Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Hunger Games by: Suzanne Collins

What is the reaping? The reaping is when every one in the district gathers and two names are drawn to see who is chosen to represent their district in the "Hunger Games." What are the Hunger Games? you might ask. The Hunger Games are when the people whose names are drawn must be put into an arena (a HUGE arena) that has trees and vegetation growing in it, so it's kind of like another world in a way (a much smaller world) ;). There are also animals in it. Most of the animals are mutated by the people who run the Hunger Games, making them even more dangerous than they were originally. Now here's the sad part. To win the games, the chosen kids have to be the last person alive in the arena, whether the others die of starvation or someone kills them or an animal attacks them, everyone but one must die.

It's the night of the reaping. But Katniss Everdeen is not worried about getting chosen. The chances of being chosen are one in a million, right? Fortunately, as expected, Katniss is not chosen. Unfortunately, Katniss's sister, Prim, is. Katniss is upset and immediately volunteers to take her sister's place.

Before she is put into the arena, Katniss must go through training. She gets angry at the training judges and shoots an arrow at them. Fortunately for her, they like her energy and give her the highest mark in training. Katniss is popular with everyone watching the show. She is very pretty, and her designated designer makes her look just perfect. Katniss gets many sponsors and she is a favourite with her mentor, though he won't admit it.

When thrown into the arena, Katniss must watch people die before her eyes. She has to experience hunger and sickness.  She must learn who to trust. She experiences near death. She runs from mutated animals trying to eat her (wait! Does that sound right?). And then Kantiss learns that one of the people in the Hunger Games is in love with her. Is she in love with him? And how can she kill him now that she knows the truth?

Katniss has a terrible time in the arena. She halluncinates ants eating at her body because of a severe illness. And she has to kill people. Katniss's consience tells her no, but she just has to win. She promised her sister, whose place she took, that she would try her hardest.

Then she meets Rue. Rue reminds Katniss of her little sister, so she befriends the small twelve-year-old girl and they work together. Rue is too small to attack anyone, so she helps Katniss destroy the enemies food supply of the enemy, limiting them a great deal. Katniss throws a nest full of mutated wasps at them, injuring several people severely, and killing others. Together the two are a team. They both like each other and work together - until someone puts a spear through Rue. She lives for only a few minutes after that before she fades away. But her last moments are happy. Katniss sits by her side and sings for her. Because Katniss does this, it later saves her life.

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book.

There are some problems with it, however. For example, to win the Hunger Games you have to be the last alive. Which means that you have to kill other people. Katniss drops a wasp nest full of mutated wasps on a group of people, and there are some serious injuries and a couple deaths. She also kills two people with a bow and arrow. The first one she shoots because he killed her friend, Rue. The second one she kills because she had to put him out of his misery, as he was bitten by some animals.

Also, as I said above, a boy, Peeta, does fall in love with Katniss, and she has to pretend that she loves him because there are cameras trained on them, and she doesn't want the people watching to get bored. In the end she stops faking and does it for real, but she still isn't sure if she really and truly likes him.

Ages: Thirteen and up
9 out of ten stars

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Author interview with Jill Williamson

Today I have a very special post. My favourite author, Jill Williamson, has agreed to an interview with me on my blog. Go go her website at http://www.jillwilliamson.com/

And now, for the interview. Here goes...

1. How long have you been writing?
I started writing in 2004, so seven years now.

2. When did you first decide that you wanted to be an author? Did you ever want to be something else?
All my childhood I wanted to be a fashion designer. That’s what I went to college for. I chased that dream all the way to New York City. But after a few years working in that industry, I discovered it wasn’t the job I dreamed it would be. And I decided that it wasn’t for me.
After that, I searched for a while, trying to discover the purpose God wanted for my life. Since I had a pretty interesting childhood/life story, I thought God wanted me to be an inspirational/motivational speaker for teens. I discovered that sometimes, people hire speakers based on articles written by the speaker. So I looked into writing articles. I was working on all that when a new Harry Potter book came out, and a new barrage of debates within the church community flared up as to whether or not the books were bad for Christians to read. The debate inspired me to write my own teen novel that Christians would love. Yes, I was a bit naive. I have since learned that no one likes every book. But that’s how I got started writing fiction.

3. How long did it take to write your first book "By Darkness Hid?" How long did it take to edit it?
Well, By Darkness Hid wasn’t the first book I wrote. It was the sixth book I wrote. The first book, a spy kid story, took me about three years to finish. In December 2007, I wrote the first draft of By Darkness Hid in a month, and I spend the next seven months rewriting/editing it.

4. Who's your favourite character in your own "Blood Of Kings" novels?
Achan. I love how he’s a fighter, yet he humbles himself when necessary. I like how he rose above his abuse and neglect to make a better life for himself. I like that he questions things. I love his sarcasm and the things he says.

5. Do you like rereading your books after they are in print?
Not so much. I’ve read them aloud to my son. And it’s fun to see him giggle and get excited. But when I read them again, I catch typos that got through, or sentences I wish I could rewrite. So, usually, reading my novels only frustrates me.

6. What's your favourite thing about being an author?
Getting letters from people who love my books—especially teens. It makes all the work and stress and heartbreak (and mean reviews) worthwhile.

7. What do you like doing when you're not writing? Do you have any hobbies?
My husband is a youth pastor, and he and I do a lot with teenagers in our free time. We have teen events, teens over to hang out, Young Life. I enjoy reading, playing the guitar, playing games with my family, reading books to my kids, scrapbooking, kickboxing, and helping my son learn to play the piano.

8. Do you find life to be any different now that you're an author?
Yes and no. I mean, life is pretty much the same overall. But I spend a lot more time at the computer than I used to. And I have a lot less free time to give to hobbies. I also get to go to schools and inspire kids to read and write, and that is so much fun.

9. How many books have you published?
I have published three books with Marcher Lord Press. Those three books are the Blood of Kings trilogy. I sold a new teen novel to Zonderkidz that will come out in January 2012. It is tentatively called Replication, and is a science fiction suspense novel that I think readers will really like.

10. Are you working on any books right now?
At this very moment I am not, though different stories are always floating around in my head. I’m working on a short story for an anthology called Spirited, which will be published this fall. You can learn more about it at the Leap Books website (http://www.leapbks.com/). And I’m waiting to hear back on a few ideas to decide which story I will write next.

11. What kind of books do you read? What's your absolute favourite author and book?
I read almost anything published for teens. I prefer weird genres like fantasy, science fiction, and paranormal, but I also like contemporary and historical. I don’t have favorite authors. I like too many to pick one. But one of my favorite authors of teen fiction is Jenny B. Jones. Her series, A Charmed Life, makes me laugh so hard I cry. But those are girl books, so I’ll also say that I love Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga. Totally fun.

12. Do you have a favourite writing quote?
Sure. One of my favorite writing quotes is from Michael Crichton. He said, “Books aren't written - they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it.”

13. Do you prefer writing on paper or the computer?
On the computer! I’m way too practical to have to do work twice. The computer is an amazing writing tool. Plus, I have terrible handwriting.

14. Where did you first get the idea for your "Blood of Kings" books?
Two things happened close together that inspired this story. First, I was walking with my son one day in Burbank, California, and we came upon a burned-down house. I stopped to look at it and noticed a tree in the front yard. The part of the tree that hung over the fence and above the street was leafy green, rocking and rustling in the wind. But the branches of the tree near the house were charred and stiff.
I stared at that tree for a long time, then took off for home, pushing that stroller at top speed. I went straight to the computer, opened Adobe Photoshop, and made the image of the tree that is the header on my author website (www.jillwilliamson.com). I couldn’t wait to write a story about this tree!
Around that same time, I had a weird dream where a guy had amnesia. Little did everyone know that he was someone very important. I liked the idea of putting a switcheroo plot with my half-dead/half-living tree. So I drew a map—because I love books that have maps—and started brainstorming which lords ruled each city, what kind of people lived there, the climate, and things like that. I made a 3-ring binder to keep everything organized. I drew (somewhat lame) sketches of castles and characters, created family trees, brainstormed lists of names, things like that. It was fun. I finally made myself stop playing and actually write the story.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Making Waves by: Nicole O'Dell

"Just try it one time. It won't hurt anything."

Kate Walker loves to swim! It was because of this that she decided to try joining her local swim team. But swimming on a team is more work then she expected. When she tries out, the coach recognizes her to have a talent for swimming. Because of this, Kate is pushed harder then the rest of the girls on the team. Kate is the new 'teacher's pet'. The coach thinks Kate is the best swimmer that's ever been on the team!

Soon Kate's life is all about swimming. She has no time for anything else. The coach is pushing Kate towards a college scholarship and entering her in competitions. But all this swimming is draining the energy from Kate. She confides in some friends on the team. They tell her about a drink called "Red Dragon" that they use to keep their energy up. Soon Kate is hooked on the drink, but her energy levels are still down. So the girls introduce her to caffeine pills - Another easy way to get quick energy.

When Kate is going to enter an important competition that could effect her swimming future, she feels pressure from herself and her coach. Her mom says for Kate to just do her best, but Kate can't live with that. She wants to win! Then the girls on the team offer her an illegal drug, called 'speed.' Taking the drug would guarantee Kate's winning. But does she really want to take an illegal drug and win dishonestly?

It's time for YOU make a choice.

In these "Scenario for Girls" books, Nicole O'Dell writes two endings and lets you choose what you would do. Would you take the drug? Or would you rely on your own strength?

My thoughts:

I thought this book was really good!

Kate has to deal with her best friend moving away, distrust and disappointment from her friends and mom, and lots of pressure to be the best.

My favourite character is Kate. It took a lot of endurance to stay on the swim team like she did. Some people would've quit, but Kate kept going. I can't say she made the right choice, though, because you have to make the choice for her. What will you choose?

8/10 stars
For 11 to 16 year olds.