Thursday, January 17, 2019

5 Ways to be a Better Librarian this year

"New year, new me!" is often the mantra once another new year starts. People resolve to make resolutions to better themselves (usually related to weight loss). A new year is a great opportunity to assess yourself, where you have been the past year and what you can do to make the most of the next. Optimism abounds when a year begins.

Aside from personal resolutions, we can also try to be better professionals and librarians. Here are my own new year's resolutions as a librarian.

1. Be Proactive.
The common librarian stereotype for those who are not familiar with library work is the strict librarian who "does nothing" in the library. Because of this, I think librarians should go the extra mile in providing services to debunk the damaging image. Sometimes stereotypes can be difficult to change, and their wrong notion about libraries may deter them from getting to know the library. We should also go to them, and not wait for them to go to us.

2. Always be learning.
Is there an opportunity to take a Master's degree? Grab it! If you missed college life, graduate school may be for you. Grad school is a great place to gain new friends in the same profession and it keeps you from getting stagnant.

There are also many learning opportunities provided by your local librarians' council and PLAI. This is not only for CPD points but to keep your knowledge fresh and get to know other librarians in your area.

The IFLA WLIC 2019 (International Federation of Library Associations - World Library and Information Congress), an international librarians conferece, will be in Athens, Greece this year. There are many grants available to those who want to attend. Also be on the lookout for other opportunities and try to apply if you're interested.

You can also check out the events near you through Facebook events. I have been doing this for the past couple of years, checking out what I might be interested in and going if I have the time. I've went to many free and affordable seminars, events, and also met amazing people who became good friends. They are not always related to librarianship, but other interests like writing, blogging, or art. You can expand your network and talk about libraries to those who may not be aware of the amazing things in the library.

If you already work in a library, why don't you browse the shelves and read another book? As librarians, I'm often surprised that we don't really have time for reading with all the work in the library. Use your librarians' borrowing privileges and learn something new.

3. Reach out.
Gone are the days where the librarian is alone in a silent library. Even if the rest of the institution outside the library thinks this, do what you can to reach out to them. Find a way to let people know what the library is doing and what's new. You could set up something as simple as a bulletin board, or start a social media page to promote the library to the school or organization, or an e-mail newsletter.

4. Contribute.
You can volunteer or help out in your local regional council of librarians. If you have a great idea or a paper to present, why not try to be a speaker in a seminar? If you are working on research, why not try to submit a paper to an academic journal? Is there a library that needs help? You can give advice or be a consultant. Are you a writer? You can blog. There are many ways for you to contribute, even just a little, to the profession.

5. Explore.
Your job title may be a librarian, but you are more than that. Step away from the library for awhile and see other places. You may learn a thing or two for yourself, and bring back what you learn to the library.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Aquaman [movie reaction]

My planner is mostly full of important occasions and movie release dates. I have been wanting to watch Aquaman since DC's Wonderwoman was a hit and I liked that movie. As of this writing, Aquaman has surpassed $1 billion in the box office. But I put off watching it because an author I admired didn't recommend it. So there's a lesson here - just because the author I idolized didn't like it, doesn't mean I will also not. When I watched it I found that I didn't really share the same perspective of the said author. And just because I liked it, doesn't mean you will feel the same way. Each of us has our own preferences, likes and dislikes when it comes to movies, stories, and books.

I'll admit I don't really know anything about Aquaman prior to watching this movie, but I'll watch or read anything sea-related. The story starts with the love story of his parents when Atlanna, queen of Atlantis, gets stranded near a lighthouse's shore. Tom, the lighthouse keeper rescues her, they fall in love and she gives birth to one son. However, Atlantis attacks to get her back, and Atlanna goes back to the kingdom to also save her son and her husband from danger.

Atlanna eventually marries a king and gives birth to another son, Orm, who eventually takes the throne. The queen is executed once they knew she had a child before. Orm plans to take over the world above with Atlantean technology. Mera, another Atlantis princess who doesn't want this to happen, seeks the help of Arthur Curry (Aquaman). To her, if Arthur takes his rightful place as King (as the queen's first child), then it would stop the impending war. Arthur is reluctant, saying that he is a mere nobody. Mera convinces him to go with her. He meets his old teacher, Nuidis Vulko (Willem Defoe). He suggests that he should look for the trident of King Atlas, the first King of Atlantis. This is the story of how Aquaman will claim his right to the throne.

The cast is good, but the character I liked best is Vulko, who is like the Obi Wan Kenobi to Arthur. He teaches him how to swim and fight. I loved the teen!Arthur scenes, and throughout the movie he's the wise mentor. My second favorite is the gorgeous Mera, and I think I have a girl-crush on Amber Heard after watching the movie. Orm is a perfect ruthless king, but you also can't help but feel sympathy for him, especially when he said that man also did great harm to the ocean. Of course, Jason Momoa is the perfect Aquaman, and he played the part with wit and charm. I can't think of anyone else for the role.

It's also a gorgeous movie. I love the 'oceanic cyberpunk' vibe of Atlantis and the underwater kingdoms, and the landscape is comparable to the world of space movies. Everything is bioluminescent and the setting is unlike anything you've seen before.

However, I found some parts of the movie too reliant on special effects that it looks artificial. The movie looks like a long video game animation. There are some scenes where I felt the humor was forced and the dialogue awkward.

Aside from that, it's a pretty good movie. I don't normally like romance but here, the love stories were done nicely and paced in a believable way. It's a great family movie and it offers something different than the usual superhero movies (though I also love Marvel to pieces and I can't wait for Captain Marvel and Avengers: End Game this 2019!).

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Aurora [MMFF 2018 movie reaction]

Aurora is directed by Yam Laranas, produced by Viva Films and Aliud Entertainment, starring Anne Curtis.
My rating: 3/5

Every last week of December, movie theaters all over the country only plays Filipino movies, movie entries for the Metro Manila Film Festival. And also every year, there's the debate between "art and the market" when it comes to the movie selections. For sure, every year there is a Vic Sotto film, Vice Ganda film, or the 100th installment of Shake, Rattle, n Roll (I think there's none for this year), and there's the trend of more people flocking to these (usually comedy) movies with the big stars than the movies with more serious themes. For some, most MMFF movies may be a joke. There's really nothing wrong with these movies, a lot of people seem to enjoy them based on the box-office stats.

I don't really go out of my way to watch MMFF movies unless there's something that looks really interesting. I want to see something new, a unique story or another kind of approach than the usual. The trailer for Aurora piqued my interest the most. I love stories related to the sea, and a horror movie by the seaside is something I'd want to watch.

First of all, Aurora is a beautiful film with stunning, haunting images. The visuals are something I find calming. The water, the rain, the gloomy atmosphere. The only thing that distracts from the visuals is the over-the-top, exaggerated classical music that they have to play during the dry, boring scenes just to up the suspense. The effect they were trying to achieve, I didn't really feel. I feel like if they used more subtle music, utilized silence, and not the overly dramatic orchestra score, it would have been haunting and better.

The story is about Leana, the owner of a decrepit, old hostel by the seashore. She lives with her younger sister Rita and their parents are dead. A ship Aurora is shipwrecked near them, and since the accident business has been low except for the relatives of the dead who stay in Leana's inn. People in the town are leaving because of the ship and it's affected most of their livelihoods. When the Coast Guard stops the search operations, some people still want to find their loved ones who haven't been found. One of them offers Leana to help him search for the other missing bodies for a fee. Since she needs cash, she accepts the offer and gets others to help her.

Then, Leana starts to get visions of the dead. Though this is labeled as horror, I didn't really jump off my seat. I'm more likely to stay awake at night after watching Twilight Zone, really. They eventually find one corpse of a man, who isn't in any missing person records. Then the story went weak - as if it's trying to be mysterious, that the tragedy may have been caused by supernatural powers.

There's really no concrete explanation of the events of the film leading to the end. Though it was interesting that Leana and her sister somehow find themselves in the ship and saw the moment when the tragedy happened.

"I didn't understand any of it!" was the common reaction of people going out of the theater. The story seemed to be designed that way, that there's really no explanation. Was there really a curse on the ship? How come Leana experiences all these visions?

I wasn't also entirely convinced by the cast's acting. Anne Curtis was too beautiful to be believable as a poor innkeeper. "Aurora was overloaded!", a simple phrase that they seem to be taking as an unbelievable thing. I didn't really root for Leana. It was worth watching for the visuals, but the rest feels mediocre and the music I find more distracting than moving. Though this has a new kind of storytelling that I hope to see in future movies with a more interesting premise.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

8 best movies I watched in 2018

I'm not much of a movie fan but it's my love for stories that drive me to the movies. This list is actually too pop-culture and mainstream. I also reviewed a lot of movies in this blog (check out the 'movies' tag), and if I have reviewed them I've included the links below:

Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse
I'm a regular follower of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but I'm not a big Spiderman fan. This animated story about Spidermans (six!) from different dimensions is funny, heart-warming, and with unique animation that reminds me of an animated comic book. Miles Morales as the main character really carried the story well. Out of the six main characters, my favorite has got to be the Noir version of Spiderman.

Black Panther
An excellent superhero film featuring an all-black cast. It's mythological, modern, yet also shows the problems we still struggle with in the real world. I love how the women are portrayed. Michael B. Jordan as the villain Erik Killmonger stole the show, and the rest of the casting is spot-on. It feels like something more than a regular superhero movie but a cultural movement.

A Star is Born
Bradley Cooper's excellent directorial debut and Lady Gaga's first mainstream film. It's a remake of a classic story but offers a unique perspective. Not only a good story (though a tragedy), but very good music.

Bohemian Rhapsody
This homage to Queen and Freddie Mercury is fun and introduces a new generation to the timeless music of Queen.

The Shape of Water
This sea-monster romance movie won Best Picture and Best Director for the 2018 Academy Awards. This movie feels more like a fairy tale, like The Little Mermaid in reverse set in the 1960s. It feels whimsical and vintage, and the atmosphere of the entire movie is inspired by water: underwater scenes, rain everywhere, pools and moisture in most frames. It's worth watching on the big screen.

Cold Skin
A story similar to The Shape of Water, but the romance is between a man and a mermaid-like creature. Friend is assigned alone to work on an isolated island, only to find an old man with a hatred for the world. Every night, creatures from the sea attack. I liked the movie enough to read the book it was based on, and this is one of the instances where the movie is actually better than the book.

Crazy Rich Asians
This much-awaited adaptation of Kevin Kwan's best-selling novel delivered well. It's also notable for its all-Asian cast including Filipino actors, Kris Aquino and Nico Santos.

The story is about a Buddhist monk in Tibet who, after growing up in a strict, celibate life, disrobes and tries to live life as a normal man and seeks out to fulfill his desires. It a beautiful film, with majestic views of Tibet.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Top 10 Books I read in 2018

Here are 10 of the best books I read last year, in no particular order. For books that are part of a series, I consider them as one in this list. These are books I read, not books published in 2018. 8 are fiction, while 2 are non-fiction. I posted book reviews of some books on this list but not all, if there are they are linked in the titles. By the way, I also made a handy Book Review Index page where I listed (with links) all the books I reviewed in this blog by author and title.

Matilda by Roald Dahl
One of my literary heroes in Matilda. I just read the book this year and I regret reading it too late! Matilda is a bookish and very smart girl in an uncaring place. Her parents and everyone else seems to ignore her existence. When a tyrannical principal tortures the young students in Matilda's school, she decides to do something. I love the relationship between Matilda and her teacher Miss Honey, and the book also has a positive portrayal of a librarian.

Wintersong and Shadowsong by S. Jae Jones
This two books are part of a "duology" and if you're looking for fantasy with beautiful, poetic prose, this is for you. The summary from Google Books: "All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen, Liesl feels that her childhood dreams are slipping away. And when her sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. But with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed."

This story is set in Germany. Liesl, an aspiring musician, is the wallflower sister in her poor family. Her sister Kathe is the more beautiful one, while her younger brother Josef is groomed to be a musical talent by their father who had a failed music career. All her life, she has heard of the tales of the Goblin King, the trickster prince of the Underground world. When her sister disappears, she realized that the Goblin world might not be childhood fantasy after all but something real. She descends to that world and tries to save her sister. She meets the Goblin King and she falls in love with the mysterious, dangerous creature. The first book, Wintersong, has very similar themes to the movie Labyrinth.

Out of the two books, the second book is much better. The Goblin King lets Liesl go out of love for her, and she returns to the real world but pines for him. A mysterious patron wants to support Liesl, having heard one of the music she composed played by her brother. But the story gets into a dark turn - Liesl's depression and the growing animosity between her and Josef.

I love how it portrayed art and music. The prose is lovely, and it's worth reading for that alone.

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
I spent four months of last year in a Buddhist environment, so the life of Buddha and Buddhism is a big interest for me. This book was originally published in 1922 and is considered a classic. The story is about Siddhartha, who belongs to a Brahmin family. He seeks spiritual enlightenment but wants to do it in his own way, not taught by his society, religion, and family. He meets the Buddha, and his friend Govinda becomes the Buddha's follower. Siddhartha decides to seek enlightenment on his own.

He becomes an ascetic but meets Kamala, a courtesan. He falls in love with her and indulges in sensual pleasure - he then leaves his search for enlightenment and lives a rich life of a businessman. Soon, he finds that he finds no satisfaction in the hedonistic lifestyle and seeks for enlightenment again. In his journey, he does find spiritual awakening.

I love the description of enlightenment in the book and the last passages made me cry - now old men, Siddhartha and his friend Govinda meet again. Though Govinda renounces his life and becomes a monk, he still does not find enlightenment. And in a conversation with Siddhartha, he finds what he seeks. I find myself reading and rereading the last passages often - it is what I imagine enlightenment feels like.

Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
I read this book by the author and after that, like an addict, I sought out and read most of his works. This is fantasy, but fantasy like you've never read before. This is the anti-thesis of the Lord of the Rings kind of fantasy. It reads like rock and roll, a love letter to monsters, and after reading it seems as if you've taken an odd acid trip. It has steampunk and wild ideas. It was like nothing I read before (for more of my gushing, read the review).

The Scar by China Miéville
If there's anything I love the most, it's sea stories. I love the ocean, I like reading about the mysteries of the sea, real and make-believe creatures, sea travels, and shipwrecks. In my own stories, I write about it a lot. This book has all of that, and more. This is also probably the author's best works by popular opinion.

Embassytown by China Miéville
Science fiction is one of my first loves. Second to the sea, I love the subject of outer space. This story feels like one of those sci-fi classics during the peak of Asimov and Le Guin. It explores language, the relationship between humans and aliens coexisting in the same space.

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
This is a really gutsy book with an equally badass heroine. Katniss Everdeen may be the most traumatized character in all of literature. This book is brutal, violent, and painful to read. Katniss volunteers for The Hunger Games and she's thrust into this totally crazy world but looks plausible with the recent political climate in the world. It explores trauma, violence as entertainment, totalitarianism, and revolutions. But the heart of it all is Katniss Everdeen. She's an atypical protagonist, but we see both her vulnerability and strength.

Dune by Frank Herbert
"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." 

This is one of the most popular science fiction classics and a few sentences would not describe the scope of it, but that quote above is the most-quoted sentence from it.

For Non-Fiction:

Layb Life: mga Kwento at Karanasan ng Isang Librarian by Michael Pinto, RL
There are few published books around talking about the life of librarians, and this is the best and a must-read for Filipino librarians. If you are a librarian, you can really relate to the articles in the book and you might also learn a thing or two to improve yourself and the library you work in.

Keeping the Breath in Mind by Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo
I read this short book when I was studying Buddhism and meditation in Taiwan. Out of all the books I read about Buddhism at that time, this is the shortest one but stood out to me the most. Written by a Thai monk, it is a practical guide to Buddhism but also a frank look about what to expect on meditation and seeking enlightenment. Some quotes from it:

"We all want nothing but goodness, but if you can't tell what's good from what's defiled, you can sit and meditate till your dying day and never find nirvana at all. But if you're knowledgeable and intent on what you're doing, it's not all that hard. Nirvana is really a simple matter because it's always there. It never changes. The affairs of the world are what's hard because they're always changing and uncertain. Today they're one way, tomorrow another. Once you've done something, you have to keep looking after it. But you don't have to look after nirvana at all. Once you've realized it, you can let it go. Keep on realizing, keep on letting go —"

"Buddho, our meditation word, is the name of the Buddha after his Awakening. It means someone who has blossomed, who is awake, who has suddenly come to his senses. For six long years before his Awakening, the Buddha traveled about, searching for the truth from various teachers, all without success. So he went off on his own and on a full-moon evening in May sat down under the Bodhi tree, vowing not to get up until he had attained the truth. Finally, toward dawn, as he was meditating on his breath, he gained Awakening. He found what he was looking for — right at the tip of his nose.

Nirvana doesn't lie far away. It's right at our lips, right at the tip of our nose. But we keep groping around and never find it. If you're really serious about finding purity, set your mind on meditation and nothing else. As for whatever else may come your way, you can say, "No thanks." Pleasure? "No thanks." Pain? "No thanks." Goodness? "No thanks." Evil? "No thanks." Paths and fruitions? "No thanks." Nibbana? "No thanks." If it's "no thanks" to everything, what will you have left? You won't need to have anything left. That's nirvana. Like a person without any money: How will thieves be able to rob him? If you get money and try to hold onto it, you're going to get killed. This you want to take. That you want to take. Carry "what's yours" around till you're completely weighed down. You'll never get away."

Saturday, December 29, 2018

A Year in Review: 2018

Me in Ling Shan Temple, Yilan, Taiwan
This year was full of surprises. A lot of things and changes happened. Here are my highlights for the year:

- Joining the Humanistic Academy of Life and Arts (HALA), a free study program to learn about Buddhism and Buddhist living. We stayed for two months in Manila at Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple, then for another month in Taiwan where we stayed in Yilan, Kaohsiung, and Taipei. In Kaohsiung, we joined the Fo Guang Buddhist Monastic Retreat (FGBMR) 2018 along with other students from all over the world. For FGBMR, we studied Buddhism, had a 7-day meditation retreat in full silence, and toured around the southern area of Taiwan. I just didn't get to study another belief, but I also learned a lot from being with people from different countries and cultures. I wrote about my HALA experience in this blog entry: Learning Buddhist Living, the HALA experience.

- It was also my first time traveling alone to another country to join my first international librarians' conference (IFLA) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I got a grant to attend the IFLA conference. At first, I was nervous about going by myself, but I was more confident in traveling alone after spending some time in Taiwan. I really enjoyed it and got to go to places I only dreamed of going before (Malacca!). I also wrote about my experiences in the following blog entries: My first International Librarians' Conference: IFLA WLIC 2018 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Malaysia 2018: my first journey alone!. I plan to travel alone in the future.

- I joined the 1st Iloilo Mega Book fair and the 5th Zinefest, with my own zine. Next year, I hope to be more productive in writing.

- I also got a new job in a research library that started last November, which I like a lot so far. I'm also on my last subject for my Master's in Library Science (Thesis Writing). I took my comprehensive exams last February, I passed the subjects without the need for retaking which I am grateful for. I hope I get to graduate my MLIS this year so I can move on with my life...

- I read a lot of great books and watched movies. I read a lot compared to last year and I discovered China Miéville, which rekindled my love for fantasy and sci-fi.

Overall, it has been a great year. I got to see more of the world, gained new friends, and also learned about myself. I am thankful for my work and I'm even looking forward to writing my thesis. It wasn't always good, though. I had moments of sadness, doubting myself, and questioning people around me. I wasn't always good with my friends and family.

I'm not into New Year's resolutions because I know I won't be consistent with them for the rest of the year anyway, but I will try my best to: Spend time in more meaningful things and less on too much internet browsing and social media. Take better care of my health. Be a more consistent and prolific writer. Have better time management. Get rid of unhealthy behaviors, people, and relationships. Be more open to new experiences and people. Read and write more.

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Hunger Games trilogy (books and movies)

Book cover images from Scholastic News Room
The Hunger Games was a popular series of young-adult books and its movie adaptations. I just read these novels now and just watched the four movies, and I find that it's as relevant now as it was when it first came out.

Most of us are probably familiar with the story of Katniss Everdeen and The Hunger Games. In a post-apocalyptic world, Panem, a state which was once known as North America, stages an annual Hunger Games where 24 tributes from its 12 Districts fight to the death. This is Panem's way of controlling the districts and preventing another uprising. The 12 Districts work to the bone to support the lavish lifestyle of the Capitol. The Hunger Games in the story is part beauty pageant, reality show, gladiator game, and the Minotaur's Labyrinth.

Katniss Everdeen, a poor girl from District 12, volunteers herself as tribute when the tribute lottery picks up her sister's name, Primrose. Her father is dead from a mining accident, and she's not that close to her mother. She hunts animals to feed her family, and the person she cares most about is Prim. She has a best friend and hunting partner, Gale Hawthorne.

When she volunteers for the games, her life changes.

The Hunger Games
The first book was grim but action-packed, we are introduced to Katniss. It's more interesting to read the story through her perspective, she's cynical but strong. She's not a perky, happy protagonist, but because of the world around her she's rather gloomy and has little interest in friendship or romance. She has Gale, her best friend who sort of has feelings for her. When she volunteers, she entrusts her mother and sister to his care.

When she volunteers for the games, she meets new people: Peeta Mellark, her former schoolmate and now her fellow District 12 tribute. They have a mentor, a former Hunger Games victor, Haymitch Abernathy. Peeta is the opposite of Katniss, he's friendly, charming, and innocent at first. Haymitch is an alcoholic, who doesn't get along with Katniss at first (but as the story progresses, we see that Haymitch and Katniss are very alike).

Katniss's concern is survival, but the Hunger Games is more than just a survival game. It is a show for entertainment, and here it's not only skills that matter, but just as important are charm, popularity, and likeability (Peeta excels at this). You would think Hunger Games tributes are paraded around like beauty pageant contestants only to be slaughtered.

In the Capitol, she is beautified and dressed by a team of stylists. Cinna is her fashion designer, and one of my favorite characters from the series. Because of her flaming grand entrance costume and her interview dress, she's dubbed and marketed as "the Girl on Fire." Haymitch also has this wild idea to make Peeta and Katniss a sort of "love team" to enhance their popularity, which Katniss hates at first.

District 12 is one of the poorest districts, so Katniss starts out as an underdog among all the stronger tributes. When the Hunger Games starts, she hides instead of going out actively killing. She meets an ally, Rue. The book's suspense turns up during the games. As a reader, as the violence gets bloodier, you start questioning the methods of Panem and the sick entertainment of the Hunger Games.

In order to save herself and Peeta, she plays on the "Star Crossed Lovers" and pretends she loves him for the screen. If you know the ending, Katniss outsmarted the Hunger Games by pretending she would kill herself with Peeta. The Gamemakers preferred to have two victors than none at all. Little to Katniss knowledge, her little act of rebellion in the game would have widespread repercussions for her and all of Panem.

Catching Fire
This is the book I loved the most. Katniss is out of the Hunger Games arena but it seems like life outside the game is much more difficult to play. She and Peeta have a "Victory Tour" to all the 12 Districts. President Snow, the ruler of Panem, warns her that she must do everything to convince him and the whole country that her love for Peeta is real.

Now there's some sort of love triangle between Peeta, Katniss, and Gale. The two boys are vying for her attention, while Katniss is not that interested (but she does admit she had moments of having sexy feelings for Peeta). To add to her romantic trouble, Gale also shows his feelings for her. However, she must put on a show of being in love with Peeta.

But the President declares the 75th Quarter Quell, where every 25 years a special, ruthless twist is added to the Hunger Games. For this Game, tributes will come from the existing victors. I think this was done to prevent the victors from inspiring revolts against the Capitol. So this is Hunger Games: the All-Stars Edition. Peeta and Katniss once again must go to the arena, this time with other Hunger Games winners who are older and more experienced.

Here we meet other interesting victors. We also see that these 'winners' are not really victors - most of them hate the Capitol, most are struggling with trauma from their experience in the Games. Even after winning the games, their friends and family may also be targeted if they don't follow what they're expected to do. "There are no winners, only survivors," as Haymitch would say.

But I love that the main characters realize they can't do anything against the Capitol anyway, so they just go with the flow and try their best to spite them instead (Peeta and Katniss on their tests with the Gamemakers). I also like that we got a deeper look at Haymitch, Peeta, and Katniss. I love that they showed how Haymitch won the Hunger Games.

The story doesn't end with one victor. Behind the scenes, the rebels against Panem are working and the 75th Hunger Games is part of the plan. The arena is attacked, the remaining victors left are divided: Katniss is taken by the rebels, Peeta is captured by the Capitol.

Now, Panem is at War. District 13 still exists as the Rebel Base, and Panem's districts are also revolting against Panem. Katniss is cast as "Mockingjay", the symbol of the rebellion. Katniss is more traumatized than ever. She doesn't wholly get along with District 13 and its President, Alma Coin.

What's interesting is this was also a war on propaganda. Katniss is cast as a rebel hero, and it's uncanny how she is marketed, costumed, beautified, photographed, and video-recorded for propaganda videos - it's quite similar to her short shot at fame before her first Hunger Games.

Mockingjay is the most violent and brutal of all three books. I love how it depicted life at war and the hard choices you have to make for survival. Katniss is broken, but she still tries to fight. Chapters 25 until the end is brilliant, though there are moments where she deals with suicidal thoughts and post-traumatic stress disorder. I think Katniss Everdeen may be the most traumatized girl in literature - she's already quite damaged by her father's death and life in District 12, added by more trauma of watching kids die and struggling for survival during the games, the life after the games, and having to deal with another Hunger Games, plus the war she's fighting.

The Movies

All I can say about the movies is they are brilliant and true to the books. My only complaint would be Mockingjay would be better as one movie. Part 1 was a drag, there were long moments of nothing. But during its release, most YA book adaptations have their last part split into two (Twilight's Breaking Dawn, Harry Potter's Deathly Hallows). So I guess they're stretching it so they can get squeeze out the most money from the franchise.

There's a lot of things in the books that didn't make it to the movies. But for me, this is acceptable as long as long as it retains the story. If they were true to the last detail, it would have been more expensive. For example, in the story, Peeta lost his leg and was replaced by a prosthetic. Katniss had a friend, Madge, the mayor's daughter who gave her the Mockingjay pin. This is the omission I don't like, because in the first book Katniss is shown as a loner and unfriendly, and Madge may be her only other friend other than Gale.

Kacey Rohl (playing Abigail Hobbs in Hannibal) is my ideal Katniss
I think the casting is spot-on. I love the actors playing President Snow, Alma Coin, and Rue. Woody Harrelson as Haymitch and Lenny Kravitz as the fashion designer Cinna was perfect. There was a lot of fuss over Jennifer Lawrence playing Katniss, as the character is described as having "olive skin". But I think her acting was excellent and the author herself approved. But my ideal Katniss would be the Canadian actress Kacey Rohl (who notably played Abigail Hobbs in the NBC TV series Hannibal). As Abigail, she portrayed this mix of innocence but also murderous brutality. As I read, I didn't imagine Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, it was Kacey in my head.

My favorite thing about the movies is the fashion. Katniss and Peeta's entrance in the two Hunger Games with all the flaming clothes, and the burning dresses in the first and second book. Probably my favorite is the wedding dress that transformed into the Mockingjay dress complete with wings. They did a good job of designing these iconic clothes that Katniss wore. Fashion fueling revolutions? It was brilliant.

The Story
I just downloaded books analyzing The Hunger Games. It came out at the right time when it did - reality TV was all the rage then. But as I read it, it's scary because it could be real. Not the actual Hunger Games, but it portrays the reality of living in fear in a totalitarian government. The story is a very striking portrayal of PTSD, trauma after war, suffering, and pain. It's a story marketed for a younger audience, and I wish I read that at that age. It's a story that leaves you with a lot to think about.