Sunday, August 28, 2011

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk


Strange. Funny. Original. It's hard to describe this book the way I want to. While reading it I went from laughing (out loud) to almost vomiting in disgust...what book can do that, all while keeping a light airy feel to it? Overall this is a humourous book that delves into the really dark humour a fair bit. But, the content is just...strange at some points. It kind of reminded me of a mix of Monty Python type humour and some no-name crude stand up comedian who relies on swearing and sextalk to make jokes. So, appealing to all people in some way!?

I found it in the short story section in the library. The book has a strange set up, almost like chapters but almost like short stories. The book is a made up of about a dozen small stories/jokes, some range from a few pages to maybe twenty. They are all quips from different animal's points of view. There are birds, dogs, mice, hippos...and to top it off, there are some illustrations from Ian Falconer (you may know him from the best selling children's series Olivia the pig). The stories/jokes are definitely one's that will stay with you for awhile. They are not easy to retell, say around the water cooler at the office, but they are satisfying jokes to read.

The jokes/stories seemed to favour stereotyping. When read they make you laugh, but, then upon further reflection, I found them almost a jab at humanity - how cruel and awful we can sometimes be.

There was a joke about a black watersnake and a white duck who makes a mistaken racist remark. A faithful dog who is sold out to breed purebreds, but, comes home to his 'wife' everynight. Birds who migrate south and complain about the lazy southern birds. The namesake, a squirrel and chipmunk who cannot date because the parents do not believe in inter-species mixing. These were a few I found laughable.

However, there were many I felt were just strange and didn't leave a good taste in my mouth. The one I found the most disturbing was the sick rat & healthy rat.

The healthy rat is put in a cage with this other rat who has cancer and all these tumors or whatnot. The healthy rat gets on his soap box and rants about how the sick rat should have made healthy choices in life and that cancers and such are a direct result of lifestyle...turns out these rats are in a lab that pumps chemicals into them causing these cancers for research. Anyone order some extreme dark humour? Disturbing in a way, but, so easy to relate to! Turn it around and throw a human in cruel!


*Unless you want to be left with a strange feeling of disturbed happiness.

Catching Fire


What a follow up to The Hunger Games! This series just keeps building up to something huge. Just as in THG (The Hunger Games), there is still that wonderful unexpected feeling that keeps the story exciting. There is also another cliffhanger of an make sure you have the next book on hand.

The story starts off seamlessly continuing from THG, which you will recall ended when Peeta and Katniss had that 'break up' at the train station. The beginning is rather lackluster, Katniss narrates her confused (somewhat selfish) thoughts for the first fifty pages or so...which I found very slow and near boring. A lot of it was her debating her feelings for Peeta (love story, blah!) In fact, if this were any random book I picked up at the library or garage sale for a quarter I would consider putting it down. But, there was this feeling that something big was on the horizon; there were small clues, a scene with President Snow, and a gradual description of life worsening in Katniss' district. Then the unexpected happens - the victors are thrown back into the arena to duel it out again! Peeta & Katniss are pitted against each other...what are they to do?

Well, as it turns out Katniss' stunt with the berries in the first Hunger Games was the spark needed to ignite a rebellion...hence the title Catching Fire. There is clues and hints that a revolt is starting and there is some sort of underground movement or organization that is looking out for Katniss and Peeta, since they were the ones to strike the match on this whole thing. This comes to light when The Hunger Games start again.

The second time through the game for Katniss is much quicker, only a hundred or two hundred pages. There is less time spent worrying, as they are experienced players now, and more time strategizing. Oh, and they form an alliance this time, which is an interesting twist to the games experience. Again, full of action and excitement and unexpected turns of events. Then a nailbiting ending where the game and the capital are turned on their heads! To be cliche: the world will never be the same again!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Hunger Games


As I've mentioned, in some earlier posts, I love books about future dystopian societies. I also happen to love watching that ever popular (and frequently repeating) tv show Survivor. How about a mash-up? Survivor set in a future dystopian society? Ah yes, the ultimate mash-up!

That, in a nutshell, is what The Hunger Games are. Just an extreme version of reality tv survival show where instead of getting voted off you are killed off. This kind of storyline could be taken in many directions. There is high potential for some coat tail riding on the reality tv wave (is it still popular?). However, Collins has not taken the easy ride, instead she has created a literary masterpiece. She has the perfect blend of action, mystery, imagination, even (ugh) a half decent love story.

There are so many level to this book. The action is there, the complex complicated love triangle, then all the symbolic names & sayings & mutated animals (which I'm sure all mean something much deeper that will hopefully be revealed as the trilogy goes on...either that or just leave us all guessing). In other words, this book makes you think, even as you are caught up in all of the fast paced action. If there was foreshadowing I missed it, which made me attempt to predict what was going to happen...and to my delight, time after time I was wrong! The unexpected keeps you moving through the book - you want to hurry along to find that next shocking moment where the unpredictable (yet logical) thing happens. The sense of anticipation in this book is great. Collins does a superb job of keep us readers on our toes.

I'm still pondering the deeper meanings and the symbolisms in this book. I'm attempting to work through the names - Katniss, HAYmitch, Thresh, Clove, Rue...all food related. Cinna (singe? cinder?), coal, fire...seems to me a lot of basic surival references - the basics; FIRE, FOOD, WATER? Ah, I'm lost, but in a good way...I feel like I need some Coles notes. Remember those? Now, don't get me started on my mockingjay theories.

The best part of this is only the first in a trilogy. I have two more books to continue on with. I hope they are just as good (b/c I actually bought these books...NEW!). This book left us with a great base to build off of. We have a handful of strong, deep characters that must have some interesting back stories.

If it is any indication of how good the book was - I read it in about 4 days!


Note - Funny, the last three books I've read (The Book Thief, The Wishsong of Shannara, & The Hunger Games) have all had strong heroines?!

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Wishsong of Shannara

The Wishsong of Shannara

- Terry Brooks -

Ah, what could be better than curling up with a nice cool glass of wine, on a hot humid night, with an action packed Fantasy epic...not much! Ok, ok, if that is not your ideal situation, but, for some reason you find yourself in that exact scenario The Wishsong of Shannara is the book to have in your hand.

This is the third book in the original Shannara series, following the mega hits The Sword of Shannara and The Elfstones of Shannara. If you like the Sword & the Elfstones you'll like the Wishsong - they follow pretty much the same story line (even characters for the most part). Personally, I loved the other books which I believe led me to love this book.

The story starts off with the Olmsfords (the same family from the previous books) being paid a visit by the mysterious all-knowing Allanon. Now, you know when Allanon shows up at your doorstep the world is on the brink of ending. As with the other stories, the Olmsfords have special gifts, magic or is just in their blood; they are destined to be the only people in the world who can defeat whatever evil is threatening world domination. This time it is a young girl named Brin. She has the Wishsong. When she sings magic things happen, she can manipulate behaviours of anything. Allanon needs her to open a passageway to the evil pit of death & evil on the other side of the world, and only her magic song can do it. There starts the journey.

What I like about these books is they have a goal. The goal is always to get somewhere, or find something, that will defeat the evil. So, at least you know where the book is headed. Now, it's the journey that makes it so much fun.

This book is set up like the others, as in there is two story lines that sway far apart...but, will eventually meet up. First, Brin & Allanon head for the evil pit. Next, Brin's brother (who was supposed to stay at home) gets caught up in the adventure as well. Both stories have that eventual goal/finish line they are headed for, but, constant interruptions cause them to veer off track. This leads to lots of adventure filled mini-climax moments, and the introduction of many interesting characters. The sidetracking and meeting of sometimes strange people/characters leads us, the reader, to never know what is coming around that next bend. It really does make you want to keep turning the pages.

I've read books before where a hockey-sock full of characters makes the book hard to follow, but, somehow Brooks keeps everything in order. I think it is because even though there are lots of different characters they all have their purposes for moving the story along - they are not just added for useless dialogue.

There was a funny author's note in the book, or at least the version I had from the library. Terry mentions this is the first book he wrote on a computer. This is also the book that takes him from lawyer and part time author to full time writer and retired lawyer.

Rating - READ