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 17, 2017

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Content Warnings: Violence, guns, racism, racial slurs, microagressions

Synopsis: Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack.

Review: Dear Martin is one of those books that had a lot of hype surrounding it when the book came out. Thankfully, this book delivered on the hype. It's short, but it packs quite a punch. At the start of the story, Justyce has an encounter with the police and ends up in custody. This inspires him to write letters to Martin Luther King Jr as a way of coming to terms with the world around him. I loved Jus as a character and I found him to be one of the most realistic characters I've read this year. He wants to be like MLK, but he isn't ignorant to the fact that the world is against him. He often questions his ability to follow Dr. King's footsteps and he ends up making some not great choices. I also really enjoyed Manny. I liked having Justyce and Manny's different viewpoints on how white people act. Manny laughs along as his white friends make inappropriate jokes, but Jus is there to question that behavior. It would be great to discuss this with teenagers and why jokes like that are not okay.

As for the story, it got dark quite fast. I'm not just saying that because the book is short. You get a taste of two different environments within this book. Justyce's old neighborhood, and the school he goes to. Both places feel distinct and real. Justyce's narration and his letter entries to MLK were balanced masterfully. I won't go into detail, but I appreciated the connection between the officers involved in Justyce's incident at the start of the book, and the incident involving Justyce and Manny later. Another thing I appreciated was how Justyce's relationships were handled. There were two girls who caught Manny's eye in Dear Martin, Melo and SJ. Melo was a part of his past, something Justyce feared he would never escape. SJ represented a hopeful future where Jus could be more than what was expected of him. They both helped Justyce learn more about himself and where he wants to go in life. The only criticism I have, is I wish there was more of a correlation between Justyce's life and MLK's teachings. Everyone knows Dr. King was a speaker of peace and equality, but it would have been nice to see some of his texts in Dear Martin. I think it would have made for a really nice bridge between Martin's teachings and Justyce's life.

Dear Martin touches on a variety of topics, grief, racism, love, and living just to name a few. It's a spectacular book that is definitely worth reading.

5 howls

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Carrie by Stephen King

Content Warnings: Abuse, domestic abuse, bullying, girl on girl hate

SynopsisCarrie knew she should not use the terrifying power she possessed... But one night at her senior prom, Carrie was scorned and humiliated just one time too many, and in a fit of uncontrollable fury she turned her clandestine game into a weapon of horror and destruction...

Review: Carrie was such a unique book. I feel like there isn't a way to discuss characters because of the way the book is structured. The book was written as if it was a collection of research on telekinesis and Carrie's life. So, instead of the book being broken up by chapters, there would be a title of a fake book or article. Then there would be a section which kind of summarizes what information that article had in it. Finally, there would be a bit which actually felt like a story from Carrie's perspective as we see her living her life described in this article. It's bizarre, but fascinating. Carrie was a tragic character, but I appreciated that she was fat and not pretty. I watched the original movie when I was younger, and I didn't realize Carrie was described differently in the book. I wish they kept that element. The opening scene as Carrie has her first period hurt my soul. I remember what that moment was like for me, and reliving it from Carrie's perspective was hard. If you're a person who is sensitive to women hate, this will be a hard book to read. The entire book follows Carrie's abuse by this group of girls, and the tragedy that comes from it. I have a hard time describing this book accurately because of how it is written, but it's definitely worth reading.

4 howls

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

Content Warnings: Eating disorders, bulimia, bullying

Synopsis: June, Bette, and Gigi have given their all to dance at Manhattan’s most elite ballet school. Now they are competing one final time for a spot at the prestigious American Ballet Company. With the stakes higher than ever, these girls have everything to lose… and no one is playing nice.

June is starting to finally see herself as a prima ballerina. However, getting what she wants might cost her everything—including the only boy she’s ever loved. Legacy dancer Bette is determined to clear her name after she was suspended and accused of hurting her rival, Gigi. Even if she returns, though, will she ever regain the spotlight she craves? And Gigi is not going to let Bette—or the other dancers who bullied her—go unpunished. But as revenge consumes her, Gigi may be the one who pays the price.

After years of grueling auditions, torn ribbons, and broken hearts, it all comes down to this last dance. Who will make the cut? And who will lose her dream forever?
Review: I'm going to go ahead and say that this review will have spoilers from the first book. Shiny Broken Pieces picks up not long after Tiny Pretty Things. I would highly recommend reading these two books back to back if at all possible. We follow the same characters as the first book, June, Bette, and Gigi, as they come to terms with what happened at the end of the first book. One thing I really enjoyed was Gigi trying the "bad girl" attitude. No, it didn't last the entire book, but it was good to see that she was capable of being as mean as the other girls. I felt like it gave her much needed depth. I also loved getting to know Cassie. One of the things I wondered while reading the first book was whether or not Cassie was using Henri to pull the strings and hurting people at the academy. While I wasn't necessarily right, I'm glad Cassie was in this book and we were able to see how dark she became.

As for the story itself, I felt like the stakes were much higher in Shiny Broken Pieces which I appreciated. Even though it was still a story of the girls trying to win a coveted spot, I didn't feel like I was reading the same story over again. All of the character interactions felt fresh. There is an underlying mystery of who pushed Gigi in front of the car at the end of the first book. I feel like that was paced really well thoughout the book. It didn't last the entire book, but it lasted long enough to stay intriguing. I shouldn't have been surprised by who pushed Gigi, but I genuinely was. I was also surprised by how Gigi handled her relationships by the end of the book. Another thing I thought was handled well was who ended up getting the spot at the American Ballet Company. I won't say too much, but I think it did a good job of nailing home the reality of being a mean girl won't actually get you anywhere. The last thing I want to talk about is June's bulimia. I was a little disappointed that her ED didn't seem to have consequences in the first book, but that completely changes with Shiny Broken Pieces. Someone even says to June that she's not healthy enough for ballet. That being addressed made me love this series even more. This is definitely one of the best contemporary series I've read and I would highly recommend it.

5 howls

Monday, November 6, 2017

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

Content Warnings: Eating disorders, Bulimia, Anorexia, Cheating, References to adult-child relationships, Sex, Sexual themes, Teen drinking, Drug use

SummaryGigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette's desire to escape the shadow of her ballet star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever. When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

Review: I was unprepared for how much I was going to enjoy Tiny Pretty Things. I'm not a part of the dancing world but, thankfully, not much of the dancing terminology was lost on me. The characters were all fascinating. Lately, I've seen a lot of people drag books where there's girl hate and they wish there was more female friendships. Honestly, this book was refreshingly familiar. You don't have to go to a dance school to be surrounded by girls who want to watch you fail. This hit me in a very special place. Bette is much like a lot of girls I grew up with. She's used to getting her way and begins to unravel when her plans fail. June struggles with being just barely not good enough. She's always in someone's shadow. Because of this, she heavily relies on purging her body in an effort to make her dancing better. Gigi is the new girl who is naturally gifted. My biggest complaint with her is she seemed too nice. She has medical issues which is her big, dark secret, but she was usually nice and perky. That isn't a bad thing, it just seemed weird. Though, that could have been a large part of why her character stood out to everyone. Instead of being raised in this intense dancing school, she came from a smaller dancing community filled with girls who were loving and supportive. Finally, we gotta talk about Cassie. I have my own suspicions, but I really enjoyed Cassie's part in this book. The book opens with her narrative, and then she is gone for the rest of the story. Yet, other characters talk about her enough that it feels like she is still very much part of the school and the story. I applaud Sona and Dhonielle for making that work.

The story itself was engaging from the start. Again, this is not my community, but I felt like I could visualize the school and the dancing. At the very start, it is clear what expectations the characters have for themselves. Bette has her family's legacy and, more specifically, her sister's shadow covering her. June struggles with being bi-racial and not feeling quite right for either group. She's also constantly having pressure put on her by her mother's unreasonable expectations. Gigi loves to dance and doesn't want her medical problems to get in the way. She also knows how incredibly dangerous this lifestyle is for her, but she's willing to risk it much to her family's dismay. Things heat up when Gigi lands the lead role of their seasonal showcase. From there, bullying and harassment are endless. What was interesting was how none of the other characters seemed innocent. Even smaller characters like Liz, Eleanor, Henri, and Will all have something at stake throughout the story. The mystery of "who is harassing Gigi" always feels fresh. The moment you think you know who it is, something else happens to make you question your suspicions. I found myself questioning everyone. It was interesting seeing all the characters scramble to prove their innocence. There are some romantic subplots going through the story as well. I do wish the discussion of sexuality was brought up a bit more. Hopefully, things will be discussed further in the second book. Overall, Tiny Pretty Things was dark, but great. Definitely would recommend checking them out.

5 howls

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels by Jason Schreier

SummaryDeveloping video games—hero's journey or fool's errand? The creative and technical logistics that go into building today's hottest games can be more harrowing and complex than the games themselves, often seeming like an endless maze or a bottomless abyss. In Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, Jason Schreier takes readers on a fascinating odyssey behind the scenes of video game development, where the creator may be a team of 600 overworked underdogs or a solitary geek genius. Exploring the artistic challenges, technical impossibilities, marketplace demands, and Donkey Kong-sized monkey wrenches thrown into the works by corporate, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels reveals how bringing any game to completion is more than Sisyphean—it's nothing short of miraculous.
Taking some of the most popular, bestselling recent games, Schreier immerses readers in the hellfire of the development process, whether it's RPG studio Bioware's challenge to beat an impossible schedule and overcome countless technical nightmares to build Dragon Age: Inquisition; indie developer Eric Barone's single-handed efforts to grow country-life RPG Stardew Valley from one man's vision into a multi-million-dollar franchise; or Bungie spinning out from their corporate overlords at Microsoft to create Destiny, a brand new universe that they hoped would become as iconic as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings—even as it nearly ripped their studio apart.
Documenting the round-the-clock crunches, buggy-eyed burnout, and last-minute saves, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels is a journey through development hell—and ultimately a tribute to the dedicated diehards and unsung heroes who scale mountains of obstacles in their quests to create the best games imaginable.
Review: Blood, Sweat, and Pixels was fascinating. Obviously, if you aren't into video games or game development, this is not for you. I've been playing video games since I was very small. I religiously played games in the Zelda, Pokemon, Mario series just to name a few. While I don't know all the technological ins and outs of making a video game, I still found this book extremely enjoyable. It was mostly because Jason doesn't only talk about how games are made. He also talks a lot about the politics that go into running a company and how companies can often get pretty screwed over (I'm looking at you, Star Wars 1313). Some of the stories were adorable. I loved reading about the making of Stardew Valley. Others were heartbreaking. Making Destiny was really sad. I will say that I would have definitely enjoyed this book more if I had played any of the games Jason discussed. I watch people play video games on Twitch, so I was familiar enough with all of them, except for Star Wars 1313. If you haven't played these games, but you want to read this book, I would HIGHLY recommend at least watching some snippets of game play on Twitch or You Tube so you understand how the worlds/characters/controls are established. It would give you a really good idea of how difficult it is to make these incredible games. The biggest downside I had was some of the explanations. Maybe it's just the way my friends and I grew up, but I really didn't need Jason to explain a sprite to me. I also thought it was weird how Jason kept calling PAX by its full name, Penny Arcade Expo, but never referred to E3 by its full name, Electronics Entertainment Expo. He also talked about PAX in general, but didn't specify if demos/trailers were displayed at PAX East, or PAX Prime (West). Don't worry, I know those little things are just me being a bit picky. *pushes glasses up bridge of nose* I would consider this required reading for anyone who loves video games in any way.
4 howls

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween Special: IT Movie Review

Content warnings: Violence, abuse, domestic abuse, bullying, sexual harassment, slurs against women, self-harm, animal violence

Review: Let me give you some background on my relationship with this story. When I was a kid, I had a lot of nightmares (I still do have a lot of nightmares) but not much scared me in real life. Then I watched IT with Tim Curry. I was spooked beyond repair. I avoided this story like the plague. When I was in college, I decided I wanted to rewatch the miniseries so I could see if it was still as scary as I remembered it. While I wasn't as scared as I was when I was little, it was still suitably creepy. This year, I was nervous/excited for the new movie to come out. The difference was that I didn't want to see it until I read the book. I'm not an avid Stephen King reader. I've only read one other book (Salem's Lot) to completion. Still, I wanted to read IT. I read IT and I loved IT (review can be found here). The film librarian where I work agreed that she would watch the new movie with me when I finished the book. So, we went to see the movie. Now, I will get on with the actual review.

Holy moly, this movie was an experience. My biggest concern was how they were going to do Pennywise as a character. Tim Curry did an excellent job making Pennywise creepy, but playful. Skarsgård made an excellent Pennywise, but it didn't feel quite as good as Curry's. It's hard to describe, but it felt slightly off as a character. I did really enjoy the weird dancing scene towards the end of the film. It seemed a bit much, but it was funny. The kids were all great. This movie focused on the story of the children, and I thought they all fit fairly well. They did make a lot of dick jokes. I asked the person I watched the movie with, and she agreed. It was a little unnecessary

I greatly enjoyed the flow of this film than any other way the story has been presented. I might have said this in my review of the book, but I much prefer reading stories straight through without shifting perspectives or timelines. It was great that they had one film focus on the childrens' adventure. Unfortunately, there were some bits that seemed weird to me. First, Bev's kidnapping. I get why they made that decision. It was the ultimate push to get this group of feuding children to come together to fight Pennywise. Again, this could just be my view, but it made Pennywise seem less scary and very dumb. He already knew that having the children in a group made them stronger. Why would he bait them all together by taking Bev? Also, part of his character is the ability to entice children to come with him willingly. Taking Bev diminished some of this character in my opinion. There was also a weird scene where Billy had to put a gun to Georgie's head to prove Georgie wasn't real. That seemed extra unnecessary. That scene honestly bothered me more than Pennywise murdering children. The last thing that weirded me out was after they fought Pennywise. In the book, Bev convinces the boys to have sex with her. Yes, I agree that should not have been in the film. But I don't think cutting their palms open was great either. Again, this could be a problem only I had, but what ever happened to pinky promises?

There were a few really good scenes though. I really enjoyed the scene where Stan freaks out and thinks his friends abandoned him. I think that lends itself to a better reason for him committing suicide as an adult. In a, "My friends left my behind during the first fight. I'm not going back so they can leave me again" kind of way. I'm not trying to justify Stan's suicide. I just think it makes more sense this way than just fear causing him to do it. Pennywise's illusions felt creepier in this movie. I had chills during a good chunk of the beginning because of how things were portrayed. This is probably something that was only accomplished because of modern technology, but it was done really well. While I wasn't the biggest fan of Pennywise's overall appearance, Skarsgård did an incredible job with his voice. That was absolutely a major plus for me. It was soothing, but creepy at the same time. He gets A+ just from his voice.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie, but not quite as much as the miniseries or the original novel. I'm extremely excited for the next one to come out.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Content Warning: References to suicide, anxiety attacks, probable PTSD, kidnapping

Synopsis1990. The teen detectives once known as the Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in the Zoinx River Valley in Oregon) are all grown up and haven't seen each other since their fateful, final case in 1977. Andy, the tomboy, is twenty-five and on the run, wanted in at least two states. Kerri, one-time kid genius and budding biologist, is bartending in New York, working on a serious drinking problem. At least she's got Tim, an excitable Weimaraner descended from the original canine member of the team. Nate, the horror nerd, has spent the last thirteen years in and out of mental health institutions, and currently resides in an asylum in Arhkam, Massachusetts. The only friend he still sees is Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star. The problem is, Peter's been dead for years.

The time has come to uncover the source of their nightmares and return to where it all began in 1977. This time, it better not be a man in a mask. The real monsters are waiting.

With raucous humor and brilliantly orchestrated mayhem, Edgar Cantero's Meddling Kids taps into our shared nostalgia for the books and cartoons we grew up with, and delivers an exuberant, eclectic, and highly entertaining celebration of horror, life, friendship, and many-tentacled, interdimensional demon spawn.

Review: So, this book is Scooby-Doo, but darker. There's a group of kids, and a dog, who solved some mystery one summer, and they moved on with their lives. We do not get to experience this mystery first hand. We just get memory remnants from the group after they become adults. I loved these characters so much. The book opens as Kerri is having an anxiety attack. Not a mild one, but a massive one that actually made my best friend uncomfortable when he read it. It was extremely well done. It isn't stated, but I'm assuming Kerri is plagued with PTSD as well as she continually has nightmares. Nate has committed himself into an institution for his delusions. One of these delusions is his friend Peter, an old member of the group, who committed suicide when they were all adults. The dialogue between Peter and Nate has a dark humor to it that is played very well. Andy seems to be the most "normal" of the group, but even she has her demons. Then there's Tim. He is the descendant of Sean who was the original "Scooby-Doo" character. I loved how realistic Tim was to the story. Not in the, "Tim sniffed around like dogs tend to do" kind of way. During some of the adventure, Andy has to carry Tim because he can't get around like his human companions. He does have some human-like qualities which make for some fun moments. The group dynamic was where this book shined. Every character felt unique.

I'll be honest, I'm a sucker for stories where kids leave a small town, come back as adults, and learn new things. This was definitely that kind of book. The story centers around an unsolved mystery but, around that, the group learns more about the nightmares of their past and how it really affects them. There are some supernatural elements to the story, which I was actually a little sad about. It still had a "man in the mask" element, but I wish it was completely grounded in reality. Even still, I enjoyed the story and I'm so glad this book was brought into my life. It was delightful. Funny in all the right places, dark in all the right places.

4.5 howls

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Content warnings: Harm to animals, death, murder, references to being poisoned

SynopsisYoung Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry, raised in the shadow of the royal court by his father's gruff stableman. He is treated like an outcast by all the royalty except the devious King Shrewd, who has him sectetly tutored in the arts of the assassin. For in Fitz's blood runs the magic Skill--and the darker knowledge of a child raised with the stable hounds and rejected by his family. As barbarous raiders ravage the coasts, Fitz is growing to manhood. Soon he will face his first dangerous, soul-shattering mission. And though some regard him as a threat to the throne, he may just be the key to the survival of the kingdom.

Review: I feel like Robin Hobb is one of those writers everyone who enjoys fantasy needs to read. Her ability to create interesting, unique characters and compelling stories is extremely impressive. I loved Fitz so much. I found his past and his upbringing fascinating and I wanted him to succeed in everything he tried, which is actually a very dark thought because he was trained to be an assassin. Somehow I even really enjoyed Burrich. I say *somehow* because he can definitely be a dick at certain points of the book. I was surprised and excited to be introduced to the Fool in this book. I say surprised because I know the series Hobb is working on now is called The Fitz and The Fool, and I'm assuming it refers to the same fool. I just thought he would be introduced much later. He was intriguing. I'm curious to see what role he plays in later books. As far as characters go, those were the most memorable for me, but there were definitely other interesting characters. Lady Patience, Molly, the princes, King Shrewd, everyone was well developed and I hated how much I loved reading about them.

The story was a bit slow to start. It's the first book of a fantasy series, so a lot of this book was building the world, characters, and relationships. One thing I liked was how Fitz was treated. He is the bastard child of a prince, and he gets treated a bit like dirt. He isn't pampered and welcome with open arms. Fitz has an interesting connection with dogs that I hope gets expanded on in later books. Be prepared when picking up this book that the assassinations are more subtle than you might think. When I hear "assassin" I think of things like the Assassin's Creed series where a person sneaks around and stabs a knife through someone's neck. That's not this book. Not even close. Fitz gets trained in the art of poisoning. So, the murders are not as theatrical as I first thought which was actually rather refreshing. It also allowed for this great mixture of political intrigue throughout the story with assassinations peppered in. Assassin's Apprentice, while sometimes slow, was a great experience. Definitely worth checking out.

4 howls

Monday, October 23, 2017

Air Awakens by Elise Kova

SynopsisA library apprentice, a sorcerer prince, and an unbreakable magic bond...

The Solaris Empire is one conquest away from uniting the continent, and the rare elemental magic sleeping in seventeen-year-old library apprentice Vhalla Yarl could shift the tides of war.

Vhalla has always been taught to fear the Tower of Sorcerers, a mysterious magic society, and has been happy in her quiet world of books. But after she unknowingly saves the life of one of the most powerful sorcerers of them all—the Crown Prince Aldrik—she finds herself enticed into his world. Now she must decide her future: Embrace her sorcery and leave the life she’s known, or eradicate her magic and remain as she’s always been. And with powerful forces lurking in the shadows, Vhalla’s indecision could cost her more than she ever imagined.

Review: I've had my eye on Elise Kova's books for quite some time. I've heard overwhelmingly positive things for this series in particular. I get it. It was entertaining. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't read a lot of fantasy books in my life. As far as characters go, I didn't really care for any of the major characters in the story. None of them were particularly memorable and that bummed me out quite a bit. The story was also kind of meh. First off, yes there were obvious similarities to Avatar: The Last Airbender and Harry Potter. Honestly, that didn't really detract from my enjoyment of the story. It was different enough, it just started to elicit some eye rolls. There were some aspects of the world that I appreciated. I liked how sorcerers were considered bad, but it was also random as to who ended up being magical. One common problem I've seen with other fantasies is how the "bad guys" tend to be focused on specific countries or races. This can be extremely hurtful to readers who are of a specific ethnicity if they read characters who look like them, but are evil. Having magic is a random attribute that has nothing to do with a character's ethnicity and, in this world, anyone with magic can be dangerous. I did find the public's reaction to sorcerers to be a bit odd. It's no secret that one of the princes has magic, and that seems to be fine, but when anyone else is suspected of having magic, it's considered bad. I liked that a prince had magic. I liked that Vhalla had a friend in this. I just found it odd that people were willing to serve someone with magic while also hating others. This book was definitely the basic start up to a fantasy series. It opened with a shocking amount of urgency which was nice, but there ended up being a lot of history and world building which is fine. It made for a slightly slower read, but it wasn't awful. Elise also did things to her characters that I wasn't expecting, but I won't say what because spoilers. Overall, the book was underwhelming, but I am going to read the next one and see if the series gets better. This is by no means a "bad" book, but I'm hoping things develop in the next installment.

3 howls

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Content warning: Anxiety, OCD, self harm, references to teen drinking, car accident

SynopsisSixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. 

Review: Turtles All the Way Down has been highly anticipated for quite some time. As someone who enjoys John Green's other books, I was extremely excited for his new book. Especially when I found it out centered on anxiety and OCD. I don't have Aza's brand of OCD, so I'm not going to talk about that, but I know all too well what her anxiety spirals are like. The anxiety rep in this book was very well done and Aza as a character was easy to relate to. Even her habit of digging her nail into her finger was something similar to what I've done and little instances of self-harm like that are not generally discussed in books.

Review: The story in Turtles was...interesting. Aza and her friend Daisy try to figure out where a billionaire has disappeared to, and she somehow finds a way to reconnect with a childhood friend, the billionaire's son.Aza and Davis' relationship didn't feel quite right. I didn't mind it, but I think it would have felt more natural if we saw them interact together more before Davis' dad disappeared. I did appreciate how Aza not only connected with Davis, but also with his brother Noah. More than anything, I loved how this book explored being vulnerable. With Aza, Davis, Noah, even Daisy, it discusses what it means to be honest and vulnerable even when you can loose what's important to you.

4 howls

Friday, October 20, 2017

Madness by Zac Brewer

Content warnings:Suicide, suicidal thoughts, detailed descriptions of suicide, self-harm, abuse

SynopsisBrooke Danvers is pretending to be fine. She’s gotten so good at pretending that they’re letting her leave inpatient therapy. Now she just has to fake it long enough for her parents and teachers to let their guard down. This time, when she's ready to end her life, there won’t be anyone around to stop her.

Then Brooke meets Derek. Derek is the only person who really gets what Brooke is going through, because he’s going through it too. As they start spending more time together, Brooke suddenly finds herself having something to look forward to every day and maybe even happiness.

But when Derek’s feelings for her intensify, Brooke is forced to accept that the same relationship that is bringing out the best in her might be bringing out the worst in Derek—and that Derek at his worst could be capable of real darkness.

Review: I'll be honest, this book was hard to read. Zac doesn't pull any punches when describing what it's like to suffer from suicidal tendencies. Madness was raw and emotional. I related to Brooke in a scary way, but it was also weirdly comforting to see that part of me so openly displayed in a book. That being said, there were a few times where Brooke got on my nerves. Again, I related to her, but she was still a pain. The way she treated Duckie at times was incredibly unfair. Between lying to him about her mental health to ditching him for Derek, I got pretty annoyed with Brooke. I adored Duckie. He made me think of my best friend pretty often which is probably why I got so attached to that character. He was a fun character to help break up the serious thoughts in Brooke's mind. 

Onto the story, Madness is dark. Not just because it's about suicide. It's also about abuse and aggression. Brooke has so many hateful feelings towards herself and she sometimes lashes out on Duckie, her parents, and her therapist. Then there's Derek. When you first read the synopsis, this book sounds like it could be one of those, "2 kids wanted to kill themselves, found each other, fell in love, and lived happily ever after." Don't worry, it's not. Derek and Brooke's relationship is pretty scary. They love hard and fast, and not in a good way. There were little things about the story I found particularly powerful like the subtle way Brooke's view on life and living changed. There was a scene when she was talking to Derek about college and it suddenly occurred to her that she wanted a future. She wanted to believe that there was more for her life. If you can handle this subject matter, I would highly recommend checking this book out.

5 howls

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Content warning: Talk of suicide, "suicide is selfish" brought up a couple of times

SynopsisAt sixteen, Mina's mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass was refreshing. It is not only a retelling with queer elements, but the way the narrative is structured is certainly unique. This book is told from 2 perspectives, Mina and Lynet, when both girls are teenagers. But they are not teens at the same time, so it feels like 2 distinct stories that come together to make a single cohesive one. It was surprisingly well done. I really enjoyed reading Mina and Lynet both. While their backgrounds are similar, they both had their quirks that made reading both of their stories very enjoyable. Their relationship was also really great. I'm glad it didn't take the "wicked stepmother" route. From the first page, I felt like Lynet and Mina had a very strong relationship and I was rooting for them to find a way through their struggles together.

The story itself was well done. There were a lot of interesting elements that I felt were fleshed out fairly well. I enjoyed getting to experience the north kingdom and the south. That being said, I think this book could have either been longer, or the story could have been a duology. We got to explore a good bit of the north kingdom, but everything that happened in the south felt a bit rushed. I wanted more time to soak in that part of the world. Still, the world building was well-done and the romance was A+. I love retellings, and this one definitely stood out among the rest.

4 howls

Monday, October 16, 2017

There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

Content Warning: Violence, hazing, bullying, verbally abusive parents, murder, talk of murder

SynopsisOne-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.

Review: I love horror movies. I find them fascinating, but incredibly cheesy. When I found out Stephanie Perkins was writing a horror novel, I was excited. I didn't know what to think about it until I heard her talk at a signing about her ode to the horror genre. I definitely got some Scream vibes from There's Someone Inside Your House. I don't know if that's because she talked about how much she loves Scream, but I made a lot of connections between the two. I did have a few gripes with this story though. I honestly didn't care too much about Makani's life. I was a little interested in what happened to make her move to Nebraska, but it wasn't a secret I was aching to have exposed. I did enjoy the secondary characters, but one of the scary things about horror movies is no one is safe. I didn't get that vibe from this book. I knew the main cast was not going to be killed and that took away from the horror experience. Also, considering what the title of the book is, I was very disappointed in how few murders actually took place in houses. That being said, the scenes where people were getting attacked in their houses were my favorite by far. This might be a personal thing, but I even told Stephanie that I have recurring nightmares about being chased in my house. This is probably what helped put me in that head space while I was reading. I know some people don't enjoy getting scared like that, but I thought it helped with the reading experience. Overall, I enjoyed bits of what this book was, but wished it was much more.

3 howls

Friday, October 13, 2017

IT by Stephen King

Content Warning: Violence, abuse, domestic abuse, bullying, sexual harassment, sex featuring children, racial slurs, slurs against women, detailed descriptions of guns, murder, torture, suicide

SynopsisTo the children, the town was their whole world. To the adults, knowing better, Derry, Maine was just their home town: familiar, well-ordered for the most part. A good place to live.

It was the children who saw - and felt - what made Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one's deepest dread. Sometimes IT reached up, seizing, tearing, killing . . .

The adults, knowing better, knew nothing.

Time passed and the children grew up, moved away. The horror of IT was deep-buried, wrapped in forgetfulness. Until they were called back, once more to confront IT as IT stirred and coiled in the sullen depths of their memories, reaching up again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality.

Review: It is only the second Stephen King book I've completed, but I can already tell it's going to remain a favorite. This story is one of the very few that has ever scared me, and stuck with me for a long time. Thanks, Tim Curry. Thanks a lot. As far as characters go, Stephen King does a really good job of fleshing out all of his characters. And I mean, all of them. I adored the main cast. I loved them when they were children, and I loved them as adults. Mike is my baby because he is a librarian. Outside of the main cast, it was interesting to see how Stephen King made their families different. As someone who grew up in a small town, it's easy to buy into the stereotype that all the families look the same, have the same beliefs, act the same, etc. King turns this idea on its head and gives each family their own unique background. Actually, I read something recently about how contemporary books do not have fleshed out worlds the same way fantasies do. Writers sometimes use generic phrases to build a terrible town for their stories. King does not have this issue. Every moment I read about Derry, I felt like I was actually there. Everything was easy to visualize and I was surprised at how easy it was to stay connected with the overall story. This book was over 1000 pages, but I was never bored. The only time I felt even a little burned out was when I spent my day off reading over 600 pages. Pennywise is such a great, creepy monster. I love that he can lure children close to him before they realize his sinister intentions. He was incredibly creative. The last thing I'm going to talk about is the sex scene with the children. I don't even know if calling it a sex scene is appropriate. It was awkward and honestly kind of funny to read. Kids have sex. Teens have sex. Adults have sex. I'm not going to say it's something you have to be personally comfortable with. But it happens and this scene was done tastefully. It wasn't like reading a passage out of an erotic novel. It was confusing and difficult for the kids to even know what they were doing, but I understand why it was in the book. It happens at the end of the novel if you want to know more specifically where it is so you can prepare yourself. IT was a fantastic book. I'm extremely glad I finally got to read it.

5 howls

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

Content Warnings: Explicit sex and violence, slavery

Synopsis: Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo, or avenging her familia. And after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.

When it’s announced that Scaeva and Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end them. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.

Set in the world of Nevernight, which Publishers Weekly called “absorbing in its complexity and bold in its bloodiness,” Godsgrave will continue to thrill and satisfy fantasy fans everywhere.

Review: Godsgrave was an experience and a half. From the start, the story was engaging and I found myself flying through this book. Even when I was at work, all I wanted to do was check in on Mia and her companions. Mia was as delightful as ever. Well, as delightful as Mia can be. My absolute favorite aspects were the interactions between Mister Kindly and Eclipse. I love them so much. Can we have a supplemental book where it's just them going on an adventure together and being awful to one another? I need this so bad. I enjoyed getting to spend time with familiar characters again. I won't say who and in what context, but I was surprised at how much I looked forward to these moments. As for new characters, I loved reading about Leona. She was fascinating. Sid was also delightful to spend time with though I am still fairly wary of him. I was hooked on the story as soon as I opened the book. I was waiting to see what would happen next and who Mia would lose. I will say that, for the most part, the footnotes didn't bother me, but there was one instance in the first part of the book where it was a little distracting. That was slightly disappointing. Other than that, I still really enjoyed the way this book was written. The ending definitely took a turn that I'm still not sure how I feel about. I'm mostly heartbroken that I have to wait what feels like an eternity for the last book. I highly recommend this series if you are looking for an incredibly dark fantasy.

4.5 howls

Monday, October 9, 2017

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

SynopsisJane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family's island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: "If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you'll go." With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn't know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.

Review: Jane, Unlimited was a weird book, but in the best of ways. Jane was a great character and her struggle with grief felt incredibly real. I also love how she made umbrellas. That isn't something I thought I would be interested in, but it was nice being in Jane's mind as she worked on umbrellas. Jasper was wonderful. I grew up with basset hounds, so I felt an immediate connection with Jasper. He was a delight to read about for such a simple character. I feel like I can't really talk about other because of how different they appear in the different parts of the books. I did find them all interesting and I wanted to explore the stories with each character and see what secrets they hide. I went into this book without really knowing what it was about. No one could really give a good description of what this story was supposed to be. Honestly, I was okay with that. I enjoyed not knowing what I was getting into when I opened this book. I did get a wicked case of deja vu when I was reading the second section of Jane's story. I did catch on pretty quick as to what was happening, which made me even more excited to see what was coming next. It was nice knowing that you were essentially getting five stories in one book. I didn't feel bored at any point when reading Jane, Unlimited. Overall, a wonderful, unique book.

5 howls

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Content Warnings: Violence, explicit sex, mentions of rape, racial conflict and talk of slavery

Disclaimer: There has been some controversy over this book and how it depicts people of color. Specifically, Maori people. The person I originally saw discuss this took down her post. I'm not Maori. I'm not a person of color. I read this book before the controversy, and re-read it just now. I enjoyed the book and cannot speak on the racism. If you're a person of color, and especially if you're of Maori descent, you might want to stay away from this book.

SynosisIn a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

Review: Nevernight is one of those books that you either love or you hate. From the first chapter, you can tell that the writing is rich and unique. Each of the characters are haunted by their past and they don't try to hide it. The story follows Mia, but you get an interesting cast of characters who all add to the story. I adored Mia. She takes no shit. Even from Mister Kindly. She starts off being really harsh to just about everyone at the Red Church, but she slowly realizes that she can have friends in this school of assassins. Which brings me to Tric. Tric. Is. Precious. I enjoyed watching him learn how to love and how to appreciate himself. Mister Kindly was my absolute favorite. He isn't afraid to speak his mind, but he is never cruel. He always looks out for Mia, but doesn't hold her hand. I loved hearing his insight to situations Mia got herself in.

This story is dark. Not just because it's set in a school for assassins. Its clearly an adult fantasy book. There is sex and gore, but none of it felt unnecessary. The story moved slow at first, but picked up when the trials began. Kristoff did a great job of showing what was at stake as the students progressed through the trials. None of the twists felt obvious to me which was appreciated. I was always left wondering what would happen next and who would end up on top. Overall, I loved this story and I can't wait to get my hands on book 2.

5 howls

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Katherine Ormsbee

Synopsis: After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral.

Her show is a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the forty thousand new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr GIFs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.

And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with Thom Causer, a fellow award nominee, suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.

Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?

Review: I don't know how to compose my thoughts without spoiling aspects of Tash Hearts Tolstoy so buckle in. Man, this book. First off, I really appreciated Tash as a character. It's always refreshing to see ace characters in book, and I enjoyed following Tash's experience. I liked the side characters well enough. None of them stuck out, sadly. The story itself is what fell a little flat for me. I had fun seeing Tash and her friends adapt to the sudden fame they were exposed to. The first thing that bothered me was Tash's relationship with Thom. I found this part of the story very predictable, and I honestly wish I was wrong. I was hoping Tash was going to form a really good online friendship/romantic partnership. Honestly, I think having a long distance online partnership would have worked well with a character like Tash who has a hard time explaining what being ace means. It would have been nice to see her in a relationship with Thom where he is forced to think of other ways to appreciate Tash that doesn't involve sex. Then they could have come together at the end and he wouldn't have been a super dick about Tash being ace. I was disappointed that Thom was made out to be a bad guy. Online relationships are special to me and I wanted Thom to be good for Tash. Even if they just remained friends. The other thing that bothered me is deeply personal. I HATE when the love interest is the best friend. With the way Tash/Jack/Paul were all described, I had hope that this was going to be a very special book where Tash and the best friend don't fall in love. It's exhausting to read story after story where people can't just stay friends with those they've spent a majority of their life with. I wanted to like Tash Hearts Tolstoy so much, and I think it had a lot of potential. It just missed the mark for me. I would definitely recommend it if you don't have such a large problem with the best friends become lovers trope.

3 howls

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi


Triggers: Slavery, racism, racial slurs

SynopsisA novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction. 

Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi's magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters whose lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control. Homegoing is a tremendous reading experience, not to be missed, by an astonishingly gifted young writer.

Review: Homegoing was a rather unique story. It doesn't follow a single person, but it follows the bloodlines of two different people. Because of this, Homegoing read more like a set of short stories that go together than a fully cohesive novel. This isn't a bad thing, but it's something to be aware of before you pick this book up. I'm also not going to really make a paragraph talking solely about characters. I found most of the perspectives really interesting to read from, but I probably enjoyed Effia, Esi, and Willa's perspectives the most. I don't have a specific reason for that, but they stood out to me and I still think about those characters. There were a couple of perspectives towards the end of the book that I didn't care for which is why this book wasn't a full 5 star read for me. Another reason why I didn't give this book a perfect rating was because I didn't read it in one sitting. I think that pulled me out of the progression of the stories. This is definitely a book I want to re-read as I get a bit older and I gain some more life perspectives. Overall, Homegoing was fascinating and definitely worth picking up.

4 howls

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


Triggers: Gangs, gun violence, racism, abuse

SynopsisSixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
Review: The Hate U Give was one of the few books that 100% deserved the hype it got. Starr was incredibly easy to relate to. I especially appreciated how she internalized the change she has to make between school Starr and neighborhood Starr. I feel like that's something people do all the time. If not for physical places, then people change between their online selves and their offline selves. I'm also glad she struggled with whether or not to come forward. It's easy to see situations like this on the news and say, "If I were the witness, I would come forward," but Starr had legitimate concerns that made coming forward one of the most difficult decisions she will ever have to make. The story focused on Starr, but I liked how we got a few different opinions of those around her. The most notable one was of Starr's uncle. I appreciated that he was a cop and the story didn't turn into an "all cops are bad" narrative. All of the side characters were fascinating. Everyone from Starr's parents, to King, to Seven and Sekani. They all felt genuine and fleshed out. Every character was unique with their own flaws. It was refreshing to read such deep characters.

Everything about The Hate U Give was heart-wrenching. I didn't grow up in the "ghetto" but my hometown is far from safe. Some of the situations Starr found herself in, I recognized. One of the things I appreciated the most about the story was the unashamed use of AAVE. Hearing Starr talk with her friends from her neighborhood was like listening to my African-American friends talk together. There was a comfort in that. I'm just saying, if anyone deducts points from this book because of the use of AAVE claiming that it isn't proper grammar, they need to spend time talking to more black folk. I'm gonna just say that and move on. The other thing I liked was how Starr speaking out encouraged change. I'm not going to say in what form because I feel that's one of the strongest parts of this book, but reading the last few chapters was an incredible experience. Another thing this book did extremely well (guys, it was a lot. This book is great.) was handling topics like racism and assumptions. 

I will re-read this book later to make sure I gave this rating fairly and not just because I got caught up in the hype, but for now it is definitely on my list of best books of the year.

5/5 howls

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins


Triggers: Attempted rape, slurs, domestic abuse, gaslighting

Review: I'm not going to share the synopsis to this book, because it can spoil some of the story. That being said, the synopsis is on Goodreads, so you could always click the link above and read it there. This book hit weirdly close to home for me. I enjoyed getting to know Maya and Ariel. I found both characters to be refreshing and easy to love. I did find Ariel to be more fleshed out than Maya which was a bit of a shame. Understanding how the story played out, it makes sense that Maya would have shorter chapters and she isn't necessarily the focus of the story, but I still wish we got to experience more with her. Though, that could just be me. Maya was actually why I felt so connected to this book. Her story and relationship with Jason was eerily similar to that of one of my friends which freaked me out a bit (in a good way). Even with my personal connection to Maya, I wanted to stay in Ariel's story and see what happened to her. I wanted to experience the moments she shared with her friends. I really appreciated how she struggled with her sexuality, and how her family played a part in that. Some might find her hesitation towards a f/f relationship to be problematic, but I thought it was justified considering how she grew up with her dad. This might also be a personal thing since I was raised in the south and here, if you're anything but straight, you're on a fast train to Hell. It can be scary to see how people judge you when you come out so I completely understood her aversion. I enjoyed getting to know Gabe and Monica as well, but I felt like Hillary, Tati, and Syrah were less important and didn't get quite as fleshed out.

The whole story centers around gaslighting and how this toxic thing can shape humans. This is particularly harmful for children who would not understand what's happening. I found the story to be fascinating and engaging. Anyone sensitive to slurs (particularly LGBTQ+ slurs) might not enjoy this book because of Ariel's dad. Again, coming from the south, I grew up hearing awful things like this so it didn't bother me. If anything, it helped me relate to Ariel. Her dad is a horrific character. All I wanted was to tell Ariel to stay at Monica or Syrah's house and get away from her dad. I did find the ending of the story a wee bit predictable. That could also be because I read the synopsis before I read the book (this is also why I'm not sharing it on here). The way everything played out was still heart-wrenching in the way only Ellen Hopkins can do. Having Ariel's story written in poetry, and having Maya's written in prose, helped to distinguish between the girls. I found myself really enjoying how the book was set up. Overall, this was a solid Ellen Hopkins book. I'm sad it took me so long to get to it, but boy was it worth the wait.

4.5 howls

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Thirteen Reasons Why (book and show)

I got things to say and feels to feel so let’s get started. First, let me say that Thirteen Reasons Why is one of my favorite books of all time. In the way of re-reads, it even rivals the Harry Potter books. I picked this book up on a whim when I was in high school. I read the synopsis in my school library and I thought it would help me a lot. High school is also when my thoughts shifted from, “I need to leave South Carolina” to “I should kill myself.” I know some kids with mental health issues probably shouldn’t read books about suicide, but I was hoping that I would find something about loss and hurt. Thirteen Reasons Why did that for me. It was a book I needed in that time of my life, and it continues to be a book that I refer to even as an adult. When I found out one of my favorite books was going to be turned into a TV show, I was cautiously hopeful. Then I saw the trailer and my heart sunk. It looked like this big mystery and it didn’t feel like the book I fell in love with. Sure, there is some mystery involving all of the people on the tapes and how they interconnected, but the trailer for the show made it sound like most of these people were small and there was one major person who really caused Hannah to kill herself. Don’t worry, I’m not going to shit on the show. After the first couple of episodes, I realized I was enjoying it far more than I expected to. It’s actually a fairly decent show. Of course, there are some positives and negatives. Yes, they do involve the changes that were made but, out of respect for the author, this book, and everyone involved with the show, I’m going to try to be fair. So, here are my thoughts about Thirteen Reasons Why, the book and the show.
In standard Kim fashion, I’m going to hit some of the characters. I’m not going to talk about every character in the story. Just the ones that impacted me the most. Either good impact or bad. First, there’s Clay. I LOVED Clay in the book. He is the kid you can’t help but like because he seems so kind and aware. Don’t start with the, “If he was aware then he would have known Hannah wanted to kill herself.” This wasn’t a book about people trying to save a girl. She was already gone before the book started. I still enjoyed Clay in the show. The fact that he was a nerd made my heart happy. I didn’t really like how aggressive he got at certain points. There was a part with Skye where he grabbed her arm and exposed her self-harm scars. Don’t do that. Don’t ever do that to a person. Another thing I didn’t like about Clay in the show was when his parents brought up medication to him. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with anyone taking medication. Clay in the books wasn’t on any sort of drugs. Yes, it’s hard to tell when the book takes place over the span of a single night, but I like to think Clay was a pretty well put together person. The drugs made me sad because it seemed like there was something deeply wrong with Clay and it played into the myth of “the only person who can love someone mentally ill is another ill person.”  As a teen, I hung out with a lot of ill people so it wouldn’t have bothered me as much back then, but my perspective as an adult is vastly different. I’m blessed enough to have made friends who are well and loving. They are patient and kind. They do not look at me and see my disorders. They just see me. Maybe Jay intended Clay to have some dark secrets about his own mental health. I just don’t see Clay with those kinds of struggles.
I really liked Tony in the book. I thought he was an interesting secondary character with his own share of secrets. In the show, Tony immediately became my favorite character. He is suave, but honest. He is kind, but reserved. His interactions with Clay are humorous and heartfelt. I loved him. I also loved that he is gay, but it isn’t a big deal. It’s just part of Tony and he even says that everyone knows he’s gay. It isn’t some weird secret Tony has to wrestle with. He’s comfortable with himself. He did say something that bothered me. When his boyfriend confronted him about the phrase “my friend” versus “my boyfriend,” Tony said Ryan called him “my boyfriend” and he wasn’t comfortable with the possessive tone. But “my friend” also has that possession aspect. If anything, the wording should have been “a friend.” Correct me if my hearing is off and they did actually use “a friend.” It’s such a minor thing, but it seemed really contradictory. Beyond that, Tony is fantastic. I could spend hours gushing over him.
Skye. Oh Skye. I have feelings. In the original story, she wasn’t the most necessary character. She was a chance for Clay to try again when he sees someone in need. That’s fine. I’ve accepted that. I actually thought that was a nice way of ending the book off. Then they brought her into the show. She was fine, but she embodied the stereotypical “emo” girl with the dark clothes and the “I don’t give a fuck about anything” attitude. Fine. I rolled my eyes when she was introduced because I had no real attachment to her character anyway. What DID bother me was towards the end of series when Clay exposes her self-harm scars. Skye says that her self-harm is what she needs to do in order to survive. That’s one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to writing about any kind of mental illness. Especially depression. This idea that your options are either kill yourself or live, but you have to self-harm. Yes, those sound like the only two options to some people. Those sounded like my only two options for a very long time. But I wish that wasn’t what Skye’s character had become. She could have easily been that quiet girl who tries to stay out of everyone’s bullshit but still manages to get dragged by bullies. She wouldn’t have been as interesting for people watching the show, but it would have been a healthier representation of depression compared to how she was depicted in the show.
I’m done talking about characters for now. Those were just the three big ones that I had a lot of feelings about. Now, I want to talk about the story. A large part of why I love Thirteen Reasons Why is Hannah already died. It isn’t going to be a story about trying to love a girl back to health after she tries to kill herself. She’s gone. There is no fixing that. I’ve seen some people get upset over this approach to depression. They say it focuses less on Hannah and her mental health and the focus is more on Clay. That’s fair. But I like how the narrative was about the people left behind. Yes, this includes Clay. I like how the story isn’t about fixing the broken girl and it’s about where to go from here. What I really enjoyed about the show was the overarching story of Hannah’s parents and their lawsuit against the school. I’m sure it’s for legal/personal reasons, but we don’t really hear about that side when kids commit suicide. I was fascinated by how they both struggled with how to approach the lawsuit and how both parents changed throughout the story. I admired Hannah’s parents a lot. I’m sure it isn’t easy to deal with the loss of a child. Especially when that child commits suicide. I wasn’t really bothered that they lengthened the time in which the story takes place. It actually made a lot of sense. My friend committed suicide a couple of years ago and, if I got a mysterious letter or box of tapes from her, I would have to take longer than a single night to process everything. I also appreciated seeing how the school as an organization and the student body changed throughout the story as Clay moved along with the tapes. Overall, the story was good. They changed things and moved some stuff around, but it was still solid.
Here comes the not so positive things. There were a few things with the story that got on my nerves. First off, Justin. I appreciated how the show gave us more insight to the bullies and what their home lives were like, but I still hate Justin. He doesn’t get a pass because his home life is crap. Bullies do not get to use that as an excuse for why they are terrible people. Maybe my past makes me too angry at Justin’s story, but I don’t care. Something else that bothered me was the last scene with Tony and the last scene with Alex. Much like my problem with Skye, I felt like their reactions were predictable. They made me roll my eyes. I do think stories like theirs are important, but they also deserve their own focus. Their struggles shouldn’t be tacked onto the end of Hannah’s story. The last thing that bothered me was Hannah and Bryce’s last interaction. First, this brings up the question of how a person defines rape. In the book, Hannah was fingered by Bryce. In the show, it is definitely rape. Both of those are bad and Bryce is scum. That isn’t my problem. My issue is with how the scene was done. In the book, Hannah allows herself to be in this position as a farewell of sorts. Like, this interaction with Bryce was the only thing missing before she could commit to killing herself. In the show, Bryce uses force and takes advantage of Hannah when she clearly doesn’t want any of it. I felt like the scene in the book was more empowering because Hannah had that situation planned out. She knew what she was getting into. She wasn’t trying to make excuses. In the show, Hannah appeared trapped. This depiction of her was unfortunate. I think I’ll stop here. This is already way longer than I thought it was going to be. As a whole, I still love Thirteen Reasons Why. I still give the book 5/5. I would probably give the show 3/5. I just wanted to express some things as a fan of the book.

The trigger warnings at the start of the last few episodes were greatly appreciated. That being said, this is also really helpful if you want to know specifically what troubling things are in the show:

There are also a few scenes that involve guns. One is in the very last episode, and the other is a few episodes before it. Sadly, I don't remember exactly which episode off the top of my head. It's the scene with Bryce and Jessica. If you've watched the show, then you know which scene I'm referring to.