5 stars · series · young adult

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo; amazing, astounding, astonishing

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Crooked Kingdom

Six of Crows #2

author : leigh bardugo

pages : [hardcover] 536

memorable quote :

I would have come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together.

favorite character : matthias

summary :

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

review :

I’ve avoided reviewing this book, probably because reflecting on it reminds me that it’s one of the most painful stories I’ve read. Beautifully written, wonderfully executed, and the kind of book that makes me cry so much I kind of resent it.

If you haven’t read Six of Crows, you absolutely need to. Not only because it’s book one in this duology, it’ll be one of the best books you’ve ever read. If you’re a fan of fantasy, or inventive new worlds, or great character novels, or heist schemes, you’ll love this book. Then you’ll crave more of it. These books are incredibly hefty–basically, the length of four books compiled into two. I think the duology option was incredibly smart because there’s no room for “middle book syndrome” here. Just nonstop action. And heartbreak.

I still can’t think of Crooked Kingdom without being filled with a curious mixture of happiness and devastation. It worked for me perfectly, and ensured this duology will remain as one of my favorite reads.

But, you know. No spoilers.

Crooked Kingdom picks up just where Six of Crows left off, introducing even more characters (and a few familiar faces for fans of the original Grisha trilogy. I might have squealed). The plot is so intricate. Kaz Brecker, one of the main characters, is truly a master of twisting things toward his will. Often in painful and unexpected ways–painful for his enemies, of course, not always the reader.

Matthias has always been my favorite. But, honestly, all of the main characters are just very adorable–though I think all of them would kill anyone who called them such to their face, apart from maybe Wylan. I loved how this book delves more into everyone’s backstories. It explains so much, not only their actions from the books but their motivations throughout their entire lives.

The book ends, I believe, with a perfect balance. There is room left to expand and create more stories within the Grisha universe, but this particular story arc is complete. Not all ends of it are happy, but . . you’ll just have to read to find out what happens. Honestly, it’s such a wild ride that even a very detailed spoiler review would take pages and pages and pages to write. Leigh Bardugo is exceptionally talented at weaving these intricate plots together and I love it!

Read it. Please. And then you must discuss with me.

5/5 stars

 

books to movies · fiction · young adult

Books to TV Shows: 13 Reasons Why

To start off, I have to admit that I watched the show without reading the book first. Sometimes I like doing that because often reading it will get my expectations too high–but there was so much hype and controversy about this series that I wanted to start watching it without having any of it spoiled for me.

First I wanted to talk about Thirteen Reasons Why visually. It wasn’t particularly stunning, structured like a typical teenage TV show. Most of the scenes take place in a high school, or a coffee shop it seems that every kid in school goes to at all hours of the day. If you’re going to tell a story about contemporary teens, you don’t have very many choices, so I’ll give them that. What really got to me was that it seemed like, eventually, half of every episode was spent with multiple, extremely slow, zoom-ins on characters staring soulfully at nothing, while various other characters repeated their name. Seriously, I think that’s how I learned everyone’s names, because these scenes happened so much. I just wanted to fast-forward and push on.

Speaking of, let’s talk characters. Most of them are pretty unlikable throughout; only a few seem to have a spark of redemption, or explanation for why they may act they way they do throughout the series. Jeff and Tony were my absolute favorites and probably the only people that I would really want to befriend. High school is rough for everyone, but this one seems exceptionally horrific.

There aren’t too many characters seen that don’t attend or work at the school. Most of those other characters are the parents of those involved in some way–most importantly, Hannah’s and Clay’s. Hannah’s parents . . . I felt terrible for them. I could understand their struggle to find something, someone, to blame for this tragedy, because to them it came completely out of nowhere. It was impossible for them to know her school life as intimately as her classmates did.

On the other hand, there are Clay’s parents, who seem to know there are horrible things happening to him, and that he has problems with anxiety, and yet can’t seem to enforce any rule that might help him heal, grieve, or grow. To me it felt like every time they doled out a punishment or decided they were going to force him to do this or that to help him, there was absolutely no follow through. No mention of it again, beyond a few arguments after he disobeys them. Obviously Clay has realized his parents have no real intentions of forcing him to do anything.

I’m not going to go into any detail about the tapes or anything, though if you do watch it or have read it and want to discuss more specifics I’d be happy to in the comments! Honestly, I think what confused me the most is that I never really had a clear idea of what Hannah’s intentions were by making these tapes. Some kind of revenge? Desperation? Or did she just want everyone else to feel that same nothingness she had been? By the end of it, I was left feeling like she’d created them to make others feel so guilty, so bad, that they might be driven toward suicide, too.  I’m not sure this was the intention, but it slowly ate away at how I’d felt for Hannah throughout the series.

I’m still left with conflicted thoughts. It wasn’t the best series I’ve watched, just judging from composition, and wasn’t the best when it came to content, either. I don’t like how I felt while watching it. I don’t like how I felt after watching.

Have you watched the Netflix series? What did you think of it?

 

 

5 stars · children's books · fiction

Book Review: The One and Only Ivan

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The One and Only Ivan

author : katherine applegate

pages : [hardcover] 307

favorite character : ivan

memorable quote :

Memories are precious … they help tell us who we are.

summary :

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

review :

I honestly can’t get over how great this book was. Sure, it’s a children’s book, but it’s the kind of book anyone can benefit from reading, especially because I feel like everyone has their own opinions on animal rights nowadays. When do you ever get to read a narrative by the animal himself?

Ivan is a very smart, very underappreciated gorilla who was captured when he was young and dragged off to live with humans, eventually ending in a small enclosure where three walls are glass, one wall is a poor, painted depiction of a jungle. He has plenty of food to eat, a TV to watch if someone remembers to turn it on for him, and sometimes he has the chance to draw. The other animals are his friends and some of the only creatures he’s ever known, particularly now that business is slow and not many humans come to ogle him anymore.

His voice is just so incredibly unique. His understanding of human traits and objects comes from either seeing people use them or figuring out what he himself can use them for. He doesn’t know much of a life apart from this captivity, and might not have been tempted to try to change it for himself–but he wants more, and better, for his friends. I ached for Ivan and the others in this little stop off of the highway. There’s a huge difference between zoos/sanctuaries that give animals plenty of room, try to rehabilitate, or are keeping creatures from extinction, but these roadside attractions (I hope) are steadily disappearing. After living in Florida for a few months and seeing the advertisements for some areas there–I’m sure there are plenty of places around the world still in existence where people pay to, basically, see animals being mistreated.

The narrative is so simplistic, yet powerful, that I think it’s wonderfully done as a children’s book. Kids will definitely feel for and relate to Ivan; he’s grown, in captivity, but his mindset is still rather childish because he hasn’t had grown gorillas to teach him. I’ve seen this book used in children’s literature classes and full-heartedly support that; this is the kind of book everyone needs to go through school reading. No matter how old you are, or what your preferred genre typically is, I suggest picking this up. It can be finished within a few hours, but the personal impact can last a lifetime.

5/5 stars

 

 

 

5 stars · reread review · young adult

Reread Reflection: Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas

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How do you review a book after you’ve already read it? Review the reread!

I loooooooooove this book.

I don’t just like it, L-O-V-E it. So much so that I needed to buy a physical copy of it after first reading the ebook, probably because I needed something to hug with delight after my re-read.

I’ve honestly never read something like Because You’ll Never Meet Me. That stands true even in the re-read. What fascinated me this time around was that there are details in here, tiny ones, that seem irrelevant unless you know what’s going to play a role in book two. Author Leah Thomas was already dropping hints about that plot, and it’s amazing because it isn’t particularly necessary but makes everything seem that much cooler to me.

Just knowing the ending of Nowhere Near You, the sequel, makes reading Because You’ll Never Meet Me even more of a pleasure. No spoilers, of course, even though I could gush about Ollie and Moritz for days. Their characters are so nuanced, imperfect, lovable, kind, frustrating . . . There aren’t many books these days that make me think back to my roots of fanfiction and what I’d want to write about these characters if there aren’t more books made of them. Please give me more books with them.

Basically, Because You’ll Never Meet Me is a book that grows even bigger in your heart, the more often you read it. So if you haven’t picked it up yet . . . what are you waiting for?

Basically me throughout the whole book:

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5 stars · action · books to movies · Uncategorized

Books to Movies: Logan

I can’t accurately express how completely excited I was for this movie. Wolverine and Hugh Jackman are undoubtedly one of the best character and actor pairings I’ve ever seen. As in if anyone else ever tries to play Wolverine in my lifetime I’ll be disappointed.

It’d been a while since I’d seen any X-Men film, really, but all of them pretty much stand on their own as separate films, which is nice if you really aren’t sure about where to dive into the movieverse. I’d say watch at least a few of the originals before getting to this one because, after all, you want to save the best for last, right?

This review will only contain mild spoilers, but if you want to know absolutely nothing about the movie other than knowing I give it 5/5 stars, get out now.

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Let’s talk about characters. I loved the dynamic in this film, because it makes everyone seem so much realistic, more fleshed out, than happens in most superhero films. As always it was amazing to see the relationship between Logan and Charles, aka Patrick Stewart, because I think they have one of the greatest, most interesting relationships out of all of the X-Men. They’re just so good. I can’t even reflect on it without getting hit by a mixture of emotions, that I don’t think I could accurately explain even if I spoiled everything in the entire movie.

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Laura. I’m torn between wanting desperately to adopt her, giving her the good life she deserves, and running as far away from her as possible because she’s terrifyingDafne Keen conveys so much while not speaking a word, and as a child actress that’s only more impressive. I want more movies with her. I want a trilogy that’s only about her. Because those fight scenes including her were so intense, I couldn’t sit back in my seat.

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Still, what I love about these movies (or just Wolverine in particular) is the tongue in cheek humor that comes with it. Maybe to keep me from being a complete and utter sobbing mess, there are still lighthearted moments perfectly interspersed in the script.

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I love that while there’s backstory here, while we know everything that’s going on — behind the amazing action sequences there’s so much character work happening. Between Laura and Logan and Charles, yes, but even minor characters have their chance to shine. And I loved every minute of it.

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That ending? Perfect — perfectly devastating. Everything I’d dreaded and hoped for realized.

Have you seen Logan? What did you think?

 

 

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

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Gemina

The Illuminae Files #2
Book 1: Illuminae

authors : amie kaufman and jay kristoff

pages : [hardcover] 608

favorite character : kady

memorable quote :

And now, born from the ashes, she’s a warrior in bloodied black.

summary :

The highly anticipated sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller that critics are calling “out-of-this-world awesome.”

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

review :

My advice? Don’t even read the summary. Just dive into this headfirst after you read Illuminae. Because I don’t think it’s even possible for these books to get more intricate and surprising and fun even while they’re devastating.

Gemina takes place right after Illuminae, a few days before the Hypatia is set to arrive at the Heimdall wormhole station. As a total sidenote, I thought it was really interesting how there were so many things in that system named after Norse myth. Heimdall is such a fitting name, just thinking about how perfect it is makes me happy.

Within the first few pages it’s obvious that we’re going to have some new main characters in play, because the action is fixated on Heimdall now and there’s literally nothing the people on the Hypatia can do to ensure their mutual survival. Which would be horrifying, although as usual Kady seems to take that as a challenge to prove to BeiTech they’ll survive just to spite them. I love it.

The two new characters, Hanna and Nik, are incredibly interesting because it’s exactly like taking a YA contemporary romance novel and throwing those characters into space, on a wormhole station lightyears away from any Core System (like, you know, planets where people actually live) and then continuously trying to kill them. This book is a real sci-fi horror story. I thought Illuminae was scary enough; Gemina literally gave me nightmares because of one of the new creatures introduced. Thanks, guys. I won’t describe them because you really just need to read the book and then be scarred for life yourself.

And, I mean, one of the biggest dislikes I had about this book was a super petty one — I hate when teenage characters smoke just because it’s “cool”. It’s my hope that, hundreds of years from now like when Gemina takes place, no one will smoke because everyone knows it will kill them. And, obviously, probably, there are newer lethal alternatives. Plus, I mean, you’re trapped on a space station. Maybe you don’t want to risk accidentally blowing everyone up or setting something on fire?

Like I said, that was really low on my list of priorities, because there were so many other terrible (terribly wonderful) things happening. Just when you think things can’t get worse, they do. Just when things start looking up, you know someone, or several someones, or everyone will soon, once again, be on the verge of dying. Because literally no one is safe in this series and you never know who’s going to be creatively killed off next.

That, paired with the unique way this book is formatted and written, had me fall in love with the series all over again. I’ve always been a fan of unique formatting or prose in books and The Illuminae Files really has something special here. Everything is told via securty camera feeds, court hearings, artificial intelligence interpretations, comm links, instant messages — all of that distant, mechanical stuff, but you still feel like you’re right in there with the characters. You still get to know them, feel for them, and root for their survival. Most of all, you just want to make sure that BeiTech gets everything they rightfully deserve.

This is a book I’ll be raving about for, well, forever, and it can’t be soon enough until I have my hands on book three.

5/5 stars

Uncategorized

Beauty and the Beast: Movie Review

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I recently made it over to the theater to finally see Beauty and the Beast. Usually I’m a little quicker to see the latest Disney movie, but I was actually a little afraid to see this adaptation because the animation is one of my favorite movies.

This review will only contain minor spoilers, if any, and nothing major. But if you’d prefer to know absolutely nothing about the movie, leave knowing I give it 3/5 stars.

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I love Emma Watson. I was really excited when I’d first heard she’d been cast as Belle, and eagerly waited to see what would be released. My excitement dimmed when I heard she’d be doing her own vocals. In such a music-based film, I don’t feel like this is a great choice. Maybe they should have gone the Cinderella route and taken almost every song out of the film — although the original Beauty and the Beast soundtrack is so clever and catchy that would have been a shame. Still, they could have gone the way of most Disney princess movies and had separate vocals for words and songs. The utterly, over autotuned result jarred me out of the story with every passing song she was a part of. Because, of course, viewers are going to compare it to Paige O’Hara‘s gorgeous singing voice.

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One of my favorite parts of the film was, surprisingly, Gaston. I liked his character even more than in the animated movie — ‘liked’ meaning that I thought it was well-developed and interesting, in that he’s completely insane, egotistical, and sexist. He didn’t even need a say a word — his facial expressions perfectly captured his disdain for everyone else, or situations that didn’t go quite his way.

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I was a little disappointed that his groupies didn’t make much of an appearance, and a lot that could have been given to them was instead transferred over to LeFou. He was pretty funny, though, so I didn’t mind the extra screentime. And whereas it was interesting to see what was subtlety changed to obviously make LeFou gay, I hope Disney doesn’t use this as a cop-out with keeping diversity way, way in the background. They’ve been slowly building toward a show or movie that could have an LGBT+ main character . . . I’m still waiting for it.

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Then there’s the Beast. His character felt slightly different from the animated version, too, probably because there was so much more background to the characters given here. You get an understanding of why he was cursed, but not only that — why he was such an awful person to begin with. Why he might want to change. Honestly, there were a few moments while he was getting to know Belle that he seemed utterly adorable by how simultaneously cocky and flustered he was. His design was pretty cool, too, though I’m still very confused by people who find him handsome.

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Speaking of backstory, there’s some of Belle’s too, because everyone, everywhere, has always wondered what the heck happened to her mother. Don’t worry, friends, it’s revealed, though kind of in the most randomly magical of ways. It looks like there’s a separate book out about that, too, so maybe Disney just included it because they wanted the chance to sell something else. Much as I love them, I know they love money more than they love me. I literally had a dream last night where I accidentally made Bob Iger angry, so maybe that’s some kind of sign.

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The castle staff were voiced wonderfully, with a special shoutout to Gandalf parading about as Cogsworth. Literally the perfect match — and that’s not sarcasm. The only thing that threw me off were the vaguely creepy and odd character designs. Cogsworth worked best, for me, with Lumiere a close second, followed by Mrs. Potts and Chip in dead last. Yeah, if Chip slid toward me in a creepily empty house, I would have run away too.

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Last, but not least, can we talk about how disappointing Belle’s gold dress was? Especially after Cinderella had such a gorgeous live action take on the ballgown. It was pretty, yes, but nowhere near the jaw-dropping spectacle you expect from a classic princess.

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This movie had its work cut out for it because it just makes it so easy to compare to something that came before it. When I could slip into the familiar story–like the scenes that were, word for word, exactly like the animation–I adored it. But this is probably the first Disney musical I walked out of where I wasn’t immediately compelled to buy the entire soundtrack. I mean, I saw Moana on Thanksgiving, bought the soundtrack an hour later, and have listened to it nearly every day since.

Still, I can’t wait to see what the other live action movies in the works will be like.

If you’ve seen the movie, what did you think?