Psychology Student Reviews The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

As a Psychology student, it was compelling to dive into this prequel already knowing who Snow will become. This was a chance to use a retrospective look to see what happened in someone’s past that led them to become the person they are today. Oh, Dr. Gaul.

I’ll dive right in with a number of things that planted red flags along the way:

  • How Snow views Lucy Gray as his creation, his possession. His. Be prepared to riot at this next line:

“In some ways, it had been better to have her locked up in the Capitol, where he always had a general idea of what she was doing.”

  • His suspicions of everyone can turn a simple person into the devil by his overthinking. People with anxiety tend to interpret negatively things that aren’t quite clear. He takes that anxiety and turns it so much so that it can almost be painted as paranoia.
  • His lack of empathy when people suffer. Biggest red flag: his friend gets hurt and his main worry is getting blamed and punished if something worse happens. And when the parents of the friend rush in, which is when most people would go to reassure them, Snow is thinking first and foremost of himself:

“He didn’t know what the Dovecotes had been told, but he had no interest in talking to them, especially before he’d worked out his story.”

Big red flag. Huge.

  • He imitates emotions he thinks people expect him to feel in that moment, instead of sitting to uncover his real emotions. This is especially evoked in front of the cameras where he can make up a whole new persona.
  • He excuses his actions to clear himself of all guilt. He’s a great lawyer; the devil’s advocate. I was especially shocked when he dared to say this next line after the unthinkable happened to Sejanus: “And who knew? Maybe the cookies would keep coming.”

We’re rioting.

It was equally concerning to read the class discussions like, “How do we get more people to watch the Hunger Games?” And the one voice of reason, Sejanus, is being pushed aside like a madman. I had to actively remind myself that Sejanus is the good guy in a sea of bad. It’s all about who controls the narrative. This story is being told through Snow’s eyes. Don’t get distracted.

It’s disconcerting that the message of this book is either you riot against someone like Dr. Gaul and end up [redacted] like Sejanus, or you become her pet like Snow.

Which brings me to the point that we’re here for characters like Lucy Gray, not for Snow’s class homework 101 on how to be a dictator.

“Afraid of Dr. Gaul. Afraid of the Capitol. Afraid of everything. If the people who were supposed to protect you played so fast and loose with your life . . . then how did you survive? Not by trusting them, that was for sure. And if you couldn’t trust them, who could you trust? All bets were off.”

More point on the other characters:

  • The one thing that kept circling around in my mind was how Tigris would view Snow’s presidency. We see how much she sacrifices of herself for her cousin Snow. Yet in the end, we’re left with barely any mention of her. Unfortunate. I have a tiny sliver of hope that she would actively disapprove because she was always the voice of reason when he talked badly about people.
  • Lucy Gray is like a poor Disney princess who has to act graceful with the Capitol’s children even though she’s starving because of their families. This book should’ve been from her perspective. She deserved more page time, or at least her own POV. Her games were so rushed over, especially the ending. She deserves better.
  • Oh, but the loveliest moment of them all: “Hey, you found some katniss.” “Some people call them swamp potatoes, but I like katniss better. Has a nice ring to it.”

I do have to say after a certain point in the book, I couldn’t wait to finally escape the boring everyday routine of academic life. Luckily, the author immediately replaces it with everyday military life… Help. I can’t read any more details of the meals they ate and how everything had to be organised. Oh, and the amount of songs featured in this book? No, thanks. I’m good. It was like each chapter featured at least one, if not four. But I do have to add, the history on The Hanging Tree song was a nice touch.

All in all, I do appreciate that the author returned to this world. Now, when I catch Catching Fire references on my timeline or any talks about the Capitol or the games, I feel like I have insider information thanks to this prequel.

Midnight Sun might be next on the list.

Check out the prequel to the Hunger games through this excerpt:

Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

I realized while scrolling through my extensive ravings for Rainbow Rowell’s books, I’ve failed to include Attachments in the excitement. We’re gathered here today to mend that mistake.

“Or maybe he was just afraid to do something real.”

Funny to consider that Attachments used to be my least favorite Rowell book, maybe a bit above Landline, simply because I could not be bothered to even think about the adult world when I first read those books. And now, Attachments is like my second favorite book of hers right after Fangirl. You know what that is? insecure hbo

Who knew I’d become an adult so soon? They grow up so fast.

If you asked in short, why I love this book, I’d say it’s because of the characters. With Lincoln’s fear of moving forward in life, yet afraid of standing still. Plus, the moms in this book are something to behold. Attachments is full of Rainbow Rowell’s excellent dialogue, thanks to Beth and Jennifer’s email exchanges. Also, it’s an obvious biased reason to love a character, but Lincoln is such a Cath (Fangirl).

“If he didn’t look, he didn’t risk accidental eye contact.”

I guess I really love my introverted representation. For a minute there, I let myself wonder how Cath and Lincoln would get along. But given that they’re both main characters taken from Rainbow’s mind, it feels taboo crossing them over, as if they’re related or something because they were created by the same person.     

Okay, that’s it in short. But you know we don’t do short around here, so let me rave extensively about the beauty of this storyline:

  • I think I secretly love Attachments so much, mainly for the fact that all I ever wanted is a guy to interpret my telepathic gestures at him. So of course, I secretly took joy in Lincoln’s adjusted behavior upon reading Beth’s thoughts on him. It’s like he has insider info. I mean not like – he actually does, but still… It’s kind of a dream not having to actually approach the guy. He knows your opinion, feels the same, and is secretly reciprocating your thoughts to show ‘I’m here. I like you too.’ Mr. Darcy would approve.

“If this were a Jane Austen novel, it wouldn’t be so bad—if you were intercepting my letters, and I was peeking over your garden hedge …Computers make everything worse.”

  • You know it’s a lot to take in the invasion of privacy that happens so I felt a tiny bit relieved when Beth would do the same to him, like trying to follow him home, and planning an imaginative life with him and feeling betrayed when she thinks he’s already settled down

“Wondering what his name is. And whether he’s as nice as he seems. And whether he likes piña coladas and getting caught in the rain …

Would you believe it if I said that song was stuck in my head for hours after…

Also, funny that this isn’t her first rodeo of creeping on a guy. See below how she met Chris, her douche boyfriend, who we all, including Beth, ignore (does it still count as ignoring if he ignores you first?):

“One Tuesday night in November, I saw him at the library. I spent the next four Tuesday nights there, hoping it was a pattern. It wasn’t. Sometimes I’d allow myself to follow him to his 11:30 class in Andrews Hall, and then I’d have to run across campus to make it to my class in the Temple Building.
By the end of the semester, I was long past the point of starting a natural, casual conversation with him. I stopped trying to make eye contact.

I admire her sheer power of will to see something through.

  • The humor in Rainbow’s books remains impeccable. The amount of times I simply wrote “lol” in my notes (the quickest way to keep reading but pinning what made me laugh) is astronomical. Just to state a few examples:

“<<Jennifer to Beth>> Hmmm …I think I’d like to be a stay-at-home mom with no kids.”

Seriously, where does she come up with these gold one-liners?

“Like Lincoln, most of the girls had eyes only for the guitarist.”

Just the wording of that phrase alone is hilarious.

Oh, any and all conversations with any and all of the moms in this book receives an instant five-star rating. Just read this:

“You came to kindergarten with me for the first month.”
“You asked me to.”
“I was five,” Eve said. “You should have told me no.”
“You were scared.”
“I was five.”
“I didn’t send Lincoln until he was seven, and I’m so glad. He was so much more prepared.”
Lincoln had been prepared for kindergarten. He could already read and do some addition and subtraction.”

What a mom gem.

Another one: “I think they were happier about my breakup than Kiley’s wedding. “I knew it was a mistake to let him be in the family picture,” my mother said.

They don’t make them like this in other books. I want more!

But the thing that hit me most was Lincoln’s mom words on seeing your baby grow up:

“Why do you think I can remember that,” she asked, “when you can’t? Why does nature do that to us? How does that serve evolution? Those were the most important years of my life, and you can’t even remember them.”

Whew.

On a more upbeat point, the humor remains impeccable:

“Doris clucked and choked on her cake. She put her hand on his shoulder. Lincoln hoped that Beth wasn’t about to walk in.”

Ha! So she won’t write about it the next day accusing her Cute Guy of cheating (with an elderly woman)? It’s like he hears Beth’s voice narrating his life. I love it.

  • I also adore this book so much for giving us that “Falling …Was he falling? Or was he just bored?” This hits the spot! Both Lincoln and Beth are on standstill in their personal lives with no way out so they use each other as this safe haven in their head… I want more.

I can’t give him up. What would I have to look forward to?”

Above all, these two represented the way we can let our fantasies take over so we’ll never have to do anything real.

“No, he was just going to kiss her. He wasn’t going to wait. She’d kiss him back. He was absolutely certain that she would kiss him back.
And then he’d tell her that he loved her.
And then he’d tell her his name.
And then and then and then … what?”

Me creating scenarios in my head be like…

  • Reading the email with the phrase “trying not to bite his shoulder.” bookspoils

There’s so much longing present in this book that it only hit me toward the end when they finally kiss that it is the only kiss in the book. They live so vicariously in their head, I almost forgot no one actually instigates anything in their real-life until they do. What a shock that was. I WANT MORE! It was like hitting the play button after being stuck on rewind for so long.

“because I’m not 16 anymore. That’s when it hit me— I’m not 16 anymore.
And I don’t mean that in an offhand “well, obviously” way. I mean it like “Jack and Diane.” Like, “Oh, yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.”

This made me hit the same realization. Help. Oh, to be young and… and what? I love the idea of reverting to my younger self but there’s also so much pain that accompanies those teen years that it’s honestly not worth it. But oh, to think of all the books that await to be read for the first time…

  • Lastly, I’ll indulge in sharing random moments of resemblance to Fangirl because it’s my favorite book and I look for it in everything:

“<<Jennifer to Beth>> Really. I think you’re pathetic. It’s almost painfully embarrassing to read your messages when you’re like this.”

Reagan before Reagan existed.

“<<Beth to Jennifer>> How did he win you over?
<<Jennifer to Beth>> He just wouldn’t leave me alone. He kept sitting behind me in our poetry- writing class and asking me if I had plans for lunch. Like I wanted this muscle-bound blond guy to watch me eat.
<<Beth to Jennifer>> I can just see him. A farm boy with sexy sousaphone shoulders …”

(Puts on best Jeopardy game-voice) What is Levi for 100 points

Also, Lincoln kissing Christine in their college days while studying for a final? What is Cath and Levi for 200 points.

Okay, thank you for letting me indulge in that.  I’ll leave at that, since I don’t want Jennifer calling me pathetic.

This review has been a long time coming. So I’m glad to have it up to revisit time and again, as I commonly do with my reviews for Rainbow Rowell books.

Please indulge in a copy for yourself or your loved ones. Choose your pick of the litter:


Why I Fangirl over Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl

The Perfect Fall Read: Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell, Faith Erin Hicks

Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell, or Fate, Time, Television and True Love

Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Review: Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell


Can we take a moment to admire the beauty of all these books put together:

New Moon Gave Me Trust Issues

Going into this right after Twilight, I was begging and hoping I wouldn’t be let down. Twilight surprised me with how much fun I had with it. It was silly and over-the-top and romantic and problematic. All the components for a great book to live-tweet. Which I did. Along with a review. It brought me out of my quarantine funk and gave me something to look forward to, however silly it may be.

I realized when it comes to Twilight you have to kind of leave logic behind, what with all the angst, drama, and you know, vampires vs werewolves. I was prepared for that side. I was not prepared for New Moon. Oh, how I wish I would’ve been prepared for New Moon.

Buckle in for the journey that is the second book in the Twilight series. True to form, it contained all the ups and downs. Read along to discover if there were more ups than downs. It began innocently enough:

Cue transitional music traveling back to the start

  • “Well, Gran, you might have noticed that my boyfriend glitters. It’s just something he does in the sun. Don’t worry about it….”
Hmmm, will this ever feel normal. . . .
  • I sighed. “Do you want me to watch this alone?”
    “No, I’ll mostly be watching you, anyway.”

The hilarity of them watching Romeo and Juliet together.

  • The info dumps at the start were driving me mad. they’re the equivalent of “previously on…” and I remember all too clearly what happened in the first book. . . I HAD JUST READ IT. Trust me, Carlisle’s backstory can wait to be repeated later on.isak
  • “But what would I do without you?”
    “Whatever you were doing before I came along and complicated your existence.”
    He sighed. “You make that sound so easy.”
    “It should be. I’m not really that interesting.”

Where is the lie? 1es2kmAlso: Good old fashioned relationship troubles with Bella and Edward? I relish that now, coming from the other side of this book.

  • Speaking of Bella being uninteresting:

“As far as Rosalie was concerned, I was an unwelcome intruder into her family’s secret life.”

And she is right. I low-key love Rosalie. She’s the only one to put Bella in her rightful place. In what universe is Bella adored by all vampires? In the same universe where she makes them runoff from their own home?meme

  • “Well, that’s everyone,” I sighed. “I can clear a room, at least.”
Read the room: you don’t belong with the Cullens
mean girls
I fear this will become a recurring theme. And meme.
  • “If I develop this film,” I said, toying with the camera in my hands, “will you show up in the picture?”
I forgot that the humor in this series isn’t all that bad. Though, I feel like Twilight had more of it than this angsty follow-up book.
Adding to that, I got to wondering late one night. Whenever Bella gets ready in the morning, Edward just sits there waiting for her to be done. Do vampires not use the bathroom or brush their teeth? asking for a friend.
  • Back to the melodrama, and no, I’m not talking about Lorde’s album. Unfortunately. We’re back to the same old same old:

“Bella, you gave yourself a paper cut—that hardly deserves the death penalty.”
“It’s still my fault.”
My words opened up the floodgate.
“Your fault?”

Even Edward is amazed at how she seeks to punish herself. That’s saying a lot.

“I’d rather die than be with Mike Newton,” I protested. “I’d rather die than be with anyone but you.”
“Don’t be melodramatic, please.”

This is where their age difference comes to play.

Also: is she going to repeat this statement throughout the book? We’re tired, Bella.meme

“I didn’t realize that you were capable of being reasonable.”
This whole “don’t get harmed & bleed or i’ll feel triggered to kill you because i’m a vampire” is getting worse and worse. There’s only one simple solution yet neither seemed reasonable enough to go through with it.sana

“The guilt made my head bow and my shoulders slump. I’d run them out of their home, just like Rosalie and Emmett. I was a plague.”

Yes! If you can’t dump Edward because you’re too attached to him, at least think of the people around you suffering because of your decision.

  • “When you say we—,” I whispered.
    “I mean my family and myself.” Each word separate and distinct.”

Does it have to be spelled out for Bella to understand that she’s not part of the Cullens?

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“I won’t put you through anything like this again. You can go on with your life without any more interference from me. It will be as if I’d never existed.”

When this moment arrived I was astonished. And then I realized what it meant: F R E E D O M. If anything, I was glad to get a break from their daily quarrels that weren’t going to clear themselves up anytime soon. I was over the moon giddy, actually.

On the one hand, after spending so much of Twilight with Edward at Bella’s disposal, I was excited to see what she had to offer without him at her side 24/7. I wanted that character development. Save yourself in this one, for once. However, what I soon came to realize was that we either get an obsessed Bella going on and on about her vampire-boyfriend made of marble or we get a lifeless Bella moping on and on about Edward being gone. . . choose your fighter.

And then, it struck me. I had stumbled onto a larger beast than anticipated. Bella without Edward is… mind-numbingly boring. I was seriously contemplating skipping pages to when Edward shows up. The realization hit that Bella’s infuriating without him and she’s infuriating with him, but at least Edward keeps it interesting.

And no, the plot convenience of Edward appearing in her head was not working for me. It’s an obvious ruse to appease the fans. We want the real deal, not an illusion.

It has to be said. The truth can’t escape me at this point: I’m here solely for Edward and Jacob. Or at the very least, I’m not here to be tortured by Bella Swan. So I guess, good luck with New Moon. This is my cry for help. I came unprepared.

“The next few hours were agony.”

Is that Bella or me reading New Moon? I am desperately looking for the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

At this point, it has to be said: Twilight peaked at… Twilight.
i said what i said
  • Of course, we all know why the author swept away the Cullens so quickly. Make way for our new brooding hero: *Cue the song Kiss Me in She’s All That* “The new – not improved, but different – Jacob Black.jacob black
  • Does this mean that I have to care about a whole new cast of characters now? I do not have it in me, Bella. We’re tired.imagine

I guess, anything to get out of Bella’s mind. But I had an inkling before diving into this book – I even wrote myself a reminder before opening the first chapter – that the author would ruin Edward and Bella so as to make way for our new – not improved, but different – hero (I’m having way too much fun with the She’s All That references). I literally wrote a note titled, “Things to remember in case Edward’s character gets ruined in the follow-up books.” The list wasn’t long, but still.

To backtrack, what I noticed pretty early on is that in order to enjoy Twilight I had to go into it with an open mind and zero preconceived notions. I just didn’t realize I would have to do so with each book in the series. So once I let go of my exceptions for the follow-up book, I could just let things run wild. Let the Cullens be gone for most of the book, who cares? Not this open-minded gal. Let a new cast of characters take over. I’m fine.i'm fine

You know, as long as I’m reading and being distracted from quarantine life, I’ll take it.

  • What is reading the Twilight series like? Reading this with a straight face: “Is that all? Really?” he interrupted me, a smile breaking across his face. “You’re just scared because I’m a murderer? That’s the only reason?”

side eye

  • “Can you stay out of trouble for one hour?” she asked skeptically. Then, before I could answer, she held up one finger and closed her eyes. Her face went smooth and blank for a few seconds.”

How hopeless is Bella? Alice has to actually foresee the future to answer that question.

keke
  • I really thought Romeo and Juliet was just an innocent mention at the start of the book. Oh, boy, if only I knew.

honey

  • “I watched the figures moving across the little screen, but I couldn’t even tell if the movie was supposed to be a romance or a horror film.”

This reads like a review of Twilight.

  • The race to get to the Volturi was more fast-paced than the entirety of New Moon. Oh, but how convenient for the author to suddenly have Bella turning into a vampire be considered for the greater good so we can’t criticize her in the future.
  • Speaking of, I feel like the author made the book without Edward so unbearable so that when she finally gives him back to us, we’re supposed to be thankful and realize Edward carries the entire series on his back. I can’t figure out if that’s a genius move on her part or not.

I feel like I went into New Moon so naive, and by the end of it, I left utterly destroyed. I was, for one, not expecting Edward to be gone for the majority of it. I am still struck by that fact. It definitely added to my trust issues. I have no idea what to expect now with the following books in the series. I even wrote at one point in my notes that I want to make fun of him, but I’m so Edward deprived that I don’t care what he says right now. What a trick! After reading Twilight, New Moon seems like its evil twin.

On that note, another complaint with New Moon that I hope to get resolved in the next book is that there are barely any intimate or tender scenes lingering between Bella and Edward. I went into this series thinking it was more romance based instead of being so heavily focused on the plot. I mean does Stephenie Meyer think I chose this series to freshen up my memory on vampires? Who cares about the Volturi? Give me scenes with Edward and Bella. Scenes where they’re not fighting for once. I just wanted that moment of sweet reunion to last longer than one page… I’m here for the romance is what I’m saying.

But you know as long as I’m invested enough to continue, I will. I just hope that as the series grows it will focus less on the history of vampires – because I don’t remember signing up for Vampires 101 – and give us more of what we’re all here for. . .

My in-detail commentary as I read along can be found down here:

If you’re looking for a distraction, be sure to snatch a copy of New Moon for yourself to reminisce or read along with me: