Riveting. There's no denying The Hunger Games books' ability to hold the attention of many people. These are books that demand the reader to keep reading, to ignore the time on the clock and read “just one more chapter.” Despite the lack of character development, and the flaws in logic that frequently pop up, or the conveniences thrown into the plot, these are stories that entertain and quicken pulses.
With any series as popular as this one, fans are expected to find faults with every subsequent book in the series. While I wouldn't call myself a fan, my personal feelings are that Catching Fire was a significant improvement over The Hunger Games. Catching Fire begins and ends with some huge bumps—the first thirty pages are filled with unnecessary recaps of the first book, and the final ten pages are filled with conveniences that were jarring in relation to the rest of the book—but despite these bumps the core of this novel is filled with great storytelling.
What made Catching Fire better than its predecessor? First of all there is the revolution. It adds an underlying layer of action to the primary plot. Much more is at stake in this one than the lives' of our young gladiators. Second, the supporting characters of Catching Fire are significantly more interesting and rounded. Hunger Games was filled with great characters who propelled the plot, but their purpose was obvious. Catching Fire's cast is largely two-, sometimes three-dimensional. Finally, Katniss, our protagonist, is much more believable. In The Hunger Games her allegiances and thoughts shifted uncontrollably from page to page without reason. There is still some of that here, but its toned down to the point where it's nearly within reason.
Catching Fire is an improvement in nearly every way except one: (small spoiler follows, so vague I'm not going to block it out) The strong woman known as Katniss in the first book appears weak and impotent by the end of the second book; in the final pages, we see a Katniss unable to lead a revolution without the help of a team of men. I'm hoping this shift of power is remedied in Mockingjay in a believable way that aids the plot. As it stands, she is nothing more than a pawn in the hands of her male counterparts. (end spoiler)
Here's to hoping Mockingjay has similar improvement over Catching Fire. This is a series I'd like to see end well.