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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, 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

Friday, February 9, 2018

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

SynopsisThere’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwaba young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

Review: Oh man, I'm so excited I got to read this book finally. I enjoyed reading Kate and August's perspectives. They were both done quite well considering one was supposed to be a monstrous human and the other was a humane monster. Kate's growth was my favorite. She tries to be a rough and tough human who can go toe to toe with ruthless monsters. That being said, she stumbles and second guesses herself and her motivations. August was interesting too. He tried so hard to fit in with humans but, in the end, he realized that was impossible and he needed to be true to himself. There were some interesting side characters as well. I liked how different Leo and Ilsa were to August. The monsters didn't feel like carbon copies of one another. I wish we were able to spend a bit more time with Henry, Emily, Harker, and Sloan. We got to know them a fair amount, but something seemed a little lacking. I also wish there was a little more to Kate and August. It's hard to explain, but I feel like their characters could have had a little bit more to them.

The story was surprisingly fast. It wasn't really filled with action or intrigue, but I still managed to fly through this story. The world felt fairly fleshed out considering the entire book took place in a single city. I will say, I didn't quite buy the backstories behind the monsters. Sunai, the kind of monster August is, are apparently incredibly rare and only made during events of extreme tragedy. There are only 3 in the world, August, Ilsa, and Leo. I won't say what specifically caused August, Ilsa, and Leo to exist, because I found them interesting myself. I just have a hard time believing that there were only 3 major tragedies of that scale in this world. Maybe it's because I'm used to seeing awful things of this nature regularly. It would be interesting if more Sunai start popping up in the second book, but we'll see.

This was an great, quick read. An awesome start to what I'm sure will be a wonderful series.

4 howls

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

SynopsisA trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.

When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how.

Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, the Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?

Review: I loved this book. I loved it so much. Farah was such a great character. She was strong and she definitely got annoyed by her brother sometimes, but she also deeply loved him. From the first chapter, you could tell that she would do anything for him. Alex and Essie were also fun to read, and they got a fair amount of page time. Karuna clearly tried her best to give every character their own growth and adventure. Ahmed was adorable, and true to the little brother characterization. Like I said, Farah would do anything for him and she definitely showed that. Every character was incredibly fun to read.

The story was great. If you've seen Jumanji, then you get the idea of what this book is about. That being said, Karuna took the Jumanji story and wove a Middle-eastern atmosphere into it. The details were incredible. It wasn't too much to drag the story, but I still got a sense of what the food might have tasted like and what the setting would have looked like. There were some technical aspects of the writing that bothered me a bit, but it didn't deter from my enjoyment of the story. The puzzles in the book were not difficult, but it worked well with the story because of how much Farah and her family played games together.

Very impressive for a debut. I had an incredible amount of fun reading The Gauntlet and I can't wait for the next adventure.

5 howls

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Trigger Warnings: Ableism

SynopsisMost kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial.

Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.

All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him.

So he tries his best to do his worst - and fails at failing.

Now the Magisterium awaits him. It's a place that's both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.

The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .
 

Review: The Iron Trial was a fun read. There have been a lot of comparisons between this series and Harry Potter (shocker) and I definitely saw the similarities. I actually liked Call a lot. I don't generally enjoy main characters, and it gets more difficult to relate to them in middle grade stories in particular, but Call was an enjoyable character. Aaron and Tamara also felt well fleshed out. Aaron is wicked smart, but he's also liked by pretty much everyone and he likes everyone too. He seems to genuinely get along with the other students. Tamara comes from a family that holds her to very high standards, but she has her moments where she knows what the right thing to do is and she'll do it. She also makes a comment about using the internet to goof off, which would not seem typical of her character.

The story was good. Again, it can be compared to Harry Potter because of the magic school. I will say, this series might be better for a child who might be struggling with Harry Potter. In the world of The Iron Trial, all of the kids live their lives outside of the magic world until it's time to take the trial. This allows for little connections to our everyday life that might help children relate to this story more. There's a scene where a kid is eating some Lay's potato chips. There's also the bit where Tamara likes playing on the internet. I do wish there was a bit more about Call and how he lives with a damaged leg. Sometimes, it felt like an afterthought which is slightly unfair to people who suffer from disabilities. There were some decent plot twists which I honestly didn't see coming.

This was a cute book, but a little slow. Definitely a decent introduction to what I'm sure will be a fun series.

3 howls

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

Synopsis: Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.
 
Review: Star-Crossed was freaking adorable. Mattie was easy to relate to, even though I'm much older than her. I still remember those middle school struggles, and Barbara Dee brought them to light in a beautiful way. Reading about her interactions with her siblings and her friends was a delight every time. I will say that I wish we had seen Mattie around her parents more. They always seemed absent which was unfortunate. I also don't think the reactions to her keeping secrets from her best friends was realistic. There just didn't seem to be any consequences to that decision. Her friends were great though. I loved getting to know them, just like I enjoyed getting to know Mattie.

The story was predictable, but fun. The thing I enjoyed the most was how small the focus was on the actual gender of Mattie's crush. The book itself read like a cute story about a girl crushing on a boy. I think kids the same age as Mattie need books like that, where crushes don't really change whether you're crushing on a boy or a girl. There were obviously some moments where Mattie felt ashamed or unsure because she was crushing on another girl, but it felt very natural. I also liked that Mattie admitted she could still have crushes on guys. There are not a lot of books with bisexual main characters, but Star-Crossed should definitely be included.

Overall, a fun read with great characters.

4 howls

Monday, January 29, 2018

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Trigger Warnings: Blood, violence

SynopsisDarrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity's overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society's ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies... even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

Review: Man, Red Rising is a thing. First off, I really enjoyed the characters in this book. Darrow had his moments where I didn't care if he lived or not, but I appreciated his ability to see that he isn't meant to be a martyr. You don't see that hesitation very often in books like this, so I thought it was quite good. The other characters you get to know through the course of this book, Mustang, Pax, Cassius, felt so genuine and unique. They didn't read like your average caricatures of overdone tropes. In my opinion, the characters really carried the story and I want to know where things go from the end of Red Rising.

Now for the less positive things. I really didn't like the way this world was made. I know a lot of people find it compelling and that's a big part of why they enjoy this book. I'm just not one of those people. I've read books that tired to merge dystopian and fantasy together, and they've been fine. This one seemed like too much as it tired to pull together aspects of those genres as well as science fiction. Plus, none of it felt very well developed, so I found a fair bit of it hard to picture. Adjusting to the world was the only major downside I had with this story, and it's such a shame. The overall plot was interesting, and there were good twists put in at just the right times. I've seen people say this is a book you should go into without knowing much of anything. In some ways, I agree. In other ways, I don't. If you like weird books, that put a bunch of different ideas together, then you might enjoy this without much information. If you are looking for a story with a cohesive world and a fairly easy introduction into science fiction, then this probably isn't for you.

3 howls