Saturday, March 31, 2012

Kindle Book: The Hunger Games

At work, The Hunger Games has been extremely popular for the last while. I've seen it and the other two books in the trilogy go by countless times. And I've always kind of wondered why exactly everyone was in love with it. A couple of friends also recommended it to me. I heard rumours of a movie being made (which wasn't surprising; the book's been so popular at work and everywhere that why wouldn't Hollywood jump on it now?) Then my mom bought it on her Kindle and read it in an extremely short period of time while I was reading The Help. So as soon as I finished The Help, I borrowed my mom's Kindle and started reading.

Needless to say, I finished it in one day. I wasn't honestly planning on doing so, but I wasn't able to sleep and the book was so good that I didn't want to put it down!

The Hunger Games follows Katniss Everdean. She lives in what used to be North America. In the recent past (less than a century ago), the outlying districts of her nation rose up against the Capitol and lost. As part of the result, every year each district has to send a boy and a girl as tribute to fight each other to the death in the Hunger Games as sport for the Capitol's people. The winner is showered in riches for the year until the next Hunger Games.

Katniss is an illegal hunter, working with her partner Gale to keep their families alive. Coupled with a yearly "tesserae" (I guess it means portion or allowance) of grain and oil, they trade their kills and finds (they get wild plants as well) for other necessities to survive. But that yearly tesserae isn't free; for each person-worth of oil and grain you need, you have to enter your name an extra time in for the Hunger Games. And those entries stay with you until you're ineligible as an adult.

In an effort to protect her sister Prim, Katniss refuses to let the girl take the tesserae, preferring to put her own name in however multiple times are necessary. But despite Prim only having a single entry, the unthinkable happens: Prim's name is chosen! Katniss doesn't hesitate a moment but jumps forward and volunteers in Prim's stead. And so begins her adventures having to fight for her life in the Hunger Games!

Prim finds herself heading to the Games with Peeta, a baker's boy who helped her once when she was younger. The two of them are being helped by the last man who won the Games from their district and a team of stylists. After a week of ceremonies, interviews and training, they are brought to the arena and pitted against one another; there can be only one winner.

After reading it, I finally get why everyone's loving The Hunger Games. It is an extremely well-written book, fast paced and entertaining. The end wasn't exactly the greatest, but it leads right into the second book, Catching Fire. But I'm willing to forgive that because I'm going to start the second book right away!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Help

The Help isn't the type of book I would normally pick for myself to read. My aunt gave my mom The Help when she came to visit us several months ago. My mom read it then passed it onto me. It took me a bit to get into it; the book is pretty slow at the beginning. I could feel it building up for a couple hundred pages before things really started to move. But by the end of the book, I was really glad I persevered.

The Help is the story of three women in Mississippi during the early 1960's, two black women who work as maids, and one white woman who doesn't really fit in. Together they begin writing a book about what it's like working for the white women of the town. Fearful for their lives, as well as the well being of their families, they change their names and the name of the town in the book. The book collects the stories of other maids as well, telling both the good and the bad of working for the white women.

Of course, the white woman doing this, Miss Skeeter, also has to be careful. If her friends and family found out what she was up to she would be ostracized at the very least.

The really interesting thing about this book is when it takes place. Both of my parents were alive (although quite young) in the 1960's. That really put everything into perspective for me: this kind of thing was happening within their lifetime.

The Help is an excellent character novel, giving you a glimpse of what it might have been like in Mississippi during the 1960's. And while you cannot take this as truth (it is a work of fiction based in reality, but it is also written by a white woman; Kathryn Stockett admits at the end of the book that she really doesn't know what it was like for these women working at that time), it really was a good book that is worth reading.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Library Book: Jurassic Park: The Devils in the Desert

Around the same time that I found the Supergirl graphic novel at the library, I also found one from Jurassic Park. I decided to start reading it this afternoon and finished it when I got home from a friend's. Unlike Death & the Family, Jurassic Park: The Devils in the Desert was a one shot graphic novel where you only need a basic understanding of the Jurassic Park world.

Basically, some pteranodons migrated to southern California from one of the two islands where they were created and it's up to the local sheriff, a FBI agent and a paleobiologist to stop them from terrorizing the countryside and killing people.

The Devils in the Desert was a good story. I really liked the characters and the human drama that was happening among the dinosaur stuff. If you want a good, quick, easy read that's full of dinosaurs, this is definitely the book for you!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Library Book: Supergirl: Death & the Family

I apologize. This is full of spoilers.

It's been a realy busy week. I started reading The Help, but then work got a bit crazy and I haven't had time to finish it. I wanted to read something on a coffee break yesterday, and not wanting to get back into the Help then have to put it aside again, I decided to read one of the graphic novels I randomly picked up. I chose Supergirl: Death & the Family thinking that I haven't read a Supergirl title in a long time. The last ones I read don't even appear on this blog! I looked back in my library reading history; I read three in 2007, inclusing Superman Batman: Supergirl, which was so good that I went out and bought it! I was also a fan of the 1996 series, having bought the first twenty or so issues before my local comic store closed on me. One of the graphic novels I read in 2007 just happened to collect the end of that series. I'd like to get the rest of the series one day because it was really good.

Anyway, enough of that tangent. My point is that I haven't read a Supergirl story in a long time. Unfortunately that really showed while I was reading; I had a few moments where I was really confused as to what was going on. It doesn't help that Death & the Family was volume 8, a fact that I only found out online after actually reading the story.

Despite having no idea what was going on, Death & the Family did a pretty good job of bring me up to speed. There was a whole chapter that explained what happened with one character (Lucy Lane) which was really interesting. Her character didn't have a whole lot to do with the main storyline, but it was still really interesting (and a good set up for the future).

The main story had to do with Supergirl having to hide her identity because Earth is now very anti-Kryptonian (that was one thing I'm not really sure about. But it sounds like it's a big long storyline that I might look into in the future). In the meantime, Supergirl finds out that Lana Lang, the woman she's been staying with, has some kind of strange disease that no doctor can diagnose. Supergirl goes off to battle the Silver Banshee (who happens to be a character I know about - Silver Banshee was in some of the early editions of the 1996 comic) but finds out too late that Lana died from her infection. Then in a typical "Comics are Weird" moment (thanks Movie Bob), it turns out some alien bugs were infecting Lana and they took over her now dead body. In a matter of days they have a huge hive in the centre of Metropolis and plan on taking over the world. They trapped Supergirl somehow (this is when she first discovers the bugs, but it's never really shown what exactly happened to her), so some guy shows up and frees her. Supergirl then battles the Insect Queen (who she apparently dealt with before), and with the help of some a superhero doctor, they force the Queen out of Lana's body, bringing her back to life (minus the extra arms the Insect Queen has). The story ends when Supergirl gets mad at Lana for lying about the disease, storming away saying she doesn't want to be human if that's how humans treat one another. It was a touching moment in its way, showing how Supergirl is learning and I apologize for butchering it here.

So all in all, Death & the Family is an interesting story. But I think you'd be a lot better off reading all the other volumes first.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fable: Blood Ties

I recently went to Chapters with the express purpose of buying the Cowboys and Aliens graphic novel. I had a gift card left over from Christmas, and after really enjoying that book I decided I wanted to add it to my collection. Unfortunately, when I got to Chapters I discovered that they had their "buy 3 get the 4th book free" deal on. And as I started browsing, it became obvious there were four pocket books I'd like to get with that deal. So Cowboys and Aliens went back onto the shelf for another day, and instead I bought four books I've never read. Fable: Blood Ties was one of those four books.

After enjoying Fable: The Balverine Order, which was also by Peter David, finding Blood Ties was extremely exciting. I had no idea a new Fable book had been written. And unlike The Balverine Order, which was about some new characters, Blood Ties featured a couple of characters right out of Fable 3 (from the back of the book: Ben Finn and Page; while not mentioned on the back, Reaver is also in it). Finn is one of my favourite characters from Fable 3 (my most favourite is Reaver; he's so funny to listen to!) so naturally I was excited to read a book completely about his adventures after the game.

Blood Ties is a rather strange tale. Finn decides to leave Bowerstone and asks Page to accompany him; she refuses. So off Finn goes looking for adventure. He almost gets himself killed but is saved by a gnome (they appeared in the game and hurl insults at passerby's). After vowing he will not kill the gnome, the gnome decides to follow Finn around, insulting him and just generally making life miserable. Finn finds his way, gnome in tow, to a town that's under siege from a warlord. Unfortunately the warlord is the least of the town's troubles when
beast men show up. After this alarming discovery, Finn tracks the beasts down to their source and makes a virtual deal with Albion's entrepreneur devil Reaver. Blood Ties is told completely from Finn's perspective, which was quite a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, despite the great premise and my excitement over the characters, Blood Ties was a pretty slow read, particularly during the first half of the book. I don't know why, but I found myself not really caring about most of what was going on. It was honestly only when Reaver appeared to up the stakes that things picked up, but I still had a hard time wanting to sit down and read. In that regard I was rather disappointed; I loved reading The Balverine Order (well except for the premise - that needed a bit of tweaking in my opinion) and was expecting a similar reading experience from Blood Ties. Don't get me wrong, the story of Blood Ties was good and I'm quite glad to have read it. But it wasn't nearly as good at The Balverine Order was.

As a side note, the weapon code of The Balverine Order is a better draw than Blood Ties' dye pack. I don't know if I'll even bother redeeming the dye pack because I really don't care. My draw for buying Blood Ties was completely based off my expectations of Peter David's work.