Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Rating: 4/5

Outrageously cute and addictive

Book CWs

  • Homophobia
  • Lesbophobic comments
  • Bullying
  • Blackmail

Premise

Jacques and Blue have been email penpals ever since they met through the school’s tumblr. They are both juniors at the same high school and they are both closeted gay men. Neither of them have revealed their true name.

Simon (Jacques) forgets to log out of the library computer after emailing with Blue and another Junior, Martin, reads his emails. Martin, who has a crush on Simon’s friend Abby, uses this information to blackmail Simon into setting them up.

Simon must figure out how to deal with the blackmail while also trying to understand his incredibly strong feelings for the anonymous person on the other end of the screen.

Review (No Spoilers)

This book was THE CUTEST EFFING THING IVE EVER READ. This was a partner read (you can read my post about reading with my partner) and we both found ourselves obsessed with finishing this book. We stayed up incredibly late one night because neither of us wanted to put it down.

I was so in love with this story that before my partner and I even finished reading it, I downloaded it to my iPad and started rereading the parts we had already read.

The reason I only gave this book 4 stars is because I often felt like the author was trying way too hard to sound like a teenager. There were several instances that I felt uncomfortable reading because it seemed as if she had a checklist of things she thinks teenagers say and was trying to include as many of those things as possible. I found myself annoyed with the “I can’t even”s and the constant “I don’t know”/”I don’t even know”s. They just didn’t seem natural.

Don’t get me wrong, I would (and maybe in fact will) read this book HUNDREDS of times because I am the BIGGEST sucker for cute romantic stories. I also really appreciated Simon’s family. I find that YA books have a lot of terrible sibling/parent relationships so I was very happy to see them being cute with each other throughout the book.

I love love loved this book and I hope to watch the movie really soon!

P.S. In regards to the possibility of reading Leah on the Offbeat, I’m not sure yet. I found Leah’s character kind of annoying so I’m not too excited about reading her story.

My Readathon TBRs

Hi!

If you’re following me on twitter you probably have seen me trying to find as many September readathons as possible. I was able to find the following ( they all are for the entire month of September):

I decided to participate in the Hogwarts House Battles and the Mythothon. I considered doing the TBR Readathon but figured I would get overwhelmed trying to make my TBR list count for the prompts of three readathons.

My Current TBR List for Hogwarts House Battles

Here is what I currently plan on reading along with what prompts they will count for.

  • Wilder Girls (Muggle Studies & Group Book)
  • Truly Devious (Divination & Flying)
  • The Andromeda Strain (Alchemy & Potions)
  • The Shack (Herbology)
  • The Things She’s Seen (Charms & Care of Magical Creatures)
  • Slaughterhouse Five (Study of Ancient Runs, Arithmancy, & History of Magic)
  • Fifty Shades of Gray (Defence Against the Dark Arts)

Things I currently don’t have books planned for:

  • Astronomy (I’ll probably just choose one to do this for)
  • Transfiguration (I plan on buying more books so depends on that)
  • Apparation (I’ll probably just choose one to do this for)

My Current TBR List for Mythothon

For this I am trying to make a BINGO from the top left to the bottom right but I’m also going to end up hitting a bunch of other random prompts because of House Battles.

Here are the prompts for BINGO and their books.

  • Huginn & Muninn: Slaughterhouse Five
  • Helheim: The Shack or The Andromeda Strain
  • Asgard: Anything left
  • Alfheim: Truly Devious or Fifty Shades of Gray
  • Mimir: Wilder Girls

I’m hoping that participating in readathons will get me reading more because though my GoodReads goal is only 20 books but I feel like I actually want to read 50 if possible. Let me know if you plan on participating in any of them with me! I’ll be updating my progress on twitter (@jenjenreviews).

Book Review: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Rating: 5/5

I can’t decide if I loved this book or hated this book. I don’t think I’ll ever have a reading experience like this again.

Book CWs

  • Character Death
  • Animal Death
  • Cheating
  • Sexually explicit scenes
  • Non-trivial reading (as in you’ll need to rotate the book and such to read certain spots)
  • I don’t know how to label this one but the introduction leads you to believe that reading this book will cause you to slowly lose your mind

Premise

Johnny Truant is a self-described unreliable narrator. When his friend Lude tells him about an apartment that has recently become available due to the death of its previous tenant, Zampanò, Johnny moves in.

In Zampanò’s apartment, Johnny discovers a long and developed manuscript that focuses on analyzing a film called The Navidson Record. In short, The Navidson Record is the story of a family who discovers their new house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Their lives take an unexpectedly dark turn when a door to a cold, dark, and ever-changing hallway suddenly appears in one of their rooms.

The problem Johnny finds with the manuscript is, not only does no such film exists, but those cited in the paper claim to know nothing about Zampanò nor The Navidson Record. Nevertheless, Johnny takes it upon himself to finish Zampanò’s work. He soon finds, however, that the more the writing calls to him, the more he loses his grip on reality.

The book is told via Zampanò’s writing with footnotes by Johnny that often provide the reader with insight into his life. Further footnotes are provided by unnamed editors.

Review (No Spoilers)

I don’t know what really to say about this book except that it is completely bonkers. I started reading this because I was intrigued by the unusual writing style. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, literally just google image House of Leaves and you’ll see pictures of some of the types of pages this book has. What I didn’t know what just how hard it was going to be to read this book.

What I mean by hard is, this book is daunting. It is filled with footnotes upon footnotes and at times will go on huge tangents about things that are seemingly unimportant (though I know they really aren’t). I had to stop more than once and read a different book in order to keep myself from being swallowed by this story.

My thing with this book is I have no idea if I loved it or hated it. There were times when I was super invested in it and then there were times when I was extremely bored. The reason I had to give this book 5 stars is because I absolutely cannot deny that it was amazingly written. I have no idea what type of person could make such a book but I am so utterly impressed. I can’t even begin to imagine how much work had to go into making this masterpiece.

That being said, I don’t think I’d really recommend this book to anyone I know. Like I said, it is very intimidating and I think a lot of people who start this book don’t actually end up finishing it. It’s very dense.

I do want to mention that in order to not spend my entire life reading this thing, I had to basically ignore the fact that its filled with hidden codes. My puzzle-loving brain would have become completely obsessed with discovering every hidden message and I knew that in order to finish, I would have to actively try to not look for them.

I have no idea if I’m going to read this book again. A part of me wants to go back and find every secret this text holds but a part of me wants to never open this thing again.

Book Review: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Rating: 3.5/5

As a huge fan of the Shades of London series, I was extremely excited to read another series from Maureen Johnson. Unfortunately the unrealistic nature of the story and confusing main character made this fall a little flat for me.

Book CW: Character death, attempted sexual assault, use of the R-word (in a non-derogatory manner)

Premise

Ginny is a 17 year old woman who is currently dealing with the loss of her favorite Aunt. One summer day, she receives a mysterious letter–signed by her aunt–instructing her to go to New York, pick up a package, and travel to London.

Upon going to New York, she receives more letters (totaling 13) along with a list of instructions: she must open the letters in order and complete each task given.

How far is Ginny willing to go to honor her aunt’s wishes? What secrets do these letters hold?

Review (No Spoilers)

As mentioned in my brief summary, I really wanted to read more Maureen Johnson books because of how much I adore the Shades of London.

I started reading this book under the belief that it would be a fun, easy, and quick read and I was right! The premise caught my attention and the actual story kept me reading.

What made this book fall short for me was the realization that I have no idea why the MC actually followed the letters rules/why her parents let her. She was a minor far away from home for a long period of time with absolutely no communication to the US. How were her parents not constantly worried?

On top of that, there were many instances in the story where the MC just went along with anything someone told her to do. I won’t go into much details but in one chapter, a stranger tells her to take off her shirt and she just does it, no questions asked. These types of things added up and I found myself annoyed and confused. I have a feeling she was written this way in order to push the plot forward which strikes me as slightly lazy writing.

Other than those problems, I did have fun reading this book. I especially enjoyed visiting different countries and reading about how the different cultures come across to the American MC. The ending was predictable but still left me with some lingering questions. There is a sequel (that I plan on reading) so I hope it can provide me with some answers.

Book Review: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia (The Caster Chronicles #1)

Rating: 3/5

I was super excited to read this book and start a new series. Enjoyed the plot but not the way it was told.

Book CW: Character death, villianizing mental illness (ableism), fatshaming.

Premise

Ethan Wate is about to start his sophomore year of high school in the small, boring, and predictable town of Gatlin, South Carolina. Nothing in Gatlin has ever changed, that is, until a new girl arrives into town.

Every student in Gatlin High School is prepared for Lena’s arrival. Being the niece if the creepy town shut-in, it’s no surprise that Lena is not “normal”. The surprise is how much Ethan finds himself drawn to her. Not only is she the girl that he’s been dreaming about all summer, but they also have some strange telepathic connection to each other. Will he ever find out who she really is?

Review (No Spoilers)

Beautiful Creatures is a novel that has been hyped for a long time. The series has been on my bookshelf for years and I was happy that I finally got the nerve to start it. I had watched the film on Netflix around a year ago and it seemed like something I would definitely be interested in. Who doesn’t like a good magical love story?

What was unfortunate was that as much as I looked forward to reading this series, I actually didn’t really care for this novel. Don’t get me wrong, I still think the plot is an interesting one and I am anxious to know what will happen next, I’m just not sure I want to read what happens next.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I found this book weirdly boring considering how much I enjoyed the story. I think there were a lot of problems with the way it was told.

For one, there were many times where Ethan would act super surprised when someone told him exactly what he had already been thinking pages before. It was as if the authors wrote him as a totally reasonable person but then decided that they needed to “dumb him down” to push the story forward.

Another thing that I found strange was that the book is kind of both feminist and anti-feminist at the same time. There were times where the women were all about showing their power but also instances of body-shaming and the classic “all girls like ______” trope.

I do have to say though that I really like the characters introduced in this book. Macon and Ridley are absolute gems and I loved them so so much. Lena and Ethan were moody messes but I still felt for them all the same. I wish they all would have actually talked to each other more instead of keeping secrets for–let’s admit it–no good reason, but I did love each and every one of them.

The book also contains cute “props”. Each chapter doesn’t have a number but rather tells you the current date. There are several pages dedicated to nifty diagrams. I very much appreciated these little additions. Also, the cover is absolutely beautiful.

I am definitely planning on continuing this series. I just hope that I enjoy the next few novels more than I did this one.

P.S. Is the South really like this???

Reading With My Partner: A New Experience

I am not sure if I’ve mentioned this yet in any of my previous posts but my partner and I have been reading books together.

“What does that mean?”, you ask.

Well what it basically means is that he reads out loud to me. The way this started was that last year I recommended The Raven Cycle to him and lent him my copy of The Raven Boys. I was in the middle of rereading the series because I had just bought The Raven King and wanted a refresher on the previous novels before I read it.

Partway through his reading of TRB we had the epiphany that we both wished there were a way that we could fully enjoy the book together. The only way we figured this could happen was through reading out loud. My anxiety prohibits me from doing such a thing without feeling terribly judged so he took the role as reader.

This week–on our one year anniversary–we finished TRC together.

The experience itself has been very interesting. I’ve listened to audiobooks before but having someone you know–someone you love–reading to you is completely different. If this is something that sounds interesting to you, I suggest you test it out! If you want to make sure you don’t miss anything, I recommend not reading in bed. My partner usually reads to me at night and I have fallen asleep several times mid-chapter.

The main reason I wanted to write this post was because I’m not actually sure how many people do this. Sometimes I want to mention that we read together to people I know and I stop because I have this vague panic that this is not normal. I really enjoy our reading time and I wonder if anyone else has done this or is doing this. I’m very open to hearing about your experiences.

Bookstore “Review”: BookEnds

If you haven’t read my review for Da Shop, check that out! It has some background information in regards to my experience with indie bookstores.

Before I start off this review, I have to first ask myself: how in the world have I lived in Hawaii for 25+ years without any memory of going to Kailua????

Backstory: I was born and raised on the island of Oahu (though I lived on Kauai for two years in elementary school). I am nearly 26 years old and somehow today went my partner drove us to Kailua, I was SHOCKED at how beautiful that place is because for the life of me I cannot remember ever going there. What the heck!?

Sorry, now to the actual review.

The Positives

When I walked into BookEnds I was immediately overjoyed to see that I finally found the type of bookstore where books are basically spilling off of shelves. This is the aesthetic I have been searching for in a bookstore my entire life!

Books were piled on top of bookshelves, on the ground, in the stools, everywhere. It is probably impossible to actually locate every book in the store without spending hours upon hours searching every nook and cranny.

This store is a little far from where I live–especially considering the Pali is closed for reconstruction–but as soon as I stepped in, I knew that I wanted to come back.

My partner actually brought some used books to sell and they gave him a significantly better price than the other used book store on Oahu. We have two boxes of our books to get rid so we’ve been trying to figure out what to do with them. He brought 4 books of various conditions and genres as a test run and it looks like this place is the winner!

The Negatives

Unfortunately, this place did have its downfalls for me. Since books were stacked on the stools they have in the isles, there isn’t much room to sit down. Since the overall goal of a business is to sell things this wasn’t a huge downer for me, but rather a mental note for when I return.

The biggest issue I had with BookEnds was that I walked in thinking that it was a place to get books for a bargain. While they do have a good amount of used books, there’s actually a large amount of brand new books occupying the shelves.

This wouldn’t be such a big deal except for the fact that the used books and new books seem to be mixed together in no distinguishable way. Basically the only way to know if a book is used or new is to inspect it. Since the books are in various places all over the store, it becomes very tiring trying to find the books that you don’t have to pay full value for.

Additionally, theres no way of really knowing what versions of a book they have. The bookshelves will hold one copy of the book but they may have a different version sitting on top of the bookshelf hidden, or maybe in one of the stacks on the floor, or maybe even in the back storage room. You can ask a worker if they have what you’re looking for but from conversations I overheard, they can only make their best guess.

Also, as a personal preference, I buy hardcover books and it seems this store favors paperbacks. If I found something interesting on the shelf in paperback, I had no real way of knowing if there was a hardcover copy hidden somewhere in the store.

In particular, my partner and I were looking to find a hardcover version of Cinder today. There was a paperback version in a YA bookshelf and so we started looking in the book piles but didn’t find the hardcover version.

I basically gave up looking and only started again because I was strolling through the children’s section and saw that they had a stash of YA novels hidden in the top shelf of one of the bookcases. One of them was a hardcover version of Cress which is in the same series as Cinder so I decided to ask a worker if they knew whether they had a hardcover of Cinder. That’s when they informed me that they usually return hardcovers once they get the paperback version *insert sad face emoji*. They offered to order it for me but at that point it would have meant me paying full price for a novel that I can order myself online for cheaper.

Summary

BookEnds is truly a store that you can find yourself getting “lost” in. They have a lot of books and the environment is really charming. If you decide to visit, I suggest setting aside a good amount of time to search through the stacks because it will not be an easy task if you’re looking for something specific.

6 series that I never completed and why

Have you ever started a series with great enthusiasm only to give up before you got to the end? I sure have. A lot.

Here is a list of some of the series that I began and never completed. I’ll tell you where I left off and why I stopped reading. If you come across one (or more!) that you think I should finish, please let me know!

1: The Hunger Games

Where I left off:

Right in the middle of Mockingjay

Why I stopped reading:

I started reading The Hunger Games at some point in high school. I had the goal of finishing the series before the final film came out because I often want to read a book before seeing its adaptation.

When I got to Mockingjay, I found myself extremely bored the entire first half of the novel. So bored that I just put it down and didn’t pick it back up.

A couple years later I tried to read it again only to stop at around the exact same place for the exact same reason. I still watched the film if you were wondering.

2: The Maze Runner

Where I left off:

The Death Cure

Why I stopped reading:

I never actually planned to leave this series incomplete. It was just bad timing I suppose.

I don’t remember when I read The Maze Runner but I know that I finished it before the movie came out. I then set my sights of finishing The Scorch Trials before that movie came out and succeeded.

Unfortunately, when I got to the The Death Cure I had just graduated from undergrad and was in the process of moving across the Pacific Ocean. I never got around to reading it and now at this point, I’d have to start from the beginning.

3: Divergent

Where I left off:

Allegiant

Why I stopped reading:

I don’t know if this is a spoiler or what but I read Divergent, Insurgent, and Four and then I bought Allegiant to read. I tend to have really bad anxiety about not knowing what’s going to happen in a book or film–I often can’t see a film without reading the synopsis first–and so before I read Allegiant I decided to look up the story. I didn’t like what I read and so I never bothered actually reading the book.

4: Harry Potter

Where I left off:

In the middle of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Why I stopped reading:

To be honest I think this was just the case of me being terrified as a kid of the sheer volume of this series. I had watched a bunch of the movies and decided that maybe I should take a crack at the books.

I was probably just ending middle school or starting high school and I think I just got scared of the idea of having to read 7 “giant” books.

5: The Mortal Instruments

Where I left off:

I think book 3??? I honestly can’t remember.

Why I stopped reading:

I was actually really enjoying this series. I had started reading it when I was doing this amazing thing where I would read a book a week on my kindle.

I bought the first 3 or 4 novels on my Kindle to read and I can’t remember why I stopped. It was probably that I was tired of not reading physical books or that my school workload became too demanding.

6: Ender’s Game

Where I left off:

The middle of Speaker for the Dead

Why I stopped reading:

I read Ender’s Game my sophomore year of high school as part of an English assignment. We were given a list of approved books and we got to choose which one we wanted to read.

I finished reading it, wrote up my book report or whatever it was I had to do, and decided that I liked it a lot. I bought Speaker for the Dead maybe in college? I’m not exactly sure when, but before I read it, I reread Ender’s Game again. After a few chapters of Speaker for the Dead, I found myself bored and stopped.

Bookstore “Review”: Da Shop

Growing up, I got all of my books from Borders–a store that no longer exists. After Borders went out of business, I was left with what I thought was my only other choice: Barnes & Noble.

I admit I’ve always been envious of people who post pictures of local bookstores that are either packed to the ceiling with books, beautifully minimalistic, or somewhere in between. I simply believed that there were no such stores here on Oahu but I’m happy to announce that I was wrong!

My partner went on a search for such bookstores months ago and we finally got around to visiting Da Shop: Books + Curiosities today. It’s actually only around a 5 minute drive from where I live and I had no idea it existed.

According to indiebound.org, there are only 3 indie bookstores on Oahu: Da Shop, Bookends, and Bookoff. I’ve been to Bookoff several times starting in high school but it’s a used bookstore and though I absolutely love buying cheap books from there, I never considered it to be in the same category as the bookstores I loved to look at online.

The first thing that caught my eye about this store is that ITS SUPER CUTE. As we walked up to the entrance I actually said this out loud to my partner. I was so shocked at how nice the outside was that I forgot to take a picture!

When you walk in, you’ll be amazed by how aesthetically pleasing everything is. There are a mix of bookshelf types and decor but they go together extremely well.

View from the entrance.

Each table/shelf is organized by genre. Around half of store is dedicated to Hawaii books–no surprise. What I was surprised by, however, was how this store seemed dedicated to celebrating the voices of marginalized authors and characters, Hawaiian or otherwise. It was absolutely wonderful.

There were Hawaiian books, Asian books, African American books, Indigenous books, and more! There was even a section dedicated to a book club called The Greener Reader, a sustainability book club.

The Greener Reader Shelf.

If you want to test out any of the books they have available, there are ample areas for reading in the store. In fact, one of the customers who came in after us mentioned that they sometimes even provide espresso for their customers.

If that wasn’t enough to convince you to check this place out, there are even cards next to some of the books that tell you why people (I assume the workers) love that book.

I didn’t buy anything this time around and I have a sneaking suspicious that it’s because I’ve become so accustomed to mainstream books that these books didn’t quite catch my attention just yet. Nevertheless, I definitely look forward to visiting this store again and expanding my reading material. As a woman of color, I am particularly interested in “seeing myself” more in the stories that I read.

Sleuth Kings Case 023 Review

If you are looking for my complete walkthrough with hints and solutions, I have unfortunately not posted those yet. If not, please continue to the review.

Rating: 2/5 (Time spent: ~3 hours)

Subscription Description

Sleuth Kings is a monthly subscription that delivers fictional detective stories to your door. The premise for each case is that you have been contacted by Detective Sullivan King about a recent case that he has been hired for in which he needs your help. Each month you receive a manila envelope that contains:

  • Instructions on where to go to begin email interactions with Sullivan regarding the case
  • A list of the cases contents (so that you can check that you’ve received everything)
  • A case overview written by Sullivan
  • Approximately 4 clues
  • A Clue Analysis that describes the clues and how to approach each one. (Ignore this paper for an extra challenge)
  • Some additional material/props

Each case is its own story so unlike certain mystery subscriptions (like Hunt A Killer), you can solve the entire case in one sitting. Soon you will begin to receive emails from Sullivan involving his search for his missing father Isaac King and after completing 4 cases you will receive a bonus case regarding Isaac’s disappearance.

Case 023: (Premise)

Asuna Yukimura is the leader of the Young Detective’s Club at her school. When shopping with her mother at an estate sale, Asuna bought a $2 painting. She didn’t actually care much for the painting but rather the frame that it came in. This soon changed, however, when she opened the frame and out popped a letter and an eyepatch!

The letter congratulated Asuna for finding the hidden treasure map (located on the back of the painting) and presented her with her first challenge: four coded locations.

Ecstatic over her discovery, Asuna brought the items to her Young Detective’s Club and together they were able to decipher the codes, travel to these locations, and get the items needed to find the treasure.

This is when tragedy struck. Just when they thought they were on their way to an amazing discovery, another student, Hallie Burkett, caught wind of the treasure map and stole it! Asuna requests Sullivan’s (and your) help in finding the treasure before Hallie does.

Review (No Spoilers)

I feel the need to start off this review by saying that I absolutely hated this case; it was by far my least favorite Sleuth King’s case so far. My partner also feels the same way.

The story was pretty interesting but the clues were outrageously difficult–not necessarily in the way you think. My partner and I avoid looking at the Clue Analysis page when doing these cases for an extra challenge. After feeling stuck several times, we decided to look at it and it provided no additional help. We then decided to email Sullivan for help only to find that we had apparently already deciphered the Clues 1 and 2 properly, we just didn’t know.

Now, my partner and I have a rule that we try as hard as we can to keep the clues in their original condition. For this case (this may be a bit spoilery) this proved to be extremely time consuming to do so. It probably added around an hour to an hour and a half to our time.

In fact, after spending a very long time trying to do what we needed to do on a computer rather than with the clue itself, we decided that we needed to stop for the night because we were both extremely frustrated.

We picked up the next day and solved Clues 3 and 4 but using the answer that these clues gave us didn’t make any sense. Once again, we asked for help only to discover that we did in fact do everything properly and we still couldn’t figure it out.

In summary, the most frustrating thing about this case was realizing that we weren’t doing anything wrong, the clues were just poorly put together. What you have to do at the very end to find the location of the treasure basically was nonsense and I can only blame this on poorly designed clues. If you want to know what I’m talking about, feel free to ask me separately since It’s a spoiler.

I really hope that they up their game and fix this in the next case because I do otherwise enjoy working through these boxes.