Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

9:11 AM 1 Comments A+ a-

I know there were so many readers (adult and teen) at our school who loved Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games and I am thrilled to report that they will not be disappointed by Collins' latest work. Its sequel, Catching Fire, is nothing short of fabulous and manages to keep up the momentum Collins established in The Hunger Games. Scholastic has a great trailer hyping Catching Fire that is sure to whet your appetite. Sadly, I usually link to the author website for further information, but that is one area Collins needs to work on - her website looks like it was done in 1994 and doesn't contain a lot of information. I'm sure (and hope) she's busy writing the next book in The Hunger Games series (is it a trilogy?) so I'm going to tell her agent and publisher, "Hey, it's YOUR job to make sure Suzanne has a kick butt website that fits her books and satisfies her fan base!!!" So there. I hope they hear me.

The momentum of the book is excellent. We pick off pretty soon after the games have ended and Katniss and Peeta have returned home to District 12. Tensions abound with Katniss' good friend (and possibly more), Gale, who has been identified as Katniss' "cousin" by the press so as not to cast a pall over her romance with Peeta. Katniss has moved to the section of town reserved for victors (she's Haymitch's neighbor) and her mother and sister, Prim, finally don't lack for food or shelter. But even when Katniss is able to escape under the fence and go hunting in the forest with Gale, she is haunted day and night by images of the games. Collins does a great job describing what's essentially post-traumatic stress disorder (albeit in a dystopian future) and yet peace is not on the horizon for her and Peeta. They just can't catch a break.

Once the evil President Snow arrives from the capital the tension begins to crest and Peeta and Katniss are plunged once again into the public eye with the threat of violence hanging over their respective families if they can't tow the line. Yet as they begin their victory tour, they discover that their act of defiance at the end of the games has sparked a latent powderkeg in the districts that could break any moment into open rebellion.

Collins' writing is excellent and the tension she builds throughout the book is almost unbearable. Her description of Katniss' feelings for Gale yet her confusing connection to Peeta lets the reader understand how she is torn between the two men in her life who each love her and represent different futures. My sole criticism is, like The Hunger Games, this book also ends painfully in the middle of a revelation, so the agony of waiting for the next book is a little brutal. For people who can't handle that, I'd suggest postponing the series, but for everyone else, run out and check out Catching Fire.

Ghost Whisperer - Paranormal Delight, But What's with the Twins?

7:32 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

Do other people enjoy the CBS show, Ghost Whisperer? I was home baking brownies and vacuuming last night and I wanted something on the telly to keep the kitties and I company. The ScyFy channel (why do they spell it with two "y"s these days? Is it like the feminist wymyn/women thing? I think the ScyFy channel is about women but not about them watching. But I digress.) had a little mini-marathon of some paranormal show called Ghost Whisperer and I usually love paranormal stuff so I was on board.

I got utterly engrossed with the show. The main character, Melinda Gordon, has had a "gift" from childhood to see the dead - spirits trapped among the living. In each episode, she discovers a different ghost unable to go to the "other side" because of something troubling them in this world. She investigates the problem, approaches the living (breaking it to them gently that there is a real ghost involved), and helps resolve the problem. Dust hands off and wait for the next ghost.

It turns out this show has been nominated for a bunch of primetime Emmys (who knew? probably someone who watches the Emmys) and its production value is pretty spiffy. Melinda owns an antiques shop in a quaint small town (the set of Back to the Future done over, actually) and is married to a hunky paramedic/firefighter (who looks like he might later become a doctor on the show) who understands and accepts that she has this gift and tries to help when he can. There is also an unsuspecting (at least in the episodes I watched) widowed coworker, played by Camryn Manheim, who has a son.

I was struck by several things - first, Jennifer Love Hewitt is really stunning. Isn't she a spokesperson for ProActiv? Her skin is flawless - they should seriously have the 800 number periodically for ordering. Her character also seems to enjoy a certain amount of profound affluence. She is always stunningly dressed in designer or vintage togs with great accessories and no outfits repeat. The house she shares with her husband is also designer quality with great antiques and a complicated paint job. More importantly, every other episode involves a confrontation with a ghost in the antiques store after hours which results in the largely breakable items exploding into a million pieces. Yet she never seems troubled by the lack of inventory or the sweeping job she must have to do before Delia comes in the following morning. And Delia never says, "Hey, Melinda, did you really sell all those crystal balls, chandeliers and pricey vases that we had filling a third of the store? After we closed?" What's up with that?

And then there's the elephant in the room, or two of them for that matter. Jennifer Love Hewitt seems to be really really comfortable trotting out the twins. Her breasts are ALWAYS on display, to the point where its downright distracting. Are we sure the ghosts aren't attracted to her cleavage? It's a small town, people, not Housewives of Orange County! What's interesting is that Jennifer has credited her twins with nabbing her a spot on several "sexiest" lists and I can imagine she might have a viewership who waits for her character's occasional disrobing to reveal a lacy bra (although there isn't much difference from the tops to be honest). One of the quotes on the Internet Movie Database biography was from her Playboy interview (natch) in which she commented about her breasts, "I just accepted them as a great accessory to every outfit". Some people like earrings, other people just pop out the girls. Maybe its a California thing?

From Vampires to Werewolves

6:54 PM 0 Comments A+ a-

I was running out of vampire books (good ones, that is) and remembered that I had read good reviews of Maggie Stiefvater's latest novel, Shiver. Wow. For the first 60 pages or so, I remember thinking, this is interesting, but I'm not sure where it was going and then, WHAM the plot took off and I was rapidly flipping pages eager to see what would happen next.

Stiefvater is a beautiful writer - so lyrical, so poetic at times - and her characters are well-drawn and extremely likable. The chapters alternate between Grace, the teenage girl who had been attacked by wolves when she was small, and Sam, the werewolf who saw his pack take her from her tire swing and ended up saving her life. Years later, she has always looked for "her wolf"- the one with the bright yellow eyes who saved her and has regularly appeared in the dark Minnesota woods behind her home, his distinctive eyes gleaming.

But a classmate has gone missing, turned up dead and then subsequently disappeared from the morgue and his influential family has pressured the local government to shoot the wolf pack since they believe them responsible. Shots are fired and a distressed Grace, worried about her wolf, comes home to find a boy her age shot in the neck on the back porch of her home. A boy with the same yellow eyes as her wolf.

What ensues is a beautifully written romance of the first water - one of the novels I categorize in my head as "true love" story. Sam and Grace fall head over heels for each other, knowing that in reality they have loved one another for years, yet the looming concern of Sam becoming a wolf again and never changing back is ever present. The tension of the missing boy, the other werewolves, the head of the pack, Grace's friends finding out, all contribute to a compelling subplot and are deftly woven into the main plot. I might have to buy this one to reread and sigh over periodically. True love. There's nothing like it.