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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

ARC Giveaway: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

I read this book in May, as a word document, long before it had this gorgeous cover. The fact that I suffered through reading it on a word document (this is not a short book) should tell you just how fantastic it is. You want to read this one, sooner than later. So here's your chance!

In this remarkable high fantasy debut, Sabaa Tahir creates an elaborate and often shockingly harsh world in which evil constantly threatens and the hope of a better future lies with two seemingly powerless youths. Laia and Elias, strangers with curiously overlapping destinies, must fight to survive their harshly violent world despite overwhelming odds. Laia, a young Scholar willing to risk what little she has left to save her captive brother, is tasked with a highly sensitive undercover rebel mission that may well end with her death. Elias, an elite and deadly soldier of the Martial Empire, struggles to accept the violent life that awaits him as a Mask. When a sudden shift in leadership plunges the Empire into disarray, a desperate and bloody power struggle begins with Laia and Elias positioned at its center.

With An Ember in the Ashes , Sabaa Tahir presents a complex and dangerous world, two unlikely heroes, and an epic battle of good versus evil that will undoubtedly capture readers' rapt attention.

Win It!

Giveaway ends September 2nd, 2014. Open internationally. One winner.


More Chances to Win!

 Win a MG Prize Pack including Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child and Watch Out, Hollywood by Maria T. Lennon, here.

Win an arc of In a Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis, here.

Kids' Indie Next List Summer Reading Challenge & Giveaway!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Review: The Islands at the End of the World by Austin Aslan

Title: The Islands at the End of the World
Author: Austin Aslan
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books/Random House
Pub. Date: August 5, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 13+
Pages: 384
More by this author: N/A

Goodreads / Buy It

In her heart, sixteen-year old Leilani feels like she belongs in Hawaii, but her epilepsy and mixed heritage prevent her from ever fitting in. When she's is invited to participate in a study in an Oahu clinic that may give her more control over her epilepsy, she decides it's worth the risks. But Leilani never gets the chance to try the new treatment - a global disaster strikes, leaving the Hawaiian islands without any connection to the rest of the world. Leilani and her father are stranded on Oahu where resources are quickly being drained and panic is taking hold. Determined to make it back to their home on Hilo, Leilani and her father embark on a dangerous journey in which Hawaiian culture, mythology, and Leilani's epilepsy all play crucial roles.

Austin Aslan's debut had me completely transfixed. It was cinematic, with all the elements that I love about those big apocalyptic movies, like The Day After Tomorrow,  but still felt fresh and unique because of the Hawaiian setting and undeniably better world building and detail. Simply put, this book has the fast pacing and crazy what ifs you love about those end-of-the-world movies plus a compelling back story and well developed characters.

One of my favorite aspects of this book was the focus on the father-daughter relationship. The list of notable - or even memorable - literary YA parents is woefully short, so I count every addition as a win. Leilani's father isn't perfect but that just made him more realistic. He makes some interesting parenting choices after things get crazy (which, for the record, I was totally okay with and rather amused by). He and Leilani have a strong relationship built on respect and trust, which I loved.

I highly recommend Aslan's debut and am very much looking forward to seeing what happens next... I have a feeling that the situation has the potential to get a lot more complicated in the next book!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Review: The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove

Title: The Glass Sentence (The Mapmaker's Trilogy #1)
Author: S.E. Grove
Publisher: Viking Juvenile/Penguin
Pub. Date: June 12, 2014
Genre: Middle Grade
Rec. Age Level: 10+
Pages: 512
More by this author: The Golden Specific (forthcoming)

Goodreads / Buy It

Sophia Tims is a girl who knows how to take care of herself. She comes from a long line of explorers and, following the Great Disruption of 1799, an event that disrupted the continuity of time, explorers and cartographers live a rather dangerous life. Sophia's parents, two renowned explorers, have been missing for years, leaving Sophia to be raised by her Uncle Shadrack, a noted cartographer. When Shadrack informs Sophia that he believes they might be able to find her parents, Sophia begins training in cartography, a delicate craft that is more wondrous than she ever imagined. Just as she begins her training, Shadrack is kidnapped. In order to save him, Sophia must set out into the turbulent world outside of 1891 Boston, where every day could mean a new age and unknown foes.

It's extremely difficult to write a short teaser for The Glass Sentence. The world S.E. Grove has created in this book is extremely detailed and intricately plotted. The Great Disruption of 1799 is key to understanding the world... In short, instead of history happening in a linear, ordered way, it has been jumbled and randomly rearranged, changing as one travels across the globe. In Sophia's Boston, it's 1891, but a few cities away, it might be 1650 or 1938. This is why explorers and cartographers are so important in this world - the world must be rediscovered and remapped. Animals that have gone extinct reappear, empires that fell from power rise again, the future mixes with the past and the present. 

Cartography is not only limited to paper maps. There are clay, water, and glass maps as well - all of which have specific uses. Clay maps, for example, illustrate the landscape in a given area. If one presses a fingertip to a specific point on the map, they will be given a mental image of the landscape in that specific location. Some maps show weather. Some show people. 

Within this brilliantly imagined world, is Sophia, a girl who has nothing left to lose. The world Grove created might appear complicated, but, Sophia is just beginning to learn the ins and outs of cartography and the dangers of exploration, which gives plenty of natural opportunities for explanation, remedied the possible issue of info-dumps.

The Glass Sentence ended with a cliffhanger, which means I am anxiously awaiting book two, The Golden Specific. Though this is a 'middle grade' novel, I strongly believe it's for all ages; it's one of those novels that truly illustrates that a good book has no age limit.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Interview with Maria T. Lennon, author of Watch Out, Hollywood: More Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child

Maria T. Lennon stops by The Hiding Spot today to talk about Watch Out, Hollywood, her second book featuring reformed bully Charlie C. Cooper, a 'so-called middle child' who is determined to make it as an actress. Read on to learn more about Maria's decision to write about a flawed, not-always-so-nice MG character, her personal 'hiding spot', and her current writing project - a YA novel!

About the author

Maria T. Lennon is a graduate of the London School of Economics, a novelist, a screenwriter, and the author of Confessions of a So-called Middle Child, the first book featuring the irrepressible Charlie C. Cooper. When not driving one of her four children to school or volunteering at school libraries, she can be found sitting in a parked car, a café, or a library, writing novels, travel articles, or just passed out. To learn more, visit her website

Watch Out, Hollywood is subtitled More Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child. Did you draw on any personal experiences for Charlie’s ‘middle child’ personality traits?

Oh, yeah. This book was totally inspired by my middle child and the things she went through in elementary school. Middle children seem to share many traits, it doesn’t matter if they’re male or female. I remember so many second-time moms pulling their hair out at the playground not understanding why their second child was so totally different from their first. The biggest difference most of the time was that while first children were usually so concerned with doing everything right, painting in the lines, eating an ice-cream cone without dripping, the second child had a blast creating total chaos.

Charlie is not always a nice or likeable character, though readers can tell that she generally means well. Can you speak a bit about your decision to make Charlie a ‘reformed bully.’

That’s a great question. Most kids I know aren’t all that likeable all the time. They’re growing, learning and making mistakes. It’s tough to be young. I have always looked for books about kids who are having a hard time, who aren’t perfect because kids aren’t perfect. Kids lie, cheat, are mean to the defenseless, are materialistic and jealous. And in a way, they’re supposed to be because they’re learning. I wanted Charlie to be someone who is learning how to be a good person. I wanted to show that inner dialogue of the good and the bad.
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end?

I almost always start with a person. A kid. And the situation that particular kid finds himself in. I attempt an outline, I attempt all the tricks in the book for organization. I buy Scrivener and take a month to learn how to use it. And fail.  Sadly, it never really works for me. I envy writers who write an outline and stick to it. For me, the moment I get into a story, the story takes over and everything changes, which is exciting but also means a lot of editing afterwards. I try very hard to cut, cut, cut because honestly I have a short attention span and I like books to move fast.
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing or provided inspiration?

I taught creative writing while I lived in Italy, which was great, but probably the job that taught me the most was writing short headlines stories for a health and travel website. I learned how to write and cut on a very tight schedule.
If you had to pick a favorite word, which would it be and why?

Right now, strangely, my favorite word is inexorable. Because some things in life just can’t be stopped, the momentum behind them is undeniable.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?

Ah, my bed. I love my bed. It’s in a small nook, on top of a wood loft, like a cabin. It’s at the end of the house and so I can’t hear the kids arguing over the television or the video games.

What can your readers look forward to next? 

I am very excited about this new Young Adult book I’ve been working on, called Rich Kid, about a 17-year old whose future is so bright everyone knows he’s destined for greatness. He’s got girls following him, teachers loving him, he’s magnetic, funny, cocky and can do no wrong. Until his father loses all their money. And he is suddenly, sadly, poor. What happens when someone so entitled loses everything that gives him his identity? The story is loosely based on a true story. 

And don't miss my review of Watch Out, Hollywood and your chance to win both novel's featuring the precocious Charlie, here.