Catching Fire

REVIEW: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

After surviving the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) become targets of the Capitol as unrest rises in the Districts of Panem. Then when the Quarter Quell is announced, they plus twenty-two other former victors, are forced to return to the arena.

Catching Fire is honestly perfect. It’s one of the best sequels ever and best book to film adaptations. It does exactly what you want from a sequel (even one that’s a bit of a rehash of the original), it builds on the character work done before, increases the stakes and tension, and it leaves you wanting more. Just like when I reread the book, I was amazed that half the film happens before Katniss and Peeta arrive in the arena and you’re never wishing it would hurry up and get to that point. The pacing is truly excellent as the civil unrest throughout Panem in the first half of the film is like an ever-increasing boiling pot of tension, threatening to explode at any moment. Meanwhile the latter half in the arena is tense and exciting as there’s a whole load of new creatures and elements ready to kill Katniss and her potential allies.

Hutcherson’s Peeta and Liam Hemsworth’s Gale are still kind of pushed to the side and like the first film, any thoughts on focussing on a love triangle are soon forgotten as Katniss does what she can to keep herself and those she loves safe. Because that’s the thing throughout the books/films, it’s clear that Katniss does care for both of them but she’s never allowed herself to think of a future where a happily ever after was possible.

The cast is expanded with a whole host of new – or rather former – tributes. Having the competitors being former victors adds an extra edge to this Hunger Games and there’s alliances and friendships that Katniss and Peeta are unaware of. Finnick (Sam Claflin), Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), Johanna (Jena Malone), Mags (Lynn Cohen) and Wiress (Amanda Plummer) are some of the major players but with everyone having their own agenda it’s hard for Katniss to know who to trust.

Jennifer Lawrence really is fantastic throughout all these films and she’s the backbone to this franchise. The final shot of Catching Fire though is outstanding though. It’s a close up of her Lawrence’s face as Katniss goes through all five stages of grief before staring straight into the camera with a look of fiery determination in her eyes.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is truly an excellent film and is pretty much the gold standard for a YA book to movie adaptation. It’s exciting, heartfelt, and tackles big themes like cruelty and dictatorship in an engaging way. 5/5.

Thoughts on… rereading The Hunger Games trilogy

Warning for vague spoilers for the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

Over the last few months, I’ve been rereading the Hunger Games trilogy for the first time since I first read them around 10 years ago. I wasn’t intending to revisit the series but I was looking for an audiobook to keep me occupied on my way to work and found my library had the trilogy and it was narrated by Tatiana Maslany which is always a bonus.

When I read the trilogy the first time, I did really like it but I remember not being too impressed with the final book, Mockingjay, and how the series ended as a whole. I was never Team Peeta or Team Gale so that wasn’t the reason but as they were so similar, I thought Katniss would end up like Haymitch, bitter and alone, so any type of happy ending for her didn’t really work for me. Having reread the series now I like Mockingjay a lot more and I’m more content about Katniss’s “happy ending”.

As well as not having reread the books before, I’ve not watched most of the films since I saw them in the cinema so while I remembered certain big moments or things like how it ended, I didn’t remember how it got there and various character dynamics. So, in some ways it was like experiencing the story for the first time.

I really enjoyed rereading the trilogy with the benefit of hindsight too. Characters like Johanna Mason were mentioned in like the fourth chapter of the first book and when you don’t actually meet her until half way through the second. Also, as the books are in the first-person point of view, everything’s from Katniss’s perspective which can be both interesting and frustrating with the benefit of hindsight. There were so many times when I could see the rumblings of a rebellion, or what Haymitch or Peeta’s true intentions were thanks to my knowledge of the overarching plot but Katniss was oblivious more times than not. That’s not to say she’s dumb, she’s incredibly smart and impulsive but she’s not a tactician like those two, or like Gale. She has a single-minded focus on the people she cares about which is admirable but it means she’s a bit clueless about what’s going on around her and how she’s affecting it – consciously or not.

This could be because it’s been so long since I’ve read the books/watched the films but I think took in a lot more of the nuances of the story this time round. For instance, I’d completely forgotten about what Finnick had to do once he’d won his games so that was like a sucker punch when I got to that reveal. Also, I don’t know if it’s down to being older or having read a lot more books about tougher topics since, but I think I could comprehend and sympathise with Katniss’s trauma a lot more this time round. She, and so many other characters but especially the other Victors, go through so much it’s no wonder they have PTSD and at times their minds just shutdown because they can’t cope with the reality of their situation.

All in all, I’ve really enjoyed revisiting the trilogy and they are all 5 star reads – though Catching Fire is still my favourite. I’ve not read the spin-off/prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes yet but I’m waiting for the audiobook to be available at my library. I’ve heard mixed things about it but after rereading the original trilogy I’m interested in seeing what Suzanne Collins did with a prequel. I’m also planning on rewatching (and possibly reviewing) the films too. Like the books, I remember enjoying the films and I think they were good adaptations so it’ll be interesting to see if that perception stays the same.

Have you read or reread the Hunger Games trilogy recently? Or seen the films? I always get a little apprehensive when revisiting a book or film I have fond memories of but I’m pleased in this instance I wasn’t disappointed upon reread.

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag 2022

We’re officially half way through the year so it’s time for the Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag! I do enjoy doing this tag and taking a moment to check in on my reading goals and seeing how I’m doing with them. I am doing far better with my reading this year compared to this time last year so that’ a huge positive.

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2022
Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li
I absolutely adored this book. It’s about art and culture and is about art heists and who museum artifacts should really belong to – the international museums where people can see it, or the country the artifact was originally stolen from. Then there’s the Fast and Furious vibes with a uni student being a street racer but also the found family vibes.

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2022
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
I haven’t read any new-to-me series this year and have instead been rereading the Saga graphic novel series and The Hunger Games trilogy. I’ve been rereading The Hunger Games on audio from my library, and I haven’t reread Mockingjay yet (my hold comes in later this month) but I was blown away by Catching Fire. I haven’t read the series since the first time I read it about 10 years ago (read the trilogy just before the first film came out) and haven’t seen the films recently either so it’s fun to see what I remember and noticing the foreshadowing now I know how it ends though not necessarily how it gets there. I was surprised by how much happened before it was even announced that former victors would be going back into the Games. So much setup and character work and the alliances that Katniss isn’t really aware of are so interesting and then the Games themselves are thrilling. I honestly think Catching Fire is one of the best sequels ever.

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to
I’m so bad at keeping up with new releases as I’m so focused on my Read the World Project right now. That being said, I remember seeing When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill everywhere on Twitter when it was due to be released and it definitely sounded like a book I’d like. I don’t have a copy yet (will probably wait till it’s in paperback) but it’s something I am looking forward to reading soonish.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year
Likewise, I’m often unaware of what books are coming out until I see them sitting in Waterstones. In the latest Top Ten Tuesday I saw The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Alias Emma by Ava Glass featured on a few blogs I visited and both of them sounded interesting, so I’ll try and keep my eye out for them when they are released.

5. Biggest disappointment
Angel Mage by Garth Nix
I love the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix and have read the other odd book by him when I was a teen but nothing outside of that series recently, so I was intrigued to see what I made of this standalone fantasy. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me. I never really got attached to any of the characters and I don’t think I’d ever read something where the magic/fantasy aspects were so linked to religion (a kind of Catholicism religion) and that kind of weirded me out and I could never really get my head around the magic system. Plus, I didn’t realise this when I picked it up, but Angel Mage is sort of inspired by/a retelling of the Three Musketeers and that aspect was a bit jarring too. So overall, it just didn’t work for me and if I wasn’t reading it for the Magical Readathon I’d have probably DNF’d it.

6. Biggest surprise
Nina is Not Okay by Shappi Khorsandi
I don’t read contemporary books that often, or at least not contemporary books set in USA/UK (I’ll read any sort of book for my Read the World Project), so Nina is Not Okay which was one of the 12 Books recommended by 12 Friends books was a little out of my comfort zone. It’s about a teenage girl who’s an alcoholic and who may have been raped when drunk but she can’t remember. I found Nina is Not Okay fascinating and frustrating in equal measure and that was down to Nina as a character. She was so unlikable at times, and while I’ve thankful never had any real interaction with an addict, I feel it was a good depiction of their self-destructive tendencies and how there’s no helping someone until they actually want to help themselves. Enjoy would be the wrong word considering the subject matter, but I found the experience of reading Nina is Not Okay a powerful and important one which I didn’t expect.

7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you)
Tété-Michel Kpomassie
I don’t really have a favourite new author (or favourite authors in general to be honest) as the only authors I’ve read multiple books from this year are Suzanne Collins and Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples which were both rereads. I will say though out of all the new authors I’ve read this year I’d like to read more from Tété-Michel Kpomassie. I don’t know if his written more travel memoirs, but I really enjoyed An African in Greenland and how he described the different people, places, and cultures he came across and learnt about.

8. Newest fictional crush
I don’t think I have one? Perhaps I’m getting too old for fictional crushes. Will Chen from Portrait of a Thief was certainly charming but neither he nor anyone else I’ve read about was really a crush.

9. Newest favourite character
Peeta Melark – The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Once again, I’m kind of cheating here as Peeta is neither new nor a favourite but he’s the closest fit for this question. I was never Team Peeta or Team Gale (always thought Katniss would end up like Haymitch/with him as platonic besties as they understood each other so well) but I’m definitely liking and appreciating Peeta so much more on reread. He’s so kind and loving and smart, and with hindsight seeing how he can manipulate the audience is a lot of fun.

10. Book that made you cry
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Even though it’s been almost 15 years since it was released, I won’t say too much because I’m nice like that when it comes to spoilers. I will say what made me teary-eyed was to do with a character called Rue and it did surprise me when it happened. I don’t think I had that reaction when I first read The Hunger Games 10 years ago but maybe now knowing how it starts a chain reaction and impacts other characters it hit me more on reread.

11. Book that made you happy
Blood, Sweat & Chrome: The Wild and True Story of Mad Max: Fury Road by Kyle Buchanan
This is one of those books that if I’d started it earlier in the day, I would’ve read it in one sitting. I absolutely loved Blood, Sweat & Chrome and often found myself with a huge grin on my face with how various parts of the production of Mad Max: Fury Road unfolded. The language used made it feel like all the various members of the cast and crew were just talking to you about their experiences, and how it was put together made the story of how this extraordinary film got made flow really well. It was funny and interesting and I learnt so much about not only how Mad Max: Fury Road was made but filmmaking in general and how Fury Road was so different to a lot of mainstream Hollywood films – they didn’t even have a script with dialogue!

12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)
This Woven Kingdom by Tarereh Mafi
While I have acquired more books than I should’ve so far this year, there’s not many I’d call beautiful. I haven’t read This Woven Kingdom yet (and I’m not sure if/when I’m going to) but I received it in my now-cancelled Illumicrate subscription earlier this year and it’s definitely the most beautiful book I’ve got. It’s a naked hardcover with foiling and stencilled edges and I’s so different from the standard cover. I wouldn’t have picked up this book based on the standard UK cover, but this one is definitely more eye-catching.

13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
The end is in sight for my Read the World Project so that’s my focus. I have 11 books to read before the end of September (my new self-imposed deadline) which is totally doable and most of those books are featured in my latest TBR. I still need books for Tuvalu and Monaco so if you happen to know any writers from either of those countries who have work in English, please let me know.

Now for my reading stats. My goal is to read 52 books and review half of that and I’m at 40 books so I’m right on track with that – a long weekend away in a cottage plus some comics/graphic novels has certainly helped with that. I have read 7 of the 12 Books Recommended by 12 Friends challenge and I’m currently reading and very much enjoying book number 8 – A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan.
A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
Slade House by David Mitchell
Himself by Jess Kidd
Nina is Not Okay by Shapi Khorsandi
John Dies at the End by David Wong
The Cabinent by Un Su Kim
They Both Die in the End by Adam Silvera
Darius the Great is Not OK by Adib Khorram
City of Devils: The Two Men Who Ruled the Underworld of Old Shanghai by Paul French
She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

I like to have an equal split when it comes to reading books by men and women but at the moment it’s leaning towards more male authors. While most of the books I have left for my Read the World Project are by men, hopefully once that’s done and I read more different books on my TBR it’ll be more of an equal split. That’s because outside of my Read the World Project, my physical TBR does lean more towards women writers.

The genres I’ve read so far this year are a nice eclectic mix which I’m always happy about. Once I’ve finished my Read the Word Project, I’m interested to see what my taste is when it comes to genres because so much of what I’ve read for the challenge has been historical or non-fiction and I always thought I was a big fantasy fan but that’s not something I’ve picked up as frequently.

How has your reading gone for the first half of the year?

Y is for: YA and my problems with it

YA or Young Adult literature is incredibly popular right now. Like any type of literature it covers many genres including contemporary, dystopian, fantasy, romance and many more. All YA books put a big focus on the plot, which is often fast moving, and the characters rather on the language.

This is great and sometimes a plot driven book is just what I want and need to get me reading in amongst my university work.

However I’ve sometimes been a little annoyed with the way some YA books are written. Now this is a bit of a generalisation though I will draw on two specific examples, one from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins and Divergent by Veronica Roth so spoilers for those two books.

The main thing is that some plot points or potential plot twists seem to be blatantly obvious to me. I don’t know if this is because I am 22 (so in some ways you could say I am a young adult) when the target audiences are teenagers, so theoretically I have read more and am used to the typical genre tropes or narrative arcs so can see where something is going. But at the same time it sometimes feels like the author is being slightly insulting to its audiences (and sometimes its characters) by making something so obvious.

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