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!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

SynopsisArt student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Review: Days of Blood and Starlight is absolutely my favorite book in this series. First off, Akiva and Karou are split up between most of the book, so we get to dive deeper into them as individual characters instead of a couple. Karou finds her talent among the chimera and Akiva is honing his skills with the angels. Their separation also allows us to see more of their respective worlds. The worlds of the angels and the chimera are so intricate. Being able to see their similarities, as a reader, was incredible. The characters in this story don't even see how similar they are to their enemies. It's beautiful and heartbreaking all at once. Laini does a wonderful job of portraying this.

As far as stories go, this one was much darker than Daughter of Smoke and Bone. There is quite a lot more death and fighting on the page. Be careful if that's something that bothers you, but it's handled very well in the context of the world. Once again, Zuze and Mik show up in the story which helps to break up the darkness. Their interactions with the chimera was a nice change in tone. Even Karou points out how singularly unique her friend is. Unfortunately, I feel like there isn't much I can say without spoiling important parts of the first 2 books in this series, but these books are wonderful. Laini's writing style isn't for everyone, but I certainly enjoy it and her characters are to die for.

5 howls

Monday, December 18, 2017

Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor; Illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo

SynopsisPetite though she may be, Zuzana is not known for timidity. Her best friend, Karou, calls her "rabid fairy," her "voodoo eyes" are said to freeze blood, and even her older brother fears her wrath. But when it comes to the simple matter of talking to Mik, or "Violin Boy," her courage deserts her. Now, enough is enough. Zuzana is determined to make the first move, and she has a fistful of magic and a plan. It's a wonderfully elaborate treasure hunt of a plan that will take Mik all over Prague on a cold winter's night before leading him to the treasure: herself! Violin Boy is not going to know what hit him.

New York Times bestselling author Laini Taylor brings to life a night only hinted at in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy—the magical first date of fan-favorites Zuzana and Mik. Originally published as an ebook, this new print edition will include breathtaking black and white illustrations, plus bonus content in a gorgeous package perfect for new and current fans of the series.

Review: Night of Cake and Puppets was one of the most adorable books I've read this year. First off, my love for Zuze and Mik have no parallel. They are perfect together and always a joy to read about. Getting to see the birth of their relationship was great. Laini did an excellent job of showcasing Zuze's ability as a puppeteer and Mik's musical talent. The scavenger hunt aspect was so much fun. It showed off how playful Zuze and Mik are as individuals and how they are able to play off each other. This is a constant theme with them throughout the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, but it's great to see it showcased here. Now we have to talk about the art. I don't have pictures to show you but, trust me, it's amazing. Jim does an incredible job of showing the unique style of both characters. The book is split between "Him" and "Her" sections to indicate which POV we are currently reading from, but it's also nice that Jim included drawings of Mik and Zuze respectively for each chapter heading. Seeing Zuze with her puppet or seeing Mik with his violin put a fresh smile on my face every time. There's a section at the very end of the book where Jim illustrates part of Daughter of Smoke and Bone in a graphic novel form. Holy crap, I didn't think I needed a graphic novel adaptation until I saw that. The only thing I wish is that it was in color. Jim beautifully illustrates the chimera, but it would be nice to see how they would look in color. Regardless, I'd be happy with a black and white adaptation as well. It was incredible. It fit the tone of the story so well, and I genuinely hope a graphic adaptation is something they consider for this trilogy.

5 howls

Friday, December 15, 2017

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Trigger warnings: The term "gypsies" is used; The word "savages" is used to describe a group of people

SynopsisAround the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands", she speaks many languages - not all of them human - and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Review: Laini Taylor has a glorious way with words. This was a re-read for me, and it was just as fun as the first time I read it. Karou is great. She owns up to her mistakes, and she makes a lot of them. She is easy to relate to despite living with chimera. Speaking of, the chimera were a large part of why I loved this story. Each character felt unique and necessary to the world. There's a part towards then end of the book where we get a glimpse of the chimera world and, even then, we see the different layers of chimera and how thy influence the world. Another absolute favorite character is Zuze. She is the sassy best friend none of us deserve. She's always willing to put Karou in her place. I'm re-reading this trilogy, so I know she becomes a more important character later on, but she is just wonderful to read in this first book.

The story is unlike anything I've ever read before. I've read other paranormal books and fantasy books since reading these the first time, but Daughter of Smoke and Bone still stands out. The story is set in Prague and the descriptions are vibrant. It's definitely the kind of writing that makes you feel like you're in the story with these characters. Seeing Karou navigate between having a normal, human life and the life with chimera makes for some funny and heart-wrenching scenes. She tries to do things without hurting others, but hurt is inevitable. I will say, having not noticed this the first time, there was some terminology that might negatively affect some readers. The term "gypsies" is used one time. As this is set in Prague, and I don't know how people there speak, it might be a commonly used phrase. It is still good to know that it's there in case anyone who identifies with the Romani community gets hurt. The word "savages" is also used. It's used to describe a certain group of people which has its own negative connotations in our world. Just something to keep in mind in case the use of any of these words is harmful.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the start to one of my favorite fantasy adventures.

4 howls

Monday, December 11, 2017

Ash by Malinda Lo

Trigger Warnings: Neglect, physical abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse

SynopsisIn the wake of her father's death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.

The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash's capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.

Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.

Review: Ash was a re-read for me. I read it long ago and I fondly thought of it as one of my favorite fairy tale retellings, but I've read a number of retellings since then and I wanted to see if it still held up. Good news, it definitely does. From the start, Ash is compassionate and watching her deal with her mother's death is hard. One of the strengths of this particular story is seeing Ash come to terms with her sexuality. She's definitely attracted to Sidhean, but she also harbors an attraction for Kaisa. It's always great to see people figure out their own sexuality, but I especially enjoy it in fantasy based stories. Beyond that, Ash is a retelling of Cinderella. If you like that story, then you will probably enjoy this one.

What makes this book stand out above the rest is that it feels like its own fairy tale. Yes, it is a retelling of Cinderella, but it is lyrical and has its own voice which makes it feel fresh. Malinda does a beautiful job of weaving fae lore with the original Cinderella story. Characters also share their favorite fairy tales within the scope of this world. I always appreciate moments like that because it makes the world feel more rich and developed. This is one of the few books where the ending felt wrapped up, but also a bit open-ended and it worked really well for this particular story.

Even if you aren't a fan of retellings, Ash is worth checking out. It isn't long, but has a beautiful, rich world with fun characters and a well done romance.

5 howls

Don't Cosplay With My Heart by Cecil Castellucci

SynopsisWhen Edan Kupferman dresses up like her favorite character, Gargantua, she feels tall and powerful. That's important right now, because her family is a mess, her best friend is gone for the summer, her crush is confusing, and Edan's feeling small and not sure which end is up. 
When Edan's cosplaying, she can be angry, loud, and not the good girl everyone thinks she is. And when she's at conventions, she feels like she's found her own Team Tomorrow. But when her personal life starts to spiral out of control, Edan has to figure out whether she needs a sidekick, or if she has the strength to be the hero of her own story. 
Review: Don't Cosplay With My Heart was a cute book that had a number of good moments in it. As a character, Edan went from having a place of privilege to having barely any. Her father has been accused of stealing and her family no longer has the standing they used to. We get a small idea of who the other characters in the story are, but the main ones we really get to know are Edan, Yuri, and Kirk. Yuri becomes Edan's boyfriend and he's a dick. There isn't a polite way to say it. Kirk is the typical nice guy who does what he can to help Edan throughout the story. Sadly, none of them were particularly interesting to read about. One character I enjoyed quite a lot was Edan's grandmother. We do not spend a lot of time with her but, when we do, she's always ready to put Edan in her place.

This isn't so much a content warning, but if you're a female and you are into fandom culture, then you might find parts of this book bothersome. There's a good bit of the book dedicated to men around Edan who do not seem to think she is a nerd because she's a girl. Edan's boyfriend and his friends are the main people who have this attitude throughout the story, and it does grate on the nerves a bit. Thankfully, the book also shows off other women in fandom. There are a few other girls Edan spends time with who are a part of this culture. There is even some discussion about being a successful woman in comics as Edan gets a chance to meet one of her heroes. I thought this book did a good job of touching on lust versus love and how blind they can make a person. I do wish this book was a little longer and that it touched more on financial issues Edan's club was having. The end felt too sudden.

Don't Cosplay With My Heart had a lot of potential, but fell flat with its characters and predicable plot. It's still cute and I would recommend reading it if you want to see how women are very often treated in fandom culture.

3 howls

Friday, December 8, 2017

Alex + Ada vol. 3 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn

SynopsisThe last thing in the world Alex wanted was an X5, the latest in realistic androids. But after Ada is dropped into his life, he discovers she is more than just a robot. Alex takes a huge risk to unlock Ada so she can think for herself and explore life as a sentient android. As Alex and Ada spend more time together, they become closer. But as restrictions tighten on artificial intelligence, Ada feels unsure about her place in the world, and Alex questions being with an android. 

In this final arc, Alex and Ada struggle against the growing hatred for sentient robots and their human allies. Can they survive what's around the corner?

Collects Alex + Ada #11-15.

Review: Well that was a delightful experience. Alex + Ada is a story that can easily mirror some current events like legalizing gay marriage and rights for immigrants. While it shouldn't take a story about an android to make us understand these things, I think Alex + Ada does a great job of making us question what makes someone human and the validity of certain relationships. There were parts of this particular volume that I saw coming, but it still drove the story home. It's also a good story about love and what you are willing to risk for that love. There were some parts that I wish were explained a bit more, but if you're looking for a short, sweet comic series, I would highly recommend this one.

4 howls

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Alex + Ada vol. 2 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn

Synopsis: Tensions rise between humans and robots in this sci-fi/drama set in the near future. Alex took a huge risk to unlock Ada and it seems to have paid off - Ada can now think for herself and explore life as a sentient android. As Alex and Ada spend more time together, they become closer. But as restrictions tighten on androids, Ada feels unsure about her place in Alex's life and the world. Collects Alex + Ada #6-10.

Review: Alex + Ada vol. 2 picks up where vol. 1 left off. Ada is now sentient and she is trying to adjust to her new life with Alex. Watching her experience new foods was fun, and I could feel her excitement in that moment. The conflict between Alex and Ada felt very real. They both have to learn to live their life together again. This includes being attracted to each other. This part of the story hit me right in the feels because it managed to mirror some things in my personal life. I think that's the beauty of this story though. It's about an android and a human, but it is still incredibly easy to relate to. A few people found out about Ada being sentient in this volume and the amount of people who were not bothered surprised me. Of course, the ending sets up well for volume 3.

4 howls

Monday, December 4, 2017

Alex + Ada vol. 1 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn

SynopsisFrom JONATHAN LUNA (GIRLS, THE SWORD, ULTRA, Spider-Woman: Origin) and SARAH VAUGHN (Sparkshooter) comes ALEX + ADA, a sci-fi drama set in the near future. The last thing in the world Alex wanted was an X5, the latest in realistic androids. But after Ada is dropped into his life, he discovers she is more than just a robot.

Collects ALEX + ADA #1-5.
Review: Alex + Ada is a comic series I've seen around, but I am just now picking it up. Honestly, if you like the movie I, Robot, then this might be a good series for you. The worlds are very similar. In Alex + Ada, a company that made androids suffered through a massacre when some androids became sentient. This caused the government to make a law that no robots were allowed to be sentient. This is the world Alex lives in. He is recovering from a recent breakup and, as a birthday present, he is gifted with an android, Ada. He quickly realizes that something is missing from her. A personality. Choices. Her true being. He takes it upon himself to find people to hack Ada's hardware to make her sentient. The art in this series is beautiful. I love the way the characters are portrayed. There are little things about the world that I found interesting. Alex has a chip(?) of some kind in his head which allows him to control everything without speaking. He can lock/unlock his car, make phone calls, search the internet, etc without saying a word. I'm hoping they explore more of that in one of the later volumes. This is very much an introductory comic bind up. We get introduced to a handful of characters, and we explore a little of the world. Alex has a fun group of friends. I hope we get more interactions with them. One of them lost a leg and has a prosthetic. He was also saved by an android, so that is something that might be explored. The start of this series talks a bit about humanity and what makes a human.

Great start to a series. Definitely hoping for certain discussions in later volumes.

4 howls

Friday, December 1, 2017

Ink by Alice Broadway

SynopsisEvery action, every deed, every significant moment is tattooed on your skin for ever. When Leora's father dies, she is determined to see her father remembered forever. She knows he deserves to have all his tattoos removed and made into a Skin Book to stand as a record of his good life. But when she discovers that his ink has been edited and his book is incomplete, she wonders whether she ever knew him at all.

Review: I'm a sucker for stories where tattoos play an important role. I loved the idea of tattoos telling a person's history. Leora was an interesting character. I liked seeing her dedication towards inking and what it meant to her. Even though there's clearly something behind all of this, it was neat to see her interact with different people if they were inkers, flayers, or storytellers. I loved Verity. She was a great best friend and I wish we got to see her at work a bit more often. I'm glad she became a more important character and she also had rather high stakes in this story. I liked Oscar, but we didn't get to spend much time with him. There were hints of flirting between him and Leora but, thankfully, it wasn't a major part of the story.

The plot of Ink was good. I liked how dedicated Leora was to this way of life, but there were still moments when she questioned things happening around her. My biggest gripe with this book was that I really couldn't tell if it was supposed to be a dystopian type story or a fantasy one. This didn't hinder my enjoyment too much, it just made it difficult to visualize some aspects. I can genuinely say that I didn't see the plot twist coming. I also didn't expect to see so many characters trying to help Leora. I won't say anymore than that, but it was a nice change of pace from other stories.

This was a refreshing debut and I can't wait to read the next book.

4 howls

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Empress of a Thousand Skies

SynopsisCrown Princess Rhiannon Ta'an wants vengeance.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, Rhee has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne - and her revenge.

Alyosha is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding - even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee's name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies was a fast paced book, yet it took a while for me to get into it. I wasn't impressed with Rhee as a character and that disappointed me. She was very much a typical lost princess character I've read in other YA books. I did like Aly though. His relationship with Vin was humorous, and I appreciated how they showed reality television in this world. That was fascinating and I wished more was done with that. Kara was also interesting. I already figured out her secret, but I liked her character regardless. My only complaint is that I wish we could have seen her interact with people and the world a little more.

Like I said, the story is very fast paced. The book starts with a bang and doesn't really ever stop. That being said, I didn't think the world was very developed which is important if you are writing a sci-fi book and there are other planets involved. Even the planets we got to experience didn't feel very fleshed out. This is one of the few books where I saw the plot twist coming, but it didn't actually take anything away from the book. It was interesting, and Rhoda did something different than what other YA authors do. That was a nice touch. I enjoyed this book, but I was left wanting more and expecting more. I think this would have been better if I hadn't read the synopsis, because it is extremely inaccurate and I was expecting a different story than what I got. Still, I'm excited for book 2 so I can see what happens to these characters.

3.5 howls

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

Content Warnings: Use of the term "gypsy" which is corrected/challenged later

SynopsisWhen sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process. 

Review: I'll be honest, I wasn't going to pick this book up. I hadn't heard enough about it, so I didn't know if I would enjoy it. Boy, I was wrong. Sadly, I didn't care for Ellie very much. I thought her history and relationship with Germany was interesting but, as a person, I didn't care for her. The other characters though were fascinating. Kai and Mitzi were great companions. I appreciated how Kai took care of his sister even though he was infatuated with Ellie. My favorite scene with Mitzi was when she and Ellie talked about Germany's past and the negative way Germans are still seen. When you have such a dark past, it is extremely hard to come back from that. I thought it brought a beautiful and necessary conversation to light about misconceptions and assumptions. Sabina was neat, but something about her didn't sit right with me. She's supposed to be a teenager, but she acted developmentally behind. More like a small child than a teen. I could see that if she had a developmental issue, but that was never really discussed. Kai described Sabina as a prodigy, but I didn't get that vibe.

The story was a fun ride. I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but I definitely haven't read one that incorporated magic as well. The story shifts between 2 different time periods. One was 1941-1942, where we follow Ellie's grandfather as he endures Nazi Germany. The other is 1988. This is where we follow Ellie in her adventure. I wish the story took place in only one time period, but I understand why it was handled this way. The way the 2 settings were woven together was interesting, and heartbreaking. Plus, it was good to see how things change, but also how they stay the same between these time periods. There is still plenty of racism and judgement even 40+ years apart. There is a slur used a couple of times in this book, but it was addressed a couple of different ways. I'm not Romani, so I can't say if it was handled "well" but characters address the slur and the author even talks about it in her author's note. One little thing that threw me off was the instances where the text read "G-d" instead of "God." I wasn't sure of the characters were saying "God" or "G" "D." This is primarily how the word is shown in the book, but there were also times where it just had "God." So, that was weird to me. There might have been a reason and I just didn't realize it.

The Girl with the Red Balloon is unlike any other historical fiction book I've ever read. It's beautifully written with a unique cast of characters. Definitely worth picking up.

4 howls

Friday, November 24, 2017

Want by Cindy Pon

SynopsisJason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits that protect them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother, who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is or destroying his own heart?

Review: Want was a thrill ride from page 1. Zhou was an interesting perspective to see. He knows what it's' like to be poor and broken. That has been his entire life. He also isn't afraid to do what needs to be done in order to fix the world. I liked getting to know the other characters in his group as well. Iris and Lingyi had such a cute relationship. I wish it was more apparent, but it was still nice to see a couple of ladies in love. Arun and Vic were also neat to read about, but I wish we had a little bit more of a relationship within the group. I'm glad we had the chance to know Daiyu. I always appreciate stories where the offspring of rich, corrupt people are not horrible like the parents. She had her own group of friends that made for an interesting parallel with Zhou's own group.

Cindy Pon doesn't hold back when dealing out the heartbreak in this book. The world felt sadly realistic. It seems like the kind of setting we could all be living in if things don't change. Taipei was a fresh city to experience. Not just that, we spent a good amount of time with the "haves" and the "have-nots," yos and meis respectively. It took a little while for me to get used to this terminology, mostly because I know Spanish and yo in Spanish sounds the way it looks. In Want, the term yo is pronounced you. When I got past that struggle, the book flowed really well. I will say that I saw the twist coming, but I felt the relationship between Zhou and Daiyu grew in a realistic way. Want is a fantastic book that uses found family, action, and a bit of romance. Definitely worth the read.

4 howls

Sidenote: If this story sounds interesting to you, I would highly recommend checking out the video game Shardlight. It also has a setting where the air is toxic and there's something sinister at work. Here is a playlist I watched of someone playing through the game. It's also great, and I think it compliments the story of Want very well.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Video Game Review: Mario Odyssey

Guys. This game. This freaking game. Mario is one of those characters that I've grown up with, and I get excited with every new installment. But this game has surpassed everything I could have hoped. I've seen the trailer but, beyond that, I've been trying to stay as spoiler free as possible. The biggest aspect of this game is exploration. Leave no stone unturned. Literally. There are collectibles in some of the rocks. From the very first level, the amount of detail is extraordinary. Every level feels unique and beautiful. Even though there are a couple forest/wooded areas, and there are a couple of water worlds, none of it feels repetitive. With other Mario games, I would dread certain levels (ice and water worlds in particular). This wasn't a problem with Odyssey. I enjoyed every level immensely. The platforming felt surprisingly smooth. Part of platforming in this game involves Cappy, the creature possessing Mario's hat. You have to throw him and jump on him in order to complete certain tasks. My favorite level is Metro Kingdom, New Donk City. I liked seeing how they incorporated a major Earth city into the world of Mario. More than that, this is where I noticed how much detail they actually put in the game. New Donk City is a play on Donkey Kong. The Mayor is Pauline (the princess kidnapped in the original arcade game), and all the street signs are named after Donkey Kong characters. That warmed my soul so much.

As much as I loved this game, I did still have some complaints. First, as big as the worlds are, there seemed to be a lot of unneeded space. To me, this was mostly noticeable in the Sand Kingdom. For as many power moons as there are to collect, I wish they were more spread out to make more use of the space. Another issue I have is with the ways you have to get some of the power moons. In every world, there are 2 races you complete against Koopas. The first one isn't too bad. The second one can be a pain. Specifically, in the Wooded Kingdom. You have to clear a giant gap with a convoluted long jump, cap bounce, dive combo which I'm having a hard time doing. As far as I can tell, there is NO way to win this race without mastering this trick which feels like something meant for speedrunners. I think Nintendo forgot for a bit that they do still make these games primarily for children. I've seen some people complain about how you can't 100% complete this game before the final boss. I actually enjoyed this. Backtracking in video games can be annoying, but I think it works with Odyssey. Plus, you get to cross paths with a certain princess.

Mario Odyssey is absolutely one of my favorite Mario platformers. It's long. It's packed with content. It's a load of fun.

5 howls

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