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review 2020-06-21 11:40
'Girls With Sharp Sticks' by Suzanne Young - highly recommended
Girls With Sharp Sticks - Suzanne Young,Caitlin Davies

'Girls With Sharp Sticks' by Suzanne Young (2019), is about girls at the 'Innovations'Academy' who are being taught to be 'better girls', obedient, respectful, compliant and pretty. It's the story of one of the girls, Mena, waking up to the fact that the Academy is not what it claims to be and claiming her rage at what is being done to her and the other girls at the school.

 

The plot and pace of this book make is a compelling, I-have-to-know-what-happens-next and Oh-no-they're-not-going-to-do-that-are-they? thriller.

 

The first person narrative lets us share Mena's journey, investing the reader in Mena's struggle and binding us to her emotionally. It also lets the reader see, and often rage at, the gap between what Mena sees as going on and what we think is happening. Initially, it seems that Mena is just too nice, too passive, too inexperienced and too trusting to work out what's going on. Then, slowly we realise that Mena isn't naturally like that, the Academy is making her like that.

 

I'm not going to disclose what's really happening at the Academy as part of the fun of the book is guessing the nature of the malfeasance, being sure you've got it right and then having to guess again, so I'm going to focus on how reading the book made me feel.

 

The dominant emotion I felt throughout this book was rage. Rage at the men running the Innovations Academy. Rage at the men funding them. Rage at the soul-crushing cruelty of what is being done to these girls.

 

One of the things that fueled my rage is how believable the Academy is. The lessons being given on how to be 'better girls' are not so far from what would have been taught in a Finishing School sixty years ago. Although the teachers at the Academy are misogyny incarnate, weak, angry men who hide their hate for women behind a mask of patriarchal concern expressed through punishment, they are not cartoon monsters, they are the kind of men we've all met. Giving men like this with absolute authority over girls like Mena is deeply wrong. This is the core truth that the rest of what is happening at the Academy simply amplifies.

 

My rage as a reader was like a bow wave, always a little ahead of the rage that slowly builds in Mena, moving from disquiet to outrage. I loved Mena's rage. By the time I was a quarter of the way through the book when I still wasn't sure what was going on, I was already looking forward to the revenge I assumed Mena and the girls would eventually take on these men.

 

I loved the idea of that a poem, 'Girls With Sharp Sticks', was the wake-up call that unlocked Mena's ideas and emotions, that let her see who she was and what she wanted.

 

The plot went into a different and better direction than I expected. When Mena awoke, her focus wasn't on revenge. Her focus wasn't on men at all. Her focus was on regaining her own agency and on freeing and protecting the other girls.

 

What the Academy was really about was also more complicated and more interesting than I'd initially assumed and I admire the skill with which I was led and misled to the journey's conclusion.

 

If you're looking for a light, exciting, speculative fiction read, 'Girls With Sharp Sticks' will deliver it to you but along the way, my guess is that you'll also find that you're reading something that challenges the humanity of patriarchal misogyny and makes you question what a 'better girl' would really be like.

 

The book works very well as a standalone, but it also made me hungry for more, so I'm glad to see that the sequel 'Girls With Razor Hearts', is already available.

 

Caitlin Davies does a great job at narrating 'Girls With Sharp Sticks'. I recommend listening to the audiobook if you can. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.

 

https://soundcloud.com/simonschuster/girls-with-sharp-sticks

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review 2020-06-17 00:13
The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes - audiobook
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes - Suzanne Collins

Audience: Young Adult

Format: Audiobook/Library Copy

 

 

Coriolanus released the fistful of cabbage into the pot of boiling water and swore that one day it would never pass his lips again.

- first sentence

 

This is a prequel to the Hunger Games series, set during the tenth Hunger Games (Katniss volunteers for the 74th Hunger Games). Coriolanus Snow is a teenager and in school. He and some of his classmates are selected to mentor the 24 tributes. Snow is irritated when he is chosen to mentor the girl from District 12 - Lucy Gray Baird.

 

Snow's family is poor (a result of the war with the districts) but he doesn't want anyone to know. He sees himself as better than pretty much everyone else, especially people from the districts. His chilly attitude and selfishness make him difficult to like, then again we aren't supposed to like him, are we. 

 

The book wasn't as exciting or page-turning as the original series, but I enjoyed it. The ending was expected but still sad and unfortunate. The one thing this book did was make me want to reread the original series.

 

 

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review 2020-06-12 06:17
Devil Dance (Jade del Cameron #7) - Suzanne Arruda
Devil Dance: A Jade del Cameron Mystery (Volume 7) - Suzanne Arruda

This book being the end of the Jade del Cameron series was the book equivalent of the 10th season of Friends. Or that stupid made for TV movie that was supposed to be the big wrap up for CSI.

 

So disappointing. 

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review 2020-05-19 17:21
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Hunger Games Prequel by Suzanne Collins
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes - Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins returns to the world of 'The Hunger Games' to tell the story of young Coriolanus Snow. For those who don't remember, that's Donald Sutherland. The original trilogy captivated me when I first read it, but I had my doubts about a prequel after all these years. This is partly because these books don't continue to resonate with me the way some other YA powerhouses have. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, however, so expect this one to be on the bestseller list for some time.

 

This was a fast read, even at 500+ pages, and there was some pleasure in seeing the world that had only been viewed through Katniss' limited gaze with greater clarity. The problem I ultimately had with this is the problem that hits a lot of prequels: this story had a foregone conclusion. The story has to have an interesting journey on top of the plot. Was the goal to humanize Snow? To reinforce the message of the original trilogy? To provide an alternative to the increasingly lampooned Katniss model of YA heroine in Lucy Gray? Having finished this...I still can't give you those answers.

 

I'm rating this as only OK because we didn't see any transformation of Snow. Cunning sociopathic person wins the day may be realistic, but it wasn't riveting as presented here. Lucy Gray is only a cypher because we never hear her perspective, and what we do see is from Snow's eyes, so.... Most importantly, I didn't buy the moral complications presented to the reader. Right and wrong were pretty clear and there was little or no real internal struggle on the part of the characters. That was a defining highlight of the original books. 'Ballad' succeeds only in being a return to a familiar world and by filling in gaps in the timeline of the series. If you liked the original trilogy, you'll find something in this book. Just don't expect the moon.

 

On the plus side, many bookstores got Mockingjay/Snake iron-on patches so if you pre-ordered a copy with them you get one for free. Check with your local - they may have extra patches that are first come/first served if you didn't preorder!

 

The Hunger Games

 

Previous: 'Mockingjay'

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review 2020-05-09 06:08
Highly recommend
Girls With Sharp Sticks - Suzanne Young

This book is amazing. I loved the boarding school type setting and the friendship and close bond that the girls have formed. I thought the beginning of the story was strange and the things the girls were being taught and how everyone seemed to just accept it. But then slowly they begin to question things and then all hell breaks loose. The twist towards the end made my jaw drop, i was definitely not expecting the story to go that way. I just have to read the next book in this series to see what happens next.

I highly recommend this book.

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