Home    Challenges    Reviews    Features    Contests    Review Policy    Contact

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review: Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve; illustrated by Sarah McIntyre

Title: Oliver and the Seawigs
Author: Philip Reeve; Sarah McIntyre
Publisher: Random House
Pub. Date: July 22, 2014
Genre: Middle Grade
Rec. Age Level: 4-8
Pages: 208
More by this author: Fever Crumb, Larklight, Cakes in Space (forthcoming)

Goodreads / Buy It

When your parents are explorers, you never stay in one place for long. Oliver dreams of a place to call home - a normal bedroom, school, and friends. Finally, after there is nothing new to discover or explore, Oliver's parents decide to return home. While his parents explore the curious islands near their home, Oliver settles in, but it doesn't take long to realize that something has gone awry. The islands are suddenly gone, taking his parents with them! Oliver sets out on one last adventure to find his parents and uncover the mystery of the missing islands. Along the way he'll team up with a near-sighted mermaid, help style a sea wig, and take on some meddlesome sea monkeys. Oliver and the Seawigs is full of cleverly imagined characters and humorous illustrations.

This first 'Not-So-Impossible Tale' from Reeve and McIntyre is so much fun! Oliver and the Seawigs combines a laugh-out-loud funny story with illustrations that perfectly complement the text, a format that is both engaging and non-threatening to beginning readers. The recommended age range for this title is 4 to 8, but I think it's best suited for strong beginning readers (1st/2nd grade) and slightly older, reluctant and struggling readers... though I imagine a 4 year old with a taste for adventure and a healthy attention span would enjoy this one as a read-aloud. That said, some of the humor might be a bit over their heads; for example, the Sargasso Sea becomes the Sarcastic Sea, full of droll, sarcastic seaweed that constantly pokes fun at Oliver and his new found friends - potentially still funny for a young listener, but more so for the adult reader!

Not only is this story full of adventure and humor, it has strong themes of loneliness and friendship. For various reasons, any of the characters in Oliver and the Seawigs have never had proper friends. Throughout the story, the characters deal with their loneliness and desire for friends in different ways, sometimes in positive ways, sometimes not. For example, the young sea captain who takes Oliver's parents captive does so as part of a grand scheme to gain power and attention, a desire directly influenced by his loneliness and lack of friends.

I thoroughly enjoyed this first 'Not-So-Impossible Tales' book and very much look forward to the next, Cakes in Space!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Recently Read: Upcoming Titles to Add to Your TBR Pile (3)

If you follow me on Goodreads and Twitter, you might have noticed that I'm one of those lucky readers who sometimes receives review copies of upcoming novels early. I won't lie, there are many really great things about advanced reader copies, but there are also negatives... namely being unable to finish a book and go out and encourage others to read it immediately. So I've decided that the next best thing is to feature these titles here at The Hiding Spot, no matter how early I've read them. Then you can add these books to your ever expanding to-be-read pile. Of course, nearer to the novel's release, I'll post my full review!

El Deafo by Cece Bell

Available September 2, 2014 from Amulet

In El Deafo, Cece Bell recounts her experience as the girl with the sonic ear, a hearing device that sets her apart, for better and worse. At first, Cece resents the hearing aide, which is bulky and awkward. It helps her hear, but it definitely doesn't allow her to blend in. All Cece truly wants is a true friend, someone who likes what she likes and, most of all, likes Cece for exactly who she is. A memorable story about friendship, standing up for oneself, and the joy of being a true individual. This fantastic graphic novel will pair well with novels like Wonder, as it has similar themes, but offers a very different storytelling format. Definitely a must-have for the classroom this fall.

The Troubles of Johnny Cannon by Isaiah Campbell

Available October 14, 2014 from Simon & Schuster
Goodreads / Preorder
It's 1961 in Cullman, Alabama and racial and political tensions are running high. Johnny's older brother, a pilot, is away on military assignment and Johnny is now the man of the house, left to look after his difficult, disabled father. While his father spends his days secreted away in a shed out back, unwilling to discuss the radio equipment he's suddenly so preoccupied with, Johnny struggles to find his place and point-of-view. Isaiah Campbell's debut offers a compelling look at 1960s espionage, Cold War paranoia, and Southern racial tensions, narrated by the singular Johnny Cannon, a voice readers won't soon forget.

Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

Available September 23, 2014 from Egmont
Goodreads / Preorder

In a hospital where teens undergo a procedure in which their memories are wiped, one patient must fight for her life and the truth about her past. Sarah’s final surgery is cut short when the hospital is invaded by unknown forces. Confused and afraid, she teams up with a hacker who covertly breached the hospital prior to the attack. As she navigates her way through the danger at hand, she must also wade through an onslaught of returning memories. Who is she? Is the tabula rasa surgery truly meant to protect her? Or is something far more sinister taking places in the secluded hospital? A non-stop thrill ride, Tabula Rasa is an explosive debut.

Friday, July 18, 2014

ARC Giveaway: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

I recently had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy Amy Ewing's upcoming debut, The Jewel. Before reading, I knew very little about the book other than the fact that it is set in a world where lowborn girls are auctioned off as surrogates for the powerful, but infertile royalty. While that is, in a nutshell, the premise of The Jewel, it is also so much more. 

I love novels that feature strong female characters and this novel is absolutely packed with powerful girls and women. As you'll discover, not all of them use this power for good... there is an darkness festering under the beautiful surface of this world and it's rising to the surface.

I obviously have a lot to say about The Jewel, but I'll save it for closer to the official release in September. In the meantime, I'm giving away my arc to share the love! 

To enter, fulfill the two entry requirements on the Rafflecopter below. Once the two mandatory entries are completed, extra entry options will show up. Two entries mention my bookstore, Brilliant Books, as they (well, we) are providing this arc for giveaway. We're well worth following on Twitter and Facebook, as we often give away exclusive signed books and swag, plus we offer free shipping anywhere in the US - score!

Win It!
One winner. Open internationally. Ends July 26, 2014

Storytime: New and Notable Picture Books (4)

Storytime is a new(ish) feature at The Hiding Spot in which I share some of my favorite new, old, & overlooked picture books.
Not a parent, teacher, or librarian? Picture books make fantastic gifts, from baby showers to birthdays and holidays. As bookworms, we all know how important books are – be the one who hands that special kid in your life the book that will make them fall in love with the magic of reading!

New & Notable

My Pet Book
Written & Illustrated by Bob Staake

Bob Staake once again delights readers with his newest read aloud, My Pet Book. What kind of pet do you get when you don't care for puppy dogs and kittens make you sneezy? Why, a pet book of course! After all, pet books don't run away, they have no fleas, and they don't have to be fed. Inside, there are all sorts of tales sure to keep every owner occupied for hours. And, as our young book owner quickly learns, no matter how big or small, new or old, every book is a friend.  Add on Goodreads / Buy It
Doug Unplugs on the Farm
Written & Illustrated by Dan Yaccharino

Doug is a city-bot, but he's excited for his trip to the countryside to visit his grand-bots. Determined to learn everything his can about life on a farm, Doug plugs in during the drive, learning all sorts of farm and animal facts. When a flock of sheep runs onto the road and the car ends up in the ditch near a real-life farm, Doug gets to experience all the things he's read about and more! In the end, its Doug's research paired with his real-world experiences that allows him to think outside the box and save the day! A great story about the importance of all types of learning and taking a break from technology, Doug Unplugs on the Farm imparts a worthwhile message for all young reader-bots. Add on Goodreads / Buy It

Ninja Boy Goes to School
Written by N.D. Wilson, Illustrated by J.J. Harrison

It isn't easy being a ninja... and school isn't all that easy either. Ninjas are many things - nimble, strong, patient, and fast - and Ninja Boy will need all of his extensive ninja skills to survive a day at school. Vibrant, laugh-out-loud funny illustrations accompany this fantastic read aloud! This is a great pick for back-to-school and the classroom.  Add on Goodreads / Buy It

This Is A Moose
Written by Richard T. Morris, Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

In This is a Moose, readers are introduced to a moose who wants nothing more than to be an astronaut, despite the fact that that is not what a moose is supposed to do. Multiple attempts to make moose act like a 'normal' moose fail and, in the end, readers realize that 'normal' isn't as easily defined as they might think. This book is laugh out loud funny and perfect for storytime!  Add on Goodreads / Buy It

Ninja Red Riding Hood
Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz; Illustrated by Dan Santat

For those of you who regularly read my blog, it will likely come as no surprise that Ninja Red Riding Hood made this list... after all, Dan Santat is one of my all-time favorite illustrators and I firmly believe there can never be too many ninja books. In this second fractured fairy tale from Schwartz and Santat, the Big Bad Wolf decides to step up his game, taking karate lessons to combat the animals that elude him. Of course, he's still no match for Ninja Red Riding Hood and her granny, who see right through his disguise and strongly discourage him from continuing his bullying ways. As always, Santat's illustrations are strong and Schwartz's story is tons of fun, full of rhyme and excitement. Add on Goodreads / Buy It

Love any of the books featured this week? Want to see a certain theme explore, author, or illustrator explored in an upcoming Story Time post? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review: Knightley & Son by Rohan Gavin

Title: Knightley & Son
Author: Rohan Gavin
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pub. Date: March 4, 2014
Genre: Middle Grade
Rec. Age Level: 8-12
Pages: 320
More by this author: N/A

Goodreads / Buy It

For the past four years, Darkus' investigator father has been in a coma. In an attempt to learn as much as he can about the detective business and his father, Darkus spent countless hours poring over his dad's old cases. When his father suddenly wakes, he's immediately pulled back into his last case. Darkus is just happy to have his dad back and, this time around, he's set on making the detective biz a family affair. When reports of seemingly unprovoked crimes start making the news and the only detail that connects them is a book currently on the bestseller list, Darkus and his father set out to solve the case.

Knightley & Son has a compelling mystery, sinister villains, seriously funny characters, and family drama readers are sure to identify with. Plus it has a distinctly Sherlockian air, which I loved!

I must say, Rohan Gavin has his hands full with these characters! They all have such distinct personalities; even the secondary characters are unforgettable. Knightley's housekeeper was hilarious and I was always happy to see her show up in a scene! 

I have a soft spot for the main character, Darkus, and his struggles to relate to and connect with his father. Readers will see some improvement in Darkus and Knightley's relationship in book one, but I'm looking forward to seeing how things progress in book two. Though it's likely the mystery elements and action within Knightley & Son will be what pull readers in, I sincerely hope that the characters and their personal struggles will make an impression as well.

Of course, I have to mention that I absolutely loved that it was a book that was wreaking so much havoc and causing people to commit crimes they didn't remember. I mean, crime is bad and all that, but what a clever reminder that books have power!

I'll definitely be reading the next adventure featuring Knightley and Darkus!