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Oct 20 2014

Being a Blogger

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Hey y’all!

Today I’m here to talk about something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently, particularly in how it relates to my reading. Has being a book reviewer and blogger changed my tastes, criticism, and general experience relating to books?

I’m an intense personality when it comes to this – young adult literature and publishing – and seeing myself as I am now compared to four (!) years ago is positively astonishing.

I never would have guessed that I would have gotten the opportunities that I have today, and I consider myself blessed. But it was only when I started scheduling when I had to read certain books, planned around my upcoming SAT and AP Bio tests, that I truly began to wonder how much it’s changed me as a reader.

For one, I’m more aware of books before they come out. I never go into a bookstore without running into titles that I already know about. Being a book blogger, a lot of my job is knowing what’s coming out and where the industry’s headed, and really predicting what might be good. Now if I go into a store and see a book I don’t know, it makes me doubt it; I’m not sure whether I should take a risk or not. A part of me misses flipping through random pages, not knowing author names and statistics. (But I love this so much that I can never go back.)

I attribute part of the blind-reading loss to Borders shutting down because the YA section in my Borders was HUGE and so I was always stumbling upon new titles. Barnes & Noble, and my local indies, have significantly smaller selections. I’m still in mourning over Borders closing.

I’m more critical in reading. I’ve read almost a thousand books since starting this blog. That’s a lot of reading material, a lot of characters and informations. I can notice patterns and similarities, trends and writers that go off the beaten path. I like to think of myself as being a decent blogger and making those connections is what allows me to feel successful in my recommendations; at the same time, my reading style’s changed pretty drastically because I don’t just sink into the book with no semblance of why I enjoy it. I analyze characters, plot devices, tropes and ideas and beautiful prose for what it was that made it stand out to me, what might appeal to other readers. As I venture further into my academic life, that analytical eye has helped me with rhetoric and arguments, granting me access to valuable skills. At the same time, I feel like there are some books I’m unnecessarily critical of, but would otherwise have enjoyed if I hadn’t been exposed to all the background knowledge of the bookish world.

While it’s something to think about in regards to my reading/writing/thinking, I still enjoy books just as much as I did when I was the awkward eleven-year-old reading on the bleachers at recess. I just enjoy them a little differently.

I’m less shy. Honestly, I am so proud of myself for this. Blogging has given me so much more confidence in my abilities, my voice, and myself as a person. I struggled a lot in middle school – as everyone does – and because I have something to ground me, it’s really helped. I’m an introvert for sure, although because I write, it doesn’t always show. Because I’ve gotten used to having an audience, it’s improved my public speaking, ability to share my work, and even being brave enough to talk to people that I never would have normally. Obviously, it’s a personal process and I’m still very very shy but that’s juxtaposed with my ability to talk about it.

I’m very grateful for blogging. I love meeting people like my Lit-Up girls and I love being able to talk about what I love and access so many other people with it. Thank y’all for reading with us!

Oct 19 2014

The Weekly Blaze {59}: October 13-19

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Thanks for stopping by for another edition of The Weekly Blaze! What have you been reading lately? We at Lit Up Review have been falling into autumn books, devouring atmospheric tales and creepy horror novels.

We have also been doing a bit of posting on the blog. Here are the posts you may have missed.

Monday, October 13: Emily’s review of Playing for the Commandant by Suzy Zail: “Despite my inability to fall into the story completely, the plot still holds enough shocks and emotions to keep any reader invested.”

Friday, October 17: Jessica’s Story Gazing post on Open Road Summer by Emery Lord: “If you liked Open Road Summer, you may like…”

Oct 17 2014

Story Gazing {25}: Open Road Summer

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Story Gazing is a bi-weekly feature we started here at Lit Up Review and is a fun way to recommend new books to our readers through an “if you like blank, then you should try blank” format. This week, I’m recommending some books with great romances but also a great focus on friendship, just as Open Road Summer does.

Open Road SummerOpen Road Summer by Emery Lord | Goodreads

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind…and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking.

If you liked Open Road Summer, you may like…

Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler | Goodreads

I absolutely adore this book, and it’s the first one that came to mind when I think of books that remind me of Open Road Summer. Not only is there a swoon-worthy romance, there’s also the fame aspect that Open Road Summer has. Both protagonists are friends of famous people, and that’s also where the unique friendships come in. At the end of the day, while Aly and Liam’s relationship is a major focus in the novel, I find the friendship between Aly and Vanessa to stick with me even more. Honestly, this book almost has it all, and I think many people would pair the two books together. (Plus, bonus points for diversity!)


Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour | Goodreads

The friendship between Emi and Charlotte is the type of friendship I long for. They wholeheartedly support one another, and though Emi and Charlotte sometimes butt heads, it’s because one is trying to do what’s best for the other. Their friendship is what really ties the book together. But on top of that, there’s the relationship between Emi and Ava, which grows and builds so beautifully. Plus, LaCour’s writing is just so beautiful and soft in a way that perfectly fits this book. And like Open Road Summer and Behind the Scenes, there’s also an entertainment aspect, although it’s a behind-the-scenes look into set producers and designers, enhancing the book even more. (And again for diversity!)

The Distance Between Us

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West | Goodreads

Ahh, another great, obvious choice. Not only is Xander and Caymen’s relationship a swoony one that ranks among my favorite romances, there’s a great exploration of Caymen and Skylar’s friendship. While perhaps not as prominent as the friendships in the other books, it’s really interesting to see how the relationship affected their friendship in a way that wasn’t necessarily portrayed in the other books. A major reason for that is that unlike the other books, The Distance Between Us isn’t about any famous people (sort of-I mean no entertainment industry connection). Caymen’s struggles are seemingly very different than those of the other protagonist. And yet it’s one that’s very similar to them, especially Open Road Summer in many of its focuses. Reagan in ORS also reminds me of Caymen, not so much in their actions, situations, or thoughts, but in that they both use snark, sometimes this dark, snarky humor, either to deal with their situations or just because that’s the way they are. As with all the other books, I highly recommend that anyone who still hasn’t read this book go and read it as soon as possible.

Oct 13 2014

Playing for the Commandant by Suzy Zail

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Novel: Playing for the Commandant by Suzy Zail | Goodreads
Release Date: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

“Look after each other, and get home safe. And when you do, tell everyone what you saw and what they did to us.”

These are Hanna’s father’s parting words to her and her sister when their family is separated at the gates of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Her father’s words — and a black C-sharp piano key hidden away in the folds of her dress — are all that she has left to remind her of life before. Before, Hanna was going to be a famous concert pianist. She was going to wear her yellow dress to a dance. And she was going to dance with a boy. But then the Nazis came. Now it is up to Hanna to do all she can to keep her mother and sister alive, even if that means playing piano for the commandant and his guests. Staying alive isn’t supposed to include falling in love with the commandant’s son. But Karl Jager is beautiful, and his aloofness belies a secret. And war makes you do dangerous things.

When I read a book about the Holocaust—or other terrible parts of history—my favorite part is almost always the middle, the messy, heartbreaking point when the plot is at its peak. At the heart of the story, the protagonist sees the most horrifying-yet-captivating details and is far from the tranquility of “before” and the relief of “after.” I do enjoy watching the exposition shatter as characters are captured and seeing them weave their lives back together in the conclusion, but I always struggle to turn away from the horrors of the story’s center. However, this was not the case with Playing for the Commandant—while I appreciated its every chapter, my favorite parts spanned the first and last 50 pages.

I fell in love with this story’s exposition for its masterful portrayal of the protagonist’s ignorance. At the start of the story, when Hanna and her family are forced to leave their home in their sealed ghetto, she does not guess at the severity of the situation. Even upon arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Hanna still does not grasp the full scope of the evil surrounding her—for example, when she sees people sent toward buildings seeping smoke, she assumes they are being sent to work in factories. This dark dramatic irony, knowing that Hanna’s life is about to become far more painful than she expects, makes readers ache for her and makes the first few chapters a gripping opener.

Her innocence and hope carries her all the way until the end, when it cracks in a conclusion that can only be called explosive. I do not want to give too much away, but I will say that the ending displays a calculated imperfection, happy enough to be optimistic, but sad enough to be realistic. Suzy Zail chose a spot-on ending for her story, and I would not change a thing about it.

The only segment in which I would make small alterations is the middle, the section that has always been my favorite. It does not have any major flaws, but something small is missing, something keeping me from becoming fully immersed in the story. Perhaps it was the book’s length; at 245 pages, it has little room for fleshing out dramatic details, so the plot often skims over months in a matter of sentences. Or perhaps it was the slightly too-modern dialogue that springs up occasionally, pulling readers out of the historical setting. Whatever it was, I never felt truly absorbed in the story, as if I were there with the characters.

However, I cannot hold this flaw against Playing for the Commandant. Despite my inability to fall into the story completely, the plot still holds enough shocks and emotions to keep any reader invested. I highly recommend this novel to any historical fiction fans, and I hope that more of Zail’s Australian writing soon makes its way to America.

Oct 12 2014

The Weekly Blaze {58}: October 6-12

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This was an admittedly slow week here at Lit Up Review, but now that I (Emily) am on a two-week-long fall break, I am working to get ahead on everything blogging-related. There is more content coming soon, but for now, you can enjoy our sole post from this week.

Thursday, October 9: Ten Illuminations on books told from multiple viewpoints: Alternating POVs can be annoying if done badly, but fascinating if done well. These titles fall into the latter category.



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