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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins: A Review

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

“The show’s not over until the mockingjay sings.”

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

“The Hunger Games”, the enormously popular book series (and one of my favorites) turned movie giant touched the world just over a decade ago. Suzanne Collins’ bleak dystopian world is set in Paneam, where the Capitol controls all twelve districts after the end of a gruesome war many years ago. A male and female child from each district are chosen on the day of The Reaping after which all selected tributes are sent to fight each other the death in The Hunger Games- a national event obsevered by all in Paneam. You may remember that Katniss Everdeen volunteered to be a tribute after her sister Primrose was selected. President Snow, the main antagonist in the story, was the minipulative and cruel leader of Paneam. I know I was not the only one who wondered what his back story was. In Suzanne Collin’s newly released novel, we see the world through Snow’s eyes.

In the prequel to the Hunger Games series, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” we find that Presidents Snow’s story was not a what we may have predicted. In the other books of the Hunger Games series we learn some information about what happened in the war that desomated Paneam and caused the Districts to be punished by the Capitol for a seemingly indefinite time. However, this was all seen through the lens of Katniss Everdeen, a member of the poor and lowly district twelve. In this novel, we taken back many decades before Katniss was born, and we are able to see the aftermath of the war through the lens of Coriolanus Snow (who we know to be President Snow in the other books.)

Without spoiling anything, there still much to talk about. Coriolanus Snow is eighteen years of age, and is in his senior year at his academy. His parents are died years before and his remaining family had lost almost all their fortune after the rebellion of the districts. All he had left was his cousin Iris and his Grandma’am. Most of his concern is to keep appearences in order to maintain a good name for his family. Although they barely had enough money for food, they managed to keep their family home and their reputation. I could see early on that it is Coriolanus’ desire to make something of himself and rise to the top- but this seems to be more out of ambition and self-preservation. He desires to be seen and known, but also to care for his cousin, grandmother, and himself. His goal is to be able to attend a top university in the Captiol after he graduates, but they do not have enough money to pay for that education. Therefore, when he gets selected to be a mentor for a tribute in The Hunger Games, it’s his chance to be noticed. If he does well enough and his tribute wins, perhaps he will get a scholarship. However, the odds are set against him when he is given the task to mentor the female tribute of District 12. Her life and his life are in thick of it together, for the fate of Snow lies in the success of this lowly girl’s popularity and success in The Hunger Games.

What I loved about this novel is was Collins’ ability to have the readers root for Coriolanus, although most of us know how he will end up. The evolution of the character was well thought out and very surprising, and there was not a moment where I felt I actually knew what was going to happen. Also, there were so many correlations to the rest of the books, which I felt were great tie-ins. Furthermore, I felt it was intersting how see how different the games, the capitol, and the districts were at the time. I found myself quite shocked to learn how the games truly began, and why they were in fact called “The Hunger Games.”

I would give this novel a nine out of ten if I were to rate it only because I feel there were a few questions I was left with unanswered. I am not sure if Suzanne Collins is planing on writing a sequel to this prequel, but I have the feeling she may not. I absolutely recommend this book to those who already read the rest of Hunger Games series. Perhaps one could make sense of all in this book without reading the others first, but I feel that the significance of much that occurs in the other books can be more appreciated when reading The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes after the rest of them. If you are haven’t already read the Hunger Games… what are you doing?! I suggest purchasing or borrowing a copy as soon as humanely possible.

I hope this review encourages you to read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, becasue I highly recommend it to all YA book lovers out there. Feel free to share your opinions with me about it too, but be careful not to spoil the story please! Thanks for reading.

Are Books Just an Asthetic?

My Favorite YA Books on We Heart It

For me, this is not much of a question. I know that other readers and book lovers would agree that books are more than just asthetically pleasing. But, as I am scroll on social media platforms and the internet, I find that books are often used for this effect. Personally, I find books immensely enjoyable to look at and be around. Books themselves, no matter the age or genre, bring a sort of warmth and soulfullness to a space or image that cannot be replaced by another object. However, using books only for this reason– as some sort of prop– completly defeats the purpose of having books at all. Some people will place books in places in their room, just for the pleasant sight of them, but never pick them up to read them at all.

What a waste this is!

Books are not meant to just sit on bookcases and be gazed at from a distance. They are meant to be taken from shelves, be felt with curious hands which flip through their pages. Books are here to fill our minds with imagination and knowledge, and for us to pass what we learn for generations to come.

I have seen people who do this sort of thing, who keep books only for the view. Perhaps I am just overthinking it, but as a avid reader…it’s almost a little offensive. What are your views on the subject? Let me know in the comments! Have a great day everyone 🙂

5/8/20

New World, New Destinations: A Poem

Why 'getting lost in a book' is so good for you, according to science

the horizon looked bleak

even from the start of this period

but she looked at the sky and breathed

and thought of the all places she would go

in this new world where nothing at all is sure

she knew and held to her few and only certainties

and so she went to the shelf and then dusted off a tome

and in her mind she went to places she could only dream of

these books she kept close as she endured life in the new world

for she was now beautifully lost and for once did not feel quite so alone

4/29/20

Under the Shade of Banyan Tree- A Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Windows

Clean, plain, open, closed, bright,
light, shaded, paned, shuttered, blinded, boarded,
rusty, dirty, smoky windows.
broken, shattered, run down windows
Windows that protect and hide,
a mirror to the world outside
and sometimes to the world within,
unraveling layer by layer, revealing
a glance into a soul,
a tool for introspection and scrutiny,
secrets and smokescreens,
evasions, denials, half-truths
Windows, they tell it all.

“Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree” by Simi K. Rao

I felt as if after reading Simi K. Roa’s, Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree, I was able to take a glance into her soul. This eloquent morsel was released in August of last year and is less than 150 pages in length. Rao was born in India, but she has been living in the United States for several years now. She has also published a few other works within the last few years, such as Inconvenient Relations and the Accidental Wife. Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree was the first work of hers that I have read, but it is definitely now a favorite that I highly recommend.

What attracted me first was the title. I had never heard of a Banyan tree, so I searched it.

Originally, they are from the writer’s home country, where underneath the tree is often a center of activity in many of their communities. Magnificently, Banyans can grow up to be 80 feet tall, cover about 14,500 square feet of space, and live to be over two and a half centuries of age. Often, the tree symbolizes fertility, life, and even resurrection. Hindu texts dating back over 2,500 years reference the Banyan tree as a “world tree,” it’s roots reaching the heaves and delivering blessings to earth.

Significantly, the concept of the vastness of this tree, with it’s sturdy roots consuming all in its path, is more than appropriate metaphor in my opinion. It would be difficult to use one word to encumber all that is contained in Rao’s, Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree. However, if I did, I would choose a word that a Banyan tree itself represents. Life.

Life penned by Simi Rao, as I read, had been written through the many lenses that she wore in her time. A Mother. A Physician. An Innocent Child. A Mischievous Teen. A Lover. An Immigrant. A Dreamer. Every poem and short story is coated with her observations of human nature, her experiences a cross-cultured woman, her internal struggles, her perceptions of love, and her emancipation from the darkness that can tend to follow us in life.

The poems were written in a variety of different styles, which I find is important in books such as these. It is more engaging when authors change the rhythm, rhyme patterns (or not rhyme at all), and the topics as well. She accomplished that skillfully, and she also included some excepts from her other books and a few short stories. The poem “Windows” was my favorite poem style wise, and I thought it was very deep. Rao gave us a peek through her window. Through it, the inner workings of her humanity was laid bare, which made almost everything she wrote easy to relate to. I felt as if I could almost feel her soul in some of the poems. Her affection for others and nature was plain to me. Her love of her culture was also evident. In the vivid short story “Mr. Tim“, a little girl befriends a squirrel in a tree. At the end, I almost shed tears just as the character did. The poem “Phobia” cleverly explained how tragic it is that fear can imprison us, even when freeing ourselves from it’s control is more possible than it seems. Simi shared her experiences as a physician with writing of a cancer patient, an addict, and an elderly woman with dementia. And of course, the love stories “Crush” and “A Cup of Chai” were heartwarming.

All that is included in Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree is touching in it own right. As Simi describes it, we must all ride “the carnival of life,” and it is bumpy ride. With all the unrest occurring in the world at present, the burden of simply existing is not foreign to anyone. Nonetheless, Roa reassures in this composition that there is light awaiting after the dark, somewhere a hand is always out-stretched, the beauty of love flows in unlikely places, and that rain will always fall to spread the roots of the Banyan tree.