Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Hunger Games Reread-Along: Chapters 19-21

It's Peeta, in nature!

Katniss seems to be more comfortable with violence than nudity. Do you think that's true for people/entertainment today? If it is, is that a bad thing?
I feel like I'm pretty similar. I don't like violence at all, but I won't see a movie/show/whatever with nudity. It honestly makes me uncomfortable, even in a medical sort of setting. (I remember how embarrassed I was to find out I'd only be wearing a hospital gown when I had to get my appendix out. Shudder...)
I don't know that it's a bad thing, but I think it's interesting that many parents seem more comfortable letting their kids see violent TV (or video games) but would be very unhappy if there were naked ladies or something. I don't think either one is good.

Peeta can see through many of Katniss' lies, but seems to buy that she's in love with him. Why do you think that fools him?
I can't decide if Peeta totally believes her, especially considering how quickly he puts things together at the end of the book. If he does, I assume it's because he wants to believe it. After the Games he doesn't seem to have any problem coming up with reasons why he shouldn't have believed her (like, her whole relationship with Gale). But I think that's fairly common in relationships, to see what you hope is there and ignore things that might make you question.

Did you think Katniss was going to die at the feast? (And do you ever wonder what Thresh got in his giant backpack?)
I should have known better; that there was no way Katniss was going to die, but this is one (of two or three) places when I honestly thought she might. Thresh really does come out of nowhere, and I'm still not sure how Clove knew that Katniss and Rue had teamed up. (or that the careers killed Rue, since the book makes it seem like there was only the one kid who Katniss shot around Rue when she died)
And yes about the backpacks. It's hard to imagine that anyone else was in as desperate of need as Peeta at that point in the book.

This better (not) be in the movie. (any scenes you would especially like/dislike seeing in the film)
Can Peetey please, please keep his pants on in the film? I'm all for following the book faithfully, but I don't need to see anybody in their undies. I'm also hoping not to see any sort of rotting leg in the movie. That's more than I can handle.
Also, I want to see what the other people got in their packs at the feast. Just because I'm curious.

Anything else that stuck out to you in the chapters?
I love that these first chapters are a bit of a break. I like that the book slows down and has some funny parts in it before it gets ridiculously intense at the feast. And I will always think that Katniss' goat story is sort of odd. A lot of the chapter is dedicated to that, and I don't know that it adds much.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Read This: The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races
by Maggie Stiefvater

The Short Story
Puck and her two brothers live on an island that becomes home to man-eating horses every fall. In November, the locals train and then race the horses. When Puck's older brother announces he's leaving the island (and his siblings) behind, Puck decides to enter the race. My description makes it sound kind of dumb, but this book was seriously amazing!

Come for the....
writing. This book is slow and beautiful and atmospheric, and by the half-way point, I would have been completely fine if they never actually raced the horses. The descriptions were so vivid that I felt like I was there on their tiny island, where everyone knows and is into everyone's business, and could possibly get eaten every fall. I liked that I got the feel of the place and time, without being bogged down in specifics. (I guess the island was somewhere U.K.-ish, and maybe vaguely early 20th century?) But, like Puck, I loved everything about it.

And I also liked Puck. She was spunky and stubborn - completely different from Grace in the Shiver series. (Seriously, this book feels wholly unlike the other books I've read by Maggie Stiefvater) I enjoyed being in her head - hearing her thoughts on the island, politics, people and horses. And then there was the other narrator, Sean Kendrick (who comes from the Cameron Quick school of naming, always going by first and last name). The dual point-of-view was nice, and especially funny when both characters seemed more comfortable being in a book about horse racing than "relationships." One of my favorite parts was when Sean brought by bread to have dinner with Puck and her family: "I’ve brought this . . . Is that what’s done?”
“Well, you’ve done it, so it must be.”

Stay for the
why are you still reading this? Go get the book! (also, the supporting characters are fabulous: the little brother, the match-making American, the spinster sisters.)

Don't Think About This Too Hard
  • I did think the beginning was slow, because I was expecting an action book about killer horses. Don't go in with that expectation, and you won't be disappointed.
  • I know basically nothing about horses, so some of the horse-y descriptions lost me. If you can locate the withers, you'll probably be fine.

The Big Three:
Language: a couple of more minor profanities
Sex and Stuff: a couple of crude jokes
Violence: the horses attack and kill people

Friday, February 24, 2012

It's That Time of Year Again

Normally I try to have a review posted each week, but this week I'm a little lacking. Mostly because I just finished our taxes for another year. If you're in the mood for a review, check out when I reviewed the 1040 Forms & Instructions last year.

And don't worry if taxes haven't crossed your mind yet. You have until April 17th this year, and I highly recommend going with one of the free file options.

I know most people take their taxes to someone else for doing, but it's sort of my thing to do them myself. It always makes me laugh when people look at me funny and say, "oh, we just take ours to some guy and he does them for us." (Occasionally I want to say that to them about their making their kids' clothes/canning/redoing furniture. "Oh, I just pay the store to do that for me.") Sometimes I wish I had a talent that lent itself more to displaying or being "traditionally girly," but I don't. So since I can't put it on pinterest or a craft blog or whatever, I get to write about it here. :)

Anybody else have a not-so-easily displayed talent or interest? Come share in the comments!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Hunger Games Reread-Along: Chapters 16-18

The end of Part II already!

This is the first time Katniss goes on the offense in the book. Do you think she does enough? Too much?

I think it's important to the story that Katniss is always as "innocent" as possible in her actions. So I wasn't surprised that she didn't try to hunt down anybody. I think she was trying to level out the playing field as much as she could by blowing up the food without doing anything bad. If that makes any sense.

Although I have read other people's critiques that Collins conveniently keeps Katniss from having to ever offensively hurt anyone in the story. Basically every time she injures some it's out of self-defense. I think that's a valid critique, but it didn't really bother me.

Do you think Rue would have lived longer if she hadn't paired up with Katniss, or helped with her plan?

Yeah, probably. Rue seemed to be able to avoid everybody else fairly well until she went along with Katniss' distraction-by-starting-fires plan. It's kind of interesting to me that Katniss never feels guilty about it.

Would you have done anything differently with Foxface? Do you think it was smart for Katniss not to team up with her? Or shoot her?

Ok, if it were me, I wouldn't have made it that far in the Games I probably would have let her go, too. I was a little surprised that Katniss did, but I think that goes back to the whole "it's important for Katniss not to just kill people." (Which is not how Catching Fire plays out. I'm not sure  why I was more ok with her indiscriminately trying to kill people in that one.)

This better (not) be in the movie. (any scenes you would especially like/dislike seeing in the film)

I hope they do a good job with Rue's death, and that it isn't cheesy. I'm also looking forward to seeing Katniss blow up all the food. 

Anything else that stuck out to you in the chapters?

I liked that Katniss realistically got injured after blowing up the food. She gets a lot of injuries throughout the book, but it would have seemed a little too convenient if nothing had happened to her there.

What did you think of these chapters? Do you think Rue's movie death will make you cry?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Second Chances?

Lately I've been in a bit of a reading slump, going through three or four different books and not settling into anything. So I perused the upcoming/new YA releases at my library. There are a lot of sequels coming out soon.

Two thumbs down for me
And it got me thinking about this idea of author (or series) second chances. Sometimes I start a (popular) series or read my first book by a well-liked author, and I hate it. Like Looking for Alaska by John Green. Or Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Seriously, I'm afraid if I wrote what I honestly thought of those books, I would offend people.

But then I had lots of people encourage me to give John Green another chance. It was his first book, not all of them are as sweary/manic pixie dream girl-ish/whatever as Alaska, etc. So I read Paper Towns, and it was good. And I read The Fault in Our Stars and will never think another book about cancer is as good as that one.

All the thumbs down
So the second chance in that instance was a good thing. And then people told me how Fire was so much better than Graceling. Lots of interesting characters, and crazy abilities, and Brigan. It worked for John Green books, so I thought I'd give Kristin Cashore a second chance. And Fire was so, so, so much worse than Graceling for me. (It won my "Worst Read of 2011") I will not read another book of hers again. Her writing and my reading just don't go together.

So I'm at a bit of a loss as far as second chances go. How do you decide when you'll give an author/series another chance? Or do you not give second chances?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Read This: The Ruby in the Smoke

The Ruby in the Smoke
by Phillip Pulman

The Short Story
Sally Lockhart is left all alone in Victorian England when her father mysteriously dies on a business trip. Soon she's getting strange letters hinting that there may be more to her dad's death and that she could be in danger. Also, opium and a ruby. An entertaining, unpredictable read.

Come for the....
mystery! This is my first book that could actually be classified as a straight-up mystery, and I really enjoyed it. There are just enough details that I was interested in Sally (she does accounting!) but there isn't so much given away that I could figure out the ending. Sally gets bits and pieces of information, sees people inexplicably die, and meets characters who could just be nice people, or actually out to get her. I could always understand what was going on, but I could never guess what would happen next. That made for a fun, fast read.

Besides being my first mystery, this was also my first Phillip Pullman book. I'd shied away from his stuff for various reasons, but I have to say he really has a way with words. The "villian" has moments of being hilarious and terrifying, which I thought was an interesting balance. At one point she's described as swearing fluently for several minutes without repeating herself. With everything going on at that point in the book it was just so unexpectedly funny. The descriptions and characterizations were just right - not too much information, but memorable. It makes me want to look into more of Pullman's books.

Stay for the
quirky cast of characters; a Victorian setting done right; an ending that wraps some things up but leaves just enough unanswered; the companion books.

Don't Think About This Too Hard
  • Most of the action happens around Sally, or to her friends, until near the end of the book. She's less involved in the story than I might have expected.
  • There's a fair amount of opium usage in the book.

The Big Three:
Language: a couple of more minor profanities
Sex and Stuff: not an issue
Violence: quite a bit, including shootings, stabbings, fist fights, etc.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Hunger Games Reread-Along: Chapters 13-15

Fires and tracker jackers and allies, oh my. But first, an announcement:

Do you live in Utah (County)? And want to see The Hunger Games movie with some fun bookish people? Penelope from The Reading Fever is organizing a big group get together to see a midnight showing in American Fork. If you'd like details, send her an email at readingfever (at) gmail (dot) com It'll be lots of fun!

Now back to the Games.

Katniss is constantly thinking about the reality/game show aspect of the Games. Do you think that's realistic, or would/should she be more concerned about just staying alive?

Honestly, it doesn't seem very realistic to me. I think anyone would be so incredibly scared that trying to stay safe is all they would think about. But one of the big ideas of the book is anti-reality TV, or entertainment at other people's expense, and I'm not sure how else that could come across without Katniss' (near constant) reminders that she's stuck in an awful sort of reality show.

Why do you think Katniss was so willing to team up with Rue, when she had no interest in trying to make an alliance with Peeta? 

I hadn't ever really noticed how Katniss just assumes that Rue is trustworthy (because she reminds her of Prim, I guess?) until I started reading The Hunger but Mainly Death Games. It's a parody I got for review, and it's pretty funny. Rue regularly tries to off Katniss, and it made me wonder why Katniss never doubted her. On the surface Peeta has a lot more to offer as an ally, but I think Katniss is more comfortable with the role of being the protector than working with someone she thinks of as equal in their abilities.

*spoilers* The tracker jackers are such a horrific idea in the story. Did you expect that they would come back in the series?

Um, no. Really no. I almost wish there was a little more of Katniss under their influence, since they become such a big deal in the last book.

This better (not) be in the movie. (any scenes you would especially like/dislike seeing in the film)

I think the tracker jacker scene will be interesting, but I hope it's not graphic. I think the fire scenes will look cool, based on the little mini-trailer.

Anything else that stuck out to you in the chapters? 

Even if it's maybe not completely realistic, I still liked the parts where Katniss taunts the careers from her tree. There aren't a lot of funny parts in the book, but that was one of them for me.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. In honor of Valentine's/Single Awareness Day, the topic is:

Top Ten Books That Broke Your Heart A Little 

In no particular order...

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

If I Stay by Gayle Foreman 

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

What were some of your favorite heart breakers? Or heart melters, since it is Valentine's and all...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tagged by Jenni Elyse

Jenni Elyse (her fabulous blog here) tagged me for some fun questions.

The Rules

  1. You must post the rules.
  2. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
  3. Tag eleven people and link to them on your post.
  4. Let them know you’ve tagged them!

Questions from Jenni Elyse

What is your favorite book of all time?I have the hardest time with "favorite" questions, so I'm afraid all of my answers will be slightly lame/limited to what I like right now. But I'll go with The Hunger Games series, because it converted me to reading, and when I'm in a reading slump I still enjoy reading those.

Who is your favorite author?
I honestly don't have one. But I think I would enjoy anything written by Melina Marchetta or Stephanie Perkins.

Who is your favorite literary character of all time?
I can't choose just one, so I will go with Katniss from The Hunger Games (because it's Katniss), Anna from Anna and the French Kiss (because she is normal but still awesome), and Sally Lockhart from The Ruby in the Smoke, (because she can't really kick butt, but she could do your taxes).

When did you start blogging?
March of 2011. (holy molies, a whole year next month!)

Why did you start blogging?
I stay home with my son, which is something I really wanted to do. But it's not always as intellectually stimulating as I'd like, so I thought a blog would give me an opportunity to write and think critically about something totally unrelated to motherhood. It's been nice.

Can you find the llama?
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Probably Bolivia (where I spent a semester in college) and Brazil (where my husband was a missionary for a couple of years) or to the East Coast to visit family. And Disney World or Disney Land. Or both.

If money were not an issue, what would you buy yourself at this very instant?
I'm not a big stuff person, but I would buy some new gym shoes (mine are getting old), a new windshield/whatever else for my husband's car (a deer hit him yesterday & smashed his car all up), a house, and then I'd start a scholarship fund.

Who is your favorite actor?
That's a hard one because most of the shows I watch are reality TV (don't judge!). I love The Biggest Loser lately. Can I go with Bob and Dolvet? Do they count as actors?

What is your favorite movie?
My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I could relate to her in a lot of embarrassing ways, and her family was hilarious.

Who is your favorite musician/band?
I love almost every kind of music, so I have lots and lots of favorites - The Weepies, Taylor Swift, Christina Perri (who I occasionally confuse with Katy Perry), Brad Paisley, Mumford & Sons. I could keep going, but I'll move on.

What is your favorite song?
I don't have an all-time favorite, but lately I've enjoyed Tonight, Tonight; Arms; The Cave; Only Prettier; and various Sesame Street and Veggie Tales songs.

Am I alone in my lack of favorites? Or my love of The Biggest Loser?
I'm breaking the rules, but I tag anyone who'd like to play along!  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Hunger Games Reread-Along: Chapters 10-12

Ooh, the beginning of the Games!

Katniss spends a lot of time angry with Peeta in these chapters. Why do you think he bothers her more than the other tributes?

I think Katniss has such a big problem with Peeta because her first instinct would be to trust him, and she can't. A couple times it felt like she was looking for any kind of excuse to get mad at him. (Like thinking he would turn into the kind of tribute that eats other tributes. Or saying she would look forward to seeing that he had died in the Games.) She doesn't have that kind of animosity toward anyone else, and my guess is it's because she doesn't actually dislike him but feels like she has to.  

What do you think is the scariest thing Katniss faces in this part of the Games?

Besides seeing the first kid cough up blood on her and die? (I can't even imagine that. I hope that's not in the movie.) For me, it's how weak and vulnerable she was when she didn't have any water. Personally, I'm a mess when I'm dehydrated (dizzy, headaches, needing to lay down.) I would last like three seconds in the Games.

These chapters begin the section where all the chapters end in cliffhangers. Did you like that? Did you have a hard time finding a stopping place?

I really like the cliffhangers. It's funny because I always felt like the whole "try to find water" part was really long, but it's not. Ending each chapter like that makes the whole story feel like it's moving quickly, so I never felt bored, or wanted the plot to move on to something else.  Maybe after three books I occasionally liked it less, but overall I was ok with it.

Picture from
This better (not) be in the movie. (any scenes you would especially like/dislike seeing in the film)

I would love to see Katniss knock Peeta down after the interviews, or see them disagree on the roof. "Thanks for the tip, Sweetheart" is one of my favorite lines in the book. But (based on the trailers) it looks like they're having a much less angry conversation.
I think the build up to the actual Games is going to look amazing in the movie, though. That's such an intense part of the book.

Anything else that stuck out to you in the chapters?

I like the way Peeta's character develops here, especially that he isn't always sweet and nice and taking all the guff Katniss gives him. I still wonder if he actually killed the girl who started a fire the first night in the arena, or if she just died slowly. (which are pretty awful thoughts...)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mixed Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
by Michelle Hodkin

The Short Story
Mara wakes up in the hospital and has no idea why she's there. When she finds out there was an accident that killed her friends, but left her unhurt, she and her family move to Florida to start over. But the accident keeps coming back to haunt Mara, and soon she can't tell what's really happening and what is brought on by her PTSD. Great start, interesting finish, but a disappointing middle.

What I liked:
This book has a great beginning. There's such a creepy feeling as Mara tries to figure out why she went where she did with her friends, and how they ended up dying when she didn't. Her flashbacks are scary, and one of my favorite parts of the book.

But what I really liked was being in Mara's mind. She's gone through such traumatic things that her mind begins to play tricks on her. Her new school crumbles to the ground, she sees her dead friends in mirrors, she has scary adventure hallucinations. I could never tell what was actually real as I read the book, and that was a lot of fun. It reminded me of the movie "A Beautiful Mind," and if you liked that, the beginning of the book will definitely appeal to you.

Don't Think About This Too Hard
  • The middle of this book did not work for me. Noah felt like a mix of Marcus Flutie and Edward Cullen, and I was not interested in his relationship with Mara. Then the book went down strange paths and introduced some elements that I didn't think fit with what was laid out at the beginning. I wanted to read more of a mystery/thriller, and less of a love story.
  • A couple of plot points get left dangling, but I assume they'll come back again in the sequels. I guess?

The Big Three:
Language: consistent profanity, including several f-words
Sex and Stuff: some kissy scenes
Violence: a few gory descriptions of injuries and dead bodies; one character drinks blood

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Hunger Games Read-Along, Chapters 7-9

You guys, it's the interview chapters. Probably my favorite part of the first section of the book.

Why do you think Katniss and Peeta both downplay their strengths?
For Peeta, I think he honestly believes he has no chance, no matter what he knows how to do. For Katniss, I think she has an incredible lack of self-awareness (and also thinks she can't win)

Katniss' strategy is more to keep herself distant from everyone, while Peeta tries to a more friendly approach. Which do you think is a better strategy for the Games?
I would say Katniss', just because then you don't have to worry about anyone trying to double cross you. I don't think being friendly would keep people from trying to hurt you in the end. But if you wanted to be really underhanded, you could try to act friendly and then turn on people. If you could fool enough of them it'd probably be pretty effective. (At least, according to various reality shows.)

There are a few hints leading up to Peeta's big interview reveal, but did you see it coming? Was anything in the book spoiled for you?
I had heard about the "teams" going into the series (I first read it after Catching Fire had come out), so I knew that Peeta was supposed to be a love interest. So I wasn't surprised that he liked her. But I did like how that came out. Thankfully that was the only thing I knew going into the books, so the rest of it was all new/crazy/unputdownable.

This better (not) be in the movie. (any scenes you would especially like/dislike seeing in the film)
I'm excited to see the interviews. I like the snippets from the newest trailer.

Anything else that stuck out to you in the chapters?
This is probably the most whiny Katniss gets, until Mockingjay. It's understandable, but maybe not as fun to read about. I also really liked the parts with Cinna.

Thoughts? Do you like the new trailer? You can find next week's questions in the Hunger Games read-along tab.