Skip to main content

Weekly Reviews and Recommendations: Week 22

Hello, everyone! I'm actually getting this post up nice and early this morning for a change! Beyond these two great books I'm featuring this week, I want to give some short announcements into what's coming up for the blog. Next week, I'll be changing the review format, still sharing two books a week, but posting one on Wednesday and one on Sunday. Be sure to follow us on social media for special sneak peaks into the weeks ahead. 
Also, I've been getting some exciting ARCs that I can't wait to talk about with everyone! Expect to see more post featuring these as it gets further into the year. Right now, I can share that I have finished posts for two awesome books, Sunshine is Forever by Kyle T. Cowan and A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck, which I'll share closer to the books publication, and there are many more early reviews in the works! Following us on Twitter (@readwriteandme) is a great way to hear about the books I'm currently reading and sneak peaks for future posts!



Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith (419 pages)
Overview: Could anyone imagine buying a lottery ticket and actually winning? Neither could Alice when she bought her friend Teddy a ticket for his eighteenth birthday as a cute gift. But when Teddy catches the newscaster announcing the winning numbers, Alice confirms those are her numbers. The only problem is that Teddy lost the ticket. After some frantic digging, the pair recovers the ticket and goes on to claim the prize. Even though Teddy has come into tens of millions of dollars, Alice refuses to accept the half he offers her for choosing the winning numbers. She's afraid of the change it may bring. Teddy's already over confident attitude is bolstered by his newfound riches which brings him both expendable money he's never had and five seconds of fame. Will this push away his friends, Alice and Leo? Will the shift among his peers make him regret his choices? Overall: 4

Characters: 4 I enjoyed the main characters, Leo, Teddy, and Alice. While they all are confronted with the main issue of the lottery winnings, Smith also gives each character their own storylines that mix with the main plot. Alice struggles with the loss of her both her parents nine years ago and her feelings about the patchwork family she has with her aunt, uncle, and cousin, Leo. She also struggles with whether she's formed her life too strongly around her parents old passions and dreams instead of what she wants.
Leo, Alice's cousin, struggles with his long distance relationship with boyfriend Max. He is forced to make tough decisions between his old, and still current, dream of going to the Art Institute in Chicago and moving closer to his boyfriend in Michigan in hopes of saving their relationship.
Teddy struggles with how to deal with his newfound riches, but also his broke, absentee father for whom he feels both obligated to help and done with. These complexities work to make interesting and compelling characters, but they seemed to lack a certain grounding weight that would have made them amazing.

Plot: 4 The story was interesting. It follows the three teenagers trying to grapple with either coming into an insane amount of money from having none, or having a close friend experience this. The plot takes you through the strain it put on the relationships along with the natural struggles that already exist in the lives of the three eighteen year olds. At some points, the story seemed to slightly loose its grounding and become a bit outlandish, but overall, it was engaging.

Writing: 4 I enjoyed Smith's writing style. It is light, breezy, and easy to read. I also thought the chapter length had nice variation which encouraged fast reading. This book that had over 100 more pages than the other book listed took me far less time. For a book about winning the lottery, Smith did a pretty good job with plausibility, though there were a few instances where Teddy felt more like a caricature than a person. Overall, this was a fun, easy read perfect for filling the long summer days.


The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares (295 pages)
Overview: At one time Lila Harris was married to Robert Thomas. During this time they had three daughters together, Emma, Quinn, and Mattie. Unfortunately the marriage ended in a messy divorce that left the couple unable to coexist. Their daughters moved back and forth between their wealthy father and free spirited mother for most of their lives, but they are all adults now leaving Lila with her second husband, Adam, and son Ray and Robert with his wife Evie and daughter Sasha. Over the course of the summer, the militant divide that was drawn so harshly they alternated weeks on the summer home never crossing paths starts to weaken. Can joy repair their fractured family and find some resemblance of mutual respect, or will tragedy have to strike to make them reevaluate their petty ways? Overall: 3.5

Characters: 4 The characters created some interesting studies and relationships, though some fell flat. There was some issues with developing the characters, though that probably stemmed from the sheer number of characters the omniscient narrator drew to the forefront. I felt most of the development was either missing or rushed.

Plot: 3.5 The plot was honestly why I kept reading. It held my interest and provided some unexpected twists. Seeing the family dynamic change with the eb and flow of events was interesting. Where I nock it is that there were so many things going on, so many plots and subplots it was at time hard to follow, and in chasing certain subplots, I feel the author lost sight of the main goal of the story.

Writing: 3 I personally did not enjoy the style of the book. It did grow into it's omniscient voice into a useful way as the book progressed, but it never lost its sense of heaviness from and over description I found condescending. I subscribe to the belief that you have to trust the reader to form a picture in their mind, so the deep, detailed descriptions, speaker tags, and overall tone was a bit off-putting.
My other issue with this book is how confusing it was at the beginning to slip into. Being presented with the complex family tree at the beginning gave me the urge that I needed to study and memorize the chart. And that would have been helpful. For the first fifty pages or so, I found myself consulting it to try to place all the names to the family groupings. I found it confusing and made it impossible for me to fall into the story. Being introduced to eleven major characters from the very start and having to figure out how they all fit together is a challenge. I understand these characters all had to be present to create the intense fractured family set up for the story, but it might have been better served to focus in on one character and his or her observations/ interactions instead of trying to give each a subplot.

If you liked this article, please share it with your friends and check out our other articles ranging from book reviews to poetry and short stories to editorials. To get updates about new posts and extras, please follow us on Instagram (@readingwritingandme), Twitter (@readwriteandme), and Facebook or sign up for email alerts by clicking the subscribe button at the top of the sight. Also, please leave comments or email us (readingwritingandme@gmail.com) with your thoughts or review requests. 


Comments

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…

Dear Martin

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

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

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

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

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.

Writing: 4 The writing didn'…

What I Want to See More of In YA

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!

College YA 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

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, …

Ultimate Halloween Book List

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

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…