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

Popular posts from this blog

A Summer of YA

I thought that I would make a bonus post for all of you to celebrate summer finally starting to arrive! I've compiled a list of books that I've read this year and last that either take place in the summer or give me total summer vibes. A lot of these books are ones that I think should get a lot more love. Let me know in the comments what books make you instantly think of summer! I've linked reviews to all of these books in the titles below.




Going Off Script I read it last weekend in nearly a single day because it is such a refreshing, quick read. While I don't think it takes place in the summer and it focuses on a TV internship, it's set in LA which serves up eternal summer vibes.
The Way You Make Me Feel This is one of the ultimate books on my summer playlist. As a punishment for a school prank, Clara has to spend the summer working with her nemesis in her father's food truck. With mouthwatering Korean-Brazilian food, tons of snark, and summer heat, this book is…

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…

What If It's Us

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.…

Going Off Script Review

Going Off Script by Jen Wilde (292 pages)
Overview: Bex has dreams of being a show runner, but, first, she has to rise through the ranks of the writers' room. Luckily, she's scored an internship with one of her favorite TV shows, Silver Falls. Unfortunately, the LA dreams she's fought so hard to get aren't as fun as she imagined. The show runner is horrible and even steals a script that Bex wrote. In an environment that has far too many echoes of high school for Bex's taste, she has to figure out how to make the most of her situation. Overall: 4.5

Characters: 4 I really like Bex. She's made a major life change from living in Washington state and working at Sonic with her mother to help support her family. Living with her cousin makes the transition slightly better, but her new life feels both too different and too familiar. Bex is also dealing with understanding her sexuality.  She's nervous about telling her friends and family, even though she knows they'…

Hot Dog Girl Review

Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan (April 30) 
To Purchase From Your Indie Bookstore*
Overview: Elouise has her summer before senior year (because the summer before senior year is far superior to the summer after), but then everything starts falling apart. Nick, the guy she likes, is still dating princess Jessa. She's the dancing hot dog for the second year in a row at the Magic Castle, the small town amusement park where she works. And then the park announces that it's closing, and Elouise is at a loss. With scheme after scheme, she attempts to save this summer and the ones to come. Overall: 4 

Characters: 5 I like Elouise. She's happy and upbeat, but also a little scattered and unsure. She just kind of traipses from one idea to the next and it all kinda works out with enough finagling. I immediately identified with her because I too have "caramel" hair that won't hold dye, and I burn horribly too. While she's a bit flighty, she's definitely lovable.
Seely&…

The Art of Breaking Things

The Art of Breaking Things by Laura Sibson (June 18)
Overview: Skye was twelve when she was molested by her mother's boyfriend on a camping trip. When she tried to tell her mom that night, her mom brushed her off and was too drunk to remember what happened to Skye. Now a senior in high school, she's lived with the fear and shame for a while, believing that her mother doesn't believe her. She's tried to cope with alcohol, drugs, and art, and she's starting to heal when Dan comes back into their lives. Now with her younger sister Emma turning twelve, Skye is filled with fear, panic, and flashbacks as her family starts to fall apart again. She has to decide if and how she wants to speak out to stop her mother from marrying her abuser. Overall: 5

Characters: 5 Skye is an amazing character. She's so strong, but she feels like she has to be. Her secret eats her alive, and she does whatever she can to drown it with drugs or emotional outbursts. She's trying to cope …

Virtually Yours Review

Virtually Yours by Sarvenaz Tash (June 4)
Overview: Miriam has been in a funk since she started NYU. More accurately, she's been down since her boyfriend of three years broke up with her because long distance would be "too hard". It all changes, though when Miriam decides to try a new virtual reality dating service called HEAVR. The only problem, though, is that when she accidentally matches with her ex-boyfriend, the draw of a second chance is too much to pass up. After concealing her identity, Miriam starts a hoax to get him to fall for her again. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 I liked Miriam, especially as the story progressed and she became more sure of herself. It allowed her personality to shine and gave her more dimensions than she started with. In the end, I was definitely rooting her.
Her friends at NYU are great additions to the story. Miriam's roommate Hedy is a major film buff, and, while it's pretty much her singular trait, she does offer some good advice 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…

What's Coming Up In June

I'm super excited to finally be jumping into summer! June already has a ton of amazing books on the way, and it looks like the rest of the summer is jam packed as well. I'm excited to have more time to write and work on the blog! For Saturday discussions, I'm thinking about talking about graduation and maybe my experience with the SAT this month along with some more bookish thoughts. I'll also be working on a summer reading list of summery books from the past some that are coming out!  Let me know in the comments if there are certain posts or topics you'd like to see from me. Happy summer everyone! Dissenter On The Bench Ruth Bader Ginsburg is amazing. I was super excited to stumble upon a new YA biography about her! I'll be sharing my review of the book on Friday the 31st of May. 

Virtually Yours More college YA! This time, an NYU freshman decides to try a new VR dating app. Inside their system, she reconnects with her exboyfriend under a fake name. Slowly, both a…

Is YA For Me?

I've seen a lot of different conversations taking place on Twitter that all come back to a central theme. The YA space is controlled by adults. For the most part, they are the ones with the purchasing power, they have jobs in the industry, they are in a better position to amplify their voices about how they feel about different books and the category as a whole. I've been thinking about these conversations as a whole, and it really does come back to the intended audience not owning the space and what that means for the category and the conversations around it.
As a teen who's heavily involved in the YA community, I sometimes feel awkward reading all the different, slightly varied takes from adults. Some make blanket statements for themselves and some work with teens and try to be a conduit to add them to the conversation. Very rarely do I come across a real teen who gets an amplified voice in the conversation (definitely go check out Vicky Who Reads on Twitter because, as…