The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I heard about this book awhile ago, and I’ve been on the library’s hold list for months waiting for it. When I finally got it, though, I didn’t read it right away. I was pretty sure that once I started reading it, the book would basically possess me until I finished it.

I was right.

I picked the book up a few nights ago and read the entire thing from cover to cover, even though it wasn’t the most judicious thing to do.

Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen-year-old living in the 12th District of Panem, hunts daily beyond “the fence” to feed her mother and sister. The book opens on the day of the reaping, a yearly occurence where a boy and a girl from each district is chosen by lottery to travel to the Capitol to compete in the Hunger Games. When Katniss’s younger sister, Primrose, is chosen, Katniss volunteers to take her place.

The Hunger Games themselves are the epitome of barbarism: two teenagers from each of the twelve districts are put in some sort of environment to fight.

To the death.

While the entire country is forced to watch on a twisted reality show.

Suzanne Collins’s writing is masterful; I identified and sympathized so completely with the characters I had already cried before page 25. Katniss and her internal struggles were completely believable–from annoyance to rebellion to fear to love to confusion, her voice was absolutely true to her character. While the subject is horrifying, Collins did not dwell on violence. There were no pages I felt like I had to skip because it was too graphic.

I don’t want to say any more, since I don’t want to spoil anything for you. Let me just say this: I can’t wait for the sequel to come out.

Highly recommended for older teens and adults.

I also read the Underland Chronicles by the same author last year, beginning with Gregor the Overlander. Geared for a younger audience, they are fast-paced, well-written, and believably fantasical. I thoroughly enjoyed them. I’d recommend the series for readers ages 8 and up.

My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

I have to start out by saying I’m a big fan of Janette Rallison. I have loved all of her books. She has a way of writing that is both concise and witty. Her latest book did not disappoint.

Savannah Delano was dumped by her boyfriend in order to date her older sister, Jane–after Savannah bought a prom dress.While in the throes of her despair, Savannah somehow summons a fairy godmother. Unfortunately for Savannah, Chrysanthemum Everstar (and, yes, I know how to spell ‘chrysanthemum’ from watching Anne of Green Gables) wasn’t particularly studious at fairy school, and so she’s only fair at this godmothering/wish granting business.  Savannah’s wishes are disastrous, sending her first back to the Middle Ages to work for weeks as Cinderella, luckily escaping before being stuck with a decidedly uncharming prince. Then, as Snow White, Savannah learns it isn’t enough for her to be adored as beautiful but brainless. Savannah’s final wish–to have a real prince to take her to prom–is the worst of all, sending a boy from school to the Middle Ages. Savannah, who lived in the Middle Ages for both her prior wishes, feels terrible and sets out to rescue Tristan.

Comedy, romance, and a plot that twists surprisingly until all ends are tied (except Chryssy–which I hope means we’ll see her again in another book) made for a highly enjoyable read.

Thank you, Janette Rallison! I loved My Fair Godmother.

I highly recommend this book for teenagers.

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Let me start out by saying how I excited I was to discover this new author last year. Not only because she writes great books (because she totally does) but because I know her! I feel a teensy bit famous or something. Forget seven degrees from Kevin Bacon–I’m ONE degree from Jessica Day George! She and I played in orchestra together, had the same speech class, and graduated from high school together. We were friendly acquaintances although I was always jealous (in a nice, small way) of her incredibly gorgeous red hair. I wonder: if I had incredibly gorgeous red hair would it make me write great books?

Answer: nope. That part only comes from being talented and working hard, which scientists have shown has no direct correlation to hair color. But I will continue being just a little bit jealous (nicely) and enjoy her magical writing.

Princess of the Midnight Ball is a retelling of the fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” Our hero, Galen, comes home from the war–except it isn’t really home, as his entire immediate family perished some way or another in the conflict. He makes his way to the capital city to find the family of his mother’s sister, whom he has never met. This aunt and uncle allow Galen to stay with them, and Galen begins working with his uncle in the palace gardens.

There are differences between the fairy tale I’m familiar with and this retelling, but the story is strongly told. I loved Galen right from the start. I mean, who doesn’t love a man that knits? (My brother knits, and trust me–it’s much manlier than you think.) Jessica also did a great job of giving the princesses–all 12 of them, and all with flower names–distinctive characteristics. Of course, in the end Galen marries Rose, but it wasn’t all just magic that saved the day–besides wool and herbs, Galen uses his brain (!) and the help of the princesses to defeat the King Under Stone and his 12 creepy sons.

Jessica has written three other great books–Dragon Slippers, Dragon Flight, and Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow. They are all beautifully written, wonderful fantasy reads. Great job, Jessica!

I recommend this book for ages 8 and up.