“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.

 

“The House of Five Fortunes” Amanda Hughes

Rated 3 stars *** ebook. 2016. Lillis and James. Bold Women of the 20th Century #3. 2016.

The House of Five FortunesXiu’s mother bought an opium den, The House of Five Fortunes, in San Francisco after her husband fell ill and could no longer support the family. When she died Xiu inherited it, but was forced to hide the leadership skills she’d learned due to a possessive and tyrannical husband. Her mother had worked hard to make the business a success, even though there were few women business owners in Chinatown, but Xiu passively allowed her husband to hold the reins of her life and her empire because she loved him.

When he was killed Xiu took control again and, with the help of her friend Nuan and Madison a famous actor, they raised The House of Five Fortunes to greater heights. Though there was a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment, that didn’t stop Madison from falling in love with Xiu but, due to her being Chinese, they were not allowed to marry. When random murders began to be committed, the police and local Whites blamed the Chinese. Madison knew Xiu wasn’t safe but, when a massive race riot began in Chinatown, their lives were soon endangered along with all of the town’s inhabitants.

Though this book is in the Bold Women of the 20th Century series, I didn’t see Xiu as very bold. Her mother was strong, but I saw Xiu as weak and easy to manipulate. I thought her mother, Nuan, and Dandan the cook were strong female characters, not Xiu. In fact the strongest character in the book was Madison, and he was a man!

Descriptions of the United States in the 1870’s, life during the gold rush, and the building of the transcontinental railroad by Chinese immigrants were interesting to read. I was saddened to read of the many ways the Chinese were mistreated – ways that are mirrored in anti-Immigrant policies today. Our country may have travelled far during the past 150 years, but many unpleasant reminders from the past still rear their ugly heads.

Recommended for Adults.

“Summer on the bluffs” Sunny Hostin with Veronica Chambers

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. William Morrow (HarperColllins). Oak Bluffs #1. Coming Summer 2021. 385 p.

Summer on the BluffsAmelia and her husband Omar worked their way up from the bottom to become rich millionaires, and built a beautiful beach house in a historically black section of Oak Bluffs on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. There they relaxed, mingled with other well-heeled neighbors, had parties, and enjoyed the island’s beauty. Midway through their marriage they became godparents to Perry, Olivia and Billie. The young girls spent summers with them on the island, were introduced to cultural activities, travelled widely, and became like sisters to each other. Ama and Omar’s generous monetary gifts enabled them to attend the finest schools, and set them onto high paying career paths.

It’s 2020 and Ama is now alone, as Omar passed away five years earlier. Despite inner reservations she’s decided it was time to tell her girls important secrets she’s kept hidden from them for decades. She invites them to spend one final summer at the Bluffs, but she doesn’t know that Perry, Olivia and Billie are hiding secrets of their own. Can three grown women who have grown apart over the years return to the summers of their youth with a woman they have grown to see as a mother figure?

Each of the women are strong characters, although I think Perry could have been a little less whiny and a better listener. Ama’s character was deep and long-suffering, while the men were well rounded and had their own strengths (except for Jeremy). I enjoyed reading a little about the history of Oak Bluffs, as well as seeing life through the eyes of the “powerfully rich and famous, I can live anywhere” crowd. I spent several summer days there many years ago as part of the “working full time, I can only stay in the cheapest place” crowd, but I’m proud to say my adult self once got the brass ring on the famous Oak Bluffs carousel. I had to return it at the end of my ride, but it was fun to get a free ride!

This is book #1 of a planned series, but it’s unknown as to whether or not the same characters will be in the rest of the series or if the author will introduce another set of characters to spend time on the Bluffs.

Recommended for Adults.

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

 

“Someday” by David Levithan

Rated 5 stars ***** Alfred A. Knopf. 2018. 394 p.

SomedayA’s love story continues in this sequel to Every Day. When last we saw him in “Every Day,” A had decided to leave town because, though he didn’t want to leave Rhiannon, Poole was after him. He set Rhiannon up to be with Alexander, the boy whose body he’d been inhabiting that day, and left town.

Now far away in Denver, A continued to live his many lives. Every day he wondered how Rhiannon was doing, missing her, but feeling he’d made a good decision. For her part Rhiannon missed him too. She felt as if she and Alexander were good together, but he wasn’t A.

Poole returned, now calling himself X, and went after Nathan demanding A’s return. Nathan sought help from Rhiannon, who had already been in contact with A. It is up to A to figure out a way to safely return without getting caught up in X’s diabolical plans, while also wondering if there’s a way for him and Rhiannon to be together again.

Told from multiple points of views, readers get to see what’s inside X’s head as well as the thoughts of others who also change bodies every day. Levithan makes readers wonder if there really are people in the world that can inhabit our bodies for one day and we’d never know. Are there? Have they? I hear the strains of Twilight Zone music playing…

Recommended for teens ages 15 and older.

“Green Lantern: Legacy” by Minh Le. Illustrated by Andie Tong

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. DC Zoom. To be published January 21, 2020.

Green lantern legacyThirteen-year-old Vietnamese-American Tai Pham lives with his parents and grandmother above the Jade Market, her Vietnamese grocery store. Though someone keeps spitefully breaking the store windows, and his parents want her to sell because the neighborhood has changed, she refuses. After her death, Tai inherits her jade ring and soon finds out that owning it automatically makes him a Green Lantern – Guardian of the Planet.

Though he’s been warned about the dark side of power the more Tai learns about the powerful things he can do as a Green Lantern the more he starts to let everything get to his head – especially when Xander Griffin, a local billionaire, takes him under his wing. Tai will have to decide what kind of Green Lantern he wants to be, and will need to come to that decision very quickly.

Tai’s adventures, and the richly colored, detailed illustrations, make for quick page turning. It will keep even the most reluctant reader glued to its pages. I enjoyed reading about the first Vietnamese-American Green Lantern, and love that DC superheroes are being diversified – allowing even more readers to see themselves in its pages.

Highly recommended for ages 9-14.

“I escaped the world’s deadliest shark attack: The sinking of the USS Indianapolis, WW2” by Ellie Crowe & Scott Peters

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2019. Best Day Books for Young Readers. I escaped #3. Includes period photographs, “Survivor quotes,” “Did you know?,” “Shark facts & study guide,” and “How a 12-year-old cleared the captain’s name.”¬†

I escaped the world's deadliest shark attackSixteen-year-old Josh had joined the Navy for revenge against the Japanese after his father was killed in the Pearl Harbor attacks. He never expected the USS Indianapolis, a Navy warship with over 1100 men, to be torpedoed and that it would sink with over 300 men on board. It left him, and almost 900 other sailors, struggling to survive at sea while brazen sharks attacked them relentlessly.

Before reading this, I had never heard of the torpedoing and subsequent sinking of the USS Indianapolis by a Japanese submarine in the Philippine Sea on July 30, 1945. The story of the brave survivors (now down to 316) who endured 5 days of shark attacks, hunger, thirst, injuries and hopelessness is told in this well written book. Interspersed with Josh’s story are period photographs, which lend authenticity to an already authentic story.

I couldn’t pull myself away, and read this in one sitting, as the fast paced chapters kept me eagerly turning pages to learn the fate of these brave men. Reluctant readers will find the same eagerness to keep reading.

Highly recommended for ages 15 and older.

An electronic copy of the book was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.