Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I hesitated reading this book because it has received mixed reviews and Collins has been accused of copying Battle Royale, but when I saw that Stephen King had given it a raving review (who write a similar book titled The Running Man) I decided that it must be good.

And it was. I have to admit I didn't have all that high of expectations but this book met them, even exceeded them in parts. Many of the reviews that I read were negative because they didn't like Katniss. She is described as selfish and unlikeable.

Really? A girl that volunteers to take her sister's place in a fight to death is selfish? I also don't entirely understand why she was seen as unlikeable. Some say it was because she was too hard on her mother, but after her father's death her mother failed to step up to the plate to be a parent. Katniss had to hunt illegally or let herself and her family starve. She risked being sentenced to death for illegally hunting and trading. Yet many still call this girl selfish.

In the games themselves, Katmiss teams up with the youngest contestant to help her survive. Then later teams up with Peeta, the boy also from her home of District 12. While I can see how many would label some of her behavior with Peeta as selfish, the truth was she did what she had to do so that they both could survive. Was it morally questionable? Certainly.

But I think that is what makes this book so fascinating. How can you remain moral when you are forced into a game ran by the government where you must kill 23 other kids? Is there right and wrong when it comes to survival?

Another aspect of this book that seemed to rarely talked about is how Collins does an incredible job of describing Katmiss's post traumatic stress disorder. Towards the end of the games, Katmiss quite literally starts to lose her mind. After the games is over she suffers severe post traumatic stress disorder.

Now don't go and accuse me of spoiling the book and giving away that Katmiss wins. The book is told from the first person point of view, so you know from the very start that Katmiss wins.

Another reason Katmiss could be seen as selfish is because she doesn't quite handle the love triangle she finds herself in with tact. However, I found this to be very realistic. I know most people read romance to see two people live happily ever after but this book shows that like real life, love isn't always tied up with a big bow or guaranteed. God forbid fictional romance should be like real life, right?

My biggest complaint about the book is that Katmiss and Peeta never actually stand up to the government that they hate so much. Instead of using the moment to give the government what for, Katmiss chooses to take the safe route and avoid pissing them off. I suppose again, this is the way reality really is, but considering the theme of the entire book the one thing you want more than Katmiss to survive is to tell the Capitol off.

A minor complaint is that the first half off the book comes of as kind of narcissistic. Perhaps this is another reason people see Katmiss as being unlikable. She acts like she's hot shit for a bit but I blame the writer not the character. Collins makes the story too focused on Katniss during the first half. The theme "everything is about me" gets old fast. It isn't until the games begin that Katmiss stops talking about herself so much. The writing Collins does is much better once the games actually begin.

Another minor complaint is how the book ends. But it makes me want to read the next book in the series. See after winning the games, you must become a mentor to those that are in the future games. Also the Capitol may still be pissed off at Katniss. And lastly, the issue of the love triangle isn't exactly resolved. I also wonder if Katniss continues to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and what her life will be like after the games.

Indeed, the blurb for Catching Fire indicates that some if not all of these questions are answered. Or maybe they aren't all completely answered until the third book Mockingjay. I know I will read them both. I also greatly enjoyed this genre and think I will add a dystopia reading challenge. It's not normally a genre that I read.

My rating Photobucket I was tempted to give it only three stars because of the ending but I was so impressed with how Collins included the post traumatic stress disorder that I bumped it up to four stars. I can't wait to see the movie!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi

I found this memoir completely by accident. I was looking for an Ally Mcbeal soundtrack at my library when this book came up in my search. I had always been a fan of Portia de Rossi. I thought she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen and had an amazing style. I knew she is also the wife of Ellen DeGeneres. On Ally Mcbeal she played a bitch very convincingly but eventually got pushed out of the limelight by Lucy Lu's character, Ling.

I had no idea that Portia de Rossi suffered from anorexia.

I picked up the book in the library and flipped through it. I landed upon a page where Portia described herself as someone who wasn't beautiful. I was in complete shock that she had such serious low self-esteem. Here was someone I had idealized and she hated herself.

I took the book home and read it cover to cover in one night. It was that good. But it was not an easy read. Portia goes into detail about what went through her mind as she descended deeper and deeper into anorexia and became more obsessed with losing weight. There was no generic description of "I starved myself and exercised excessively." I read some other reviews where people complained about the details. I on the other hand found it fascinating. I just kept reading and shaking my head at how Portia would turn a simple meal into a complicated mathematical problem of how much she had to exercise so she wouldn't accidentally gain weight.

There is also the story of how Portia hid being a lesbian and was in constant fear of being found out. She was terrified that if she was outed that she would lose the career she had worked so hard for. Eventually, Portia learns that being a lesbian is tied to her feelings of self-hate and partly the reason why she is anorexic.

Sadly she nearly killed herself in the process. If it wasn't for her loving family, Portia probably would have eventually died. The climax of her disease was when she collapsed while filming her first starring role in a movie. However, it is not that image that sticks in my head. Portia describes a day after having dinner with her family where she panicked so much about gaining weight that she started to do sprints in public wearing high heels.

My only complaint about the book is that Portia rushes through the end. Her recovery from anorexia is described only in a chapter or two. She touches briefly on why her disease emerged in the first place but I really wish she had gone into why she was anorexic and just what she had to do to recover.

The most moving moment in the book is when she tells her family that she is a lesbian. I cried at the reaction of her brother and laughed a little at the reaction of her grandmother.

In the end, this is one of the best memoirs I have ever written. How she was able to recall the details of her own mind I will never know. Some say this is the best book on anorexia to have ever been written. I have never read any other memoirs on the topic, but I have a feeling they will never capture the detail about how an anorexic mind works the way Portia de Rossi has.

My rating is a very enthusiastic Photobucket