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Nov 23 2015

Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert

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ConvictionNovel: Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert | Goodreads
Release Date: May 19th, 2015
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

Ten years ago, God gave Braden a sign, a promise that his family wouldn’t fall apart the way he feared.

But Braden got it wrong: his older brother, Trey, has been estranged from the family for almost as long, and his father, the only parent Braden has ever known, has been accused of murder. The arrest of Braden’s father, a well-known Christian radio host, has sparked national media attention. His fate lies in his son’s hands; Braden is the key witness in the upcoming trial.

Braden has always measured himself through baseball. He is the star pitcher in his small town of Ornette, and his ninety-four-mile-per-hour pitch already has minor league scouts buzzing in his junior year. Now the rules of the sport that has always been Braden’s saving grace are blurred in ways he never realized, and the prospect of playing against Alex Reyes, the nephew of the police officer his father is accused of killing, is haunting his every pitch.

Braden faces an impossible choice, one that will define him for the rest of his life, in this brutally honest debut novel about family, faith, and the ultimate test of conviction.

There are novels that have left me grinning from ear to ear, in too happy of a mood to let my opinions go unsaid. Other books have left me so saddened, angry, or frustrated over the tragic events of the plot that I turn to a friend or fellow reviewer to discuss what I just read. Still more, however, are the stories that have left me speechless, unable to render my thoughts into complete sentences, bring what’s in my head to the computer screen. Lighter reads and somber stories have a time and place, of course – I myself recommend them time and time again – but my favorite books, the ones I buy and cherish, are those with a powerful impact on me as a reader. One such novel is Kelly Loy Gilbert’s contemporary debut, Conviction. I read it in August, but I’ve let its review sit in my drafts folder for months; putting my enjoyment into words seemed too daunting of a task. However, this is a story that deserves the spotlight: it’s daring, it’s well written, and it’s all too good to miss your TBR list.

High school student and small town baseball pitcher Braden is trapped in a choice with no way of winning: his father, his idol and mentor, has been accused of murder, and Braden is the key witness in the trial. The situation is worsened by its context, with the nephew of the police officer his dad is accused of killing also the star player of Braden’s rival team. You could market Conviction in just a few words, such as baseball, faith, and family, but to do so would be a discredit to Gilbert’s incredible story. The plot’s complexity is unprecedented – Gilbert proves masterful in exploring the “gray area” – as is its compelling nature, aided by high tension and suspense. Furthermore, I feel that authors often shy from weaving religion into the storyline – out of fear of turning away readers, perhaps? – but not here. Braden’s faith in his father, who was a popular Christian radio host, is tested with his faith in God, allowing the issue of religion to come up naturally in the story.

As narrator, Braden is similarly well-developed. He, like any adolescent, struggles to make his own identity in a world, or in his case, house, that had already decided one for him. Other reviewers link their dislike of Braden’s character to their dislike of the story, but I don’t believe that’s fair to do. Gilbert realistically captures a teen in a tough, dare I say unfair, situation. He’s not perfect, but would you – should you – expect him to be? I may be biased, as I have a particular liking to male narrators, but Braden struck an empathetic chord with me. It’s hard to read of abuse, but it’s even more challenging when abuse isn’t clearly defined or recognized.

Simpler titles make the distinction between the hero and the enemy. Conviction does not. Gilbert’s subtle but effective character development models people of real life, in that no one person is bad, but, then again, no one person is perfectly good either. The story forces readers to ask themselves: what fueled Braden’s decisions? Did his father have any justification? Are his long estranged older brother’s motives worth the pain of his return? Romance has a part {it’s a high school setting; it would be unsettling if it didn’t}, but it doesn’t overshadow the significance of other relationships in the story, most notably the ones between father and son and brother to brother. In addition, a LGTBQ relationship is handled beautifully, not in that the backlash against it is right, but rather that Gilbert gets to the ultimate message that everyone deserves someone to love.

Conviction is an interesting title. By definition, it “a formal declaration that is someone is guilty of a criminal offense.” It’s also, by definition, “a firmly held belief or opinion.” Gilbert plays to both meanings in the book. For much of the story, readers are left to guess the results of the murder trial – will the father be convicted? For much of the story, Braden clings to his former beliefs because they are his only source of hope – can and why do beliefs change? Gilbert is equally apt at presenting questions as she is answering them, so while the story is not happy, it is one heck of a home run. Baseball puns aside, Conviction is as promised: “a brutally honest debut novel.” It’s that, and so much more.

Nov 21 2015

Voice of Gods by Eleanor Herman

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20522640Novel: Voice of Gods (Blood of Gods and Royals, #0.5) by Eleanor Herman | Goodreads
Release Date: August 2015
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Format: E-book
Source: Bought from Barnes & Noble
Also Published On: Willa’s Ramblings

As the end of an age approaches, gods whisper horrors, families scheme for power, and one woman may hold the secret to a lost legacy.

At 19, Ada of Caria yearns to take the Snake Blood throne from her mad older siblings—and seeks the help of a young orphaned girl named Helen, the first True Oracle to have walked the earth in more than three hundred years.

Helen may be able to channel the voice of the gods, but she hates her gift, and will do anything to get rid of it—even lie to her best friend, Myrtale, the priestess-princess of Epirus who is destined to marry King Philip II of Macedon even though she loves another. And in the shadows lurks a handsome green-eyed stranger who has more at stake—and more to lose—than anyone could possibly imagine.Amid jealousy and heartbreak, torrid affairs and secret rendezvous, it is spoken by the gods that either Helen or Myrtale —newly named Olympias— will carry the destiny of the known world within her womb.
The prequel to LEGACY OF KINGS, VOICE OF GODS traces the intricate web of love and betrayal that led up to the birth of history’s most powerful leader, Alexander the Great.



I adored Herman’s book Legacy of Kings (see my gushing review here) and when she asked me if I’d read Voice of Gods and I said “WHAT IS THIS?”, I knew there was a problem. Voice of Gods tells the story of Alexander, Cynane, and Katerina’s mothers and the circumstances surrounding their births. You see why Alexander’s mother (Olympias) is so psycho in Legacy of Kings, and you understand the relationship between Katerina’s mother (Helen) and Olympias.

Voice of Gods is one heck of a prequel story – and I don’t read many prequels. It did a fantastic job of telling a separate story from Legacy of Kings while also intertwining the storylines. Voice of Gods is a story about self-worth and friendship. Helen’s battle to come to terms with who she is and Olympias’s battle for love and power made the book vivid with emotional turmoil. Despite its short length, the characters all have incredible development over the course of the novel, and you see them grow and blossom, especially because multiple years pass over the course of the book.

The novel is also told in the rotating perspectives of Helen, Olympias (known as Myrtale for most of the book), and Ada, a Snake Blood and friend of Helen’s. The multiple perspectives were done just as impeccably as in Legacy of Kings and added incredible depth to the story.

Voice of Gods added so much to the Legacy of Kings story, and I can’t imagine continuing the series WITHOUT having read this prequel. If you’ve read Legacy of Kings, I would highly recommend picking up this prequel (which is FREE on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble!) because it explains so much of Legacy of Kings. Thunderous applause to Eleanor Herman!

Nov 19 2015

Ten Illuminations {41}: Books We Wish We Wrote

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Ten Illuminations is a bi-weekly feature hosted by Lit Up Review where we recommend our ten favorite books that fit under one topic. Inspired by The Broke and The Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday, Ten Illuminations gives you five people’s recommendations in one!

Today we’re featuring books we love so much we wish we could say we wrote them ourselves.



The Fault in Our Stars by John Green | Goodreads

I wish I had written this book because then I could get all the money from the sales! (See also: Harry Potter.) In all seriousness, though – I would love to have been the one to write many of the quoteworthy gems you’ll find within the pages of this book (and in all of John Green’s other books).


The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick | Goodreads

I am fascinated by all the ideas that Marcus Sedgwick explores in this book. It’s all about spirals – how they show up all over the place in the natural world and how they connect time periods and people – which is a fascinating idea when you delve into it as deeply as this book does. He’s clearly a genius, but the great thing about his latest novel is that reading it makes you feel smarter yourself.



JellicoeJellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta | Goodreads

Is anyone surprised here? I wish I had written Jellicoe Road so I could be as good as Melina Marchetta. I want to know how Jonah and Taylor tick from a writing perspective. I want to know what makes them smile and laugh in her head, and how she wove their story together. Where did the kids from the book come from? What inspired Raffy and Chaz? WHAT INSPIRED THE WHOLE BOOK?! TEACH ME YOUR WAYS MARCHETTA. Also, I’d like to cry while writing the book. You know. Just to experience that.

A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas | Goodreads

Just. YES. I would like to Sarah J. Maas’s brain please.

Just. This book. Writing it.

I’d like to do that, please.



Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli | Goodreads

2015 produced plenty of notable contemporary novels, but Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda remains one of the best out of the many I’ve read. From the top-notch characterization of Simon and his friends to the plot’s touching blend of humor and heart, Simon is, simply put, excellent. To separate this delightful piece of fiction from its equally amazing creator, Becky Albertalli, would be nothing short of a mistake – I see Becky’s name, I think Simon and Blue – but is it bad to dream of writing as heart-warming and successful of a novel? I hope not.

Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian | Goodreads13406425

As someone who likes her writing time to be very much a “solo activity,” I have difficulty imagining myself penning a novel with another author. Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, on the other hand, fueled their friendship into the writing process, creating not just one book, but a series of three: Burn for BurnFire with Fire, and Ashes to Ashes. The novels rank among my favorites, and not only because I can’t resist a good revenge read; each installment has me crushing on Jenny and Siobhan’s close relationship, their writing abilities, and their endless string of suspenseful twists. Yes, yes, and yes.

Nov 18 2015

Waiting on Wednesday {74}

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Waiting On Wednesday is originally hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, but we just love this meme so much we had to tag along! Each Wednesday, one of the Lit Up Review writers will post a book she is looking forward to, along with the summary and cover. You can find all of these posts by clicking on the category button and selecting “Waiting on Wednesday,” and fill up your Goodreads shelves with great books to get excited about!

Fight Like a GirlFight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World by Laura Barcella | Goodreads
Release Date: March 8th, 2016
Publisher: Zest Books

Nearly every day there’s another news story, think piece, or pop cultural anecdote related to feminism and women’s rights. Conversations around consent, equal pay, access to contraception, and a host of other issues are foremost topics of conversation in American media. And today’s teens are encountering these issues from a different perspective than any generation has before—but what’s often missing from the current discussion is an understanding of how we’ve gotten to this place.

Fight Like a Girl introduces readers to the history of feminist activism in the U.S. in an effort to celebrate those who paved the way and draw attention to those who are working hard to further the feminist cause today.

Regardless of the subject, be it a specific moment in our nation’s history or a recent scientific discovery, works of nonfiction – articles, essays, books, and the like – make me happy, even if I don’t pick them up as often as I would like. I love the act of acquiring new knowledge, and I’m convinced I could read nonfiction books all day and never tire of the activity.

When I first came across Laura Barcella’s Fight Like a Girl, a nonfiction paperback on women’s rights history and prominent feminists, it was, as they say, love at first sight. I’m a proud feminist, as I wholeheartedly support the fight for gender equality, but ask me about the movement’s evolution and its leaders and I’m at a loss. Of course, my history knowledge doesn’t determine my support of feminism, but my natural curiosity has me wanting to learn more: the who, the what, the where, the when, and the why.

I so easily get swept up in the excitement of new fiction releases that my nonfiction reads are, sad as it is, few and far between. I’m hoping to change that going into the new year, but that shouldn’t be too difficult of a task if I have as good of a book as Fight Like a Girl to look forward to. Color me intrigued.

Nov 17 2015

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

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15724396Novel: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan | Goodreads
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Also Posted On: Gemrene

Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, he’s tracked down by a man he’s never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.

The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die . . .

Rick Riordan knows who he is. He knows what he does well, and he sticks to it. And he produces something wonderful and magical each and every time. I really enjoyed the first book in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series. The Sword of Summer was fast-paced and fun. I read it because I love mythology, because I love Riordan’s witty writing style and sassy characters, and because I knew it would be a good ol’ time. And it was. Magnus is sixteen, sarcastic, and reminiscent of Percy in all the lovable ways. The side characters are an elf, a dwarf, and a stubborn daughter of Loki. Magnus is definitely my favorite character, and I am excited to get to know the god Loki more over the course of the series.

There are several references to the Percy Jackson & the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus series in The Sword of Summer, and Annabeth Chase is Magnus’ cousin. I totally did not connect the dots between their last names until they smacked me in the face within the first few chapters. My hope is that Riordan will somehow explain how all the Norse gods and mythologies and Greek/Roman gods and mythologies can coexist in the same world… In my opinion, it would have been smarter to leave Annabeth out and have Magnus and his series be entirely separate from Riordan’s prior works. But I understand that this connection will excite some people, and will definitely be a pull for the ever-loyal Percy Jackson audience. Admittedly, some of the references were quite funny (like the chapter title, “Hearthstone Passes Out Even More Than Jason Grace (Though I Have No Idea Who That Is)”).

From The Sword of Summer, I did get a refresher on Norse mythology and definitely learned some new information. Though it is immersed in the nine worlds of Norse mythology, the overarching story is not really new. I think anyone who’s loved Riordan’s past works will enjoy this one, but don’t expect to have your mind blown with new material. The book is very entertaining as a whole, just not revolutionary. In fact, the novel’s plot – and the plot of its sequel, judging by its title, The Hammer of Thor – is fairly predictable. HOWEVER, I’d like to point out that I read The Sword of Summer as a seventeen-year-old, after having read around fifteen Rick Riordan books before. Of course it didn’t feel one hundred percent original. But it has everything I’ve always loved about Riordan’s books in it and I enjoyed it and sometimes that’s what matters most, more than any critical literary analysis.

In conclusion, I very much enjoyed The Sword of Summer and I look forward to continuing the series. While Riordan’s first series, Percy Jackson & the Olympians, will likely always remain my favorite of his, I am excited to see him explore another area of mythology in a new series. His tried-and-true formula continues to be successful in The Sword of Summer and I think people of all ages, whether it’s their first Rick Riordan book or their fifteenth, will enjoy the lighthearted, adventurous spirit of Magnus Chase.



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