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

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

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

Mainly by Moonlight | Josh Lanyon

Mainly by Moonlight (Bedknobs and Broomsticks #1) by Josh Lanyon published 1st August 2019

Cosmo Saville guiltily hides a paranormal secret from his soon-to-be husband. Thanks to a powerful love spell, uncertainty threatens his nuptial magic. But when he’s arrested for allegedly killing a longtime rival, he could spend his honeymoon behind bars…
Police Commissioner John Joseph Galbraith never believed in love until Cosmo came along. Falling head over heels for the elegant antiques dealer is an enchantment he never wants to break. So when all fingers point to Cosmo’s guilt, John races to prove his fiancé’s innocence before they take their vows.
As Cosmo hunts for the real killer among the arcane aristocracy, John warns him to leave it to the police. But with an unseen enemy threatening to expose Cosmo’s true nature, the couple’s blissful future could shatter like a broken charm.
Can Cosmo find the lost grimoire, clear his name, and keep John’s love alive, or will black magic “rune” their wedding bells?

Buy links

How was it? This is my first exposure to Lanyon, and I find myself in that weird place where Mainly by Moonlight is not a book that I will remember fondly or am likely to revisit, but might read the sequel of. In other words this book is average, passable is the word that comes to mind, but it has something.

Some kind of “it” factor, or maybe I’m bewitched? Because I don’t see a lot of things that I like in this book. The world building is confusing at times, Cosmo behaves in ways I don’t understand or can’t make sense of. He’s sort of likable – and that’s about it. As for John…I don’t know what to say, we’s suppose to feel bad for him at some point but I didn’t. He comes across as controlling and a bit selfish. I can’t event say that there’s a love connection between the two because like everything it’s a little foggy.

However, I’m impressed with Lanyon’s ability to give me hope through this muddy mess. Giving me the impression that it will all make sense and be worth it at the end. I might be too optimistic but I think enough seeds have been planted for the making of an attention grabbing, exciting overall story arc.

My best guess is that Mainly by Moonlight is like a bad pilot of an otherwise great TV-Show, only time will tell.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Mainly by Moonlight is available on The Book Depository, Smashwords, Amazon, Audible and other book retailers near you.