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!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi


Triggers: Slavery, racism, racial slurs

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

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

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

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

4 howls

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


Triggers: Gangs, gun violence, racism, abuse

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

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

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

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

5/5 howls

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins


Triggers: Attempted rape, slurs, domestic abuse, gaslighting

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

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

4.5 howls

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Thirteen Reasons Why (book and show)

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

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

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

Friday, February 24, 2017

Most Intimidating Books Tag

Original Creator: The links I've been finding don't work so I'm not sure who the original creator of this tag is. :(

1. Name a book on your TBR that you haven't been able to finish:

There isn't a specific reason for this. I tried to read it years ago, and I never actually finished it. I'm going to try again, but this was the first book I could think of.

2. A book you haven't had the time to read:

I got the first 3 books in this series fairly recently and they can all fall under this question. I work at an academic library, so trying to find time to read books like this during the school year is hard. I've been trying to collect them so I can marathon (maybe?) the series when summer break starts. We'll see.

3. Name a book you haven't read because it's a sequel:

I read all the way up to this book and then I stopped because I know book 9 is still being written. I didn't want to be caught up with another series just to wait an eternity for the next book. *cough* GoT *cough*

4. Name a book you haven't read because it's brand new:

I got this in the January Owl Crate, and I just haven't gotten around to reading it. I love retellings, but I haven't read a retelling of Phantom of the Opera. I'm going to read this soon because I'm really stinking excited for it.

5. Name a book on your TBR by an author you've read previously and you didn't like their book:

I've had Icons for awhile and I just haven't gotten to it. This might be cheating, but I enjoyed the Beautiful Creatures series a lot. Then Margie came out with this book, then Black Widow: Forever Red. I read Black Widow already and I wasn't super impressed. It just didn't wow me the way I was hoping it would. I might give it another go later and read the sequel, but we'll see. I DO need to read Icons and Idols though since I have both of them.

6. Name a book on your TBR pile that you're not in the mood to read:

I read the first book in this series and I really liked it, but I didn't have the other books. Now, I have all of them and I'm just not in the mood to read them. I'm going to check out the audio version of Furies of Calderon to see if that'll help me get back into the world a bit.

7. Name a book on your TBR pile you haven't read because it's huge:

Sanderson, why do you write such massive books? Jeebus

8. Name a book on your TBR that you bought because of the cover, but it has also gotten bad reviews:

I read Hush Hush and I wasn't a fan. I saw a copy of Black Ice on Book Outlet hecka cheap, so I picked it up. I want to believe Becca can do a really good job with a book. I've also heard a lot of negative things about this book, so we'll see.

9. Name the book on your TBR pile that you find the most intimidating:

This book is massive, and literary fiction can be hard for me to get through. I've heard it's excellent though and I want to expand my reading tastes. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Where the Wolves Read: A Darker Shade of Magic

SummaryKell is one of the last travelers--magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city. 

There's Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King--George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered--and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London--a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.

Review: I'm going to be straight up and tell you this was a re-read and the Shades of Magic trilogy is one of my favorite trilogies of all time. Characters. I loved all of them. There has never been another book where I've loved all the characters. Even the bad ones. Kell was mysterious, but lovable. Lila was fierce. Holland is broken and I just want to hug him. I even liked the Danes. I found each of the characters unique and fascinating. Kell's ability to travel between Londons was a great way to experience the different ways magic has affected these seemingly similar places. Lila is my baby. Lila has this great attitude and just is not here for Kell's "I'm better than you because magic" bullshit. I need Lila to be my friend in real life. Just throwing that out there. Lila didn't let anything get in her way which is something I really appreciated. Regardless of the situation, she was willing to give it everything she had. Holland was fascinating. Is there a novella of Holland and Kell growing up? It would be excellent to see both characters learning how to craft their magic into what it was when ADSOM started. Rhy was such a fun character and (I've already read book 2) I know he only gets better and more complex as the stories continue. I do wish we had gotten more of him in ADSOM, but I think we got a feel for how playful, yet loving he can be.

As far as plot goes, I'm a sucker for parallel universe or alternate dimension stories. ADSOM did a good job of focusing on one specific city, but making it feel fresh and new every single time Kell traveled. I also really liked how the dual perspective narrative was handled throughout the story. It was nice seeing Lila's fresh take on everything and then compare it to Kell's experienced eyes. I don't know if this is because the book was a re-read, but there were some parts I found a little predictable. That didn't take anything away from my enjoyment though. From start to finish, I was in London with Kell and Lila. They had such a grand adventure for the story taking place in one city. I did use the audiobook to re-experience this story and I think it was a great decision. The audiobook was very well done and I had no issues getting into the narration. I'll try to stop gushing now.

5/5 howls

Monday, February 20, 2017

Review: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix)

Where the Wolves Watch: A Series of Unfortunate Events

Disclaimer: I have read through this entire series a couple of times. When the TV show was released, I re-read the books as they corresponded with the episodes.

Review: If you're looking for a series where kids go on an adventure and are back home with their parents at the end of the day, or a series where there is love and frivolity until the end of days, you should look for these more pleasant things. I, myself, have been quite invested in the Baudelaire children for quite some time. As a young child, I was fascinated with the horrendous things that take place within the pages of these books. When Netflix decided to make a TV show of the Baudelaire children, I was appalled. Why would a company as well known as Netflix make a mockery of such tragedy? Unfortunately, the show exists, and so does my continued heartbreak for these children. The first segment of the show follows the Baudelaires as they are put in the loathing hands of Count Olaf. The most despicable man of all time. Count Olaf is already a rubbish actor, but his performance was somehow out done in terribleness by the equally frightening Neil Patrick Harris. I quivered with fright as these two men became one and Count Olaf was brought to life once more. Patrick Warburton did a passable rendition of my dear Lemony Snicket. I desired nothing more than to jump into the screen and help him with the Baudelaire children. Let's speak about the children. The horrors they have experienced are indescribable. They were threatened and almost murdered numerous times. They have a commendable will to live that is unlike anything I've ever seen. They are truly special children. Sadly, that is not enough to keep them away from the upcoming tragedies. Now, I have learned Netflix is not done with the Baudelaire children. They plan on exploiting their pain for another season. Possible two more seasons. I will continue to watch for research purposes, but I implore everyone else to pry their eyes from the horrors within this series. I'm going to talk with the very favorable dissenters and see if there is anything we can do to keep Netflix from continuing this travesty. Good luck, Baudelaire children.

5/5 miserable howls