New-ish Release Mini-Reviews

The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

I went into this book kind of wondering why it was necessary, but I was sucked back into Panem right away. I forgot how engaging Collins is as a writer and this book brought to mind everything I loved about The Hunger Games in the first place. I thought it was really interesting to see what the early Games were like and how Coriolanus introduced some things that lasted even until Katniss played. In a lot of ways, this book is really reminiscent of Marissa Meyer’s Heartless. In both books, we know that our main character will eventually become a horrible person, but it’s not immediately clear how they get there. I felt my feelings towards Coriolanus slowly changing as the book went on. He was someone I could sympathize with at the beginning, but over time he turned into someone I really didn’t like. I’m curious to know how much of his backstory already existed while Collins wrote The Hunger Games and how much she pulled together for this book. I thought it was so interesting how Collins weaved in all the things in his background that explain just why he hates Katniss so much. Almost everything about her must remind him of Lucy Gray. Overall, if you were a fan of the original trilogy, I would definitely recommend this. I didn’t feel like it was a waste of time at all. 4/5

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Big Summer

I had no idea what this book was about when I started it so I was STUNNED that it turned into a murder mystery. Despite that somewhat pleasant surprise, I only found this book to be okay. There were so many flashbacks to the point where I was getting confused about what was actually happening in the current timeline. I kept losing track of where my character was supposed to be while she was thinking about the past. The ending was okay if not the most satisfying–it didn’t totally make sense to me. I didn’t find Nick and Daphne to be very convincing as a couple. I felt like they needed to have more of a confrontation than they did regarding Nick’s ulterior motives. My main takeaway, however, is that Darshi is an amazing angel friend and Daphne doesn’t deserve her. 3/5

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Happy & You Know It

This book also wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be. I didn’t find Claire to be a very likable character. A lot of the time I felt a little impatient with her. I also didn’t understand the depth of the betrayal she felt when she learned certain facts about the group–I thought she wildly overreacted. This book definitely had some Big Little Lies vibes to it almost where we have a group of mom and their secrets. I thought the prologue at the beginning of the book did a really great job of keeping the momentum going towards the end (again, similar to BLL). I thought the ending was a bit unexpected, but interesting and in retrospect, I can see the seeds that were planted along the way. Overall, I didn’t love the characters or the book as a whole, but I appreciated the frank depiction of what it’s like to be a new mother. I can testify that all those feelings about motherhood are real and accurate. 3/5

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Oona Out of Order

I was so disappointed by this book! My main problem was just that I didn’t care for Oona. I don’t think she made a single decision that I agreed with. Seriously. Not a single one. It’s so hard for me to connect with a character when I don’t agree with their decision-making. I just can’t separate myself like that. I didn’t totally understand her obsession with Dale. I understand that he was her high school boyfriend and first love and she didn’t really get closure on their relationship right away, but she’s as hung up on him after seven years (and other relationships) as she was in the first year. It just didn’t ring authentic to me. But what do I know? I never had a high school boyfriend. I also thought the pacing of the book was off. Each year, we would spend a lot of time on just a few days and then the rest of the year would take up like two paragraphs and we’d be on to the next. My last issue is the fact that we never really get to see Oona turn into “future Oona”. They felt like two completely separate characters and I really wanted to see Oona turn into that person who is “future Oona”, but we never do. There were definitely some twists that I didn’t see coming, but they weren’t enough to redeem this book. 2/5

The Vanishing Half

Oh gosh, I really feel like I’m in the minority with this one, but I thought it was just okay. The premise itself is pretty intriguing, but something about the pacing was off to me. The different narratives all felt really long and I think it could have benefited from alternating narratives or something. The whole story just seemed to move really slow. I’m not necessarily opposed to a leisurely paced story, but I really wasn’t getting anything out of this one. Despite the slow pace, I never felt connected to any of the character. It made it so I just didn’t really care much what was going on. Honestly, there were a couple of times that I almost set this book down for good. In the end, I think the relationship between Jude and Desiree was compelling and encouraging, but it was kind of offset by Stella and Kennedy’s relationship. 3/5

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This book was so Jake | The Diviners by Libba Bray

The DivinersAfter a careless night of drinking and partying, Evie is being sent to live with her uncle in New York. New York of the 1920s doesn’t seem like such a punishment to Evie especially when she gets there and finds out that her uncle runs a museum based on the occult and all things supernatural. Her uncle seems pretty cool but his assistant, Jericho, is a total wet blanket. Evie plans to just have a good time in the big city with her friend Mabel and her new friend Theta but that’s brought to a screeching halt when a serial killer is discovered. That alone is scary enough, but this killer seems to have ties with the occult and Evie, her uncle, and Jericho soon find themselves in the middle of the investigation.

If you liked this, you should also read: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

TL;DR – A great setting and murder mystery were hampered by a slow pace and multiple subplots that don’t add to the main plot (but will probably come into play later in the series).

I LOVE the 1920s as a time period. Not that I would have wanted to be alive back then, but looking back at that decade is always fun. There’s just so much glitz and glamour. Every day is a party. I know that this is incredibly romanticized, but I can’t help it. This book does a great job of evoking all of those feelings but also showing some of the rougher sides of the 1920s. I especially appreciate the frank depiction of Theta and Memphis’ relationship as an interracial couple. I also feel like Bray did a good job of showing a little bit of what every day life was like in the 1920s–not just the speakeasies. The language seemed super authentic to me and that was something I really enjoyed.

The plot of this book was pretty fantastic but it started off SO SLOW. Honestly, the only reason I kept with it past the first 200 pages is because I know how many people really love this book and series. There was nothing inherently wrong with the beginning of the book, but there wasn’t much that made me want to get back into it after I set it down. Not much was happening and I didn’t find Evie to be a very likable character.

Speaking of Evie…she just wasn’t my favorite. She was immature, selfish, and impulsive. While she did show some growth throughout the book, it wasn’t much (especially not 600 pages worth). She’s pretty much the same character at the end as she is in the beginning. She just doesn’t think things through or think about other people! The rest of the characters were fine and I felt like there was a lot to be explored with them, which will probably happen in future books.

Another issue I had was just with how LONG this book is. I don’t necessarily mind a 600 page book, but not all of the characters and subplots were essential to the story. Obviously the author is setting up the rest of the series, but I just don’t feel like that was necessary to do in the first book. If she had cutout all the extra things about Theta, Memphis, and Henry, then the book probably would have been a much more manageable 300 pages. The whole time, I was expecting a bunch of characters to come together in the end with their special skills to take down the bad guy but…that never happened. So then here I am at the end of the book feeling unfulfilled and not really caring about Theta or Sam Lloyd or Henry DuBois (or the girl from the Chinese restaurant–what does she have to do with anything???).

Overall, I actually did like this book (despite my critiques). I thought the murders were creative and the way the characters solved the mystery seemed logical and was fairly easy to follow. However, while I think I would probably enjoy the rest of the series, I have no drive to actually pick up the next book. I would recommend this book for those who don’t mind a slower pace and are willing to invest for the long haul.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Heavy (slightly graphic but not too descriptive)
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy
Sexual Content: Moderate