Monday, August 27, 2012

Chapter 7

Happy Hunger Games! If you’ve been following along we’re in chapter 7 this week and what a cliffhanger! Before we dig in, let’s recap last week’s discussion.

Chapter 6 had two main themes- plot twists and goals. We have established that Collins is the master of the plot twist. There are more loop-de-loops in this lady’s bag of tricks than a roller coaster at Six Flags. If you’re not on the edge of your seat by now you should probably just put the book down and doom yourself to a life of Nicholas Sparks marathons. Moving on…Jennifer made an excellent point about maintaining goals in each chapter. As writers we need something to push us forward into the next scene. As readers, we need a reason to keep reading. Interesting thought- what happens when the plot twist becomes the goal or vice versa? On to chapter 7!

The chapter begins with a subtle reminder of where we are on the timeline. I would agree with our heroine. It is hard to believe she’s only been in the capitol for two days. I found the banter between Katniss and Peeta quite amusing and slightly confusing. Would anyone like to take a guess why they would argue over why the other person has a better chance at winning? Speaking of which, I must admit I was having a bit of fun on the training floor with them. If I wasn’t reminded every so often that they are actually training to maliciously kill each other this would seem more like a sport or an actual game. Perhaps I’m just wishing I’d paid better attention when the Olympics were on…

The last few paragraphs were flawlessly brilliant- so much so that I actually read ahead to chapter 8. I am hopelessly addicted now. Katniss has solidified herself as a chick with guts and determination. She is impulsive, hot-tempered, and fearless; the marks of a true fighter. Fist pump! Let the games begin!

Things I pondered:

  • Rue’s entrance into the story is captivating. Is she part of yet another plot twist? What role will she play in the games and how will she affect Peeta and Katniss in the arena?
  • The mental challenges of maintaining the appearance of unity is fascinating. Peeta and Katniss have been ordered to remain inseparable and clearly it’s draining them. The irony in all this is that it’s actually pulling them closer together. While they can’t see it yet, they are forming a bond that will greatly help them survive when they get to the arena. I hate the capitol a little less than I did a few chapters ago. Could there be a method to their madness?
  • Even after skipping ahead to chapter 8, I’m still finding it hard to put the book down. Collins is superb at leaving us in total suspense. Remember what I said in the beginning about the goal becoming the plot twist? To be continued…
Have you seen the movie yet or are you planning on watching it after you read the book? I am curious to know if you would like to incorporate a discussion on the differences/similarities between the book and the movie. Any thoughts? Until next week! May the odds be ever in your favor!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Why Can't We Be Friends?

His massive form broke the surface of the water and for a moment time stood still. Casual observers did little to distract him from his goal. Unaware or indifferent, he had a job to do and he was determined to see it all the way through to completion. No innocent bystander was going to deter him from satisfying his hunger. Droplets of water erupted from his blowhole and a gasp of appreciation filled the air. His admirers were spellbound by his innocent invasion. Has a humpback whale ever been this close to a human before?

His attitude is remarkably admirable. Rather than voice his irritation by breaching or attacking, he reacted to his dinner guests with quiet and deliberate movements. Slowly, gently gliding through the glassy water he moved with the grace of a friendly traveler passing through town. Eventually he ate his fill and moved on, leaving his spectators as he found them- enchanted and completely unharmed.

His majesty is breathtaking for more than just his table manners. His eyes were on the prize and distractions were simply not worth mentioning. He focused on the task at hand, careful to treat his companions with the respect and honor they deserved. Is it really necessary to make waves when the atmosphere is this peaceful? Tranquility is a gift in itself. Rather than resent his distractions, he made them a part of his routine, engaging them in his ritual rather than intimidating them with his size. He embraced cultural differences and treated everyone as an equal, regardless of their station in life. There is one goal and it is to love and be loved.

In choosing humility and kindness, his dream was fulfilled and everyone around him was changed for the better. Humanity could stand to learn a few of his techniques. 

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”
Henry David Thoreau

Click here for the photographer's jaw-dropping images of this real life whale encounter.

Chapter 6

Happy Hunger Games! I hope everyone had a blessed weekend. Today we're in chapter 6 but before we dive in let's look at last week's discussion...

Last week we discussed outward beauty and its emphasis on our culture. We agreed that our society has glamorized beauty so much so that we have failed to validate the inner beauty. It’s not all about good looks and it’s a very convoluted message we are sending to our daughters.

Today in chapter 6 we take a look at another sticky topic-guilt. Katniss meets an avox and immediately recognizes her. When she realizes that she may have been a reason for the girl’s presence guilt becomes the newest dinner guest. We are drawn into the scene and fully aware of everything Katniss witnesses when the girl is taken away by hovercraft. Collins does an excellent job of making us a part of the story, feeling all those conflicting emotions. What will happen if I try and help her? Are the consequences worth the risk of getting involved? Will I ever see the girl again?

When I think of this scene I am overcome with my own issues surrounding guilt. There have been times when I could have interceded but chose to remain hidden in the background. There were times when it was easier to allow circumstance to unfold without causing interruption. Time has taken place the way it was meant to and I am the bystander who did not interject. What have I learned from remaining quiet?

Another issue I took note of was the pampering the tributes are receiving during their stay at the capitol. I am intrigued why such lavishness is expended on people that are preparing to die. Is all this extravagance for the benefit of the tributes or the wealthy sponsors in the capitol? I can’t help but see a twisted spiritual side to this situation. The wealthy line their pockets and their bellies with all things decadent. Meanwhile they are dying inside. Peeta makes the statement, “I would leave.” How many of us would leave our current state of comfort and security in exchange for inner peace and serenity?

Things I pondered:
·        Effie seems completely oblivious to her own sickness. She accuses District 12 of barbarism while preparing her tributes for murder. How many of us prepare our children for life in the world without ever giving them real, helpful tools for survival?
·        Katniss’s sense of powerlessness resonates in my spirit. Is her inability to help worthy of the guilt she feels? Is her guilt justified or is she being too hard on herself? Is there ever a time when it’s too dangerous to get involved?

That’s all for this week! Next week things heat up when we get a little closer to the arena. See you on Monday!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Hunger Games Schedule

Happy Friday everyone!

If you've been following our Hunger Games discussion you're aware that postings have been on Thursday mornings. It's becoming increasingly difficult to maintain this schedule so I am moving the discussion to Mondays. Chapter 6 will be posted this coming Monday morning. I hope you'll come back and join us. Sorry for any inconvenience and Happy Hunger Games!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hunger Games Chapter 5

Happy Hunger Games! I'm back with chapter 5 as promised. Today we dig into a sensitive topic for me. Does beauty equal survival? I would be curious to hear what you have to say on this issue but before we go there, let's take a quick look at what we discussed last week...

Chapter 4
Last week we decided that the capitol is very much like our modern day America. We are a country of excess and many of us just don’t realize how spoiled we are. Serving others is a great way to counteract this mentality. Volunteering at a local shelter or food bank or delivering groceries to families in need not only blesses others; it takes the focus off us. When we serve others with our whole hearts greed becomes less and less apparent.

I’m actually finding chapter 5 rather difficult to get into because of the deep subject matter this week. This chapter focuses on self-image and attractiveness. This is the part of the story that every young woman who reads it can relate. Our culture demands that good looks equal success. Being beautiful is the key to survival, happiness, and prosperity. Here then is the problem. Along with being spoiled rotten, we are a culture of superficial Barbie dolls. If we have money and a pretty face we can conquer the world. What happens if we’re lacking one or both of these things? Are we destined for failure or even death? Is this truly the message we wish to send to our impressionable young women?

Katniss undergoes a beautification ritual that is both painful and alarming. We see the slow transition from shock and discomfort to gradual acceptance and appreciation for the change in her appearance. Her prep team has made her to believe that not only is her natural self not good enough, her newly remade self will earn her approval among the masses and ultimately her survival. She recognizes that what they are and who they represent is despicable but it’s hard to hate them. They are, after all trying their best to keep her alive. Much like the beauty products that are peddled to us everywhere, it’s hard to have much disdain for them. They are the ones helping us thrive and survive in a culture overrun with beauty queens and Ken dolls. The question begs an answer- is it possible to survive on brains alone?

Collins breaks open another character in Cinna. He is clearly different than the other people on Katniss’s prep team, making it difficult for her to decide if he’s safe or not. He seems like the most normal of the bunch but that could be dangerous. Is he quiet chaos or subdued normalcy?

Things I pondered-
  • Clearly, looks are a big part of this whole production. One cannot compete in the Hunger Games without looking his or her best. The irony is that once they are in the arena it won’t matter much anyway. Will it?
  • Katniss makes the statement- “For the first time I feel a flicker of hope rising up in me.” She realizes that her beauty makes her desirable and capable of winning sponsors. She might actually have a shot at winning. How will this affect the other tributes? Does being beautiful truly make life easier?
  • Peeta is a sweetheart. Is anyone else getting tired of Katniss hating on the poor guy?

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this whole beauty issue. What do you think? Check back with us next week when we get deeper in the story with chapter 6. Happy Hunger Games!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Light Breaks Through

My apologies if you're looking for our Hunger Games Discussion. I wasn't able to finish it on time so it will be posted tomorrow, I promise. In the meantime, this message has been on my heart and apparently a few people need to hear it. During the darkest part of the storm, God is there...

Vicious, destructive storms blow through with a fury and we're left wondering what we did to deserve this utter chaos. Debris, dirt, and devastation abound and in our minds we just can't fathom how it can get any better. Then one day the sun peeks through the clouds. A glimmer of hope rises within us as that one ray of sunlight breaks through the darkness. In that instant we know that brighter days are coming. There is hope in the sun. There is hope in the Son. Look towards the clouds because just beyond the darkness light is there, warm and welcoming.

Praying for you, my friend.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Chapter 4

Happy Hunger Games! This week we get a bit deeper into the novel with chapter 4. Before we dig in, let’s recap our previous discussion. Here’s what we decided about chapter 3:

Chapter 3 was all about the intensity and violence. We decided that it’s a very fine line between too much and just enough. The consensus was that Collins is writing to a YA audience, therefore it’s almost a prerequisite to have a high level of blood, guts, and intense emotions. She pulls it off well so we’re ok with it but just barely. As writers we need to make sure we don’t over saturate our audience with too much of either. Too much of a good thing can easily turn into a bad thing. Moving on to chapter 4…

Collins peels back another layer of the story with the ever-present reminder of Peeta’s kindness. This is a huge issue for Katniss because she can’t decide if he’s a threat to her safety or just to her heart. No matter how you slice it, the guy is dangerous but for reasons she was not expecting. This adds a dimension to the story that is oddly satisfying. We want to believe that Peeta is a good guy but what if he really is just using his survival instincts? Will he turn out to be an ally or an enemy?

We also meet Haymich in this chapter. Collins so brilliantly crafted this character that I almost want to ask her who he was modeled after. Which drunk guy in her family was she thinking of when she created him? Out of all the characters we’ve been introduced to so far, I think he is the most complex. Alcoholism means so many different things to so many people. It stirs powerful emotions, no matter which end of the spectrum you find yourself in. I think the thing I find most endearing about him at this point is that he is willing to compromise for the sake of Katniss and Peeta’s success. He clearly has a problem but is willing to lay it aside in order to help them. Sort of like a hero.

Things I pondered-
  • We got a good look at the capitol in this chapter. Again, I found myself inside Katniss’s head and relating to her discombobulation. I remember the culture shock I went through when I moved from a big city to a smaller suburb. Everything about this place was weird. In some ways I’m still not used to the differences. Have you ever been through your own culture shock? How did you adjust?
  • We are moving deeper into the story now and are gently being assured that Katniss will hold her own in the games. Again, we have a symbol of hope in the dandelion. These are all good things. Does anyone else feel like they can’t decide if they are hopeful or slightly disappointed at this point in the story?

That’s it for this week! Come back next week for chapter 5. Happy Hunger Games!