Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Hunger Games

Over the past three days, I have read the three books of the Hunger Games trilogy. The Hunger Games on Monday, Catching Fire on Tuesday, and Mockingjay yesterday. I had been planning to read them for a while, but when Matt and I saw a preview for the Hunger Games movie on Christmas when we went to see Sherlock Holmes, I decided to go ahead and do it. I downloaded the first book to my Kindle app and was HOOKED. I got the other two downloaded immediately upon finishing it.

I am a total THG fangirl now, haha. I have my 5-star reviews about all three of the books on my Goodreads (and copied them below), and I am currently obsessed with the first single released from the sountrack: "Safe and Sound" by Taylor Swift feat. The Civil Wars.

The books are a commentary on the effects of violence, war, hunger, abuse, etc. The whole series goes through a range of human suffering. Even at the very end - with as happy an ending as can be had - you're a bit heartbroken. The ending is perfect: everything is NOT wrapped up in a pretty little package. There are too many dead, too much has happened, to have a truly "happy" ending.

At the center of it all is the heroine, Katniss Everdeen. You watch her mature, resolve a love triangle, and eventually become a woman. I fell in love with her character and all of the characters around her.

I think the main thing that has stuck with me about these books is the heartache. I genuinely felt sad, bittersweet, even depressed about certain events in the book. And that's what the author wants you to feel about war and violence. And she does a bang-up job.

I've posted my reviews below. I tried not to include many spoilers, but you may not want to read the reviews of the second two books yet if you're planning on reading the trilogy. The review of the first book is pretty safe spoiler-wise.

Review of The Hunger Games - no spoilers

I absolutely couldn't put this book (well, Kindle app) down! I read the whole thing in one day. It is engrossing from the start and exciting throughout. I laughed, I cried, I fell in love with the characters. I highly recommend this book to anyone. It is a page-turner!

The setting is a presumably post-apocalyptic world. What used to be North America is now a single country called Panem. The country consists of a ruling Capitol and 12 Districts, each of which has a specific job of producing something that the Capitol needs. (All the while, most of the inhabitants of the Districts do without the things they need.) There was once a 13th District, but it was crushed in the rebellion that occured approximately 74 years before the events of the book in which the Districts rose up against the tyrannical Capitol - and lost.

The book is written from the first-person perspective of Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl living in the poor, coal-producing District 12. She lives on the Seam, the edge of town where the poorest of the poor live. Her father was a coal miner who died in an explosion when she was 11. After a period of desperation during which her mother (once an apothecary) went into a catatonic state and she and her 7-year-old sister Prim started to starve, an act of kindness from a boy in her class named Peeta helps Katniss to remember that her father taught her to hunt, and her mother and father both taught her about edible plants. Katniss sneaks out of the fence that surronds the District into the surrounding woods (which is illegal) to hunt (which is illegal) and gather plants (which is illegal). She sells some of her haul to the black market merchants at the Hob, and brings some home to feed her family along with the supplies she buys with her hunting trade. Five years later they are doing OK, especially when Katniss begins hunting with her partner and best friend Gale, who lost his father in the same mine blast as Katniss. Life is not perfect, but they are managing.

The book opens with the reaping day. This is the day when a boy and a girl, between the ages of 12 and 18, are chosen from each of the 12 Districts to travel to the Capitol and compete as tributes in the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games are an annual travesty in which these 24 children are dropped in an arena - one year a desert, the next year a forest, etc. - and expected to fight to the death or die in the arena until only one remains (the "victor"). The games are broadcast live reality-TV-style for the entertainment of those in the Capitol - and the Districts are required to watch.

The Hunger Games are a special form of war tribute required from the Districts by the Capitol: a way of reminding the Districts that they have the power to take away their children and force them to fight to the death simply for their entertainment. It is a way to quell rebellion and strike fear into the Districts.

At the reaping ceremony, the oddly bubbly Effie Trinket - the Captiol "escort" for the District 12 tributes - reads the names. "Ladies first!" She draws the slip of paper from a large round glass bowl, and announces "Primrose Everdeen." Katniss panics. She can't let her sweet, innocent, 12-year-old sister go to the Games. She jumps out and volunteers herself. This is a rare occurrence in the Games (at least in District 12), but allowable, so she is brought up to the stage. The boy is called next: Peeta Mellark.

The rest of the book follows the journey through the Games, and that you'll just have to read for yourself.

Review of Catching Fire - contains minor spoilers

WOW! I finished this book all in one day, just like I did the last one. This book is less about this year's Hunger Games - the third Quarter Quell and it's devilish clockwork arena- and more about the beginning of the rebellion against the Capitol.

At the beginning of the book, Katniss is visited in her mansion in the Victor's Village by the sinister President Snow. He tells her that her trick with the berries has caused a spark, and she needs to spend her days on the Victory Tour with Peeta trying to keep it from starting a fire - or he will kill her family and Gale.

After a fight on the Victory Tour train, Peeta and Katniss agree to be friends while continuing to pretend that they are lovers. In the Capitol, they even stage a proposal and Snow offers to throw them a wedding in the Capitol to keep up appearances. But Snow tells Katniss that it's not enough. And as scared as she is, she's relieved to know where she stands: as an enemy of the Capitol.

The Quarter Quells are the especially cruel editions of the Hunger Games to be played every 25 years. After a mandatory-viewing show in which Capitol citizens vote for Katniss' wedding dress comes the reading of "the card" by Snow. We find out that the third Quarter Quell's special malevolence is this: for the 75th Hunger Games, tributes will be chosen from each District's existing pool of victors, to remind the Districts that even the strongest among them are no match for the Capitol. In District 12, there is only one female victor. Katniss Everdeen. She must go back into the arena.

After a twist in which Katniss manages to escape the arena, she wakes up to a whole new world. There is a rebellion afoot. The Districts are fighting back in unison. The whole of Panem is catching fire.

Review of Mockingjay - contains minor and major spoilers

I once again read this entire book in basically a day (read the first two chapters last night before bed). I couldn't put it down. I couldn't stop until I reached the resolution. This book is actually just a tiny bit slower in the middle than the first two, but considering that the first two went a million miles an hour, that's still a compliment.

The book opens with an injured and disoriented Katniss awakening in District 13, weighed heavily by the news that there is no more District 12. It was firebombed by the Capitol, and only a few hundred survive thanks to the quick thinking of Gale. Katniss is also reeling from the knews that Peeta was captured when the arena collapsed, along with some of the other victors. She, Finnick, and Beetee are all safely inside District 13. As the three heal from their wounds, Katniss spends time trying to rebuild something of a relationship with Gale, who is now basically openly in love with her. Beetee begins working on developing new weapons (with the help of Gale) and hacking into Panem's communications network to broadcast propaganda over their network. Finnick slowly breaks down at the thought of his beloved Annie, a fellow victor, being tortured in the Capitol.

As Katniss agrees to become the rebels' symbolic Mockingjay (in exchange for a list of her demands) and struggles her way through a new life in a new place, she goes to the Districts, greets rebels, fights, and films propaganda. She also struggles with the fact that the harder she fights the Capitol, the more Peeta is tortured. When the thought finally causes her to suffer a complete mental break after an attack on District 13, the rebels swoop in to the Capitol and rescue Peeta and the other victors who are being held prisoner by the Capitol. Gale is a member of the rescue team that brings back the "hijacked" (brainwashed) Peeta, who tries to kill Katniss upon first seeing her.

It takes a long time to reverse the brainwashing of Peeta. Even as small progress is made, he says mean things to and about Katniss that she feels are his true thoughts about her, without all the sugarcoating. Feeling that she has totally lost the "boy with the bread," she gives in to the idea of a romance with Gale. Especially when they spend some time in District 2, the last Capitol stronghold.

But when Katniss is shot in District 2 and is taken back to District 13, she doesn't have time to worry about who to love or not love. Their actions in District 2 have propelled the rebels to a victory there, leaving only the Capitol to conquer. And Katniss is determined to be there, to kill Snow. So she and her new-found ally and roommate Johanna enter training.

The war in the Capitol is brutal and many friends lose their lives. Peeta is still not totally himself, and insists that he stay in cuffs while with them and even that they kill him. But they refuse, and he survives the battles along with Katniss, Gale, and a few friends.

The war ends with a surprising twist. Gale concedes to Katniss that he knows he no longer stands a chance with her. A new government is established with a president the readers are sure to like. Katniss moves back to District 12 with several residents not long behind her who begin rebuilding. Gale gets "some fancy job" in District 2, and instead of being angry with him or even longing for him, Katniss is relieved to hear it. Buttercup the cat takes up a new owner in Katniss. Peeta, Katniss, and Haymitch make a memory book of all those who have died. And Katniss and Peeta eventually marry and, much more eventually, have children.

I will end this review with the end of the last chapter (before the epilogue) and the happy ending to the love triangle.

Peeta and I grow back together. There are still moments when he clutches the back of a chair and hangs on until the flashbacks are over. I wake screaming from nightmares of mutts and lost children. But his arms are there to comfort me. And eventually his lips. On the night I feel that thing again, the hunger that overtook me on the beach, I know this would have happened anyway. That what I need to survive is not Gale’s fire, kindled with rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. And only Peeta can give me that.

So after, when he whispers, "You love me. Real or not real?"

I tell him, "Real."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Global Share the Bible Day

I am writing this entry as part of my participation in YouVersion's Global Share the Bible Day, which also happens to be Christmas day. The site recommends four things to share, which are all below.

> Your faith. What has God done in your life?

Jesus saved my life. God has blessed me richly with love, mercy, forgiveness, salvation, and many earthly blessings. I have a loving family, many close friends, a fulfilling job, a comfortable home, a reliable vehicle, fair heatlh, and an amazing husband. I am so grateful to God for choosing to bless me so richly. I love Him for all He has done, is doing, and will continue to do. I have faith in Jesus, the Son of God, as my Savior. At Christmas, I like to take time to reflect and seriously meditate on what Jesus did by coming to this world as a human to die on the cross for our sins. It is truly amazing if you stop to think about it!

> Your favorite verse. Why? What does it mean to you?

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. - Romans 8:28 (NLT)

I love this verse because it lets me know that everything will be OK. In every situation, no matter how gloomy it may appear, God is working something out for my good. To me, that means that He ultimately loves me and cares about me to the point that He is ALWAYS working for my good. That is an incredible love!

> The Christmas Story. What's your favorite part?

My favorite part of the Christmas story is Jesus' conception and Mary's pregnancy. When Gabriel visited Mary to tell her that she had been chosen by God to carry His Son, I can't imagine how terrified, confused, and yet honored she must have felt. Can you imagine having to explain to your fiance that you are pregnant, and have him believe that you are still a virgin and the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit? (In fact, Joseph wanted to divorce her until an angel came to him as well and confirmed her story.) Can you imagine the feeling of carrying the Lord in your womb? Knowing that the world will change forever when you go into labor? Knowing that the child you are carrying CREATED YOU?! I just can't imagine how she must have felt!

> The Bible App. Tell people how they can get the Bible App for free.

Just click here! It's totally free and works on pretty much every mobile device you can think of. Download the free app and take the Bible with you where ever you go! You can also read online for free at

Saturday, December 10, 2011

So, I got married.

I know it's been FOREVER since I updated this blog, but I have been a little busy, lol. I got married on November 19, 2011. I kept up with my wedding planning (for the most part, haha) and posted recaps of my wedding and honeymoon on a separate blog that I created just for that purpose. If you want to catch up on all that, the link is here:

Today makes 3 weeks that I have been married. For the most part, it doesn't feel very different. Matt and I have been together for over three and a half years, and we lived together for about three and a half months before the wedding. So there are a lot of aspects that are the same now as they were before.

But there are a couple of things that do seem a little different. For one thing, I am trying to change my name. I am still waiting on my official marriage certificate to come in the mail so I can get it legally changed (new Social Security card, new driver's license, etc.) but in the meantime I have been changing it socially (Facebook, e-mail addresses, name on my cubicle at work, etc.) and it has helped me to feel different - more married I guess. I was also able to go ahead and add Matt to all of my insurance and stuff at work for the remainder of this year and enrolled in benefits for next year with Matt listed as my spouse. A couple weeks ago I took Matt to the ER to have him checked out for a bad headache, and when he was too knocked out on pain meds to sign some forms, I was able to sign them for him as his wife. For some reason, I thought that was pretty cool, haha.

The most important thing is that I feel like I am MORE committed to Matt. Like our relationship is MORE solid, even though before the wedding I felt like my committment couldn't be any stronger and our relationship couldn't be any more solid. Somehow, after we got back from the honeymoon, it just WAS. I also feel like I love him even MORE. Before the wedding I didn't feel like it was possible to love him any more than I already did. But after we walked out of the ceremony and went to the bride's room to spend a few minutes alone before taking pictures, I stood there in my dress and looked at him in his tux and I just DID.

Married life seems to suit us. We've both already gained some weight, LOL! I am just so excited about spending the rest of my life with Matt, and I am so thrilled to see him so excited to spend the rest of his life with me. :D

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dark and mysterious stuff

I used to watch anime as a kid. Late elementary school and all of middle school, it was pretty much the only thing I watch on TV. I was seriously hooked. I would start a show and could not stop watching until I had gone all the way through. (I do that with serial-type TV shows; it's like I'm addicted to the storyline.) My freshman year of high school I watched it a bit, but almost in secret. Anime was for nerds in high school, and that was not the group I wanted to hang with back then. (Though now I'm a proud nerd, I wasn't always so.) So by my sophomore year of high school I had pretty much abandoned anime and wondered how I ever liked it, and didn't watch any anime for probably 8 years or more.

A few months ago, Matt and I were talking about anime over the phone. He had never watched any anime at all really, and was wanting to get into it. I named several shows off the top of my head that I had enjoyed as a kid, and we added them to our Netflix list, resolving to watch them together. So far, I have rewatched all of Trigun (Matt has seen most of it) and we're about half-way through Cowboy Bebop. I am all SQUEEEE about it and feeling like an otaku all over again.

At Matt's suggestion, we put Death Note on the list. That one was first aired in Japan in 2006-2007 (so the end of my senior year of high school through my freshman year of college), so obviously I have never seen it. So far I have seen up through episode 27, and I am HOOKED! The only way I can think to describe this show is dark, mysterious, and a bit addictive. I find myself dying to watch the next episode before I have even finished watching the current one - much like my LOST addiction.

I think I may have (temporarily at least) filled the LOST void. Haha, I think I have been spoiled to only like shows that keep you saying WTF the whole time!