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Oct 30 2014

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor

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Novel: The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor | Goodreads
Release: (this edition) June 30, 1983
Publisher: Penguin Books
Format: Paperback
Source: English class

In her heralded first novel, Gloria Naylor weaves together the stories of seven women living in Brewster Place, a bleak inner-city sanctuary, creating a powerful, moving portrait of the strengths, struggles, and hopes of black women in America. Vulnerable and resilient, openhanded and openhearted, these women forge their lives in a place that in turn threatens and protects—a common prison and a shared home. Naylor renders both loving and painful human experiences with simple eloquence and uncommon intuition. Her remarkable sense of community and history makes The Women of Brewster Place a contemporary classic—a touching and unforgettable read.

At first glance, The Women of Brewster Place appears to be a mottled mix of stories, a pastiche of pasts and presents strung together by a single crumbling building. Each woman’s tale packs such an emotional punch that it can be difficult to see beyond each chapter’s individual assault of feelings. Surges of elation are quickly met with sobering revelations, creating a novel that embodies the clichéd description of “emotional roller coaster.” As a result, each character’s story initially emerges as its own entity, full of difficulties only those it affects can understand.

The Women of Brewster Place could very well be read this way—as an anthology of detached tales—and still tell a beautiful story; each main character’s distinct voice and fascinating set of struggles stand on their own. However, this novel’s real brilliance springs from the way the characters’ lives weave together.

The women of Brewster Place may never become close friends, but Gloria Naylor intersects their stories by allowing the characters to comment on each other’s lives and personalities, helping tell each others’ tales. She occasionally breaks from one person’s narration to splice in a thought from another, bringing a new set of eyes to each scene. Readers get to see not only one character’s outlook on her own life, but other characters’ outside observations, which sets up a subtle study in the way each individual’s experiences affect her perspective on an issue. Even better, this variety of viewpoints allows even more raw emotion into the novel. An event that one character views as an accomplishment could also be seen as a failure, and an event that another character views as a devastating shock could also be considered a minor setback—and readers get to experience the emotions that accompany each.

The Women of Brewster Place draws readers in and flings their feelings to the floor, forcing them to feel everything the characters do. Naylor demands that everyone, even those whose lives could not be more different from those portrayed in this novel, relate to the women in her heartbreaking yet hopeful story. This book shredded my soul and stitched it back together again with the strangest of threads, a surgery that made me laugh, cry, and spend days recuperating. Although it has been months since I finished reading, I can still feel the stinging scars.

Emily
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Oct 27 2014

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

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20821111Novel: The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1) by Marie Lu | Goodreads
Release Date: October 7th, 2014
Publisher: G.P. Putnam Books for Young Readers
Format: ARC
Source: BookPeople Teen Reviewing

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

This was my first Marie Lu book (I know, you’re all shocked) and OH BOY WAS I IMPRESSED. I’ve been wanting to read the Legend series for a while now, but I just never got around to it. (This is what happens when you have ARCs for a year and haven’t touched them.) The Young Elites blew my socks off though, so hopefully I’ll be getting around Legend sometime soon.

The Young Elites tells the story of Adelina, a lonely girl whose father has told her for the past years that she is worthless. This book is her tale of finding her people, the power within her, and learning how to use it for both good and evil. The other Young Elites in the Dagger Society are quite the cast of characters, helping Adelina along the way, but they are also doubtful of her usefulness. They’re an exclusive group of tight knit friends who don’t let a newbie in just for fun, and so Adelina must prove herself, in the process learning about herself and her own self worth.

One of my favorite things about this book is that Lu takes basic issues many people struggle with as teenagers – self confidence, doubt, and loneliness – and heightens them. She throws these characteristics into Adelina and puts her through trial after trial, taking the world of The Young Elites, as well as Adelina and the other Elites and making it relatable to the reader.

As far as the plot goes, the beginning is a bit slow. Lu builds the world in the first couple chapters, as well as helping us to understand Adelina. But once you get into the middle, the book picks up fast, with missions for the Young Elites and trials for Adelina. This book is one of my favorites of the year – I can’t recommend it enough!

Willa
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Oct 26 2014

The Weekly Blaze {60}: October 20-26

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With a discussion, a review, a Waiting on Wednesday. a Ten Illuminations, and a Spotlight Book Club wrap-up, this week was packed with a little bit of everything. Be sure to stop by again later this week to find out our November book club selection.

Monday, October 20: Grace’s discussion post about being a blogger: “Has being a book reviewer and blogger changed my tastes, criticism, and general experience relating to books?”

Tuesday, October 21: Willa’s review of A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway: “A Farewell to Arms is a fascinating look at love, war, and sacrifice, and is timeless in so many ways.”

Wednesday, October 22: Emily’s Waiting on Wednesday selection of Gone Too Far by Natalie D. Richards: “An inventive plot combined with the author’s suspenseful, psychological writing is sure to produce a winning novel.”

Thursday, October 23: Ten Illuminations on books with diverse characters: “What with the growing popularity of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, we figured now would be the perfect time to offer some recommendations for stories with diverse characters.”

Saturday, October 25: Our October Spotlight Book Club wrap-up: Read Willa’s mini review of the gorgeous and emotional I’ll Give You the Sun.

Emily
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Oct 25 2014

The Spotlight Book Club Presents: The I’ll Give You the Sun Showcase

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The “Spotlight Book Club” is one of the most exciting things we do on the blog! As avid teen readers, it’s hard to find a book club that features books we haven’t read yet and that is full of avid readers like ourselves, so we decided to start an ONLINE book club with readers like us all over the world! Each month we choose a book, and we will give you the entire month to read it. On the last Saturday of the month we will post a selection of mini-reviews (ranging from one of us to all of us) along with (we hope) an author interview, giveaway, or something else fun! Throughout the month, you can start threads on our Goodreads group to interact with other book club members. The only rule is you can’t spoil the book for everyone else!

October’s selection was I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson!

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Jude and her brother, Noah, are incredibly close twins. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude surfs and cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and divisive ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as an unpredictable new mentor. The early years are Noah’s story to tell. The later years are Jude’s. What the twins don’t realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

This radiant, fully alive, sometimes very funny novel from the critically acclaimed author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.

And now, a mini review from Willa!

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I’m a massive Jandy Nelson fan – I read The Sky is Everywhere when it was a little known novel that I fell in love with immediately, so when I got my hands on an ARC of I’ll Give You The Sun you can bet there were happy dances and scream fests.

I read this book in one sitting.

Nelson has this utterly gorgeous, lyrical writing style that I could read for days. Jude and Noah, the main characters in this new novel, have to be some of my favorite characters in YA. They’re complex, interesting, and incredibly relatable. In I’ll Give You The Sun, Nelson explores the sibling and family dynamic, and what a tragic event can do to a family – two of my favorite topics to read about, and she does it beautifully. This book is worth every penny – it’s heartbreaking, addicting, poignant, and utterly breathtaking. Go buy it. Now.

Oct 23 2014

Ten Illuminations {14}: Books with Diverse Characters

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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!

What with the growing popularity of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, we figured now would be the perfect time to offer some recommendations for stories with diverse characters.

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Like No Other by Una LaMarche | Goodreads

This brilliant book tells a story of creating yourself and living life on your own terms, and I loved watching the characters grow up until the last paragraph (which, by the way, is one of my all-time favorite endings). The fact that one of the main characters was raised in a Hasidic household perfectly complements the plot.

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley | Goodreads15828079

This novel deals with diversity in a racial sense as well as a sexual orientation sense. Set in the 1950s during a controversial school integration, it allows its characters to experience the harsh prejudices surrounding both. It is the kind of book that will make readers enraged and horrified, which, in my opinion, is the best kind of book.

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1618The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon | Goodreads

I went in a bit of a different direction with this pick – A Curious Case is about a young boy with autism and his experience with the world. It’s poignant, hilarious, and such an important book, in my opinion, mainly because it shows what it’s like to live with autism (which I, admittedly, didn’t know all that much about prior to reading this book). Christopher, the main character, goes through family, school, friend, and personal issues over the course of the novel, giving A Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time a very relatable feeling as well. I adored this book and couldn’t recommend it enough!

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If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan | Goodreads

If You Could Be Mine is the story of two Iranian teenage girls who are in love, a very dangerous thing to be in Iranian society. This book is a look at a culture I knew little about, and also confronted homosexuality in a touching and loving way, with beautiful writing and an fantastic storyline. I loved this book and highly recommend it! You can read Meredith’s review here.

Emily
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