Book Review: Mockingjay (Suzanne Collins)

Book: 68/100

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Katniss Everdeen’s second trip into the Hunger Games’ Arena – a survival of the fittest death match between the Capitol’s elven submissive districts – ended when the rebels pulled her out after an explosion caused by Beete – another tribute who was in on the escape plan everyone had known about except Katniss and Peeta. Katniss is taken to safety, her injuries gets treated, and her friend Gale tells her right after the rescue mission that they couldn’t pull Peeta out and that he is now in the hands of President Snow and the Capitol.

Katniss is taken to District 13 – a district that was supposed to have been obliterated during the Dark Days but had secretly survived and sustained itself underground. Katniss meets President Coin, the leader of the resistance, and can’t seem to shake the feeling that Coin intensely dislikes her. She also meets Boggs, her bodyguard who eventually becomes her friend. With them is fellow Tribute Finnick Odair, a young man Katniss originally thought was a pretty playboy but who was forced to sleep with people President Snow approved of. He is also suffering for he knows if the Capitol captures the Annie Cresta, the girl he loves, she will be tortured as well.

President Snow realises that Finnick and Katniss are too stressed about Annie and Peeta to focus on being the faces of the rebellion. To rectify this, she sends in a special task force to the Capitol to save them. Gale is one of the team going to the Capitol, and Katniss is once again torn between her feelings for him and Peeta. The task force brings Annie, Peeta and Johanna Mason back, another Tribute who was part of the rebellion.

Peeta is unrecognisable from the sweet boy Katniss used to care for. Under the Capitol’s brilliant but cruel torture made him to believe that Katniss is his enemy. Their first reunion is abruptly stopped when he tries to choke her, and she is devastated by the realisation that he wants to kill her. Peeta’s rehabilitation begins, and it is a difficult process because some of the cruel things he remembers of Katniss is true – how she couldn’t decide about her feelings and her abrupt actions.

The rebellion manages to get control over all the Districts in time. The last coup happens in District Two, and Katniss gets shot by one of the civilians there. She recuperates, and when she learns that Coin is planning to send in troups to conquer the big one – the Capitol, Katniss is determined to go and finish of Snow. She trains hard, and is eventually rewarded by being included in an elitist group of soldiers. She, Boggs, Gale, Finnick and some others head to the Capitol, and they are shocked when Coin sends in Peeta as well. Katniss realise that Coin wants her dead, and Boggs explains that it is because Coin knows that Katniss will never support her for a presidential candidate when the time comes. Will Katniss manage to kill Snow, and will all her loved ones survive? Will Coin get her wish and see Katniss killed by the boy she loves? Is there a chance for Katniss and Peeta to reconcile or will she end up with Gale?

Rating: 8/10

In post Potter depression, I never thought I could truly love a series again. I was relieved when I discovered the Hunger Games and realized that while nothing would ever reach the epic proportions of Harry Potter, there were other material in the world that was worthy of attention.

Mockingjay is a good end to a good series. I enjoyed the distinct change that there is no happy ending – even at the end where peace is restored, you know Katniss will be safe but will never forget what happened. The characters remain scarred and thus the book stays respectable – in a world like theirs, how could true happiness ever be possible?

The second installment of the franchise, Catching Fire, is currently in cinemas. I would recommend a movie and book binging to anyone who hasn’t made the time yet.

Read reviews of Hunger Games and Catching Fire here and here.

N

Movie Review: Catching Fire (2013)

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Catching Fire takes place a few months after Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) became the first two victors to leave the Hunger Games alive. Before the Victory Tour – a tour designed to keep the horrors of the Games fresh in everyone’s mind, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) visits Katniss at her home. He tells her that her act of defiance – where she and Peeta agreed to eat poisoned berries rather than killing each other, showed people that it was fine to defy the Capitol, and that the result was that there are uprisings in the districts. He tells Katniss that if she wants her family to survive, she will show the entire Panem that she was just a silly girl in the cinema that was desperately in love.

This naturally is a problem because she is barely speaking to Peeta. He is still hurt by the fact that her feelings were just a show for the audience while his was real. While on tour they manage to become friends again, but even that isn’t enough. In the district where Rue, the girl who was so close to Katniss in the Arena, used to live, they witness an outbreak of violence when the crowd salutes Katniss. Katniss confesses to Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and Peeta what Snow wants, but even when Peeta and Katniss act in love it isn’t enough to stop the rebellion that is rising.

Snow discusses plans to get rid of Katniss with the new head Gamemaker, Plutarch Heavensby (Philip Seymour-Hoffman). When everything else fails, they decide to send Katniss, with many of the other victors, back into the Arena for the Quarter Quell – a special Hunger Games that happens every 25th year to once again remind the people of Panem the price they pay for the rebellion long ago. How will Katniss and Peeta get out alive a second time with Snow seeking her death?

Rating: I would rate this movie an excellent 9/10.

WOW. Just wow. I finally got to the cinema this weekend to go and see it. There were so many reasons I just couldn’t get to the movies before this, so I went in three weeks later than I had planned. Everyone was declaring it one of THE movies of the year, and absolute must, and I was getting frustrated by not having seen it yet. The internet is such a bastard so I was cautious not to check out too many reviews – I have been burned before. The waiting was well worth it in the end.

It is so rare that a movie is 1) as good as its book 2) better than its prequel and 3) gets me teary eyed. Catching Fire managed all three. It packs a huge emotional punch. Katniss is much more lovable on screen than in the books. In the movies she is just a very confused girl in a horrible world, where fear is so acute she actually doesn’t know how to understand love. There were very few changes made from book to movie. I appreciated that, and have to mention that some of the changes were best for the movie.

Why is it better than Hunger Games (2012)? It is very difficult to pinpoint, but there are just so much more emotions in Catching Fire. It sticks to the story, and what is added doesn’t subtract from the message of the film. All the actors have developed exponentially, most notably Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. She has always been great, but she is so truly Katniss in Catching Fire that you feel that you are right there in the arena with her. Peeta breaks your heart with his kindness, and Gale breaks your heart with his stubborn bravery and pride. The scene where the Katniss, Peeta and Haymitch hear two of them will certainly be sent back into the arena is horrible. It broke my heart. The cruelty of President Snow, and how stupid he was to think that Katniss could stop the revolution, and punishing her when she couldn’t by sending her back into the arena. Effie Trinket got so much more show time and Elizabeth Banks really did well showing her as a frilly Capitol creation, but with a good heart who feels something for them despite her stupid costumes. Some of the scenes (like the poisoned smoke) are utterly disgusting and some (like the monkeys) had me jumping in fright. As you meet characters that will have significant impact later on, you already start grieving for what will happen to them. Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) isn’t the major sex-symbol he is portrayed as in the books, but he is brave, sweet, kind and loyal to Mags. Carrying her on his back reduced me to tears a few times. Plutarch Heavensby was brilliantly done. He has this underhanded brilliance that makes you suspect he is pulling a big one on President Snow – who was once again excellently done by Donald Sutherland.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I beg you to go now. You will be thanking me later.

Xx

Book Review: Catching Fire (Susan Collins)

Book: 63/100

I’ve read this book before, but I was in such a rush to know what happened I didn’t really get to fully appreciate it. I decided to try it again as part of my challenge, as well as the first and third book in the Hunger Games trilogy. Catching Fire the movie will soon be released as well, and I am eager to see whether it does justice to the books.

After Katniss and Peeta successfully manage to survive the Hunger Games, they return to District 12. Confused about her feelings, Katniss shuts Peeta out, not sure if what she feels for him is real or if she really loves her best friend Gale Hawthrone.

President Snow visits Katniss, and even though she tells her mother that he is only there to surprise and congratulate her, he threatens her. President Snow hates Katniss for pulling a trick over the government with the berries that saved her and Peeta’s life in the arena, and blames her for the unrest in the districts. He tells her he knows about the kiss between her and Gale shortly after she returned, and tells her very clearly that he will kill everyone she loves if she doesn’t find a way to calm the districts down.

One day in the woods Katniss meets some escapees from another District, and they tell her their hopes to reach District 13, the District that was destroyed by the Capitol in the Dark Days. They insist that there is something there, even though Panem always sees footage of smoking buildings. Their theory is based on the image that is always repeated – proven by a frozen Mockingjay that is present in all the photos. When Katniss returns to the Village, she sees that they indeed are right about one thing – the Mockingjay is in all the footage of District 13.

The Victory Tour is halfway between each Hunger Games and takes the Victor(s) around Panem so that they can visit each district. Katniss and Peeta both know that they must act very in love or face the consequences, and they try their best. Katniss realises that nothing she and Peeta does will be able to stop the uprisings – in Rue’s district they witness a man’s murder after he pays tribute to Katniss for her kindness towards Rue in the arena.

As the 75th Hunger Games is on its’ way, Katniss knows and fears that she will have to tutor a kid whose survival chance in the arena is slim. Every twenty five years it is the Quarter Quell, where the Capitol finds a way to make it even more brutal than usual in the arena. The entire Panem is shocked when President Snow announces that the Quarter Quell’s tributes will be from previous tributes, meaning Katniss and Peeta are available to be chosen. Katniss knows she is going, since she is the only female winner in her district, and Peeta volunteers immediately when Haymitch’s name is pulled out. They both now that this isn’t some strange coincidence, and that Snow is just getting back at them.

When they return to the Capitol to prepare for the Games, Katniss meets some of the other tributes from the rest of the districts. Most importantly she meets Finnick Odair, a shockingly attractive winner from another Hunger Games. She ignores him, but he tries very hard to gain her trust. She also meets Johanna Mason, a girl she instantly dislikes.

Peeta causes trouble the night of their interview with Caesar Flickerman when he announces that Katniss is pregnant with his child. This sends the audience into an uproar, sending a pregnant woman into the arena. Katniss knows it isn’t true, but she realizes that this just makes the population even angrier at the government’s cruelty. All the tributes find a way to make the government look cruel, and questions President Snow’s authority in very clever ways.

Before Katniss enters the Arena, she witnesses Cinna, her beloved stylist, being dragged away. She enters the arena horrified, but quickly recovers because there are so many horrors within the arena itself. She teams up with Peeta, Finnick and Madge, an old lady from Finnick’s district. Madge quickly offers up her life for the rest of the group. They discover that the arena is working like a clock, and that at each hour a certain horror waits for them in a certain part of the arena.

Together with some new allies, including Johanna, the group starts dodging the horrors. They devise a plan to kill the Careers, tributes who train their entire lives to be in the arena and are very cruel in general. Beete, one of their new allies, makes a plan to kill the Careers by electrocuting the salt lake and hopefully their enemies as well. Things start to go wrong at the last minute, and Katniss is separated from Peeta. She is airlifted out by the rebels, with Finnick Odair. She realizes that Peeta is now in the hands of the government, an easy target to torture and manipulate. Gale, who led the resistance in their own district and managed to evacuate some people when the government started bombing them, tells her that District 12 is no more.

Where is Peeta and is District 13 real?

Rating: 7.5/10

Despite the overused love triangle I enjoyed this book. It is decently written; a great original story and doesn’t include too much useless information. I am glad that the book doesn’t focus too much on the arena – the story there was excellently developed with the time clock and everything, but it would have been exactly like the first book had they focused on the arena again for three hundred pages. There are no obvious surprises waiting, but the intensity of the book grabs you enough to keep you reading. You can’t help but wonder how they will survive again, and who Katniss will choose in the end. She is a bit selfish to be honest, but I can see how she would want to keep both men in her life – she has suffered through tragedy and fiercely loves them both, although she isn’t sure in what way she loves them. The male leads both get points. I cannot choose between Peeta and Gale as they both display good characteristics. Peeta is just a good human being with a decent soul, and Gale is a leader who doesn’t fear much. I have to say that I liked the inclusion of both Finnick and Johanna. Finnick is at least one male who isn’t in love with Katniss, and Johanna isn’t afraid of disliking Katniss.

If you haven’t read the trilogy yet, I would obviously recommend starting at the first book, and then working your way through. This book’s movie is being released within the next month, so I would advise you to read it and then we can bitch together if they don’t do it justice 😉

What I love about Dystopian Fiction is that there is always a slight possibility that something similar might happen. It is horrifying on a true level, and I can see why it is a plausible idea. Governments routinely terrify their citizens, and use force to keep them in check. Perhaps it is unfair to compare most countries to Panem, but I can think of a few where children are sent into war and expected to survive no matter what the cost.

5 Things Friday: 5 Things happening right now

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South-Africa’s multiply disordered government

Our President put his foot in his mouth – Again

E-tolls is a new tolling system on the roads in Johannesburg that the South-African government hopes to implement. It is angering motorists because it is going to be ridiculously expensive, we are already paying an astronomical amount of tax and fuel prices are already so high nobody needs extra expenses.

Mr. Jacob Zuma released a statement saying plenty of unsavoury things about the anger directed towards E-tolling. Read it here. Great job, sir. We know you can’t run for President again but I’m sure your political party is super chuffed with you calling their primary voters backwards. GREAT JOB. I am actually imagining the Democratic Alliance (another political party in South-Africa) hosting a party in your honour.

Watching

I am currently watching Suits now. I expected it to be good, really, but was surprised at how much I am entertained by it. It is cut-throat, fast paced and high powered, and the characters are incredibly sarcastic and driven, and I love that.

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Movies

There are finally good movies being released. I love the whole experience of the movie – going to the cinema, getting popcorn, sitting in the dark and watching something come to life on a huge screen. I haven’t been the movies for a bit – mostly because I was broke, very busy and there weren’t any great movies on. THAT is why I am so excited. I’m going to make some time soon and go see at least one or two the next few weeks.

On the 8th of November, Thor: The Dark World is being released here in South-Africa. I can’t wait to see what Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman have done as Thor and Jane again.

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Next on my watch list is Catching Fire which will be released on the 22nd of November. Part of the Hunger Games series focuses on Peeta and Katniss when they get sent back into the arena only a year after they won the Games together. Katniss knows President Snow hates her, but will she be able to be victorious again? I am skeptic about the actor cast as Finnick Odair, but I am willing to be open minded and see if they bring the second book justice.

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Excited

In a month’s time, I am traveling to Cape Town, South-Africa, to go to the WSPID conference. Cape Town is one of the places I haven’t visited in my own country, and I am honestly excited to go there.

Desperately in need of:

A car,

A new haircut.

Time: For studying, Reading, Relaxing, Sleeping and Watching Series. All these tasks are crammed into the little time I have in the evening, and it is exhausting me. Luckily I am on study leave next week, so I have time then to study.

What’s happening in your life right now?

xX N

Book Review: The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins)

Book: 41/100

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The post-apocalyptic trilogy (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockinjay) takes place in Panem. Panem consists of the Capitol and twelve (formerly thirteen) poorer districts. All the districts are under strict supervision and surveillance from the Capitol. The Capitol residents live in extravagance, richly supplied with food, technology and possessions. In comparison, the other Districts suffer from famish, starvation and cruelty from the Peacekeepers.

To keep the citizens of Panem mindful of the control their State has over them, they are forced to selects two teens each year to compete in the Hunger Games – a closed off arena where only one person can exit alive – the one who managed to kill all the other contestants.

The series’ main protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is from District 12. She keeps her family alive by illegally hunting with her best friend Gale in the woods. On the day of the Reaping, Katniss’ little sister Prim is chosen as the female tribute for District 12. Horror-struck, Katniss volunteers to save her sister from certain death. The male tribute from 12 is Peeta Mellark – a boy who saved Katniss from starvation years ago by tossing her burned bread.

The two head off to the Capitol. They are escorted by Haymitch Abernathy, the winner of the 50th Hunger Games, and the ridiculous Effie Trinket.  Haymitch and Effie are responsible for informing the two how to proceed in the Hunger Games. Haymitch is constantly in a drunken stupor, but agrees to help the two when he realises that they could make a strong team.

Katniss is transformed by her stylist Cinna in time for her interviews in front of the entire Panem. The crowd is wowed by her and Peeta, especially after Peeta confesses that he is in love with her.

When the Hunger Games begin, Katniss heads off alone and tries to let the other tributes take each other out before she has to interfere. She survives starvation and burns, and manages to kill some of the Careers – people who train especially to partake in the Hunger Games, by setting Trackerjackers loose on them when they think they have her cornered. She finally finds an ally in little Rue, from District Eleven, but Rue is killed by another Tribute a few days later.

When they receive an announcement that two tributes are allowed to live at the end of the Games if they come from the same District, Katniss starts searching for Peeta. She finds him desperately injured, and tries to heal him. To save him, she needs to head to a battleground where medicine will be waiting. She nearly dies at the hand of a vicious Tribute, but Thresh, the male Tribute from Rue’s District, saves her as thanks for helping Rue. She manages to save Peeta, and together they start hunting together.

Will the devious Capitol keep true to their promises? And will Katniss and Peeta ever make it out alive – and in love?

Rating: 7/10

This world-wide success really deserves its fortunes. It is well written, horrifying, and truly addictive. The book probably became so successful because the story is plausible, and has roots in history. People already are in the “survival-of-the-fittest” mode. A transition like this, where people are addicted to watching teens kill each other in arenas, isn’t that farfetched.

Characters

Katniss Everdeen: Sullen, a forced provider, and bad tempered. If I had to hunt every day to feed my family, I might turn into the same person. However, her blindness towards Peeta’s feelings is the worst. It gets worse in the other two books, where she has to deal with her attraction towards Gale and Peeta, so she is the most tolerable in book one.

Peeta Mellark: I am always a little bit in love with Peeta. He is so selfless and kind. Katniss really doesn’t deserve his unconditional love. He proves himself to be clever and courageous when he hooks up with the Careers to protect Katniss, and stubborn (which isn’t actually a bad quality in a person) when he fights with Katniss for going to the Cornucopia to get the person. I really think he is well written, and has more depth than the other characters.

Gale Hawthrone: Between Peeta and Gale, I find Gale slightly more appealing as he is such a fierce fighter and injustice angers him. He is rough around the edges, and his softer side is only obvious when he is with Katniss, and even then he is a difficult man. Both he and Katniss are edgy, mostly because of the life they live in the poorer part of District 12 – that is where Peeta has the disadvantage of not completely understanding where she coming from.

Conclusion:

I read the series to see what the hype was about, and I am really thankful I did. I would recommend it to everyone – it is shocking and scary and impossible to put down.