Why I would never survive The Hunger Games

After yesterday's review of The Hunger Games, this pie chart seems particularly relevant.

via The Awl


The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I realize I am one of the last book bloggers to give in and read The Hunger Games. Let me be honest, a big part about why I picked up this book is because of its upcoming movie adaption. A lot of people are talking about it and after I watched the trailer I decided to give the book a shot. I don't normally incorporate the young adult genre into my reading diet, but I'm happy I gave it a try. The Hunger Games turned out to be a fun and entertaining read.

The dytopian novel follows Katniss Everdeen in the nation of Panem - an area that was once called North America. Kat finds herself volunteering as tribute for the Hunger Games, an annual battle where 24 children between the ages of twelve and eighteen fight to the death until one victor is left. While I felt the start of the novel was a bit slow, I became very interested in the novel once the battle began. I was enthralled with the details of Kat's survival tactics and strategies; I wanted to see her succeed. Collins does a fantastic job roping the reader in to this disturbing and violent world. (I should also mention she had me thinking about my own lack of survival skills/general outdoorsy-ness and the fact that I would never survive in the Hunger Games. I can't even watch the Outdoor Channel without wanting to cry.) Throughout the continuous action of the latter half of the novel I was really rooting for Kat. I did, however, have one gripe with the last 50 pages of the book. I felt like Collins did such a good job creating this dystopian world where struggling to survive is the utmost priority, and suddenly a love story is thrown into the mix. It seemed like Collins felt she had to incorporate a romantic angle and I could have done without it.

With that being said, I did have a lot of fun with this one and I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a little escapism in a novel they won't want to put down. I'm interested to find out what develops in the second novel and I'm really looking forward to the movie.

Publisher: Scholastic, 2008


The Postman Always Rings Twice by James Cain

The Postman Always Rings Twice is one of the first American classic crime noir novels. I probably wouldn't have picked this book up as soon as I did if it weren't for the Smooth Criminal challenge. I wouldn't say classic American crime is something I gravitate toward all that often, which is one of the main reasons I joined this challenge - to expand my reading horizons! Even though this was published in 1934, the novel reads like it could have been written within the last decade. Frank, a onetime criminal and longtime drifter, finds himself in a suburb of LA and takes a job at a roadside diner, on account of the Greek owner's knockout of a wife, Cora. (Even though she has dark hair, she's not Mexican you guys.) Frank and Cora are quickly drawn to each other and decide they must get rid of the "greasy" Greek in hopes of living happily ever after. What follows is a series of events that go from bad to worse. 

This book is known for its violence and eroticism, and was even banned in Boston upon its publication. I rather enjoyed the bits of sexual violence Cain included - they weren't over the top (by today's standards, anyway) but proved to be just enough to keep my interest piqued. And the end! Let's just say I was quite satisfied. The novel as a whole examines the animal instincts of man and the amoral nature of human kind.

From the beginning the title of this novel intrigued me and I was eager to find its reference within the text. I thought it may reference some sort of secret code between Frank and Cora, something that would help them to sneak around the Greek in the first half of the novel. To my disappointment, neither a postman nor a man ringing twice appears, or is even alluded to. After a quick google search I discovered there doesn't seem to be a definitive reason for the title. There are speculations that it referenced an actual murder case, but Cain apparently himself noted it came from a conversation he had with a screenwriter friend. 

I'm still not certain what exactly constitutes a book as noir, but having read a few I'm starting to get a better idea. Postman is a slim novel that I enjoyed reading. Overall the book is well-paced, brutal, and altogether thrilling. 

I read this book for the Smooth Criminals challenge, fulfilling a noir classic.

Publisher: Vintage, 1934


Another reading list

Last week on Book Riot Amanda admitted to slightly obsessive behavior regarding book lists, citing the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die, the MLA's 100 Best Novels, and, a new one to me, the Telegraph's 110 Best Books for the perfect library. Now, I'll admit I'm a fan of reading lists as well (though not to the degree of Amanda). Since I received the 1001 Books book two years ago for Christmas I've been using it to guide my reading choices here and there, keeping track of the dent I make in the list each year.

I was surprised I hadn't encountered the Telegraph's list so I took a closer look and decided it's definitely one to be followed. The best thing about this list it the width of genres it covers; classics, romantic fiction, poetry, children's books, sci-fi, and history to name a few. I'm happy Amanda brought this list to my attention because I've been trying to expand my reading to other genres than literary fiction and classics, and I'm thinking this list will be a good guide.

Below is the list that the Telegraph dubbed "the ultimate reading list". I've crossed out titles I've read, and italicized titles I have on my TBR and plan to read this year.

The Iliad and The Odyssey, Homer
The Barchester Chronicles, Anthony Trollope
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
War and Peace, Tolstoy
David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
Middlemarch, George Eliot

Sonnets, Shakespeare
Divine Comedy, Dante
Canterbury Tales, Chaucer
The Prelude, William Wordsworth
Odes, JohnKeats
The Waste Land, T. S. Eliot
Paradise Lost, John Milton
Songs of Innocence and Experience, William Blake
Collected Poems, W. B. Yeats
Collected Poems, Ted Hughes

The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
A la recherche du temps perdu, Proust
Ulysses, JamesJoyce
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
Sword of Honour trilogy, Evelyn Waugh
The Ballad of Peckham Rye, Muriel Spark
Rabbit series, John Updike (I've read the first book in the series)
One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
Beloved, ToniMorrison
The Human Stain, Philip Roth

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
Le Morte D'Arthur, Thomas Malory
Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Choderlos de Laclos
I, Claudius, Robert Graves
Alexander Trilogy, Mary Renault
Master and Commander, Patrick O'Brian
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Dr Zhivago, Boris Pasternak
Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
The Plantagenet Saga, Jean Plaidy

Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
The Lord of the Rings, J.R. R. Tolkien
His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
Babar, Jean deBrunhoff
The Railway Children, E. Nesbit
Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne
Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne
The Time Machine, H.G. Wells
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
1984, George Orwell
The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham
Foundation, Isaac Asimov
2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
Neuromancer, William Gibson

The Talented Mr Ripley, Patricia Highsmith
The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett
The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John le Carré
Red Dragon, Thomas Harris
Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Edgar Allan Poe
The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
Killshot, Elmore Leonard

Das Kapital, Karl Marx
The Rights of Man, Tom Paine
The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville
On War, Carlvon Clausewitz
The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli
Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes
On the Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud
On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin
L'Encyclopédie, Diderot, et al

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig
Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell
The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf
How to Cook, Delia Smith
A Year in Provence, Peter Mayle
A Child Called 'It', Dave Pelzer
Eats, Shoots and Leaves, Lynne Truss
Schott's Original Miscellany, Ben Schott

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon
A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Winston Churchill
A History of the Crusades, Steven Runciman
The Histories, Herodotus
The History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides
Seven Pillars of Wisdom, T. E. Lawrence
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Compiled at King Alfred's behest
A People's Tragedy, Orlando Figes
Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution, Simon Schama
The Origins of the Second World War, A.J.P. Taylor

Confessions, St Augustine
Lives of the Caesars, Suetonius
Lives of the Artists, Vasari
If This is a Man, Primo Levi
Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, Siegfried Sassoon
Eminent Victorians, Lytton Strachey
A Life of Charlotte Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell
Goodbye to All That, Robert Graves
The Life of Dr Johnson, Boswell
Diaries, AlanClark

As you can tell I've got a lot of reading to do. I've crossed out 20 of 110, which isn't stellar. Now, it's safe to say there are a few titles on this list that I probably won't ever read, (The Angle Saxon Chronicle, to name one) but I'll definitely be referencing this list when I want to read outside of my comfort zone.


The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child turned out to be a lovely, whimsical read and a perfect pick for the month of February. If you are looking for a book that is life-changing and earth-shattering, this is not your novel. But, if you want to immerse yourself in a story that will leave you gratified, this is it.

Mabel and Jack have recently moved to an Alaskan homestead in hopes of a simpler life. They are childless and begin to feel like something is missing in their relationship until the first snowfall of the season, when they venture outside laughing and playing, eventually building a snow child. She is complete with blonde hair, a knitted scarf, and matching wool mittens. The next morning the snow child is gone, but small footprints can be found from where she was built leading into the woods.

The Snow Child is inspired by a Russian fairy-tale of the same name. One of my favorite things about this book was the winter imagery. Ivey's picturesque winter landscape makes to want to move to a homestead in Alaska, far away from civilization so I can experience the pure beauty that this novel evokes. Considering I'm not really the outdoorsy type, that says a lot. It's clear that Ivey is quite familiar with snowy landscapes, as she was born and raised in Alaska. I also found it interesting that when the "snow child" speaks, her words are not marked by any quotation marks. This device lends itself to a further sense of mystery surrounding the child and an added since of delicacy and quietness. I felt that overall, the fantastical elements in this novel are subtle enough to feel like they just could be real.
Mabel was no longer sure of the child's age. She seemed both newly born and as old as the mountains, her eyes animated with unspoken thoughts, her face impassive. Here with the child in the trees, all things seemed possible and true.
As I mentioned above, this novel won't knock your socks off, but it is a sweet story. It is well-crafted and beautifully written, seamlessly pairing the realistic with the fantastical, the ethereal with the ragged. There is a strong since of place that permeates the entire novel so if you do read this novel, I urge you to read it in the winter months.

Eowyn Ivey is a bookseller in Alaska. This is her first novel.

Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books, 2012


Sh*t Book Reviewers Say

Ron Charles, a Washington Post book critic, compiled a video of key phrases used by book reviewers. This is funny stuff you guys. I dare you to watch this and not laugh.

Via Melville House


Some questions about reading, answered.

Image via Pretty Books

Red tagged me in this blogger meme and even though I'm not really going to follow all the rules, I wanted to take a minute to answer the questions she tagged to me. With all the talk about book on this blog I don't often take the time to get personal and talk about my life outside of my reading habits. (Ok fine 90% of these questions are about reading, but still!) So, a thanks to Alley at What Red Read for putting together this list of thoughtful questions. Here it goes:

1. What's your favorite bookish movie? (Movie based on a book, movie with literary tendencies, whatever)
Hands down Stranger Than Fiction staring Will Ferril. The movie isn't based on a novel, but the plot revolves around the idea that the main character, Harold Crick, is suddenly at the center of a novel. He can hear his life being narrated out loud and begins a quest to find out if his life is a trageity or a comedy. Tons of bookish fun in this one. Seriously you should watch the trailer here if you haven't seen the movie.

2. How often do you re-read books?

Not as often as I feel that I should. I've been reading a lot about rereading lately, here and there, and I'm really starting to understand its importance. I'm hoping to start incorporating more rereading into my reading diet, but it's tough for me because I think about all the books I haven't even read once yet and I'd like to make time for those too. Maybe I'll save rereading until I'm a little older...

3. What's your favorite reading spot?
In the summer I love to read outside on the patio. In the winter I like to read on my bed.

4. Which season is your favorite?
I enjoy Autumn more than any other season. There is something about the crisp air when the leaves start to fall that elates me. I enjoy putting on a light jacket after a hot winter and enjoying the cool air.

5. What's your profile picture?
Pictured on the right.

6. What's your ideal meal?
I'm a sucker for Mediterranean food. An ideal meal would be falafel, hummus, babaganoush, tabbouleh, roasted vegatables, anything with spinach and feta combined and a big fat side of tzatziki. I'm also an eggplant fanatic so anything with eggplant in it and I'm on it. Also pesto. I'm generally a fan of anything with pesto on it.

7. What's your guilty pleasure TV show, movie, book?
I am the first one to admit that when I do watch tv, it's trashy tv. I keep up with the Kardashians and the real housewives of most cities. I watch True Blood in the summer and reruns of Gilmore Girls year round. I also really like Pawn Stars on the history channel and Storage Wars on A&E.

8. How do you like to spend a rainy day?
Reading of course.

9. Do you have any good Tumblrs to recommend?
Why yes I do! I really enjoy the surge in Ryan Gosling tumblrs over the last year, and I'm a huge fan of Slaughterhouse 90210. I also like PrettyBooks and BookOasis if I'm looking for images of books and reading.

10. If you like to cook (or bake), what's your favorite thing to make?
I'm not a superstar in the kitchen, but if I do find myself there I enjoy making breakfast; spinach feta omelets, rosemary potatoes, eggs florentine, and arugula salads are my favorites.

11. Do you have a big TBR list? Or do you wait until you're done with your current book to buy (or borrow from the library) your next reads?
I keep a running list of books I'd like to buy. I consult it whenever I go book shopping. As far as the books I own that I haven't read, I've probably got about 40. I've been making an effort to buy fewer books and read more of the books I already own. Some weeks I do really well and others not so much. I'm not too worried about it though. I've heard of people who have thousands of unread books on the TBR pile. As long as I never get to that point I'm ok with a short stack of unread books.

Feel free to answer this set of questions on your own blog.