Why I’m Calling Time on Becky Albertalli

Before I begin this post, I’d like to issue a couple of warnings: this post is going to cover some controversial topics, and will criticise an author many people love. I’d also like to stress that I have nothing against Becky Albertalli as a person, and don’t want to this post to be regarded as a personal attack on her- I simply find her work problematic. 

I also want to stress that this post will contain spoilers for both Simon VS the Homosapiens Agenda and Leah on the Offbeat, as it is intended to be a discussion post aimed at those who are already familiar with Albertalli’s work.

As some of you might recall, I once gave Albertalli’s much-beloved Simon VS the Homosapiens Agenda a scathing review. I read the book at the peak of its popularity, and expected great things, but I was sorely disappointed. There were several reasons for this, including the poor writing and plot, but the thing that irritated me most was actually the way Albertalli addressed the issue of Simon’s sexuality. I disliked the way the entire novel revolves around the fact Simon is gay, and the way his sexuality becomes the only ‘interesting’ thing about him, and is his main ‘personality trait’. I’ve always felt like the most positive representation of the LGBTQ+ community in popular culture tends to occur when a character’s sexuality or gender identity is simply mentioned casually, rather than being a major plot point of the novel. I feel this promotes the view that someone’s sexuality doesn’t have to be seen as a ‘big deal’, or an integral part of their personality. Unfortunately, Albertalli doesn’t seem to grasp this idea. With this in mind, I approached Albertalli’s latest offering, Leah on the Offbeat, with some caution…

…And it transpires that this caution was the correct approach. I’m choosing to publish this post now as the novel was released some time ago, meaning some of my followers are likely to have read it, and may understand the issues I have with both this novel, and Simon.

My first issue with Leah was its plot… Or rather, the fact it doesn’t have one. Like Simon before it, Leah is first and foremost a “coming out” tale, which addresses Leah’s bisexuality. Essentially, the novel revolves around the fact that Leah is fully aware that she is bisexual, and has even developed strong feelings for another girl, but both Leah and her love interest, Abby, are too nervous to publicly come out. However, by the end of the novel, they have gathered up enough courage to tell everyone about their feelings for eachother… If you’ve read Simon, this should feel very familiar… because it’s basically the same novel! Both Leah and Simon revolve around little more than an LGBTQ+ teen’s difficulty accepting their sexuality, and both novels end with a ‘happily ever after’ coming out scenario. Unfortunately, this means that Leah shares all of its predecessor’s flaws- like Simon, it is a simple, predictable book that uses an LGBTQ+ inclusive romance to attempt to distract from the lack of plot, and the fact that the characters’ only interesting ‘traits’ are their sexualities. I’ll say it again: as far as I’m concerened, a good “coming out” tale is about more than simply the act of coming out, and promotes the view that sexuality doesn’t have to define anyone. 

Unfortunately, my problems with this book don’t end with its poor plot- I had major issues with some of the characters’ behaviour too. If you read my review of Simon, you’ll remember that I strongly disliked Leah. I found her cold and moody, and I’m afraid her behaviour doesn’t really change any in Leah. I feel like Albertalli tries to justify Leah’s attitude problem by implying it’s the result of her inner turmoil over her sexuality but, at the end of the day, I don’t think this should excuse the fact that she’s often downright unpleasant. 

Similarly, Abby’s treatment of her boyfriend Nick, who she breaks up with shortly before announcing that she’s in a relationship with Leah, is downright cruel. Reading the novel, I felt like Albertalli wanted readers to be so swept up in the happy notion that Abby had gained the confidence to come out, that they would conveniently forget about her treatment of Nick. Whilst the novel’s big “coming out” scene is rather sweet, I don’t think readers should forget the fact that Abby has strong feelings for someone else whilst still in a relationship with Nick, then breaks up with him without telling him the real reason for the split, before going public with her relationship with Leah just two weeks later. The cynic in me can’t help but feel that Albertalli is trying to win over ‘woke’ young readers by including a sickly sweet LGBTQ+ romance, in a novel where the other main relationship is actually somewhat dysfunctional.

So, in summary, I dislike both Albertalli’s portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters, and her portrayal of relationships in general. I think her portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters actually portrays members of the community in a somewhat negative light, as sexuality becomes their defining character trait. I’ve always felt that the most positive representation of the LGBTQ+ community occurs when a character’s sexuality or gender identity is mentioned casually, rather than being made into a big deal. Plus, I feel like Albertalli is targeting young, liberal readers, some of whom may well be members of the  LGBTQ+ community themselves, by including a same-sex romance in her novel, but conveniently forgetting the fact that Abby and Nick’s relationship is far from a positive example of what a relationship should be, and could send damaging messages to younger readers.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you want to read a YA novel that includes a raw, genuine portrayal of life as an LGBTQ+ teen, do yourself a favour and read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky instead. 

Did you agree with my opinion? Feel free to let me know in the comments (however, whilst I’m aware that I have touched upon some controversial subjects in this post, I’d like to ask that we keep any discussions civil!). 

Em x


Game of Thrones: A Step-By-Step Reaction… Book #2

I recently finished A Clash of Kings, the second book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, and the end of my university exams means I’ve finally got time to update my blog. As I explained in my previous blog post, my plan for the next few months is to update my readers on my reactions to each Game of Thrones book in turn, as I experience the series for the very first time. 

As stated in my previous post, this post is intended to be read by those who have already seen or read Game of Thrones, so it will contain spoilers for the series. 

I must admit, my initial reaction to A Clash of Kings was slight disappointment. I simply felt that, after the previous book’s thrilling conclusion, things just felt a little… Flat. Where as A Game of Thrones was full of shocking plot twists and dramatic battles, A Clash of Kings is much more political, and tends to focus on the personal relationships between characters, as they scheme and double-cross one another. Essentially, it’s House of Cards with a couple of dragons thrown in. 

An accurate representation of Martin writing this book

Martin’s evocative writing and complex world-building means the novel is never boring, but, at first, it struggled to keep me as interested as its predecessor. This was especially true of the chapters told from Arya’s perspective, which are little more than blunt descriptions of the bleak life she leads within Harenhal’s walls. 

However, there are some advantages to the book’s slow start. Firstly, the fact much of the novel is focussed on politics means a generous amount of time is devoted to Tyrion, who is thoroughly entertaining in his role as the King’s Hand. I loved his point of view chapters. I also liked the fact the novel grows more dramatic as it nears its conclusion- based on the initial focus on politics, I didn’t expect the book to end with an event as dramatic as the battle of Blackwater. Said event definitely compensates for some of the slower chapters earlier in the book, even if Tyrion does suffer (πŸ’”πŸ’”πŸ’”). 

In terms of my feelings towards individual characters and their fates, I think the event that shocked me most was Renley’s death. Whilst I fully expected him to die at some point, I didn’t anticipate such a sudden, brutal death. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I guessed that Bran and Rickon weren’t actually dead, despite Theon Greyjoy’s attempts to convince the people of Winterfell that he had killed them (this didn’t stop me from hating Theon anyway, though!). 

My overall verdict on A Clash of Kings is that the thrilling conclusion makes up for a slow start, and most characters suffer or prosper as is deserved. In terms of my predictions for the next book, A Storm of Swords, I’m particularly curious about the fates of Jaime Lannister and Theon. The second book ended in scenarios where both could face death (Theon was last seen amongst the burning ruins of Winterfell, and Catelyn Stark had raised a sword towards Jaime), but this outcome seems…. Too simple. Given Martin likes to include as many twists as possible in his work, I have a feeling that neither man is actually dead. With regards to who WILL die, Tyrion’s wreckless decision to take Shae to King’s Landing makes me feel she may not live long. As for Tyrion, I feel his fall from power may continue, even though I would love to see him regain his powerful status. Similarly, something tells me that the Stark family is unlikely to be reunited soon, as much as I would love to see this happen.

Do you agree with my thoughts on A Clash of Kings?

Feel free to let me know in the comments! 

Em x

Game of Thrones: A Step-By-Step Reaction… Book #1

Well, it’s 2019, and I could resist no longer… I’ve finally decided to find out why everyone loves Game of Thrones so much… Believe it or not, I’ve never seen a signal episode of the TV show, and didn’t pick up the books until December 2018.

However, I recently finished the first book in the series, and I enjoyed it so much that I’ve decided to dedicate 2019 to catching up on Game of Thrones. My plan is to read the books, and then start the television series after I’ve finished reading. After I finish each book, I’m going to publish a new post, outlining my reaction to each novel in turn. 

Fair warning: this post is intended for those who have already read and/or watched Game of Thrones and will contain spoilers.

Since I started reading the series, several people have remarked on how unusual it is that I’ve somehow managed to remain remarkably spoiler-free… I have almost no idea what’s going to happen! With this in mind, I thought it might be entertaining to make this series of posts an ongoing project, and write about my reactions to each book, and predictions about the following book, as they come to me. Basically, rather than wasting my time attempting to write a spoiler-free review when everyone else has already read the books anyway, I’m going to allow you to laugh at my expense, as I make predictions that are probably wildly off the mark. If nothing else, my posts might make you nostalgic for the days when you, and seemingly everyone else ever apart from me, first experienced Game of Thrones. 

So, here is my reaction to the first book…

Book One: A Game of Thrones  

 Until I started reading this book, I’d managed to deliberately isolate myself from the world of Game of Thrones. My logic was that, as an avid reader, I was already invested in too many series to commit to reading another, especially when said series was so long. Plus, when the series first became popular, I foolishly convinced myself it would be little more than a passing fad… Oops! In the end, it was a combination of my Dad and my boyfriend telling me how great the series is that convinced me to pick up A Game of Thrones… And I’m so glad I listened to them! Despite my reservations, I was hooked after just a few pages. George R.R. Martin’s world-building is second to none, and his evocative description makes his characters leap from the page, even when the current point-of-view character is only a child. After finishing the first book in the series, I’ve already formed some strong opinions on certain characters, and made my predictions for the next novel.

 Firstly… I love Tyrion. Anyone who is reading this and knows me in real life has probably already worked out exactly why… He’s short, angry, snarky and eats and drinks excessively… He’s my spirit animal. I was devastated by his stint in the Sky Cells, and nothing else is allowed to befall this precious bean. 

Spirit animal πŸ’œπŸ’œπŸ’œ

…And speaking of devastaion… NED!!! I think it goes without saying that I completely failed to predict his fate… I was, and still am, shooketh. I did, however, predict the birth of Dany’s dragons… Much to the amusement of my Dad, who couldn’t believe I didn’t know there are dragons in Game of Thrones… Whoops! 

Seaking of predictions, I don’t really know what to expect from A Clash of Kings, the next book, just yet, as the first book was so unpredictable. I am, however, praying someone puts me out of my misery and kills Joffrey ASAP… I want justice for Ned!

So, as you’ve probably guessed, I thoroughly enjoyed A Game of Thrones! Between the amazing world-building, the unpredictable plot and the ruthless characters, the book really was an example of fantasy at its very best.

At the rate I’m reading, something tells me you’ll be hearing my verdict on A Clash of Kings quite soon.

In the meantime, feel free to let me know if you agree with my verdict on A Game of Thrones in the comments!

Em x

2019: New Year, Slightly Improved Me.

Hey guys… Remember me?! 

It’s another new year- the fifth that’s passed since I first set up my little blog!- and it’s time to reflect on what I learned from 2018. 

Now, I can confidently say that 2018 was a great year for me… I made progress with my mental health as well as  fitness goals, started studying my dream subject at university, met people who’ve become a significant part of my life, travelled to some amazing places, and even made the time to read 54 books. Best of all, I’m a much happier person than I was at the start of the year! 

However, in the midst of all this, I feel as though I’ve become disconnected from blogging. I’ve been so busy living life that I’ve allowed myself to drift away, and I don’t like it! I definitely didn’t post enough in 2018, and I want to change that. I allowed myself to become disconnected from the world of book blogging, eventhough it was always my favourite hobby, and a great way to get my creative juices flowing. 

So, moving forward, my new year’s resolution is simple: blog more. This year, I’m giving up on promising to read a certain number of books, to achieve a certain fitness goal, to obtain a certain grade… I’m simply going to do more of the things I love! (Although I would also like to finish all of the Game of Thrones books…). 

Here’s to more new and exciting content, coming to this blog soon! 

For now, I’m just going to wish you all a happy and healthy 2019, full of family, friends, love, laughter and, most importantly of all, books! 

Em x

Living my best life in 2018

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”: Review

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that the latest addition to JK Rowling’s Wizarding World franchise, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, was released on Friday. Despite my reservations about the movie’s trailer (which you can read about here), my love for Harry Potter was enough to motivate me to head to my local cinema on opening night, armed with a Slytherin scarf, a long coat in tribute to Newt, and my favourite Potter shirt. 

A visual representation of my pre-movie excitement

So, did the movie live down to my expectations, or exceed them? 
Alas, the disappointing trailer was the best bit! 

In fact, I have so many issues that I scarcely know where to start, but I think I’ll begin my (spoiler-free) review with the most obvious sin… APPARITION INTO HOGWARTS. I know this sounds pedantic and insignificant, but the fact it featured in the movie’s trailer really bothered me, and I was hoping the movie would offer some explanation for the scene…. Nope! Despite it being made clear numerous times, over the course of seven books, by Hermione that it is impossible for anyone to apparate into the school, it featured in Fantastic Beasts. As far as I’m concerned, it just shows a complete and utter disregard for the original stories… Surely someone working on a prequel should’ve bothered to pick up one of the original novels?! 

Those of you who’ve already seen the movie, might know what I mean when I say that I also feel the movie’s final twist, focussed on a certain character’s origin, shows a disregard for the original Harry Potter series. I just don’t see how this twist can possibly fit into the narrative, and I feel like the makers of Fantastic Beasts have completely disregarded the content of the original stories. To me, it just felt like a cynical, last minute attempt to make a film with a poor narrative more interesting, and to ensure dedicated fans will be willing to pay to watch the next instalment in the series. 

Speaking of the movie’s narrative, I’m hoping that those who’ve already seen it will confirm that I’m not alone when I say I found the whole thing quite confusing. There’s just far too much going on, with every character, including seemingly minor ones like Leta Lestrange, being given an overly complex backstory. Plus, very little actually happens over the course of the movie, and the situation by the end of the movie is pretty much exactly the same as the start. As for what does actually occur, much of it is poorly explained, especially Queenie’s brash behaviour. This movie simply takes itself too seriously and is far too dark. It is devoid of the wit and light-hearted moments that made the original Potter books and movies so entertaining, with only the stunning opening scenes baring any resemblance to the cinematic magic of the previous films. 

I would argue that the fact the movie takes itself too seriously is also reflected in its casting. Firstly, there’s the casting of Johnny Depp as Grindelwald, which just doesn’t work (and no, before someone brings it up, I’m not just saying this because of the controversy surrounding Depp’s personal life). Watching Depp in this movie, allegedly playing a menacing, evil character, I felt like I was watching a humorous version of his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow. Rather than being at all unnerving, I simply found his portrayal OTT and camp. Basically, he’s just not that evil. The other issue I had with the casting was Jude Law as Dumbledore. In the books and latter movies, Dumbledore is quirky, geeky and eccentric, where as Law plays him like some kind of swathe, hunky figure, straight out of a Nicholas Sparks novel. Once again, I think there’s a disregard shown for the original movies, as I can’t imagine how Law’s portrayal could feasibly be believed to have evolved into the one shown in the later movies. 

Overall, I think it’s fair to say that Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald didn’t really impress me! 

Rating: 🌟 (1 / 5)

So, have you seen the movie? Do you agree with my verdict? 

Feel free to let me know in the comments! 

Em x


Remember me?

It’s OK, I know you probably don’t! 

I wish I could offer an adequate excuse for the fact it’s been almost two months since I bothered to publish a blog post, but the thing is… It’s because life got in the way, simple as that. I’ve certainly been living up to my little blog’s name…🐝🐝🐝. 

Between travelling round the US and Canada in September, starting university, dealing with my increased workload and making new friends, I’ve allowed blogging, and reading in general, to become less of a priority. 

However, I want that to change, and now that I’ve fallen into more of a routine with university work, I’m hoping to be able to make more time to read, blog, and catch up with some of my favourite bloggers’ posts. 

With the new Fantastic Beasts movie, as well as my birthday book haul, coming next month, it’s an exciting time to be a nerd, so here’s to some more blog posts in the very near future!

In the meantime, enjoy some photos from my adventures, which I’m posting below, and know that I’ve missed you all, and hope to give you all some new content soon πŸ’œ.

Em x

Trinity Church, Boston
Enjoying some homemade icecream in Woodstock, Vermont
Chateaux Frontenac, Quebec City. Quebec is definitely my new favourite city of all time, it’s stunning!
Notre Dame cathedral, MontrΓ©al… less is more, right?
My favourite thing about Ottawa…
Enjoying the view of Lake Ontario from Toronto Island
Horseshoe Falls, Niagara. Seen at night from the Canadian side.
I couldn’t just have one Niagara photo… Visiting the falls was truly the experience of a lifetime, and the highlight of my trip
As someone who spent their childhood obsessing over Night at the Museum, visiting the Natural History museum in NYC was a dream come true
Baltimore, Maryland
The Liberty Bell, Philadelphia… It’s kind of smaller than I’d expected!
The Martin Luther King Jr memorial, Washington D.C.

20 Books of Summer Challenge: Wrap-up

Well, as of yesterday, my summer 2018 reading challenge is officially over! I managed to read the 20 books I was aiming for (just!), so you can read on to see some fun-sized thoughts on the last few books I read, as well as a full list of the books I read over the whole summer,.and which were my favourite. It’s definitely been a good summer for reading!

The Book of Dog by Lark Benobi (Netgalley ARC)

Set in America’s near-future, this novel sees the country run by a President who is racist, misogynistic, fat, orange, and has a silly haircut… yup, it’s easy to see who this novel is intended to satirize! As far as I’m concerned, so far so good. However, things soon get weird… A plague sweeps the whole country, turning people into animals, until a diverse group of women bands together, hoping to replace the tyrannical president with someone who can help resolve this crisis. I’m aware that the novel is intended to be humorous, and I’m usually a huge plan of political satire, but I’m afraid it was just a little too…odd… for me. I love the idea of women being the downfall of a certain politician, but I just wish the author had found a more subtle, and actually humorous, way of including this element. Basically, this book is so strange that I spent the majority of the time trying to determine what was actually occurring. 

Rating: 🌟 ( 1 / 5 )

In a GIF:

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

All of my UK readers will be shocked to hear that, somehow, I made it through my GCSE in English Literature without ever having read this book (I did, however, have the ending spoiled for me years ago, thanks to students venting on Twitter!). Given it’s one of those classics that all book lovers seem to have read, I decided it was about time I gave it a go. It’s a simple story of the bond between two friends- George and Lenny- with Steinbeck’s beautiful prose being the book’s biggest draw. I can’t say that this novel is particularly ground-breaking, yet said writing ensures its ending is still tragic, even speaking as someone who knew about its sad conclusion. It’s little more or less than a well-written tale about what happens when friendship is pushed to the brink.
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 ( 4 / 5 )

In a GIF:

The Exene Chronicles by Camille A Collins (Netgalley ARC)

I requested this book because it combines two of my favourite genres: thrillers and YA. It focusses on 14-year-old Lia, in the aftermath of her best friend, Ryan, being reported missing. The story features multiple timelines, dealing with both Lia’s current reaction to her friend’s predicament, and the previous events that led to Ryan’s disappearance. The problem is, the book’s resolution, as well as the reason behind Ryan’s disappearance is revealed to be a little… flat. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but this is essentially a tale of teenage rebellion, made slightly more interesting by its vintage, 1970s setting, and the fact it explores issues relating to race, as Lia and her family are the only black people in her neighbourhood. If it wasn’t focussed on Ryan’s melodramatic disappearance, this novel could have been an interesting exploration of historical attitudes to race in America, and of growing up as a black teen. Instead, it’s a strange mix of political statements and a mediocre thriller, inexplicably named after the girls’ favourite singer.
Rating: 🌟🌟 ( 2 / 5 )

In a GIF:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling 

This was, of course, a reread for me. Countless others have already tried to explain the wonders of the Harry Potter series – my favourite books of all time- so I’m just going to leave you with this: every time I pick up this book, I feel the same amazement that I felt when, aged just 7, I encountered the amazing world Rowling has created for the very first time. Even as an adult, this book really is magical.
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 ( 5 / 5 )

In a GIF: 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This is just one of those books that should be reread once a year, to restore one’s faith in humanity. No matter how many times I read it, I can’t fail to be moved by its characters’ determination to do the right thing, as they try to support a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman in 1930s America. Sadly, this is a book that almost seems to become more relevant as time passes, as the issue of justice being equally administered to all is still a controversial one in modern America. 
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 ( 5 / 5 )

In a GIF:

The Great Gatsby

In the past, I’ve reread this book for one of two reasons: it’s Autumn, or I’m going to New York… Well, both are applicable to this month! So, it seemed about time to revisit my favourite tale of cocktails, fall, scandal and NYC, and I can confirm it was as scandalous, and ultimately tragic, as ever. I love this book, and fall more in love with Fitzgerald’s beautiful description with every reread. It was the perfect end to my reading challenge too, given it’s set during the transition from summer to autumn.
Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 ( 5 / 5 )

In a GIF:

Favourite book of the summer: And The Mountains Echoed

Excluding some of my rereads, this was one of the books I rated highest this summer. It’s a gripping tale of love, loss and family bonds, set against the backdrop of Afghanistan’s continuing political turmoil. You can read more of my thoughts on this book in this post, but I highly recommend this beautiful book (or, for the record, anything by Hosseini!). 

Least favourite book of the summer: The Book of Dog

I mean… see above. No other explanation needed, I feel.

List of books read over summer:

1. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood- 🌟🌟🌟🌟

2. The Secret History by Donna Tartt- 🌟🌟🌟

3. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini- 🌟🌟🌟🌟

4. The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer – 🌟🌟

5. Can I Speak to Someone in Charge? by Emily Clarkson (reread)- 🌟🌟🌟🌟

6. Pretty Ugly Lies by Pamela Crane (Netgalley ARC)- 🌟🌟🌟

7. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (reread)- 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

8. Murder Never Misses by Faith Martin (Netgalley ARC)- 🌟🌟🌟

9. Brave Enough by Kati Gardner (Netgalley ARC)- 🌟🌟

10. Beneath the Surface by John Hargrove (reread)- 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

11. Walking the Himalayas by Levison Wood- 🌟🌟🌟🌟

12. The Same Blood by M. Azmitia (Netgalley ARC)- 🌟🌟

13. Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman (reread)- 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

14. Forrest Gump by Winston Groom (reread)- 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

15. The Book of Dog by Lark Benobi (Netgalley ARC)- 🌟

16. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck- 🌟🌟🌟🌟

17. The Exene Chronicles by Camille A. Collins (Netgalley ARC)- 🌟🌟

18. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (reread)- 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 

19. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (reread)- 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

20. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald- 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

So, that concludes this summer’s reading challenge! 

Did you do a reading challenge this summer? How did it go? 

Feel free to let me know in the comments!

Em x