Hello everyone! It's June!! I'm so excited y'all. But also um wow?! It's already like halfway through the year. Can you even believe it? I can't, obviously.
These past few days have been nuts but I'm happy to say.. I'm officially in Florida!!! And I'm happy to be here. Honestly, travelling was so easy this time around and we had no delays or issues with our flight, so it was all in all a great trip south and now I get to spend time in my fav place on earth! Bring on all the Disney!
But first things first. May is over, and you know what that means. Monthly book reviews! This month I read one of my favourite books of the year yet and so I'm very excited to share my thoughts with you guys today.
To read last month's reviews, click here.
This month I read: THE ALICE NETWORK (KATE QUINN), THE IMMORTALISTS (CHLOE BENJAMIN), and LEAH ON THE OFFBEAT (BECKY ALBERTALLI).
THE ALICE NETWORK by KATE QUINN [4 stars]
"What did it matter if something scared you, when it simply had to be done?"
The Alice Network is all about a young - and pregnant - American socialite who enlists the help of an ex-spy and a Scotsman with violent tendencies to assist her in finding her cousin, Rose, who disappeared during World War II.
I'm a sucker for books set during the two World Wars. The first half of the 20th century is one of my favourite periods of history and historical-fiction set in that era always has me hooked. But at first, I wasn't sure I would like this one. I was finding it sort of difficult to get myself totally immersed in the story. Although I love a good dual narrative, I was finding each chapter pretty short, so it felt a bit like whiplash going from one story to the next. But I got into the flow of it just after the first thirty or so pages, and considering this book is a whopping 494-pages, it's no big thing.
I have to say, out of the two stories, I preferred the 1915 one over the 1947. I think that Eve was a total bad-ass and she went through some crazy stuff in her lifetime. From the moment that her character was introduced, I was wrapped up in her story. I wanted to know all about what had made her the way she was. But Charlie kind of came into the story "fresh" so-to-speak. Aside from her being pregnant out of marriage, she didn't have a huge backstory that made me all that invested in her story. The way I saw it, this was Eve's story, and Charlie was more there to help the plot move along.
Oh, and Kate Quinn knows her shit, you guys. She's a graduate of Boston University, with a Bachelor's and a Master's in Classical Voice, so you can bet that this book is chockfull of details.
The one thing that really irked me about this book - and I do mean really irked me - was that there was a handful of cringe-y words or terms that kept being repeated throughout the novel. Like over, and over, and over. For example, Eve calling Charlie a "Yank" or Charlie referring to her unborn child as "Little Problem" or worse, "L.P." I don't know why but it was really driving me up the wall, haha. Don't get me wrong! It wasn't enough to make me dislike the book at all. But I thought it was worth mentioning.
All in all, this was a really good book! I loved it. If you're looking for an incredible, fast-paced novel about bad-ass ladies during the two World Wars, this is perfect for you. The women in this novel are seriously inspiring and the female friendships are so important. It's also worth noting that the 1915 story is actually based on real-life! The Alice Network was real and it was led by Louise de Bettignies, aka Lili. Kate Quinn actually explains the inspiration for the novel at the end of the book so if you pick this up to read, definitely look out for that! It's such a remarkable story, an unsung heroes sort of tale, and I just adored it.
Also, Reese Witherspoon included this in her book club a while back! How cool is that? If you want to read what Reese had to say about this book, you can go to her online book club site here.
Trigger warnings: Death/dying, abortion, violence
THE IMMORTALISTS by CHLOE BENJAMIN [3.5 stars]
"But I think magic holds the world together. It's dark matter; it's the glue of reality; the putty that fills the holes between everything we know to be true. And it takes magic to reveal how inadequate reality is."
The Immortalists is a fictional drama that picks up in 1969 in New York City, as the four Gold children visit a fortune teller who claims to be able to tell you the day of your death. The rest of the novel shows how each child copes with their supposed fates.
Let me start off by saying it was a total pain trying to find this book. It was completely sold out at my local Indigo, thirty minutes away (which I didn't even find out until my second trip out) and then I finally found it at another store about an hour away from home. Can't beat country living, folks. Needless to say, I was very anxious to read this.
First and foremost, I thought that the concept of this story was extremely interesting. I loved that the author toyed with the idea of fate and free will by showing these young adults growing up with these looming prophecies and then deciding individually how it would affect their lives. This novel absolutely asks a lot of questions about life, destiny, and the power of the mind. I thought that the exploration of these topics was really well done.
As for the stories, if I'm honest, I much preferred the first two - Simon and Klara - over the latter two - Daniel and Varya. I thought that Simon's story was particularly interesting because a) it showed the gay scene of San Francisco in the 70s and 80s and how Simon fit into it, and b) it was kind of the kicking off point for the rest of the story, as the three other characters were largely affected by his story.
The reason I didn't rate this higher was simply that despite having a very intriguing concept, the actual story itself was sort of lacklustre in my opinion. I found that certain parts just didn't grip my attention like others, and I was a bit bored at times. Overall, it was quite good. I just don't know if this was really the book for me.
Trigger warnings: suicide, death/dying
LEAH ON THE OFFBEAT by BECKY ALBERTALLI [3 stars]
"I swear, people can't wrap their minds around the concept of a fat girl who doesn't diet. Is it hard to believe I might actually like my body?"
Leah on the Offbeat is a young adults novel set in the same universe as Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. It picks up about a year after the end of the first book and follows the characters through their final year of high school, told in the perspective of Leah Burke. The majority of the novel deals with her sexuality and how it affects both her school and personal lives.
As you probably remember, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda was a huge hit with me. I absolutely adored the novel, and the characters, and frankly everything else about it. And I wanted to like this book, too. I really did. But I just couldn't bring myself to.
In Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, we didn't really get too close of a look at the personalities of the secondary characters because obvs it was all about Simon, his struggles with his sexuality, and his super adorable quest for finding his true love. Despite that, I liked Leah enough. I thought she was a complex character, and a take-no-shit kinda gal, which I respected. Unfortunately, when it came to Leah on the Offbeat, I just didn't like Leah Burke at all. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm an extremely empathetic reader. I find the best in even the worst of characters. But I don't know. Leah was just mean. She treated most of the characters really badly. Especially her mom - and for what reason? For being happy? For finding love? Her mom was so supportive and caring, despite the fact that they were struggling financially and that she had to work all the time. But Leah treated her badly and I couldn't stand for that.
I can't say much about the romantic storyline without giving too much away. All I will say is that I wasn't so much of a fan. One of the things that made me really like Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda was how authentic it was - I really believed that these characters could be real-life teenagers walking around in Georgia, living their lives. I didn't feel that with Leah on the Offbeat. It seemed like too much of it was staged, so-to-speak. A lot of this seemed to picture-perfect like it followed too many cliches too closely, y'know? It read like a fanfiction, which wasn't what I'd been expecting at all.
Honestly, this would have probably been a better book if I hadn't read it after Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I found myself comparing this to that a lot whilst reading and that made it less enjoyable for me. HOWEVER, it is a great book for teens who are dealing with their own sexuality, as this book features a female bi-sexual main character!! Which is super important. I wanna stress that the actual storyline was really quite cute, I'm just super bitter about this book not living up to Simon for me.
Well, that's all for this month! I'll be posting my June TBR later this week. Hope you had a great weekend!