Leah on the Offbeat – Becky Albertalli

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 3.26.29 PMPublisher: Balzer + Bray

Publication Date: April 24th, 2018

Page Count: 368 (Hardcover)

From the Jacket:

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic.

She’s an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high.

It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

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It’s like it doesn’t even matter if I like my body, because there’s always someone there to remind me I shouldn’t.

Leah Burke is my spirit animal. Becky Albertalli has created a character that I admire the hell out of, aspire to be like, wouldn’t mind dating, and would like to be BFFs with all at the same time. She is confident, completely comfortable in her own skin, and has enough sarcasm in her inner dialogue to rival Chandler Bing. Leah on the Offbeat is the second installment in the Creekwood series, with a focus on Leah this time, but still including all of the characters we fell in love with in Simon. Thrown in with a whole bunch of Harry Potter references are, a big school play, parties, band practice, college tours, road trips, friend fights, breakups, prom, a hefty helping of angsty love, and just so much witty banter. Albertalli tackles the uncertainty that comes with moving on after high school, staying true to yourself even if it means sacrificing relationships, and being brave enough to choose a path that is entirely new.

I sat down to read a few pages of this the other night and ended up reading the entire thing in one sitting. It was hilarious and uplifting and took me right back to all of the best and most uncertain parts of my high school experience. The group is nearing the end of their senior year and everyone is preparing for prom and life after college. This is not your typical high school story, however, as we have an unapologetically fat, bisexual girl as the main character. Oh how I wish this book had been around when I was a teenager. I had really high expectations for this one because I was so enamored by Simon and really wanted more of these characters. As soon as I got my hands on a copy, I put down all of the other books I was reading to start it (sorry not sorry).

With all of the hype surrounding it and my extreme love of the first one, I was worried I’d be underwhelmed, but that wasn’t the case at all. I’m still partial to Simon and Bram, and I did miss the interactions between Simon and his family, but in Leah, we get an entirely new love story (that I was not at all expecting) to crush on and a new family dynamic. I really loved how Albertalli wrote the relationship between Leah and her mom and her mom’s boyfriend, who she is just entirely unimpressed with. Her inner dialogue anytime she is around him or is being forced to talk about him is savage and just so hilarious.

There isn’t a single thing I didn’t love about this book. It has all of the charm and wit of Simon, so if you’re looking for more of that you should definitely consider adding Leah to your list. I plan on reading all of Albertalli’s books and I just got an ARC of What if it’s Us, which she co wrote with Adam Silvera. I cannot wait to start it!

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A Court of Frost and Starlight – Sarah J Maas

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 12.00.32 PMPublisher: Bloomsbury YA

Publication Date: May 1, 2018

Page Count: 272 (Hardcover)

From the Jacket:

Feyre, Rhys and their companions are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it a hard-earned reprieve. Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated – scars that will have a far-reaching impact on the future of their court.

A Court of Thrones and Roses is one of my all time favorite series. I own the print editions and have the second and third installments on audio (because we all know the first one isn’t nearly as important or enjoyable – boo Tamlin). I was a bit disappointed by A Court of Wings and Ruin because it felt like some of the magic created in A Court of Mist and Fury had been lost. It didn’t diminish my love for the series as a whole, but it did put a bit of a damper on my excitement about it. Because of that, it was with  guarded excitement that I counted down the days for A Court of Frost and Starlight to be released.  This is just a short novelette meant to bridge the gap between the first three books and the spin off series.

I was finally able to sit down and read it last night (two whole days after I received it, the horror) and breathed a sigh of relief as I turned the final page. I really needn’t have worried, because while nothing really major happened, it felt like Maas found her voice again. It was absolutely wonderful to be back in the Night Court with these characters I’ve grown to love so much. The banter was spot on and so very witty. I laughed out loud several times and read much of the book with a big stupid smile on my face.

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Maas wrote ACOFAS from several different perspectives, a few of which we’ve never had before and I absolutely loved it. The chapters are pretty short and follow the characters as they prepare to celebrate the Winter Solstice together, which is very much like a Christmas celebration. They put up decorations, shop for gifts, and take time away from day to day responsibilities to be together. All around those preparations and celebration however, we learn about how all of the characters are coping, or in some cases, not coping, since the war. Some of the plot decisions were frustrating to read, but I know she’s creating conflict and opening up avenues for the new series.

I will say in a **minor spoiler** that Queen Maas FINALLY delivered that wall scene, you know the one.

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I won’t give away any details, but oh my goodness was it HOT. She really stepped up the dirty talk and I am HERE. FOR. IT. I’ve placed it in my top three favorites along with the scene at the inn and basically all of chapter 55 in ACOMAF. I think I loved it so much because it felt like those scenes. There was something missing between Feyre and Rhys in A Court of Wings and Ruin, almost like someone else was writing their dialogue and love scenes. This was not the case here, and I’m hoping she doesn’t deviate again.

Everything considered, Maas set out to deliver a short story to link the two series, and fill in some of the details from after the war and I think she succeeded. And it’s clear based on the final product that she had a great time doing it. At the end of the book is an expert from the first installment of the new series, and after reading it I’m not sure I can bear the wait. It’s clear it will be written from the perspectives of both Cassian and Nesta, but beyond that I don’t know much.  Fingers crossed we get more details soon.

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Any other ACOTAR fans out there? Gush with me will you?

April 2018 – Wrap-Up

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It has been A WHILE since I’ve done a wrap-up post, but April was a really good month of reading so I thought I’d give it another go. I’ve got so many five star reads to tell you about!

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 1.37.17 PMPachinko – Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.20.19 AM

I’ve got a full-length review for this one here. In a nutshell, it’s a sprawling multigenerational saga about Korean refugees in Japan during Japan’s colonization of Korea. It’s heavily character driven, and is about parenthood, family, friendship, sacrifice, racism, and perseverance. It’s an incredibly important and beautifully written tome that I’ve added to my list of all-time favorites. I look forward to reading more of Lee’s work.

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 2.56.32 PMCirce – Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.20.19 AM

I also did a full-length review for this one, which you can read here. Circe is the best book I’ve read this year and another I’ve added to my list of all-time favorites. I’m head over heels in love with Miller’s writing style and have not been able to stop thinking about Circe since I finished it. It is a book I will recommend to any and everyone, but is essential reading for fans of Greek mythology.  This left me with a MASSIVE book hangover.

 

Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 8.39.34 PMThe Scarlet Pimpernel – Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.24.27 AM

This was my book club’s pick for April. Despite the fact that the synopsis sounded really quite exciting, and the reviews were great, I put it off reading it until the last minute. Set during the Reign of Terror, right after the beginning of the French Revolution, The Scarlet Pimpernel tells the story of an anonymous band of English gentlemen who rescue French aristocrats from being executed by guillotine by smuggling them out of France. The opening chapter drew me right in, but then things got tedious. Chapters 2 and 3 see the introduction of so many new characters I lost track several times, and the dialogue is really off putting. I almost bailed on it, but didn’t want to miss book club so I powered through and I’m glad I did. While it’s not the best or most exciting book I’ve ever read, it was fast-paced and fun and had a sweet romantic element that I was not expecting.

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 2.56.48 PMThe Alice Network – Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.24.27 AM

I’m always reading a print book and listening to one on audio. The Alice Network was an audio read for me, and I’m so glad for that. The narrator does an incredible job bringing the characters to life and I would have missed out if I had read it myself. The story is written from dual narratives, one set in 1915 during World War I and the other in 1947 in the aftermath of World War II. Quinn focuses on the role women played during both wars and the book has a little bit of everything; spies, intrigue, adventure, charming Scottish men, and romance, and I loved it. I won’t soon forget the story of Eve and Charlie.

Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 9.07.07 PMChildren of Blood and Bone – Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.20.19 AM

I saw this book all over my Instagram feed and was having some serious FOMO, so I bought it on a whim. I started it the day it arrived and did not put it down unless I absolutely had to (work and parenting) for two days. It’s a West-African inspired YA fantasy told from several different perspectives, that to me felt very reminiscent of The Stone Sky series by N.K. Jemisin (which I also loved and you should read it right now if you haven’t already). I cannot remember being this sucked into a YA series since The Hunger Games and I can hardly wait for the second one to come out. It has all the elements you would expect from a YA fantasy; adventure, magic, angsty romance, bad ass heroines and action, but it also has a diverse cast of characters and a focus on race and prejudice. This one absolutely lives up to the hype. My only complaint is the wait until the second installment.

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The City of Brass – Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.20.19 AM

From the moment I saw the cover of this book, I knew I had to have it and was ecstatic to see it as a Book of the Month selection. Despite having a print copy, I ended up listening to the audio version, and once again am so glad that I did because the narrator does an impressive job and it was helpful with the pronunciation of names and places. The City of Brass is a complex fantasy set in the Middle East, full of magic, lush world building and fast-paced adventure. It was a lot more political than I anticipated, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. This is the first in a trilogy and ends on a massive cliff-hanger so read at your own risk.

Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 10.22.44 PMThe Song of Achilles – Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.20.19 AM

Last, but certainly not least is, The Song of Achilles. The minute I finished Circe, I went online and ordered this one. Thanks to Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon, I was able to read this in a single sitting. This is Miller’s debut and tells the story of Achilles and Patroclus, the true story, not the Hollywood version with Brad Pitt. I was enamored once again with her writing and got lost in this tale of love and friendship. Obviously, the end of this story has already been written, so I ultimately knew what to expect, but I still cried my eyes out. I loved this one just as much as Circe, but it left me with an ache in my heart. Despite that, it’s one that shouldn’t be missed.

If you’ve read any of these let me know. Did you guys read anything good in April that you want to recommend?