Catching Fire: Hunger Games (Book 2)- Suzanne Collins (Narrator: Carolyn McCormick)

Cover of "Catching Fire (The Second Book ...

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This is a difficult review to write, simply because I don’t know how to talk about Catching Fire: Hunger Games (Book 2) by Suzanne Collins without giving away what happens in the first book The Hunger Games. So, if you have NOT read The Hunger Games I urge you to look away now. (A review of The Hunger Games  is posted below.) …..

Okay, now that they have all left, we can talk about Catching Fire. I would just like to say “Oh My God!” If you thought the first book was awesome, this second installment in the series goes to a whole new level.

We start out with Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark who are trying to settle back into life after winning the Hunger Games. Katniss, her family, and Peeta have all moved to the ‘victors’ village’ in District 12, and are using their new wealth to try to improve the living conditions of the rest of District 12. Also, Katniss has to deal with the complication of her ‘romance’ with Peeta that contributed to their victory in the game and how that will affect her relationship with Gale, her long time friend and hunting partner.

At the end of the first book, we saw that Katniss’ defiance  in the incident with the berries did not make her any friends amongst the powers-that-be in The Capital. Now, in Catching Fire,  Katniss is made aware that her actions in The Games have stirred up rebellion in a number of the districts. She, and Peeta, have become a dangerous symbol for those opposed to the oppressive regime overseen by The Capital.  How will The Capital respond?

As I said before this book is actually even better than the first. It is action packed and fast paced. If you liked The Hunger Games even a little bit, you MUST read this book.

 

 

 

 

Lab Rat One- Andrea K Höst

Lab Rat One by Andrea K Höst is the second installment in the Touchstone trilogy. Followers of my blog will know how

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much I loved the first book, Stray. Well, this is BETTER. I think that because the first book dealt so much with Cassandra getting lost, and then finding her way on the alien world, this book was able to focus more on the day-to-day of her new life as the ‘useful stray’. It is a bit like how Star Wars was an awesome film, and then along came Empire Strikes Back. However, I would NOT advise reading this without having read the first book. Höst has created such a complete and detailed world with its own language, customs and idiosyncrasies, most of which were introduced and explained in the first book, and unlike many authors of series she DOES NOT explain things over and over from one book to the next. She assumes you know.

This book carries on from where the first book broke off. The Tarens with the aid of Cassandra have discovered their lost world of Muina and are in the process of settling the new city of ‘Pandora’ (a name chosen by our heroine). They have begun exploring with teams of scientists studying flora and fauna, while their archeologists  search for evidence of their ancestors and answers about the Pillars so that they might aid their own planet.

While this is happening Cass is settling into life with the black nanosuit wearing Setari (the flying ninjas) and developing strange new ‘talents’ . She is making friends, and falling in love. She has to deal with bullies and paparazzi as her existence becomes known outside the confides of KOTIS. Her special role in helping the Tarens find their old home make her of particular interest and curiosity.

As I said this book is FANTASTIC!!!! I found that when I got to the end I was devastated, because I wanted to know what would happen next, but I have to wait until the third and final installment is released. This series is great and I can’t wait to see how it ends.

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella- Stephenie Meyer

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Those of you who know me will be surprised that it has taken me this long to read this book. I am such an avid fan of all things Twilight that you would think I would have devoured it within hours of its release. But, I didn’t. I think that perhaps that I was worried that The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer wouldn’t live up to the high expectations of the series, and so ruin my overall love of the books. I am happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised.

Although not quite in the same league as the longer four books in the series, given that I did end up devouring this in a matter of hours is testament to the fact that I love how Meyer writes, and that its been too long since I last re-read the Twilight series.  However, I will say this, I doubt very much that anyone not already a fan of her work will read this and go “Ah! That’s what they’re all talking about”. In fact, the book does presuppose that the reader is familiar with at least the basic premise of the books.

Bree Tanner runs parallel with the last moments of Eclipse, the third book of the series. In characteristic Stephenie Meyer fashion, it is a first person perspective  of one the ‘newborn’ vampires that have been created by Victoria to kill Bella, thereby avenging her own mate James, who was killed by Edward in the first book.  However, Victoria (and subsequently her partner Riley) is not interested in the ‘newborns’ as anything other than pawns in her plan for revenge. The ‘newborns’ have been left ‘in the dark’ so to speak about the new life that they have been brought into, and so are unaware of exactly what the rules are, and what their abilities and limitations are. Through Bree’s eyes we see her, and her new-found paramour Diego (another vampire, a couple of months older than she) discover this world together.

As I said, I doubt that this will interest anyone not already into the Twlight phenomenon. But, if like me you have been hesitant because you were concerned it would be awful, I can tell you it is well worth getting hold of. Now, if we can just get her to finish Midnight Sun

The Hunger Games (Unabridged)- Suzanne Collins [Narrator: Carolyn McCormick]

Cover of "The Hunger Games"

Cover of The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, is the first of the Hunger Games Trilogy. It is a Young Adult, Sci-Fi thriller that keeps moving from beginning to end. I listened to this as an audio book, the first that I’ve listened to. I don’t think I could have found a better choice to try the medium. This book is awesome.

In a post-apocalyptic world, twelve districts are governed by The Capital. Some time ago the districts rose up in rebellion, against The Capital. The Capital ruthlessly crushed their rebellion, and ever since they have used every means at their disposal to keep the districts subjugated and cowered. (There were originally thirteen districts, but District 13 were completely annihilated.)Their most ingenious, and diabolical means of controlling the districts are through ‘The Hunger Games’.

Each year one boy and one girl, between the ages of twelve and eighteen, from each of the twelve districts are selected by way of a ballot to enter ‘The Games’ which is a Survivor style game, televised for the titillation of the people of the Capital. The winner of ‘The Games’, is the last competitor still alive.

The story is told by Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen year old girl, living with her mother and younger sister in ‘The Seem’, the most impoverished area of District 12. She has taken on the role of ‘bread-winner’ since her father died in the mines, doing all she can to keep her family fed. When her twelve-year-old  sister, Prim, is pulled out during ‘The Reaping’, Katniss volunteers to take her place.

As I said, this is fantastic. Apparently, the series is in the process of becoming the next big movie franchise, in the tradition of the Harry Potter and Twilight series. I can see that this (and I am assuming the two subsequent novels) will make terrific movies. I most definitely look forward to seeing them.

There is an enormous amount of hype around this book, and that is likely to increase prior to the film’s release. Sometime that can be off-putting, and suggestive of a less than satisfactory read. DO NOT be put off by the  hype. For once, the accolades and excitement around this book are thoroughly deserved.

Stray (Touchstone: Part 1)- Andrea Höst

  Stray (Touchstone: Part 1) by Andrea Höst is the first of a three-part Sci- Fi/YA series. It is written  in the form of a journal, and we follow the adventure of Cassandra, Cass to her friends, by never Cassie. Cass is a normal teenager in from Sydney, walking home from her HSC exams only to be suddenly, and inexplicably transported to a new world, Muina. She is in a strange world with only the contents of her school bag to keep her alive.  She manages to scratch together a meagre existence finding plants that she can eat, and even find ‘sheep’ she can shear with the help of her trusty scissors to make ‘blankets’.  But, then she is ‘rescued’ by people from a strange and technologically advanced planet, Tare. The Tarens her back with them, and she is designated as a ‘Stray’. Now, instead of basic ‘survival’ Cass must learn a whole new language and way of life, not knowing if she will ever make it home. Added to this is the fact that the Tarens soon discover that she is useful to them, so there is a question as to how much they are interested in helping her get home.

This book is excellent. One of the best Sci-Fi novels I’ve read in ages. Cassandra has a very dry sense of humour, that doesn’t leave her throughout her ordeal, but at the same time she experiences frustration, anger, fear and grief caused by her situation. The world that Höst has created is vivid and detailed. The fantastic creatures and the other worlds of ‘near-space’ are exciting and varied.

I have already started reading the second book in the series, and I’m looking forward to the third coming out soon.  For lovers of good quality Sci-Fi, or if you just like a good story this is for you.

Children of the Elementi- Ceri Clarke

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Children of the Elementi by Ceri Clarke is a good read in the Fantasy Genre.  We begin the story with the dramatic overthrow of the Elementi Empire. The Empire had been held together through the combination of the five most senior Elementi, who had dominion over the elements. These were fire, water, air and earth, with the fifth member being the High-King who had a little of all four elements and provided a means for all the elements to work in harmony together. However, unbeknown to those behind the overthrow, the offspring of each of the Elementi rulers were spirited away, to be called on to return the Empire to its peaceful, former glory.

This story got going straight away. I found that I was hooked almost immediately. The writing is fast passed and easy to get through. As an example of the genre, Children of the Elementi ticks all the right boxes.

If I had any criticism, it would be with the ending. The book isn’t very long, and while brevity isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in this case the conclusion does feel a little rushed. In other words I wanted more.

But otherwise this is a worthwhile novel, that will probably take a couple of hours to knock over.Definitely worth tracking down.

A Darkness at Sethanon- Raymond E Feist

The Riftwar Saga

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  A Darkness at Sethanon by Raymond E Feist is the third and final instalment of the Riftwar Saga. In it we have the final show down between Prince Arutha (aka The Lord of the West) and Murmandamus.

A year has passed since the Prince and his supporters defeated the Brotherhood of Darkness, and restored Princess Anita to full health. However, it is becoming evident that for the bad guys, that was simply a minor set back and that only defeat at an apparently pre-ordained time and place will decided the thing once and for all. The Prince, with some help from his friends manages to sneak out of Krondor and set off on his quest.

Meanwhile we catch-up with Pug who at the end of the previous was still in Kelewan, in search of help to defeat ‘The Enemy’, that he and the rest of the Assembly are convinced are ultimately behind the impending catastrophe set to befall the known (and unknown universe). After a year with the eldar cousins of the elves of Midkemia learning more about the nature of magic, he returns to his home world to team up with his childhood friend Tomas to search for Marcos the Black, a mission that will see them touring the universe on the back of a dragon learning more about themselves and coming to terms with their power.

The whole thing culminates in the final battle, that has been where we were headed all along.

If it sounds like I was underwhelmed by this book, that is true. After the first book, Magician, I was expecting much more.  Magician after all is one of the best, and most rich and complex examples of the fantasy genres that I have read in a long while. However, while this does what you expect, the quest, the magic, the ultimate battle at the end, it fails to do  much more than deliver the stock standard formula. The thing I loved most about the first book, was the incredible depth that was given the all the characters, and their relationships with each other. However, in this (and also in the second book), we rarely go much below the surface of any of the characters. Even the main characters have very little meat on them. As for the women, they are all but invisible, shunted off to some ‘safe’ corner of the story to be brought back at the end, when the blokes are finished saving the world, for a celebratory shag.

However, having said all that the book is okay, for what it is. Readers will be satisfied by the conclusion, with all the main threads tied up neatly. There is plenty in the way of action, blood and gore to keep things interesting and it isn’t an unpleasant way to pass the time.