Skip to main content

Weekly Reviews and Recommendations: Week 25 Part 1

Hello, everyone! This is a really great week of reviews I have coming as well as an exciting week for events as I get to see Katherine McGee at Bluewillow Bookshop on Thursday! Also, yesterday, John Green read the first chapter of his new book Turtles All The Way Down. I've loved every book that John Green has ever written and the premise that was so focused on exploring Hazel Holmes and her life with OCD and intense thought spirals made me so hopeful for it because it sounded like a book that needed to be in the world and something that could help people. Well, the summary didn't disappoint. Even just the first chapter made me feel so warm and truly understood that I cannot wait for the rest of the book! I preordered a signed copy on Amazon when the book was first announced, but they have since run out, so if you haven't preordered, I would recommend asking your local indie bookstore about it. 

Gem and Dixie by Sara Zarr (282 pages)
Overview: Gem has always been the one to hold the house together. While her Dad was in, and ultimately out, and her mom worked nights and partied with friends, Gem was always there to take care of Dixie, her sister who is three years younger. Because her mom's job doesn't pay much and her father neglects to pay child support, there is often not enough food to go around. But Gem and Dixie work to hide this trying to get by the best ways they know how, but when their father comes back to town and stashes a sum of nearly $30,000 under their bed, Gem sees it as an opportunity to leave her volatile family behind, and she takes Dixie with her. As they try to make it in the city on their own, without a plan or an idea of when or how to return, Gem and Dixie have one last chance to bond before they have to face the complications of their life which might blow them in very different directions. Overall: 4.5 

Characters: 5 Each of the characters and three dimensional and have that touch of reality. Gem, as the POV character, presents everyone with a clear understanding that no one is only good or only bad, but in an honest way that doesn't seem instituted by the author to try to make well rounded characters. Gem's want to understand things and work them out gives her a grounding and hope that readers cling to.
With Dixie, she's always had Gem to be the bigger one and take care of her, but now that she's fourteen, she's started to figure out how to care for herself leveraging things like her looks to get extra food. She wants more independence and choice that Gem has a hard time giving up because she's fended for Dixie so long. Also, Dixie feels a loyalty and a bond to her parents that Gem doesn't which leads her to do things she knows is wrong like getting drugs for their mother or keeping secrets for their father.
Finally, the school councilor, Mr. Bergstrom presents an adult who is understanding and willing to help Gem with her troubles. While he is always open and caring, Gem worries about how much to tell him about things like her parents drug problems or the money for fear of getting her parents in trouble. In the end, he is able to actually help Gem beyond counciling her on the issues she tells him about. This provides a more balanced prospective on adults than in many YA books.

Plot: 4 The plot was interesting and kept me reading, but it didn't shine for me as much as the other elements. The star of the novel is really Gem's reality and growth and the plot is stepping stones to get her there.

Writing: 5 Zarr created an instantly compelling work from the moment I opened the book. She beautifully painted the picture of the reality of Dixie and Gem's life causing the readers to feel their pain and deeply empathize with the girls and their struggles. She wove the difficult complexities of their world together so that they fit perfectly together and created a vivid picture of what they saw and experienced making the reader forget they are reading.

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

Guest Post Claire Bartlett: Unpacking Fairytales

This week I want to welcome author Claire Bartlett to the blog to talk about the fascinating history of fairy tales throughout culture and how they play a role in her new book, The Winter Duke (out March 3). I've been a huge fan of fairy tales my entire life (I even wrote a giant paper on the Brothers Grimm for a school project once), so it was so much fun to read about the history of a couple tales that Claire uncovered in her research. If you missed the last time Claire was on the blog to promote her debut, you can find that post here.


I always wanted to write a fairy tale retelling, and it only makes sense to me now that I'd combine fairy tale, history and fantasy to create The Winter Duke. Fairy tales have long been intertwined with history, and in fact it's now estimated that fairy tale tropes go back thousands of years, being retold and reworked to fit audiences. Many of them were somewhat cemented in the public mind after being written down by the Grimms, among oth…

Books I'm Looking Forward To: April

Everything feels extremely uncertain right now, and authors are rightfully concerned about their books that are debuting in the coming months. Right now, Amazon is delaying book shipments, bookstores are being forced to close, and libraries are not providing in person services. While none of that this good news, it doesn't mean that books will be forgotten during this time. If anything, we need books and the arts in general more than ever. We've all turned to Netflix and reading and music to take our minds off of the situation, and these artists need our support too.
Luckily, there are tons of ways to do this. While authors aren't getting to hold traditional book launches, many are transitioning them to places like Instagram Live, so make sure you follow the authors you love on social media. Continuing on the social media theme, it's now more important than ever to talk about the books you enjoy online and leave reviews on Goodreads and Amazon to spread the word.
Anoth…

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…

Soooo... The World Is More Than a Little Scary

I'm not sure what exactly I want to say with this post. It feels like there's nothing left to say in a way. Over the last few days, the United States has come to realize just how serious COVID-19 is. It's a reality that people in Europe and Asia grasped long before most Americans. I think that we're all starting to realize just how much our lives are fundamentally changing. How long this will actually impact us.
I've seen a lot of different reactions on Twitter. Understandably, there's a lot of heartbreak over lost vacations, concerts, and book tours. A lot of us were using things like this to keep motivated. It's entirely understandable why these choices have been made, but it doesn't make it any less hard. So, I guess what I wanted to say first is don't feel bad for feeling bad. Yes, there are people losing much more from this, and we should be doing everything we can to help them through this time, but beating yourself up for being disappointed …

Fear of Missing Out

Fear of Missing Out by Kate McGovern 
Overview: Astrid has a form of brain cancer called astrocytoma that causes a star shaped tumor to form near her brainstem. Though she was in remission, two years later, the cancer comes back, and Astrid becomes convinced that she won't beat the disease. She starts to pursue options that will allow her to have a life in the future, namely, cryopreservation. After essentially freezing her body, she hopes to wake up when there's a cure for her cancer so she can rejoin the world and see some of the milestones she fears missing.
On the road trip to tour the Arizona facility, though, Astrid makes other realizations about her life and eventual death that alters how she sees her original plan. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 Astrid is relatable. She has a touch of dry, witty humor that makes her relatable. She loves her friends and family deeply, but she also has a conviction to follow what feels best for her. I appreciated how she always tried to stay ho…

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.…

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…

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…

How It Feels To Float

How It Feels To Float by Helena Fox (May)
Overview: Biz has a lot of sadness in her life. Her father died when she was age 7, her group of friends abandon her, and her best friend gets sent four hours away to live with her father. The world is too much, and Biz can't just float anymore. Exploring Biz's racing thoughts and grief, the book chronicles her discovering what it means to be honestly okay. Overall: 4 

Characters: 4 The characters do come vividly alive but in a sort of passive way. Biz seems almost removed from herself, like she's telling the story about her life instead of speaking as they happen. Because of this, it's like seeing Biz through a foggy window and everyone else through a kaleidoscope.
I do love how supportive her mother is, her relationship with her younger twin siblings, and the mentorship and friendship she finds from an elderly lady in her photography class.
She also has an interesting relationship with her father who comes to her in hallucinati…