Skip to main content

Weekly Reviews and Recommendations: Week 18

Hello, everyone! This week I have two great books. I finally got my hands on History is All You Left Me at the local bookstore, and I found Grendel's Guide to Love and War at the library and was beyond pleasantly surprised. I've gotten to read some really great books lately and have had a great time with my summer reading. As far as the site goes, I recently published an article about my thoughts on summer reading which you can check out here: http://www.readingwritingandme.com/2017/07/unpopular-opinion-summer-reading-does.html You can also look out for my list of favorite books that could win over even nonreaders that should be getting published soon. Also, if you like this post, please check out my others and follow us on Facebook, Instagram (@readingwritingandme), and Twitter (@readwriteandme). Please leave a comment about your thoughts on these books and the article, or send us an email (readingwritingandme@gmail.com) about books that you would like to see reviewed. 


Grendel's Guide to Love and War by A.E. Kaplan (312 pages)
Overview: Tom Grendel lives in a retirement community with his father, an army vet who suffers from PTSD after serving in Iraq. His sister, Zip, has graduated college recently and lives in New York, and his mother passed away when he was nine. Tom likes living in this quiet, geriatric filled community and planned on spending his summer mowing lawns to save for college and collecting the stories of his neighbors. But everything changes when his lovely, old neighbors move to a retirement home making way for their grand niece and her high school aged children to move in. Left unsupervised when their mother is called away on an assignment reporting on a hurricane, siblings Willow, who Tom happens to have a crush on, and her menacing older brother, Rex are left to their own devices. Rex's crazy, and somehow unstoppable parties, are only made worse when their twenty-one year old cousin Wolf comes to "watch" them. As the parties get worse, Tom is determined to rid the neighborhood of them for the sake of his neighbors and his father before he returns from a two week long business trip. Having to get creative to shut down the parties, the unlikely squad of Willow, Ed, Tom's best friend, Zip, and Tom try to create schemes that will end the parties once and for all. Overall: 5

Characters: 5 Tom is a great character and narrator. He is determined to help his father who has struggled with PTSD. He also wants to piece back together the memories of his mother through her art. Having so many questions about his own deceased loved one leads him to want to gather the stories of his neighbors before they die so that their memories don't have to die with them. While everyone else tells Tom this is stupid, he is determined to continue with his project.
Willow, the sister and cousin of the demon spawn next door, also presents an interesting character. She is grappling with the world and her feelings about it, often times closing herself off due to her mother's overexposure. The rest of the supporting cast is also well rounded and three dimensional with their own hopes, dreams, and fears.

Plot: 5 While the main story revolves around the elaborate schemes to rid the neighborhood of parties, there are many other subplots that deal with the major theme of loss whether it be loss of a neighbor who Tom felt partially responsible for, still grieving the loss of his mom, or trying to reconcile the part of his father he lost to war. This makes a very interesting and profound story with plenty of levity and action as well.

Writing: 5 When I picked up this book from the library, I honestly couldn't remember how it had made it onto my hundred book long TBR list, but I needed books, so I went for it anyway. The writing had me hooked the second I read the first page. The strong first person voice grabbed me and pulled me in, and I stopped caring what the book was even about. And it did not disappoint. I loved Tom's voice as well as his story. A.E. Kaplan pulled together a beautiful and complex story, emotionally and structurally, and presented it in a straight forward manner through the mouth of an awesome character. This truly carries all the components of a five star book. Now I wish I remembered how I stumbled upon it.


History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera (292 pages)
Overview: Griffin has lost the love of his life; don't try to undermine that because he's only seventeen.  When Theo drowns in California at the beach with his new boyfriend, Griffin doesn't know how to handle it. Theo and Griffin were always supposed to wind up together no matter what detours they took on the way there. His death changes everything sending Griffin who struggled with his OCD and other personal problems beforehand into a tailspin. He works to sort through his relationships with the people who knew Theo best, forcing himself to reevaluate his preconceived notions. The present day aftermath paired with Griffin and Theo's story creates an interesting and compelling novel full of twists and turns, some you might see coming and others that are total surprises, though it never really hit the point of deep emotional resonance for me. Overall: 4

Characters: 4 Each of the main characters in the story carry great complexity. Watching them, especially Griffin, try to reevaluate what the world means and how they fit into it is the most compelling part of the novel. Silvera does a great job of showing the depth in the characters. I applaud him most for showcasing the darker side of Theo even though the point of view character of the story holds him on a pedestal.

Plot: 4 There are plenty of interesting twists and turns between the two intersecting storylines (Today and History) which build on one another. There are some surprises that are easily anticipated, and others that come out of left field, though not in a bad way. Despite finding the plot interesting, at times I felt I was walking through peanut butter. In total it took me 7 hours and 57 minutes to read which is a long time for me, especially with a novel on the shorter side.

Writing: 4 I found the writing style to be very true to the voice of Griffin. It was unassuming but still a presence. This book actually made it onto my TBR list because I found the Adam Silvera's Twitter profile so interesting and hilarious I had to give his books a read.
While I never had a wow moment with this book, and it did not bring me to tears, it was a worthwhile read. The subtle complexities which really wound into a moment where I had to put down the book and appreciate what the author had done came around page 250. Based on this book, I will likely read more of Silvera's books.

Comments

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Top Reads of 2018

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 Ezell Nothing 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

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

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

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…

Valentines To My New Favorite Books

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

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.

Plot: 4 My advice is to ignore the cha…

Girl Made of Stars

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

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

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…

Nice Try, Jane Sinner

Nice Try, Jane Sinner Lianne Oelke (420 pages)
Overview: Jane wants to forget the past. Forget the high school that expelled her. Forget the people that watched her fall from grace. Forget her family who thinks that prayer is the answer to everything. Facing community college at Elbow River as a last resort graduation option, she signs up to be on House of Orange, a new web reality show, to solve her housing problem. Though she knows to expect the unexpected, House of Orange and its inhabitants test Jane in ways she never imagined. Maybe the year won't be as bad as she imagined. Overall: 5

Characters: 5 I LOVE Jane. There are very few main characters I can say that I appreciated more. Her sarcasm, dry humor, and outlook on life echoed my own thoughts, and I loved how she was so introspective. It is fascinating to listen to Jane work through her own thoughts and recognize her behaviors as masks for other feelings. I also thought that Oelke did a wonderful job with her depiction of Ja…