Where The Wolves Read

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

Friday, 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