“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins (re-read)

I love it when I reread a book and enjoy as much as or more than the first time I read it. Such was the case with Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, which I first read back in 2012, when the first movie came out. Back then, a bookseller at a Barnes & Noble pushed the book in my hands and told me to read it. I did as soon as I bought it and couldn’t stop. I was so hooked.

This time, it was the movie that made me nostalgic and drove me to read it. I saw the movie while on vacation in Mexico – I think it was in Spanish – and when I got home, I grabbed the book and started to read it. Again, I was hooked and couldn’t part with the book for long. My dad saw me reading it and I learned a fun fact about him: The Hunger Games is one of his favorite movies. 🙂

Goodreads summary:

The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The ‘tributes’ are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.

When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature. (Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

I won’t share much since I’ve done a previous review on this novel when I first read it. I just have a few new thoughts that I’d like to share/record for my future self, who might wonder what were the new things I thought when I read The Hunger Games a second time.

Well, future self, the first thought was “I can’t believe this book has me hooked again!” and the last one was “I wonder if Cinna is short for Cinnabun.” I meant cinnamon there, but because I am hungry and thinking of something sweet while I write this review (it’s a cold Sunday morning…you know what’s up), my mind immediately jumped to cinnabun. You, of course, understand, future self. Anyway, my extra thoughts on the book. I’ll just list them.

  • I’m still upset that we don’t learn much about Peeta’s home life. This really bothered me when I read Catching Fire shortly after completing The Hunger Games back in 2012. We are given a few details and incidents, but I still want more.
  • I wonder what life is like for people in the Capitol. I think we are given more details in Catching Fire as well, but rereading The Hunger Games made me realize how much Katniss does not know. She’s just really lucky so far that her assumptions about what others are thinking and what is happening are all true. I guess it’s evident that Collins is a great storyteller since I’m not annoyed by the impossibility that a teenaged girl who has never before left her district and isn’t exposed to much beyond it knows so much about the dynamics of the Hunger Games and what and how the Gamemakers and people of the Capitol think.
  • I love Katniss, I really do, but I’m annoyed that she doesn’t give her mom and sister a chance to prove themselves or simply to show that they can do what’s needed to survive. I also don’t like it when the protagonist in a story uses someone else’s youth/innocence/weakness as a crutch for their motivation. In this, Katniss believes she was protect and preserve Prim’s innocence, which I don’t mind, but in using that as her drive, she sometimes renders Prim as a weak character. That makes me sorry for Prim. She doesn’t get a chance to stand out.
  • I did not like the Katniss – Peeta romance on my first read. I like how it’s used to dupe the Gamemakers and people of the Capitol, but I did not ship these two characters. I did not see Peeta as worthy of my Katniss. But now, my opinion has changed a little. You see, before I thought Katniss had no choice but to fall in love with Peeta because of her experience in the Hunger Games. The games pushed them together. Back then I thought her feelings weren’t true but she had no choice but to go where the narrative led. Now I realize that she probably loved Peeta before they entered the Hunger Games. She sees Peeta as a source of hope, quite like how people of the districts will look to her, because he made a sacrifice to help her and her family to survive.
    • I shipped Katniss and Gale on my first read. On this read, I noticed the little hints throughout that Gale is probably not the best guy for Katniss. He’s sometimes practical to the point of seeming heartless. He’s too stuck in his way of thinking (there’s a word for that but my mind doesn’t want to tell me what it is. Grr!! Bad mind).
    • I’d totally ship Katniss and Cinna; how old is Cinna, by the way?
    • Katniss by herself would be awesome too. I like the part where she gets angry with Peeta for saying in his interview that he has a crush on her. She thought that made her look weak, since she didn’t notice his crush.
  • My favorite parts:
    • Rue’s burial: I choke up every time… Well, this is the second time I’m reading the book, so I choked up twice and on both times my eyes filled themselves with tears. They like to do that at the most inconvenient times.
    • When District 11 sent the bread: I don’t remember if this scene meant much to me on my first read (I sped through the book then), but I loved this part because it’s an act of kindness and rebellion and sacrifice and recompense all in one. I teared up here too; my eyes sure love to spill their tears for this book.
Overall: ★★★★★

I loved it; it’s one of my favorite books; and it was just as great as on my first read. Also, this is one of few, or maybe the only, YA novel with a sort of love triangle that I don’t mind.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

Yes! You should own a copy too.

P.S.: I’m definitely going to reread Catching Fire as well.

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“Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing was the best book I read this year. I’ve procrastinated on writing about it because I felt intimidated by all the emotions I felt and thoughts I thought while reading the novel. I want to share them all, but I don’t know how to express them. I wish I could just utter a sound, a single cry, that encompasses all I want to convey about how I felt while I read Homegoing. I think that would be the best way to communicate how the book made me feel.

“And in my village we have a saying about separated sisters. They are like a woman and her reflection, doomed to stay on opposite sides of the pond.”

Goodreads summary:

Ghana, eighteenth century: two half sisters are born into different villages, each unaware of the other. One will marry an Englishman and lead a life of comfort in the palatial rooms of the Cape Coast Castle. The other will be captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the very same castle, and sold into slavery.

Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation. (Goodreads)

My thoughts:

Although Homegoing is a novel, I see it more as a short story collection. I think it’s the first novel I’ve read in which each chapter focuses on and is told from a different narrator, never returning to the same character perspective again. When I learned of this in reviews I read, I thought it would make for a confusing reading experience. But such wasn’t the case and I was glad that the plot was easy to follow and understand.

The story starts in Ghana and we follow the lives of two half sisters who were born in different villages, thus showing two possible paths that led to African descendants of today. One sister marries an English man who trades slaves, and her son becomes a village chief. Her progeny largely stays on the African continent on the Ivory Coast and we experience some of West African history through them. However her sister was enslaved, locked in the bowels of Cape Coast Castle, where her half sister lived unwittingly with an English man, and shipped to America to work the fields in the South. This sister’s progeny largely stays on the North American continent and we experience some of African American history through them. This tracing of Black history through the experiences of the characters is the main reason why I love this novel so much.

I guess the term for such a novel is family saga since the story stretches over several generations and focuses on the experiences of several family members. But unlike the family sagas I’ve often heard of that carry hefty page counts, Gyasi wraps up these histories, these stories, in just 300 pages. She makes it seem effortless. The story flows smoothly despite the changes in narrator, her prose is beautiful and made me highlight long passages just for the descriptions and sometimes exchanges between characters, and her storytelling is absolutely fantastic and held me spellbound. To me, there was a folklore quality to it, which made me love it even more. The thing with folklores, for me, is that it entertains and teaches while enchanting the reader, and Gyasi certainly does that in Homegoing.

“TimTam laughed, a sound that rumbled like thunder built from the cloud of his gut and expelled through the sky of his mouth.”

For me, Homegoing is a modern classic. It’s a novel I think people will continue to read and one I think should be taught in schools. It’s a story I’ve experienced and will continue in my future. Gyasi is now one of my favorite authors. I will read whatever it is she writes next. And Homegoing is now one of my all-time favorite novels. I will return to it again and again until its cover is as worn as those of my favorite novels on my bookshelves. I’m glad Gyasi wrote this and am glad I read it.

Overall: ★★★★★

Of course, 5 stars. It was fantastic. It is a classic. All should read it.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

Definitely get yourself a copy.

P.S.: Maybe it was just Gyasi’s writing and storytelling why I liked this novel structure and type, but I would like to read more family sagas. I think I might like them. I did a quick Google search for family sagas and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez popped up, which is also one of my favorite classics. So yea, I think I might like them a lot.

Quotes from the novel:

“…a story was nothing more than a lie you got away with.”

“There should be no room in your life for regret. If in the moment of doing you felt clarity, you felt certainty, then why feel regret later?”

“History is Storytelling.”

“Evil begets evil. It grows. It transmutes, so that sometimes you cannot see that the evil in the world began as the evil in your own home.”

“No one forgets that they were once captive, even if they are now free. But still, Yaw, you have to let yourself be free.”

“It was the way most people lived their lives, on upper levels, not stopping to peer underneath.”

“She wanted to tell Mrs. Pinkston that at home, they had a different word for African Americans. Akata. That akata people were different from Ghanaians, too long gone from the mother continent to continue calling it the mother continent. She wanted to tell Mrs. Pinkston that she could feel herself being pulled away too, almost akata, too long gone from Ghana to be Ghanaian.” (My experience in a few sentences. – Z)

Weekend Reads #78: Journaling

Weekend Reads is a weekly post in which I discuss a variety of topics and mention the books I plan to read on the weekend.

This weekend’s topic:

Do you keep a journal?

Since moving back in with my parents, every year on New Year’s Day I wake early in the morning, grab a writing utensil (pen and paper or my laptop) and write everything I can remember about the previous year: events, thoughts, emotions, people I met. I spend the first half of the day doing this. Writing from the wee hours in the morning into the late afternoon, nonstop. Meanwhile, my parents, and sometimes my brother, attend church because, we’re often told, that’s the best way to bring in the new year — in communion with God. I’m often called variations of “heathen” for not attending and it’s been insinuated that I’ve turned away from my religion. But I wonder if my journaling is a sort of communion with this higher power.

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“The Shining” by Stephen King

Maan!! This book.

I forgot why I picked it up to read a couple months ago, but gosh, it was so good I was hooked the entire time. My plan is to read King’s books in publication order so since I’ve already read Carrie (sucks) and ‘Salem’s Lot (pretty good), this was next and I was blown away.

I did a stupid thing after reading this, though. I went to a hotel. WHY did I do that? It was for work, but I was so creeped out when walking down corridors and going into the bathroom. I should have waited until after the work trip to read this book.

“This inhuman place makes human monsters.”

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Top 5 Wednesday #22: A Total Bookish Grinch

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme created by GingerReadsLainey and now managed by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. For more information on this meme, visit the Goodreads group.

This week’s topic:

Bookish things you’re a Grinch about

Okay, confession time: I’ve never read the Dr. Seuss story that this post is inspired by, nor have I seen the movie. I always plan to but never got around to it.

The point of the topic is to discuss our petty bookish pet-peeves and I definitely have a few. Starting with:

Don’t touch my books.

If I don’t know you or didn’t invite you to take a look at my personal library, then I don’t want your grubby hands all over my damn books.

Don’t. Touch. Them.

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Tough Travels #7 & #8: Minions & Mentors

I fully intended to do a Tough Travels post last month and the month before that, but time got away from me so I didn’t get a chance to sit down to it. But, as the saying goes, better late than never. Here are the Tough Travels posts I’ve since missed.

Tough Travels is a monthly meme that recommends fantasy books based on tropes, themes, and clichés cited in Diana Wynne Jones’s The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. The meme was created by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn and is now hosted by Fantasy Faction. (The meme will move to the Fantasy Hive in January.)

Since I haven’t read many fantasy books, I instead create my list at the end of the month, after reading everyone else’s, and include recommendations from them that are interesting to me. However, I now realize that not as many bloggers participated for these topics, so I’ll have to get creative about finding recommendations.

October’s theme:

Minions

Minions of the DARK LORD can be male or female, though he tends to favour males (who seem to be more susceptible to the Evil One’s wiles). They can take many forms: BAD KINGS, ENCHANTRESSES, HIGH PRIESTS, EUNUCHS, DUKES, REGENTS or WITCHES. Additionally, there are the non-human minions, such as ORCS, TROLLS, GOBLINS and random OTHER PEOPLES . . . not to mention MUTANT NASTIES, carefully selected MONSTERS, UNDEAD, and DEMONS.

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Book Haul #41: No Excuses

I have no excuses for the following book haul, except that the majority of items are e-books. Yo, those e-book sales are making my trigger-buy finger very happy. I just can’t help myself when I see them, which is odd because I don’t even like to read e-books. Chances are I’ll probably get physical copies of the ones I really like since the e-books were so cheap. I think the most expensive one was about $3.99, or something.

Quick note: All book titles are linked to their Goodreads page, since I don’t give much of a synopsis for some of them.

ARCs

Some of these you may have seen already in my Winter 2017 TBR.

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