30 Days of Hunger Games…Interviews with Suzanne Collins

Our fourth post as part of 30 Days of Hunger Games event is a selection of links out to the best interviews we’ve found with Suzanne Collins about the Hunger Games trilogy. Take a look and see what you think…

Scholastic – Teachers Q&A Session    New York Times – April 2011     School Library Journal – 2008

Author Page at Scholastic    Interview on Mockingjay   Various Interviews on The Hunger Games

The Blasphemer…Vic’s Review

The Blasphemer looks at several generations of males in one family, their lives, their loves and how they express them. The book flips backwards and forwards between each character, gradually unfolding a period of emotional upheaval in each of their lives. Usually books written in this way drive me daft, I’m just getting into one character’s story when the narrative breaks off and takes me somewhere else, leaving me frustrated but The Blasphemer made it easy to get into each and every life story, partially because it’s so descriptive that you can easily visualise the situations it’s describing and partly because the characters draw you in until you really want to know what will happen to them next.

Underlying the stories are a few interesting themes, can you really love someone if your instinct isn’t to put their life above your own? If you betray someone, will there be a price to pay and can it be made right? What constitutes cowardice? Are there angels out there? Daniel’s flaws, the fact that his instinct kicks in and he pushes the woman he loves out of the way in a blind panic to escape a plane crash, makes him somehow a much more likeable main character than many in literature. He isn’t perfect and he’s done something terrible but something we couldn’t guarantee we wouldn’t do ourselves. Too many men in books are the traditional male rescuer, putting life and limb in peril without a thought to save a woman. Daniel doesn’t do this automatically but he does try and make it right. Can he? Will she forgive him for letting instinct over-ride love? Well that would be telling. Is his grandfather a coward for leaving the battlefields of the Somme? You’ll have to make your own mind up on that one. For me, the book underlined that you can’t really judge a man’s actions until you’ve been in his circumstances yourself and you know for certain how you’d react. We idealise behaviours that perhaps aren’t realistic and expect too much of a person under extreme stress. The book is written with a really neutral tone, the author is explaining the facts and leaving you to make your own value judgements on the characters and I liked this, the lack of trying to direct the reader’s thoughts along a certain path.

The one thing that didn’t really grab me in this book was the theological discussions between Daniel and his friend. I’m not wildly into religious philosophy and for me, these debates were a bit lengthy and a bit ‘A-level seminar discussion’ but that’s a personal thing and if spirituality and theology have even the slightest pull for you, you might well enjoy them.

All in all I found this a really interesting read, with unusual characters, all of them flawed somehow and all stumbling along trying to find the right path and make good damage that they’ve done somehow unwittingly inflicted. Definitely recommended

Just Finished…Forgotten Self by Rachel Carr

Oh yes – it gets 5* :) 

 

Forgotten Self is a really good read. Although I’ve not read a huge amount of books in the YA Angel/Demon field – Hush Hush series, Katherine Pine’s After Eden (good) and a couple more I won’t mention as they were shockingly poor – I quite like them when they’re done well. Forgotten Self is done very well and of those I’ve read I would rate it as the best.

The story is a good length and I read it in a couple of days in two long-ish sittings. Even though it’s not a long book it is well-detailed; the ‘angelic’ world has a good depth to it, the explanations for which are delivered nicely throughout the book alongside Abby’s ‘real’ life. The characters are very well drawn, especially Abby, whose POV we read from. And although I tend to plump for one guy or another in a book, I found both Jonathan and Lucas appealing – there are some nice, subtle dynamics for romantics to enjoy without it being a straight ‘love triangle’.

In the first couple of chapters I was enjoying the scene setting with Abby’s life, school friends and her relationship with cousin Kelly. I thought the descriptions of spiritual experiences and Abby’s grief were captivating – then BAM! Chapter 3 hits and there’s a very curious car accident and you were sucked into a bigger mystery with Abby. From that point on I struggled to put the book down as the pace was kept up in a perfect rhythm of events and mystery solving.

I think to compare with something like Hush Hush, Forgotten Self is more sophisticated – although I like Hush Hush there are some things – like not being able to stay away from the good-looking but dangerous seeming boy that felt a little cliché. The delivery of the narrative in this is simply better. Abby’s character feels more genuine and likeable than Nora’s: she nicely sarcastic, reasonably pragmatic, but also real has teenager ‘moments’.

This book is really well-written, from description to dialogue and emotions there is little repetition of images (something I found has irritated me in some other YA books) and they are quite original whilst being easy to read.

For anyone thinking of trying a YA Angel book – forget about the New York Times Bestselling series, this is the first I’d be recommending to them J

30 Days of Hunger Games…If Prim had a diary…

In the last hour the cameras have gone. Finally. The news crews, interviewers and other bizarre creatures of the Capitol have faded away into the darkness, leaving only silence and fear. Well, in our household that is. I’m sure – even though no one would say it – there is relief in many homes across the seam tonight and I don’t blame them, we’ve felt the same every reaping day for the last five years: sorry for them, but glad it’s not us. But now we’re them, Mother and I.

Katniss asked us to be strong. I think she meant Mother more than me. Mother will try I think, but I’m not sure she’ll be able to do this. I’ll have to do it for both of us. She’s not crying anymore, so I left her in the kitchen, sitting beside the table with our untouched reaping ‘feast’ laid out beside her. I had to get away from there before I began to scream: inside my head, all I could think was that this was the same table I’ve seen bear death, suffering and pain throughout my childhood. The two things kept crashing over themselves: the reaping – death – pain – the reaping. It seems so wrong that anyone – but especially Katniss – should have to face all that and worse, thousands of miles away from home and the people who love her.

So here I am, sitting outside The Hob in the cold, invisible beneath the thick night that’s covering District 12. I wonder if other Districts are like ours? Blanketed in smoke from coal fires or maybe they are warmer, brighter, cleaner? What kind of people will Katniss meet tomorrow when she reaches the Capitol? I’ve seen them over the last couple of years of course during the Hunger Games, but today I’m struggling to remember anything much. There was that girl though, the little one they named as Rue. Was it District 8…District 11? Twelve years old and small, just like me. But no one stepped forward for her. She wasn’t pulled aside so that her sister could take her place.

My eyes slid shut, then slowly open again. Even natural movements like blinking feel forced and excruciating. Now I’m staring blankly into the black at an empty wall, but my head is full of pictures. I can see Gale – looking right through me as he left our house this evening. I don’t believe that he wishes it were me, I just think he wishes it wasn’t anyone. He didn’t speak when the news people were around, which was probably a good thing because he looked like he was on the edge of control. And I’ve heard him say things secretly to Kat before, which would not go unpunished had anyone else ever heard them. So I’m glad he stayed quiet.

If Gale had been able, I know he would have bolted to the woods – it’s where Katniss would have wanted to go if their positions were reversed – but there was nothing normal about today. Capitol guards swarmed around District 12 in the aftermath of the reaping, preventing anything even bordering on subversive behaviour. So Gale was trapped like the rest of us.

In my chest there’s a hollow space. It feels like there should be something inside there, but I’m really not sure what. At first I thought it was my heart – I felt something a little like this before, when Dad didn’t come home from the pit. But then I realised it wasn’t quite the same. And now I think perhaps it’s my soul that has gone. Because it happened in the instant after Kat called my name. It happened the second my fear became relief.

Does this make me a bad person? As bad as the people sitting in the homes that surround me tonight, thankful that themselves and their children have been spared?

No. NO!

None of us are at fault. Surely to feel relief in being saved from certain death is not wrong, just natural. We cannot help feeling guilt for surviving, can we? But we shouldn’t have to – that’s the real truth.

Gale is right. It is the Capitol that is wrong.

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This piece was written by Mel Cusick-Jones, author of Hope’s Daughter, as a little creative experiment to compliment the 30 Days of Hunger Games activities taking place on Aside from Writing and World of Words…there’s more to come – so keep an eye out for our Hunger Games features, especially if you’re a visiting tribute collecting points :)

Guest Post…Are Book Covers and Blurbs Really Important?

Today’s guest post is by author, Emi Gayle, where she considers the importance and value of the relationship between a book, its blurb and its cover… Emi’s blog sites are two of the most visually dynamic we’ve come across, which demonstrates how she links images and books. It was the ‘Read or Not’ feature that first brought her to our attention.

Should we judge a book by its cover? Let’s find out!

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I have a fascination with book covers. Yes, I really do. They are my first impression to a story and often to an author. I LOVE that the paperbacks I own color the shelves in my house. No, I don’t buy them anymore, now, I ‘collect’ them virtually, on my desktop shelves and on my Kindle.

It’s the same reason why the ‘art’ in my home is of my own creation — photos of my kids and family — though I own far more of them in digital format. I realized, recently, that I’ve always been this way. I picked books off the shelf at the library ages ago, not by the contents within but by the covers. I’ve always been entranced by the visual appeal, the connection a book makes just with my eyes.

I learn the same way. In a recent work conversation, I had to explain to someone why teaching by audio-only content doesn’t work. It’s because most people are visual. So when we teach through a combination of sight, sound and tactile experience, we learn better. But I learn best by seeing. Doing, yes, but seeing? Yes. Pictures really are worth a thousand words.

That may be why I became a photographer, to showcase life, as I see it or know it, as I experience it or live it, in a medium that pleases … of all people … me!

So … I decided, about four or five months ago, to take my obsession and use it to the advantage of others. Yep! Others. How do I do that? Why?

The ‘How?’ is with a series called “If you saw it, would you read it?” tagged with the hashtag #ReadorNot. I have very distinct criteria for the selection of books for this series.

First — the cover has to be the ‘thing’ that catches my eye. It has to. Why? Because in this day and age of technology, many readers don’t pick up a book by browsing at a bookstore or at a library. They browse online catalogs. There is no tactile feel with this anymore. It’s all visual. That cover has to ‘wow’ and if it doesn’t, for the genre that it’s in, it will not get reviewed further.

Second — the blurb. Some readers don’t read these for fear it will give away the story. Others are religious about reading them because it tells them whether they might like the book. I think the blurb has to fit the cover otherwise it will bring out an inconsistency with the viewer. If the cover is awesome and the blurb sucks, what’s that going to say about the content within? You see, the blurb is the second piece that a potential reader has access to without clicking further into a book.

Yes, Amazon has the “Look Inside” and that’s great, but if the cover and blurb don’t call to a reader, they aren’t going to take the next step and look inside. It’s all the ‘outside’ that gets a book from point 0 to point 1. If you’ve won over a reader there, the content and story take over.

Since I write under two pen names (Aimee Laine and Emi Gayle), I do my weekly #ReadOrNot post about adult and YA books respectively. I, obviously, have preferences when it comes to covers. I like bright colors, boldness, neat designs and in my favorite genres of paranormal, romance and urban fantasy. Does that mean I don’t look at other genres? Nope. If a cover catches my eye — if it makes me look twice, I may, in fact, review it.

So how do I do this review? First, I analyze the cover (that was what first took my attention, right?) Then I read the blurb and analyze it. After that, I compare the two. Do they match? Don’t they and answer the question why? or why not?

Very few books have been spot on – some so disconnected when I got to the blurb that I nixed it from my review. Many have been close. Some have been amazingly connected and I added the book right then to my To Be Read pile.

Why do I do this? For books that pull me in by their cover, I want to give them a shout out. It’s just a way of helping my fellow author, but doing it in a way that I hope will help others in their evaluation of a book as well as authors and publishers in their development of a book cover and blurb. If they don’t match, readers will notice and if the cover stinks, readers won’t even take notice.

In our age of technology, where the Internet is fast becoming the place to buy books and to share information about them, the covers and blurbs are remarkably important.

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Want to know more? Check out the links!

http://www.emigayle.com

I post #ReadOrNot blogs on Wednesdays at http://www.aimeelaine.com/blog and on Tuesdays at http://www.emigayle.com – I hope you enjoy the series!

30 Days of Hunger Games…Mockingjay Re-think

The Hunger Games - Poster

Our second post as part of 30 Days of Hunger Games event is a connection to another blog, created by author James McQuivey. This blog is dedicated to a single purpose: to offer an alternate ending to Suzanne Collins’s amazing and insightful Hunger Games trilogy. Along with the alternate ending – which is an interesting read in itself if you’ve read all the trilogy – he talks about what he hoped to accomplish with the post.

James advises on the blog: “Be forewarned, this alternate ending is only interesting (and hopefully valuable) to you if you have read the original book(s). It not only contains spoilers, it completely alters them! Please leave your comments here or on my Mockingjay review on Goodreads if you want to be part of the discussion.”

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The Alternate Ending to Mockingjay 

Mel’s Thinking…It’s Not That Easy Talking About Yourself

“Are you animal — vegetable — or mineral?” the lion asked Alice.
Who am I? It probably sounds like a weird question, but as soon as you start doing interviews or telling people about yourself and why you wrote a book, it definitely needs some thought. And it’s not that easy to answer.
I’m sure potential readers don’t want to know that I prefer dogs to cats, drink tea not coffee, can tidy but not clean…or maybe they do? Perhaps it would give some perfect insight into my writing. Then I have to decide on whether to go with *serious face* professional author interview or something lighter…am I funny, or is that only in my own head?
You can see from the number of questions I have – I’m really not sure who I am when it comes to writing about myself. I think everyone has so many personality facets it’s hard to decide which ones are relevant when you’re asked to write about yourself. It gets even harder when you’re used to focusing on what characters do and how they behave, rather than yourself. I’m sure of my characters, less so of myself it seems.
Is it just me – or do other authors find this pretty hard too?

Event…30 Days of Hunger Games

The Hunger Games - Poster

Are you a fan of The Hunger Games? To celebrate the release of the film A World of Words blog is running the 30 Days of Hunger Games event on blogs all over the place until the release date in March…You can sign up as a tribute for your own district and then visit the various posts around the blogosphere commenting to win points.

Don’t worry – there’s no real violence or ‘commenting to the death’ to fear, so if you like the sound of it, take a look at their page and get involved! CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS.

For our part, we’ll be posting some extra features on The Hunger Games during the thirty days so check back with us if you’re playing (you can follow on Facebook or Twitter to see what we’re posting and when) and comment to get your points!

Enjoy the game and may the odds be ever in your favour :)

Interview…with Emily from Confessions of a Bookaholic

Welcome to Aside from Writing, Emily, we’re really excited to be talking with you today about your book blog Confessions of a Bookaholic and the Goodreads group your run: Books, Blogs, Authors and More, which has quickly become one of our favourites :) 

 So…can you tell us a little about yourself and the blog/group?

Well my name is Emily (as you already know) and I am a self professed bookaholic. There’s never a time when I don’t have a book on the go.

My blog, Confessions Of A Bookaholic is a place where I express my views on books I have read and share news that excites me. I also have author interviews and guest reviews although ive only had one person send me a review.

My group; Books, Blogs, Authors and More is very new. In fact I only set it up a few days ago. I made it because people needed a place to promote their blogs and books that focuses primarily on just that.

What prompted you to start writing the blog in the beginning?

Well I was searching the web and I came across a review blog and I was very bored that day so I decided to make one too. Since then it has become a kind of obsession of mine, my friends are probably sick of me constantly  telling them how many followers I have. But they put up with me :)

What about the Goodreads group? Was there anything particular you want the group to achieve?

Ah the group, well it was my second group that I had made on good reads and I really wanted more followers without the hassle of searching through all the groups to find one where I can submit my link. So I just made a group to save me and others the fuss. As its only been open a few days I hope to get many more members and see many other people’s blogs.

What’s been the best part of running the group? Any particular highlights for you?

I like it when I get positive comments or when I get a new follower then see they came from my group. I also love getting tips on how to make it better because then I know people like it enough to want to improve it.

You’re right – followers are one of the best parts of running a blog – it’s nice seeing that people like what you’re doing. If that’s the nice side, what are the hardest parts of being a moderator?

Hmmm… The hardest part has to be keeping the group interesting and active because at some point we all run out of ideas, yes even me.

What’s an ideal day for you – and how do you fit your writing, reading and blog work into that?

An ideal day for me… That would probably be a day when I don’t have any work to do so I can just relax. Usually I blog on a morning and read on a nighttime. I don’t know why it just always seems to work out that way. I am also attempting to write a story but I only usually do that on a weekend when I have the whole day.

So – blogging, moderating, reviewing AND a writer in the making too…you’re as crazy as us! :) You must meet a lot of authors through the group and blog – what do you like best about the engagement you get with them?

I like it when a writer actually writes to me and says they are a fan of my blog instead of me telling them I’m a fan. I also love it when I write to an author and they write back even though they are really busy. An example of this is the interview I had with Daniel waters who was the only one of the fifteen authors to reply and agree to an interview.

And what’s the best bit about connecting with fellow readers?

I love it when they comment on my posts because I know someone is actually listening to what I have to say and not just following my blog for the sake of it. I have 57 followers but I doubt most of them have read my blog, the ones who do though I am thankful.

What genres/authors do you love to read?  

My favourite genres are Paranormal Romance, YA, Dystopia and Urban Fantasy. As most are written for my age I find it easier to become engrossed in than lets say horror (which I do like but it’s harder to get into). My favourite authors wow that’s a hard one. Probably Richelle Mead,  Rachel Caine, Suzanne Collins, Cassandra Clare, Jeaniene Frost and Malorie Blackman. They are all VERY talented authors.

Any ‘must have’ books that you want to get hold of in 2012? Or good ones to recommend so far?

There’s loads, the ones I’m looking forward too most are The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead, Black Dawn by Rachel Caine and Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare.

Books I would recommend are Bloodlines and Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare, Morganville by Rachel Caine and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Random Questions:

 If you could be a character from any book – who would it be and why?

Oh that’s difficult, maybe Sydney from Bloodlines then I could have Adrian. Or Katniss from the Hunger Games.

Favourite fictional world – where would you live?

I think I would want to live the Vampire Academy/Bloodlines setting with the constant excitement or perhaps Morganville because Myrnin is there and he is just plain awesome.

Best super-evil baddie?

Avery from Vampire Academy, she was evil but really clever. What every good baddie should be. Also Dimitri while he was Strigoi, he became so much more exciting and badass. Rixon from Crescendo also, a charismatic bad guy.

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Thank-you for taking time to talk to us today Emily and good luck with the new group. 

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Want to get in touch? 

My Goodreads profile: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/6810492-emily

Books, Blogs, Authors and More: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/62777.Books_Blogs_Authors_and_More

The other group I moderate: http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/58144

My blog: http://emily-confessionsofabookaholic.blogspot.com/

Email me at: confessionsofabookaholic@LIVE.CO.UK


The Blasphemer…Bonnie’s Review

The Blasphemer is an interesting novel that weaves together the stories of several men from different generations of the same family. As you might expect this is a well-constructed novel, with clearly drawn characters and interesting narrative style delivered through the switches from one time period (and life) to another.

The author employs beautiful imagery in his detailed descriptions, which really build depth into the world surrounding each of the men. However, as interesting as I found the book I did not engage with all of the characters – despite them each going through a life-altering experience during your time with them, which pulled you into their lives in an absolute and intrinsically personal way.

What I enjoyed most about The Blasphemer was the questions it raised and asked me to consider. The last line of the book blurb asks “How will any of us behave when we are pushed to extremes?” and this was definitely the focus of my interest in the novel. Perhaps because I write myself I have some bias towards examining human behaviour – wondering how people behave and why in given situations, so that I can write characters of my own. What is done well in the book is neutrality – the experiences, actions and emotional responses of each character are delivered without judgement, although you the reader are free to add whatever you wish…as the blurb points out, when (one of the main characters, Daniel) pushes his wife out of the way so that he can escape a plane crash, we judge him for this reflex, natural survivalist action.

The Blasphemer dissects the characters and their relationships – it makes you question whether you can be truly loved by someone, if they do not – in the most dire of circumstances – put your life before theirs. It also examines the different types of relationship that exist between friends, lovers and families. It is interesting and thought-provoking and definitely worth a look.