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.

Girl power!

‘Across the Wire’ – Stella Telleria

5-star-rating

Across the Wire - Stella Telleria

Across the Wire – Stella Telleria

When Mia Mitchell, a hardcore but lonely former Marine, steps into an alley to pull some thugs off an unlucky foreigner, she walks into a fight she expects. What she doesn’t see coming is the foreigner making her a job offer any sane person would refuse. So, she takes it. She thinks she’s headed for some third-world country; instead she’s mysteriously transported to an Earth-like parallel world. That’s a mad left-hook.

Mia discovers a matriarchal dystopia where freedom doesn’t exist and fighting for it means execution. Lethal force bends all to the law; women fear for their families and un-wed men suffer slavery. Mia’s job is to train an underground syndicate of male freedom-fighters for a violent revolution. However, the guys don’t want a pair of X chromosomes showing them the way.

Eben, an escaped slave, is encouraged by Mia to become a leader among the men. But when he turns his quiet determination on her, it spells F.U.B.A.R. for cynical Mia. Their unexpected connection threatens more than her exit strategy; it threatens the power struggle festering with in the syndicate.

Haunted by nightmares and post-traumatic stress, unsure who to trust or how to get home, Mia struggles to stay alive as she realises all is not what it seems.

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About the author:

Stella Telleria

Stella Telleria

All my life I’ve dreamed of stories or have had my nose buried in one. I live in Edmonton, Canada with my husband and my weird sense of humour. Across the Wire is my first novel.

I love old war movies, dystopian fiction, and any story with action, a good plot, and characters I’d get into a fight at the pub for. Not that I’m a brawler or anything. Unless you think that out-of-print book or vintage piece at the thrift shop is going home with you instead of me. Then, my friend, the gloves are off.

Some say if you have your nose buried in a book, you’re missing out on life. I say my nose is buried in a book because one life is not enough.

Author links:

Facebook / Twitter / Web / Goodreads / Youtube

Review:

Society is turned on its head with this offering from Telleria. Where women are top of the social ladder and men are to serve and satisfy women, Gaia is a far cry from Mia’s home city of San Francisco. This is a brilliant and different read and I really enjoyed all that ‘Across the Wire’ had to offer.

The idea of an alternate universe was a little bit unbelievable and what I found to be one of the weakest links in the story. However, Telleria doesn’t turn this into a massive plot feature and once Mia has accepted her new surroundings, readers are offered a different and unique setting. Gaia appears more technologically advanced with hover cars and using green energy sources, but its methods of crime and punishment are quite archaic, with Mia witnessing an execution with her first visit to the city. I would have liked to learn more about the city and how society really works, so I am hoping this features in the next book of this series.

Mia used to be in the United States Marine Corps and this military background shapes the plot and her time on the Ant Hill as she trains men to resist against female supremacy. There is a lot of focus on the training she delivers and readers are given snapshots into her disturbed past. I liked the way that Telleria gave readers small insights into Mia’s past as we are encouraged to piece together why she finds it so difficult to settle down and make friends with her recruits.

The plot switches between Mia and one of her recently rescued recruits, Eben. I found this narrative shift gave the plot more depth, particularly as each character is interpreting the other’s actions. Indeed, there are a lot of suggestions about character motivations on the Ant Hill and I found myself desperate to learn more about such hidden agendas. Unfortunately for me, Telleria did not reveal this in ‘Across the Wire’ which clearly provides more fuel for the next book!

I really enjoyed reading this novel. It is different from anything I have read recently and this I found refreshing. I liked this unusual plot and the excitement and depth that Telleria provides has left me keen to learn what happens next to Mia and Eben. A great read.

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

Giveaway:

The writer, Stella Telleria, is giving away a signed print copy of ‘Across the Wire’ and a swag-bag. This competition is open to the United Kingdom, United States and Canada and closes on 21st April 2014. Click here to enter. Good luck!

Click the links below to get yourself a copy of the novel:

Amazon / Smashwords / Kobo / iTunes

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A thrilling conclusion

‘Taken by Choice’ – Jessica Frances

4-star-rating

Image courtesy of goodreads.com

Taken by Choice – Jessica Frances

They failed. They have been taken by P.A.G.E. again and this time Stan and Martha are prepared for them. They’ve made it impossible to escape. They have no choice but to stay in line and behave.

New friendships are made, relationships are put to the test and answers about their abilities are revealed.

Is it possible that they can still take down P.A.G.E. but this time trying from within?

Or will the choices they make endanger the future they were tasked with protecting?

Only time will tell. Unfortunately, it might mean having to give up everything for the chance of ending this once and for all.

Just like the other two books in the ‘Taken’ series, this final instalment is thrilling and fast-paced. I really enjoyed reading about how Zoe and her friends as they battle against P.A.G.E and I am pleased to say that there was a lot more action in this book, which is exactly what I hoped for after reading ‘Taken by Force’.

The focus of this novel broadens as Frances introduces other characters who have a special ability and this time they feature more in the action. I liked the diversity that this brought to the plot as I found it made it more interesting, particularly with how the plot develops. Also, the idea that Zoe and her friends are being prepared for special missions is finally realised in this book. For one, there are more intense training sessions, rather than it seeming like a elongated day at the gym. Secondly, Frances takes the action out of America for a mission in Scotland. I really enjoyed reading this, but wished that more could have been made from it.

Zoe’s dreams are really important to the story and the way that they are presented to the reader meant that you are always trying to calculate the truth behind her “fake” dreams. Presented in a non-linear fashion, it does not become clear until near the end of the novel what exactly Zoe was dreaming of and I thought the dreams provided a really clever insight into time after the story had concluded. This definitely added more depth to the story.

The relationship between Zoe and Charlie continues and at times I found it quite suffocating. Indeed, it did remind me of the intense feelings between Bella and Edward in ‘Twilight’ so I guess that this was just an added feature to the story. However, it was again quite sweet to see how protective Charlie is of Zoe and how he will do anything to keep her safe.

I really enjoyed reading this book and I think the series was great. This book concludes nicely and I felt very satisfied after reading it. Whilst it may be considered a teenage/new adult fiction, I definitely think plenty of other people will find enjoyment in this story. Personally, I feel that my only criticism would be that this seems to be just an e-book; I would love to have this physical book in my collection so I can revisit it again and again.

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

 

The chase continues

‘Taken by Force’ – Jessica Frances

4-star-rating

Image courtesy of goodreads.com

Taken by Force – Jessica Frances

Eight months have passed since Zoe, Charlie, Will and Rose parted ways.

Eight months living on the run and starting new lives. 

But when Zoe has a dream and foresees trouble, she knows she needs to reunite them. Can she get to everyone in time? Or will it already be too late?

Even if they survive and escape again, they can’t stay on the run forever. There is no choice but to fight for their lives and try to bring down P.A.G.E. 

Is there a way they can get out of this alive?

Or will this be one fight they’ll lose?

I really enjoyed this second novel from the ‘Taken’ series. I tend to avoid reading books from the same series back-to-back for fear of losing interest, but ‘Taken by Force’ certainly didn’t have this affect on me and I once again couldn’t put it down.

Jessica Frances follows the same style as her previous book, whereby the first part of the story is narrated from four different perspectives as we catch up on their lives. I liked this because it meant that readers don’t miss out on any back story that has come from eight months passed from the end of the first book. Frances cleverly links the narratives together seamlessly so when it does move back to Zoe, it does not come across as a sudden jump.

Like in the first story, I found Zoe’s emotional instability a little irritating and wished she was a bit of a tougher character. However, the connection she has with Charlie remains sweet and I loved how protective he was over her. Indeed, the group dynamics do develop in this story so that they are like a family to one another, but I did find myself wanting a little more focus to go on Joel and his actions.

Readers are introduced to more characters who have special abilities and the glimpse we are provided with left me wanting more. I am sure they will play a bigger part in the final story and hope that all of these characters really have the opportunity to show off their abilities.

The plot continued to have many exciting twist and turns along the way which kept the pace up throughout. It didn’t take me long to read this book because I was enjoying it so much and wanted to find out what happened to the central characters. Despite this, I hope that the final book has more progress for the characters and what their goal is. As I mentioned in my review of the first book, this plot reminded me of a television series and I think to truly become an excellent read, the author needs to have a bit more action from the characters as they fight for their freedom.

I enjoyed the chase that continues in ‘Taken by Force’ and was not disappointed by this second book. I am really looking forward to reading the concluding story and am keen to know what happens next to the characters.

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

The Stravagante adventures continue

‘City of Secrets’ – Mary Hoffman

4-star-rating

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City of Secrets – Mary Hoffman

When Matt turns seventeen, he is shocked by how drawn he is to an old leather-bound book — especially since he is dyslexic and has never liked to read. But the book turns out to be far more powerful than Matt could have imagined. It is his talisman, an object that allows him to stravagate through time and place to a country called Talia. There, Matt arrives at Padavia University, where he meets other Stravaganti — including Luciano, who is in great danger after killing the head of the powerful di Chimici family in a duel. Together, Matt, Luciano and Arianna, a Duchessa in disguise as a boy, must fight the di Chimici family before they make a terrifying breakthrough into our modern world…

Mary Hoffman returns with the next book in the Stravagante series and if you liked her previous books, then you will not be disappointed. Set in Padavia, we are introduced to a new Talian location but, unlike the previous books, there is less of a focus on there geography and more on people, action and politics.

In ‘City of Secrets’ we follow Matt,the new Stravagante. He, like his predecessors, faces some modern, personal challenges to overcome and it is these that lead him to securing his talisman. The same characters return once again and they reunite to help Matt when he is in danger. Surprisingly, however, the Stravagante secret circle broadens a fair bit, with Matt’s girlfriend and Lucien’s parents finding out about the Brotherhood. I was quite surprised that Hoffman chose to do this, particularly with the offer that Matt’s girlfriend could “visit” Talia and felt that this lessened the magic of stravagation. Indeed, Lucien even returns to Islington a couple of times and I thought this did kind of go against the warnings he received early on in the series.

That being said I really enjoyed the politics and treachery of ‘City of Secrets’ and could not predict how the plot would develop. The ending is a bit of a surprise and, if I am completely honest, a bit of an anti-climax to what had happened previously, but I enjoyed the happy ending that prevailed. This time Hoffman finishes with an Epilogue and tied up all the plot strands very neatly.

I am really keen to see how the next story in the series progresses. It is clear that the political tensions from the di Chimici family are becoming more threatening for the Stravagante and I look forward to seeing them triumph over such a dangerous power. Definitely read this if you enjoyed the other books in the series because Hoffman keeps it fresh and enjoyable to read.