Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and SnakesTitle: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Author: Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games #0.5
Genre(s): Dystopian, Romance, YA
Pages: 541
Source: Own
For: Personal Interest
Rating:
Sexual Content: 0.5 Flames

Goodreads Amazon

There's a trigger warning for this book. See Trigger Warning section at end of review for more details.
Goodreads Synopsis

It's the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-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, but the odds are against him because he's been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low.

My Thoughts

I wanted to read THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES before the movie came out last year. Unfortunately, my reading mojo wasn’t where it normally is so I committed the cardinal sin of watching the movie before reading the book. I liked the movie so much I finally decided to start listening to the audio book.

I thought THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES was really fascinating and a fantastic prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy. I especially loved learning about Panem after the first war between the Capitol and the districts. I thought it was interesting to see how the Hunger Games operated before they became what they were in the 74th Hunger Games.

“Well, as they said, it’s not over until the mockingjay sings.”

I loved the characters in THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES. Lucy Gray was my favorite, of course. I love how much she loves life, her defiant spirit, her go-with-the-flow personality, and her when-life-gives-you-lemons-make-lemonade outlook. I felt sorry for Sejanus, having to leave his beloved District 2 and become a citizen of the Capitol. I loved learning more about Tigris and I’m curious why and when she and Coriolanus had a falling out.

Watching Coriolanus Snow’s life unfold in THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES is a lot like watching Anakin Skywalker become Darth Vader in the Star Wars prequels. You keep hoping it won’t happen, but know there’s no hope. I thought it was interesting to be in his head, to hear the conflict of remaining loyal to the Capitol and regaining his status and wealth or siding with the districts and Lucy Gray.

Overall, I really enjoyed THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES. However, I’m only rating it 4 stars because I thought Coriolanus’ transition to the “Dark Side” was a little abrupt, especially how fast he and Lucy Gray turned on one another.

I also thought the audiobook was awesome. I loved Santino Fontana’s deep voice. I just wished he sang all the songs in the book, like Jim Dale does in the Harry Potter audio books.

Have you read THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES? If so, what did you think?

Trigger Warning

There is a trigger warning for violence against children, loss of a parent, cannibalism, and animal deaths.

I read several books this year that I haven’t reviewed on my blog. Instead of writing individual reviews for them all, I thought I’d do a mini review of each of them. The first two are non-fiction and the rest are fiction.

Non-Fiction

Mini Reviews #1Title: Atomic Habits
Author: James Clear
Genre(s): Non-Fiction
Pages: 306
Source: Borrowed
For: Recommended
Rating:
Sexual Content: 0 Flames

Goodreads Amazon

Earlier this year, I told my therapist I was having a hard time following through with my goals to exercise more and eat healthier. He suggested I read ATOMIC HABITS, stating that most of the things James Clear had to say were spot on. I decided to listen to the audiobook because Corey already owned a copy.

The audiobook is narrated by James Clear and is very well done. I thought he had a lot of great ideas, like habit stacking. To my surprise, a lot of his ideas align really well with DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) skills. I’ve decided I need to read a physical copy of ATOMIC HABITS so I can annotate the things that are helpful to me to implement what I learned.


Mini Reviews #1Title: Radical Love
Author: Zachary Levi
Genre(s): Memoir, Non-Fiction
Pages: 224
Source: Borrowed
For: Book Club
Rating:
Sexual Content: 0 Flames

Goodreads Amazon

In July, we each read a memoir of our choice for book club. I had already read Marsha Linehan’s memoir but I have wanted to read Zachary Levi’s for a long time. I decided to read RADICAL LOVE a couple of months later.

I’m so glad I decided to listen to the audiobook because Levi, himself, narrates it and talks about his struggles with depression, suicidal ideation, and his feelings of worthlessness. I truly enjoyed RADICAL LOVE. It was raw, emotional, uplifting, and hopeful. It helped remind me that none of us are alone and there’s always help when we need it. I’m glad he sought help during his darkest moments, start the healing process of managing his mental health, and forgiving the abuse he suffered at the hands of his parents.

Fiction

Mini Reviews #1Title: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
Author: Jennifer E Smith
Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance, YA
Pages: 236
Source: Borrowed
For: Personal Interest
Rating:
Sexual Content: 1 Flames

Goodreads Amazon

During the first half of the year, I was trying to participate in the POP Sugar Challenge. One of the prompts was a book that takes place all in one day. I had wanted to read THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT (mouthful) for a while.

THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT was the perfect book to get me to actually sit down and read, something I struggled with for most of 2023. I really enjoyed reading Hadley’s story. Jennifer E Smith’s writing helped draw me right in. I loved the chemistry between Hadley and Oliver. I also found myself grinning stupidly as I read the bantering between them. I also loved watching Hadley and Oliver deal with life’s ups and downs during the day they were together. You may think that the story seems fantastical to happen all in one day, but it just added to the magic.


Mini Reviews #1Title: The Measure
Author: Nikki Erlick
Genre(s): Science Fiction
Pages: 353
Source: Borrowed
For: Recommended
Rating:
Sexual Content: 1 Flames

Goodreads Amazon

Last December, one of the people in my book club recommended THE MEASURE. When I was trying to decide what to read in August, THE MEASURE came to mind.

I decided to listen to the audiobook of THE MEASURE and I was hooked from the beginning. The narrator did a fantastic job. The story’s so compelling that I’d find time to listen to the audiobook and I kept thinking about the strings and characters in between listenings.

I loved Nikki Erlick’s twist on the mythology of The Fates. Just like all the characters, I wanted to understand the mysteries of the boxes and strings. I cared about most of the characters and how their lives were affected by the strings. I also loved the message that life can be meaningful no matter how long it is.


Mini Reviews #1Title: The Only Girl in Town
Author: Ally Condie
Genre(s): Contemporary, YA
Pages: 336
Source: Own
For: Personal Interest
Rating:
Sexual Content: 1 Flames

Goodreads Amazon

I had the chance to attend the book launch for THE ONLY GIRL IN TOWN. Ally Condie is such a sweet, down-to-earth person. Hearing what she had to say about THE ONLY GIRL IN TOWN made me want to read it right away. I chose to listen to the audiobook. The narrator was fantastic and had a lot of emotion in her voice. The short chapters and pacing almost gave the book an “in verse” feel. Sometimes hearing “chapter …” several times in less than five minutes took me out of the story.

As always, Ally’s writing is a joy to read. She has such a poetic and lyrical way of expressing what she wants to write. I was very surprised by the actual story. I have trouble choosing a genre because of that. THE ONLY GIRL IN TOWN wasn’t what I was expecting at all. Despite my surprise, I soon found myself all in as I experienced July’s story and her effort to figure out what was going on around her. THE ONLY GIRL IN TOWN is immersive and a beautiful take on how depression, loneliness, disappointment, and the inevitable changes in our relationships can affect our thinking and choices.


Mini Reviews #1Title: Meet Me at the Lake
Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 336
Source: Borrowed
For: Personal Interest
Rating:
Sexual Content: 3.5 Flames

Goodreads Amazon

I adored Carley Fortune’s debut novel EVERY SUMMER AFTER so I was super excited to read MEET ME AT THE LAKE. As with most of the books I read this year, I read the audiobook and I liked the narrator a lot.

As far as the story goes, I wasn’t disappointed. I loved Fern and Will’s story. I loved the premise of them getting a second chance at love. Even though MEET ME AT THE LAKE is mostly fluff, there’s some meat to the story too thanks to the inclusion of how mental illness and the loss of a loved one can mess with our plans and intentions. It made the characters and story feel more real.


Mini Reviews #1Title: The Christmas Murder Game
Author: Alexandra Benedict
Genre(s): Holiday, Mystery
Pages: 325
Source: Borrowed
For: Book Club
Rating:
Sexual Content: 0.5 Flames

Goodreads Amazon

I read THE CHRISTMAS MURDER GAME for book club. I thought the concept of THE CHRISTMAS MURDER GAME sounded fun and suspenseful. While I was never bored, I just didn’t think the execution was done very well and the writing was very clunky. I thought Benedict tried way too hard trying to think up the anagrams. Fortunately, listening to the audiobook helped hide the weird spellings.

As far as the story goes, I knew who the main antagonist was pretty early on. I didn’t mind Lily but I thought some of her choices were a little suspect. Every other character was either annoying, selfish, or not developed very well. The circumstances that had to happen so the story could take place weren’t very realistic either.

Review: In a HolidazeTitle: In a Holidaze
Author: Christina Lauren
Genre(s): Fantasy, Holiday, Romance
Pages: 336
Source: Own
For: Book Club
Rating:
Sexual Content: 3 Flames

Goodreads Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis

It’s the most wonderful time of the year ... but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions. But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world--the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy. The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake, she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again.

My Thoughts

I’ve never been much of a Christmas or holiday book reader. I don’t really even watch holiday movies. Needless to say, I was a little bit hesitant about reading IN A HOLIDAZE by Christina Lauren. I decided to give it a go because it was my IRL book club’s pick for December and I really enjoyed THE UNHONEYMOONERS by the same duo.

I’m glad I decided to read IN A HOLIDAZE. I zipped right through it and it helped remind me why I love to read and romances at that. Friends-to-lovers is hands down my favorite romantic trope and Christina Lauren didn’t disappoint. The execution was excellently written, producing a bit of a steamy fast-paced romance.

I adored practically everything about IN A HOLIDAZE. I loved Maelyn Jones and her family, blood and found. I loved reading about their Christmas traditions in their cabin near Park City, Utah (which is only an hour from where I live). Because of the setting, it was especially fun to picture the mountains, snow, Christmas decorations, and the touristy beauty of my home state.

“This is Utah. Every family down here has a ‘Welcome Home’ sign. Missionaries, remember?”

I thought the Groundhog Day-esque “magic” of IN A HOLIDAZE was fun. It was a good reminder to seize the day and live your best life in spite of change, social faux-pas, and tradition for the sake of tradition.

Thanks to how much I enjoyed reading IN A HOLIDAZE, I’ll definitely give other holiday romances a try in the future.

Have you read IN A HOLIDAZE? If so, what did you think?

Review: Some of It was RealTitle: Some of It was Real
Author: Nan Fischer
Genre(s): Mystery, Romance
Pages: 352
Source: Own
For: Recommended
Rating:
Sexual Content: 3 Flames

Goodreads Amazon

There's a trigger warning for this book. See Trigger Warning section at end of review for more details.
Goodreads Synopsis

Sylvie Young, a psychic on the verge of stardom who isn’t sure she believes in herself and, Thomas Holmes, a cynical journalist with one last chance at redemption are brought together by secrets from the past. When Sylvie and Thomas collide, a game of cat and mouse ensues, but the secrets they’re keeping from each other are nothing compared to the mysteries and lies they unearth about Sylvie’s past.

My Thoughts

When I read Wendy’s review of SOME OF IT WAS REAL, I put it on hold at my local library right away. There was a little bit of a wait, but I finally got it and read it. I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed this book.

The enemies-to-lovers and forced proximity tropes are two of my favorites and SOME OF IT WAS REAL didn’t disappoint. The execution of the enemies-to-lovers trope was excellently written, producing a spicy slow-burn romance. Sylvie and Thomas’ constant worry of out-smarting the other while falling in love was a treat to read, and the cat and mouse game dynamic made the story fun and exciting.

I loved the inclusion of Sylvie’s beloved service dog, Moose. Even though as a Great Dane he comes across as a bit scary, he’s a lovable teddy bear. Thomas’ cat, Christopher Robin, reminded me of my Daxi-cat, who recently passed away due to old age. I loved Chris’ demeanor and her interactions with Moose. Each pet was written as a beloved companion, endearing me more to the two main characters and making SOME OF IT REAL a much richer story.

My memories are a nest of spiders suddenly caught in bright light. They skitter to dark corners.

SOME OF IT WAS REAL is a a heart-wrenching story that asks the reader to believe in something unseen. It’s also about love, acceptance, and truth. I’m glad I was a part of the journey to find out who Sylvie was. I thought the premise came across as realistic given the circumstances of her past. Skeptical at first like Thomas, the more I learned the more I believed in Sylvie as a person and a psychic-medium.

I would’ve given SOME OF IT WAS REAL 4.5 or 5 stars, but the ending wasn’t quite as satisfying as I wanted it to be. I did love the feeling of hope and how it coincided with believing in something intangible. View Spoiler »

Have you read SOME OF IT WAS REAL? If so, what did you think?

Trigger Warning

There is a trigger warning for loss of a parent and loss of a pet.

Review: The Love HypothesisTitle: The Love Hypothesis
Author: Ali Hazelwood
Genre(s): Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 352
Source: Own
For: Book of the Month
Rating:
Sexual Content: 4 Flames

Goodreads Amazon

There's a trigger warning for this book. See Trigger Warning section at end of review for more details.
Goodreads Synopsis

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn't believe in lasting romantic relationships--but her best friend does, and that's what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees, Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor--and well-known ass.

My Thoughts

I’ve wanted to read THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS ever since I started blogging and reading again. The cover and synopsis drew me right in and I knew I’d love it. Now having read it, I wasn’t wrong. I adored THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS so much!

The fake-dating trope is one of my favorite romance tropes and THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS did it so well. The sexual tension was strong with this one. Hazelwood is really good at writing banter between her characters. I was giddy during most of the book because I just loved Olive and Adam’s interactions.

THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS is such a fun story. I really needed it right now. I felt so many emotions. I laughed, yelled, cried, and swooned. I stayed up until 2am on Wednesday finishing it because I couldn’t put it down.

I’m starting to wonder if this is what being in love is. Being okay with ripping yourself to shreds, so the other person can stay whole.

I loved all the characters in THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS, even the ones I was meant to hate. They each had distinct personalities and were fun to get to know. I especially loved Holden, Adam’s best friend, and Olive’s best friends, Anh and Malcolm.

I adored the setting of THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS, especially the representation of women in STEM. I know there’s some controversy as to whether a relationship between a professor and grad student would be allowed. Honestly, even if it weren’t allowed, I can suspend my belief enough because of how Hazelwood presented it.

THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS started out as Reylo fanfiction. (Yes, just like FIFTY SHADES OF GREY began as TWILIGHT fanfiction.) You can tell that the characters are based on Rey and Kylo Ren if you focus on it. If you don’t, the story works just fine one its own. Personally, I’m not a Reylo fan. View Spoiler » That being said, if this is how Reylo fans see Rey and Kylo Ren together, I now know why there are so many of them.

Anyway, THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS is a fun nerdy contemporary romance that also deals with some heavy themes to give the story some depth. I’m really glad I took the time to read it.

Have you read THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS? If so, what did you think?