the Capitol.

The first stop on the tour is District 11, where Rue and Thresh were from. Once there Katniss and Peeta must give speeches they have prepared and at the end of his, Peeta adds a surprise and announces that as a token of their regret and thanks, Katniss and he would like the tributes’ families to have a months worth of their winnings every year. The crowd gasps and though Katniss completely agrees she wonders if this is even legal… Katniss then gives a quick and yet touching speech and at the end of it, there is a moment of silence and then someone starts up Rue’s four-note tune and then the crowd, in one motion, put the three middle fingers of their left hand to their lips and raise them to Katniss. It’s the salute, the signal that her district gave her when she volunteered for Prim, but here it fills her with dread. She remembers what President Snow said and worries this might be seen as starting a kind of uprising. When they’re quickly ushered out, Katniss tries to go back and get her bouquet that she forgot, only to see the old man who whistled Rue’s tune being executed in the square. This wakes her and Peeta up, or perhaps it could be said it kills them a bit… They go through the motions, reciting their pre-written speeches at all the other districts and agree that they should get engaged to protect their loved ones from President Snow’s threats. When they arrives at the Capitol they are interviewed by Caesar Flickerman and Peeta proposes to Katniss live, and she delights Caesar and all of Panem when she “happily” accepts. They attend a party (or feast you might call it…) and during the dancing Katniss is approached by Plutarch Heavensbee who is the new head gamemaker (and will be in charge of planning the next year’s games). While dancing with her he mentions that he has to go to a planning meeting for the next year’s games and shows her his watch, when he rubs his thumb across the crystal of the watch a mockingjay (like the one on Katniss’ pin) appears and then disappears. “It starts at midnight” he says and says goodbye to go to his meeting.

The last stop of the tour is in District 12, Peeta and Katniss’ home district. They’re taken to the mayor’s house to be prepped by the prep team and when Katniss is finished early she goes to find the mayor’s daughter, her friend, Madge. On her way to find her she pops her head into the mayors study to say “Hello” and sees a report on a television channel for the mayor’s eyes only about an uprising in district eight. She quickly leaves the room and hurries of to find Madge.

On a Sunday trip to the lake with Gale, Katniss suggests they run away, like they once thought of doing before she went to the Games. She wants to run away with Gale’s family, Peeta’s family, Haymitch, and her family. As she tries to convince Gale (who doesn’t want to go with Peeta and Haymitch) she acciedently mentions the uprising she heard of in eight which sparks his interest. She is unable to convince him to leave however, he wants to stay and participate in the rebellion against the Capitol.

Quickly now, too many words…
A new head Peacekeeper is brought to district 12 and he’s mean, he keeps the rules tightly and beats those who break them. He whips Gale and would have killed him if people hadn’t interfered and he turns on the electric fence and Katniss almost gets trapped outside it after a visit to the lake where she meets two refugees (They are from district eight and are running away to district 13 where they hope to find an underground city with survivors from when 13 was destroyed by the capitol).

Soon it’s time for Katniss’ wedding shoot. A photo shoot in which she has pictures taken in six wedding dresses and when the program is aired, the people of the capitol vote on which she’ll wear to her wedding. The next evening the shoot is aired on television and after it comes the reading of the card for the third Quarter Quell. The Quarter Quells happen in twenty-five year intervals and every time they happen a card is read that was written by the creator of the games saying what’s to be “special” about that year’s Games. This first Quell the district had to vote on the tributes who went in to the arena, the next, twice as many tributes had to go in. This year when they read the card it announces that the tributes will be chosen from the surviving victors from each district. Katniss has a breakdown, she is going back into the Games with either Haymitch or Peeta.

Peeta, Katniss and Haymitch all prep this year, working out like careers so they’ll be stronger and have a better chance of winning.¬†The reaping comes and Haymitch’s name is drawn and Peeta promptly volunteers for him. Peeta is determined to keep Katniss alive and Katniss is determined that this year, she and Haymitch will work to keep Peeta alive. ¬†They go to the capitol and on their way research the other tributes and watch the recordings of their games so they can see how they fight. The have their interviews and their prep with their old preps team and Cinna. Katniss’ team, Octavia, Flavius, and Venia are heartbroken that she’s going back into the Games and keep breaking down in tears as they try and get her ready.

During the training work outs at the Training Center Haymitch instructs Katniss and Peeta to find some people they want to form an alliance with. When they finally get into the Games (the arena is a circle with the Cornicopia¬†in the middle surrounded by water. At the water’s edge is beach and then jungle) Peeta and Katniss end up in an alliance with Finnick, Mags (who, sadly, dies), Johanna, and Wiress (who also, sadly, dies), and Beetee.

And you know what…I’m not gonna say anymore, I’ve spoilt enough, so go read the book, I’m not sparknotes =D

All in all 8 out of 10. It was a good book with a good story but it ended with a terrible cliff hanger and the only reason I’m as okay with that as I am is because the next book was already sitting ready for me on my shelf. Now cliff hangers keep you interested yes but this one draws you in and in and in and then cuts of leaving you in shock.

In other news I registered in the Capitol on the official Hunger Games website thecapitol.pn and was assigned to live in district nine and be a harvester.
What district do you live in?

– Becky


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Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult

The Hunger Games

Book #3 (of 2012): The Hunger Games
By Suzanne Collins (young adult fiction)

Okay so here it goes,
The book: The Hunger Games
The author: Suzanne Collins

There you got all the information, now go buy it. Forget the library, there’s a reason you’ll be the 98th person in the queue for the book, just buy it and read it and then pay it forward.

John Green says something wonderful in his book The Fault in Our Stars which completely applies to how I feel about The Hunger Games, “Sometimes you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” (Page 33) There, now you know why you must read this book, the world will not be fixed until you do.

I had heard about The Hunger Games, knew lots of people liked the book, knew there was a movie coming out, saw some gifs on tumblr…eventually I decided to see what all the hullabulloo was about. Then I remembered last year, one lunch hour at school a friend in my class had been reading this book and I picked it up to read the back/first few pages. Two chapters in and at the end of lunch hour she pried it from my hands and I never remembered the author to track a copy down in the library. Then all this ruckus started with the movie coming out and I went to the library to try and get a copy.
I was 99th on the list with 6 books in the city.
The next day I was at work and saw the softcover copies were on for 40% off so I decided “What the heck, I don’t normally buy books without reading them, but if I don’t like it, for this price, I can resell it off to one of those die-hard fans!”
Ya that ain’t happening…

So Friday, I bought it.
It’s Saturday. I LOVE it. I will keep it. In fact I’m gonna go buy hard copies of all three of the books and then give away my softcover version. That’s right GIVE away, I need to give someone the opportunity to read this book without charging them.

Basic spoilerLESS (that means no plot spoilers) summary:
The Hunger Games is a post-apocalyptic novel about North America, after, (wait for it) the apocalypse. (high fives for cap’n obvious there!) What remains of the continent is the Capital, Panem, and it’s outlying districts, of which there are twelve. Originally there were thirteen but years before the book takes place there was a rebellion among the districts against the capital and the capital struck back, destroying district 13 and leaving the other districts quite aware that they were little better than slaves. As a reminder that rebellion is a bad idea the Capital hosts the annual “Hunger Games”. In these Games each district sends in two “tributes”, a boy and a girl to compete in the arena in the capital. The twenty-four 12-18 years olds chosen through a draw are then put in an arena and forced to kill each other for the entertainment of the citizens of the Capital who watch through televised ¬†broadcast off of the cameras that are hidden throughout the arena. The last tribute standing wins and (get this!) gets to live and be provided with food (because food is scarce in many of the districts and starvation is not uncommon). The story follows two of the tributes as they go from their district to as far as they can get in the Games.
**From here on I do not apologize for spoilers; consider yourself warned.**

I love Katniss Everdeen. Katniss is the female tribute from district 12 (the lowest of the districts) I love how we start seeing her vulnerable with Prim and with Gale while hunting with him, and then we see her possibly giving up her life to keep her sister safe. I love that she thinks, she’s clever, she’s a survivor. I like that she is so humble about her skills, they’re just there, they’re nothing to boast about but she’s confident in them; she doesn’t boast about them, but she’s well-aware of them. Somehow she manages to be so likeable while being unlikable and sullen. I like that she doesn’t give up and that when she has an opportunity to win with Peeta, she goes for it, even though he’s wounded and will slow her down and make her an easier target herself. She works so hard to treat him, she works for that broth and medicine from the sponsors. I like being able to watch her slowly get confused about how she feels for Peeta. As the reader, we’re sure she’s in love, but she is utterly confused… Also, before the games her delight about the dresses that district 12’s stylist, Cinna, creates for her makes her seem more girly and watching her slowly become (more or less) friends with him is also neat, we see that Katniss doesn’t trust without time and reason to.

Peeta Mellark is also a wonderfully thought out character. He’s utterly charming in the sweetest way possible. He loves Katniss, this is something we learn along with Katniss very suddenly and rather surprisingly during his pre-Games interview, but it’s something that once we know it, clicks into place and makes perfect sense. Of course Peeta loves Katniss! How could it have been otherwise!? But Katniss…does she love Peeta or Gale? Or either…? Peeta is open and real and sweet and yet in the Games he’s strategic and clever. He keeps Katniss safe by appearing to side with the “careers” (the term used for the tributes from the better cared for districts where the tributes are trained for the games as careers). Then, once he’s injured, he continues to think of her and worry about her. Once she finds him, all he wants is for her to survive, he’s doesn’t care if he lives Peeta just wants Katniss to win the Games. He is very humble and very caring even when it puts him into danger. We, as the reader, feel his pain at the end of the book when he realizes most of Katniss’ affection for him has been strategic, to keep herself (and partially him ) alive. We understand how hurt he is by this, he thought it was real, and Katniss herself is completely unsure if it is or not. Even through that “betrayal” by Katniss though, Peeta doesn’t get angry or bitter, he’s hurt, that’s obvious, but he’s not going to hate Katniss for it. That’s admirable.

I also feel that Haymitch deserves an honourable mention. He’s district 12’s only living previous Games winner (they’ve only ever had two though…) and is the town drunkard. He makes a fool of himself at the district’s “reaping” (the drawing of the tribute’s names in each district) and manages to stay drunk until Peeta and Katniss take a stand against it. As their “mentor” he’s a big factor in how things go for them in the arena. He arranges sponsors to send them gifts during the games (food, or medicine, something they might be needing) and he decides when the things get sent. When he sees them take a stand against his drinking I think it wakes something up in him. He realizes they haven’t given up on themselves and that they want a running chance in this so he agrees to stay sober (enough) to be of help to them and in all fairness, he ends up being a great help to them. Katniss and Haymitch don’t openly get along, but being very similar they understand each other. When he allows “gifts” to be sent her in the arena or withholds them, she is able to work out why they’re been sent or kept back. In this way they are able to strategize, and in the end, keep Katniss and Peeta alive.

All in all I’d give this book a 9 1/2 out of 10. It’s a wonderful book, but I didn’t cry. Now granted, I may have read it too fast, but as it stands, it didn’t catch my emotions the way some books do. Still a great book though! Well worth the read!

– Becky


Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult