The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins – Review

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – another review in the Eclectic Readers Challenge 2012

Hunger games.jpg

I was loaned these books from a friend – The wife saw the movie recently and wanted to check out the series that inspired it and I needed a book for the Eclectic Readers Challenge – Young Adult.

This genre is one that I like – Susan Cooper, Cory Doctorow, Scott Westerfeld among others are hiding out on my book shelves. I like the easy readability of these books as well as the adventure and feel that most young adult books have. If you haven’t read one of these since teenage-hood I highly recommend you jump back in – and abandon yourself to the story.

Back to the review… many may be aware of the series from either the books or the major movie – so I will keep this first part fairly short.

This is set in the future after some catastrophe has turned North America into mostly a wasteland with humanity held up in 12 districts which support the Capitol, in a quasi-salve state.  Many years earlier a 13th district existed but after a failed attempt to seek independence from the Capitol it was bombed and in retaliation the Hunger Games started as a way to remind the remaining districts that the Capitol rules. The Hunger Games require each district to send 2 tributes (aged between 12-18) to fight it out – with only 1 winner allowed – the rest must die. The series follows Katniss, Peeta and Gale (the teenage triangle often found in the young adult genre – just get with the program!) as their world is turned apart and seemingly innocent actions cause the whole world to start to change.

This immediately made me think of the Japanese film Battle Royale (and I am not the only one… however, I am not going to enter that debate.) I am happy to believe that the author really didn’t see the movie before writing this – and after all it is a very different story with only slight similarities. Here endth the debate.

I have also chosen to review the whole series of three books – not to make out that I am some genius at reading but that fact remains with large font and spacing these books might be 400 pages each but probably contain less words then one George RR Martin !!! Man that guy can write!

So what did I think of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay? I think firstly it is well written – the target audience will be able to read this easily – it deals with some difficult issues, death, family, separation and acceptance of your role in the world. The main characters, while being flawed, show strength that comes from something real – by this I mean they are not glowing vampires or love struck werewolves but normal (ish) teenagers who are made to extraordinary things in dangerous times. Worlds are turned upside down, loyalties are questioned and in the end a choice must be made.

I understand why this series is well liked and would encourage any read or any age to read this as it is a great story with good characters, action, love and all the other good bits… without being too graphic or “grown-up” (with that I mean no sex and remorse over the violence).

Suzanne has done a sterling job with this series, so often young adult books can feel ‘dumbed’ down, Suzanne has managed to keep the heavy subject matter true to younger readers while still being enjoyed by the umm older/mature/experienced readers like myself.

I will give this series 4/5

Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

Third in the Eclectic Readers Challenge 2012

Third up in the Challenge is Romance… I put off just re-reading Time Enough For Love by Robert A. Heinlein oh it would be so easy to just stick with my favourite genre(s) of Fantasy and Science Fiction… but I must NOT!!! So instead I asked the wife… what romance book should I read… I expected something from Jilly Cooper – the horse porn lady (note: not porn with horses but soft porn involving people who also have horses… no bestiality at least that’s what she tells me…)
No instead she handed me Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. This book has special meaning to us as it was the reason we went to Japan for our honeymoon – wife’s choice after she feel in love with the Kyoto world of pre and post WWII through this book.
Memoirs of a Geisha: A Novel
At first I was intrigued by the writing style – this book is written from the POV of the Geisha growing up with poor, loosing mother, father, sister, being sold into a world that is alien to most European background people (isn’t the Sex trade?? – I realise it can be more than that but you can bid to take a girl’s virginity…). All these feelings and insight are written by an American man… and it was so well written I had to keep reminding myself that this was not an autobiography but a work of fiction – it just felt so real.
I think it also helped having been to Kyoto, having had a brief encounter with a Maiko (trainee Geisha), walked the street and stood in front of famous tea houses… I could almost taste again the wonderful ramen soups and hear the click clack of the wooden shod Geisha walking past us… 
Memoirs is not a true romance novel, or at least not the way I see them in my head (I’m thinking Clan of the Cave Bear here…) no this is a much more subtle book. Sayuri’s is often a sad one – torn from her family into a “better life” she takes the challenges on and shows her true potential becoming a phenomenal Geisha in a time when the world almost lost them forever.
Japan’s rich culture, which is often harsh to western eyes, has some many levels and is full of grace and depth. I enjoyed reading this book equally for the trip down memory lane and the story itself – yes a romance kept me interested and wanting to read more to find out what happens to Sayuri, while yearning that she finally gets the love she both wants and deserves.
I can’t say much more then read this – go to Japan then read it again… well worth it.

Killing Floor – Lee Child – Review

Another review in the Eclectic Reading Challenge 2012 – Crime / Mystery Fiction

Lee Child’s Killing Floor is the first of the Jack Reacher novels, which are international best sellers and very popular novels…
Killing Floor
I’ve never read anything by Lee Child and thought that I should start at the begin – the first Jack Reacher novel. I have dabbled in this genre before which some of the well know authors like Flemming, King (a lot of his are mystery’s and not just horror), Conan Doyle… etc. I also like Crime fiction even the ones writing by fictional authors like Castle… So I was not going into Killing Floor without some fore knowledge of the genre.
First thoughts of the book was – I know why people enjoy reading Child’s work, it was easy to read, fast paced with action and relationships. It was not high prose or complex characters this was a great read that let you enjoy the story (I think this is where I am suppose to write Journey – but I’m not on a reality TV show so I wont).
Basically if you are up for a quick read without too much thought or complex story lines to keep track of, this Child is an author you can go with.
I will be looking up more Jack Reacher novels as I think I could get to like this no nonsense, ex-marine, crime/mystery man… and I hope he one day gets to find someone to love…