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  1. 28 of 34 people found this review helpful
     the girl, still on fire 23 August, 2009 On
    Customer review from the Amazon Vine™ Program (What's this?)
    Hands down, the most memorable book I've read within the past few years is Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games . CATCHING FIRE is the sequel, and it right away plonks you into all the things that made THE HUNGER GAMES such a terrific, terrific read. Suzanne Collins' meticulous world-building introduced us to a post-apocalyptic future in which North America has ceased to exist. Its remnants came to be called Panem, a nation comprising of twelve districts governed with an iron fist by the Capitol city. The Hunger Games is an annually held event which pits lottery-selected children (called "tributes") drawn from each district and compelled to kill each other until only one is left standing. The Hunger Games, established to commemorate the Capitol's ruthless stamping down of an uprising many years ago, is broadcast to all twelve districts with their residents forced to watch as their youths are slaughtered one by one. It's intended as punishment and as a lesson.

    *** Serious SPOILERS from here on out ***

    Against all odds, young Katniss Everdeen from impoverished District 12 has survived the harrowing Hunger Games and, along the way, won the hearts of the twelve Districts. As reigning champion Katniss's lot in life has improved drastically, and she no longer has to forage and illegally hunt in the woods to feed herself and her mother and little sister Prim. Months have elapsed since the Hunger Games, but Katniss, now seventeen, finds herself still having to be on guard. The Capitol, it seems, hasn't forgotten her tiny acts of rebellion. One strategy Katniss had employed was to pretend to a romance with fellow tribute Peeta, a baker's son also from District 12. This got the audience on their side and was instrumental in Katniss and Peeta's both making it thru the Hunger Games.

    But, even months later, with the Capitol's eyes ever on her, Katniss and Peeta must continue to act mutually smitten - and, horrifyingly for Katniss, they may have to maintain the act for the rest of their lives. Except, for Peeta, it was never an act. I have to say, by the way, that I was pretty indifferent to Peeta in THE HUNGER GAMES, but that I warmed up to him in CATCHING FIRE. He is, after all, a pretty likeable dude, even if he's so noble it's almost unbelievable. And, for Katniss, there's the added dilemma of her childhood friend Gale barely talking to her ever since she returned home. Romantic triangle? Without a doubt. Katniss and Peeta eventually embark on the traditional Victory Tour of the Districts, and, in Katniss and Peeta's travels, you can sense the story arc Collins is building up to, the tiny cracks in the Capitol's ironclad rule. Particularly poignant and dangerous is District 11's reaction to Katniss's appearance.

    In reading THE HUNGER GAMES I was very curious about Katniss's home, so it's gratifying that Collins spends some time exploring it. Things get really desperate for the destitute mining community of District 12 as the Capitol even more relentlessly exerts its influence over the districts, and again this perhaps ties into what Katniss may have unwittingly sparked in her time in the Hunger Games. I was wondering where Suzanne Collins was going to go with the sequel, although I figured it would have to involve her branching out into the bigger picture. Katniss's defiance during the Games very much did not go unnoticed and, in fact, may have fostered seeds of unrest within the oppressed people of Panem. Beneath the skin of the districts, something angry is simmering.

    The Victory Tour marches along, and then it's time again for the annual Hunger Games. Except that the upcoming Hunger Games marks its 75th year, and that's all kinds of ominous. The Quarter Quell is nigh, taking place every 25 years and notorious for introducing vicious twists into the Games' rules. This time, the Capitol arrives at sort of an all-star version of the Hunger Games, bringing back all the previous survivors to compete. For the alarmed and very frightened Katniss, it's time to go back to the arena.

    THE HUNGER GAMES is one of the best, most moving novels I've ever read and, in her writing the rest of the trilogy, my thought was that Suzanne Collins would've had to make a deal with the devil to match the emotional richness and impact and sheer readability of that novel. And CATCHING FIRE comes close. It's not quite as up there in packing that strong emotional punch, but Collins weaves in enough indelible moments to make this a very worthwhile sequel. Katniss continues to be an awesome character, vulnerable and sad but very capable and an absolute deadeye with the bow and arrow.

    One minor quibble with her return to the Games and partnering up with other tributes is that less attention seems to be focused on Katniss (although it's Katniss telling the story in first person narrative). Also, these other tributes aren't as memorable or as wistful as the little girl Rue, the appealing District 11 tribute from the first book. I still marvel at just how moving that passage was when Katniss said her final goodbye to Rue with flowers and then saluted her with a traditional gesture from home. Katniss wasn't thinking of it, but that act smacked of being fairly subversive. No wonder the Capitol grew concerned.

    As CATCHING FIRE expands its storyline, I think we're all waiting for Katniss to take on a more involved role in the coming rebellion. Although, for now, it's perhaps understandable that she's more concerned about what's going on around her on a personal scale. But, hopefully, she sheds her passiveness. As it is, she's treated more as a figurehead for the revolt. If the ending is any indication, Katniss Everdeen is about to get really involved. And the third books also looks to have Gale more in the center of things.

    In terms of sheer adventure and thrills, Suzanne Collins really knows how to step it up, especially once Katniss re-enters the arena. The author comes up with some really messed up perils for the tributes, plus there's the added nuance of the contestants all being past champions. This time, Katniss isn't contending with inexperienced children.

    I do have a problem with the way the book ends. There were signposts along the way, so it's not like it came out of left field, but still I feel that the plot switcheroo comes along too abruptly and feels rushed, and so there's a jarring whiplash effect.

    But, above all, CATCHING FIRE is splendid stuff and a riveting read. Tautly paced, with Collins making you feel that things are about to explode on a larger scale, even as Katniss tries her best to fend for her own little corner. There are moments which are poignant and uplifting, but then these are followed promptly by moments of horror and heartbreak and sudden chilling violence, and these turnarounds leave you sort of twisting in the wind. There's no denying, though, that one quietly powerful moment when, Katniss, who had been thinking hard of taking her family and friends and skedaddling, decides to stay and tough it out. I felt like cheering when she declares: "I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to stay right here and cause all kinds of trouble." That's the girl on fire.
  2. 12 of 14 people found this review helpful
     Compelling but not quite as much as the first book 15 June, 2010 On
    It's been about two and a half days since I picked up The Hunger Games and became completely consumed with these books. In that span, I have rabidly read both the first and the second novels and, were it possible to do so, I would already be starting on the third. I'm glad that I came into the series a bit late as I only have to wait until August to find out how the story concludes.

    Catching Fire is something of a bridge and, as such, contains perhaps a bit less spark (pun intended) than the first. In all fairness, I'd rate it at 4.5 stars as I enjoyed it nearly as much as the first book, but just not quite. I have no desire to give the book away, so I'll speak in what are hopefully broad terms here when I say that I thought the biggest problem with this book is that the Capitol just gets too sadistic. Now, that's not to say that they weren't sadistic in the first, just that their extreme reaction to Katniss and Peeta's subversive victory seems designed to promote their own downfall. When insurrection is a-brewing, it's perhaps not the best time to be bringing out all of your heavy weapons. This made me lose faith in the books just a bit because it seems as though President Snow and, by extension, the Capitol are suffering a bit from stupid villainitis, which is an illness that I find particularly vexing. But maybe that's Collins's intent. At any rate, it did create some ripples in my suspension of disbelief.

    However, what I do really like about this novel is that it is more reflective than the first. While the first certainly makes you think, it also had something of a lurid quality. I'm not necessarily knocking it as I think that the basic premise called for at least some degree of luridness. In fact, this in and of itself is enough to make the reader pause and think about the incomprehensible nature of brutal regimes like that of the Capitol.

    But I digress a bit. While I was very, very impressed by the first novel, I did find that the violence and savagery of the games got to me after a bit. It made sense to me that the tributes would more or less break down into a very basic kill or be killed mentality, but it didn't give the reader a very big picture of the world of Panem in and of itself. This book, on the contrary, does so. There are particular passages in the book that I found very striking, such as Katniss's reaction to a stylish Capitol liqueur, her encounter with some refugees from another district, and her growing awareness that her own district perhaps enjoyed something of a lack of the sheer brutality experienced by the people in other districts. There are hints of all of these things in the first novel, but I found them to be much more fleshed out here. By contrasting the terrible things that are happening in the districts with the attitudes of the people who live in the Capitol, I felt Collins actually did a better job of showing how indifference and ignorance can be almost more offensive than outright brutality. After all, isn't this a reflection of our own world? When we're so caught up in what's happening in our own house, it's easy to ignore the atrocities right outside of our door. This book makes Panem more of a character, which I think is to the series's benefit.

    As for the love triangle between Katniss, Gale, and Peeta, I'm actually pretty convinced by it. It's important to remember that Katniss has some very, very good reasons for insisting on not falling in love. As I read, I often found myself wondering why other people don't think more like her and do their best to avoid bringing children into such a horrifying world. However, as Katniss shows, sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants. But what is it that her heart wants? I can pretty easily see how someone of Katniss's mentality, someone who has been through so much trauma it's a wonder she can get out of bed in the morning might have some trouble disentangling her emotions. That Gale is her friend cannot be questioned. But what, exactly, is the nature of her love for him? That Peeta has been her savior is equally unquestionable. But does she care for him so deeply because the intense trauma that they survived has engendered a sense of debt in her, or does she love him because he is so clearly a kind and noble person? These aren't easy questions to answer, and it doesn't surprise me that Katniss seems entirely incapable of answering them at this point in the series.

    In the meantime, I'll need to try to find something to keep myself occupied until I can finally read the conclusion to this compelling, disturbing, and deeply layered tale. Collins has crafted a really impressive work of literature and it is one I will definitely be recommending to friends.
  3. 8 of 9 people found this review helpful
     In Which Katniss is Not Sherlock Holmes 1 September, 2010 On
    When last we left our heroine Katniss Everdeen, she was faced with a life of misery because she had to pretend to be in love with someone she kind of likes. She had angered the Capitol by not only surviving the Hunger Games, but bringing fake-boyfriend Peeta out alive as well. Such blatant disregard for the rules has not gone unnoticed, and now the twelve Districts are beginning to get ideas of rebellion.

    And so President Snow orders Katniss and Peeta to tour the districts and pretend to be in love to defuse the situation. The Capitol seems to be a bit undecided as to what to do with the pair, because Katniss and Peeta are also thrown back into the Hunger Games for round two.

    Catching Fire is a better, more rounded view of life in Panem, but the same problems from The Hunger Games return to haunt this book. This time around Katniss and Peeta tour the different districts, so we get to see just how put down and dystopian this society really is. We see more interaction between the Capitol and the Districts, making the Good Guys seem more good and the Bad Guys seem more Bad.

    Unfortunately, for someone who narrates the entire story, Katniss seems to be completely oblivious to anything that goes on around her. She notices, quite clearly and on multiple occasions, the symbol of the mockingjay in relation to rebel activity. The mockingjay was her symbol in the Hunger Games. She was the one who sparked the rebellion. And yet Katniss fails to put two and two together to figure out that she is the one all the rebels look to as a symbol of hope.

    No, instead she spends her time trying to deal with Peeta and Gale. Gale is of course her childhood friend, who hunts in the woods with Katniss. He got maybe a page and a half total in The Hunger Games, and yet is apparently Katniss' true love. We see more of him this time in Catching Fire, but his screentime is once again far overshadowed by Peeta. It 's a poor romance when the heroine spends most of her time mooning over someone we hardly know while snubbing the character the readers have come to know and identify with.

    The ending is rather abrupt and has little closure for the story. Much the same as the ending to The Empire Strikes Back, Catching Fire is a blatant setup for the next book. It's mostly exposition to lay the groundwork for part three, with more Hunger Games thrown into the middle to keep us pacified. And through it all, I still have no idea if Katniss likes Peeta or not.
  4. 8 of 10 people found this review helpful
     Engaging but not as much as Hunger Games 5 October, 2009 On
    This second book in the trilogy kept me turning pages- I devoured it as quickly as I did the first one. But the return to the Hunger Games wasn't nearly as exciting as it was when it was a new idea. I wanted to know much more about the rebellions and much less about how Katniss was going to survive the games, because of course we knew she would. I wanted to know even less about her romantic decisions, partly because Gale's character is so underdeveloped. As a small point- the flashing of the Mockingjay watch was too obvious a clue- unless you are a young reader, I suppose. Which brings me to another point- why is this considered young adult fiction? I know the protagonist is 17, but it is a violent series with very adult themes. I found this book in the children's section of my local bookstore! I wouldn't give it to anyone younger than Katniss herself. Overall, I enjoyed this book- but mostly as a portal to what I hope will be an amazing final chapter in this creative series of speculative fiction.
  5. 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
     It caught my attention 16 April, 2012 On
    Format:Kindle Edition
    The book shows how power can corrupt. The ability to use a reality show to frighten a populace into submission is scary. Yet we see its power even now; Reality shows are starting to invade our society with an editors mores and fears and taking over common sense,
    There is a need to fact check what we are hearing. I enjoyed the book and agree with the author that we need to stand up for what we believe in, and be willing to voice that opinion no matter what the general populace and our leaders feels is the better way.
    I wish when the book is read by young people that it is discussed and doors and windows are opened to their young minds to make them think and form their own opinions.
  6. 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
     Just as good as the first! 30 March, 2012 On
    This book picks up right where the Hunger Games left off. It continues on with the complicated love story of Katniss and Peeta, and the struggles they face after tricking the Capitol and both being crowned victors. With all of the surprises, this book is impossible to put down! If you loved the first book of the Hunger Games, Catching Fire is a must read!
  7. 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
     Juvenile Literature with an Adult Frame of Mind 11 April, 2010 On
    As much as I enjoyed discovering and exploring the world of The Hunger Games in the first novel, I think I enjoyed this 2nd book in the trilogy more. I was more invested in the characters, and I liked seeing a shift in Katniss, the main character, as she becomes more compassionate and more aware of others as more than possible sources of competition. It's almost 400 pages long, but I found it a fast and fun read.
  8. 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
     Tween Fiction 9 January, 2014 On
    Format:Kindle Edition
    This is fiction aimed at the 8 to 12 set. Makes a great gift for the young reader you know. The series introduces political concepts and the idea of social inequality, unrest, resistance, and insurgency. Bear in mind, our own government would declare Katniss et. al. to be terrorists.
  9. 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
     Leaves You Hanging 9 January, 2014 On
    Format:Kindle Edition
    The book is extremely engaging and descriptive, but some descriptions are ambiguous and difficult to visualize. Of course, the end of the book really leaves you hanging too! Guess I will just have to read the next one!
  10. 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
     Very good read 10 November, 2013 On
    Format:Kindle Edition
    A very good read, unpredictable and imaginative. Very good character development. You can't help falling in love with all of them.
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