Leah on the Offbeat

Rating: ⭐⭐.5
Author: Becky Albertalli
Genres: Young Adult, LBGTQIA+
Pub date: Apr. 2018 (read Aug. 2018)

I really wanted to love this…. I may be the only person on the planet who liked, but didn’t love, Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda, and that’s pretty much the same way I feel about Leah on the Offbeat.

All of Becky Albertalli’s books are fantastically diverse and I’m so glad they exist, but this was just so predictable and it doesn’t have all that much going on in the plot. This book follows Simon’s story and is focused on his best friend Leah, but I don’t think it’s really necessary to have read the first book. Even though Simon came out as gay, Leah struggles to come out as bi to any of her friends. She’s in her senior year and as much as she hates to admit it, she is really sad that she’s going to have to say goodbye to all of her friends at the end of the year and becomes defensive and confrontational with many of the people in her life.

I know teenagers are moody and that Leah starts pushing everyone in her life away to avoid having to feel sad about saying goodbye to them, but I thought she was a bit mean at times. She’s pretty hard on her mom and the smallest comment from any of her friends would set her off. It just bothered me that she made this huge deal out of Morgan’s racist comment when she was throwing tantrums about anything said to her that she deemed to be the least bit offensive. Was Morgan wrong, absolutely, but I feel like white people also feel this right to be offended by everything and Leah definitely embraced that little bit of white privilege.

I just felt like Leah’s character was super inconsistent and kind of mean, but there were never any consequences for her. I thought she was unreasonable at times and I thought several of the characters made questionable and sometimes problematic choices that were never really acknowledged. Leah lies to Garrett and never apologizes, she totally drops Anna from her life and basically forgets about her and Morgan, Nick’s entitlement to be mad at Abby and then be a total hypocrite about her feelings, and basically everyone being mean to Taylor. She was in Leah’s band… like they must somewhat be friends, but apparently everyone seems to hate her. Plus, Leah is super rude to her mom, who is supposedly like her best friend. I liked that her mom called her out on just giving up on life whenever something doesn’t go her way, but she basically just continued to do that I just wanted to yell at her whiny ass to get over herself.

I loved that Leah was an ally, I loved that the story had gay and bi-sexual couples, I loved that Leah was a fat girl who didn’t feel bad about being fat or feel like she needed to go on a diet. But I felt like Albertalli was just throwing her progressiveness in my face. It’s weird for me to feel this way because I believe wholeheartedly in everything Albertalli was trying to do with this book, it just felt really forced to me. I don’t need Leah to tell me she’s an ally, or that she loves her body, just show me that she’s an ally who loves her body. Readers are pretty smart and it just irked me that everything was spelled out for me. SHOW DON’T TELL.

I know I’m no longer in the intended audience for YA books, but I usually don’t have a problem with well written YA books as I feel they can still be relevant to people at any age, but this one just felt a little too juvenille or me. Anyways, it’s just a personal opinion. I know a lot of people love this and I’m really glad it exists for teenagers. But it just wasn’t a favourite for me.

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Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow

Rating: 
Author: Jessica Townsend
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pub date: Oct. 2017 (read Aug. 2018)

I’ve been seeing Nevermoor pop up on Booktube and for some reason decided I didn’t have an interest in it. But I recently heard it labelled as the “next Harry Potter” and that there were a lot of comparisons that could be made between the two, so of course I finally had to pick up a copy. Best decision ever because this book was so much fun from start to finish!

Morrigan Crow is eleven years old and has the unfortunate bad luck of being born on Eventide. As a result, she’s considered a cursed child in the Wintersea Republic and is blamed for every bad thing that happens in her village. But her real bad luck is that cursed children always die on the eve of the next Eventide, which happens to be the day after Morrigan’s eleventh birthday.

Morrigan just wants to be remembered, but when the next Eventide is announced, it’s obvious her family is already preparing to move on and forget about her. However, before death can catch her, Morrigan is whisked away to Nevermoor, the free state, by the enigmatic Jupiter North, who selects Morrigan to be his first ever candidate for the Wundrous Society. But in order to be admitted to the Society, Morrigan must complete her trials and be selected by the judges.

What made this book fantastic was that it had so many layers. It’s been a long time since I read a book like this and it made me realize how much I miss clever fantasy stories with a strong mystery element. This has obvious parallels to Harry Potter with the 11 year old being whisked away to another world, the magical elements, her wise mentor figure, the foreboding unnamed villain, and the humourous moments woven throughout the story. But it’s the larger mystery of this story and the complex world building that made this such a good book and worthy of being compared to Harry Potter.

This was a 450 page book and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of this world. It was a brilliant debut with just the right balance of world-building, character development, and whimsy. Townsend doesn’t give up all her secrets and I know there’s so many more surprises and quirks to be developed in this series. I don’t really know where the author plans to take the plot, but I get the feeling that it will have a lot more depth than what we’ve been introduced to in the first book.

I really wouldn’t change anything about this book. I have so many questions, yet I was still satisfied by the ending. I can’t wait to find out more about the Wundrous Society and what mischief Morrigan and Hawthorne will get up to in the next book. There were so many intriguing characters in this book and I can’t wait to learn more about Jupiter, Jack, Fen, Cadence, Noelle, and of course, the Wundersmith.

Book 2 can’t come soon enough! Everyone should read this!

July Monthly Summary

I wrote about this in my August Monthly Challenge post as well, but I’ve been feeling like I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump this summer. I know I still managed to read a total of 25 books in May/June/July, which is right on track for my reading goals, but reading has been feeling like a bit more of a chore. I get into these spurts where I just fly through a book every 3 days and can’t wait to read the next one. But I haven’t been as excited about the books I’ve been reading since I came back from Vietnam. That said, my August Challenge is to read as many books off my bookshelf as possible, and so far it is working wonders! Getting to pick my book based on what I’m feeling in that moment is so much more enjoyable than forcing myself the read something that, even though I might really want to read it in general, might not be what I’m feeling like reading in that moment.

So that’s my little update, without further ado, here’s my July Summary:

Books read: 10
Pages read: 3,176
Main genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Favourite book: Not That Bad

To start, I read two ARC’s in July, Sadie by Courtney Summers, and Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood. Both were fantastic! Sadie was a really interesting combination of murder mystery and YA. I struggle to call it YA at all because I really think this fits better as adult fiction that just happens to feature teenagers. It’s a gritty book, but what I loved about it was that half of it is written in the form of a podcast. It was such a different concept and it really worked for me. Rust & Stardust is based on the true crime that inspired Lolita, and while it was disturbing, I really liked the authors voice in this novel and thought it was a really accurate time period piece.

I managed to fit 2 audiobooks into July as well. The first was Not That Bad, which is a compilation of essays about rape culture, edited by Roxane Gay. I love Roxane Gay, so I knew this was going to be fantastic. What really struck me about the anthology was the diversity and the refrain that no matter what has happened to you, it is “that bad” and you should be justified in feeling however you choose about it. The second audiobook was of a totally different genres, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao. This was my first fantasy audiobook and I actually really liked it! It’s this east-asian, dark retelling of the evil queen in Snow White and I thought it was super dark and compelling.

I snuck in 2 volumes of Lumberjanes in July. It’s a graphic novel series that I originally picked up because it was by the creator of Nimona (which I am obsessed with), but Noelle Stevenson has since moved on from the project and I’m kind of over it now- it’s a fun series, but it’s just always the same – so I’ve decided to move on. I didn’t write a review about the volumes, but the short volumes helped boost my reading numbers.

I read two YA/historical type novels; My Plain Jane, which is the second book in the (non-sequential) Lady Janies series by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, and Bright We Burn, which is the final book in The Conqueror’s Saga by Kiersten White. My Plain Jane was a bit of a disappointment compared to the first book, My Lady Jane, but Bright We Burn was a fantastic epic conclusion! Both are re-imagined history novels and I would definitely recommend Kiersten White’s books, as well as My lady Jane.

The Last two books I read were part of my July Monthly Challenge. I read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar. I had a third book as well, which I picked to be Swing Time by Zadie Smith, but I admit that I haven’t finished it yet. I am about 100 pages in and I am liking it, it’s just a bit of a slower paced book that I’m slowly working my way through.

But I really liked An American Marriage. I thought it was a great look at America’s justice system and racial prejudice. I thought some parts of the book were a little problematic, but overall I liked it. Unfortunately I didn’t really like The Map of Salt and Stars. I thought it had a fantastic premise, but the writing wasn’t great, nor was the character development or plotting.

So overall still a good month and I’m hoping to get back of the swing of things in August!

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Julie C. Dao
Genres: Fantasy, Fairytale retelling
Pub date: Oct. 2017 (read Jul. 2017)

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns seems to have some pretty mixed reviews. Some people seem to love it, while others are not enjoying it at all. To be honest, I thought I would probably be in the latter category since I listened to it as an audiobook (and I find audiobooks pretty hit or miss) and fairytale retellings aren’t really my favourite.

But damn, I did actually really like this, even as an audiobook. I didn’t properly read the synopsis and I went into this thinking it was a snow white retelling, but it’s actually an origin story of the evil queen, set in an East Asian fantasy world! A much more enthralling concept in my opinion!

I admit that I didn’t love this at first – the first few chapters nearly put me and my friend to sleep on a road trip, but it picks up pretty quickly and there is some really engaging nastiness later in the plot and I loved watching Xifeng navigate down an increasingly dubious path.

To give a bit of background, Xifeng has grown up in a tiny village in the empire of Feng Lu. For the first 18 years of her life she has been under the tyranny of her Aunt Guma. Guma reads in the cards that Xifeng’s destiny is to become the Empress of Feng Lu, so she educates her and teaches her the ways of blood magic in order to toughen her up. At the hands of her aunt’s abuse, Xifeng learns that her beauty is her most important asset and that it must be protected at all times.

Guma wants to help Xifeng succeed, but after a disturbing vision, Xifeng decides its time to leave her aunt and her village behind in order to seek her fortune. She escapes the village with her childhood friend and lover, Wei. Wei wants nothing more than to marry and protect Xifeng, but she believes in a different destiny for herself, and though she loves Wei, she keeps him at an arms length as they make their way towards the imperial city.

Like I said, this book has a lot of blood and nastiness in it, but I loved it. Xifeng makes some questionable decisions to protect her beauty and find her way into the imperial palace. But she is super determined and I admired her for continuing to chase after her fortune, even though it meant many sacrifices along the way and a blind faith that her circumstances would improve. The drama within the palace walls was thrilling and I’m really interested to see where Dao takes this in the next book.

25infive Readathon

I’ve been wanting to participate in a read-a-thon for ages, but I’m always out hiking on weekends and I never get the chance. But it’s calling for a rainy Saturday this weekend, so I decided to devote the day to reading!

Then I discovered that there actually is a read-a-thon called 25infive going on from Aug. 9-13, so I decided to participate! The goal of the read-a-thon is to read 25 hours over 5 days. I decided to start mine a day early, so I’ll run from Aug. 8-12 and so far I’ve managed to fit in 10 of my 25 hours and have completed 2 books.

I’ve already finished Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend (epic read, highly recommend) and Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (also fantastic). Right now I’m working on Ten by Gretchen McNeil and Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which I’m also hoping to finish over the weekend. I think there’s a chance I can maybe fit one more book in, or at least start it, any recommendations?