The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes | Suzanne Collins

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games #0) by Suzanne Collins published 19 May 2020

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the 10th annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, 18-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.

The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined – every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute… and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes. 

How was it?

I’m probably not the only who’ll say this but The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is not what I wanted and didn’t become the book I needed. I wanted a book about the 50th Hunger Games, a younger Hamish and what happened after he won.

Collins played up the nostalgia with familiar last names and places of the Hunger Games series. Whether you’ve revisited the books or the movies in anticipation of this book the reminders will gets your mind working. Making connections and assumptions based on those names and the tidbits of new information given by this book.

Maybe the most interesting aspect of this book, it’s about the makings of a reality TV show. Reminiscent of the television show Unreal, it explores the behind the scenes of the version of The Hunger Games as we know it but also the making of one Coriolanus Snow.

Having the story told from Snow’s perspective is an interesting point of view. I remember “The Hunger Games” book, and the commentaries Katniss made about the Capitol, its inhabitants, and the games. Here, the commentaries are more subtle, more gruesome in so many ways. Panem’s blatant disregard for the tributes, which is reminds me of – and is probably inspired by – our own history. The human zoos – with veterinarians and everything – were a thing. In this book they don’t use the word slaves but it’s clear that the tributes and the Districts in general are treated and considered as such.

It becomes a story about the haves and have-nots, the 1% against the 99%, and having the story coming from someone who’s actively wants/needs this game to happen is quite fascinating. It allows you to see how in denial young Snow can be, how he justifies what’s happening around. Collins doesn’t make him – at least I never saw him that way – likable. I did not feel for him and/or hope that he would be better. I just observe how he slithered his way through life.

The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes answers questions you didn’t think to ask, it manages to have many twist and turns, and like the other books in the series it’s a bit of veiled commentary on our society. It was also fun to spot each of the series titles seamlessly worked into the story.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

You can get the book here

Tough Guy | Rachel Reid

Tough Guy (Game Changers #3) by Rachel Reid
published 13 January 2020

Pro hockey star Ryan Price may be an enforcer, but off the ice he struggles with anxiety. Recently traded to the Toronto Guardians, he’s determined to make a fresh start in the city’s dynamic LGBTQ Village. The last thing he expects to stumble upon in his new neighborhood is a blast from his past in the fabulous form of Fabian Salah.

Aspiring musician Fabian loathes hockey. But that doesn’t stop him from being attracted to a certain burly, ginger-bearded defenseman. He hasn’t forgotten the kiss they almost shared back in high school, and it’s clear the chemistry between them has only intensified.

Fabian is more than happy to be Ryan’s guide to the gay scene in Toronto. Between dance clubs and art exhibits—and the most amazing sex—Ryan’s starting to feel something he hasn’t experienced in a long time: joy. But playing the role of the heavy on the ice has taken its toll on his body and mind, and a future with Fabian may mean hanging up his skates for good.

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For some reason reading the Blurb, I knew Tough Guy would be a very different story. Game Changers and Heated Rivalry have little in common if you count out the hockey and M M; but what I mean is that I was interested in reading this book but not overly excited – which I should have been after reading book 2.

It turns out that Tough Guy is a nice read. It’s a slow burn with a lot of quiet moments and angst, but it was never boring for me. I did not struggle to read through those passages because they gave depth, relatability, and an uncanny realness to the main characters. Ryan and Fabian are the first pair – in this series so far – that I felt I could meet and/or hang out with. There is a grounded way about them that makes it so.

Ryan is such a sweet heart, he does the majority of the heavy lifting in this book. He’s the one I liked, the most real. And with that realness came heavy subjects like mental & physical health, addiction, and the darker side of pro sport. The gloves are off and the Rose-tinted glasses are put aside but there’s enough levity to counterbalance it all.
Fabian is a nice enough main character but as the novel progresses be learned

Although I love some heat in my romance, I like books that showcases different types of struggles when it comes to that type of intimacy. It’s done very tastefully here, it’s not a P.S.A. Or patronizing it’s very organic to the story and the character.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Though Guy is available on Amazon, Audible and other book retailers near you.

Tricked | Kevin Hearne

Tricked (The Iron Druid Chronicles #4) by Kevin Hearne published 24 April 2012

Druid Atticus O’Sullivan hasn’t stayed alive for more than two millennia without a fair bit of Celtic cunning. So when vengeful thunder gods come Norse by Southwest looking for payback, Atticus, with a little help from the Navajo trickster god Coyote, lets them think that they’ve chopped up his body in the Arizona desert.
But the mischievous Coyote is not above a little sleight of paw, and Atticus soon finds that he’s been duped into battling bloodthirsty desert shapeshifters called skinwalkers. Just when the Druid thinks he’s got a handle on all the duplicity, betrayal comes from an unlikely source. If Atticus survives this time, he vows he won’t be fooled again. Famous last words.

How was it? Sweet sweet Oberon, Oh have I missed thee.
Tricked isn’t the large scale level event story I expected after Hammered. It’s more of a street level story – the Daredevil to the Avengers if you will – more grounded and tone down. It has greater implications of course but remains lower scale.

Reminiscent of Hounded we learn more about Atticus – his life, relationships, the extend of his power – and the people who surround him. The Iron Druid Chronicles world is expanded to include more information on other gods and pantheons relevant to the story. Tricked also gives a bigger purpose and meaning to A Test of Mettle, which I didn’t see coming. The character interactions are entertaining as ever. Oberon’s constant commentary is gold, the pop culture references are precious, it’s fun and hilarious at times.

Like his apprentice Granuaile, most of the time I forget how old Atticus is – because he acts like an impulsive broey idiot sometimes – but then the enormity of millennias of life struck me at times. There is an emotional depth and a weight to all of his experiences that is showcased here. Hearne navigates Atticus’ regrets and bouts of depression quite well.

However, regarding the lact of permanent consequences for Atticus, that I raised on my previous review. I think it’s funny how it’s only Leif who suffered major consequences for battling and killing a god, when Atticus has a few under his belt but only temporarily lost a few ears.

Also Hearne plants the seeds for a budding romance. Well, there were hints of it before but it’s a bit more in the forefront now; and that might be my least favorite thing about the series.

After Hexed, and mostly Hammered, I was afraid that The Iron Druid Chronicles were losing steam but Tricked restaured my faith it’s a fun read.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

You can check out or get the book here: US | EU

Hammered | Kevin Hearne

Hammered (The Iron Druid Chronicles #3) by Kevin Hearne published 5 July 2011

Thor, the Norse god of thunder, is worse than a blowhard and a bully—he’s ruined countless lives and killed scores of innocents. After centuries, Viking vampire Leif Helgarson is ready to get his vengeance, and he’s asked his friend Atticus O’Sullivan, the last of the Druids, to help take down this Norse nightmare.
One survival strategy has worked for Atticus for more than two thousand years: stay away from the guy with the lightning bolts. Plus things are heating up in his home base of Tempe, Arizona. There’s a vampire turf war brewing, and Russian demon hunters who call themselves the Hammers of God are running rampant. Despite multiple warnings and portents of dire consequences, Atticus and Leif journey to the Norse plane of Asgard, where they team up with a werewolf, a sorcerer, and an army of frost giants for an epic showdown against vicious Valkyries, angry Norse gods, and the hammer-wielding Thunder Thug himself.

How was it? Adding to the fun character interactions and entertaining action scenes. The pop culture references mixed with mythology is another one of the charming thing about the Iron Druid Chronicles. The references seem to shine a little more in Hammered, but with that a few other things started to get more noticeable in the series.

Until now, there wasn’t much details about how some things work in that world. It’s amazing that I didn’t give much thought to these things because before this book I couldn’t have answered some simple questions, for example, how his teas work. I had an idea – which was close enough and it is mentioned in Kaibab Unbound – but I did not have the right answer.

Same could be said about Atticus’ background. I’ve been wondering if in his two millennias he’s ever had a long term relationships and/or children. He’s human after all, he could get hurt or die – though that seems unlikely 😒 – but it was interesting information to have and I hope something will come of it later.

Although he has some limitations, and quite a few tricks up his sleeve – Druid Magic to heal his wounds, among other thing, and his tea to keep himself young and spry – Atticus is a bit of a Gary Sue. Yes, he’s 2100 years old and has had extensive training and experiences. But the stupid things he pulls at times makes him look like a powerful apprentice, who after a training montage, just became a full on Druid. He looses the glimpses wisdom we’ve seen from him by being utterly irresponsible and foolish. At times he seems stuck in his 10th century ways – or that’s Hearne’s excuse to explain some of Atticus’ questionable behavior. He’s a bit confusing.

Turns out the sequel to Hexed is a though one, it has great and questionable moments; but it’s also fast-paced, action-packed, with likable characters.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

You can check out or get the book here: US | EU

Hexed | Kevin Hearne

Hexed (The Iron Druid Chronicles #2) by Kevin Hearne published 7 June 2011

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, doesn’t care much for witches. Still, he’s about to “make nice” with the local coven by signing a mutually beneficial non-aggression treaty—when suddenly the witch population in modern day Tempe, Arizona, quadruples overnight. The new girls are not just bad, they’re badasses with a dark history on the German side of WWII.
With a fallen angel feasting on local high school students, a horde of Bacchants blowing in from Vegas with their special brand of deadly decadence, and a Celtic goddess of fire vying for his attention, Atticus is having trouble scheduling the witch-hunt. But aided by his magical sword, his neighbor’s rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and his vampire attorney, Atticus is ready to sweep the town and show the coven they picked the wrong Druid to hex.

How was it? Is it just me or did Leif straight up changed the way he talks from Hounded to Hexed? His vernacular didn’t strike me as weird the first time.

Anyway, Hexed is a fun and interesting book but I find it lacking. For one there’s not nearly enough of Oberon, whose not just the comic relief, he’s the secret weapon that makes the whole thing work.

Not having Oberon around as much makes the second book a bit bleak – well creepy-ish. A pattern start to emerge and it doesn’t look too good. I know Atticus is supposed to be a handsome young man and all but it’s weird that most of the women in this book come on to him. Whether it is as a joke, aggressively, or to subtly threaten him, they throw themselves at him. The fact that Atticus doesn’t boast about it, make it palatable but it’s strange and a tad unrealistic – ironic given that the story features goddesses and witches.

Having him checking them out – sometimes objectifying them – rings truer to me – because he’s no Monk – than having the vast majority of the women lusting after him. It could be rationalized that often women have been known to use their charms, particularly in the old days, to obtain what they wanted or needed but that’s not always true here. They are just horndogs like Oberon.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

You can check out or get the book here: US | EU

Assist | L.A. Witt

Assist (Pucks & Rainbows #2) by L.A. Witt Published 26 December 2019

Seattle Snowhawks rookie Justin Reid has it bad for his teammate Shawn Kelleher. It’s just his luck that Shawn’s got a crush too… on Justin’s best friend, Vancouver Narwhal center Keith Adams.

When Shawn lets it slip at the worst possible moment that he wants Keith, Justin is hurt, but what can he do? He steers Keith in Shawn’s direction and lets chemistry do the rest.

What Justin doesn’t know is that while Keith is into Shawn, he’s also secretly wanted Justin since forever. After some stumbling, they realize there’s something very hot and very mutual going on between all three of them. It’s fantasies coming true left, right, and center, and it just doesn’t get any better than this.

Except this scorching hot triad is anything but simple. Not while the closeted son of a hockey legend is fighting to make his own name in the shadow of his deeply homophobic father’s legacy. Not in the midst of grueling schedules and a team’s fraternization rules. Throw in pesky emotions showing up where they aren’t wanted, and it’s a play that’s doomed from the start.

Shawn, Keith, and Justin all fought their way into professional hockey. Is what they have together worth fighting for too? Or will fear let heartache win this game?

How was it? This book starts with a bang, holly hell. Like many books before, I didn’t read the blurb, I didn’t know what to expect. I sure did not expect this. I thought this was my first threesome romance but it’s not, it’s my second.

Like Rebound, Assist hit me hard but in a different way, the level of angst in this book is stressful. It’s worth it though, because each of the relationship make sense, they feel real and hot. Complicated, of course, and well worth the frustrated moments. Justin, Keith, and Shawn are similar in some ways, enough that I sometimes forgot whose perspective I was on, yet each bring something to the relationship.

I’ve read L.A. Witt’s books before but in this series she seems to be aiming for the thougher, more complex side of romances. I’m eager for the next one.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hounded | Kevin Hearne

Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles #1) by Kevin Hearne published 3 May 2011

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.
Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.

How was it? I will read anything whatever the genre. I will give a book a fair shake, more so if it’s a book series. I’m so thankful to the person who recommended this series to me via the blog. It took me months to start it but now, I so glad I did. I started the series in chronological order of the stories and not the publication.

I was apprehensive, wondering if the tone of the characters would be the same as in prequel novellas – Grimoire of the Lamb, Clan Rathskeller, Kaibab Unbound – Because I really started to like Atticus – and still love the young broey but kinda wise way he comes across to me – but the secret sauce of this book, and probably the series, is Oberon. I like him even more in Hounded, every time he was there, it made everything better, at this point I’m mostly reading this book for a dog! – And I’m not really a dog person, I love plants, Cacti, so I don’t have to much work to take care of them.

The back and forth between Oberon and Atticus is very entertaining, it’s one of the strength of the book. Whether it is these two, or Atticus interacting with other characters in the book, it’s fun. Atticus himself is a good dude – I appreciate how he does not discriminates with his violence – but I knew from page one that he’d be fine – not because there’re like a zillion books in the series – because he’s over 2100 years old and cunning. Besides he never really seems to struggles, he gets worried yes, but somehow you know the odds will be in his favor.

So what makes this book entertaining and worth checking out is the interactions between the characters, but mostly, it’s Oberon. That dog is hilarious and very well written. It does feel like his words are striped right off of a dog’s mind. The story is fine too but the talking dog is where it’s at.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

You can check out or get the book here: US | EU