Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

I've had this book on hold at the library for quite some time now. I first dismissed it as a simple YA book, but when TIME Magazine included Suzanne Collins in The 2010 TIME 100, I knew I had to find out for myself why her books were being given so much praise.

The story starts out with the protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, volunteering to take her sister's place in the Hunger Games, a yearly tournament run by the Capitol, which controls all of the districts in Panem. Katniss, who lives in District 12, realizes her act is equivalent to suicide, but her love for her sister is paramount. She, along with Peeta, the other "tribute" from District 12, set out for the Capitol, where they will fight to the death with 22 other tributes to win ultimate glory. The object of the Games is simple: make sure you are the last one alive. Katniss battles many obstacles in the Games arena, but it is ultimately her love for others and her resistence to give in to the Capitol's inhumane mindset that seals her fate. I have to stop at this point before I give anything too important away.

The Hunger Games kept me at the edge of my seat for a good day and a half; I simply could not put it down (which resulted in my getting a B on my Anatomy quiz, but it was worth it). While the writing is not absolutely remarkable, Collins does a very good job conveying the emotions running through Katniss' head. I also enjoyed the parallels to today's society that Collins illuminates; she certainly opened my eyes. I would recommend this book to everyone. Seriously, I cannot think of a single person who would not find some sort of value in it. As for me, I am anxiously awaiting my copy of Catching Fire, the next book in the trilogy.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dandelion Wine - Ray Bradbury

Dandelion Wine chronicles the summer of two boys, Doug and Tom Spaulding, in Green Town, Illinois. At the beginning of the book Doug realizes what it means to be alive and this realization shapes the rest of his summer. The boys travel back in time with the help of an elderly neighbor who tells them stories from the Civil War. They learn that happiness comes from within. Each chapter of the book tells of a different adventure, yet they all come together to tell the story of the town and of the boys.

If you have read any of my previous posts, you know that I'm a huge fan of Bradbury, and this book did not disappoint in the least. While it can't be said to be a particularly action-packed work, it does teach a different lesson with every adventure. In this way, it largely reminded me of The Illustrated Man, save for the fact that the stories are more woven together in Dandelion Wine. Bradbury's prose is, as always, indescribably beautiful and vivid. I would recommend this book to any avid Bradbury fans such as myself and also novices.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sorry for the absence...

I realize I haven't posted a review in quite some time. I apologize, but what with senior year starting this week, college and scholarship applications, and trying to juggle my insane schedule, time for reading has been scarce. I have also been in a bit of a reading rut. The book I am currently trying to read, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, is proving to be a slower read than I anticipated. I'm on the verge of moving on to another book, but I'll see if I can't stick with it. In the mean time, check out some of the other amazing blogs I follow :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I recently learned about a fellow blogger who is giving away a copy of Mockingjay, the third book in the Hunger Games series. I haven't actually read the series myself, but I've heard it's fantastic. Along with the book, she is also giving away a beautiful gold mockingjay pin. You can enter the contest here.

Havana Harvest - Robert Landori

Havana Harvest tells the story of the hidden dealings between the CIA and the Cuban government. The CIA is trying to frame the Castro regime with accusations of drug trafficking so that the Cuban government will crumble. In order to carry this out, they take advantage of a senior Cuban military official, General Patricio Casas, who has become disillusioned with the Castro government. The CIA sends Robert Lonsdale on a mission to find proof linking the Cuban authorities with the drug trade, but what Lonsdale finds instead is evidence of the Agency's unethical behavior and allegations of corruption in the highest ranks. Lonsdale soon sets out to extricate Casas from Cuba and publicly expose corrupted officials within the CIA.

I decided to review Havana Harvest because I'm usually a fan of spy thrillers and action stories. But with this book, I was just not able to get interested in the story, and the 400 pages felt like 1600 pages. I think this was largely due to the fact that the book contained too much detail. Usually that's not a bad thing, but in this case, I honestly didn't care what the characters were doing every waking moment. I would much rather have read about the significant bits of the story rather than the day-to-day pasttimes of the characters. Lonsdale also seemed a bit two-dimensional, and although Landori tried to build a personal side to the protagonist, I felt like I was reading about a robot, not a human. Havana Harvest would be an alright read for those who are particularly interested in US-Cuban relations, but for those looking for a simple spy thriller, it doesn't make the cut.

Note: This book was sent to me by the author for review through the third party Bostick Communications.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Keep - Jennifer Egan

After reading A Visit from the Good Squad (click here for my review), I was so impressed by Jennifer Egan that I decided I must read more of her writing. So I picked up The Keep at my local library, and I can assure you, I was not disappointed.

The story begins with the introduction of Danny, one of the two protagonists, on his way to a castle in a remote village. He is summoned to help his cousin, who has bought the castle, renovate it and make it into a hotel, or, more specifically, a technology-devoid retreat, meant to foster creativity and imagination. Danny is not particularly enthusiastic about the idea, but he accepts his cousin's offer due to some trouble he has gotten into in New York. In addition, Danny is not excited to see his cousin because of a practical joke he played on him when they were kids that turned out to have serious psychological impacts, the guilt of which still bothers Danny. Nonetheless, Danny makes the journey to the castle and meets his cousin, whom he finds to be very much changed from the insecure teenager dwelling in his memory. In the next few chapters we discover that the narrator of the story is Ray, a prisoner taking a writing class. As in Goon Sqaud, the story changes between Ray and Danny every few chapters or so. Ray, who is in prison for murder, is infatued with his writing teacher, Holly, but is also frustrated because Holly refuses to acknowledge him as more than a pupil. He writes Danny's story in order to impress Holly and continue to have some sort of connection to her. We soon discover that rather than just creating fiction, Ray is telling a story that has a significant impact on his own life.

Jennifer Egan has done it once again! I was thoroughly impressed by this book (which, by the way, was written before Goon Squad). The dual story lines keep the story very interesting, and there is a very unforseen plot twist at the end. At the same time, Egan has not stretched herself too thing, and both stories still retain their dexterity and beauty. The characters are rich and very well developed, especially Ray. Egan's style of writing lends itself to a very easy understanding of the thoughts of the characters. (I especially enjoy the lack of quotation marks which, as paradoxical as it may seem, actually make the reading easier.) This is another five-star literary work by Jennifer Egan, who has most definintely secured a place on my favorite authors list.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Macbeth - William Shakespeare

Ahh, Shakespeare! How I love thee! So I decided to pick up Macbeth, mainly because of the the superstition that surrounds it. Don't you dare utter the name in a theater! Instead, it is referred to as "the Scottish play." Intrigued, I decided to find out for myself what all the fuss was about.

Macbeth is a brave general in King Duncan's Scottish army. While returning from the battlefield with his friend Banquo, Macbeth encounters Three Witches who prophesize three things: 1) Macbeth will be thane of Cawdor, 2) Macbeth will be king, 3) Banquo will not be king, but his children will be. When Macbeth meets up with King Duncan, he discovers that he has indeed been promoted to thane of Cawdor. The King then informs Macbeth that he will be spending the night in his castle. So Macbeth rushes home to alert Lady Macbeth about the King's arrival and also about the prophesies. Lady Macbeth realizes that her husband is too kind and will never have the courage to get what he wants. Thus, she suggests killing the King in his sleep and blaming the murder on his servants, ensuring that Macbeth will ascend to the throne. This plan is carried out, but with misgivings on Macbeth's part. Soon the Witches' second prophecy also comes true and Macbeth is crowned King. But rather than enjoy the luxuries of his position, he is constantly haunted by the consequences of his actions.

I enjoyed Macbeth very much, although it is not my favorite Shakespeare play. I was especially impressed by the way in which Shakespeare conveyed the spooky surroundings and how well they tied in with the plot. If you are looking for a quick classic, Macbeth is a good option; I finished it in about 2 days, and probably could have finished it more quickly if I hadn't been so busy. My only complaint would be that as I got closer and closer to the end, the plot line became more and more predictable, but it was still an enjoyable read. I also made it easier on myself by reading Barron's Simply Shakespeare edition, which provides modern line translations.