Fiction Books Finished:
Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games), by Suzanne Collins (****)  – Whether she’s writing swashbuckling fantasy novels for elementary schoolers or dystopian action-adventure stories for teens, Suzanne Collins’ novels can be summed up in one phrase: "War is Hell." That sentiment goes doubly true for the satisfying final installment in The Hunger Games series.
The neat thing about his series is that it’s equally appealing to both teens and adults, which makes for excellent family discussion. It’s true this story won’t appeal to those who are uncomfortable with violence — even if it’s not glorified. But if you’re the type who doesn’t mind a battle trilogy this series provides for meaty family book club discussion about the emotional and physical horrors of war — even necessary war.
I found it interesting that my teens liked the first two reality-TV-styled-war books better than the final actual-war book. They both bitterly lamented what they believed was an overly casual death of one of their favorite minor characters. While they mostly liked the last book, their grievances made for good family conversation. [YA fiction for ages 13 and up; Read in eBook form on my Kindle for Droid phone]
Alanna (The First Adventure: Song of the Lioness, Book One), by Tamora Pierce (***)  – Somehow I never read a Tamora Pierce fantasy. I decided to try Alanna, the first in her famous series about a young girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to train to be a knight in her world. Pierce makes Alanna’s deception and training realistically difficult, but achievable because of Alanna’s determination. The audiobook read by actress Trini Alvarado was enjoyable. [YA fiction for ages 10 and up; Listened to on audiobook from Audible.com]
Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, by Bill McKibben (****)  – In the first half of the book, environmentalist Bill McKibben explains just how quickly climate change is turning our planet into a completely different environment. Although many climate change skeptics claim scientists have exaggerated the effects of climate change, McKibben gives example after example of how climate change is actually working much faster than any scientist predicted. Huge shelves of ice on the poles are melting decades before scientists had predicted they would. McKibben also details how these phenomenal changes are affecting our everyday life, making it harder and harder for us to feed and protect ourselves.
While the first half of the book is pretty depressing, the second half deals with concrete ways for us to live on this new more difficult planet — that McKibben now calls "Eaarth." (The extra "a" is used to show that this is a very different planet from one we were used to.) His proposed solutions to keeping life sustainable on this new planet involve working more at a local level than at a national or global level. Because each region has its own unique solution to our energy and food issues, McKibben calls for more local initiates for using alternative energy sources and to growing food. His stories about local successes are inspiring and made me want to get out and look for local options in my area.
This is an excellent introduction to the problems and possible solutions to our difficult world situation. The audiobook made it especially easy for me to make time to read this informative resource. [Listened to on audiobook through Audible.com]
Dear John (** 1/2)  – I was in the mood for a romantic tearjerker and hoped this movie would satisfy my craving. Unfortunately, despite solid acting by Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum, as well as an appealing soundtrack, the script for this story was boring and awkward. *Sigh* That was disappointing. [Rated PG-13; Watched on Netflix Instant]
Kick-Ass (****)  – This is one of those movies that I suspect people either love or hate. The movie asks, "Why are there no real superheroes?" It then goes on to answer that question exploring all the possibilities for what real superheroes would be like. The results are lame, funny, upsetting, super violent, awesome, and at times, down right disturbing. If you’re the type of person who is okay with funny and awesome moments mixed with super violent and down right disturbing elements, you’ll probably enjoy watching this wildly fun movie as much as I did. If that combination doesn’t appeal to you though, this movie is probably not for you. [Rated R for violence; Watched on DVD from Netflix]