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Aug 1 2015

The Spotlight Book Club August Selection: A Sense of the Infinite

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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 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!

August’s selection is A Sense of the Infinite by Hilary T. Smith!


By the author of the critically acclaimed Wild Awake, a beautiful coming-of-age story about deep friendship, the weight of secrets, and the healing power of nature.

It’s senior year of high school, and Annabeth is ready—ready for everything she and her best friend, Noe, have been planning and dreaming. But there are some things Annabeth isn’t prepared for, like the constant presence of Noe’s new boyfriend. Like how her relationship with her mom is wearing and fraying. And like the way the secret she’s been keeping hidden deep inside her for years has started clawing at her insides, making it hard to eat or even breathe.

But most especially, she isn’t prepared to lose Noe.

For years, Noe has anchored Annabeth and set their joint path. Now Noe is drifting in another direction, making new plans and dreams that don’t involve Annabeth. Without Noe’s constant companionship, Annabeth’s world begins to crumble. But as a chain of events pulls Annabeth further and further away from Noe, she finds herself closer and closer to discovering who she’s really meant to be—with her best friend or without.

Hilary T. Smith’s second novel is a gorgeously written meditation on identity, loss, and the bonds of friendship.

Hilary T. Smith’s debut novel was a Spotlight Book Club pick a while back, so we can’t wait to continue the tradition with her sophomore novel. I’ve actually read this one already, and I loved it almost as much as her first, Wild Awake, which is saying something. I can’t wait to hear what everyone else thinks.

Jul 30 2015

Ten Illuminations {33}: Beach Reads

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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!

Right in the middle of summer we’ve got our favorite beach reads for you all. Headed to the beach? Missing the beach? Dreaming of the beach? Well, we’ve got it all here for you.



Inland by Kat Rosenfield | Goodreads

I’ll admit that this book may not be your stereotypical lighthearted beach read – it’s much more dark and dense – but it absolutely begs to be read by a large body of water. Featuring the story of a girl with an unearthly connection to the ocean, it implants in readers a fascination with crashing waves and the mysteries of the deep. I read it in December, on a trip to Long Island, and it influenced me to drive to the beach and wade in the icy waters of the Atlantic. (Bad idea, but this book is magical.)


Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper | Goodreads

Again, this book isn’t your traditional beach read, but as you might be starting to see, my definition of “beach read” isn’t the same as most readers’ definitions. Salt & Storm also chronicles the wonder of the sea, telling of a family of witches, who, for generations, have been tasked with controlling the waters surrounding their island. It is deeply atmospheric and brilliantly plotted.


16096824A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas | Goodreads

This is not a conventional beach read in any way, but I personally love a good high fantasy while on vacation. It’s so nice to be sucked into another world and lose yourself during a time that is already relaxing! Maas’s new series is even better than Throne of Glass in my opinion, so if you loved TOG then I would jump on the bandwagon for this one too!

23492282Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry | Goodreads

I’m a massive Katie McGarry fan as all of you should know, and her newest series is EVERYTHING. Nowhere But Here will appeal to fans of the Pushing the Limits series because of its grittiness and swoon-worthy romance. A vacation is not complete for me without some Katie McGarry!


Jul 29 2015

Waiting on Wednesday {66}

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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!


What You Left Behind by Jessica Verdi | Goodreads
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks

It’s all Ryden’s fault. If he hadn’t gotten Meg pregnant, she would have never stopped her chemo treatments and would still be alive. Instead, he’s failing fatherhood one dirty diaper at a time. And it’s not like he’s had time to grieve while struggling to care for their infant daughter, start his senior year, and earn the soccer scholarship he needs to go to college.

The one person who makes Ryden feel like his old self is Joni. She’s fun and energetic—and doesn’t know he has a baby. But the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to keep his two worlds separate. Finding one of Meg’s journals only stirs up old emotions, and Ryden’s convinced Meg left other notebooks for him to find, some message to help his new life make sense. But how is he going to have a future if he can’t let go of the past?

Jessica Verdi is phenomenal at writing about important issues with honesty and empathy, and it sounds like her upcoming book will continue that trend. On top of that, I cannot wait to see how she handles writing from a male perspective. I’m so glad this book comes out in just a few days; I don’t think I can wait much longer.

Jul 28 2015

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

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Novel: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler | Goodre20922826ads
Release Date: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Harper Teen
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
Also Published On: Books In Her Head

Kate Weston can piece together most of the bash at John Doone’s house: shots with Stacey Stallard, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early—the feeling that maybe he’s becoming more than just the guy she’s known since they were kids.

But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills’s shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn’t have all the details. When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate’s classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can’t be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same question: Where was Ben when a terrible crime was committed?

This story—inspired by real events—from debut novelist Aaron Hartzler takes an unflinching look at silence as a form of complicity. It’s a book about the high stakes of speaking up, and the razor thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.


I can remember vividly the moment that I put this book on my Goodreads TBR.  After reading the blurb, I knew exactly which true story this book is roughly based on.  As per usual, I went on with my life, waiting for the book to come out.  However, a friend brought back an ARC from BEA and loaned it to me.  Since I knew it was a mystery I brought it with me on vacation to vary my genres.  I ended up reading it in one sitting during a layover!

Hartzler begins What We Saw by sending time establishing the small town communities and the relationships between the protagonist, Kate, and her friends.  Every relationship and scenario that is established in the beginning sets the scene for the book with a cool edge.  All of the goodness and ease that the characters felt came across as a facade; think Wizard of Oz not-everything-is-as-it-seems.  This was the beginning of the spooky part, because Kate and her entire life is so relatable.  I can see the Varsity boys walking down the hallways of my own high school as if they own the place.

And then Hartzler introduces the video.  The video from the party.  And the video where a classmate of Kate is visibly raped.  Kate’s world is up in flames.  Suddenly people that she considered good-hearted are slut shaming and the entire community is taking the side of the ‘wrongfully’ accused high school boys.  This is a scenario that actually happened in real life.  Even reading it fictitiously makes your blood run cold.

Kate struggles to voice her opinion, to fight for justice, and to acknowledge the ugly sides of people that she now able to see.  Your heart is with Kate as she grapples with these difficult situations, but she remains true to her morals and to herself.

There is a romance, yes, but I will defend this romance thoroughly.  Not only can romance come up admits tragedy, but in this situation the entire town tries to go about its business as normally as possible.  I didn’t always agree with Kate’s decisions regarding this relationship, but I think that it was placed well for plot within this book.

Social media plays a major role , which just highlights another terrifying part of reality.  The use of a nasty hashtag is widespread but not fully understood even by characters who are using it.  When the true meaning is revealed to Kate not only is she of course traumatized, but shown the effects of blindly following people that are seen to be in power.

Kate’s story doesn’t end in her favor, but I was so satisfied by the effort Hartzler took to make Kate stay true to herself.

Final Thoughts:

Immediately after finishing What We Saw I told my mom that every high schooler should have to read this book.  Hartzler took a real life story, relatable situations, accurately used social media, a boggling mystery and spun a story that has stuck with me.  I remain haunted by the actions of not only the teenagers but the adults in this story, and that’s why I think that this is so important.  You will rush through this book, not only determined to read the conclusion but so that you can pass your copy onto someone else.  The messages about rape culture in What We Saw NEED to be read, and need to be addressed.  Everyone should read this.  Writing style wise, fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Speak will connect with Hartzler’s novel.

Jul 25 2015

The Spotlight Book Club Presents: The Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda 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 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!

July’s selection was Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli!


Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

This book absolutely lived up to the hype. Here are our mini-reviews:


Excessive book hype is a double-edged sword; it brings well-deserved love and attention to a particular novel, but it can also raise readers’ expectations to unattainable heights. Fortunately, the Spotlight Book Club choice of the month, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, matches the high praise given to it by professional reviewers, book bloggers, and casual fans with ease. The novel’s main character, Simon Spier, is a high school junior with a secret: he’s gay. Understandably, he isn’t prepared to be blackmailed by a fellow classmate, leaving him with the options of acting as a wingman or having his sexual identity – and that of his email pen-pal, Blue – revealed to the entire school. What ensues from the opening chapter is a heart-warming and entertaining plot of events that leads readers to grow along with Simon, and by the end, one can only be left smiling. This is author Becky Albertalli’s debut novel, indicating that an even better book, if such a thing exists, will be on its way. Simply put, Simon is just as good as everyone promises, Albertalli is just as talented as you’ve heard, and, yes, the Oreo references are just as numerous as the reviews say! {my full review can be on Ciao Bella}.



Simon is seriously a triumph for gay YA. It dealt with coming out and the aftermath really well and in a realistic way. It was also one of the cutest books I’ve ever read. If you only read one 2015 debut, I hope it’s Simon because it is oh so sweet, and I loved every second of it.


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