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Where The Wolves Read

A blog where I review mostly books. I also review, if my appetite allows, movies, music, and video games. Enjoy the feast!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Black Wings Beating by Alex London

Trigger warnings: One of the main characters experiences a significant amount of abuse by his father throughout this book. He's also looked down on because of his relationship with another male.

SynopsisThe people of Uztar have long looked to the sky with hope and wonder. Nothing in their world is more revered than the birds of prey and no one more honored than the falconers who call them to their fists.

Brysen strives to be a great falconer--while his twin sister, Kylee, rejects her ancient gifts for the sport and wishes to be free of falconry. She's nearly made it out, too, but a war is rolling toward their home in the Six Villages, and no bird or falconer will be safe.

Together the twins must journey into the treacherous mountains to trap the Ghost Eagle, the greatest of the Uztari birds and a solitary killer. Brysen goes for the boy he loves and the glory he's long craved, and Kylee to atone for her past and to protect her brother's future. But both are hunted by those who seek one thing: power.

Review: Black Wings Beating was an incredibly enjoyable time. The story is told between two primary perspectives. There's Brysen who is a gay falconer, and there's Kylee who hates how prominent falconers are. They're twins, but they offer such differing perspectives which is interesting to read. Brysen embraces this lifestyle, despite how dangerous it is. He loves his bird, Shara, and would do just about anything for her. Kylee is the complete opposite and wants to get away from this lifestyle. She stays with it though because of her dedication to her family. Mostly, the dedication to her brother. 

Black Wings Beating started off a little slow, but it certainly picked up around the halfway point. I liked the premise of falconry within this story. I wish there was a little more explanation of the human/bird relationships, but that's really my only complaint with this story. Unlike most fantasies, it doesn't have a heavy emphasis on magic which might make it a little easier for people to read if they have a hard time getting into fantasy. There were 2 dialogues I appreciated a lot. The first is how easily Brysen and Kylee's mother dismissed the abuse Brysen constantly faced. She never addressed it the way she should have, and I think that speaks very true to a lot of abuse situations. The other was Brysen feeling like he is being used so people can get closer to Kylee. This is a very personal thing that I had to deal with growing up. Seeing it in a book meant a lot to me.

Great first fantasy book. Can't wait to see what happens next.

4 howls

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

SynopsisRowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

Review: I enjoyed Thunderhead way more than Scythe. Citra and Rowan both greatly embrace their Sythe personas which makes them feel like completely different characters from book 1. That is extremely impressive on Neal's part. I also loved how we could follow Rowan and Citra separately, but we could also see their influence on each other throughout the story. That's another impressive thing Neal was able to pull off. There were some new characters like Greyson. He, like Rowan and Citra, ends up having 2 personas throughout this story, but for different reasons. I think he does a great job of being a representation of this world's underbelly. The last "new" character I want to bring up is the Thunderhead. Even in Scythe, the Thunderhead is pretty much their deity and Neal does have great moments where we can see how different people view the Thunderhead. In Thunderhead, the Thunderhead becomes a more central being and we see how it perceives the world around it. I will say that I want the Thunderhead to be the true antagonist of this series. I won't say why I feel that way, but I think it would be interesting.

The story in Thunderhead was as compelling as in Scythe. Of course, because we already know some of the characters, there might be some more investment in what happens. There were some moments that I saw coming. They were developed well, but it was still easy to see. Then there were some things that I genuinely didn't see coming. Neal is certainly not afraid to make his characters suffer for their decisions which I appreciate. In Scythe, the scenes between the chapters were diary entries from Curie and Faraday. In Thunderhead, these scenes are entries from the Thunderhead itself. I thought that was a great decision because it does allow for the Thunderhead to be as much a part of the story as any other character. Another thing I'm glad Neal expanded on was the hierarchy of the Scythedom. We still get to see the Scythes and High Blades we already know, but we also get to see what it's like for these characters to get their titles. We also get to see the inclusion of Grandslayers which was an interesting addition. I hope that gets developed a bit more in the next book.

Thunderhead was much better than Scythe, and it allowed for character growth as well as character addition.

4 howls

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes

Trigger Warnings: The main character is disabled, but there were a couple of scenes where magic is used to hide his disability. Those scenes felt a little odd to me. There is also animal death.

SynopsisZane has always enjoyed exploring the dormant volcano near his home in New Mexico, even though hiking it is challenging. He'd much rather hang out there with his dog, Rosie, than go to middle school, where kids call him Sir Limps a Lot, McGimpster, or Uno — for his one good leg. What Zane doesn't know is that the volcano is a gateway to another world and he is at the center of a powerful prophecy. 

A new girl at school, Brooks, informs him that he's destined to release an evil god from the ancient Maya relic he is imprisoned in — unless she can find and remove it first. Together they return to the volcano, where all kinds of crazy happens. Brooks turns into a hawk, a demon attacks them in a cave, and Rosie gives her all while trying to protect Zane. When Zane decides to save his dog no matter the cost, he is thrust into an adventure full of surprising discoveries, dangerous secrets, and an all-out war between the gods, one of whom happens to be his father. To survive, Zane will have to become the Storm Runner. But how can he run when he can't even walk well without a cane?

Feisty heroes, tricky gods, murderous demons, and spirited giants are just some of the pleasures that await in this fresh and funny take on Maya mythology, as rich and delicious as a mug of authentic hot chocolate.

Review: The Storm Runner was a fun story that I enjoyed quite a lot. Zane meets a new girl named Brooks who tells him about a prophecy where he is going to unleash an evil god from its prison. Zane was a great character. I liked seeing how adventurous he was despite his physical limitations, and it was great seeing how he was able to keep himself entertained without necessarily needing a lot of friends. A lot of middle grade books tend to focus on kids who feel left out of things at school and try to overcome that. The Storm Runner allowed Zane to have more important priorities like saving the world. Brooks was fun as well. She gets right to the point when she meets Zane and their adventure begins.  

Some aspects of the story were a bit predictable. It's a story about gods and lore, so there were some threads that were easy to see coming. That being said, the story never really slowed its pace down. I never felt bored while reading this. Like I said, Brooks tells Zane what's going on pretty early so the story doesn't need a lot of explaining and world building. The magic was interesting and I liked seeing how Mayan mythology influenced aspects of the story. There were some sad moments, but there were also many moments of triumph.

The entire story was a blast and I can't wait to see what J.C. Cervantes comes up with next.

4 howls

Friday, November 9, 2018

Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis

Trigger warnings: This book is heavily centered on grief and overcoming it. There's also detailed depictions of graphic bodily injuries and there's harm against animals.

SynopsisWhen seventeen-year-old Nedra Brysstain leaves her home in the rural, northern territories of Lunar Island to attend the prestigious Yugen Academy, she has only one goal in mind: learn the trade of medicinal alchemy. A scholarship student matriculating with the children of Lunar Island's wealthiest and most powerful families, Nedra doesn't quite fit in with the other kids at Yugen, who all look down on her. 

All, except for Greggori "Grey" Astor. Grey is immediately taken by the brilliant and stubborn Nedra, who he notices is especially invested in her studies. And that's for a good reason: a deadly plague has been sweeping through the North, and it's making its way toward the cities. With her family's life--and the lives of all of Lunar Island's citizens--on the line, Nedra is determined to find a cure for the plague. 

Grey and Nedra continue to grow closer, but as the sickness spreads and the body count rises, Nedra becomes desperate to find a cure. Soon, she finds herself diving into alchemy's most dangerous corners--and when she turns to the most forbidden practice of all, necromancy, even Grey might not be able to pull her from the darkness.

Review: Give the Dark My Love was certainly an interesting experience. The first chapter starts off with a creepy bang, but then the story takes a slightly milder tone. Nedra was a great character. The entire book, she knew what was at stake and she wasn't afraid of going the distance to help her hometown. I was underwhelmed with Grey. I understood why he was there, but I just didn't feel anything for him. One thing I enjoyed a lot was how Nedra's family was continually brought into the story. Despite being away from them, Nedra would bring up things her family said or did. This allowed them to feel like part of the story, even though they weren't physically around.

I was extremely engaged in this story. Like I said, the first chapter was quite creepy, but then the story builds up to that moment. Stories about necromancy, especially when they're paired with stories about grief, are fascinating to me. I will say, the biggest downside was how small the world is. This looks like it's part of a series, so I'm hoping the world gets expanded later. I'm also concerned that this will become a story where the love interest has to save the girl from her inner darkness. I get why those stories are appealing. I just don't want this to be one. The ending also felt abrupt. It might be because I found some moments of the story predictable, but I wish there was more at the end. 

Highly enjoyable and I can't wait for the next book.

4 howls

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

SynopsisZuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.

Review: Like many others, I really enjoy Pride and Prejudice, so I was intrigued when I heard about a reimagined version with an Afro-Latino main character. I loved Zuri. I loved seeing how hectic her family was, but she was also so grounded. I found her to be extremely impressive. I also loved how the neighborhood itself seemed like a character. Zuri's family and all the others made the neighborhood what it is, but the entire thing felt like its own character. Having Ainsely (Bingley) and Darius (Darcy) be brothers in Pride was an unexpected aspect. I think it was a great idea though because it brings up the complicated consideration of "what happens when two sisters fall in love with two brothers." Ibi Zoboi handled that situation with beauty and grace.

The story stayed true to the Pride and Prejudice we know and love, but it added new layers due to the character backgrounds and the setting. Having it center on an Afro-Latino family brought a rich, new depth to the characters that we aren't used to seeing. One of my favorite things about Pride is how we see Zuri struggle with her narrow world view. She thinks that she knows and experienced so much, but she still falls victim to ignorance. Seeing her grow from that was great. I highly enjoyed it.

Excellent retelling of Pride and Prejudice that exposes the world to new experiences.

4 howls

Monday, November 5, 2018

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

Trigger warnings: Islamaphobia, anti-black rhetoric

SynopsisFive girls. Three generations. One great American love story. 

Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve her Bengali identity.

Review: You Bring the Distant Near is a breathtaking book about a family from India as each member learns what being Indian really means to them. This book covers a family for multiple generations as we get to see what aspects of Indian culture they reject or keep close. Each character in this book was incredible. From the moment we are introduced to Sonia and Tara, I was hooked in their world. I loved seeing how close Sonia and Tara were, but they had very different opinions on how they should look. Tara did everything in her power to not be Indian, especially when the family moved to America and she took social cues from The Brady Bunch. Sonia, on the other hand, loved her dark skin and found beauty in her natural self. This book does an incredible job of highlighting how different peoples opinions can be despite being from the same family.

As we get further into the story, we see that there is more here than just being introduced to a family. We see the cultural struggles they face as they experience the September 11 attack, and we see them fall in love. Either with other people, or they fall in love with themselves. It was sad, but interesting to see how against dark skinned people Ranee was. Her distaste for anyone with black skin was heart breaking, but I think it's also important to see how black people are treated by other cultures. I would just be very careful for anyone who is black and reads this book. The overall story is beautiful, but there could be many hurtful scenes in here. My only complaint is that I wish we got to spend more time with Shanti and Anna. This book is not long and more than half of it was about Sonia and Tara. While I did feel like Shanti and Anna were fleshed out, I just wanted to spend more time with them. This book could have been 1000+ pages long and I would have happily read every bit of it. It was a truly incredible read.

5 howls

Friday, November 2, 2018

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Trigger Warnings: This series is built on the premise that death has been defeated but, to keep the population growth under control, beings known as Scythes can end a life. Anyone else who "dies" will be sent to what is known as a revival center to be brought back to life. Because of this, there are characters who play around with killing themselves over and over again. There's one character named Tyger that does this or makes references to it in pretty much every scene he's in. The idea that there's no negative repercussions for trying to end your own life doesn't sit well with me. It's often treated as a joke. I feel like that needs to be brought up in case others read this and are equally bothered.

SynopsisA world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.
 

Review: I can see I'm going to have an interesting time with Neal Shusterman's books. For the record, the other book I've read of his is Unwind and I also have complicated feelings about that one. I haven't decided if I'm going to do a review of it. Anyways, onto Scythe.

I enjoyed Rowan and Citra as characters. Scythe Faraday takes them on as apprentices because of their hate towards Scythe. Seeing their repulsion to this concept, but then understanding it on a deeper level was interesting. We also get to see how some Scythes operate within this system. There are commandments all Scythes are supposed to follow but, as we later see, there are some who follow the commandments in unique ways. Again, the only other book I've read by Shusterman is Unwind, but I'm starting to think I don't care about his characters. I felt like I should care about what fate could befall Citra, Rowan, and the various Scythes we get to know, but I really don't. That's a pretty big disappointment. I will say that I appreciate how Scythes have names of famous people from history (Nelson Mandela, Marie Curie, etc).

While I don't care for the characters, I love the world Shusterman made in Scythe. There are so many important discussions this book could bring up about police brutality, gun control, massacres (specifically in places of worship but really anywhere), etc. He beautifully puts these modern issues into his futuristic world. There were aspects of the plot that I saw coming, but it was also the only way we got to see new aspects of the world so the predictability didn't really bother me. As a whole, I'm curious to see where the story goes, but I don't care if any of the characters live or die. I know this is a highly loved series, and I understand why. As of right now, I'm really only reading Shusterman's books to see what other conversations he adds. I think that's really where he shines as a writer.

I feel like I can't give this book a numerical rating. It's an interesting world and concept. I would just be careful picking this up if suicidal thoughts are something you struggle with. I wish there was more consequences around that. Maybe it'll get explored later on? Just something to keep in mind for anyone who is interested in this series.