Troubled Nation: Petrol, Stamps, Pasties

This week the nation braced itself for a false fuel-shortage due to rumours of tanker drivers going on strike.  Panic-buying ended up causing traffic jams and fights among those queuing for petrol.  Around the same time came the announcement that there would be a 30% rise in the cost of first-class stamps, from 46p to 60p, as well as a 39% rise for second-class, from 30 April.  As a letter writer, I have one word for that. Rubbish! And then came the triple whammy of a proposed 20% VAT on hot takeaway food items, where the debate on the tax somehow catapulted into a ‘Pastygate’ scandal.

Does it matter if George Osborne can’t remember the last time he had a Cornish pasty or whether or not David Cameron has ever eaten one?  On the surface, the obvious answer to these questions is ‘of course not’!  But it does matter that Cameron blatantly lied to the country about having one, further adding to the ludicrous debates centering on the humble meat pie.  Oh, the lies!

I’m not going to sit here and make false claims about how much I love a Cornish pasty.  Don’t get me wrong, they do make for a tasty snack.  Truth is, the last pasty I had was ages ago in Canterbury from the West Cornwall Pasty Co.  Piping hot. Premium quality.  Ah, but what if I get one now and it’s only lukewarm? Is that lukewarm pasty VAT-able? According to the new change, “all food (with the exception of freshly baked bread) that is above ambient temperature when provided to the customer is standard [VAT]-rated”.

Confused? I am!  What if I buy the pasty cold and have them heat it for me after I’ve purchased it? Does that help me work around the new tax? All joking aside,  I am in strong opposition to such taxes, as it affects a lot of hardworking people struggling to put bread on the table.  That is the underlying point of all these debates right?  Yet the Conservative crew seem to have turned it into a (failed) PR stunt and now the nation seems to be more frustrated than ever.  I pray this doesn’t spell riots, although I wouldn’t be surprised if this all led up to future premise for some version of the Hunger Games.  *Shudder*

The Hunger Games (2012)

The world was certainly watching as fans took to the cinema at the weekend to see the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ enthralling Hunger Games trilogy. According to ReutersHunger Games (2012) gorged on a $214 million global debut, setting records for highest opening of a non-sequel film and biggest debut outside the summer blockbuster season.

The film did rather well in keeping with the original storyline, but it lacked so much attention to detail that in the end, and perhaps not surprisingly, I felt it didn’t do the book justice.  While some felt the film was overlong, I felt the entire story was rushed and it might be better portrayed in a three part mini-series. The characters were underdeveloped and I felt Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) were miscast.  And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the film seriously lacked in blood and gore.

All in all I can’t say the film was awful but I can’t say it was good either, even without comparing it to the book.  I didn’t feel connected to any particular character and I can’t really blame the kiddy rating for it either.  Perhaps HBO might do an adult remake of it as the premise of the story really does make for good entertainment, and it’s such a shame that the film lacked so many key elements.

Rating: 3/5

The Final Book: Mockingjay

“Fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us!”

                                                                       -Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay

I’m not quite sure where to begin with this. I was so excited to read the final book of the amazing Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I tried so hard to like it, but unfortunately I was left disappointed by Mockingjay.

Perhaps I felt emotionally drained by all the fighting that was going on in the story–death after gruesome death and I was sick of picturing the muttations. I was also thoroughly fed up with Katniss’ inability to grasp her own feelings for Peeta or Gale.  Not to mention, she’s a bit thick. She seemed forever clueless about how to help the rebels’ cause and many unnecessary deaths occurred as a result of her lack of good judgement.

Perhaps such strong emotions should be the sign of a good book, but the writing got progressively worse and I simply wasn’t impressed. That said, I still think everyone should give the entire trilogy a read, perhaps best in one fell swoop. Be sure you have all three books handy when you begin. I can at least guarantee after completing The Hunger Games you’ll be left craving for more.

Rating: 3/5

Catching Fire

 “Oh,” I say under my breath. “Tick, tock.” My eyes sweep around the full circle of the arena and I know she’s right. “Tick, tock. This is a clock.”

Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire 

No sooner had I finished blogging about The Hunger Games than I started reading Catching Fire, the second book in Suzanne Collin’s riveting trilogy.  I’ve always found that the first book of any series tends to be better than the ones that follow, but I think in this case Catching Fire can easily hold its own.

Just as I thought life could somehow go on happily ever after in PanemCollins sends us on another emotionally charged journey that takes many unexpected twists and turns.  I found myself holding my breath through most of the second half of the book and before I knew it, I was at the end with my eyes wide open in disbelief, nearly dropping my Kindle on the floor.

I was absolutely knackered from all the reading I’d done the past two days but even as I closed my eyes, my mind kept racing and I awoke the next morning feeling like I had actually been dragged through the Quarter Quell.  To think I’d gotten so in to this teen fiction malarkey made me laugh out loud.  But that’s surely the sign of a good story!

Review: 4.5/5

Guilty Pleasures: The Hunger Games

“May the odds be ever in your favour.”

Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

All week long while my mate Nick had his attention focused on the trilogy of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, I  shook my head and wondered why anyone our age would be interested in a book deemed for ages 12 and older.  Essentially, he was reading teen fiction and without trying to be pretentious, even I didn’t read teen fiction when I was a young adult.  Especially nothing in the adventure science fiction department.

But unbeknownst to me, I would soon be converted in a span of 24 hours and find myself deeply engrossed in the lives of Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, and the tributes of District 12.  I was practically at the edge of my seat from start to finish and was disappointed when I found I had finished the entire book.  I wanted to read more.  After riding a thrilling roller coaster of emotions, The Hunger Games had whet my appetite for more.

I had forgotten what it was like to use  my own imagination and found myself dreaming of Panem last night–all the vibrant colours, luxurious food, the ‘reality show’ arena.  I don’t think it would be proper to describe the book as ‘fun’ as the premise of the story is rather dark, but it definitely is an engaging book.  Without revealing too much, at one point I was literally on the brink of tears and yelling, “YOU CAN’T DO THAT! YOU CAN’T JUST CHANGE THE RULES LIKE THAT!”

I wouldn’t say the writing is spectacular, but the story is eerily fascinating and is well-written enough to keep the pages turning.  I definitely recommend giving this book a try.

Rating: 4.5/5