renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
[personal profile] renay
a large black winged person flying through the sky among floating islands

Moon has spent his life hiding what he is — a shape-shifter able to transform himself into a winged creature of flight. An orphan with only vague memories of his own kind, Moon tries to fit in among the tribes of his river valley, with mixed success. Just as Moon is once again cast out by his adopted tribe, he discovers a shape-shifter like himself... someone who seems to know exactly what he is, who promises that Moon will be welcomed into his community. What this stranger doesn't tell Moon is that his presence will tip the balance of power... that his extraordinary lineage is crucial to the colony's survival... and that his people face extinction at the hands of the dreaded Fell! Now Moon must overcome a lifetime of conditioning in order to save himself... and his newfound kin. (source)

I have a weird relationship with this novel, which began last year, when everyone (and I mean, it felt like everyone) was telling the world this book had to be read now. Run, don't walk! to the store to get your copy BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE1. The fervor over this title led me to it last year, predictably months behind everyone else. I picked it up in March and promptly failed out.

Don't worry, there's a happy ending here. Read more... )
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
[personal profile] renay
plain white and gray cover featuring a girl in a green dress pressing against a glass bubble she's encased within

Matched by Ally Condie: Cassia trusts the Society to make good decisions for her: what to eat, what to read, how to care for herself and who, ultimately, she should love and marry. When the Society matches her with Xander, a childhood friend, she's sure that he is her ideal match. She feels lucky to know her Match. Later, she attempts to learn more about Xander, and instead of seeing his face on her screen she sees the face of Ky Markham, a boy on the edges of her social group. The Society tells her this is an isolated incident, a breakdown in the system, and to focus on her future with Xander. Unfortunately, spurred on by doubts laid by her grandfather and her own curiosity about Ky, Cassia can't help but wonder about paths she might take without the Society to guide her way. She can't help but wonder about a future, not with Xander, but with Ky. She can't help but wonder about a future with the luxury of choice.

The farther away from this story I get, the more I am torn. There should be a word for a book that is both predictable and pedestrian, and yet somehow still compelling. I picked it up on a whim at the library when they didn't have Under the Never Sky (HEARTBREAKING), remembering that there was some kerfuffle about it and some other similar book, plus that it had sold for some ridiculous amount of money and I wanted to know what in the world publishers were throwing their money at these days.Read more... )
renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
[personal profile] renay
cover of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins with a golden bird inside a golden circle on a black background

The Hunger Games. Surely everyone knows this series by now, what with the buzz about the books and the upcoming movie fronted by an Oscar nominee. In the remains of the former United States, a new country, Panem, has risen, oppressive and cruel, ruling over their 12 Districts, controlling them with the yearly Hunger Games. Two tributes from each District, all pitted against each other. Only one person can survive. Well. Sort of.

It's Battle Royale for a western audience, basically, with less bloody violence — seriously, the violence in THG is so tame — and rape commentary. It's odd that the rape commentary is what I remember most from Battle Royale and the thing I was most relieved not to see, although there's still awesome sexual skeeviness that generally goes unremarked. Rad!

I read this book a few years ago. Of course, when I did my city was in the middle of the worst ice storms in years, we were out of power for three days and I was freezing and grumpy. Also, I had just finished Battle Royale and was wigging out about how terrifyingly awesome it was even with a shaky translation. It was not the best time to read The Hunger Games. There was no way I was going to give it a fair shake under than hostile and extremely chilly circumstances. When we discussed this week, I thought it would be the perfect time to give it another shot! Dsytopia for the win! A fresh start, a new chance!

Except distance, as they say, did not make my heart grow any fonder.

Before I get into the plot and the characters at all, I have to boggle over the writing. Which grew really long and personal so have a cut hiding the Wall of Text )

I liked the story itself, especially since I spent most of the book rewriting it in my head to be more interesting. It's a plot that can interest me, after all. I like Evil Empires and the characters who take them down, so I consider myself pretty easy. This time around, I decided to not let it bother me that Collins coded the ending of the book with a love triangle where one side was absent for most of the novel and only cropped up when it was convenient. Seriously, YA, what is it with the love triangles? What it is with the heterosexual love triangles, even, I might even take them with a little variety. I knew what was going to happen, and I thought, "well, if I just let that go maybe the rest will be okay!". But it wasn't okay.

I found myself weirdly sidetracked by the characterization of almost all the female characters. In a Surprise Twist™, the Dead Father is golden and the mother, surprisingly, is useless. I see this is other types of fantasy, too. The mother is downplayed. Maybe she dies or leaves. Father is alive and he's moving the plot along. Or maybe the father dies, and the mother remains, but she doesn't do anything but sit there like a lump while the protagonist calls up fond memories to get them through the hard times.

Other female characters are treated badly, too. Katniss often critiques their looks and behavior in offensive ways or the book frames them in really problematic ways. In the opening chapters before the game, we meet several female characters, and all the adult women are worn down, bony, have super awesome gross nicknames marking them out (crones) or are actually called witches or otherwise shown to be evil and no-good. Attractive women are judged for clearly "working for" the attractiveness. The one man like this is very flamboyant. Boy, where have I seen that before?

It's very strange and it hit me the wrong way all through the beginning of the book and into the story once we leave District 12. I also found it very weird how many of the women were useless, evil, "bad", or ditzy — while the men were expert hunters, kind and generous and thoughtful, or a special snowflake dead father who imparted wisdom. Unless they were flamboyant. Then they were probably gay, and therefore like women, and therefore catty and shallow.

There is a problem with this picture. This is pretty much where the book lost me.

It's not kind to its female characters. Katniss manages to be a good character and fairs pretty well, except she's given male traits, a male role in her life, numerous male role models, and for all intents in purposes is a man (she even looks different than her other family members, marking her out). Unless she needs to be cute and young and innocent (which she does later). She is terrible at emotions, and several times in the text she rejects the role of "nurse" — typically a female role — even as she goes through the motions. I'm sorry, but I expect a little more than this. I've talked about this before, where a female character is assigned a traditional male role, a traditional male attitude, and considered to be spunky and badass. But you gain that by them being someone emotionally stunted, and Katniss's problems manifested in her trust issues and failure to recognize her own emotions and be led around by the metaphorical nose when it came to heart issues. So you can have a strong woman, physically, but she has to be an emotional dimwit to offset all the awesome.

I don't find that cool or subversive. I find that predicable, boring and ignorant.

There's no suspense. Everything in the novel is handed to us on a platter. Yes, easy reads are one thing, but the level of telling is obscene. Even the premise — the games themselves — fail as a tool of suspense, because so much of it is off-screen, bumped for a ham-handed, sexually exploitative romance that was never really dissected in the text.

All in all, I get why these books shot to super stardom. It's easy to see, because they are easy to gobble up, popcorn-style, and I like books like that. Think they're totally fine. But when they come paired with what I think are really problematic characterizations, I just pop out and can't get back in again. My first reading of this book was not wrong: it's just not that good if you try to critique the text.

Here is what I said last time I read this book and I find it still applies:

The Hunger Games is too busy shacking up its main characters. Theme? it asks. Here, Katniss, make out with your competition for some drama as men (don't think I missed that) steer you into appropriate sexual behavior that will get you rewarded. Is that actual critique of our reality-obsessed based entertainment, that the big corporate sponsors (men, in the form of Haymitch) bully and entrap people (girls) into doing stuff that maybe isn't so smart for fun times for other people? Maybe the whole thing works as a critique of something. Maybe I'm not the audience. Maybe I am a big old bummer who wants to dislike everything popular!

I don't know if I'll be reading the second and third books. Friends want me to, and I might do so just for comparison's sake: to see if Collins manages to mature in her writing, to see the resolution of all the obvious hint-drops in the book, to watch the (vomit) love triangle play out in a horrible way just for my own personal pleasure. TAKE THAT, YA GEOMETRY.

Lady business: big old bag of bile.
Minority report: there were a few (don't look here for GLBTQ reps), but the body count was high in this one, captain.
Ink notes: I've read fanfiction better than this. In fact, I bet the fandom for this book writes better than the author.
Shelf impact: themed, carried off nicely. Possibly the best thing about the book.
Final thoughts:

photo of bear with arms out with text reading How About No

Other reviews: Iris On Books, The Literary Omnivore, 1330v, Bibliotropic, yours?


Lady Business welcome badge

Pitch Us!
Review Policy
Comment Policy
Writers We Like!
Contact Us

tumblr icon twitter icon syndication icon

image asking viewer to support Lady Business on Patreon

Who We Are

Ira is an illustrator and gamer who decided that disagreeing with everyone would be a good way to spend their time on the internet. more? » twitter icon tumblr icon AO3 icon

By day Jodie is currently living the dream as a bookseller for a major British chain of book shops. She has no desire to go back to working in the real world. more? » tumblr icon icon

KJ KJ is an underemployed librarian, lifelong reader, and more recently an avid gamer. more? » twitter icon tumblr icon AO3 icon

Renay writes for Lady Business and co-hosts Fangirl Happy Hour, a pop culture media show that includes a lot yelling about the love lives of fictional characters. Enjoys puns. more? » twitter icon pinboard icon tumblr icon

Susan is a library assistant who uses her insider access to keep her shelves and to-read list permanently over-flowing. more? » twitter icon pinboard icon AO3 icon


Book Review Index
Film Review Index
Television Review Index
Game Review Index
Non-Review Index
We Want It!
Fanwork Recs
all content by tags

Our Projects

hugo award recs

Criticism & Debate

Indeed, we do have a comment policy.

What's with your subtitle?

It's a riff off an extremely obscure meme only Tom Hardy and Myspace fans will appreciate.

hugo award winner
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios