Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins

At the end of the first novel in this trilogy, Katniss has defied the Capitol. It is inevitable that it will not be the end of the matter. No one is going to be able to live happily and freely. Even though as victors Katniss and Peeta have a life of relative comfort there are many more that do not.

It is decided that as it is the 75th year of the Hunger Games there will be a special version of the games – the Quarter Quell. All previous victors are chosen in a similar way to the reaping and will again have to fight to death, until one of them is left standing.

But there is an undercurrent in all the districts and it seems that Katniss small action in defying the Capitol has led to uprisings and a discontented population. Those in charge and perhaps maybe everyone wants more of a say. Even the peacekeepers seem to be less controlling in District 12, Katniss home district change, there is danger everywhere.

There is a suggestion that perhaps the mysterious District 13 that was obliterated because of the uprising does exist after all, and it is utopia that all the other districts are trying to strive for. Or perhaps it is just a manipulation of the power hungry President Snow and all those in the Capitol.

So into the arena which seems to be working very differently to anything Katniss was expecting. There also seems to be more friendly competitors as well. But as previous victors fall at the hands of others, it looks like Katniss might not be able to save herself or Peeta in the end. Has the Capitol finally won and regained control? Time is ticking down in the arena and there could be only one way to force them out of it.  But what will the consequences be this time.

This book is as good as the first. It describes well the different parts of the districts, the families and the control that the Capitol has. It does not go over old ground so you do have to have read the first novel to make any sense of the events in this book.  There were a couple of points which I had to go back and reread to get the understanding of what was going on, as I did in the first book I put this down to the fact that I am not normally a reader of Science fiction and therefore I have to programme by brain as such to be able to switch into another universe.

These books work on so many levels and I can see their appeal to Young Adults (the intended audience) and adults. It raises many questions; how much are we really in control, what is being controlled by unknown sources are we really free or are we being played as if we are in some sort of very large game. This book should not incite rebellion, far from it, it just makes you realise much more about what we accept with no question. A book that makes you think without you realising it!

This is an excellent read and as I finished the book I was so tempted to start the final book straight away. But I wanted to wait until the film comes out and then I think I will read the third and final book in the trilogy – Mockingjay. Not long to wait as it is coming out around the 22 November this year! My book club has planned an outing to go and see it as we read The Hunger Games and are individually slowly working our way through the others. 

I am still surprised that I enjoyed these books as they are really not my cup of tea. Just goes to show you that sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone with reading, you may even surprise yourself. 


This Is What Happy Looks Like – Jennifer E Smith

A small American town, a young girl, Ellie and her mum have carved a life out for themselves quite nicely. The weather is glorious, the people friendly but by chance an email arrived to Ellie, it was meant for someone else but it got to Ellie and it started something life changing, a spark of friendship or the start of something more.

Graham was plucked from obscurity and is now the biggest movie star and everyone wants to work with him and all the female fans want to be with him. But Graham is struggling to deal with his fame, and is happy to retreat back into a life where he is virtually unknown.

One summer, as the heat is intense, two people are thrown together but are they being true with each other and are there secrets from the past that will help a future that should be promising and bright to these two young people?

This is a story of young love, friendships which divide and become stronger, about surviving in an unbalanced world where one is unknown and one is known. Add into that world the fact that everyone wants to know everything about everyone else, it is going to be a challenge. Jennifer E Smith, makes every young girls dream come to reality and shows what it might be like if you fell in love with someone famous. She shows the wonderful moments about not being sure whether you have loved or being in love as well as the difficulties of dealing with being in the public eye when your mother has been trying to keep you out of it, because of her own secret.

This is a novel which at first I was not sure of who the pitched audience was went to be? Is this a young adult book? But it goes a bit deeper than that, it is not a pure romance and full of slushy sentiment which it could have been, it is very grown up and I think if I had teenage daughters in particular it would show you how difficult love can be but how also wonderfully simple at the same time.

Well worth a read.

Thank you to the publisher, Headline for sending me this book for review. I would certainly not have picked it up otherwise. This was the book which restored my faith somewhat after starting and stopping two books I could not get into. 


Debutantes – Cora Harrison

It is the mid twenties and four girls have desires on what they want to happen to them. It is a time of change.

Violent the eldest is desperate to be presented at her season. However family finances mean that it is looking even less likely.

Daisy has ambitions to be something in films and spends a lot of time filming her family and bringing all these shots together to make the film that will mean she is discovered.

Poppy (Daisy’s non-identical twin)  is embracing the Jazz Age and being a débutante is the furthest thing from her mind. Making music on her clarinet with a group of friends at the family’s chauffeur cottage is where you are most likely to find her.

Rose is the youngest and looks up to all her sisters and involves them all in her fictious stories and short pithy newspaper headlines which punctuate their life.

The family is living in a house which is starting to fail just like their family finances, their mother is dead and they only have their father, an aunt and a few family retainers to keep up some sort of society appearance.

They make their own entertainment, and when the house throws up secrets, in the shape of a letter hidden in a wooden box and then a trunk full of clothes in the attic, belonging to an Elaine Carruthers a name the four girls are not familiar with. It falls to Daisy to start digging around to see if she can find anything out – it could always make a film. But she wants to direct not to be the star. All the while young Rose, punctuates it with wonderful eye grabbing headlines which was one of my favourite parts of the book.

This book is pitched as a young adult book but it is not particularly ‘young’ in its topics or language so it should not deter adults from picking it up and reading it. Ideal for those who are fans of such programmes as Downton Abbey, historical fiction, the differences in those ‘upstairs’ , the servants and the ilk. It has everything that you would expect and want in such a book; a strict aunt, a family bereavement, a big house with secrets, sibling rivalry, references to society of the time but also how women were changing at the time and not everyone wanted to be a débutante. Changing times.

This is the first in a new series by Cora Harrison, and I enjoyed it that I will want to see what happens to the sisters and the direction that Harrison will take.

Thank you to Amazon Vine for giving me the opportunity to read this book. 

I have read one of Cora Harrison’s previous novels I was Jane Austen’s Best Friend but not the second which I must rectify. 

I suppose I should say something about the fact that they are children’s books, but to be honest I don’t know what there is to say. Other than perhaps as I directed in my review (see link above) if you want to start children on preparation for something more substantial then this a good book to start with.  


I Hunt Killers – Barry Lyga

Crime Fiction Alphabet – B is for Barry Lyga

Seventeen year old, Jaspar “Jazz” Dent comes from what you would call a dysfunctional family, his mother has been missing for years, he lives with his senile Grandmother because his father is in prison. Not a great start in life you could say.

However, it is all a bit more dysfunctional than that – Jazz’s father is the most notorious serial killer in America and Jazz is worried that his upbringing on how to kill, cut, slice and dispose of bodies and how to outwit the police is going to turn him into his father. And when everyone knows who you are you begin to doubt all your actions.

When a body is found in the town where Jazz lives, followed by another a pattern is emerging,  and Jazz can see an uncanny connection to the pattern of his fathers killings. But the Sheriff refuses to link anything together so Jazz accompanied by his friend Howie and girlfriend Connie do some of his own investigating.

However, the killer seems to be one step ahead all the time and when the Sheriff recognises the connection with Jazz’s past, events start to take a turn for the worst. Everything Jazz holds dear to him is threatened; his friendship with Howie; his relationship with Connie and his own belief that he is going to turn into his father, because he is thinking exactly like him. Jazz fears himself.

A gripping thriller which I am led to believe is pitched at the more Younger Adult audience but I think apart from the language used, and the very little bad language used there is little to suggest this.

There was enough blood and gore description to get right under the skin of the reader, and plenty of psychological twists when you actually start to believe that with a flick of a switch Jazz could turn his hand to continuing his father’s legacy if it was not for someone getting their first.

I like Jazz, he was a fighter and you could see that through the way he dealt with everything that he came up against, even the police who were at first thinking he was still to wrapped up in what his father had done. Jazz knew which battles to pick and could manipulate the situation to his advantage, a skill his father taught him, but one that Jazz used differently.

It was interesting to see the novel from the point of the perpetrator’s family – so many thrillers can centre on them and not those they leave behind after they have committed their heinous crime. The senility of the grandmother, made you question whether such insane criminal behaviour stemmed from a family trait. Mention must therefore go to the Nature versus Nurture debate, that many reviews touch on. The fact that Jazz was a minor made it all the more interesting as he had no means of escape unless he concurred with the social worker assigned to him to help remain ‘well-adjusted’. Under the circumstances I think Jazz was far more ‘adjusted’ than many of those that knew him give him credit for.

A good page turner, and an excellent book if you have a teenager that perhaps wants to branch out into more thriller type fiction.  With likeable and believable characters that you want to know what happens to them, so you keep turning the page.

One character I did laugh out loud over was Howie. You never expect to laugh with a crime thriller novel do you. Howie is Jazz’s only friend. Jazz came to his rescue when he was being bullied, and despite Jazz’s notorious father Howie sees past all of that and still remains his friend. The irony of all this blood and guts in the novel is that Howie is a Haemophiliac. 

Thank you to Transworld Publishers for sending me this for review.

I read this as part of The Crime Fiction Alphabet Challenge hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise