Friday 29 May 2020

Book Review - Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Title: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Author: Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games (Book 0 - Prequel)
Publisher: Scholastic; 1 edition
Release Date: 19 May 2020
ISBN-13: 978-0702300172

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the 10th annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to out charm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.
The odds are against him. He's been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined - every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute... and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

My Review
I am a massive fan of the Hunger Games so when I heard this was coming out I was so excited, I stayed away from all publicity and gossip about the book - I just wanted to get the book and read it without anyone predisposition or conflicting opinions, so I didn't actually know anything about this book or it's content other than it was going to be a prequel story. 
My mum very kindly bought me this for my birthday - and then let me have it 3 months early (my birthday is in August!) but I was desperate to read it so was very thankful. 
I sat down to read it and was immediately a bit confused, it was a book about a Snow! That is a weird decision to make, but I was very intrigued and eager to read on, this could be very interesting indeed. Then I realized it wasn't just about A Snow, but about THE Snow, our very own President Snow, the psychopath who tortures Katniss in the original books. I knew I had to read on to see how he ended up the way he did, my only issue with it, is that Snow is 18 in this book during the 10th Hunger Games, that means that he is 82 years old in Katniss' 74th Hunger Games - I never knew he was that old. It's been a while since I read the books so I don't know if his age is mentioned in them, but I always imagined him to be late 60's, at a stretch early 70's. But to be in his 80's that blew my mind!!! This thought actually interrupted my reading a bit and I had to do some googling, but it's definitely the same person. So I just had to push that thought aside and go with it.
This book introduces us to Snow at 18 years of age, his family has fallen on hard times but they do their best to cover this up. He works hard at school in the hope of winning a scholarship or at least some sort of funding towards college. Coriolanus lives with his gran and cousin - Tigris. Of course we meet Tigris in the Hunger Games and she helps Katniss so it was interesting to see her so close to Snow and how they both grew up.
For the first time the Capitol Academy are changing the way the Hunger Games works, never before have tributes had mentors, so this year, the brightest students will be given a tribute to work with, and the student who gets the winning tribute will receive great admiration and merits towards college applications - Snow is desperate to win, he needs it for his future. He dreams of one day being President, but he needs the best education and brightest colleges to get there, so he is totally dismayed when he is given the tribute from district 12 - and the girl to top it off, a girl named Lucy Gray Baird. He has no hope of winning, the worst of the worst, he is sure the Dean is punishing him, but then he sees her reaping and some hope returns. 
Throughout the book we see how he interacts with his tribute, his fellow classmates and his family. Snow has an air of superiority but also appreciates the fact that he isn't on top at the moment, he takes free food when he can get it and struggles to find clothes that are presentable enough for TV. Below all of this though he does still have the arrogance that we know from the other books. At points throughout this book I found myself almost liking Snow and even maybe feeling for him, at other times I hated him just as much as I always have. It was weird to feel sympathy for someone I know I should dislike, for knowing what he becomes. 
The book is steady paced, I never felt it was too slow, and I think it was very well written. I read it in just two sittings, there is plenty of conflict, description and emotion. I would have liked to have it written from Lucy's perspective, but actually I think it was very effective being told from Snow, and I liked the whole new perspective. I would love to re-read the original books now to see if it affects how I view him as a character.
I actually hope there will be another book to follow on from this as it did leave some questions unanswered. 
Overall I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to any fans of the Hunger Games. 

My Rating

Tuesday 26 May 2020

Book Review - The Eve Illusion

Title: The Eve Illusion
Author: Giovanna & Tom Fletcher
Series: Eve of Man (Book 2)
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Release Date: 16 April 2020
ISBN-13: 978-0718184148

Eve is the last girl on earth.
For the last sixteen years, Eve has been a prisoner. Guarded by the Mothers. Trapped by her fate. Watched by the world.
Until she took her chance, and escaped.
Eve finally has the freedom she has wanted for so long, and with Bram she has the love. But both come at a price. In this dangerous new world beyond the Tower, the regime are only ever one step behind. And together with the desperate rebel group fighting against them, Eve has found herself in more danger than she ever could have imagined.
With everything stacked against them, can Eve and Bram survive?

My Review
I read book 1 last week and was desperate to get stuck into book 2, I had to wait a couple of days for it to be delivered from Amazon, but luckily it came quite quickly and I got stuck in straight away.
This book starts exactly where book 1 ended, with Bram and Eve on the top of the tower and ready to jump to freedom. The main difference in this book is that we now have a third narrator to offer us a different point of view and a look inside the tower now that Bram and Eve have left - we are now given an insight into the life of Michael - the security guard we met in book 1 during the elevator scene. 
I actually really liked Michael, he has been pushed into the deep end and is still under suspicion for his previous behaviour, but now things are changing in the Tower, he has the chance to prove himself, but he is so unsure and confused of who he should be supporting and how to make everyone happen. I thought his vulnerability made him very approachable and I couldn't help but like him and want him to do the right thing and get away from Vivian's clutches. His chapters were always quite dramatic and fast paced and I found myself wanting to know more.
In terms of Eve, she developed a lot as a character in this book, now that she has the freedom to explore and know the truth of the world. She stops being the 'mother's' little doll and starts to become an actual person with her own opinions and thoughts. She annoyed me at times as she would be really stubborn and pig-headed without listening to the thoughts of those around her who perhaps would know better, but then her fiery passion and impulsiveness is also one of her appealing features. 
Bram is still my favourite character and continues to be the character you can't help but root for, the one you want to get the girl, defeat his wicked father and just have a peaceful existence - like that's ever going to happen!!!
This book follows the band of 'Freevers' as the try to get used to life with Eve among them and plan moves for the future, it also shows us developments within the tower, namely the fate of Bram's best friend and roommate. 
I read this book in about 2 days, I just wanted to know what would happen. It was overall perhaps a bit slower in places than book 1 was, but I was never bored and there were enough twists and turns to keep me interested. Overall I liked the pacing of the book and there were a few surprises I didn't see coming. The very end - was quite predictable i thought, but the whole Vivian thing really threw me off - did not expect that at all!
I think this is a great book for the  YA audience, and although I am not the target reading group, I still really enjoyed it and cannot wait for book 3 - I can't believe I have to wait the best part of a year for it! :(  
On the whole this is a really good sequel to the first and really builds to what will hopefully be a smashing trilogy. I would definitely recommend this series. 

My Rating

Tuesday 12 May 2020

Book Review - Eve of Man

Title: Eve of Man
Author: Giovanna & Tom Fletcher
Series: Eve of Man Trilogy (Book 1)
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Release Date: May 2018
ISBN13: 9780718186340

Against all odds, she survived. The first girl born in fifty years.
They called her Eve.
Eve lives alone in the Tower under the strict gaze of the Mothers. She is prized and protected, because she is the last girl on earth.
Eve has always understood that the survival of the human race is in her hands. Now she's sixteen, and three males have been selected. Eve knows it's time to face her fate.
Until she meets Bram.
Eve sees a chance for something she never thought could be hers.
But how do you choose between love and the future of humanity?

My Review
If you have known me for any amount of time you will know that I love a good Dystopian Fiction, one of my best friends gave me this book as she ended up with 2 copies and she said that she thought I would enjoy it. Once again it was a book that ended up on my shelf with a 'i'll get to it at somepoint' idea. Looking for my next read this week, I decided to give this a go. I ddidn't know much about it but I read the synopsis and was intrigued. 
The book starts of right where you need to be, the hospitals are filling with baby boys, at first it just seems a little odd. Then it spreads to no baby girls born anywhere, with no idea why. Then we hear that after 50 years, a girl has been born and her name is Eve.
The premise of the book is very interesting, a world where women are dying out and no more are being born, with just one emerging. It is now going to be her responsibility to save humanity - the hopes are that she will grow up and birth children - hopefully more girls. 
We are introduced to Eve as a teenager, she has been brought up in the 'Dome' a safe haven above a world that has been all but destroyed below. She goes to lessons, keeps fit and spends time with the 'Mothers' a group of 4 or 5 women in their 70's who have devoted the remainder of their lives to bringing up Eve. Now she is reaching maturity Eve must think about meeting 'potentials', young men that have been selected as possible mates for Eve, but she has to decide if she is going to follow her duty or try to find love. Then she meets Bram, an important worker in the Dome and someone she may have known all of her life, all be it in a different form - computer programming can work wonders! Eve starts to question the existence she has been taught and begins to find cracks in the knowledge she has been given, but can she abandon the future of humanity. 
I liked Eve as a character, she is quite naive and seems content to just go along with life, but considering her upbringing and surroundings you can understand why she is the way she is and actually she does develop as the book went on. I did find her quite annoying throughout the book and at times I just wanted to shake her, but the supporting characters and the plot are strong enough to keep me enjoying the book and wanting to read on. 
Bram as a character is great, I love that we get to know some of his backstory too, it just makes him seem all the more real and actually more lovable. He is very strong willed and wants to do what is right. He is very impulsive and tends to get himself into more trouble than is necessary but that's part of his charm. I actually found myself reading the book to find out more about him and his role in everything more than Eve. 
The relationship with the 'Mothers' changes and develops throughout the book and it was great to see how they affected Eve and the situation. Vivien is a pure mystery, she seems really evil but also someone who holds a lot of secrets. I want to know more about her involvement and if she really can be that manipulative. 
The book itself is a bit slow as it starts, but it builds and develops and I found myself reading it through and not wanting to put it down. I read it in just over 2 sittings. It is very gripping and makes you want to know more. As soon as I finished I went online and ordered the second book, luckily for me, it arrived next day so I can get started! 
Definitely one for Dystopian fans, the writing will grip you and keep you hooked all the way through. 

My Rating

Saturday 9 May 2020

Book Review - The Kingdom

Title: The Kingdom
Author: Jess Rothenberg
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Release Date: 11 July 2019
ISBN-13: 978-1509899388

Welcome to the Kingdom… where ‘Happily Ever After’ isn’t just a promise, but a rule.
Glimmering like a jewel behind its gateway, The Kingdom™ is an immersive fantasy theme park where guests soar on virtual dragons, castles loom like giants, and bioengineered species―formerly extinct―roam free.
Ana is one of seven Fantasists, beautiful “princesses” engineered to make dreams come true. When she meets park employee Owen, Ana begins to experience emotions beyond her programming including, for the first time… love.
But the fairytale becomes a nightmare when Ana is accused of murdering Owen, igniting the trial of the century. Through courtroom testimony, interviews, and Ana’s memories of Owen, emerges a tale of love, lies, and cruelty―and what it truly means to be human.

My Review
I saw this book and was instantly attracted by the cover, I thought it was striking and I wanted to know more. The synopsis sounded intriguing and I was looking forward to getting stuck in. 
The book is set in a sort of futuristic Disney land and as a massive Disney fan, I was even more hooked. The princesses that you can meet and greet in the park are now called 'Fantasists' - 7 engineered robot style girls who are programmed to be welcoming, polite, and obedient. They are not made to think or feel, just to serve. 
We meet Ana, one of the fantasists who has been there for a while. She is starting to question her life - but that can't be right, they aren't made to think. They can't have opinions or feelings. Then she starts to notice other issues in the park, Nia and Eve start to act funny and Ana can't put her finger on why. Then she meets Owen, a new maintenance worker in the park and Ana starts to feel differently, she becomes almost obsessed with him - could this be love?
The premise of the book itself is really good, I like the set up and ideas behind it, and in truth I can see it happening in some ways in the future. But there was something about the book that fell a little bit short for me. The start is very slow and I found myself skim reading a bit to get things going. Ana is an okay narrator, but I don't feel like I truly connected with her as a character, there were so many things I didn't know but wanted to. Then there are the other Fantasists - 6 more girls who blend into the crowd. I actually really liked Nia and felt like I wanted to know more about her - as she starts to malfunction she becomes more and more interesting and I really wanted to follow her storyline closer, but we only get glances and glimpses retold from Ana's perspective. 
I liked Owen, he was mysterious, but their relationship felt a bit forced. It was unclear exactly what his purpose was but again he was a character I wanted to know more about. 
I like that this book has a darker side, you know it's coming from the blurb but it was interesting to watch it play out. The book is divided - you will have a chapter that is set in the court case and interviews discussing Ana's murder of Owen, and then a chapter from the year before, the events that led up to the crime. 
By about halfway through the pace of the book had sped up and I did find myself more engaged with it. My husband asked if I was enjoying it and I replied 'not sure but I'm certainly invested in finding out what happened.'
From the way Ana was presented and the relationship with Owen, I couldn't see how she would turn to murder, that hooked me in and made me read that bit faster, I had to know where it all went wrong. It was clear that these 'fantasists' were adapting and developing feelings and independent thoughts, but I wanted to know more, I also wanted to know what part the investors played in it all as they are mentioned quite a bit but not much is revealed. 
Overall I feel quite torn with this book, parts of it I really enjoyed and I think the concept is brilliant, but there was just something that didn't quite click. The ending felt a bit flat and there were still a lot of unanswered questions. There is apparently another book rumoured but I'm not sure if I would take the time to read it. 
If you want a fairly easy read and a bit of escapism then I would recommend you give this one a try, but I feel a bit 'meh' about it all. 
- This book would be suitable for younger teens, there are some hints at sexual activity but it is not upfront and you have to be able to read between the lines. 

My Rating