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Book Review: Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

Not to review two books in the same week or anything, but I thought this one would be especially pertinent since it was released so recently.

Catching Fire is the sequel to The Hunger Games (my review here), since apparently no book can stand on its own these days. It's all about the series. Don't get me wrong: I love a good series, mostly because it guarantees me another great book to read every year or so. What I don't appreciate is when an author (or publisher) stretches out a story to force it into multiple books.

That said, I don't think that's entirely what's going on with The Hunger Games. I'm not sure how many books are planned to be in the series, but I'm guessing it's a trilogy, with books 1 and 2 now released. Not having read the unreleased third and assumed final book in the series, I can't say for sure, but my impression is that this is a story that could have fit into two books, which has instead been stretched into three to DRIVE ALL OF US FANS ABSOLUTELY RABID WITH IMPATIENCE.

All of that is perhaps a discussion for another day. The point here is that Catching Fire is one of those lovely, delicious books that sucks you into its world and makes you want to ignore every other responsibility in your life, every other engagement, commitment, or member of your family, even the tiny helpless ones, and just READ. As much as I love reading, this particular kind of book doesn't come around very often (the Twilight series and some of the Shannon Hale books come to mind as other examples, though I don't think it's a phenomenon necessarily limited to YA lit).

When I was reading Catching Fire, I was in that world. When I went to bed right after reading it, I had dreams of being in that world. When I reluctantly put down the book to attend to the dinner needs of myself and my family, I thought I was still in that world and had to remember that food was not scarce and the pangs of hunger we were all experiencing were because dinner was late, not because we were actually starving and oppressed like the characters in the book.

So, yes, it is a good book and a thoroughly engrossing read. I really enjoyed seeing some of the themes I appreciated in The Hunger Games fleshed out and expanded in Catching Fire. There were some crazy plot twists that I didn't see coming, and one that I did. The last third of the book is where you can just put your bookmark away because you won't be needing it. Be sure to save that part for when you have an uninterrupted stretch of reading time available.

Of course, the end kind of runs right off a cliff, right into Book 3 territory, which was frustrating. I didn't think it was quite as bad as the blunt ending of The Hunger Games, but it was maddening nonetheless. The weaknesses in Catching Fire were mostly issues that seem to relate to this two-book story being held over into three (if that is the total number of books, anyway). I thought parts of the book were a little slow, and while I understood that the heroine (Katniss) was necessarily torn between two paths of action, I thought she bordered on wishy-washy at times. Also, I ended up liking this book slightly less than The Hunger Games, mostly because of the shift in focus from, well, the actual Hunger Games to wider social rebellion. But those are my only reservations, and I'm giving the books the benefit of the doubt until I see the series finished.

One final bonus - the book cover is so gorgeous. You can see the picture at the beginning of this post, but I hope the copy you buy/borrow includes the dust jacket because it is so much shinier and prettier in person. I couldn't stop admiring it as I read. I even stroked it a few times. That's how much I loved this book, I guess.

Flashback Friday: Home Sweet Syrian Home

The girl who didn't come back