Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hunger Games III: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

If you haven't read this series yet and plan to, then skip this review. There will be spoilers about the two previous books. For those of you waiting to read Mockingjay, and already read the previous ones, there are no spoilers.

Oh my how I waited for this one, the third book in the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins called Mockingjay. I really loved the two previous books, especially the first one, which, together with The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness and the first Tomorrow When The War Began-book by John Marsden, must have been one of the most intense reading experiences of 2009. I immediately ordered everyone I knew to read Hunger Games, and they also became hooked! So I could barely contain myself when my copy arrived here in Denmark (about a week after the book was released in UK) and began reading almost immediately.

First of all it was a mistake that I had not re-read at least Hunger Games II: Catching Fire. I read that one a year ago, and there were characters and things which had happened in the arena during the Quarter Quell that I had forgotten all about. Who was who, who was good and who was bad? That is not the author's fault of course, but it made me a bit confused for the first part of the book.

Secondly, I had to remind myself that this book is labelled "Teen", and is thus not necessarily aimed at a grown up audience, so my minor irritations with this and that (can't tell too much about that here, otherwise I'll spoil) had to be put aside, and I had to accept that a teen-audience would probably be able to relate more to some of those things than I.

All that said, I found the first half of the book mildly disappointing. The element of surprise from especially the first book, was not present at all in Mockingjay, and while I understand the author's aim by describing Katniss as she does, she (Katniss) began to annoy me more and more. YES, we get that war f***s you (humanity) up and YES, we get that your life is hard for a ton of reasons, but come on now, get into GEAR....if you know what I mean (you don't if you haven't read the book).

When the action actually gets going, I was finally absorbed, and read the last third of the book in a rush, which resembled what I felt when I read the first one. I was so-so with the things that led up to the ending, but I have to say that I didn't hate it at all. It was the ending for this reader, especially the last 2-3 pages.

I am probably going to re-read the first two books and then read Mockingjay again, but to conclude this (and I am sorry if it makes no sense at all to you who are not into the Hunger Games (yet)) this was my least favorite of the series.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

I usually do not read non fiction. I have nothing against non fiction at all, it just almost never happens that I feel any urge to read a non fiction book. But this one - Zeitoun by Dave Eggers - I had to read.

I visited New Orleans in the summer of 2004, a year before Hurricane Katrina, after having saved up for the trip (remember, I live in Denmark and there is a long way down to New Orleans from here and it's expensive) for a long time. Also visiting was an old dream that finally came true. The visit was part of a larger US-trip, so I did not get to spend more than four days in New Orleans, but I loved it. The heat, the humidity, the depravity, the ghost stories, the building, the history, the food, everything.

When Katrina struck in 2005 I was on vacation in Berlin, Germany, and remember feeling completely devastated hearing the news from New Orleans. First I thought mainly about all the wonderful buildings submerged by water, but when the other news began pouring in after a few days, I became even more shocked and sad. In hindsight, we now know that all the murders, rapes and looting did not take place in the scale the media presented us for, but we didn't know back then. It took me a long time to get those images out of my mind, and I don't even have friends or families there. I can't even begin to imagine what it was (and is?) like for people who live there and were there during the hurricane.

Anyway, I have been wanting to read Zeitoun for a long time, and when it came out in paperback, I bought it. And when the 5 year anniversary was around the corner, I sat down and read it. Zeitoun is the name of a Syrian American man, a repected citizen of New Orleans, who decides to stay back in the city during the hurricane, even though his wife and children has fled the city to go live with relatives out of harms way. Zeitoun wants to keep an eye out for his properties, and when the levees break and parts of the city become submerged, he ventures out in his canooe, managing to save both humans and animals in the horrible aftermath of the hurricane. And he does so with a "light heart", feeling that there is a deeper meaning behind him staying back.

Wife Kathy begs for him to leave. She sees and hears all the horrible stories of murder and mayhem from the media, and she fears that something will happen to Zeitoun. When she looses contact with him for a longer period of time, this family's real nightmare begins. It is hard to imagine that this is a piece of non fiction and that those events took place only 5 years ago. The story is told in a voice which does not criticize or judge neither "sides", and that made it worth reading. The first third of the book was a tiny bit too "lecturing" for this reader's taste since I felt I already knew about some of the issues, but that is a minor detail. I highly recommend this book. Great and thought provoking non fiction.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Once Upon a Nightmare by Lee Moylan

I first heard about author Lee Moylan's thriller Once Upon a Nightmare here in the book blogging community. Teddyree of The Eclectic Reader featured both a review of the book and an interview with Moylan last year. You can read the interview here.

I also expressed my interest in this book at the Goodreads-site, and earlier this year, Lee Moylan contacted me and was kind enough to offer me a copy of her book, mailed to me all the way from USA. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that Lee Moylan's grandparents were from Copenhagen, where I live myself ;-) Or maybe Lee is just a kind woman!

Her story about poor Sara Bishop is not for the faint of heart though, and it is not a kind story. Now I know from Teddyree's interview with Lee, that the inspiration for this gruesome story came from one of the author's own nightmares. Scary!

Sara, out main character, is content and happy and about to go to bed, when she sees that there is a Hunter's Moon hanging in the night sky. Remembering something her mother used to say about Hunter's Moons, Sara immediately feel something looming, a shift in the atmosphere. Something's not quite right. Combined with Sara's somewhat psychic abilities, things start to go downhill fast, and true enough, she falls asleep only to experience a horrific nightmare.

Her husband doesn't want to hear about those odd feelings Sara has about the nightmare, about her friend Rebecca and the fact, that Rebecca has vanished, not even calling her husband or daughter who are away on business and a weekend with the grandparents. Rebecca was the only one who understood Sara's psychic feelings, having them herself.

Halloween is coming, and soon Sara cannot ignore her feeling of doom and she goes looking for Rebecca herself, only to discover what is yet to be her worst nightmare - only this time it is not a dream, it is for real. Pretty soon we know that a truly sadistic killer is on the loose and that Sara is in grave danger. A scary and grpahic hunt for the killer begins, making the story speed up with each page.

Most of the story consists of dialogue between the characters, which adds to the feeling of urgency through the book. Horrific scene upon horrific scene is described in graphic detail, so watch out, all you crime readers. Rumor also has it that Moylan is cooking up a new book, even more horrific than Once Upon a Nightmare. Read it if you dare. 

Thanks once again to Lee Moylan for sending me your book. It was a great read, and I sped through it.

European readers can buy Lee's book from The Book Depository.