75 Books: 21-25 Collins, Diamond, Lewis and Abignale

21. Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins

This is the 2nd in the Hunger Games trilogy and it isn't quite as strong as the first, but it expands on the universe that allowed the first one to happen.  Weirdly, I had more suspension of disbelief issues with this one than I did with the other two in the series.  The main character, Katniss, is thrown into the Hunger Games again and has also become the unintentional center of a resistance movement that threatens to break into genuine rebellion.  Her struggle with the ideas and consequences of rebellion are interesting and it is a fairly rewarding tale, especially if you're already attached to Katniss.  A-

22. Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins

This si the final in the trilogy and is the least satisfying of the three, but still an engaging read.  Katniss is now working for the rebellion, though the character tends not to actively make decisions but rather allow others to force her to do as they want.  She is also trying to determine her feelings for two different leading men, in a storyline that reminds me more of Twilight than I'd prefer.  She is more talented and has a personality, so she's not anything like Bella, except that she doesn't take control of her life or her choices very often.  I felt like this book came apart as it went and the motivations were murky or not presented at all.  B

23. Guns, Germs, and Steel – Jared Diamond

This Pulitzer Prize (Pull It Surprise!) winning book is a surprisingly gripping explanation of why society and civilization looks like it does now.  The basic premise is that civilizations destroy/take over others because of technological advances and the rate of advancement is based, not on genes or race, but on natural resources — particularly the availability of domesticable plants and animals.  Fascinating and brilliant, I've already passed it on to others. A

24. The Blind Side – Michael Lewis

Aside from the World Cup, I'm not really a sports person, but I love sports movies, and I loved this one.  That is at least partially due to my love of Ms. Bullock, but it was also a great movie.  The book has a lot more than just the story of Oher's rescue from the Memphis ghetto and delivery into upper class white America, it also has a history of the NFL and how different sorts of tactics and strategies came to dominate the game.  It follows what the changing coaching styles did for different positions, and the players who were good at those positions.  I'd always figured winners were the teams with the best talent on the field, but apparently there's a lot to the art of coaching.  A-

25. Catch Me If You Can – Frank Abignale, Jr.

Another movie I enjoyed and another charming con man.  My unbridled love of "I Love Phillip Morris" made this a bit of a let down.  It's not that Abignale didn't pull of some ballsy tricks but no single one of them had the overwhelming cajones and audacity of Russell's.  The main thing I got from the book is that I never want to go to France because their prisons are disgusting hellholes of prisoner abuse and I may fly to Sweden and commit a crime so I can live in their prisons which sound awesome.  B

25 books in 10 weeks, holy crap, that's a lot.  Maybe it should be 100 books?

16-20 75 Book Challenge – Snicket, Fry and Collins

16. The Grim Grotto – Lemony Snicket

At this point, I felt that the series started to lose momentum.  It’s not that the series hasn’t been absurd and over the top throughout, but I felt like there was a big tone shift to a sort of fantasy series rather than a mystery series.  In this book, the orphans end up on a submarine trying to find a missing sugar bowl that Olaf cannot be allowed to get to first.  Perhaps the sea just seems less Victorian than the rest of the series, but I didn’t enjoy it as much.  At the end of the book, the kid’s have once again lost allies and are fending for themselves.  B

“People aren’t either wicked or noble,” the hook-handed man said. “They’re like chef’s salad, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.”

17. The Penultimate Peril – Lemony Snicket

This book introduces a couple characters I wish they’d spent more time with — Daniel Denouement and Kit Snicket.  The kids learn a lot more about VFD and what went wrong and end up spying on any number of familiar faces from throughout the series.  They end up, however, joining forces with Count Olaf to escape being imprisoned or killed and the book ends with them adrift at sea with the count, but of their own choice, not as kidnapees.  B

As I am sure you know, when people say “It’s my pleasure”, they usually mean something along the lines of, “There’s nothing on Earth I would rather do less.

18. The End – Lemony Snicket

The final installment is sort of a Robinsoe Crusoe intrigue on an island out at sea.  This is perhaps the simplest of the books, in terms of perils faced and places seen.  It is the culmination of the theme of how people are morally ambiguous and that safety isn’t always to be preferred to freedom.  The conclusion of the story isn’t particularly satisfactory, but it suits Handler’s tone and worldview rather well.  B

Perhaps if we saw what was ahead of us, and glimpsed the crimes, follies, and misfortunes that would befall us later on, we would all stay in our mother’s wombs, and there would be nobody in the world but a great number of very fat, very irritated women.

19. Moab is my Washpot – Stephen Fry

If you haven’t heard me gush over my love for Stephen Fry before now, then you haven’t been paying attention.  He is the smartest, wittiest, funniest, fabulousest, darlingest man in all the world and my favorite celebrity personality perhaps ever.  Stephen Fry is truly a marvel and nothing makes this “how is this possible”ness of it more clear than this account of his first 20 years.  Fry was an upper middle class pampered little bastard — he compulsively stole, hoarded sweeties and was indulgently and unrelentingly self-loathing and loathsome.  No doubt some of this — particularly the crushing depression that led to his suicide attempt and crime spree that got him thrown in jail — was an early manifestation of his bipolar disorder and struggle with being gay and Jewish.  But it is stunning to read so accurate a telling of the embarrassing overflow of emotions that is adolescence, with all the warts and horror of that time so well fleshed out and described.  I cannot over-recommend this book.  A

Have quotes:

As I go clowning my sentimental way into eternity, wrestling with all my problems of estrangement and communion, sincerity and simulation, ambition and acquiescence, I shuttle between worrying whether I matter at all and whether anything else matters but me.

No adolescent ever wants to be understood, which is why they complain about being misunderstood all the time.

I have always disbelieved that Sicilian saying about revenge being a dish best served cold. I feel that–don’t you?–when I see blinking, quivering octogenarian Nazi war criminals being led away in chains. Why not then? It’s too late now. I want to see them taken back in time and punished then…Blame, certainly, is a dish only edible when served fresh and warm. Old blames, grudges and scores congeal and curdle and cause the most terrible indigestion.

20. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

I’ve had this book recommended to me by three separate book websites that I frequent, but no on I know has read it.  When I saw it for $5 on kindle I thought I might as well read it.  I’ve now finished the trilogy, they’re very good books.  They have a similarity in tone and concept to Battle Royale and Running Man but it’s hard to believe the book is only three years old, it reads as much a classic as The Giver.  A group of kids are selected each year to fight to the death for the entertainment of the populace and as a way to keep the underclasses under control.  The main character is a 16 year old girl from the poorest part of the country and she must pretend to be in love with a boy, manipulating his and the viewer’s emotions, to survive the games. A