Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Book Review: Catching Fire

Catching Fire
by Suzanne Collins

 Just finished book 2 in The Hunger Games series, Catching Fire. Damn you, Suzanne Collins. Now I have to go buy the third book. In hardback. Because I just can't wait for a library copy to become available.

 Didn't know where was left to go after the end of The Hunger Games, things seemed kind of wrapped up. Catching Fire starts kind of slow, and I was afraid it was going to be all politics. But about halfway through events take a twist you won't see coming, and then you're on an exciting ride to the end of the book. Make sure you have plenty of time to finish, because you won't want to put it down. And make sure you have the third book ready to hand, because you will want to start it right away!

(That's one good thing about getting in on this series late, at least I don't have to wait for the author to finish writing the next one before I can read it!)

I know this is a short review, but I can't really discuss the plot without giving away spoilers for those who haven't read it yet. Plus, I don't have time to write more, I have to go get the next book - like, right now, even though the baby's still napping and we're in the middle of a rainstorm.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Book Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

 OK, so I'm a little behind the curve on this one. I meant to start this series a couple of years ago, but there were other books in line ahead, and I wanted to wait until they were all in paperback...and then I heard about the movie coming out, so I figured I couldn't wait anymore if I wanted to read the book first.

 I thought I'd get the first one from the library. After two months on the waiting list, with more than 30 people still ahead of me, I broke down and bought it. And after finishing it in four days, I went out and bought the second book, Catching Fire. In hardback. Damn you, Suzanne Collins.

 Obviously, I liked The Hunger Games. I don't usually care for dystopian sci-fi (too depressing), but this one sucked me right in with well-paced action and characters you care about.

 This book may be classified as Young Adult, but I'd put the emphasis on "Adult." The plot revolves around a national lottery that pulls teenagers into Gladiator-style games in a fight to the death. Makes me wonder what the movie rating is going to be - there's a LOT of graphic violence that will be difficult to film without an R rating, which would eliminate a lot of this "Young Adult" book's target audience. But if you water down the violence, you take away a lot of the story's impact. It will be interesting to see how the film manages to walk that line.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Movie Review: The Phantom Menace in 3D

 Last time, I said I was going to keep track of all the movies I saw in the theater this year by reviewing them in this blog. Well, it's mid-February, and this is the first movie I've seen in the theater in 2012: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 3D. If you didn't already know, George Lucas plans to release all the Star Wars movies in 3D, starting with this one and going in numerical order (rather than in order of the original release date).

 I don't know if there's much point in reviewing Phantom Menace; if you liked it in 1999, you'll like it now. If you didn't like it, 3D is not going to change your mind.

I normally don't care for 3D, I don't think it adds anything other than a distraction to most movies. Plus, the glasses never fit and they give me a headache. This time, it was hit and miss; some scenes had a really spectacular illusion of depth (the pod race comes to mind here) but other times it really didn't add much. Frankly, the special effects are already so great in these movies, there's not much 3D can add.

The only change I noticed from the original release, other than the 3D, was that Yoda is now completely digitally animated. In 1999 Yoda was still a puppet (like in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) but they never got it quite right. For some reason, the Phantom Menace Yoda puppet looked far less realistic than the earlier ones - maybe it was the crossed eyes. People rag on George for all the constant tweaking of these movies he does, but digitally animating Yoda was a Good Thing. (Let's hope he didn't get carried away and digitally animate the Empire and Jedi Yodas - those are fine the way they are.)

Personally, I think everybody disses Phantom Menace too much. Sure, Jar Jar is any easy target to hate for everyone over the age of 10, but there was a lot good about this movie. Darth Maul and his double-ended lightsaber, for example. Who among us didn't geek out when he lit that thing up the first time? After seeing Phantom Menace, my now-husband and I went to the toy store, bought the Darth Maul lightsaber, and had a lightsaber duel in front of my apartment - and we weren't kids, either, we were 28 and 29 at the time.

If you revisit this one, try to go in with the mindset of an eight-year-old and just enjoy the ride.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Book Reviews

So, in January, I was going to make a Top 10 list of books I read in 2010. But the more I thought about it, I realized I couldn't remember 10 books I read in 2010. I know I read more than 10 books, I just couldn't remember which books I read and when I read them. So I've decided to keep track of each book I read in 2011 by reviewing them in this blog.

Ground rules: I'm only counting books I read for the first time, not old favorites I'm re-reading. And I probably won't count short story anthologies, just because they're too hard to review. But I might count one if it really makes an impression on me.

I've read three books so far this year, so I'm going to start with three mini reviews:

1. "Changes" by Mercedes Lackey. (Published 2010)
A novel of Valdemar, and the third book in the Foundation series, about the founding of the Herald's Collegium. And if you don't know what that is, you can stop reading now, because if you haven't read any of her Valdemar books, this isn't the one to start with. Go read "Arrows of the Queen" and come back later.

 The series is a good expansion into the history of Valdemar, with likable characters the reader can identify with, believable dialogue, and enough action and adventure to keep you reading long after you should have gone to bed. I've read this book twice in the last two months, and it was better the second time. I thought this was originally supposed to be a trilogy, but nothing was resolved so I hope there's going to be a fourth book soon.

2. "The Ghost In Love" by Jonathan Carroll. (Pub. 2008)
 Nothing like the jacket blurb. I though it was going to be a light, supernatural romance - actually, it's a deep, thought-provoking, existential romance. A man has a near-death experience, and has to come to terms with a failed romance, and all of the past decisions he's made, good and bad, the made him the person he is. Difficult to explain in a few sentences, it's the kind of book you keep thinking about for a long time after you finish.

3. "The Lady of the Rivers" by Philippa Gregory. (Pub. 2010)
 Another historical novel by the author of "The Other Boleyn Girl." This one covers the War of the Roses from the point of view of Jacquetta, mother of Elizabeth Woodville, the future Queen of England. It's a prequel to her previous novel "The White Queen" but you don't have to have read that one to enjoy this one.

I almost always enjoy her novels, and they're so well-researched, they make me want to pick up actual biographies of the people involved. Anyone with an interest in English history should be reading her novels, and this one is as good a place to start as any.

So there's the first three. More reviews to follow, as I read them. I plan to do the same thing to keep track of all movies I see in the theater this year. But considering how often we get to the theater these days, there will be far fewer movie reviews here. :(