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.

--AJB 

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)

--AJB

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