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, June 18, 2018

Vinyl by Sophia Elaine Hanson

SynopsisAll citizens within the soaring black walls of Revinia have metal Singers grafted into their skulls at birth. The parasitic machines issue a form of auditory hypnosis called The Music, which keeps their minds malleable and emotions flat. All artistic expression—especially real music—is strictly prohibited.

On the edge of the city, nineteen year old Ronja struggles to support her cousins and disabled mother. A chance meeting leads to her kidnapping by an underground resistance striving to preserve the human spirit. Violently severed from her Singer by the brash young agent Roark, Ronja revels in her newfound freedom until the consequences of her disappearance begin to unfold.

Trigger warnings: Use of the word "mutt" to refer to disabled people; references to substance-abuse
Review: First off, props to Sophia for giving me characters I enjoyed to read about. I rarely find a book where I like every character presented, but Vinyl was definitely one of them. Ronja had moments where her actions confused me. She seemed to hold a lot of resentment towards her mother, but then she rushed out to save her. I guess she loved her mom deep, deep down? Her attitude throughout the rest of the book made me think otherwise. The other characters were compelling and I can't wait to spend more time with them in the next couple of books. I will say, the treatment of "disabled" people in this world left much to be desired. The only disabled people Vinyl were created by the ruling government as a form of punishment. They have physical disfigurements, and they are treated horribly. That's something to keep in mind for anyone reading this book.

The story was compelling. I thought the idea of music being a kind of hypnosis was interesting and I was excited to see how it played out. What I appreciated the most was how this book took common dystopian tropes and turned them on their head. It felt unique in a world of similar dystopians. When reading this book, I naturally assumed there would be a love triangle between Roark, Ronja, and Henry, but something happened at the end to make me question that. I'm still wary because I know how tricky authors can be. I'm hoping the future books can shed a better light on the disabled characters in this world. I expect that to be explained a bit more, and in a more positive way.

Vinyl is a page-turner. The world is small, but well crafted. I have high expectations for the rest of the series.

4 howls

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

SynopsisLeah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

Review: Leah on the Offbeat has had a bit of a time, lately. I think a lot of people were expecting this to be more like Simon Vs. because it's a sequel. In actuality, this story comes from a different place because, as a character, Leah is very different to Simon. I enjoyed Leah's character for the most part. I liked how straight-forward she was with her friends. I also related to her in those moments where she wouldn't buy food when going out with friends. Even though our situations are different, I think a lot of people understand that feeling. Especially, coming from a fat person, the struggle that comes when friends notice our lack of eating and start to question. It can be a tough time. It was nice getting to see familiar characters again, Simon, Abby, Bram, Nick, etc. I understand that characters can change, but it seemed like such a weird shift sometimes. Specifically, every interaction with Simon and Martin. I think it would have helped if we had more interactions with Simon and Martin so we could see Simon forgiving him. I guess that's a very personal thing because I was treated like crap in high school and I might never forgive those people. It's been 10 years since I graduated and I still feel that way. I just have a hard time understanding how Simon can forgive Martin in such a short amount of time.

In the way of the story, it was cute. I get why people enjoy it as much as they did. I won't say who Leah ends up with, but it definitely struck a couple nerves with me. First off, as many have seen, there was a very unpleasant conversation had between Leah and the love interest about being "a little" bisexual. I guess this mostly bothered me because Leah never came out either. You don't have to come out to have an opinion on your own identity. Just, her insistence on what makes someone bisexual bothered me. I also had a hard time with people dating around in close friend groups. I don't want to expand too much on this because spoilers, but I grew up with a close group of friends who all dated each other. It was always weird and it can suck. A lot. Plus, I felt like some aspects of this never got a proper resolution and that made me upset. There could have been deeper conversations about long-distance relationships that we just never got and that was disappointing.

Overall, Leah was cute, but not what I had hoped it would be. There were good openings for conversations, but the conversations never actually happened and that bummed me out.

3 howls

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Trigger Warnings: Attempted rape, deadnaming

SynopsisCamellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orléans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orléans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite—the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orléans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land. But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision. 

With the future of Orléans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide—save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

Review: The Belles was a wild ride. The synopsis and the cover might make it seem like a fluffy book about beauty, but that's far from the truth. To start, Camellia is a fantastic character. She's easy to relate to, but obviously very flawed. She has this issue with following the rules in ways that might not get her into immediate trouble, but it impacts her later. Camellia's ability to see a person's natural beauty was touching. Remy (sorry, I know I'm missing the accent mark) and Auguste were both fun to read. I enjoyed every interaction they had with Camellia. The relationship Camellia had with her sisters was great. There was a bit of jealousy in there, but they love each other so much and, when one of them is hurting, they all hurt. It's a connectivity you don't see in many other books.

The story itself was amazing. I enjoyed every second if it. From the time the Belles displayed their power to the queen, to the very last page, I didn't want to put this book down. The world was interesting to explore and I liked learning about the Belles and their powers. I usually have a general distrust of all characters when I read a book, but I wanted almost everyone in The Belles to be good and to make it out. There was so much court intrigue in The Belles. That's normally a hit or miss for me, but I never got bored reading about court life and seeing Camellia in her day-to-day activities. Dhonielle even put a bit of a mystery in this novel as well which I found very impressive. This book is the complete package when it comes to a starting fantasy.

Beautiful book with amazing characters. It will have you on the edge of your seat.

5 howls

Monday, February 26, 2018

Wonder by RJ Palacio

Trigger Warnings: Bullying, suicidal jokes

SynopsisI won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse. 

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. 

Review: This is one of those books that I've had for awhile, but I've been putting it off. I knew it was going to be a tough one for me to get through. First off, I really enjoyed Auggie. I appreciated how self-aware he was. He knew that people were making fun of him or staring at him, and he was honest with himself. I thought this was great and I related to it a lot. I'm not pretty. I don't have facial defects like Auggie, but I'm not what society sees as attractive. That's fine. I've known that my entire life. Similar to Auggie, I've had people try to sugarcoat growing up. "You're not ugly" or "It's what's inside that counts" were very common phrases. Auggie puts up with this too. Maybe it's because of our similar pasts, but I found him surprisingly easy to relate to. He also made me think a lot of a kid I grew up with who had his legs smashed when he was young, so he always had to walk with leg braces. He ended up being one of the most kind, smart kids I ever had the pleasure of knowing.

The story was cute. I don't know why, but I was expecting it to be a sad book.I'm a bit torn on how I feel about the shifting of perspectives. It gives us a more rounded view of Auggie's life, and it showed us how loved this kid is. At the same time, none of the perspectives felt really unique except for Auggie's. Maybe it's because some of the sections were really short so we didn't get to spend a whole lot of time in some of the characters' heads. It was still interesting though. I'm glad the story wasn't sad. There was a fair amount of bullying, but none of it felt overwhelming. As someone who was bullied a lot growing up, my heart went out to Auggie. He was a strong character and it was a joy to read. There were some sad bits in the story, but overall the book was heartwarming.

Cute, touching book with some great messages.

4 howls

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

SynopsisNemesis is a Diabolic. Created to protect a galactic Senator's daughter, Sidonia. There's no one Nemesis wouldn't kill to keep her safe. But when the power-mad Emperor summons Sidonia to the galactic court as a hostage, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia.

She must become her.

Now one of the galaxy's most dangerous weapons is masquerading in a world of corruption and Nemesis has to hide her true abilities or risk everything. As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns that there is something stronger than her deadly force: the one thing she's been told she doesn't have - humanity. And, amidst all the danger, action and intrigue, her humanity might be the only thing that can save her, Sidonia and the entire Empire...

Review: First off, this book is definitely more politic heavy and character driven than plot driven. So, if that isn't your speed, then this might be a book to skip. As a whole, the characters were interesting. I didn't really trust anyone while reading this book. One thing I enjoyed was how it opened up the discussion of humanity, and how Nemesis showed more emotion and care than some of the other characters. I found that interesting. In the world we live in now, humans can be pretty despicable. I like seeing how other people depict human nature in books. The story itself hinges on Nemesis going to the galactic court in place of Sidonia. I gotta say, this whole "character A acts like character B" trope is a peeve of mine. In large part because I never felt like we got to know Sidonia as a character on her own. It was always Nemesis' view of Sidonia which is naturally going to lean more favorably towards Sidonia.

As far as the story goes, it's a pretty light sci-fi book. I could see this being a good way of easing someone into the sci-fi genre. There isn't much in the way of world-building and, like I said, it focuses much more on the politics of the world and the relationships. There is heavy talk of religion versus science which I know some people are not a fan of. One really nice thing is that this book reads as a stand alone. There is another book after this one, but The Diabolic tells a complete story on its own. 

Quick intro to sci-fi with possibilities for interesting discussion about humanity and religion.

3.5 howls

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

SynopsisSeventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

Review: I'm a sucker for fairy tales, and I wanted to love this book. The characters were the biggest downfall for me. Alice was pretty unremarkable. Finch had the potential to be a favorite character. I appreciated how he was a bit of a nerd and really into the stories from the Hinterland. Still, something about his character rubbed me the wrong way. I'm not going to say too much because I don't want to spoil what happens later, but it's one of those things I saw coming. There wasn't much else in the way of side characters. The story focused on Alice and Finch, but neither of them felt terribly fleshed out. There also wasn't much said about Finch's background. We know that he's black, but that's about it and it's honestly hard to remember that fact throughout the book because he acts more like white people I've been around than black people. There was another scene that led to a potential f/f relationship in the past, but it was never really explored past a slight mention. It seemed like there were little teasers of diversity, but nothing fully discussed which was a bummer.

The story was engaging, and creepy. I thought that was rather well done. The mystery of the Tales from the Hinterlands kept me intrigued, and I found myself reading this entire book in a single sitting. We do get an idea of what some of these stories contained, but it was done in a weird way. Alice wants to read these stories to see if there's some kind of clue to help her find her mom, but there doesn't seem to be any way for her to access them. This leaves it up to Finch, super fan, to convey some of the stories to her. I wish Melissa would have played with this idea a little more, how Alice never reads the text of the stories herself. She always hears second-hand summaries of the stories from Finch. Maybe it's because I didn't trust Finch, but it could have made for some really interesting conflicts if Alice realized she might not be able to trust everything Finch says.

An interesting idea, but pretty flat characters.

3 howls

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Easy by Tammara Webber

SynopsisHe watched her, but never knew her. Until thanks to a chance encounter, he became her savior...

The attraction between them was undeniable. Yet the past he'd worked so hard to overcome, and the future she'd put so much faith in, threatened to tear them apart.

Only together could they fight the pain and guilt, face the truth - and find the unexpected power of love.

A groundbreaking novel in the New Adult genre, Easy faces one girl's struggle to regain the trust she's lost, find the inner strength to fight back against an attacker, and accept the peace she finds in the arms of a secretive boy.

Review: New Adult is a fun genre when you want something a little mindless to read. Easy was a fun read, but it was also impactful. The story starts with a bang as Jacqueline becomes the victim of an attempted rape. She is saved by Lucas who happens to be in one of her classes. I have to say, Lucas and Jacqueline were pretty generic. I did appreciate how Jacqueline kept correcting people when they would use her old nickname. That's something I have had to deal with too, and it's hard to keep your past behind you when people keep bringing up little parts of it. I thought the romance between the two was cute, but predictable. I really enjoyed Lucas though. His ability to pay attention to detail was a kindness I have experienced from a good friend of mine. That warmed my soul a little.

Where this book really stands out is the story. First off, for a NA book, there isn't a huge focus on sex. Jacqueline's almost rape and how she manages afterwards is a big factor but, even with side characters who are actively having sex, it isn't something we have to deal with on the page. Sometimes I think the NA genre is too focused on making their characters having sex and there isn't much more to the story. I was grateful this book did something a little different. I'm glad the book didn't just focus on Jacqueline's story, and other girls and their experiences became a big part too. As a whole, it does a good job of approaching rape culture on a college campus which I appreciated. I will say that my biggest gripe is definitely a personal one. I can't imagine what kind of school these kids go to. Maybe it's because I've been working at a university for 6 years now, but I can't imagine Lucas rolling up to a dorm on a motorcycle. We have too many people and not enough space for that kind of nonsense.

Fast, enjoyable read with a great story.

5 howls