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, 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

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

SynopsisWhen Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.

Review: I've read The Darkest Minds 3 times now, so I'm clearly a fan of this series. This is one of the few adventure dystopians I've read where all the characters feel important and they all bring their own unique charm. My favorite is Zu, but Chubs is a close second. They are both so in tune with the world they're in and they make decisions based on that, as opposed to Liam and Ruby who are focused on a singular mission. That's fine and it helps the story progress, but this is why I love Zu and Chubs. All of the kids were believable for their age as well. Zu was shy, Ruby was closed off because she hadn't been outside the camp for a long time, and Chubs and Liam were both headstrong. They were constantly bumping heads, but not enough to end their friendship which is refreshing. They always seem to challenge each other to think outside of their own experiences and look at other options. 

The story is so well thought out. This is an almost 500 page book, so you might have to work up to reading this if you don't read a lot of larger books. I think the story is balanced quite well though. We get a good feel for how camp life was like for Ruby, but we also get snippets of her past peppered throughout the story. I wish we got a little bit more clarification on the different color categories and what these powers could be. The twists in this book are still solid and, while I knew what was coming, I still looked forward to seeing the characters react. I'm glad I made the decision to re-read this series because I do enjoy it quite a bit. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

SynopsisJust as the rains come after ten long, dry years, a young wizard, Wayland North, appears, to whisk Sydelle Mirabil away from her desert village. North needs an assistant, and Sydelle is eager to see the country - and to join him on his quest to stop the war that surely will destroy her home. But North has secrets - about himself, about why he chose Sydelle, about his real reasons for the journey. What does he want from her? And why does North's sworn enemy seem fascinated by Sydelle himself?

Through a journey that spans a country, magic and hard-won romance are woven together with precision and brilliant design by a first-time novelist.

Review: I decided to re-read Brightly Woven since I haven't read it since it came out, and I'm glad I made that decision. I remembered enjoyed Sydelle and North together and that feeling definitely stuck. They aren't perfect characters, but they have fun banter which I always appreciate. A lot of care seemed to go into the side characters as well. Owain, Oliver, the queen and the sorceress all felt distinct which is impressive considering this was Alex's debut. 

The only negative I really have to say is that the world was very small. Granted, this was a standalone fantasy which is ambitious on its own. It just would have been nice if it was longer and more was explored. There are two lands in this story and we only really get a feel for one of them. I enjoyed how reading this book, at times, felt similar to playing a video game. North and Sydelle set off on a singular quest, but on the way they would stop and do what I thought of as little sidequests. Maybe it's just because I play a lot of video games, but this was how I viewed their journey. I also think this is the perfect book for people who don't read a lot of fantasy, but want to check some out. The way Alex incorporates street names made it feel similar to a contemporary story so I think it might be easier for new fantasy readers to get through.

Easy standalone fantasy with interesting characters. Thoroughly enjoyed this re-read.

4 howls

Friday, August 3, 2018

Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann

SynopsisAlice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting--working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she's asexual). Alice is done with dating--no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

Review: Man, it took me a hot minute to pick this book up. I've been avoiding contemporary books because of reasons, but I had very high expectations for this particular book. I finally got around to reading this gem, and my expectations were met and more. First off, Alice is a very easy character to relate to. Having been a full time student all my life, when I had to start taking one class a semester for my mental health, it was difficult telling my parents. You can see Alice dealing with the same disappointment when she has to talk to her parents about not wanting to go to law school. No matter what stage of schooling a person is in, I'm sure they can relate to this scenario. Takumi is precious. Honestly, part of why I connected with this book so much is because Takumi reminded me very much of someone I fell in love with and that was honestly a little terrifying. Putting personal feelings aside, I loved seeing how he and Alice interacted. They danced around this "Is he attracted to me? Is she attracted to me?" situation very well. Claire did a great job of framing their interactions so they could be just friends at the end of the book, or end up together, and either option would make sense.

The story was cute. I do wish the book was longer and expanded on some things though. For instance, Alice and Takumi work together, but no one seems to mind the way they act around each other. They weren't being overly flirty, in my opinion, but their boss and coworker made comments about them ending up together which I thought was odd. I loved the conversations Alice had about asexuality with her friends, the counselor she was seeing, and Takumi. I think they were all handled very well and I appreciated Alice's experiences with sex and how she came to terms with being asexual. If you're looking for a book about a girl who knows she's asexual, but how this can affect her life, this is definitely a great one to pick up

Beautiful book with a great main character and love interest. 

5 howls

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

SynopsisBeyond the Empire and within it, the threat of war looms ever larger.

The Blood Shrike, Helene Aquilla, is assailed on all sides. Emperor Marcus, haunted by his past, grows increasingly unstable, while the Commandant capitalizes on his madness to bolster her own power. As Helene searches for a way to hold back the approaching darkness, her sister's life and the lives of all those in the Empire hang in the balance.

Far to the east, Laia of Serra knows the fate of the world lies not in the machinations of the Martial court, but in stopping the Nightbringer. But while hunting for a way to bring him down, Laia faces unexpected threats from those she hoped would aid her, and is drawn into a battle she never thought she'd have to fight.

And in the land between the living and the dead, Elias Veturius has given up his freedom to serve as Soul Catcher. But in doing so, he has vowed himself to an ancient power that will stop at nothing to ensure Elias's devotion--even at the cost of his humanity.

Review: This is the 3rd book in Sabaa's fantasy series, If you're reading this review, you likely have a slight idea of what the world is about. We get to dive more into each of the characters in this book which is something Sabaa does very well. With each book, even though the characters are the same, we get new layers to them and we get to see their motivations in new ways. I've seen some people talk about Helene Aquilla's character and how they hate seeing people sympathize with her because of her ties to colonialism. That's completely fair. Helene is still doing what she has to do for the Empire. That being said, we do get to see her develop slightly different motivations for making her decisions. I think she is a fascinating character and I want to see how her story turns out. Same with Laia and Elias. They both began this series with very strict motivations but, as their story developed, so have their motivations.

I will say there were some parts of this story that felt like they dragged a bit. Particularly with Laia which was a pity. Her story also felt predictable towards the end. I loved seeing more of the jinn world and seeing more of those characters. That is easily my favorite part of the series so far. I think Sabaa crafts a beautiful world for them to live in and I like seeing how their world influences the human world. Things with Helene and the Empire definitely take a turn in this book and I can't wait to see how everything comes together in the final book. I think the story could go a few different ways and I'm not sure which one I want the most. 

This book is full of growth in the way of the characters and the world, but it still maintains its action-packed narrative.

4 howls

Friday, July 27, 2018

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Trigger Warnings: Violence, slavery, torture

SynopsisElias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.

Review: I enjoyed A Torch Against the Night quite a lot. My opinions of the main characters didn't really change, but we meet Afya and Mamie who are definitely my favorite characters. They are both so strong and dependable. The thing I loved about Mamie specifically was how well she countered the Commandant. The Commandant is Elias' mother, but Mamie was just as much of a mother figure to him. There is a great scene where Mamie commands the respect of other tribespeople which is a different way of ruling to the Commandant who demands obedience through fear. I love this because of how these two vastly different people influenced Elias. You can really see how he struggles with how he wants to lead people. Afya is just an incredible person. She's sexy and sly. She isn't afraid to use her feminine charm to get her way. Generally, I don't like that, but she does it so well. She's also very smart and she'll do whatever it takes to protect her people.

As far as the story goes, it was just as fast paced as the first book. I will say, there were some parts that I saw coming. I greatly enjoyed getting to interact with some of the magical creatures in this world. Learning more about the jinn was incredible. And every variation of them felt truly unique. The Soul Catcher and how she ties into Laia and Elias was particularly interesting. I'm excited to start Reaper and see how things progress in this world. There were more chilling bits in this story. There are discussions of genocide and I couldn't help but think of how Nazi's treated Jewish prisoners. I know there are more examples of genocide in the world, but that will always be the thing my brain thinks of first. Any sort of mass genocide is heartbreaking, and that doesn't change when you're reading about characters in a work of fiction.

Great second book in a series, and I love some of the new characters.

4 howls

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Trigger Warnings: Slave-Owner tropes, abuse, violence, attempted rape

SynopsisUnder the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Review: This was actually a re-read for me and I'm glad I made the decision to re-read the book. I enjoyed it the first time, but I kept hearing this was a standalone so, when I got to the end, I was disappointed at the lack of closure in the story. That aside, I enjoyed this book as much the second time. I remembered a fair amount from the first time I read the book, but I still found myself flipping the pages and falling headfirst into this world again. I loved being back with Laia and Elias and seeing their interactions again. There are a lot of things with their friendship that people will not like because it's build on slavery and colonialism. That's completely fair and I think it should be noted in case anyone wants to know. I enjoyed reading the internal struggles between Elias and Laia as they both struggled to come to terms with aspects of their upbringing that they didn't agree with.

Again, I found the story and the world to be compelling. I loved reading through the different trials and how they were swept up in mystery. There was a ton of action in An Ember in the Ashes, but there was also subtle intrigue that Sabaa included very well. I will say, straight up, I don't like any of the potential romances in this series. I'm sure some people will end up getting together, so I'll try to not hold that against the series. I just don't see any positive things from any of these relationships. 

Beautiful world with an engaging story. I'm going to try to pretend the romances do not exist. :)

4 howls

Monday, July 23, 2018

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

Trigger Warnings: There is a heavy emphasis on death and family grief throughout this book

SynopsisThe breathtaking story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. As the Dunbar boys love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world, they discover the moving secret behind their father’s disappearance. At the center of the Dunbar, family is Clay, a boy who will build a bridge—for his family, for his past, for greatness, for his sins, for a miracle. The question is, how far is Clay willing to go? And how much can he overcome?

Review: I had the incredible opportunity to read Bridge of Clay early, and I'm so thankful I could. First off, I really enjoyed how the book focused on Clay's story, but we also get a fair amount of time with the other Dunbar boys. Some of them felt more fleshed out than others, but they were all unique and they all added to the story. It was interesting to see Zusak make characters of the Dunbar pets as well. That's a small detail that I really appreciate. I did find some aspects of the book predictable. I don't know if that's because of the way Zusak wrote the overall story, or if I've just read similar books before. Nevertheless, my heart still hurt for this family as they had to navigate through their grief.

The plot was probably the weakest part of the book. It was still good, but this felt more character driven than anything else. Part of this might be due to the shifting narrative style. Some of the story was told during the present, but sometimes we would go back to the past and experience certain life events. This made some parts of the story disorienting. I will say, The Book Thief had some moments like that as well, but it made sense because the narrator was Death. This narrator was one of Clay's brothers so it seemed weird to suddenly be reading about how his parents met and their lives before children. The story involving Clay's bridge seemed to be neglected while we were moving through the story which is a bit of a shame. Zusak's books are incredibly quick to read, and he always finds ways to make gripping stories. I enjoyed reading this a lot and I can't wait to get my hands on a finished copy.

Great characters, but the plot seemed rather hit-or-miss

4 howls

Friday, July 20, 2018

Lost Boy by Christina Henry

Trigger Warnings: Violence, child murder, mutilation, domestic abuse

SynopsisThere is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. This is how it happened. How I went from being Peter Pan’s first—and favorite—lost boy to his greatest enemy.

Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter's idea of fun is sharper than a pirate’s sword. Because it’s never been all fun and games on the island. Our neighbors are pirates and monsters. Our toys are knife and stick and rock—the kinds of playthings that bite.

Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever.

Review: I really need more Peter Pan retellings in my life. This book was so good. I love seeing how people interpret the origin stories of villains. Hook's backstory in Lost Boy was very well done. You could see him constantly at war with himself about how much he loves Peter and the lost boys, but he also knows their way of life is dangerous. He struggles with being incredibly protective and how that changes the dynamics between the boys. I liked to see how the other boys acted around Jamie (Hook) and Peter. There were some characters that made me think of the cartoon, specifically the twins Nod and Fog. The way Christina depicted Peter was brilliant. There was so much darkness in his character that fit the story incredibly well. I do wish we had a little more interaction with the pirates. The story was obviously not focused on them, but I think it would have been nice to see Jamie interact with them a bit more since he grows up to become one.

Lost Boy was short, but dark. Christina didn't pull any punches when she showed how dangerous Neverland really was. There were scenes were even I was surprised at how gory they were. We did get to go to a few iconic places. Peter Pan's hideout and Skull Island were prominent in this book. Christina also introduced seemingly new locations and monsters which fit in quite well with the rest of the world. We do get to see a bit of the fairies in Neverland, but not very much. I think this could have been a fun thing to expand on, but Christina left it alone. It worked fine for the story as a whole, but I like seeing how authors show off fairies in stories, and I think this could have been a great inclusion.

Great, dark story based on Peter Pan.

4 howls

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

SynopsisOne starry night, Peter Pan and Tinker Bell lead the three Darling children over the rooftops of London and away to Neverland - the island where lost boys play, mermaids splash and fairies make mischief. But a villainous-looking gang of pirates lurk in the docks, led by the terrifying Captain James Hook. Magic and excitement are in the air, but if Captain Hook has his way, before long, someone will be walking the plank and swimming with the crocodiles...

Review: I'm a sucker for retellings, but I rarely sit down and read the original source material. I finally let myself be whisked away to Neverland and I'm so glad I did. First off, yes this book has dark moments. Peter is an awful child and I always found myself worried about the lost boys and the Darling children. This is also definitely a product of its time and the way Barrie depicts Native American characters is tragic. I'm sure this is supposed to be a childish, ignorant view of them, but it is still unfortunate. This has long been pointed out because of the Disney movies, but it seemed important to throw that note in here as well.

The story of Peter Pan was fun and I found myself getting nervous for the children even though I knew what was going to happen at the end. I actually didn't watch the animated movie that much as a child, but there was an adaptation released in 2003 that I used to watch all the time. I found myself picturing characters and scenes from that movie throughout the entire story. In the way of reading the book, it was a bit distracting, but I did realize how faithful of an adaptation that movie was which was nice. There are small, beautiful moments that I love like how Peter describes the birth of fairies.

Worth checking out if you want to read more classic source material, but a horrid depiction of Native Americans.

3 howls

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green

SynopsisIn Brigant, Princess Catherine prepares for a political marriage arranged by her brutal and ambitious father, while her true love, Ambrose, faces the executioner's block.

In Calidor, downtrodden servant March seeks revenge on the prince who betrayed his people. In Pitoria, feckless Edyon steals cheap baubles for cheaper thrills as he drifts from town to town.

And in the barren northern territories, thirteen-year-old Tash is running for her life as she plays bait for the gruff demon hunter Gravell.

As alliances shift and shatter, and old certainties are overturned, our five heroes find their past lives transformed and their futures inextricably linked by the unpredictable tides of magic and war.

Who will rise and who will fall? And who will claim the ultimate prize?

Review: I had a lot of fun while reading this book. I enjoyed all of the main characters which is not common. I was excited every time characters interacted and I could see their threads cross. That being said, there were some things I couldn't help but notice. Catherine made a comment when she met the man she was supposed to marry and said he might have been attractive if it wasn't for the scars on his face. That felt like an unnecessary observation. There are also a couple of characters, March and Edyon, who appear to be attracted to one another. But March also seems to be manipulative which is a pity. If there are other queer characters in later books to help balance this out, then it might not be a terribly big deal. But, it seems as though one of the few queer characters is a bad character. These are things to be mindful of if you do not like this kind of representation.

The story itself was enjoyable, but I felt the world itself lacked a bit. I just had a hard time picturing some of the countries. I was also a little disappointed that we didn't get more experiences with demons and their smoke. We do have a couple of scenes where characters use the smoke to heal someone, but I wish the necessity of this object was a bit more fleshed out. I'm hoping that we get more of the setting and this coveted demon smoke in the future books. I'm curious to see how the smoke gets used in the overarching politics of this world.

Fun, quick read that has some growing to do.

3 howls

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

SynopsisAnda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It's a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It's a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends. 

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer--a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person's real livelihood is at stake. 

From acclaimed teen author (Little BrotherFor the Win) and Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow and Koko Be Good creator Jen Wang, In Real Life is a perceptive and high-stakes look at adolescence, gaming, poverty, and culture clash.

Review: I have seen people talk about In Real Life favorably, so I definitely had to pick it up when I saw it at my second-hand bookstore. As a character, Anda was easy to relate to but still flawed. I thought she was a great depiction of what happens when ignorant Americans try to force people from other countries to act like them. I wish that we had been able to get to know some of the side characters more. I feel like they could have added to the conversation in a meaningful way. Instead, we only got little scenes to show that Anda wasn't a complete loner. She was in a D&D club and went out with her family. These bits were nice, but they didn't do much to build up the world or Anda's character. There are also side characters in the world of Coarsegold Online, but we don't really know them either. We have conversations with a couple, Liza and Raymond, but the rest fall the the background rather quickly.

The story was interesting. Again, there were some moments that could have been expanded. I also wish we had more development of the game's world. I thought Cory and Jen did a great job of depicting how difficult it can be for teens to befriend people online. I still have a hard time telling mom about some of my online friends because she has always been against that idea. Seeing how close Anda got to Liza and Raymond hit close to home. I have a fairly close group of online friends, so I know how important those relationships can be. 

The art is beautiful. It was great to see how light and colorful the game world is. It was interesting to see how they depicted gamers in the real world. I don't know any who generally sit in the dark to play video games, so that was weird to me. That being said, it did make for a very interesting contrast when going from the real world to the game world. I liked that they made all of the gold farmers the same kind of character. It really played into Anda's ignorance when she approached a character who she thought was Raymond, but it was someone else. 

As a whole, this story was enjoyable but I wished it was longer. Some parts of the world and the characters felt missing, which was unfortunate. 

3 howls

Monday, July 9, 2018

Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

Synopsis: When Calamity lit up the sky, the Epics were born. David’s fate has been tied to their villainy ever since that historic night. Steelheart killed his father. Firefight stole his heart. And now Regalia has turned Prof, his closest ally, into a dangerous enemy.
    David knew Prof’s secret, and kept it even when Prof struggled to control the effects of his Epic powers. But facing Obliteration in Babilar was too much. Once the Reckoners’ leader, Prof has now embraced his Epic destiny. He’s disappeared into those murky shadows of menace Epics are infamous for the world over, and everyone knows there’s no turning back. . . .
   But everyone is wrong. Redemption is possible for Epics—Megan proved it. They’re not lost. Not completely. And David is just about crazy enough to face down the most powerful High Epic of all to get his friend back. Or die trying.

Review: First off, I didn't put any trigger warnings on here because, as there is still guns being used, it feels less prevalent than the earlier books. I also figure, if you've read up to Calamity then you probably don't care if guns are being used. As for characters, there isn't really much to say about them that hasn't already been said. I enjoyed seeing some characters like Prof and Megan struggle with things throughout the book. I enjoyed the setting in this book as well. A city made of salt was an interesting choice and it brought some new challenges that the characters had to adapt to. I will say there were some aspects of the story that I was disappointed in. This series plays a bit with the idea of parallel worlds. I guess, because I've read some of Sanderson's other works and I know how his books can be, it felt like there was a lot missing out of this series as a whole. It's still very enjoyable, but I think he could have expanded on this idea of parallel worlds. Maybe he'll do that in a later series? Who knows? I also wasn't terribly fond of the ending. I won't give it away, but it felt like a bit of a cop out. I was just a bit underwhelmed with the conclusion of this series.

Fun series overall, but a slightly disappointing ending.

3 howls

Friday, July 6, 2018

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

Trigger Warnings: Detailed use and descriptions of guns

SynopsisBabylon Restored, formerly Manhattan, may give David answers. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic, Regalia, David is sure Babylon Restored will lead him to what he needs to find. And while entering another city oppressed by a High Epic despot is a gamble, David's willing to risk it. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David's heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic—Firefight. And he's willing to go on a quest darker, and more dangerous even, than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.

Review: Firefight was just as action-packed as Steelheart. I loved getting more familiar with Firefight's abilities. I think it is an interesting concept. David is a moron. For reasons I won't go into because of spoilers. I didn't like the way he handled certain things which was a bit disappointing. I liked seeing how some of the other characters grew within the confines of this story, and getting to know new characters was delightful. Mizzy, Exel, even Regalia were all fascinating to me. I loved Regalia. I thought she had a very interesting ability and seeing how things played out with her was definitely surprising.

Again, like Steelheart, this book never seemed to slow down in the way of pacing. Babylon Restored was a much more interesting setting than Newcago, in my opinion. I loved seeing how people navigated the watery city. My favorite thing about this particular book was the conversations other characters had with David about how Steelheart was a dictator, but also "not that bad" when compared to other Epics. I think, given the world we live in now, this is a very applicable conversation people could have about settling with those who are in charge of our country. The idea that characters were willing to settle with Steelheart as a ruler still blows my mind.

Another fast-paced book from Sanderson that can easily bring difficult conversations to the surface of our conversations.

4 howls

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Trigger Warnings: Death, gun usage, gun knowledge

SynopsisTen years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will.

Nobody fights the Epics...nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart — the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning — and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

Review: This was a re-read for me and it was just as fun as the first time I read it. David, as a character, was interesting and incredibly flawed. He has this one-track mind about killing Steelheart, and he doesn't think of much else. Though, this dedication does make him attractive to the Reckoners, the rebel group trying to take out Epics. I didn't think the other Reckoners were quite as fleshed out as David and Prof which is a bit of a pity. I did greatly enjoy meeting and interacting with other Epics. Their powers feel so different from the standard Marvel/DC villains and it was very enjoyable getting to see that.

From the start, Steelheart is full of action. It felt like something major was happening in every chapter which made this book extremely easy to read. When I read this book the first time, I thought the ending was predictable. Upon re-read, while it still felt predictable, I enjoyed seeing how the story progressed through a new mindset. As someone who already knew, for certain, what happened at the end. I haven't read the rest of the series yet, so I'm excited to see how the overall story ends. This group called the Faithful are mentioned a couple of times in the book, and I hope we get to dive a bit deeper into that group later in the series. I'm also curious to know if any "good" Epics exist, or if they are all power-hungry monsters. The biggest thing I feel like people should be wary of is the constant use of guns. I know that's a very sensitive topic and David is very knowledgeable of them. He has a scene where he is breaking down and explaining different gun types. If this sounds like a turn off to anyone, then they might want to avoid this book.

Engaging take on superhero/supervillain stories with a slightly predictable plotline.

4 howls

Monday, July 2, 2018

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Trigger Warnings: Domestic abuse, death, anti-semitic

SynopsisMiryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders... but her father isn't a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife's dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty--until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers' pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed--and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it's worth--especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

Review: Spinning Silver is another one of Naomi Novik's beautiful reimaginings of a classic tale. The beginning of the story focuses on Miryem as she tries to survive this harsh world. She is not the only main character, though. While the story starts with her, Novik slowly pulls background characters to the forefront of the novel and gives them stories of their own. I love the way that she does this as it allows us to get familiar with one character at a time, and better understand their place in the overarching story. I will say that, while each perspective was interesting, they didn't feel all that distinctive. Especially considering some of them were siblings. At times, it was tricky understanding who were were viewing the story through.

I need to re-read Uprooted because this might have actually surpassed it in the way of plot. Miryem starts as the Rumpelstilskin character, but the book quickly evolves into an adventure all on its own. Though, it never quite leaves this Rumpelstilskin anchor and plays around with that role in other characters. The way Novik accomplishes this is astonishing. It makes every character, every movement, important. The one negative thing I have to say is that, by the end of the book, I felt like it was losing steam a little. That being said, I wasn't able to read this for a few days and that *might* also be a factor. Regardless, this was a fantastic read and I hope Novik continues to write these kinds of books. I would also take note of the numerous jokes against Jewish people that litter this book. If anyone is particularly sensitive to that, they might want to avoid this.

Excellent re-telling of Rumpelstilskin that feels like a standout on its own.

5 howls

Friday, June 29, 2018

Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

SynopsisEnne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.

Frightened and alone, her only lead is a name: Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn't have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne's offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems. 

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi's enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…

And she’ll need to play.

Review: Ace of Shades is a book I've been highly anticipating for awhile. I haven't read Foody's debut novel, but I was excited about this one nonetheless. I had a hard time with Enne as a character. She's supposed to be this prissy girl from finishing school, but she falls into the wiles of the city fairly quickly. Yes, it would have been annoying to have pages and pages of internal debate about whether she was doing something that was wrong, but I feel like it would have been more believable. Levi was a fun character. I enjoyed exploring New Reynes from his perspective because he knew where he was going and what he was doing.

The story was okay. The synopsis makes it seem like this massive card game is the most important part of the story, but it's at the very end of the book. On the note of card games, I don't see why Levi didn't show Enne what it was like to gamble. I also don't really think this book dissected some of the modern conventions that are considered "wrong," like gambling and prostitution. I feel like this book could have actually been a little thicker with some more development of the world. I love the concept so much. I was so excited to dive into a fantasy version of Las Vegas. Ace of Shades just didn't quite hit the mark for me. I'll read the future books to see if aspects of the world get explained better.

Interesting characters and world concept, but it feel a bit flat for me.

3 howls

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Trigger warnings: Talk of death/ghosts, depictions of death

SynopsisCassidy Blake's parents are The Inspectres, a (somewhat inept) ghost-hunting team. But Cass herself can REALLY see ghosts. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, just happens to be one.

When The Inspectres head to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, Scotland, for their new TV show, Cass—and Jacob—come along. In Scotland, Cass is surrounded by ghosts, not all of them friendly. Then she meets Lara, a girl who can also see the dead. But Lara tells Cassidy that as an In-betweener, their job is to send ghosts permanently beyond the Veil. Cass isn't sure about her new mission, but she does know the sinister Red Raven haunting the city doesn't belong in her world. Cassidy's powers will draw her into an epic fight that stretches through the worlds of the living and the dead, in order to save herself.

Review: City of Ghosts was such a fun read. Cassidy was an interesting character and I enjoyed getting to see how she adapted to her world changing. Everything, from moving to Scotland to finding out she isn't the only one with her powers, felt natural. Jacob was the star of this book. His ability to stay sassy, but loyal, is impressive. Cassidy's parents seemed a bit weird. I loved the setting of Scotland. You can tell Schwab put a lot of time into helping the readers feel like they are there. That being said, the location was beautiful, but the characters were nothing special. There are a couple side characters who helped the story along but, for the most part, they didn't seem very important.

I enjoyed the story of this quite a lot. We get to spend a good amount of time seeing Cassidy navigate Scotland and the Veil. Both places felt completely unique. If anyone is sensitive to death or seeing people die, this might be a book to stay away from. The Veil replays how a ghost dies, so we get to see every moment of that. While it is dark, nothing made me think it was too much for children to enjoy. When the story first started, I really wanted this book to be about Cassidy learning that she doesn't have to make the tragedies of others into her own. I like where this story went, but I still think that would have been a good message, especially since the story starts with Cassidy going into the Veil to see how a ghost died and she appears to be nothing more than a spectator. Again, Schwab does do interesting things with this story.

Fun, quick read that offered beautiful settings and a good amount of sass.

4 howls

Monday, June 25, 2018

Lifel1k3 by Jay Kristoff

Trigger warnings: Death, gun usage,

SynopsisOn a floating junkyard beneath a radiation sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap.

Eve isn’t looking for secrets—she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she’s just spent six months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her Grandpa from the grave was the fistful of credits she just lost to the bookies. To top it off, she’s discovered she can destroy electronics with the power of her mind, and the puritanical Brotherhood are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.

But when Eve discovers the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls home, her entire world comes crashing down. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic conscience, Cricket, in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, infiltrate towering megacities and scour the graveyard of humanity’s greatest folly to save the ones Eve loves, and learn the dark secrets of her past.

Even if those secrets were better off staying buried.

Review: Lifel1k3 (pronounced "Lifelike") is a fascinating, fast-paced book. The biggest downside I had was the number of characters. Some of them felt important, but not all of them. When you have an entire crew of people, they all need to feel like they are necessary. I didn't get that sensation. Specifically when it came to Cricket and Kaiser. The banter between Cricket and the other characters was definitely funny, but I wanted him to be more than the sassy sidekick. I also found Lemon's story to be predictable. Maybe this is an issue that only I had. It's a pity, but I felt like the entire story could have been told just as well with only Evie and Zeke.

Everything else about this book was excellent. I loved this world. I loved that machine characters, like Cricket, can have attitudes along with being servants. I also really enjoyed the dialog. Slang in sci-fi/fantasy books can be hit or miss, but Jay does this so well. Even words that would be considered slurs felt natural. Maybe it's because the word itself, fug, is very close to an actual slur, but it is something I can absolutely imagine people saying in this sort of world. The plot was engaging. There were some aspects I saw coming, but I still appreciated the ending. Seeing how things played out at the end made me pumped to read the next book. Sadly, I don't have it. :3

Great premise with some lackluster characters. Hoping we get a better feel for them and their purpose in later books.

4 howls

I haven't done this in a while, but if you play video games and you enjoy this concept of machines having their own thought processes, then I would suggest you check out a game called Nier: Automata. There isn't too much similar other than how machines are treated, but it's an interesting game and it might be up your alley.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Siren by Sophia Elaine Hanson

SynopsisTwo weeks have passed since the revolution fell. Two weeks since Ronja and Roark fled to the island nation of Tovaire before Maxwell could use her voice as a weapon. Their friends are imprisoned, their comrades radio silent. All the while the new Conductor prepares his unwitting army for a conquest that will ravage the world. 

With little left but her rage and her voice, Ronja craves vengeance on the puppeteer that enslaved her city and murdered her friend. Her only hope of returning to Revinia lies in the Kev Fairla, the rogue Tovairin army currently engaged in a battle with northern aggressors. The impossible task weighs heavy on her shoulders, and an unexpected blood connection begins to unravel everything she thought she knew. 

The final installment in the bestselling Vinyl Trilogy, Siren is a story of revenge, rebirth, love, and the limitless power of music.

Review: This review is probably going to be quite short because I don't have too much to say at this point. My opinion of the characters didn't really change by the end of the series. I still enjoyed them quite a lot, and I was impressed with how they ended up fitting in each others lives. I will say, the whole thing with music being Ronja's power was still cheesy. I think what impressed me the most with this series was how the multiple perspectives worked out. A lot of times, a book will have multiple perspectives and they don't serve much of a purpose. That wasn't the case with Sophia Elaine Hanson's series. She does a good job of making each character and each perspective important. It was nice to see how everything came together in the end.

While this series has some flaws, it was quite entertaining. Definitely worth checking out.

4 howls

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Radio by Sophia Elaine Hanson

Trigger Warnings: Assault

SynopsisAfter the traumatic events at the dreaded prison Red Bay, Ronja is hanging by a thread. Whispers trail her through the Belly, carrying rumors of her borderline supernatural voice. Plagued by nightmares and haunted by the memories of those she could not save, she clings to the promise that her gift will soon become the weapon of the Anthem.

When doubt and arrogance cloud the eyes of their once trusted commander, Ronja and her friends are forced to take matters into their own hands. Armed with little more than an idea, they strike out on their own to silence The Music and The Conductor once and for all. But time is running out, and a new threat is stirring within the walls of the city...

Review: Radio was an engaging second book and a fairly good follow-up to Vinyl. Ronja has escaped Red Bay, but she lost people in the process. I love that we get to know more characters and we get to experience a different setting. This definitely adds more depth to the world and we get to walk with the characters as they encounter an entirely new environment. That being said, I didn't really care for Darius, and I thought his part of the story was rather predictable.

Radio really drew some elements of fantasy into this world. I feel like some aspects worked well, and others didn't. Darius was one that I was not terribly fond of. I'm honestly still on the fence about whether or not I like the "powers" Ronja has. In some ways, I feel like it takes away from an actual disorder people have, and it felt a bit cheesy. In other ways, the beauty of music is used so well that I could ignore the problems I had with it. I also found the ending to be predictable, so that was a little disappointing. That being said, Sophia can clearly write a compelling story with tension that doesn't rely on a love triangle. That is impressive.

Good story, but the fantasy elements were hit-or-miss for me.

3 howls