Tag Archives: The Hunger Games

The Re-Reading Project: The Clan of the Cave Bear

The naked child ran out of the hide-covered lean-to toward the rocky beach at the bend in the small river. It didn’t occur to her to look back. Nothing in her experience ever gave her reason to doubt the shelter and those within it would be there when she returned.

She splashed into the river and felt rocks and sand shift under her feet as the shore fell off sharply. She dived into the cold water and came up sputtering, then reached out with sure strokes for the steep opposite bank. She had learned to swim before she learned to walk and, at five, was at ease in the water. Swimming was often the only way a river could be crossed.

The girl played for a while, swimming back and forth, then let the current float her downstream. Where the river widened and bubbled over rocks, she stood up and waded to shore, then walked back to the beach and began sorting pebbles. She had just put a stone on top of a pile of especially pretty ones when the earth began to tremble.

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel is the first book in the Earth’s Children series and was published in 1980, two years before I was born. I must have read the first four books in the series sometime between 1990 (when the fourth, Plains of Passage was published) and 1995, because only the last two books in the series appear on the record I started keeping at thirteen. And yet, my copy of The Clan of the Cave Bear is battered and heavily creased, so I must’ve read it a few times before I started recording my reading. I took the picture below before I started re-reading my original copy. It’s even more messed up now, in that way that well-thumbed and well-loved books are:

The Clan of the Cave Bear

It’s a dense book, almost 500 pages, and because the subject matter is both academic and mature, it’s strange to think of my child  self reading it. I can’t imagine any of the kids I know who are around that age reading this book, but I can recall reading and loving these books, taking the things I read in stride, but possibly not understanding quite a bit of it. My precociousness when it comes to reading is what makes me more open-minded about kids reading outside their age range, I imagine, because I don’t think I was damaged by the experience of reading this book so young.

But I’m absolutely positive I was influenced by it, even the parts I didn’t fully understand or absorb. The same kid who loved reading about how the siblings set up their new home in The Boxcar Children consumed the highly detailed story of how a traveling group of Neanderthals adopted Ayla, a young Cro-Magnon girl, and made a new cave their home. This same kid became a woman who loved the world-building of excellent fantasy novels like The Song of Ice and Fire books.

The series is categorized as historical fiction, but it seems to me that it would be more appropriately labeled speculative fiction, as it contains some of the same elements. I think people think of a future setting or sci-fi or fantasy tropes when they think of speculative fiction and Auel has instead speculated on the lives of our ancestors. With each book, she took the “known” information and relevant theories of the time and wove this research into a long, engrossing tale of how imagined characters would live during a period of significant advancement for the human species.

There was a significantly longer gap in publication with each book (two years between the first two, three for the next book, then five for the fourth). Our understanding of our early ancestors changed deeply over the ten-year period that the first four books were published. It took twelve years for the fifth book to be released, which represents another giant leap in what archaeologists and anthropologists understood about people and the Earth during the time Auel was writing about. My own life also made a significant leap. I was eight when the fourth book was published in 1990 and when I finally read The Shelters of Stone in 2003 (over a year after it was published), I was 21 years old. I had changed radically, but not so much that I didn’t feel the need to know what happened to Ayla and Jondalar, the man she heals and falls in love with in the second book, The Valley of Horses. When the last book of the series, The Land of the Painted Caves, was published nine (more) years later, in 2011, I had been living in New Orleans for four years and my life once again looked very different. I have literally grown up with these books. When I read The Land of the Painted Caves in 2011, I had just written one of my first bragging on posts and would, a few days after finishing it, change the name of my blog.

Re-reading The Clan of the Cave Bear this month (and it took me most of the month: you can see the book in two of the photos in this collage from my writers’ retreat, which took place at the beginning of the month) was almost akin to time travel. I felt like the pre-teen version of myself was cuddled against me, reading along from under my arm. I often felt like asking her, “Didn’t it scare you, the way that Ayla loses her family and her people and is on her own?” and “What did you think about all of the rigid rules that Clan women had to follow?” I wondered what she made of the occasions when Ayla is raped, in a way that is clearly rape, but depicted as happening in a social structure without a concept for sex without consent. I knew that those scenes (relatively few, near the latter half of the book and not especially graphic after the first time) stuck with me as something that I remembered when I thought of the book. While it’s an important plot point and it says a lot about the social norms of the people that are depicted in the book, far more words and pages are devoted to details about the plant and animal life that the clan people harvest for medicine and food.

While there is far more sex (almost exclusively romantic and consensual) in the rest of the series (particularly the third book), this would have been one of the first times I would’ve read about sex. I would’ve read the third book, the most romance novel-ish of the series up till that point, around the same time I read my first actual romance novel, clandestinely from my mother’s bookshelf (I’ll re-read that too, later this year).

I thought I would find The Clan of the Cave Bear really boring (some of the later books are a bit), the writing banal and bland, but that wasn’t the case at all. I was engrossed from the first page, sucked back into this world that captured my imagination so vividly so early in my life as a reader (before I knew I wanted to be a writer, in fact). I suspect, having re-read it now at age 32, that I owe a lot of my interest in archaeology  and anthropology (I almost minored in college) to this series. Not only that, but a lot of my feminist philosophy and social politics probably began forming while I was reading The Clan of the Cave Bear as a young girlI found myself referencing the book in numerous conversations as I was re-reading it, which also helped me realize how incredibly influential the book was to me.

Reading The Clan of the Cave Bear so young might’ve most influenced what I would love to read for the rest of my life. I could see that the Earth’s Children is a series that required as much complex world-building as George R.R. Martin’s The Song of Ice and Fire books (and perhaps waiting for the last two EC books prepared me for my wait for The Winds of Winter now). Moreover, I enjoyed that total immersion in a new world that the best fantasy series provide. I could see in Ayla some of what I later loved about Katniss in The Hunger Games, or Ellie Linton from the Tomorrow books. Perhaps because I had just finished reading Ronlyn Domingue’s The Chronicle of Secret Riven for review, I found parallels between the Utopian society depicted in that speculative fiction and the early socialism and mysticism depicted in Auel’s historical/speculative fiction series.

Most of all, what I felt re-reading The Clan of the Cave Bear was a desire to re-read the rest of the books in the Earth’s Children series, to delve once more into The Song of Ice and Fire books, and The Hunger Games, the Tomorrow books and Harry Potter. I wanted to stay immersed in a fictional world that felt real and vital, that made me think and made me care deeply for the characters. The Earth’s Children series are the only books Jean M. Auel is known to have published, but I’m glad to say that The Clan of the Cave Bear has stood the test of time for me.

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Reading in Q3 – July

July was a month for freelancing, which meant lots and lots of good reading.

While I Live, John Marsden – If you love Hunger Games, you have to read Marsden’s Australian series, which starts with Tomorrow, When the War Began. I think of it as a precursor to Hunger Games, because it features a strong, kick-ass girl as a protagonist and kids fighting a war. While I Live is the first of a trilogy, The Ellie Chronicles, that follows the Tomorrow series. It features Ellie and the gang recovering during an uneasy peace following the treaty that ended the war. Except this “peace” includes some pretty brutal stuff, as well as Ellie’s struggle to run her family’s farm and take care of her and Gavin. I was 19 when I read started reading the Tomorrow series, so it’s a bit odd and cool to read the follow-up trilogy after experiencing The Hunger Games.

A More Noble Cause, Rachel L. Emanuel + Alexander P. Tureaud, Jr. – Read the 225 review here.

The Cinderella Deal and Trust Me On This, Jennifer Crusie – These are plain fun and also, funny. Toni introduced me to Jennifer Crusie. I read all of Crusie’s books that Toni had while I was staying at her house during Gustav. The intro to Trust Me On This says it’s Crusie’s first screwball comedy, which was odd to me because all of her books seem like screwball comedies to me. They’re comedic romances which usually feature a cast of interesting characters and implausible but interesting events, if I’d have to describe them.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling – This was my third time reading the last Harry Potter book. I probably shouldn’t have read it right before seeing the last movie, because I was extremely conscious of the differences between the book and the movie, which has never really bothered me before. It was pretty cool to watch Part 1 of the last movie while re-reading the book, though. And it’s always fun to re-visit this world, which is so comforting and real.

Living Dead in Dallas, Charlaine Harris – I read the first book in the Sookie Stackhouse series back in December of 2009 and bought this second book soon after, but didn’t feel terribly compelled to read it. I’d enjoyed the first book, but wasn’t caught up. Reading this second one, I did get well and truly caught up. So much so that I asked my mom to find the next few books at the used bookstore we love and send them to me. It boggles my mind that some people don’t realize that True Blood is based on a series of books, this series, but several people have been surprised to find that out. Now that I’m more invested in the books, I have to say that while there are a lot of differences between the show and the books (of course), Anna Paquin has really nailed Sookie. But maybe I think that because I picture Paquin’s Sookie in my head while I read. 🙂 Well, regardless, the books confirm that I really prefer Eric to Alcide and Alcide to Bill.

Hollywood Car Wash, Lori Culwell – Read the NOLAFemmes review here.

Club Dead and Dead to the World, Charlaine Harris – Eating these up like candy, reading one book every three days or less. Dead to the World may be my favorite so far, but as an Eric fan, that’s probably to be expected. Also, since this book covers the current season of True Blood, it was interesting to see Sunday’s episode. It diverged enormously from the book and in some ways, I was okay with that and in some ways, I was actually a little disappointed.

I read a TON of books in August and I’ll post my mini-reviews later this month.

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Reading in Q2 – May and June

This year, I’ve started writing a quarterly report of my reading. Now that the second quarter has come to a close, it’s time for a new post. April’s installment included a ton of audio books, so I went ahead and blogged those mini-reviews. As always, I’m not including books that I’ve read for review elsewhere, namely 225, unless the review has already been published. This list represents my leisure reading and as such, it’s fairly short this go-round because I got caught up in another movie job the last few months. Quality, not quantity, is the name of the game in any case.

May

Dirtdobber Blues by Cyril Vetter – My review was published this month in 225 Magazine.

Inkspell by Cornelia Funke and read by Brendan Fraser – I was listening to this extremely long audio book when I abruptly switched gears from The Great Louisiana Tour to my latest movie job, so I kept listening to it whenever I happened to be in the car. Since I had liked Inkheart, but found it an enormously slow read, I initially thought listening to the audio would be faster. It wasn’t faster since I listened to it in small chunks, but it was vastly entertaining because it was read by the extremely talented Brendan Fraser, who played the Mo in the movie version of Inkheart. He was such a good reader for this book and completely made the experience for me. I tried to find the last book, Inkdeath, on audio but my library only has the digital download version of it and I don’t know how I’m going to listen to it in the car. Anyway, I find these books very dense and slow, but they tend to pick up so dramatically at the end that you can’t help but continue in the series.

Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, Pete Earley – Read the 225 review here.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – This is a series that is not at all slow. I’ve been intrigued by all the casting news for the movie, so I decided to re-read the series. I originally read each of the books in less than 8 hours (overnight, before having to go to work on no sleep) the first time and without that first-time-read urgency, I still found the story compelling. The first in the series, The Hunger Games, sets the tone for an incredible, life-changing read. I’m not kidding. These books are infectious. It’s hard not to think about them even when you’ve put the book down.

June

Downriver, Jeanne M. Leiby – I wrote about Jeanne and Downriver for 225.

Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – In this second “less urgent” reading of the series, I still read each of the books in 2 or 3 days. I didn’t know how she was going to match the first book, but she ups the ante with each one and they’re just as interesting upon a second read. They are absolutely brutal (though not gratuitously), beautiful books. I’ve so rarely experienced a character so vivid and real as Katniss, so absolutely herself at all times. I highly recommend Suzanne Collins’s younger reader series Gregor the Overlander, which I was already a fan of when The Hunger Games came out. Collins is an incredible, unique writer and I think her book have the breathless pace that they do because of her t.v./movie writing experience.

The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel – I’ve been reading Auel’s Earth’s Children series most of my life. There was a movie of the first book, Clan of the Cave Bear, which came out when I was 4 and I think we later watched it in school. These books are 600+ novels about prehistoric people and there has been a larger time gap between the publications of the last few books. Auel does an enormous amount of research for each book and it really shows. Never more so than this last one, where I think the research overshadowed the story. There was so much repetition in this 757-page book (for example, every time Ayla meets someone new, which she does a lot in this book, they notice her accent, plus they usually have to exchange several sentences of names and ties, including the characters we already know). I don’t remember the other books being quite this stilted and overburdened with repetition and research, but I’ve been a different person and reader each time I’ve read one (it was 2003 when I read the last one) and they’re so long that I haven’t re-read any of the books in a long time. I’m glad I read it and I may re-read the earlier books at some point, but I was largely disappointed with this last book in the series.

My movie job has ended and I’m looking forward to reading a lot more, so check in for the next quarterly reading report. 🙂

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Emilie’s 2010 Best List

I’ve been thinking about this post in the back of my head for the last few weeks. And now it’s come time to look back at my favorites of the year…

Books are pretty easy because I read fewer books this year than…ever. At least, any year since I’ve been keeping track and that’s a decade’s worth of reading. The last time I read fewer than 100 books in a year was my second year of grad school and I read considerably fewer than 100 books this year. So my quantity was down, but not the quality – a read quite a few books this year that I’d had on my to-read list a while.

1. Kai Meyer‘s The Dark Reflections Trilogy and most of The Wave Walkers Trilogy
2. Rebecca Cantrell‘s A Trace of Smoke
3. Audrey Niffennegger‘s The Time Traveler’s Wife
4. John Kennedy Toole‘s A Confederacy of Dunces
5. Alice Sebold‘s The Lovely Bones
6. David Madden‘s Abducted by Circumstance
7. Mary McMyne‘s Wait. (manuscript)
8. Suzanne Collins‘s last Hunger Games book Mockingjay
9. M.O. Walsh‘s The Prospect of Magic
10. Stieg Larsson‘s Millennium Trilogy (still working on the last, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest)

In the interests of full disclosure, I have some reservations about labeling some of these “best,” as I had some issues with a few of these books – notably Stieg Larsson’s books and The Lovely Bones – but they are unconditionally the ones that I invested the most time in, spent time thinking about. And there are some absolutely stellar BEST books on this list. And, of course, I read dozens of short stories through my work with Narrative, several of which I’d love to put on a best list, but can’t disclose. Interestingly, there’s no non-fiction on my list this year.

I actually saw quite a few movies in the theater this year, or maybe they stand out because I quite liked so many that I saw there. Rentals were often disappointing – slightly better than I’d expected or boring or not as good as I’d heard. So this is tough, but the movies I enjoyed the most this year:

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (I have to do it, it was so good…)
2. Inception (I saw it 3.5 times in the theater)
3. Toy Story 3 (Pixar has always been really smart with these sequels)
4. Easy A (it was as funny and good as my favorite 80s comedies)
5. Red (it was like Sneakers jacked up, so of course I loved it)
6. Exit Through the Gift Shop (of course, it’s about Banksy)
7. Going the Distance, Get Him to the Greek (a tie)
8. Twilight: Eclipse and How to Train Your Dragon (a tie)
9. Nine (I love musicals)
10. The Kids are Alright

Honorable mentions: Last Station, Hereafter, Black Swan, True Grit, Despicable Me, The Ramen Girl, St. Trinian’s, Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, The Young Victoria and Coco Before Chanel.

TV had to take a serious back burner this year because I never knew when I’d get home from work and had so much going on. This list is basically comprised of the shows that I kept up with in the chaos. Also, it should be said that I watched every episode of Law & Order SVU through Season 10 this year.

1. So You Think You Can Dance
2. Survivor
3. Castle
4. Glee
5. Raising Hope
6. Dancing with the Stars
7. United States of Tara
8. How I Met Your Mother
9. Bones
10. Fringe

My super notables:  The Tudors, In Plain Sight and 30 Rock.

I might go so far as to say that music was one of my biggest influences this year. I probably went to more concerts this year than I have every other year combined. Because my favorite songs are generally still my favorite songs from last year and the year before (with a few new exceptions), I’d much rather outline the best concerts of the year and the cds that I’ve been listening to obsessively.

CDs:

1. Lissie‘s Catching a Tiger, as well as her EP Why You Runnin’
2. Roisin Murphy‘s Ruby Blue
3. Mark Growden‘s Saint Judas
4. The Dresden Dolls‘s Yes, Virginia…
5. Black Gold‘s Rush

Shows:

1. Dresden Dolls at Tipitina’s in New Orleans
2. Black Gold at Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans
3. Citizen Cope at Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans
4. Simon Lott at Hi Ho Lounge in New Orleans
5. Mark Growden at Circle Bar in New Orleans

I think that just about covers the highlights of 2010, so all that’s left to say is Happy 2011!

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Show business, y’all

You might remember that in my (re)birth(day)(2010) post, shortly after my birthday, I mentioned that I got called in for a movie for two days. That movie was (at the time) called Brother’s Keeper and it stars John Cena, Patricia Clarkson and Danny Glover (the first and last of whom I met briefly while I was on set). It was an awesome experience.

The movie has since been re-titled Legendary and the trailer has just come out! If a scene looks like it takes place in a gym, I was probably there. My job was to run the scoreboard for all of the wrestling scenes, which were mainly shot at the same time, during those two days. So check out the trailer:

So, around April, I referred to my “new job,” which has been keeping me busy still. I’ve alluded to the fact that I’m working on a movie. But I haven’t said much more than that.

The same team that made Legendary — WWE Films — is making several movies in New Orleans, back-to-back. Brother’s Keeper/Legendary was the second film. In April, I started work on the fourth film and we’ve just finished the fifth and are about to begin the sixth. I don’t know much about the third film, but I was lucky enough to see the first film, Knucklehead, and it’s very good–very funny and charming. I can’t wait till it’s officially released. It shows up on Netflix, but without a release date yet.

I love my job, but it doesn’t leave much time or energy for anything else. I’ve been taking lots of notes and feeling very creative – but not very much writing at all. Reading also went by the wayside. I usually read at least ten books a month, but I think I’ve managed five since April. Maybe. I have  been watching movies, though.

Which has been something of a big deal. I *hated* the films The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Lovely Bones and reading the books they were based on became something of an issue in how I perceived the movie. Loved Eclipse, though I knew I would. Hated the remake of Bad Lieutenant (also filmed in New Orleans), which I knew I would. I never knew Mackenzie Astin (Iron Will!) was the younger brother of Sean Astin, which I discovered while looking up some facts for my last post. Thought Crazy Heart, while good, wasn’t as good as I’d heard, and Valentine’s Day was better than I’d expected (especially near the end, the last scene with Julia Roberts). Leap Year and When in Rome were both supremely cute, darnit! Found myself ruminating on both The Young Victoria and Amelia several days after I watched them. And The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus moved me in indescribable ways.

I’m going to have a hard time picking my best of the year in movies, though maybe an easy time with the books category since I’ll have read so few. Though I WILL make time for Mockingjay when it comes out at the end of next month. I probably won’t have much of a choice. I read the first book in one single night, all night, even though I had to be at work for like 7 a.m. the next morning. 🙂 It comes out on a Saturday, so maybe I’ll have to stay up all night and into the day Sunday reading it and then go to work. But I WILL read that book.

So, that’s the skinny on my job and a general overview of all the writing/reading I haven’t been doing and all the movies I’ve seen lately.  In case you were wondering. 🙂

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Fess Up Friday (the short hair edition)

That’s right, I have chopped off my hair for Locks of Love, the official summer hair cut. When I get a pic I like, I’ll maybe switch it out so everybody can see. I’ve gotten “Amelie,” “retro,” and “babydoll” as comments, if that gives you any idea.

Wasn’t sick at all this week, but I did somehow lock myself out of my bedroom while I was in my pajamas. Thank goodness for those painters and their paint knife after my letter opener broke.

So, I’m doing better with cutting down on my t.v., though I did watch AI and I have to say that, all respect to Danny Gokey, but the voters got it right with Adam and Kris. And Kris! He totally showed Adam up, which I didn’t think was possible. I had just been saying that though I love both “Heartless” and “Blame It on the Alcohol,” both songs were pretty silly performed live on AI. A lot of posturing and rough negotiating with all of the synths or whatever. And as if he heard me, Kris performed an acoustic “Heartless.” Whoa! Freaking whoa! And not only was it just a freaking great arrangement, it also demonstrated how amazing the lyrics are (that was clear in the original, but with a stripped-down version, they just jumped out at you). So even though I was unfortunately wrong with the top 3, I was spot on about the top 2. And you know what? Kris could win this, he really could. And Adam’s gonna have an amazing career no matter what, so it’s all gravy.

But you know what I’ve been overdosing on this week? Reading! I read 3 young adult books in like 2 days. The last, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, I read pretty much straight through last night/this morning. Thought I’d read a chapter as I was trying to fall asleep and got so consumed with the story, just had to know what happened, that I read until I finished at 5:31 this morning. And of course, it’s the first in the series and of course the next isn’t coming out till September. Oh, how will I ever wait to find out what happens next? Somebody send me an ARC! So even though my site says I’m reading, The Song Is You and that is true, I’m usually reading like five or six things at once. But The Hunger Games. Seriously, read this book. It is inventive and brutal and gorgeous, about a future society in North America that sends 24 “tributes” from its 12 districts to fight until only one survives. I love how some of the best characters in these brutal future-society books (think John Marsden’s Tomorrow series) are kick ass girls like Ripley and Barbara.

The socializing – I’m still doing quite a bit of that. Drove up to Baton Rouge for an “Electric Ladies” lunch celebrating David Madden (see pic) and went to Bud’s Broiler for the first time and the Insectarium. Overall, however, I’m doing pretty good at saying no to invitations (sorry!!!! I promise I’ll be less of a hermit soon!!!).

But that’s enough about how I’m failing to use my time wisely. Let me update you on all the progress I’ve made.

New words:

5.10 = 1,547 (3 scenes)
5.11 = 3,179 (2 scenes)
5.12 = 613 (1 scene)
5.13 = 558 (1/2 scene)
5.14 = 599 (2nd 1/2 scene)

But it’s not all about new words. I actually generated a significant amount of new words and scenes since last October, in preparation for filling out the parts that needed more. I have one complete draft and lots of loose material to work with. So the greatest part of the work I’ve been doing has been splicing the new work and the old material together, or editing. So, how’s this for linear thinking – I made an enormous jump and I have about 180 pages “done.” I’ll continue with my splicing and hope to have a few days or a full week at the end to do one more pass to make everything connect and work the way I’d like it to. Makes the book sound like a machine, doesn’t it?

During all the test runs I’ve taken it on, the book is performing well. Just like a top-end sports car, purring and growling enthusiastically, just revving up to show off what it can do. A friend recently asked me how the writing was going and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t sigh and shake my head and offer a lot of excuses. I grinned and chirped, “Great!” And meant it. That feels so good.

Toni sponsored a book-giveaway on my blog. Someday I’ll be more democratic with my book-giveaways, but this time instead of making y’all work for it, I gave the books to people I knew would love them. So the copy of Allison Brennan‘s Sudden Death went to Pam Gauxtreaux and the copies of Toni’s first two books (they’re gonna be re-released this summer under new titles) went to Kristin Sanders.

So, to conclude, a few items that grabbed my attention this week:

This is a GREAT idea (Amazon to reprint books).

This makes me incredibly sad (Coconut Beach).

And this is fascinating (Dan Baum, New Yorker, a story told on Twitter).

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