BOOK REVIEW: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

27362503._SY475_Title: It Ends With Us

Author: Colleen Hoover

Audiobook Length: 11 hours and 11 minutes

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Sociology

Read Start Date: January 2, 2022

Read Finish Date: January 5, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Sometimes it is the one who loves you who hurts you the most.

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up — she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan — her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

My Review: As of the writing of this review, this book has been on the NY Times Bestsellers list for 35 weeks. This book was also received a Goodread’s Choice award in 2016. Needless to say, this is a pretty popular book at the moment, despite having been published in 2016.

We meet Lily standing on a roof top in Boston, contemplating her decision not to eulogize her father, who had been abusive toward her mother. There she meets neurosurgeon, Ryle Kincaid, and although sparks are flying, Ryle is not the relationship type (as he himself proclaims). Although a little strange, at the time I didn’t give it much thought. I figured, okay he is just a player; but this reluctance is explained later.

Fast forward to sometime later, Lily starts her own business and hires coincidentally, Ryle’s sister. Thus, Ryle is thrust back into Lily’s life, and surprisingly, they start dating. At around this time, Lily’s first love Atlas shows back up in the picture (again coincidentally: they meet at Atlas’ restaurant where Lily is having lunch).

Fate seems to have brought 2 guys into Lily’s life. Lucky girl. Or is she?

Soon we start to see the cracks in the “nice guy” façade that Ryle has carefully constructed. Since the description of the book did not mention abuse, it came as quite the surprise to me. I was definitely not expecting it. If you are a person who has suffered from abuse and would be upset by descriptive scenes of physical violence, including rape, then this book may not be for you. I have to say that I was disturbed myself. It also irks me that this book is classified as a “romance” novel. When I think of romance novels, my mind does not envision an abusive relationship.

In any event, I’m sure by now you can figure out what Lily eventually decided to do about her relationship with Ryle (the title is big giveaway in this regard). Although the abuse was difficult to get through, Lily’s strength and resilience was inspiring.

Although Colleen Hoover wrote the book based on her mother’s own true story, I was a little irked that she wrote Ryle as not the villain, but rather as a person. Meaning, he wasn’t good nor bad, but made mistakes like we all do. He was a good brother and father, but made a horrible romantic partner. That being said, does being a good father, make him a good person? I don’t know. Can you be a good father if you beat the baby’s mother? That Hoover portrayed him as a sympathetic character who sometimes does bad things was strange. Should I feel bad for an abusive person? I certainly don’t want to, but somehow I ended up not disliking Ryle as much as I should have. So, there were some conflicting emotions for me with this one.

Have you read the book? What do you think about the portrayal of Ryle?

BOOK REVIEW: Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell

43848929._SX318_Title: Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Audiobook Length: 8 hours and 42 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Nonfiction, Psychology, Self-Help, Sociology, Science, Business, Language, Communication

Read Start Date: February 9, 2022

Read Finish Date: February 11, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: How did Fidel Castro fool the CIA for a generation? Why did Neville Chamberlain think he could trust Adolf Hitler? Why are campus sexual assaults on the rise? Do television sitcoms teach us something about the way we relate to each other that isn’t true?

While tackling these questions, Malcolm Gladwell was not solely writing a book for the page. He was also producing for the ear. In the audiobook version of Talking to Strangers, you’ll hear the voices of people he interviewed–scientists, criminologists, military psychologists. Court transcripts are brought to life with re-enactments. You actually hear the contentious arrest of Sandra Bland by the side of the road in Texas. As Gladwell revisits the deceptions of Bernie Madoff, the trial of Amanda Knox, and the suicide of Sylvia Plath, you hear directly from many of the players in these real-life tragedies. There’s even a theme song – Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout.”

Something is very wrong, Gladwell argues, with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know. And because we don’t know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world.

My Review: I listened to the audiobook version of this book and I have to say it was awesome. The audiobook is read by the author and also includes some bonus material e.g. recordings of the statements / incidents quoted in the book.

The book opens with the tragic story of Sandra Bland, a black woman, who commits suicide in jail after being arrested by an over zealous cop. She was originally pulled over for “failure to signal” after she changed lanes for the said cop without signaling, as he came up behind her. When the officer asks how she is, Bland responds that she is upset. The officer then asks her if she “is done”. Although the officer says that it was not meant in a sarcastic way, Bland takes it as such, escalating the traffic stop. When Bland lights a cigarette to calm her nerves, the officer asks her to put it out. She refuses. Escalating the traffic stop further, the officer tells her to get out of the car, because she had failed to follow his direction. Bland initially refuses. The incident was caught on the officer’s vest cam, and with the audiobook you can hear the actual tape.

The book dives into the potential reasons why this tragedy occurred. The author posits, for example, that when talking with strangers, people “default to truth”, in other words that we initially believe what a stranger is telling us, even if it is a lie. For most of us, the instinct is to believe, not distrust. Another example is “transparency”. Sometimes people are transparent and strangers can infer state of mind by actions, other times, people do not act as we think they should and so we misunderstand them. This is what happened in the case of Sandra Bland.

I really liked listening to the different stories that that author gave as support for his theory. Even if you don’t like, or agree with, the author’s theory, the stories were really interesting e.g. a cuban spy who no one suspected, the interrogation of KSM after 9/11, and the Amanda Knox story. What made it more interesting was the format. I can’t imagine reading this book in paper format. The quotes would have less impact when only read and not listened to.

I definitely recommend this book, but I think that it should be read as an audiobook.

BOOK REVIEW: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Title: The Song of Achilles

Author: Madeline Miller

Book Length Audiobook: 11 hours and 15 minutes

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mythology, Romance, LGBT

Read Start Date: February 2, 2022

Read Finish Date: February 4, 2022

Link and Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13623848-the-song-of-achilles

Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful, irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

My Review: We meet Achilles in his youth when a young exiled prince Patroclus is sent to live with Achilles’ father King Peleus. Despite being a book about Achilles, the Song of Achilles is actually told through the voice of Patroclus, Achilles companion and lover. Although the myth of Achilles centers around the Trojan war, I liked how somehow this book was more centered on the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles then the war. The war was more an ancillary topic, another setting if you will, where the relationship took place.

Other than the general knowledge about Achilles and the duly named “Achilles heel”, I knew little to nothing about his myth before reading this book. I was a little surprised therefore when Miller changed the way Achilles died (from an arrow through the back rather than heel), as I felt this altered the myth itself. I’m not sure why she choose to do it this way, but okay.

I listened to this book as an audiobook and finished it rather quickly. I really liked how Miller told the story, the language she used was descriptive in a way that made me imagine what she was saying. Her words created images in my mind as I listened.

I’ve read a lot of reviews where the reviewers complain about pacing: it’s too slow in places and too fast in others. Honestly, when I read the book, I didn’t even notice! Some reviewers also had issues with the character development, that the characters were flat and underdeveloped. I also did not notice, nor did I really think too much in depth about the development, or lack thereof, of the characters.

I read this book as entertainment and it was more than adequate at accomplishing this goal. I have no complaints whatsoever about this book. I often listened to this book while doing other things: laundry, cleaning, feeding the baby, exercising etc. Maybe I was just too distracted to notice the issues (pacing, character development etc)? I don’t know. What I do know is, despite the negative reviews from other, I have to say I really enjoyed the book and I would recommend it.

BOOK REVIEW: Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Title: Wish You Were Here

Author: Jodi Picoult

Book Length (Audiobook) 11 hours 47 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance, Women’s Fiction, Realistic Fiction

Read Start Date: February 4, 2022

Read Finish Date: February 8, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57701764-wish-you-were-here

Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by thirty, done having kids by thirty-five, and move out to the New York City suburbs, all while climbing the professional ladder in the cutthroat art auction world. She’s not engaged just yet, but she knows her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident, is about to propose on their romantic getaway to the Galápagos—days before her thirtieth birthday. Right on time.

But then a virus that felt worlds away has appeared in the city, and on the eve of their departure, Finn breaks the news: It’s all hands on deck at the hospital. He has to stay behind. You should still go, he assures her, since it would be a shame for all of their nonrefundable trip to go to waste. And so, reluctantly, she goes.

Almost immediately, Diana’s dream vacation goes awry. The whole island is now under quarantine, and she is stranded until the borders reopen. Completely isolated, she must venture beyond her comfort zone. Slowly, she carves out a connection with a local family when a teenager with a secret opens up to Diana, despite her father’s suspicion of outsiders.

Diana finds herself examining her relationships, her choices, and herself—and wondering if when she goes home, she too will have evolved into someone completely different.

My Review: Right off the bat, I will notify you that I will include spoilers in this review because there is just no way to express my disappointment otherwise. As the summary above states, Diana heads to the Galapagos and gets stuck there due to the lockdown. While she is there, her boyfriend Finn, a resident in a NYC hospital, comes face to face with COVID-19 and battles daily to save his patients from dying, often times not succeeding. These situations / scenarios are spelled out in great detail and I have to be honest, it was a bit much for me and detracted from the story.

During Diana’s time on the island, her boyfriend Finn is writing her emails about his experiences in the ICU. There was no mention of this in the book summary, so it came as a unwanted surprise. Finn goes into great detailed about how sick people are, how scared people are, how people are dying and how many. Why do I want to read about this in a fiction book? This has been REALITY for 2+ years!

I had COVID-19, alpha version, in November 2020. I was sick for 2 weeks, and had brain fog for 4 weeks. I was terrified of being one of those people who’s oxygen level drops but you don’t know it. Therefore, I regularly checked my oxygen levels with a pulseox device I bought on Amazon. I do not need to be reminded of how shitty COVID-19 is while reading something for entertainment. I want to be taken from my reality, not have it hammered into my brain with tons of detail, of which I already knew since I follow the news rather closely.

Despite the emails Diana received from Finn, I really enjoyed reading about Diana’s escape from the pandemic by living as a local on the island. Therefore, I was really disappointed when it came to light in Part 2 of the book, that the life Diana was living on the island was only a hallucination brought on by having COVID and being on a ventilator. Seriously? WTF. It honestly really ruined the book for me. Back in reality, Diana is facing a deteriorating relationship and of course COVID. Why couldn’t the island storyline have been the reality? Why did Diana have to have COVID, and why was it the version of COVID that almost made her die? I mean in the book the author made it seem like ALL COVID positive people die and die horribly. This was definitely not the case.

Would I recommend this book? Eh, probably not. Unless you like reading about the very pandemic you are going through right now. In my opinion this book was too soon and probably would have been better 10 years from now when (hopefully) all this shit is just a memory.

BOOK REVIEW: In The Heart of the Fire by Dean Koontz

49694471._SX318_SY475_Title: In The Heart of the Fire

Author: Dean Koontz

Book Length (Audiobook): 1 hour 31 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Thriller, Fiction, Mystery, Short Stories, Horror, Crime, Suspense, Novella

Read Start Date: April 30, 2020

Read Finish Date: April 30, 2020

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: A bloodthirsty sheriff is terrorizing a small Texas town where justice has been buried with his victims. Until Nameless arrives—a vigilante whose past is a mystery and whose future is written in blood.

Anyone who crosses Sheriff Russell Soakes is dead, missing, or warned. One of them is a single mother trying to protect her children but bracing herself for the worst. Nameless fears the outcome. He’s seen it in his visions. Now it’s time to teach the depraved Soakes a lesson in fear. But in turning predators into prey, will Nameless unearth a few secrets of his own?

In the Heart of the Fire is the first book of the Nameless series.

My Review: I listened to this novella through Kindle Unlimited. I haven’t read Dean Koontz in a while, although he used to be one of my favorite authors when I was a teenager. As it was only 1.5 hours long, it was the perfect length for a long walk, which is why I picked it up to begin with — however, the length in general left something to be desired. There wasn’t enough time to really build any of the characters, and I felt that the story just happened too quickly.

Let’s see how the series progresses.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

7260188Title: Mockingjay

Author: Suzanne Collins

Book Length (Audiobook): 11 hours 19 mins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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

Read Start Date: November 24, 2019

Read Finish Date: December 2, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans – except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay – no matter what the personal cost.

SeriesMockingjay is the third and final book in the 3-part series.

Catching Fire is the second book in the 3-part series. You can see my review of the book by clicking on this link.

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 or second book yet, then I would not read this review, as there will be many spoilers. In the first book, Katniss and Peeta 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.

In Catching Fire the 75th Hunger Games (the 3rd quarter quell) has been announced. The tributes were chosen from among the victors. This means of course that Katniss and Peeta had to return to the arena to once again fight to the death. However, there was no winner, since the revolution had begun against the Capital. Katniss was rescued from the games and whisked away to District 13, but Peeta falls into the hands of the Capital to be used as a pawn against the rebels.

In the third book there are no games; instead, there is a war between the Capital and the districts. As you can imagine, war is messy and brutal, and the plot of this book is no different. Favorite characters will die, and there will be triumphs and defeats. Although I liked this book (it was as fast paced as the other books) I have to say that this is not my favorite out of the three books. Maybe it was the lack of the Hunger Games, or maybe it was that the ending was too tidy for me, like a neatly packed gift under the Christmas tree, but there was just something about it that didn’t leave me satisfied.

Having said that, I read through the series twice, and if push came to shove, I would probably read it a third time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!