Saturday, July 23, 2011

And two more books: Major P and Hunger Games

This has been the summer of reading.

This is a good thing.

I have two more books to review.

One of them is not a good thing, it's kind of meh.  I guess they can't all be winners.

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

I'll be straight with you.  This book just wasn't for me.  After reading it I'm having a hard time understanding its rating and the kind of rave reviews I read of it before buying it for my Kindle.  I rely a lot on those customers who bought this item also bought recommendations, and this time they didn't work for me.

This isn't a bad book.  I'm sure people like it.  But I don't think this is a book that will be remembered.  It's certainly not a book that hooked me from the start.  I had a hard time starting it--I kept reading it for a while and then abandoning it for other titles.  For a long time I blamed that on my own failure to focus at the beginning of books (when I read Cutting for Stone I had the same issue, but it turned out to be wonderful).  I think this was about the book, though.  It was well written, it included many little English details that should have been charming... but I was bored by it.

So why was it so boring?  As I said, it was well written.  It was methodically paced, but I didn't connect to the characters.  I found absolutely none of them to be likable.  And that's fine, if we're reading The Stranger or some book where I'm supposed to feel disconnected.  I got the impression that this wasn't one of those books.  I thought the characters were one-dimensional and annoying.  The two major sources of conflict were an estate issue (yawn!) and a multi-cultural romance (gasp!).  The romance would have had potential to hold my interest if this wasn't supposed to be a modern novel.  But it was modern; it wasn't set in the 1950's.  I had a hard time understanding a society that fixated on a harmless relationship between two British citizens of differing skin colors.  I'd like to give people more credit than that.

My recommendation:  Skip this one.  It was a chore to finish.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Forewarned is forearmed: this is a kids' book.  Well, young adult fiction to be specific.  Not that it matters.  I liked it a lot.

I bought this book for the Kindle right before we left for Yosemite because it was only about $4.50.  A lot of my freshmen read this series and I've heard good things from our librarian about it.  I decided that for $4 I could check it out, and I knew E would read it too since all he has to hear is "post-apocalyptic" and he's in.  We both really enjoyed it.  I'm halfway through book #2 (Catching Fire) and he's on book #3 (Mockingjay).  I'm sure I'll post reviews of those shortly, too.

As I said, I really enjoyed The Hunger Games.  Yes, it's a book for kids, but it's a pretty good page-turner and adventure story.  I like that it was simple but it enjoyed so many (pardon me for going English teacher on you) teachable literary elements.  A few years ago I taught a class about the Hero's journey at summer program for junior high kids.  I could so see using this book with that crew.  It would also dovetail so nicely with books and short stories I already teach in the 9th grade--things like Ayn Rand's Anthem or The Most Dangerous Game and The Lottery.  It got my mind spinning and I'm sure I'll be working it into something for 9th graders by way of extra credit or some kind of sci-fi/ post-apocalyptic... thing.  I don't know what.  But I can see kids reading this and getting hooked on the genre and maybe picking up The Stand or working their way to literature like The Road.  This is the kind of book that shows a kid that reading is fun and doesn't feel like work.

That's how we hook 'em. :)

But anyway, as an adult I enjoyed it too.  As a purely let's-see-what-happens-next adventure, it was fun.  Collins has a good imagination, and it's familiar enough to be comfortable, but suspenseful enough to make the reader want to keep going.  I could not put it down and basically I read it over a few hours.  It is written well, unlike a few other (I'm looking at you, Twilight) young adult series.

Yes to Hunger Games.  I mean, the book--the actual Hunger Games are kind of grim and I'd rather not.  Yes to reading The Hunger Games.

My recommendation:  Read this.  It's quick, easy and fun.  Buy it for an older kid in your life too.


  1. I have been wanting to read The Hunger Games - I haven't met a single person who says they don't like it!

    I got my boots at Target (they are dark brown, but dirty!) and Juls we got online - I don't remember what store though. Two of the bridesmaids got them!

  2. I think I've recommended these before, but if not, you have to check out the Thursday Next series by Jasper FForde. Might be my favorite series of "adult" books.