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Apr 27 2015

The Secrets of Attraction by Robin Constantine

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22864443Novel: The Secrets of Attraction by Robin Constantine | Goodreads
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Format: e-ARC
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Set in the same world as The Promise of Amazing, this smart, surprising, and romantic follow-up to Robin Constantine’s debut novel follows two New Jersey teens as they become friends and fall in love. Perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins, Sarah Mlynowski, and Jennifer E. Smith.

Madison Pryce thinks she’s got everything figured out—she’s working on a portfolio for a summer art program and hanging with her friends. Plus she has her hot boyfriend, Zach. But then a visit from a family friend turns Maddie’s life upside down.

Jesse McMann is still reeling from a breakup that shattered his heart and his band. Then pride (and some goading from his bass player and fellow barista) forces him to find a new drummer—and the inspiration to write music again.

Kismet arrives in the unlikely form of Grayson Barrett, who tries out for Jesse’s band, and whose girlfriend is BFFs with the cute girl who orders a chai latte after yoga every Thursday: Maddie. What Jesse and Maddie thought they knew about the secrets of attraction and the rules of romance changes once they start falling for each other.

I liked The Promise of Amazing when I read it last year, so I was happy to find out that the author was releasing a new novel set in the same world. Secrets of Attraction proved to be an even better read than The Promise of Amazing!

The book, like The Promise of Amazing, is told in alternating povs. This time it’s told from Jesse and Madison’s perspective. I struggled with understanding Madison. She made some choices that I just didn’t get, because she basically sabotaged herself. She did have to deal with a lot of family issues, though, which made the decisions she made slightly more understandable. The thing about the characters is that what they were going through and the emotions they felt were all so realistic. They felt like actual teenagers that I’d meet or be friends with.

I didn’t like Madison’s mom. I disagreed with a lot of the choices she made and I thought she was selfish about certain things. I could see how others could see it differently, though! However, I thought Jesse was a great guy, and again- the characters were all depicted extremely realistically. He was dealing with an aftermath of a harsh break up and I thought the way his and Madison’s relationship progressed from a start of him just being the barista at the coffee shop she went to was very cute. The fact that he’s in a band doesn’t hurt, either ;)

Tanner, while he’s a supporting character, was one of my favorites in the novel! He’s both adorable and hilarious. I’m hoping that maybe he’ll get his own novel if this series is continued.

Secrets of Attraction is an awesome read, with the realism of both the characters and their emotions really shining through! It makes for a quick read, too, and I’d give this novel 4 out of 5 flowers.

Montana
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Apr 26 2015

The Weekly Blaze {86}: April 20-26

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weeklyblaze

This Weekly Blaze is going up a bit late, but that’s because I was in New York on a choir trip this weekend! We had the amazing opportunity of performing on Broadway (we sang an encore performance of A Whole New World after the cast of Aladdin performed), and we did plenty of sightseeing as well. Here’s everything that happened on Lit Up Review while I was gone:

Thursday, April 23: Ten Illuminations on best fantasy covers: “Fantasy covers have, by far, some of the coolest and most creative covers, and we’re showcasing our favorites today!”

Friday, April 24: Mary’s review of Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer: “Distortion mixes with emotion and reality, creating an accessible dream world for both the characters and the reader.”

Saturday, April 25: The Spotlight Book Club Presents: The Way We Bared Our Souls Showcase: We had mixed feelings about our latest book club pick.

Emily
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Apr 25 2015

The Spotlight Book Club Presents: The Way We Bared Our Souls Showcase

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spotlightbookclub

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!

April’s selection was The Way We Bared Our Souls by Willa Strayhorn!

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If you could trade your biggest burden for someone else’s, would you do it?

Five teenagers sit around a bonfire in the middle of the New Mexico desert. They don’t know it yet, but they are about to make the biggest sacrifice of their lives.

Lo has a family history of MS, and is starting to come down with all the symptoms.
Thomas, a former child soldier from Liberia, is plagued by traumatic memories of his war-torn past.
Kaya would do anything to feel physical pain, but a rare condition called CIP keeps her numb.
Ellen can’t remember who she was before she started doing drugs.
Kit lost his girlfriend in a car accident and now he just can’t shake his newfound fear of death.

When they trade totems as a symbol of shedding and adopting one another’s sorrows, they think it’s only an exercise.

But in the morning, they wake to find their burdens gone…and replaced with someone else’s.

As the reality of the ritual unfolds, this unlikely group of five embarks on a week of beautiful, terrifying experiences that all culminate in one perfect truth: In the end, your soul is stronger than your burdens.

Here are our mini reviews!

Emily-sig

I was so excited to read this book thanks to its creative and unique topic. However, the execution disappointed me a bit. The plot is too unbelievable for me, and the writing does not have the magical atmosphere that would have accompanied this story so well; instead it sounds as if it is trying just a little too hard to be cool. Of course, I still loved this book’s concept and enjoyed the story overall. Despite my disappointments, I would still recommend this book for someone looking for a light and refreshingly different read – just don’t expect gorgeous writing. Read my full review here.

Willa-sig

 

I’m with Emily on this one – I had high hopes for the plot, especially because of how unique it is, but was disappointed by its execution. I couldn’t get my head around the magic/ritualistic elements of the story, and found myself enjoying the interactions between the characters more than anything related to the ritual that brought them together. This novel’s one strong point was its characters, who were my favorite part of the story. They were each incredibly different and their emotional burdens affected each of them in different ways. Seeing these characters grow from the experience of dealing with someone else’s pain was interesting and made me consider my own struggles, and what it would be like to have some of the issues my peers have. This book is definitely a departure from reality, and if you’re looking for that, I’d give it a read.

Emily
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Apr 24 2015

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

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20821376Novel: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer | Goodreads
Release Date: September 30th, 2014
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Also Published On: Books In Her Head

If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be  at home in New Jersey with her sweet British  boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching  old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing  him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

When Belzhar came out last fall I tried really hard to ignore all of the hype, because, I HATE HYPE.  Hype stresses me out and gives me pre conceptions of the book that are often unfounded and unrealistic (at least for me).

Luckily for Belzhar, it sort of fell off my radar until I was the library and I saw it.  I was like, ‘hey, I remember you, I should see what you’re all about’ so I picked it up and read it over Spring Break.

The premise of Belzhar really intrigued me.  Imagining a group of emotionally fragile teens all put together in one place just screamed trouble, in a good way.  I loved the feel of the Special Topics English class.  The had an intimate vibe that reminded me of an english class I had in school once.  Intimacy in a classroom setting yields an entirely different type of education, and I think that Belzhar works hard to artfully show that.

Although it might not seem like it,  our protagonist Jam is an unreliable narrator.  From the beginning we know that something terrible has happened to her, as with the other students in the Special Topics English class (and the entire school, really).  But what that event was remains uncertain to the reader, and to the other characters for the majority of the story.  I liked Jam as a protagonist because I think she wasn’t the type of person that people would expect to have emotional troubles, and yet she was.  Jam really was sick, and it wasn’t romanticized, it was gentle, it was horrifyingly and upsettingly real.  And even if you don’t realize it until the end, which you probably won’t, it’s even more woefully sad.  But Jam was great as protagonist in other ways too.  She was painfully naive, but she had a sweet relationship with her younger brother.  She was student but she also sometimes was stupid and made mistakes.  Her (romantic) relationships were not exactly at the forefront of the overall plot (other times they were the entire plot), and some people may view them as unnecessary.  I however, understand that sometimes romance in a time of grief actually happens, it’s happened to me.  It might not always be the best of choices, but it is a coping mechanism, and its wonderful to feel something real, something that doesn’t hurt, in times of grief.

The other characters in Belzhar were lovely in their own special ways.  Each student had the ability to be uniquely damaged but at the same time not ‘outshining’ the others in their distress.  The class dynamic and their ability to become close as a group is something to be admired, and I liked how Wolitzer used that in the story.

As for Belzhar, the place.  Yes, I am a huge  fan of magical realism (just read my ravings about The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavenderbut I am particularly a fan of how it was used in Belzhar.  I won’t go into too much detail, because I think that the magic of reading it blank minded is fantastic, but I will say that Wolitzer tastefully manipulates the characters in exciting ways.  Belzhar becomes more of an escape, it becomes a healing process.

Although I have never read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, or any of her poems, I think that it something that I will certainly do in the future.  Less because of how The Bell Jar was used in Belzhar, but more because I do believe that reading can affect who you are as a person.  And The Bell Jar was at the very root of the messages in the book.

Belzhar is not a perfect book, and it’s not a book for everyone.  But it is beautifully written, painfully true, heartbreakingly emotional.  Distortion mixes with emotion and reality, creating an accessible dream world for both the characters and the reader.  This is a book for people who have never dealt with magical realism before, but enjoy serious, emotional stories.  This is a book for readers who are a fan of magical realism but want something little darker.  Fans of Gayle Forman’s I Was Here, Lesyle Walton’s The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavenderand Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why will enjoy Belzhar immensely.

Mary
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Apr 23 2015

Ten Illuminations {26}: Best Fantasy Covers

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illuminations-banner-fantasy-covers

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!

Fantasy covers have, by far, some of the coolest and most creative covers, and we’re showcasing our favorites today! Stop by in two weeks for more of our covers series.

Emily-sig

emily-fantasy
Born Wicked
by Jessica Spotswood | Goodreads

This dark, ornate cover perfectly captures the atmospheric, magical feeling of the story inside. What’s more, it’s just plain gorgeous. The golden title and brown tones of the background make the red and pink of the powers pop, and the curls around the text add the perfect touch.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab | Goodreads

Once again, this cover brilliantly conveys the mood of the story inside. As I described in my review, The Near Witch has a part-whimsical, part-foreboding feeling, and this cover gives off the same vibe. On top of that, the script font and the veil that covers the image are both beautiful.

jessica-sig

 

jessica-fantasy

The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas | Goodreads

While I love all of the covers for Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass series, the cover for The Assassin’s Blade is particularly striking. Not only are the colors gorgeous and rich, but the halo of light around Celaena really also really adds to the intensity of the cover. I absolutely love how she’s holding the two blades, and the look on her face, with her hair sweeping across, makes Celaena look so fierce! I feel like this captures Celaena’s determination and fierceness and just sets up for some amazing novellas.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo | Goodreads

I was really torn between choosing Shadow and Bone or The Winner’s Curse for my second choice. Well, to be honest, there are a ton of amazing fantasy covers, so it was already difficult. Anyway, I eventually went with Shadow and Bone, obviously. The cover is just so pretty. It may not seem particularly special, particularly for a fantasy novel, but I like its toned down colors and its focus on just a few select colors. I love the horns and the spirals at the bottom, showing both the influences of the book as well as drawing me in to the story. I was intrigued by the book, partially because of the cover, to be quite honest. So much love.

Montana-sig

 

montana-fantasyThe Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutowski | Goodreads

This cover, along with the cover for its sequel, is gorgeous! I especially love the pink dress and the font facing sideways.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge | Goodreads

The rose is so pretty and I love how the staircase is part of it. It’s really eye-catching!

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willa-fantasy

Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray | Goodreads

Can we just take a second for this cover? IT IS WATERCOLOR. THERE IS BEAUTIFUL COLORS. I AM IN LOVE. Although I haven’t read it (or the first book in the series) I want to purely because this. cover. is. my. favorite. thing. ever.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard | Goodreads

I love the minimalism of this cover. They could’ve gone really overboard, but the simple upside down crown and blood dripping down against the powder blue background is striking and incredibly unique. Again, I haven’t read this book, but this cover makes me want to!

Willa
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