Friday, March 23, 2012 The Hunger Games Review

Okay, so I’m going to attempt this again.

Big drum roll, and. . .

. . . the CUPE convention is done.  I only have a half day of a parliamentary procedure class to get through tomorrow and then I’m on my way home.  Yay!

Now,for The Hunger Games.

I finished the trilogy about 3 weeks ago.  I enjoyed the series, though got through the first two books a lot faster than the third.  This was for two reasons:

1.  the first two books are better
2.  I didn’t have as much time for reading with the third book as I did for the first two

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed these books.  Because they’re written for young adults I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Collins, though, writes quickly, clearly and with definite purpose.  And these books aren’t all about girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl finds boy again, girl lives happily ever after — Collins deviates from that formula just enough to make these books smart, intelligent and gritty.

I found myself really liking and caring about Katniss Everdeen, her friends, and family.  Collins creates a female protagonist who is very real; she’s got definite problems and they don’t just go away because a boy comes along.

The books are incredibly violent and deal with some pretty deep themes, which given the age they’re written for might seem surprising, but, if you stop to think about it, maybe not so much.

After all, Collins’ audience is one that watches movies like Saw, Hostel and the like, and that also plays some of the most violent and gruesome video games ever made.  These kids have been raised on this kind of material.  What Collins does do, though, is provide a backdrop of psychological terror and consequence that the characters in her stories must suffer as a result of the world they inhabit. It’s not just about who is stronger, and characters don’t get the living shit kicked out of them and then stand up victorious with barely a scratch to show.  And I think this is the real genius of her tale.

Katniss’ world is one of horror and hardship, but it’s a world she’s used to; she’s not looking for a knight in shining armour to come along and make it all better for her.  Despite her many problems, all she’s had to endure and all the horror that awaits her after winning the Hunger Games, Katniss survives because she thinks for herself.  Collins gives us a young female character who is fiercely independent, flawed and resourceful.  She is often wracked with self-doubt, as most girls that age are, but she never gives up on herself.

I hope that girls everywhere get that message.  The world is a messy place and you better be prepared to handle it on your own terms.  Bad things happen, but you can rise above them — and you don’t need anyone to hold your hand while you do.  No one makes it out of life without scars, it’s how you wear those scars that determines who you are.

Now for the nitty-gritty about the books themselves.  The first two were an incredibly fast read.  Book three, not so much.  It felt, as it does with most trilogies, not including The Lord of the Rings, that by the third book Collins was beginning to run out of steam.  It seemed rushed, like she just wanted the story to be over.  She does a credible job of ending it all, without the usual trite, happily ever after baloney, but I found it left me feeling a little flat.

Because these books were written specifically for a younger audience I often found myself frustrated by the lack of depth regarding secondary characters.  I found this especially troubling when it came to President Snow.  I wanted more — more history, more detail, more reaction.  It often felt like Collins took an ‘out-of-sight, out-of-mind’ approach to her characters.  Still, in all, the books captured my imagination, and not once did I ever think ‘oh, get on with it, will you!’

Was I sad when they were finished?  No.  Did I wish they hadn’t ended?  No.  Did I find myself entertaining thoughts of a fourth book?  No.

If I were to use a star rating here’s what it would look like:

Book One, The Hunger Games — 5 stars
Book Two, Catching Fire — 4 stars
Book Three, Mockingjay — 3.5 stars

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I could just scream!

I just finished writing a review of The Hunger Games Trilogy, and then, when I went to publish it vanished!  There aren’t enough swears in the universe to justify my frustration right now!  ARRRRRRGH!

Just Start

I heard these words last night when I checked out a link my sister, Jennifer, sent me.   It was for a writing job with inspirational life coach Dani Johnson.  I’d never heard of the woman, but I was interested about the job (which I am in no way qualified for — this woman is looking for a 20-something-year-old who apparently requires no sleep and can be in ten places at once — sorry Jen) so I went and googled her.

I stayed long enough to listen to a few testimonials, read a little about how she got her start — it’s the standard rags to riches story — saw all the ads urging me to sign up, to attend a workshop THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!  and then I started watching a video of Dani in action.

Of course she’s dynamic.  And gorgeous.  Aren’t all inspirational speakers?  I know my tone sounds skeptical, but honestly, I was reserving judgement, and still am.  Who am I to say whether this is someone who’s figured out how to become rich by preying on people’s fears and desires, or whether she truly can help people change their miserable lives?

All I know is she said two words that got me thinking:  just start.  She bellowed these words at the crowd.  And I sat up and listened.  The crowd  applauded.  What they were applauding exactly, I don’t know, but I do know that if she can have a galvanizing effect on someone watching a video, her message must have ten times the effect in person.

Just start.  Such simple words, such a simple concept.  Listening to speakers like Dani Johnson, and there are hundreds of them spouting the same words, it would appear that the overwhelming majority of us are just a bunch of dummies who have failed to grasp the simplest lesson life has to offer — just start.

Just start being successful, dammit!  Just start being rich.  Just start being happy.  Just start being a better wife, husband, mother, friend, coworker, employee, pet owner, house cleaner, citizen, daughter, son, grandmother, — whatever it is, just start being a better it.

But, starting is hard.  Even Dani knows that.  Her personal history tells you so.  Therefore, she’s speaking from experience and that makes her advice credible.  Oh, and she was on Oprah, so, really, that’s about all the endorsement you need.  Again, I’m sounding facetious, but all I’m doing is imparting knowledge.  That I got off the internet.  From sites owned and endorsed by Dani Johnson.

I am serious, though, about taking notice of those two small words.  The truth is, Dani, and all those like her, are speaking the truth.  If you want a better life, if you want to be debt free and happy, if you want the made-for-tv lifestyle that’s been spoon-fed to us from the moment we could stare at a television screen, then all you have to do is start.

Even if all you want is a simple, happy life, with meaningful relationships with those closest to you, if tending a garden and sitting in the sunshine with a book in your lap and a faithful dog at your feet is what you imagine when you close your eyes at night and open them each morning, then start working towards that.

I read Tao of Scrumble’s blog last night and this is what she and her partner, the Artist, did.  And they sound blissfully happy.  They sound like they’ve found their success, their richness.  It took them awhile, it didn’t happen overnight, but they got where they wanted to be because they started.

I’m doubting that they had any advice from a Dani Johnson, but, who knows, maybe they did.  And would it matter if they did?  No.  It shouldn’t matter where a person gets their inspiration from, all that matters is that they get inspired.  To start. Living.  Dreaming.  Hoping.

I wish I could turn back time so that I could have linked this post to Soul Dipper’s Occupy Blogosphere page on Thursday.  I think it would have been a good fit.  She has started something that can have an immense, positive impact on our lives.

There are examples all around us, every day of people who have decided to ‘just start’.  I look at my own life, often to the point of obsession, trying to figure out if I’m happy, if I’m content, if I’m successful.  The biggest problem is that I fall prey to playing the comparison game.  And when I was watching that Dani Johnson video that’s what I started doing.

If those people can change their lives, if those people can start businesses and become debt-free and have six figures in the bank, if those people can have everything they’ve ever dreamed of, well then, why can’t I?  Those people are the kind of people I should be.

It was late.  I’m sorry.

I woke up this morning and smiled when I remembered how I had reacted to that silly promotional video.  Because I have a good life.  Could I be happier?  Yes, but then, who couldn’t be?  Could I have more money in the bank?  Damn straight!  But I don’t, I have what I have and I’m okay with it.  Could I be a better wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, friend, coworker, citizen?  Very likely, yes, but I do my best and I feel blessed that I am all those things.  I have an abundance of love and support and happiness in my life, and for that I am grateful each and every day.

For me, just start means:  Just start being present in your own life.  Just start paying attention to what is important immediately.  Just start being accountable to yourself and to those you love, and to those who support you.  Just start recognizing your personal worth.  Just start believing that your dreams, your hopes, your desires are attainable.  And then, just start making it happen.

“When I’m 54. . .”

If they can play, why can't I? Image source: http://www.signsfunny.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/grannies.jpg

 

 

That old Beatles’ song jumped to mind right now.  I will be 54 this year.  Youch!  Trouble is, I don’t feel like I’m going to be that old, except. . .

. . . when I do things like play basketball against a bunch of Grade 9 students.

Many, many moons ago I played basketball.  That would be about 40 moons, for those who want to figure it out.  Since then, my hand has not dribbled a ball, these knees and ankles have not locked or pivoted.  Yesterday, I took part in our pep-rally to finish the basketball season.

What was I thinking?  Apparently, I wasn’t.

But, I did have fun.  However, it is a very humbling experience to find yourself out on a court with a bunch of young, athletic girls running like the wind around you, and you, able only — and that, barely — to manage a minute and a half of charging aimlessly up and down the court.

My first shift I thought I was going to pass out.  I headed unsteadily to the bench not even able to croak out “sub!”  My frantic waving did the trick, though.  And there I sat huffing and puffing, sucking in huge lungsful of air all the while wondering if I could manage to stay on the bench.

Something that would have shamed my much younger self from 40 years ago.  Then, I would have wanted to be on the court for the whole game.  Would have been angry to have been taken off.  Yesterday, though, I was begging not be put back on.

I did manage to do three shifts in a fifteen minute game.  Never mind all that laughing!  It was the longest 15 minutes of this old girl’s life in a long, long time.  I wiped out once, but got back on my feet in what I hope was a graceful way.  I think I clothes-lined one of the opposing players across the throat in my zeal to block her path; I know I stepped on someone’s foot, and I’m damn sure I was guilty of numerous minor fouls.

Thank God the refs were blind.  We staff gave it our best, but in the end youth beat us — but only by one or two points.

I had so much fun playing that game yesterday, and despite my sore back and bruised hip I’m thinking it would be fun to ‘get back in the game’ on a regular basis.  By regular, I mean once a week.  If we could get a team of women together for a weekly, friendly game I think I would really enjoy it.

Just, please, coach, don’t put me in too much.