Friday, July 08, 2011

High Fidelity

I finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy over the weekend.  Devoured the last two books and then was faced with that horrible, horrible feeling of knowing that whatever I read next is going to be disappointing.  I spent all day just looking through the books in my shelves - disappointed with everything I picked up.  (And yes, that's what I did all day, it's one of the advantages of not having any real responsibilities.)  I seem to buy mostly non-fiction books, but at the moment I was craving fiction, wanting entertainment and escape, not education.  I couldn't even go to the library to look because they were closed for July 4th. 

I have a stack of books on the floor by my bed. (I sort of have books all over my house.)  Initially, that stack was supposed to be the books I wanted to read right away.  But it doesn't always work out like that.  In fact, a few of the books are a little dusty.  I get distracted with new books and library books. 

But then I noticed a copy of High Fidelity in that stack of books. 
I saw the movie High Fidelity years ago,the weekend it opened (I remember I went with my friend Caroline and I'd just returned from a trip to Chicago).  Because I liked the movie, I picked up a copy of the book at Half Price Books.  But then I never got around to reading it.  Since then, I've read a few other books by Nick Hornby and I've enjoyed all of them.  Fast reads, interesting characters.

This is about Rob, a single guy who owns a record store.  He's just broken up with his girlfriend and he's trying to figure out what to do next.  I liked this book for the same reason I've enjoyed other books by this author.  I understand these characters.  They're the kind of people I hang out with.  All the crazy things going through Rob's head as he's trying to decide what he wants or who he wants and why he wants what he wants make sense to me.  Maybe my friends and I are just weirdos, but the conversations that take place in the book are not that different from some of the late night conversations my friends and I have had.

I like how Hornby finds the humor in real life situations.  He recognizes that life is funny a lot of the time.  Not stupid funny, but absurd, "I can't believe this is really happening" funny.  But it's also serious and sad in parts.  It's about growing up and figuring out what you want to do with your life.  Maybe I can relate a little too well.  But I enjoyed the book quite a bit.  Can't believe it took me so long to read it.  Now I'm telling all my friends they need to read it -- like it's a brand new book when in fact, it's been out for years.

Planning to watch the movie on Friday, but as I was thinking of a London theme for the movie watching get together, I was reminded that the movie takes place in Chicago, not London, like in the book.  It's been so long since I've watched the movie, I remember only that I liked it.  I don't remember it well enough to compare it to the book, which is why I'm watching it again tomorrow. 

I consider this a must read, especially for single people in their mid-thirties, and people who love things like music and books and movies as much as they love other people.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

As soon as I finished reading Catching Fire, I had to download Mockingjay.  I pity the people who read these when they first came out and had to wait for the third book.  That would have driven me crazy.

At this point in the story, the Districts are rebelling against the Capital.  The rebel forces, led by District 13, want Katniss to be their Mockingjay, a symbol of the revolution.  Their revolution is going to be televised. 

Her home is gone, the entire District 12 bombed and burned to the ground.  While she agrees to be their leader - at least in appearances - she's growing tired of being used, lied to and manipulated.  She bristles against the strict lifestyle of District 13, doesn't get along with their president and Peeta is being held hostage by the Capital. 

I couldn't put this book down.  I read all day.  I didn't even stop to eat.  I couldn't stop reading. 

Near the end, I got a little confused as they were traveling through tunnels trying to reach the President's mansion.  I was having trouble visualizing some of what was happening, but not so much trouble that I didn't still enjoy the story. 

I loved these characters so much.  Not just the main characters of Katniss and Peeta, but also Finnick and Johanna and Boggs. 

Several of my students told me they cried at the end of the book.  This had me worried, I was imagining something absolutely horrible.  The end is very sad, but it wasn't what I imagined and for that I was a little relieved.

This book is very violent -- they are fighting a revolution -- and it deals with some very heavy subject matter.  But it makes it clear why the uprising was necessary.  These people had to be taken out of power.

While this story is a fantasy about a futuristic world, it can also serve as something of a cautionary tale.  Our obsession with reality TV and contests that involve people being humiliated.  Even the parts about how the victors had to develop a talent -- it made me think of how the people on reality shows such as "Real Housewives" do things like write cook books and design handbags.  Also, something that struck me is the disparity between the wealthy and the working class people.  It's the direction in which this country is moving as the middle class disappears.  How far will it go?  Kind of scary to think about. 

Now that I've read the entire series, I'm at a loss at trying to figure out what to read next.  Whatever follows is bound to be a disappointment, and I can't think of anything similar that I might enjoy. I'm quite concerned about this at the moment. I know, what a difficult life I lead.  

Friday, July 01, 2011

Catching Fire

When I discussed reading this series with my students, several of the boys said I should just skip the second book and go straight to the third book. Well, I didn't listen to them because that would be silly. When I asked them why, they couldn't give me a clear answer, the best I got out of them was, "It's just not that good."

I liked this book, I actually liked this book a lot more than Hunger Games. I started this book a while back, and then set it aside and read a few other books. (Mostly because I had this on my Kindle and tend to read the Kindle when I'm away from home. When I'm home I read actual books, and I had several I needed to finish now that I'm home for summer vacation.)

When I went back to reading this though, I couldn't put it down. I was probably on chapter two or three when I started back on this book Friday and I read until I finished it. This book has more of the romance I'd hoped for in the first book, but in noticing that, I could understand why the boys might have skipped this. My students are fourteen and fifteen year old boys and I can just imagine the looks on their faces when they read that Peeta climbs into Katniss' bed to comfort her after while she's having nightmares. I'm kind of surprised the boys even kept reading the book after that scene. Books 1 & 3 (which I read as soon as I finished this book) focus more on fighting and war, so of course these boys enjoyed that more.

But I liked this book. Katniss and Peeta are forced back into the Hunger Games, this time with other past victors -- to show that even the strongest cannot escape the power of the Capital. But this isn't enough to stop the uprisings in the Districts, influenced by Katniss' defiance of the Gamemakers at the end of the first book.

Lots of action, the story keeps you guessing, likable characters, and enough romance to make me happy, not so much to ick me out.

I'm going to recommending these books to everyone.