Friday, February 16, 2018

Review: Glass Sword

"No one is born evil, just like no one is born alone. They become that way, through choice and circumstance." 
-Victoria Aveyard, Glass Sword

Mare is part of a new generation, a generation of Red bloods with Silver abilities. After the betrayal of Maven, now the new king, Mare is on the run with the rebellion--the rebellion that has a lot more reach than Mare could have ever imagined. Now, she had to help gather all the new bloods before Maven gets to them, before the darkness overcomes them.

This installment lacks the energy that the first book had, in my opinion. The action was slow moving for the most part, and didn't feel like it was going anywhere to me, personally. Much of this book felt like it could have been cut out, perhaps combined with the following one (which is up next for me to read). So far, the story doesn't feel as cohesive as it possibly could have been. 

The second half of the book is better than the first, pepper with extreme violence at points. I appreciate the rebellion story line, but do think it could have been better thought out; there are pieces of it that felt too much like The Hunger Games to me. Like Mare discovering exactly how far the rebellion reaches, how many resources they have at their disposal. I'm not quite sure where the story is going, and what will happen in the next two books, but despite its flaws, I'm curious to find out.

To me, Mare becomes increasingly annoying as the series goes on, complaining about having to do everything alone, blah, blah, blah. In comparison to other rebellion-driven narratives, her complaints don't seem to be driven by selflessness; for example, Katniss and Harry both feel like they have to do things alone because they don't want to put anyone they love in danger. The same doesn't seem to be true of Mare, though I'm not sure if this will change in upcoming books. Mare doesn't seem to know what she's doing, causing her characterization to be a bit all over the place.

Overall, the cliff hanger at the end of the book does make me want to read the next one, so I'll see if the series does indeed get any better. Once the last book comes out in May, we'll see how I feel about the whole series.

3/5 stars

Monday, February 5, 2018

Review: Superior Spider-man


In Superior Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius) switched minds with Peter Parker on his death bed. Now he's determined to be better than Peter Parker ever was; he goes back to school, starts his own company, and configures a way to keep eyes on the entire city for crime. But those close to Peter quickly notice that something's different--will Peter be able to fight his way back?

This is one of my favorite Spider-man stories so far. I've been reading a lot of Spider-man comics lately, as my ultimate goal is to eventually catch up from the original comics to the current run. Doc Ock is probably one of my favorite villains thus far, and being able to get into his head within this run was fantastic. 

Superior Spider-man also complicates the notion of heroism and villainy. Otto takes a different strategy as Spider-man than Peter Parker, as he's more ruthless than Peter ever was. He does things for Peter that Peter never would have done himself, like earning his doctorate and beginning his own company. But Otto also alienates people that Peter deeply cares about, like MJ and Aunt May. While things look up for him for awhile, Otto's ruthless nature as Spider-man paired with his narcissism and loss of Peter's memories causes his empire to start to crumble as Norman Osborn gains control.

For me, volumes 3 and 4 were probably my least favorite, as they felt like they dragged a bit to me. I loved how Peter Parker was still incorporated ghost-like within the text, and we know that he'll eventually regain control of his body and make things right once again. The ability to see another side of Doc Ock makes him a well-rounded villain, and by the end, we can almost call him a hero. The introduction of different story lines throughout also makes me want to find out even more about the universe.

Definitely a must read for any Spider-man fans.

Volume 1: 5/5 stars
Volume 2: 5/5 stars
Volume 3: 4/5 stars
Volume 4: 3/5 stars
Volume 5: 4/5 stars
Volume 6: 5/5 stars

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January Wrap-up


The end of January is upon us already, can you believe it? The first month of 2018 has been a pretty uneventful one for me, except I did just get notification that my paper got accepted into the ChLA conference (woo!). Hopefully I'll be going to Texas this June!

Anyway, I've finished 11 books this month, putting me 11 books into my reading goal of 75 books for 2018. One of my other reading goals is to read at least 10 nonfiction books this year, which I didn't put a dent in yet this month. But, there's still time! If you have recommendations, I'd love to hear them.

Another goal I have for this year is to keep up on my reviews, which I've done pretty well with so far! I only missed one book this month, not counting the books I have to review for Booklist. Better than I've done previously, though!

Without further ado, here are the books I finished in January:

1. Nemesis by Brendan Reichs ✫✫✫
2. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater ✫✫✫✫✫
3. Before Now by Norah Olson (Booklist review) ✫✫✫
4. Sex Criminals Vol. 1 by Matt Fraction ✫✫✫✫
5. Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young (Booklist review) ✫✫✫✫
6. American Street by Ibi Zoboi ✫✫✫✫✫
7. UnWholly by Neal Shusterman ✫✫✫
8. UnSouled by Neal Shusterman ✫✫✫✫
9. UnDivided by Neal Shusterman ✫✫✫✫
10. Rewind by Carolyn O'Doherty (Booklist review) ✫✫✫✫
11. Bound to You by Alyssa Brandon (Booklist review) ✫✫✫

I've got a stack of library books to finish up before moving onto anything else, so I'll definitely be doing that in the next week or two! In the meantime, happy reading!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Review: Sex Criminals Vol. 1

"The bank'll take everything you love sooner or later."
-Matt Fraction, Sex Criminals

Suzie discovered her gift when she was in middle school: when she has sex, she stops time. After college, at a party, she meets a guy who has the same gift: Jon. To save the library that Suzie works at, the two decide to use their gift in order to rob the bank that Jon works at. But doing so opens them up to a whole new world they were never aware of.

I've loved Matt Fraction since I read his run on Hawkeye, and this is a comics series that I've been meaning to get to for a while. I read this first volume in one sitting while visiting friends in Detroit one weekend, and it definitely didn't disappoint! Fraction's writing is witty and exiting, and in Sex Criminals, he quite often breaks the fourth wall, directly addressing his readers. After reading the Unwind Dystology, which is quite dark, this was definitely a breath of fresh air.

The artwork by Chip Zdarsky was also phenomenal, fully immersing the reader into the story. The visuals were goregous, especially when Jon and Suzie stop time, moving about in a frozen world. The way Zdarsky does this makes the reader feel like time has actually frozen.

Overall, this is an original story filled with entertaining dialogue and plenty of funny moments. Since I've only read the first volume, I'm excited to see where the story will go after this one.

4.5/5 stars

Saturday, January 27, 2018

5 YA Books to Add to Your 2018 TBR

Young adult literature, as an industry, had a fantastic year last year. New authors debuted remarkable texts, like Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give, and well-established authors came out with new work, like John Green's Turtles All the Way Down. I read a lot of fantastic books last year (you can check them out here!), and there are so many books that I'm looking forward to this year as well.

Many authors I follow on social media are working on new books, which has me super excited (Adam Silvera, I'm looking at you). There are lots of books I'm looking forward to reading this year, but here are 5 that you should definitely add to your TBR list.

1. Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Release date: January 9

Shusterman's sequel to Scythe is sure to satiate fans of young adult dystopia. Set in a future where we have cured all diseases and put an end to death, Scythes must work to control the population. Rowan and Citra have taken different sides on the morality of Scythes, so what does this mean for their future? I've been anticipating this book ever since I read Scythe last fall, and I can't wait to get my hands on this one.

2. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Release date: May 1

The highly anticipated second novel from Angie Thomas will return readers to Garden Heights, this time following the story of an aspiring rapper. Thomas's voice as a person of color becomes increasingly important as these stories are actively silenced by the current administration. Her second book is sure to be as good as the first.

3. Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau

Release date: March 13

Charbonneau's most known for the Testing trilogy, a Hunger Games-esque dystopian trilogy focused on critiquing America's higher education system. This standalone novel follows a group of students trapped in a school being threatened by a bomber--a bomber known to be someone inside the school. They must rely on each other in order to make it out alive.

4. Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

Release date: February 27

Inspired by the story of Anastasia, seventeen-year-old Ana was found adrift in space as a child in an android called D09. D09, however, is the last of a rare metal, and now that he's glitching, Ana must find a way to save him. I've been seeing this book on a couple of different platforms, and the premise sounds absolutely intriguing. I'll definitely be looking for this one once it's released.

5. And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness

Release date: September 4

Ever since seeing him speak last fall, Patrick Ness has skyrocketed to the top of my authors list. When he announced that he'd be releasing a new illustrated text, this immediately went on my to-watch list. A Monster Calls is one of the most beautiful books I've read, and this one is sure to not disappoint.

There are obviously many more fantastic books being released this year, these are just books that I'm personally excited about. What about you? What books are you looking forward to reading this year?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Review: The Unwind Dystology

"In a perfect world, everything would be either black or white, right or wrong, and everyone would know the difference. But this isn't a perfect world. The problem is people who think it is."
-Unwind, Neal Shusterman

Connor Lassiter's parents have decided to unwind him for his 17th birthday. That is, the government is going to harvest every part of his body and transplant it into another individual. In order to escape his fate, Connor decides to go AWOL, taking two other teens with him: Risa Ward and Lev Calder. Risa was a ward of the state, not talented enough to stand out, and Lev was a tithe, born specifically to be unwound on his 17th birthday. Connor brings the three together in order to escape the Juvenile Authority, and to escape their fate of becoming unwound. As they run from their fate, they're inspired to work against unwinding, to change the complacency of the population of the United States.

After Unwind, we find Connor, Risa, and Lev all in different states of working against the system of unwinding, slowly showing how Proactive Citizenry, the company at the heart of unwinding, is manipulating all of the players in order to keep the population afraid of teenagers and keeping unwinding in business. The further they get into the discovering the truth, the more dangerous it becomes. Will they be able to rid the world of unwinding once and for all?

So this is a series that I've been meaning to read for a while, and I finally actually finished it last night. And it was...interesting. There were parts I liked, and there were parts I didn't. There are four books in this series, so I'm going to give my thoughts on each one, and then give my thoughts on the series overall.

Unwind

This was a good introduction to the world that Shusterman has created, with elements that are eerily similar to our world now. The idea of unwinding is chilling and unsettling, as is the complacency that the US population seems to have. Shusterman definitely has a distinct writing style when it comes to his narratives, never just focusing on the mind of one character but the minds of many (this also happens in Scythe). This helps the reader to be more thoroughly introduced to the world, giving a more general picture to what has happenedd in order to get us there.

As a dystopia, Shusterman's first book is effective, and I honestly think it could have just stayed as one book, as most of the story lines are wrapped up by the end of the book. However, Shusterman wanted to return to the world, so three books (and some short stories) follow.

4/5 stars

UnWholly

This second book is my least favorite of the series. To me, it just felt like filler in order to get to the ending that Shusterman eventually wanted to have. Sure, things happen in this particular installment, but I've lost that sense of urgency that I had in the first book. The Graveyard might be raided by the Juvies. Risa and Connor are having relationship issues. Lev is basically a nomad (kind of?). I suppose I get why this book is necessary, but I think jumping to the events of the next book might have been more effective.

3/5 stars

UnSouled

Despite the problematic elements that begin to creep up in this book particular (more on that in a minute), I read through this third book more quickly because the sense of urgency was back. Connor's on the run. Risa's on the run. Lev's on the run. Starkey is terrorizing the US, eliminating harvest camps with a violent, terrorist fury: killing everyone on the spot. What I liked about this installment was that we see more of how society got to the point of unwinding, and how propaganda played a heavy role in making people believe that they needed unwinding in order to stay safe. Because teenagers are scary.

4.5/5 stars

UnDivided 

I liked this final installment for the most part, but it felt a little dragged out at the end. Like, I kept expecting it to be done and it just kept going. I don't think this story necessarily needed to be told in four books, but by the end, it definitely makes the reader continue to think once it's over.

Overall Thoughts

Overall, I think I can say that I enjoyed this series. Bonus points, it actually fits the theory that I outlined in my thesis for rebellion in YA dystopian novels, albeit in a more twisty way than other novels I've read. One of the things that I liked most were the advertisements that Shusterman inputs throughout the text, which helps to give a political context and are often based in reality. Additionally, I liked the way that he played on the idea of "feral teenagers," as society is quite often looking down on teenagers for acting out, for being rebellious, and for just being teenagers. Teenagers are often characterized as lazy, talking back, and always looking for trouble. Shusterman builds on these views of teenagers in a way that is chilling and creepy and makes you hope that the world never actually gets there.

There are problematic aspects of this series, specifically the way that Native Americans are characterized (and stereotyped) within this new world. Shusterman makes up a lot of new language in his new society, and any of it dealing with Native Americans is derived from stereotypes (ChanceFolk, The Rez, weapon of old, etc.). In the series, they didn't sign the unwind accord, so unwinds are safe there. While much of the story takes place within these reservations, I think Shusterman and his editors could have taken more care with the way that they were portrayed within the series.

Despite the problematic moments, fans of dystopia will enjoy Shusterman's series, though I wouldn't say that it's his best work. An enjoyable, action filled thriller that will leave you interested until the very end.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

#TBT Review: Zarox


In order to catch up from reviews I didn't complete last year, I'm going to start doing #tbt reviews every other Thursday, as there were a lot of books that I didn't get to. I believe these books still need reviews, so to start, I'm reviewing Zarox, a book I received from Louis Smith on Instagram. 

On a dare, four kids decide to go to the creepy Churn Zone at night, proving that they are each adventurous and brave. But the unthinkable happens while they're there: they're transported to another world, called Zarox. In Zarox, they're the only ones that can save the world from the Glothers. Supported by Rotlier, the wizard Lupar, and the Book of Zarox, the children are off on a magical adventure that they're not likely to forget.

The beginning was a bit of a rocky start for Zarox, as we're thrown into the world much like the main characters without a clue of what's happening. But once you get into the story and the children start their training to save the world, you're much more able to transition into the world of Zarox. And what a magical world it is.

One of my favorite things about this book was the uniqueness of the world. While some of the plot points were familiar, the world of Zarox felt unique to me. This could especially be seen with the different characters that the author created, like the Glothers and Rotlier. Once we get a sense of these characters, it's easy to fall into the world Smith has created. It's magical and fast paced, and you'll hand on until the very end.

Overall, between the characters and the unique world, this is a middle grade fantasy that stands out from the rest. It's a fun, enjoyable read that you'll not want to put down until the very end.

4/5 stars