“The Hunger Games” Suzanne Collins

The hunger gamesRated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2018. The Hunger Games #1 (Special Edition). (Includes two interviews: “Interview with Suzanne Collins” and “Suzanne Collins and Walter Dean Myers on writing about war.”)

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12 with her mother and little sister Prim. She and her best friend Gale have been hunting in the woods ever since their fathers died in a coal-mining explosion when she was eleven. The woods provide food for their poor families – even though poaching is an offense the rich Capitol punishes with death.

The Capitol rules its 12 Districts with an iron fist, keeping everyone poor and forcing two children from each district to fight to the death in the annual Hunger Games. Each year residents are forced to attend the Reaping where names are drawn. When Prim’s name is called Katniss is shocked, and quickly volunteers herself as a Tribute to protect her.

She and Peeta Mellark, the other Tribute from her district, are assigned a Sponsor. They are encouraged to pretend to be star-crossed lovers, to play on the public’s feelings and get costly supplies delivered during the Games. What Katniss doesn’t know is that Peeta has been in love with her since he was five years old. As she sorts through her confused feelings about him and Gale, she will have to cross an invisible line in her mind if she wants them to survive.

I first read the Hunger Games series sometime in 2011 so, after reading “The ballad of songbirds and snakes,” I needed to refresh my memory on Professor Snow and the others in the series. This second reading was as exciting as the first, and I look forward to reading “Catching fire,” the next book in the series.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

“The ballad of songbirds and snakes” Suzanne Collins

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Scholastic. (The Hunger Games #0). Published May 19, 2020.

The ballad of songbirds and snakesCoriolanus Snow endured hunger, deprivation, and the loss of both parents during the Rebel siege on the Capitol. His cousin’s bargaining abilities at the Black Market enabled them to survive, but the Snow family fortune was destroyed. Coriolanus is determined to keep it secret that the Snows, one of the Capitol’s Old Guard families, is poor.

His favorite professor at the Academy was able to get him assigned to one of the tributes for the upcoming Hunger Games as a student mentor, so he has a chance to vie for a University scholarship. Coriolanus knows winning the Games is his only hope to having a future, and is desperate to win. When he’s assigned Lucy Gray Baird from District 12 he’s disappointed because he’d hoped for a strong boy, however, her musical abilities and joie de vivre help to change his mind.

As he spends time with Lucy Gray, he begins to think of her as a person instead of as a tribute. His determination to protect her from the other tributes, and to win, begins to override rational thoughts until the lines between right and wrong get blurred. As time goes on Coriolanus’ determination to always win, and to always come out on top, will forever change their lives.

When I was given the opportunity to read this ARC, I wondered if it would be as interesting as the other books in The Hunger Games series because, after all, it IS about the very evil President Snow. However, not only is it exciting, but I found myself feeling sorry for Coriolanus. SORRY for HIM?! I can hear gasps echoing around the world, but let me preface that comment. I felt sorry for him in the BEGINNING and MIDDLE of the book, but definitely not by the end. Make sure to read the book to find out why.

I’m now off to reread The Hunger Games series and decipher clues revealed in “The ballad of songbirds and snakes.” I won’t be surprised if Collins writes another follow up to the Coriolanus Snow saga.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

“Blacktop wasteland” Shawn A. Cosby

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Flatiron Books. To be published July 14, 2020.

Blacktop WastelandBeauregard’s father was involved with shady business dealings but taught him about life and fast cars before he disappeared, leaving his son to mourn his loss. Bug now had a wife and kids of his own, and carved out a life at his own car repair shop. Things were going well until a competitor started taking away his business. Now the bank refused to extend his loan because a developer wanted him to fail so he could take the land. His daughter didn’t have money for college, his young boys needed glasses and braces, his wife wanted a real house, and the nursing home had bills due for his mom’s care. Everything, and everyone, seemed to be conspiring against him.

In desperation Beauregard took on the role of getaway driver for a jewelry store heist. Even though he didn’t trust his partners he needed the money, and they needed him because of his skills behind the wheel. What Bug didn’t know was that a gangster owned the jewels they stole, and what he had planned for him and his family would need him to use every arsenal in his power to survive.

Wow! This good vs. bad guys action packed book is filled with car chases, and flying bullets. Our hero is hurt many times, but gets up and gets the job done. I was on the edge of my seat, turning pages as I read. It would make a GREAT movie, so I hope some movie producers or screenwriters read it and realize its potential.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“White Ivy” Susie Yang

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. Simon & Schuster. To be published September 8, 2020.

White IvyIvy was two years old when her parents moved from China to the United States and left her in the care of Meifeng, her grandmother. It took three years for them to save enough money to send for her so, when she arrived, they felt like strangers. Two years later Meifeng joined the family, but Ivy felt caught. In their world she was expected to become a doctor, and to be obedient but she was definitely not obedient and didn’t want to be a doctor. She wanted an exciting life of her own so filled her days reading about beautiful sad heroines.

In 6th grade her father became a technician at a prep school so her tuition was free. By that time she had become a petty thief with her grandmother, and stole the things she needed to fit in at school. Though she worked hard to emulate the lifestyles of the beautiful, rich girls who were now her classmates, and had fallen hard for Gideon Speyer the local heartthrob, she was always on the outskirts of school life.

Through college and beyond Ivy flits from relationship to relationship, refusing any involvements, but is thrilled when she runs into Gideon’s older sister. She makes sure she and Gideon rekindle their acquaintance, and becomes so ruthless and single minded in her pursuit of him that she loses track of the definition of true love.

The author made you really think hard about the characters, and threw in a few twists and turns I didn’t expect. I will highly recommend this book for Adults.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

“Little disasters” Sarah Vaughan

Rated 4 stars **** ARC.. ebook. Atria/Emily Bestler Books. To be published August 18, 2020.

Little DisastersLiz, Jess, Charlotte and Mel met at a prenatal class, and grew close through play dates and nights out together. Over the ten years of their friendship Liz, Charlotte and Mel always felt that Jess was a perfect mom because she had the cleanest house, cooked the best food, expertly parented her two boys, and got her figure back just a few weeks after giving birth to her third child.

However, shortly after Betsey’s birth, things seemed to change. Jess didn’t spend as much time with her friends; was easily distracted, and was obsessed with cleaning. Because her husband worked long hours, she was left to care for three small children on her own. She internalized everything and, though she grew more and more withdrawn, no one realized she was hiding a secret that would forever change all of their lives.

Through flashbacks and the present time, readers gain insight into secrets from Liz, Jess and Charlotte’s pasts that made them into the women they are today. As the situation with Jess gets darker and more complicated, and Liz struggles with her own issues, it is the bonds of friendship that keep their heads above water.

I thought the storyline between Liz and Jess was compelling and kept me guessing up until the very last page, but I disliked the flashbacks the author used to talk about their pasts. I thought there was too much back and forth going on between the past and present. However, because the subject matter is very important, I will recommend it for Adult readers.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Behind the red door” Megan Collins

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. ebook. Atria Books. To be published August 4, 2020.

Behind the red doorFern loves her daddy even though he was always distracted with his work. His research dealt with the effects of fear, and she was always part of his Experiments where he terrorized her for years in many ways then interviewed her about her feelings. Though she had always been truly afraid during the Experiments, his care during the follow up interviews made her feel important and loved. As she grew older the years she’d spent being tormented caused her to become anxious and develop nervous habits, but it never diminished her love for him.

When Ted called to ask for help packing for an upcoming move, Fern was thrilled because she believed he needed her. Once she arrived they took a trip to town where she picked up a book about a local woman who was kidnapped 20 years ago and was missing again. As reading about the kidnapping tugged at memories she’d long kept hidden, these remembrances began to turn her life upside down.

This book really bothered me. I can’t reveal what happened, but I can say I was not happy at how that particular situation ended. I also couldn’t understand how, as an educated Social Worker, she was so ignorant about her own father. I liked the suspense, and how she gave Fern a wonderfully loving and supportive husband.

I gave it 3 stars for its twists and turns, and will recommend it to Adults.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“The second home” Christina Clancy

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. St. Martin’s Press. To be published June 2, 2020.

The Second HomeAnn’s parents had recently been killed in an accident and she was desperate to rid herself of her family’s ramshackle summer home in Wellfleet, though it had been in their family for generations. Her urgency to sell also included the fact that she didn’t want her estranged brother Michael to know she was selling. They’d lost contact years earlier, after an especially horrific summer, and the anger she felt towards him had worsened over the years.

Michael and Ann were the same age and had become best friends at school so, since he got along well with her family, Ann convinced them to adopt him. The summer of 1999 was his first in Wellfleet, which he spent wrestling with his feelings about Ann. She had taken on a babysitting job with the Shaws, a rich family, contrasting their lives and loving how Mr. Shaw made her feel. While they tried to work through their issues, Poppy was busy getting high after falling in with a rough crowd of surfing locals. That summer changed the rest of their lives – forever.

Told through flashbacks and the present time, Ann, Michael and Poppy’s love for their summer home and the memories from Wellfleet (both good and bad) that tied them together, sink deeply into the reader. I was fully invested in their stories, and eagerly turned pages hoping the ending everything would end on a satisfying note.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.