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…
Dear Martin by Nic Stone (210 pages) Overview: When Justyce is put in handcuffs after trying to get his drunk ex-girlfriend home safely, his world is shaken. He knows that being African American means that some will look at him differently, but it's never been so terrifying or... personal. He tries to sort his out with the help of his friends, teachers, and by writing letters to Martin Luther King asking for advice. Right when he's finding his footing at school again, he and his best friend Manny are shot in a traffic altercation with a white, off duty cop. Justyce never thought that some loud music would put him in a sling and deprive his best friend of the rest of his life. Overall: 4.5 Characters: 4.5 Justyce is an awesome POV character. He's very introspective and into understanding the many layers that make up his views of the world. He grew up in an underprivileged neighborhood and was well aware of gang violence, but since getting a scholarship to a private boarding …
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson (420 pages) Overview: There was a murder in 1936. Not just a murder, but a kidnapping and a double homicide. One victim was a student at the elite boarding school on a mountain, Ellingham Academy. One was the wife of the school's illustrious billionaire founder, Albert Ellingham. The second kidnapping victim who is still missing is his daughter. Despite the cold case and the lingering fear of the Truly Devious who sent a poem foretelling the murder a few days before, the school continued to attract the best and the brightest with the allure of a free, prestigious boarding school.
Stevie's dream is realized when she gets accepted to pursue a criminology curriculum tailored to her because her main case of interest took place on the very grounds she's moving to. Though her original mission was to solve the Ellingham cold case, when a student mysteriously dies on campus, her attention is shifted. Did Truly Devious strike again? Overall: 4 Charac…
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia (385 pages) Overview: Eliza is regarded as a freak at school. Sweatpants and oversized clothes with her lanky frame must mean she's dangerous. Kids avoid her like the plague, and that's fine because that's who Eliza Mirk is. Even Eliza Mirk doesn't like being Eliza Mirk, but she loves being LadyConstellation, beloved creator of the online webcomic Monstrous Sea. No one knows LadyConstellations real identity (not for lack of trying) and the online world and fandoms gives Eliza a chance to be the invincible person she can't be in real life. And then Wallace transfers into school, and he's a Monstrous Sea fan. Though weary at first, Eliza hides her identity as she bonds with Wallace and realizes that the world outside of her screen might not be as poisonous as she believed. But with each day, the truth creeps closer and closer to the surface, and disaster strikes when it comes out. Overall: 5+++++++++ (I'm still so in …
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…
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson (2010) Overview: Amy needs to get the family car from California to Connecticut where her mom has moved. The only problem is that she doesn't drive. Enter Roger, a forgotten neighbor and childhood friend who needs to get to Philadelphia. With him behind the wheel, and Amy in the navigator seat, they begin their cross country journey that turns out to carry a few extra twists and turns. Overall: 4 Characters: 4 I enjoyed Amy and Roger. They balanced each other well and created an interesting dynamic to fill the long stretches of empty roads. Roger's ex-girlfirend and Amy's family add extra dimension to their journey.
Plot: 4 In the most indirect way, Amy and Roger weave their way across the country. They experience bits of culture, new fast food, and awkward hotel situations that fill the pages with laughs and thoughtful moments. Though it was a bit long, for the most part, it kept me entertained.
As the year comes to a close, I'm reflecting on the books that I read (and loved) this year, and I'm eagerly putting my TBR together for the next. In the coming weeks, I'll be posting about my favorite books of the year, what I'm looking for next year, and a deeper look into some of the statistics behind my reading. While I've been working on those posts, though, I've seen trends in books that I'm drawn to and underrepresented areas in YA that I want to see more of. This post is my ultimate future wish list as well as a call for other readers to speak out about the kinds of books they want to see represented more on the book shelves. Let me know in the comments if some of these are on your list, or if there's other books you want to see!
I'm starting off with my main wish. I absolutely love YA set in college, and there's absolutely not enough of it. Publishers seem to be scared of venturing that murky space after the summer before fre…
Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (390 pages) Overview: Sawyer Taft is not a debutant... yet. For now, she works at a car garage making money to keep her and her mom afloat as runs off with new guys she meets at the bar. It's the only life she's known, and she wouldn't have it any other way. And then Lillian Taft walks through the front door, uninvited and announced, contract in hand. Lillian is her estranged grandmother who she's barely heard anything about, and she gives Sawyer a chance she can't refuse: Come live with her for nine months to complete a debutant year in exchange for half a million dollars toward her education. Overall: 4.5 Characters: 4.5 I loved Sawyer. She's sarcastic and blunt. She can't take anything in her new, rich, Southern world seriously, and so she provides the setting both with a Mars like feeling and one of a grounded world. Sawyer meets her new family including true matriarch, Lillian Taft, her aunt, Olivia, her uncle, …
At the beginning of October, I unconsciously started reading murder-thriller books. It started with finally reading One of Us Is Lying and then I went to Lauren Oliver's book event for her new book, Broken Things, so I decided I would pick up a few more to read on the many plane rides I've taken recently and make a list for you. I've ranked them by the books I enjoyed most, but I'm also throwing a scariness ranking below too. 1. The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
I loved The Cheerleaders. Even if I wasn't narrowing this to just thrillers, this would still be up there. While there's no immediate threat, there's still a sinister feeling five years after five cheerleaders die in a year in three accidents. One of the girl's sister, who investigates, also has a complicated life of her own. Thomas did an awesome job of sprinkling the mystery clues and bringing us a story through such a strong voice. Here's my full Review Here (4.5 stars overall, 2 scare fact…
Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl (327 pages) Overview: When Beatrice goes back to Wincroft to meet up with her four former best friends for the first time since their sixth member, and her boyfriend's death, something nearly unexplainable happens. They wake up from a car accident to find that they're repeating the same day over and over. At first, they struggle to understand their fate, but after a few wakes, they realize that they must use this time to discover what really happened when Jim died if they ever want to break the wake. The answer to the question will reveal who will get the groups unanimous vote to be the lone survivor of the Neverworld. Overall: 4 Characters: 4 Each character was interesting with their own quirks and distinct personalities. They filled out to requisition parts of any good, dynamic group. It's unfortunate that each of these characters didn't really have a huge chance to be explored. The setting of the Neverworld was the main character in t…