Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Title: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Sci-fi, YA, Dystopian
Year Published: 2020

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is a dystopian sci-fi about a young Coriolanus Snow before he became President Snow. The story takes place many years earlier, before The Hunger Games trilogy, when Coriolanus was seventeen and climbing his way up in the Capitol in Panem.

We follow Coriolanus through the 10th Hunger Games in which he is a mentor to a tribute named Lucy Gray Baird from District 12. It’s tough in the arena and Coriolanus does whatever he can to help Lucy Gray win. Outside of the Games, Coriolanus begins to fall for Lucy Gray and starts showing his attraction for her. She notices and reciprocates.

After the Games, it was revealed to a higher up that Coriolanus assisted Lucy Gray in unethical ways so that she would win. He was forced to become a Peacekeeper but was allowed to choose which district to work in. He chose District 12 to be closer to Lucy Gray.

In District 12, Coriolanus learns that Lucy Gray, along with a few others, including Lucy Gray’s ex-boyfriend, were planning an escape. One of the other members in the plan was Sejanus Plinth. Sejanus was originally from District 2 but moved to the Capitol as a young kid and became good friends with Coriolanus. Sejanus was also a Peacekeeper in District 12. After having seen how poorly the District people were being treated, he vowed to help the small group escape. A crime occurs during the planning in which Coriolanus took part in, thus causing the escape to terminate.

Lucy Gray still wants to run away so Coriolanus agrees to go with her. He was also afraid the crime would catch up to him and didn’t want to be hanged. On the day he was to sneak out to run away with Lucy Gray, he gets a promotion and is required to head to District 2 the next morning. He has to choose between his future and the girl he loves. He chose love, but while they were out of District 12 in an area where the Peacekeepers were not monitoring, he finds the weapon he used during the murder and attempts to discard it. He also learns that Lucy Gray had betrayed him and goes after her to kill her, but he couldn’t find her. He returns to District 12 and leaves for training the next day.

During the flight to District 2, they made a stop at the Capitol. It turns out that the Head Gamemaker, Dr. Gaul, wanted to train Coriolanus at the university because Dr. Gaul found Coriolanus brilliant with his Games ideas.

In The Hunger Games trilogy, Coriolanus is the antagonist and someone we detest because of his cold-heartedness and brutal ruling. In The Ballad, he is the protagonist and someone we are supposed to like and feel sorry for. He does come across as a decent person in Ballad. His love for Lucy Gray was real. He went out of his way to help her win, even doing things he shouldn’t be doing. It felt as though he wanted her alive because she meant so much to him. Even if he never saw her again, at least she’d be able to live her life in the District. However, because he was found out, he got the opportunity to be with her and to really know her. She was all that she said she was: a singer and song writer; a free spirit. She was also very clever. In the Games, her cleverness helped her survive and it also, at one point, helped save his life.

The story goes much deeper than a dystopian story about a young adult falling in love and learning about who he is. I read the QA, which included the idea behind the story, and was completely surprised. I did get the sense of a struggle between an authoritarian world and a romanticism or “freedom” ideal. It wasn’t about which character I liked better or who I should like more than the other. It was more about understanding people’s behavior based not only on their upbringing but also the environment they’re exposed to. It was a very powerful book with so many hidden messages and meanings.

I wasn’t expecting to say this, but I’m totally shocked by how great this book was.

Book Review: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

A couple of weeks ago, I picked up the book, The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood at Barnes & Noble. It was B&N’s book club pick and I’ve never gone to a book club before so I figured I’d give this one a go. The book club experience was really enjoyable. I was super nervous but the others made it very welcoming. Our facilitator was also pretty cool. Her questions got us all thinking. I wasn’t able to finish the book before attending but we still had good and debatable conversations about it. A few days later I finished the book and found myself completely immersed and loving it.

The Testaments is the second book to The Handmaid’s Tale. I read The Handmaid’s Tale five years ago and liked it but it wasn’t as powerful as this one. And since it’s been awhile, I really can’t remember the details or the characters. What I do remember is that it was from one character’s point-of-view and the world she lived in was completely controlled.

The Testaments is written in first-person point-of-view through three female characters and tells their story. At first, I wasn’t so sure I liked the idea but as the story moved along, I began to really enjoy it. The Testaments is right up there with 1984 and Brave New World, and even A Clockwork Orange. Atwood mentioned something along the lines of, “2+2 sometimes equals 4.” In 1984, 2+2 always equals 5.

The Testaments is a powerful story about totalitarian in a dystopian society in what was once New England. It’s about control going awry and how three women, but mainly one strong woman with a plan to save the two from losing their lives and bringing down the Republic of Gilead.

When I purchased the book, I saw this notebook with the cover from The Handmaid’s Tale and just had to have it. I don’t have the book though (borrowed it from the library). Not sure what I’ll be using the notebook for.

The Infinite Sea Book Review

Title: The Infinite Sea (2nd book in The 5th Wave Trilogy)
Author: Rick Yancey
Genre: Sci-fi, apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic, dystopian, paranormal, YA

theinfinitesea[Side note] Today is the opening of the movie, The 5th Wave, and I wish I could go see it today but I’ve got a busy schedule.  I hope to get my chance sometime next week.

This is the second book to The 5th Wave trilogy.  This book delves deeper into Ringer.  She was not a main character in the first book and we only got to see a little piece of her at the military camp.  She came across as someone who added depth to another character. She was portrayed as mysterious, tough, and excellent with weapons, but otherwise there wasn’t much to her.  In The Infinite Sea, we get to see her weakness.  We get to be inside her brain and understand who she really is.

The story begins with the cast: Cassie, Ben Parish and his buddies from the camp including Ringer.  Ringer leaves their hideout and gets captured and returned to the camp where she is inserted with a head device and gets alien data downloaded into her brain.  Part of the download included some superpowers which allowed her to see in the dark and heal quickly from injuries.  In essence she becomes a carrier of alien knowledge, alien control, and super strength.  This “upgrade” to Ringer was Commander Vosch’s plan to use her to track down Evan Walker.  Evan is the guy Vosch wants.  This becomes an alien vs. alien thing.

There is a lot of action and suspense throughout the book.

I enjoyed this book just as much as the first book but there were a few things that I felt could have been explained better/deeper such as:

  1. Ringer’s character.  Even though we got to read from her first person, I didn’t feel that I could relate or even understand her.  There was back story to her past but it just didn’t feel very strong.  It didn’t feel believable.
  2. The upgrade to Ringer could have been explained better. I guess I wanted to know more about how she felt.  She had fevers and physical pain but it lacked emotional pain.  She had this “so what” attitude as if she accepted whatever was happening to her.  I felt that she could have fought it more.  Cried more.  Screamed more.  I thought she should have shone more anger toward these aliens and what they were doing and what they’ve done to humans.
  3. The soldier that aided and assisted Ringer was intriguing but there were things about him that I didn’t understand like when he stared blankly at Ringer when they had escaped. How was he controlled in that way?  Why weren’t some of the other humans controlled the same way?  When he came out of his control, he and Ringer just continued with their conversations as if it was normal.  He continued to take care of her as per directives and she just went along with it.  That was hard to believe.

Overall, this was a great read.  The humor was still great.  The weapons descriptions and actions/fight scenes were superb.  There was a bit of Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road, writing style in the book.  I’ve grown to like the no quotations conversations and was excited to see it in this book.  I cannot wait for the 3rd book!

The 5th Wave Book Review

Title: The 5th Wave
Author: Rick Yancey
Genre: Sci-fi, apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic, dystopian, paranormal, YA

the5thwaveimageI came upon this book because I saw the preview to the movie when I went to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens (great movie, btw, and watched it twice!) and did a search for the book to see if there was actually a book I could read first before I go see the movie later this month. I always like to read the book first before watching the movie because I like knowing the story from the original creator of the story. I learned that there was a book, published in 2013, so I bought it and finished it within three days.  I know, I’m a little late.

The story takes place in modern day and is about an alien invasion (think aliens similar to Ender’s Game Xenocide). The story begins with protagonists, Cassie Sullivan. She’s a high school student who is pretty much like your typical modern day high school teenager. She reminds me a lot of my 13-year-old in the way she thinks and dreams about boys, how she notices a certain cute boy who doesn’t notice her. I guess I can relate to that too because I clearly remember a boy I liked when I was in high school who didn’t know I existed. But, I liked the book not because I could relate to it in that way but because there was action and decisions and crazy things happening and good writing. I liked the world building and the character development although, I must say, I found some of the characters a bit weak in their character. For instance when the author switched from Cassie’s POV to Ben’s POV, I couldn’t clearly distinguish who it was at first because they sounded similar. Cassie tells us most, if not all, the back-story about the first wave through the fourth wave and brings us to the 5th wave so we’re not left wondering how they ended up in the 5th wave.

I enjoyed the author’s voice or writing style. It’s to the point and he often takes us ahead of the game so we are aware of what’s to come but the characters are not. I happen to really like this type of writing. I get irritated when the author withholds too much and I only know as much as the characters do or less.  The writing kind of reminds me of The Stand by Stephen King. Especially during the back story when the “plague” hit.

This book is categorized as a young adult (YA) but the language and sexual references didn’t give me the feel that this was a YA. The author may have tried to stay on the safer side but personally, if I have to think twice about letting my 13-year-old read it, then it’s not YA. Of course it’s nothing like the rated R contents in The Game of Thrones Series, but it’s not quite PG-13 like Hunger Games, Divergent, or Maze Runner either.

Overall, this was a great read. It was perfectly paced. New characters were thrown in later on so the reader could get a feel for the main protagonist. There was great tension buildup and great action scenes. The dialogue, sarcasm, and humor were awesome.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good post-apocalyptic sci-fi with military action and a touch of extraterrestrial.

I don’t know why but these two songs come to mind when I think of this book:

“Night Call” by Dead V

“Angel Warrior” by Dwayne Ford

Two Books I’m Awaiting to Read

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon was a book I read based on good reviews on Goodreads.com.  I really had no idea what I was getting myself into because it was my first sci-fi dystopian fantasy with paranormal, but I ended up loving it.  There’s something about Samantha’s writing that draws me to the characters and everything else.  I’m also really thrilled that this book will be turned into a movie and will be out sometime in 2018 (got this info from Ms. Shannon’s blog).  I learned of the next book, The Mime Order, through an e-mail from Barnes & Noble.  I knew it was in the works but didn’t know when it would be out so you can just imagine my excitement to learn that it’s this year!  I cannot wait to read it!  It will be available October 21st.

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Another book I’m awaiting is the third book in the Lightbringer series, The Broken Eye, by Brent Weeks.  The first book of the series, The Black Prism, started out a bit slow and I debated whether I should read the second book, The Blinding Knife, but I’m glad I did because now I’m beyond intrigued and have to read the third book.  This book will be out August 26th.

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