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!

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

Friday, June 29, 2018

Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

SynopsisEnne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.

Frightened and alone, her only lead is a name: Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn't have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne's offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems. 

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi's enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…

And she’ll need to play.

Review: Ace of Shades is a book I've been highly anticipating for awhile. I haven't read Foody's debut novel, but I was excited about this one nonetheless. I had a hard time with Enne as a character. She's supposed to be this prissy girl from finishing school, but she falls into the wiles of the city fairly quickly. Yes, it would have been annoying to have pages and pages of internal debate about whether she was doing something that was wrong, but I feel like it would have been more believable. Levi was a fun character. I enjoyed exploring New Reynes from his perspective because he knew where he was going and what he was doing.

The story was okay. The synopsis makes it seem like this massive card game is the most important part of the story, but it's at the very end of the book. On the note of card games, I don't see why Levi didn't show Enne what it was like to gamble. I also don't really think this book dissected some of the modern conventions that are considered "wrong," like gambling and prostitution. I feel like this book could have actually been a little thicker with some more development of the world. I love the concept so much. I was so excited to dive into a fantasy version of Las Vegas. Ace of Shades just didn't quite hit the mark for me. I'll read the future books to see if aspects of the world get explained better.

Interesting characters and world concept, but it feel a bit flat for me.

3 howls

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Trigger warnings: Talk of death/ghosts, depictions of death

SynopsisCassidy Blake's parents are The Inspectres, a (somewhat inept) ghost-hunting team. But Cass herself can REALLY see ghosts. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, just happens to be one.

When The Inspectres head to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, Scotland, for their new TV show, Cass—and Jacob—come along. In Scotland, Cass is surrounded by ghosts, not all of them friendly. Then she meets Lara, a girl who can also see the dead. But Lara tells Cassidy that as an In-betweener, their job is to send ghosts permanently beyond the Veil. Cass isn't sure about her new mission, but she does know the sinister Red Raven haunting the city doesn't belong in her world. Cassidy's powers will draw her into an epic fight that stretches through the worlds of the living and the dead, in order to save herself.

Review: City of Ghosts was such a fun read. Cassidy was an interesting character and I enjoyed getting to see how she adapted to her world changing. Everything, from moving to Scotland to finding out she isn't the only one with her powers, felt natural. Jacob was the star of this book. His ability to stay sassy, but loyal, is impressive. Cassidy's parents seemed a bit weird. I loved the setting of Scotland. You can tell Schwab put a lot of time into helping the readers feel like they are there. That being said, the location was beautiful, but the characters were nothing special. There are a couple side characters who helped the story along but, for the most part, they didn't seem very important.

I enjoyed the story of this quite a lot. We get to spend a good amount of time seeing Cassidy navigate Scotland and the Veil. Both places felt completely unique. If anyone is sensitive to death or seeing people die, this might be a book to stay away from. The Veil replays how a ghost dies, so we get to see every moment of that. While it is dark, nothing made me think it was too much for children to enjoy. When the story first started, I really wanted this book to be about Cassidy learning that she doesn't have to make the tragedies of others into her own. I like where this story went, but I still think that would have been a good message, especially since the story starts with Cassidy going into the Veil to see how a ghost died and she appears to be nothing more than a spectator. Again, Schwab does do interesting things with this story.

Fun, quick read that offered beautiful settings and a good amount of sass.

4 howls