5 stars · reread review · young adult

Reread Reflection: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

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

Neal Shusterman is one of my all-time favorite authors. Unwind is simultaneously one of the most creative and one of the scariest novels I’ve ever read because this could totally happen in the future. I haven’t ever read book four, the last book, so now that I finally have it, that called for a reread of the series so I’m geared up for the conclusion. (Well, kind of. I really don’t want it to end, because I’ve been reading and loving these books for around eight years.)

Unwind is something you kind of have to read before you can really get it. It’s one of those books that sounds horrific when described (and is horrific in execution) but it’s still necessary. It’s still relevant. People today continue to fight over issues that, in this fictional universe, led to the Unwind Accords. That’s what makes these books so terrifying. They make us see what we as a country are totally capable of.

And yeah, I mean, people look at you kind of crazy when you try to describe these books. As in, “You know organ donors? Think doing that, but while you’re still alive, only parents decide to ‘donate’ their kids, and the kids have no choice about it, so they’re cut into a million different parts to help other people who were lucky enough to have parents who didn’t want to chop them into a million different parts.”

And then there are the complex characters, the ones you love, the ones you hate, the ones you hate that you’re beginning to feel empathy today. Shusterman takes societal misconceptions and turns them on their head. Kids who have anger problems, or acted out a lot–instead of getting the help and support they need, they’re being unwound. Even perfect kids, talented kids, are getting unwound because of messed-up reasons.

Unwind makes you think. It makes you cry. Most of all, it makes you want to read more, so it’s a good thing there are three more books after this one.

4 stars · science fiction · young adult

Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman; a crazy ride

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full tilt

author : neal shusterman

pages : [paperback] 208

memorable quote :

Who am I? The sum of your dreams, the thrill you refuse to grasp, the unknown you fear.

favorite character : blake

summary :

Sixteen-year-old Blake and his younger brother, Quinn, are exact opposites. Blake is the responsible member of the family. He constantly has to keep an eye on the fearless Quinn, whose thrill-seeking sometimes goes too far. But the stakes get higher when Blake has to chase Quinn into a bizarre phantom carnival that traps its customers forever.

In order to escape, Blake must survive seven deadly rides by dawn, each of which represents a deep, personal fear — from a carousel of stampeding animals to a hall of mirrors that changes people into their deformed reflections. Blake ultimately has to face up to a horrible secret from his own past to save himself and his brother — that is, if the carnival doesn’t claim their souls first!

review :

love Neal Shusterman’s writing. He’s been on my insta-buy list for years when he comes out with new books. I’m fairly certain this was one of his first novels, and it’s the only one of his I’ve read that isn’t part of any series. It’s my least favorite, but that isn’t saying very much, because I still really liked it. It’s creative, it’s fun, and I feel like younger audiences will definitely fall in love with Shusterman’s writing after reading this.

Full Tilt at its core is a story of two brothers. It’s also a story about not letting your past overtake your entire life. Blake and Quinn are nearly complete opposites. Whereas Blake is quiet and reserved, Quinn is reckless and an adrenaline junkie. Blake is the one invited to this very strange, very dangerous carnival, but Quinn is the one who actually wants to go and Blake only arrives because he needs to save his brother from himself.

I love the creativity here. The carnival rides are simultaneously things from nightmares and also things that kids love seeing in movies or video games–but it’s another thing entirely when the players are gambling with their lives. If they die at the carnival, it’s game-over forever, and they’ll be trapped there forever. Blake isn’t sure what the rest of the world will think happened to them, but isn’t sure he wants to find out. Although he just wants to take Quinn and get home, it isn’t as simple as all that. It feels like this carnival has been built specifically to cater to each individual’s personal fears.

I was rooting for Blake, because I wasn’t sure if I’d do as well in his position. This carnival can literally read into your mind and worst nightmares–I don’t think I’d be able to beat the kind of games he has to play. It was interesting to see how every individual has their own strengths–for example, what’s impossible for one person to get through, another can overcome quite easily. I loved how Full Tilt managed to show that on an even playing field, there can still be an individualized experience. Not everyone reacts to identical life experiences in the same way. Just like Blake and Quinn need to learn to empathize with one another, readers do too. I feel like this is an important book to be read, because of those important messages linking these thrills.

I’m so glad that I reread this book, and Neal Shusterman continues to be one of my top recommended authors. His books are so fun, creative, and smart–everything you could want in a YA novel.

4/5 stars

 

Uncategorized

Hunted by Meagan Spooner: fairy tale perfection

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Hunted

author : meagan spooner

pages : [hardcover] 384

memorable quote :

She wept because she did not know what she wanted, and because she wanted everything.

favorite characters :

summary :

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

review :

This book was amazing, this book was everything, the only terrible thing about this book is that there isn’t more for me to read.

Hunted is a retold fairy tale that is so reminiscent of classic fairy tale style. It’s told in an epic, beautifully composed style that really brings these characters and events up to legendary status.

Yeva grew up well. Her father as a merchant has provided everything and more to her and her sisters. More than that, because he had no sign, he indulged her and taught her the love of the hunt. Older now and expected to marry, she’s intended to leave that wilder part of herself aside–until their perfect world collapses, the money is gone, and they’re scrambling to pick up enough pieces simply to survive.

Hunted follows many of the same paths as other Beauty and the Beast retellings, but I absolutely loved how different the Beast and the curse as a whole is here. There are little sections of text from the Beast’s perspective interspersed between Yeva’s chapters, which give a better understanding of him and his own turmoil. I love how there’s so much more of an explanation as to what happened to  him, that led to him being there with Yeva.

I wouldn’t exactly call this retelling dark, but it wasn’t the brightest, either. There are some terrible things that happen, more realistic portrayals of what can happen out deep in the woods.

loved how Yeva was obsessed with stories and adventure. Portrayals of Beauty as a wild adventurer always make me happy, and she was such a strong and complex character. Maybe a little scary, but that just makes her more interesting.

I love retold fairy tales and like to get my hands on any that come out. Still, Hunted ranks as one of my top favorites, so I know I’ll be ranting about this one and pushing it on other people for years to come.

5/5 stars

 

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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