July 2020 Reading Plans

How is it July already?! I’m not usually one of those people who laments how fast/slow a week/month/year went, but June felt like it was one week long short. Sigh.

I didn’t read any of the Women’s Prize longlist books in June, so I’d really like to get back to that in July, but in light of J.K. Rowling being an absolute ass and me feeling like the Harry Potter world has been ruined for the foreseeable future (I’m not here to debate whether or not it’s okay to still be a fan of the stories — I personally can’t comfortably be a fan of that world right now), sj and I have decided to reread Diane Duane’s Young Wizard series, which is pre-HP and which we actually enjoy more.

  1. So You Want to Be a Wizard (finished at the end of June)
  2. Deep Wizardry
  3. High Wizardry
  4. A Wizard Abroad
  5. The Wizard’s Dilemma
  6. A Wizard Alone
  7. Wizard’s Holiday
  8. Wizards at War
  9. A Wizard of Mars
  10. Games Wizards Play

If you’re looking for an alternative to HP, I highly recommend this series. It’s on the same reading level and the magic in these is so much cooler. It’s a great series.

I’ll also be reading Lady in Waiting by Anne Glenconner for the Sykes & Savidge Book Club. This is Glenconner’s memoir about being a lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret. I haven’t read a nonfiction book in some time, and I know nothing about the subject matter, so I’m interested to read it.

Lauren’s Patreon book club pick for July is Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo, and I am VERY excited about this one. I’ve had this one on my TBR list since it was announced, and this will make me get to it sooner rather than later.

If I get through all of that and still have days left in the month, I will read another of the Women’s Prize longlist books. I really want to read the rest of them before the winner is announced in September, so I need to get a move-on.

(And I’m still working on Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series as my bedtime books.)

What reading plans have you made for July? Anything you’re especially looking forward to?

June 2020 Reading Wrap-Up

June was kind of a weird month. I thought I was going to get a ton of reading done, but then I had to finish up school stuff and we reopened the library to the public, so I had less time to read than I thought I was going to.

I was able to finish seven books in June, which is still fantastic:

Graceland is an interesting book. It’s historical fiction about the relationship between Elvis and his mother, Gladys. It starts when Elvis is a young boy and ends with Gladys’ death in 1958. I have never been a fan of Elvis and I wouldn’t have read this if it hadn’t been the Sykes & Savidge Book Club pick for June, but I actually enjoyed reading it. Elvis and his mother had a VERY unhealthy relationship, and it was interesting to read about in the context of an historical fiction novel. There were things I didn’t know about Elvis that were included in Graceland, like the fact that Elvis was a twin (his brother was stillborn) and maybe the circumstances surrounding his birth and his brother’s stillbirth were the basis for Gladys’ unhealthy love for and treatment of Elvis. Graceland also deals with Elvis’ gross treatment of underage girls, but I was already aware of that side of him. It was his mother’s fall into depression and alcoholism when he became famous that really intrigued me. I really liked Bethan Roberts’ writing, too, and I plan on looking into her other books in the future.

Longbourn is also very good. I meant to read this back in 2013 when it was first published, but then never got around to it. Longbourn is a Pride and Prejudice story told from the viewpoint of the staff at Longbourn (the house belonging to the Bennets). But it’s not a retelling of Pride and Prejudice — it’s a standalone novel and an original story about the lives of the staff of Longbourn, and the relationship they have with the Bennets is just one part of that story. The book mainly follows Sarah, one of the housemaids, and her growing desire to see more of the world and not be held down by her circumstances. And of course there’s gossip and a love story (that isn’t cheesy at all, thank goodness). One of the things I liked most about Longbourn is Jo Baker’s frank look at personal things about the Bennet girls — body hair, menstruation, body odor, soiled clothing, etc. — and how no matter what social class we’re in, we all deal with the same issues at base level. Of course people of the Bennets’ stature don’t want to admit that they deal with all of those things and like to pretend that they’re above it all, but the staff certainly know better. I liked how that was worked into the story. I read Longbourn for Lauren and the Books Patreon book club.

You can read my reactions to the Hunger Games series by clicking the links at the beginning of this post where I list what I read in June.

I will talk a little more about the Young Wizards (So You Want to Be a Wizard) series in my July reading plans post.

I didn’t get to any of the Women’s Prize longlist books this month, but I’m hoping to get back to those in July. I have plans to read a bunch of stuff in July, though, so we’ll see how that goes. I’ll talk about that in another post.

How was June for you in terms of reading? What was your favorite book in June?

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins: A Conversation

While I was reading The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Angie of Reading Our Shelves contacted me to say that she was also reading it, and asked me if I’d like to do a joint post with her about the book. So we got together on Tuesday, had a (great) chat about the book, and we’re posting that conversation on our respective blogs.

Before we get into the chat, here is the synopsis of the book on Goodreads:

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-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 outcharm, 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.

Goodreads

Here is what Angie and I had to say about the book (SPOILERS AHEAD):

Angie: I typed up a few of my scattered thoughts earlier today.  Did you have yours in any particular order?

Heather: I didn’t take notes as I went for this one. It got to the point where I just wanted to read and not stop every few minutes to take notes. But I have things to say. Hahaha! And I’ve been going through stuff in my head ever since we decided to do this so I wouldn’t forget the important points. So, we’re good.

Angie: Understandable!  And I’m going to rely on you for some details… I had read through the original trilogy between the first and second movie coming out, so it’s fresher in your mind.

Heather: Okay!

Angie: Perfect. So, obviously, we start with Coriolanus as a teen.  And Tigris is a main character in this one, as well.  I know we met her in Mockingjay, and knew she was a longtime Capitol citizen… did we know she had any particular connection to Snow?

Heather: We didn’t, I don’t think, but she made it apparent that she didn’t like him and that’s why she was helping them in Mockingjay. And this is actually one of my sticking points in the newest book, because I need to know how they went from such a close relationship to Tigris wanting him dead. Let me grab Mockingjay real quick and see exactly what she said (or didn’t say).

Angie: Well, I read a few reviews of this book and I know a lot of people think there will be more to the story – they also want to know how the two fell out – and some are hoping Collins writes a book with Tigris as the main character.  I’d be up for that.

Heather: I definitely want a book from Tigris’ point of view. I also wouldn’t mind a book about Lucy Gray.

Angie: I mean… I’d read it.  Ha!  But I also kind of don’t mind her future being shrouded in mystery.  More on that later.

Heather: Oh, I meant more about Lucy Gray’s past. Or the past of the Covey in general.

Angie: Yea, if they went backwards, that’d be ok.  I know I’m not the only one who’s wondered what’s beyond the remnants of “America” at this point, and if the Covey has traveled far enough, it might give us a look at further regions.

Heather: So, Katniss tells Tigris that she’s going to kill snow, and Tigris just smiles. I think that’s the only reference to how Tigris feels about him. And Tigris is one of Plutarch’s people.

Angie: Hmmm.  Interesting.  Yea, she’s a character everyone was so intrigued by in that one.  I like her inclusion here, even though we know there has to be more to her story….

Heather: And I could make all kinds of speculations about that, but not with any detail, obviously.

I think the first thing I’d like to say about this book is that I knew nothing about it going in aside from it being Snow’s backstory, and I wasn’t super intrigued by that. Why Snow? Is she trying to make him more sympathetic? Because it didn’t work. Heh.

Angie: I think a lot of people were originally turned off by the idea, when it was announced.  Most of us hate him and didn’t want to sympathize with his side of things.

Ha! So, did you like the book overall?  Hate it?  Just hate Snow, even in this one?

Heather: It’s not even that I don’t want to sympathize with him. I can’t sympathize with him. And I’m a total empath, so for me not to be able to sympathize/empathize with someone is rare. They have to be pretty stinkin’ bad. Ha!

I liked the book, yes. I didn’t love it. I’m not sure it lived up to the legacy of the original trilogy. And yes, I still dislike Snow. He’s a selfish jerk.

Angie: I liked the book a lot. But, as I said, it’s been a while since I’d been in this universe.  It was “fun” falling back into it, if you can call murder and starvation “fun.”

Heather: Ha! Yes! I kept telling people I was really enjoying the books and then saying, “Can I use the word ‘enjoy’ in this situation? It feels wrong.”

I guess I just feel like so many stories could have been told…and she chose President Snow.

Angie: I think she does a nice job of bringing you back in without it being overdone… you see some familiar last names and get the idea that some families have been in the Capitol for a long time.  But it’s not like she’s spelling out specific family trees here.

Heather: Yes. I did like all of the connections.

Angie: Well, he’s a big player.  And I feel like his story is as much a telling of how the Games have evolved over the years, too.

Heather: That’s true. And really, I think it also showed how much alike Snow and Katniss are in some ways, which was interesting for me to realize. And so maybe it was meant to show that there isn’t much difference between Capitol kids and District kids (or something)? I’m still working on that line of thought.

Angie: I think a lot of us are a little naive as teens, yea?

Heather: It’s not the naïveté, though…it’s the selfishness.

Angie: And I think one of the biggest things I took away from it was that the Capitol… those in charge, I mean… uses EVERYONE as pawns, even other people within the Capitol.  They’re much crueler to the District folks, but they will still use everyone they can as pieces in their games.

I was thinking of that when I read your review of the first one, how you said you’d like to give Effie the benefit of the doubt but struggled to…

Their visions of reality are just so skewed and twisted.  And it’s been handed down to them by the generations before them.

Heather: So, okay, I have not been Katniss’ #1 fan throughout the series. I understand that they’re just kids and they’re just trying to survive (and really, by any means necessary). But you have a kid like Rue who is trying to survive by helping other people and being kind. Or like Peeta (and he’s not perfect, so this is just one aspect of his character) who would rather help Katniss survive than survive himself.

But then you have Katniss who is pretty selfish, if you think about it, and really is trying to survive by any means necessary.

Angie: I get ya.  Yea, Snow is definitely trying to keep his head above water at some points, and some questionable decisions come from that.

Heather: Peeta and Gale have that whole conversation in Mockingjay about who she might choose (between them), and Gale says something to the effect of, “whichever one helps her survive.” And Snow is also selfish in that way. In that way, they are very much alike.

Angie: Right.  And in this story, you see Sejanus… or even Tigris… who don’t act that way, even if they’re in dire straits themselves.

Heather: Exactly. So, you have these two people who hate each other (Katniss and Snow), and they really have a lot in common.

Angie: Do you think that was what Collins wanted to present here?

Heather: And I agree with what you said about the people in charge of the Capitol.

Maybe? That’s something I’ve been thinking through.

Angie: Gotcha. Ok, let’s tackle the Games.  I thought this was one of the most intriguing aspects, as we’d become so familiar with the version of them that exists in Katniss’ time.

Heather: Yes. The development of the Games was maybe my favorite part of this.

Angie: Here’s what I had written down:

I always felt that, in Katniss’ time, the lavish attention they got was kind of cruel in a psychological way… like, here’s all the food and clothes and nice things you don’t get back home, enjoy them because you’ll probably be dead in a few days.

BUT the way they treated the tributes in Coriolanus’ time was actually Crueler.  They brought them in on cattle cars, kept them in an abandoned zoo, and never (like, NEVER, for days) fed them.  They didn’t give them anything to go into the arena with except the clothes on their backs, which were the same clothes they’d been wearing since their names were called in the reaping.  Most of them were half-dead by the time the games even started. This was torture in an actual, physical way (as opposed to merely psychological).

Heather: YES. I actually took note of that, too, in the same line of thinking.

Angie: So, when we read through the originals, the Games seemed so cruel.  And now that we’re mentally used to the set up, they had to up the cruelty. But seriously, it almost hurts to think that some of the changes made (some, even, by Snow himself) were for the better!

Heather: In the beginning, the Games didn’t really do what I think the Capitol wanted them to do. Many of the districts didn’t watch them, because they didn’t have the means to and it wasn’t mandatory, and so it really was just about torturing the kids that were in the Games (and their families). I don’t think they had the same OOMPH that the more developed Games had.

I think the early Games were really just giving the Capitol some form of entertainment. And not even good entertainment. (I can’t believe I’m saying that, but you know what I mean.) The Victor of the early Games really was the kid who managed to survive the longest…not necessarily the kid who could fight the best or better the other players in some way.

Angie: Yes, they added more “flair” as time went on.  But also, the means Snow introduces to make the Districts have an interest… everyone in the winning District getting food, and the victors getting a house… are kind of good perks.  Like I said, it hurts to admit that his way… while definitely for the sake of adding more TV hype… is also kind of more humane?

Heather: I totally agree. Even if being more humane wasn’t their focus. Because they added more perks for the Capitol, too, like the betting and such.

Angie: It’s such a double-edged sword. I also noted:

There was one old arena, used yearly for this event, and it was not well kept up in the interim.  They had to post guards outside, because there were places the kids could escape otherwise.  The place was not in good shape.  They also just expected them to kill each other or die from starvation – there weren’t really other twists planned by the gamemakers.

So, this intrigued me because we see how much planning goes into the arenas later on.

Heather: I said in one of my latest “reviews,” for Catching Fire, I think, that it would actually be really fun to design one of the new terraformed arenas, just not for the purpose of the Games. Think about how much work and technology goes into the newer arenas, where the old arena was like a Roman Colosseum.

Angie: Yes!  It’s a big part of that universe, I think.  The arenas are kind of their own… artform?

Heather: Yes.

Angie: And let’s just be realistic… the only “gamemaker” in this book is really Dr. Gaul.  I know Highbottom had a periphery role, but he hated it.  She was the one in charge and the only one invested in creating new ideas for the Games.  She is basically evil incarnate.

Heather: I thought it was interesting that Highbottom’s falling out with Snow’s father was over the original idea for the Games.

Angie: His role was… hard to decipher. But yea, it didn’t surprise me to learn that Snow’s dad had a hand in beginning all this.

Heather: I also love that he blamed Snow’s father for the whole thing because Highbottom was “drunk and it was meant to be a joke.” Well, Highbottom, alcohol takes away your inhibitions, so you obviously already had the idea for the Games somewhere in the back of your mind. You aren’t blameless.

Angie: Agreed!  But I do think he regrets it later in life.

Heather: Dr. Gaul was actually pretty terrifying. I’d like more of her story, even though I’m not fond of her. Oh, I’m sure he regrets it. I don’t doubt that for a second.

Angie: Like, we can infer that her taking Coriolanus under her wing is – at least, in part – what makes him into a sadistic jerk.  But where did she learn it from?  Ha.

Heather: I just felt that he was being too high and mighty about it around Snow instead of taking some of the blame, but I also understand that he’s a Capitol man, so…

Angie: They are pretty entitled, as a whole…

Heather: Yes. I would really like more details about the country falling apart…I would like an entire book about that.

Angie: The war and all that?  And how Panem even came to be?

Heather: Yes.

Angie: Let’s talk a sec about the structure of this book.  I’ve seen a lot of complaints online that it’s too slow.  I listened on audiobook, so maybe I just had a different experience, but I thought the pacing was ok.

Heather: I was fine with the pacing. I didn’t think it was too slow at all. It was meant to be a character study more than a plot-based book. At least, I assumed that was what Collins intended.

Angie: There are three distinct sections of the book.  I was surprised that the Games was only about one third of the story. And I also think Collins does a good job of having those little mini-cliffhangers at the end of each chapter, that entice you to keep going.

Heather: I agree.

Angie: The only transition I found really jarring was going from Part 2 to Part 3.  But I suppose we shouldn’t skip ahead too far.

Heather: I don’t remember exactly what was going on there.

Angie: Oh, I’ll bring it back up then.

Ok… Lucy Gray.

Heather: Okay.

Angie: My written thoughts on Lucy Gray:

Lucy Gray was SO country.  From the first time she was introduced, she made me think of a young Brenda Lee, or Loretta Lynn even… country singers who went out on tour when they were still kids basically.  Teen girls singing songs about cheating and drinking, or having hard lives, and stuff that should have been “too old” for them.

Then, when we learned more about “The Covey,” it kind of made me think of the Carter family… traveling in a big band of relatives or similar.  This idea was solidified later in the book, when we find that Maude Ivory’s signature song is “Keep On The Sunny Side.”

One other pop icon came to mind, also.  It’s insinuated that Lucy Gray (and Tigris) might use their feminine wiles to trade for food for their families. This brought to mind the fictional family in Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves.”

Heather:  Yes! Because of my love of fantasy, I didn’t really think about the Covey in those terms. I thought about them more as traveling performers in a fantasy novel, but I totally see your connections.

Angie: Well, I live in Nashville. HA!

Heather: Ha! That makes sense, then!

Angie: But yea, we could liken them to bards of earlier eras.  Or the Carter family in the 1950s.  Just depends on what era we’re likening to.

I loved that they introduced a strong female co-lead, if you can call her that. A kind of balance to Coriolanus’ character.  Someone you could root for… maybe?

Heather: So, in the original trilogy, you have Katniss who is kind of…meh. Then you have Peeta and Gale who are more…noble? And in this one, you have just the opposite. Male and female-wise.

Angie: Well, I am not sure I would go that far.  She definitely has a goodness to her, but it’s often questioned… like, how much is for show?  Since she is a performer, right? I almost think the truly honest noble person in all this is Sejanus (male).  But Lucy Gray is definitely presented as less selfish than Coriolanus, at least.

Heather: I think she’s mostly genuine, though. At least, that’s how I felt about her. Oh, I agree that Sejanus is the only totally noble person in this one.

Angie: Right. So, how do you feel about Coriolanus questioning Lucy Gray’s intentions now and again?  Fair, or just him being paranoid?

Heather: Hmmm…a little of both? I mean, how does anyone trust anyone else in any of these situations? Right? You’d always have to be watching your back.

Angie: This is where I think… he’s being a smitten teenager.  It’s kind of realistic for his age, and his lack of experience with… anyone different than himself. His Capitol circle seems pretty insulated.

Heather:  But on the other hand, I don’t really think he loves Lucy Gray. Not in any real way. He talks so much about her belonging to him and being his…that’s gross. I think he really sees her as more of a possession. And then of course he drops her as soon as he realizes he can become something more, so then it’s obvious that his feelings for her aren’t anything like love.

Angie: Ah, fair point.  He’s a person who values control, though, right?  It’s brought up a few times.  And so, might he not be able to differentiate between control and love?  Like, to him, those might go hand in hand?

Heather: Maybe.

Angie: The part you bring up about the end… I have a different take on that!  But yes, he does do a pretty quick about face.

Heather: I don’t think he sees it that way, but I can see that from the outside looking in, yes.

Angie: Right, he definitely isn’t that self-aware.  That’s just sort of how I took him.

Heather: I can agree with that.

Angie: Ok, so a good portion of their relationship develops in the third part.  Do we want to say anything else about their relationship before/during the Games, or about the Games themselves, before we go into Part 3?

Heather: I don’t think I have anything special to say about the Games, no. That’s where his idea of her being his possession really settles in.

Angie: So, the Games end and Lucy Gray is technically the victor… but they aren’t making any announcement of it.  At this point, I’m worried for her, thinking they’re going to pull some sort of last-minute stunt… and they cut to Part 3 where Coriolanus is unceremoniously shipped off to the Districts as a Peacekeeper.  Grrrrr.  That was the transition that slayed me.

Heather: Aaahhh…yes.

Angie: Total change of setting, and no mention of what happened to her when the Games ended.  Frustrating.

Heather: Yep. That was very frustrating.

Angie: But he didn’t know, either, so I guess we were feeling that with him.

Heather: Sure, because the book was from his point of view, so that’s how we had to go through it, too.

Angie: Ugh.  It was still killing me, though.  Haha.

Heather: Hahaha!

Angie: The third section was even more country.  Love triangles, mysteries, murders, guns, fishing by the lake.

Heather: I kind of figured that the heartbreak would be bigger than him finding out Lucy hadn’t made it back to her district, though.

Yes, and since District 12 is in the Appalachians, that all makes total sense.

Angie: Yea, and I enjoyed meeting the Covey.

Heather: So did I! Because it struck me right away that the Covey has to be connected to Katniss in some way, but I won’t get ahead of myself here.

Angie: In a lot of ways, though, it also seemed like fan service to go into 12, see the Hob, etc.

But it might also be a set-up to Snow having a particular hatred of 12?

Ah, interesting.

Heather: Oh, that’s where stuff got really heavy-handed in reference to the original trilogy, for sure. Like, she talked about the katniss, and used the phrase “catching fire,” and stuff like that. I thought that got a tiny bit cheesy.

Angie: Right.  I loved this section, though, for various reasons.

Heather: So did I.

Angie: Yea, I could see it being “too much.”  One of the reasons I liked this section, though, is that it has a lot of music in it.  Which is weird for a book, but we all know this is going to be a movie.

Heather: It’s going to have to be a musical! Hahahaha! Which I would actually love.

Angie: Oh my.  I see it more like “Walk the Line” … a heavy movie that happens to have a lot of singing in it?

Heather: Yes, I can see that. But I can also see it as kind of a dark musical movie. I don’t know if that makes sense. Like, not singing all the time, but lots of musical interludes.

Angie: Fair enough.  “The Hanging Tree” was already in the other movies, so it’s great to see it come alive…

Heather:  Right. So, this is where my ideas about someone in the Covey being Katniss’ ancestor got more solidified.

Angie: Ah… any specific ideas, or still kind of just a thought floating out there?

Heather: I mean, someone in District 12 has to be an ancestor, and someone in the Covey makes total sense. A friend and I were talking about this (she read the book with me), and we’re thinking it has to be Maude. Lucy Gray is too obvious, and we don’t know what happened to her.

Angie: Ok so you don’t think the song just sort of became a classic in 12?  There are songs we all know here, in our time, right?

Heather: No, I don’t. Because the only person Katniss ever talked about singing that song was her dad. The other books didn’t say anything about anyone else singing it. And my friend and I were also speculating that the house/shack the Covey lived in might be the house Katniss grew up in.

Angie: Hmmm… interesting.  This is one of those times where you having read the books more recently does you the favor of having the details in the front of your brain.

Heather: And then there’s the special place by the lake (that was special to her dad). We’re wondering if Maude is Katniss’ grandmother? Would the timeframe be right for that?

Angie: Surely, as Snow has a granddaughter about Katniss’ age in the original trilogy… So, these teens in this one would be 2 generations before Katniss’ generation.  100% possible.

Heather: Yes, that’s right. And again, I think Lucy Gray being a direct ancestor would be too obvious. It would almost be like Maude keeping the song alive in memory of Lucy. And that might explain Snow’s hatred for Katniss.

Angie: I mean, even if she was related to anyone in the Covey, though, it’d probably make him uncomfortable.

Ok, another note I took on this section:

I don’t read a lot of romance, but I absolutely loved the scene where Coriolanus finally meets up with Lucy Gray in the field.  Ok, the setting is hella contrived. But – maybe it’s just because it’s been really hot here already, but – I could feel the setting on a visceral level.  It’s his day off, and it’s sweltering, and he has nowhere else to be, and time is just moving slow.  That felt very realistic to me.

Heather: I agree.

Angie: Now for heavier things…

I think Coriolanus hadn’t really thought through the jabberjay thing, where he set up Sejanus.  He knew what he was doing, but he was still going back and forth about whether he should have or not, even after it was already done.  He didn’t have his mind made up totally.  But I think he is one for following the rules. He never had a rebellious bone in his body, even if he did have a lot of resentment for those in power (Highbottom, Gaul). I think he saw “following the rules” as his way of keeping his place in the Capitol, redeeming his family and keeping them taken care of.

Heather: He didn’t think it through at all, aside from trying to come out on top. Snow comes out on top. And while I know he feels some duty to his family, again, I’m not sure it’s for the right reasons.

Angie: I think it was pure instinct, to be the tattle tale, because he thinks that’s what would be expected of him.

Like I said, I think he lives for strict rules.

Heather:  I don’t know if it’s because he truly cares about taking care of his family as individuals, or if it’s more about making sure his family looks good. An embarrassment thing.

Angie: Yes, taking care of the NAME. The reputation.

Heather: Yes. And I think that’s where the disconnect between him and Tigris is going to come into play eventually.

Angie: Possibly.

Heather: Because he never really thought of Sejanus as his “brother” or his friend. He played that up when he had to, but he was totally embarrassed by Sejanus and afraid of what any connection to him would mean.

Angie: Agreed.  I do think he was tired of Sejanus always getting him into whatever trouble Sejanus was in.  He was, if anything, like that little brother Coriolanus was sick of having around.

Heather: He wanted that Plinth money. Heh.

Angie: He wanted Ma Plinth’s cookies.  Always goes back to hunger.

Heather: That, too.

Angie: So, he either set him up because he thought it was the right thing to do (not morally, but by the Capitol’s rules), or because he was ready to get him out of his hair. Probably a little of both?

Heather: A little of both, I think. And boy, did that work out for him when the Plinths “adopted” him at the end.

Angie: Ok, that leads me to my thoughts on the ending… of his decision to leave Lucy Gray behind.

In line with that, Coriolanus would have never made it in the wild.  Not that he’s overtly spoiled… I mean, he is kind of spoiled, but he’s also faced hardships… but he is so Capitol.  There’s a line in there, when he and Lucy Gray are running away, where he asks how a roof is even made.  I’m with him there, I couldn’t build a house from scratch!  It makes me think of the adage “Love is Blind,” except in this case I think his love was blinding.  He wanted to go with her, so he wanted to believe he could make it work no matter what as long as they were together.  And then he started actually thinking about it, and realized he had no clue how to survive.  He got disillusioned with his choice really quickly, but I think he was right to be… he wouldn’t have survived.

Heather: Hmmm…I think if he hadn’t been made an officer and sent to the Academy, he would have gone with Lucy Gray.

Angie: Yea, from your thoughts earlier, I knew we’d have different takes on this part.

Heather: At the point where he decided to go with her, he thought he had nothing left to lose. But as soon as that carrot got dangled in front of him, he changed his mind. Now, I’m not sure that he would have made it all the way to District 13. I’m not sure their relationship would have lasted anyway, but he changed his mind because of the offer of power. I don’t totally disagree with your thoughts about it, but I truly think he left her when he did because of the offer made to him.

Angie: See, I kind of look at it the opposite direction… he was convincing himself he could do it because staying meant that, if the gun that killed Billy Taupe was ever found, he’d be found out as the murderer.  But he hated being out there almost immediately.  Like, they hadn’t even gotten to the lake and he was questioning it.  Once he found that gun, and could see how he could keep it from being found… I think that’s what changed his mind.

I think he would have turned around after hiding the gun, whether or not he passed the officer’s test.  That was icing on the cake, for sure.

Heather: Oh, that’s true, finding the gun definitely had something to do with it.

Angie: Once again, protecting himself was kind of the biggest factor.

Heather: But if he truly loved Lucy, he would have at least tried. She knew enough to get them pretty far, I think, and he knew that.

Angie: Sure, that’s why he was willing to at least make a go of it. He was never 100% sold on it, though, and he was waffling the whole time.

Heather:  Well, sure. He’s a Snow. Heh.

Angie: I was not sure if I believed that he would hurt her, but… I don’t know, it could have gone either way. I think him thinking she tried to kill him put him over the edge there.

Heather: Well, he definitely shot at where he thought she was. I don’t know if I have an opinion on how that would have gone had the snake not bit him. I think he might have just said, “I’m not going.”

“Bye.”

Angie: Right.  That part was tense. But after the snake. Like, it was a 50/50 thought for me when he was looking for her.  But once he thought she was trying to get him, all bets were off.

Heather: Yeah, I agree with that.

Angie: Ok, those are the notes I had.  But, a few more thoughts that sprung up… when they first brought up the mockingjays, I thought it was just more fan service.  But they really fledged them out into an important part of the story!  And, also, built up a huge hatred of them for Coriolanus.

Heather: Yes, I was glad that they were given more of a story than just a mention. And they almost had to be because of Katniss’ connection to them.

Angie: I think that’s another part that’s gonna be haunting in the movie version.

Heather: Yes. I can’t wait to see how they do that. Because I think the Mockingjays sound awesome. I wish they were real. The jabberjays, not so much. Those would be kind of scary. Haha! (Not that I don’t love a good scare, but that would be so creepy in real life.)

Angie: (YES, no jabberjays in real life please!) So, we leave Coriolanus under the apprenticeship of Dr. Gaul.  I think that this will definitely warp him even more than what we’ve seen here.

Heather:  Most definitely. Although he had no problem poisoning Highbottom on his own. And so begins his reputation for poisoning people and getting those nasty sores in his mouth.

Angie: Exactly.  He’s become quite the killer in a few months.

And we know he’s working directly ON the Games.  I was thinking his involvement in that might lead to his falling out with Tigris?

Heather: That’s what I think. I think Tigris is finally going to see him for who he really is in all of that.

Angie: I don’t think it’s a line of work she’d respect, really.

Heather: And I think he’s going to screw her over somehow in all of that. Because she ended up being one of the stylists in the Games.

Angie: Truth. He also mentions that he’d never want to be in love again, but would marry for power/image.  And we can assume he does do that, as he has a granddaughter later.

Heather: Yep.

Angie: The poor soul he marries… must be as twisted and power-hungry as he is.

Heather: Or very, very naive. I can totally see him taking advantage of someone who is very weak for whatever reason. Someone he can easily control.

Angie: Maybe.  But we know she’d be Capitol, and so… she wants that Snow name and money, most likely.

Heather: Maybe. I’m looking forward to seeing if she continues this story.

Angie: There are definitely some other threads she could pick up.

Heather:  It would be kind of cool if another book picked up the story where this one leaves off…but from Tigris’ point of view.

Angie: That is what I’m hoping for. Oh, I had saved two quotes… the one I felt described Coriolanus best:

“What was there to aspire to once wealth, fame, and power had been eliminated? Was the goal of survival further survival and nothing more?”

Heather: Yeah, that’s a good one.

Angie: And one Lucy Gray one:

“I think there’s a natural goodness built into human beings. You know when you’ve stepped across the line into evil, and it’s your life’s challenge to try and stay on the right side of that line.”

Heather: YES.


Have you read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes? What did you think?

Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins: Reactions

‘My name is Katniss Everdeen. Why am I not dead? I should be dead.’

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Though she’s long been a part of the revolution, Katniss hasn’t known it. Now it seems that everyone has had a hand in the carefully laid plans but her.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels’ Mockingjay – no matter what the cost.

Goodreads

Like The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I’m not sure what I can say about this book that hasn’t already been said, so I’m going to provide my reactions, as they happened. I’m reading the series with a crew who has already read the original series and we’re discussing the books on Discord. Here were my reactions as I read Mockingjay:

(I took far fewer notes for this one…was getting tired of stopping every few minutes to type out my thoughts.)

I knew it! I knew District 13 was still going. And I knew they were using old footage in all of their stupid propaganda.

And it seems kind of…shitty. Not much better than the Capitol, rules/government-wise.

Katniss is written too…contradictorily. She’s fucking clueless until all of a sudden, she’s not. (I already mentioned this in my reactions to Catching Fire, but apparently it really bothered me in this one, too. Heh.) In Mockingjay, I was quite annoyed with Katniss not knowing that she could make demands if they wanted her to be their Mockingjay so badly. DUH. Her younger sister had to tell her it was possible. Sigh.

And then clueless Katniss says her prep team “isn’t smart” (“clueless”!) and compares them to children. Hahaha! Ugh.

Relevant:

“Frankly, our ancestors don’t seem much to brag about. I mean, look at the state they left us in, with the wars and the broken planet. Clearly, they didn’t care about what would happen to the people who came after them.”

President Snow’s blood-breath is from mouth sores…due to taking the same poison he used to kill someone else. Gross. At least my question about this from Catching Fire was answered.

Of course Peeta’s brain was being hijacked. Why did no one else see it? I know I’m on the outside looking in, but this seemed so obvious during the broadcast in which he warned District 13 about the impending attack. He was quite obviously struggling to say things they didn’t want him to say. Before it even became apparent, I assumed they’d be brainwashing him or something.

PEETA CALLING OUT KATNISS ABOUT HER SELFISHNESS. Now that Peeta has been hijacked, he can’t coddle Katniss anymore. Heh.

NOT FINNICK. FUUUUUUCK. Poor Annie. Dammit. Finnick was one of my favorite characters of the whole series.

I know I wouldn’t be thinking straight if I just saw someone I loved killed by a bomb, but how does Katniss not see that it was District 13 who bombed those children? Again, I get it–how do you think straight and how do you come to terms with the fact that the very people who are overthrowing the Capitol are the same people who would bomb a group of innocent children, but come on. She saw Gale working on that bomb with Beetee. Wake up, Katniss.

I was more upset by some deaths than others. I wasn’t as upset about Prim as I probably should have been, but I think that’s because her character was more of a plot device than a fully thought-out character (which is unfortunate). I was more worried about Buttercup, to be honest.

Having Hunger Games for Capitol children is just as disgusting as having them for District children, and of course Katniss voted yes. Of course she did.

Overall, I really enjoyed the original trilogy and I’m glad I finally read it.

(As of this post, I have finished the newest book in the series and a joint review of that will be coming soon.)

Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins: Reactions

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol – a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest that she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying. Katniss is about to be tested as never before.

Goodreads

Like The Hunger Games, I’m not sure what I can say about this book that hasn’t already been said, so I’m going to provide my reactions, as they happened. I’m reading the series with a crew who has already read the original series and we’re discussing the books on Discord. Here were my reactions as I read Catching Fire:

Now “star-crossed lovers” means arranged marriage. Fantastic. I don’t know how other people felt about Katniss and Peeta as a couple, but I am NOT shipping them. I don’t think I would ship Katniss and Gale, either, though. If I had to choose, I think Katniss and Gale would make the better couple, but I fully support Katniss’ decision to never get married or have children. The thought is there that her kid(s) would end up in the Games, probably through a rigged drawing, and that would suck (and even if that weren’t an issue, I still support her decision to not have kids). Also, I’m still not Katniss’ #1 fan, so…

Okay, sj and I were talking about this…the travel path of the Victory Tour doesn’t make sense at all. Why don’t they go from East to West instead of in reverse numerical order? Thinking about what the map must look like based on what each district produces, that travel path is ridiculous. They have to criss-cross and backtrack, and what a waste of time.

What is up with the smell of blood on President Snow’s breath? Ew. I’m already grossed out by him because of his love of roses (they remind me of funerals and they STINK), so the fact that he smells like roses AND blood is doubly gross to me. BLECH.

Aw, Peeta’s apology…he is definitely a better person (in general) than Katniss.

Who determines the level of security for each district, and how is it determined? District 12’s security is pretty lax (so far), but District 11’s security is out of control. Does it have something to do with how many people are in each district? Or past issues in each district?

DISTRICT 11’s SALUTE TO KATNISS (AND RUE). Happy sigh.

So relevant right now:

“Well, I’ve learned one thing today. This place is not a larger version of District 12. Our fence is unguarded and rarely charged. Our Peacekeepers are unwelcome but less brutal. Our hardships evoke more fatigue than fury. Here in 11, they suffer more acutely and feel more desperation. President Snow is right. A spark could be enough to set them ablaze.”

Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire

I’M SO GROSSED OUT BY PEOPLE EATING TOO MUCH, THEN DRINKING STUFF TO MAKE THEMSELVES THROW UP ON PURPOSE SO THEY CAN KEEP EATING. UUUUUUUGH. Plus, privilege much?

And there it is. Arenas are built specially for the Games, and they are planned and started years in advance so they’ll be ready on time. While I don’t like what they’re used for, it would be pretty cool to be involved in planning and building a (more kind) terraforming project.

Katniss’ character annoys me when it comes to how intuitive she is(n’t). I know I’m on the outside looking in, but she is so clueless about so many obvious things. In this case, why doesn’t she understand that Plutarch Heavensbee is showing his support of her with his Mockingjay watch?! DUH, KATNISS. There are other examples, but I didn’t make notes of them. But THEN she’ll come out with some super intelligent, critical analysis about something more complicated and it feels very contradictory to her usual cluelessness.

Also very relevant:

“Below them, there’s a mob scene. The square’s packed with screaming people, their faces hidden with rags and homemade masks, throwing bricks. Buildings burn. Peacekeepers shoot into the crowd, killing at random.”

Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire

BURN IT ALL DOWN.

I’ve been wondering about District 13 and whether or not it’s actually still unsafe to be there. I keep thinking about The Penultimate Truth by Philip K. Dick and how that government was using the same video feed over and over, making their citizens think that it was still unsafe on the surface.

And OF COURSE they’re going back into the Games. Of course. I saw that coming. Not being able to say goodbye to their friends and family this time is AWFUL. Ugh.

Peeta is starting to grow on me. I was a little annoyed with him in the first book, but I’m liking him much more now. See? It is possible to be a kid in the Games and not be totally selfish about your survival.

That Capitol food, though. I still want a bacon cheeseburger or some pizza.

Why are people who have gone through trauma forced to make the people around them feel better about it or more comfortable with it? This prep team is pissing me off. Ugh.

…and that’s where my noted thoughts ended. I didn’t feel like stopping to take notes once the main action started. The Games happened. Katniss and Peeta survived again. I’m still not shipping them.

My reactions to Mockingjay will be up tomorrow.