Books: the Hunger Games trilogy

Alternate title: why do I keep reading YA when I couldn’t care less about YA characters? (Beware: I am writing this assuming that most of you have read the books and know what they are about, so beware of spoilers!)

The book: The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

The edition: Scholastic paperback, 454 pages, plus author interview

The good: an interesting premise and a compelling (as in: easy and gripping) style. Makes me want to see where it is all headed to.

The bad: I cannot relate to or care about such a snotty little brat as Katniss, and I found all the arena adventures a bit on the boring side.

Wondering about: why all the Latin (Panem, Avox) and Latin-related culture (all those names, from Caesar to Cato; the chariots and the cornucopia)? And don’t tell me it’s just because of the “panem et circenses” reference.

Team Peeta or Team Gale? It’s not like Gale had any screen time up to this book, so Team Peeta it is (oh, wait, does it mean “who gets the lady”? Then I hope neither of them. They are both too good for such a fate)

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The book: Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

The edition: Scholastic paperback, 472 pages

The good: an interesting number of twists in the story, and even the arena was more interesting this time around.

The bad: most of the characters. Even Peeta and Gale act silly. And all the oooh- and aaah-ing of Katniss over her feelings — feeling guilty about the people killed in the Games, even though she didn’t really kill almost anybody, and trying to decide who is the boy she loves. I know she’s 17 and acting it, but I can’t stand this kind of thing any longer.

Wondering about: I hope for an explanation of how the Capitol/Districts society came to be. Such an enslaving arrangement only makes sense if the people in control consider themselves different from the rest — if the people in the Capitol were really aliens from another planet — but they aren’t.

Team Peeta or Team Gale? May I say Team Finnick?

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The book: Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins

The edition: Scholastic paperback, 455 pages, plus acknowledgments

The good: I’m afraid I have little to say here, I felt completely let down. Style is still pretty engaging, though.

The bad: I felt let down, because there was much more promise in the first two than this did deliver. There was room for wonderful plot turns and symbols and explanations, but there weren’t. Instead we get horrible things happening (more than I could stand), more teenage geocentricism, a lot of useless and unheeded deaths, and no real explanation.

Wondering about: how could one life happily ever after with a hijacked husband? How could the former tributes (and Katniss among them) agree to have more Games? And also, all the little threads left hanging unexplained, such as: why did birds stop to listen to Katniss’ father? Why did Madge offer Katniss the pin? Why did Cinna want to stir a rebellion? etc. etc. etc.

Team Peeta or Team Gale? No, my man for this book is Boggs. I’m afraid that I’m showing my age here, by preferring the solid, affectionate adult over the overemotional teenagers, but he’s the only positive male figure in the whole book!

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Additional links:

Books: little to say about these

Alternate title: it’s mini-review time!

The book: Lisbon – What the Tourist Should See by Fernando Pessoa

The edition: Italian translation by Luca Merlini, 65 pages, as published by Einaudi with an essay on modern-day Lisbon by Maria Teresa Bonafede and pictures by Gianmario Marras, total page count 115

My thoughts:  while it opened my eyes to a couple of things in Lisbon that I had never noticed before, this is nothing more than a dated guidebook. From such an author as Pessoa was, I expected something more, some poetic commentary or some inside knowledge or some social satire. Nothing of the kind.

*****

The book: Stabat Mater by Tiziano Scarpa

The edition: Italian (original) edition as published by Einaudi, paperback, 144 pages, with a note by the author

My thoughts: you may have heard me praise Scarpa’s love song to Venice in Venice is a Fish, but that was the one and only book I had ever read by him up to now; this one, also a winner of a prestigious Italian award, was supposed to be at least as good. But I’m afraid I cannot say so. It is supposed to be a homage to the musical tradition of Venice, and especially to Vivaldi, but all I could see was the pointless and sometimes horrific meanderings of a man’s mind trying to come to terms with the female body. I mean, this is supposed to be the story of a girl on the brink of womanhood, but all the details of her dealing with this change and her body either made me laugh for how improbable they were (think: a girl having a nightmare about water and waking up to find her legs covered in blood from her first period — I have lost count of the male authors believing this is how it happens!) or made me sick with disgust (think: comparing the belly of a woman giving birth and the bubbles exploding in boiling water — and this is just the least example).

*****

The book: The Sacred Night, by Tahar Ben Jelloun

The edition: French (original) edition, as published by Seuil, Points paperback, 189 pages

My thoughts: I read this for the Africa challenge, and because I hope to visit Morocco, and Ben Jelloun is said to be the author to start from. I’m afraid I have to say this one went right over my head, and I understood nothing of it. I guess it is intended to raise the subject of gender, and of identity, but it does so in a way that is completely different from anything I had read before. It’s a kind of magical realism, but full of symbols, and dreamlike details and events that may or may not be symbols, and I can’t say I know what most of them stand for. If you have read this and can help me understand, I’d really like to hear from you!

*****

The book: Fables 11 – War and Pieces, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Niko Henrichon and Andrew Pepoy

The edition: Vertigo edition, 191 pages

My thoughts: this is the closing book for a cycle of the series, with most threads coming to an end. I already mentioned that I did not like the way this particular story (i.e. the Adversary) was being developed, and this may be the one book I liked the least. It read like some war movie, and that’s not a compliment. The series is still great, and I love it to pieces, but I’d have chosen another angle and another story altogether. Now that that is closed, I’m curious to read where the authors will bring us next!