If I had to run away with a book character . . .

. . . Well, I’d have a hard time choosing. But I have a feeling I’d narrow it down somewhere in the vicinity of the one man who stole my heart so completely, I’ve struggled to even wrap my mind around the possibility of ever falling in love with another.

I’m talking, of course, about Marcus Flutie.

sloppy_firstsMegan McCafferty’s unconventional lead in her popular Jessica Darling series — comprised of five books ranging from 2001’s Sloppy Firsts to 2009’s Perfect Fifths — swooped in out of nowhere, gave me (or, okay, Jess) one of his enigmatic little smiles, swung his dreads (he’s a redhead!) around a bit and promptly ran away with my heart.

He’s not the type of male character I usually go for, mind you, though who doesn’t secretly have a soft spot for the bad boy? (It’s okay, admit it: we’re all friends here.) In a typical novel, the boys most likely to capture my attention are the brooding loners (see Eli in Along For The Ride) or the super sexy but, importantly, super intelligent dudes (like Michael in Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries books or Matt in Robin Brande’s Fat Cat). Also high on my list of “wants” in a hero? Loyalty, devotion, sensitivity, consideration, ability to unabashedly adore the object of their affection. And, of course, extreme good looks.

So . . . actually? I guess Marcus is my type. Because in addition to being wicked smart (he just doesn’t apply himself), he’s witty, unpredictable, sensitive, take-charge, philosophical, broody (God help me, I love broody) and . . . in love. With Jess. Watching the evolution of his feelings for her warms the little cockles of my heart, let me tell you, and I can certainly attest that there’s nothing so irresistable as a man happily, completely in love. Even if it’s not with you.

Provided I could pry Marcus from the stronghold Jessica Darling almost certainly has him under, I’d woo him with my existential thinking, love of literature and ability to belt out a Barry Manilow tune or two. (Or ten. I’d practice well ahead of time, of course.) And as he gazed deep into my milk-chocolate eyes and became entranced by my wild, unruly curly hair, biting wit and ability to talk at length about chick lit and pumpkin spice lattes, I’d drag him downtown and get us on the first train outta here. And then he’d be mine, mine, MINE! (Sorry, Nat. And Emily. Love y’all. And Spence? I’m sorry, too. xoxo)

But if Marcus were just a little too involved with Jessica to succumb to my fawning, eyelash-fluttering and talk about Buddhism, nirvana and cupcakes, I might — might — throw myself at a few of these other bookish gentlemen. Though I’d keep holding out for Marcus, unable to part with his old texts (does Marcus text?), emails (okay, he definitely emails) or throw out the silly, coupley photos of us where he looks devastatingly handsome and I look punch drunk or hungover. Or both. Probably because I’m trying to smooch him.

Just as long as these guys get all that, we could have a reasonably happy if ultimately unfulfilling life together.

Other guys I might consider running away with,
if Marcus Flutie is unavailable or unwilling

Adam from Sarah Addison Allen’s The Sugar Queen: He’s a postman who looks beyond Josey’s shy demeanor to “see the real her,” is sensitive and sweet and a postman, which is cool. And I’m pretty sure he has a ponytail. Hot.

catching_fireGale from Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Catching Fire: I know I’ll catch some heat from the pro-Peeta folks out there, but Gale is everything I ask for in a literary dude: steadfast, loyal, intelligent, broody (so broody!) and, you know, sexy. That he obviously has deep feelings for Katniss and will not completely pursue them makes him hotter. He knows she has so much to lose.

Matt from Robin Brande’s Fat Cat: As previously mentioned, dude is smart and attractive — a lethal combination — and is further made gorgeous by the fact that he seems completely unaware of how adorable he is. And when he slipped up and hurt Cat, he eventually worked to restore their friendship. And, you know, prove he’s in love with her.

Michael from Meg Cabot’s The Princess Diaries series: My Michael Moscovitz love is really a post in and of itself, so I’ll just say: I love him dearly, and almost as much as Marcus, but for entirely different reasons. And stay tuned.

sea_changeLeo from Aimee Friedman’s Sea Change: Dude’s a merman. And he’s into science-y things. And he’s cute. Need I say more?

Jacob from Justina Chen Headley’s North Of Beautiful: Broody? Check. Sensitive? Check. Sweet and kind to his little sister? Yes and yes. Okay, Jake, you’re in. Now make it worth my while.

Spencer from Maureen Johnson’s Suite Scarlett and Scarlett Fever: Yes, yes, I know — the man’s name is Spencer, and that’s Boyfriend’s name. But in my defense, I read both novels before I’d even met my Spencer — so it doesn’t count! And Johnson’s Spencer is hard to dislike. Funny but vulnerable, sweet but protective, he’s the perfect brother. And a guy who looks out for his family is hard for me to resist.

Harry from Eva Rice’s The Lost Art Of Keeping Secrets: He’s creepy, unpredictable, intelligent, loyal and unconventionally handsome — and every one of his scenes sizzled so much, they just about lit my fingers on fire. I’ll follow him around London anytime.

Jack from Karen White’s The House On Tradd Street and The Girl On Legare Street: In addition to being a writer (awesome), Jack is witty and protective of Melanie — even when she doesn’t want him to be. And he knows his way around with a hammer and nails. In Meg’s world, handiness definitely equals hotness.

Gentlemen, my bags are packed.

Book review: ‘Catching Fire’ by Suzanne Collins

catching_fireThis review is for Catching Fire, the highly anticipated sequel to Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. If you haven’t read the first novel and think you just may, skip this review to avoid SPOILERS (and then come back and see me later, of course!).

So. Katniss Everdeen defeated the Capitol, emerging from the Hunger Games hand in hand with Peeta Mallark, a young man from her home of District 12 who professed his undying love for her and saved both their lives with his devotion. Having emerged the victors in a gruesome, terrible tradition that plagues their nation of Panem, a country risen from the ashes of the United States many years before, Katniss and Peeta return home hoping to regain some sense of normalcy after their horrible ordeal.

The only teeny, tiny issue? The Capitol isn’t at all pleased with Katniss’s act of desperation to spare them both — and the fact that the government was forced, by way of popular sentiment, to allow Katniss and Peeta to emerge from their sadistic games together. President Snow sees through Katniss’s professions of “love” for Peeta, knowing that underneath the facade is the young woman — a “girl on fire” — ready to start the spark that will catch Panem up in the flames of rebellion. And something will be done about it.

Again we make our journey with Katniss, our narrator, who is still strong, lean and powerful after finally having enough food to feed herself, her mother and younger sister Prim. She and Peeta’s victory in the Games have brought rewards to their entire home district, providing hope where it had long ago been distinguished. But fear over the ramifications of her actions in the Capitol have replaced the gnaw of hunger in Katniss’s belly, and she walks around waiting for the other shoe to drop. She knows she can’t possibly be allowed to walk around unscathed after her act of defiance, and I waited right along with her.

Who else is waiting? Peeta, it seems — for Katniss to make a decision. Their return to District 12 hasn’t changed his unflagging feelings for his fellow survivor, but Katniss is mired in confusion over another issue entirely: Gale Hawthorne. At some point, her best friend became so much more than that . . . and, despite the assertions by the Capitol and Katniss’s family that they’re “cousins,” thereby posing no threat to Katniss and Peeta’s very popular relationship, those closest to them know differently.

Katniss has so many choices to make — and it’s hard to think clearly when she lays awake at night, plagued by nightmares and too afraid to doze off. Life becomes about waiting — and planning. Confusion. Desperation. And, as the story takes yet another unexpected twist, desperation to save the lives of those she cares about — and one in particular.

Catching Fire seems to have its own embers beneath each page, glowing strongly as the story progresses. Panem’s anger — and the Capitol’s — simmers just below the surface, threatening to blow the entire thing wide open as though it’s doused in kerosene. I had a hard time believing Katniss was so naive as to think she couldn’t possibly be seen as the face of a rebellion, the eternal symbol of hope and defiance in the face of the Capitol’s tyrannical rule. Still, she genuinely seemed shocked over the charges brought against her . . . at least, at first. Then, with dogged determination, she seemed to accept them — and, eventually, embrace them. I like that about her.

The second novel in Collins’s series definitely felt like a second novel to me; we know all about the terrible things that have happened before, and we know terrible things are yet to come. I didn’t feel any relief as the novel opened, knowing that Peeta and Katniss were back in their district — because surely, all sorts of awful stuff was bound to hit them in the very near future. And it did. Similarly, we know another book will follow this one, furthering the storyline as more and more kerosene is added to the flames in Panem. As with The Hunger Games, we end on a serious cliff-hanger — and I dug my fingers into the book as though I, too, were hanging off the edge of a precipice. It was scary.

Though I was unbelievably invested in this book and spent two consecutive nights reading until 2 a.m. to finish, I have to say that some of the plot points here felt very familiar — as though we’ve already lived this before (maybe because we have?). I didn’t see some of the plot twists coming, but I did have a pretty good idea why things were happening as they were (sorry for the vagueness here, but I’m trying so hard not to ruin anything!). It was hard for me to believe that Katniss — determined, brave, loving — didn’t understand it, too. But if I’m putting myself in her worn shoes, I guess it would be hard to see what’s sometimes right in front of us. Especially if we don’t want to. Though it just bothered me, I guess.

A worthy, compelling and heart-pounding read that furthers the plot — and world-building — of Suzanne Collins’ outstanding The Hunger Games and brings up many questions about government, society and media, but don’t expect to find any relief after finishing. That seems as elusive as quieting a mockingjay.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0439023491 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy purchased by Meg