Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Hunger Games”

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #41 – Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

OK, spoiler alert – Katniss and Peeta win the Hunger Games.  Makes sense, otherwise there wouldn’t have been a trilogy.  Their victory has inspired at least some of the population of Panem to rebellion. It starts when the winners are touring the country to celebrate their victory.  They return home, and get fancy nice houses in the same neighborhood as Hamish – they’re the only ones that live there.

President Snow is, of course, perturbed, and devises a fun way to punish Katniss:  The Hunger Games All-Stars! And of course Katniss and Peeta are selected. Each decides to protect the other, without the other knowing.  If that makes sense. So now we’re back to the Hunger Games, with the training, the tributes, etc. Some of the tributes are older, and some are not quite all there.  This time they’re in a kind of biodome of death, with water, fire, nasty trees and animals, and all kinds of fun stuff.

They team up with some of the other tributes to work together, and (spoiler alert) defeat President Snow’s evil scheme again. How’d this guy get to be president, if he keeps getting outsmarted?

Anyway, this was clearly a mid-trilogy book, but it was no less exciting and gripping than the first book. I’m interested to see how the movie comes out.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #40 – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This is something of a tough one to review, since everyone’s read this book and/or seen this movie.  You know the story, so there’s not much I can say about that.  Blah, blah, dystopian not-too-distant future; blah, blah, plucky survivalist, yet of course also beautiful heroine; blah, blah, really awful way of keeping the populace in line.

We all know about the sorting, we all know about Katniss taking her sister’s place (people seem to think it’s a noble sacrifice, but I don’t know one big sister that wouldn’t do the exact same for her little sis). We all know Peeta adores her, he threw burnt bread to her when they were kids, and they end up having to play up that angle during the games so that people will root for them.

I held off reading these books for as long as I could, but when the movie was coming out I felt like I should. Then I didn’t want to like them, but I did. Are they the best written books?  No.  Does that matter?  Not in the slightest.

One caution – do not read any of these books at bedtime, especially if you’re the type who gets completely submerged in stories.  You’ll lose more sleep than you care to.

xoxoxoe’s #CBR4 Review #14: Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins

Steer clear if you don’t want to know about major plot points in Mockingjay, the third and final book in the The Hunger Games series.

“War is Hell” may be a phrase heard so often to have become a cliche, but Suzanne Collins’s final book in her Hunger Games trilogy, Mockingjay, doesn’t let its heroine or readers forget the reality or power of those three words for an instant. The action picks up right where Catching Fire left off. Katniss Everdeen has been scooped up out of the arena of the 75th Hunger Games and taken to District 13, which has not only survived its rumored destruction, but has rebuilt itself into a police state, run uber-efficiently by the forbidding President Coin.

“My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12. I was in the Hunger Games. I escaped. The Capitol hates me. Peeta was taken prisoner. He is alive. He is a traitor, but alive. I have to keep him alive…”

Katniss may have made it out of the arena, but her sometime fiance and friend, Peeta Mellark, was left behind and the evil President Snow has wasted no time in torturing and exploiting the boy, trying to quash Katniss’s role as the Mockingjay, the symbol of the rebellion against the Capitol’s tyranny. Katniss is so upset about her friend and so unsure about the way of life in District 13 that she is an unwilling rebel leader. President Coin, childhood friend Gale, mentor Haymitch, and others must persuade her to take on her role. But who can she trust?

“I’m sick of people lying to me for my own good. Because it’s really mostly for their own good.”

Katniss is more at home in her beloved woods

Katniss is a free spirit. She thrives in the open air. But District 13 is the opposite of freedom. It is sterile, with every hour of the day of its residents accounted for; the food portioned out based on body weight. Coin and her team want Katniss to be the Mockingjay — on their terms. But she negotiates some terms of her own, including immunity for Peeta and the other Hunger Games champions who have been captured and possibly brainwashed, a la The Manchurian Candidate. As much as Katniss doesn’t want to give up on Peeta, once he has been brought to District 13 she is so upset at his altered behavior that she avoids him. Katniss can’t seem to function inside four walls. Outside in the arena, Katniss could be free and use her hunter’s instincts to protect Peeta and others. Inside the cell-like atmosphere of 13 she shuts down.

“I sit back on my bed cross-legged and find myself rubbing the smooth iridescent surface of the pearl back and forth against my lips. For some reason, it’s soothing. A cool kiss from the giver himself.”

Collins keeps hinting at where Katniss’s heart really lies by having her cherish a pearl, a gift from Peeta. The pearl was such a nice symbol, it was a little strange that it didn’t occur to the character (or author?) to have Katniss use it to help deprogram Peeta, or at least have her show it to him at some juncture. But it just disappeared after a point and was never referred to again.

Where Katniss finally does get an opportunity to feel more at home is on the field. Coin and Co. really just want to use the Mockingjay for pro-Rebel propaganda film clips, but Katniss manages to go on a few missions where she sees the horrors of war first-hand. Back at the weapons lab she is even more horrified when she sees her friends Gale and Beetee working on weapons that are meant to destroy the innocent. When will these games and toys that kill children ever end?

While she debates how deeply she wants to get involved in the rebellion, Katniss is also still bouncing back and forth a little between Peeta and her longtime friend Gale, but it should be clear to anyone who can read between the lines that Peeta is the one who truly holds her heart, even if Katniss can’t quite see it until almost the last page. Sorry, Gale fans.

Katniss and Collins have much more on their minds than which cute guy she should choose. Katniss is in the middle of a horrible, bloody, civil war, and she is as much of a pawn as ever. She and her fellow arena survivors are all suffering from post-traumatic stress. Katniss has had to grow up fast and watch people she loves be tortured and even killed in front of her eyes. Mockingjay pulls no punches. It is violent and at times heartbreaking. There are no real winners in a civil war. Katniss learns that the Hunger Games never really end. One of the most harrowing passages happens right at the beginning of the novel, when Katniss tours the rubble that was once her home.

“I stared down at my shoes, watching as a fine layer of ash settles on the worn leather. This is where the bed I shared with my sister, Prim, stood.”

As much as there are some shattering things that happen to our hero, Mockingjay is not ultimately a downer. Katniss grows up. She loses a lot, but she also learns what she needs. She will never really be free of the Games and the horrors that she lived through, but she can still sing and she can still get through each day and finally open her heart to love Peeta. She may worry about telling their children about their pasts — as her parents kept things from her, and many parents shield their children.

There were many scenes in the book that should seem familiar to anyone who has seen footage or interviews with people who lived through World War 2 or Vietnam or any other modern war. People will always seize at life and try to put starvation, concentration camps, and other horrors of war behind them, but they will never forget. There is a scene at the end of Mockingjay with Prim’s cat Buttercup, that had me in tears, as it is often the little, human things, the day-to-day parts of life that we take for granted that are so often threatened or obliterated by war. Young people certainly need fun, adventure, and fantasy in their lives, and the Harry Potter series fills that bill, but The Hunger Games trilogy, as quick and addictive a read as they are, also has something to say. About life. About our past, our present, and hopefully, never about our future.

You can read more of my pop culture reviews on my blog, xoxoxo e

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xoxoxoe’s #CBR4 Review #13: Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

Steer clear if you don’t want to know about major plot points in Catching Fire, the second book in the The Hunger Games series.

Like Theseus, the Greek mythical hero that she is patterned on, Katniss Everdeen can be kind of a dope sometimes. She is incredibly instinctive and resourceful and clever, but completely incapable of seeing the bigger picture. She is also seventeen years old, and even though she has helped support her family since her father’s death, and been in tons of life-threatening situations, she has also led a sheltered life. A born rule-breaker, she managed to survive and win the Hunger Games with her fellow district competitor, Peeta Mellark at her side, the first time the Games has ever had two champions in one year.

Sinister President Snow sees the double winners as a direct challenge to his authority and places all the blame with Katniss. As she and Peeta embark on a victory tour of the nation, he visits her and threatens her. She must help quell any rebellious feelings that may be stirring in the districts, or he will come down hard and fast on her and her friends and family. It is soon clear as they travel that the two young winners and “lovers” presence is having the absolute opposite effect desired by Snow, as Katniss and her token, the mockingjay, are taken up as a symbol of hope and a rallying cry to end the oppression by the Capitol.

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss and Liam Hemsworth as Gale in the film adaptation of The Hunger Games

The love triangle is still pretty unconvincing in the second book, and ultimately not as important to the story as what is happening in Panem. We like the two guys she likes, sort of, but we never really get to know them, as Katniss doesn’t seem to know them very well, either. Sex and love are something she is clearly unprepared for. If there wasn’t a Twilight series, one feels that author Suzanne Collins and her heroine could concentrate on what really interests them — the politics of Panem and the coming-of-age of Katniss and the difficult moral choices she continually faces. If Collins really wants the love triangle to feel a bit less lop-sided in the final book, Mockingjay, she better tell us more about Gale, who right now is just the strong silent type.

When Collins isn’t having Katniss puzzle over the teenage problem of who she really likes the most, she is telling the reader more details about Panem and the rebellion that Katniss and her mockingjay symbol helped jumpstart in the first novel, The Hunger Games. There are times that Catching Fire feels like it’s treading water a bit, with expository paragraphs recapping what happened in the first book. Are there really readers who, not having read The Hunger Games, would pick this one up first? Should the author really care about them so much?

We see all the characters through Katniss’s eyes and narration, so the reader must at times fill in the blanks, or finds themself actually ahead of Katniss in terms of evil President Snow’s plotting. This tends to keep all the other characters rather sketchy, but they are still interesting and appealing enough to stand out, especially Peeta Mellark, their mentor Haymitch, fellow Hunger Games champion Finnick, and stylist Cinna.

Donald Sutherland as President Snow in the upcoming film.

When the action takes us back into the arena, I was a little ticked off (pun intended), but the pacing is great and there are enough surprises to indicate that the series is really going somewhere. It’s not just a “which cute guy should I choose” or a first book reboot. Collins has something to say about war and governments and the innocent ones who get caught in the crossfire. Her story isn’t heavy-handed, but it will be interesting to see if a sequel that so clearly illustrates oppressive governments and corrupt society will have an effect on the belief systems of young readers who grew up loving these characters and re-reading the books.

The other nice thing about this series is that with all of the science fiction-like creatures and threats that encompass Katniss’s world, she and the other main character, Peeta, are really just a couple of kids who are doing their best to keep each other alive. Unlike a lot of other YA fiction, Katniss isn’t a vampire or a wizard or anything “special” except a very resourceful young lady. As frustrating as she may be at times — she has a tendency to get a hold of the wrong end of the stick and fiercely pursue it — she is brave and real and we can’t help rooting for her. Or hesitate grabbing up the final book in the series and see how it all comes out.

You can read more of my pop culture reviews on my blog, xoxoxo e

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xoxoxoe’s #CBR4 Review #12: The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

I finally decided to give this book a try, not only due of all the praise and hype, but because I am intrigued by Stanley Tucci’s blue hair in the previews. The Hunger Games is technically a YA novel, but like the Harry Potter series, adults will enjoy it, even appreciate it more than teens. It’s also a lightning-fast read. I finished the series in just a few days, but as fast-paced as it is, the characters and the problems of the world they live in stay with you long afterward. My reviews of the other two books are to come. Needless to say I will also be checking out the soon-to-be-released movie adaptation.

Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss in the film adaptation of The Hunger Games

Author Suzanne Collins has woven some familiar ideas — Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, reality television shows, ancient Roman gladiatorial combat, the Greek myth of Theseus, Romeo and JulietThe Wizard of Oz and much more, into a still original look at a dystopian future where 24 teenagers are forced to fight to the death in a yearly televised contest, the Hunger Games. The games are supposedly a lesson or a punishment for the sins of previous rebellious generations, but they have clearly morphed into the main source of entertainment for a spoiled Capitol that can cure practically any wound or disease and seem removed from death — hence a lust for bloodsport.

What takes The Hunger Games beyond just a mere will-or-won’t-our-heroine-survive drama are all of the little moral dilemmas that keep cropping up as she tries to survive her time in the arena. 16 year-old Katniss Everdeen has been the head of her family for years. She is accomplished with a bow and arrows and hunts to keep her family and friends from starvation. When her younger sister Prim is selected as the female Games participant, the devoted and intrepid older sister volunteers in her stead. Katniss has learned survival techniques in her many hours hunting in the forbidden woods outside of the district where she lives, but she still assumes that she will be dead meat as soon as the Games begin. She just wants to die with some honor and ensure that her family won’t suffer.

The boy tribute, the other competitor from her district, Peeta Mellark (the names!), is obviously besotted with her (obvious to everyone but Katniss), and doesn’t feel he has much of a chance, either. Katniss at first distances herself from Peeta, who tries to help her at every turn, as she knows that she will ultimately be forced to kill him at some point in the games. The rules state that at the end there can only be one winner.

During the early days of the Games Katniss meets and befriends a younger girl, Rue, and the two briefly form an alliance. They bond instantly, much like kids do on the modern-day playground. But always hovering in the background are the rules of kill or be killed. Like Spartacus, these gladiators are never far from death.

The Games are broadcast live, and Katniss is at all times aware that what she is doing and saying is going straight back to the Capitol and her friends and family back at home. There are times when she is even mugging for the cameras. Like Survivor orProject Runway or The Bachelor or any of the other reality competitions we all tune in to these days, how much of the drama is real, or prompted by getting better ratings and sponsors? Katniss quickly learns that if she shows tenderness towards Peeta and plays up the romance angle everyone watching back home will lap it up — and sponsors will respond too, by sending in silver-parachuted, much-needed supplies.

There were a few loose ends or questions I had during the book that I felt weren’t completely answered. Katniss’s country, Panem, what is left of North America after a post-apocalyptic war, has been reduced to 12 districts (District 13 had been obliterated in a huge conflict that led to the current state of things). We learn that district 12, where Katniss and Peeta hail from, is what we call Appalachia. I was hoping for more clues to where and what the other districts were. Or how about a map? The Capitol seems to be located near modern-day Denver, but all of the other districts were a mystery.

Katniss is a great central character. She has been so beaten down by life that she can’t pick up on the romantic (tri)angle, either at home, where she is “friends” with older boy Gale, or during the Games with Peeta. There is a lot of chaste kissing in the last third of the book that may give younger readers a thrill, but may have the older readers rolling their eyes. I sympathized with Katniss, who grew impatient with all of Peeta’s lovey-dovey-ing, when she was trying so hard to keep them both alive under very harsh circumstances. The characters’ priorities were very different, which kept them interesting.

Katniss may be naive in many ways, but she has naturally good instincts. Once she sees how things are going, she can quickly adapt. She is a brilliant hunter, but also has a huge heart, connecting to and feeling for the other contestants. Knowing that The Hunger Games is a trilogy, most readers won’t be too worried about Katniss’s ultimate fate. Collins is aware of this, and makes the conflict center around the life and death decisions Katniss has to make and how far she is willing to go to survive. The Hunger Games is a fast but absorbing read. It may raise more questions than it answers, but its characters and setting are more than compelling enough to make me snatch up the next novel and see where it takes Katniss next.

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Shaman’s #CBR4 review #06: Catching fire by Suzanne Collins

Catching fire is the second part in the Hunger Games trilogy. It is a young adult novel, although you wouldn’t know it but for the age of its protagonist, Katniss.




The books take place in a future society, where the privileged citizens of Panem live in luxury while the citizens of the 12 Districts live in misery, forced to work for Panem. Every year, every District has to send two of its (young) citizens to the Hunger Games, a brutal fight to the death, until there is only one person left. This is a punishment to remind the Districts not to revolt against Panem, and a way to keep them in slavery and crush their spirits.

Read the rest of my review here.



I really wanted to read this book and I don’t regret my choice because I burned through the pages  and developed a serious crush on its heroine, Katniss Everdeen.

As I am sure, thanks to the movie due in March, very anticipated over at Pajiba, everybody knows by now the general plot so please bear with me for the first part of this review.

The action takes place in the future, in a country named Panem which consists of 12 Districts ruled from the city called Capitol. To punish the districts for a past rebellion, the Capitol came up with the annual Hunger Games. These are a very cruel televised contest between children of ages from 12 to 18 who must fight and kill each other in a huge outdoor arena until only one remains. From each district two contenders (called tributes) are randomly picked.

The main character, 16 year old Katniss Everdeen, volunteers in the place of her younger sister, Prim, who is picked for the Games.

 Katniss, Peeta (the boy tribute from district 12) and the other contenders are taken to the Capitol for a brief training and then thrown in the arena which is filled with all kind of deadly traps.

 Katniss is a survivor who – at home – was devoted to keeping her mother and sister alive. She is a hunter, very good with the bow and arrow but reluctant when it comes to trusting other people or making friends. That’s understandable since the world she lives in is pretty much a version of Orwell’s 1984 complete with poverty, hunger, lack of basic utilities and a totalitarian ruling regime that enjoys letting children slaughter each other while their parents and friends are forced to watch it on live TV.

Seeing Katniss fight for her life in the arena is horrific and captivating at the same time.  A lot of gruesome images unfold – especially when you think that those hacking away at each other are children. The most disturbing one for me was that of a tribute begging Katniss to kill him after he was slowly gnawed into a bleeding hunk of meat by mutant wolves unleashed by the Gamemakers. 

“The Hunger Games” is as much about the battle to survive in the arena as it is about a journey to self knowledge. Maybe above all it is about what it means to be free and to be yourself in a world where being yourself is punishable by death.  Peeta says to Katniss in the beginning of the book that in the arena he would like to die as himself: “I don’t want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not (…) I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games.” His words will make sense to Katniss only in the end of the book, but first she must learn who she is while thrown in the most inhuman circumstances. As the Gamemakers try to strip the tributes of their humanity and turn them into beasts with only one purpose – survival at all costs, she will struggle to discover and remain herself.

I admired Katniss’s determination, her unwillingness to simply give up as she went through every inventively sadistic challenge the Gamemakers threw at the tributes and in the end had to face the greatest challenge of all. She had to choose between giving in to the Capitol’s Game, becoming their pawn or living on her own terms – even if that meant actually dying. In the end she doesn’t die and she wins the games through an ultimate act of defiance that gives a new dimension to the story.

Katniss’s hate for the government, already lit by the unfair life led in the impoverished districts, is fueled by the impossible choices she must face in the arena and becomes the starting point for the next book of The Hunger Games trilogy, “Catching Fire”.

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