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Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

Hunger Games; A-

I’ve been deliriously swept up in Hunger Games hysteria, to the point where I stayed up all night this week – getting exactly one hour of sleep at 5:30am, which at my age is not as easy to do as it was when I was sixteen – reading the first two books in the trilogy. As I paid the price for my literary madness with a massive sleep deprivation headache the next day, forcing me to call in sick from work because I had trouble walking steadily and forming complete sentences, I finished the third book of the trilogy. The headache is still lingering somewhat the day afterwards, but I’m now rereading the series, or at least the first two books.

As a rabid fan, I had to steel myself to see the movie. I’d read good reviews and a couple lukewarm ones. My strategy would be to set my expectations firmly at mediocre, but to secretly hope that it was going to knock my socks off. Due to scheduling, we booked UltraAVX tickets online for tonight, which was supposed to be better-than-IMAX (basically…seats that lean back and a little more legroom…like coach vs. business class). When we got to the theater, I pointed out that AVX can be pronounced “Avox.” Little inside Hunger Games tidbit.

Anyway, the film was entertaining and fairly faithful to the book, satisfying even to a fan of the books. If I had to nitpick, as any rabid fan would do, I’d point out that Katniss’s hunting outfit looks too trendy and tailored for her poor upbringing. That no one in the film looked hungry, even though most of them are supposed to be on the verge of starvation. That CGI flames and animals detracting from my viewing experience. That some of the children and tributes should have looked more childlike – hard to picture Katniss as 16 and Gale looked nowhere near 18. That I thought that Peeta should have been given more of a personality. At one point, I almost thought of it as a sequel to The Truman Show.

Special mention goes to the actress who played Rue, the pixie-like tribute from District 11. She was more than perfect, and even though she had a small part, she’s very memorable. Also, the tiny scene at the end with the Game Master was a good touch. The acting overall was pretty good and believable. Donald Sutherland and Stanley Tucci were great. The film is a long 2 hours and 22 minutes, but you get so caught up in everything, that you wouldn’t have minded had it been longer. Actually, what the filmmakers could have done was split up all of the books and create their own massive 6-film franchise. I guess they seem to be doing all right as it is.

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It’s been a year since I first became obsessed with True Blood, and unfortunately, that year has not been kind to the HBO series. When I first started watching my brand-new Season 3 DVDs, I noticed that I wasn’t as engaged as I had been for the first or second seasons. Perhaps the spark of interest has flickered out, perhaps there were too many new characters introduced, though I don’t have the technical eye to really notice that sort of thing. I think that part of the problem is that there weren’t any happy endings or satisfying resolutions. While I highly disapprove of Spielberg endings – ahem, Saving Private Ryan – I still think that you need to throw the audience a bone and give them something to be happy about. There’s a pervading dirtiness to the whole season that didn’t have the cathartic cleansing of, say, killing a sea goddess or beheading a serial killer. And no, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Russell.

The DVD is still a worthwhile investment, though, as each episode has a mini “post-mortem” which explains more about the behind-the-scenes action or provide additional scenes. There are a few commentaries, and of course the Snoop Dog Sookie music video. I can only hope that when viewed in succession, the third season will make the fourth that much more interesting.

I have reservations about Season 4, as the Eric character is destined to become more prominent and Alexander Skarsgard is clearly not of the same acting caliber as Stephen Moyer. Foremost, the chemistry between Skarsgard and Paquin is not smoldering as it is between Moyer and Paquin. Also, Eric is supposed to have an irrepressible zest for life, and strong charisma, however the character we see onscreen is reserved and plotting. He often broods, and the Charlaine Harris Eric is a man of action, not a brooder. Our eyes track Skarsgard on the screen mostly because he is tall rather than because what he is doing is interesting. It’s rather like how beautiful people have trouble showing effective emotions like pain or anger on screen, because they’ve never had to exert themselves to that degree. I hope we see a vast improvement, because I will blame the Swede first if Season Four bites the dust.

As a disclaimer, I’ll admit that my passion for the books has definitely waned, and I cannot wait until the last book comes out next year, so that the ordeal will be over. Apparently from the latest book, Sookie feels likewise. The tv series is doing a good job of using the books as more inspiration rather than script, thankfully.

That being said, I’ve been enjoying the flirty little tidbits that HBO has offered rabid fans like myself since the end of last season. Waiting Sucks indeed, and I’ll have to wait even longer until the episodes become available online, however the steady stream of teaser clips and True Blood Withdrawal PSAs have almost made it worthwhile. The latest 8-minute preview clip of the season premiere did wonders to – pardon the expression – revamp my opinion of what to expect in the upcoming season. I have moderately high hopes.

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It is with a heavy heart that I read the penultimate Sookie Stackhouse book, Dead Reckoning. I don’t like hardcover books because they are expensive and take up too much space, but I had to quench my Sookie fix, and today I bought and devoured the latest installment.

While not the worst (I leave that to the Titus Andronicus-esque Dead in the Family), it wasn’t the greatest in the series, and unfortunately it follows the trend of the the past couple of bloodbath battle books. It brought back nearly all of Sookie’s old flames, all still carrying a torch for our buxom heroine despite each having lady companions of their own, and of course it introduced a teaser element which suggests that anything could happen in the final book. Anything. Maybe even a new car port. What is Sookie’s heart’s desire? Tune in for the final volume, due out (hopefully) next year.

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The first time I was caught in the thrall of a book, I was 11-years old and secretly reading Gone With the Wind in my closet for three nights straight until I’d finished all 1,024 pages. I stayed up later than I ever had before, and couldn’t wait to get back to my closet to finish up the epic novel. There have been other moments of literary obsession, but none for a long time until I decided to bite the bullet so to speak and finally watch an episode of True Blood. I’d watched Family Guy and Bones many times over, the Top Chef season had finished, and couldn’t stomach yet another round of Friends or Sex and the City. For my brethren without televisions, cruising for free streaming videos online, you know what I mean.

I watched the pilot. And then the second episode, then the third, fourth, until I was staying up until 4am for four nights straight, plowing through the entire three season set. The frustrating times came when I couldn’t find an episode, or when the only ones I found had been crudely dubbed over in Russian (you could make out what had originally been said if you really concentrated). Or if the video wasn’t streaming quickly enough and I gnashed my teeth waiting for that little progress bar to inch laboriously forward. Or when my eye balls seemed to dry out around 2:34am, and I would awaken several hours later like a junky, stale from the previous night yet insatiable for more.

Once I finally reached the end, and realized I would have to wait an entire year for the start of the fourth season, I started searching for the books on which the series was loosely based. The Grand Bibliothèque had a couple of them, but they were all on hold. I couldn’t wait – I’d wasted enough time merely visiting the library at all. I ordered the entire ten-book Southern Vampire Series from Abebooks.com (being too cheap to get new, full-priced ones from a more expedient source). However, as soon as I’d placed the ordered and received confirmation, I realized I would have to wait nearly a month for them to get up to me. That night, I found most of them as free ebooks, and plowed through several of them each night, day off, and lunch break at work. I can’t find the eighth book, so I suppose I’ll actually have to wait until it arrives in the mail, but perhaps I’ve sated my book lust for now. I’ve had a lot of Sookie Stackhouse, in both of the tv and book worlds.

About a week after the Sookie-madness first began, I thought it might finally be tapering off, but only because I had to wait 6-13 business days for my books to clear customs and arrive. And then just yesterday, I gave in an ordered the first two seasons on dvd from Amazon.ca. The third season probably won’t be available until May 2011…alas.

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