Tag Archive for: Series

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.

There are spoilers for THE LAST BATTLE in this post.

Narniathon: The Last Battle

THE LAST BATTLE is the final book in the Narniad (in both published and chronological order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 a little over a week ago. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

When I first read THE LAST BATTLE back in 2007, I hated it. I gave it only one star. I’ve stated in previous discussion posts that the main reason I decided to participate in the Narniathon was because I wanted to see if my feelings for THE LAST BATTLE changed upon rereading it.

As I reread THE LAST BATTLE, I tried to keep an open mind. I’m glad I did because I enjoyed it much more this time around. I do still have a couple of problems with it, though. The first problem is with some of the allegory and the second is the same problematic language regarding the Calormenes that I noticed in THE HORSE AND HIS BOY.

I didn’t have a problem with all of the allegory in THE LAST BATTLE. In fact, I truly enjoyed the allusion to Moses and the staff with the serpent on it as the characters saw or didn’t see what was really past the door in the stable. I also loved the allusions to the second coming of Christ and what’s written in Revelations regarding the wars, false Christs, and the coming of the Beast. The way Lewis tied them all together as a coherent story was phenomenal.

The part of the allegory in THE LAST BATTLE I had a problem with is regarding Susan and Puzzle. I still don’t agree with how Lewis treated Susan nor do I think that she shouldn’t be “redeemed” when Puzzle, who imitated Aslan, was. I know Puzzle was tricked by Shift. However, before Puzzle agreed to go along with Shift, Puzzle actually said that he knew it was wrong to impersonate Aslan. To me, this means he went along willingly. Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad Puzzle was “redeemed;” I just think if he was, then Susan should’ve been as well as she only liked nylons, lipstick, and invitations more than Narnia.

By mixing a little truth with it they made their lie far stronger.

I thought the problematic language of the Calormenes in THE LAST BATTLE was far worse than what I read in THE HORSE AND HIS BOY. Every time the dwarfs called a Calormene “Darkie,” I cringed. As I stated in my discussion post for THE HORSE AND HIS BOY, I try not to cast judgment on people in the past using today’s lenses. I also think it’s better to learn from our past mistakes than to condemn a man for participating in socially “acceptable,” albeit reprehensible, behavior at the time. Because of this language, though, I didn’t enjoy THE LAST BATTLE nearly as much as I could have.

I can’t believe we’ve reached the end of the Narniathon. I’m glad I decided to participate in it. I have a new found appreciation for the Narniad. Thanks, Chris, for hosting!

Have you read THE LAST BATTLE? Did you like it? Why? Why not?

There are spoilers for THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW in this post.

Narniathon: The Magician’s Nephew

THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW is the sixth book in the Narniad (in published order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 a little over a week ago. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

I didn’t remember much from my previous read 14 years ago, but I knew THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW followed the Professor as a young boy during the creation of Narnia. As I started rereading it, I realized that I’d forgotten or missed a lot of the story that first time through.

When I first read THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW back in 2007, I didn’t know there was a published order and a chronological order to the Narniad. I made the mistake of reading THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW first and I didn’t enjoy it very much. I thought it was slow and boring. I also didn’t really get much out of it other than the origin of Narnia, the White Witch, and the wardrobe.

As stated above, we’ve been reading the books in published order for the Narniathon. I wasn’t sure if that’d make a difference or not. However, I’m now a believer that everyone should read the Narniad in published order. I enjoyed THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW so much more with the background of all that had already happened in the previous books. I also got more out of the allegory this time around.

As I’ve mentioned in previous discussion posts, the allegory’s my favorite part of the Narniad. I love trying to find meaning and connections with Christianity while reading each book. The allegory in THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW aligns so much with my own beliefs that it made it a joy to read and it’s now one of my favorite books in the Narniad.

The obvious connection in THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW to Christianity is the creation, the Garden of Eden, and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. I also thought it was interesting that Lewis alluded to the worlds without number that God has created in the Wood Between the Worlds.

I think this quote from THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW sums up my reading experience quite nicely:

What you see and what you hear depends on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.

Anyway, after reading THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW, I found myself looking forward to reading THE LAST BATTLE for the first time since I started the Narniathon.

Have you read THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW? Did you like it? Why? Why not?

Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaTitle: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: Becky Albertalli
Series: Simonverse #1
Genre(s): Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Romance, YA
Pages: 325
Source: Library
For: Play Book Tag
Rating:
Sexual Content: 1 Flames

Goodreads Amazon

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

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight.

My Thoughts

I grew up in a very conservative religious family. Like many Christian religions, my religion believes acting on “same-sex attraction” is a sin. Because of this, I knew about SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA. But, because it’s about a closeted gay teenager, I’ve always shied away from reading it. I began questioning my own sexuality about eight years ago and I came out as queer on June 1. I’m now ready to embrace that part of me without feeling shame, which includes reading LGBTQ+ literature.

Last year, I watched LOVE, SIMON on Hulu and fell in love with Simon Spier and his story. Because of the movie, I wanted to read SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA. I decided to read it as part of Pride Month.

Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it shouldn’t be this big awkward thing whether you’re straight, gay, bi, or whatever.

SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA is a heart-warming story of love and acceptance in all its forms. Simon’s coming out felt familiar. When I read about his fear of rejection and/or disappointing those he loved if he came out, I felt like I understood.

I really felt for him when he was outed without his consent and bullied at the hands of other students in his school. I actually really love how Albertalli used the bullying Simon faced as a way for him to feel supported by his friends, family, and teachers as they rallied around him.

I loved the characters in SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA. I loved the relationship he had with Blue. I loved reading their emails to each other. They were fun and witty. I also loved his relationship with his parents and sisters. His family was protective and supportive, but not without their flaws which made the story more realistic.

Have you read SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA? If so, what did you think?

Trigger Warning

There is a trigger warning for bullying.

There are spoilers for THE HORSE AND HIS BOY in this post.

Narniathon: The Horse and His Boy

THE HORSE AND HIS BOY is the fifth book in the Narniad (in published order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 on April 30. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

When I first read THE HORSE AND HIS BOY 14 years ago, I really loved this installment of the Narniad. During my reread, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the first time I read it. I also feel like I don’t have as much to say about this book in general so I’ll focus on answering Chris’ questions instead of pointing out my own observations.

  1. THE HORSE AND HIS BOY has a distinctive ARABIAN NIGHTS feel which some have found problematic. Has this aspect, and its cultural or racial resonances, been an issue for you or not?

I did notice the problematic language and descriptions of the Calormen. I’m sure many readers pictured characters that look Arabic or Muslim in appearance because of Lewis’ descriptions. He may have, as Chris suggests in his post (link above) drawn inspiration directly from ARABIAN NIGHTS, which feels like cultural misappropriation.

While I think a book written like this today would be extremely inappropriate, I do try not to cast judgment on people in the past using today’s lenses. Yes, racism and cultural misappropriation was just as wrong in CS Lewis’ time as it is now. And, I think it’s better to learn from our past mistakes than to condemn a man for participating in socially “acceptable,” albeit reprehensible, behavior at the time. It’s the same reasoning I don’t think we should throw out Mark Twain’s books either. One of my least favorite books illustrates this principle perfectly:

Colored people don’t like LITTLE BLACK SAMBO. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about UNCLE TOM’S CABIN. Burn it. Someone’s written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book.

FAHRENHEIT 451, Ray Bradbury

For this reason, just like I have done with Dune, I can acknowledge the cultural misappropriation for what it is AND help society do better by also supporting Muslim authors and authentic Muslim stories.

  1. Unlike the previous four titles, this book has the formerly young visitors to Narnia, the Pevensies, more as bit players than as protagonists. Have you found this a disappointment or did you happily adjust to the new points-of-view provided by Shasta, Aravis, and the others?

I was fine with reading the story from other POVs than the Pevensies. I’m not necessarily attached to them (maybe Lucy). I’m most attached to Aslan and some of the woodland creatures, like Reepicheep (too bad he’s only in like 20% of Narniad). If Aslan weren’t to show up, then I’d be disappointed.

  1. As a boy Lewis loved to imagine talking animals, and that love permeates all the chronicles, including here with Bree, Hwin and, of course, Aslan. How did you feel about the interplay between the young protagonists and their mounts? Did you spot the literary allusions? And how did you react to Rabadash’s punishment?

I really liked how Aslan shows up in this book. It’s one of the things I like about this book. It reminds me of what in Narnia, Christians may term as the “Holy Spirit.” I feel like Aslan manifests this way in Narnia often. Instead of simply telling the characters he’s there to guide them, he leads them through other means that they often don’t know about. He helps them very mysteriously. (See what I did there. )

I didn’t spot the literary allusions, I don’t think. I think this may be why I’m not sure how it relates to Rabadash’s punishment. As far as his punishment, it reminded me a bit of PINOCCHIO. Even without thinking of Pleasure Island, I thought his punishment was just.

To be quite honest, I’m not really looking forward to reading the last two books in the Narniad. They’re my least favorite of the seven books. Hopefully, I’ll feel differently this time around. I am trying to keep an open mind even if it’s not working very well. Anyway, THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW and the creation of Narnia is next.

Have you read THE HORSE AND HIS BOY? Did you like it? Why? Why not?