Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Book Basics: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Copyright: 2015, Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA, LGBT, coming-of-age,
Star Rating: ★★★½ Borrow It First, Then Buy It
Short Summary: When sixteen-year-old Simon Spier’s secret emails fall into the wrong hands, he has no choice but to go along with being blackmailed, out of fear of his entire Georgia high school finding out that he’s gay. As Simon struggles with keeping his secret, he falls more and more in love with Blue (the guy he’s been emailing) and becomes more and more curious about Blue’s true identity, knowing that Blue is one of his fellow classmates.
What I Liked: This book was absolutely adorable. Like seriously, Simon and Blue’s emails made me squirm and squeal on the inside, it was so cute. Reading the book is like watching baby animal videos on YouTube: it’s just so cute it makes your heart explode. Becky Albertalli did an excellent job of writing Simon and Blue’s relationship and developed it very nicely, even though it was all online. Cuteness factor aside, the main characters were very well developed and there was an awesome message about stereotyping and how the “default” person shouldn’t be straight and white.
What I Didn’t Like: Overall, the writing could have been a bit better. At times, the plot felt a little dry, like it wasn’t going anywhere, and it kind of went in circles. A lot of the supporting characters were undeveloped, which was unfortunate, as they were really awesome people, just not really awesome characters.
In Conclusion: This was a super cute book. As I said before, the writing could have been better, but it had a great central message, and it’s always good to see diversity in YA novels, especially romance novels. If you like romance novels or you’re looking for something different, or you just want something fun and light to read, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is ADORABLE.
Don’t forget to check out my blog for more YA book reviews & recommendations!
Check out Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda here.
Come to a wonderful tea party… Or should I say ScArY PArTy? Come join us for a very happy un-birthday at the Golden Library after hours to solve a Murder Mystery. The characters from Alice IN Wonderland come and have some tea with cookies. Suddenly one of the characters Drops to the floor in misery… THEN THE CHARACTER DIES ON THE FLOOR… Find out who killed the character by asking other characters and finding clues around the library and find the MURDERER!!!
Friday Oct. 23, 6-9 PM
Costumes required, cosplay encouraged
Folds of soft-serve creamy delight curl into the crystalline glass.
Smooth chocolate syrup is marbled with the icy vanilla.
Atop this sugary-sweet delight rests a light puffed whipped cream.
Ripples of fluffy white cream twirl into a peak, held in place only by the stickiness of the ice cream chocolate mixture.
Crushed almonds are sprinkled over the light whipped cream, adding a hint of crunch to the soft dessert delicacy.
Alas, that is not all!
Like a queen sits on her throne, this candy-apple empress stands atop her kingdom of cream.
Ruby staff in hand, the maraschino cherry queen sits amongst the almond bits.
The dessert is complete.
*This entry was submitted by a Lakewood High School student for our Teen Blog Contest*
Image credit: Christi on Flickr.
He had cut the wood by hand. He had spent all day and night splitting wood from fallen trees and old logs, determined to have his work done by the time the sun rose above the mountain valley that surrounded his new property of land. He had been successful. Now, Tomlin had four mounds of chopped wood lined up along what would be the front door of his cabin. Iceland was the perfect place for his new beginning. Or so he thought.
Beyond his small eiker of land, was a forest. It lay dark and abandoned, hidden from the shine of the sun's light by the looming mountains. The sun's warmth and light, never touched the forest. Not even the tips of the trees. Leaving it desolate, dark, and cold.
The villagers of the small town just a few miles down the road, warned not to go into that dark, cold forest. It was said that once you went in, you never came out. The legend behind the forest, was made up from the missing villagers that courageously stepped foot in the woods to find new land, but never reported back.
"To find fortune and new land." One of the villagers had explained to Tomlin. "But was never heard from again. Never let greed control your common sense."
The stories were enough to scare Tomlin away from the woods. But something lurked in those woods that was determined to lead him into doom. A greedy fox sat watching Tomlin. The fox mumbled to himself about how much he hated this new intruder. The land that he now claimed to own, belonged to the fox. And the fox wanted his land back. He did not want to prowl around in the forest where sunshine was not relevant, where nothing lived, where nothing thrived. No he would not be doomed to that forest. He would not be doomed to a lifetime of darkness. But how would he get the new man to leave what rightfully belonged to the fox? Well, the fox had some tricks up his sleeve. This was not the first time someone had tried to steal his land.
The fox slowly walked out of the wood line, swishing his tail back and forth and walking with grace. The man jumped at his approach. "I don't mean any harm." The fox said to the man in his low rhythmic voice. "I actually have an offer to give."
"What might that be?" Tomlin asked, leaning against his shovel.
"In this forest behind me, there waits a cabin that has already been built. If you go into the forest, you will find the cabin waiting. No one lives inside."
"The villagers say not to go into the woods." Tomlin replied. "Besides, I have enough wood to build a cabin here. I'll pass."
So, the fox walked back into the forest. The next day, the fox tried again. This time offering fresh food that the villagers could not supply. But Tomlin turned down the offer again. The day after that, the fox offered a beautiful hidden land that was bigger than just one eiker and had all of the things one person desired. But Tomlin once again denied the fox's offer. The fox tried to trick Tomlin into going into the woods day after day. Plotting new plans, but always getting the same response, and failing each time. Until finally, the fox thought of something that he was sure would convince the human elsewise.
"I'm sorry to bother you again." The fox said as he stepped out of the woods.
"Don't even bother." Tomlin said. "I have already told you no many times now. So, go home fox."
"I know." Said the fox. "But I was just walking around back there last night, when I stumbled upon a cave. When I went inside, I found piles upon piles of riches. Gold, silver, jewels. You name it."
This got the man's attention. Tomlin knew that there was something off about this fox, but the offer of piles upon piles of riches, was just too tempting.
"Really? Then where is this cave?"
"Back in the forest." The fox replied. "Just keep walking and you'll find it. It's not very far at all. There is no way you'll get lost." Then the fox smiled, like mud smeared across the wall, that smile.
If what the fox said is true, then I'll be rich. Tomlin thought. This offer was too good to pass up. So, without thinking about how the fox was a deceitful liar, Tomlin walked into the forest to find the riches. Never to be heard from, or seen again. And the fox laughed and mocked him behind his back as he disappeared into the darkness. Because the fox knew that he had won.
"The fox's land the fox's land!" He chanted as he pranced around. He had won back was was rightfully his. Silly man. All it had took was greed and foolishness and the fox had won.
*This story was submitted by a Lakewood High School student for our Teen Blog Contest.*
Image Credit: Miss Barabanov on Flickr.
Be warned: This film is rated R.
Sicario is a tense film to say the least. At all times, it is both an intriguing mystery and an action filled thriller. No one knows what really is happening for the majority of the movie, elevating the tension further. Denis Villeneuve (director of the Hugh Jackman gem that is Prisoners) created a fantastic, incredibly exciting movie about the drug trade in Mexico.
Emily Blunt stars as Kate, a young ambitious member of the Arizona Kidnap Response Team. After raiding an explosive rigged house, she is chosen for an interdepartmental operation aimed at screwing up the operations of the Mexican Cartel, specifically bringing down the boss. Soon however, she starts to find out what really is going on. Emily, her boss Matt (Josh Brolin) and the mysterious teammate Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) depart to Mexico, not exactly knowing what will happen.
Villeneuve is a master of building tension. He excels at using the frame of the shot to capture this, limiting what the viewer sees and knows. This creates the uneasy feeling that anything, or anyone, could be around the corner. Using a screenplay that is complicated to say the least, Villeneuve captures the essence of every character and every scene.
The bleak landscape perfectly captures the tone of the film. The cinematographer Roger Deakins had worked previously with Villeneuve, delivering the bleak world of Prisoners. This time around, he captures the beauty and desolate landscape around the characters, showing how small they truly are compared to the world.
Even though there is fantastic directing, brilliant cinematography, and a great script, the film really shines with the acting. Blunt is shown to be physically weaker than her counterparts, but morally stronger. She carries the viewer through all of the disturbing parts of the film, creating a relatable, believable protagonist. It’s an incredibly hard thing to do, and she does it masterfully. Benicio Del Toro is at his most awesome since The Usual Suspects, portraying Alejandro as a mysterious, incredibly dangerous man with nothing to lose. Josh Brolin delivers needed comic relief at the best times as Matt. All three of the actors give Oscar worthy performances.
The film begins explaining the name Sicario. It is spanish for hitman, originating in ancient Jerusalem for hunters of Romans. And really, it could describe almost any of the characters in the film, the notions of good and bad mixed up. The film masterfully delivers a morally ambiguous tale wrought with tension, and is highly recommended. 9/10
Browse our catalog for more films by Denis Villeneuve.
Image Credit:Roey Ahram on Flickr.
Be warned: This film is rated R.
The Green Inferno is gruesome but not great.
Eli Roth has developed somewhat of a cult following. With his films like Hostel and Cabin Fever, horror fans were excited to see a new, interesting, and incredibly graphic voice in Hollywood. 8 years after the disappointment that was Hostel: Part 2, Roth returns to director's chair for his new offering of gory violence in the form of The Green Inferno.
Clearly inspired by older films like Cannibal Holocaust, The Green Inferno’s story is familiar to say the least. It focuses on the young college student Justine (Lorenza Izzo) as she joins a group called ACT, devoted to social justice. The group, led by the charismatic Alejandro (Ariel Levy), travels to Peru to stop the demolition of the rainforest. While trying to stop the construction workers, the group’s plane crashes in the middle of the forest and the survivors captured by a primitive tribe of cannibals.
This film, although wrought with great ideas and great things, comes together to form an incredibly underwhelming movie. The first act, focused on New York and Justine’s college is by far the weakest. The production value looked exceedingly low, like a cheap television show. None of it was pleasant to watch. Justine’s roommate Kaycee (Sky Ferreria) was notably an unpleasant presence. The overall acting of the entire film was subpar. No one actor was outstanding or even particularly believable.
The writing didn’t do them any favors however. The characters are extremely flat, offering no humanity among the horror. The villain is extremely evil. The hero is extremely innocent and noble. The list goes on from there, and these characters create other problems. They don’t allow the audience to really connect with any characters. The only reason to not want someone to die is so one doesn’t have to endure another bloodbath. That is unless of course you enjoy excessive gore, in which case you just want all the characters to die as soon as possible.
The gore was excessive, creating an overall cartoonish tone rather than tension. Strange bits of bad humor are peppered throughout the film too, creating an extremely inconsistent tone. For example, one of the characters gets sick and excretes fecal matter all over the corner of the cage the tribespeople are keeping them in. What was probably meant to be a joke just makes the audience uncomfortable, pulling them out of the experience.
The film does have a lot of really good attributes. The tribe was extremely creepy and scary, both in behavior and physically. The two head tribe members extremely memorable. The concept of ACT not sharing moral similarities with the tribe heightens the tension, allowing no middle ground between the two groups.
The directing is also excellent. This being Roth’s fourth movie, he has gotten tension building down. (When the script allows it) Roth genuinely makes things tense when people aren’t getting eaten or mutilated. Using a red and green color palate, the entire setting comes alive.
The Green Inferno also has some interesting story ideas. The evil and good forces repeatedly get muddled throughout the movie, keeping with a theme that there is no absolute bad or good.
In the end, The Green Inferno is just sort of mediocre. The violence is excessive, the acting is subpar, the writing is less than good. Despite the interesting story and cool tribe, I can’t recommend this film to anyone unless they are a die hard Eli Roth fan or are looking for an exceedingly gorey distraction. 5/10
Browse our catalog for additional films by Eli Roth.
Image credit: Erin from Flickr
*This review may contain spoilers*
Okay, now before I begin, I would like to get one thing straight. The movie is nothing like the book. Now I know a lot of people get bent out of shape about this, but at the cost of turning a successful book into a movie, in had to be made so people who didn’t read the book can understand and enjoy it. This particular series in question has a lot of mysterious elements and plot points, which can be tedious for people who haven’t read the book. So in the movie, they removed these parts and added explanations that were not book canon. Now that that is out of the way, here’s my opinion: It was a bad movie.
I saw The Scorch Trials the day before it was released, as I do for every successful movie, and I was not impressed. The movie started out fine. Not a spitting image of the book, but I can get past that. However, there was a huge plot reveal really soon that was not only poorly timed, but poorly handled. None of the previous characterizations from the books or the first movie were present in this chain of events. It also had no sense of urgency; none of the main cast were affected by it, nor were any secondary characters.
After this plot reveal, the main cast was in a tedious state of constant peril. They were never stable, even for five minutes. WCKD would find them, or the Cranks would. It was supposed to show the danger of their situation, but honestly it was like they had no actual plot to fill the 2 hour run time so they filled it with running and firefights.
Then the fight scenes. There were wayyyyy too many. Again, I believe that these were just to fill time. But they became extraneous and tiring. I had a headache at the end, no joke. I have a feeling the purpose of these scenes was to show that they were “No longer in the maaazzzeeee” (cue dramatic music), but the transition was rocky, and it felt like the Maze never happened, as it was rarely mentioned and the characters immediately adjusted to the Scorch.
Last, over the course of the movie, I felt like there was little of the original characterizations that were prevalent in The Maze Runner series and movie. Thomas was impulsive as always, but not at the right times. He fought the wrong fight, to put it simply. Like, why the heck did he care so much about x subject, even though it had no effect on him? Minho had very few lines as far as I can remember, and as for being the “Leader”, he did very little leading. He also lost all of his snarkiness, which was important part of his character. Newt went out the window. Honestly they were like two different people. I didn’t really like Teresa, even in the first one, so I didn’t pay all that much attention to her. However, even just recalling this stuff (all of the prior and future comments are/were thoughts made during movie), her motives were unclear, even in the times she was literally EXPLAINING her motives. And Frypan didn’t even cook (that’s all I remember about his character). Winston dies, who was inexplicably my favorite character in the book/movie, but his death was meant to be way more of a shock than it really was.
Overall, I thought it was a poorly written movie, and although the actors were good in it, I feel like this movie was very bad, and so different than the predecessor that if you liked The Maze Runner movie (like myself), I recommend skipping this one and just reading what happened on the Wikipedia page later. However, if you hated the first movie, I don't know, maybe give this one a try. You’ll probably hate this one too, but maybe not. And if you’re one of those people who bookmark every inaccuracy made in the movie into the book, don’t see it. However, if you want to see a movie that doesn’t require much concentration, or like Dylan O’Brien, definitely see this movie.
He found he could not breathe.
“The window.” He murmured, and fumbled with the latch. He threw it open, and frosty air slipped into his lungs. He convulsed momentarily, grasping the corners of the window frame to keep from falling, before collapsing against a wooden chair and throwing his head back into his hands.
He sighed, staring at the half-finished painting in front of him. Acrylics lay scattered around the splintery easel, and dabs of paint littered the corner of what appeared to be a half-finished portrait.
Lingering only a second, his eyes darting across the painting, he grasped a brush. With a fluid motion, he dabbed it across the black pigments spilling from a paint tube.
The portrait's single completed eye stared at him, wanting. He could scavenge it. The eye was fine, only, he needed to correct the hair--no, it wouldn't do.
It wasn't her.
With a violent striking motion, he splattered the paint across the paper in a careless X. Something like exhaustion settled in his veins at the first shiver of the paper's texture running through his skin, and he leaned back into his chair once more.
"I can't do it." He murmured. The window was still unlatched, and it was beginning to get chilly. He pulled it closed rather absentmindedly, leaving it cracked the slightest bit open. Somewhere beyond, he could hear music. A concert in town?
“I need a break.“ He thought to himself, before retaliating against himself. “I have work to do.”
Something struggled inside him. He glanced around his studio, at the paints that had once seemed vibrant, at the spools of paper dotting scattered shelves. It felt dead, somehow, lifeless with repetition. Blankets covered a pile of junk in the corner--even more failed projects.
The sun glimmered through the tiny crack in the window, illuminating the black X on his painting.
He stepped outside. The music was still playing, although it felt even more distant. He shivered; he'd forgotten to take a jacket with him, and found the snow seeping through his shoddy boots.
"What lovely weather." He murmured to himself, staring at the grays of the sky and the snow. The city stretched out before him, covered in muted colors and faint sunshine.
It stretched before him, enormous, a canvas waited to be used.
"Stop that." He could hear screeching. “I don't care,” he thought. “I should care, and I don't, and I'm sorry that I don't, but I don't. I don't care so much at all.”
Red paint ran down his arms, staining his apron. The streets of the city ran red, and blue, and yellow with paint, which lit the inky road a mirage of explosive colors.
"This is green." He murmured, splashing it onto the sidewalk. "Here is blue." He tried to dab it onto the cracks--someone was grasping his shoulders, speaking into his ear. He pushed them back, stumbled. The paint can fell, splattering across the snow and rolling downhill the empty road.
He could hear yelling. It sounded muted, as though he were underwater. His heart was trembling, and he couldn't' have cared less.
It wouldn't have mattered. He had spent years alone, hunched over an easel, and his muscles were limp from lack of use. He found himself fighting, but his arms wouldn't move the way he told them to. He felt sluggish, frustrated. His legs couldn't run, and he spat at them. “You're my legs, aren't you? Get up!”
It was cold in the hospital.
He watched the clock tick closer and closer to midnight, playing with the edge of his sheets. It had been a week already. He was annoyed, annoyed that they wouldn't let him back into the streets to finish his work, annoyed that they wouldn't even let him back to his studio at the top of the little hill.
He had stopped caring an hour earlier, when a chill had settled inside the clean rooms. It smelled strongly of antiseptic. Each time a nurse opened the door to check on him, he thought he could smell the cold. Smell it.
Perhaps someone has died, he thought, vaguely.
It felt like he was in a morgue. Silence, the occasional patter of footsteps, and now the frigid air.
He sat up. The sheets rustled, and he was careful to quiet them.
The walls were white, the walls were white, the walls were white. There were no boundaries. He felt surrounded, surrounded by a blank parchment paper--only this time, without boundaries. He spun around in a circle, arms flinging out. Is this what heaven looks like, he wondered, bright all around but for my own breathing and the beating of my heart? What a cruel, cruel place.
He needed paint.
Color, any color. He glanced at the bed-stand and found grape juice.
He splattered it against the walls, watched as it dripped down and formed puddles against the bed. He dipped his fingers in it and ran them along the wall, drawing swirling lines and intricate doodles, of which he scribble over and over and over again. Violently crossing them out, a red sheen beginning to show against his forehead.
"Not right," He muttered, feverish, "not right." He traced another eye and found that, at the very least, he could remember and illustrate one mere part of her. He tried to add to it--but it wasn't the same, it wasn't the same person at all. His hand smeared it out, and he glanced down and the feeble cup in his hands.
He was running out of juice.
He wondered where he was.
A hand stroked his face, played with the stubble that had grown across his chin. He tried to tilt his neck, to see who it might be, but the dream fell away just as they let out a giggle.
Evelina, he thought, and his heart let out a pang.
They were watching him, he knew. He was somewhere else now, somewhere far away. It smelled like lavender half the time, and the other half of the time it smelled like nothing at all. The walls were beige, the floor was patterned wood, and his bed had sheets the color of roses.
“They were careful this time, weren't they?” He thought of this to himself mildly, tracing the scars along his arm with his finger. The scratches he had made a month since, to color the walls and bring them to life.
He could draw her nose now, he found.
It satisfied him, and he was content to lay back in the plush bed and let the nurses bring food and drink to him. He could look out the window from here, and what he saw was magnificent. A beautiful lake and river system, coated in whitewater and violent boulders. “How lovely, how lovely,” he thought to himself, and tears flooded his eyes at the beauty of it.
He asked for paper.
A pencil, as well, but this they only gave to him on the condition that an assistant stood by at all times.
It snowed again.
By now, his notebook was filled to the brim with sketches and doodles. He had flipped back through it, trying to find space, filling every last bit of lined brightness the papers had to offer.
His hand ached. He stared down at the drawing. Her eyes and nose were exactly like he remembered them. But her lips, no, they were flawed. Angrily, he grasped the notebook and tried to rip it. He found he lacked the strength to do so, and satisfied himself with tossing it across the room.
“I'll never get it right,” he though desperately.
He wasn't content anymore. Just knowing that he was close--so close--it pained him, clawed at him, the tantalizing outcome only so far away. Sinking into the wall of pillows on his bed, he stared vacantly out the window. It was snowing in flurries, a brilliant blizzard that obscured the lake beyond. He stood and crept near the window.
He tested it. Locked, as it had been the last time he felt desperate enough to check. The glass panes grew foggy from his breath, and he inhaled. Exhaled.
He touched it, quietly, listening to the beating of his heart.
They had...they had held storms. A stroke of his finger, and an eye emerged.
Prominent, she strove to hide it behind a fleeting smile. He drew her nose, curved and crooked along the tip.
Soft. He hesitated, his hand touching the glass lightly, carefully, shyly, as though it were her skin. Lovely.
Here. Her lips, and he laughed in delight when he found, he could draw her, he could draw her, he could draw her.
If only he could show her.
The snow settles on an age-old graveyard, covered with cracks and falling snow. A bucket of paint lies besides it, toppled, empty, and rusted, bolted to the ground in chains. A paintbrush is screwed to it, coated in frost.
I fell in love with myself,
and with a lovely painter,
before Death fell in love
A man sits on the ground and cries. Behind him stand two nurses, averting their eyes.
"Lina," He murmurs, shivering in the cold. His bones are frail, frailer than they should be. "I did it, Lina. I wish you could have been there to see. Oh, I wish you could have been there to see!"
He touches the paintbrush, faded and gray, clutches the handle of the paint can with his scarred hand. Evelina touched this bucket, he thinks, Evelina touched this paintbrush.
In the storm, an old man's shoulders are racked with sobs. He craves the past, he craves it, because he knows it is time to let go.
Something is missing, and it will always be this way.
He has realized this by now. It does not stop him anymore, does not pull at him as it did years prior. He no longer obsesses over the same drawing, repeating it over and over again from morning until night. His studio is no longer claustrophobic, but a place of exploration.
He sits at the window, as she had done once, long ago. He stares down the street and paints the lamps lighting the cobblestone at night, or the children who clamber over the garden wall on dares, or the old couples who sit on benches, side by side and huddling together. He paints what he sees, and lets memories go.
Only now and then does he let himself slip. He sits in his blankets for hours and watches the clock tick, before curling open a sketchbook with one hand. An eye, another, a nose, lips. Evelina. He stops and stares at it, something like sorrow in his expression before he quietly shuts the book.
He turns. The light clicks off, and he goes to sleep.
I have moved on. He wanders in his dreams, a mindless wander, instead of desperate. No longer does he try to push back the walls of time. The words drift in his consciousness, soft edges against a field of dreams. No longer.
I have moved on.
Image Credit Samantha Ward-Carnegie Melon on Flickr.
As a child, the sky is the limit. You can say you want to be a ballerina one day and the President of the United States the next, and no one will object. They will smile and tell you to pursue whatever you want to do. As you grow older, everything becomes convoluted. No longer is the route to life a clear cut line, black and white, right and wrong. No longer can you choose to do something on a whim; instead, you have responsibilities to fill—homework, jobs, and family to list a few. Somewhere along life’s journey, we lose our way, and we may become full of doubt on whether or not we are walking in the right direction.
As an aspiring artist and photographer, I question my abilities. Will I ever become good enough to do what I love as a job? Should I pursue this career or should I strive for a more financially stable career? All these questions plague me on a day to day basis. At the end of the day though, very few to none of these questions are answerable at the present moment, so why should I fret over them?
I created the painting “A Dance with the Clouds” on a whim. I thought back to the mindset of my 5 year old self and just let myself do what I love—I painted. I didn’t know what I wanted to paint, but I knew I wanted to create something. I opened up Photoshop and I chose a brush and just began to lay in some color until shapes were formed. Perhaps I started the piece with uncertainty, but by the end of it, I knew what I wanted it to look like.
In my life, I’m still on the step of layering color hoping something takes shape. I don’t know where I’m going to college, I don’t know what career I will ultimately choose to pursue, and I don’t know what the future holds, but I will continue to live my life until something takes shape. Nothing will take shape though if I don’t take the initiative to at least try.
Outlived them all -
After one passes,
Pick yourself up,
After a phase
Scrounge up the courage
To get another -
Each gives me a piece of their heart
As I give them all of mine.
But are they really each so different?
All the same
In heart and dedication -
Those floppy ears
That perk at each sound;
That ever-wagging tail
Always happy to greet me.
Another takes its place,
A never-ending cycle.
Maybe they are not multiple
But one and the same:
Always my best friend.
Image Credit Spookfisheye on Flickr.