Tuesday Book Review: The Hunger Games

Well, I didn’t get any recommendations after my last book review.

Although Mom did inform me that she wrote her high school senior thesis on East of Eden.

I’m thinking that no one writes their senior thesis on The Hunger Games. Actually, I take that back – I’m sure that in my old high school alone, dozens of kids have written their thesis on The Hunger Games in the past few years. I hope their teachers are trying to make them write about John Steinbeck instead.

But let me back up, because I’m making it sound like I hated this book. Quite the opposite: I can’t wait to read Catching Fire.

I know that I’m late to the party. I was late to the vampire party, too. And the quidditch party. And I’m holding out on that shades of grey party for as long as I possibly can.

And that’s exactly why it’s 2012 and I’m reading The Hunger Games for the first time: I’ve been holding out. It’s very similar to what I did with the Twilight books, except that I never intended to read Twilight. But then I was driven to distraction alone in Nate’s apartment during my first week in Utah, having already finished every other book on his roommate’s shelf, and finally picked up Twilight. Oh well, I thought, it will keep me entertained. And did it EVER. I spent the next few weeks plowing through all four books, wondering why I had looked down my nose at them for so long.

I read The Hunger Games in exactly 5 elliptical sessions plus one session of eating 3 pieces of cake. Typical.

If you’re one of the last people on earth to read this book, let me tell you the premise: It is set in a somewhat post-apocalyptic America, call Panem, where every year a boy and a girl from each district are chosen by lottery to fight to the death with teenagers from the other districts. Katniss Everdeen, the main character, volunteers for the Hunger Games in place of her younger sister, whose number is drawn. Being a small and underfed girl, she is at a disadvantage against better-fed teenagers from other districts who have trained for the Games their whole lives. The book chronicles her fight, with many nail-biting moments, a love triangle, cliff-hanging chapter endings, and everything else you would expect from this type of preteen drama.

I once heard this type of fantasy novel described as a world that makes you want to buy real estate. And that’s exactly how The Hunger Games is. Suzanne Collins builds a world that hooks you in and keeps you turning the page. It’s the literary equivalent of “Call Me Maybe” – it may not be a masterpiece in the traditional sense of the word, but you can’t help but love it, and you have to admire the talent that could come up with something so catchy.

So that’s my deep reflection on The Hunger Games. It’s a guilty pleasure read that I  thoroughly enjoyed. If you’re like I was and think it’s not worth reading, think again. Serve yourself 3 pieces of cake and get into it!

Tuesday Book Review: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

I love books. As a kid, I fantasized about Laura and Mary Ingalls suddenly turning up in the Boston suburbs. In college, I got a talking-to at work for reading on the job (I think it was Harry Potter). And now, I’m the girl who reads Dickens on the elliptical. Welcome to my nerdy life!

I’ve been meaning to start posting short book reviews here – not fifth-grade-style book reports, just my thoughts on what I’ve been reading lately. I have a loooong to-read list (surpassed only by my to-cook and to-bake lists!), and I love sharing book recommendations almost as much as recipes. So can I tell you about what I just finished reading?

It was John Steinbeck’s 1952 novel East of Eden, and I loved it. I was hesitant to pick up this book, even though it was rated highly on GoodReads, because I remember Steinbeck, frankly, as very boring. When I think back to Grapes of Wrath, I just remember dryness, associated as much with the writing as the setting. That’s probably unfair, and I bet if I picked up Grapes of Wrath or Of Mice and Men again, I’d enjoy them much more than I did in high school English class. Anyway, suffice it to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how un-dry East of Eden was.

This story, set at the turn of the century in California’s Salinas Valley, tells the story of two generations of the Trask family cursed to relive the fate of Cain and Able again and again. The characters are deep and fascinating, and I couldn’t help but be drawn to even the most unlikeable of them. Steinbeck’s prose is beautiful, and I loved the descriptions that really captured the texture of life in the Salinas Valley. The story is loosely based on the book of Genesis, but you don’t need to be familiar with the Bible to understand the plot or themes.

Disclaimer: I love long novels. I’m not sure how many pages this one was, because I read it on my Kindle, but it was not a quick read! That was lucky for me, because I had a long bus ride to and from Vegas last weekend :) And in general, I just love epic novels that build up a world you can get lost in. When I finally put one down, that world is gone, and I feel like a friendship has ended! If that’s your style too, I would definitely recommend East of Eden. And even if you’re just looking for a beautiful and entertaining story, I highly recommend picking this up.

What should I read next?

(Sidenote: Go vote if you haven’t yet!)

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