Skip to main content

Reading Reviews and Recommendations: Week 1

My stack of library books for the week
Because this is my first time doing this, I'll start off with explaining how I'll generally run this column. Each Sunday evening (possibly early Monday depending on my reading schedule) I'll recap the books I read that week organized by what priority I would give them on your reading list. Along with a basic synopsis, I'll rank them 1-5 on Character, Plot, and Writing with brief explanations for each so you can get a feel for what the book is really like. I'm also going to add links to Amazon with the title to make it easier for you to get full synopsises and whatnot.  So without further ado:

1) All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (378 pages) To Buy Now: Click Here
Characters: 5 Finch might be one of my all time favorite characters. Between Finch and Violet, I could really see myself in this book. Niven makes them real people. Makes all the difference for the success of a story.
Plot: 5 This two delivers the perfect story to propel the two characters along on their journey.
Writing: 5 The icing on the cake was Niven's beautiful writing. Just wow!
To read more of my thoughts on this book check out my feature article: http://www.readingwritingandme.com/search/label/Standout%20Book

*Tie 2 & 3) Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner (404 pages) To Buy Now: Click Here
 This is the story of a Carver who sends his friends a text right before the three boys get into a fatal car crash. It is found that Mars, the boy who was driving, was replying at the time of the crash. The reader watches as Carver tries to heal, rebuild his life, make peace with his guilt, and cope with possible prosecution.
Characters: 4 I liked Carver well enough. While I never found him outstanding, he was funny and entertaining, as well as honest, enough. He seems authentic to the teenage as well as male voice (from what I can tell). My favorite character, though, was Jesmyn. Zentner also handled allowing us to know the characters of the three boys killed in a tragic car accident well through flashbacks and shared memories. These characters were enjoyable, believable, well developed- they just didn't have that extra pop.
Plot: 4.2 I actually liked the plot quite a bit. Mixing "goodbye days" with each victim's family with scenes with Jesmyn, his sister Georgia, his lawyer, and his therapist Zenter creates a well rounded plot and story. Also, while this is a book about a tragic event and the struggle of the aftermath, the tone is sarcastic, almost, and nearly lighthearted. You won't need to pack your tissues.
Writing: 4 Zenter's actual writing ability (dialogue, descriptions, character thoughts...) is phenomenal. I also loved the varied chapter lengths that made the lengthier book feel like an easy enough project for two days. Why the four? It's more for the mechanics. Zenter has what I can only describe as an aversion to dialogue tags, it seems. And I agree, to a certain extent. It fosters a closer feeling of emersion in the story, but with long episodes of back and forth I found myself forgetting which line was who without an occasional casual reminder. Also, he uses flashbacks frequently interwoven in chapters with present action. The longer chapters are made up of divided scenes, which sometimes (though not every time) indicated a move to the past. While this was helpful for getting more of an idea about the three teens who died before the book starts, if you miss the marker in the middle of the page, it gets confusing. Some were great and no problem. Others, not so much.
Overall: An interesting study of coping with serious trauma as a teenager and how it affects relationships with people. Even though I never felt completely invested, it had an emotional depth and appeal that makes it worth reading.

Tie 2 & 3) To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han (353 pages) To Buy Now: Click Here
Despite what the product description says, this book is really about a girl who starts to "pretend date" (I'm not sure how to phrase that) the popular boy at her high school because they both have their odd reasons it will benefit them. When they start to develop real feelings for each other is when the problem arises. The are really just the catalyst to set off the plot points of the story (really only 5-10% of the plot). I know this sounds cheesy, but Han executes it remarkably. 
Characters: 4.6 I have to applaude Han for her characters. Laura Jean, the protagonist, feels like a complete, totally relatable person. Peter is shown to be more complex than what appears on the outside. Josh grows to be more than the boy next door, and Laura Jean's father and two sisters are definitely great editions too.
Plot: 4.3 The main storyline and subplots are all fun and authentic. While this isn't a particularly emotional or serious book. it is a fun story that involves increasing maturity, being yourself, dealing with adverse situations at school... (All in the least cheesy way possible. And all light hearted).
Writing: 4 Han's writing is easy and quick to read. She nails Laura Jean's voice. Though it does not stand out, it is not a negative point. This is a fun read that doesn't really (and I would imagine) isn't meant to evoke much deeper thought, emotion, or contemplation. But sometimes people really just need a good story to take them away. I will defiantly be reading the other books in this series.
Overall: This was fun and relatable. It made me laugh and smile. Despite not having much deeper thought attached to it, the book felt like a genuine look at a family that could be your neighbor. Great, easy read for teens.

*I understand that the numeric totals for the scores of these two books to not add up as equal, but they sit on the list as they do because I could not place one over the other. Each score really is only meant to be judged against other scores in the same category to show off what to expect of strength and weaknesses. 

4) Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum (329 pages) To Buy Now: Click Here
Jammie Holms is new to Los Angeles, her new school for snotty rich kids, and the snotty rich kid life in general. Uprooted from her average Chicago life when her father elopes with a wealthy film executive, Jammie has to learn to navigate her new life with no help from anyone, even her step brother Theo. Jammie makes her first friend in SN, an anonymous student at the school who emailed her. The exchanges go back and forth, and as time goes on, Jammie's desire to discover SN's identity increase. 
Characters: 3.4 Jammie was fine. She wasn't my favorite; she wasn't wasn't awful or offensive either. This pretty much goes for all the characters except for Ethan. He was the only character I felt was fully developed and complex.
Plot: 3 There were really two main goals that ran through the story. Feel secure and happy at her new school and in LA, and discover who SN is. The later comes in full force more in the second half of the book. The first of the two was far more successful and makes the book worth reading. The second was what landed the book at the bottom of my list. As soon as the real identity of SN is introduced as one of the high school students it becomes painfully obvious who SN is. This happens in the first 25%. Knowing this is fine for a while because its not Jammie's main focus yet, and it is interesting to see the subtle hints Jammie misses. Then at the halfway point, the author gives such incredibly obvious hints that she essentially tells us who he is (for those who hadn't figured it out). Of course, this is when Jammie starts to obsess over the topic and chooses the blatantly wrong guy to peg as SN. It got to the point where I was actually yelling at my book in frustration of her cluelessness. The move seems like it was to try to create dramatic irony, but I just found it frustrating.
Writing: 3.5 The writing was inoffensive, but not the standout detail. It was successful in delivering the story without creating unnecessary confusion. Made for a quick and easy read. I also loved the edition of the special formatting for texting/ emails.
Overall: This book was about average. If the discovery of SN had been handled better, this would have ranked far higher because I really did enjoy the other plot line.

This week had a lot of stiff competition. I enjoyed every single book I read and would recommend them all. Hopefully, I've inspired you to pick one or more of these up to add to your list too.
-Lauren

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

All Our Worst Ideas YA Book Review

All Our Worst Ideas by Vicky SkinnerOverview: Amy has her life all laid out. She's going to be valedictorian, get the Keller Scholarship, and go to Stanford. Easy. Oliver doesn't quite know where he's headed yet. Taking his gap year has just confirmed that he doesn't want to go to college. No one in his life knows that yet. Amy and Oliver are thrust together when Amy gets a job at Spirits, the record store where Oliver works. They both live and breathe music, and that connects them even though their lives couldn't be more different. Amy and Oliver are a true example of the power of music to unite people. Overall: 4.5Characters: 5 I loved Amy and Oliver. I related to Amy so much. She loves music and uses it to get her through her intense academics and the heavy expectations from her family. She feels pressure to do well that mostly comes from herself, and her drive keeps her pushing to win valedictorian. While everyone knows how smart Amy is, her mom always talks ab…

Badlands Book Tag (from Antari Reads)

School has been so stressful that I just wanted to have fun for today's post. I stumbled upon the Badlands Book Tag on Twitter made by Alison from Antari Reads and knew I had to do it. I get so excited every time I meet another Halsey fan/YA book lover. Halsey has been at the top of my mind lately, so this tag felt like bringing this Badlands era revival full circle. If you really want to get into the music with me, I made a reaction to Badlands for the 5th anniversary of the album. You can click the link here or watch it embedded down below. I'll also leave links to all my recent Halsey related posts so you can read about my Manic book pairings, Halsey's new role in a YA book adaption TV series, and her life Badlands album. I've also included links to Bookshop in this post. Just click Get a Copy to visit the book's affiliate page and grab one. Shopping these links means I might get a small commission, and part of the sale goes to benefit indie bookstores. It's…

Spotify Book Tag

Today, I'm doing a book tag. I haven't done a ton of these yet, but I came across this one on Twitter when Santana shared their version of it, and I got inspired to do the tag! Santana found the tag from the original creator, Sarah @ Book Hooked Nook. Here's the original tag and here's Santana's take on it. I borrowed Sanata's twist and added music choices along with books that fit the prompt, and at the bottom, I complied all the songs into a Spotify playlist so you can listen to that while you read! I also made a special list on my Bookshop featuring all the books if you want to get any of them! Find that here. I hope you discover more books and music to love! If you want more music content, check out my music blog, Music, Musings, and Me. Also, make sure you don't miss Friday's YouTube video that perfectly fits with this tag: Spotlighting Books With Musical Main Characters.

1. Hit Rewind: a book you go back to again and again? 
I don't tend to rere…

Spotlight New Releases: Sunshine Is Forever

Hello, everyone! Today's is a very special post for me as I am reviewing my first ARC (more on that at the bottom). I was intrigued by the summary of Sunshine Is Forever from the second I read it, and I am now so excited to get to share my review of this amazing view into depression and the motives behind self harm and suicide. The impactful story is one I place up with many of my favorite books that tackle mental illness. It also features a male protagonist with a great voice, which we honestly don't see enough of in YA. Anyway, without further ado, to celebrate Sunshine Is Forever's publication, I am bringing you my full review of this new YA mental health fiction novel from a new author to the world of YA.



Sunshine Is Forever by Kyle T. Cowan
*Trigger warning specifically for self harm and suicide*
Overview: Hunter suffers from depression. While he's dealt with it his whole life through ineffective therapy and medication, his condition is worsened by the Incident which…

Larger Than Life: A History of Boy Bands From NKOTB to BTS Book Review

Larger Than Life by Maria Sherman
Get a Copy!
Overall:  5
I don't think I've ever anticipated a book longer than Larger Than Life. I'd heard Maria on a couple music criticism podcasts whenever they'd launched into the confusing world of the boy band, and she always mentioned the book would be coming soon. Well, it's finally out, and it makes me incredibly happy.
As I already knew, Maria is a boy band expert as well as a true fan. Her joy and enthusiasm really does make the book. I also love that boy bands are finally getting their full and comprehensive due. I wouldn't say that I'm particularly a boy band fan (outside of the Jonas Brothers and One Direction (though I guess those are just the boy bands of my generation so many I am)), but I find how they're looked at culturally to be fascinating. Boy bands tie back to feminism and how society constructs their views around things liked by teens/girls/women/LGBTQIA people. Maria doesn't shy away from tha…

August Wrap Up 2020- Reflecting and Getting Excited For What's To Come

I didn't think I would ever say this, but August does not seem like it's been nearly long enough! I feel like the end of summer came in the blink of an eye, and now I'm writing this on my second day as a college student. Considering I started this blog as the 8th grader, I've come a really long way. This school year is extra weird. I wasn't prepared to start school online like I had been in years past. I was anticipating moving to New York. I had an entire New York City themed visuals flip for the blog to honor the new era of my life. Alas, I'm still in the mountains and those plans are on hold. At least August is the last of the losing. I didn't have many plans beyond this month, so all the new days should get less painful. They just are instead of being a "should have been". If you're starting a major milestone this year (especially if you're starting college like I am), my heart goes out to you. We're in this together, and I think …

The Summer of Everything YA Book Review

The Summer of Everything by Julian Winters Want a Copy Right Now? Use my Bookshop link to support the blog! Here.Overview: Wes doesn't know what he wants to do with his life. He has an acceptance letter to UCLA, but he's not sure what he wants to do with that. He loves working at Once Upon a Page, the indie bookstore he's worked at for a number of years. It's the perfect chill job where he's surrounded by comic books and all his friends. When it seems like Once Upon is going to close and his best friend/crush Nico is getting ready to move all the way to Stanford, Wes feels like his entire life is falling apart. He doesn't know what the next step is, but he's going to fight to keep the bookstore (and a bit of his childhood) alive for as long as possible. Overall: 4Characters: 4 Wes isn't totally lost. He loves what he's doing right now, but he's realizing that can't be forever. He's scared of making the wrong move for his future, so he fi…

War and Speech YA Book Review

War and Speech by Don Zolidis 
Overview: Sydney's life is a bit like a tornado. After her dad heading to prison wrecked her first semester of Junior year, she transfers schools with her walls up high and her tongue extra sharp. Sydney is deeply sarcastic, speaks her mind maybe too often, and is happy to join conspiracies to take down the school. She finds them in a group of outcasts tormented by the speech and debate team. She ends up joining down with an eye towards taking them all down and getting the coach fired. While she goes in with one mission, she finds a lot more than she bargained for on the team. Overall: 4.5 

Characters: 5 I love, love, love Sydney. She's so cynical and sarcastic and completely hilarious. She says a lot of the things that I think, so it was a joy to see the world through her eyes. It's nice to see a YA character in high school who plays into it as a complete outsider in the sense that she doesn't even want to play the game or be a part of tho…

Fear of Missing Out

Fear of Missing Out by Kate McGovern 
Overview: Astrid has a form of brain cancer called astrocytoma that causes a star shaped tumor to form near her brainstem. Though she was in remission, two years later, the cancer comes back, and Astrid becomes convinced that she won't beat the disease. She starts to pursue options that will allow her to have a life in the future, namely, cryopreservation. After essentially freezing her body, she hopes to wake up when there's a cure for her cancer so she can rejoin the world and see some of the milestones she fears missing.
On the road trip to tour the Arizona facility, though, Astrid makes other realizations about her life and eventual death that alters how she sees her original plan. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 Astrid is relatable. She has a touch of dry, witty humor that makes her relatable. She loves her friends and family deeply, but she also has a conviction to follow what feels best for her. I appreciated how she always tried to stay ho…

Into YA with Laura Silverman: Part 2

Today, I'm chatting with Laura Silverman again to celebrate the upcoming release of her book, RecommendedFor You as part of the blog tour! If you haven't heard about this swoony, holiday set romance in a bookstore, you can scroll to the bottom of the page to read the book's official description and Laura's bio. Otherwise, you can check out my review here. I'm so happy to support Laura's new book, and if you want to hear about her past books, I'll link to my review below. If you're excited about Recommended For You, you're in luck because it is out in the world today! If you want to order a copy while supporting indie bookstores and the blog, you can purchase the book here with my link*. Thank you to Laura for taking the time to talk with me!

1. Recommended For You is mostly set in an indie bookstore during the holiday rush. What made you decide on that setting? I spent a year working at a bookstore and fielded many of the same strange requests Shosh…