Leah on the Offbeat

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Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s 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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Leah on the Offbeat is set in the same universe as award winning book, Simon Vs. The Homosapien Agenda. It takes place roughly a year following the conclusion of Simon and is told from the perspective of Leah.

Leah and gang are in the twelfth grade and trying to navigate the transition to university, relationship drama and changing friendships.

This book is very high school. I stopped reading it around 15% in, because I couldn’t stand the teenage drama and hysterics. For fans of YA it might be great, but there was so much more drama than in Simon Vs. The Homosapien Agenda, which was already at my limit.

I did not enjoy this book but you may love it if you can overlook juvenile protagonists, maybe it will be a hit for you.

DNF

xx

 

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The Hate U Give (film)

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The Hate U Give was released in 2018 and it is based on the award winning best-seller of the same name.

I read this book a few months ago and decided to watch the movie, which I had heard from others was also amazing. I think that the producers and cast did an amazing job of adapting this book, especially since they began the process long before the book was released.

I totally bought all of the actors who were betraying these beloved characters. Starr’s father and King were not as I imagined them, but this didn’t take away from my movie experience at all.

I did feel like the ending was rushed, and not as true to the books. Understandably, sections of the book will always need to be removed for film, but I felt that they altered the ending too much, and in ways I did not agree with.

Otherwise though, I really enjoyed this movie and will definitely watch it again. It wasn’t nearly the tear-jerker that I was expecting, but maybe I got all my tears out through the book.

Watch the trailer here.

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I would love to watch a film adaptation of Angie Thomas’ book On The Come Up one day as well, but so far, no news has been released on its production.

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xx

 

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

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Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

—                         —                         —

Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a YA book that I have been hearing a lot about the past few years. Last year there was a movie released based off of this bestseller, re-titled Love, Simon. I didn’t realize when I checked out the audiobook that I was reading a book about an LGBTQ character during PRIDE month, but that makes it an extremely timely review to post.

During the course of the book, I became extremely invested in the lives of these characters, including both Simon and his friends. I was constantly guessing as to who “Blue” was. There were a few times I rolled my eyes at some of the more teenager behaviour and drama, but the pace of the book is quick enough that the plot doesn’t become embroiled in high school.

The relationship between Simon and Blue unfolds over the course of half a year. It was sweet to watch friendship and then romance develop, based completely on personality and not looks, cliques, or popularity.

The audiobook is slightly less than 7 hours, awesome for getting through quickly. I was able to listen to the book in two days. The narrator’s voice is smooth and easy to listen to.

I plan to pick up the sequel, Leah on the Offbeat soon, and listening to it as well.

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xx

On The Come Up (Angie Thomas)

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Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.

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On The Come Up is not technically a sequel to The Hate U Give, but it does take place in the same neighbourhood, one year later.

I highly recommend you listen to this book. Not only is the narration excellent, but it allows you to actually hear Bri’s rap as it was intended to be delivered, rather than trying to figure it out as you read.

Personally, I think that (Mom) Jay gives some excellent advice to Bri, that I intend to take to heart:

There will always be people with something to say but that doesn’t mean you have to listen to it.

At times, I was really frustrated with Bri for being so easy to manipulate and continually reacting, rather than acting with intention. This made it a little more difficult to read than The Hate U Give but it was no less enjoyable. I just found that instead of periods of intense sobbing, I experienced mild frustration.

Angie Thomas has become a one-click author for me. I think she would interest teens and adults and wish that more high schools would incorporate these books into their curriculum.

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xx

The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

—                         —                         —

The Hate U Give. This is a revolutionary book.

I know I’m late to the party. Everyone and their mother has already read this book. Or seen the film.

It is truly amazing though. I highly recommend it to everyone.

Shocking though it is, this is the debut novel for author Angie Thomas. She has recently released another, On The Come Up, that I will definitely be listening to as well.

The Hate U Give deals with racial relations, growing up poor and black, and the tensions between black communities and the police. It incorporates pop culture, humour and heartbreaking pain. This is definitely one book that you will want to read in some privacy, because if you are anything like me, it will have you ugly crying for sure.

The main character, Starr, is incredibly easy to relate to. Ms Thomas created an entire world of fictional characters interacting in a very realistic setting. Starr’s voice is clear throughout the narrative. I couldn’t put this audiobook down, draining my phone from 100% power to 4% multiple times.

Even if you are not a reader of young adult fiction, I hope you will give this title a try.

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xx

Echoes of Silence – Anne Malcom

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People make love seem complicated. Intricate. Novels try to capture its intensity; music tries to rein in its soul.
I’ve read every novel I could. I’ve lived and breathed every song that I could listen to. The sounds fill my unquiet mind.
Then he came.
Killian.
He brought with him the beauty of silence that echoes through my soul and showed me love isn’t complicated. It’s simple. Beautiful.
Some say love at first sight doesn’t exist, that you can’t find your soul mate at sixteen years old. Those are people rooted in reality, chained to the confines of life that dictates how you are meant to think. Killian broke those chains. He broke everything, shattered it so I can see that reality is overrated, that daydreams can somehow come to life.
My life tumbled into darkness in the time after I met him, so dark I’m not sure I’ll ever see the light again. But he is always at my side. His life means he knows how to navigate the dark and he can lead me out.
I wade through the darkness with him at my side.
We’ll be together forever; I’m certain of that.
Until I’m not.

—                —                   —

Officially, this book is the first in the Unquiet Minds series, but Echoes of Silence is the spin-off to the Sons of Templar MC series, written by Anne Malcom. I’m going to just talk about it as if it is all the same, because it’s just easier, and hey, this is my blog. Malcom wrote this story as a YA novel, which tells the sweet romance between 16yo Lexie and bad boy Killian.

If you are familiar with the Sons of Templar series, Lexie is the daughter of Mia, who was featured in the third novel. She and Killian were so enchanting as secondary characters that they have sparked their own novels. Although I would recommend reading the series in its entirety, Echoes could be read as a stand-alone.

Surprisingly, Echoes of Silence was my favourite novel so far by Malcom! I didn’t expect this because I usually read dark romances (so not YA!) and worried that there would be too much re-telling from Out of the Ashes.

The witty banter that I loved in the mother’s book was still present, but few scenes were retold from a different perspective. Reading Echoes made me realize how much was missed from her story before, and Killian in particular I got to know so much better. He is the son of a deceased club member and has been largely raised by the club since childhood due to maternal neglect.

Another favourite aspect is to see the relationship develop between bubbly, positive Lexie and her step-dad Bull, who barely speaks unless with her. I love seeing new relationships develop in a healthy manner instead of the typical “step family” tropes. Who doesn’t want one big happily, Brady-style family?!

There was one unique aspect that set this book aside from the Sons of Templar series, besides the sexual content: the music.

Lexie’s musicality and her band feature heavily throughout and it a key defining tone of the book, particularly in the conclusion. I love that after the story, the author included a “playlist” because I was trying to mentally keep track while reading to go back and listen to the songs that made such an impact to the characters.

Here is a screenshot of Lexie’s (Malcom’s) play list … and hopefully it isn’t a problem I just copied and pasted this one in.

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I recognize many of the artists on the list, but not all and learned a bunch of great new songs.

Echoes of Silence is the first in a two-part special featuring Killian and Lexie. It does not end happily, but the upside is we get two full novels devoted to an amazing couple! Malcom isn’t making us wait too long either; the follow-up – Skeletons of Us – should be released September 2nd, 2016. She even has the first chapter available on her website.

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xx

A third sisterhood of the travelling pants movie?!

Holy Moly, am I excited. America Fererra has confirmed that they are working on a third film in the sisterhood of the travelling pants series!

I have always loved these movies. They are about friendship, and love, and growing up and finding your way in the world. I grew up with those four girls, aging more or less as they did.  But after condensing four novels into two movies, they ended. And I kept growing.

I’m hoping that this announcement will eventually lead to two new movies. The first, as new graduates looking for their first “real” jobs and getting married, and the second, embracing motherhood. Hopefully then, not following the plot of the last book too closely.

Hollywood generally fills the minds of young girls with epic love sagas, or petty drama. The sisterhood chronicles the love between friends and the realistic trials of holding onto those friendships when distance and life try to pull you apart. As a twenty-something woman myself, and an Aunt to three nieces, I love the messages that they convey.

I can relate to each of the characters in some way and learn from their experiences. Lena’s reluctance to open her heart and her fear of doing so a second time after it has been broken so badly. Carmen’s frustration at feeling as if her friends are moving on to better things and forgetting all about her – my best friend lives on another continent and has for a few years.  I see her doing wonderful things and making a family of her own, and although I am ecstatic for her, I regret that she is so far away and her new life so removed from our friendship.  Like Bridget, I know how difficult it is to grow up with a parent who suffered from a mental illness and her struggles to overcome this legacy. And like Tibby, I shut myself off from the world when going through hard things, one of the reasons I started this blog.

The love between friends might be the strongest bond in this world, second only to that between a parent and child. It’s importance in our lives is incredibly understated. The sisterhood of the travelling pants celebrates these bonds, and the inclusiveness found in a circle of close friends that truly support one another, rather than pick favourites. It doesn’t perpetuate that Mean Girls style antagonist relationship of this group against that. It just celebrates something we all wish we had more of.

Links to the appropriate interviews:

http://ca.eonline.com/news/625224/8-things-we-want-to-see-in-the-next-sisterhood-of-the-traveling-pants-movie

http://www.people.com/article/sisterhood-traveling-pabts-3-in-works-america-ferrerra