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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+.
One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus (360 pages) Overview: Five kids are in detention. Only four come out alive, and they become the prime suspects of the most botched police investigation ever. They're the beauty, the jock, the brains, and the slacker. They barely know each other, but they're all tied together in one way or another to Simon, the school gossip leader with a severe peanut allergy. When all their secrets come out, the police investigation become the least of their worries. Overall: 4.5 Characters: 5 I loved McManus's cast. We get to see prospective from all three of them which is a nice touch. Each of them are a take on a classic stereotype. While they fulfill almost all of the regular archetypes, she makes them deeper, more human and relatable. I particularly loved Browneyn and Nate who are in the classic good girl/bad boy relationship, but somehow she makes it cute and irresistible not tired and cliche. I also loved the sister relationships that get explor…
Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry (August 7) Overview: Micheal has moved four times in ten years. This time, the move has landed him at a prestigious Catholic school instead of the local public school. This does not go well with his atheist beliefs. On his first day, he meets Lucy, an outspoken Catholic girl who's frustrated that she can't change anything about the flaws she sees in the church she loves. She introduces him to the underground club, Heretics Anonymous where students of other faiths come to vent about the unfair policies of the school. Spurred into action by Micheal's fire, the atheist, gay, Jewish boy, pagan girl, Unitarian boy, and Catholic leader make changes in the school that no one will forget. Overall: 5+++ Characters: 5 This book carries a deeply complex narrative that is driven by the amazing detail put into each characters. One of the great tenants of writing is understanding that every character has their own wants and motivations. This is one of the…
What If It's Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (448 pages) Overview: Ben and Arthur meet at the post office during a flashmob. Well, Arthur followed Ben into the post office because he thought he was and, and, just as they started talking, in true form with Arthur's New York fantasy, a flash mob erupted. When the boys and split up, Arthur loses his chance at connecting with Ben, but when he can't stop thinking about him, he explores ways to reconnect even in a city of a million empty faces like New York. Even if they can find each other, with Arthur going back to Georgia at the end of the summer, will it even be worth it? Overall: 4/5 Characters: 4.5 I'm not sure what to say about the characters. I liked them enough, but I didn't feel any real attachment to any of them. I liked the cast of friends, but they all lacked a certain weight that would give them a stronger sense of reality. My favorite relationship in the book was the friendship between Dylan and Ben.…
Today I have an extra awesome post for all of you! As part of my new series, Into YA focused on giving you a look into what goes on before the book gets into your hands, I'm talking to rockstar agent Eric Smith (who is also an author himself)! If you don't follow him on Twitter over at @ericsmithrocks, then you should be. He has one of the best Twitter accounts.
1. How did you decide to become a literary agent? I'd been working in publishing for a number of years, at Quirk Books, an indie publisher in Philadelphia known for books like Pride & Prejudice & Zombiesand Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, when I decided it was time to really focus on books that I wanted to work on. I loved everything we did at Quirk, but I wanted to focus on more Young Adult books, as well as the kind of literary fiction I loved. So... along came my colleagues at P.S. Literary, and it's been a happy place for the past three years. 2. Like me, many of my readers are author…
Warcross by Marie Lu Overview: Emika is a bounty hunter with $13 to her name and an eviction notice on her door. Then she's the hacker girl who glitched into Warcross. And then she becomes Hideo's personal bounty hunter who stands to win ten million dollars. Emika's life has changed a lot, and it only gets more complicated as she gets deeper and deeper into the world of Henka Games. Overall: 4 Characters: 5 Okay, it's hard to go into this much without getting spoiler-ey, but I'll be vague. First off, I loved Emika. She's a great main character with the right amount of sensibility and emotion. What was really impressive though, was how Marie Lu plays with character evolutions. At the end of the book, there will be a moment where you put the book down and go wow at how Marie is able to twist shades of good and evil making us think about the grey.
Plot: 4 I finished this book in a few days thanks to its fast pace and urgency. While some of the game descriptions were…
You may or may not have noticed, but the reviews I post on the site have shifted a lot in the last few months. The average star rating of books I post about has shifted from a 3 to a 4, and the reviews are overwhelmingly more positive. I have lots of standout books, and 5 stars are no longer a rare occurrence like they were before.
This isn't because I've gotten less critical or careful with my reading and ranking. I still want to give the most honest content and only pair people with books I love. It's happened because I don't read books I'm not enjoying anymore. While I used to feel obligated to finish every book I picked up, I no longer feel tied to that seeming "reader rule."
I used to figure I had to give books at least to thirty or fifty percent or just barrel all the way through. This made me only pick books I was sure I would love. Even with that test, you can't know whether you'll like the voice or the writing.
It took school getting bus…
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi (October 16) Overview: Shirin has gone to twelve different schools. Jumping from city to city, state to state, and even country to country, Shirin's parents are always in search of a better life. But a new place didn't always mean better, and Shirin knows that well. Being a young woman who chooses to wear a hijab makes her both an object of crude fascination and, in 2002 post 9/11 world, an object of ridicule. No one around her understands her choices, and, worse, they don't bother to listen about how it makes her feel empowered. She's, sadly, come to expect the negativity, though at every new place she walks into. She lives her life constantly on guard against the abuse of the world which makes it hard for her to understand new boy Ocean's kindness and interest in her as a person. Can she learn to trust someone else enough to let him in? Overall: 5 Characters: 5 Wow. Shirin is an amazing character both in general and as a …
The Lake Effect by Erin McCahan (391 pages) Overview: Lake Michigan is beautiful. That's why the town of South Haven draws so many tourists, or in this case, seasonal workers. Briggs gets the chance to return to the lake for a summer to work for an old woman looking for live in summer help. Though the lake promises beautiful days and abundant fun, it also opens him up to many new worlds. That of his Serbian employer oozing with spunk, the unintentionally mysterious girl next door, Abigail, and the whole crew of townies who fill his afternoons with beach volleyball. The time away also offers a fresh prospective on the family he left behind and his future priorities. Though he knew about the weather, the Lake Effect was something much greater than he anticipated. Overall: 5 Characters: 5 Wow. So, I have to say that when the book started, I was fine with Briggs but nothing special. He was the kind of guy who came from a somewhat privileged background that was a machine towards wealth …
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (496 pages) Overview: Frances has always known her across the street neighbor Aled Last in the periphery. He was Carry Last's sister until she disappeared. Now he's head boy Daniel's best friend. When she and Aled are thrust together on a drunken train ride home, Frances learns she's a lot closer to Aled than she thought. He's the mysterious creator of her favorite narrative podcast, Universe City. But when his identity surfaces on the internet in connection to Universe City, it all starts to fall apart for their friendship, and Aled's life. Overall: 5 Character: 5 Frances, Aled, and Daniel are all extremely real people. France lives her life caught up on the dream of getting into Cambridge. If it's not helping her admissions prospects, she's not doing it- unless it's under a pen name and involving Universe City fan art. Over the course of the book, she realizes that the Frances in her head that she projects and the Fran…
Today I'm doing a little bit of a rewind of a past review to celebrate Art Boss by Kayla Cagan which hits shelves on Tuesday. I met Kayla two years ago at Teen Book Con where I discovered her first book Piper Perish. Appropiatly, because the book is about a group of artists, it is one of the best made hardcovers I've ever held. You will be impressed when you pick up a copy at how much detail is in the cover and inside flaps (and also how substantial it is). Inside, it also includes pictures interspersed with the journal entries which rings true for Art Boss as well. The thing that originally drew me to Kayla's book was it's setting. I used to live in Houston, where the book takes place, and it was amazing to recognize all the places mentioned in the book. I wonder if that's how people in L.A., San Fransisco, or New York feel all the time. Sadly, Art Boss moves the story out of Houston, but, appropriately, Piper's next chapter unfolds in New York City. So befor…