The Perks of Being a Wallflower Review

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Review

By Stephen Chbosky

Publisher: Pocket Books/MTV Books

Print Length: 213 pages

Release Year: 1999

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary 

Avg. Goodreads Rating:  4.2

Available on Amazon and B&N

standing on the fringes of life…

offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see

what it looks like from the dance floor.

This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being A WALLFLOWER

This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that the perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up. (Goodreads)

Originally posted on my personal website crystinaluna.com.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, at this point, is a long-time favourite of mine. At this point, it can probably be considered an older book, but– at least to me– it doesn’t read like that. The many reasons it reads that way is probably the same reason this book is considered banned in many places. 

A realistic examination of what it’s like to be a teenager, this book follows Charlie as he begins his first year of high school. Charlie immediately struggles with the transition and it’s not until he befriends two seniors, Sam and Patrick, that his year begins to make a turn for the better. Chbosky leads us through a graphically realistic teen experience that includes concepts regarding LGBT struggles, drug experimentation, mental health, and much more. 

I feel like there really is something for everyone in this book. Though I personally did not have the “traditional” teenage experience (far from it, actually) I still find myself relating heavily with the characters in this book. You may not have direct experience with certain things, such as drugs and certain mental health struggles, but it’s hard to be a teenager nowadays without being exposed to these concepts one way or another. I feel it’s even that indirect connection that fosters understanding and compassion for the book’s characters in the readers. Having read many books in my few years on this earth, with is one of those rare books that truly captures what it’s like growing up.

Regardless of all these great things, I am aware that this book is banned in many schools and to some extent, I understand why. I would probably recommend this book for a more mature audience, but not in the sense that maturity equates age. With hard subjects including molestation and suicide, this books is not for everyone. Though I think this should be read by all high schoolers, I admit that the individual should be taken into consideration. I wouldn’t go so far as to right out ban the book, rather, I’d explicitly warn younger readers what is to come and open it up for conversation if there is something they need help understanding. 

Subjective Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Await Further Instructions (2018) Review

Await Further Instructions (2018) Review

Directed by: Johnny Kerorkian

Written by: Gavin Williams

Starring: Sam Gittens, Grant Masters, Neerja Niak

Rated: NR

Run-Time: 1h 31min

Genre: Horror

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

Availability: Netflix

A family’s Christmas takes a strange turn when they awake to find themselves trapped inside and begin receiving mysterious instructions through the television. (IMDb)

Originally published on my personal website crystinaluna.com .

While I watched this movie on a Friday, I wasn’t quite confident enough to write a review for it until the following Monday. Not because I found this film so intellectual or amazing in some other way that I needed time to understand it; but because I needed time to figure out what exactly the film was trying to. It is evident from the beginning the intentions of the film, but it simply falls short of actually doing achieving what it wants to. 

When the ominous message “stay indoors and await further instructions” appears in the television of an already torn family, tensions rise as no one can agree on what to do next. As the promised instructions start to appear, the (already horrible) family dynamic is thrown out the window as what little bit of familial trust that may have existed is quickly dissolved. As characters trust each other less and less it becomes evident to the protagonist that an there is something potentially otherworldly going on. 

Now, first of all, it was so refreshing to see practical effects! Though at times this seems to be occasionally augmented with some minor bits of CGI, the fact that the film uses this now archaic technique is quite a breath of fresh air. For many horror film purists, practical effects might as well be the modern-day holy grail with the power to save otherwise dull movies. Which, when it comes to horror films, this film did, in fact, feel quite dull. Aiming for more nuanced psychological horror the film definitely fell short, succumbing to its overdone themes and failing to present a truly unique story. 

With themes of corruption and cult-like devotion, the feel doesn’t do a very good job at presenting these in what should have a character-driven plot. From the very beginning, the characters were unpleasant and in their own ways corrupt. Noone truly changed, for better or for worse, everyone was just insufferable (with the exclusion of maybe the protagonist’s girlfriend).

For this film to have worked it would have likely needed to present a family dynamic much more healthy than the one in the film. Allowing for otherwise good characters to surrender to their inner demons and not-so-perfect beliefs. Even though the antagonist in the film is an omnipotent alien, it may have been in the interest of the filmmakers to research the dynamics of real-life cults, where the corruption of vulnerable individuals is common. 

Honestly, I can’t think of very many people I would recommend this film to. Though on paper the concept seems interesting it simply isn’t well executed. I had to take a break while watching the film simply because I was bored out of my mind.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Amari and the Night Brothers Review (Blog Tour)

Amari and the Night Brothers Review (Blog Tour)

By B.B. Alston

Print Length: 416 pages

Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy

Release Date January 19, 2021

Available for pre-order on Amazon and B&N

Special thanks to theWriteReads and Egmont Publishing for providing me with an ARC.

Amari Peters knows three things.

Her big brother Quinton has gone missing.

No one will talk about it.

His mysterious job holds the secret . . .

So when Amari gets an invitation to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain this is her chance to find Quinton. But first she has to get her head around the new world of the Bureau, where mermaids, aliens and magicians are real, and her roommate is a weredragon.

Amari must compete against kids who’ve known about the supernatural world their whole lives, and when each trainee is awarded a special supernatural talent, Amari is given an illegal talent – one that the Bureau views as dangerous.

With an evil magician threatening the whole supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she is the enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the three tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton . . . (Goodreads)

Amari and the Night Brothers is a charming fantastical middle-grade book that promises to open a new world for its readers. It delivers and then some! Managing to introduce us to a world that is, in some vague ways, reminiscent of the wizarding world, but far larger and dare I say better. For being such a vast world it is well realized, as well as the characters in the story. The relationships between the characters definitely had Percy Jackson-vibes, a fleshed-out realism that makes them all the more relatable and loveable. 

For me, this book was often reminiscent of the Men in Black franchise but on a much larger and more magical scale. This is the sort of book I would have been obsessed with when I was in the intended age category, and still intend to follow as an adult. This book manages to pack a large story into a small package and knowing there is more to come and so much more of this world to explore in what makes this book memorable. This is the sort of book you read as a kid and obsess over, convinced that if your nomination was detected that you’d follow in our titular heroine Amari’s path.

This book, most importantly, manages to pack in some heavy themes. Tackling issues children today, and children of yesterday, have dealt with. It’s a type of story we need more of. 

Amari and the Night Brothers is a fun book for everyone, regardless of age. There are lessons to be learned, fun to be had, and so many interesting characters to meet along the way. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to read this book and look forward to future instalments.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Eri’s Forest TD Review

Developer: Studio Qinoko Pty Ltd

Age Rating: 12+

Size: 371.4 mb

Price Range: Free (with in-app purchases)

Available on iOS and Android

Eri’s Forest is a beautiful and calm tower defence game for those just looking to pass the time. The actual gameplay takes a minute to get used to, but once you get a handle of it, its a simple game. The tutorial does a good job leading the player through the mechanics and basic strategy. 

The story is cute and the game is overall very easy to play and navigate. This game is not necessarily amazing, but it’s good enough to be the sort of game you keep on your phone as a pass time.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Knives Out Review

Knives Out Review

Directed by: Rian Johnson

Written by: Rian Johnson

Starring: Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas

Rated: PG-13

Run-Time: 2h 10min

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%

Availability: Amazon Prime

A detective investigates the death of a patriarch of an eccentric, combative family. (IMDb)

For the month of December, I decided to choose books and films that seem to be relevant to this time of year. And what better film to watch with your family that Knives Out. A scarily accurate depiction of the modern family dynamic. 

I had high expectations going into this film after reading The Inheritance Games and seeing many fellow reviewers compare it to this film. Taking a look at the cast only confirms that this film was set up to succeed. We don’t get many cat-and-mouse type mysteries anymore, nor do we get such satisfactory plot twists. This film calls back to an era of noir films that have struggled to be revived in the modern era focused on hyper-energetic action flicks. This film finds a balance between the older methods of storytelling and the newer aesthetic of cinema. 

Daniel Craig appears as a Sherlock-eque private investigator trying to figure out the true circumstances of the unexpected suicide of an eccentric, and grossly-wealthy author. It goes without saying that this is one of those films you watch more than once. Not just because its a thrilling story, but because it will likely require multiple viewings to catch all the minute details strewn throughout. With a keen eye, like Craig’s Blanc, you can see the whole scenario come together with electric clarity. 

If you love a good whodunnit story, Knives Out is one of the best to come out in recent years. Boasting a talented cast with great chemistry. The film will make you think of your own families eccentricities, especially if they were put under similar circumstances.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown Review

Get a Life, Chloe Brown Review

By Talia Hibbert

Publisher: Avon

Print Length: 373 pages

Release Year: 2019

Genre: Romance

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.86

Available on Amazon, B&N

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

• Enjoy a drunken night out.

• Ride a motorcycle.

• Go camping.

• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.

• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.

• And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior… (Goodreads)

I generally don’t read many contemporary adult romance but Get a Life, Chloe Brown got my immediate attention due to the fact that the protagonist, Chloe, suffers from chronic pain. As someone who suffers through similar struggles, I was excited to read a romance with a protagonist not that different from me. This was one of the few stories where I deeply related to many of Chloe’s struggles, from her inherent want to “get a life,” from her pain-cause mood swings, and her apprehension in starting a relationship. This read was refreshingly real and the relationship depicted was equally as refreshing in how healthy it was.

I don’t read much adult romance, and my understanding of it is limited to the harlequin books my mom would read when I was younger. While I’ve never read one myself, I assumed that all romance book were all like Hallmark movies. It goes without saying I was dead wrong, and Get a Life, Chloe Brown is a prime example. 

The writing is the book was absolutely fantastic and full of character. The humour is top-notch and the romance scenes exude sensuality. This book is one you read when I want to truly satisfying love story. Hibbert does an amazing job pacing this book in such a way to have you at the edge of your seat, just waiting for satisfaction. And, let me tell you, she delivers.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Shatter Me Review

Shatter Me Review

By Tahereh Mafi

Publisher: Harper

Print Length: 338 pages

Release Year: 2011

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.95

Available on Amazon, B&N

I am a monster

I’m more than human

My touch is lethal

My touch is power

I am their weapon

I will fight back

Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior. (Goodreads)

I had not originally planned on reading this book, but when I came across it a local sale for only one dollar, I couldn’t help myself. I decided to give this series a chance, regardless of the fact I was going into it with low expectations. I don’t know if that fact played a factor in the end, but I was surprised to find myself enjoying this book enough to have interest in the rest of the series. 

I have nothing against the YA dystopian subgenre but will admit to generally not being impressed by it. It’s a genre over-saturated with subpar books riding on the back of the success of series such as The Hunger Games and Divergent. I picked up this book, expecting it to be readable, but as enjoyable as it ended up being. 

The writing of this book is unique, to the point where when I first opened it, I thought the previous owner had taken it upon themselves to cross-out various lines. It took me a minute to realize that no, this was something entirely intentional. It’s an odd technique, that while I’m not particularly fond of it, it does the job it’s intended to. It helps set the tone of the story, that is further perpetuated by Mafi’s unique and beautiful writing style. It’s almost poetic in how it illustrates the shattered state of mind the protagonist Juliette is in throughout the book. As the book progresses and she feels more comfortable in her reality we see some of these techniques either stop being used entirely or reduced significantly, while others continued to be used just as much if not more. At the end of the day, the writing in this book is really what elevated the reading experience for me, though I understand how it could have done the exact opposite for others. 

The only thing that rubbed me the wrong away about this book is the romance. It’s easy to say I didn’t care for it, and the little bit of exposure I’ve had to the fandom had me thoroughly confused (though I understand further reading may clear that up.) I’m not as bothered by love triangles as some are, but I struggled with this one in particular because I either don’t trust or don’t like either of the love interest. And… Warner? Am I supposed to like him? Cause no. And while I realise this negative is entirely subjective, for me, it detracted enough from the story to pull me out of it. I imagine for readers who don’t like love-triangles the effect would have been but quicker and more intense. 
Coming up with a rating for this book, even with the help of a rubric, was a struggle for me. It’s not quite a four-star read for me, but not as low as a three. That said, a 3.5 doesn’t quite seem right either. I imagine my final subjective rating being somewhere between 3.5 and four.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Permanent Record Review

Permanent Record Review

By Mary H.K. Choi

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 

Print Length: 400 pg. 

Release Year: 2019

Genre: Contemporary Young Adult

Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.45

Available on Amazon, B&N, and Libby

After a year of college, Pablo is working at his local twenty-four-hour deli, selling overpriced snacks to brownstone yuppies. He’s dodging calls from the student loan office and he has no idea what his next move is.

Leanna Smart’s life so far has been nothing but success. Age eight: Disney Mouseketeer; Age fifteen: first #1 single on the US pop chart; Age seventeen, *tenth* #1 single; and now, at Age nineteen…life is a queasy blur of private planes, weird hotel rooms, and strangers asking for selfies on the street.

When Leanna and Pab randomly meet at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn, they both know they can’t be together forever. So, they keep things on the down-low and off Instagram for as long as they can. But it takes about three seconds before the world finds out… (Goodreads)

Permanent Record is one of those books you pick up cause its absolutely gorgeous and keep cause it’s just as good. I had mixed feelings going into, having had mixed feelings when going into Choi’s previous book Emergency Contact. When I first read Emergency Contact, I adored it; but the second time I picked it up not so much. So I was justifiably scared about picking up Permanent Record, but in the end, it worked out. 

Choi writes relatable romance with genuine issues that young couples often face. Permanent Record steps a bit farther away from most peoples reality by being a romance between a multifaceted pop star and once-internet-viral college drop-out. In a way, this book plays on many peoples fantasies of somehow running into a celebrity and falling in love. But, regardless of the circumstances of the romance, it is still very relatable and realistic. Pablo, our protagonist, really likes Leanna (his popstar love interest) but is embarrassed by his own shortcomings as a college drop out. He can’t communicate this to her and feels his only option is to lie. This critical failure in communication causes an invisible wall between them, that is only fortified with the struggles that come with dating someone in Leanna’s field of work. Choi manages to write this outlandish and rare situation in a very relatable and easy to understand manner, making it just as easy to relate to Leanna as it is to Pablo. 

Overall, the writing in the book is standard for YA contemporary, but as mentioned above, extra points to the author for being able to craft such relatable character even when they have less-than-relatable circumstances. In the end, I found that I enjoyed this book quite a bit, even more than its predecessor. If this trend continues, I have high hopes for Choi’s next book (which I believe is titled Yolk).

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Otagi: Spirit Agents Review

Developer: Mitama Technology Co. LIMITED

Age Rating: 12+

Size: 341.7 MB

Price Range: Free (with in-app purchases)

Available on iOS and Android

By now you can probably tell I’m a fan of Japanese RPG’s, especially those that include gatcha. Otagi: Spirit Agents is a promising entry into this genre, but doesn’t quite manage to deliver what I’m looking for in these types of games. 

While the art is beautiful,  I find the story and actual gameplay to be quite lacklustre. Additionally, I find the gatcha system not as rewarding as it could be for free-to-play players. I don’t expect to only get high-ranking characters, but I find the abundance of repeats not worth it. 

For more casual players this game may be harder to progress in because it tends to regard a lot more “grinding” than similar titles. I found it didn’t take me long to get to a point where I was thoroughly stuck.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ruinsong Review

Ruinsong Review

By Julia Ember

Publisher: Darrar, Straus, and Giroux

Print Length: 368 pages

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Release Date November 24th 2020

Available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Special thanks to Macmillan for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Her voice was her prison…

Now it’s her weapon.

In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence has been forced to torture her country’s disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen’s bidding.

But when she is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must finally make a choice: Take a stand to free their country from oppression, or follow in the queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself. (Goodreads)

Ruinsong is a delightfully dark and sapphic fantasy retelling of Phantom of the Opera that boast exceptional writing and a unique take on magic. This book is refreshingly queer and uses every page to its advantage. I devoured this book, and foresee myself wanting to do so again. 

I picked up this book because of its gorgeous cover and promise of a sapphic relationship. The latter is delivered and then some, as the author throughs in world-building details that illustrate a world more accepting (in some, but not all) of queerness. As a queer individual, I was b=both charmed and delighted at even the smallest of details representing under-represented communities. The sapphic nature of the book was particularly refreshing, do to the tendency of gay male relationships being seemingly favoured in publishing. The relationship is a slow-burn enemies-to-lover sort of romance, which, on its own, is swoon-worthy. Throw in two girls, both powerful in their own right, rebelling against the injustice of the crown… Well, you get a damn good book.

This book is a relatively short read, but for what it lacks in page count, it makes up with it’ well-crafted world. Not a single detail of this book is unnecessary, as every page is used wisely. We get a glimpse into a world that is so well developed it may as well be real. While reading this book, you are transported into this world, being slowly destroyed by a tortuous dictator, and you see the contrast of the palace and city. 

The only criticism I can offer is in regards to the villain of the book. While she is captivating, her motivations and methods of evil aren’t particularly unique. Regardless, she still manages to be terrifying, holding her power with elegance. Even when she cracks, she does so with a rare sort of grace. 

The magic system in this book is one of its strongest aspects. There are defined limits and defining aspects of power. The decision to make the magic music-based is truly genius, and its application is so well done. 

I fully intend on acquiring a physical copy of this book, because I thoroughly enjoyed it and see myself wanting to reread it. I recommend this book to anyone who loves dark fantasy and overthrowing tyrannical matriarchies.

Subjective Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Objective Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Final Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.