At the beginning of the summer, I joined the masses and picked up a copy of The Hunger Games. Unfortunately I approached this addictive series differently than I normally do movie-book franchises — I saw the movie first. My main reason for picking up The Hunger Games was to reap the extra background information necessary to fully understand the intricacies of the film. I was left pleasantly surprised and frustrated after reading the first book in the trilogy.
The surprise came from the fact that Suzanne Collins captivated me with her intriguing plot and cliffhangers. On the other hand, my frustration resulted from a lack of background detail that left Collins’ world-creation wanting. She provides some history of Panem, while developing the current state of the country, but Collins doesn’t go far enough and leaves the reader feeling as if they’re just short of fully understanding the complicated politics of this seemingly post-apocalyptic society.
The Hunger Games trilogy was the perfect summer read, despite the criticisms I may have. The story kept me glued to the pages and scrambling to find the next in the series. I even stayed up to 6am to finish the final installment of The Hunger Games in one day. At the very end, Collins writes a conclusion I must applaud, because I did not see it coming. While at times I sensed a predictable pattern in the unfurling plot, the ending left me baffled. The Hunger Games trilogy is for anyone needing a temporary escape to another world and is the perfect vacation read.
by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Pratchett and Gaiman combine humor, religion, and wonderful writing to create a book that a reader cannot put down. Good Omens had me laughing in public to the point where people stared. Also, the apocalyptic plot line tingled my religious studies senses and kept me intellectually enthralled. It is not difficult to understand how Good Omens has developed a cult following.
I apologize for the brevity of this review, but Good Omens is neither a book to be analyzed nor a book I can find to have a flaw (besides it’s too short). Go forth and find a copy of Good Omens and you will not be disappointed.
The Secret Scripture – July 2014 UPDATE: This is a going to be a movie released in 2015
by Sebastian Barry
The Secret Scripture takes place in Sligo, Ireland across multiple decades. Roseanne McNulty, an elderly patient in an asylum, secretly recounts the story of her life throughout the pages of The Secret Scripture. Dr. Greene’s journal compliments the narrative told by Roseanne as each of their stories contradict each other and intertwine.
Besides being a marvelous story about family, the elusiveness of memories, and the unreliable state of historical fact due to authorship, The Secret Scripture captures an Ireland recovering from the tragedy of The Troubles. Having the opportunity to be in Ireland and Northern Ireland while reading this book, I can attest to Barry’s incorporation of Ireland’s and Northern Ireland’s tumultuous history and the brilliance with which he captures the emotion of the people. I believe that Barry only adds to his writing by addressing the issue of conflicting memory and history. Roseanne and Dr. Greene both encounter questions about the validity of old memories and the truth that comes from history written by those in power. Sebastian Barry’s writing is eloquent and peaceful. He spins a beautiful plot that keeps readers occupied with figuring out fact from fiction.
When I first picked up Anthropology of an American Girl, I approached it with sarcasm. A friend of mine had joked about developing an American Studies class about the elusive American Girl. My response to him was that Hilary Thayer Hamann’s book could potentially be the textbook. After reading Hamann’s work, though, I am flabbergasted and regret my prior scoffing.
Anthropology of an American Girl majestically follows the life of Eveline, starting with the summer before her senior year in high school. Her narrative addresses changing friendships, true love, money, and death as she struggles to remain honest and true to herself in 1970s and 1980s New York. Even though it sometimes seems as if anything and everything happens to Eveline, the artistic abstractness of Hamann’s writing allows the reader to still connect and resonate with some experience of Eveline’s. Whether you are a young woman entering adulthood, feeling lost in the whirl of life, like Eveline or a mother, father, boyfriend, brother — everyone can either relate to a part of Eveline’s story or recognize the women in their life in the narrative.
In part, I see these personal connections arising out of Hamann’s writing style. Although she clearly sets forth a scene and emotion, her way with words and imagery leave more than enough space for a reader to step into the story. Nothing is concrete, and perhaps Hamann writes this way on purpose to bring light to the lack of clarity in life. Maybe I am over-analyzing, but either way I noticed the vagueness and abstractness of Hamann’s style from the beginning. It is beautiful.
Also, if Hamann’s writing in any way reflects the way she perceives the world, I would love to talk with her over coffee. She easily captures the double standard that girls are held to and the ways in which society produces liars, starting with the phrase “Boys will be boys” (28). Hamann also modifies Shakespeare’s famous “All the world is a stage” line by writing, “Walking onstage is the same as walking in life…and when you reach the edge, you have to turn back to center” (181). Hamann goes so far as to ponder the superiority of English theater by suggesting that Britain’s insular nature versus the propensity to ramble in the American “wasteland” allows the English to be more comfortable within the confines of a stage. Lastly,Hamann is able to elucidate on American consumerism by speaking of pre-decorated cakes in supermarkets. She questions the necessity of pre-decorated cakes and wonders what happens to those that aren’t purchased. Her resounding question is, “What is so psychologically valuable to the American public about the idea of excess and its obvious corollary — waste?”
Anthropology of an American Girl should be a required school text, but not necessarily in the humorous way I perceived it before. This book captures coming of age for a young woman and the societal absurdities that we put up with on a daily basis. Hamann’s writing only contributes to the brilliance of the plot and is of a caliber I have only seen in the works of Fitzgerald and his peers.