BOOK REVIEW: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

6148028Title: Catching Fire

Author: Suzanne Collins

Book Length (Audiobook): 11 hours 3 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult, Post Apocalyptic 

Read Start Date: November 20, 2019

Read Finish Date: November 24, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Sparks are igniting. Flames are spreading. And the Capitol wants revenge.

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol – a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying.

In Catching Fire, the second novel in the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins continues the story of Katniss Everdeen, testing her more than ever before…and surprising readers at every turn.

Series: Catching Fire is the second book in the 3-part series.

The Hunger Games is the first book in the 3-part series. You can see my review of the book by clicking on this link.

My Review: If you haven’t read the first book yet, then I would not read this review, as there will be many spoilers of the first book. Katniss and Peeta have won the Hunger Games, becoming for the first time in its 74-year history co-winners. Usually, the Capital only allows 1 victor per game, but as the last 2 standing tributes, neither would kill the other. They decide instead to trick the Capital into letting them both live by threatening to eat poison berries, thereby killing themselves, and giving the Capital no Victor — and there must always have a victor.

This seemingly simple act of defiance ignites the spark of revolution that has been brewing in the Districts for quite some time. As Katniss and Peeta take their victory tour through each of the Districts, the unrest grows, as do the feelings in Katniss’ heart. Threatened by President Snow to “convince him” that she is in love with Peeta (they played up the lover card in the Games for the show), will she settle for Peeta as the Capital wants, or will she run away with Gale? Will she bend to the Capital’s will, or will she stand up and fight?

In Catching Fire the 75th Hunger Games (the 3rd quarter quell) has been announced. The tributes will be chosen from among the victors. This means of course that Katniss and Peeta will be returning to the arena to once again fight to the death. I thought that this book was more of the same from the first book, except less action and more story building. However, the book was still really good, especially toward the end when the games started and it made a good follow up to the first book.

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

reid_9781524798628_jkt_all_r1.inddTitle: Daisy Jones & The Six

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Book Length (Audiobook): 9 hours 3 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Read Start Date: November 6, 2019

Read Finish Date: November 14, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six: The band’s album Aurora came to define the rock ‘n’ roll era of the late seventies, and an entire generation of girls wanted to grow up to be Daisy. But no one knows the reason behind the group’s split on the night of their final concert at Chicago Stadium on July 12, 1979 . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ‘n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

My Review: I listened to this book during the long drive from Austria to the Netherlands. I borrowed this book from the library, not knowing what it was really about. At first I wasn’t sure whether it was fiction or based on a true story, and I actually had to google it when I stopped off at a rest stop. I have read in various places that it is very loosely based upon Fleetwood Mac. I don’t know anything about Fleetwood Mac, other than I like a few songs they wrote, so I cannot say whether that is true or not.

In any event, the book is about the rise and fall of The Six, one of the most famous bands in the 70’s. It is told by the members of the Six and Daisy Jones in the “present,” and each character reflects back on their golden age of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. The format of the book is in an interview style.

The audiobook version has 7 different actors reading for the characters. I found this to be more than a little distracting. Sometimes the author let the reader know who was speaking (whether by context or by announcing the name at the beginning), but sometimes it took several minutes before I could figure it out — some of the voices were really similar. Actually some of the cast members are pretty famous i.e., Benjamin Bratt and the lead singer of Korn. I didn’t realize this as I was listening, and to be honest I am not even sure which characters they played.

Despite the partial confusion, listening to the book felt like just listening to a conversation. It was easy going and the characters played off each other well.

The Reading Chick gave a great review of this book, and I agree that Daisy is a great character! In fact, she was probably one of my favorite characters of the book. She was so powerful and strong and had such a rockin’ voice and amazing talent, but at the same time she was just so raw and real and broken. Daisy was such a fantastic artist, but she was also a raging addict, which caused problems for her and the band.

Daisy’s hate / love relationship with Billy Dunne (the lead singer of The Six) was really well portrayed. Despite (or maybe because of) their competitiveness and outward dislike for each other, they really fed off each other artistically — the way the characters described the performances, you couldn’t help but to actually feel the sexual tension thinly masked with bitterness and anger, as though you were watching them onstage yourself.

I was definitely sucked into the story and was on the edge of my seat wondering whether Billy would give in to temptation (he was married with children).

On the other hand, if you are looking for a balanced review here, A Little Haze Book Blog also makes some fair points. I agree that the ending was super lame, and I honestly have to say I was really disappointed in it. I think I was making coffee at the time when the interviewer revealed who she was and I was like, are you serious right now?  I could have spit my coffee all over the counter.

That being said, with a few negative points aside, I enjoyed the book. If you’re in the market for a new book to read, I would give it a go.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

2767052 (1)Title: The Hunger Games

Author: Suzanne Collins

Book Length (Audiobook): 10 hours 35 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult, Post Apocalyptic 

Read Start Date: November 4, 2019

Read Finish Date: November 12, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don’t live to see the morning?

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before – and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Series: The Hunger Games is the first book in the 3-part series.

My Review: Essentially, the book is a post apocalyptic story about “the Capital” (where all the rich people live) and the surrounding 12 districts, where in most cases the populous is poor and/or starving. Each district has a sort of theme, where each is responsible for producing one type of commodity. For example, District 12 (where Katniss is from) is the coal mining district. District 11 is agriculture, and so on. Katniss’ father was killed in a coal mining accident, which left the family to fend for itself. As a result of their starvation, Katniss takes up hunting, which is where she meets her best friend Gale (enter the first male love triangle participant).

74 years before the book takes place, there was an uprising against the Capital, led by District 13 (responsible for mining elements necessary for nuclear power). The Capital won the war, and obliterated District 13. In order to keep the Districts in line, they created the Hunger Games, forcing the children of the remaining districts to fight each other every year to the death for the entertainment of the Capital. The names of 1 boy and 1 girl from each district are chosen at random to participate, with the number of times the name appears in the pool increasing incrementally every year as the child gets older.

Even though her name is only in the bowl once, Katniss’ 12 year old sister, Primrose, is chosen at the reaping, and Katniss volunteers to take her place in that years Hunger Games. It seems that the odds were not in their favor. This is where we meet Peeta, the second male in the love triangle. Although Katniss has never spoken to this boy, he had had a crush on her since they were children. They are whisked away to the Capital where they will be made up, pampered and forced to enter a closed arena where they will kill or be killed in sometimes gory and violent ways — all to entertain the Capital’s richest people.

I read this book once before in 2011, and while I remembered the overall storyline, had forgotten a lot of the details, so it almost felt like I was reading it again for the first time. I was really surprised to read in some recent reviews (see, Chrissi Reads) that there was talk of banning the book for violence and inappropriate sexual content for its intended age group. First of all, Katniss and Peeta kiss like a few times (as part of the games). That is all. There is not even a hint of sex in this book. I don’t want to give too much away about their relationship because it actually plays a big role in the storyline itself.

I never would have thought of this book as a romance novel anyway (even though on Goodreads it is tagged as such). For me, this book was more dystopian-action-adventure. Was there violence? Sure. But what PG-13 movie nowadays does not have violence or sexual content? What video game does not have violence? Maybe since this book was written 11 years ago (*gasp* has it already been so long?), it was more cutting edge then now in 2019? I don’t know. Anyway, I never thought that this book was inappropriate — but then again I’m the girl who read Roots in the 8th grade. Now that was a disturbing book, and it was based on reality to boot! I think that if we really want to talk about what might be scary for young adults, we should be having a discussion on school shootings, and not The Hunger Games.

But I digress.

This book has been one of my favorites for a while. Katniss is a great female lead character. She is smart, cunning, and brave. Of course she has some flaws too — she is fickle and naive at times, but I think these flaws add to her character and make her more likeable. I mean, who wants a perfect heroine? That would be super boring.

Despite the violence, there were also some really tender moments, where I found myself getting teared up. If you read the book, you will see what I mean — I don’t want to give anything away.

So in conclusion, and before I get too carried away, this book has it all. If you haven’t read this book yet, you really should.

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

18158562._SY475_Title: Crazy Rich Asians

Author: Kevin Kwan

Book Length: 546 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary

Read Start Date: October 27, 2019

Read Finish Date: November 4, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm,

Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry.

Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

Series: Crazy Rich Asians is the first book in the 3-part series.

My Review: The book starts in 1986 with a bedraggled 8-year old boy named Nicholas Young who sits, soaking wet with his cousin Astrid Leong, in the lobby of a posh London hotel, the Calthorpe. Astrid’s mother had forced everyone to walk from the nearest subway stop because “it was a sin to take a taxi nine blocks” and so you can imagine how they must have appeared.

Nicholas’ mother and aunt attempt to check in to the Lancaster Suite, but are turned away by the racist general manager because they are Chinese (and being soaking wet hides the fact that they are stinking rich). When Astrid’s mother calls her husband to tell him of this outrage, Mr. Leong calls the owner of the hotel (they played golf together only the month before). A few minutes later, Lord Rupert Calthrope-Cavendish-Gore himself is guiding the Young / Leong families through the lobby. Harry Leong had bought the hotel, the racist general manager was surreptitiously fired (ha!), and we are introduced in a very fun way to the wealthiest families in Singapore.

The real story begins in 2010, when Nicholas Young is 32 years old. He works in academia, and his girlfriend Rachel Chu has NO IDEA that he is ridiculously rich. When his childhood friend is getting married, Nicholas invites Rachel to accompany him to the wedding in Singapore (and to stay for the summer), and of course, while they are there, to meet his family. What he doesn’t tell her, is that his family’s’ house rivals that of Queen Elizabeth, and that he is Singapore’s most eligible bachelor. Oops.

This book was just simply fun, amazing, and at the same time heartwarming. I felt really bad for Rachel who is thrust head first and without a clue into the shark tank of single ladies all vying for Nicholas’ attention. Rachel has to go through all sorts of trials and tribulations that would have scared off anyone — from being called a gold digger, to the dead fish in her luggage, Rachel has to overcome some pretty awful harassment. I really liked that there was no fairy tale ending, and that the relationship was left with a question mark (I guess to be answered in the 2nd book in the series).

I also liked that this book didn’t only center around Nicholas and Rachel, but was also very much about the other characters. I especially liked Astrid Leong and the fact that even though she was also super rich (she easily spends more on one dress then I make in a year) she is also, somehow, down to earth.

Would I recommend this book? 5 times yes!

BOOK REVIEW: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

42135029Title: City of Girls

Author:  Elizabeth Gilbert

Book Length (Audiobook): 15 hours 8 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Read Start Date: October 20, 2019

Read Finish Date: October 27, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves-and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.

Now ninety-five years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life – and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time, she muses. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is. Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.

My Review: I had some reservations in reading this book because I really hated Eat, Prey, Love — but I thought that maybe Gilbert’s fiction writing would be better than her nonfiction. At first, I had a hard time getting into the story, because I really disliked the main character, Vivian. Vivian was basically a self involved narcissist who thought the world revolved around her — and if she said she was pretty once, she did it 100 times. Vivian was a naive little rich girl — who, if you could believe it, didn’t really seem to know that there was a war on — even though this book takes place during WWII. It actually got a little annoying, how self centered this character was. To be honest, I was kind of feeling a little nostalgic (in a bad way) about Gilbert’s memoir.

At the beginning of the book, Vivian receives a letter from the daughter of an old friend, Angela, who asks Vivian what Vivian had mean to Angela’s dad. Vivian, instead writes a letter back to Angela, explaining what her dad meant to Vivian. The premise seems a little far fetched — I mean, how long was this freaking letter?? Anyway, since the letter was supposed to be about what Angela’s dad meant to Vivian, it was annoying that he wasn’t introduced until after 85% of the story had already been told. I mean, really?

And haven’t we all gotten past the “shock” of thinking of women as “sexual beings”? Sometimes I felt that Gilbert only set the book in the 1940’s so that a woman having a lot of unmarried sex was somehow “shocking”. I felt this way because I never really got the flavor of 1940 in her book, and even though WWII was the biggest thing happening at the time, it played such a minor role in the book that it was as if it didn’t even exist.

Despite my thoughts above, lots of reviews that I have read were actually pretty positive (i.e., Kristin Kraves, Carla Loves to Read, and Theresa Smith Writes. In deciding whether to read this book, you should take both perspectives into account.