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!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Trigger warnings: This book has a heavy emphasis on a man marrying multiple wives and these wives are all teenagers. The youngest being 13. That's the biggest disclaimer.

SynopsisBy age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children. 

When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can't bring herself to hate him as much as she'd like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband's strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape--before her time runs out?

Together with one of Linden's servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

Review: I'll be honest, this was a re-read for me and I loved this book the first time I read it. I liked seeing the aspect of multiple wives and how that was handled, especially because they were all different. My tastes have changed a fair amount and I didn't like it nearly as much this time around. I thought Rhine was interesting, and I liked seeing how she navigated situations without her twin brother. that being said, I wish we actually got to see her interact with her twin. I think she would have felt more fleshed out if we saw those moments versus them being presented as flashbacks. I still loved Jenna. She is the oldest of the wives and she seems to be the most realistic of the 3. For the most part, the characters didn't feel realistic. They were more like caricatures which was a pity. 

I thought the story concept was interesting, and I appreciated how this story seemed to bridge our current reality with a dystopian future. Much like The Handmade's Tale. The thing this book does well is make our characters think about the role of a woman. There is a scene where Rhine realizes babies are taken from their mothers and given to wet nurses as a way to cut the relationship between mother and child. That moment was great and tragic. I didn't care much for Gabriel, but I did like how subtle he was with putting candy in Rhine's napkin. I've had a friend do something similar for me, and it's a nice reminder that people are looking out for you and that they care. Those were the highlights of the story. For the most part, it felt bland. I also kept getting annoyed by little things about the weather, like how there were constant hurricanes. This is set in Florida. I live in South Carolina. The southeast gets hurricanes frequently, but not that frequently. Even with the current climate issue. There's also a note about how America was the only country to survive World War 3 because we were the most technologically advanced. That is another thing that will never be accurate. Moments like that kept taking me out of the story.

Interesting concept, but poor development.

3 howls

Friday, October 19, 2018

Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Trigger warning: This book is steeped with Islamophobia. If you're looking for a strictly happy book about a Muslim-American teen, this book is not for you.

SynopsisAmerican-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

Review: I appreciated Maya's experience because I never knew a Muslim person growing up. I think there are a lot of great scenes with Maya coming to terms with what she wants for herself and what she's willing to give up. She was just a great character to read. Seeing her interact with Phil and Kareem was great. Maya felt so genuine regardless of who she was around. Her relationship with her parents also felt relatable. It was much more personal than the usual, "parents will miss their child going off to college." There were real stakes involved that don't often get touched on with these stories. 

I grew up in post-9/11 America, so I like seeing the experience of others who lived during that time. Just for the sake of perspective, I was 10 years old during the September 11 attack and I grew up in one of the southern states in America. That's what I grew up with. The segments in between chapters where we get to see the terrorist's experience was well done. It didn't feel forced. It felt very matter of fact. The only thing I wish this story had was a scene where Maya's classmates find out who the terrorist is, and they still display ignorance. Their hate is focused on the person who shares Maya's last name and, by association, Maya herself. I think there could have been a great conversation about what makes a terrorist and how terrorists don't necessarily look the same. 

Brilliant debut with a ton of promise. Can't wait to see what else Samira releases.

4.5 howls

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart

Trigger warnings: Graphic depictions of violence and women fighting women

SynopsisIn a world where women have no rights, sisters Serina and Nomi Tessaro face two very different fates: one in the palace, the other in prison.

Serina has been groomed her whole life to become a Grace - someone to stand by the heir to the throne as a shining, subjugated example of the perfect woman. But when her headstrong and rebellious younger sister, Nomi, catches the heir's eye, it's Serina who takes the fall for the dangerous secret that Nomi has been hiding.

Now trapped in a life she never wanted, Nomi has only one way to save Serina: surrender to her role as a Grace until she can use her position to release her sister. This is easier said than done. A traitor walks the halls of the palace, and deception lurks in every corner. But Serina is running out of time, imprisoned on an island where she must fight to the death to survive and one wrong move could cost her everything.

Review: Grace and Fury is one of those books that I've heard very few things about. I've mostly seen comparisons to The Handmade's Tale which I feel is pretty accurate. We follow Nomi and Serina as their lives are turned upside down when Serina is sent to prison and Nomi is selected as a prospective wife for the prince. While I found Nomi and Serina to have interesting stories, neither of them stood out in my opinion. I wanted Nomi to have more growth throughout the story, but she really stayed the same impulsive, thoughtless person throughout the entire book. She is constantly depending on those around her to make the logical choices and to make certain decisions for her. I wanted to see her grow out of that. On the flip side, I enjoyed seeing Serina grow while she was in prison. She was able to use her skills from her training as a Grace and incorporate them into her prison life. I appreciated how adaptable she was, even in the most dire of circumstances. 

The story was fast-paced which made this for a very quick read. The downside is that I found a lot of the plot points predictable. This is part of why Nomi bothered me. I feel like she would have seen through certain things if she stopped to think about her situation and the things that were said. I don't want to say too much more because spoilers. Some of the side characters were just extremely easy to figure out. Still, where the story fails in originality, it makes up for in the female relationships. A large part of this story is about women fighting other women to the death, and how they became accustomed to that lifestyle. Even still, there are great scenes where the women look out for each other. Generally, I have a hard time with books that are about strong female friendships because that was never something I had, but I appreciated how this book built those friendships even though many of these women had to fight each other. This would be a great book to use as a discussion about getting hurt by other women and moving past that pain. 

Lackluster characters and predictable plot, but engaging story and solid female friendship potential.

3 howls

Monday, October 15, 2018

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

SynopsisThe sequel to VICIOUS, V.E. Schwab's first adult novel.

Sydney once had Serena—beloved sister, betrayed enemy, powerful ally. But now she is alone, except for her thrice-dead dog, Dol, and then there's Victor, who thinks Sydney doesn't know about his most recent act of vengeance.

Victor himself is under the radar these days—being buried and re-animated can strike concern even if one has superhuman powers. But despite his own worries, his anger remains. And Eli Ever still has yet to pay for the evil he has done.

Review: Vengeful follows after the events in Vicious. We are reunited with Victor, Sydney, and Mitch as they encounter new and old EOs. As far as characters go, I still enjoyed the original cast but it was nice to get to know new characters as well. Marcella is a solid female character and she isn't afraid to go after what she wants. I can see a lot of females admiring her character. My favorite character was absolutely June. She is much more logical, in my opinion, and she hasn't sacrificed the things that make her care about people.

The story itself was interesting, but it wasn't as strong as in Vicious. I appreciated the complexities of the story, and seeing all the characters coming together. That being said, the jumping timeline was not easy to follow. There were aspects I enjoyed like seeing Eli grow up, but it was still a lot to keep track of. I probably wouldn't have minded as much, but we get to see Victor struggle a lot with his health. It would have been nice to see his health decline in a more natural way.

Great time revisiting old characters and getting to know new characters, but the constantly shifting timelines was disorienting.

4 howls

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

SynopsisVictor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. 

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?

Review: Vicious is a good time. The story mainly follows Victor Vale as he is out to get revenge against his old friend, Eli. We follow other characters along the way and we get to see parts of the story through their eyes. Victor is a great character. Not because he's good, but because he doesn't hide the fact that he's a bad guy. He is open about his goal being revenge. He doesn't pretend to be a nice guy. That being said, he has an interesting soft spot for Sydney which I rather enjoyed. She has an interesting introduction with the whole getting shot thing, and she quickly recovers and gains her own footing. On the flip side, we get to see Eli as he grows to hate EOs and his experiences with them which is fascinating. We also see him meet Serena and how their dynamic changes.

The story was compelling, but it shifts time periods so this might not be your style if you like a book that tells a straight story. It was interesting seeing how eager Eli was to understand EOs, but then see him hate them. There are aspects to Eli's research that fractures his and Victor's relationship. I won't say what, but I wonder if we'll get to learn more about them in college in the second book. I thought this was a nice change of pace from the normal superpower stories we are normally exposed to. Victor isn't using his powers to help people. He just wants to get revenge on Eli. Eli started to study EOs for school, but he has seen the dark side of their powers and wants them gone.

Great story with dark and flawed characters.

5 howls

Monday, October 1, 2018

Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth

SynopsisA comic book for kids that includes children and families of all makeups, orientations, and gender identies, Sex Is a Funny Wordis an essential resource about bodies, gender, and sexuality for children ages 8 to 10 as well as their parents and caregivers. Much more than the "facts of life" or “the birds and the bees," Sex Is a Funny Word opens up conversations between young people and their caregivers in a way that allows adults to convey their values and beliefs while providing information about boundaries, safety, and joy.

Review: I picked this book up on a whim when I was looking up banned books and my library had access to this one. I enjoyed Sex is a Funny Word quite a bit. It's nonfiction and informational, so there isn't any character information. What I enjoyed the most about this book is how open it was in mentioning that not everyone wants to have sex and there are people who do not fall into the normal male/female binary. It was cute and the kids in this book asked questions that real children might ask. Another great thing it does is bring up molestation. The book calls it "secret touching" but it makes it very clear that you should tell someone if this is happening to you. The way it brings it up is soft for children to understand if this is something happening in their lives.  I think the thing to be most wary about is that it shows pictures of male and female genitals. Not in a disgusting way, but in a way that helps children to understand their bodies. The art is bright and helps the reader to get a good idea of how different bodies are. I wish they talked about sex with disabled people because that's not really talked about anywhere and there are a lot of assumptions made about it. Other than that, I thought this book was delightful. 

Instead of listing out all the potential talking points, I'll just say this is the perfect book to keep around if you're around kids because it would be a great introduction to a lot of topics not widely discussed.

4 howls

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Trigger warnings: Bullying, abuse, homophobic scene

SynopsisJerry Renault ponders the question on the poster in his locker: Do I dare disturb the universe? Refusing to sell chocolates in the annual Trinity school fund-raiser may not seem like a radical thing to do. But when Jerry challenges a secret school society called The Vigils, his defiant act turns into an all-out war. Now the only question is: Who will survive?

Review: Wew, The Chocolate War is quite a ride. This book is quite slow and it's more character driven than anything else. We follow a number of kids in a secret group called the Vigils. Jerry can be described as a protagonist or an antagonist, but he is certainly the focal point of the story. Archie is the leader of the Vigils. There's also a kid who goes by The Goober and he is a member of the Vigils who watches the events unfold. There are more characters we spend time with including teachers at Trinity and other students. None of the characters feel unnecessary. They all keep the story going and they all have interesting perspectives in the book.

The story in The Chocolate War feels simplistic. A teacher at Trinity messed up and is forcing students to go above and beyond for their annual chocolate sale. Enter Jerry who, as a member of the Vigils, was told to not accept the chocolates to sell for a certain length of time. Then, Jerry takes that assignment and decides to never take the chocolate at all. He is, at one time, defying the Vigils and Trinity school itself. What this book does well is show how sinister schools can be and how teachers can even be manipulated by charming students like Archie. I described Jerry as a protagonist and an antagonist because the way he refuses to sell the chocolates throughout the story makes him feel like an antagonist. There is a scene where bullies try to upset Jerry by calling him gay. This scene can be extremely hard for anyone who identifies with this term. It is a form of bullying meant to be used in a hurtful way. While I do enjoy this book, I wanted to acknowledge that scene in case anyone wants to avoid it.

Dark but interesting story about bullying and abuse of power.

4 howls

Friday, September 21, 2018

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

SynopsisIn a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection...because one wrong move could lead to her death.

Review: I highly enjoyed Mirage and it was certainly a great debut. Amani is a great character filled with an incredible amount of love for her family and her culture. She is strong as she has to endure being stripped from her home and dragged as a prisoner to a far off planet. She meets additional characters and learns more about the world she finds herself in. Maram, the princess, is harsh but broken. She was interesting to read about, but I know some people might have a hard time sympathizing with her. Her fiance, Idris, seems much more kind and Amani cannot help but get close to him. 

The story follows the same trope of the fake princess, but with a Moroccan flair. The setting is beautiful. Everything from Amani's majority night to the princess' palace is vivid. I will say, there is a heavy emphasis of colonialism in this book. Amani even comes to sympathize with some of her captors, so I would be careful if anyone does not like those kinds of plot points. I do think that could lead to great conversations about modern colonialism since those discussions tend to get pushed aside. I don't know anything about Moroccan culture, but some of the terms used like "majority night" made me think of Greek life at universities. I don't know if these are established things in Moroccan culture and if it was a coincidence, but seeing stuff like that helped me to understand what was happening in the story a bit more.

Beautiful story of a false princess. Curious to see if my suspicions about this story are correct. 

4 howls

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

SynopsisLara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.
She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

Review: P.S. I Still Love You had every bit of charm To All the Boys I Loved Before had. Lara Jean has to make major adjustments in her life and she faces consequences to events that occurred in the first book. I enjoyed seeing how she navigated life as more and more people saw the video between her and Peter on the ski trip. It really highlights the double-standard that appears when people discuss sex for men and sex for women. This doesn't get discussed nearly enough. I also loved seeing Lara Jean interact with the people at the nursing home. Jenny took time to show how relationships can be for people from other generations. We see this through Alicia and Stormy, Lara Jean herself, and even her dad. I think it's great to showcase the similarities and differences between generations and how they view relationships. 

One other thing I enjoyed was how we get to see Lara Jean struggle with her suddenly real relationship with Peter. A lot of this book is her recognizing things are different between them now because everything is real. This impacts the way they handle friendships and conversations between them. It felt like these scenes were done with an extraordinary amount of care. Like Jenny wanted readers to feel these struggles and love with Lara Jean. I know some people don't like how John was incorporated into the story, but I like it because it helps highlight the different ways a person can love. These relationships started out as crushes, but, with Peter, Lara loves him as a close family friend. John could be a potential love interest, but he is still more of a past love for Lara. Lucas is someone Lara loves as a best friend. As someone who has to navigate between these different loves herself, this whole series has meant a great deal to me so far. P.S. I Still Love You has great discussions of friendship too. We see Lara and her sister Kitty struggle with growing up and losing friends. Even though they are sisters, Jenny manages to make each experience feel unique which was fun to read. 

Adorable story with some great character conversations

4 howls

Monday, September 17, 2018

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Trigger warnings: Death, gun violence, blood

SynopsisA cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? 

As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually used his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator?

Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

Review: To put it simply, this book was incredible. If you're looking to get into books written in verse, I highly recommend this one. We follow Will as he watches his brother get shot and killed in their neighborhood. In Will's neighborhood, you are expected to take revenge if someone you love is killed. Those are the rules. The other rules are no crying and no snitching. As he is taking the elevator down to kill the person he thinks killed his brother, the elevator stops at each floor and other people get on. As the story progresses, you realize all the people getting on the elevator are victims of gun violence. From there, hard conversations are had about life and death. Each character fits in Will's life in some way and it's interesting seeing how these threads connect to one another. No character felt flat or unnecessary. Like I said, they are all victims of gun violence, but none of their stories felt repetitive. 

I'll be honest, Long Way Down has an open-ending. I like that because it allows readers to speculate on what Will does. Again, Will is just trying to follow the rules. The rules he's known his entire life. Let's break these rules down a little. One is no snitching. I don't know what the author's definition of snitching is but, in my mind, as these additional characters tell their stories to Will, they are snitching on themselves. They confide in him the good and the bad they had to endure in life. Another rule is no crying. This is an emotional book. Some of the characters tell Will about mistakes they made and it brings them to tears. Maybe out of shame. Maybe out of relief. Still, they cry openly to Will. The last rule is to take revenge. We see this in a few different ways through this story. I'm not going to go into detail because that's part of understanding these characters. My take on the ending, I like to think that seeing people Will admired break the rules of crying and snitching gave him silent permission to break the rules too. So he didn't have to feel like he got revenge. Especially in the situation of his neighborhood where not everything is what it seems. There is also a great book to discuss how gun violence doesn't end if people keep sticking to these ideals of revenge. At some point, a person has to be willing to admit that there's more than one person at fault and nothing is an easy fix.

Fantastic book with beautiful characters and messages.

5 howls

Potential talking points: 
-The concept of revenge
-Gun violence

Friday, September 14, 2018

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard

SynopsisThere is a dark secret that is hiding at the heart of New York City and diminishing the city’s magicians’ power in this fantasy thriller by acclaimed author Kat Howard.

In New York City, magic controls everything. But the power of magic is fading. No one knows what is happening, except for Sydney—a new, rare magician with incredible power that has been unmatched in decades, and she may be the only person who is able to stop the darkness that is weakening the magic. But Sydney doesn’t want to help the system, she wants to destroy it.

Sydney comes from the House of Shadows, which controls the magic with the help of sacrifices from magicians.

Review: Dang, I really wanted to like this story more than I actually did. I'm just going to go ahead and say, as soon as I heard the premise, my first thought was, "Wow that sounds a lot like the Fate series." As it turns out, it is quite a lot like the Fate series. So much so that I was distracted through most of the book. I know that part of the enjoyment of this book is seeing how Sydney really falls into place with this world, but I didn't find the reveal to be all that interesting. I liked Sydney as a character, but I didn't really care for her connection to the other characters. None of the other characters seemed very fleshed out which is a shame. I think if the book was longer, then we could have had more experiences with the other characters. 

The story was interesting but, again, too familiar for my liking. I did love how the magic was handled. I liked how there were actual consequences to using magic in this world. And it was written beautifully. I would love to read pages of characters just doing magic. No story necessary. Just write scenes with them doing magic. I also liked the progression of tone in the story. At first, the competitions are just looking to see who can perform magic better and no one really gets hurt, but that changes quickly as life-threatening challenges are made. 

Good concept, but could have stood to be longer and differentiated more from an already established series.

3 howls

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

SynopsisDimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Review:  I'll be honest, it took quite a long time for me to actually decide to read When Dimple Met Rishi. I heard about how abusive Dimple was to Rishi and that turned me off to it. I still wanted to read it, but it wasn't a very strong desire like it once was. Now, having finally read this book, I wish I read it sooner. I had a lot of fun reading When Dimple Met Rishi and experiencing their romance. Dimple was a very goal-oriented main character and I enjoyed that about her. There were little things that got on my nerves, like her clear aversion to make up and things, but those were all minor. Rishi was a sweet love interest, and I liked the way he balanced out other characters. Some of the other characters in this program were rich, white kids. Rishi's mere existence shows that not every rich person is white and some of them can be kind as well. I felt his character did a great job of showcasing these attributes and it didn't feel forced. There are a few side characters that I thought were interesting, Celia and Ashish specifically, but I feel like we will get to spend more time with them later. I know the next book focuses on Ashish, but I hope it explores some things with Celia as well. Only time will tell.

One of the major criticisms I heard from reviews was how little the story focused on programming considering Dimple and Rishi went to a summer program all about programming and making apps. I agree with this, but the book is called When Dimple Met Rishi, not When Dimple Went to Coding Camp. There are definitely ways to bring programming into a cute romance, but this book focused more on the characters and the relationships more than anything else. This might bother some people, but I quite enjoyed it. When Dimple Met Rishi did a great job of giving us an insight to the culture of Indian-Americans, but we also got to see very different ideals within this community. You'll see people say, "Women are not a monolith, African-Americans are not a monolith, Muslims are not a monolith, etc" This shows a real example of how that's true. Dimple is much more independent than her family wants, and Rishi is very much focused on his culture. I also appreciated how Dimple's mom wanted Dimple to wear make up for cultural reasons, and not just to make Dimple look pretty. I thought that was an interesting aspect I had never considered before. There were little cultural moments sprinkled throughout When Dimple Met Rishi which I really appreciated.

Cute romance that it seeped with beautiful, Indian culture.

4 howls

Monday, September 3, 2018

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

SynopsisWhat if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once? 

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

Review: I'm going to talk about the book and the film in this review. I'm just going to come out and say that I heard a lot of people talk about how annoying and immature Lara Jean sounded when they read this book. I disagree. I found her to be wistful, but also grounded. She has an idea of love that is a bit naive, but she also wasn't exposed to many relationships in her life. Her mom died when she was young and the only major relationship she was even around was her sister and Josh. That's not even a great example of a relationship because of how Josh was a fixture within her own family. 

As much as I hate the "friends to lovers" trope, I felt this was done rather well in To All the Boys I've Loved Before. Jenny took the time to really show how Josh was a real part of the Song girls' lives. He felt necessary and loving him was an understandable part of the story. This also did a great job with the fake dating trope. It seemed like there were distinct moments when Peter stopped pretending to date Lara Jean and legitimately wanted it to become a reality. 

As far as the film goes, I thought it was a solid adaptation. I wish they kept my favorite scene which is when Peter goes to get the donuts Lara Jean likes for the ski trip. They kind of do that when he gets the Korean yogurt, but part of me wishes they kept the donut aspect. Maybe it's because I like donuts more than yogurt. That was the only thing they changed that I wish they hadn't. I felt like the movie sped up the relationship between Peter and Lara Jean, so it didn't feel as genuine when they started to actually have feelings for each other. Like I said, a solid adaptation that I will definitely rewatch again and again.

4 howls

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

SynopsisEvelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Review: I'll be honest, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is not the kind of book I would normally pick up, but it was at my library and hype is a thing so I read it. There were a lot of complex feelings when I read this book. First off, let's talk characters. I really disliked Evelyn Hugo. It wasn't even that she was a fun character to dislike. I just genuinely thought she was an awful person. I'm never going to be one of those people who believes the awful things you go through gives you the right to be horrid to others. Monique was meant to be an interesting character, but I felt like she didn't have very much page time. Her life didn't feel as fleshed out which made her seem less important. Those were honestly the only two characters. Any other characters felt like they were only around to push Evelyn's story forward, but they weren't that interesting.

Where the characters fell flat, the story flourished. I can see why people got hooked on the drama of Evelyn's life. Each husband had their own part, and the way they bled into each other was well constructed. That being said, there were some aspects that never really got addressed. Namely, there was a time where Evelyn pretended to have a miscarriage. This was the moment that made me hate Evelyn deeply. I understand why it was done, but faking a miscarriage is horrific and no one called her out on it. This made me uncomfortable and I haven't had a miscarriage. I can't imagine how awful that must have been to anyone who has experienced that particular hardship. There was another moment where a fellow actress married one of Evelyn's ex-husbands, and she ended up getting abused the same way Evelyn was. That also showed how little Evelyn cared about others. I know I already said it, but gosh I hated Evelyn very much.

Now that I'm done talking about what I disliked, let's move onto what I enjoyed. There were so many great opportunities for discussion throughout this book. There's a scene between Monique and Evelyn that felt particularly poignant. Evelyn mentions that she was in love with a woman and Monique immediately labels Evelyn as a lesbian. Evelyn gets mad and chastises Monique for trying to erase her bisexual identity. That allowed Monique to reflect on her own erasure being a bi-racial woman. That was a moment that stood out. I also liked seeing Evelyn tackle the erasure of her Cuban identity because that was self-erasure and I don't know any other book to actually bring that up.

On the note of sexuality, I loved the way sex and sexuality were dissected through this novel. Especially since the main character was a beautiful, young actress. We can really see the expectations people had of her throughout her career. There were also great scenes where Evelyn got to experience the difference between why women are supposed to have sex versus why men are supposed to have sex. There were some moments that were hard to read for me because of Evelyn's attitude towards her own beauty and sex, but I still think this is a great way to start being more open about these topics and expectations.

Finally, there are the bits about the media. As the story goes along, we get clips from newspapers that supplement Evelyn's story. We get to see how Evelyn and her friends are able to manipulate the media. I do wish things hadn't gone quite as smoothly for them because I wanted to see how they handled things differently. On that note, if anyone is in the media field, they might be uncomfortable of how the media is depicted as pawns in this story. I thought it was interesting, but sad. That being said, it seemed like these newspapers were meant to resemble tabloids and not papers like The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal.

I'm leaving this unrated because, like I said, I had complicated feelings. Overall, the characters were underwhelming, but the story was engaging and there are a ton of great talking points.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

SynopsisJade believes she must get out of her neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother says she has to take every opportunity. She has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Except really, it’s for black girls. From “bad” neighborhoods.

But Jade doesn’t need support. And just because her mentor is black doesn’t mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference.

Friendships, race, privilege, identity—this compelling and thoughtful story explores the issues young women face.
Review: Piecing Me Together was one of those books I heard a lot of good things about, but I was still surprised at how much I loved it. Jade was an incredible character and I enjoyed seeing her work towards her goals. She never let anything get in her way and I think that's admirable. She was also incredibly aware of how people treated her. I know that's a common thing for African-American people to by hyper aware of how things are said and done differently around them. I'm not black, so I don't know if there is a certain age they start to notice, but I liked seeing Jade's perspective as she navigates these moments.

This book is a great example of how the summary is only a small part of what the entire story is about. While Jade does get into a mentorship program and she has to work out her feelings about the program, Piecing Me Together is really about the other relationships in Jade's life as well. We get to experience how she interacts with her mother, her friends, her teachers, and other characters. We see how these people and relationships are what helps Jade become who she is.

Beautiful story with a lot to take away from it.

5 howls

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Darkest Legacy by Alexandra Bracken

SynopsisFive years after the destruction of the so-called rehabilitation camps that imprisoned her and countless other Psi kids, seventeen-year-old Suzume "Zu" Kimura has assumed the role of spokesperson for the interim government, fighting for the rights of Psi kids against a growing tide of misinformation and prejudice. But when she is accused of committing a horrifying act, she is forced to go on the run once more in order to stay alive.

Determined to clear her name, Zu finds herself in an uncomfortable alliance with Roman and Priyanka, two mysterious Psi who could either help her prove her innocence or betray her before she gets the chance. But as they travel in search of safety and answers, and Zu grows closer to the people she knows she shouldn't trust, they uncover even darker things roiling beneath the veneer of the country's recovery. With her future-and the future of all Psi-on the line, Zu must use her powerful voice to fight back against forces that seek to drive the Psi into the shadows and save the friends who were once her protectors.

From #1 New York Times best-selling author Alexandra Bracken comes a harrowing story of resilience, resistance, and reckoning that will thrill loyal fans and new readers alike.

Review: I wasn't really sure how to feel about The Darkest Legacy since Zu is my favorite character and I liked how the overall series ended. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading this book. First, let's talk about the not great things. Zu's character felt off at the beginning mostly because she was supposed to be a spokesperson and that didn't seem genuine. As someone who has had issues with speaking and feeling like my voice is important, I have a hard time believing she would be willing to take that role even 5 years after the events from the first series. She also knew Roman and Priya were lying to her, but she still trusted them in some regards? Again, that just seemed weird to me, as a reader. On the note of the new characters, I quite liked Roman and Priyanka because they represented the downsides to this new world Zu is living in. They challenge Zu and what she stands for so I enjoyed their inclusion in the story. 

I loved the overall story. It brings up interesting discussion about government and recovery from trauma. There were so many moments when Zu thought she knew what was happening in her world, but she really didn't. She had to learn the hard way that some politics are just a front for more unseemly behaviors. I also loved how we got to see Zu navigate through things without Liam or Ruby. We get a snippet of this in her short story with Gabe, but that doesn't compare to having her own book. Also, on the note of Gabe, I like how that story gets referenced in The Darkest Legacy. Bringing those stories into the actual series makes them feel more connected and I'm glad Alex did that instead of making them filler.

Zu had to grow on me as a character, but the story was as good as ever.

4 howls

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi

Synopsis: In the walled city of Kos, corrupt mages can magically call forth sin from a sinner in the form of sin-beasts – lethal creatures spawned from feelings of guilt.

Taj is the most talented of the aki, young sin-eaters indentured by the mages to slay the sin-beasts. But Taj’s livelihood comes at a terrible cost. When he kills a sin-beast, a tattoo of the beast appears on his skin while the guilt of committing the sin appears on his mind. Most aki are driven mad by the process, but 17-year-old Taj is cocky and desperate to provide for his family.

When Taj is called to eat a sin of a royal, he’s suddenly thrust into the center of a dark conspiracy to destroy Kos. Now Taj must fight to save the princess that he loves – and his own life.

A gritty Nigerian-influenced fantasy.

Review: Holy cow, I loved this book. First off, the characters were fantastic. Taj was an incredible main character and I thought he was depicted quite well as someone who comes from nothing and is suddenly given everything. That transition going from a have-not to a have was very believable. Anzu and Aliya were both great as well. They both give us a bit more insight into life in the palace. Anzu as a servant of sorts, and Aliya as a Mage. There's a moment when Taj says he is the big brother all the aki want to be like and Bo is the more compassionate one. I completely see that, but it made the ending of the book much more impactful. I won't say more than that, but I'm curious to see how decisions that were made in this book impact the next one. Omar, in my opinion, was the weakest character. He is introduced as a timid, new aki but he somehow grows more confident in a day or two? I also wish the book was a little longer and we got to know Zainab a bit more. That was the only thing that bothered me about the characterization. Everything else was quite well done, and all the characters felt unique and necessary.

As for the story, I was hooked from page one. I wish I could have read this in one sitting, but I did end up plowing through it in a day. I thought the world of the aki was fascinating and it really brings to light the idea of sin and the obligation some people feel to take another person's pain and shame. That was heartbreaking. Seeing the aki be used in such a manner was difficult. There is a scene where Taj catches Zainab with, what I assume, is a kind of alcohol. She mentions that it helps with her head after she eats a sin. That is a hard, beautiful truth about people who don't have a healthy way of dealing with their demons. I loved every bit of this book and what people can discuss from it. 

Exciting story with interesting characters who have to constantly make difficult decisions.

5 howls

Potential Talking Points:
-Nigerian influence
-Cultural significance of tattoos
-Alcoholism and various kinds of coping mechanisms for dealing with hard times
-Death and grief

Monday, August 20, 2018

Through the Dark by Alexandra Bracken

SynopsisDon't miss this breathtaking collection of stories set in the world of the New York Times best-selling Darkest Minds trilogy. Featuring ebook original novellas In Time and Sparks Rise, and a gripping, brand-new novella, Through the Dark is a must-have for fans of the Darkest Minds. This collection contains three novellas: In TimeSparks Rise, and Beyond the Night, as well as a sneak peek at the first novel in Alexandra Bracken's new series, Passenger

Gabe's life has been devastated in the wake of the economic crash. The only option left for someone like him to escape his tragic past is to leave his small town behind and to attempt to become a skiptracer. This already almost-impossible task is made all the more difficult by his first "score,"a young girl who won't speak, but who changes his life in ways he could never imagine. 

Sam didn't think things could get worse at Thurmond rehabilitation camp. Then the Reds arrive. Everyone assumed the kids with firepower had been killed years ago. Instead they were taken away, brainwashed, and returned as terrifyingly effective guards. To her horror, Sam recognizes one of them: Lucas, the one spark of light in Sam's dark childhood. Lucas has a deadly secret--he beat the brutal training that turned his fellow Reds into mindless drones. When Sam defends herself against an attack by a vile PSF guard and faces a harrowing punishment, Lucas must risk everything to save her. 

The government-run "rehabilitation camps" have been shut down, but kids with Psi powers are anything but free. Sam would rather be on her own than put in the care of a foster family and given the "cure"--a dangerous procedure that unclaimed kids across the country are being forced to undergo. But there's more at stake than just her own safety. Sam once made someone a promise, and the time has come to fulfill it. Now that she's out of her camp, Mia only has one thought in her head: finding Lucas, her beloved older brother.

Review: This is a collection of novellas set in the world of The Darkest Minds. I'm going to do a short review for each story. Also, I didn't read this in one sitting. I read each story between books as that's where they fit in the series.

In Time
This might be my favorite story of the series. Partially because it focuses on Zu, but I also like how it focuses on the complexities of being an adult in this world. Gabe was an interesting character and I liked seeing his internal struggles as he interacted with Zu. For such a short story, I liked seeing how much Gabe grew throughout this story. This is also a nice story to help understand what happened to Zu. She isn't in book 2 at all and, in book 3, she mentions running into an adult named Gabe.

Sparks Rise
Sparks Rise focuses on Sam and how she dealt with Thurmond after Ruby left. This story also contains a cute romance built on a long friendship. For those who enjoy "best friend to lovers" tropes, this might be a good story to read. Sparks Rise is a dual perspective story following Sam and Lucas, an old friend who is also a Red. It manages to show what happens to Reds in rehab camps which I found fascinating. Just that insight alone made this story worth reading, in my opinion. While this was my least favorite of the three stories, I still found it compelling and I wanted to know more.

Beyond the Night
Beyond the Night was a very close second at being my favorite story. This one is a dual perspective following Sam, again, as well as Mia, Lucas' brother. They have to navigate being outside of Thurmond all while Mia is trying to find her brother. There is heartbreak and hope in this one, short story. It's a beautiful look at the despair left behind from the camps. We also see characters from the main series and it was nice to see how they have all come together. Excellent story to end off the main series.

All of these stories added new layers to the world and we get to have new adventures with previously established characters.

4 howls

Friday, August 17, 2018

In the Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken

SynopsisRuby can't look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government's attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. With them is a prisoner: Clancy Gray, son of the president, and one of the few people Ruby has encountered with abilities like hers. Only Ruby has any power over him, and just one slip could lead to Clancy wreaking havoc on their minds. 

They are armed only with a volatile secret: proof of a government conspiracy to cover up the real cause of IAAN, the disease that has killed most of America's children and left Ruby and others like her with powers the government will kill to keep contained. But internal strife may destroy their only chance to free the "rehabilitation camps" housing thousands of other Psi kids.

Meanwhile, reunited with Liam, the boy she would-and did-sacrifice everything for to keep alive, Ruby must face the painful repercussions of having tampered with his memories of her. She turns to Cole, his older brother, to provide the intense training she knows she will need to take down Gray and the government. But Cole has demons of his own, and one fatal mistake may be the spark that sets the world on fire.

Review: In the Afterlight is a good coming together of events from the first 2 books. The group from The Darkest Minds and the group from Never Fade work together for a common purpose: to end the events and Thurmond. It was great seeing the characters interact with each other. I especially enjoyed the brotherly interactions between Cole and Liam. They argued often, but you could still see the way they tried to protect each other. It was also interesting seeing how they looked at situations since they had different world experiences.

As far as story goes, this concluding novel doesn't focus as much on taking over the ruling government power, but it does focus on taking over Thurmond and Ruby dealing with grief. One of the reasons why I like this series more than other dystopians is because of how close it hits to our modern life. This book highlights how media affects public opinion, even at the expense of those who are weaker than others. We also get snippets of how others live in this time period, mostly adults. This reminded me a lot of The Handmaid's Tale in the way these scenes were shared. That balance between modern life and dystopian life is interesting, and done quite well.

Conclusion to one of my favorite dystopian series. Highly recommend.

4 howls

Monday, August 13, 2018

Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

SynopsisRuby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster. 

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her. 

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?

Review: Never Fade is the second book in the Darkest Minds trilogy. This book is entirely focused on the Children's League so, if you were disappointed in the lack of Children's League from the first book, this one might be more your speed. What I enjoyed the most about Never Fade is that we have an entirely new cast of characters introduced. Instead of Zu, Liam, and Chubs, we get Vida, Jude, and even Cate. Vida and Jude were my favorites from this book and I loved every scene they were in. Vida and Ruby would fight a lot, but they were great opposites much like Liam and Chubs were in the first book. Jude was just kind. He had this incredible way of looking at the world and trying to do his best for everyone else. It was nice seeing how comfortable Ruby got in this book when it came to her powers. She still struggles, but there was definitely some growth. Another interesting character we get to know is Cole. I won't say too much about him, but I love getting to see his story unfold again. He is one of the more interesting characters. We do get some returning characters, but I won't go into who they are.

This story was just as action packed as the first one. The Children's League sends Ruby on missions which helps to keep the action going. This also allows us to see the inner workings of the Children's League. We do see Ruby break away from the Children's League which is a nice setup for the last book in the series. We also see the government retaliate against the Children's League. In the first book, the League is like a phantom force that the government doesn't seem to do much about. In Never Fade, we get to see how the government takes action. We also see some potential revivals of forces from the first book. I won't go into what I'm referring to, but it does make this story and Ruby's decisions quite interesting. I've been highly enjoying my re-read of this series and I can't wait to finish In The Afterlight.

4 howls