“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.

 

“Jinxed” by Amy McCulloch

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. To be published January 1, 2020. Sourcebooks. Jinxed #1. 328 p.

JinxedEveryone has a baku, a cute robot that can look like a dog, cat, bird, insect or other animal. No one needs old-fashioned telephones or computers because bakus take care of all your technology needs. Bakus were created by companioneers in Moncha Corp., twelve-year-old Lacey’s dream job.

Lacey loves fixing bakus and inspecting old ones, so wire, metal, a 3D printer, and a soldering iron are her best friends. As a companioneer she’ll get to design bakus of the future so, if she can make it into Profectus Academy where students are trained on the latest technology, she knows her dream will come true.

While helping a friend find her lost baku, Lacey stumbles upon a large piece of metal that came from Moncha Corp. She takes it to her workshop and discovers it’s a ruined, but technologically sophisticated, cat baku she names Jinx. It takes all summer to repair him but, unlike other bakus, Jinx has a mind of his own and often disobeys Lacey – leading to all sorts of problems with her fellow classmates and teachers.

While trying to get through the baku battles that are part of her new life at Profectus, Jinx continues to show how different he is from other bakus. Lacey figures out Jinx is a Moncha Corp. secret, and tries her best to keep him out of the spotlight. She soon finds out someone else knows about Jinx, and will stop at nothing to take him from her.

Now THIS was an exciting book! I’m upset it’s part of a series, as I really hate reading books that are part of a series without the rest of the series in front of me. With the very open, and exciting ending, I NEEDED to have the rest of the series in front of me. Now I’m going to have to wait FOREVER to find out what happens next to Jinx and Lacey. Commence screaming now………….

Highly recommended for ages 11-15, IF you think you can finish without screaming because you want to read book two RIGHT NOW!

“Like Vanessa” by Tami Charles

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. ebook. 2018. Charlesbridge.

Like VanessaIt’s 1983 and, ever since Vanessa was a little girl, she and her grandfather have watched the Miss America Pageant, though she knows no one who looks like her has ever won. Her amazement knew no bounds when Vanessa Williams became the first Black woman to win the title. Despite her dark skin, wild looking hair and heavy body Vanessa has a secret hope that she could also, one day, walk that famous runway and win if only her skin was lighter.

Meanwhile real life intrudes on her dreams. Her father has ignored her for years, her mother disappeared when she was a little girl, her grandfather is a drunk during the week, and her best friend is drifting away. Vanessa finds ways to cope by journaling, reading, getting good grades in school, and singing at church with her cousin.

When Mrs. Walton, her chorus teacher, organizes a pageant at her middle school and invites her to become a contestant Vanessa is fearful, and unsure. Mrs. Walton takes her under her wing and helps her realize she has many talents. On the eve of participating in her very first pageant, disaster strikes Vanessa’s world in multiple ways, leaving her to figure out the true meaning of family and her role in it.

Recommended for readers ages 13-16.

 

“Taking flight: From war orphan to star ballerina” Michaela DePrince with Elaine DePrince

Rated 4 stars **** 2016. Ember. 246 p. (Includes an interview with Michaela DePrince).

TakingFlightHer parents in her Sierra Leone village loved their daughter Mabinty Bangura but, because of her leopard-like spots from vitiligo, she was shunned and despised by the villagers. Her parents could read, and defied tradition by educating her. They were a happy family until rebels killed her father. Without his support, she and her mother were forced to move into her despotic uncle’s house where they were starved. Within a short time her mother died, and she was abandoned at an orphanage.

Mabinty recounts her hard life in the orphanage, her adoption by an American family at the age of four, and her rebirth under the new name of Michaela. Inspired by a magazine picture, she was determined to become a ballerina. “Taking flight” is Michaela’s story of how she soared past the pain of her early life and into the world of ballet.

Michaela does an excellent job recounting her many trials and tribulations, the love she has for her parents and family members, as well as her successes. However the technical ballerina jargon used to describe various dance moves in several different chapters was very confusing. It would have been helpful to have a glossary, with photographs, of these dance terms at the end of the book.

Recommended for ages 12-18, due to the graphic nature of some of the war crimes described.

“From where I watch you” Shannon Grogan

Rated 2 stars ** 2015. Soho Teen. 291 p.

FromWhereIWatchYouSixteen-year-old Kara is angry with her dead sister and with her mother. When Kellen died, her father left home and her mother retreated into a shell until she found religion. Her newfound faith changed her into a Holy Roller, offering advice and words of hope to strangers in her new cafe, while ignoring her own daughter. Kara doesn’t mourn Kellen because she hated her, hinting at something Kellen did which was unforgivable.

Kara bakes all sorts of baked goods to forget her problems, spending time alternately hurting and loving Charlie, the only boy who’s ever been nice to her, and trying to ignore scary notes randomly left on a daily basis by a stalker. Despite numerous opportunities to take others into her confidence, she continually assures herself she could handle the situation. By the time she realizes she’s in over her head, it’s almost too late.

In alternating chapters readers take a very slow ride through Kara’s memories growing up with Kellen, leading up to the unveiling of her stalker. However, I was not impressed. I found Kara to be annoying because of the countless excuses she gave for not seeking help as the notes got progressively worse. Always second-guessing herself, she also didn’t have any self-confidence. The most interesting character in the book was Charlie.

Thus I will leave it up to you readers ages 14 and older to decide if you want to read it or not. I seem to be on a bad roll, as this is the fourth book in a row that didn’t thrill me.

“Die for you” Amy Fellner Dominy

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published November 8, 2016. Delacorte Press (Random House). 292 p. (Includes “Author’s Note” and “Resources.”)

dieforyouAfter Emma’s mother leaves her father for another man, Emma moves across town to be with her dad and help pick up the pieces of his life. Starting her senior year at a new school is rough, but meeting Dillon helped erase the darkness of hating her mom and seeing her dad’s pain. With Dillon she is able to love and be loved.

Emma and Dillon are so happy. They’ve promised to always be there for each other, to take care of each other, and to be together forever. However, it doesn’t take long before Emma finds that “forever” is more than just a word to Dillon. He always follows through on his promises. Always.

Dominy’s fast paced novel about what happens when relationships turn bad is sure to be an eye opener for many readers. The Author’s Note and Resources sections hold information that could unlock the cages of many relationships, making “Die for you” a book that needs to be on the shelves of every high school and public library.

Highly recommended for ages 14 and older.