#BookReviews: Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro and The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Hi everyone. Today I have two book reviews for you. The first one is written by a Nobel Prize winning author, and the second one by the well-known author of the Hunger Games Trilogy. What fascinates me is that these two vastly different reads have similar average scores on their review ratings on Goodreads, yet Klara and the Sun fell flat for me, while I loved The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. So, without further ado, here are my reviews >>>

First Review:

About the Book:

‘The Sun always has ways to reach us.’

From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behaviour of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass in the street outside. She remains hopeful a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change for ever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans.

In Klara and the Sun, his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly-changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?


My Review:


Nothing Special

I discovered this book and author via my local library’s eBook loan scheme, and the sci-fi element intrigued me. Sadly, the read didn’t deliver that well. With the Premise of an AI developed to be an Artificial Friend (AF) to a teen and the robot’s ‘outstanding observational abilities’ this promised to be a gripping read. But it wasn’t. The POV fell flat and was disjointed, and I didn’t find Klara’s insights that remarkable at all.

The plot and pacing was glacial, and the many references to ‘boxes’ left me wanting. I kept on going to the end of the book because I had invested so much time already and wanted to know what the heck happened. In short, I should have quit while I was ahead, as the ending didn’t answer any of the questions raised, and Klara’s fate was all too predictable.

Usually for a review, I will pull out quotes that stuck with me, but the narrative gave me little to work with. Also the writing is passive and contains too many filter words and over use of things such as ‘very’ and ‘own’, etc. Add to that my pet hate of too much name-dropping in dialogue, and we have a book that left me bored and frustrated rather than entertained. Finally, the layout proved difficult, as the novel doesn’t contain chapters, but instead is broken into five sections, which makes for a long spell of reading with no easy stopping places. The sections do have section breaks, but few and far between. So this isn’t an easy book to dip in and out of.

I haven’t read this author before, and although he’s a Nobel Prize winning author, I don’t think I’ll be checking out his other books. Klara and the Sun gets 2 soft stars from me. I may have liked a few things, but it just didn’t do it for me.

For anyone interested, here are the Amazon links …

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08B8BDLW1/

US https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08B8BDLW1/

Second Review:

About the Book:

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.


My Review:


A Deep Look at Human Nature

I somehow missed this prequel to The Hunger Games, a series I loved. So I was delighted to be able to pick up an eBook via my local library’s eBook loan app. The book didn’t disappoint, and I enjoyed it so much, I’ve now ordered a paperback 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. But this was not that day’ and […] ‘ … one of a long list of precautions he took to mask the fact his family, despite residing in the penthouse of the Capitol’s most opulent apartment building, was as poor as district scum.’ … from these opening lines, the reader is introduced to the world of Panem and the Capitol about ten years after the war. We meet a young Coriolanus Snow, who would become the president in the trilogy, and see him struggle with poverty, family pride, and ambition.

Many reviewers failed to connect with or like Coriolanus, but I found myself both rooting for him and hating him a little–both signs of a skilled writer if she’s managed to make a reader feel conflicted and strongly for any character. Add to that the real life struggles this young man faced, and I could empathise with many of his choices and attitudes, even if I wouldn’t have chosen those paths myself.

The plot, pacing, world-building, and characterisation were all done excellently, and I sped through this read. Only real life got in the way of my finishing it more quickly, and at over 500 pages it’s a long novel. Honestly, the story entertained me so much it felt way too short a book! Here are some lines I loved …

‘… self-control was an essential skill, and he should be grateful his grandmother provided daily opportunities to practice it.’ … this shows the wonderful humour that threads throughout this novel.

And …

‘She waved as if to raucous applause, not dead silence.’

And …

‘… try not to look down on people who had to choose between death and disgrace.’

And …

‘The heat and humidity turned the air to some state halfway between a liquid and a gas, and he could not confirm if he was inhaling or exhaling.’

Whether or not you’re into the Hunger Games world, this is some impressive writing. As you may have guessed, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes gets a resounding 5 stars from me.

For anyone interested, here are the Amazon links …

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08B8BDLW1/

US https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08B8BDLW1/

NOTE ON RATINGS: I consider a 3-star rating a positive review. Picky about which books I give 5 stars to, I reserve this highest rating for the stories I find stunning and which moved me.

4 STARS: I WOULD PULL AN ALL-NIGHTER — Go read this book.
3 STARS: IT WAS GOOD! — An okay read. Didn’t love it. Didn’t hate it.
2 STARS: I MAY HAVE LIKED A FEW THINGS —Lacking in some areas: writing, characterisation, and/or problematic plot lines.
1 STAR: NOT MY CUP OF TEA —Lots of issues with this book.

I’d love to hear what you think of these reviews. I won’t post any further reviews from today until January 5th, as I’ll be reducing my time online over the holiday period. Enjoy the holidays, everyone! Thanks for stopping by 🙂 


17 Comments on “#BookReviews: Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro and The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

  1. I appreciate your reviews Harmony. From the blurb to your review, for the first book, what a drastic difference. I enjoyed your other review, although it’s definitely not one of my go-to genres. Hugs xx

  2. The first one doesn’t appeal to me at all, especially after reading your review. It makes me wonder how so many poorly written books do well.

    The second book sounds much better. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Harmony.

  3. These are really good reviews, Harmony. It’s a shame the first book fell flat, but the second book sounds great! My tbr was piled so high, it fell over some time ago, but that hasn’t stopped me from adding to it. LOL 😀

  4. I didn’t know there was a prequel to Hunger Games. I will have to check it out. Too bad the other book sounded good in the description and that would have got my interest but it always disappointing to fet involved and then let down

    • Right … the write up sounded just my thing but the story fell flat. I don’t know how I missed the prequel to Hunger Games, and I’m so glad I found it finally! A fun read for sure. Thanks, Denise 💕🙂

  5. Hi Harmony
    I sometimes borrow books with my Amazon Prime subscription; I’m not allowed to read and review my own genres for Readers’ Favorite, so it’s a way of studying the authors I aspire to join… usually, Now and then, I find one with thousands of reviews with all the amataur, lazy, errors you describe, and it is very disappointing.

    • King is another one guilty of that. I’ve had a few auto-buy authors, which I’d get in print right away, I’ve dropped recently because of this. T M Logan is the most recent. His early books are fantastic, but his The Curfew was full of ridiculous errors and read as if it hadn’t seen a line editor or proofreader … almost like the publisher is now relying on his name. That makes me feel so conned and cheated as a paying reader. Thanks for sharing your experience, Sarah 💕🙂

  6. Thank you for sharing your reviews, Harmony. I’m not familiar with either book, so your assessment is especially helpful. 😊

  7. Too bad about Klara and the Sun, but the book did well commercially, so I don’t feel so bad for Ishiguro. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes sounds fantastic, Harmony!

    • I do love Suzanne Collins’ books. Even if I wasn’t that into dystopian, which I am, her world and character building are great. It does pain me, though—as in the case of Ishiguro—to find a traditionally published and highly lauded book that ends up such a letdown. Thanks, Priscilla 💕🙂