Catching Fire (Hunger Games #2)

Catching Fire (Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins
(Summary taken from the book jacket) “Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol–a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create. Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.”
Wow. That’s all I have to say….wow. This book is VERY intense! It doesn’t start out as intense, but at the end….wow. The last fifty pages go so fast and there is so much happening I had to reread a couple of paragraphs because I wasn’t sure who was doing what, and there was action everywhere. And the ending…..may I say, “What ending?????” She leaves you hanging on for dear life at the end. I hate it when the book doesn’t end…I kept turning the empty pages at the end begging for more. There are so many twists and turns it’s crazy. And I have to wait until WHEN for the next book??? AAAAHHHHHH! It’s going to be a long couple of months. But I digress….I have to give it to Ms. Collins, she did a very good job on this second book. The characters are much more developed and it is very well written. I felt a lot more as if I were there with the people of District 12, as if I were afraid of the Capitol myself, and as if I too had emotions running wild. Once again, how can you love a book full of death and destruction?? I don’t know, but Ms. Collins’ writing just pulls you in and keeps you there. If you were depressed after the first book I would say definitely read the second one. It is still depressing, but the intensity of it overrides the depressing factor. You still have no idea between Gale and Peeta, and NOTHING is finalized, in fact, on the last page there are more questions that haven’t been answered than have, but it is worth reading because there might be a smidgeon of hope??? You’ll have to decide for yourself on that one.
Rating: R (Remember, this rating does not follow the movie ratings. An R rating simply means there are adult themes that I don’t think are appropriate for younger children.)  There is little to no language. Peeta and Katniss kiss and sleep in the same bed for comfort, but nothing inappropriate happens. It is the violence and death that make this book inappropriate for young readers. The themes are very mature and would be hard for a younger reader to understand and deal with.
Recommendation: Senior year of high school and up. Also, I would only recommend it to adults with the above precautions. As with the first book, death and despair are abundant……but I liked it??? Hmmm. Hopefully the third book brings some happiness!

My Prison, My Home

My Prison, My Home by Haleh Esfandiari
(Summary taken from the book jacket) “This stunning arrest was the culmination of a chain of events set into motion in the early-morning hours of December 31, 2006–a day that began like any other but presaged the end of Esfandiari’s regular visits to her elderly mother in Iran, and her return to the United States. That morning, the driver arrived on time. Her mother held the Quran over her head for blessing and luck. From the car, Haleh waved good-bye. She checked for her passport and plane ticket. But as the taxi neared the airport, a sedan forced them to pull over. Three men, armed with knives, threatened her and her driver while going through her pockets and stealing her belongings–including her travel documents. She was left unharmed but would not fly home to the States that day. “An ordinary robbery,” Esfandiari insisted to friends and family. She took steps to secure a new passport and book a new flight. But it would not be until eight months later that she would leave Iran. Esfandiari became the victim of the far-fetched belief on the part of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry that she, a scholar with the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, D.C., was part of an American conspiracy for “regime change” in Iran. In haunting prose and vivid detail, Esfandiari recounts how the Intelligence Ministry subsequently ordered a search of her mother’s apartment; put her through hours, then weeks, of interrogation; tapped her phone calls, forcing her to speak in code to her husband and mother; and finally detained her at the notorious Even Prison, where she would spend 105 days in solitary confinement.”

To start off, I am so thankful for our country and the freedoms we enjoy. Our government is not perfect, but we are so blessed to be here with a government that at least follows the rule of law. This book is well written and compelling.  I learned a lot about Iran and it’s history and government. At times it was difficult to keep track of all the different Iranian leaders and what purpose they have in the government, but Esfandiari writes so well that even though I wasn’t 100% sure of who was who, I understood what was going on. She has led a very exciting life, compared to mine. She has lived in Austria, Iran, and the United States. Unfortunately, I do not remember hearing her story when it happened, but I am glad I read the book. It helped me to learn more about world affairs and how different countries rule. It also gave me a personal side to Iran. To me Iran has always been about Ahmadinejad and not allowing him to have nuclear weapons. I have been one to suggest using every option to stop him. After reading this book I still believe, now even more, that Iran should not be allowed to have nuclear weapons, but I worry more about the citizens of Iran and how they will be affected either way. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to be more aware of what can happen in our world, who wants to learn more about Iran and it’s history, and who wants to become more grateful for the country we live in and the freedoms we enjoy.

Rating: PG-13  The only reason I added the “13” was because it is difficult to understand and her interrogation and prison life are not happy. She was not physically harmed, but I think it would be too much for younger teens. There is little to no language and no “physical intimacy,” but it is about prison life.

Recommendation: I think it would be a great book for high school seniors to read while they learn about world history. I don’t know if I would go younger than that. So high school senior and up would benefit from reading this book.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
(Summary taken from the book jacket) “In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before–and suvival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.”
Wow. Where to start with this book? Interesting idea, right? And depressing? Yes to both. I like Suzanne Collins’ style of writing. It is an easy read, more like a young adult book, but the ideas, the themes, and the events are very mature and not for young audiences. Younger children would be able to read the words but they would not be able to comprehend and handle all that happens. Some of it traumatized me, as an adult, and I do not want my children reading it. The book definitely draws you in. The story is very compelling and you have to know what happens to this girl. This book really made me think about my life. It made me thankful for our country and our freedoms. It made me thankful for food to eat and a very supportive family, and a good job. It also made me take a harder look at reality TV and my reactions to it. Overall I liked the book. I will read the second one. I was very depressed at the end, so don’t read it if you don’t like depressing. Also, there are some very graphic death scenes, so don’t read it if you don’t think you could handle that. I didn’t like that it sucked me in, that I became the person rubber-necking on the freeway to get a glimpse of the accident. I didn’t like that it had that power over me, but it definitely did. But yes, I did like the book and would recommend it with the above precautions.
Rating: R (Remember, this rating does not follow the movie ratings. An R rating simply means there are adult themes that I don’t think are appropriate for younger children.) There is none to very little language. There are no “physical intimacy” scenes, but they do talk about being naked. There are very mature themes and some very graphic death scenes. A lot of people die. (Happy, right???)
Recommendation: Senior year of high school and up. Also, I would only recommend it to adults with the above precautions. See, death and despair……but I liked it??? It kind of makes you think…..what does that say about me????

The Mermaid Chair

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd
(Summary taken from the book jacket) “Inside the church of a Benedictine monastery on Egret Island, just off the coast of South Carolina, resides a beautiful and mysterious chair ornately carved with mermaids and dedicated to a saint who, legend claims, was a mermaid before her conversion. When Jessie is summoned home to the island to cope with her eccentric mother’s seemingly inexplicable act of violence, she is living a conventional life with her husband, Hugh, a life ‘molded to the smallest space possible.’ Jessie loves Hugh, but once there, she finds herself drawn to Brother Thomas, a monk who is soon to take his final vows. Amid a rich community of unforgettable island women and the exotic beauty of marshlands, tidal creeks, and mejestic egrets, Jessie grapples with the tension of desire and the struggle to deny it, with a freedom that feels overwhelmingly right and the immutable force of home and marriage.”
Oh, what to say about this book. After Secret Life of Bees I was very excited to read this book. Well, it was very different. If you step back and look at the over-all story, there are certain things that are similar in the books, but..wow. From  page 2 of this book you know the character is going to have an affair, and you know she is going to destroy her life. So after page 2 I was left wondering if I should even read it. I mean, if you read it are you being immoral for reading about a sordid love affair? You know there will be scenes of “physical intimacy.” You know that it is going to be a bad situation, and yet do you read it??? In one sense I didn’t want to read it because I didn’t know if it was morally right to read it. Then in the other sense I was so enthralled with the other aspects of the story, I wanted answers to my questions. And, I really wanted to see if this stupid lady would come to her senses and do the right thing. So did I read it??? Yes, I did. I am bad at stopping half-way. Was I glad I finished it??? Yes, I was. My questions were answered, and (I don’t want to give anything away) I was satisfied with the resolution. It ended up being a good book. It really made me think at the end. I don’t want to have the feelings she did in 10 more years, so I looked a lot at me, and what I can do to improve my really good marriage now, and also what can I do to help myself? This book shows a lot about human nature, love, forgiveness, mental illness, and friendship. It also shows how what happens to us in our childhood affects what happens in our adult lives. I do love her writing though. It really pulls you in.
Rating: R (Remember, this rating is not congruent with the movie ratings.) My R rating means that there is a lot of language and there is a lot of “physical intimacy.” The first intimacy scene is a little descriptive but from then on they just say they “made love.”
Recommendation: 18+, but really I would say you should be HAPPILY married, and strong in your relationship if you want to read this book. You should also have a good, strong set of morals and NO inclination to have an affair. I just say this because I had such a moral struggle to begin with, just because I knew the premise of the story. But, I think it ended up being a good thing in the end. So there you go…you have the info. so you can make your own choice.

The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
(Summary taken from the back cover) “Falsely accused of treason, the young sailor Edmond Dantes is arrested on his wedding day and imprisoned in the island fortress of the Chateau d’If. After staging a dramatic escape, he sets out to discover the fabulous treasure of Monte Cristo and catch up with his enemies. A novel of enormous tension and excitement, Monte Cristo is also a tale of obsession and revenge. Believing himself to be an ‘Angel of Providence’, Dantes pursues his vengeance to the bitter end, only then realizing that he himself is a victim of fate.”
I LOVE this book!!! I have read it (the 1,100 page version) at least twice, and I will definitely read it again! This is another of my all-time favorite books!!! I could go on and on about how much I love this book. There is an abridged version for those who do not like 1,100 page books, and I’ve heard it’s good, but I haven’t read it. Also, do not watch the movie and think you will get the whole picture. I don’t even know why they called the movie by the same name because they are completely different. The movie is good, yes….but it’s not the same story at all. I love Alexandre Dumas’s writing style. I love the description, the attention to detail, the feeling he portrays, the emotion. I love the characters (well, some of them), I love how he describes them and how everything fits together perfectly. It is a little harder of a read because it was written in the 1800’s. I love that language but some people find it hard to get into. There are also a lot of characters to remember, but it’s worth every minute of time spent reading. Okay, hopefully I don’t get your expectations too high!
Rating: PG-13: (Prison talk, revenge, but mostly you have to be a little more mature to read it just to get into the language and really understand the feelings.)
Recommendation: I read it in high school so I would say high school and up. It’s not a good read-aloud. I would recommend it to anyone 17+ who loves  a good read with love, revenge, hate, suffering, remorse, action…it has something for everyone!

The Host

The Host by Stephanie Meyer
(Summary taken from the book jacket) “Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparentlhy unchanged. Most of humanity has succumbed. When Melanie, one of the few remaining “wild” humans, is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. Wanderer probes Melanie’s thoughts, hoping to discover the whereabouts of the remaining human resistance. Instead, Melanie fills Wanderer’s mind with visions of the man Melanie loves–Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body’s desires, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she has been tasked with exposing. When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, the set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both love.”
This book really took me by surprise. It takes awhile to get into, to figure out what is happening, but it is so interesting. Stephanie Meyer has outdone herself this time. This book is on a much higher intellectual level than the Twilight series. It really makes you think, and look at those all around you. I really liked this book! Up until the end I had no idea how she would end it, and it is surprising, but it is so good! It is worth the 600+ pages to delve into the lives of Wanderer and Melanie. How would I act in this situation? Would I give up? How do I treat those around me who may be different? My enemies? Could I survive? It is a captivating story. It takes a little bit longer to read at the beginning because you have to figure out what is going on. Meyer has a way of ending her chapters at the right time so you have to keep reading. It was a great read!
Rated: PG-13 (Some violence, death ) It is too much for younger minds to digest, I think. There are a few swear words here and there, but not too bad.
Recommendation: High School and up.

Lemon Tart

Lemon Tart by Josi Kilpack
(Summary from the back of the book) “…Cooking aficionado-turned-amateur detective, Sadie Hoffmiller, tries to solve the murder of Anne Lemmon, her beautiful young neighbor–a single mother who was mysteriously killed while a lemon tart was baking in her oven. At the heart of Sadie’s search is Anne’s missing two-year-old son, Trevor. Whoever took the child must be the murderer, but Sadie is certain that the police are looking at all the wrong suspects–including her! Armed with a handful of her very best culinary masterpieces, Sadie is determined to bake her way to proving her innocence, rescuing Trevor, and finding out exactly who had a motive for murder.”
Okay, let me start out by saying that I was very skeptical. Any fiction book you can buy at “Seagull Book” scares me. I don’t like cheesy Mormony fiction, usually. This book surprised me. There are a few cheesy moments, for example, when it starts out Sadie is canning applesauce. Overall, though, it is good. There were some twists and turns, it held my attention, and I enjoyed it. I don’t know if I’ll run out for the next one, but if I get my hands on it then I’ll read it. There are some yummy recipes in it also. I’ve had the brownies and they are delicious! I’m going to try the rest of them. One thing I didn’t like was that it almost marginalized the murder because of the cutsy-ness of it all.
Rated: PG-13 (It is a murder, after all.)

Recommended for: High School and up.

Angels and Demons

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
(Summary taken from the back book cover) “World-renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to a Swiss research facility to analyze a cryptic symbol seared into the chest of a murdered physicist. What he discovers is unimaginable: a deadly vendetta against the Catholic Church by a centuries-old underground organization–the Illuminati. Desperate to save the Vatican from a powerful time bomb, Langdon joins forces in Rome with the beautiful and mysterious scientist Vittoria Vetra. Together they embark on a frantic hunt through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, deserted cathedrals, and the most secretive vault on earth…the long-forgotten Illuminati lair.”
This is a fun book. There were some really gory descriptions of death, and there was more profanity than I remember in “Davinci Code,” but it is exciting and a definite page turner. I enjoyed it a lot. I like Dan Brown’s twists and turns, and I like how he incorporates real-life into his fiction. This book brings out the adventurer in all of us, and makes me want to travel to those places and maybe find an adventure of my own.
Rated: PG-13 (Gory deaths, profanity, “love scene”)
Recommended for: High school and up.

Housekeeping

Housekeeping by: Marilynne Robinson This is not a fast read, but it is a very good human interest story. It is sad and depressing at times, but it really makes you think about your life and how you interact with other people. It is the story of a family. Two girls are left on their grandmother’s doorstep, by their mother. The story continues showing how the two girls react to the different women in the family taking care of them. Each girl reacts differently, and it is very interesting to see. I liked this story a lot and would definitely recommend it.

Rated: PG

Recommendation: High School and Up. I don’t think younger children would be interested.

Breaking Dawn

Breaking Dawn by: Stephenie Meyer This is book number four in the Twilight Series. This book is definitely not appropriate for young adults!!!! In this book Bella and Edward get married, and then do what married people do. Fine for me, maybe, but I do not want my girls reading it as young adults. There are jokes about them being “intimate” and very detailed descriptions about the aftermath (which is nothing like reality….but a young girl would not know that). Bella becomes pregnant, and everyone except her and Rose want to abort the “thing.” Once again, not really something I want a young girl reading. The story is strange but good, and it keeps you reading. Bella’s continuing relationship with Jacob still drives me crazy. I was worried when I started reading, but the ending made it all come together for me. I really liked the ending. Sorry for my strong opinions on this one. The other day I heard a 12-yr-old say she was reading it and I just cringed…

 Rated: PG-13 to R (For language and very adult themes, physical intimacy)

Recommendation: Married and Up. I do not want my young girls to think that “physical intimacy” or being pregnant are in any way like they are in this book. This is NOT for young adults!