The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

This post contains affiliate links for products I recommend and review. If you make a purchase through these links, I will receive a small commission at no cost to yourself. 

Sorry for the extremely long hiatus, but I’ve been feeling extra overwhelmed lately. I’m stressed, tired, and constantly grumpy. All in all, I’m never in the mood to pick up a book. And, again, I don’t want to get into the habit of reading for the sake of posting. I don’t give books a fair shot when I’m in a horrible mood. Plus, I genuinely love reading and never want it to feel like a chore. 

Sadly, life’s just been a lot lately. I’m always finding myself more ready to go to bed than to pick up a book. Even the idea of turning a page seems like too much some days. The coronavirus lockdown is finally starting to wear me down and, given the recent uptick in cases in the United States, I’m not sure those feelings will go away. I live in New York and it seems like Governor Cuomo is getting ready to shut us back down. I understand why, but it’s not really making it any easier to deal with. It feels like the holidays might be very, very difficult for everyone. We’ll all get through it, but it’s hard to think about right now. 

But, at least for the day, I wanted to get back to normal. 

When I finally got to the last page of Catching Fire oh-so long ago, I started exploring the Amazon Kindle store for new reads. I knew I wanted a short break from The Hunger Games universe – even as short as a day or two. Even though that small break turned into a much longer one, I started it off right with an absolutely amazing book: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. 

And, yes, to be honest, I chose the book because I knew that, at the very least, the title being so similar to The Hunger Games would be super amusing. I live for small jokes. But even now, a little under a month after finishing The Inheritance Games, I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed the book. The characters were well done and entertaining, the storyline was easy to follow, and it was just a really, really good book. Even if you don’t read the rest of this review, you should immediately go purchase a copy of this book and stick your nose in it. It’s that good! 

Back of the Book ( Amazon | Goodreads )

A Cinderella story with deadly stakes and thrilling twists, perfect for fans of One of Us is Lying and Knives Out.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive. 

MY TAKE ON IT

From the very first page of The Inheritance Games to the very last, I was hooked. I blame most of that feeling on Barne’s creation of a dynamic main character, Avery Grambs. Starting off the story with a description on how Avery lost her mother at a too-young age, the book quickly segwayed into a summary of Avery’s day to day life after the fact. From using chess games and parking lot poker winnings as a way to feed a homeless man in the park to a confrontation with her principal over suspiciously high chess scores, I was dying to get to know more about this character Barnes had created. How could Avery be so strong after everything she had lost? How did she ace the hardest exam in the school’s history not once, but twice? What was going on with this girl?

Avery was obviously a natural survivor and was extraordinarily intelligent. Anyone could see that from first glance. Her carefully calculated and seemingly constant assessments of risk appealed to me. Her strange combination of character traits made the idea of getting to know her practically irresistible. I didn’t want this book down until I understood Avery completely and the first one hundred pages flew by with barely a blink on my side of things. The idea of such a well-developed and engaging character blending into the background in her normal life befuddled me, but her lack of close connections made her all the more interesting to read about. 

All in all, Avery is a very, very well written main character. Perhaps one of the best I’ve ever read.

Combining the interest Avery held for me with the intrigue of the Hawthorne family fortune created a potent combination perfect for a good book. Why would the richest man in Texas leave everything to a complete and total stranger who lived states, and worlds, away? Considering that Avery spent most of her time living out of her car, it never seemed like the two would have the chance to cross paths. What about her caught the recently deceased Tobias Hawthorne’s eye? What games was he playing at? Did he even know her? Was this something she caused to occur? Was Avery up to something? Even as a reader privy to her every thought, I couldn’t be sure. 

Something about all of this made me feel The Inheritance Games would be a lot like the game ‘Clue.’ This feeling was furthered by Avery’s arrival at the Hawthorne Home, an enormous mansion with plenty of room for strange and unexpected murders to take place. Some part of me still wonders if the game is what inspired Barnes to write the book. 

And yet, within the first few chapters in, I was mostly disabused of this notion. The actual Hawthorne family themselves seemed as if they enjoyed secrets, but were practically incapable of keeping them. I expected them to be cool and detached, and they were to a certain degree. Yet, they seemed unable to stop themselves from oversharing with Avery. They might be good at riddles, but they weren’t exactly tight lipped. I had a hard time imagining them being capable of hiding murder weapons for very long.

I was also surprised at how close the entire family was. Because of the large amounts of money involved, I found myself picturing a very distanced and professional family. I was picturing their life as more of a business arrangement than a familial one. Grayson, the “heir apparent,” seemed the closest to professional, but still came across as slightly too far from that goal. He may have had the natural Hawthorne desire to bribe, threaten, and buy people out, but didn’t necessarily seem mature enough to outplay anyone. At least from first glance. 

However, these sentiments weren’t exactly to the book’s detriment. I wasn’t disappointed or upset by them, just surprised. It shook me to think that I was so very wrong about this family. It made me feel like every presumption I made should be thrown out the window and I absolutely loved that. 

Plus, I grew to admire almost every character in this book. None of them were entirely what I expected. They kept surprising me in small and big ways. You never knew what to think or who to trust. For the first half of the book, I had a hard time even trusting Avery as a reliable narrator. I’ve read too many books where the main character ends up being the bad guy to ever trust a main character blindly again! 

All in all, I just fell in love with each twist and turn in this book. At times, my predictions were correct, but I was wrong often enough to keep my interest. I loved the main characters and I loved the fact that I trusted absolutely no one to be reliable even more. I love a story that keeps me guessing more than you’d think. 

And, again, I one hundred percent recommend that you IMMEDIATELY go buy a copy of this book NOW if you haven’t read. It was so good! 

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (End of the Book)

This post contains affiliate links for products I recommend and review. If you make a purchase through these links, I will receive a small commission at no cost to yourself. 

This morning I woke up thinking about how different The Hunger Games series would be if it was written by a different author. Really, how any book would be so different. For example, can you imagine a version of The Hunger Games written by an author like Stephen King? It would segway into a horrifying psychological thriller with a strong focus on fantasy elements. Perhaps a somewhat long-winded one. 

And any changes to a book like Catching Fire probably wouldn’t be to its benefit. The Hunger Games series is a modern classic. You don’t want to mess with it too much. Plus, the series tackles some pretty gruesome ideas. It’s essentially a series of war stories targeted at a relatively young audience. Without the absolutely brilliant writing style of Suzanne Collins, it may not have been welcomed into the popular literary scene with open arms. Not everyone would know about and enjoy these books. Instead, it would probably fill some type of niche section of literature. There definitely wouldn’t be an entire successful movie franchise based on them. 

However, it would definitely be interesting to see these same stories, or really any story, written by multiple different authors. The same story at its core, but with different takes on essentially the same characters. Maybe with different scenes and different takes on dialogue. Personally, I’d love to see a series like that – all of my favorite authors showing me their own take on the same story. 

I mean, can you imagine getting to know all of the different versions of Katniss? Can you imagine getting to know a selfless and brave Katniss inspiring rebellion in Panem alongside a version of Katniss that is perhaps more likely to give into President Snow’s desires? Or even one that is more involved with inciting rebellion? Katniss, as a character, could be very open to interpretation in the eyes of different authors. 

If they only determined that certain aspects of the original tale have to be included – the games, the set-up of the districts, the survival of both tributes from District 12, and the subsequent rebellion – they could end up with a million different versions of the same story. Some could be popular dystopian fiction books targeted towards young adults, some could be dynamic works of science fiction, and some could be grisly horror stories. Can you imagine meeting the ghosts of games past? 

Not that any of these would necessarily be better than the original. It’s just something I was thinking about as I was getting ready to wind down with the end of the book. The Hunger Games is, afterall, a work of art by itself. 

Back of the Book ( Amazon | Goodreads )

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, in the chapter that they are covering. 

Chapter Twenty-Seven

At the beginning of chapter twenty seven, we are reunited with Katniss after she targets the arena’s forcefield with her electrified arrow. The world seems to be falling apart around her. Trees are aflame and fireworks are going off above the arena. It seems almost as if the world is ending to a biblical proportion.

When she dazedly ponders the chance that the Gamemakers never actually intended for there to be a winner to the seventy-fifth Hunger Games, I’m almost shocked by how much I agree with her. Somehow I had never before noticed this statement, but it makes complete sense. Why would they allow one of the victors to live? The goal of this Quarter Quell was to express to the districts that none of them, not even the strongest of them, could evade the Capitol’s control. Even the most powerful people in the districts, the victors, live only at the will of the leaders of Panem. 

Considering the deadly extremes of the arena for this game, I wouldn’t be surprised if the original intent of the founders was to have every victor in this game die. I had been shocked in previous chapters by how much more deadly this arena was than any before it. Perhaps Snow had only altered the games to make the tributes who were all supposed to perish previous victors – an obvious punishment for Katniss and Peeta’s crime of surviving the previous games. 

It would even make sense that President Snow wouldn’t announce that there would be no victor. What tribute would bother killing others if their own demise was promised? There’s no point in compromising your values for nothing. Plus, I could envision President Snow allowing whatever victor to live up until the time of their after-game interviews and then executing them to prove a point. There’s seemingly no rules or reasons behind many of the executions or punishments that take place and President Snow seems to take a particularly large amount of pleasure in causing pain and suffering in others. 

Of course, the fact that this possible scenario makes sense is particularly sick and twisted, and I’m not entirely sure how effective it would be to implement. Even the founders of the games have to have known that the victors give the people hope. Without any degree of hope, what would prevent rebellion? There has to be a threat that things can always be worse. Killing off everyone and leaving no victor would obliterate any hope in the districts. But perhaps that loss of hope could be pushed aside. It’s a Quarter Quell, not a normal game. It might even make the districts grateful that anyone survives in a normal year. 

And it’s obvious that this being a horrible, immoral idea wouldn’t stop the founders from coming up with it. The leaders of Panem love pushing moral boundaries. They prove to us time and time again that they have absolutely no limits. Creating the games in general was a horrible, morose idea. Who can justify killing dozens of children, every year nonetheless?

When Katniss is brought up to the hovercraft, I’ve never been able to get past the immediate hatred I feel for Plutarch Heavensbee. Seeing him always makes me unreasonably angry. Even knowing that he is a key part of the rebellion, this has always been the moment where my feelings for him turn from disinterest to dislike. Somehow, he came across as less slimy and less needlessly cruel when he was just a cog in the machine. Knowing that he despised the idea of the games and was fervently working against them from the inside, but allowed the deaths of dozens to occur before stepping in, really bothers me. 

However, I do understand that his ability to prevent deaths from occurring was limited. There would be something very, very wrong with a Quarter Quell that has no deaths occur for the first few days. Someone had to die to keep attention away from the plans to rescue the tributes. And, yet, there could have been a better way to do it.

This feeling is furthered by the fact that Plutarch’s actions don’t seem to come out of a genuine desire to save people’s lives or a need to help people in the districts. Instead, they come across as a power grab. It’s obvious that Plutarch runs in the same circles as President Snow. The fact that Snow has been so adept at maintaining power in Panem has probably helped to prevent Plutarch from moving up to the position he so obviously desires: President. 

And I know I’ve never been alone in that feeling. When the books first came out, this scene in Catching Fire where Katniss encounters Plutarch made almost all of my friends stop and question Plutarch’s involvement in the rebellion. When our suspicions are later confirmed that he wants the presidency for himself, no one was surprised. He’s almost as snakelike as the President and, like the President, used deaths and torture to his advantage. It’s disgusting.

But when Katniss encounters Haymitch in the hovercraft? I’m sorry, but that will always break my heart. I never fail to get an overwhelming feeling of betrayal.  Knowing the end of the book as I do, it’s surprising that I feel the same hurt every single time I read Catching Fire. While it’s obvious in that moment that Katniss has not been captured by the Capitol, and instead was saved by the uprising, it’s a horrible scene to have to realize that Haymitch has been involved in things without informing Katniss or Peeta. The depth of his distrust in her abilities to fool the Capitol hurt me. It’s painful to think that our strong and noble main character was kept so completely out of the loop. 

It’s worse that they chose to share this information with people from other districts. d to tell her that there was a plan to break the victors out of the arena during the Quarter Quell. People from 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 11 had some degree of knowledge each, but Peeta and Katniss from District 12 were told nothing. They went into the games feeling as if they were about to die at any moment, not realizing that plans were in place to save them. While I understand the reasoning why, it’s still terrible that Haymitch put them through that. Plus, their insistence on saving Katniss before anyone else is a direct violation of the promise Haymitch made to Katniss that he would protect Peeta instead of her. 

I think that the assumption that as long as Katniss lives, the rebellion lives is a bit… naive, perhaps? I’ve always thought that was a silly concept. The rebellion might even be better served by Katniss’s death. She would be turned into a martyr, a battle call. Her death could inspire people to fight, having realized that there is no way life in the districts could get worse. 

As a result of that, I’ve always felt like the rebellion made a bad call in choosing Katniss over Peeta – logically speaking. Peeta is a powerful public speaker and, according to the masses, he’s the love of Katniss’s life. He might have been more vital to their movement than they could have realized, especially if Katniss had died during the games or been taken by the President. The death of the Mockingjay wouldn’t have meant the end of the movement.

Not that I want Katniss to die. I’m just saying… 

When Haymitch discloses that Peeta was picked up by the Capitol alongside Johanna and Enobaria, my heart always drops. How can they separate Peeta and Katniss? Throughout it all, they have been near each other, supporting and fighting for each other. Katniss in District 13 and Peeta in the possession of the Capitol is hard to make sense of, even after a dozen reads of this series. Her subsequent physical attack on Haymitch is the only thing that makes sense during this scene. How dare he give her such horrible news? How dare he protect her instead of Katniss? He had promised to take care of Peeta. 

I’m still mad about it years later. Peeta deserved better. Katniss deserved better. I deserved better because I desperately wanted Haymitch to be honest.

And to be honest I’m also still mad at the ending of Catching Fire, no matter how much I loved it. It was just so tragic. The loss of Katniss’s sanity is a horrifying way to end this book. The loss of Peeta has caused her to lose touch. She refused to eat, to speak. Everything blended together. Gale was the only thing that managed to drag her out of her stupor, but even that was tainted with bad news. The Capitol destroyed District 12. 

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 24-26)

This post contains affiliate links for products I review. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no cost to yourself.

After a long weekend, I was very excited to get back into Catching Fire today. It’s strange how some weekends can feel more like work than the work week does. I had so much to do! Yesterday, I did six loads of laundry – not to mention all of the cooking and cleaning I had to do.

Adulting is a lot of work.

Thankfully, I had some free time today to crack open this book. And, by crack open, I mean turning on my phone, of course. While I have a huge soft spot for hard copies of books, particularly books I love, they feel almost impossible to keep on hand at all times. I’m notorious for refusing to carry a purse so there’s just nowhere for me to hide my books. Maybe I should get a backpack?

I do really miss the smell of a new book. It’s unlike anything other.

Even though I was super busy cleaning all weekend, my tasks gave me plenty of time to think about The Hunger Games series. My brain kept coming back to these books over and over again. While I’ve mentioned in previous posts how strongly I feel about this series, I don’t know if I’ve ever taken the time to make direct comparisons between President Snow and the actions of our own politicians. Listening to the news as I cleaned made me realize that many politicians come across just as deceitful and cunning as Snow does. They have the same kind of falsified charm and wit. They spout horrifyingly similar lies about prosperity and caring about the common man.

It’s just crazy the stories you hear on the news and I’ve never really thought about American politicians in the context of The Hunger Games before. At least, not as far as I can recall. This is perhaps due to the fact that I avoid watching the news as much as possible. So much of it comes across as biased propaganda that it’s hard to stomach. Of course, that, too, directly ties into what is put on screen in Panem. Their propaganda is just a little more straight forward about what it is.

However, beyond just hearing things on the news as I cleaned, I also heard a story from a friend of mine that somewhat relates to this concept. They told me about a relatively local aspiring politician who had to step aside from politics and pursue a different career route. They had had big dreams of making wonderful changes for this country, but, when it came down to it, they couldn’t aspire for more than the success they had already obtained. Why? Because, in order to move forward, he would have to compromise on his own values and act in manners that he considered corrupt, or deceitful. He wouldn’t be able to move up in the political world without acting in a manner he considered dishonest.

How horrible is that? The fact that an up and coming politician felt blocked in by refusing to act in a corrupt manner? Considering the upcoming election, things like this scare me. This is how you end up with a dystopian world. This was the first real moment in my life where I could imagine a universe like the one in The Hunger Games emerging. Panem isn’t so far off when our politicians already act like President Snow.

And that’s part of the reason why dystopian fiction matters, at least to me. These things may seem scary and far off, but, as I’ve gotten older and learned more about the world, they feel strangely realistic. It’s gotten progressively easier to imagine a world where the corruption and lies of Panem are commonplace in the real world. The fiction we are fed could be uncannily similar. It’s hard to tell what is actually happening in the world when you can’t trust your leaders. While we may never go to the extremes that a book goes to, it’s scary to think what our limits actually are. Do we have any?

Back of the Book ( Amazon | Goodreads )

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.


Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, for the chapter that they are covering.

Chapter Twenty Four

Once again I find myself asking how Suzanne Collins comes up with this stuff. Using Prim’s screams as a form of torture against Katniss is just sick and twisted. To be blunt, it’s the work of an absolute sadist. Is there something dangerous to be found in the dark recesses of Collin’s mind? She essentially writes war stories for children. There must be something to say about that. 

Personally, however, I think her work is brilliant. It may be sick and twisted at times, but so is life. The Hunger Games is genius and it calls attention to real world problems in an utterly unique way. Somehow it manages to bring up things like the consequences of pollution, the impact of popular media, and the dangers of unchecked technological innovation without sounding boring. And, of course, it manages to do all of this while also deeply analyzing the human mind and human society at large. 

What would you do to survive in a world that looks like this? What could you justify if your government told you it was the right thing to do? Is it more moral to rebel and potentially cause thousands of deaths, or to slowly watch the people around you suffer and die? Who decides what the right thing to do is? A teenage girl, marked for death by a corrupted, sadistic president? 

However, these questions can be deep and dark. They’re hard to ask and the scenes that surround them can be even harder to process. Some of them are so gory that it almost surprised me that I first started this series at such a young age. I almost understand the groups of people who claim that The Hunger Games takes it too far. While I don’t necessarily agree with book bans, I can see why some schools have banned these books. They’re harsh. They can even be traumatizing for some people. 

Yet, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire in no way, shape, or form romanticize the more violent disturbing aspects of the series. They call attention to violence, yes. But they never make it sound like a good idea. Instead, they explain, in explicit details, that violence is terrifying and hard to contain. It has consequences that ripple outwards in ways that no one can accurately foresee. 

In my opinion, that is what makes reading books like these so vital. They’re a great way to teach students about larger social concepts. The content of the books will grab their attention and the subtext can be used to educate teenage students on subjects like social psychology, the side effects of trauma, memory, prejudice, governmental bodies, and even our own history. Plus, the writing is excellent and makes for a wonderful addition to any English curriculum. Provided these books are being taught in the right context, with plenty of discussion, they’re really beneficial in helping young people better understand the real world. 

However, back to the book itself, the idea of a group of adults coming up with the plan of using the voices of loved ones against the tributes is absolutely brutal. It was completely devastating to imagine the pain Katniss felt at hearing Prim and her other loved ones scream for help. They were in agony. Katniss had no idea what was happening and no way to help them. Was Prim being tortured? Was she even alive? Finnick also had to listen to the screams of his loved one, Annie. 

The fact that Beetee later explained that the jabberjays could be programmed to replicate the sound of screams they have never heard themselves has little effect on how horrifying this is. Prim was never tortured. Annie was fine. The mental consequences of spending an hour, trapped, listening to the sounds of their screams? Katniss and Finnick will never be the same, particularly because of how fiercely protective they are of their loved ones.

Considering their involvement in the games, I found myself wondering if both of them are so intensely protective because of the traumas they themselves have faced. They definitely don’t want others to experience what they have experienced, and they both have an understandably deep seeded distrust of Panem. The psychological toll of the games have probably intensified their desire to keep their loved ones safe. They know the dangers of the games.

It is also somewhat interesting that both Katniss and Finnick love people who, arguably, won the game because of sheer luck, not necessarily skill or aptitude. They don’t love vicious killers, but, instead, love people who come across as more innocent and pure than the other victors do. It would have been interesting to see how Finnick interacted with Annie on a regular basis. Did he try to shelter and protect her like Katniss does with Peeta? Did he make a deal with Mags for Mags to volunteer in Annie’s place? How alike are Katniss and Finnick truly?

And yet, even with all of this room for thought, I could never forget out why the Gamemakers felt like this sadistic form of mental torture was necessary to include in the Quarter Quell. Most games, even the previous Quarter Quell, seemed to focus more on physical forms of terror. You’re at risk of dying due to poison or fireballs or floods. Not necessarily so much as risk of going insane because the Gamemakers want to toy with your emotions. Even for them, the inclusion of the jabberjays seems overly sadistics.

For that reason, part of me thinks that the inclusion of the jabberjays and the screams of Katniss’s loved ones was a result of President Snow’s involvement in the games. He hates Katniss more than anybody. He wants her to suffer for the national chaos she “caused.” He also seems to have some understanding with Katniss, similar to the one she has with Haymitch. They don’t necessarily require words in order to understand each other. Perhaps President Snow knew that the sound of her family’s screams would make her weak and vulnerable. It would hurt her and maybe reduce the chance that she would win the games. 

Following that horrifying scene, Peeta’s discussion with Katniss was positively heartbreaking. Listening to him try to convince her to live just shatters me. Promising her a life with her loved ones? It’s obviously something she wants very, very badly and it’s something he very much so wants her to have. Peeta would rather die in the games than have Katniss die, even if it means she’ll grow old and have a happy life with Gale instead of himself. The heroics of this are unimaginable. The romance of it all affects even me. 

Chapter Twenty-Five

During the beginning of this chapter, it was almost strange to me that Katniss had never even considered the possibility of winning. Not even a little bit. Not even when Peeta was practically trying to force her to consider a life with Gale. No matter what, she couldn’t imagine living in a world without Peeta in it. 

It might be romance at its finest, but usually I found thought processes like this more foolhardy than anything else. I’m not necessarily the self sacrificing type. I very much so want to live and have a hard time relating to characters who are willing to die for others. ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ for example, just felt silly. Why would you die for someone you barely know? It was made worse by the fact that both Romeo and Juliet were so young. 

However, unlike my sentiments during most books, I don’t find Katniss’s desire to sacrifice herself for Peeta to be foolish. It isn’t silly for her to sacrifice herself for Peeta. Their love isn’t based off of misplaced teenage illusions of love, but, instead, is based off of mutual suffering, overcoming challenges together, and genuinely getting to know and love each other. Katniss doesn’t want to die because of some fairytale love affair she’s told herself. She doesn’t even want to die. She just wants to save Peeta. 

And that’s romantic in a way that many other series have failed to capture for me. Sacrifice isn’t beautiful if you romanticize death. Instead, it’s disturbing. It’s the emotions behind self sacrifice that make it powerful. The explanation for the sacrifice is almost more important than the sacrifice itself, particularly in works of fiction.

Of course, many people consider ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to be a comedy, or satire, so I’m not necessarily alone in that sentiment. My teachers just never seemed to agree that Shakespeare was likely mocking the concept of true and immediate love. Anyways, before I go off onto a tangent about ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ let’s get back to Catching Fire

When Katniss begins discussing how to kill Brutus and Enobaria with the rest of her alliance, Beetee brings up the Gamemakers’ intervention in their last clash. They had interrupted the epic battle scene in order to move the Cornucopia and reset the arena. From Beetee’s perspective, this may have clued Enobaria and Brutus into the fact that the arena is a clock, particularly when the timing of the regularly scheduled attacks changed. 

What Beetee failed to mention, however, was the fact that the Gamemakers could be playing favorites. Interrupting the battle scene could have saved Brutus and Enobaria’s lives. They were severely outmatched. The Gamemakers might have just wanted a way to keep them alive and in the competition. Knowing that Katniss is so despised by the leaders of Panem, keeping her enemies in the games only makes sense. The more people in the games, the more likely Katniss is to die. In my opinion, that makes more sense than wanting to throw the games off kilter by changing the time table. 

Considering that Beetee’s plans to possibly kill Enobaria and Brutus would disadvantage everyone, I’m not surprised that the Gamemakers didn’t try to foil it. Maybe they assumed a less easy food source would distract Katniss from protecting herself. However, considering their reaction to how Haymitch won his own game by using their devices against his competitors, I wonder if they saw Beetee’s move with the wire coming or if they were similarly enraged by it. 

At the end of the chapter, we get back to the romance of Katniss and Peeta interacting. Unlike the first book, these moments are rare and in between. When she receives the pearl from Peeta, it gets my heart beating. Their relationship would make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, if not for the horrible conditions that they’re always in. 

However, Peeta’s understanding of Katniss is almost uncanny at times. Somehow he knows that his conversation with her about her being the one to return to District 12, and letting him die in the games, had the opposite impact on her. More than ever, she wants him to live. 

Chapter Twenty-Six

Collins really built up the romance these past few chapters just to horrify us by having them leave each other behind. Starting off this chapter by separating Katniss and Peeta was absolutely brutal. Why give me so much love just to turn around and drive me crazy with worry? 

All complaints aside, it’s very good writing and I’m absolutely hooked – even considering the fact that I’ve read this series dozens of times. I’ve just never been able to fully get past the feeling of being absolutely terrified for Katniss and Peeta. How can they stay safe if they split up? The first time I read Catching Fire, I was on the edge of my seat, trying to read as quickly as humanly possible. 

And that feeling is worsened by the fact that Johanna almost immediately turns around and attacks Katniss. Coming at her with a knife, digging it into Katniss’s flesh… It’s brutal. I remember being enraged by this the first time I read the series. How dare Johanna, the girl I admired for being so blunt and honest, be a traitor? 

It was even worse that I could completely understand why Johanna would attack Katniss. It was the best possible time for her to do so. Katniss received a perfect twelve in the interviews, was possibly the youngest and healthiest out of all of the other competitors, and is positively deadly. Killing her almost guarantees there won’t be a winner from District 12, particularly if Finnick was in on it and took out Peeta and Beetee while Katniss was away. It would be a smart move. 

That’s what makes it so confusing when Johanna doesn’t just kill Katniss outright. At least, of course, until you keep reading the book. If you’re reading along with these chapter-by-chapter analyses, keep reading!

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 22 – 23)

My biggest fear with The Hunger Games series is that Suzanne Collins would build everything up just to let me down in the end. And while I definitely tend to prefer dystopian fictions that end in a bleak manner, she definitely doesn’t let me down. The entire series is absolutely brilliant from the very beginning to the very end. I didn’t even mind how *relatively* happy the ending to Mockingjay is! (Okay, I loved it, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make right now.) 

However, it was really hard for me to expect a better chapter than chapter twenty-one. It’s one of my all time personal favorites. The first time I read it, I was shocked by how many layers it had to it. There is a surprising depth to each and every scene in Catching Fire, even the goriest and most horrifying of them all. 

Now that I’m rereading the series once again, I felt a little bit stuck after finishing chapter twenty one. I don’t remember it possibly getting better from that point on. Somehow the previous chapter made me think about a ton of different, somewhat unrelated, components of this series. From thoughts about President Snow to desires for a complete history lesson about Panem, it had me hooked. 

Of course, if I want to read about President Snow’s personal history, I need to keep reading. I’ve been absolutely dying to get started with A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes! Feeling icky last week really put me behind where I wanted to be and I’m almost itching to get through Catching Fire and Mockingjay so I can finally start reading Collins’ newest book.

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, in the chapter that they are covering. 

Chapter Twenty-Two 

After the monkeys end their assault on Katniss, Peeta, and Finnick, the morphling’s death seems to be enough to placate the Gamemakers… at least for a little while. The monkeys depart without any further attacks. Peeta picks up and carries the fallen tribute to the nearby beach. Unfortunately, the morphling is beyond saving and quickly dies. 

What is especially horrifying about this scene, however, perhaps more so than the death itself, is the description of how the dying woman appears to Katniss. The morphling has been completely ravaged by the consequences of drug addiction. Her body looks on the verge of starvation even though, as a victor, she has more than enough money for food. Her eyes come across as vacant, empty. The games have turned what was probably a healthy young woman into little more than a drug addict. 

Very few people publicly involved with the Hunger Games ever comment on this and I particularly wonder if any normal citizen in the Capitol does either. Do they ever notice how the games impact the victors themselves? Do they ever ask why so many of them rely on some type of substance to get through the day? Or do they just blame it on life in the districts, separate their own involvement in this ongoing problem of substance abuse, and call it a day?

When it comes to Haymitch’s alcohol addiction, it seems obvious to me that they just blame District 12’s “odd traditions.” They laugh about him stumbling on screen or otherwise making a fool of himself. They describe it as quaint and unusual, but not as self destructive or frightening. No one draws a connection between Haymitch’s involvement in possibly the most traumatizing Hunger Games there was and his ongoing problems with alcohol. 

I wonder if Peeta’s refusal to treat this woman poorly helped call attention at all to what the games do to people. When he describes different colors to the dying woman, I wonder if anyone in the Capitol took a second to think that she deserved a better life than the one she was given. Did anyone with any type of power care about her life? Does anyone care about the people in the districts at all?

Based on how the people of the Capitol act, I doubt it. And that makes it somewhat unsurprising that Peeta and Katniss’s love for each other was just enough to inspire people to rebel. It is so obvious that no one with power or publicity cares about anyone except for themselves. I would also be inspired by a display of selflessness if I lived in such a similarly selfish world. 

When Finnick agrees to take the first watch, I also wonder if his display of somewhat private mourning could possibly impact the crowds of people watching in the Capitol. When tributes die in previous games, it’s easier for the other tributes to move on. They didn’t have a chance to really get to know the other tributes. They aren’t real people to each other, just obstacles in the way of surviving. The victors are real to each other. They have developed friendships with each other, real relationships. Seeing a victor mourn for another is something powerful in a game pointedly designed to make each death a celebration. Does seeing a tribute feel sorrow over a death partially negate that sentiment?

Considering the fact that there are other tributes competing in the games as well, I bet the Gamemakers tried to avoid focusing too much on Finnick’s mourning or on the morphling’s self-sacrifice. They probably just panned the cameras back to whatever the other tributes were doing and tried to refrain from giving the people of the Capitol too long to think about how horrendous the Quarter Quell is. When Johanna shows up with Wiress and Beetee, it’s obvious that they’ve been through something more interesting, and perhaps more shallow depth wise, than Finnick’s mourning process. They’re literally covered in blood. 

The first time I read this series that little detail really, really bothered me. The idea of rain coming down as actual hot blood was horribly gruesome and disturbing. I’d probably have a similar reaction as Wiress: losing my mind. These mental tortures are more than enough to make someone lose their grip on reality and there’s something very, very sick about the fact that all of these things are done to real people as a way to keep an entire nation from rising against the Capitol. They’re a sadistic form of entertainment. 

I also remember being particularly confused by Johanna’s statement about Haymitch the first time I read Catching Fire. Why would he want Johanna to bring Wiress and Beetee to Katniss? Wouldn’t her small amount of attachment to them risk more than it’s worth? Having additional allies isn’t always a good thing. A large group may help protect her from the career tributes, but it would never guarantee her protection. Someone in the group could kill her. 

Of course, I’ve read the entire series so, in retrospect, I understand why Haymitch wanted Katniss to ally herself with three more people. I’m just saying it must be very confusing from the audience’s perspective. How did no one guess that something nefarious was underway? This alliance emerged a bit late in the game to be so incredibly large. One or two people alliances may make sense, but six people does not. 

However, I didn’t mind it too much. Even when I was confused the first time I read the series, I was somewhat distracted by how much I enjoy Johanna as a character. She is so straight forward and somewhat brutish that it impresses. Her constant glares at Katniss add a special touch that I am absolutely living for. 

Chapter Twenty-Three

After Katniss’s group of tributes realize that the arena is a clock, a lot of the events that took place prior make more sense. It’s easier to understand why the fog and the monkeys suddenly stopped. The overall shape of the arena also makes more sense. 

What I’ve never understood, however, is why this arena is so much more intense than the previous ones. I understand that it was designed with the Quarter Quell in mind, but preparations for this arena must have taken place years prior to the actual games. I don’t believe it was the founder’s original intents to have victors as tributes for this arena. How did they expect normal tributes to survive this arena for any amount of time? What was the original Quarter Quell really supposed to be like? 

It’s just hard to imagine that they built this arena in a year and, without knowing who it was intended for, I don’t imagine them putting untrained children into such a completely hostile environment. Of course, Haymitch’s own arena was similarly intense. It just didn’t seem to practically guarantee death. Although everything was poisonous… so maybe I’m wrong.

Either way, after determining that the arena is a clock, Katniss begins to discuss Wiress with Beetee. He explains to Katniss that Beetee is extremely intuitive, kind of like the canaries in the mines in District 12 that are supposed to warn miners in the case of emergency. After he explains, Katniss begins to think about how much danger Gale could be in back home. It would be so easy for President Snow to make his death look like an accident if he wanted to. He could just rig the mines where Gale is working to explode and blame it on the canaries failing to warn Gale in time. 

In my opinion, that would be a huge waste of time for the President to do, but, considering the way he treats Katniss, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had decided to kill Gale. President Snow may be the president of Panem, but it doesn’t seem like he shys away from wasting time on petty revenge moves. He definitely made the time to plan Cinna’s death. President Snow’s distaste for Katniss puts everyone she loves in harm’s way. 

And personally I think that’s Snow’s biggest character flaw, or one of Suzanne’s biggest flaws in the overall Hunger Games series. I have such a hard time envisioning such a cunning man being so intensely petty. His behavior towards Katniss is almost childlike. It’s immature. I have a hard time picturing a man who was smart enough, and deadly enough, to keep power for years in one of the most volatile countries I’ve ever imagined spending so much time on being cruel to a teenage girl. It’s a difficult thing to imagine.

Regardless, it’s one of President Snow’s traits so I suppose I have to accept it. It’s just not my favorite. 

As the chapter proceeds, Katniss’s newly enlarged alliance is attacked by the career tributes. During the attack, the Gamemakers reset the arena so that Katniss and her group can’t use their understanding of the arena to their advantage. The clock has been reset. The group has to figure out what time it is and how to read the clock again. 

Because of this reset, Katniss and Finnick had the misfortune of being in a section that was activated. Katniss hears the sound of her sister screaming. And although this is definitely going to bleed into my opinion of the next chapter, how screwed up is that? Like who comes up with this stuff? What type of psychopaths become a Gamemaker?

Never Have I Ever…

After my short hiatus from blogging (thanks allergies!), I came back and saw that I was tagged in a post by Whispering Stories. To be honest, I’m not the best at outreach on wordpress. I come here, write a post about what I’m reading that day, and *sometimes* I read a post or two on the discover section of my screen. So it was kind of cool to be tagged in something by another blog. I got oddly excited about it.

And then I started reading about the “Never Have I Ever” challenge and these were the rules:

  1. Link back to the original creator (Madame Writer)
  2. Link back to the person who tagged you or the blog where you first saw this tag.
  3. Answer all prompts.
  4. Add one more prompt of your own.
  5. Tag at least five people.
  6. Don’t lie.
  7. Have fun!

And I was like wow this is all doable! So here goes my best shot:

Never Have Ever… read a later book in the a series before reading the first book.

To be honest, I don’t know if I have or haven’t. It’d be easy enough to say that I haven’t, but I can think of plenty of series where I might have. There’s certain collections of books where you don’t necessarily have to read them in a specific order in order to understand and love them.

The Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore comes to mind right away, but considering I’ve already talked about that series (and my overwhelming love for it) at length, there’s definitely a couple more series that you could read out of order and be just fine.

1) Fell and The Sight by David Clement-Davies

When I read this prompt, my first thought was Fell. Fell was the follow-up for Clement-Davies’ first book in the short series, The Sight. It followed the story of Fell, the dark wolf brother of the beloved Larka, following the death of Morgra. While I found the first book to be a touching tale about good versus evil, I feel like the real magic of this series begins in Fell with Fell’s walk to redemption. There is something utterly captivating about the second book that I missed in the first and you absolutely don’t need to read these two books in the correct order to understand the appeal. However, I would recommend that you do just because both are absolutely read-worth and why not read them in order if you’re going to read both? Plus, it will probably make Fell’s story even more powerful if you understand where he is coming from.

2) The Night World Series by L.J. Smith

Let’s preface with this: I love this series and I one hundred percent read it in order. But you don’t necessarily have to and considering the fact that it seems like L.J. Smith isn’t ever going to finish this series, it might not even be worth trying to read them in order. There’s a lot of novellas in this series and the price of them seems to only have increased throughout the years. While they’re all good, some are exceedingly better. I particularly enjoyed Huntress and Witchlight. They’re all worth reading if you can afford because, well, they’re good, but again Smith probably isn’t going to finish them so don’t get too attached. I’ve been waiting for the last book for ten years!

3) Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

I feel like I’m drawing from a lot of series that I read in my preteen and teenage years, but the Life As Knew It series is definitely one you don’t have to read in order in order to understand. Each book stands pretty well by itself. However, I would recommend reading the first and second book sometime before reading the third and fourth, just for the sake of getting to know all of the various characters. You can, of course, totally disregard that if you really wanted to. 

And I’d also like to add that, while I first read these books in my preteen years, I recommend them for people of all ages. Because of how quickly I read, I’m a habitual re-reader (hello rereading The Hunger Games for the millionth time) and I make sure to reread every single book in this series every single year. It’s one of my favorite collections. Pfeffer’s post apocalyptic world is startlingly realistic and utterly terrifies me. The dangers of space are really out of our control and it’s easy to imagine an asteroid impact on us or on the moon having a huge impact on life on earth. 

Plus, I particularly enjoyed how dark books three and four were. While many people prefer the more positive tone of books one and two, I absolutely adore dark and almost depressing post apocalyptic fiction. Watching people struggle to survive might sound horrible, but it makes for amazing literature. I also feel like it’s relatively rare to find a well written perspective of a teenager experiencing the end of the world. Can you think of other series that can do that justice without sounding trite? Life as We Knew It is very special in my eyes. 

Never Have I Ever… burned a book.

I actually considered lying when this prompt came up. I have actually burned a book. I’ve actually burned a couple of piles of them, maybe more. Thankfully, all of the books I’ve burned were super old and beyond repair. The pages were absolutely covered in mold and moth balls. They were beyond saving. You couldn’t even make out the words anymore!


But there are some books that have been so bad, so poorly written, so deeply offensive to me that I wouldn’t necessarily mind someone setting them on fire. It’s rare for me to say that I genuinely hated a book, but I have genuinely hated a few books. Dawn: The Final Awakening Book One by J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon fall into this category. My boyfriend recommended it to me a while back and I attempted to read this book, but the entire thing just felt ridiculous. I hated the writing style. It was the first book in a long time that I had to give up reading just because of how much I disliked it. It was somehow simultaneously all over the place, but also super boring at the same time. I’d love to give it the benefit of doubt and assume it got better after I stopped reading it, but based on what I read? Definitely fire-worthy.

Never have I Ever… read a book I knew I would hate.

My answer is a little bit iffy on this one as well. I was ninety nine percent sure I would not enjoy Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyers. I went into it fully expecting a drawn out creepy monologue about Edward’s obsession for Bella. Unsurprisingly, I got just that. Because of that, it wasn’t my favorite book and I probably wouldn’t recommend it to even the most diehard Twilight fans. Every time I found myself hoping the book would improve, it fell flat. There were some moments where my hopes were so high that it almost crushed me to be let down again. If you’re interested in reading my chapter-by-chapter analysis, it’s probably better than the book itself.

That being said, I’d probably read part two if it came out. Does that make sense? No. Would I do it? Without a doubt. After a couple of months of thinking about it, I know I wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to talk about how creepy and unlikable Edward is again.

Never Have I ever… wrote a fanfiction about my favorite books.

Nope. I have a hard time getting into fanfiction in general, particularly when the author of the fanfic takes the characters away from the situations where I got to know and love them. If you take a person out of their normal surroundings, it can be very hard to recognize them. I’m sure there are *many* exceptions to this rule, but most fanfics I’ve read have failed to connect with me. I find myself wanting to read the original books more than the fanfic. If you have any good recommendations, let me know. I’m probably just not looking in the right places.

Never Have I Ever… loved a book when I was young, yet hated it when I got older.

I honestly can’t say that I have. Even books that I’m technically too old for now, I still love. The Warrior Cat series by Erin Hunter immediately comes to mind. I just love that series and I reread the first six books every year… sometimes twice a year. Rusty’s story from soft kittypet to warrior cat gets me every time.

I also really loved The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer and The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner when I was younger. While I haven’t reread either of those in years, I still remember them fondly. In fact, I’ve been thinking very seriously about rereading them.

However, I would like to note that I don’t really enjoy The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling as kid. Every book lover in the world seemed to adore them growing up, but I never managed to get as into them. I always felt like they were missing something. As I got older, that disconnect really continued – much to the series detriment. I wanted Harry to grow up with me instead of acting the same every book. I never got into it and, while I don’t hate it now, it’s not my favorite series in the world. Plus, Rowling is kind of unbearable herself.

Never Have I Ever… dressed up as one of my favorite literary characters.

Nope.

Never Have I Ever… hated a book by an author I love.

Lately I’ve been trying to read one of Jodi Picoult’s newer books, The Book of Two Ways. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I hate it, but I’m definitely not super into it. I’ve actually had a hard time with a lot of her newer material, particularly because a lot of it feels repetitive. I’ve read her style of writing a million times and I know what books by her look like. They’re a bit stale for me now. And when she branches out a little bit, I always feel like something’s missing. Maybe I’ve just outgrown her as an author in general and it’s definitely not hate, but it’s probably the closest I’ll get.

Never Have I Ever… gone into a bookstore to buy one book and come out with many more.

This may break your hearts, but I don’t buy paper copies of books anymore. I used to have gigantic book shelves in my room absolutely full of books, but after moving a few times… dozens of times… hard copies are just too difficult. They make moving a real pain and I always end up having to leave some behind. I’m a digital reader!

Never Have I Ever… read the ending of a book before reading the beginning.

I don’t think so, but I might have when I was in school. Some books they have you read are just so boring. Skipping to the end and reading the last few pages can help you convincingly fake having read them for school assignments. Not that I recommend that. You might as well just read the sparknotes instead if you really don’t want to read a book.

Never Have I Ever… read a book without the dust cover.

I read on my phone… so yes.

Never Have I Ever… skim read nearly half a book.

Probably? Again, some teachers give you boring books. You gotta do what you gotta do.

Never Have I Ever… pretended to have read a book that I haven’t.

Only when I was younger and had to read boring books for assignments. If I don’t finish a book now, there’s a reason and I’m going to say what the reason is. Most of the time, it’s because I genuinely didn’t like the book.

Never Have I Ever… saw the movie before the book.

Yes. A few weeks ago, I saw the trailer for I’m Thinking of Ending Things and immediately watched the movie without looking into it at all. I had no idea it was a book!

However upset I felt in the moment, however, I’m almost glad I watched the movie first. I’m Thinking of Ending Things has so many layers to it that watching the movie probably helped me understand the book better. I found myself looking for clues about the ending instead of focusing too much on how confused I was.

Never Have I Ever… had a book boyfriend.

Can’t say that I have. Although Rhysand from A Court of Thorns and Roses does have a piece of my heart and always will. Or Will Herondale from The Mortal Instruments. The problem with book boyfriends is that they almost always have book girlfriends that they couldn’t bear to be separated from. I can’t fall in love with someone who already has the perfect partner for them!

My new prompt: Never Have I Ever… read a history book or anthropology book for fun.

I personally have, but I wonder how many book bloggers really go outside of their normal range. I recently reread Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and really enjoyed it. It was so far out of normal for me that I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It’s one of my favorites now! However, it is very opinionated so whether it can truly be considered a simple history book is up for debate. I definitely recommend Harari’s books if you haven’t read anything by them so far.

Bloggers that I have tagged for the “Never Have I Ever” book tag challenge

Because I’m a very bad blogger, I very rarely interact with other people’s blog posts. I’ve been trying to be better, but there’s too few hours in a day. Thankfully, this post gave me an extra shove towards looking for new (for me) blogs to check out. Of course, I started first with my followers because why not? It was an easy way to find bloggers that like the same things I do.

  1. Books with Bain – I really, really, really love the fact that this blogger includes actual tags to goodread shelves so I can check out the books she’s reviewing, or considering reading. Plus, I absolutely love the photos she takes. Check out this one. They’re pure magic! I’d love to see her take on this challenge.
  2. Midnight Book Blog – This is one of the few book blogs I’ve had a chance to really check out prior to this challenge. I really love how fun and genuine their posts come across. It feels like I’m sitting around talking to my best friend about what they thought about a book, but without having to fly my best friend to my house. Saves us on airfare! Plus, she sells absolutely gorgeous bookmarks. I almost wish I read paper copies of books now… Do you think I could get a digital version of one?
  3. Roses and Thorns Books – I love the set up of their blog. I may be the only person who nerds out over fonts, but wow what a font they have chosen. I love it. It makes me feel like I’m reading classic literature on a snowy winter day right in front of the fire place. Plus, they don’t shy away from calling attention to the good and the bad parts of books. I really like that in a book blogger. I also really like the fact that they sometimes take a break from reviewing books to give advice to writers. That’s awesome!
  4. Becky’s Book Blog – This blog is new to me and I’m about 50% sure I saw their name in the original tag post… But either way! When I went to go find a couple of new blogs to tag, I saw her post about books that Netflix should adapt and I was hooked. Sadly, I haven’t read any of the books she was talking about (I might have to get reading), but it was such a good idea for a post and it gave me a lot of options of books I apparently should be reading that I’d love to see her take on the ‘Never Have I Ever’ challenge.
  5. Foxes and Fairy Tales – To be honest, I was attracted to this blog because it’s so much different than my own. I tend to focus on one book for a very long time; Louise seems to favor top fives and top ten lists. And she does it without going on and on for decades like I would. I love that! Plus, she talked about The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller in this post and that book is one of my personal weak spots. It is SUCH a powerful story and now I want to check out every other book on that list.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 21)

I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I cannot recommend this series enough. The Hunger Games series in general is resoundingly powerful writing. The characters, no matter how insignificant, are all dynamic and impactful. The scenarios they are put in come across as real, no matter how far-fetched they can be. Their interactions with each other are just stunning. It is amazing writing and, while I can’t imagine not having read this series yet, I definitely recommend it if you haven’t.

I really wanted to focus on chapter twenty one during this blog post. I think it’s one of the strongest chapters in the entire series. There’s so much going on, but even the smallest details matter. It’s one of those chapters that bring up a lot of things that I think about vaguely in other chapters. It helps make sense of everything that’s going on, but without feeling boring at all. If anything, it’s almost too exciting! There’s something being thrown at Katniss and Peeta every five seconds during this chapter and all of it is, of course, extremely dangerous.

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, in the chapter that they are covering. 

Chapter Twenty One Thoughts

I don’t really know how Suzanne Collins came up with everything she came up with. The Hunger Games universe is so detail oriented and creative that it’s hard to imagine coming up with half of it, let alone all of it. When I looked up what inspired her, it seems like it was a weird mix of reality television and war films. Can you imagine coming up with such an intense world with such a simple inspiration? There are so many levels to Panem that it’s just incredible. 

And why am I thinking about this, you may ask? At the end of chapter twenty, an ominous fog starts to roll in. It’s honestly the stuff horror movies are made of with its slow creep towards Katniss’s group of tributes. The horror is furthered when it immediately blisters Katniss’s skin upon contact. 

The fog itself may be a small tiny little detail, but it really adds to the growing fear of the Quarter Quell. Even the fog can kill you. And, while the fog itself is not the most creative invention (again, every horror movie ever seems to capitalize on our nonsensical fear of fog/the unknown), it’s the fog in conjunction with everything else that made me stop and think wow, she really did this. Catching Fire just blows my mind sometimes. 

Regardless, the fog was a really great plot device in general. It brought back to mind the danger of the games themselves while getting rid of the weakest link in Katniss’s alliance with Finnick – without having someone kill off one of the best characters in the entire Hunger Games series. The death of Mags was resoundingly powerful and utterly heroic. She once again sacrificed herself to save the lives of others, others far younger than herself to note. 

It may not have been the most painless death, but it was a huge moment for the series. Katniss has inspired people to sacrifice themselves for others, to stand up for others. While Mags may have sacrificed herself either way had the situation presented itself without Katniss’s involvement, she might not have done so in front of the entire nation. It was another example of someone from the districts sacrificing themselves for someone from another district. 

Because it was such a powerful moment, I wonder how the Gamemakers spun it. Even considering the fact that Mags was so aged compared to the rest of the tributes and no one genuinely expected her to emerge victorious, it must not help their case to have one tribute sacrifice themselves for the lives of others. Self sacrifice is not really the aim of the games. Turning districts into enemies of each other is. Promoting distrust is. Keeping people separate and weak is. Mags’ death didn’t really play into making people hate each other. Instead, everyone in Panem would probably go on to remember her fondly. If anything, her death could be used to bring people together.

And that’s kind of huge by itself, but from a political perspective… It once again draws my attention to the fact that President Snow’s decision to involve victors in the Quarter Quell was a gigantic mistake. If Snow was trying to show how he could still force the strongest of the strong to fight each other, even as life in the districts was falling apart due to the ongoing uprisings, he failed at that task in a lot of small ways. The fights were just not as vicious as previous games and the sacrifices being made by many tributes to protect the lives of others proves my point. The hand-holding at the interviews, the love of Panem for their victors, Mags volunteering for the games to begin with and then sacrificing herself to help save people who hail from outside of her own district… It all adds up and none of it looks good for Snow. Instead of crushing rebellion, he’s giving the uprising hope that they can find aid in other districts. He’s giving the victors a chance to show the first signs of unity and respect between districts since the original uprising. 

However, maybe President Snow had hoped something else would happen. When the fog first began to gravely impact Katniss, she did have a terrible impulse to run from it, abandoning her alliance in an attempt to save herself. She didn’t, but she very well could have. If that had been what took place instead of Mags’ valiant self sacrifice, the national perspective of this scene would probably have been a bit different. It would have shown the world that everyone, even the Mockingjay, is only out to save themselves. There is no point in fighting for someone who will never fight for you.

I don’t know how realistic Snow’s expectations were, though. President Snow gave people who are essentially celebrities, who all know each other, the chance to show that things could be different, not expecting them to actually show that. He didn’t really consider the fact that all of these people have gotten the chance to get to know each other. They have established connections with each other, even friendships. How did President Snow expect the previous victors to kill each other without any heartfelt interactions? Or sacrifices? The victors are connected by the trauma of the games. In a manner of speaking, they understand each other in ways that no one will ever understand them. They’ve lived through the same horrible things. Even if they wanted to kill each other, there would have to be some moments of hesitation or even just some human interactions between them. They’re not props; they’re people. To not foresee any type of detectable connection between them was naive. Considering the fact that President Snow was relying on the victors being heartless killers in order to squash the uprisings, it’s just a stupid move on Snow’s behalf. 

Personally, I wouldn’t hedge my bets on such a narrow chance that all of these people are mindless murderers. It’s perhaps my greatest problem with The Hunger Games as a series that Snow does. Time and time again, President Snow is described as one of the greatest minds in Panem. He is insanely intelligent. He is cunning and quick. More often than not, he is described as a literal snake. And more than that, President Snow obtained power from a very young age and kept it for longer than any other president in Panem’s history. You can’t underestimate your opponents and hold onto power. It just doesn’t work. President Snow would not be so incredibly naive or short sighted. He is too smart for that. The fact that the entire series makes it sound like the Quarter Quell was his last attempt to restore order to his nation is laughable. I just don’t buy it. 

Thankfully, I can blame most of that perception on the fact that we are hearing this story from Katniss’s perspective, not President Snow’s. We don’t know what is actually going on in the Capitol. We actually don’t even know how involved Snow actually is with the games themselves. We don’t even know what the rebellion is up to. All we know is what is directly impacting Katniss as the previous victor of the Hunger Games, as a symbol of rebellion, and as a tribute in the current Quarter Quell. Her perception that so much relies on the success and failures of the games could just be her perception. She is living it. Considering the fact that she’s a teenage girl from the poorest, most ignored district in the entire nation, she’s probably incorrect with that assumption. 

And that’s fine.

I just want to know more about what’s happening outside of the games and outside of Katniss’s limited perception. In particular, I want to know more about what is happening in the Capitol. What is President Snow focusing on instead of the games? How does he really plan to prevent rebellion? How does he make his decisions on how to move forward? Who does he trust? What underground forces is he dealing with? How involved is he in designing the games themselves? 

While I definitely have a lot to look forward to in A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, I don’t really think they’ll cover enough about what Snow is thinking during these events. The book seems to focus on President Snow’s rise to power which is, of course, extremely interesting and I’m dying to know more about it. I’d just also like to learn more about what is actually happening outside of what is happening to Katniss.

And that does include learning more about the rebellion itself. I’m dying for a history lesson about it. Who started the ongoing rebellion? How have they maintained themselves following the events of the original uprising? Did the idea of rebellion completely die out after the nation was punished or did it continue in silence? How large is the rebellion organization? What does their power structure look like? While we do get some answers to these questions later on in the series, we don’t get nearly enough to placate my curiosity. Suzanne Collins did manage to answer all of the “big” questions, but her universe is so vast and realistic that it’d be hard not to come up with a million more.

However, getting back to the actual fog itself, it is absolutely terrifying what it can do to people. It not only blisters the skin on contact, but it somehow manages to partially paralyze people as well. Technologies like this make me think that the Hunger Games are just an excuse to show off to the districts how truly powerful the Capitol is. Even their fog kills. I know I’m one hundred percent right that this is one of the reasons that the game exists, but it’s still remarkable that they kill children as a televised fear tactic for preventing national rebellion. Designing deadly technologies just for the sake of torturing people is sadistic and horrifying, but imagining these same technologies being used against thousands upon thousands of people is even worse.

It’s intelligent design, but horrible nonetheless. 

It would be even more horrible if the fog had been what had killed off their entire alliance. Would any of the Gamemakers have stepped in? One death from fog may be “entertaining” enough for Panem, but killing off four tributes in one violent strike seems a bit much… even for them. It would bring the games to a close too early. Plus, I can’t imagine that the fog would be a brutal enough death for two tributes that have caused the Capitol so much trouble. President Snow would want their deaths to be gory and violent, possibly even slow. A relatively quick death by fog wouldn’t placate his desire to punish Katniss for inspiring rebellion. He’d want more of a show.

Not that I think that killing off Katniss is the correct political move. Like I’ve said before, I actually think that involving her in the games to begin with is too risky. It gives the nation someone to stand up for. There’s not much he can do considering she’s already in the games, but having her die is definitely the incorrect move. It would be the smartest move to have Katniss survive the Quarter Quell. It doesn’t make sense to kill her off and risk turning her into a martyr for the rebellion. Even though I’ve repeated myself a million times with this sentiment, I’ve just never been able to understand what Snow was thinking. Her death has the potential to do more for the uprising than her life would. 

Curiously enough, though, I’m surprised that none of the Gamemakers used Katniss, Peeta, and Finnick’s weakness to draw other tributes towards them. Death at the hands of other tributes would probably be right up their alley. However, it probably wouldn’t be “appealing” to watch a group of defenseless tributes get attacked by other tributes. Even the most sadistic individuals can only do so much to make a death like that entertaining.

Plus, watching these tributes heal each other was probably enough for a bored audience. While everyone enjoys an action scene, just watching Finnick swim sounds entertaining enough for me. Many of their interactions with each other also add an element of humor that would help the audience destress. I’m assuming many members of the audience are rooting for Katniss in particular to win the games because of her alleged pregnancy alone, not to mention the events of the previous game and her dynamic relationship with Peeta. 

And it’s not like they had a long time to be bored by that either. As soon as the three were feeling better, they were attacked by monkeys. Once again: it’s crazy how even the most ridiculous sounding sentence can feel entirely realistic in this series. Attacked by murderous monkeys? Not super surprised. It’s the Quarter Quell! 

Of course, when the morphling from District 6 throws herself in the way of one of the monkeys trying to kill Peeta, it does throw me for a loop. I’m sure most of Panem is shocked. Why would she sacrifice herself for a tribute she barely knows? Another sacrifice was made to save the tributes from District 12. And why? Personally I’ve never been able to one hundred percent know what the morphling was thinking. Part of me thinks that she just wanted to be a part of something greater than herself. She knew about the rebellion, hated the Capitol, and wanted to protect the people who inspired the nation to fight back. But another part of me thinks she did it without thinking about it. Someone was in danger. She saved them. Both options are powerful and are definitely not what President Snow wanted from this game.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 19 – 20)

To be perfectly honest, I had to force myself to stop reading yesterday. I really wanted to read chapter after chapter of this book. But something about the end of chapter eighteen made me say “take a break, make one post about that, read more tomorrow.” It was just a complete overload of information and events. It felt like everything that could happen was happening. The announcement Peeta made, the subsequent reaction of the Capitol, and ending with the attack on Cinna? It was a lot to process and I didn’t want to overdo it in a single post.

Plus, I felt like the beginning of the 75th annual Hunger Game deserved it’s own nook on my blog. It’s the moment we’ve been waiting for this entire time. Katniss is back in the arena, ready to fight for her (and Peeta’s) life. Can you imagine going into something like completely expecting to die? And then having to do it again the next year? It’s horrifying. 

Of course, that’s the point, but still. I’m always blown away by how impossible this situation feels without coming across as unrealistic. The characters and scenarios they are put in are absolutely unbelievable, but I still believe them. It’s the mark of a good writer to make me feel like the unrealistic is approachable, believable, and even worthy of acclaim. Even though The Hunger Games series in general has received accolades for it’s writing, all of the books could use a little bit more. They’re just that good. 

And the movies really aren’t bad either now that I think about it.. Although, again, to be honest, I haven’t actually finished all of them. I still need to see the last movie! I rewatched the others while rereading the first book, but felt like I should say ‘Mockingjay Part 2’ for after I reread the last book. Maybe I’ll make a party of it! What could I do for themed foods? Poison berries? Lamb stew? Heck, I could even serve katniss herself. 

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, in the chapter that they are covering. 

Chapter Nineteen Thoughts

At the beginning of chapter nineteen, Katniss is left reeling after the attack on Cinna. She has just entered into the arena for the Quarter Quell after watching a group of Peacekeepers brutally attack the poor man. Having seen them drag Cinna away, of course she’s frantically trying to figure out what President Snow plans on doing to him. Undermining the President’s desire to have Katniss displayed as a disheartened bride, and turning her dress into a symbol of rebellion instead, was masterful work, but it also put Cinna in grave danger. 

Will he become an avox? Will he be tortured? Or will he just be killed outright? And how will they use whatever they do to Cinna against Katniss going into the future? Having read the series many, many times, I know that Cinna is (spoiler alert) dead or soon to be dead.

What I never found out, through all of my rereads, is whether or not he truly expected that to be the punishment for what he did. I know he planned for his death to happen, at least in part, at least theoretically. He made too many plans for after his death to not expect it to some degree. But did he truly believe he would die? Or was he hoping for another outcome?

And if he did truly expect to die soon then why did he do it? I am dying to know more about Cinna’s background. I understand that he probably wanted to punish the Capitol for their horrible behaviors and nonchalant attitude towards torture and death, but most citizens in his shoes don’t even notice how cruel Panem is. Even if they do, they fear President Snow too much to do anything about it. How did Cinna get the guts to stand up to President Snow? How was he brave enough to make a show of rebellion, fully knowing he could die for it? Cinna is possibly the bravest out of everyone. I wish he had survived this series. 

In a way, the terror of Cinna’s death does detract from the terror of the beginning of the Quarter Quell in my opinion. My fear at him being attacked overshadows my fear for Katniss instead of adding to it. However, I could see it amplifying the fear and excitement for other readers. Katniss has barely a minute to process the attack on Cinna before being plunged head-first into the games. Personally, I would never be able to pull myself away from the anguish of watching Cinna be attacked in time to make a headstart to the Cornucopia before the other tributes do. 

Thankfully, Katniss has stronger survival instincts than I do. Before the gong has been struck, she has analyzed the situation to the best of her ability. She knows she will have to swim, she knows that she will be swimming in salt water, she knows where the other tributes are, and she knows she absolutely needs to get her hands on a weapon as soon as possible. There is no room for mistakes. When every tribute is a victor of a previous game, everyone needs to act like a career tribute. 

So when the gong is struck, she swims. 

Having arrived at the Cornucopia at the same time as Finnick Odair, the tribute from District 4, Katniss is put in a tough position. She can either fight it out with Finnick in an arena that seems to cater to his strengths… or she can make an alliance with him. At first, it seems like they’re going to fight, but when Katniss sees a flash of gold on Finnick’s wrist, she realizes that Haymitch wanted her to ally herself with him. 

Even though I’ve read Catching Fire many times before, I’ve never fully understood why Haymitch chose Finnick to be Katniss’s ally. Perhaps it’s that he knows Finnick’s affection for Mags will wear down Katniss’s walls. Or perhaps it’s Finnick’s easy access to Capitol secrets that appeals to Haymitch. I’ve never been able to imagine that Haymitch and Finnick were close friends in the same way that Haymitch befriended other tributes like Brutus. It’s also been slightly confusing to me that he wouldn’t choose a friend to ally with Katniss, even knowing how brutal his friends are. Considering the events that take place later in the book, why couldn’t he trust his friends? I don’t remember any clear explanation for that. 

Another part of me thinks that the arena plays to Finnick’s strengths on purpose and that Haymitch knew it would. Finnick is the darling for many people in the Capitol. They love him. Perhaps forcing the tributes to swim was meant to give him an advantage. Many people must be rooting for him to survive. Who knows?

Not me.

I’m also not crystal clear on why the Gamemakers made the decision to only include weapons at the Cornucopia. Most years they provide food and some tools for survival. On one hand, I think the failure to provide those things was a smart movie from an entertainment perspective. It would add some diversity to the games. Instead of everyone focusing on killing each other all the time, everyone would at some point have to focus on finding food and water. It wouldn’t just be a constant bloodbath. 

But on the other hand… The Gamemakers have made their distaste for Katniss readily apparent. They made her a target by giving her an impossibly high score. President Snow, also very obviously, wants her dead. Every person in Panem knows that Katniss can take care of herself. Finding food would never be a problem for her. Why not provide other tributes with food and tools that they could use to their advantage? They probably aren’t as adept at hunting as she is and even slight advantages can mean the difference between life or death in the arena. At least four of them, coming from districts where they trained as career tributes, could probably use the help getting food. They were trained for battle, not to hunt. 

The battle scenes somewhat distracted me from this train of thought, but to be honest I mostly glaze over battle scenes in general. They don’t hold the same appeal to me as they do to others. I find them interesting, but not necessarily comment worthy. I always spend the majority of my time reading them looking for clues about a book’s storyline. In Catching Fire, I’m always looking for clues about what President Snow is trying to do, or looking for interesting plot devices, not necessarily for blood. 

When Katniss and Finnick begin fighting with the other tributes, I’m mostly disinterested. At least until Finnick offers to save Peeta from the dangerous water and uses Katniss’s “condition” as an excuse. Finnick is extremely intelligent. He is cunning. In a manner of speaking, he almost reminds me of Foxface from the first book in the series. He must know that Katniss’s pregnancy is a ruse Peeta told Panem to get them upset about the Quarter Quell. Playing that up is smart of him. It may get them more support from sponsors. 

And then, when Katniss and her newly made alliance (Mags, Finnick, Peeta) enter the jungle, she starts thinking about how little the interviews the night before impacted the actual events of the game. Even though the tributes had made a grand display of unity by interlocking hands, they were still killing each other in the arena today. From her perspective, their moment of unity meant very little. They didn’t show any reluctance to kill each other when they came down to it. They didn’t throw down their weapons or curse the Capitol. They killed. Violently. 

While I completely understand where she’s coming from with this thought process, it’s impossible to say I wouldn’t do the same as victors. When it comes down to life or death, a lot of people will choose life. Even if it means killing someone else. I also wouldn’t say that their display of unity was meaningless just because they fought in the arena. It wasn’t meaningless at all. It was one of the first steps in showing a connection between the citizens of Panem, especially between people from separate districts. The Hunger Games were specifically designed to make people from different districts hate and distrust each other. The moment where every victor locks hands is one of the first moments of unity between districts since the uprising that caused the games to be invented. It shows that the games are not a perfect way to inspire hate and distrust between people. Even if they turned around and attacked each other the next day, it’s a moment of progress. 

However positive that is, it’s not what Katniss realized. Instead, she realized she should probably kill Finnick while he’s defenseless. Getting attached to him could cost her her life in the future. Thankfully, Finnick knows where her mind went during their trek. He understands what she’s thinking and puts himself in a defensive position. His mind probably went to a similar place considering he follows it up with an explanation that no one in the Quarter Quell, except for possibly Peeta, was a victor by mistake. Their moment of unity the night before meant something, but would never prevent people like the victors from doing what they have to do to survive. What they do in the arena may not necessarily reflect what would happen in the real world. 

While they’re seemingly calculating the amount of risk involved in killing the other person, Peeta steps in between them. Katniss seems to believe that he did it on accident, not knowing what the two of them were thinking about, but it was definitely on purpose. Peeta may be kinder and more compassionate than the other victors, but he isn’t stupid. He’s amazing at reading body language and probably wanted to prevent violence between their alliance. 

Chapter Twenty Thoughts

When Peeta collides with the forcefield at the end of chapter nineteen, his heart stops and mine does too. When I first read Catching Fire, I really thought he was going to die. I was shocked that Collins would kill him off, especially so quickly, but it kind of tied right into classic dystopic fictions. In the classics, a corrupt world will take everything from you so I wasn’t necessarily surprised that a modern dystopic fiction would go the same route. It didn’t feel unrealistic or without precedent. 

However, it didn’t feel right. Catching Fire and The Hunger Games series in general is far more upbeat than most classic dystopian fiction. Their universe goes extremely far in the pursuit of creating a perfect world for people of the Capitol to live in, but it doesn’t go as far as other universes do. For example, there’s little in the way of completing altering and changing everyone’s mind through direct mind controlling technologies or through extensive drugging. The idea that Collins would fail to include those facets of a dystopian world, but would take Peeta from Katniss felt somewhat far-fetched. She couldn’t kill him. It was just a little too dark for the world she had created.

That’s part of why it’s so relieving when Peeta survives. Finnick saves his life, thus creating a newfound trust with Katniss that will likely prevent future violent clashes. 

When Katniss begins to sob after Peeta is restored to life, it’s the first moment where the whole world gets to see how she genuinely feels for Peeta. While a lot of their romance had been a show for the sake of the audience, Katniss genuinely loves Peeta. It isn’t all an act. She cares for him deeply. The idea of losing him terrifies her. Even Finnick, who questioned their love affair from the get-go, seems confused by her display of love and fear for Peeta’s life. He wasn’t expecting it to be anything but an act.

A large part of me wants to see what President Snow was thinking during all of this. Did any part of him feel regret for putting Peeta and Katniss in such a terrible position? Did he pity them at all? Or did he feel encouraged by a sign that Katniss loved Peeta? He wanted her to show Panem that her act of defiance was one of love, not rebellion. He finally got that. Was it enough to satisfy him or did he still want more out of them?

And how did he react to Finnick’s involvement in saving Peeta’s love? It’s difficult to justify saving the life of another tribute in the games. President Snow had to have known that there was something more to Finnick’s heroic deed. Did he ever expect the rebellion to involve themselves in the Quarter Quell? And if he didn’t… Why didn’t he? For someone so intelligent, President Snow always comes across as one step behind. He underestimates his opponents to his own detriment. He focuses more on killing Katniss and ruining her image than on solving the readily apparent problems in his country.

Not a very good move for a president if you ask me. 

When Katniss realizes that Peeta’s token is a mockingjay necklace meant to emulate her own pin, I’d love to see Snow’s face then as well. It takes any amount of progress their moment of love might have made with the rebellion and very likely turns it into encouragement of the rebellion. Was he enraged? Did he throw things? 

Of course, I’d also like to know why Katniss is even bothered by the idea of death any more. Both her and Peeta seem to be taunting President Snow at times. At this point even Peeta has to realize that Katniss has turned into a symbol of rebellion. Everything she touches is tainted by her affiliation with the uprising, the mockingjay symbol in particular. So why did he wear it?

For the most part, I think that Peeta wore the symbol because he wanted to be a part of the rebellion, even in a small way. More than any other tribute described in the series, Peeta didn’t want the games to change who he was. He also wanted to hold the Gamemakers accountable for the terrible acts performed in their game. Of course he’d want to be a part of a rebellion against all of these horrible things, even a little bit. 

And of course it made him feel more connected with Katniss and isn’t that just the cutest thing ever? 

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 18)

My allergies have hit me in full force this year and, to be honest, it’s just not a great year for having allergies. I’m constantly coughing or sneezing, my head hurts, and I sound like death. Every time I go out into public, I’m uncomfortable and worried about what everyone else thinks of me. Is she sick? Will I catch it? How dare she be out in public? It’s hard to explain that I’m just incredibly allergic to trees and it feels like I’m either explaining or avoiding explaining that fact every five seconds. 

So, all in all, I’ve spent the last week in bed avoiding all forms of social contact. Hence the lack of posts. I haven’t felt like reading at all. Between the anxiety of having a cough to begin with and the headache that comes naturally with allergies, I just haven’t wanted to do anything except sleep. Thankfully, my allergy medicine is FINALLY starting to do its job and I can exist again! 

And the fact that my head has finally stopped hurting means I’m finally willing to pick up a book! We don’t give allergy medicine nearly enough credit for the good work it does. I’d be useless for the next two months without it. 

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, in the chapter that they are covering. 

Chapter Eighteen Thoughts

Sometimes when Katniss is interacting with minor characters, I wonder about what their lives look like outside of their conversations. Caesar in particular really interests me. What does he look like when he’s not on screen? What is he involved with outside of the games? Does he have a family? How deep does his influence go in Panem? What access does he have to new information? After Katniss’s transition from bridal to bird during their interview, Caesar’s eyes flash in a way that makes it clear he understands all of the implications of her transformation. The Mockingjay isn’t just Katniss’s token; it’s a symbol of rebellion. How does Caesar know that?

And who tells him? 

A large part of me likes to assume that Caesar is very, very well-informed. You don’t get to where he is and stay there without some level of inside knowledge. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had some type of relationship with President Snow himself. Perhaps the protection of Snow is what keeps Caesar safe. 

Plus, I’m almost positive Caesar must have some degree of importance outside of being the interviewer for the games. The games are such a small part of the show and Caesar is so well-known and well-liked throughout the districts. I can’t imagine just anyone getting the right to have everyone in Panem know their name considering how closed off and hostile the world is. I’d love to know more about Caesar and what he does to try to figure out how he ended up in the position he is in. 

Caesar’s interactions with Peeta did nothing to dissuade me from wanting to know more, of course. Caesar comes across as so intensely kind and generous. He’s intuitive. He tries to bring out the best in each tribute. Plus, his banter with Peeta is appealing even when you know most of it has to be for show.

Speaking of Peeta, he always blows me away in this chapter. He is normally such a quiet and calm character. His presence in Catching Fire almost always relaxes me – even when he’s being Katniss and Haymitch’s drill sergeant. The fact that he was capable of dropping such a huge bomb on the entire nation in less than three minutes is just astounding. He’s shocking. 

And starting off slow with the announcement that Katniss and him were already married was pure genius. We were all rooting for them! We all loved them! How could anyone genuinely want to doom such beautiful young love to death in the Quarter Quells? How could anyone stomach it?

And then… Peeta makes it worse. It’s the announcement that Katniss is pregnant that genuinely blows me away every single time I read this book. It is such a calculated move on Peeta’s behalf. Even knowing it’s going to happen, I never really feel prepared. 

Why? Because the concept is just so horrifying. The idea of The Hunger Games in general is horrible. Having children fight each other to the death as a form of entertainment is degrading to the sanctity of human life. But having a pregnant woman involved in these games? That’s a new level of cruelty. Even Panem, a nation that cheers when watching children as young as twelve prepare for their death, cannot possibly allow a pregnant woman to compete and die in their brutal yearly ritual. 

Unsurprisingly, the audience watching this is blown away and horrified. Part of me understands the horror obviously. It’s a horrendous thing. But another part of me does find their reaction a bit hypocritical. Even when I was younger, reading these books, I was shocked at how strongly they felt over Katniss’s alleged pregnancy. I understood why, but it still felt hypocritical. They had no problem killing people off, adults and children, but an unborn child is a completely separate thing. They want to protect that, not kill it.

Of course, in my opinion, that makes Catching Fire feel far more realistic. The complexities of the human mind are insane to think about. Wanting to see a strong, healthy, young tribute fight with other tributes to the death is one thing. Watching a pregnant woman struggle to survive in a violent atmosphere is another. Yes, yes, both are bad, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of saying one is far worse. 

Especially if you consider that the worst part of the games, the youngness of the tributes, can be somewhat ignored during the Quarter Quells. All of the tributes for the Quarter Quells are adults. They are victors. They have fought and lived before. In normal games, the average tribute is barely more than a child. None of them have had the chance to live their lives. Children as young as twelve years old die. Morality wise, that’s an even grayer area between having a pregnant woman fight for her life and a twelve year old child fight for theirs. Most of Panem had probably never even really considered their tributes to be what they are: children. 

So in a way that makes me hope that Peeta made them think about it more. I’m sure he did. You don’t hear an announcement like his and forget about it. It was a smart move to force Panem into questioning the legality and morality of the Quarter Quell. I swear if Peeta weren’t doomed to be a tribute in the games, he’d make an excellent politician. 

At the end of the chapter, Snow does retaliate against Katniss for all of this. He has Cinna killed right before her eyes just as she is descending into the games. Once again, I fail to be impressed by the idea of a grown man mentally torturing a teenage girl, but I suppose that’s not the point of this scene. It’s to horrify me. And it does.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 16 – 17)

I did not feel like reading or writing this weekend. Not at all. No matter what I did to try to convince myself, I could not manage to drag myself over to my computer and start working on things. I wanted to sleep, or eat, or go outside to do a bunch of fall-themed activities. Apple picking anyone?

To be honest, though, I’m kind of bummed that I didn’t manage to make myself do it. I was on a 49-day streak with blogging (or something like that; I don’t remember the exact number.) I wanted to make it to 50-days at least. Or a year, but that may be a little bit far fetched. 

However, I really don’t want to get into the habit of reading or writing just because of some weird sense of obligation. I want to read and write because I enjoy doing it. This isn’t a professional blog so much as a hobby to make me slow down and enjoy my books more. If I force myself to do it, I’ll probably start hating it. I definitely don’t want to sour my love of reading. 

Especially when it comes to this series. It’s been taking me a while to analyze The Hunger Games chapter-by-chapter, but it feels totally worth it. I’m noticing so many new things about the series at large. My newfound understanding of President Snow is worth it all by itself. Who knew he was such a sick and twisted man? I did right from the get-go. But who knew he was so pathetic? I had never realized it to the same degree.

I mean what type of grown man makes fierce enemies with a teenage girl? I’m living for the little dramas and ironies I barely noticed during my first ten reads. Katniss and Snow’s relationship alone has given me a lot to think about. I genuinely never really appreciated their age difference and the odd vibe it gives to Snow’s actions. 

As a teenager, it seemed perfectly plausible that Snow’s biggest enemy was a sixteen or seventeen year old girl. His hatred towards her made sense. I could even justify the worst of his actions as a retaliation against an enemy. As a young adult, that same idea is absolutely ridiculous. He is a grown man, a leader of a country, who goes out of his way to mentally torture a teenage girl. President Snow is an absolute creep. President Snow is a psychopath. 

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, in the chapter that they are covering. 

Chapter Sixteen Thoughts

The idea of turning Darius into an avox simply for standing up against something wrong is a bit flabbergasting to me. Standing up for other people should be rewarded, not punished. I understand that Panem considers his actions close to treason (if not treason), but, even for Panem, that’s a bit harsh. You shouldn’t be allowed to publicly murder someone over a turkey. Even to discourage poaching – a concept that is utterly ridiculous considering Gale was poaching from an unutilized forest ground.

So making Darius into an avox was horrible. We started with that. It was horrible. Even knowing that the leaders of Panem have no limits, it’s still shocking to see how far they will go. Mutilating someone over something small does not even begin to bother them. What is more surprising is that half the time, their lack of limits seem to serve no real purpose. They do horrible things just to do them. Darius’s mutilation served a purpose, however small it was. Other things don’t. 

Placing Darius with Katniss specifically is one of those horrible things they just do for the sake of doing them. The only purpose it could possibly serve was making Katniss feel more unstable. It was a petty, senseless revenge move against a teenage girl in a tough position. And yet the grand leaders of Panem felt it was worth doing.

Isn’t that crazy?

Like I said earlier in this post, I think it is so ridiculous and pathetic that President Snow’s biggest enemy is a teenage girl. As a teenager, I didn’t think anything of it. It felt plausible. Katniss was a thorn in Snow’s side, a revolutionary. 

As an adult, their hatred of each other comes across as misplaced. Or, more accurately, President Snow’s hatred of Katniss specifically is misplaced. She is not to blame for all of the problems in Panem. Her specific game was not the cause of the rebellion. His actions and Panem’s continuous mistreatment of the people throughout the twelve districts is what caused the rebellion. Treating Katniss poorly because she had the misfortune to spark rebellions is idiotic. Rebellion would have eventually happened no matter what. Katniss didn’t create the conditions that caused the uprisings. President Snow’s attitude towards her as the spark is childlike. 

Of course, the majority of people who live in the Capitol are overwhelmingly childlike to begin with. It should hardly be surprising that President Snow acts almost infantile when enraged when everyone around him acts infantile 24/7. He was raised with selfish desires in mind by a selfish community in a selfish world. He wasn’t given the tools to be a responsible well-rounded adult. 

And that makes me wonder a lot about the citizens of the Capitol and what they think about everything. For example, what is their take on avoxes? Is it standard to have an avox in your home? Does it ever occur to the average person that what is done to avoxes is cruel and unfair? Or do they think it’s justified? Avoxes are criminals. They must deserve how they are treated. 

I assume that people like Cinna feel pity for the avoxes. They would probably love to change Panem’s criminal justice program. But people like Effie probably barely notice them. The majority of the Capitol is more like Effie than Cinna, sadly. The real world is somewhat similar and there is something quite sad about that.

When Katniss sits down to watch the recap of the opening ceremonies, I was newly surprised at how apt her take on the situation was. Watching adults dressed in silly costumes on their way to die is pitiful. I can’t imagine that even the most avid fans of the Hunger Games can enjoy the proposition of watching aged victors fight each other. Part of the appeal of the games is watching attractive young people encounter dangerous situations. 

Perhaps seeing adults parade themselves during the open ceremonies also hurts the fantasy of the games. The young and healthy tributes that are the norm during the Hunger Games are so vibrant and beautiful that they may seem unrealistic to viewers. They aren’t people, just images on a screen. They mean little more than exciting television, interesting conversations, bets, and fun parties. Aged victors have enough flaws so as to seem real. Viewers also have the misfortune of having to get to know them as they aged. The general population knows that they are real people because they have taken the time to get to know and love them.

Or, vice versa, the lack of commentary during the opening ceremonies could be due to the fact that aged victors hold less appeal for the audience interest-wise. Watching aged victors fight to the death doesn’t promise the same level of violence or horror as watching children fight. The violence won’t be quite as violent. The action scenes may not be quite so action-filled. Morphling addicts and elderly people offer quieter deaths for the hungry audience of Panem. 

And, in part, it must be gruesome to even view these previous victors. The games have had resounding impacts on them. Panem typically offers viewers an illusion that the victors spend the rest of their lives in luxury. Everything is glamorous. The games are worth it because the victors are given the world at their fingers. Seeing that most victors struggle with addiction and substance abuse shatters that illusion. It must be quite disquieting to see that the lies you’ve been fed are so obviously lies. It breaks the illusion.

That is part of the reason why, once again, I think that President Snow made the wrong call with this Quarter Quell. Killing the victors off one-by-one doesn’t make sense politically. It just gives each district more of a reason to despise the Capitol. Beyond that, showing citizens of the Capitol the results of their games must create some sense of distrust there. They are experiencing never before seen shortages. Their victors are being killed off. They were lied to about what their victors lives were like. Even as self-centered as all the people in the Capitol are, they must start putting the pieces together at some point and realize how corrupt their government is. They must feel some level of pity for the people they subjugate. When you shatter the illusion that people are happy, what is left except rebellion?

Speaking of illusions, I still have a hard time imagining myself in Katniss’s shoes. I can’t picture myself staring down my own death. Having to pretend to be in love at the same time sounds impossible. Of course, Peeta isn’t that hard to love and I think it’s somewhat ridiculous that Katniss would even have to pretend… But still. The constant creation of an illusion for the sake of the audience sounds difficult during the best of times. Doing it while imagining your own horrific death is beyond me. 

The inclusion of Enobaria from District 2 adds to that. Her filed-down fangs in her mouth absolutely terrify me. Can you imagine being introduced to someone with a mouthful of fangs? And then being told you have to fight that person to the death? No thank you. It’s such a small detail about her, but it instantly adds to the terror of the Quarter Quell. 

Wiress and Beetee come across as much more approachable. Teaching Katniss about how to detect force fields is insanely useful. However, when I first read Catching Fire, I was surprised that force fields had such a large design flaw. Being able to detect it with your human eye is a big deal. No one ever remedied that. Part of me thinks that Beetee designed it and intentionally included a flaw. Perhaps he was always a part of an underground rebellion, slowly including design flaws in all of the technology he provided Panem with.

And that does make me wonder if our own scientists and engineers do the same. Do they intentionally include design flaws in our technology and infrastructure in case the government ever becomes overly corrupt? Does anyone try to protect the common man in such small ways? Or do they deem it unnecessary or even stupid? Flaws in our technology can be exploited by other nations, not just our own people.

Beyond that, the end of this chapter always surprises me as well. I love Peeta. We all know how much I love Peeta. He’s great. But the depth of his character is always astounding to me. The fact that he acted against the Gamemakers to their face is shocking. Can you imagine the amount of bravery it took for him to call attention to the horror of their own games?

It positively guaranteed him a spot as an enemy of the Gamemakers and that’s a dangerous move. He labeled himself as a direct target of their wrath, more so than he already would have been as one of the tributes from District 12. And yet it’s so completely brilliant that I can’t even blame them. Panem is horrible and Panem should know that.

Katniss’s desire to deflect their attention from Peeta is similarly brutal, but must be somewhat ineffective. Peeta and Katniss are obviously a team. Showing the Gamemakers a hanged Seneca Crane as a distraction from whatever Peeta’s done probably wouldn’t distract them. It would just make the two of them more of a target.

Chapter Seventeen Thoughts

When Katniss and Peeta begin to explain what they showed the Gamemakers to Haymitch, I always feel for them. I’d be terrified to tell Haymitch that I did something so harmful to myself. What they did was impulsive and bold and brilliant, but it was also really, really, really stupid of them to do. They made themselves into direct targets of the Gamemakers wrath, more so than they already were. 

However, I can hardly blame them. The Hunger Games in general is a disgusting event. The fact that the Gamemakers feel perfectly justified in making a game out of dozens of deaths is degrading to human life and is plenty immoral. Showing them the horror of what they do, and the horrible consequences it can have for even them, the Gamemakers, is brutal and absolutely necessary. The Gamemakers need to take responsibility for the terror of the event they run. They are directly responsible for children losing their lives. 

Of course, I somewhat agree with Katniss’s assessment that both her and Peeta don’t necessarily have to be Snow’s target. He could get away with choosing one and allowing the other to live. Personally, I think that it would make more sense politically-speaking to have one of them survive the Quarter Quell. They would be living reminders of what happens if you oppose the wishes of the Capitol. It would perhaps even be better if Katniss were the sole survivor of the games just so that people could watch her live out her life without Peeta. 

Plus, I also agree with Katniss in regards to what her death would do for the rebellion. It wouldn’t quell rebellion, but would, instead, give it new life. She would become a martyr for the rebellion. Why would the President want to risk that? It would make more logical sense to show the entire nation a warped version of their ideal revolutionary and show the pain involved with rising against the government. 

Back to the story though.

Thankfully, the prep team managed to control themselves in this chapter. While prepping Katniss for her interview with Caesar, there were few tears. Each time a new person started crying, first Octavia and then Flavius, they were dismissed. Katniss wouldn’t have to sit through comforting them again. 

She would probably have to sit through comforting me if I were there, however. The idea of having Katniss wear her wedding dress to the interviews is absolutely horrific. It is cruel and sadistic and utterly unnecessary. Even from a purely political perspective, it’s the wrong move. Why remind people in the twelve districts of what they could have had from Katniss? Why rub a perfect love story gone wrong in their face? Or, worse, why remind them of what they are fighting for? Children like Katniss should be allowed to grow old and marry and live happy lives, not be forced to die off in a brutal yearly ritual. It’s sickening and it was just another petty move to humiliate Katniss in front of the nation. 

Once again, President Snow is a child. His anger knows no bounds. He has no limits and it’s kind of embarrassing to watch him do all of this to a teenager. 

However, dressing Katniss in her wedding gown did bring up unexpectedly strong reactions from the other tributes. I wasn’t expecting it the first time I read Catching Fire and it still comes as a surprise to me now. Why should Cashmere feel enraged at Katniss for being forced to wear a gown? Does she genuinely believe that this is a move on behalf of Katniss to gain sponsors? Cashmere’s reaction is silly. 

Again, thankfully, the majority of victors don’t act like that when they see Katniss. Instead, they’re enraged at the Capitol. This at least makes sense. Katniss isn’t the one sending them back into the arena. When they all continually strike out against the Capitol, begging or cajoling or convincing them to cancel the Games, I love it. 

But of course none of them could compare to what District 12 has up its sleeve. The moment where Katniss’s wedding dress burns down into a harsh political statement against the Capitol is powerful. Cinna’s mastery of design and complete understanding of his political surroundings is absolutely divine. Katniss becomes the Mockingjay that Snow fears.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 15)

Again, not a lot to say during this opener. I only had time to read one measly chapter today – I’m hoping for more time this weekend. Let’s get into it! 

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.

Disclaimer: My Chapter Thoughts DO INCLUDE SPOILERS. They assume that you have read ALL of The Hunger Games series (books 1-3). They will mostly contain spoilers, however, in the chapter that they are covering. 

Chapter Fifteen Thoughts

I feel like too few people really understand the amount of work emotional labor is. Feeling things is hard. Dealing with other people’s emotions can sometimes be even harder. When Katniss is discussing how difficult it is for her to get through her prep time with Flavius, Venia, and Octavia, all I’m thinking about is how exhausting that must be. Can you imagine having to painstakingly prepare for your own death, let alone having to listen to everyone else cry about it? The closest picture I have in my head to how horrible that sounds is having to work in a retail job and obviously that’s not even close.

Retail does suck though.

Speaking of, fanfic idea: Katniss works in retail. Will she help the customers or argue with them? Find out on the next episode of The Hunger Games Grocer Edition!

Anyways, all jokes aside, it is so flabbergastingly immature of Katniss’s prep team to make her potential death all about them. People from the Capitol never fail to surprise me with how selfish they are. They make other people’s death all about themselves. Considering the fact that I’m pretty sure all of Katniss’s prep team is five to ten years older than her and it kind of makes me angry on behalf. 

In a manner of speaking, all of the people of the Capitol are children compared to her. At least mentally. Even the individuals who come across as decades older than her (how old is Effie?) are emotionally stunted. They’re grown children, not adults. But somehow they are the same people who are expected to lead the entire country. 

Personally, I don’t understand how that works. How can these be Panem’s leaders? Or raise Panem’s future leaders? On one hand, I think we must be misinformed on how the Capitol works. The majority of the population is far too childlike to lead a country. There must be some type of divide between the class of people who wear pretty clothes and party all the time versus the people who spend their lives making tough calls. Perhaps they drug anyone who isn’t in the ruling class. I don’t know how it works, but I’d love to. There has to be something going on. Maybe A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will tell us. 

Even as much as I don’t appreciate how the people of the Capitol act, it does make for some interesting ponderings. Plus, I do appreciate the obvious clue towards how people of the Capitol feel about the Quarter Quell. I never thought the majority of people would be excited to see their previous victors fight to the death. Even now, dozens of times after the first time I’ve read this series, I appreciate the confirmation. It’s like they’re losing friends, not strangers. The fact that President Snow didn’t think that would be a problem confounds me.

And I also appreciate the little bit of foreshadowing on behalf of Cinna’s comment to Katniss: “…I always channel my emotions in my work. That way I don’t hurt anyone but myself.” I’ve never really recognized that for the foreshadowing that it so obviously is. How have I never noticed? 

Knowing what I know now, however, I wish we had gotten more time with Cinna. He is such an exceptional individual considering that he comes from the most conceited, selfish, horrible society on earth. How is he so different from everyone else from the Capitol? How did he grow a conscience? I want to know more about him. 

Plus, I’m dying to know how he comes up with his outfits for Katniss. The description of her outfit for the opening ceremonies of the games always gives me chills. I don’t think that the Catching Fire movie did it justice because in the book Katniss sounds absolutely godlike. She is unforgiving and wrathful. She is powerful. 

I wonder why more stylists didn’t take an angrier approach with their own designs. Maybe it was too close to treason. Katniss’s outfit is obviously a statement about her hatred towards the games. However, considering how obvious most of the victor’s anger over this decision is… it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to play that up. The Capitol has wronged them.

I’d also have loved to learn more about Finnick somewhere in the series. We had far too little time to explore the recesses of his mind. He is perhaps one of the most dynamic characters in the series and I loved him from the moment Collins introduced him. But I don’t feel quite as upset about the lack of information as I do with Cinna. We got way more information about Finnick than him. Cinna is somewhat of a mystery.

When the ceremony starts, Katniss and Peeta obviously decide to hold hands on the chariot. Why wouldn’t they? Once more, they are going into the games as a team. Even though I had just gotten chills over Katniss’s outfit, I got them again over this moment where they lock hands. It’s amazing, but also slightly annoying because it is way too cold out today to be getting chills every five seconds. Does Suzanne want me to freeze to death? I’m shaking!

But really it’s just very good writing and I cannot seem to emphasize enough how impressed I am with The Hunger Games series. Even after reading it so many times, I love it. Moments like these never fail to captivate me. Do you have any books or series like that? I can think of a few more. Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore are definitely another. I also love books like The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa. 

Back to Catching Fire though. When Katniss starts to describe the outfits of other victors, I am once again surprised that their stylists couldn’t come up with anything better. These people are supposed to be the best of the best and, yet, their designs are utterly lacking. How can they even compare to stylists like Portia and Cinna? Are stylists in limited supply or something? They could do better.

Thankfully Collins quickly makes up for the let-down when Katniss begins speaking to Seeder, a woman from District 11. The families of Thresh and Rue survived the riot that took place during Katniss and Peeta’s Victory Tour. They weren’t killed by the Capitol. I wonder if that was supposed to be one of Panem’s great mercies or just meant to be kept as a tool to use against Katniss. 

Considering the involvement of Darius as one of Katniss’s avoxes, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were the latter. President Snow loves to use mind games against her. It’s kind of sickening when you consider the fact that he is a grown man and she is barely more than a child. And once again that really ties into how much maturity the people of the Capitol lack. How have we all failed to acknowledge that the biggest thorn in the President of Panem’s side is a sixteen or seventeen year old girl? It’s honestly unbelievable. 

President Snow is a grown man fighting with a child. Ugh.