October 9th, 2012

#2 - Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Title: Catching Fire (Em Chamas) [Hunger Games Trilogy #2]
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Young Adult
Published: 2009
  I'm sure almost everybody has at least heard of the Hunger Games trilogy. It was quite the rage at the first Semester, with the movie about to come out and its content, quite different from the normal teenage fever books. It was not a romance that was the main topic, it was a fight to the death against twenty-three other selected tributes inside an arena designed and controlled by outsiders and watched by the entire Panem. It attracted the attention of everybody and it attracted mine because of it, although it only did for the second time I read it because of various reasons that are irrelevant right now. And I'd hoped that the second book would keep the focus on society, on Katniss' struggle to understand herself and cope with her actions while trying to get out of trouble, not on the Peeta-Katniss-Gale love triangle that could (would) happen when they were back to District 12. My expectations were kept and the book has made me feel so many things I don't even know how to explain most of them. I wanted to be angry, to cry, to laugh, to tell them to stop being stupid and so on and, more important, it has kept me captivated. I couldn't let the book go after I reached the middle of it and I didn't do it until I was finished with it, it was that good.

  It starts out where the first book left, although not directly. It is clear that some time has passed between the last time we see Katniss and Peeta, at the train station arriving at District 12, and Katniss is now, sitting in the woods. It can be a bit confusing for the first two or three pages, maybe the first chapter, but we slowly realize that things are complicated for Katniss and that the icy relationship between her and Peeta keeps on happening behind cameras, until a visit from a special, surprising guest alters the course of everything and Katniss has to run to convince the entire Panem she's completely in love with Peeta while struggling with her feelings for others in order to protect her family and has to deal with a special edition of the Hunger Games that may change everything. And it all gets more dangerous when the Districts start to rebel.

  Read it and don't search for anything else. Even the descriptions at Amazon ruin the fun a little bit because there are some things that will completely blow your mind and leave you just staring at the pages because it's really surprising and reading those spoilers will spoil (sorry) this part of the fun for you. And the discussing on society is quite interesting.
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Book 48 for 2012

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz. 389 pages
As a fan of Conan Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes stories, I approached this book with some trepidation; I've read a number of Holmes tales by other writers and while some of them have been pretty good, others….haven't.
This one however, is probably the best non-Doyle Holmes book I've ever read and I hope that there will be more at some point. 
The canon characters seem pretty much in-character for most of the book, with only the occasional wobble and the original characters are well drawn and generally believable. The plot is nicely intricate and I didn't guess the solution until the very end.
Well done Mr Horowitz!
book and cup

#106 The Moorland Cottage - Elizabeth Gaskell (1850)

Prior to coming upon this book recently, I had thought I had read all Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels and most of her short stories years ago, I re-read Cranford two years ago and loved it all over again. I was therefore both surprised and delighted to come across this short novel which I hadn’t either read or heard of. What a treat!

“If you take the turn to the left, after you pass the lyke-gate at Combehurst Church, you will come to the wooden bridge over the brook; keep along the field path, which mounts higher and higher, and, in half a mile or so, you will be in a breezy upland field, almost large enough to be called a down, where sheep pasture on short, fine, elastic turf. You look down on Combehurst and its beautiful church spire. After the field is crossed, you come to a common, richly coloured with the golden gorse and the purple heather, which in summer time send out their warm scents into the quiet air. The swelling waves of the upland make a near horizon against the sky; the line is only broken in one place by a small grove of small Scotch firs, which always look black and shadowed even at midday, when all the rest of the landscape seems bathed in sunlight.”

The Moorland Cottage is just over 140 pages long, and is a charming beautifully constructed little story. Maggie Browne is the daughter of a deceased clergyman, who lives with her widowed mother and her brother Edward in the moorland cottage of the title. Her mother is almost unreasonably devoted to her son; Maggie is expected to devote herself likewise to him. While her mother carps and criticises Maggie – she seems incapable of seeing any fault in her son – who is in fact very far from faultless. The family’s servant Nancy loves Maggie dearly and tries to make up a little for her mother’s neglect.
The Brownes are befriended by local landowner Mr Buxton, who lives nearby with his ailing wife, his son Frank and niece Erminia. Mrs Buxton takes particularly to Maggie – and encourages Maggie to visit her frequently, times in which Mrs Buxton seeks to guide Maggie in her own gentle ways. Maggie is thrown into company with Frank and Erminia too, with whom she develops strong friendships.

“Erminia and Maggie went, with their arms round each other’s necks, to Mrs Buxton’s dressing room. The misfortune had made them friends. Mrs Buxton lay on the sofa, so fair and white and colourless, in her muslin dressing gown, that when Maggie first saw the lady lying with her eyes shut, her heart gave a start, for she thought she was dead. But she opened her large, languid eyes, and called them to her, and listened to their story with interest.”

Yet Maggie’s future happiness is threatened by her brother’s selfish disregard. When Edward’s very liberty is under threat Maggie is expected to sacrifice herself for his good. Maggie proves herself a strong minded and steadfast young woman as she strives to do right by her family and keep her own hopes for the future alive. The ending of this lovely little novel is marvellously dramatic and satisfying. Maggie is a wonderful character, generous intelligent and loyal without being too good to be true - as some nineteenth century heroines can be.
So glad I discovered this little gem – I may have to re-read some of my other Elizabeth Gaskell novels too.