Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Girl Who Was On Fire

It probably took me ten or so pages to absolutely fall in love with the Hunger Games a couple of years ago. I devoured the first book, then held off on reading Catching Fire because I had heard it ended with a cliffhanger, and I don't have a good track record with unfinished series. But the pull was too great, and I dove into book 2 well before Mockingjay came out. And you better believe book 3 was waiting on my doorstep the day it came out.

I routinely try to push the series on readers who come into the bookstore, even one older woman, who was going on vacation and seemed to like everything else I suggested for her. When parents say it sounds too scary or gory (I have a whole rant on this, believe me), I assure them that the themes of the book are much larger than gore, and that I think the whole series (really, the third book, but you can't get there without the previous two) will be taught in schools one day. Most of them don't believe me and choose books for their kids that are "safe." But I digress.

I have been a big fan of the types of books that look at pop culture through a more academic lens (The Simpsons and Philosophy was the textbook for a class I taught in college about our favorite yellow family and American society). So when I heard that there would be a Hunger Games equivalent, I couldn't wait to read it.

The Girl Who Was on Fire is not another Steig Larsson book, but it is a dive into the world of Panem and the Hunger Games. The assorted essays from authors of all sorts and edited by Leah Wilson touch on the topics of reality TV, politics, the science behind the muttations, why the Capitol should have realized that Katniss might not be the best person to act as Tribute, and a variety of others.

My two favorite essays are "Bent, Shattered, and Mended" by Blythe Woolston and "Team Katniss" by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Woolston examines the instances of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) throughout the series and shows how the events in Panem affected the characters in different ways. Barnes creatively turns our society's willingness to turn books like this into battles between the love interests (Team Gale vs Team Peeta) into a look at why Katniss' pick of a partner has less to do with who she loves and more to do with her discovering who she really is.

Some of the book is repetitive, but that's always true of compilations in which the authors don't necessarily know what the others are writing about. If you were left unhappy by Mockingjay like so many people were (I was not among that group), this book might help resolve some of your issues by helping you see why certain events actually made sense (the PTSD chapter was particularly helpful in this, I feel).

4/5 Stars

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A resurrection, a rejuvination, a resurgence, a renaissance, a return, a regeneration; or, too much time spent looking at the thesaurus

This blog has laid dormant for quite a while, and now seems as good a time as any to bring it back to life. When I first started Consider the Daffodil in 2008, I was deep in the middle of working full-time and going to school nights for my masters degree in Library Science. That quickly turned into no work but full-time school, and why I thought I could keep writing about books I read, I'll never understand. I started using it as an excuse not to do my class reading, and so I let the blog fall to the wayside.

Now, though, almost two years post-grad school, I've found myself in a situation that leads pretty perfectly to a book blog. Right out of school, I didn't get a fancy library or archives job like I had hoped; in fact, I struggled for over a year to get anything, even a retail job. A recession is the perfect time to graduate, right? I'm slightly more on track now, with a job at a local historical house (archival work included, although its mostly administrative) and a job at a Boston-area independent bookstore.

This bookstore, to put it lightly, is eccentric. Books seem to be placed randomly, although there really is a system in place (I promise). During my first few weeks there, I was certain I would never be able to locate books for customers, and now I'm able to fly to a shelf before they've even finished telling me what the book is. If you live near Boston, you know the store I'm talking about - feel free to stop in and say hi.

One of the most frequent questions posed to me by my coworkers in the first few weeks at the store was "So what do you read?" They meant it less in a get-to-know-you way and more so they could better understand how I could be useful around the shop. I mentioned sci-fi and fantasy and graphic novels, all things which are fairly under-read amongst the staff. And then I mentioned Young Adult - the Hunger Games, to be specific. Apparently no one in the store read YA, so in a matter of minutes, I found myself the defacto YA bookseller. Since then, I have had YA advanced readers heaped upon me, and these have formed unwieldy, unstable stacks next to my bed.

My friend Erin and I recently started a small YA book club as well, so YA books seem to be raining from the sky. Only two meetings in, we have a small but fairly vocal group.

As a side note, I've recently started listening the to Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast, which deals predominantly with science fiction, although it touches on other genres as well. This, in turn, has led me to listen to Pseudopod, Pod Castle, and Escape Pod, all genre short story podcasts. Many times, the hosts of Geek's Guide will refer to classics in the world of science fiction, and although I read tons (and I mean tons) of sci-fi in middle school and high school, I'm finding gaps in my education. So if random old genre novels show up on here, don't be surprised.