Monday, July 9, 2018

Leah on the Offbeat, by Becky Albertalli

After devouring Becky Albertalli's novel Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and its film adaption, Love Simon, and loving, no, adoring, them both, I just wasn't ready to leave that world or those characters behind. And thanks to the author's spinoff Leah on the Offbeat, I didn't have to.

Seriously, you guys...I was so happy this book happened!

Leah on the Offbeat focuses on Simon's sarcastic artist/drummer-girl friend, Leah. The novel is set about a year after the events of Simon. And unfortunately, not all well among the friends: Abby has split with Nick, unwilling to attempt the long distance relationship thing when they go off to college in a few more months. And Nick is not taking the break well. Meanwhile, Simon, while still rock solid with Bram, is facing his own doubts about taking that next big step toward adulthood. And Leah, in the middle of all the friend drama whether she wants to be or not (try NOT), has her own struggles to contend with. Particularly when she unexpectedly falls for a certain classmate at the worst possible time.

Could life get more awkward?

The answer is, yes. Yes, it can. 

And it does. 

Everything comes to a head on Prom Night, but things actually turn out all right  for Leah and friends (I know, how very John Hughes of you, Becky Albertalli, but I loved it just the same). Another feel-good ending.

While I didn't get the same feels about Leah on the Offbeat as I did about Simon, I still enjoyed the book very much. I really liked Leah's character. While she comes across as tough and blunt (almost rude at times), she's someone who cares deeply about her friends and her family. At the same time, she's trying to find the courage to be true to herself. Leah is not always likable, but she's a very "real" character. Someone pretty much anyone can relate to.

I'm hoping Becky Albertalli writes more books centering on these characters. Or maybe make it so Leah on the Offbeat gets a film adaption. All I know is I'm looking forward to more good things from this author in the future. The hardest part will be waiting for that to happen.


Saturday, July 7, 2018

Love, Simon (DVD)

Know this

I simply adored Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, so when I learned that Becky Albertalli's iconic novel was being adapted into a movie, I was excited. And maybe a little apprehensive. After all, how many fabulously amazing books have been spoiled somewhat by absolutely horrid film adaptions as of late? Too many, in my opinion! Did I really want to witness this happening to yet another beloved book? (Not so much)

(I'm not being pessimistic, blog reader. I'm being realistic)

Somehow I missed Love, Simon when it was in the theater. Life. You know. It gets in the way sometimes - lol.

So when the Love, Simon DVD finally, at long last, crossed my desk, curiosity won out over concern. Besides, I'd heard nothing but good things about this movie. So I watched it. And I was not disappointed. 

In fact... If anything, I loved the film as much as (if not more than) the book. First of all, the casting was stellar! The characters were pretty much exactly as I pictured them while reading the book. And the director & writers obviously had the utmost respect for the source material, because the film stuck pretty close to the book. Some liberties were taken, of course (liberties are always taken, no matter what), but those didn't interfere with the film in any way and, in fact, only enhanced my overall viewing experience. Much like the liberties that were taken with The Princess Bride and the Lord of the Rings movies. 

So the verdict: Out of 5 stars, I give Love, Simon a solid 10!

For those who have not yet read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda or seen the movie adaption: What's wrong with you? Only kidding :)

The story centers around Simon Spier, a likable high school student who has pretty much everything going for him. He's got an awesome family, an amazing group of friends, and is mostly pretty happy. Simon lives a fairly charmed life. Except for the fact that he's been keeping a huge secret (he's gay) from everyone.

And Simon is content to keep this bit of personal info under wraps indefinitely. Especially when he starts emailing another closeted boy from his school (alias, Blue) and, for the first time, finds the safety of common ground. Inevitablly, Simon begins falling for his secret pen pal. 

But Simon's secret may be out sooner than he thinks (or wants) when fellow student, Martin, happens to take a screenshot of Simon's emails and uses them to blackmail Simon to get a date with Abby (who, by the way, wants nothing to do with Martin). This means not only will Simon be outed, but Blue as well (whoever he is). Simon can't let that happen, so he agrees to Martin's demands.

Things obviously spiral out of control from that point.

I won't spoil the book (or the movie). But know that this is one of the most enjoyable stories out there. The characters are well-developed and likable. Even the hapless and annoying Martin. The romance is sweet. And the ending has enough happy feels to brighten even the worst day.

I adored it! (both)


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Big Water, by Andrea Curtis

The year is 1882 and Christine is aboard the Asia steamship, making its passage through the Great Lakes to Sault Ste. Marie. She is trying to restart her life on her own after the heartbreak of losing her twin brother puts a large strain on her relationship with her parents, who cannot bare to look at her. Chris does not know how to live her life without the person that has been there through it all with her. She does not have a plan about what she will do when she gets to the Soo, but the need to run away from it all is strong enough. She isn’t traveling alone- her older cousin, Peter, happens to be the heroic first mate who acts as a mentor to Christine. After a huge storm hits, the Asia steamship and everyone on it is in trouble.

This new teen book of historical fiction takes in a heavy breathe of survival story grit. That being said, this tale is not for the faint of heart. The sinking ship alone is heavy, but Christine’s heartbreak of the death of her twin brother, becomes incredibly intense after being surrounded by the death of the passengers of the Asia. Christine also experiences some intense survivors guilt since she is one of the two people who survive the tragedy.

Big Water is a fictional tale based off of the real story of the only two survivors of the sinking of the SS Asia in 1882 in the Great Lakes.

If you are looking for a nail biting survival tale of suspense, this is it! - MC

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Neverworld Wake, by Marisha Pessl

One year ago, Bea was living a charmed life. She was popular, she had amazing friends, and she had an incredible boyfriend, the boy all the girls wanted to date and all the guys wanted to be. Everything was perfect. Until Jim's mysterious (and accidental?) death, that is. 

That's when everything fell apart.

Today Bea is a different person. Her grades have dropped, her friends have drifted away, and she spends her free time working at her parents' restaurant and trying not to think too much about the past.

Then comes an invitation from Whitley Lansing. Whitley tells Bea that the friends are reuniting for the weekend at Wincroft Estate. And against her better judgment, Bea attends. She finds everything and everyone the same, but senses there's something very wrong. Something no one is talking about. 

Then, following a near-miss car accident, a mysterious stranger arrives at the door. He tells the five teens that they are all lingering between life and death, caught in an endless loop where they are doomed to live out the same day over and over again. There is only one way to break the loop: Each day, they must vote on who lives and who dies. 

The vote must be unanimous. 

And there can only be one survivor.

(You can guess how well that plays out)

At first no one believes the Stranger and everyone goes their separate ways. But again and again they wake to find themselves back at Wincroft, repeating the same day. Some use these repetitions to do what they want without consequence, but Bea begins to look into why she and her friends are stuck in time. She suspects it has something to do with the circumstances surrounding Jim's death. Unfortunately, this is something no one will talk about.

Neverworld Wake, the first YA novel by Marisha Pessl, reminded me of a cross between We Were Liars (Lockhart) and Before I Fall (Oliver). In the best possible way! The author did a fantastic job with character development in that I didn't much like any of the characters but, as I got to know them, I became sympathetic with each and every one of them. I understood their motivations for how they behaved and why they did what they did. The plot was highly suspenseful and hauntingly strange. It kept me guessing right until the end. And, for the most part, I didn't see the twists and turns coming until they were upon me. 

That's all I'm going to say. This is the sort of book that's best read if you don't know too many spoiler-y things. In fact, the less you know going into it, the better. (I've probably already said too much)

Just read it!

You know you want to!


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi

Zelie’s mother was a powerful maji, who was killed by the royal guards during the raid because of her ability to perform magic. At the kings command, all of the maji were ordered to to be killed in attempt to wipe out magic from the land forever. Their children, "diviners" marked with bright white hair, are spared since their magic was not supposed to reveal itself until they’re older. Without the maji, the diviners are doomed to never acquire their powers. Magic becomes a thing of the past. Almost a legend. Diviners are treated like animals, having to pay higher taxes which causes some to be forced into selling themselves into slavery. The diviners, who are referred to as "maggots", live in fear as they are also frequent victims and survivors of violent crime. They would dye or cut their hair to conceal their identities as diviners, but the white strands repeal all methods of remaining hidden.

Many years later, an artifact resurfaces that possesses the ability to give magic back to any diviners who touch it. Orisha’s rebel of a princess, Amari, escapes the castle with the stolen artifact with the help of Zelie. Teaming up with Zelie’s stubborn brother Tzain, they find themselves in an important quest to try to bring the magic back to all the diviners, “The Children of Blood and Bone”.  

Any teen will fall in love with the magical people from the land of Orisha. The diverse characters, intricate character development, and meaningful plot line will keep readers turning the pages until its over. There are also giant cats the characters ride on, so that is pretty awesome. Zelie and her cause to give the magic back to the diviners so they can stand up to their oppressors is both powerful and inspiring. This book is also told from 3 alternating points of view every chapter or so. Adults and teens alike will not be able to put this book down until it is finished. I loved it. It is everything I wanted out of a 2018 fantasy novel and more.

MOVIE ALERT: In additional exciting news, the book is signed in to become a movie in development at Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions with the incredible producers Karen Rosenfelt and Wyck Godfrey (you know them from their work in movies like- Twilight, The Fault In Our Stars, Love Simon). Read it before it hits theaters! 


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by JK Rowling

This is a brief review of the Audiobook version read by Jim Dale.

Harry Potter goes to Hogwarts for his 3rd year there. The prisoner Sirius Black is on the loose. Harry, throughout the school year, is told he is not safe with Sirius on the loose. Later, he meets Sirius Black and learns the unknown truth about his godfather. 

PS You can submit a review too and earn a square/ticket on your Summer Reading Bingo Sheet!

The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

Overall, I think the audio-book "The Secret Garden" was an interesting experience. Usually, I don't listen to audio-books. But, I think I'd definitely listen to another one after this. Furthermore, I'd absolutely suggest listening to The Secret Garden because it is a classic story and it is almost like someone is sitting there and reading to you. Looking back on this, I now realize that I like audio-books, and without this square on my bingo board I would have never tried it out. 

PS You can submit a review too and earn a square/ticket on your Summer Reading Bingo Sheet!