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18 March 2010

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Glad to see that I'm not the only one that has issues with The Historian. I've always been a little confused why it's gotten so much praise in reviews and by word of mouth--it has its moments to be sure, but on the whole I felt it really needed a more aggressive editor. Cutting at least a hundred pages would have made it a much better book (and saved me some time when I had to read it for a book club).

Collins' Hunger Games is probably the only action book that I've read where the characters are as well-developed as the plot. Catching Fire (the second title) provides a lot more backstory and character motivations, and is (IMHO) as good as the first book. The third book, Mockingjay, comes out in August. I'm already planning mu schedule around it.

Uff, The Historian. Picked it up. Put it down. I just couldn't get into it.

The Hunger Games, on the other hand, was one of the best pieces of dystopian fiction (a guilty pleasure of mine) I've read in a long time. The second book, Catching Fire, is easily as good, and I'm eagerly awaiting book three. I already have a hold on it (yeah, I'm evil like that--those teens can just wait). I'm also tempted to dork out and buy a Team Peeta t-shirt, but only if I can wear it in a mocking and ironic kind of way.

It didn't feel forced and artificial, and even though there are a lot of stock characters (it's hard to avoid), even they felt real and fleshed out. Katniss's actions on her family's behalf felt honest rather than forced or predictable, and I fell hook, line, and sinker for the triangle.

I loved the Historian. I loved every superfluous detail crammed into it. It made me want to visit Istanbul and Romania. What can I say? I like big books that tell stories with lots of detail and sidetracking (Dickens, Umberto Eco). I thought the Historian was a great yarn.

P.S. If you are looking for humor in your vampires, rent "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", one of the best TV shows ever, IMHO.

I liked The Historian, though I agree that it's really slow and never really goes anywhere. When I finished it, I was, I just read a "thriller" about scholars doing research. It's quite funny when you look at it that way.

And Dracula can be funny. Leslie Nielsen once played him in a spoof.

Bibliomane, Rachael,
See? Sometimes isn't it almost just as nice to find someone who disliked the same book as you as someone who loves all the same books you read? I think librarians and readers should spent more time talking about books they hated--sometimes it's just plain refreshing.

We've already blown through "Catching Fire" and now can't wait for "Mockingjay"!

Rachael,
I too was a big sucker for the triangle. I can't decide whose side I'm on though--one moment it's Peeta, the next it's Gale. What's poor Katniss to do?

Ruthiella,
See, different strokes, different folks. Yet another reason I refuse to use the term "sure bet" when describing books. I just don't believe in it. I agree with you that the place details were interesting--I think I was more frustrated by the story details. What felt like hundreds of chapters of "I have a dracula book. Do you have a dracula book? You do? Wow, let's find someone else with a dracula book." I think most of that is just my anti-long-book bias; very rarely do I feel like I can get in a long detailed book and lie down, because I've always got about 50 more waiting to be read that I'm too antsy to get to.

And yes, Buffy is a PERFECT example. Spike? Hilarious. And evil. I want a hilarious Dracula like Spike!

I purchase the children's and YA books for my academic library, and I usually don't put the first hold on popular books, but I did with The Hunger Games. And it was so good, I didn't feel any guilt. I did feel a little odd enjoying it so much, because the premise and the plot are so disturbing. I excused my enthusiasm, because the book is so well written. Then I realized that there are many books that are disturbing in similar ways - for example, The Lord of the Flies. Now I'm rethinking the whole "is it too disturbing?" question. It's not a YA issue, but a question of why it was so exciting to read when the reader knows what has to happen during the "competition." I know. I know. This is coming from someone who reads and "enjoys" true crime.

Agreed on both of these books - I've read Catching Fire as well, and I enjoyed it although I OD'd a little on the Katniss worship.

In other news, have you seen this? Nicholas Sparks thinks he's Hemingway...fo real yo. http://www.powells.com/blog/?p=16818

i just cant read the hunger games because it feels like a ripoff of an amazing book called battle royale. which you should read. because it's amazing.

http://www.librarything.com/work/5691177

If no modern author is doing what he does today, why do I never find myself recommending Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides to patrons seeking read-alikes?

Can't you just picture it? "If you liked 'The Notebook,' you'll love 'Antigone.'" I hear they're making a movie out of it, starring Miley Cyrus.

I'm shaking with indignation, mocking laughter, and too much caffeine.

I also found The Historian to be crashingly dull and overhyped. Glad to hear you agree. I have a theory that almost no one actually finished that book. I have also noticed startlingly large stacks of the book at remainder sales which makes me think the publisher overestimated its appeal

Venta,
Well, if you read The Hunger Games as quickly as I did (and I'll bet you did) I wouldn't worry about placing the first hold. I'll bet you returned it pretty quickly.
The subject you bring up is an interesting one--why do we read about these disturbing topics? Dystopias, unpleasant serial killer thrillers, horror books, true crime? I think it's unfortunate there's still kind of a quiet taboo about working with such collections, or admitting enthusiasm for them (especially true crime) because people who don't like them wonder why on earth anyone would. I don't have any answers, though. Maybe reading about these topics is how we try to learn or adapt without having to live them?

Bookie, Robin,
Oh, the Nicholas Sparks stuff was priceless. I wasn't all that suprised, because I think I've read articles where Jodi Picoult describes herself as a literary author. (Tee hee.) My only Nicholas Sparks anecdote is when I was at my husband's family's for Christmas this year, his aunts wanted to know what other authors they might like if their favorites were "Danielle Steel and Nicholas Sparks." So yeah, I didn't suggest any Hemingway. Actually, I felt a little bad for Steel, getting lumped in with Nicky.

Robin--in hilarious local author news, I still remember Jennifer Chiaverini saying in an interview that she didn't write formulaic fiction. Since she's now up to number 14 or 15 of something in her Quilting Women (or something like that) novel series, I'm going to laugh (and cry, a little) at that interview too. :)

Beth,
Thank you for the suggestion! I actually like dystopias quite a bit, and as you can tell, I'm always looking for something to throw into the gaping reading maw of Mr. CR.

Becky,
Yay! As I said, to each their own, but sometimes it's just nice to find others who disliked a book as much as you did. It doesn't help that the audio version I've got is portraying Dracula's voice as this horrible deep totally cliche one--all he needs to say is "I vant to suck your blood" and the cheesy image will be complete.

I love huge sprawling worlds cram-packed with details. This partly explains why I liked The Historian, and why I like Russian novels, and why I like fantasy.

I despise choppy, trendy, superficial prose and transparent character development. This is why I got through only two chapters of The Hunger Games.

Someday, CR, we will find a fiction book that we both like (aside from that one by Penelope Wossname). Er... have you tried Terry Pratchett?

Mwaaaaahahahahahaha! That Sparks article was satire, right? Someone else actually wrote that, right? (wipes eyes and snorts) Oh, he did? Really? Sigh.

I was a classics major and spent a lot of time with the Greek tragedies. He's really, really not that good, or that dense with symbolism. Sparks is a bit more Roman-comedy-like-Plautus-or-Terence. Just without the comedy. (And hell, I loved the movie of the Notebook. Emotional manipulation that you can see coming from the opening scene, plus Ryan Gosling? Yeah, good "2 am, can't sleep, need a reason to cry" movie. Fine. The book? So pluck my eyes out bad, I couldn't read it. Glad it came out before I started doing RA.)

I have to confess that I love long novels (Anna Karenina has been my favorite book since I was 16). I just don't want to find myself flipping to the last page and calculating how many pages I have left, when I'm only on page 50. For example, I actually enjoyed Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (I didn't expect to), but wanted to cut 75-100 pages out of almost 800 where I thought it sagged a little. Some authors can keep a story going, even with short digressions and meanderings, but honestly most can't go for more than about 325 pages without demonstrating the need for a good editor. Kinda like this comment.

Also, I'm so afraid to find out who dies in Mockingjay. Because someone has to. And it's clearly going to be someone I like. Sigh. Damned authors.

Lesbrarian,
Yes, if you like sprawling, I can see where you liked this book. I'll freely admit to my short-book bias; although I'm not a huge fan of story-driven fiction, and sometimes "atmospheric" can be done well (thank you, Shirley Jackson!), I confess I don't need as much detail and atmosphere as Kostova includes.

I'm actually rather pleased to like the superficial prose and character development in The Hunger Games. Maybe I allow that stuff more in fiction than in nonfiction? Either way, as fun as it is to pick on books that annoy one, sometimes it is nice to go along with a crowd-pleaser.

I keep checking Terry Pratchett books out but I never get them read. I've got to get "Good Omens" (or whatever that title is) back from the library.

Rachael,
Well, Nicholas Sparks is a satirical author, right? Wait, he's not? Oh dear God.

I have read and enjoyed long novels--John Steinbeck's East of Eden comes to mind--but it doesn't happen often. I wish I'd read more in college when I had time; maybe I would have had the patience for long Russian novels then. I don't think I would anymore.

I'd still like to try Jonathan Strange. But I really do firmly believe that very few books published in the last couple of years couldn't do with a good 100-page trimming (and this goes for nonfiction too, as I am currently bogging down in Tony Horwitz's Blue Latitudes.) But I would guess that's mainly a function of publishers cutting editorial staff left and right.

p.s. That made me sound like a snob. Which I am. But I am a nice snob, I want to make that clear. Very nice snob. And sometimes I like crowd-pleasers and right now I am re-reading the Dresden Files, so you can call me out on my hypocrisy concerning superficial prose and character development.

Lesbrarian,
No clarifications needed. It made you sound like a book snob, and book snobs are my favorite people ever. You never need to apologize for strong opinions here. I called the book you liked the most boring book I ever read, so I started it! :)

Everyone needs a little sumpin' superficial every now and then.

I am thinking the way to find common ground is with fantasy, a genre that I know you occasionally enjoy. Fantasy is my favorite type of book to read. Even if I recognize that a particular book is crappy, I'll probably still enjoy it. I lose my snob standards when faced with a fantasy novel. So the logic here: since I like most any fantasy, you like at least some fantasy, there is probably some overlap on the Venn diagram. Right? Right?

Maybe I should finally get around to reading the Belgariad-- I recall your saying you liked it.

Or maybe I shouldn't. It's so nifty, having this nearly spotless record of diametrically opposed fiction tastes.

Oh and--

(I could break down and write an email instead of posting a comment every damn time a thought enters my head, I realize this)--

though I am a book snob, I have lately become hesitant to say anything bad about anyone's writing online. Should an author stumble across my negative review, I don't want to hurt his or her feelings. So, um, Ms. Suzanne Collins? If you see this? I'm really, really sorry. The Hunger Games wasn't for me, and I know I used some harsh words for it, but your book is selling at #118 in Amazon while mine is selling at #1,290,275 so you can just ignore me.

Lesbrarian,
Don't worry so much about the authors. Sure, no one likes to read a bad review or harsh words about their books. But they know that's the nature of the game. If we lose all honesty and opinion from these reviews there's just not much point to reviews, is there? Just because a book wasn't for a reviewer doesn't mean it's a bad book (most of the time), and I think most real readers know that.

I always felt very warmly toward Gene Siskel, actually, because it was a guarantee that whatever he liked I would hate and vice versa, which saved me a lot of time when choosing movies to see. So dissenting voices serve a purpose. If we all had the same taste all books would sell exactly the same number of copies, and that would just be weird.

Dude, you're going to hate the Belgariad, which kind of makes me want to suggest you read it. :)

I loved Hunger Games! Another one I read that has sort of a similar strong female character is Graceling. IMHO, it's even better than Hunger Games, although you might not agree. To me, Katniss just got a little too one dimensional at the end. Just my opinion. I'd be curious if you like Graceling!

Liz,
Thank you for the "Graceling" suggestion! I wasn't too bothered by Katniss's character development (or lack thereof)--the books read so fast that they were over before I could give it much thought. :) Sometimes you just need a good quick read.

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