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Sunday, December 30, 2012

2013 Feminist Reads Challenge Sign Up

If you haven't read the 2013 Feminist Reads Challenge description, here, please do so first. This post includes helpful links and information about the challenge.

Been there, done that? Please sign the Mr. Linky below, linking to your blog post announcing your intent to participate in the challenge! 

Don't forget to include the challenge button in your post, which can be found below! 

If the Mr. Linky isn't working, please leave your name and the link to your post in the comments and I'll add it to the Mr. Linky later. Like so:

Sara @ The Hiding Spot

If you are participating, but not a blogger, please note this detail and leave whatever name you'd like to be listed under. Thank you!

Happy reading and thank you for participating! 

"By hook or by crook, I hope that you will possess yourselves of money enough to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream." -- Virginia Woolf

The 2013 Feminist Reads Challenge

Personally, I love reading about girls and women that are capable of kicking butt and taking names. I'm not just talking about the girls out there who are physically able to do this, but about the girls who have the tenacity and courage to rise and reach and grow, no matter the life they've been born into, forced into, or ended up in by some unfortunate turn of events.

Every year I read many fantastic books from a variety of genres that feature women and girls that embody this spirit and determination. In an attempt to support and spread the word about books like these, I decided to host a reading challenge here at The Hiding Spot that focuses entirely on books and characters like this! I present you with:

The 2013 Feminist Reads Challenge

Now I realize some of you may only have a vague understanding of what a feminist and feminism is. Others may have a negative connotation of the word feminist or think that only women can be feminists. Let me attempt to break it down for you.

A feminist is defined as:
  • (n): a person who supports feminism
  • (adj): of, relating to, or supporting feminism
Pretty vague and unhelpful, right? I agree. Let's look a little further.

Feminism is defined as:
  • A movement for granting women political, social, and economic equality with men.
All true, but also fairly boring. I think Rebecca West summed it up pretty well we she said:
"I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat."
Here's how I define feminism and feminists:
  • Feminism is supporting and helping to create strong girls and women.Women who have the ability to take care of themselves, who believe in themselves, and who have the freedom to pursue their dreams and share their beliefs, values, and opinions.
  • Feminists encourage and support strength, independence, individuality, and passion in women of all ages.
  • Feminists fight for people. Yes, they obviously fight for women, but I think it can also be said that they fight for what is right. For equality for all. For every person to have a voice, an education, a fighting chance.
Therefore, any book that features, by your standards, a strong female character or supports feminist ideals is eligible for this challenge! Examples include: The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Dairy of Anne Frank, Matilda, The Handmaid's Tale

How to Participate:

Well, despite that super long explanation, I don't want to make this complicated. So the rules and whatnot are pretty simple.
  1. Create a blog post (or, if you're not a blogger something to announce and keep track of your challenge progress).
  2. On this post, give a quick explanation of the challenge, mention The Hiding Spot and include the challenge button, and link back to this post. If you're feeling awesome, encourage others to participate via twitter, facebook, word-of-mouth, etc. 
  3. Pick a challenge level! I think it will be surprisingly easy to meet these level goals, as there are so many novels with great, feminist heroines.
    1. Easy: 5 books
    2. Medium: 5-10 books
    3. Hard: 10+ books
  4. Leave room to list the books you've read for the challenge. If you're the type of person that likes to plan and have an idea of what you'd like to read, you can list the titles and cross them off as you read. Below, you'll find a few helpful links with title suggestions.
  5. Then, go to the 2013 Feminist Reads Challenge Sign Up page and fill out the Mr. Linky, linking back to your post (the specific post URL, so not just your blog URL).
Easy, right? 

Below a couple helpful links to lists of novels that you might want to consider for the challenge.The Goodreads lists are open, so feel free to add titles, but keep in mind the 2013 list is for books that are being released in 2013. I felt this might be helpful for those of you already doing 2013 release or debut challenges.
If participants think it'd be worthwhile, I'd also like to do some sort of post once a month in which participants would be able to link a review of a book read for the challenge. This will allow participants to see what others are reading, discover some new blogs, and, hopefully, stay motivated. I'll also do my best to promote these reviews via my own blog, Goodreads, and twitter.
I've also considered adding a bit of incentive to these posts by giving away a title that would be eligible for the challenge... I would provide these titles myself, but if there are authors, publishers, or bloggers out there who would like to donate a book, I'd be more than happy to include them!

You can find the April update post here. Be sure to link your reviews for a chance to win Kristin Cashore's Fire!

Have suggestions or comments? Please leave me a comment below!

I also have to give a big shout-out to one of my favorite bloggers and wonderful IRL friend, Katie, over at Sophistikatied Reviews for making me such a fantastic challenge button on such short notice. I'm blessed with the most talented friends! :)

Top 10 Books Read in 2012 & Year in Review

2012 was a very, very busy year for me. I had a lot going on in my personal life - including changing my college major, some family issues, and working way too many hours - and my blog was sadly neglected. I was lucky to have multiple great books assigned for various classes and was able to find some books for fun and review... as of today I've read 108 books this year! For those of you interested in looking through those titles, a link to the list can be found here on Goodreads.

This year was also a year of bookish changes and accomplishments for me:
  1. I read my first graphic novel, Nate Powell's Swallow Me Whole, and fell madly in love with the sub-genre.
  2.  I took my first Literary Theory class, which was sometimes overwhelming and difficult, but so, so wonderful. It definitely has had an impact on how I read.
  3. I finally decided what I want to be! A Youth Services Librarian! In retrospect, this seems like an obvious career choice for me. It took me way to long to figure it out!
  4. I got a job in a public library. I just started this month, but I LOVE it. I'm still new and the shininess hasn't even had a chance to wear off, but oh my goodness it is fantastic! I love everything about it... sorting books, the Dewey Decimal System, helping people find books... LOVE IT. 
So, even though I was pretty absent from the blogging world, I've been working towards combining my blogging/bookish life and real life. It's been a long process, but I finally see some progress! :)

I wasn't able to review many of my favorite 2012 reads, but I'd still like to share a quick list of titles and covers, which I painfully narrowed down to 10. I've linked each title's Goodreads page to the image, so click the image to add to your own reading list! Enjoy!

Emily's Dress and Other Missing Things by Kathryn Burak

Emily Dickinson, a troubled main character, and an off-limits potential love interest? How can you not want to read this book?

Plus, the writing is gorgeous. I didn't want to finish this book! 

Venom by Fiona Paul

 My favorite aspect of this book is all of the Shakespeare references and parallels. Granted, I read this as I was reading multiple Shakespeare works - and maybe some of these similarities were imagined - but I loved it!

I totally understand why Venom was one of Penguin's lead 2012 titles!

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

A historical, steampunk-ish novel with zombies and battling banter between the heroine and a scowling, attractive guy. 

Heck yes. 

Check out my review here

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield

Beautiful writing and a haunting story. I love this MC. I was raised in a small town and constantly dreamt of escape, making her all too easy to relate to.

Check out my review here

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

2011 was a bit rough on my love life, but I lost some of my bitterness in 2012. I like to think Fitzpatrick's debut contributed somewhat.

An amazing novel of family and real love, My Life Next Door shines! 

Check out my review here

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

A mermaid book like no other, Monstrous Beauty features gorgeous writing and weaves multiples stories and setting together. Part mystery, part love story and wholly intense, Monstrous Beauty is not to be missed.

This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

I can't imagine writing of a favorite/best of list that didn't include a novel by Courtney Summers and this year is no exception.

Summers hasn't disappointed me yet (I know, it's great) and her newest novel featuring ZOMBIES was no exception. Powerful stuff right here ladies and gentleman. Read this book... and all her other books. Now. 

Check out my review here

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

I could not get this books out of my head for weeks after reading it. It still pops up in there unexpectedly, though I read it early in 2012. 

The story of 14 kids trapped in a store (think WalMart) as the world as they know it disappears. Maybe not the newest premise, but definitely my favorite take on it so far!

Check out my review here

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

I waited forever for this newest offering from Cashore. Picking up years after Graceling (and wayyy after Fire), Bitterblue tells the story of a girl learning to rule a broken kingdom, to believe in herself, and to love.

So good. 

Check out my review here

Sumo by Thien Pham 

Read during my graphic novel phase (not that it's ended), Sumo blew me away. Deceptively simple, Sumo tells the story of a washed up football played that travels overseas to to become sumo wrestler and finds himself in the process.

What's interesting about this book is that it reads like a sumo match... the images and ideas seem to circle one another and eventually come together in a climactic clash. 

Feel free to share your favorites or own Best of 2012 post in the comments! And, if you loved any of my favorite titles, want to chat about them, or discovered something new, be sure to let me know! 

Happy New Year everyone!  

Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 YA Story Scavenger Hunt

Looking for this, hunters? I have today's trivia questions from Fiction Fervor's 2012 YA Story Scavenger Hunt here for you. 2012YASSH challenges you with your knowledge of young adult books published this year, and if you enter, you might win a prize! Check out it here for more info. And be sure to read the rules! 

Without further ado, today's questions come from Article 5 by Kristen Simmons. 

Easy: Whom does Ember manage to escape from at the end of the book to ensure Chase's survival? 
Medium: What does Chase lie to Ember about regarding her mother? 
Hard: How is Chase able to help Ember escape? 

Enter your answers in the form below! 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris

Someone's been a very bad zombie.
Kate Grable is horrified to find out that the football coach has given the team steroids. Worse yet, the steroids are having an unexpected effect, turning hot gridiron hunks into mindless flesh-eating zombies. No one is safe--not her cute crush Aaron, not her dorky brother, Jonah . . . not even Kate! She's got to find an antidote--before her entire high school ends up eating each other. So Kate, her best girlfriend, Rocky, and Aaron stage a frantic battle to save their town . . . and stay hormonally human. 

Speaking of being bad, I'm absolutely horrible because Bad Taste in Boys has been out for OVER A YEAR and I've just read it. Why, why, why did it take me so long to get my act together? The only good thing about my tardiness is the fact that I can now immediately dive into the sequel, Bad Hair Day, and the short companion story, Bad Yeti!

Kate Grable is a smart, butt-kicking heroine who spends her days focused on getting into an awesome school and making medical history as Kate Grable, M.D., dreaming of catching the eye of her quarterback crush, Aaron, and making hilarious observations about the world around her. Little does she know, a virus is about to sweep through her school, leaving many of her peers with zombie-like tendencies. With all the limbs and body parts people keep losing, she'll be lucky if she doesn't end up literally catching Aaron's eye. 

It seems impossible that a book could make a reader gag and laugh within the space of a paragraph, but Bad Taste in Boys proves it's entirely possible... and surprisingly likely. Kate's life might be a complete and often gory mess during the novel (ya know, zombies and all), but the reader can't help but laugh as Kate describes the ridiculous things happening around her. 

Kate has just the right amounts of confidence and insecurity to make relating to her easy. She's obviously got a lot going for her, but she doesn't see it herself. She's smart and, though she's sure of her abilities, she's not cocky. She doesn't realize she's got beauty in addition to brains, but Carrie Harris doesn't portray this in an annoying, false way. Kate doesn't put herself down about not being conventionally beautiful. I was thankful that I never once thought to myself: I feel like this character is constantly talking about how ugly she is just so I'll think in my head, "no silly, you look great!" Kate might sometimes feel self conscious when she considers her looks, but she doesn't dwell - she's got way more important things to worry about. Like that zombie over there.

When I read that Kate's crush is a popular football player and her best friends are equally popular, I was worried that Bad Taste in Boys would suffer from Horrible Best Friends and This Guy Is Way Too Good For Me Syndrome, but I was wrong! Instead, Kate's friends, though they didn't play a super huge role in the novel, were pretty fantastic, and Aaron was  adorable. Plus, he's a super fantastic guy that doesn't suffer from an overly inflated ego. Big shoutout to supportive secondary characters!

In conclusion, don't be a bad, be good! And by good, I mean read Bad Taste in Boys sooner than later! 

Delacorte Books for Young Readers, July 2011, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780385739689, 201 pages.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Review: The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver

One night when Liza went to bed, Patrick was her chubby, stubby, candy-grubbing and pancake-loving younger brother, who irritated and amused her both, and the next morning, when she woke up, he was not. In fact, he was quite, quite different.
When Liza's brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: The spindlers have gotten to him and stolen his soul.
She knows, too, that she is the only one who can save him.
To rescue Patrick, Liza must go Below, armed with little more than her wits and a broom. There, she uncovers a vast world populated with talking rats, music-loving moles, greedy troglods, and overexcitable nids . . . as well as terrible dangers. But she will face her greatest challenge at the spindlers' nests, where she encounters the evil queen and must pass a series of deadly tests--or else her soul, too, will remain Below forever.
From New York Times best-selling author Lauren Oliver comes a bewitching story about the reaches of loyalty, the meaning of love, and the enduring power of hope. 

Though it pains me to admit it, I didn't find a lot to love about Lauren Oliver's The Spindlers. I've read a couple of her YA novels and loved them both (Before I Fall is an absolute favorite!), but I found this middle grade offering sadly lacking.

I love the description of this novel, but, after reading it, I don't find it particularly fitting to the text itself. It isn't the content itself that isn't fitting, but the fact that the summary makes the The Spindlers sound much more exciting than it actually is. First off, the summary mentions literally everything readers will find within the covers of the novel - where's the fun in that!? Secondly, the "evil queen" and her "series of deadly tests" are mentioned and made to sound, in addition to sinister, pretty darn exciting. Alas, this didn't turn out to be true. 

Yes, this novel is clearly intended for a middle grade audience, but I found myself entirely too bored as Liza encountered, and easily defeated, each obstacle that stood between herself and her brother, and I can't help but worry the intended audience will feel the same. I felt like the novel was  good start, but that much more could have been added. It almost felt like it was too tame... I just wanted more.

Though I did find some of the inhabitants of Below rather interesting, I was unfavorably distracted by the rat that serves as Liza guide on her quest to rescue Patrick. This rat tries very hard to be human-like, as this is what she regards as attractive, but Liza is constantly thinking of how horrible the creature looks. In the end, the rat embraces her natural form and sheds her makeup and clothes, prompting Liza to remark on how great she looks. I assume this character's purpose is to send the message that being natural and true to yourself is beautiful, but I wasn't a fan of how the message was executed. Liza's frequent negative remarks were off-putting and sometimes felt like she was being a bit of mean.

The Spindlers wasn't my favorite middle grade novel, but it definitely won't stop me from reading more YA and MG offerings from Lauren Oliver. I had some definite issues with this particular book, but Oliver is a strong writer and it's entirely possible this one just wasn't for me.

HarperCollins, September 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780061978081, 256 pages.

Review: The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.
In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.
As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.
An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats. 

It took me a little while to get into The False Prince, but once I did, I was hooked! I purchased the novel via Audible and listened to the first half, then read the second half, which, for me, was much more enjoyable.

Though I found the first half of the novel interesting enough, I absolutely despised the voice actor's portrayal of the main character, Sage. Though Sage is definitely a cocky character, the reader made him, in my opinion, too much of an ass. I really couldn't stand him and almost gave up on the novel entirely just so I wouldn't have to listen to Sage's annoying and condescending tone anymore. Still, I liked the story itself, so I decided to give it one last chance and read the second half of the novel - and I am so glad! As I said, Sage is definitely sure of himself and, at times, full of himself, but I read him as much less annoying and I ended up speeding through the remainder of the novel.

One of my favorite aspects of this novel is that Sage is a very unreliable narrator. The reader can never be sure that Sage isn't lying to the other characters... or even the reader! One moment I thought I knew what was motivating Sage's actions and the next he'd do something completely unexpected, leaving me to retrace his steps and muddle through side comments and small details to figure out where I'd missed something important. 

At the novel's close, many secrets were uncovered, but there is still some much that I hope will be explored in the next novels. The False Prince focused primarily on Sage and the two other boys competing for the role of prince and almost the entire novel is set in Connor's palace, leaving me hopeful readers will get a closer look at the kingdom and its peoples and customs in subsequent novels. 

Scholastic, April 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780545284134, 342  pages.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

COVER REVEAL: Flicker & Burn by T.M. Goeglein (Cold Fury #2)

To top off the super special 12/12/12, I present you with a two-for-one cover reveal…

Cold Fury, by T.M. Goeglein, has been redesigned, as well as the second installment in the Cold Fury trilogy…Flicker & BurnCold Fury will be released in paperback June 2013… and Flicker & Burn comes roaring onto the scene in August 2013! 

Loved Cold Fury? Here's a look at what to expect from the action-packed sequel: 

The thrill ride that began in Cold Fury kicks into high gear in Flicker & Burn, as the threats to Sara Jane Rispoli come at her from all directions. She continues the desperate search for her missing family, but this time she’s on the run from creepy beings with red, pulsing eyes and ghostly white skin chasing her through the streets of Chicago in black ice cream trucks – they can only be described as Ice Cream Creatures. They're skeletal and ferocious, hell-bent on catching or killing her, but also a weird link to her family, a clue to where they might be and who has them. 

While Sara Jane battles these new pursuers, she learns painful lessons about the phenomenon that possesses her, cold fury. At the same time, she’s uncovering buried secrets about the misdeeds of her family – old murders and blood vendettas – that might be connected to the disappearance of her mom, dad, and brother. The mysteries, violence, and constant state of chasing or being chased could be the undoing of her relationship with handsome Max Kissberg. Despite the love growing between them, Sara Jane can’t tell him the truth about her life, and fears for his safety. 

Not only do the Ice Cream Creatures display the grisly amputated finger of her mom to prove their viciousness, and not only does Lucky, the Outfit Boss of Bosses, whistle in Sara Jane for a sit-down with deadly consequences, but her gorgeous cousin, Heather Richards, enters the scene, as well. All that matters to Sara Jane is saving her family and keeping everyone she loves alive and safe. But the forces she encounters, both external and the ones crackling inside of her, fight her every step of the way. 

Now’s your chance…win an ARC of Flicker & Burn as soon as it’s available! Just fill out the handy Rafflecopter form below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Review: Joshua Dread by Lee Bacon

For Joshua Dread, middle school is proving to be, well, awkward. Not only do bullies pick on him, but do you see those supervillains over there trying to flood the world? The ones that everyone, including his best friend Milton, are rooting for Captain Justice to take down? They're the Dread Duo, and they just happen to be his parents. As if trying to hide his identity wasn't hard enough, Joshua has started leaving a trail of exploding pencils and scorched handprints in his wake, and only Sophie, the new girl in town with a mysterious past, seems unsurprised. When a violent attack at the Vile Fair makes it clear someone is abducting supervillains, and that his parents may very well be next, Joshua must enlist both Sophie and Milton's help to save them. Well-written, fast-paced, and remarkably funny, Joshua Dread is the first in a series that will appeal far beyond its target audience. 

Joshua Dread just can't catch a break... he's not exactly popular at school and to top it off his home life is top secret. After all, his parents are supervillains and are hardly loved by the public. If kids at school knew his parents were the Dread Duo, he'd be even more unpopular. Even his best friend Milton is in the dark about who Joshua really is, but of that starts to change when a new student, Sophie, moves to town.

I love that Joshua Dread has the potential to appeal to a wide variety of audiences. Though it has been marketed as middle grade, and is sure to appeal to boys who love superheros and comics and girls who love adventure, its laugh-0ut-loud humor and clever details are sure to appeal to teens and adults as well. 

Though the actual plot of Joshua Dread may not always be entirely unique or surprising, the details give the novel a fresh feel. I especially loved Joshua's mother's experiments. Readers won't soon forget her tofu-eating zombies and mutant ficus, Micus. 

Overall, Joshua Dread was a fun start to a new series that is sure to gain a quick following. 

Delacorte Books for Young Readers, September 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780375990274, 272 pages.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Review: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . . 
Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell. 
Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter. 
With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart. 
From the New York Times bestselling author of Peaches comes a magical and bewitching story of the romance between a fearless heroine and the boy who wouldn't grow up. 

I wanted Jodi Lynn Anderson's Tiger Lily to be different than it was, especially given Peter Pan is one of my favorite classics... I think I wanted something simple and romantic, but, instead, I got something that was almost uncomfortably real. Still, I found some aspects of this novel difficult to relate to and others remarkably apt.

My biggest issue with Tiger Lily was that it was narrated by Tinker Bell. Not only have always found Tinker Bell extremely annoying, I found Anderson's Tinker Bell difficult to relate to and rather stalker-like. I will admit though, while I primarily found her annoying, I did find her loyalty to Tiger Lily, despite the fact that she too was in love with Peter, redeeming. I can't help but feel some warmth towards a character, or, in this case, narrator, who is able to see that the object of their devotion does in fact have flaws and that he or she should not always be primary in one's mind, especially if he or she doesn't realize you exist. For me, Tinker Bell represented all the girls (or guys) out there who may be head over heels for someone who obviously does not feel the same way and handle it in a (relatively) productive way.

My thoughts on Tiger Lily are divided. On one hand, she was fiercely independent, which I liked. Other times, she was completely driven by her interest in Peter, which was disappointing. I think my main complaint stemmed from the awareness that Tiger Lily deserved better. She didn't deserve to be forced into an unhappy marriage and she didn't deserve a selfish and fickle man-child either. In addition, I've found myself acting the same way as Tiger Lily and I wanted to save her from the bitterness, anger, and betrayal she would eventually - and inevitably - feel.

I will say, even though it was nothing like how I generally picture him, I loved Anderson's characterization of Peter. Proud, arrogant, charming, fickle, passionate, wise, silly, lost... Peter is so many things and is, at the same time, lacking. It's so easy, even as a reader, fall for Peter - and the real life boys that are all too much like him - and Tiger Lily's story is sadly not unique. In fact, the Peter Pan of Anderson's imagination felt very similar to Shakespeare's Romeo, who so easily shifted his affections from Rosaline to her cousin Juliet.

Oddly, I wasn't sure how much I liked Tiger Lily as I read it, but, upon reflection, I think I took more from it than I initially realized. It's definitely worth a read.

Harper Collins Children's Books, July 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780062114617, 292 pages.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Review: Lunch Lady and the Picture Day Peril by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

It's picture day at Thompson Brook, but the students are plagued by a freak acne epidemic. While the Breakfast Bunch scrambles to put their best faces forward, their hifalutin photographer raises Lunch Lady's eyebrows. She suspects the photographer may have an underhanded plan to break into the world of high fashion that puts the students in danger! Will Lunch Lady be able to storm the runway and stop the vogue rogue without blowing her cover? 

Holy jalapenos! How have I never heard of Jarrett J. Krosoczka's Lunch Lady graphic novel series before?!? After all, Lunch Lady and the Picture Day Peril  is already #8 in the series. I've seriously been missing out, but I can only hope that the rest of you MG readers, parents, and educators out there weren't as ignorant!

I've never been much for comics and graphic novels centered around superheroes, but Lunch Lady is a whole different story. I have very fond memories of my own childhood lunch ladies and I had fun imagining them as Lunch Lady and her sidekick, Betty, routinely rushing to the aid of students and solving silly mysteries. I definitely would have had fun reading about this superhero as a kid. On a side note, I found Betty's weakness for gossip magazines hilarious!

I loved that the kids in the novel were both proactive and smart. They often chimed in with witty remarks and interesting ideas. For me, the children were quite realistic. They made mistakes (sometimes big ones) and were sometimes clique-y, but they always set aside their differences when it mattered. 

One of my favorite characteristics of the Lunch Lady series is how seriously clever and funny it is. Lunch Lady's conversation is always peppered with references to cooking and her gadgets are linked to the culinary as well. You may very well have a Whisk Whacker and Fish Stick Nunchucks in your very own kitchen! 

I've only read one book in the Lunch Lady series and I'm already in love. I sincerely hope school libraries are carrying Krosoczka's fantastic series and kids are falling for Lunch Lady, Betty, and their students as well!

Knopf, September 2012, Paperback, ISBN: 9780375970351, 96 pages.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Guest Post: Laura Harrington (Alice Bliss Blog Tour)

Today I have Laura Harrington, author of Alice Bliss, taking over The Hiding Spot. Below is a quick note from Laura, 10 Life Lessons (per her character Ellis Bliss), and more information about the novel itself!

I had so much fun writing the character of Ellie Bliss. One of my inspirations for Ellie was Anne Fadiman’s memoir “Ex Libris” and the fact that when Anne was a child, she herself was a collector of long, rare words. I was also inspired by the teen fashionista, Tavi who, when I was writing the book was still a pre-teen. If you want to see some of the images that inspired Ellie’s character, check out my Pinterest board

And what fun it was to write in Ellie’s voice again. I hope you enjoy it. Here she is: 

Ellie Bliss’s Life Lessons

Okay, so I know you’re thinking, she’s only eight; what does she know about life? But maybe that’s a kind of preconception you have about little kids, not that I’m that little. Don’t you think I’ve learned a few things in my eight years on this earth? Wouldn’t it be hard not to? I’ve got my eyes open, I read. A lot. I’m very observant and pretty precocious; which drives my sister Alice crazy, but might help me make a good list. Have you noticed that everybody in the Bliss family loves lists? Except for my mom, but she is her own very special category. She doesn’t even need a list at the grocery store. 

So here it is. Ellie Bliss’s Life Lessons: 
Please note: I limited myself to ten items. I didn’t want to wear out my welcome. 

1) Sing in the shower.
2) Learn one new word a day. 
3) Say please and thank you a lot. 
4) Buy whatever kids are selling on card tables in their front yards. 
5) Send lots of Valentine cards. Homemade cards are best. Sign them: “Someone who thinks you’re terrific.” 
6) Have a dog. (I hope my mom reads this because we don’t have a dog. Yet.) 
7) Be able to keep a secret if someone asks you to. 
8) Wave at kids on school buses. 
9) Keep your promises. No matter what. 
10) Make friends with your dictionary. You will be richly rewarded.

More About Alice Bliss:
Tomboy Alice Bliss is heartbroken when she learns that her father, Matt, is being deployed to Iraq. Matt will miss seeing Alice blossom into a full-blown teenager: she'll learn to drive, join the track team, go to her first dance, and fall in love—all while trying to be strong for her mother, Angie, and her precocious little sister. But the phone calls from her father are never long enough. At once universal and very personal, Alice Bliss is a profoundly moving story about those who are left at home during wartime and a small-town teenage girl bravely facing the future.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review: The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson & Dan Jolley

My parents are gone, so I'm responsible for my little brother Todd. I have to make sure we stay alive. Many kids are sick or starving, and fierce gangs are stealing and destroying everything they find. Lots of people have given up, but here on Grand Avenue, some of us are surviving. Because of me. 
I figured out how to give the kids on Grand Avenue food, homes and protection against the gangs. But Tom Logan and his army are determined to take away what we've built and rule the streets themselves. How long can we keep fighting them off? We need to find another place for us to live safely. 
A strong place. A secret place. 
In a world like this, someone have to take charge. 

I'm relatively new to the world of graphic novels, having only read one other prior to The Girl Who Owned a City, but I was intrigued by the title and cover of this novel when I stumbled across it in a Chicago bookstore. Like many readers, I've had a recent love affair with all things post-apocalyptic and this graphic adaptation of O.T. Nelson's novel by the same title appeared to fit into that category nicely.

First, it seems appropriate to note that I have not read the original version of The Girl Who Owned a City, so I can't say how closely it follows the original text. The graphic adaption, however, doesn't waste time and immediately plunges the reader into the situation at hand. A virus has killed everyone over the age of 12, leaving Lisa, her little brother Todd, and the rest of kids in her neighborhood (and presumably the rest of the world) to fend for themselves. Luckily, it appears the virus has run it's course and the children now nearing the age of 12 are safe. This novel has an interesting vibe and was reminiscent of Michael Grant's Gone series. 

I was interested to see how certain issues would be resolved, but many of them ended up being glossed over or ignored completely. At one point, a boy ends up with a badly burned face, but, all things considered, he recovers quite easily. Seeing as none of the characters are over the age of 12, I was a bit distracted by this. At the same time, I could see reading this novel at a younger age and not seeing this as a huge issue. I think I would probably be more interested in the big events (and shocked of the burn) to pay much attention to details like that, but I can't necessarily say this would be true of all younger readers.

Even though the premise of The Girl Who Owned a City is pretty far-fetched, it definitely sends a message of empowerment to younger readers. Each of the main characters has a specific focus (agriculture, military, medicine, etc) and important function as the children try to build themselves a community. 

I didn't necessarily everything in this novel to be all that realistic, but the voices of the characters rung true. Lisa is a savvy and strong heroine, but she's often childish. She's being forced to grow up and take care of her brother (and many of the kids in community), but she routinely falls back into selfish behavior, claiming things, like the city, as "her's." The kids are being faced with a difficult reality, but they're still kids... they play, they joke, they fight. This aspect of the novel felt very realistic to me.

The characters looked a tad bit old, but other than that, I loved the illustrations. I'm unsure how the characters were described in the original novel, but I loved the diversity of the kids involved. A wide range personalities, ages, and cultures are represented. The placement of the panels and the color choices accurately reflected the novel's tone as it progressed, giving the reader an overall impression of the events, even before reading the text. The facial expressions - particularly the eyes - of the characters were all fantastically depicted and conveyed a wealth of emotion.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. Sure, the plot was slightly lacking in detail at times, but I'm fairly certain this was the fault of the original text, rather than a result of adaption into graphic narrative. In my opinion, the story conveyed through the images themselves more than makes up for the sometimes weak plot.

Graphic Universe, January 2012, Paperback, ISBN: 9780761356349, 126 pages.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Interview: Robin Bridges (The Unfailing Light Blog Tour)

Today the fabulous Robin Bridges is at The Hiding Spot to promote her new novel, the sequel to The Gathering Storm! Find out more about Robin, The Gathering Storm, and The Unfailing Light below!

Has the title changed or stayed relatively the same as your novel journeyed towards publication? 
The title for Book Two, The Unfailing Light, never changed. The original title for the first book was “Forestalling the Morning,” named for an Orthodox chant, much like The Unfailing Light. The first book was also titled “Tempest” for a period, before changing again to “The Gathering Storm.” 
What book or author has most influenced you as a writer or in general? 
Before I start a new story, I love to reread Stephen King’s book On Writing. It’s kinda like getting a pep talk before the big game." 
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a writer/published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing? 
I’ve been a grocery store cashier, a concession stand cashier, a secretary, a reading teacher, a nursing assistant, and a nurse. I think I’ve written characters who have held each of these positions at some point or another. Except the concession stand cashier. Hmmm. 
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why? 
Thaumaturgic. It means “performing miracles.” I also like the word “shigella”. More for the sound of it though, than for its meaning. 
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality? 
I love to escape into books too! I have a paperback or my Ipad in my purse at all times. (More than likely both.)

More about The Unfailing Light:
Having had no choice but to use her power has a necromancer to save Russia from dark forces, Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, now wants to forget that she ever used her special powers. She's about to set off to pursue her lifelong dream of attending medical school when she discovers that Russia's arch nemesis--who she thought she'd destroyed--is still alive. So on imperial orders, Katerina remains at her old finishing school. She'll be safe there, because the empress has cast a potent spell to protect it against the vampires and revenants who are bent on toppling the tsar and using Katerina for their own gains. But to Katerina's horror, the spell unleashes a vengeful ghost within the school, a ghost more dangerous than any creature trying to get in.

If you haven't read Robin's first book, The Gathering Storm, I recommend you check out the fantastic book trailer below:

Be sure to check out the rest of the Blog Tour as well, which goes through Oct. 20th:
October 1stMom Reads My Books
October 2nd: The Book Review Club
October 3rd: The Book Review Club

Monday, September 17, 2012

Interview with Kat Rosenfield + Giveaway

So I got to interview the extremely talented Kat Rosenfield, author of Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, which is definitely one of my 2012 favorites so far. Read on to find out more about Kat and her novel... like her favorite word, her hiding spot (it's a favorite of mine too!), and her myriad of past jobs!

Did you have trouble writing any of your characters or specific scenes within the novel? Or, were any characters or scenes particularly easy to write? 
With the possible exception of Amelia, I can't think of a character who didn't give me trouble (and that's probably just because she was already dead when the story began and it's hard for a corpse to misbehave). It was bound to happen -- I knew I was going to write a story about decent people doing terrible things, that's one of the central themes in the novel— but it was really difficult to actually bring the characters to a crossroads and then watch them make the worst decision available. I had to struggle against the urge to have them redeem themselves. 
Has the title changed or stayed relatively the same as your novel journeyed towards publication? 
It hasn't changed at all, which is especially weird because I'd procrastinated on choosing a title for ages, and I didn't feel strongly about this one at all. I just picked it as a placeholder until it came time to choose the "real" title. (I actually thought I was being smart by not getting too attached to it, since the author often doesn't get final say on this stuff.) The fact that it stuck all the way through to publication was totally unexpected. 
What book or author has most influenced you as a writer or in general? 
Haha, you might as well ask me to name the one thing I've ever eaten that's most influenced me as a writer. Different tastes fill different needs; different books hit different notes. There are authors whose language I adore, authors whose plotlines I envy, even authors I can't stand and use as an example of what I don't want to do — but there's not really one I can point to and say, "That guy! He's EVERYTHING." 
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a writer/published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing? 
I've had many, many jobs — waitress, receptionist, artist's model, substitute teacher, janitor, nanny, publicist, copywriter... I even once worked as the dessert girl at a high-end Chinese restaurant. (In related news, my work history makes me look like an actual crazy person.) Having done so many different things has definitely helped with the "write what you know" bit, and certain settings or characters or experiences have found their way into my work for sure. The restaurant setting where Becca (the protagonist) works, for instance, is based on a real place in my hometown where I waited tables during the summer. 
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why? 
LUGUBRIOUS. It's such a nice, chewy word... even if I know, intellectually, that it doesn't actually have anything to do with goo. 
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality? 
Ordinarily I'd have said "books", but since that's your hiding spot, I guess I'll have to go with my backup escape: binge-watching Downton Abbey on Netflix Instant.

More about Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone:

Becca has always longed to break free from her small, backwater hometown. But the discovery of an unidentified dead girl on the side of a dirt road sends the town--and Becca--into a tailspin. Unable to make sense of the violence of the outside world creeping into her backyard, Becca finds herself retreating inward, paralyzed from moving forward for the first time in her life.  Short chapters detailing the last days of Amelia Anne Richardson's life are intercut with Becca's own summer as the parallel stories of two young women struggling with self-identity and relationships on the edge twist the reader closer and closer to the truth about Amelia's death.
Check out my review here.
*Please note that the giveaway on the review is now closed. The giveaway below is new and for a finished copy! :)

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