BLOGGER TEMPLATES AND MySpace 1.0 Layouts »

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, November 17, 2017

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Content Warnings: Violence, guns, racism, racial slurs, microagressions

Synopsis: Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack.

Review: Dear Martin is one of those books that had a lot of hype surrounding it when the book came out. Thankfully, this book delivered on the hype. It's short, but it packs quite a punch. At the start of the story, Justyce has an encounter with the police and ends up in custody. This inspires him to write letters to Martin Luther King Jr as a way of coming to terms with the world around him. I loved Jus as a character and I found him to be one of the most realistic characters I've read this year. He wants to be like MLK, but he isn't ignorant to the fact that the world is against him. He often questions his ability to follow Dr. King's footsteps and he ends up making some not great choices. I also really enjoyed Manny. I liked having Justyce and Manny's different viewpoints on how white people act. Manny laughs along as his white friends make inappropriate jokes, but Jus is there to question that behavior. It would be great to discuss this with teenagers and why jokes like that are not okay.

As for the story, it got dark quite fast. I'm not just saying that because the book is short. You get a taste of two different environments within this book. Justyce's old neighborhood, and the school he goes to. Both places feel distinct and real. Justyce's narration and his letter entries to MLK were balanced masterfully. I won't go into detail, but I appreciated the connection between the officers involved in Justyce's incident at the start of the book, and the incident involving Justyce and Manny later. Another thing I appreciated was how Justyce's relationships were handled. There were two girls who caught Manny's eye in Dear Martin, Melo and SJ. Melo was a part of his past, something Justyce feared he would never escape. SJ represented a hopeful future where Jus could be more than what was expected of him. They both helped Justyce learn more about himself and where he wants to go in life. The only criticism I have, is I wish there was more of a correlation between Justyce's life and MLK's teachings. Everyone knows Dr. King was a speaker of peace and equality, but it would have been nice to see some of his texts in Dear Martin. I think it would have made for a really nice bridge between Martin's teachings and Justyce's life.

Dear Martin touches on a variety of topics, grief, racism, love, and living just to name a few. It's a spectacular book that is definitely worth reading.

5 howls

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Carrie by Stephen King

Content Warnings: Abuse, domestic abuse, bullying, girl on girl hate

SynopsisCarrie knew she should not use the terrifying power she possessed... But one night at her senior prom, Carrie was scorned and humiliated just one time too many, and in a fit of uncontrollable fury she turned her clandestine game into a weapon of horror and destruction...

Review: Carrie was such a unique book. I feel like there isn't a way to discuss characters because of the way the book is structured. The book was written as if it was a collection of research on telekinesis and Carrie's life. So, instead of the book being broken up by chapters, there would be a title of a fake book or article. Then there would be a section which kind of summarizes what information that article had in it. Finally, there would be a bit which actually felt like a story from Carrie's perspective as we see her living her life described in this article. It's bizarre, but fascinating. Carrie was a tragic character, but I appreciated that she was fat and not pretty. I watched the original movie when I was younger, and I didn't realize Carrie was described differently in the book. I wish they kept that element. The opening scene as Carrie has her first period hurt my soul. I remember what that moment was like for me, and reliving it from Carrie's perspective was hard. If you're a person who is sensitive to women hate, this will be a hard book to read. The entire book follows Carrie's abuse by this group of girls, and the tragedy that comes from it. I have a hard time describing this book accurately because of how it is written, but it's definitely worth reading.

4 howls

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

Content Warnings: Eating disorders, bulimia, bullying

Synopsis: June, Bette, and Gigi have given their all to dance at Manhattan’s most elite ballet school. Now they are competing one final time for a spot at the prestigious American Ballet Company. With the stakes higher than ever, these girls have everything to lose… and no one is playing nice.

June is starting to finally see herself as a prima ballerina. However, getting what she wants might cost her everything—including the only boy she’s ever loved. Legacy dancer Bette is determined to clear her name after she was suspended and accused of hurting her rival, Gigi. Even if she returns, though, will she ever regain the spotlight she craves? And Gigi is not going to let Bette—or the other dancers who bullied her—go unpunished. But as revenge consumes her, Gigi may be the one who pays the price.

After years of grueling auditions, torn ribbons, and broken hearts, it all comes down to this last dance. Who will make the cut? And who will lose her dream forever?
Review: I'm going to go ahead and say that this review will have spoilers from the first book. Shiny Broken Pieces picks up not long after Tiny Pretty Things. I would highly recommend reading these two books back to back if at all possible. We follow the same characters as the first book, June, Bette, and Gigi, as they come to terms with what happened at the end of the first book. One thing I really enjoyed was Gigi trying the "bad girl" attitude. No, it didn't last the entire book, but it was good to see that she was capable of being as mean as the other girls. I felt like it gave her much needed depth. I also loved getting to know Cassie. One of the things I wondered while reading the first book was whether or not Cassie was using Henri to pull the strings and hurting people at the academy. While I wasn't necessarily right, I'm glad Cassie was in this book and we were able to see how dark she became.

As for the story itself, I felt like the stakes were much higher in Shiny Broken Pieces which I appreciated. Even though it was still a story of the girls trying to win a coveted spot, I didn't feel like I was reading the same story over again. All of the character interactions felt fresh. There is an underlying mystery of who pushed Gigi in front of the car at the end of the first book. I feel like that was paced really well thoughout the book. It didn't last the entire book, but it lasted long enough to stay intriguing. I shouldn't have been surprised by who pushed Gigi, but I genuinely was. I was also surprised by how Gigi handled her relationships by the end of the book. Another thing I thought was handled well was who ended up getting the spot at the American Ballet Company. I won't say too much, but I think it did a good job of nailing home the reality of being a mean girl won't actually get you anywhere. The last thing I want to talk about is June's bulimia. I was a little disappointed that her ED didn't seem to have consequences in the first book, but that completely changes with Shiny Broken Pieces. Someone even says to June that she's not healthy enough for ballet. That being addressed made me love this series even more. This is definitely one of the best contemporary series I've read and I would highly recommend it.

5 howls

Monday, November 6, 2017

Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

Content Warnings: Eating disorders, Bulimia, Anorexia, Cheating, References to adult-child relationships, Sex, Sexual themes, Teen drinking, Drug use

SummaryGigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette's desire to escape the shadow of her ballet star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever. When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

Review: I was unprepared for how much I was going to enjoy Tiny Pretty Things. I'm not a part of the dancing world but, thankfully, not much of the dancing terminology was lost on me. The characters were all fascinating. Lately, I've seen a lot of people drag books where there's girl hate and they wish there was more female friendships. Honestly, this book was refreshingly familiar. You don't have to go to a dance school to be surrounded by girls who want to watch you fail. This hit me in a very special place. Bette is much like a lot of girls I grew up with. She's used to getting her way and begins to unravel when her plans fail. June struggles with being just barely not good enough. She's always in someone's shadow. Because of this, she heavily relies on purging her body in an effort to make her dancing better. Gigi is the new girl who is naturally gifted. My biggest complaint with her is she seemed too nice. She has medical issues which is her big, dark secret, but she was usually nice and perky. That isn't a bad thing, it just seemed weird. Though, that could have been a large part of why her character stood out to everyone. Instead of being raised in this intense dancing school, she came from a smaller dancing community filled with girls who were loving and supportive. Finally, we gotta talk about Cassie. I have my own suspicions, but I really enjoyed Cassie's part in this book. The book opens with her narrative, and then she is gone for the rest of the story. Yet, other characters talk about her enough that it feels like she is still very much part of the school and the story. I applaud Sona and Dhonielle for making that work.

The story itself was engaging from the start. Again, this is not my community, but I felt like I could visualize the school and the dancing. At the very start, it is clear what expectations the characters have for themselves. Bette has her family's legacy and, more specifically, her sister's shadow covering her. June struggles with being bi-racial and not feeling quite right for either group. She's also constantly having pressure put on her by her mother's unreasonable expectations. Gigi loves to dance and doesn't want her medical problems to get in the way. She also knows how incredibly dangerous this lifestyle is for her, but she's willing to risk it much to her family's dismay. Things heat up when Gigi lands the lead role of their seasonal showcase. From there, bullying and harassment are endless. What was interesting was how none of the other characters seemed innocent. Even smaller characters like Liz, Eleanor, Henri, and Will all have something at stake throughout the story. The mystery of "who is harassing Gigi" always feels fresh. The moment you think you know who it is, something else happens to make you question your suspicions. I found myself questioning everyone. It was interesting seeing all the characters scramble to prove their innocence. There are some romantic subplots going through the story as well. I do wish the discussion of sexuality was brought up a bit more. Hopefully, things will be discussed further in the second book. Overall, Tiny Pretty Things was dark, but great. Definitely would recommend checking them out.

5 howls

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels by Jason Schreier

SummaryDeveloping video games—hero's journey or fool's errand? The creative and technical logistics that go into building today's hottest games can be more harrowing and complex than the games themselves, often seeming like an endless maze or a bottomless abyss. In Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, Jason Schreier takes readers on a fascinating odyssey behind the scenes of video game development, where the creator may be a team of 600 overworked underdogs or a solitary geek genius. Exploring the artistic challenges, technical impossibilities, marketplace demands, and Donkey Kong-sized monkey wrenches thrown into the works by corporate, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels reveals how bringing any game to completion is more than Sisyphean—it's nothing short of miraculous.
Taking some of the most popular, bestselling recent games, Schreier immerses readers in the hellfire of the development process, whether it's RPG studio Bioware's challenge to beat an impossible schedule and overcome countless technical nightmares to build Dragon Age: Inquisition; indie developer Eric Barone's single-handed efforts to grow country-life RPG Stardew Valley from one man's vision into a multi-million-dollar franchise; or Bungie spinning out from their corporate overlords at Microsoft to create Destiny, a brand new universe that they hoped would become as iconic as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings—even as it nearly ripped their studio apart.
Documenting the round-the-clock crunches, buggy-eyed burnout, and last-minute saves, Blood, Sweat, and Pixels is a journey through development hell—and ultimately a tribute to the dedicated diehards and unsung heroes who scale mountains of obstacles in their quests to create the best games imaginable.
Review: Blood, Sweat, and Pixels was fascinating. Obviously, if you aren't into video games or game development, this is not for you. I've been playing video games since I was very small. I religiously played games in the Zelda, Pokemon, Mario series just to name a few. While I don't know all the technological ins and outs of making a video game, I still found this book extremely enjoyable. It was mostly because Jason doesn't only talk about how games are made. He also talks a lot about the politics that go into running a company and how companies can often get pretty screwed over (I'm looking at you, Star Wars 1313). Some of the stories were adorable. I loved reading about the making of Stardew Valley. Others were heartbreaking. Making Destiny was really sad. I will say that I would have definitely enjoyed this book more if I had played any of the games Jason discussed. I watch people play video games on Twitch, so I was familiar enough with all of them, except for Star Wars 1313. If you haven't played these games, but you want to read this book, I would HIGHLY recommend at least watching some snippets of game play on Twitch or You Tube so you understand how the worlds/characters/controls are established. It would give you a really good idea of how difficult it is to make these incredible games. The biggest downside I had was some of the explanations. Maybe it's just the way my friends and I grew up, but I really didn't need Jason to explain a sprite to me. I also thought it was weird how Jason kept calling PAX by its full name, Penny Arcade Expo, but never referred to E3 by its full name, Electronics Entertainment Expo. He also talked about PAX in general, but didn't specify if demos/trailers were displayed at PAX East, or PAX Prime (West). Don't worry, I know those little things are just me being a bit picky. *pushes glasses up bridge of nose* I would consider this required reading for anyone who loves video games in any way.
4 howls

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween Special: IT Movie Review


Content warnings: Violence, abuse, domestic abuse, bullying, sexual harassment, slurs against women, self-harm, animal violence

Review: Let me give you some background on my relationship with this story. When I was a kid, I had a lot of nightmares (I still do have a lot of nightmares) but not much scared me in real life. Then I watched IT with Tim Curry. I was spooked beyond repair. I avoided this story like the plague. When I was in college, I decided I wanted to rewatch the miniseries so I could see if it was still as scary as I remembered it. While I wasn't as scared as I was when I was little, it was still suitably creepy. This year, I was nervous/excited for the new movie to come out. The difference was that I didn't want to see it until I read the book. I'm not an avid Stephen King reader. I've only read one other book (Salem's Lot) to completion. Still, I wanted to read IT. I read IT and I loved IT (review can be found here). The film librarian where I work agreed that she would watch the new movie with me when I finished the book. So, we went to see the movie. Now, I will get on with the actual review.

Holy moly, this movie was an experience. My biggest concern was how they were going to do Pennywise as a character. Tim Curry did an excellent job making Pennywise creepy, but playful. Skarsgård made an excellent Pennywise, but it didn't feel quite as good as Curry's. It's hard to describe, but it felt slightly off as a character. I did really enjoy the weird dancing scene towards the end of the film. It seemed a bit much, but it was funny. The kids were all great. This movie focused on the story of the children, and I thought they all fit fairly well. They did make a lot of dick jokes. I asked the person I watched the movie with, and she agreed. It was a little unnecessary

I greatly enjoyed the flow of this film than any other way the story has been presented. I might have said this in my review of the book, but I much prefer reading stories straight through without shifting perspectives or timelines. It was great that they had one film focus on the childrens' adventure. Unfortunately, there were some bits that seemed weird to me. First, Bev's kidnapping. I get why they made that decision. It was the ultimate push to get this group of feuding children to come together to fight Pennywise. Again, this could just be my view, but it made Pennywise seem less scary and very dumb. He already knew that having the children in a group made them stronger. Why would he bait them all together by taking Bev? Also, part of his character is the ability to entice children to come with him willingly. Taking Bev diminished some of this character in my opinion. There was also a weird scene where Billy had to put a gun to Georgie's head to prove Georgie wasn't real. That seemed extra unnecessary. That scene honestly bothered me more than Pennywise murdering children. The last thing that weirded me out was after they fought Pennywise. In the book, Bev convinces the boys to have sex with her. Yes, I agree that should not have been in the film. But I don't think cutting their palms open was great either. Again, this could be a problem only I had, but what ever happened to pinky promises?

There were a few really good scenes though. I really enjoyed the scene where Stan freaks out and thinks his friends abandoned him. I think that lends itself to a better reason for him committing suicide as an adult. In a, "My friends left my behind during the first fight. I'm not going back so they can leave me again" kind of way. I'm not trying to justify Stan's suicide. I just think it makes more sense this way than just fear causing him to do it. Pennywise's illusions felt creepier in this movie. I had chills during a good chunk of the beginning because of how things were portrayed. This is probably something that was only accomplished because of modern technology, but it was done really well. While I wasn't the biggest fan of Pennywise's overall appearance, Skarsgård did an incredible job with his voice. That was absolutely a major plus for me. It was soothing, but creepy at the same time. He gets A+ just from his voice.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie, but not quite as much as the miniseries or the original novel. I'm extremely excited for the next one to come out.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Content Warning: References to suicide, anxiety attacks, probable PTSD, kidnapping

Synopsis1990. The teen detectives once known as the Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in the Zoinx River Valley in Oregon) are all grown up and haven't seen each other since their fateful, final case in 1977. Andy, the tomboy, is twenty-five and on the run, wanted in at least two states. Kerri, one-time kid genius and budding biologist, is bartending in New York, working on a serious drinking problem. At least she's got Tim, an excitable Weimaraner descended from the original canine member of the team. Nate, the horror nerd, has spent the last thirteen years in and out of mental health institutions, and currently resides in an asylum in Arhkam, Massachusetts. The only friend he still sees is Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star. The problem is, Peter's been dead for years.

The time has come to uncover the source of their nightmares and return to where it all began in 1977. This time, it better not be a man in a mask. The real monsters are waiting.

With raucous humor and brilliantly orchestrated mayhem, Edgar Cantero's Meddling Kids taps into our shared nostalgia for the books and cartoons we grew up with, and delivers an exuberant, eclectic, and highly entertaining celebration of horror, life, friendship, and many-tentacled, interdimensional demon spawn.


Review: So, this book is Scooby-Doo, but darker. There's a group of kids, and a dog, who solved some mystery one summer, and they moved on with their lives. We do not get to experience this mystery first hand. We just get memory remnants from the group after they become adults. I loved these characters so much. The book opens as Kerri is having an anxiety attack. Not a mild one, but a massive one that actually made my best friend uncomfortable when he read it. It was extremely well done. It isn't stated, but I'm assuming Kerri is plagued with PTSD as well as she continually has nightmares. Nate has committed himself into an institution for his delusions. One of these delusions is his friend Peter, an old member of the group, who committed suicide when they were all adults. The dialogue between Peter and Nate has a dark humor to it that is played very well. Andy seems to be the most "normal" of the group, but even she has her demons. Then there's Tim. He is the descendant of Sean who was the original "Scooby-Doo" character. I loved how realistic Tim was to the story. Not in the, "Tim sniffed around like dogs tend to do" kind of way. During some of the adventure, Andy has to carry Tim because he can't get around like his human companions. He does have some human-like qualities which make for some fun moments. The group dynamic was where this book shined. Every character felt unique.

I'll be honest, I'm a sucker for stories where kids leave a small town, come back as adults, and learn new things. This was definitely that kind of book. The story centers around an unsolved mystery but, around that, the group learns more about the nightmares of their past and how it really affects them. There are some supernatural elements to the story, which I was actually a little sad about. It still had a "man in the mask" element, but I wish it was completely grounded in reality. Even still, I enjoyed the story and I'm so glad this book was brought into my life. It was delightful. Funny in all the right places, dark in all the right places.

4.5 howls