Thursday, December 17, 2009

Killer Katniss in THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins

Hey there, Junkies. So in the wee hours of the night, one fateful September, when the first inklings of the idea to write this blog came to me, I thought this book would definitely be the first I'd write about. Well, three months have passed and I still haven't posted about The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

I don't know why I've put it off. Part of me feels that there's been so much buzz about this book, that at this point it's a little redundant to encourage you to go read it. Because clearly, if you haven't read it yet, you've either been living under a rock or you simply have no interest in bad-ass heroines in dystopian YA novels. So really? What's the point? I can rant and rave about how action-packed and horrifying it is, but I'm just preaching to the choir.

But anyway.

Katniss lives with her mom and her younger sister, Prim, in District 12, the poorest district in Panem, the post-apocalyptic nation controlled by the Capitol. Katniss is a survivor. Despite the death of her father and dire poverty, Katniss takes care of her mother and sister. Katniss uses a bow her father made to poach wildlife with her bestfriend, Gale. Together, Gale and Katniss sneak behind the District 12 fences to hunt and speak freely about their disdain for the Capitol.

Each year the Capitol holds the Hunger Games. Two Tributes, a boy and girl between 12-18 years-old, are randomly selected from a lottery to represent their district in the Hunger Games. Basically, it's like Survivor, only to the death. Whoever stays alive the longest wins! The winner earns amazing riches and food for his/her district.

Prim is selected as the girl from District 12, but Katniss immediately volunteers to go in her sister's place. Peeta, a baker's son Katniss's age, is selected as the male tribute. Katniss accepts her entrance into the Hunger Games as certain death, she only hopes she won't have to kill Peeta.

Katniss and Peeta are pampered and prepared for the Hunger Games in the Capitol. Haymitch, District 12's only former winner of the games, serves as Peeta and Katniss's coach. Unfortunately Haymitch is an alcoholic.

The action starts once they enter the arena and the fight to the death begins. Some of the traps in the arena, and the way these teengagers willingly kill each other is quite horrifying. Once Katniss starts wielding a bow and arrow, her bad-assness erupts. She's a survivor and she'll do whatever it takes to save herself.

Yes, this book is full of gruesome action. But what I love about it are the other, more subtle parts. I love the kind-of-love-story and the emerging love-triangle. I love the dystopian political/social commentary. And I LOVE the question that is barely alluded to: What does killing a person, even in self-defense, do to one's psyche?

Ok, so get out from under your rock, catch up with the rest of us and read The Hunger Games.

Ok, so in a previous post, I challenged anyone to find a tougher heroine than Katsa from Graceling.

What do y'all think? Who's tougher? Katniss or Katsa?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Clary grows into bad-assness in Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series.

Hey there, Junkies. So, I first fell in love with City of Bones when I read it as an alternative to this other book that is very lacking in heroines, but for some reason is very popular. Like this other book, The Mortal Instruments has romantic and paranormal elements, includes a love triangle with a vampire, and has groups of vampires and werewolves who don't get along. So, if you're a fan of this other book, I'd get over it and put it down already, and read The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare.

Now Clary is not exactly a top-notch heroine. She grows into her bad-assness throughout the series. In City of Bones she starts off as really more of a methodone (heehee, get it?). Ok, seriously.

Clary lives in New York and hangs out with her best friend, Simon. One night Clary sees this hotty, Jace, and these two other teens kill a demon. Clary is not supposed to see demons. Clary is not supposed to see Jace. Jace, Alec, and Isabel, are Shadow-hunters, a special race of people designed to kill demons.

After some flirting with Jace, Clary goes home to find her apartment in ruins, her mom missing, and a demon waiting for her. Clary fights the demon and kills it. This is where her road to bad-ass heroinism begins.

It turns out, Clary was born a Shadow-hunter, but her mom has been hiding her from the Shadow-hunter world. She's been lying to Clary and taking her to Magnus Bane, a deliciously flamboyant warlock, to have her memory altered.

Well, now Clary's mom is kidnapped and Clary has to team up with the shadow-hunters to find her mom and fight some demons, and in the meantime, she falls inlove with Jace.

Although in City of Bones Clary depends a little too much on Jace and the shadow-hunters to save her, in City of Ashes she discovers her own power, and by City of Glass Clary reaches full heroine status and is powerful enough to fight the bad guy on her own.

These books are fun and action packed. There are some great characters, like Magnus Bane the flamboyant warlock, and Raphael the cross-wearing vampire. I love how in the middle of a demon war, the most difficult situation a 19-year-old boy can face is telling his parents that he's gay. I enjoyed the love triangle and appreciated the realistic portrayal of teen sex. There are some steamy moments in this series!

I also LOVED the Star-Wars-esque family dynamic (Luke...I am your father. I love you Princess a sister). You want forbidden love? These books have some hot forbidden love.
So any and all urban fantasy/ paranormal romance fans must read these books. Let me know what you think.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Free Book Contest!

Want to win some YA books? YA Highway is having a great holiday contest to win some of thier favorite books. Check it out.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

2010 Book Blogger Recommendation Challenge

So, Reading with Tequila has this challenge to read books in 2010 that are recommended by book bloggers.
I think I'm going to go for Level III, and read 15 books from the list. Here are the books I plan to read from the extensive 2009 recommended list:
Hush, Hush - Becca Fitzpatrick
Outlander - Diana Gabaldon
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Good Omens - Neil Gaiman
Northern Lights - Phillip Pullman
Push - Sapphire
The Color of Magic - Terry Pratchett
Peeps - Scott Westerfeld
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
Star Girl - Jerry Spinelli
The Stand - Stephen King
Willow - Julia Hoban
The Truth About Forever - Sarah Dessen
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
Holes - Louis Sachar
13 Reasons Why - Jay Asher
The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
Anyone out there have any other recommendations????
Here are the books from the list that I've already read:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling
City of Bones - Cassandra Clare
Twilight - Stephenie Meyer
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Graceling - Kristin Cashore
Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer
Breaking Dawn - Stephenie Meyer
The Red Tent - Anita Diamant
City of Ashes - Cassandra Clare
Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
Queen of the Damned - Anne Rice
The Giver - Lois Lowry
The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft - Stephen King
Remember Me - Christopher Pike
The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay - Michael Chabon
The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
Dead to the World - Charlaine Harris
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
A Great and Terrible Beauty - Libby Bray
Artemis Fowl - Eoin Colfer
Black Beauty - Anna Sewell
City of Glass - Cassandra Clare
Invisible Monsters - Chuck Palahniuk
Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
The Forest of Hands and Teeth - Carrie Ryan
Dress Your Kids in Corduroy and Denim - David Sedaris
Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk
Happiness Sold Separately - Libby Street
My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult
Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery
A Ring of Endless Light - Madeleine L'Engle
Lamb - Christopher Moore
Marley and Me - John Grogan
The Yiddish Policeman's Union - Michael Chabon
Dracula - Bram Stoker
The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
In Her Shoes - Jennifer Weiner
The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster
Watchers - Dean Koontz

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

FIRE by Kristin Cashore

OK Junkies, so her second book, Fire, definitely places Kristin Cashore on my read-anything-and-everything-by-this-author-list. I mean, Fire does suffer a little from middle-child-syndrome as it doesn't quite live up to Graceling, and now that I've finished Fire, I'm just really excited to have my third kid, ahem, I mean read Cashore's third book, Bitterblue.

Fire is a companion book to Graceling, but I really insist you read Graceling first, so get going. The two books have one character in common. Cashore brilliantly introduces him in the prologue and has the reader biting her nails in suspense waiting for him to reappear, knowing that when he does, it will be with devastating consequences (and it is).

Fire lives in the Dells, a kingdom left in chaos by the former King Nax and his evil adviser, Cansrel, Fire's father. There are monsters in the Dells, beautiful creatures with the ability to manipulate people's minds, typically with violent results. Cansrel was a monster who drove the kingdom to ruins for his amusement and left behind the only existing human-monster, Fire.

Fire is capable of enormous power, but she's terrified of using it and becoming the despicable creature her father was. Although Fire is powerful, being a monster makes her extremely vulnerable. She's the most gorgeous creature in the land and can control minds, but all the animal-monsters, and a great number of people, want to kill her. (It's kind of like the president, in a way. He has all this power, but can't even run to the corner market without an entourage of secret-service cuz some whack-job might shoot him).

So, while avoiding assassination attempts, Fire struggles for her independence and tries to find her place and purpose in a dangerous world. King Nax's two sons, Nash and Brigan, seek Fire out for her help, but the problem is while Brigan hates her, Nash likes her a little too much.

Cashore does a great job of interweaving all sorts of intriguing side plots and back story to keep the reader guessing, even when some other plot elements may be predictable and anticipated, such as the appearance of that Graceling character.

Even with all the war, sex, violence, and mind control, this story is really about family. It seemed very fitting to be reading it on Thanksgiving. The royal family of the Dells resembles most modern American families with half-brothers, step-sisters, adoptive fathers, love triangles, and illegitimate babies galore.

When men, raptors, and mountain lions want to kill her at the mere sight of her flowing red hair, Fire learns that the most dangerous thing she can do in the face of human mortality, is love someone.

Once again, Cashore brings us a young-adult fantasy with sophisticated grown-up relationships. (I mean, really, if I had to sum-up these relationships you'd think these people belong on Jerry Springer or One Life to Live, but Cashore's artful writing elevates all the baby-mommas up the literary ranks and turns them into one great story).

And I know this blog is about heroines, and Fire is pretty bad-ass, and Cashore does a great job of balancing Fire's power with her vulnerability. But can I just say one little thing about the men?

In addition to powerful heroines, Cashore writes great men. She writes horrible, misogynistic men, she writes good-intentioned but controlling and domineering men, and she writes men for her heroines to fall in love with who are...good. Both Katsa and Fire feared losing a part of themselves and sacrificing their independence to be in a relationship. But both of them fall for men who love them for the bad-ass independent heroines they are.

Also, one more thing. I like the sex in these books. Although Cashore barely describes a kiss, her characters have sex. Actually, in Fire, some of them have a lot of sex. The reader doesn't see it, it's barely mentioned, but it's there, and it's a part of life and normal messy relationships.

The combination of well-crafted male characters and a positive and realistic outlook on sex make Fire a breathtaking romance. Cashore sets up healthy adult relationships that young girls can look up to. Which is SO much more than I can say about some other YA books.

Anyways, go read Fire and let the countdown to Bitterblue begin!