Gregor and the Code of Claw

Gregor and the Code of Claw (Book #5) by Suzanne Collins

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “Everyone has been trying to keep Gregor from seeing the final prophecy, The Prophecy of Time. It says something awful, but Gregor never imagined just how awful: It calls for the warrior’s death. The warrior being Gregor, of course. Now, an army of rats is quickly approaching and Gregor’s mom and his little sister, Boots, are still in Regalia. In spite of the terrifying prophecy, Gregor must gather up his courage to defend Regalia and get his family back home safely. The entire existence of the Underland is in Gregor’s hands and time is running out. There is a code that must be cracked, a new princess to contend with, Gregor’s burgeoning dark side, and a war designed to end all wars.”

I liked this finale book. It wasn’t my favorite of the series, but I liked it. Having read all of them right in a row I was kind of getting sick of them, but I did like it. It was a little darker and a little more violent, but still okay. I liked how it showed the relationship between Gregor and Luxa blossoming and how it showed Gregor growing up and deciding that he had to sacrifice himself to save everyone else.  I liked the addition of the code they needed to break. I really like Howard’s character, and Mareth’s character.

I didn’t love the ending. I think Ms. Collins needed 50 more pages and a little more time. I thought it ended very abruptly and without closure for the characters involved (and me). I thought she killed off a character she shouldn’t have and it just made it so sad. Books don’t always need to have a happy ending (although it is nice), but this was just sad. I would still recommend the series because the rest of the series is really good.

Rating: PG+ (War violence, characters (even a main character) dying, fighting)

Recommendation: 3rd Grade and up. If you’re child has read the first four then I’d recommend finishing it for sure. You may want to read it to judge if your child is ready.

Gregor and the Marks of Secret

Gregor and the Marks of Secret (Book #4) by Suzanne Collins

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “In the fourth volume of the critically acclaimed Underland Chronicles, Gregor is drawn ever deeper into a brewing crisis. For generations, rats have run the mice–or “nibblers”–out of whatever lands they’ve claimed, keeping them constantly on the move. But now the mice are disappearing, and the young queen Luxa, who credits them with saving her life, is determined to find out why. When Gregor joins her on a fact-finding mission, he’s relieved that this time, at least, there’s no prophecy on the line. But when the true fate of the mice is revealed, it is something far more sinister than Gregor or Luxa have imagined–and it points the way to the final prophecy he has yet to fulfill. Gregor’s role as warrior and his abilities as a rager are put to the test in this suspenseful, action-packed penultimate installment of Suzanne Collins’s thrilling Underland Chronicles.”

I liked this book, however, it is darker than the first three. The things that happen are darker and more sinister, and evil. One main character dies, but hundreds of innocent minor characters die. And the main characters watch (they want to help but can’t). So, it’s harder to read, but it still has some happy moments, and Boots is as cute as ever. Gregor finds his abilities are lacking in certain areas but is learning to control them better. It is a fast, easy read, but sad and depressing. If you have read the first three you definitely need to read it, just know that it’s not too happy. And it leaves you hanging at the end.

I like the characters and I like that as the books go on we continue to learn more about each character and each circumstance. I like that the characters grow before our eyes, and I’m quite attached to some of them. Ms. Collins’ writing style is easy to read and definitely draws you in. I have the next one sitting on my dresser so I don’t think I’ll be doing much today.

Rating: PG+ (Violence, fighting, deaths of innocent creatures, it’s darker than the first three)

Recommendation: 3rd or 4th grade and up. If your child is a third grader you may want to preview this one first. It is more depressing and may be harder for a third grader. My 4th grader read it and commented to me that he didn’t like it as much because it was more violent.

Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods (Book #3) by Suzanne Collins

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “Book Two left off with Gregor reading the Prophecy of Blood: a prophecy that calls for Gregor and Boots to return to the Underland to help ward off a deadly plague. But this time, Gregor’s mother refuses to let him return to the Underland…until the rat Ripred assures the family that Gregor and Boots are just needed for a short meeting, which the crawlers will attend only if their “princess” Boots is present. Gregor’s mom finally relents, on the condition that she go with them. The Underland plague is spreading, and when one of Gregor’s family is stricken, he begins to understand his role in the Prophecy of Blood, and must summon all his power to end the biological warfare that threatens the warmblooded creatures of the Underland.”

This book has all the suspense and action that the previous two books had, and the story takes an interesting turn. Of course there is the prophecy that they don’t really understand until it all happens, and some lingering questions, even then. It is a fast, easy read and definitely a page turner. A new Overlander ends up going to the Underland, and that throws some twists and turns into the story. Gregor grows a lot in this book, I think. Which is good. I think he is starting to learn more about himself and find confidence in his abilities. At the same time, he is still a child, only 12 years old, and there are times when he acts like a 12 year-old boy. Which is annoying, but realistic. There are also some new characters introduced, and I ended up liking them a lot.

I find this series interesting, when compared to Suzanne Collins’ other famous series “The Hunger Games.” That series, of course, is not written for the same age group, but the messages of war and peace are quite different. In “Hunger Games” war is fought as a game. It is meant to entertain and teach a lesson to the spectators. They are to learn not to fight against their leaders. In “Gregor,” war is fought for protection. It is also fought to gain something like a cure to a plague or to fight an evil creature. In this particular book, there is a message that war should be the last resort. Gregor has never liked his role as a warrior, and he has never liked fighting, but he has done it to protect himself and his Underland friends. He has also done it to gain something. In this book he begins to think about how war might not be the only option sometimes, but sometimes it is necessary. I don’t like political statements in children’s books, and this could be portrayed as one, but it is not overly bearing and works in the book. But, I know my 10 year-old didn’t quite catch all of that, so it may be a mute point anyway.

I liked this book. It is repulsive in some spots (the plage is nasty), but overall I enjoyed it. There is some fighting violence and characters do die along the way. This series may not be for a cute, timid little girl, but she might still enjoy it. My 10 year-old boy loved it and finished all the books in a matter of a couple of weeks. I also enjoyed it. There is no language and no “physical intimacy.”

Rating: PG+ (There is a war, with fighting, the plague is really disgusting and nasty, and characters do die.)

Recommendation: 3rd or 4th grade and up. My 10 year-old, 4th grade, loved it.

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane (Book #2) by Suzanne Collins

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “In the months since Gregor first encountered the strange Underland beneath New York City, he’s sworn he won’t ever go back. But when another prophecy, this time about an ominous white rat known as the Bane, calls for Gregor’s help, the Underlanders know the only way they can get his attention is through his little sister, Boots. Now Gregor’s quest reunites him with his bat, Ares, the rebellious princess Luxa, and new allies, and sends them through the dangerous and deadly Waterway in search of the Bane. Then Gregor must face the possibility of his greatest loss yet, and make life and death choices that will determine the future of the Underland.”

I was really excited to read this book because I really enjoyed the first one. It did not disappoint. It was full of action and took Gregor on quite the adventure. It wasn’t a happy journey, at all, and there was a lot of loss. Loss of animals and people. There were some surprises and there was some predictability, but overall I really liked it. You could tell Ms. Collins was setting the reader up for book #3, but that’s ok. As an adult, I just read. I don’t really look for what I think is coming, and the younger readers, like my 10 year-old son, don’t either. If you do, you may predict the ending, but I just sit back and enjoy the story. I always like to see how the prophecies turn out, and the creative ways that Gregor finds to fulfill them, and the creative ways he uses the “Overlander” resources to help himself and his friends.

I really like the characters in this series, and I began to like the new characters that are introduced in this book. I like Ms. Collins’ character development, especially with Gregor and Boots and Luxa and Mareth. I do want to know more about Mrs. Cormaci, so I hope that comes into another book. She seems like she might know what is going on, but you can’t tell for sure.

This book is quite violent with some gory scenes. There are some deaths (of animals) and some missing persons. There is no language and no “physical intimacy.”

Rating: PG+ (Not quite a PG-13, but might be too much for some younger readers.) Violence, death of animals, fighting.

Recommendation: 3rd grade and up. If your child is in third or fourth grade and is sensitive then it may be too much. My fourth grader loved it. I liked it as well.

Gregor the Overlander (Book #1) by Suzanne Collins

(Summary taken from the back book cover) “When eleven-year-old Gregor follows his little sister through a grate in the laundry room of their New York apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland beneath the city. There, humans live uneasily beside giant spiders, baths, cockroaches, and rats–but the fragile peace is about to fall apart. Gregor wants no part of a conflict between these creepy creatures. He just wants to find his way home. But when he discovers that a strange prophecy foretells a role for him in the Underland’s uncertain future, he realizes it might be the only way to solve the biggest mystery of his life. little does he know his quest will change him–and the Underland–forever.

I am so glad I found this book! This is a good, fun book. I was worried about it for my 4th grader since Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games is NOT 4th grader approved, but it turned out to be really good. It has a fun and different storyline, which catches you right from the beginning. It’s a fast, easy read, and it has some fun twists and turns. The writing style is easy to read and draws you in. It is clean from start to finish (except for some war violence), which I love. I really liked the characters, especially Gregor and Boots, and thought their character development was good. I loved the relationship between Gregor and Boots. It was so cute how much he loved her and how he takes care of her and protects her. Not too many young boys would feel that way about their little sisters. Some of the Underland characters were developed well also. I thought it interesting that she used everyday, not so nice, creatures to become some of the best and nicest characters. I also like that this is a series so I know that my 4th grader has at least that many books to read before I have to find him something else to read. 

I really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it! Hopefully I’ll be posting the review for the second book soon. I love that you can have a great book that is clean. So great.

Rating: PG   Clean–no swearing or “physical intimacy”. There is some war violence with characters dying. And some of the “big bugs” may scare younger readers.

Recommendation: 3rd or 4th grade and up. I enjoyed it. It’s not Harry Potter, but it’s enjoyable and a fun read.

The Mockingjay

The Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding. It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans–except Katniss. The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feeling of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay–no matter what the personal cost.”

Wow. What else to say?? This book is very intense and doesn’t end the feelings of depression and sadness that permeate the first two books. I know….I also really hoped it could be happy. Unfortunately for us Ms. Collins didn’t follow that same philosophy. I finished it about 24 hours ago and I am still not sure how I feel about it and especially how I feel about the ending. I kept thinking, “There’s no way she’ll be able to finish this in 100 pages (and then 50, and then 35, and then 15, and then 4, etc.).” I don’t know….it’s very gory and violent, angry and intense. It follows Katniss and the other main characters to a war with the Capitol. She still can’t decide between Peeta and Gale, and it drives me crazy (kind of like Bella in Twilight). There is an ending to that, but I don’t know how I feel about it. I think it is well written and there are some twists, but….if this were a movie I WOULD NOT watch it. There is no way they could make it less than Rated R. So….there you go. Did I help at all?? There are definitely mixed emotions with this book. If you have read the first two then I would recommend it, but with a warning that it is much more violent and angry than the first two (is that possible?). As far as analysis, like the first one mimicking the reality tv craze, it does kind of go into a kind of socialism, with everyone getting the same food, living conditions, clothes, etc. Did I like it? That’s what I don’t know yet…yes and no. Was I happy with the ending? Ummmm, I don’t know. I may need to do an update in a week or so as I ponder my feelings about it. Does this make you want to read it? Haha, sorry…..now you know what you have to look forward to if you read it!

***Addendum: Okay, it has been awhile and I’ve thought a lot about it. Yes, I hated it. It was terrible and I heard someone say that it wasn’t true to Katniss, and I agree. I do wish I had not read it, and I don’t say that very often. My recommendation now: if you liked the series and want to read it–read it with caution and listen to the warnings. Don’t be afraid to just stop mid-book if it starts to disturb you. If you don’t think it sounds like you will like it–don’t read it. Stop reading at number 2 and keep on hoping that something happy and good will come of Katniss and her world.

Rating: R (This doesn’t necessarily follow the movie ratings) It is very violent and it is a war. There are many deaths, and very gruesome ones at that. Think of the Hunger Games with a whole country involved…..

Recommendation: College and up. Geez, I don’t even think high school. It really is hard to read. This is NOT a young adult book.

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!

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????