Book recommendations and reviews (mostly YA), original writing (short stories, flash fiction, maybe some poetry), and other ideas of mine. Follow on Instagram: @readingwritingandme and Twitter: @readwriteandme and Facebook: @readingwritingandme. Also subscribe to our email updates by clicking the subscribe button above.
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Reading Reviews and Recommendations: Week 2
Some people call it a purse. I think it's a book carrier.
Hello everyone! This week has been a little crazy with flying back from Spring Break and then jumping into the swing of books, but I did get my reading in for this week. The three books I'm reviewing are If I Fix You, It's Not Me It's You, and Dreamology. I did read a fourth book this week, but I'd call it more of a Middle Grade historical fiction piece, so I decided to leave it off the review list. This week I'm looking forward to squeezing in a couple of books I'm really excited about reading between school and volunteering at the library, but I'm most excited to go to Teen Book Con on Saturday (Look out for an article about my experience with that!). So without further ado: 1)Dreamology by Lucy Keating (322 pages) https://www.amazon.com/Dreamology-Lucy-Keating/dp/0062380001
Alice has always dreamed about a boy named Max. The boy of her dreams. She always thought that he was just a character her mind made up, a boy she had seen on the street once, until she walks into her first day of classes after moving to Boston. After finding out that Max has shared the same dreams with her, the two must go back to their only connection, the CDD to find out why this happened, and, eventually, to stop any adverse side effects of meeting each other. The Sci-Fi touch brought in by the neurological phenomenon is well explained and made to seem entirely plausible. Much more realistic fiction than anything else. Overall: 4.5
Characters: 4 I thought that Keating did a nice job making a well rounded, well developed cast. While we never got too deep inside any of their minds or issues, none seemed underdeveloped or in any way off putting or unbelievable. Sophie and Oliver and Max and Alice all work together to draw nice comparisons and highlight traits of the others. The supporting cast is also well executed.
Plot: 4 While the idea of meeting the boy from your dreams in real life is a little strange, the way that the plot is constructed makes it completely plausible. The development of the CDD and their past connection with it gives a solid base on which to build the story. While the overall message of living life and learning to live in the present are craftily hidden in the storyline of two teenagers who have only known each other in their dreams. The subplots are also well executed and tie in nicely to support the overall theme.
Writing: 4.5 This is where Keating truly excels. Her words seem meticulously chosen to garner the maximum effect in the most simplistic way. While it wasn't really a tug on your heart strings story, it left me happy, satisfied, and fulfilled. Also, it takes skill to take an out there concept, especially with dreams and neuroscience and craft it into something that seems plausible and accessible.
Jill’s life hasn't been the same since her mom walked out the door. Not that it was great, but when she left, her mother took much more than her stuff. The night before Jill caught her flirting with her best friend/ longtime crush, Jill feels awkward around her friends because she can never be completely honest about her feelings, and she’s left with plenty of unresolved feelings. One day, while sitting on the roof, she sees her new neighbors, mother and son, get into a violent fight. She slowly comes to know this boy, Daniel, who she feels she can share her past with freely. The brief solace they find in their mutual understanding is eroded away when stronger feelings start to develop but cant be acted on because of their four year age gap. Elsewhere, Jill’s life is constantly made up of avoiding disasters caused by her mother’s sudden reappearance and coping with how to deal with her friend she once thought she loved. A book filled with twists and turns set to the backdrop of Arizona and an auto shop. Overall: 4.5
Characters: 4 Most of the characters were top notch quality and well rounded. This includes Jill, Daniel, her father, her mother, and Claire. None of them have quite the luster of spectacular characters but none are bad. Though I take an issue with Sean. He is given the slap on label of handsome with perfect dimples, Valedictorian smart, and kind. These cookie cutter labels are a far departure from what Johnson does with the other characters which makes him hard to root for even though you know you should. He does get one quality scene at the very end that makes you wonder what he could have been.
Plot: 4 The plot was solid with a course of action that makes sense. The subplots enhanced the story and were carried out well. All of the storylines were given satisfactory tie ups. It was good, it just didn't shine or pull at your emotions like a five star plot.
Writing 4 I hardly noticed it here. It definitely didn't hold the story back, but there was nothing really remarkable about it. The author did her job, which was to shape words into a movie in my head. Though there was no experimental ideas, unique figurative language, or anything in particular, sometimes it’s nice to just read a book to enjoy a story and not notice attributes like it was an English assignment.
Essentially, Avery Dennis, senior popular girl, is dumped by her dream boy right before the prom that she is head of planning. Coincidentally, she also has a report due for history where she is supposed to interview people about a historical event they lived through. Much in keeping with her self centered nature, she decides to interview every past boyfriend to realize where it all went wrong and submit it as her report. The summary bills much more growth and change on her part than was ever present. I was on the fence about it from the beginning and wish I had just passed. Overall: 2
Characters: 2 Avery is the popular girl stereotype all the way. She is beautiful and has a huge following and dates every guy in the school. Her self centered nature is glaringly apparent, and she comes off like a spoiled rich kids. The other characters are all stereotypes as well. Each boyfriend is a new one, and they each stay firmly within their categories. [Side Note: I found the Texas cowboy boyfriend particularly offensive. Texans are not all cowboys. I’m sure the Italians feel the same way at this point (there is an Italian boyfriend to who is only featured telling Avery how much he loves her. He is a true moron.)] Her friends are okay. Coco is actually realistic, but a stereotype in her own right because there are actually people who fawn over popular girls that much. Sad, but true. And her other friend and lab partner Hutch who is apparently there for “scientific research”. I liked him for a bit when he was making funny comments (even though he was a total nerd stereotype), but then he started to fall for Avery and make all these comments professing just how wonderful she is. At the end, Avery seemed to feign remorse, but it felt completely fake and forced.
Plot:2 So she really went through and called all of her ex- boyfriends, originally starting with her Kindergarten boyfriend before deciding to skip to sixth. Apparently she had a boyfriend (if you can call it that) every year in between. Even in sixth grade she had multiple boyfriends! I’m sorry, but I don't buy it. Every one of these stories seem off and a bit unpalatable. Also, her whole reason for doing this, to discover why she was dumped, was pointless because she had apparently dumped every one of her boyfriends before Luke.
Writing: 2 I could tell that the author wanted you to like and have sympathy for Avery at points during the story, and the try at character evolution was so forced and far from plausible. It was like one day Avery was like, I used to be a crummy person, but I guess I’ve fixed that now, and she goes on like normal. Also, this was supposed to be her oral history report recorded in interviews and edited later by Avery’s biasing “Editors Notes”. The way that these were written and put together it seemed like they were all asked questions separately with some random throw ins from parents or principles who weren't even a part of a plausible interview at that moment. Also, most of the comments seem like asides that were added in later. It was odd and confusing. And if it really was a class report, there were so many unnecessary parts left in there. It is not important to oral history to have three paragraphs about her love of cheddar bunnies.
It was written in almost a scrip format and divided up usually by boyfriend sometimes by another event. And somehow, her history teacher gave it and A+.
This year's best of 2018 list has tons of new categories to fit all of the amazing books I read this year. I've had the chance to read so many advanced books and recent releases, so most of what I read were books that came out in 2018. I mostly choose contemporary, so I've started with my favorite debut as well as the best books in other genres I've ventured into. After that, I have smaller categories in the contemporary genre. I hope you find new books to love and give to your friends and family for the holidays. If you're interested in learning more about the books on the list, click their titles to go to my reviews. Let me know if these are some of your favorites in the comments, and tell me your favorite books! Best In Genre
Top Debut Nothing Left To Burn by Heather EzellNothing Left To Burn gave me the craziest book hangover. I was so immersed in the story, and I couldn't stop reading to do anything that I actually needed to be doing. There is a toxic relat…
The History of Jane Doe by Micheal Belanger (2018) Overview: Ray knows the entire history of his hometown, Burgerville, Connecticut. He also knows lots of different tidbits about the world as well. But, for his first written account of history, the story must center on loss, why, and fleeting moments of happiness. He has to tell the story of his first girlfriend, hidden by the anonymity of the name Jane Doe. Told in Before and After chapters, Ray explores the highs and lows he had in his fleeting relationship with Jane and his recovery from crushing loss. Overall: 4.5 Characters: 5 Jane is coping with clinical depression that probably stems from a combination of family history and past trauma. She goes between trying to hide her scars and struggles and exposing them, tiny piece by piece to the people she loves.
Ray is fascinated by Jane and the way she looks at the world and the town he's lived in all his life with fresh eyes.
His friend, Simon, is dorky and not quite all together b…
The Dead Queen's Club by Hannah Capin (January 29) Overview: For fans of European history, specifically Henry VIII and his many wives, this is a treat. Modernized and set in high school, this version is the tale of all of Henry's living ex-girlfriends banding together to find the real reason behind the death of two of his former girlfriends, Anna Boleyn and Katie Howard. Narrated by Annie, better known as Cleves, the reader falls for Henry's charm but also sees the cracks growing in his perfect facade. Overall: 4
Characters: 4 Cleves has a authoritative voice that I very much enjoyed. She's outspoken and uncompromising as she makes a place for herself in her new school senior year. Even though she marches to the beat of her own drum, she's found a place for herself among the cheerleaders who genuinely love how unique she is; but it helps that she's already friends with Henry, football star who practically owns the school.
The other characters have their places a…
This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers (326 pages) Overview: Sloane wanted to end her life. And then the apocalypse came. Her focus suddenly turns to survival because that's what she's supposed to do. She finds a group of other teens from her school, and they survive in the infected city for seven days before finding shelter in the high school. With all the doors barricaded and the necessities provided, suddenly, there's room to think, reflect, and feel again, and their safe haven quickly turns into a cage. Overall: 5 Characters: 5 This cast has blown me away. Courtney Summers in general has done that with every aspect of the novel, but the characters are all so detailed and unique and flawed and emotional and broken. It makes for the perfect novel.
Sloane has recently had her sister leave without her, even though the plan was for them to escape their abusive father together. Without Lily, she feels her life has no point, but when it's seriously threatened, something co…
Over the last two-ish months since I posted my Best of 2018 list, I've found tons of amazing titles! Since they aren't 2019 releases, they won't be on my next year end list, so I thought I'd honor them by writing valentines to each of these amazing books!
I've also thrown in one bonus 2019 that I'll definitely be talking about all year long that you should preorder now!
Down And Across by Arvin Ahmadi
This book just made me happy. Scott doesn't know where his life is headed, but, as the world is fascinated with grit (and loves to tell young people they have none), he decides to head to Georgetown to seek out the professor who is an expert in it. And then he doesn't take no for an answer till he scores himself somewhat of an internship. Along the way, he befriends a few college kids, starts working at a bar, and learns a thing or two about the world outside of high school. I love books that skew on the older end of YA and explore life outside of high sch…
Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson Overview: When Monday isn't there for a spinning hug with Claudia when she gets back from her summer in Georgia, Claudia knows something is wrong. When Monday isn't at the first, second, or third day of eighth grade, Claudia tells her parents they need to do something. But Monday lives in the projects with her single mother and her situation isn't something people talk about. It's Patti's business what she does with her kids. But when the stories about Monday's whereabouts keep changing and the police refuse to look into it, Claudia has to take matters into her own hands to find Monday. Overall: 4.5 Characters: 5 The characters bound off the page. Claudia's voice is so strong, and her friendship with Monday is so honest. From the parents to her teachers to Monday herself, Claudia makes the characters around her come to life. Even minor characters have motivations and details.
Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (295 pages) Overview: Mara's twin brother is accused of rape by her friend. Mara's attempt to go back to being best friends with her ex-girlfriend isn't working. Mara is so lost. Sisters, best friends, parents, and everyone at school have an opinion about what happened between Owen and Hannah in the woods. Mara's mom, who's always been a devout feminist, is suddenly vehemently denying that Owen is at fault. Mara isn't so sure. Even though she loves her twin and can't imagine him as a rapist, she knows her best friend would never lie. Overall: 5+++++ Characters: 5 Mara is a wonderful character. She's so honestly confused and torn up about what happened, but she quickly aligns with Hannah. Supporting her best friend becomes something for herself, as well, though, because Mara is a survivor too. She takes Hannah's pain like her own as everyone at school and home takes Owen's side. Mara has to come to terms w…
Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee (372 pages) Overview: Tash has a lot going on. Her family is unsettled with impending arrivals and sisters leaving the nest. She's co-running a You Tube production company that explodes with her best friend Jack, and she's grappling with her sexuality and the possibility that she's ace. New fame, new family, and possibly new romance all threaten to make Tash's world explode, but, somehow, she's keeping it all together. Overall: 5 Characters: 5 Tash is so amazing! She's a real human being that springs to life and invites you to see the world through her eyes. One thing that I particularly love is that, even though Tash doesn't believe it, you know she's smart by the way Ormsbee chooses the perfect words and mature sentence structure. Trying too hard to make characters smart is something a lot of authors falter with, but the execution of presenting Tash's personality is perfect. The way that Tash deals with her ch…
Immoral Code by Lillian Clark (February 19)Overview: Five teens- one big heist. A group of friends band together to commit the ultimate in hacking to siphon off enough money to send their friend Bell to college at MIT. Because of her absent father's immense wealth, Bell gets rejected for financial aid at the school of her dreams. Not that her father is agreeing to pay any part of tuition, or even acknowledge her existence. Outraged at this, Nari, coding genius, creates a plan to play Robin Hood and ropes their other friends into risking jail time for Bell's dream. Will they pull off a job that would be ambitious for a team of professional hackers and con men or will they face the steep consequences and ruin five lives? Overall: 4 Characters: 4 There's a crowded stage when it comes to characters, but that doesn't mean that their individuality gets sacrificed. Bells is a science genius with a bright future despite having to fight against the near poverty her father sunk h…
Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett (417 pages) Overview: Glamping should not include getting stranded in the middle of the woods with your ex-best friend. But life doesn't always go as it's supposed to. When Zorie agrees to go with her friend Regan and her crew on a summer camping trip, she doesn't know Lennon will be there, and she's certainly not expecting the group to abandon the two of them in the middle of the California wilderness, forced to complete a multi day track back to civilization. It turns out, though, that an adventure in the woods might be just what they need. Overall: 4.5 Characters: 5 I thought that all of the characters, including the adults, were given dimension. I loved the parental dynamic between Lennon and his moms as well as Zorie's relationship with her step mom who never considered Zorie less than her own daughter.
Lennon and Zorie are also awesome characters. Zorie has to battle her intense anxiety and relinquish control while she's stuck in…