Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Update: The Awakening

by K.A. Lewis

After a two week wait on the library, serious mp3 player angst followed by miraculous mp3 player redemption, "The Awakening" is in my possession and fit to be read (or read to me, as the case may be).  How is everyone (anyone?) else doing on this title?  If you had any doubts before I am here to assure you: you are not behind in this here club. 

There has been a request for a book discussion by live chat to compliment our face-to-face meeting, which sounds swell, I think.  With that in mind, please consider and possibly post restrictions or suggestions you may have regarding your availability to cozy up in an online chatroom for one of our upcoming club meetings.  I am very excited about extending the reach of our real-time discussions with the oft-overlooked non-Nevadan point of view.   

Monday, September 13, 2010

What We Are Reading Now: The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

by K.A. Lewis

For our next read we've settled on a novel that is a world apart from the dystopian future of The Hunger Games: The Awakening by Kate Chopin.  I, for one, am still waiting for my audio version from the library, so there is plenty of time to for you to locate this book and plunge into The Club.  Can't wait to hear your insights and impressions of this before-its-time classic!

Wrapping It Up With Mockingjay

by K.A. Lewis

This post has moved from the realm of timely to overdue; it is high time to tie up our thoughts about Mockingjay and The Hunger Games series.  (Mockingjay spoilers ahead, so stop here if you are still a-readin'.)

First, how did you like it?  Were you surprised/disappointed/satisfied by the ending?  I found myself so happy that Katniss, Peeta, and Gale survived that my initial reaction was joy and relief.  There was discussion at the Book Club Meeting last week about the smallish attention to detail payed to Katniss and Peeta's reunion in the finale, like it was an afterthought.  It is an ending that extends the novel's focus from that of a relationship in war time, to the horrors of war and how it affects relationships.  Another popular idea at the meeting was that the evolution of Peeta's love for Katniss to its final form turned it from teenage girl-on-a-pedestal ardor into something more lasting and sustainable; in the end Peeta and Katniss find real love (idea credit: Yuliya).  They can rebuild their devastatingly damaged lives together as partners: equals, each with a intimate understanding of the other's weakness, strength and pain.  

Concerning those who didn't survive, my fellow book clubbers and I were most disappointed about Finnick.  It wasn't just that he didn't get the happy ending we hoped for him, it was that we lost him so quickly, without incident or time to mourn.  He was too rad a character to meet such a swift end.  Prim's sacrifice, in contrast, was probably inevitable.  The entire horrid adventure began in an attempt to save her, and as the story came full circle the futility of this singular mission was sure to be realized.  The loss of Prim and questions surrounding it were fundamental in Katniss' terminal break of faith with President Coin as well as recognition of the impassible divide between her values and Rebel Gale's.  I'm not sure she would have achieved the understanding or courage to assassinate President Coin if she wasn't so emotionally destitute, a triumphant act that led to my very favorite scene: desperate Peeta putting himself between her biting mouth and the poisonous nightlock capsules because he just can't stand to let her die, even in light of a bleak and unknown future.  That is when I knew Dear Brave Peeta was back.

In the end, I found Mockingjay and the rest of the series such a clever execution of timeless themes (war, oppression, love, etc.) that I think it is worthwhile as a story of ideas in addition to entertainment.  Yes, The Hunger Games is like methamphetamine for readers: while under the influence one is likely to neglect the demands of daily life in favor of the drug ... you just gotta have One More Hit.  But amid the relentless onslaught of cliffhangers, war games, and propaganda machines are simple human dilemmas, from the personal (e.g. loyalty) to the public (e.g. poverty).  I enjoyed the Hunger Games series very much, and believe I will still recommend it in 10 years as a novel of substance, especially because that content is delivered in my very favorite form: just like crack.           

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Our Girl Katniss is En Fuego

by K.A. Lewis


As I happen to know that discussions of Catching Fire and the like are happening among you, dear readers, away from the wide world of the web, I feel it is important to throw together a new post now so that you can publish your crafty Hunger Games notions right here for all to see.  I'll stick to Catching Fire, but be aware that Mockingjay spoilers could easily creep into the comments.  A thorough discussion of the big finale is planned for our First Book Club Meeting (Whoop!): Tuesday, September 7, 6:30 P.M. at the Reno Barnes & Nobel.  I think it is safe to assume we'll be near the coffee and cookies.  If you cannot be present at the meeting, fear not!  I will post a Mockingjay discussion too.  We will all have plenty to say; I'm sure of it.

I was as surprised as Katniss to learn that she was heading back into the arena for another Hunger Games in the Quarter Quell.  "The Games" are such a dynamite premise that revisiting and reinventing them should maybe have been assumed, but to find our dear protagonists officially back in the Capitol's clutches was for me a shocking and delightful plot twist.  What are your thoughts on the evolving symbolism of The Games, both from the perspective of the Capitol and Districts?  The Capitol is pushing their literal and symbolic power with the 3rd Quarter Quell rules in an attempt to smother the "Girl On Fire" spark, but they just might make the whole thing crack under the pressure.  Putting the victor tributes back in the arena seems a serious but believable blunder.  Here is a governing body so sure of its ultimate efficacy that it thinks it best to bring together and then broadcast the death exploits of a dearly loved group of people: men and women who have long ago proven their cunning, who absolutely despise their leaders, and who have almost nothing to lose.  What I liked best about the action leading up to and during the games in Catching Fire was the building of alliances between clever, nearly-naked winners.  I devoured the hints that so many were on a team revolving around Katniss and Peeta at the unknowing center.  Clearly it is crucial to the developing plot that we, the readers, have no more than a hunch that the other tributes (and even the Head Game Maker) hold a vested interest in keeping Katniss alive: that a much larger rebellion is underfoot.  So what about the reasons given for keeping Katniss and Peeta in the dark until the very end?  Haymitch and Plutarch Heavensbee explain that they couldn't risk telling them, that the less they knew the better since when the force-field blew they would be first to be captured.  I feel this logic has some holes, and that our narrator's lack of knowledge is more a literary device than key plot point ... maybe.  It does serve to clue Katniss in to her role as yet another piece in yet another game, not a Hunger Games this time but a Rebellion: a televised war.  

Prim remains a shadow of a character in this book, but Katniss' nameless mother and Haymitch Abernathy are developed in interesting ways as their relationship with Katniss deepens.  We gain a more detailed picture of just how damaged these two adults are, and can't help but wonder if their feeble stumbling through what is left of their lives is where Katniss, with her debilitating nightmares and mad fits, is headed.  We get more Gale too and at one point, when he is near death and finally vulnerable, Katniss even declares she has chosen him.  She ends up with Peeta again, however, in a life-and-death, albeit chaste, bond.  Katniss is if nothing else consistent in that she repeatedly chooses to align herself with the weakest and most susceptible around her.  The boy that holds her attention is he who needs saving, and the victors she wants on her team are the oldest and oddest of the bunch.

What strikes you about the original and new characters: what they mean to Katniss, what they mean to the story?   Other Catching Fire reflections you'd like to share ....