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Monday, September 1, 2014

Kids' Indie Next List Autumn Reading Challenge & Giveaway

For those of you who don't know, each season (Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter) the American Booksellers Association and IndieBound releases a list of the top independent bookseller picks for kids, which includes picture books through YA. The top picks are then put on a flyer available at independent bookstores and online.The list generally includes something for everyone and highlights both debut and established authors. In sum, it's a pretty well rounded list. Of course, there are great titles that get left out - only 51 titles make the list each season - but it's still a great list.

Here's what I propose: 

Read and review at least one book from the Autumn Kids' Indie Next List and win a book of your choice from the list. 

It can be any book from any age level represented on the list, so a picture book, middle grade novel, or young adult novel. The more titles you read and review, the more entries you'll earn and, therefore, the better your odds of winning a free book of your choice!

Don't have a blog? No worries! You can post your review on Goodreads, LibraryThing, Facebook, Tumblr, anywhere as long as you can provide me with a link. Of course, I'll visit each review, comment, and spread the love!

Ready to take the challenge?! Start by browsing the Kids' Autumn Next List titles included below - the bold titles are ones I've read so far (and can wholeheartedly vouch for)!

Top 10: 

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
Jackaby by William Ritter
The Witch's Boy by Kelly Barnhill
Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato
Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang
Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal; Brigette Barrager
El Deafo by Cece Bell
Skink: No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen
The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

Picture Books:

Bad Dog Flash by Ruth Paul
Blue on Blue by Ruth White; Beth Krommes
The Bunny Rabbit Show! by Sandra Boynton
Draw! by Raul Colon
The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee
Flashlight by Lizi Boyd
Hermelin the Mouse Detective by Mini Grey
Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke
Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob Shea; Lane Smith
Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo
Lion, Lion by Miriam Busch
Miss Brooks' Story Nook by Barbara Bottner; Michael Emberley
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett; Jon Klassen
The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts
This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Byrne

Middle Grade:

Animalium by Katie Scott; Jennie Broom
The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak
The Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pinchon
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Death by Toilet Paper by Donna Gephart
Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle by George Hagen
Nest by Esther Ehrlich
The Only Thing Worse Than Witches by Lauren Magaziner
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney; Shane W. Evans
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry
The Scavengers by Michael Perry
The Swap by Megan Shull
The Turtle of Oman: A Novel by Noami Shihab Nye  
Young Adult:

Anatomy of a Misfit by Andrea Portes
Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick
Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire
The Eye of Zoltar: Chronicles of Kazam, Bk 3 by Jasper Fforde
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Hepperman
Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp
The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin
Trust Me, I'm Lying by Mary Elizabeth Summer

Ready to take the challenge?

Read (at least) one of the 51 eligible titles, post your review, then stop back and add your review link to the Mr. Linky below before November 30, 2014! One lucky reader will win their choice of a finished Indie Next List title! This challenge is open internationally because the enjoyment of a great book shouldn't be limited by pesky things like borders and oceans.

You can also earn an extra entry by tweeting about this challenge - something like this will do:

Join the Autumn Reading Challenge at @thehidingspot and win a book of your choice! http://thehidingspot.blogspot.com/2014/09/kids-indie-next-list-autumn-reading.html

Questions? Feel free to ask in the comments or send me a tweet!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Review & Giveaway: Six Feet Over It by Jennifer Longo

Title: Six Feet Over It
Author: Jennifer Longo
Publisher: Random House
Pub. Date: August 26, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 12+
Pages: 352
More by this author: n/a

Goodreads / Buy It

Fourteen-year old Leigh has had quite enough of death. Her older sister, in cancer remission, is focused on living life to the fullest, but Leigh feels like death is constantly lurking around the corner. Reeling from the recent loss of her best friend, the last place she wants to spend her days is a graveyard, but that's exactly where she ends up. After her father makes the ridiculous decision to purchase a graveyard, he proceeds to move the whole family from the ocean to their new home, in the graveyard. Leigh is stuck selling graves, where customers are either pre-need or at need, both pretty depressing. The only person who makes things bearable is Dario, the illegal, slightly older gravedigger who challenges Leigh to rejoin the land of the living.

Wow. The story hidden beneath this cover will knock your socks off. I was completely unprepared for how deep and emotionally powerful this novel would be. The cover and title, though fitting, seem to convey a lighter tone and, while Six Feet Over It is filled with dark humor and snarky banter, it isn't fluffy. 

There are lots of big, often difficult, questions addressed in this novel. Questions about death, about how we react to death, how we honor those we've lost, how we move on... These questions are hard to anyone to answer, but we all, at some point in our lives, will find ourselves considering them. Leigh, having nearly lost her sister and having actually lost her best friend,  is consumed by her need to find meaning in death - to understand how she is supposed to keep living each day like death isn't waiting to descend.

Leigh is right at that age where she is starting to realize that her parents are, at their core, just people. People who make mistakes and aren't always the parents they should be. People who are hypocritical and sometimes weak. Leigh knows that they aren't horrible people, but she can't help but want more from them... for them to open their eyes and see how she's struggling. Her parents do redeem themselves slightly by the novel's end, but I really appreciated the realistic, imperfect parents presented in Six Feet Over It. Leigh loves them, despite (and, in ways, because of) their shortcomings. 

Though Six Feet Over it is technically YA, it's a good pick to bridge the gap between MG and YA. The themes and content are appropriate for younger readers (there is a budding romance between secondary characters, but no sexual content) and the actual writing will prove challenging enough for those 11 and 12-year old readers who find MG too easy. Very sensitive readers might shy away from the discussion of death, but those who could handle MG realistic fiction that tackle death (like The Secret Hum of a Daisy) will be fine.  

 Win It!

Open to US mailing addresses only. One winner. Ends September 12, 2014.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review & Giveaway: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

Title: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Publisher: Doubleday/Random House
Pub. Date: July 8, 2014
Genre: Adult/Coming of Age
Rec. Age Level: 17+
Pages: 288
More by this author: The Sandcastle Girls, Midwives, The Double Blind

Goodreads / Buy It

Emily Shepherd is one of many displaced individuals who have had their lives shattered by the catastrophic nuclear meltdown in Vermont. Living in an igloo constructed of trash bags, struggling to keep her addictions in check, and fiercely protecting Cameron, a young boy she's taken in, sixteen-year old Emily's life before seems a world away. The country blames her parents, the nuclear plant's director and publicity manager, for the tragedy - and Emily by default. Terrified that the truth of her identity will ultimately be worse than life on the streets, Emily struggles to give up all vestiges of her past and embrace her bleak future. 

I can't stop thinking about this book. It's a disaster novel that is characterized by its quiet intensity, rather than nonstop action. It's truly the characters - particularly Emily - that drive the novel.

My feelings about Emily are confusing, to say the least. I feel this overwhelming sense of protectiveness when I think about her, but, at the same time, she's completely exasperating and her shortsightedness made me want to throw my hands in the air. The truth of the matter is, she's just a kid - scared, confused, and utterly alone. She makes a lot of choices that, as a 20-something reader, I thought made the situation worse instead of better. I couldn't help thinking that she could have found a better Plan A, that living on the streets should have been Plan C maybe. But, when I imagine myself in her situation, suddenly parentless surrounded by panic and grabbing hands, I really do understand how one split-second decision can lead to another until you're somewhere you never imagined you'd be. Which, in Emily's case, means selling her body, cutting, doing drugs, and living in an igloo made of trash bags. 

Though this novel is character and language driven, rather than action, it still leaves the reader with goosebumps. In fact, this might make it even scarier. I can't speak for everyone, but I tend to ignore the fact that the events that happen in Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, nuclear catastrophes like at Fukushima and Chernobyl,  could happen in the US. Bohjalian creates a convincing situation in which this can and does happen, with terrifying and thought-provoking consequences.

 Win It!

Open to US mailing addresses only. Ends 9/12/14.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review: Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff

Title: Fiendish
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Publisher: Penguin
Pub. Date: August 14, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 12+
Pages: 352
More by this author: The Replacement, The Space Between, Paper Valentine

Goodreads / Buy It

For a decade, Clementine DeVore has been sealed within the cellar of her destroyed home, eyes sewn shut yet somehow aware of the world outside. She would have remained there for decades more if not for Fisher, a boy with whom she shares a supernatural connection. The world has changed since the fateful day Clementine was interned in the cellar, the day a lynch mob of angry townsfolk razed the homes of the fiendish folk in the Willows, scaring them into hiding. But Clementine's return - and her growing relationship with Fisher - has awoken a deep, dark magic that once again inspires fiery passions in the townsfolk. The magic of the hollow will no longer be contained and Clementine might be the only person who can prevent a cataclysmic uprising. Fiendish is an epic tale of powerful magic, persecution, and good prevailing over evil.

This novel was my first Brenna Yovanoff experience and I am definitely a fan!  Her writing is absolutely gorgeous - that is definitely what propels this story, even more so than the action. It should be noted, however, that, while Fiendish is creepy, it is not, stay-up-all-night-with-the-light-on scary. The focus is more on the romance and the divide between good and evil and the persecution of those who are 'different.' 

This book has a definite Salem witch trial vibe going on, except, in New South Bend, the rumors of witchcraft are a bit more substantial than the gossip of teenaged girls. Though those who practice magic in this novel are not necessarily evil, there is dangerous magic surrounds New South Bend - magic that is inexplicably tied to Clementine. 

There is a bit of insta-love happening here, but not in the traditional way. Clementine and Fisher meet and immediately have feelings for one another (some romantic, but some a bit more complicated), but there's a valid reason, which remedied what annoyance I met have felt about the believability. I mean, really, when you're reading a Yovanoff novel, I get the impression that some suspension of disbelief is highly encouraged.

Pick this one up - especially if you're looking for something with a bit of witchcraft  and a few bumps in the night.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review & Giveaway: Evil Fairies Love Hair by Mary G. Thompson

Title: Evil Fairies Love Hair
Author: Mary G. Thompson
Publisher: Clarion
Pub. Date: August 5, 2014
Genre: Middle Grade
Rec. Age Level: 9-12
Pages: 314
More by this author: Wuftoom, Escape from the Pipe Men!

Goodreads / Buy It

Alison Butler has a secret. In exchange for one wish, she must raise a flock of 100 fairies. Sounds easy peasy... Fairies are cute and little and sprinkle fairy dust, right? Wrong! These fairies are evil, hair-eating bullies with one or two secrets themselves. Can Alison fulfill her end of the ever-changing contract and earn her wish  or will the fairies achieve their evil goal? Evil Fairies Love Hair is a lively, creative story about fairies and the power of hair, with a lesson or two about hard work and friendship.

Watch out, these are not your mother's fairies! They might be small, but they've got a sinister plan up their  little sleeves. I love how different this book is... and the fact that the cover completely fits the story, right down to the fact that the girl has her hair up in a tight bun (otherwise the fairies will latch on and nothing good will happen after that!).

Even though the main character, Ali, has flaws - she does, after all, sign a contract with evil fairies - she's determined to do the right thing after she realizes the error of her ways, no matter the cost. There are some great messages interwoven into this novel, but young readers will never feel like positive messages are being foisted upon them. All of the characters feel realistic, some wishing for beauty, others using their wishes to cast hexes.

Evil Fairies Love Hair is a great read for both boys and girls... and everyone who's ever thought a magical wish would make their lives easier.

  Win It!

Win a copy of Evil Fairies Love Hair! Giveaway open to US mailing addresses only. Ends 9/8/2014 at 12:00 am EST.

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