I Do Not Read Books (8): Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Here is the next edition in the on-going yet randomly occurring series of book reviews from Fernando, my webmaster/taste tester/getter of things on high shelves. He doesn't read a lot of novels, thus the title of the series. However, if he continues to enjoy the books he reads, I might turn him into a reader yet!

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2)
Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press
Released September 1, 2009
391 pages
YA / Dystopian

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Sparks are igniting.
Flames are spreading.
And the Capitol wants revenge.

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

In Catching Fire, the second novel in the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins continues the story of Katniss Everdeen, testing her more than ever before...and surprising readers at every turn.

The next installment of the Hunger Games movie series is just around the corner. Ahead of the movie I read the book. I will stay spoiler free and give my overall impressions of the book. Warning -- there will be spoilers for both first installment of the series (movie and book), so if you have not read the first book, stop here.

Catching Fire is really the heart of this series. Where Hunger Games was an introduction into this trilogy’s main characters and Panem world political nuances, Catching Fire is the intermingling of all those small subtle plot points building and building through the first third of the book then exploding on for the remainder and then ultimately creating one of the most surprising endings.

Katniss and Peta have won the 74th Hunger Games under the guise of a relationship that does not exist. While on their victory tour, both begin to notice the ramifications of that unique and government-defying win. That small act of rebellion sends giant ripples through the entire book. District by district Katniss and Peta begin to see the movement that they have ignited.

That is the magnificent thing about Catching Fire – as it builds the tension chapter by chapter, it also explores some deeper questions posed but never out right expressed in the first book. Who really has the power in Panem? How long can fear of the government keep the people in this world at bay?

The finally third of the book really explodes into an action-filled powder keg that made me want to dive right into the final book. That’s my review. Read this book and be prepared to dive right into the next.

I Do Not Read Books (7): A Feast for Crows by George RR Martin

It's Halloween so Fernando decided to step in while I eat a lot of candy and "awww" over little kids in superhero costumes. Funnily enough he decided to review the book I'm currently in the middle of reading! Anyway he doesn't read a lot of novels, thus the title of the series, but you can read all the reviews he's written here. However, if he continues to enjoy the books he reads, I might turn him into a reader yet!

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice & Fire #4)
George RR Martin

Bantum Books
Released October 2006
1060 pages
Epic Fantasy / Magic

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With A Feast for Crows, Martin delivers the long-awaited fourth volume of the landmark series that has redefined imaginative fiction and stands as a modern masterpiece in the making.

After centuries of bitter strife, the seven powers dividing the land have beaten one another into an uneasy truce. But it's not long before the survivors, outlaws, renegades, and carrion eaters of the Seven Kingdoms gather. Now, as the human crows assemble over a banquet of ashes, daring new plots and dangerous new alliances are formed while surprising faces—some familiar, others only just appearing—emerge from an ominous twilight of past struggles and chaos to take up the challenges of the terrible times ahead. Nobles and commoners, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and sages, are coming together to stake their fortunes...and their lives. For at a feast for crows, many are the guests—but only a few are the survivors. 

Well, this review has been a long time coming. I read this book a long while back. I waited such a long time because I wanted some objective space between me and the review. Doesn't sound good, does it? The previous three books in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire make up a nice, neat trilogy package. And then you get this fourth book. First I did enjoy the fourth book. Second, I knew before going into that some of the characters that I have enjoyed so much were not going to be in this installment. What?! For those of you who do not know, here is the back story.

George had planned his epic to be 2 trilogies. One trilogy is made up by his first three books, and the second trilogy was meant to happen some 5 years later. However Martin abandoned that, and instead he picks up the forth book after the third book and writes and writes and writes. His manuscript ends up so large that it must be split.

This is where Martin makes a bold choice. He splits the book by character geography not by character chronology. So, a majority of the plot from this book overlaps with A Dance with Dragons, the next book. Follow that? The crux is that this results in many chapters that focus on new characters and some of the favorites are left for the next book.

This book should not be thought of as a sequel. Instead it is an expansion of the universe and adding some great new characters. I had a tough time with this book. It does bring in some great elements, but it does so by sacrificing the buildup that has been going on for the last three books. I may feel differently after the conclusion of the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Had I written this review immediately after I finished the book, I would have been very disappointed. I won’t spoil it by telling you the characters that are not in this book.  So, I will concede it’s not the best book in the series thus far; however, my thoughts have changed because I don’t think of it as a sequel. Instead I look at it as the introduction to different plot points in an ever expanding universe.

If you have read the first three books in the series, then you are going to read this book because it’s an important piece in the plot and a necessity before reading A Dance with Dragons. Do not let the pace of this book or the lack of some of your favorite characters deter you from finishing it. Now that I have finished both A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, I appreciated this book much more. It’s not my usual stunning endorsement of the series, but it’s also the first blemish.

I Do Not Read Books (6): Superman: Earth One, Volume 2 by J. Michael Straczynski & Shane Davis

Here is the next edition in the on-going yet randomly occurring series of book reviews from Fernando, my webmaster/taste tester/getter of things on high shelves.  He doesn't read a lot of novels, thus the title of the series. However, if he continues to enjoy the books he reads, I might turn him into a reader yet!

Superman: Earth One, Volume 2
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Shane Davis

DC Comics
Releases November 6, 2012
136 pages
Superheros / Comics

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Following the events of the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling graphic novel by acclaimed writer J. Michael Straczynski and superstar artist Shane Davis, comes the long awaited sequel SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE VOL. 2! Young Clark Kent continues his journey toward becoming the World's Greatest Super Hero, but finds dealing with humanity to be a bigger challenge than he ever imagined! From a ruthless dictator to a new love interest who's NOT Lois Lane, things are never easy for this emerging Man of Steel.

And the worst is yet to come, in the form of a man-monster with an insatiable appetite, the Parasite! The only thing that might appease his hunger is The Last Son of Kryptonian! But that will also mean he will have Superman's powers without his conscience, and Kal-El cannot come anywhere near him, even though he has to stop him!

Graphic novels don't count as books in the truest sense, at least not to me. Graphic novels are a fantastic way to tell a story and in this case a perfect way to reboot an iconic story. Superman: Earth One is the classic story with slight twists that result in giant ripples in the lexicon of the Superman legend.

Earth One does a great job of bringing Superman into the present tense. Volume 2 brings the same great artwork and combines a great story by adding sprinkles of familiarity and the icing of modern day cynicism. There are two main plot lines that I won't spoil too much. One - Clark is struggling to find his place as an average man in Metropolis. Two - the government has a growing concern about the Superman who just saved the planet.

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I Do Not Read Books (5): A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin

At this moment, I'm knee-deep in a work event that won't end for another few hours. Luckily Fernando agreed to help me fulfill today's post quota. We are temporarily moving Random Tuesday to Friday. In the meantime, here is a post in the on-going yet randomly occurring series of book reviews from Fernando, my webmaster/taste tester/getter of things on high shelves.  He doesn't read a lot of novels, thus the title of the series. However, if he continues to enjoy the books he reads, I might turn him into a reader yet!

 

 

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice & Fire #3)
George RR Martin

Bantam Books (2000)
1,128 pages
Epic Fantasy

Purchase it here from Amazon

1,100 pages is a big book by any measure. I have now read three of George RR Martin’s books. Each volume has built incredibly on the other, expanding the characters, plot and world of Westeros. If you read this blog on a regular basis, you know that I am a huge fan of the show and these books. That adoration seems to only have magnified after reading this book. 

A Storm of Swords has a slight overlap with some of the events in its predecessor, A Clash of Kings. Having read the second book during a week-long vacation, I can say that helped me through some of the more verbose chapters. This book on the other hand I read over the course of a few weeks. The added time actually made the book far more enjoyable. In both the first and second books, I barely noticed the passing of time; the months that went by in the book actually did have the proper weight. Reading the third book over the course of several weeks really helped me digest the passing of time. I bring up this notion because the same thing plagues the TV show I enjoy so much. Part of the brilliance that I have been missing has been the true epic nature that the passing of time plays in the book. 

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I Do Not Read Books (4): A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin

The following post is part of an on-going yet randomly occurring series of book reviews from Fernando, my webmaster/taste tester/getter of things on high shelves.  He doesn't read a lot of novels, thus the title of the series. However, if he continues to enjoy the books he reads, I might turn him into a reader yet!

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire #2)
George RR Martin

Random House (1999)
1009 pages
Epic Fantasy / Dragons / Magic

Purchase a copy from Amazon

Well here we are again. I have managed to read through the next installment in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series: A Clash of Kings

The title says it all. When last we left the world of the seven kingdoms, it was in complete and total chaos. 

** WARNING IF YOU HAVE NOT READ A GAME OF THRONES, DON'T READ THIS REVIEW YET**

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I Do Not Read Books (3): The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The following post is part of an on-going yet randomly occurring series of book reviews from Fernando, my webmaster/test taster/getter of things on high shelves.  He doesn't read a lot of novels, thus the title of the series.

The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins

Scholastic Inc (2008)
374 pages
YA / Dystopia / Fantasy

Purchase it here from Amazon

With the movie just around the corner, The Hunger Games seemed like a good book for me to read. I was pleasantly surprised by the action in the book and how engaged it kept me. The book is an excellent launch in the trilogy, which I have not read, but it also is fantastic as a standalone read too.

The Hunger Games takes place in a post-apocalyptic United States now called Panem. Panem is made up of the capital and a class-segregated 12 districts. Each district in the book is responsible for producing and contributing to Panem. District 1 is the wealthiest and the scale descends to 12, which is the poorest. The number is also related to work type as well as what that district is responsible for contributing. District 12, where protagonist Katniss Everdeen is from, is a coal rich region so they require contributing coal for Panem's power consumption.  

Panem holds Hunger Games as both entertainment and a form of oppression. The terms are fairly simple. Two tributes are chosen at random from each district. Each tribute is between the ages of 12 and 18. All 24 tributes are left to battle and survive in an outdoor arena until only one survivor is left. The winner is then showered with wealth and polarity as the winner of the Panem Hunger Games.  

The entire book is told in the first person, from Katniss' point of view. She is a 16 years old girl who poaches small game to put food on her family's table. The plot starts very quickly in the 2nd chapter, when Katniss volunteers to be District Twelve's tribute.  She volunteers in place of her younger sister, Prim age 12, who was originally chosen.

The book was a pleasure to read. It did take me a bit to get used to the first person narration. After about the third chapter, I no longer noticed and could enjoy the plot from Katniss' perspective. With the movie due out in mid March, I would put this book on a short list of must reads for this summer. There are enough details and subplot that I can already anticipate where the movie will be forced to fall short. I don’t what to give away too much. The Hunger Games kept me very entertained, the twists and turns it took were both shocking and a pleasure to read. I do plan on reading the follow up, so that says a lot about my reaction. Go. Read it and enjoy.

I Do Not Read Books (2): The Walking Dead - Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman & Jay Bonansinga

The following post is part of an on-going yet randomly occurring series of book reviews from Fernando, my webmaster/test taster/getter of things on high shelves.  He doesn't read a lot of novels, thus the title of the series.

The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor
Robert Kirkman & Jay Bonansinga

Thomas Dunne Books (2011)
308 pages
Horror / Zombies

Purchase it here from Amazon

Not being a heavy book reader, I often read comic books and graphic novels. Again, I am a huge fan of the AMC show The Walking Dead. I then started reading volume after volume of the comic books written by Robert Kirkman. The final piece to my reading this book was Leslie getting the copy of Rise of the Governor.

First, if you are a fan of only the TV version of The Walking Dead, you are missing out. This book will only mean something to you if you go read the comic books. Go, I'll wait. Done? Really, seriously go read them. They are vastly different than the show on AMC. Most importantly the comic books are great story telling in their own right.

I cannot stress this enough-- the comic book is vastly different from the TV show while there have been hints that some characters from the comic may make their way onto the screen. The deviation that the TV show has already taken from the comic makes it enough to justify reading the comics.

The comic book serves as the introduction to one of the most vile, disturbing and psychopathic villains in the series: The Governor. The Rise of The Governor is the chronicle of a character's mental journey from being human (see what I did there) to being the monster he is in the comic book.

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