Ballads of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The Ballads of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, the prequel to the Hunger Games series, we meet a youthful President Snow. We get to know his goals and family. Coriolanus Snow wants to be a mentor for the Hunger Games. He does become a mentor but he’s disappointed with who he gets, the girl from District 12. He assumes she’ll be weak and unhealthy and be one of the first to die in the games. What he gets is a complete surprise. The action starts well before the games and many odd characters are brought into the story. Coriolanus has integrity and is honest with himself about his actions and who he truly is, even though he sees himself and his family a bit above others and he wholeheartedly believes in helping himself. He realizes variables and factors of human nature as he continues to do his best to support his charge, Lucy Gray. His arrogance pushes him to choose himself above anything or anyone else. By the ending, I’m saddened and appalled by his selfishness. A great read with many nods to the future of the Hunger Games, 5 stars!

House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess

I was so excited about House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess. I enjoyed her debut series and was anxious to read her new book!
First of all, cover love! The intriguing synopsis made me want to dive right into the story. Five contestants are called to compete for the throne. Emilia has concealed her deadly, powerful magic her entire life. Lucian destroys the family sword, vowing to never use the weapon again. He’s had enough of killing. Vespir is a dragon caretaker who is chosen over the Lord’s daughter, Antonia. Vespir and Antonia also happen to love each other. Ajax is a fifteen year old younger brother in a house full of almost thirty sons. He is chosen over his father’s two true heirs. Hyperia is the eldest royal daughter and when her younger sister is chosen, Hyperia promptly slits her sister’s throat. The author handles the five characters well by transitioning in the same order to help the reader get familiar with each of them. Each of the five are sent to an island to hunt a basilisk. The hunt is the first task of four (the tasks are The Hunt, The Game, The Race and The Truth) the chosen will need to compete in. The five chosen are not expected and, in the past, the first born heirs were always chosen and groomed for the competition. These contenders are all ill-prepared except for one, Hyperia, because she’s the first born heir of her family. I enjoyed the touch of humor throughout the intensity of the story, as well as the character development. The story starts off simply and grows into a complex tale of a huge array of characters with diverse personalities and strengths. 5 stars for this fantasy adventure!

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

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Unique and thought-provoking story!
I began reading Life of Pi by Yann Martel and then I tried the audiobook. I prefer the audiobook to reading it on my own, especially because the accent lends to making the story more real. Life of Pi tells the story of Pi’s life, from childhood to adulthood. His family owned a zoo, other people constantly teased him about his name, until one teacher started calling him Pi. Pi experiments with several different religions and decides he likes them all. His father eventually decides to sell the zoo and move to Canada. The family shares a ship with some zoo animals. A storm causes problems and the ship begins to sink. Pi takes the lifeboat, not knowing that some animals are already on it. The hyena really turned my stomach. The tiger finally kills the hyena and Pi manages to train the tiger so they coincide peacefully together. They eventually land on the coast of Mexico and the tiger runs to the jungle. Pi doesn’t see him again. This story is interesting and I am going to watch the movie next. 4 stars for the unique and thought-provoking content.

Run, Hide, Fight Back by April Henry

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Run, Hide, Fight Back by April Henry.
A shooting occurs in a mall on an otherwise normal day. We learn a little about each of the characters highlighted in the chapters, gaining insight into their lives, as they try to hide from the shooters. The whole concept of this story has become all too real and we gain insight into all sides as we read dispatch messages, interactions between police and shooters, and as the crime unfolds. The book is a fairly quick read and when the true reason for the shooting is revealed, greed prevails. Interesting and thought provoking, 4 stars!

Malice by Pintip Dunn

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I enjoyed this book more than any other Pintip Dunn book (that I have read). The concept is unique and the character growth and depth is profound.
Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Teen for the opportunity to read and review Malice by Pintip Dunn!
Alice begins to hear a voice that’s telling her what to do. She soon realizes that the voice belongs to her future self, and is warning present time Alice, about a future virus that is going to destroy the world. Future Alice wants her to kill the virus maker. As the story unfolds, I kept thinking that I had figured out who the virus maker was, but I just kept getting hit with one surprise after another! The story concept is interesting and I especially like the mystery surrounding the virus maker. Bandit is intriguing but I want to know more about Zeke. Alice goes through a whirlwind of back and forth time travel, possible futures and the shocks and surprises that are thrown at her. This is the absolute best Pintip Dunn book I’ve read! 4 stars!

Close Calls by Michael P. Spradlin

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Fascinating information about our country’s past presidents!
Thanks to NetGalley And Bloomsbury Publishing for the opportunity to read and review Close Calls by Michael P. Spradlin.
A collection of short stories describes how eleven of past United States presidents escaped “from the brink of death”. The book begins with the threats to George Washington and continues throughout the centuries to the first President Bush. It seems that we learn about the assassinations only but never the attempts that aren’t successful or the other dangers presidents have been in. I never realized that JFK almost died in a boat crash while serving during World War II just as I hadn’t realized how many death threats President Lincoln received. Fascinating information and snippets of facts sprinkled throughout the book make it an interesting nonfiction read. 5 stars!

A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess

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Action-packed sequel!
Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess!
Nettie is officially a sorcerer and while she’s at her first meeting, an Ancient sends a message requesting that the sorcerers give Nettie up. Many revelations occur and much action takes place in this second book of the Kingdom on Fire series. Betrayal, loyalty, bravery, forgiveness and power bring this story to life. So much takes place that I feel like anything I share would spoil the story. Nettie’s friends have secrets and burdens of their own, most of which are revealed. Complex and character developing best describes A Poison Dark and Drowning, 5 stars!

Graceling by Kristin Cashore!

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Action, adventure, mystery, tragedy and romance all wrapped up in a fantasy, 5 stars!
Graceling by Kristin Cashore is a thoroughly enjoyable read! The main character Katsa has been given the Grace skill to kill well, but she hates this gift. She frees an elderly Lienid prisoner by knocking out guards and giving them each a pill that keeps them out long enough for her to complete the rescue. By doing this, she completed her mission without killing anyone. She works under King Randa’s orders and he often orders her to harm or kill people when they’ve supposedly wronged him. Katsa has few people that she’s comfortable with, her companions Giddon and Oll and her cousin Raffin, who’s also the prince.
The Lienid prisoner’s grandson, Po, has visited several places searching for his grandfather. Po’s relieved when he discovers that his grandfather is safe and being cared for by Katsa and her companions. Po is also a Grace and his skill is intuition. He’s also a skilled fighter and has passed on fighting as his Grace skill because people would be afraid of him or use him for his intuitive abilities.
Katsa and Po become friends and I enjoy their unique friendship and all of its humor. When Katsa decides she no longer wants to do King Randa’s bidding, she leaves with Po. They arrive in King Leck’s territory just as he’s killing his wife for hiding their daughter Bitterblue from him. King Leck is also the one who had Po’s grandfather kidnapped. He did this so his wife would obey him. His wife is Po’s aunt. She’s running towards Po when Leck kills her but she has time to yell at Po to protect Bitterblue. Leck is a horrible person who has a Grace of manipulation and he has used this power for his own benefit since he was young. He killed the King and Queen years ago, after they took him in as their own, so he could rule as King. He mutilates and tortures children, specifically girls, and animals. A lot of action and adventure take place in Graceling, as well as some romance in this young adult fantasy. I enjoyed the relationship and relaxed ease between Po and Katsa, it was refreshing!

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

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Wilder Girls by Rory Power is a dystopian sci-fi for young adults. I read an excerpt on Bookish First and was so grateful that I had an ARC from NetGalley and Delacorte Press/Random House so I could finish reading the book immediately! The opening frightened and piqued my curiosity. I also felt sorry for the Tox survivors because civilization deserted them, except for limited, intermittent supply drops from the Navy. Told in alternating points of view between friends, Hetty and Byatt. (I cannot seem to get out of my mind, the fact that if the first letters of both names are exchanged, the names would be Betty and Hyatt);) Hetty starts the story and continues until Byatt suffers a Tox episode and is taken away. Hetty searches for her, can’t find her and overhears one of the leaders on the radio talking about an exchange. Then it’s Byatt’s turn to tell the story. She wakes up in a strange place and she struggles to talk. Soon, she’s surrounded by people in surgical clothing and is forced to take a bitter tasting pill. Byatt has a few more experiences to share but the majority of the story is told through Hetty’s perspective. Strange and frightening discoveries are made and the story ends with a wide opening for more to come. I do enjoy science fiction when it’s in dystopian form and the ending left me wondering what’s next! 4 stars!

Queen of Ruin by Tracy Banghart

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Queen of Ruin by Tracy Banghart! I’ve been looking forward to reading this sequel since I finished Grace and Fury and the synopsis couldn’t be better! One of my favorite lines: With an un-Heir like snort… ! That description of Malachi made me chuckle. A lot takes place in this 325 page book, character development, action, power changing hands, and turns of fate. Nomi and Serina are reunited because Asa sends Nomi to Mount Ruin. Serina and Nomi share their experiences and are both surprised at what’s happened. The women on Mount Ruin are ready for rebellion and Nomi is right there with them. Asa shows his true self and as Malachi comes to terms with his father’s death and his brother’s betrayal, he uses the time to decide his future actions. Relationships grow, are torn apart, and change the future of Viridia. I enjoy the varied relationships and the story’s suspense the most out of everything else that takes place in this book. Dystopian fantasy worth 4.5 stars! I would have enjoyed more details about the relationships between Val and Serina and between Malachi and Nomi.