Leah On the Offbeat Review

leahontheoffbeatTitle: Leah On the Offbeat
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray
Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary
Pages: 343
Format: Hardcover

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.

Well, let me tell you: this is the first actual novel I’ve read TO COMPLETION in… months. Many months. I still can’t believe it. It took me around probably six to eight hours to read the thing. And I really enjoyed it!

It was great jumping back into the world of Creekwood and it was great getting a story from Leah’s perspective, while also still seeing Simon and Blue (even though they weren’t the main focus). I loved her voice and how she really talks like a young adult – swearing, sarcasm, tumblr posts. She was such a fun character that really cared not only for her body as a plus sized young woman, but also as a bisexual person. Though she was only out to her mom (which is still awesome that her mom accepted her regardless), it only really start to make things difficult as time progressed in the story.

I found that the romance aspect of the book was done well, though sometimes it did feel like a little hiccup here and there with how it went. I overall thought that it was fairly realistic as to how it turned out, but I kind of wish I got a better feel for the love interest. I understand the strain on the friendship, but it still felt to me like I was missing some of the love interest’s personality.

I also didn’t really get a feel for just how tight knit the friendship between Leah, Anna, and Morgan were, despite it supposedly being so strong in the beginning. Although, if it were my friend, I would be very pissed about the comment that was made, too, but I don’t know if I would continue to be mad even after an apology. I don’t know, that felt rocky at best and I don’t really know how the friendships would have lasted after the end of the book.

Other than that, I felt like it was a fun, light hearted story, with dashes of drama inside. I like how Leah was both proud of her body, but also self conscious, because that really does show the two sides of the coin (as a plus sized woman, myself, I can speak to this very feeling). I think that the book overall was a great read, though I feel like I am missing out on a few threads that weren’t completely tied at the end (I don’t want to ask them here for fear of spoilers).

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, light-hearted story about a teen girl who’s trying to come to terms with her emotions as well as figure out who she is as a person, and the relationships she has around her, then definitely pick up this book! I hope that you’ll like Leah as much as I did.

I rated this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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A Darker Shade of Magic Book Review

adsomTitle: A Darker Shade of Magic
Series: Shades of Magic #1
Author: V.E. Schwab
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: February 24, 2015
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy
Pages: 401
Format: Kindle

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. 

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

Now I understand what all the hype surrounding this book was about.

This book is full of magic and adventure, of power and control, of longing and desire, and of struggle and pain. There was so much happening in the book that I couldn’t helped be sucked into the story and really divulge myself into the characters’ stories. I found myself completely enraptured and wanted to know what was going to happen next.

I found Kell to be an awesome character. Though he didn’t show much emotion throughout the book (frowning, more frowning, a little bit of pain and annoyance, and a few tears, sure, but… okay, nevermind, he had emotion), I found his character to be one that was both curious and fun. I loved his magic as an Antari and how though he continued to say he had much stronger magic than those around him, he never really showed that off. Sure, he’d do little things here and there, but it wasn’t about showing off so much as knowing he had the ability, and also how his views on magic could potentially cause the outcome of how it’s used – or how it uses him. Throughout the book I found that his thirst for power from the stone later given to him was realistic enough that if someone had magic in their veins and touched it that they’d also crave it. I loved his character and how he continually fought for others – even though they would’ve been mad about it.

Lila, on the other hand, is quite the character and I freaking love her. If she were real, I’m pretty sure we’d be friends. I love her sense of humor and how stubborn she is and how she’s always fighting to get what she wants because in her world – in her London – she doesn’t exactly have anything. I loved how she on more than one occasion put Kell in his place when it came to his position versus hers or how he viewed his life versus how she’s lived. She was a spitfire, Lila Bard. The way she questions not only others, but herself, when they show even a bit of kindness or “charity” and how they don’t expect something of it (or if they do, they say to give it back over time) is something of an admirable quality about her given her circumstances.

Now what about Holland? He was the other Antari in this world and I felt like I just didn’t get enough about him. Like… I loved how he came in as an anti-hero leaning on villain, and I found myself wanting to just know more and have more of him in it, so I’m kind of sad that he wasn’t. I think it’s because there was a lot of mystery surrounding him, but I felt like his character could have been talked about more or something because he was just so interesting!

As far as other side characters go, such as the Dane Twins, Rhy, Barron, etc., I loved how each played such a big role in Kell’s and Lila’s lives without some of them really having to do much in them. I mean, the twins are the villains of this novel, so they kind of play a big part, but others have little pockets of significance with the two main characters and I loved how Schwab placed their chapters into the story and how the characters were written to add more depth to the others.

I thought that the plot itself was great, although sometimes I felt like it hopped a bit from one thing to another and it was kind of like, “Well why was this placed here?” And sometimes it would later catch up and it would make sense.

I thought that the chapters from other characters and other scenes added to the plot and showed just how alive the magic in this world(s) is and how it can really be clever in its own right. And the worlds themselves? How there are four Londons, all on top of another, and the concept of the doors and how you need a trinket from each to get to another? It’s so cool! I loved the concept and how it was dealt with and how each London has their own way of magic, how it’s like a trickle down effect and that it lessens the farther it goes (Black London being the strongest, then White, then Red, then Grey).

Towards the end, though, I felt like the climax to the end was really rushed. I felt myself wanting more from the chapters, whether it be descriptions or more magic or just something… I don’t really know how to describe it, but it just needed more. I mean, I guess it is the first book in the trilogy, so it kind of makes sense? But I felt that some parts were lacking and could have just used that little push to bring it to where it needed to be.

Overall, though, I highly enjoyed this book. It was fast-paced, charming, and it had me craving more. I can’t wait to continue on with the trilogy.

I rated this book 4.5/5 stars and highly recommend it.

A Silent Voice Series Review

asilentvoice1Title: A Silent Voice
Series: 7 Volumes Total
Author/Illustrator: Yoshitoki Oima
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Genre: Manga – Young Adult – Contemporary
Format: Purchased paperbacks

LEARNING TO LISTEN

Shoya is a bully. When Shoko, a girl who can’t hear, enters his elementary school class, she becomes their favorite target, and Shoya and his friends goad each other into devising new tortures for her. But the children’s cruelty goes too far. Shoko is forced to leave the school, and Shoya ends up shouldering all the blame. Six years later, the two meet again. Can Shoya make up for his past mistakes, or is it too late?

This will be a series review, so I will be covering all seven volumes of this series. There may be spoilers, but I’ll do my best to keep this spoiler free.

This manga series is, in a word, stunning. I love the art and the characters and the story, and I’m so glad that it was so critically acclaimed in Japan because of the heavy subjects that it undertakes and how it’s executed in the story itself.

The story itself is about a boy named Shoya who always wants to have fun and never be bored. He often takes dangerous risks with his friends (such as jumping off bridges into shallow-ish water) in order to find those moments of fun and adventure. When his friends decide to cool it with all of the dangerous stunts, that’s when Shoko, a deaf girl, is transferred to his class and he thinks of her as kind of like a boss he has to beat in a video game.

Of course, that doesn’t exactly turn out well in his favor. He bullies Shoko without realizing he was being a bully by yelling at her, ripping out her hearing aids, and just causing chaos for Shoko. His other friends join in and eventually she has to transfer again.

That’s also when Shoya’s friends turn against him and he pretty much becomes a loner for the next six years.

I love how the story uses X’s over people’s faces because we’re seeing everything through Shoya’s point of view, and he doesn’t think about or care about anyone. Only when someone does something nice to him does that X fly off of their face and he sees who they are and becomes friends with them. I thought that that concept was demonstrated really well and that it was very important to the story itself.

When Shoya runs into Shoko six years later in high school, he returns the notebook she used to communicate with the other students to her and, to her surprise, he also learned sign language so he could communicate with her.

He tries very hard to redeem himself and make up with her and show her that he’s extremely sorry for the way he was as a kid, and though I thought this was sweet I oftentimes found that it became overbearing the way he was going about it. I did see immense growth in him, though, and I was glad to see that he was also affecting others around him in a positive way.

Shoko was a very defining character as well not only because she was deaf, but because she always tried to be kind to everyone and not let things get to her – at least on the surface. There are a couple of darker moments with her that made me want to reach out and comfort her. I thought that she was a very generous and warm character and I’m so glad to see some sort of deaf representation in manga (which I’ve never seen before).

There were also characters who were fat, or had a very ugly personality, or who was once bullied, or who tries her best in everything. Even Shoko’s younger sister is “different” in that she takes pictures of dead animals and dresses like a boy. I loved that there were so many varied personalities, body sizes, and disabilities shown in this series.

The plot, overall, was one that gripped me and I wanted to know what was going to happen next. It was cute in many places, and there were a few times where I felt some things were unnecessary or were just too extreme, but the main story was very gripping and I loved it to bits.

If you’re looking for a diverse manga set in Japan, then I highly, highly recommend A Silent Voice.

Each volume has it’s own rating, but for my series rating I’m giving it 4.5 stars.

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The Sun is Also a Star Book Review

thesunisalsoastarTitle: The Sun is Also a Star
Author: Nicola Yoon
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: November 1, 2016
Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary
Pages: 344
Format: Received in November 2016 Uppercase Box

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

This book was both parts heartbreaking and heartwarming and I don’t know which one I’m feeling more of right now.

I thought that this book was very well written and that the sentences were strung together beautifully. I felt like the characters were real, that their problems, their universe, was real and that I was there with them experiencing everything that they were the whole time. They felt alive and so different but so connected, and I loved that. Plus there were situations that were going on in not just their lives, but in multiple people around them, and each felt real and genuine.

I felt that the plot was fluid and that it went from one scene and thought to the next smoothly, and I loved how there were chapters in between with different characters and also just fun chapters on things like love, eyes, the universe, and stuff like that. I could tell that Nicola Yoon did a lot of research because even I could remember these facts I had read on some of the more scientific parts of the story that were true. It felt like I could connect not only to the characters, but to the whole story in general, which was a very exciting feeling.

Natasha and Daniel’s chemistry together was one that melted my heart. I was afraid because of the insta-love feel of the story in the beginning, but it felt natural the way the circumstances occurred. Of course, I don’t know if this would actually happen in real life (maybe it has?), but I felt the plausibility of the situation and highly enjoyed it.

I found it interesting how Natasha always looked to the facts of things and didn’t believe in things like true love, destiny, and other concepts. I actually found it kind of refreshing, in way, because oftentimes the main characters are dreamers (like Daniel) and I think that because she relied so much on facts and data was actually very cool. Though I was glad she was warming up to the idea of those concepts as the day went by. I thought that she handled herself well in many situations, and I loved how she tried so hard to hide her expressions and emotions, but they slowly came out with Daniel.

And Daniel? Oh my God, he’s freakin’ hilarious! I found myself laughing out loud a lot while I was reading his point of view. He has a lot of jokes and a way with words, so no wonder he wants to be a poet. But otherwise I was glad to see him like his culture but still want to go for his own dreams. His family, though, made me very sad, much like Natasha’s, but in a different way. I understand family and culture and all of that, but still, I wish he could’ve had a better conversation with his father about what he wanted to do.

Overall I found this book to be very well done. The character I was most frustrated with was Natasha’s father because wow, how could someone regret having a family like that? I don’t know how to explain it cohesively, just the way he regretted meeting his wife and having his children irked me. And I’m obviously not one to endorse cheating, though I did kind of root for the lawyer and his secretary? It’s weird.

I found the struggle of deportation to be real, the need and want to be seen and heard and loved to be real, and I loved reading from the perspectives of a Jamaican young woman and a Korean young man.

I rated this book 4.5/5 stars and highly recommend it!

Water’s Wrath Book Review

waterswrathTitle: Water’s Wrath
Series: Air Awakens #4
Author: Elise Kova
Publisher: Silver Wing Press
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 350
Format: Purchased eBook

Librarian turned sorcerer. Sorcerer turned hero. Hero turned puppet.

The Solaris Empire found victory in the North and, at the cost of her heart and her innocence, Vhalla Yarl has earned her freedom. But the true fight is only beginning as the secret forces that have been lurking in the shadows, tugging at the strings of Vhalla’s fate, finally come to light. Nowhere is safe, and Vhalla must tread carefully or else she’ll fall into the waiting arms of her greatest foe. Or former lover.

As this is a sequel, there will most likely be spoilers.

Okay, I’m not going to lie: I can’t remember the beginning of the book. In my defense, I started reading this back in April and I just finished now in December, so… Yeah. I mean, I remember bits and pieces, but not everything.

Anyway, from what I do remember, I was very impressed with Vhalla’s character without Aldrick always by her side. We got to see how strong she was without him and how far she’s come since she was the shy library apprentice a year ago. She definitely showed that she is strong in mind and magic without him, but despite that there was still that aching longing for Aldrik that never went away (for either of them for the other). She showed that she had a lot of knowledge and she didn’t have to rely on her magic all the time, or Aldrik all the time, to make decisions and get things done. I think that’s one of the things I enjoyed most about her in this book.

Aldrik was a very distant character in this book in the beginning, but as the book continued and more went down (so many feels, omg), he became much more open and more raw with Vhalla than we’ve seen him, which was unusual for him. I did, however, think that that vulnerability was healthy to see. Although I do think that his emotions often clouded his judgement in some instances, he was still the Fire Lord we’ve come to know.

We got more of Fritz and Jax in this novel and oh man, Jax just makes me smile. He’s so full of himself and so charming that it’s funny, and I love how Fritz reacts when they’re around his sisters and Jax keeps flirting with them. Too good. I liked that there was humor sprinkled in because there was a lot of sadness and hard times going on that it was nice to have that bit of humor. I also think that the friendship between Fritz and Vhalla really shone in this book and I was really thankful that Vhalla had such a close friend.

So there were several major plot points that happened in this book that CRUSHED ME. I won’t mention either because of major spoilers, but just know that I am 1) heartbroken that both happened, and 2) and I’m being hopeful that things will happen in the last book that will remedy at least one of them. P.S. One of said major plot points did actually have me shedding actual tears and Ican’tevenwhydidithappen.

Also, I knew that Victor couldn’t be trusted but DAMN. I wasn’t expecting him to go to such an extreme and to learn more about his past a little with Aldrik and just… wow. So much happened toward the end that I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it.

This book hasn’t been my favorite of the series and I think it’s because of the feeling I get when Vhalla didn’t really… react to the major plot points. I mean, she did with one really well, but the other? Not so much. And then there were just a few things I found very convenient and just… I don’t know, I’m having a hard time placing my finger on it. But I did enjoy the book, don’t get me wrong. I just think the focus was kind of all over the place and not super centralized.

Overall, I did enjoy the book (what I remember of it, haha…ha…), and I’m anticipating the last book. I can’t wait to see how it’s all wrapped up and how the conclusion unfurls in this beautiful fantasy series.

I rated this book 4/5 stars.