Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mockingjay: The Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 3, by Suzanne Collins

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

"Hope" is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I've heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

Title: "Hope is the thing with feathers"
By Emily Dickinson. [2]

     In capturing the spirit of "Hope" for us all, Emily Dickinson personifies "Hope" as a bird, a "thing with feathers." She goes even further and tells us that this bird "perches in the soul," and just as shockingly, sings a tune without words--and it never stops. It is almost as if Suzanne Collins called up as muse, Emily Dickinson, to sing Collins a song from Dickinson's own soul. And then, inspire Collins to devise a story through the inspiration of "Hope is the thing with feathers." 

     Gale, the name of Katniss's friend from District 12, bears the name of a windstorm. The gale in the Hunger Games Trilogy, is, of course, about the winds of war--the past, most assuredly, but also the present (in the story line). Hope is the "sweetest" in the midst of the storm that bashes the little bird of hope about, whether it be fought with guns and bullets or in the tempest of the soul. We see both kinds of storms in the series, especially in the last book, Mockingjay. In the book, Katniss is, metaphorically, the mockingjay. She is, therefore, the symbol of hope for all the people. 

From: Hunger Games, Book 1, Concept of Peeta's
Portrait of Rue (during Catching Fire, Book 2). [4]
     The "mockingjay" sings the song of hope in a number of places in the series, the most public one is when she sings to Rue as she is dying (the first Hunger Games); and later, she says she sees Rue in the flowers in the meadow and that she hears her in the mockingjay's song. Also, when Katniss is out by the lake under the trees (in, Mockingjay) and sings, "Under the Hanging Tree," she brings tears to Pollux's eyes. This moment is especially poignant since Pollux is an Avox; having had his tongue cut out, he cannot speak.  Moreover, it works beautifully as a symbol of Katniss as the "thing with feathers," (the mockingjay) a symbol of hope, because Katniss sings for all the people who cannot speak.

     The first two books in the series carry a message of hope that also works well in book three, Mockingjay. Katniss and Peeta have both been bashed about by the storm of war and have come out irrevocably changed. Hope, though, perching there, in their souls, unseen, nonetheless, sings its song of hope to them. And though it takes a long, long time, they do heal. Before I go on talking more about the book, I had better give you the book synopsis. 

This section contains spoilers! [6]
     With the title of the book, Mockingjay, most of us were probably not surprised that Katniss would become the Mockingjay in Book 3. As the book opens, Katniss is in District 13, recovering from the burns she received at the Capitol, in the last book (Catching Fire).  Katniss becomes the pawn of the rebel forces and agrees to become the Mockingjay. In exchange for her performance, the rebels agree to grant amnesty to Peeta and all Victors, and...Katniss gets to kill President Snow.

     Katniss appears in a number of "propos" for the rebels; her reputation grows, and she gives hope to everyone. In a trip to District 12, she sings, "The Hanging Tree," for Pollux, an Avox with no voice, symbolically giving all the voiceless a voice. Returning to District 13, Beetee is successful in gaining access to the Capitol's airways feed--they see Peeta, and before he is dragged off and beaten, he screams out a warning to the rebels. Katniss breaks down and refuses to do more propos, so a plan is made to rescue Peeta, Annie and other hostages. 

   The rescue is successful. When Peeta recovers in the infirmary, however, he tries to kill Katniss by choking her, but guards intervene. The rebels discover that Peeta has been "hijacked," that is, he has been submitted to mind-altering programming along with certain venoms. Peeta is put under treatment and over time slowly makes progress. Katniss is assigned to Squad 451 [A nod here to the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury--451 is the temperature at which paper burns.]. Then, when Peeta is assigned to Squad 451, the commander, Boggs and Katniss realize that President Coin (of District 13) secretly sent Peeta to kill her.

This is a scene from the movie, Mockingjay, Part I,
Released to the big screen on 11-21-14. [8]
      On a mission on the outskirts of the Capitol, the Squad runs into trouble, Boggs is killed and Katniss takes over. Knowing she can't go back, she leads the squad towards President Snow's mansion with the goal of killing him. Along the way most of the squad is killed, and Gale is captured. Katniss makes it to the mansion under cover with other refugees. A hovercraft appears and drops parachutes (like those used in the Hunger Games), some of them go off killing the children holding them. 

     Rebel medics come in to help the wounded--Katniss see Prue--and then the second wave of bombs go off killing Prue and many, many others, fire consuming and burning people to death. Katniss, too, is burned, but survives and wakes up in the hospital, again. Katniss and Gale decide to part ways since they suspect it was Gale's plan that was used by Coin to kill the children in the bombing--Gale knows Katniss could never live with him in peace.

President Alma Coin. [9]
     The Capitol is taken by rebel forces, President Snow is tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Then, President Coin calls the sole surviving seven victors in for one last duty. Coin proposes staging one last Hunger games with the Capitol's children selected for reaping--the victors to vote on the outcome. Thinking the vote is Coin's last test for her, Katniss votes yes to avoid possible death at Coin's hands. 

     The day of the execution arrives and Katniss dresses and prepares for the public event. She is given her bow and one arrow and placed only ten feet from Snow to shoot him. She aims at Snow, but at the last second points the arrow at Coin and releases the arrow killing President Coin. Katniss is arrested, tried and then released under medical supervision. She returns to District 12 to live without her mother. Peeta and Haymitch also return to 12 to live, Haymitch returning to his previous life style, Peeta continuing to slowly recover. Time passes and along with their slow recovery, Peeta and Katniss slowly fall in love. Eventually, they marry and have two children.  
     My day I'll have to explain about my nightmares. Why they came. Why they won't ever really go away. I'll tell them how I survive it. I'll tell them that on bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in anything because I'm afraid it could be taken away. That's when I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I've seen someone do. It's like a game. Repetitive. Even a little tedious after more than twenty years. But there are much worse games to play. (pp. 387-388)
     The very first time I read this passage I just melted and thought how hopeful it was. I mean, just think about this passage, someone looking at every act of goodness observed! And then, when the times are bad, it is repeated and remembered, again.

    I recently reread the book again, in anticipation of writing this blog post, so it is fresh in my mind. What I discovered is that as I have aged, I have lost a goodly number of people I have loved in my life, and thinking about the good things I've seen them do for others, also dredges up painful memories of their loss. Replaying those good things over and over is a lot like constantly ripping a healing scab off, and then doing it again--it never heals. I've had to put away pictures of love ones who have passed away so they aren't a daily and constant renewal of pain. For me, picking some sweet memory--one moment in time--is much healthier. I visit that one joyful moment over and over again, never wearying of its memory. It never gets tedious.

     So many important themes, symbols, and motifs grace the pages of Suzanne Collins trilogy, we can only wonder at how she was able to write such a compelling story and weave them all together. I covered a few of them in the last two weeks, so I will not revisit those, today. Here are a few of my personal favorites: Real or not real?; Coming full circle; The girl on fire; Mutations created to serve a specific purpose (i.e. the contestants in the games or "fire mutts"); The Phoenix (birth/death/rebirth); Stone; Games (a really big one), Sacrifice; Costume (or what you wear is who you are); Hope out of despair, Unusual alliances, and others.

     Last week I addressed the relationship between Katniss and her mother. In the Mockingjay, Katniss's sister, Prim, is killed in the firebombing at Snow's Mansion, causing the loss of her beloved sister. The loss devastates Katniss, causing a mental break down--placing her in a similar situation to Katniss's mother lost her husband and had a mental breakdown. At the end of the book, Katniss's mother cannot return to District 12 after losing Prim, because the memories are just too painful for her. That leaves Katniss and Prim's cat--two who hated each other--forming an unusual alliance for survival.

     While I love the book and it has many things I find laudable, I really did not care for the ending of the book. I have had friends and relatives tell me they didn't like the ending of the book, either, after they had finished reading it. The ambiguity inherent in the resolution of the conflicts in which all were involved can be troublesome to many readers. We know that Gale comes up with the plan to have a first attack followed by a second attack when medics or rescue personnel think everything is safe. The same type of attack is utilized in front of Snow's Mansion when the children and medics, including Prim, Katniss's sister, are killed, and Katniss, herself, is burned.

Fingerpointing. [14]
     OK. So, then, in her meeting with Snow, he tells Katniss that the bombing really was President Coin's doing, that she had taken the hovercraft, it was her bombs and her plan. He also tells Katniss that Coin has been lusting after the Capitol's Presidency for years and was determined to get it. So what does Katniss do? She breaks up with Gale, because they each think it was his plans and bombs that caused the killing, and second, she takes her single arrow with Snow's name on it and kills President Coin.

     Here's the wrinkle: President Snow has a granddaughter we see (only in) the Mockingjay book. President Snow, seeing the handwriting on the wall could have been trying to save his family, and especially, his granddaughter from coming retribution at the hands of the rebels, as well as using his love for his granddaughter to bolster his argument that he loves children and wouldn't do anything so despicable. Remember also that Snow tells Katniss that its the things you love most that destroy you--could he mean his own family?

     Since Snow is also dying of a wasting disease (presumably tuberculosis), he really has nothing to lose except his family. Snow also accuses Katniss of lying and says, "Oh, my dear Miss Everdeen. I thought we had agreed not to lie to each other." (p.355) Since we know Katniss lies, we can assume Snow lies also--but what facts are being lied about? So whether or not Snow was despicable enough to set up the murder of the children, lie to Katniss, and finesse Coin's demise, he certainly took great pleasure in her killing by Katniss--afterwich, Snow "cackle[s]," coughs and spews "foamy blood." (p. 371) He certainly was joyful in his death about something.

Katniss and Prim's cat's relationship
was all began after Katniss
tried to drown the cat. But in the end,
the two settle their differences and
learn to live together peacefully. [16]
     The ambiguity thing, or gray area as some like to call it, is so dissatisfying to readers expecting to have good resolutions, or a moral tale told. Here, war has no winners, as Suzanne Collins says in the book (via Peeta). So both sides on the war struggle to survive, and then do what they can to put their lives back together again after it is over. This is what Katniss does in choosing Peeta for a partner, in her making peace and allying with Prim's cat, and forgiving her mother. She grows and she heals slowly. Not exactly the stuff of romance or thrilling suspense novels. And while we may understand this premise, it is a lot like the tasteless food served in District 13--bland, colorless and tasteless.

     The Director for the movie is, Francis Lawrence (no relation to Jennifer Lawrence) with writing credits going to Suzanne Collins (book), Peter Craig, Danny Strong (screenplay), and Suzanne Collins (adaptation). Starring in the movie are Jennifer Lawrence reprising her role as Katniss Everdeen, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, Donald Sutherland as President Snow, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, Julianne Moore as President Alma Coin, and many other wonderful stars. [18]

     Since the movie MPAA rating is PG-13, parents are strongly cautioned due to intense sequences of violence and action with some disturbing images and thematic material included, we can use that guide for the book, as well. Even if graphic images MAY impact young people more than words in a book, I am using the MPAA Rating as a guide, as I said. I, also, always caution not only the young viewer and reader, but those persons of a sensitive nature, that they should consider before reading the book or watching the movie. [18]

     Given all the reasons I have stated, above, and even considering the few minor criticisms I have listed, I rate this book 4.5 stars out of 5. After having reread this book, yet again, I have no qualms about highly recommending this book to readers of this genre, or for those who love Suzanne Collins or this series.

     Thank you for joining me, today, as we got to take a look at The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Book 3, series by Suzanne Collins. I am truly happy we got a chance to take a look at this very popular book and series (and a quick look at the new movie just released to theaters). Please join me, again, next week as we will be leaving our three-week Hunger Games stint behind and moving on to other new material, other new books and authors.

Until next time...
This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [20]
...many happy pages of reading!

All my best,


[1] "Mockingjay: Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 3." Retrieved 11-29-14.
[2] "Hope is the thing with feathers - (314)." [by Emily Dickinson] [as cited by: Poetry Foundation] Retrieved 11-29-14.
[3] "Emily Dickinson - Hope - NEW American Author Poet - Famous Person Poster." Retrieved 11-29-14.
[4] "Concept of Peeta's Portrait of Rue." Retrieved 11-29-14.
[5] "After Elections: Hope? #Afghan - Elections - 2014." Retrieved 11-29-14.
[6] "Spoiler Alert - #1." Retrieved 11-30-14.
[7] "The Hanging Tree." [by Ash Doh] Retrieved 11-30-14.
[8] "Gale Ceases to be a Romantic Interest for Katniss, and They Drift Apart." Retrieved 11-30-14.
[9] "President Alma Coin." Retrieved 11-30-14.
[10] "My Favorite Quote." Retrieved 11-30-14.
[11] "Kindness Quotes." Retrieved 11-30-14.
[12] "Themes." Retrieved 11-30-14.
[13] "Family Quotes: The mother daughter relationship is important relationship." Retrieved 11-30-14.
[14] "Blaming Others As A Ranking Factor In Google? No!" Retrieved 11-30-14.
[15] "President Snow Saw President Coin Killed...He Died Laughing!" Retrieved 11-30-14.
[16] "The Odd and the Unmentionable." Retrieved 11-30-14.
[17] "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Final Trailer - 'Burn'" Retrieved 11-30-14.
[18] "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part I." Retrieved 11-30-14.
[19] "Birdman - A Near Perfect Movie." [by Jeremy Miller] Retrieved 11-30-14.
[20] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 11-30-14.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Catching Fire: The Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 2 by Suzanne Collins and Catching Fire: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion by Kate Egan

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     "He suddenly lost concern for himself, and forgot to look at a menacing fate. He became not a man but a member. He felt that something of which he was a part--a regiment, an army, a cause, or a country--was in a crisis. He was welded into a common personality which was dominated by a single desire. For some moments he could not flee, no more than a little finger can commit a revolution from a hand." (The Red Badge of Courage, Chp. 5, p. 34.)

     Henry Fleming, protagonist in The Red Badge of Courage, has a flash of realization that he isn't really an individual, but only a part of a group; and, in that moment, his self preservation--which previously blinded him to a larger struggle--fled. We've heard of the heroics of persons who, forgetting themselves, have run into a burning building to save someone, or jumped under a subway train to save a child. These examples, are undoubtedly, the most noble actions of selflessness. But, as we will see below, selflessness can also be hazardous. [2]

     The book opens about six months after the Hunger Games have concluded and Peeta and Katniss were declared winners. The Victory Tour is about to begin and President Snow visits Katniss to deliver an ultimatum: convince all of Panem and Snow that she and Peeta acted out of love and not "rebellion." If she doesn't, dire consequences to her and her family will follow.

     On the very first Victory Tour stop, District 11, the District that Rue came from, Katniss impulsively speaks about Rue--the District's listeners honor Katniss and salute her. Katniss and Peeta are rushed out, but not before they see a man shot in the head and killed by the Peacekeepers.

     The Victory Tour ends with a stop at the Capitol and a special appearance. Peeta proposes to Katniss in front of the crowd in a last-ditch attempt to show that their actions in the arena were out of love, not insurrection. President Snow lets Katniss know it was not enough to convince him or the public; Katniss now knows that she and her family are in danger.

     Before she goes home, she has a strange meeting with the new Head Games Keeper, Plutarch Heavens- bee. Plutarch shows her his watch--it has a Mockingjay on it--he points to the watch and says, "It starts at midnight." Katniss doesn't understand his strange and cryptic behavior and comment, and returns home full of fear for her family.

     The 75th Hunger Games, The Quarter Quell announcement, shocks everyone: the competitors for the games will be harvested from all the previous winners. Peeta and Katniss are selected and soon head back to the Capitol for training. Katniss decides that she will do whatever it takes to save Peeta, even though it is highly likely to result in her death. Unbeknownst to Katniss, Peeta promises to himself to save Katniss.

     When training begins, Haymitch urges the two to try for an alliance with some of the other competitors. Reluctantly, Katniss settles on Finnick and Mags, Beetee and Wiress, and Johanna. Then came the pre-game interviews. Peeta drops a bomb when he tells everyone that Katniss and he were secretly married and that she is expecting a baby.

Beetee. [7]
     As Cinna is seeing Katniss off to the beginning of the games, she watches in horror as he is grabbed and beaten and then dragged off. Katniss rises into the arena and the games are on. A series of adventures plagues the team and they begin losing people. Sadly, Mags dies and the others are injured--all the while Katniss doesn't know if she can trust anyone.

     Beetee, trying to blow the dome force-field, is injured, so Katniss shoots an arrow into the force field to cause it to short out. It does and she and some of the others are rescued by a hovercraft that has Haymitch, Plutarch Heavensbee, and her friend Gale on board. Gale tells Katniss that their home, District 12, was destroyed by the government and that the government had captured Johanna and Peeta. They are taken to District 13 to safety and for medical treatment. [6]

 by Albert Anker [8]
         I selected this quote for my daughter, Sherri, who asked me what I thought about the mother-daughter relationship between Katniss and her mother. Since I didn't address this relationship in the first book, let's take a look at it, here, in Catching Fire.
My mother laughs, and I think about how there was no going back after I took over caring for the family when I was eleven. How I will always have to protect her...Since I've been home I've been trying hard to mend my relationship with my mother. Asking her to do things for me instead of brushing aside any offer of help, as I did for years out of anger...My time in the arena made me realize how I needed to stop punishing her for something she couldn't help, specifically the crushing depression she fell into after my father's death. Because sometimes things happen to people and they're not equipped to deal with them. (p. 31)
     It is so very difficult for children to be forced into a parental role through no fault of their own. Katniss ended up taking over her mother's role when Katniss's father died. Katniss went hunting for food, learned how to trade her game for food, how to set snares, and how to become proficient with a bow and arrow. Katniss was forced to learn how to care for her mother and little sister Prim, something no eleven-year-old should have to do.

     We find this happens in today's so-called "modern" society, too. No matter what the problem, whether its depress- ion, drugs or alcohol, when a child is parentified, it causes detriment to the relationship. Katniss, in choosing to take Prim's place at the 24th Hunger Games, was propelled into a situation she was ill-prepared to face.

     In that realization, Katniss understands that her mother was also ill-equipped to face caring for two small children alone after her husband's death. It was in the Hunger Games, as horrible as they were, that Katniss grew to understand her mother better and let love back in. Katniss was able to let go of her anger over the unfairness of it all and begin to let the relationship heal. Undoubtedly, we will see the relationship continue on in the third book of the series, Mockingjay.

THE MOVIE--Catching Fire:
     The movie, Catching Fire, was released to the big-screen just a year ago on November 22, 2013. The movie was nominated and won many accolades in the year since it has been released. So, to see what the hub-bub was all about, let's take a quick look at a trailer of the movie [10]:

     Directing the movie was Francis Lawrence with screenwriting credits going to Suzanne Collins (novel) and Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt (for screenplay). Starring in the film is Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne, Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy, Donald Sutherland as President Snow, Stanley Tucci as Cesar Flickerman, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee, Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, and many others.

Human beings have choices to make--
go with the crowd, or go your own way? [11]
     In high school, I came to a crossroads when I had to decide whether or not to follow the crowd, or go on a path of my own. It was definitely harder for me, but I chose not to follow the crowd. It meant I had fewer friends and fewer opportunities to go to parties and other outings, but I am happy with the choice I made back then. I didn't ever have to worry over whether or not I would be judged and found wanting by the crowd--I thought and acted for myself.

     This concept, about "thinking for yourself" is paramount in getting through life, and it is paramount in the book, as well. One of the reasons I used Stephen Crane's, The Red Badge of Courage, to open the blog post today was for that very reason. Crane shows us how cogs in machines just go along with the other cogs, working in the same way, never deviating from what they do. They do not think. That simply means they do not have to consider whether or not what they are doing is right or wrong. The unthinking cogs do not exhibit discretion or judgment in any given situation.

     In Catching Fire, the government, and by extension, the games makers, and Capitol people who support the government are nothing more than a machine and it's people--cogs. Unthinking. Incapable of using discretion or good judgment concerning people other than themselves. They do not even consider whether or not what they are doing with the children of the districts is right or wrong.

     The government, the games and the people are incapable of understanding that their watching the Hunger Games on television, cheering, betting, and celebrating when one child killed another child, and they won their bet is wrong. Likewise they fail to see that their government's division of citizens into districts and then prohibiting their free travel is wrong--which by the way, sounds a lot like the concentration and work camps and internment camps of WWII. [13]

Do you remember this Star Trek quote:
"The needs of the many outweigh the needs
 of the few, or the one"? [14]
     When a government claims that the needs of society outweigh the needs of the individual, freedom of choice is diminished or lost. Even today, this concept is still around, and hasn't disappeared from society. Suzanne Collins masterfully sets the stage for the trilogy by utilizing this concept.

     Another wonderful concept Suzanne Collins has incorporated into the story is that of selflessness. For example, both Peeta and Katniss, want to set aside their own well-being to protect each other. They each make bargains with Haymitch to do so.

Did you cry over the death
of this fictional character?
     And then there is Cinna. Oh, wonderful Cinna. We later learn Cinna is involved with the underground, the insurrectionists. He selflessly chooses to put his life on the line to both promote Katniss and help her, and also to help "kindle" a fire under the movement. Cinna created the wedding dress to end all wedding dresses--one that transformed into the exotic, wild, breath-taking and world shaking black mockingjay. In effect, he showed the world that Katniss was THE mockingjay. Undoubtedly, he knew his time was up--selfless to the end. One last example: half of the competitors were in on the agreement to help save Katniss and Peeta, and a number of them, in fact, sacrificed themselves to help Katniss and Peeta survive.

     Now I know that Katniss is a young teenager. However, she was forced to grow up early when her father died and she had to take over the care of the family. And...Katniss has always been portrayed as intelligent and creative and quick to learn. So why does Collins from time to time treat her as if she is stupid?

     After she met the two women in the woods by the lake, she knew that she was everyone's "mockingjay." She knew the symbol of the insurrection was the "mockingjay." So, why, when Heavensbee shows her a personal item--a pocket watch--with a mockingjay put on it does she not recognize him as being with the insurrection? He even gives her a clue as to what is coming and she doesn't get it.

     Beetee and Wiress speak with Katniss in the training center discussing the forcefield shield and how it can be seen in the little patch-like areas. And why, for heavens sake would Beetee and Wiress give away an obvious advantage to an opponent? I mean, Katniss recognizes it as an advantage, because she didn't even want to divulge how she knew about the forcefield to people in her alliance--she comes up with the lame excuse that she can hear it. Really? She doesn't recognize people are helping her?

     And what about Finnick? She sees the bracelet that Haymitch wore on Finnick and she still doesn't trust him. What does she think? Finnick mugged Haymitch to get the bracelet? And there's Mags, too. She trusts Finnick with her life and still Katniss doesn't trust Finnick. Oh, and let's not forget he uses CPR on Peeta to bring him back from near death. During the deadly fog incident Finnick carries him on his back when he could have just left him and saved himself--he lets Mags walk into the deadly fog and doesn't stop her, but he keeps helping Peeta. Still, Katniss doesn't trust him.

     Finally, I think Snow is a fool. He obviously has so many "yes" men around him that when someone (Heavensbee) with any intelligence comes in, he (Heavensbee) gives him a "Snow" job. Really, President Snow, have you never heard that there is no such thing as "bad" publicity, only publicity. So why give Katniss all that publicity when you could have sent her back to obscurity and anonymity to be lost forever in history. So what would I say to Snow? I'd say, "Snow, you're the one who lit the match that started the revolution.  


     The companion book is organized into six parts:
(1) The Hunger Games Catches Fire;
(2) Moving Forward;
(3) Expanding the World of Panem;
(4) Designing the Arena;
(5) Creating Costumes, Designing Faces; and,
(6) Looking Ahead.

     Part one reaches back to book 1, The Hunger Games, to speak about the phenomenon of the book and movie. Then the chapter moves on to the continued story of Catching Fire. Here the author explains that Katniss is now a veteran, but still wants to protect those she loves and is "awake," now; even so, Katniss is still not ready to lead.

     Part two showcases how the director was so important to the filming of the story, and then went on to tell how the casting was accomplished by considering actors from all over the world. Also, the importance of some of the character's roles was stressed, for example, Plutarch Heavensbee, the mentor, Haymitch, and Finnick and Mags.

     Part three, tells the story of how the filmmakers put the world of Panem together, how it was imagined, the logistics of filming, and how continuity was incorporated without losing the individuality of the various districts. Also in this chapter, the Presidential Feast is highlighted along with the setting, The Swan House in Atlanta.

     Part four, Designing the Arena, of course, reveals how the company first searched out an appropriate location, but how they worked with the limitations set upon them. The cornucopia and its creation is explained, along with a number of photographs, and then how it was set into the arena as the center of the dial of a clock. Covering the aspect that a true tropical forest setting was needed, the filming in Hawaii and the challenges of the arena filming were, likewise, covered. We also get to see "Life on the Set," and how the actors got to intermingle.

The above three photographs are of my copy of
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: The
Official Illustrated Movie Companion
     Part five covered, in detail, the creation of the costumes and how certain looks were created for Katniss, Gale Hawthorne, for Katniss's wedding dress, Peeta Mellark's changing look, Cinna, Finnick, Effie Trinket, the Avoxes, Haymitch Abernathy, President Snow, Plutarch Heavensbee, and the uniforms for the games. The challenges of creating a look for each actor were discussed, as well as the problems with functionality of the uniforms.

     In Part six, the last chapter, discusses how in the first book we were introduced to Katniss and got to know her and who she is. Then, in Catching Fire, the metaphor that Katniss is a "burning ember" that starts the fire of revolution. And lastly, how in Mockingjay, how the Capitol will feel the "wrath" of the districts. (p.154.)

     Like the companion guide to The Hunger Games that I reviewed in my last post, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Here, we get to see a bit more of what happens behind the scenes, what goes on on the set, and how the actors relate to each other. In addition I liked learning more about the motivations of some of the characters and how book two is really fleshing out the story of Katniss. I really liked that the focus was on Katniss's growth of her character. I give this guide 4.0 stars out of 5.


 Katniss Everdeen exhibits some of these signs and symptoms
of PTSD. Which of these have you observed in the movie, or
read about in the book? If someone you know has PTSD, please
be kind and understanding, and most of all, don't be judgmental.
Haven't we all had problems in our life from time to time? [*]
     As I mentioned in my blog post of Hunger Games, it is difficult to avoid the fact that the movie has violence, death, and fighting at every turn. The movie, mentioned above, is rated by MPAA as PG-13 for "intense sequences of violence and action, some frightening images, thematic elements, a suggestive situation and language. [20]

     I would, therefore, advise that young children should be guided by their parents, and sensitive persons consider the material before watching. Those of the appropriate age will, undoubtedly, enjoy the book and movie.

RATING: Even with what I consider minor criticisms I have given, I really loved the book. Therefore, I am happy to rate this book 4.5 stars out of 5. I had reread this book in anticipation of my reviewing it for my blog post, today. I am not disappointed in my rereading of it, nor have I changed my opinion of the good quality of the novel. I highly recommend this book to everyone who loved The Hunger Games.

     Thank you for joining me this week as we got to look at the exciting novel by Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire. I thank you for taking time to read my blog post and consideration of the information I have presented. Do something good for yourself: please take some time to read a little this week. And...please join me again, next week as we review the last book of the trilogy of The Hunger Games, The Mockingjay. I can hardly wait!

Until next time...
This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [22]

...many happy pages of reading!

My love to you all!


[1] "Catching Fire: The Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 2." [Suzanne Collins] Retrieved 11-15-14.
[2] "The Red Badge of Courage." Retrieved 11-19-14.
[3] "The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane." [by Charles McNair] Retrieved 11-19-14.
[4] "Other Characters." [watch graphic] Retrieved 11-21-14.
[5] "Finnick and Mags Banner." [by LeMeNe] Retrieved 11-21-14.
[6] "Catching Fire--Book Plot." [by Andrew Sims] Retrieved 11-21-14.
[7] "Photo: Beetee debuts on Hunger Games Explorer's Catching Fire banner." [by Tanvi Berwah] Retrieved 11-21-14.
[8] "Parentification and Sibling Resentment: The Bologna Soup Story." Retrieved 11-21-14.
[9] "You Never Understand A Person Until You Consider Things From His Point Of View." Retrieved 11-21-14.
[10] "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire--The Official Trailer." Retrieved 11-21-14.
[11] "Digital Media--Display Advertising Dilemma." Retrieved 11-21-14.
[12]  "You; The Collective." Retrieved 11-21-14.
[13] "The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane." Retrieved 11-18-14.
[14] "Epigenics: How Evolution Really Works." [by Gary Vey] Retrieved 11-21-14.
[15] "Lenny Kravitz on Cinna's Catching Fire Fate." Retrieved 11-22-14.
[16] "# The Hunger Games." [just-me777] Retrieved 11-22-14.
[17] "Movie Review: Catching Fire." Retrieved 11-22-14.
[18] "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion." Retrieved 11-22-14.
[19] "Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron." Retrieved 11-22-14.
[20] "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." [MPAA Rating] Retrieved 11-22-14.
[21] "4.5 out of 5 Stars." Retrieved 11-22-14.
[22] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 11-22-14.
[*] "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder 101." Retrieved 11-22-14.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Hunger Games: Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 1, by Suzanne Collins AND The Hunger Games: Official Illustrated Movie Companion by Kate Egan

Suzanne Collins book, The Hunger Games,
Book 1 in The Hunger Games Trilogy,
originally was released in 2008. The movie
followed in March of 2012. The book, still
popular with readers, can be purchased
at most book purveyors. [1]
Book Review By:
Sharon Powers.

   The Hunger Games, written by Suzanne Collins, burst onto the scene in 2008, some six years ago. Little did the public realize that this erstwhile dystopian novel would gain such momentum or fill the halls of schools with chatter about a girl named Katniss who lives in a broken-down and poverty-stricken area called District 12.

     What is it about this book that has captivated the minds and hearts of teens and pre-teens, and even some adults? After all, the story is about a teenage girl...right? Yes...but there's so much more.

     I can't wait to talk to you more about this wonderful and exciting story, so I guess we should begin at the beginning. Let's take a look at the synopsis of the book.

Katniss and Gale, from the motion
picture, The Hunger Games. [2]
     As I indicated, above, Katniss (Everdeen) lives in District 12; she lives there with her mother and sister, and of course friends, like Gale, with whom she sneaks out of the compound to go hunting. Food being scarce she has honed her hunting skills, partly due to her deceased father's tutelage, partly her own wiles, and partly learning from another teenager, a boy named Gale.

     The government has imposed what they call, "The Hunger Games," on all twelve districts; from each district a lottery is held to select two participants from the districts teenage children--one girl and one boy. When Katniss's sister is selected, Katniss jumps up and volunteers to go in her place as tribute. Then, the boy tribute is chosen--it turns out to be "Peeta Mellark," a boy who has helped Katniss in the past and who had a secret crush on her.

"Nothing will change the
fact that we've saved each
other's lives in here. And
beyond that, he will always
be the boy with the bread."
[Kindle Loc. 5358] [3]
     The two District 12 kids, Katniss and Peeta, are whisked away to join the other 22 tribute children at the Capitol--there, they begin training and prepare for combat, not unlike gladiators of old, to fight to the death. In fact, each and every contestant must fight until they are the only remaining contestant of the 24 participants. 

     Instead of an arena, contestants are turned loose in a specially prepared area full of hazards in addition to the contestants who hunt each other. Monitoring the participants with cameras and audio equipment is necessary, as they are broadcast to the excited people in the Capitol who place bets on the contest. Sponsors can parachute little gifts to their favorite contestants to help them out in time of extreme trouble, but in the end, it's the choices the contestants make to stay alive that really count.

     [For those of you who haven't read the book...yet...] Will Katniss ever like Peeta in the way she likes Gale? Will the triangle cause a rift between Peeta and Katniss? And, even more importantly, will Peeta and Katniss make it through to the end of the games? Since only one winner is permitted, will one of them have to kill the other? Will one sacrifice himself or herself for the other? How will the moral dilemma be resolved between the two friends?

     This quote is about a scene that happened early on in the book. Katniss and Gale watched the government capture two runaway teenagers. The boy was killed and the redheaded girl captured. Katniss thinks back on that moment when she runs into the same redheaded girl who is now acting as a servant in apartments where Katniss is staying--the girl's tongue has been cut out as a punishment.
I'd set out to tell her I was sorry about dinner. But I know that my apology runs much deeper. That I'm ashamed I never tried to help her in the woods. That I let the Capitol kill the boy and mutilate her without lifting a finger. Just like I was watching the Games...I...climb under the covers [and] pull the covers up over my head as if this will protect me from the redheaded girl who can't speak. But I feel her eyes staring at me, piercing through walls and doors and bedding. I wonder if she'll enjoy watching me die. [Kindle Location: 1459-1467]
     So many really good quotes exist in The Hunger Games, and while some of them are, undoubtedly, more popular than the one I selected, I chose this quote because it clearly shows the reader what is going on, really, in the whole book. Katniss even says that she feels like she was "watching the Games" when the redheaded girl was captured and the boy killed. She feels guilt over not "lifting a finger" to help the runaways. Katniss feels like a Hunger Games spectator.

     Katniss can't hide from her own conscience; her admission of shame is indicative of that. In fact, the image of the redheaded girl burns in Katniss's mind, like the (artificial) fire that consumed her in the tribute's parade. The image of fire, here, acts as a symbol of purification, of sorts, burning away like the outer ashes of a burning coal--it burns away Katniss's excuses for not helping and exposes her shame.

     You've, undoubtedly, heard the expression, that someone's eyes felt like "burning coals." Well, here, the redheaded girl's eyes are a symbol of burning coals--with her gaze, she can burn through the "walls and doors and bedding" to see Katniss and her guilt. I love this whole passage. It is beautifully crafted to show not only Katniss and her guilt, but as a metaphor, it is a condemnation of the Capitol residents who watch the games for sport and celebrate the child tributes' deaths. Katniss wonders if the redheaded girl, too, will celebrate Katniss's death.

     Dystopian novels are all the rage right now. Back in July of this year, I did a review of The Giver by Lois Lowry. In that review, I did an in-depth analysis of what makes a dystopian novel. (Click here to see that review.) But, for right now, let's just say that the key elements of a dystopian novel include the following:

(1) The society is undesirable, harmful, or unpleasant (usually due to a dramatic decline in society, i.e. an apocalypse);
(2) Stratification of society;
(3) Family: the government seeks to control or destroy the family unit;
(4) Propaganda: may be used to control society through one or more of the following methods: Politics and government (the type used in The Hunger Games); Economics, Psychology, Religion, Identity, Violence, Corporate Control, Bureaucratic Control, Science, and through Environmental issues. Each of these four key points are seen in The Hunger Games. [For an expanded explanation of these four basic elements, see my review of The Giver by Lois Lowery.]

These are just a few "Dystopian Novels" that are
popular in today's reading market. [8]
     Utilizing the dystopian society permitted Suzanne Collins to address controversial themes in a palatable manner; that is, they are addressed in a way that is less objectionable to the adult perspective, or those who would censor such a book. Some of these themes include the fight for survival, how much independence and freedom may be had in such a society; (in #4, just above,) politics and government are used to control individuals and society (one important way of doing that is through The Hunger Games.); the use of nuclear weapons to control society (District 13 was destroyed this way to put fear into the other Districts); (also in #4, above,) Environmental issues (relating to food and other resources necessary for survival); Fashion as influence of others and society; Violence--life and death; and, of course, Gender roles. Collins addresses a number of these themes in the "Annotated" section at the end of the book (starting at Kindle Location 6420).

     The themes are way too many in quantity for me to discuss them in-depth in any manner. I just wanted you to know these major issues and themes are part and parcel of the book. They are very important to think about as you read the book. Consider them after you have finished reading the book, and discuss them with your friends and family. For example, ask someone who has read the book what they think about kids (teens) being forced to kill other kids in this Hunger Games ritual.

     Apart from the wonderful themes and controversial issues Collins includes in her book, I really enjoyed her style of writing. She keeps the perspective in First Person Present, keeping the full impact of the book on Katniss Everdeen. By keeping it First Person Present, the reader gets a sense of "IMMEDIACY."

"Immediacy." [10]
     With a sense of immediacy, the reader tends to perceive the story, not only as happening NOW, but tends to also sense the feelings that accompany it. This, in turn, makes the story believable. The reader tends to identify with the protagonist, and invests themselves in the story. The end result is that the reader enjoys the book and looks forward to the next in the series. So it is with The Hunger Games.

     I found myself not really caring or feeling a bit sad at all when the opposing tribute participants were killed. Yes, the action was non-stop, but I just really didn't care about the other tributes. It was kind of like, oh, yes, one more down--how many left to go now? Not sad, at all. The one exception, of course, was Rue; her friendship with Katniss and eventual death was very moving. I, also, very much liked Katniss singing Rue, "to sleep," the flowers, and gift of bread from District 11.

Haymitch Abernathy. [11]
     I also did not like the way Haymitch talked down to Katniss. Peeta is always treated like he "gets" what he is suppose to be doing, but Katniss needs to be coached along like she is not bright enough to figure things out. For example, once Katniss is apprised that she and Peeta can gain adoration and sympathy from the viewing audience by being romantic together, she resists and suddenly "forgets" that her actions can impact everyone she loves.

     I know that teens are not fully grown adults, even if they mostly look like they are. But, teens are intelligent, and I think many teens (especially older teens) have a good head on their shoulders. Katniss's script has her acting stupidly when her life depends on her being very smart. Now, I know that Haymitch's role is the disaffected Games Winner from the past, now gone to "seed," so to speak.  But, even after he gives Katniss advice, she acts blatantly resistant to his ideas and puts herself, Peeta, and everyone she loves in danger. I'm not talking about teenage rebellion--Collins uses that card very effectively later on in the book and series--I'm talking about how Katniss cares so much for her sister and family and District, but then responds so stupidly. I think this could have been handled better in the book.

A movie promotion poster for
The Hunger Games. [13]
     The Hunger Games movie was released to the big screen in March of 2013. Drawing crowds of people to the movie was Jennifer Lawrence who played Katniss Everdeen; Liam Hemsworth played Gale Hawthorne, Josh Hutcherson played Peeta Melark, and Woody Harrelson played Haymitch Abernathy. Also starring in the movie were actors Donald Sutherland as President Snow, Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman, Wes Bentley as Seneca Crane, Willow Shields as Primrose Everdeen, Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, Amanda Stenberg as Rue, and Paula Malcomson as Katniss' mother. Writing credits go to Suzanne Collins for the novel and Gary Ross, Billy Ray, and Suzanne Collins for the screenplay. Directing credits go to Gary Ross. [12]

     Now that we have reviewed the Book Synopsis, My Favorite Quote, and What Works, and What Doesn't, let's take a look at one of the trailers for The Hunger Games that previewed the movie's release in 2012. The trailer is courtesy of YouTube. [14] I hope you enjoy it.

     I hope you enjoyed reading about the book and watching the trailer for The Hunger Games. I, now, have a little bonus review, for you, today. I really hope you enjoy this quick look at The Hunger Games: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion!

The Hunger Games: Official Illustrated
Movie Companion
, by Kate Egan is 160 pages;
it sells for $9.99 to about $18.99, of course,
depending on where you buy your book.
     The Movie Companion is divided into six parts, as follows:
(1) The History of The Hunger Games;
(2) The Cast of The Hunger Games;
(3) The Look of The Hunger Games: Places               and Props;
(4) The Look of The Hunger Games: People;
(5) The Filming of The Hunger Games; and,
(6) The Legacy of The Hunger Games.

     The first section on the history of The Hunger Games covers the history of Hunger Games. It also deals with violence and the "challenge of how to present the violence while still maintaining a PG-13 rating" so the intended audience can view the movie (as well as read the book). (p.14) [15] I found this section very interesting and of great interest in examining how the violence was handled in the book and movie.

One page showing beautiful glossy photographs of actors,
Woody Harrelson, as Haymitch, and Lenny Kravitz, as Cinna.
     Obviously, one of the big draws of the book is to talk about the major stars of the film. This section discusses how actors were selected, gives us comments from the actors, views of the director, producers, and others, and shows us amazing glossy, beautiful photographs of the actors.

     Section three is an extensive section that relates concepts like how locations portray "power and might and authority" (p.49) or how a forest area was selected because it had hardwood trees instead of coniferous trees, to convey the feeling of a "uniquely American" location. (p.59) Also, considerations of colors, for example, the Capitol, food and clothes, to be vibrant in "Blues, oranges, greens...but not any pastels, not any earth tones, Nothing brown." (p.81) This is a huge section of the book that covers a lot of material, and the importance of some themes in the movie--like food. Everything from how several pigs were roasted and how the apple was placed in its mouth for Katniss to shoot, to the importance of bread and the types of different rolls, their color, and symbolism.
     Section Four, not only shows photographs of the costumes of the actors, but actually goes into how the "look of the characters," came about. (p.88) Makeup artists, colorists, and costume designers had their work cut out for them.

     Personally, I found Section Five to be the most interesting section in the book. The author states that one of the very most important things about adapting the book into a movie is "to convey the immediacy, the first-person point of view that the book has." The author, Kate Egan, explains that in adapting the book to the movie, they wanted to make sure that wherever possible, they kept Katniss Everdeen's point of view--as did the book! (p. 138)

     The final section, although the shortest, covers some of the most important material. The author speaks to the timeliness of the book's/movie's themes, and Director Gary Ross explains how people were manipulated into participation in The Hunger Games. He says that by getting people involved in that horrendous contest, they become invested in the contestants. They begin "rooting for their favorites,"
which is more effective than attempting to subjugate them. The end result is people participate "in our system." (p.154).

One page from Kate Egan's book shows the beginning
of a scene. This is pages 66 & 67 in the book. This scene
shows Peeta and Katniss (actors Jennifer Lawrence and
Josh Hutcherson.). Thank you to my husband, Carl, for
holding the book for me while I took the picture.
     Reiterating part of Section Five, the author, again, speaks to the importance of addressing contro- versial themes, but takes that notion a step further, addressing the importance of readers questioning the relevance of elements of books in their own lives. I agree with this idea and have addressed this concept in other blog posts. Books are so very important and can expand a person's thinking and reasoning skills if the reader asks pertinent questions about the book.

     I really enjoyed this movie companion to The Hunger Games. The background information on the actors was fun, but more important was how the book was adapted to fit the big screen and still keep the integrity of the book. It is always a dicey thing to adapt a book to another media, such as big screen, so I enjoyed looking at how the movie makers approached this huge task. I also really enjoyed the discussions about the controversial themes, and how the author and movie makers addressed this big problem. I give this guide 4.0 stars out of 5.

     --Recommendations: It is difficult to avoid the fact that the movie is full of violence, death, fighting, and graphic images. MPAA has rated the movie as PG-13 for "intense violent thematic material and disturb- ing images - all involving teens." [12] I would, likewise advise those under that age and parents of children to guide your children in selecting and reading the book--I advise that all young and sensitive persons consider the material before selecting it as reading material. All others, especially teens of the recommended age, will, undoubtedly enjoy the book (and movie).

     --Rating: Even with the minor criticisms stated, above, I thought the book was amazing. So...given all the reasons I have stated, above, I rate this book 4.5 stars out of 5. When I first read the book, back when it first came out, I enjoyed it. I reread it, again, in preparation for doing this blog post and book review of the novel. I enjoyed it just as much as I did on my very first reading. Suzanne Collins has done a wonderful job in putting this exciting story together and sharing with us thrilling exploits of Katniss Everdeen and her friends, enemies, and those she loves. I would highly recommend this book to all within the target audience.

     Thank you for taking time to read this book review, today, and for your consideration of the information I have given you. Please join me, again, next week as we look at Book 2 of The Hunger Games Trilogy: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I hope you are looking forward to that book review as I am. So, until next week, please take a little time to do some reading--be good to yourself.

Until next time...
This flower is a double white Rose of Sharon. [19]
...many happy pages of reading!

All my love,


[1] "The Hunger Games: Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 1." Retrieved 11-01-14.
[2] "Katniss and Gale." Retrieved 11-11-14.
[3] "Peeta." Retrieved 11-11-14.
[4] "Redhead-girls." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[5] "Random Girl Hiding Under Covers." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[6] "How to Smoke A Turkey." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[7] "All the Things I Didn't Get When I Read The Giver As A Kid." [by Eliza Berman] Retrieved 11-12-14.
[8] "Dystopian." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[9] "The Dystopian Society." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[10] "Immediacy." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[11] "Haymitch Abernathy." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[12] "The Hunger Games (2012)." [movie] Retrieved 11-12-14.
[13] "The Hunger Games, Tyranny, and American Civil Rights." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[14] "The New Hunger Games Trailer Official 2012 [HD]--Jennifer Lawrence." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[15] "The Hunger Games: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[16] "RE: View: Community: Season 1." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[17] "PG-13." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[18] "Gallery Images for 4.5 Stars out of 5." Retrieved 11-12-14.
[19] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 11-12-14.