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Friday, March 30, 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 5 of 5 stars.


In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before-- and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender . But if she is to win, she will have start making choices that weight survival against humanity and life against love. (Book blurb)

Katniss Everdeen is strong, she is a survivor. If anyone should be able to win the bloody death match that is Panam's yearly Hunger Games, it is her. But Katniss also has chinks in her armor. One of those chinks is the  boy with the bread, Peeta Mellark. The one person she could possibly owe, the one who she fears she would never be able to kill.

As the two are forced into a sort of alliance and what tenuous bond they may have had is stretched by suspicion and strengthened by friendship, Katniss must decide what's more important: Playing by the Gamemaker's rules and getting home to her family, or risking everything by letting her humanity win over and proving to the Capitol that she is not just a piece in their Games.

The Hunger Games is an epic tale of strength, innocence, and goodness against all that is corrupt and vile. It's a story of courage even in the face of not a single shred of hope. It's the story of a girl who knows what it means to survive, and a boy with a love that shatters every piece of self-preservation and carries with it its own sort of rebellion. The Hunger Games rings of political unrest and a fervent desire for change and resistance against those who kill and oppress so many.

This book blew me away from the moment I cracked open the pages. I have been completely glued to the series these last few days and now though I'm dying to get my hands on Mockingjay, I'm afraid to see it end, especially since I don't expect to see a lot of light in the last book.

Suzanne Collins has done a remarkable job creating this dystopian world. The basic history of Panem is put forward in such natural and easy ways by Katniss's mind and by the things that happen around her. The setting is so perfectly put together, so outrageous at times and yet so real that it sets the stage for everything happening in the story effortlessly. The characters have distinct and strong personalities that do not waver, but neither do they always do what you would expect. This book had everything it needed to grab my attention and hold it until long after I finished the last page.

What really surprised me reading The Hunger Games was that while it was well written, it wasn't written in a way to give it any sort of airs. It isn't particularly lyrical, the prose isn't beautifully turned, and I found myself a bit annoyed by how many things were told rather than shown. And none of this is a bad thing. It was so expertly done as to give us a clear view of the action without always knowing the characters' exact motivations. Despite being in first person from Katniss's point of view and rolling with a kind of internal monologue, we don't always know what Katniss's feelings about certain things are. The only time we get a clear glimpse is when she colors the other characters actions with her own ideas of what those actions mean.

Despite this, and maybe it was just me who saw it that way, there is a tangible intensity to the story that I like. You never really forget all that is at stake for the Tributes or how both Katniss and Peeta are gambling with their actions before and during the games.

I could keep rambling on about how much I adored some of the characters, but I don't think that's necessary for this review. If you read, or have read, the books then the characters speak for themselves. They don't need a lot of coloring or hype, they just are what they are.

I know that if you are a fan of dystopian fantasy or just like a really good, pretty intense book you will love The Hunger Games. And may the odds be ever in your favor!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Hunger Games Movie Review

I hate trying to write a synopsis for a movie, so I hope that you can all forgive me if I skip this one. I mean, you would have to be living under a rock to have missed all the hype surrounding the much anticipated Hunger Games. (Just in case you have managed to miss the never ending stream of promotion on tv and online, I'll post the trailer below.)

I had been wanting to read the books for a while and something just kind of pushed me away, but I was determined to start reading them and see the movie at the midnight premier. So, not having gotten more than a couple pages into the book, I went to see the Hugner Games sleepy-eyed at midnight on the 22nd. And boy did I get a surprise. I had a feeling this movie would be good, but it was beyond epic, and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. As a matter of fact, the reason I haven't written the reviews is because I've been so wrapped up in the books (I came home at 3:00AM and read myself to sleep!) ever since.

Having read the first book and being almost finished with the second, I can honestly say that the casting was simply remarkable. I loved seeing Josh Hutcherson playing Peeta and couldn't help thinking of the kid who made be cry so many times while watching the movie adaptation of Bridge to Terabithia, another favorite book of mine. And while I have heard some people are a little disgruntled with the casting of Cinna, I couldn't disagree more. He was absolutely perfect in my opinion. As was Haymitch. I don't think any of the character could have been better cast. It was all so perfect and the acting beyond flawless.

The location and special effects where everything such an epic book adaptation should be, surreal and incredibly lifelike. Everything was so perfectly set up it was like stepping into the book for a little while. I was just blown away.

Now, I'm thinking about going to see the movie for a second time, but thankfully I have the books to keep me satiated for a while. I can't remember being this excited for a book series in forever, and I think that the movie being so wonderfully made just gives fans one more thing to delve into and keep the fire for the books burning.

Have you seen it? Written a review? Let me know what you thought!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Books to Love Like The Hunger Games

"I lift things up and put them down."

That's a quote from a commercial, that perfectly sums up my reading style. At any given time, I'm in the middle of at least three books. Rare is the read that can solely hold my attention from start to finish.

The Hunger Games was one such book. The only time I put it down was to hurry and grab a copy of Catching Fire.

Adrenaline inducing reads are often the most memorable. Here are four that, just like The Hunger Games, I can't forget:

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder- I literally stayed up 'til three in the morning to finish this one. Yelena is, if possible, even stronger than Katniss, with a stubborn streak miles wide.

Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick- He could love her or kill her. The tension arising from Patch's actions is what makes this book unputdownable. Is that not a word? It should be.

My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent- Banshees aren't too common in YA fiction. Watching Kaylee figure out what's wrong with her is irresistible. Also, just look at that cover.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis- You wake up in a spaceship after being a victim of a murder attempt. What do you do? I would curl up in a fetal position and stay there. Thankfully, Amy is not anything like me and takes readers on a wildly exciting adventure.

These four reads all kept me guessing, just like The Hunger Games. A splash of suspense and a huge does of intrigue make for an adrenaline inducing read.

Guest post be Melanie at Melanie's Musings!

Thanks, Melanie!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

I've said before that I don't like reviewing books that are considered classics. I've also said that I would try as I read them. However, instead of writing a review for this book, I'm going to show you the essay I wrote  for a prompt in one of my classes. For the record, I thought this book was beyond amazing. I would have never picked it up on my own though. So, here you go: a little piece of my interpretation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey.

Ken Kesey’s remarkable writing in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest lends suspense and firmness to the strange out-of-place moments happening in the mind of the narrator Bromden. The voice of his prose gives a strangely normal feel to dreamy things. The events adding up in Bromden’s head as he relates the illusionary things happening around him build up excitement like carbon dioxide builds up, ready to explode in a shaken Coke bottle. Only after the explosion can you truly see where the line between reality and dream is drawn.

The most striking scene in the novel is a scene in which Bromden is relaying what is going on in the meeting room, but he is also relaying his own specific reality. He is not entirely conscious at the beginning of the scene but at the end is pulled out of the fog by McMurphy. It is the last time he will allow himself to be pulled into and lost there in the fog. It is a turning point, a psychological breakthrough for the character. It is also a beautiful example of Kesey’s way with words when relaying things that aren’t entirely there and yet feel not only to the character but to the reader that they are concrete.

“I’m not cold anymore. I think I’ve about made it. I’m off to where the cold can’t reach me. I can stay off here for good. I’m not scared anymore. They can’t reach me. Just the words reach me, and those’re fading.”

Kesey shows dream-like illusions in Bromden’s head as he loses himself in the fog. Just when he thinks that he’s so far gone he’ll go from being a “Chronic” to a “Vegetable”, he feels someone’s voice tugging him out of whatever state he’s in.

“ That’s that McMurphy. He’s far away. He’s still trying to pull people out of the fog. Why don’t he leave me be?”

“ Just by the way the nurse is staring at me with her mouth empty of words I can see I’m in for trouble, but I can’t stop it. McMurphy’s got hidden wires hooked to it, lifting it slow just to get me out of the fog and into the open where I’m fair game. He’s doing it, wires. . .

“No. That’s not the truth. I lifted it myself.”

Bromden’s near constant association and metaphors to mechanics add a sort of suspense to the inner workings of his mind, making something simple seem far more momentous and complex than it really is physically. This lends itself to the idea that there was far more going on here than Bromden simply raising his hand. In a way, this scene shows the effect McMurphy’s strong and unbroken will power has over Bromden, how it helps him win back his own force of will that we see later has been broken--in part--by electroshock therapy.

While there were external events during this part of the story, as in most of Bromden’s dreamy parts, the central focus is on what’s happening inside his mind. What’s happening around him, but at the same time isn’t really there. Previously, he had explained quite thoroughly his theories behind the “fog machines” and how the nurses used them to put them in a sort of altered state. He compares them to things he saw when he was in the Army and thought he had it figured out how they worked. After this climactic scene, he believes that the fog machines are broken, however, it can be deduced that the fog wasn’t real to begin with. It is more of a way to show Bromden’s gradual disassociation with the world around him with something that feels more real. His getting lost in the fog (and thinking others had also) is more suspenseful than if he had just stopped noticing what was going on.

Kesey’s overall work in writing a story from the point-of-view of someone who had extricated himself from the outside world was light and natural, yet at the same time held a very real, concrete feel. His use of metaphors and allusions throughout the work help to create suspense. His way of turning psychological things into things that seem physical and external give a better feel to the internal events happening in the story and make it easier to understand their import. The simple things in the outside world are far more complex within the working of the mind, but it is only ever after showing the real picture, such as Bromden raising his hand, that this becomes obvious.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Jane Eyre Obsession. . .

I would like to devote today's blog post to my Jane Eyre obsession.

My followers might remember my review of Jane Eyre May of last year. Since then, I have watched nearly every film version out there, my favorite being the 2006 version with Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester. He was beyond perfect! Though I do wish that had kept more of the religious themes in the book, something most of the movie versions seem to leave out. I thoroughly enjoyed the 2011 version as well. I think it had the best cast Jane I've seen, but it is definitely a movie for those of us who have read the book and can fill in the blanks.

Anywho, this post isn't about the movies exactly. I've just finished re-reading the book again and took even more away from the texts than I did last time. So, I've been in a Jane Eyre mood and have found the coolest inspired items on etsy which I will link here. I'll also include some movie pictures... just because I want to!

(Click the pictures below to visit the Etsy page for each item!)

Pretty, pretty please?? haha I'll be getting a car soon, and I think I'll have to have this! $13 is a steal too.

Yes, please! I think it would be cute to wear this to the premier of the next Twilight movie, just to confuse people! hehe

My first oil painting was of Thornfield Hall.

A quote I particularly enjoyed in my last read through:

"It does good to no woman to be flattered by her superior, who cannot possibly intend to marry her; and it is madness in all women to let a secret love kindle within the, which, if unreturned and unknown, must devour the life that feeds it; and, if discovered and responded to, must lead, ignis-fatuus-like, into miry wilds whence there is no extrication."

And... Back to the movies. :D Part of the reason I think Toby Stephens made such a good Rochester is because my opinion of him has always pretty much been that he is so ugly, he's handsome. I know! That sounds ridiculous, but its kind of true. The other reason is that I like the way he was portrayed in this movie best, he's more like I imagined him, more passionate and animated with a distinct if gruff sense of humor.

I am also of the opinion that Mia Wasikowska is the best cast Jane. She's almost exactly how I imagined her, and while lacking a bit of the fire I see her with in the book, she is very well portrayed in the 2011 version.

Now, for your viewing pleasure, I have included my favorite scene from the books as well as from the 2011 movie. I think it was incredibly well done and Michael Fassbender's performance was remarkable.

I hope I haven't bored you with my fandom. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen

The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen 5 of 5 stars.

Lilly Haswell remembers everything--

whether she wants to, or not. . .

AS LILLY TOILS IN HER FATHER'S APOTHECARY SHOP, preparing herbs and remedies by rote, she is haunted by memories of her mother's disappearance. Villagers whisper the tale, but her father refused to discuss it. All the while, she dreams of the world beyond--of travel and adventure and romance.

When a relative offers to host her in London, Lilly discovers the pleasures and pitfalls of fashionable society and suitors, as well as clues about her mother. But will Lilly find what she is searching for--the truth of the past and a love for the future? (Book blurb)

Lilly is a strong and capable young woman with a grieving heart and a desire for adventure. Having seen her mother leaving the village with a man by boat several years past, Lily jumps at the the opportunity to go to London the moment it is placed before her. Leaving her father and simple-minded brother to take care of the herb shop in the process.

While London was a satisfactory change of pace, Lilian Haswell not only fails to secure a husband after two seasons, she brings scandal after scandal down upon herself, her aunt, and her uncle. But when Lilly finally has leads to her mother's whereabouts and a suitor--a timid young physician--a letter arrives asking her to hurry home that her father is not well. And with that, she picks up and leaves.

The Apothecary's Daughter is an informative and masterfully written historical fiction novel that has the feel of a BBC drama. Its beautifully pieced together scenes, characters, and historical tidbits make it a fascinating read; even more so for someone interested in herbalism. The honest and humble themes of faith running throughout this novel give it that extra touch of sincerity, engraving it forever on my heart.

I truly enjoyed reading about all of the everyday tasks of a 19th century apothecary shop. A well written historical novel has to be able to capture the mundane without making it feel boring, as well as bringing suspense and drama to the specific point in history. Julie Klassen does a wonderful job at this. I soaked up all of the history surrounding the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries and all the changes that happened with the medical hierarchy during that period in time.

As for the characters, all of your favorite sort were there and then some. From the rakish bad boy Roderick Marlow, to the brooding Dr. Graves, and, my favorite,  the sincere and loving Francis, the heroes were wonderful and varied. Mr. Shuttleworth was a fun addition, his eccentricity adding something unique to the cast of characters. The heroines were full of spirit and strength. I loved Mary's wit and resilience. Despite her hardships she showed a great deal of grace and courage. Lilly was a remarkable and lovable character whom I will not soon forget. Her uncomplaining and capable care of her father's patients during his sickness were touching.

The plot is full of twists and turns and surprises that kept me on my toes and flipping the pages. That said, it has a relaxed and flowing feel. Though calamity after calamity might befall the Haswell family, there are many poignant and careful interactions that weave themselves between the "exciting" parts and make it feel completely natural. The resolutions to problems and the reactions to disaster show depth in the characters.

An absolutely beautiful novel in all. If you have any interest in herbalism, or if you're just a fan of historical fiction you should give this book a try. I promise that you will love it!

*To order a copy of The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen from Amazon.com, please click here.

*This post contains an Amazon Affiliates link.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Temptation of Angels Trailer!

Just a quick post to share with you the trailer for Michelle Zink's upcoming book A Temptation of Angels! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. You can look for my review sometime in April.

Pre-order A Temptation of Angels from Amazon.com by clicking here!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Coming Soon!

March is going to be my month to play "catch-up" in many ways. Firstly, I have a whole LIST of books that I have to write reviews for which I've already read. And secondly, I going to finally dust the cobwebs off this disaster of a blog. I've been clinging to my layout for far too long. On the advice of Nevey, who I should always trust in such matters, I'm going to start making plans for a new look. Despite having no possible idea of what that might be at the moment. And lastly, I'm going to start having more fun around here. Tis a bit dark and dreary and past time I had some more "fun" posts going on. I also want to reconnect with my fellow book bloggers. If any of you would be interested in stopping by my humble abode for a guest post, feel free to email me at: hollywood_here_I_come@live.com You are more than welcome!

Here is an idea of things to come:


The Apothecary's Daughter by Julie Klassen
So Silver Bright by Lisa Mantchev
Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
+Those that I will be reading throughout this month


Cursed One Survival Kit -- Inspired by Crusade and Damned by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie

Some awesome things leading up to  The Hunger Games movie. Most probably an US&International giveaway, book review, movie review, and maybe some other things I have up my sleeve.

I'm also going to be getting back involved with some of the book blogger memes. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know!

That's about it. If you haven't been following me on Twitter, you should most definitely do that! I'm a bit addicted these days. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Blog Tour: Daughter of the Centaurs by Kate Klimo

Daughter of the Centaurs by Kate Klimo 5 of 5 stars.

Sometime in the future.

An earth populated with half-animal, half human creatures.

A girl who may be the last human.

Malora has always wanted to be a master horseman, like her father. To ride and hunt as he does, wheeling about and charging off, bow and arrows strapped to her back--she can't imagine anything better. It is no matter to her that for the People this is considered a man's job, or that she is gently discouraged by her parents at every turn. Malora feels, she knows, that this is what she was meant to do.

But destiny has its own plans for Malora when the People and their horses are taken by bloodthirsty creatures known as the Leatherwings. In an agonizingly short time, only Malora is left--with Sky, the majestic stallion that was the leader of the People's great herd of horses. Together, girl and stallion find a wild herd and forge a new life in the plains.

In a way, Malora is now the mast horsewoman she dreamed of becoming, but she is lonely for conversation and companionship and family. She cannot help hoping in her few quiet moments that there are more People somewhere and that she will find them. And then she meets the centaurs, and her world is opened up yet again. this time into a life she never could imagine. (Book blurb)

Malora Thora-Jayke is a high-spirited and eager young girl, ready to follow in her father's footsteps as a master horseman, but when her father and all of the other men of the village--the only human men left in Malora's world--are massacred by the leatherwings in front of her very eyes, Malora's world comes crashing down around her.

In a bitter twist of fate, Malora is thrust out onto the plains to do what she loves. Tend to her beloved Sky and to the horses they come across during their journey, but soon, Malora wants more. When she and her horses are "captured" by a band of centaurs looking for the Ironbound Furies, Malora get's her first taste of "more" and wants it more than she could ever have imagined.

With the help of her new friend, Orion, son of the great Apex of Mount Heiron, Malora Thora-Jayke leaves behind her old life of survival and struggle for a life of comfort and enlightenment in the great Highlands of the centaurs as Malora Ironbound, last of the People.

Daughter of the Centaurs is a fresh and exciting fantasy filled with new mythology, beautiful characters, and a lovingly and carefully built world that glitters with the creative works of centaur Hands. Kate Klimo's writing is deft and uniquely toned giving the fantastic story an almost everyday feel, as if there were nothing in the world strange about this world full of centaur aristocracy (of sorts?).

When I first started Daughter of the Centaurs, I didn't care for it. The beginning seemed at the same time rushed and too slow. I wasn't fully able to understand the setting of the story or the culture of the People before tragedy struck, and when it did, it seemed to hit with a numbing blow taking Malora's character that much farther from my understanding.

It wasn't until a bit later in the story--not quite midway-- that I began to appreciate the stark beginning and to understand how all the pieces were falling together. What seems like a rather simple and straight-forward story, deepens into something richer and more complex.

Though that isn't to say I didn't enjoy the rest of the story. As soon as the new characters swept onto the page, I was hooked. I loved Orion's rather geeky love of scents, Honus's wonderful insight into the beauties of educations, and even Zephele's frivolous and, slightly, snobbish attitude. There was just such a wonderful cacophony of characters and personalities in this book that I felt surrounded by beautiful centaur friends and delightful (for the most part) little Twani. (Let that last one be a surprise!)

Once the centaurs come into play, the plot moves at a comfortable pace giving just enough excitement and twists to keep me satisfied as I watched Malora's life unfold. There is plenty of humor here in there to put a smile on anyone's face.

However, the intricacy of the world in this book is what really sets it apart and makes, in my mind, Kate Klimo's writing remarkable.

I simply do not think the Daughter of the Centaurs will disappoint anyone who gives it a chance. Fantasy readers and fiction alike will enjoy this unique and wonderful story and be left begging for more. And if you are a horse-lover, all the better! It will likely catch your imaginations even more so than mine.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my first encounter with a centaur!

Many thanks to Random House Children's Books for including me in this blog tour. It has been a pleasure!

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