Redeems itself at the end

‘Mockingjay’ – Suzanne Collins

4-star-rating

Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay – Suzanne Collins

Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But she’s still not safe. A revolution is unfolding, and everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans – everyone except Katniss.

And yet she must play the most vital part in the final battle. Katniss must become their Mockingjay – the symbol of rebellion – no matter what the personal cost.

The final instalment to ‘The Hunger Games’ trilogy, I found myself finally being able to complete this series without having seen all of the films! Interestingly, my response to the first half of the book (i.e, part one of the film), was the same as the film: quite a lot of talk and description that slowed the pace down considerably in comparison to the opening novel. However, the second part of ‘Mockingjay’ kept me guessing with its twists and turns; the ending had me physically gasping aloud as I could not see how the story would conclude.

There is a lot of focus on Katniss’s mental state, which the film certainly overlooked. Tormented by her role in the two Hunger Games, she still struggles dealing with the death she has caused and her now pivotal role in the rebellion again the Capitol. It was this that slowed the pace down but on reflection, was a key part to the story’s conclusion. For a seventeen-year-old girl, she definitely carries a lot of emotional baggage and her conflicting emotions towards Gale and Peeta have her searching inwardly in a bid to find peace with herself.

As I drew closer to the end of the novel, I initially felt the ending was becoming predictable and too simplistic for even a teenage audience. However, the final few chapters intensified the plot and Collins surprises readers with Katniss’s fragility and the Capitol’s downfall. Not wanting to reveal the ending, I could not believe how ‘The Hunger Games’ ended and applaud Collins for taking the bold step of not keeping characters alive just because of popularity/importance. I think this is what redeemed the story and, coupled with Katniss’s troubled state of mind, could not put down the book until I had reached its satisfying conclusion.

What was also refreshing about ‘Mockingjay’ was the fact it was not a similar plot to the first two books. Not having to read about another Hunger Games made the novel more enjoyable. But, Collins does continue to interweave the theme of playing games throughout, to the extent that at times I had to pause and think about what was being suggested as the story came to its end.

The explosive finish really caught my imagination. Vivid descriptions made it difficult not to imagine the Capitol’s eventual downfall as the rebels grow in power and, whilst the film adaptations mean you cannot but see Katniss as Jennifer Lawrence, the heroine she becomes is admirable and disturbing at the same time. I found myself always wishing she would be able to return to the humble young girl she was at the start of the series, but enjoyed reading how she attempted to deal with the pressures that being the Mockingjay gave.

This was a really enjoyable read and a series I would not hesitate to revisit in a few years time. Even after finishing it, I found myself haunted by parts of the story and I think this is what makes a solid read. Collins concludes ‘The Hunger Games’ series in a satisfying way, leaving no room for a further instalment, whilst at the same time giving her fans exactly what they deserve: an ending that you can sit and imagine other parts to the story.

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An echo of the first

‘Catching Fire’ – Suzanne Collins

4-star-rating

Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are still alive. Katniss should be relieved, but now there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol – a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

As the nation watches Katniss and Peeta, the stakes are higher than ever. One false move and the consequences will be unimaginable.

Following on from ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘Catching Fire’ follows Katniss and Peeta in the aftermath of winning the Games. What I liked was the fact that little time has passed as Collins continues the story just where we left off. With the return of Effie and Haymitch plus new characters introduced, I found this novel very easy to pick up.

Unlike the first novel, Collins seems to focus more on Katniss and her internal battles. As she deliberates the fall out from defying the Capitol, readers witness her emotional turmoil in the desperation to protect the ones she loves. Whilst I enjoyed learning more about Katniss and her character, it did come with its downfall. This slows the pace compared to the first novel which did leave me feeling a little bored at times.

‘Catching Fire’ sees Katniss returns to the arena, battling in a special edition of the Games with Peeta, fighting against previous victors from the other Districts. I found this turn of events disappointing and not too dissimilar from the first novel. I would have preferred seeing more developments from the Capitol but instead was presented with what felt a replay of ‘The Hunger Games’. True, new characters and a different battleground meant that the challenges were unique, I couldn’t help but read with a strong sense of déjà vu. This left me feeling quite frustrated towards the end of the story and ready to see the finishing pages.

Would I recommend this? Well, if you enjoyed the first book then you should certainly read ‘Catching Fire’ to find out what happens next to Katniss. As long as you are prepared for a bit of repetition from the first book, you will probably find this an enjoyable read.

Spot on

‘The Hunger Games’ – Suzanne Collins

5-star-rating

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

Winning will make you famous.
Losing means certain death.

In a dark vision of the near future, twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live TV show called the Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed.

When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister’s place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

May the odds be ever in your favour.

I’ve been promising myself to read this ever since I saw the first film. Now, three films down and one to go, I have finally managed to get round to reading the first of this trilogy. Unsurprisingly, the film adaptation played in my head over the course of my reading, but this did not lessen my enjoyment as I rapidly finished this novel.

What I enjoyed most about this novel is the added detail that you just don’t get in the film. Learning more about the characters and their actions during the Hunger Games added depth to the plot and made the action more intense. In addition, the detail Collins goes into for the relationship between Peeta and Katniss was quite surprising for me as I didn’t feel this was portrayed so closely in the film. For me, it was this element that reinforced the novel’s young adult audience.

I really liked the relationship established between Rue and Katniss. It was very touching at times and has a clear impact on how Katniss plays the remainder of the Hunger Games. Collins portrays a different side of Katniss and perhaps it is this that sets up the development in her relationship with Peeta?

Having finally read the first in the series, I did not find ‘The Hunger Games’ disappointing. It delivered on every expected level and I would recommend this to anyone. If you have seen the film, you will not be disappointed by the original plot. If you are lucky enough to not know the story behind this trilogy, the originality and it’s characters will keep you hooked right until the very end.

Welcome to the indulgence of Civitas

‘Secrets of the Unaltered’ – Leti Del Mar

5-star-rating

Secrets of the Unaltered - Leti Del Mar

Secrets of the Unaltered – Leti Del Mar

The fate of the entire Confederation rests on their shoulders.

Only they have what it takes to uncover the secrets that have imprisoned their land, but can they survive a truth more disturbing than they ever imagined?

Rose and Flynn have left the Land of the Unaltered on a mission to discover the truth behind who created the genetically engineered super army and stop it before the Rebellion is doomed. Time is ticking, but soon capital life begins to pull them in different directions. Flynn struggles to fit in with the self-indulgent and fashion obsessed populous while the expectations of Rose’s influential family tests their fragile and newly formed relationship. Will they let the capital pull them apart?

Everyone is counting on them, but in this time of discord, can they count on each other?

‘Secrets of the Unaltered’ is a Young Adult Dystopian Romance and is the second instalment of The Confederation Chronicles.

About the author:

Leti Del Mar

Leti Del Mar

Leti Del Mar lives in sunny Southern California with her husband, daughter and abnormally large cat. When she is not writing, reading, or blogging, she teaches Biology and Algebra to teenagers. Leti is also a classic film buff, is passionate about Art History and loves to travel.

Author links:

Facebook / Twitter/ Web / Goodreads

Review:

What a great follow on from ‘Land of the Unaltered’! Continuing straight on from the first book, Leti Del Mar keeps up the pace with the setting moving to the intriguing city of Civitas. This was a read I couldn’t put down and it was very easy to rate it five stars.

In my review of the first book, I noted how easy it was to imagine the craziness of Civitas from Rose’s descriptions. This time the story takes place in this city and the author’s descriptions were so vivid that it brought it alive in my imagination, leaving me hungry to find out more about this indulgent place. The intense desire to follow fashion (in this book it went from tangerine to turquoise and then to black and gold!) is quite believable based on how Del Mar has described the characters. We finally meet Rose’s mother and her friend Constantine and I just loved how different they are in comparison to Flynn and his upfront way of living back in Eureka.

Both Rose and Flynn find themselves being pulled in two directions as they settle in to life in Civitas. Whilst Rose is desperate to please her father, Flynn cannot forget the mission they are supposed to be completing and is keen to get home to a Eureka as soon as possible. The dual narrative once again allows the reader to be privy to both Rose and Flynn’s feelings, particularly as they feel themselves drifting apart because of the distractions that Civitas has to offer. However, what I found surprising was that the author causally does not include information about the characters which we do not follow, for example Flynn racing transportation in the afternoons, and this little extra detail I think would have added even more to the portrayal of life in this city.

The mystery that Rose and Flynn are working on deepens in this story and the romance definitely takes a back seat. The revelations that came throughout were mostly surprising to me and I really enjoyed the final showdowns leading up to the ball and then on to the end. Del Mar has definitely set readers up for an exciting conclusion and I can’t wait to read what happens next.

This is a great read and one I could easily imagine being turned in to a film. I really enjoyed reading about the city of Civitas and we are finally given that extra information about the great virus that caused society to change. There is a lot of scope to cover in the next story and it would appear that the other cities also get involved, so I am keen to see what role they play. I read ‘Secrets of the Unaltered’ in one day because it was so enjoyable and got me hooked so quickly. Bring on the next title!

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Give-away:

Enter with a chance to win a $10.00 Amazon or B&N gift card and three digital copies of ‘Land of the Unaltered’. Good luck!

Buy links:

Click the links below to get yourself a copy, only $0.99 for the duration of the book tour:

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To follow the tour of ‘Secrets of the Unaltered’ by Leti Del Mar, please click here.

Romance and mystery

‘Land of the Unaltered’ – Leti Del Mar

4-star-rating

Land of the Unaltered - Leti Del Mar

Land of the Unaltered – Leti Del Mar

Rose comes from the capital of the Confederation of Cities where its citizens live in luxury and the greatest fashion statement of all is being Altered. People change everything about the way they look as often as they do their hairstyle but Rose is different. Her position of privilege has made her an outcast and led her to suspect that something sinister is happening to the citizens and flees the capital along with a past that imprisons her in search of a fresh start in the Land of the Unaltered.

Flynn lives in the Land of the Unaltered and hates the capitol and everything it stands for. So when a spoiled capital girl is assigned to work with him, he wants nothing to do with her and is prepared to make her life miserable. But Flynn was not prepared for someone like Rose. She doesn’t fit the mold he expected and finds himself strongly attracted to her. As she continues to surprise and outwit him, they begin to forge a bond that is tested when they discover a secret that could change everything they know about Land of the Unaltered. 

This was an easy read to get in to with a mix between young romance and the dystopian setting. There is a fair bit of mystery and intrigue as the two main characters, Rose and Flynn, make some startling discoveries whilst working in the forest outside of the city of Eureka and, these elements combined, made this an enjoyable read.

The premise of this story really intrigued me and Leti Del Mar generally delivers in this first book of the ‘Confederation’ series. Set in an unspecified future, readers are presented with a society that has survived an outbreak and dispersed into different colonies. However, the ruling city, Civitas, is unique and different from other similar books I have read. This ruling city is governed by surgery as people happily alter themselves to keep up with the latest fashions. The author describes this city well and I could really picture the whacky clothing and surgery that the citizens would do to themselves just to fit in with the crowd.

The budding relationship between Rose and Flynn was really cute and I was so keen for them to realise their feelings for one another! Helped by the fact that we switch between their narratives, you really get an understanding of their misguided feelings and prejudices. Rose is keen not to show Flynn any weakness and stands up to the massive reading he gives her when she joins the lumber yard and so hides her frustrations until she leaves work each day. In contrast, Flynn cannot help his opinion that everyone from Civitas is spoiled and useless. Both became keen for the other to view them in a positive light and it was sweet to see them finally let their barriers down and get to know each other for who they really are.

The author does not give away too much about the past society and this was something I was keen to learn about. Given the way this book ends, I imagine this will truly be revealed in the next book which is why it didn’t have a massive impact on my overall rating. I did like the fact that Leti Del Mar keeps you wanting more and it is this interest that will carry over and left me keen to read the next book in the series.

This is an easy and inoffensive read. I have few criticisms of this book and whilst I found the romance side of the story a little predictable, I still enjoyed the mystery that built up around Civitas. Rose’s family background adds dimension to the story and it will be interesting to see how this influences events in the next book. ‘Land of the Unaltered’ is a solid read and one you could easily devour in an afternoon. It will be interesting to see what happens next!

A pacey but lacking dystopian fiction

‘The Only Boy’ – Jordan Locke

2-star-rating-1

The Only Boy - Jordan Locke

The Only Boy – Jordan Locke

Mary is stuck in Section One, living with three hundred women in a crumbling hospital. She wonders what life was like two centuries ago, before the Cleansing wiped out all the men. But the rules—the Matriarch’s senseless rules—prevent her from exploring the vacant city to find out.

Taylor’s got a dangerous secret: he’s a boy. His compound’s been destroyed, and he’s been relocated to Section One. Living under the Matriarch means giving up possessions, eating canned food and avoiding all physical contact. Baggy clothes hide his flat chest and skinny legs, but if anyone discovers what lies beneath, he’ll be exiled. Maybe even executed.

Mary’s never seen a boy—the Matriarch cut the pictures of men from the textbooks—and she doesn’t suspect Taylor’s secret. If she knew, she might understand the need to stop the girls from teasing him. If she knew, she might realize why she breaks the rules, just to be near him. Then again, she might be frightened to death of him.

Taylor should go. The Matriarch is watching his every move. But running means leaving Mary—and braving the land beyond the compound’s boundaries.

In this dystopian novel, readers are presented with a society that has been destroyed by a disease, wiping out all men. ‘The Only Boy’ is a relatively short novel and, as a result, Locke has the pace moving quickly. And in my opinion, it was this that made the read feel a little one-dimensional.

I very quickly found myself intrigued about how this dystopian society ran and how history had caused the total wipe-out of all men. Readers are given this in snapshots throughout the story and I think it would have been better if this background was given in more detail, early on in the story. As such, when I realised that Locke was not going to be forthcoming with this detail, I found myself getting a little frustrated with the plot .

In this sense, I found it quite difficult to connect with the characters because I did not know enough about their backgrounds. Don’t get me wrong, we find out about Mary and Taylor, what happened to their mothers, and the role they play in society. But I felt this was a little lacking and sometimes I found it difficult to understand a character’s motives.

Mary and Taylor are cleverly portrayed to be opposites in their viewpoint and Locke subtly presents this throughout the story. Their interpretation of different ways of living made me smirk a few times, such as eating freshly grown food versus tinned, and it just showed how different Mary and Taylor’s backgrounds are.

The plot yo-yous between different settings and this made me feel like the story was not progressing. There are numerous times of being captured and escaping and it didn’t feel like the characters were getting anywhere. I would have liked to learn more about the “Earthers” who live in the forest and how they grew to be their own clan because they appear to live such different lives to what Mary especially is used to.

Switching between Mary and Taylor’s viewpoint kept this plot refreshing and new, particularly as I found the story becoming a little repetitive after about half way through. I enjoyed reading about how each adapted to their new surroundings after being captured and how they dealt with the other’s death, (or so they thought). However, I was surprised that Taylor being the only boy was revealed so early on in the story; I was expecting this to be the driving force of events.

I think that this is a pretty average dystopian fiction to read and I confess I feel there are stronger novels out there. The ending was a little disappointing and I found I had even more questions than answers. That being said, it did match the quick pace of the rest of the story, so Locke retains this consistently. This is definitely an easy read to get into and one that gets you drawn in to the narrative quite quickly. If dystopian fiction is your thing then you may want to think twice before reading it as I believe there are far stronger books out there than ‘The Only Boy’.