Come check out my series spotlight for The Hunger Games! http://smashattackreads.blogspot.com/2010/09/series-spotlight-hungers-games-by.htmlMeet Katniss Everdeen, a 16 year-old female who lives with her younger sister, Prim, and their mother. Katniss has had an unfortunately difficult life but she has made the best of it. She lives in District 12, the final district of Panem. It is the Coal producing district, and she lost her father, a coal miner, in a mine disaster, years earlier. Panem arose out of what remained of North America after natural and man-made disasters destroyed it. As with many post-apocalyptic tales, rebellions occurred against the powers-that-be, otherwise known as the Capitol. During the uprisings, District 12 was defeated and District 13 was destroyed. In order for the 12 districts to always remember who holds the power, the Capitol began an annual event called The Hunger Games. Every year, each district produces one girl and one boy (ages 12 through 18, randomly drawn) to fight in the Games. The 24 tributes are taken to the Capitol and enjoy a short week of simple training, eating like kings, and attending events and interviews. Then, they are thrown into the vast outdoor arena to fight for their lives, as the Hunger Games has only one winner.As you can probably guess, Katniss is the tribute for District 12, along with Peeta Mellark, the town baker's son. They are whisked away to the Capitol and treated like royalty. It becomes apparent that Katniss may stand a chance in the Games when she proves to the Gamemasters that she possesses great hunting skills. After all, she has been keeping her family from starvation for years by killing game and gathering vegetation (illegally) in the Seam of District 12. While Katniss and Peeta are from the same District, it is no secret that they will eventually face one another as enemies. Peeta is very kind, but Katniss vows not to allow him to weasel his way into her heart. Peeta surprises her though, on many levels and in many ways, throughout the book. Does he eventually weasel his way in? Can he be trusted in such a dire situation?The characters in this novel are very realistic as they sympathize with others and form alliances and friendships even though they face overwhelming odds. All 24 tributes have some sort of page time, some way more than others. The plot is high intensity, very dramatic, deeply emotional and completely engrossing! Katniss is courageous, intelligent, skilled, wily, and compassionate. Peeta is kind, loyal, and brave, but is not on an equal playing field with Katniss' skills. Peeta grew on me. I didn't have much draw towards him through much of the book, but he won me over at the #7 quote below. The mutations of animals that you come across in this world are interesting, freaky and vile! The Capitol bio-engineered certain species for their own purposes - spying, physical damage, etc - and they play serious roles in this story. The mutants at the end of the book completely horrified me and I wonder if we will learn more about them.There are a few twists at certain times in the books. One is very obvious, in my opinion, but the one at the end snuck up on me! It is an ugly twist that will make you gasp, and the outcome of that event sends us flying into the second book, Catching Fire.Conclusion: 5 WHOLE STARS! What an entertaining and simultaneously disturbing novel! While the plot has been done before (The Game, Battle Royale), it does not take away from the emotional intensity you will find yourself feeling page after page! It is nothing short of fantastic. I have yet to speak to a book blogger who did not rave about this trilogy, and I am so happy that I finally go to read Book 1. Book 3, Mockingjay, is being released on August 24!Favorite Quotes (There's always a possibility that quotes can be spoiler-ish. Read at your own risk!)1) [This was probably the most powerful quote of the series for me.:] "What must it be like, I wonder, to live in a world where food appears at the press of a button? How would I spend the hours I now commit to combing the woods for sustenance if it were so easy to come by? What do they do all day, these people in the Capitol, besides decorating their bodies and waiting around for a new shipment of tributes to ride in and die for their entertainment?"2) "Lean down a minute first," he says. "Need to tell you something." I lean over and put my good ear to his lips, which tickle as he whispers. "Remember we're madly in love, so it's all right to kiss me anytime you feel like it."3) I fumble. I'm not as smooth with words as Peeta. And while I was talking, the idea of actually losing Peeta hit me again and I realized how much I don't want him to die. And it's not about the sponsors. And it's not about what will happen when we get home. And it's not just that I don't want to be alone. It's him. I do not want to lose the boy with the bread.4) "Sometimes, when I clean a kill, I feed Buttercup the entrails. He has stopped hissing at me. Entrails. No hissing. This is the closest we will ever come to love."5) "I can feel Peeta press his forehead into my temple and he asks, 'So now that you've got me, what are you going to do with me?' I turn into him. 'Put you somewhere you can't get hurt." 6) "We could do it, you know' What?' Leave the district. Run off. Live in the woods. You and I, we could make it." 7) "You here to finish me off, Sweetheart?" 8) "My spirit. This is a new thought. I'm not sure exactly what it means, but it suggests I'm a fighter. In a sort of brave way. It's not as if I'm never friendly. Okay, maybe I don't go around loving everybody I meet, maybe my smiles are hard to come by, but i do care for some people."