The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes | Book Review

Synopsis

“It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capital, 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.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53034698-the-ballad-of-songbirds-and-snakes

My Thoughts

Suzanne Collins is a genius.

We all know of The Hunger Games, whether we have read then or not. I understand they are not for everyone! They weren’t my favourite novels ever. However, I was really excited for this prequel. I preordered it as soon as I heard the news.

I have no regrets.

This book is one of the best things I’ve read all year.

I enjoyed it more than the entire series combined. Even if you haven’t seen/read The Hunger Games, it serves well as a stand alone. That final sentence made the entire book complete. I just… if anyone else has read this book, please talk to me about it. I just- I loved it.

Suzanne Collins made a pretty brave and bold move, to rediscover the world she wrote 10 years ago and make a prequel for it. You’d expect nothing less than a flop, which is understandable. This is a rare and beautiful exception. 

In the original novels Snow was this side-line character. We didn’t learn much about him, but he was the President of the Capitol. He encouraged the Games. In essence, the ‘bad guy’.

Though this novel was written in third person, we learned a lot about Coriolanus Snow. Collins wrote it in a way that made the reader think they knew Coriolanus, but we didn’t really know him at all. 

If I were to use one simply word to describe him, it would be: cunning.

Of course, the bulk of this novel concentrates on Coriolanus being a mentor in the Hunger Games. His tribute, Lucy Gray, was a very exciting character. Following her story was definitely a journey. I loved the way she complimented Coriolanus but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for her in the end.

Who Would I Recommend This To?

Any fans of dystopian or fantasy would eagerly eat up this book. It’s a great all-rounder, and if you’re not very familiar with dystopian as a genre I think this is a perfect road into it. You’d probably have to familiarise yourself with the Hunger Games world (Panem) before heading into this. Although, if you take the first few chapters slowly, you will be able to plunge in at the deep end. 

Audience wise, I’d say 11-16? The only reason I could see a young adult reading this is if the Hunger Games meant a lot to them. I have seen a fair few people in their 20s enjoy this (over on bookstagram) but, as I said, I don’t think they’d pick it up unless they already had a good relationship with the Hunger Games original series.

This book is one of the best I’ve read all year! It was a great escape in those weeks where academia got a bit stressful. I couldn’t put it down – and the satisfaction after finishing it is like eating up an entire Christmas dinner. 

What are you reading at the moment, or what do you want to read next?

Hope you have a lovely week,

Catherine x

P.S I’m officially back! Schedule is as follows: new blog post every Tuesday and Wednesday accompanied by an Instagram post. Other social media’s are taking the back seat but I would love if you could add me as a friend on Goodreads! Linked here.

Find me elsewhere on the Internet:

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Email me! cathjaneblog@gmail.com

Goodbye Kitty Jade…

Hello,

Hope you are all well. I’m looking forward to catching up with you all in the comments. When the academic year kicked in, I took an unannounced and completely needed hiatus from blogging. School had to take the front seat and I am still focusing on my studies as a priority.

However, I have missed you all.

I have had this platform since I was quite young and it has evolved as I have. We started out this journey together under the alias Kitty Jade which, since today, has been archived. I make it sound like I’ve lost a friend but it isn’t that dramatic. My content is changing, I’m growing up, and it seems sensible for this blog to grow with me.

Let’s address the elephant in the room, shall we?

New logo, new name, but underneath it is still me: Catherine.

I spent quite a while deciding how to incorporate my name into my online identity but eventually found Cath Jane would be perfect. The username is available on all platforms which is great, and it means there’s no more confusion with people calling me Kitty! Kitty Jade was this character I took on when I was fearful of the large expanse of Internet. It was a little safety blanket. 

Teenage years are a time of change and three years doesn’t seem long, but for me it’s a lifetime. Back when I revealed my name in lockdown I knew there was change looming on the horizon. This just feels like the right decision to embrace myself! To be completely, unapologetically me!

One night I was watching Bake Off when I came up with my logo idea. Yellow is my favourite colour so I went for an in-your-face shade! Hope you don’t find it too distracting. I will be working on a website banner but that’s less of a priority at the moment. Because you can’t have a blog without content!

I did promise a few collabs with certain people that I aim to finish and send off soon. Collabs are going to take the backseat because I’m finding it hard to stick to my commitments! (CEO of signing up to too many things) I will however, be relying on your kindness and willingness to be interviewed. I will make a constant effort to reach out to big names and companies and ask if they wish to be involved in a climate change discussion/interview in my Plastic Plan series. The Plastic Plan is always a work in progress and the name is also subject to change to a more inclusive one. Climate Change With Catherine, Catherine’s Take, Zero Waste Wednesday?

That is all I have to offer today! November is the month for me. Schedule to be decided but the break has rejuvenated my creative mind and I’m so excited for what lies ahead! I may already be dreaming of blogmas…

Thank you for waiting patiently throughout the past few months as I have been silent on my blog and social media. 

Here’s to a new chapter, Cath Jane Blog!

Catherine x

Find me elsewhere on the Internet:

Instagram: @cathjaneblog

Goodreads: @cathjaneblog

Pinterest: @cathjaneblog

Email me! cathjaneblog@gmail.com

Where I’ve Been + October Goals

Long time, no type! Hope you’re all well. Thank you for continuing to support my blog while I’ve been away. I’ve not replied to your comments but I have see them pop into my inbox, and I look forward to chatting with you all again.

As you will understand, September is back to school season. That is why I haven’t posted to my regular schedule since mid-August. I’ve been bombarded with work! I can cope with it, it’s just very overwhelming. I’ve had 6 months with no commitments, no brain puzzles, no people. I need to accept that I can’t blog 24/7 (as I used to) while school is in my life. That’s okay! I’m not a superhero, and I will not try to be. 

In the next few years, academics will only become more important. They will be my priority so I can’t pressure myself into being a perfect blogger when blogging is not my job (even though I’d love it to be). This blog isn’t going on the back burner – no way! It’s my passion and I love it very dearly. 

Life’s been good. I’ve finally got into the swing of things in my new school. Not quite found balance between reading, blogging, cello and school yet but we’ll get there as I become more adjusted to the ‘normal’ lifestyle.

We’re also crawling closer to Christmas! A gingerbread scented candle is burning happily away in my room right now. It smells DIVINE! The other day I finished my rewatch of the Harry Potter films and it was so cosy and comforting. Dark mornings aren’t very inviting, but the nights drawing in are certainly hygge.

Many people will be curious about how coronavirus precautions are operating at my school. We have to wear masks in the buildings, but not in classrooms. We have ‘year group bubbles’ which is Bo Jo’s genius idea. I don’t know how it works but between lessons and after school we mash together anyway. Upon entrance of classrooms we disinfect the tables with antibacterial spray. We are also required to sanitise our hands.

I’m no scientist but anti-bacterial spray and anti-bacterial hand gel only kills bacteria. Not viruses! And they’re two very different things. I understand the precaution and I will abide of course. There is no proper ‘virus protection’ however.

I took a break from social media. I occasionally open Instagram on desktop to look at DMs but it’s completely gone from my phone. I don’t know when or if I’ll return, but I know now isn’t the right time. It does help drive traffic towards my blog but I’m not worried about stats at the minute. I need to solidify where I want this blog to go!

I am working on a few changes in terms of this website. My profile photo and other things need a revamp so I’ve been staying up late on my iPad drawing out ideas for logos and website banners! I can’t promise when that will be ready but I’m hoping before the new year.

There are so many more great things going on. I have been accepted into a trip with Girl Guiding to Kenya! It will be an expense so I am depending on some of your help and support to raise the funds. I will be flying out in February 2022. Due to coronavirus, I won’t be able to carry out my regular fundraising ideas. But I’m thinking up new and creative ways (many being online). If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them!

My new obsession is pom-pom making. When Bake Off comes on on a Tuesday evening, Mum crochets and I make pom-poms! I’m working on a garland to go across the long wall of my bedroom. It’s alternating yellow and white. Tuesdays are now my favourite day because of my new hobby.

Speaking of telly, Strictly Come Dancing starts soon. My friend and I are fully obsessed. It’s trashy but it’s good trash – you know? Some of you may have read that heartfelt post about my Granny. She adored dancing, specifically Strictly, so I will never not watch it. Besides – who can resist that theme song?

Since deleted social media, I’ve been filling time where I used to scroll reading. In 2019 my blog was book centred which is very telling of that stage in my life. Through lockdown I stopped reading as much but now I’m beginning to love it again. 

I was also in a love/hate relationship with cello. But since having lessons again I’ve fallen in love with the instrument. The better I become, the more I enjoy it. I just have to overcome those parts where it’s ‘too hard’. Things I used to find difficult are now easy-peasy. But Grade 3 is pretty hard. I took my Grade 1 in 2019 so this is a leap but I’m handling it okay. The main difference is switching positions and getting the intonation perfect.

This post is more for me (a time capsule, so to say) than it is entertainment for you, but I suppose it’s nice for you to know what I’ve been up to behind the scenes!

October Goals

Now we move on to the part of the post that excites my Slytherin heart: ambitious goals! Here are a list of my aims for October (some easier than others):

  • make a chai latte
  • make pumpkin spice baked donuts
  • stay on top of blog comments, Instagram comments, DMs and emails. I will put this into action by having a weekly ‘blog afternoon’ where I just sit down and get admin tasks done. 
  • post 2x a week on my blog and get geared up for Blogmas
  • finish all the books I’m in the middle of

At the end of October I’ll come back to review my goals and hopefully say that I’ve achieved them! The blog admin one is so important to me. These notifications popping up everywhere get overwhelming if I allow them to pile up.

All the books I’m in the middle of!

Thank you for reading, if you’ve made it to the end. I plan to post every Tuesday and Friday from now on! I hope you appreciate the photos that I took, exported, edited and uploaded very late on Thursday night for you. 

Take care and wear your mask,

catherine x

5 Ways To Stay On Top Of Homework + Revision | Collab With Emma Blether

Hello everybody! Welcome again to my back to school series. I am very excited today to bring a collab with one of my most admired bloggers: Rachel. Rachel is a creator based in Scotland, who produces YouTube, blog and Instagram content under her alias ‘Emma Blether’. We have previously worked to each other on a few posts, which I will link here. More recently I became the first official customer of her new online business: Emma Blether Prints. I’ll link all of her social medias at the end of the post (so keep reading!)

Today’s collaboration is on a study based topic! I absolutely love sharing tips on how to be more productive. I’ll be sharing how I stay on top of homework, studying and revision. Rachel, on the other hand, will be sharing How To Stay On Top Of Revision. I will link that post here to you can head over and read it!

School is approaching, and may have resumed for you. After 6 long months of online school, it’s definitely a shock to the system to have face to face teaching and… homework. The devil’s word. But homework is a necessary tool to help you improve with your subjects! This post applies to revision too, although revision is definitely organised by the pupil more so than the teacher. Anyway, let’s get into it, shall we? 

Start As Soon As It Is Set

As soon as someone sets you a task, get started on it. No, I don’t mean get it all done in one night. If it’s a smaller task, of course go for it. However with bigger tasks and projects the largest obstacle is getting started! As soon as you can, get started. I usually do this by…

Plan, Plan, Plan

Planning! Rather than ‘go with the flow’ I like to outline the key points of discussion before heading into a task (I do this for blog posts too). You might be asked to carry out research on… Piet Mondrian – he was the first person that came to my head. Write out the questions you would like to answer in your research, then get started! But DON’T just simplify a Wikipedia document. Write down a few key points or mini to-do lists you would like to complete in your homework.

I have a sense that last paragraph made no sense. Sorry for confusing you! 

Sticky Notes

I might have rugby club directly after school, which interferes with my ability to get started right away. So in my planner, next to where I’ve written down the homework criteria, I will place a sticky note with my initial ideas. This is especially useful for creative subjects that require brainstorming! Or even with sciences, jot down what textbook you think might be useful to complete the homework.

A Planner/Schedule

Writing down your commitments (clubs, lessons, homework etc) in a timetable is a severely overlooked way to manage time! If you had five tasks set on Wednesday, but your Wednesday evening was packed full of work, write down (on your schedule) an allotted time to complete the homework/revision. Is Thursday night free? Do it on Thursday!

Don’t Pile It All On At Once

Procrastination is not ideal. Neither is expecting yourself to complete millions of tasks at a million miles an hour. Use the schedule, as mentioned above, to spread out your work. A spot of revision every day is better than one huge day packed full at the end of the week. Small, but often! That’s my approach with homework. Always make time for family, friends and pursuing your passions. School is really important, but your whole world shouldn’t centre around it. Take breaks.

These pens are completely plastic free, and the ink is soy based (non toxic) so perfect if you’re wanting to make an extra effort this school year for the planet

Many thanks to Rachel for allowing me the chance to collaborate once again! Writing study centred content is actually so enjoyable for me. On top of that, I have a few ideas planned out! Stay tuned for more study content in my back to school series. If you do really like it, I might do it beyond September! Let me know what you think.

I’ll link Rachel’s part of the collab here, along with her Instagram, YouTube and business. 

What is your advice for staying on top of homework? Which one of these tips did you find most useful?

Have a great weekend,

catherine x

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Remember 2017 When I Used To Share My Deepest Thoughts? Well We’re Doing That Again. Let’s Chat… About Grief

I’m not sure where to start. There’s a lot to unpack.

Sometimes, as I clean my teeth, I write a whole blog post in my head. I did that today, and now I need to get the ‘toothbrushing’ thoughts on to paper. Does anyone else do that? I’ve been in this blogging trade for 3 years, 3 of the most important years of my life, so it’s ingrained into me at this point.

Today I wanted to unpack. That’s an analogy that I will be using a lot in this post. First, my mind wandered to journaling. I thought it would be best to journal this. Then I realised, as I put literal pen to paper, that it would be too emotionally challenging. I know that sounds weak ‘you can’t even write, eww’ but honestly. I almost started crying.

As we head into a new month, you might be thinking about unloading the negativity, and only carrying through the good bits.

That, I’m afraid, doesn’t always work.

Right at the start of the year, I lost one of my closest relatives. I thought of telling you, but my blog at that time was so ‘professional’. To be honest, it didn’t really feel like me as I sat and wrote at the keyboard. I was ‘Erin’. Erin was almost like an alter-ego, but to a point where it felt kind of toxic. I loved the content I was writing, of course, but it didn’t feel like I was writing it. Erin wrote it. Erin received praise and accepted it gladly, but it all these lovely comments never felt like they were for me. I still struggle now. I AM Catherine. People DO care about and love my blog. It’s so hard to accept. But yes, I can be awesome sometimes. 

So I never told you.

It didn’t hit me until just today, 7 months after she had died. When I was first told, Mum said ‘grief comes in waves’ and I completely understand that now. 

Granny was probably the member of my family I was closest to, outside of Mum, Dad and Jon (my brother).

But when I heard the news I was completely unbothered and went on with my day. 

For 7 months I pretended everything was okay, and everything felt okay. Of course I was sad, but not as sad as I ‘should be’. 

Then came around mine and my brother’s birthdays.

She wasn’t there.

She won’t spring back from the dead to say happy birthday. What was I expecting? There was just this absence. It didn’t really feel like my birthday without Granny. And I know this isn’t the worst thing that could happen to me. I know people who have lost their parents at a young age, and I know that must feel 10x worse. But when it’s your first ‘proper’ loss, you are foolish, naive and don’t know what to expect. 

Today is my brother’s birthday, and my best friend’s. I should be happy. I had zuccini bread for breakfast, camped in my friend’s field, ate a ton of cake and spent time with family. Although I am content, it doesn’t stretch further than contentment. I am so incredibly grateful for today. I got to live another 24 spectacular hours on this planet.

I just feel a bit empty. 

Yesterday I was brimming with life and fun and excitement. That version of Catherine is still inside somewhere, just not today.

I find it hard to accept that in my perfect life, things can be less than perfect. I have everything a teenage girl could ask for. I live happily with my family. I have clean water, a bed and a roof over my head. A beautiful cat, a platform to share my thoughts and receive responses from like minded people.

On some days, though, you won’t be okay.

Now I would like to return to the analogy I mentioned at the beginning of the post, about ‘unpacking’.

We’re catching a flight to September. You have one suitcase and hand luggage. What are you going to take with you? What will you keep in your hand luggage, right by your side as you’re flying? And what will go below the seats, in your suitcase? 

No-one goes on holiday with all of their possessions.

You have a suitcase to pack. So pack it wisely.

You’re probably going to put in all the happy things and leave the negativity behind. You might take the good experiences with you and forget about the seemingly ‘bad’.

That’s what I did.

I moved on from January, the month my granny passed away. I’ve taken 6 flights since then, my suitcase being unpacked and repacked so many times. 

Really, I should have taken Granny’s passing with me.

It has made me stronger. 

It has taken 7 months for it to eventually hit me. I needed those seven months. But if I hadn’t gone back to pack grief into the suitcase, I would never be able to understand it.

I hope those metaphors don’t scare you away from my blog. I love using things like that though.

Whatever you carry into September, I hope it serves you well. Many good things will come to you in September, that you will be able to carry in your suitcase to October. Maybe your suitcase will expand in size, maybe it will shrink. Leave behind the things that don’t serve you. Just NEVER forget to pack in the mistakes and the hardships. You learn from them and they will make you stronger.

Grief isn’t negative.

It’s a natural part of being human and living in a mortal world.

Grief isn’t positive either.

Grief is beyond comprehension. It’s just so complicated. There’s no quick fix, and even if you could find one don’t use it. Let the wound heal naturally and give yourself time to recover. But if, like me, it takes seven months to deeply sink in, allow time for that too. 

I’ll love you and leave you. Wishing you all the best for September,

Catherine xxx

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