Simon vs. The Homo-Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. The Homo-Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

I flew through this book and finished it over the course of several hours. It is sweet and laugh out loud funny. If you’re looking for a feel-good story with relatable characters, look no further—this is the perfect book for you!

The story centers on high school junior, Simon Spier, and his big secret. Simon meets someone on Tumblr who shares his secret, Blue. Blue and Simon email back and forth anonymously and share their secrets and eventually develop feelings for each other. Blue is afraid to admit who he is to Simon and the rest of the world. Outside of Blue, Simon has three best friends—Abby, Nick, and Leah. Two he has known most of his life and one has recently moved to the area. This dynamic creates a little bit of tension between the group. As two friends are coveting feelings for Nick.

Despite the story centering on Simon and his relationships with so many friends and loved ones, the individual personalities of each character do not get lost. Abby is a free spirit who takes being the new girl in stride, she easily fits in and doesn’t hold back. Nick is a generally likeable guy—he’s on the soccer team and fits in with several groups flawlessly. Leah is a moody teenager who hates talking about her feelings. Martin is a bit of a bully and although his methods are a little extreme, he’s the kind of bully many have encountered. He’s not outright evil, and he thinks he means well, but he is by no means a perfect person. Simon’s parents are full of typical dad jokes and are constantly supportive. Simon’s sisters are very different but push Simon to be true to himself. In general, Simon’s family is a reality TV loving bunch who are close to each other and even Skype each other to discuss their weekly reality TV observations.

Becky Albertalli’s writing style has been compared to John Green and Rainbow Rowell. I disagree. I haven’t read anything of Rowell’s, but John Green has a tendency to write in a more drawn out manner. Albertalli is concise and funny without it feeling forced. She interlaces pop culture references to make the characters seem real and relevant, like you know a Simon, Abby, Leah, or Nick in real life. I highly recommend this book. It is a quick and easy read, and got me out of a reading slump. You will laugh and maybe shed a few tears, but this book journey is well worth it.

Rating: 5/5

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Empress of a Thousand Skies

Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Usually, science-fiction outer space stories are my niche. However, this book seemed a little slow. I only read small bits at a time because I got bored with the pace of the story. Overall, there was a lot happening. There are many different planets, peoples, and storylines that are constantly intersecting. The story alternated from Rhiannon and Alyosha’s perspectives. These two storylines are happening simultaneously, but do not collide.

The plotline is intriguing. Rhiannon is set to become crown ruler of the galaxy. But, there is a conspiracy to overthrow her. Rhiannon has to decide who to trust and where to place her vengeance. She quickly discovers that she has been blinded by hate and anger most of her life and what she thought she knew was a lie. Alyosha is the star of a hit TV show and is used to being followed by cameras. However, he also obtains information that puts his life in jeopardy and quickly becomes a scapegoat for the galaxy. Alyosha has to fight for his life and prove his innocence.

The characters, while believable, are dry. Rhiannon is so blinded by revenge that she constantly misses what is in front of her. I don’t want to call her headstrong because she has no dynamic. She is stubborn and comes off as a little childish. Likewise, Alyosha’s character is dry. He feels like he single-handedly has to prove to the galaxy that he is innocent. My favorite character is not introduced until the latter part of the novel. Kara feel like a breath of fresh air compared to the other characters in the book. She is the only one with a conscious and a determination to help someone other than herself. However, the “Kara twist” was a predicatble one.

There is an undercurrent of war and racism in this novel, and I think it is not dealt with enough. Alyosha is judged because of his heritage and becomes an easy target to pin things on. I feel like this aspect could have been explored a little more. We don’t know much about Alyosha’s past and family life except that his family was evacuated and became casualties of the war. Alyosha tried to be consistently liked by his viewers, but was still easy to cast as a villain. At the end of the novel, we still have no definite answer for why Alyosha was pinned as the culprit. Perhaps this is explored more in the next novel.

Overall, this book fell short of expectations for me. The premise sounds wonderful, but the book itself is slow and too drawn out. The story is an interesting one, but it took me a few weeks to get through because I could only read about 20 pages at a time before becoming bored. I’m unsure if I’ll grab the next book in this series, despite the cliffhanger ending.

 

Rating 2.5/5

Galentine’s Day Books & Treats

February is generally seen as “the month of love” because of Valentine’s Day. I have never been one to celebrate Valentine’s Day in a relationship because why should one day be devoted to adoring your significant other when it should happen every day. So this month, instead of giving you books about romance, I’m focusing on books about a different kind of love. The kind of love you have for your best friend! These books tell a great story of friendship in one way or another.

What is Galentine’s Day? Galentine’s Day comes from a Parks and Recreation show. As character Leslie Know explains “it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies.” So, I suggest grabbing your favorite gal pals and binge reading and treat making some treats to go along with each book.

Here are my Galentine’s Day book recommendations and a little special treat to go along with each.

Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon

This book is split between Veronica and McKenna’s point of view. Vee and Kenna are two best friends who complete and compliment each other in every way. One is hard headed and the other is more free spirited. I adore this friendship because it feels real, and you can connect with each BFF. This story will make you laugh and maybe make you cry. It is a great book to settle into for a night as your transported to a beautiful Scottish backdrop.

To pair with this book, I recommend making Scottish Shortbread. I recommend using this easy recipe.

I See London, I See France by Sarah Mlynowski

If you’re into stories that give you wanderlust, this is the perfect book for you! Childhood BFF’s Leela and Sydney travel through Amsterdam, Switzerland, Italy, and France and learn about themselves and their friendship along the way. It is fun to read and leaves you longing to backpack through Europe. The BFF dynamic in this book is realistic. Sydney and Leela’s friendship is tested at times and it is something every long-term friend will eventually see. But both girls push each other in ways only a best friend knows how.

I recommend grabbing your favorite pint of gelato! My favorite is talenti’s black raspberry chocolate chip.

You Deserve A Drink by Mamrie Hart

While this book has some awesome gal pals and tales of friendship, I recommend this book for Galentine’s Day because Mamrie Hart is someone I would LOVE to have as a friend in life. She’s hilarious, ambitious, a pretty mean cook, and eccentric. She tells her stories in a way that makes you feel like you were there.

The best part about Mamrie’s book, is that each chapter comes with a built in drink menu. You can make your favorite, or try them all. My personal favorite with a sweet touch is “Frame the Cookie.”

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Quincy Carpenter is intent on leading a normal life. She’s the survivor of an event that killed her closest college friends. She was the only one who survived. But why? Her wounds were not even remotely fatal. Some doubt Quincy’s story. She’s conveniently forgotten the details of the murders. Did she kill her friends? Was it the mysterious boy that Janelle invited into the cabin with them? Someone else entirely?

Why a slasher story for Galentine’s Day? Because there are some fundamental friendships that every woman faces in her life. Sometimes we don’t know who to trust and other times we need to learn to trust our instincts. This is a quick read that will leave you on the edge of your seat!

For this one, I recommend this strawberry cupcake recipe in honor of our baker, Quincy.

The Favorite Sister Review

The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

**SPOILER FREE**

This book reads like your favorite reality TV show. Whether you’re a Real Housewives, The Hills, Big Brother, or Keeping Up With the Kardashians fan you’ll find something to love about this book. The main characters are all different, but more than just their television show, Goal Diggers, connects them. Each woman has secrets and all of them will go to any lengths necessary to keep them concealed.

Jessica Knoll did a wonderful job writing about the typical reality TV stars we love to watch. However, her characters are not clichés. The Favorite Sister follows season four of the show Goal Diggers and its five main stars.

Lauren is the quintessential young blonde with a drinking problem. She’s “the fun one” who will do whatever it takes to stay relevant, even if that means destroying her dignity. Jen comes across as a little more uptight, but is obsessed with her image. Kelly is the one with the most to prove. She’s the newest addition to the show and the only mother. Stephanie has built an empire off of her writing. And she is also obsessed with maintaining her youthful looks. Brett is the girl that was raised from ashes to become someone and she has the most to prove. She is not as skinny as the other girls and they often like to point out her weight.

The story is told from alternating perspectives. The chapters primarily follow Kelly, Brett, and Stephanie through present day and the events taking place during the filming of season three. You will quickly develop a favorite character, but as soon as you do, everything you know about them will be turned upside down.

Overall, I enjoyed this book but there were a few problems. At times, I felt offended. Some of the dialogue was racist and some scenes may have some trigger warnings for some readers. There are also some uncomfortable scenes to read through and sometimes the characters can become muddled. But, I do recommend this read!

Rating: 3/5

The Favorite Sister is set to release on May 15, 2018.

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

February TBR

This month, I have decided to read books that have been on my TBR for a while. I put myself on a book buying ban for a while, so the only new books I’ll be getting for a while are books I preordered months ago. I want to work through my personal TBR pile and make it a little more manageable.

The three books I have chosen for February are Love & GelatoAssassin’s Blade, and Warcross.

 

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Synopsis: “A summer in Italy turns into a road trip across Tuscany in this sweeping debut novel filled with romance, mystery, and adventure. Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home. But then Lina is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept from Lina for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself. People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.”–Barnes & Noble

Any book set in Italy, I am bound to read. I fell in love with the country when I spent time studying abroad there in 2013. Maybe it is nostalgia, but reading about the Italian countryside sounds like a perfect escape to me. Especially in these cold winter months! I have heard nothing but good things about this book, I’m excited to read it this month.

Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J Maas 

Synopsis: “Celaena Sardothien is her kingdom’s most feared assassin. Though she works for the powerful and ruthless Assassin’s Guild, Celaena yields to no one and trusts only her fellow killer for hire, Sam. When Celaena’s scheming master, Arobynn Hamel, dispatches her on missions that take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, she finds herself acting independently of his wishes-and questioning her own allegiance. Along the way, she makes friends and enemies alike, and discovers that she feels far more for Sam than just friendship. But by defying Arobynn’s orders, Celaena risks unimaginable punishment, and with Sam by her side, he is in danger, too. They will have to risk it all if they hope to escape Arobynn’s clutches-and if they fail, they’ll lose not just a chance at freedom, but their lives . . .A prequel to Throne of Glass, this collection of five novellas offers readers a deeper look into the history of this cunning assassin and her enthralling-and deadly-world.”–Bloomsbury Publishing

The Throne of Glass series has left me with a giant book hangover. I finally finished Empire of Storms and I cannot wait to see where the final book in this series goes. I look forward to learning more about who Celaena is and her background that has been alluded to time and time again.

Warcross by Marie Lu

Synopsis: “For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation. Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire. In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.”–Penguin Random House

Truth be told, I don’t know much about this book. I have seen it all over the Internet, though. But I have recently grown to love sci-fi novels and the premise of the novel seems interesting to me. I was introduced to Marie Lu’s writing style when I read Batman: Nightwalker last month, and it seems on par with other author’s I enjoy reading. I’m not sure whether to go into this book with high hopes, because I’m afraid of being disappointed.

 

What are you reading this month?

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