The Last of US Part II Review (Spoilers and TW: abuse, transphobia, parental death)

The Last of US Part II was one of my most anticipated games of 2020. I remember being hyped when I saw the first trailer back in 2018, and then continuing with game play footage at E3 2020.The Last of Us Part 2's Laura Bailey, Neil Druckmann, and Naughty ...

 

After finally playing it and finishing the game I felt like I needed to get my thoughts on this game. I always had history with Naughty Dog, I started young with Crash Bandicoot, spent my teen years with Jax and Daxter, and got older with the Uncharted Series and Last of Us, and it felt as Naughty Dog was growing with me.

 

Last of Part II is set five years after the events of the first game. Joel and Ellie are in Jackson in a nice community. Ellie is now older, and is doing patrols keeping clear of any infected.

At the start of the game you also play as a mysterious women named Abby, who is trying to find someone in Jackson. After a series of events Abby confronts the person she is looking for and it happens to be Joel. Where it becomes controversial, she kills Joel, in front of Ellie and Tommy. And that’s where the game starts.

It was a hug risk killing Joel, especially at the start of the game, which cause Ellie to go on a quest fro revenge to find Abby and avenge Joel. It is also a lot more brutal than and violent but it is the Last of Us, so or course it is violent.

The Last of Us Part II -- Tips and tricks for surviving the ...

There is some new game mechanics such as dodge when pressing L1, and with more crouching in which steal plays a huge role. Also the fact that the NPCs actually have names. It seemed very odd, but I think the intention was to make them more human, especially in the messed up world.

Also midway through the game, you begin to play as Abby, Joel’s killer and learns about her relationship with the WLFs, and her past as a Firefly. Also learning that her father was one of doctors that was killed at the end of the previous game.

The Last of Us 2 proves gaming isn't used to seeing women with ...

The Abby sections of the game, I think really fleshed out the world. Seeing other factions and learning about the war the WLFs, had with the Seraphites. I also felt that her section of the game was a lot more challenging especially dealing with the Rat King infected from the hospital.

I feel that her sections of the game, was not merely to make her sympathetic, but to flesh out her character, I always think that the best villains are heroes in their own stories.

There is also a character named Lev, who is a trans man escaping the Seraphites and was banished for “shaving his head”.  Lev is one of the few trans characters in gaming, but he also has dealt with abuse and also being dead named by the Seraphites.

The Last of Us Part 2: Transgender character causes concern

Let me give my thoughts about the ending. The ending is set about a year later, with Ellie living with Dina and raising JJ, but then found a lead on where Abby is. She spends time going to Santa Barbara to confront Abby and sees another faction that enslaves people, and is holding Abby and Lev.

When Ellie finally confronts Abby, they have a brawl and in the end she lets Abby go. I know it may seem controversial at first but really thinking about it. It ties a lot into revenge and forgiveness. While I don’t think Ellie forgives Abby, but I think it was important to let her go. When Joel died, Ellie didn’t really forgive Joel for lying to her about what happened at the hospital. Even at the end she goes home and finds that Dina and JJ has left, ending up all alone.

I really enjoyed playing Last of Us Part II. It felt like a really great book that you could not put down. It fleshed out a lot of the story, world and characters. I feel that some of the criticisms was warranted but not to the extent of making death threats to voice actors or to those who liked the game.

Grade: 9/10

Clap When you Land by: Elizabeth Acevedo

Summary:

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance – and Papi’s secrets – the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Papi’s death uncovers all the painful truths he kept hidden, and the love he divided across an ocean. And now, Camino and Yahaira are both left to grapple with what this new sister means to them, and what it will now take to keep their dreams alive.

In a dual narrative novel in verse that brims with both grief and love, award-winning and bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives

The Review: 

I became a huge fan of Elizabeth Acevedo’s work ever since I read The Poet X, one of eh first novels I read that was in verse. Clap When You Land, is another novel also set in verse, this time telling the story of two POVs, Yahaira and Camino

It was great to ready about the two POVs, and she does a good job at giving them their own distinct voice to them. Both of them seeing the different sides of their father’s death. With the death of their father revealed that family secret that they are sisters.

With Camino, she is from the Dominican Republic, who lives with her aunt and dreams about moving to New York and going to Columbia University and becoming a doctor. Her aunt is the neighborhood medical healer, and one of my favorite highlights of the book was seeing her aunt use the herbal mixes and helping out her neighbors.

With Yahaira, she is from New York, who is a smart girl who plays chess mainly with her father.

When both receive the news of their father’s death, they both deal with a lot of emotions. Also they deal with the emotions of finding out about each other, and seeing the man they look up to as someone who had kept a secret.

Acevedo, does a good job at giving them their own distinct voices and seeing them navigate the grief of their father and the discovery of their sister. The verses feel so lyrical and every line of the book mattered.

In the end, Clap When You Land is an amazing book, that does a good job at tackling grief and secrets. Both characters are amazing, and it makes you want to root for them.

Grade: 5/5

WWW Wednesday 6/17/2020

Happy Wednesday everyone,

Welcome to WWW Wednesday which is currently being hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words. It’s really just a place to do little update on what all you’ve been reading lately. Anyone is welcome to join, just leave a link to your post in the comments and be sure to give the appropriate credit to Sam

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

The Lightning Thief | Disney Books | Disney Publishing Worldwide

Okay, so the moment I found out about the Disneyplus series, I bought the box set. My only experience with Percy Jackson was the movies unfortunately, but so far I am enjoying this, and hopefully I will read the spin off series as well.

Amazon.com: The Rage of Dragons (The Burning Book 1) eBook: Winter ...

This had me at dragons. I picked this book up back in February and this is a an epic high fantasy, with some great world building so far.

What did you recently finish reading?

Amazon.com: LaGuardia eBook: Okorafor, Nnedi, Ford, Tana: Kindle Store

This is a graphic novel which deals with aliens and immigration, which also feels very timely right now. This was also sitting on my shelf for a long time, and it really is a great one. I have read Nnedi Okorafor books before, and it still has that great world building and characters.

Amazon.com: The City We Became: A Novel (The Great Cities Trilogy ...

Going into the mind of N.K. Jemisin again, with a nice sci fi story set in New York, in which a group of seemingly ordinary people who have to work together. Because it’s an N.K Jemisin it has great characters, snappy dialogue and good world building.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Amazon.com: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin eBook: Brown, Roseanne A ...

This just came in a few days ago, and I am dying to read this, and the premise looks amazing.

Amazon.com: Ace of Shades (The Shadow Game Series) (9781335692290 ...

I picked this up back in January, and it has been on my backlist for a while now. I met the author back in January at a book event, and was very intrigued by the premise.

 

WWW Wednesday 5/20/2020

Happy Wednesday everyone,

Welcome to WWW Wednesday which is currently being hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words. It’s really just a place to do little update on what all you’ve been reading lately. Anyone is welcome to join, just leave a link to your post in the comments and be sure to give the appropriate credit to Sam

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

Clockwork Prince, Walmart Edition (The Infernal Devices, Volume 2 ...

Yes, I am diving right back in shadow hunter world and I am enjoying The Infernal Devices a lot more than The Mortal Instruments, and I could see why Tessa, Will and Jem are amazing characters, and it really has a chance to see the shadow hunter world more in depth.

Amazon.com: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files) (9780553499117): Amie ...

I am currently listening to the audiobook, and it is amazing. I already read this series, but hearing the voices it reminds me of those old radio serials with an amazing voice cast.

What did you recently finish reading?

Star Wars: Ahsoka by E. K. Johnston, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

As a fan of both Clone Wars and Rebels, I became a fan of Ahsoka Tano. This book takes place after Clone Wars and before Rebels, and it really does a good job at fleshing out her character, and dealing with the events after Revenge of the Sith.

Amazon.com: The Guinevere Deception (Camelot Rising Trilogy ...

This was a very unique take on Arthurian Legend, and I like that it focused on Guinevere, and her trying to protect Arthur, and I really enjoyed it, and seeing a lot of references to the original King Arthur tale.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Amazon.com: Between Burning Worlds (2) (System Divine ...

I read Sky Without Stars, and I loved it. A great retelling of Les Mis, set in space, which now deals with the characters, and a rebellion. I am very excited to read the sequel.

That is my WWW Wednesday. What books are you currently reading? What have you recently finished and what will you be reading next? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Ahsoka by EK Johnston

Summary:

Fans have long wondered what happened to Ahsoka after she left the Jedi Order near the end of the Clone Wars, and before she re-appeared as the mysterious Rebel operative Fulcrum in Rebels. Finally, her story will begin to be told. Following her experiences with the Jedi and the devastation of Order 66, Ahsoka is unsure she can be part of a larger whole ever again. But her desire to fight the evils of the Empire and protect those who need it will lead her right to Bail Organa, and the Rebel Alliance…. 

The Review:

I have always been interested in the story of Ahsoka since I started watching the Clone Wars on Disney Plus, (I’m on season 2 right now) and very intriguied by her story. She was Anakin’s apprentince during the Clone Wars, and one of the very few Jedi that survived Order 66.

This book is set after the events of Revenge of the Sith, when the Empire took over and starting to hunt down any surviving Jedi, so of course Ahsoka is trying to lay low and not draw attention towards herself.

With Ahsoka, there is a lot of elements of her reeling from the events of the Clone Wars, and surviving Order 66, and you really feel a sense of isolation with her, realizing that she has no one. The story is very character driven and the plot is very simple as to mainly being Ahsoka in hiding, and fleeing from Inquisitors.

She meets with a few characters, and goes by the name Ashla to hid her identity, and then tries to protect them from her past. I love a lot of the meditation chapters that peak into her memories of her time during the Clone Wars including her fight with Darth Maul, giving him more glimpses of her character.

The story was very character driven, and a little light on plot, however, I did like a few of the cameos including Bail Organa and little Princess Leia. Hopefully if there is a sequel I want to see the Ahsoka, and how she ended up on Fulcrum in Star Wars Rebels.

In the end, I really enjoyed Ahsoka. It was a nice character piece about one of my favorite Star Wars characters and how she dealt with the events after Revenge of the Sith, and puts Ahsoka. I know EK Johnston wrote other Star Wars stories and I am more than happy to read them

Grade: 4/5

Nocturna by Maya Motayne

Summary:

Set in a Latinx-inspired world, a face-changing thief and a risk-taking prince must team up to defeat a powerful evil they accidentally unleashed.

To Finn Voy, magic is two things: a knife to hold under the chin of anyone who crosses her…and a disguise she shrugs on as easily as others pull on cloaks.

As a talented faceshifter, it’s been years since Finn has seen her own face, and that’s exactly how she likes it. But when Finn gets caught by a powerful mobster, she’s forced into an impossible mission: steal a legendary treasure from Castallan’s royal palace or be stripped of her magic forever.

After the murder of his older brother, Prince Alfehr is first in line for the Castallan throne. But Alfie can’t help but feel that he will never live up to his brother’s legacy. Riddled with grief, Alfie is obsessed with finding a way to bring his brother back, even if it means dabbling in forbidden magic.

But when Finn and Alfie’s fates collide, they accidentally unlock a terrible, ancient power—which, if not contained, will devour the world. And with Castallan’s fate in their hands, Alfie and Finn must race to vanquish what they have unleashed, even if it means facing the deepest darkness in their pasts

The Review:

I picked up this book on kinda of a whim, okay so mainly it was because of the cover, and the fact that it is an Latinx-inspired fantasy, which I am trying to read more of.

This book follows two main POVs. Finn Voy, is a thief who can shape shift into anyone which of course makes her a good thief, and has a good hustle going on, and tries to stay as far as possible. Alfie is a prince, who is dealing with the death of his older brother, who would have been king. He is mainly dealing with grief and trying to find ways to bring back his brother.

When Finn and Alfie meet I immediately liked their bond, even though they were bitter towards each other at the beginning they did manage to find some common ground and want to help each other out.

The plot involves how Alfie accidentally let on an evil spirit and now they have to work together to stop it. While it may seem thinly veiled what makes it work is the characters and the magic system.

I also really loved the world building. A lot of it was tied to Latinx culture and ideals, which even did a good job at discussing colonialism, which didn’t like info dumps and actually made me more invested in the story. The book also touches a lot of themes on abuse and grief. With Finn, a lot of her character arc deals with trying to escape from an abuser who would constantly gaslight her, which I felt was extremely well done.

In the end, I loved Nocturna. It had extremely well done characters and themes tied to Latinx culture. Finn and Alfie are amazing characters I want to see them continue their stories

 

WWW Wednesday 5/6/2020

Happy Wednesday everyone,

Welcome to WWW Wednesday which is currently being hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words. It’s really just a place to do little update on what all you’ve been reading lately. Anyone is welcome to join, just leave a link to your post in the comments and be sure to give the appropriate credit to Sam

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reader?

So far, I am really enjoying this book. It has a great mix of fantasy with Latinx culture. It deals with a thief and a prince who accidentally unleash a darkness and now have to work together.  It also has some great world building as well.

What did you recently finish reading?

Amazon.com: Starsight (Skyward) (9780399555817): Sanderson ...

Oh scud, this book was amazing. Brandon Sanderson did it again. I loved how expansive the world became, and learning more about the conflict and more alien species, and still loving Spensa.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Amazon.com: The Guinevere Deception (Camelot Rising Trilogy ...

Ah yes, a King Arthur retelling, and this time it from Guinevere’s POV. I am a fan of Kiersten White, mainly the And I Darken series, and I also really enjoyed Slayer. So I am excited to read her take on Arthurian legend.

That is my WWW Wednesday. What books are you currently reading? What have you recently finished and what will you be reading next? Let me know in the comments below!

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

Summary:

All her life, Spensa has dreamed of becoming a pilot. Of proving she’s a hero like her father. She made it to the sky, but the truths she learned about her father were crushing.

Spensa is sure there’s more to the story. And she’s sure that whatever happened to her father in his starship could happen to her. When she made it outside the protective shell of her planet, she heard the stars–and it was terrifying. Everything Spensa has been taught about her world is a lie.

But Spensa also discovered a few other things about herself–and she’ll travel to the end of the galaxy to save humankind if she needs to.

The Review:

This was a sequel that I was very excited for, seeing that I really loved Skyward, so of course I wanted to see how this story goes on. Spensa is still dealing with learning the truth about her father and now she has been tasked with another mission to be a spy.

Spensa is still an awesome character and I love her relationship with M-Bot, and with this book it begins to grow a lot more, and M-Bot even gets a little snarky for a bit.

The main mission revolves around her infiltrating the Krell, the alien race that been in war with the humans, by using a holographic disguise from an Alien named Alanik, who is a Urdial, a species who has had an alliance with the humans. What made it great was seeing the Krell more up close and personal and begins to see the war from their perspective. Throughout the book she trains with the Krell and even begins to make some friends, which makes her mission very hard.

There is also a lot of political intrigue in the book, and you get to learn a lot more about the Krell politically, and it was not just the Krell, but other alien races and their relationship with the Krell, and differences they have.

I would have like to have seen more of the  other characters that was in Skyward, which was one of my only minor gripes with the book. But I did like the new characters that was introduced.

Like a great sequel, this book really upped the stakes, and also fleshed out the world or galaxy and making the world more expansive. It also has a really great cliffhanger, which makes me beg for the next book.

In the end, I enjoyed Starsight. It was an amazing sequel up there with Torch Against the Night. The characters and world became much more expansive.

Grade: 5/5

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Summary:

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish—to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she’ll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age—her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl’s hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true—but his help may cost her everything.

In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically-told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister. 

The Review:

I was very excited to pick up this book, mainly because it is from Marie Lu, who is one of my autobuy authors. Also because it is very different from her usual books, and I like that she isn’t afraid to dip into other genres, this one being an historical fiction with some light fantasy elements.

This is the story about Mozart sister who is very unknown in the history books who goes by Nannerl in this book. She is also a musical prodigy, but couldn’t rise up in the ranks like her brother because of her gender.

Nannerl’s character is very well written, because this is a Marie Lu book, she knows how to write these complex characters. One of the highlights I really liked was seeing the relationship between Nannerl and Wolfrel. She always seem to care a lot by her brother, and that is how they come up with the Kingdom of Back, their own world that they made up for themselves.

The main plot of the story is Nannerl and Wolfrel, are basically touring and visiting Kings and Queens to show off Wolfrel’s talent as a composer with Nannerl, of course in the background. There is a lot of time when Nannerl wants to break free but is confined by the gender norms of that time, and there are times when she writes his music.

The Kingdom of Back, is a very fantastical world, and Marie Lu does a good job at describing the details of that world. It has it’s own world and stakes involved within that world. My only main gripe is that we didn’t spend a lot of time in that world and I wanted to see more of it.

In the end, I really enjoyed The Kingdom of Back. Like most of Marie Lu’s work she knows how to write these very complex characters, with a very compelling plot. This also gives a voice to the forgotten women in history.

Grade: 4.5/5

Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

Summary:

Eight years after the fall of the Old Republic, the Galactic Empire now reigns over the known galaxy. Resistance to the Empire has been all but silenced. Only a few courageous leaders such as Bail Organa of Alderaan still dare to openly oppose Emperor Palpatine.

After years of defiance, the many worlds at the edge of the Outer Rim have surrendered. With each planet’s conquest, the Empire’s might grows stronger.

The latest to fall under the Emperor’s control is the isolated mountain planet Jelucan, whose citizens hope for a more prosperous future even as the Imperial Starfleet gathers overhead… 

The Review:

This book was on my TBR for quite a while, I remember buying the book a couple years ago then putting it on my bookshelf and never reading it, which seemed odd because I am a massive Star Wars fan.

The story takes place a few years after Revenge of the Sith in which the Galactic Empire is taking their reach across the galaxy beginning with a planet called Jelucan, which is on the Outer Rim, also the home planet of our two main characters Ciena and Thane.

If I were give an elevator pitch I would call it an Imperial and a Rebel fall in love, or trying not to fall in love. As they both entered the Imperial Academy together, they were childhood friends, but after a series of events Thane falls in and joins the Rebel Alliance, while Ciena joins the empire.

As the book goes on it does a good job at knowing their viewpoints and why Ciena joined the empire, while Thane was with the Rebels. It also showed a lot of their conflicts seeing their friend on the other side of the war. I also really enjoyed the romance. While on the surface it would be an average friends to lovers to enemies story, the romance was a lot more well rounded.

Throughout the book, it plays through the Original Trilogy, but from there perspective. The story really picks up after the deconstruction of Alderaan. It really has a lot of discussion about war, and showing that was the destruction a way to prevent war or not. It was nice seeing it from the Empire’s perspective. Which lead with the destruction of the first Death Star, it really put in perspective of both sides arguing that their side is right.

Seeing a Star Wars story from the viewpoints of the Empire was also very refreshing. As a kid I loved playing Tie Fighter on my computer because it should the events of Stars Wars from a new perspective.

In the end, I really loved Lost Stars. If you are a Star Wars fan, this is a book that I will highly recommend, and it makes me even more excited that Claudia Gray is writing more Star Wars stories.

Grade: 5/5