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Monday, November 29, 2010

Review: Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales

Title: Mostly Good Girls
Author: Leila Sales
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pub. Date: 10.5.2010
Genre: Contemporary YA
Keywords: Prep School, Friendship, Pressure, Love, Humor
Pages: 288
Description (from GoodReads):
The higher you aim, the farther you fall….

It’s Violet’s junior year at the Westfield School. She thought she’d be focusing on getting straight As, editing the lit mag, and figuring out how to talk to boys without choking on her own saliva. Instead, she’s just trying to hold it together in the face of cutthroat academics, her crush’s new girlfriend, and the sense that things are going irreversibly wrong with her best friend, Katie.

When Katie starts making choices that Violet can’t even begin to fathom, Violet has no idea how to set things right between them. Westfield girls are trained for success—but how can Violet keep her junior year from being one huge, epic failure?

You could say MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS is about high school and its stresses. Or prep school. Or friendship. Or first loves. But I like to say that Leila Sales' debut novel is about growing up... the growing up that each and every one of does in high school, only more entertaining and witty than our own lives.

Violet is definitely her own person, but most girls will relate to her in one way or another. She's competitive, stressed about school, often feels second best, can't help but compare herself to her best friend, has been in love with the same boy for years, and she feels totally and completely overwhelmed the majority of the time. At multiple points throughout the novel, I found myself commiserating with Violet as she confronts the changes and challenges in her life.

What I enjoyed most about this novel is that there really wasn't one big issue. While I love novels that confront big, difficult topics like the death of a loved one, teen pregnancy, drug use, etc, etc, MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS took a different approach. There is some talk of bullying, but, for the most part, Violet is dealing with everyday, "normal" issues. Like grades and the distance that sometimes forms between previously inseparable best friends. Novels about those intense topics are needed and always appreciated, but there's something about Violet's story that pulls you in, even without those shocking twists and gutwrenching material.

MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS is a funny, relateable first novel and I can't wait for more from this talented author!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Review: Invisible Things by Jenny Davidson

Title: Invisible Things
Author: Jenny Davidson
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pub. Date: 11.23.2010
Genre: Historical YA
Keywords: Physics, Mystery, Family, Relationships, Secrets
Pages: 261
Description (from GoodReads):
Sixteen-year-old Sophie knows there is more to the story of her parents' death. And she's on a mission to find the truth. To aid her in solving the decades-old mystery, Sophie has enlisted her best friend, Mikael, whose friendship has turned into something more. It's soon clear that Sophie's future is very much wrapped up in the details of her family's past, and the key lies with information only one man can provide: her parents' former employer, the elusive billionaire Alfred Nobel.

As the threat of war looms in Europe, dangers to Sophie and her loved ones grow. While her determination to solve the mystery doesn't waver, forces beyond her control conspire to keep her from her purpose. Then, news of her great-aunt Tabitha's death sets off a chain of events that leaves Sophie questioning everything.

The more Sophie learns, the more she realizes that nothing—and no one—in her life is what it seems. And coming to terms with the dark secrets she uncovers means imagining a truth that she never dreamed possible. Full of gorgeous settings, thrilling adventure, and romance, Invisible Things is a novel that dares to ask, what if?

Jenny Davidson's sophmore novel, INVISIBLE THINGS, is one of the most beautifully written novels I've read this year. That, coupled with regular mentions of characters like Niels Bohr and Alfred Nobel, cause the reader to feel as though they're peering not only into the past, but into something terribly important.

Part one of the novel begins in Denmark at the Institute for Theoretical Physics where our main character, Sophie, resides. Sophie is a teen surrounded by brilliant minds and it's clear she may someday join their ranks. She is an orphan with a mysterious past... and she wants answers. The deeper she digs, however, the more complicated things become. Not only is her past more knotted and manipulated than she ever would have assumed, Europe itself is falling to pieces... which presents unwelcome obstacles.

The one aspect of this novel that I wasn't as taken with as I would have liked was the romance. I only point this out because romance is mentioned in the synopsis, which greatly heightens my expectations. Once I reconciled that this aspect wasn't as prominent as I would have liked, I enjoyed the novel much more.

I'll be taking the time to read Davidson's first offering, THE EXPLOSIONIST, and, if you favor atmospheric novels with a rich, historical setting, I highly recommend you pick up INVISIBLE THINGS as well.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Guest Post: Sarah Ockler (Author of Fixing Delilah!)

I'm thrilled to have one of my all time favorite authors, Sarah Ockler, here at The Hiding Spot! Sarah is the author of TWENTY BOY SUMMER and FIXING DELILAH, both of which are contemporary YA novels.

Garage Sale of Sarah Ockler's Teen Years

In Fixing Delilah, Delilah spends an entire summer up in Vermont settling up her deceased grandmother's estate. It sounds all quaint and charming, but in reality there was a lot of manual labor and tons of garage sales, not unlike the ones I had to sit through when my I was 13 and my own grandmother died.

Garage sales are good opportunity for getting rid of old stuff, especially the stuff we've held on to for far too many years. One girl's trash is another girl's treasure, right? Right. So take a look at some of the *treasures* that represent my high school experience and see if any of them make you reach for your wallet (or run the other way).

Act now... these bargain basement beauties are priced to move!

1. The love letter that almost ruined my life, $500. I say $500 because you can't really put a price on the evidence of one's eternal mortification (and poor decision-making sills), but $500 comes close. So I was totally in love with this boy in 9th grade, and since I really thought he liked me, too, I decided to speed things along and write him a 4-page letter professing my undying devotion. That's when I learned a hard truth: although this boy was "really flattered" that I offered to be his "soulmate," he didn't like my new haircut. And also, he showed his entire football team my weepy love letter. I still cringe to think of it, so $500, $5, whatever! Just please take this memory off my hands!

Sarah & Chris2. Dark green B.U.M. hoodie from Chris, slightly worn, $5. What is it about getting a guy's sweatshirt that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside? I wasn't even together with Chris, he was just a really good friend. In fact, I was one of the only girls in our group that didn't end up dating him, hence our friendship has remained intact to this day. But he gave me his B.U.M. hoodie and I loved it so much it was like my signature piece for two years in high school! Okay, when I say "slightly worn," I mean, all that's left of it is a little yellow "B" for B.U.M. that was on the front. I cut it out and saved it in my mementos because I'm sentimental like that. :-) But not so sentimental that I won't part with it for some cold hard cash! By the way, here's a shot of me and Chris, circa 1993. Don't ask why I'm half asleep and wearing a clothespin and a little plastic gun on a string around my neck, because that's obviously a story for another day.

3. George Michael poster, $2. George hung at the foot of my bed with his sunglasses, leather jacket, and just the right amount of 5 o'clock shadow in his post-Wham, pre-gay days when he was sexy as hell and I still thought I had a chance. George sang me to sleep every night and he knew all my secrets. And now you can know him -- at least, this poster version of him -- for the low low price of two dollars!

4. Triple Fat Goose down coat, Merry-Go-Round, circa 1992, $20. I literally slept under this coat the first month I had it (not because I had no blankets, but because I wanted to marry the thing). I wore it all winter, I wore it on days when it was too warm for a coat, and I wore it to formal events over my dress and heels. Seriously. I don't know why I thought I was such a badass gangsta that year, living out in the white-bread country part of a snobby suburb, but there you have it. My "TFG," to use the vernacular, was like a giant sleeping bag and covered me from neck to knees, but at least I was warm. And for one little Andrew Jackson, you can be warm, too!

5. The Best of 90s Rap Boxed Set, $10. 10 cassettes featuring such rap classics as Naughty By Nature, Geto Boys, Dr. Dre, Showbiz & AG, and many more! Continuing on that suburban gansta girl tip, I was a troubled rap aficionado stuck in the parallel life of a sweet little sophomore, droppin' beats in my curly-haired head as I let the funk flow through my Sony Walkman. Holla! Since Sony regrettably retired the Walkman last month, you may not be able to find anything to play these things, but they're still collectable and, for the rock bottom price of ten bucks, all yours!

6. Kodak Disc instant camera, slightly dented, $5. This baby accompanied me everywhere and captured lots of teen memories, from sleep-away camp to homecoming to the summer I kissed twenty boys... yeah. It was a great little camera, slightly beat up from being alternately dropped in the sand and shoved in my backpack, but excellent at recording evidence. I mean memories. Oh, for those of you who only know the world of digital photography, this one requires actual film. Disc film. Which they probably don't make anymore. Sigh. Hey, what do you want for five dollars?

The final item on our garage sale table showcasing priceless items from my teen years is...

Hair!7. Curling iron, $1. Yes! How on earth do you think I rocked those mile-high bangs? The curling iron, my friend, poofing up my poodle-hair and causing major fire hazards since 1985. Free bottle of Aqua Net and teasing comb with purchase! Now as for the eyebrows, I don't know. Obviously I hadn't learned about the benefits of tweezing yet. Just focus on that hair, and hand over your wallet, because...

WAIT! That's not all! Supplies are limited, but we're offering shoppers a one-time bonus deal... take the whole table for the low low price of... fifty cents! Yes! ACT NOW and... where are you going? You're leaving? Already? Come back! This is good stuff over here!

Okay, fine. If my high school trash is not your treasure, I hope you'll at least check out my latest novel for teens, Fixing Delilah. Delilah's garage sale experiences are much more interesting, thanks to Patrick and Emily, but you'll have to read the book to find out why!

Find out more about Sarah and her novels here!

Friday, November 19, 2010

{Book Trailer} Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton

I adored Kersten Hamilton's first Goblin Wars novel, TYGER TYGER, and the book trailer is amazing. If I hadn't been hooked by the cover and synopsis, this trailer definitely would have caught my attention!

Be sure to check out my review of TYGER TYGER, here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

5 Ways to Jumpstart the World!

Catherine Ryan Hyde recently posted this on her website and I wanted to pass it along to you, dear readers.

Five Ways to Jumpstart the World

In my new young adult novel Jumpstart the World, Frank, my transgender character, tells Elle, “The world doesn’t always play by its own rules.” He says we all agree that there should be equality for everyone. But of course there isn’t. And we just let it slide. He says, “That’s why there’s such a thing as activism. Sometimes you have to jumpstart the world just to get it to be what even the world admits it should be.”

If you’re not sure how to Jumpstart the World, here are five suggestions:

1). Be emotionally courageous.
Do you believe in equality for all? That’s good. But are you really saying so? Do you promote equality? Do you speak loudly?

Blog about equality and acceptance for ALL! Or tweet it. Or put it up on your Facebook page. Or talk about it with your friends. Say that you don’t discriminate.

Now take it a step further. Say nobody should. We need to stop pretending that those who discriminate have a right to their opinion. Discrimination is not an opinion. It’s an action that causes harm. We need to be brave enough to tell others to stop. We can’t change them, and we’re not responsible for making them stop, but we can tell them straight out that discrimination is not okay.

2). Stop worrying about what others think of you. Or what they say.

This is the main reason, I feel, that people remain silent instead of shouting their truth out loud. Somebody might criticize.

So what if they do? Why are we so afraid to be criticized? In what way will it damage us? Sure, it’s uncomfortable, but we know love is right and hate is wrong. So we know we said the right thing. We just might get some blowback from those still stuck in their hatred. But here’s a question: do you really want approval from bigots?

Two quotes. One from the Buddha. One from Dr. Seuss.

Dr. Seuss said, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

The Buddha was once viciously verbally attacked by a young man who came to hear him speak. “Son,” he said, “if someone declined to accept a present, to whom would it belong?” The young man said it would continue to belong to the person who offered it. “Yes,” Buddha said, “and I decline to accept your abuse.”

Shout love, and if anyone tries to give you hate in reply, mark it “return to sender” and let it go. It was never yours.

3). Vote. And vote wisely. And progressively!

Employment discrimination against gays is still completely legal in 29 states. Against transgender individuals it’s legal in 38 states. Three states still ban gay adoption and many others find ways to limit it. Gays still can’t serve openly in the military. Gay and lesbian couples still can’t marry in the overwhelming majority of states.

Outraged yet? I certainly hope so!

Tell your elected officials how you feel about equality. Call them, write to them. Remind them that you vote, and that you’re paying attention.

Learn about the candidates before you cast your vote. Check with the Courage Campaign, Human Rights Campaign, They publish a lot of information about the candidates and their voting records on equality.

Candidates with lots of money lie and spin in their TV ads to confuse and manipulate voters. Be a voter who won’t be confused or manipulated. Learn the issues and vote your conscience. Our votes can be the power we need to effect change, but only if we use them wisely.

4). Value kindness. And advocate its practice.

Remember the golden rule? Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you? If we all really practiced this rule, I swear the only problems left in the world would be weather-related. Human interactions would all smooth out just fine.

So why don’t you? Because everybody else isn’t doing it? Here’s an idea: you start.

Go out of your way to send messages of kindness to others. Set a precedent for good.

An old spiritual teacher of mine once commented on the Beatles song “All You Need is Love.” He said it was a nice sentiment, but they had it backwards. He said, “All love needs is you.”

Love is in need of practitioners. Volunteer today.

5). I thought of four. Now it’s your turn.

But here’s a suggestion, if you don’t have an idea yet: Spread the link to this little article. That’s a small positive act right there. Small acts add up.

Thank you,
Catherine Ryan Hyde

Monday, November 15, 2010

Guest Post: Leila Sales (Author of Mostly Good Girls!)

Leila Sales, author of MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS, is at The Hiding Spot today to share some songs that inspired her as she wrote the novel... I have to say that I have a number of these songs on my iPod, so I can definitely see why she found them inspiring!

A Brief Bio

Leila Sales grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts. She graduated from the University of Chicago in 2006. Now she lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works in the mostly glamorous world of children's book publishing. Leila spends most of her time thinking about sleeping, kittens, dance parties, and stories that she wants to write.

Mostly Good Girls Annotated Playlist

I create playlists to go along with every aspect of my life, be it a dinner party or a roadtrip or a gay speed-dating event. (Yes, I do have an iTunes playlist named “gay speed dating.” There are some great tracks on there.) So obviously I made a playlist to accompany the publication of Mostly Good Girls. These songs aren’t about the plot of the book, but they are about the writing process, and about “achieving your dreams.” Achieving dreams is a v. important musical theme.

Here is my Mostly Good Girls annotated playlist, with youtube links to the songs:

1. “We Are Golden,” by Mika. It is so difficult for me to believe that this song wasn’t written about the experience of publishing your debut YA novel. Like, what else could it be about? (Also, not to give you a creepy amount of insight into my everyday life, but if you watch this music video, you’ll get a pretty accurate picture of how I dance around my bedroom. Though I tend to be wearing more clothes than Mika.)

2. “Dancing in the Dark,” by Bruce Springsteen. “I’m sick of sitting ‘round here trying to write this book. I need a little reaction, c’mon baby give me just one look.”

3. “Time to Pretend,” by MGMT. Sure, writing a book is overwhelming, but what else can we do? Get jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute? (Okay, actually, I do that too, even if I am always half an hour late to the morning commute.)

4. “Teenage Kicks,” by the Undertones. If I had to summarize what my characters are looking for, my answer, 85% of the time, would be “teenage kicks.”

5. “Come Back from San Francisco,” by the Magnetic Fields. “Should pretty boys in discos distract you from your novel, remember I’m awful in love with you.” Sometimes instead of sitting alone at my desk, staring at my computer, I want to go out and do exciting things. Then I ask myself, “Leila! Should pretty boys in discos distract you from your novel?” And then usually I reply to myself, “Yes.”

6. “I Wanna Be Adored,” by the Stone Roses. I have heard that some writers don’t care whether they’re adored or not. Maybe, like, J. D. Salinger didn’t care. But most of us would side with the Stone Roses on this one.

7. “Sound of Silver,” by LCD Soundsystem. Another great song about being a teenager, or at least remembering being a teenager.

8. “Yes,” by LMFAO. This is a ridiculous/genre-defining song about “seeing your dream.” LMFAO’s dreams are slightly different from mine—they are less focused on writing novels and more focused on naked models—but still. Dreams are dreams.

9. “Mo Money Mo Problem,” by the Notorious BIG. I also listen to this song whenever I get a raise at work, make $60 babysitting, or find a five-dollar bill in my jeans pocket.

10. “The Jock Jams Megamix.” For some reason, I find it necessary to get “pumped up” for writing, as though I’m about to run out onto a football field and score some touchdowns, whereas what I’m actually going to do is sit at my computer and eat chocolate chips. Either way, ladies and gentlemen, let’s get ready to rumble!

11. “Get Me Away from Here, I’m Dying,” by Belle and Sebastian. B&S has written a number of wonderful songs about writing and literature (some other examples are “Storytelling” and “Wrapped up in Books”). This song is one of their best. “Said the hero in the story / It is mightier than swords / I could kill you, sure / But I could only make you cry with these words.”

Do you have a writing mix, too? And, if so, what songs are on it?

For more information about MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS and Leila, go HERE.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Guest Post: Antony John (Author of FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB)

Today, debut author Antony John visits the The Hiding Spot to discuss writing a female main character and the challenges involved... and the surprising lack of challenges too.
Be sure to check out my review of FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB here. Find out more about Antony John here.

What’s it like to be a male author writing from a female perspective?

I was in a bookstore recently and someone asked me if it felt weird to be a guy writing from a girl’s perspective. Before I could answer, a bookseller who’d been listening in turned around and said: “He’s not deaf either, though, right?”

Actually, she could’ve kept going:

“He’s not eighteen.”

“He didn’t grow up in the States.”

“He didn’t attend a US high school.”

“His high school in England was single-sex.”

“He’s never played in a rock band.”

“He’s never managed a rock band.”

And on and on . . .

I’ve always thought that apart from entertainment, the main reason we read is to experience the world through someone else: to see things as they do, to face and overcome the hardships they encounter. This is also the main reason I write: for the privilege of empathizing fully with someone I will never be. The success of failure of a book often hinges on the author’s ability to pull this off.

In Piper’s case—she’s the narrator of FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB, by the way—I had to do a lot of research: I mean, she doesn’t know anything about music, whereas I have a Ph.D. in music; she’s deaf, but I’m not. But most of my readers aren’t deaf either, and probably don’t know much about deafness. Whereas a LOT of my readers are female, which is why your question is so interesting. And embarrassing. See, it’s like this . . .

Confession time: In order to get fully inside Piper’s head, I had to get help every now and again.

In DUMB, Piper crushes on a boy. To be honest, I wasn’t completely convinced why she would like him all that much. So I asked my wife and sister-in-law: “What makes a boy attractive to a girl?” Now, as someone who has been happily married for a decade, I probably ought to have had some idea of this already, but I didn’t. And so both of them dutifully gave me a list of things that they would have found attractive in Piper’s situation. And I thought: “Huh. That makes sense. Cool.” And I included it. All of it.

Then there’s the moment where Piper makes out with someone-who-shall-remain-nameless. And I thought: “Huh. I’ve never kissed a guy. I wonder what that’s like.” So I asked. And again the answers were really illuminating, so I kept them in mind as I was writing the scene.

But you know what? As much as I had to ask for help for some parts of DUMB, I actually wrote 99 percent of it without asking for any advice at all. And the reason, I think, is that most of the challenges teens face are universal: they affect boys and girls equally. I completely understand Piper’s feelings of resentment toward her parents at the beginning of the book, because anyone would feel that way. I also know as well as Piper what it feels like to be an outsider at school, to crush on someone without them feeling the same way about me, to want to excel academically without having friends think I’m a geek/nerd/dork/loser (choose your noun). And, like Piper, I felt everything intensely as a teen. Seriously, I over-thought everything, and had enough hang-ups for entire class of students. Thankfully, I get to channel that into writing now, which is perfect.

So what was it like writing from a girl’s perspective? Fun, interesting, educational. And a lot like living high school all over again. Only this time, it was co-ed!


Find out more about FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB and read my review here.

Review: Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John

Title: Five Flavors of Dumb
Author: Antony John
Publisher: Dial
Pub. Date: 11.11.2010
Genre: Contemporary YA
Keywords: Music, Friendship, Relationships, Hearing Impairments
Pages: 352
Description (from GoodReads):
THE CHALLENGE: Piper has one month to get a paying gig for Dumb—the hottest new rock band in school.
THE DEAL: If she does it, she'll become manager of the band and get her share of the profits, which she desperately needs since her parents raided her college fund.
THE CATCH: Managing one egomaniacal pretty boy, one talentless piece of eye candy, one crush, one silent rocker, and one angry girl who is ready to beat her up. And doing it all when she's deaf. With growing self-confidence, an unexpected romance, and a new understanding of her family's decision to buy a cochlear implant for her deaf baby sister, Piper just may discover her own inner rock star.

Antony John's most recent novel follows Piper, a smart, pretty girl, as she attempts to manage the band Dumb, recent Battle of the Bands winner and her only chance to earn enough money to attend the college of her dreams.

Dumb has taken Piper's high school world by storm, but they've got a lot to learn if they expect to go any further than impromptu shows on the school's front lawn. That's where Piper comes in... and she's got quite a job ahead of her. Not only is the band a mess and missing some key ingredients, Piper isn't completely sure of their sound - literally. Piper's hearing impaired, which adds a whole new level of difficulty to her task.

FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB is a story about a girl going to extreme lengths to achieve her dreams. John manages to make Piper both inspirational and relateable - no easy feat. There are often inspiring characters and relateable characters, but it's sometimes difficult to tag both of those descriptions onto one character. Piper reminds readers that dreams really can be reached, even if it doesn't happen quite the way you had planned.

The one aspect of the novel that I found a tad distracting was the maturity of Piper and some of the other characters at points. It's understandable that characters might be a bit more mature and reasonable than real young adults, but there were certain parts of the novel where Piper's actions and thoughts didn't ring true. I still enjoyed her character, she just felt a little less real during these passages.

FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB is a welcome addition to my bookshelf. I've got a weakness for contemporary YA and I'm always happy to find a new title to add to my list of recommended titles!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Interview: Catherine Ryan Hyde (Author of Jumpstart the World!)

Today I have the talented Catherine Ryan Hyde here at The Hiding Spot to answer a few questions about her writing, characters, and most recent release, JUMPSTART THE WORLD!

The Interview

You have many published novels and, I’m sure many that didn’t reach publication. Are there one or two characters that you personally identify with more than others? In what way?

The first guy who comes to mind is Jordy from Becoming Chloe. Shortly after I wrote that book, I had a really good friend tell me, “You know, you are Jordy.” Which was kind of interesting, since I’m not a 17-year old male throw-away street teen. But I knew what she meant. Jordy is a little separate from the people around him. He doesn’t connect easily. But he cares, especially for those who have no one else to protect them.

I think the more my characters are emotionally vulnerable, the more I feel for them and with them.

The other character who comes to mind is Reuben in Pay It Forward. Because of that sense of “otherness” that holds him back. I think we all have that in varying degrees. But I relate to him a lot. It really bugged me that he never made it into the movie. He was only my protagonist, after all.

Your novel Pay It Forward was adapted to film, but, of your other published works, is there another that you feel is particularly cinematic?
I actually was given the job of writing a screenplay for my novel Walter’s Purple Heart. It was in development with a small film company at the time. But nothing ever came of that option. I still think the novel—being part war story, part very odd love story, part reincarnation-themed—would be great on the screen. And that screenplay is still kicking around.

I also think Chloe would adapt well because it’s a road story. When two characters set out traveling to find the beauty in the world, you know that’s going to be cinematic.

Give a short statement describing your most recent novel, Jumpstart the World.
Elle is a barely-16-year-old girl living in New York City. Alone. Her mother’s new boyfriend doesn’t want her around, and her mother is so smitten that she just rents Elle her own apartment and dumps her there. Frank is her new next door neighbor. He lives in the next apartment over with his girlfriend Molly. He’s the first one to find out how young she is, and he takes it upon himself to look out for her. Which is probably why Elle falls in love with him. Even though he’s older, and in a relationship. She knows all that, but doesn’t really care. She just loves him, and can’t stop. What she doesn’t know is that Frank is transgender. Female to male, in transition. Well, at first she doesn’t know. When she finds out, it’s a tough adjustment. Not so much because she has to overcome deep prejudice, but because she’s worried about what this might say about her. But here’s the even harder adjustment: finding out doesn’t change her feelings much. She knows, but she’s still in love. And she’s still grateful to have someone like Frank in her life, even if they can never be together in that sense.

My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
For me that would be hiking and kayaking. Mostly hiking. I have a little motor home, and I like to drive away to someplace like the Grand Canyon or Yosemite, and then take off in the morning and spend pretty much the whole day on the trail, by myself. That’s my favorite way to hide out.

Next year a friend and I are going to spend four days kayaking down the Green River through Canyonlands National Park. Nature is my escape.

Your novels come highly recommended, but which YA novels or authors do you highly recommend?
I like David Levithan. I’m reading Will Gayson, Will Grayson right now. But I’ve liked just about everything I’ve read of his. I really loved Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl and Love, Stargirl. I loved The Perks of Being a WallFlower by Stephen Chbosky. I think one of the best YA books ever was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

The why is harder to say. I think because all of these books are both well-written and emotionally important. I have no patience for the all-plot-no-character sort of fiction. I want to know how these characters feel. I want to meet characters who can genuinely touch my own emotions. That’s why I take the time to read. And that’s why I read (and write) YA. Because it tackles emotion head-on. No cerebral existentialism. And no apologies.

Learn more about Catherine here and her new novel here!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Contest: Win a copy of Crash Into Me!

Albert Borris has kindly provided one finished copy of CRASH INTO ME for a lucky winner at The Hiding Spot!

Please be sure that you read through the information and rules below.

(1) paperback copy of CRASH INTO ME
How to Enter:
You MUST fill out this FORM. If you neglect to fill out the form, you will not be entered to win.

Extra Entries:
Not required. Extra entries are detailed on the entry form as well.
+5 Comment on my review of CRASH INTO ME.
+1 Tweet this contest. (Leave a link.)
+1 Link this contest on your sidebar, in a post, or on FB. (Leave a link.)
Extra entries will not be awarded for following The Hiding Spot, but it's always appreciated!

Contest will close December 1st, 2010. Open to the US & Canada only!

Good luck!

Review: Crash Into Me by Albert Borris

Title: Crash Into Me
Author: Albert Borris
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pub. Date: 7.21.2009
Keywords: Suicide, Roadtrips, Love, Friendship, Family, Grief
Pages: 257
Description (from GoodReads):
Owen, Frank, Audrey, and Jin-Ae have one thing in common: they all want to die. When they meet online after each attempts suicide and fails, the four teens make a deadly pact: they will escape together on a summer road trip to visit the sites of celebrity suicides...and at their final destination, they will all end their lives. As they drive cross-country, bonding over their dark impulses, sharing their deepest secrets and desires, living it up, hooking up, and becoming true friends, each must decide whether life is worth living--or if there's no turning back.

CRASH INTO ME is Albert Borris' first novel and he makes a splash with this open and honest portrayal of four teens contemplating suicide.

The story is told in varying formats: narrative, chatroom sessions, and the occasional pertinent list. The narrative moves the reader through the current events, the chat sessions offer a look at the characters before they began their fateful celebrity suicide-studded roadtrip, and the lists are a small offering of comic relief, albeit dark. Owen narrates, but still maintains his distance by keeping secrets from both the reader and his fellow characters.

The casual discussion of suicide and how each character would like to do the deed is both disturbing and compelling, but necessary. Those who contemplate or plan suicide aren't squeamish about the topic, not if they're serious like our four main characters are. As the novel progresses, the reader begins to see hints and flashes of what drives Frank, Audrey, and Jin-Ae to feel ending their lives is the only option, but Owen's motivations remain somewhat shadowed. It was this mystery that held my attention more than any other part of the novel.

Borris' debut manages to be raw, yet polished - a stunning effect.

Review Copy provided by author.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Review: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Title: Nightshade
Author: Andrea Cremer
Publisher: Penguin (Philomel)
Pub. Date: 10.19.2010
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Keywords: Guardians, Shapeshifters, Love Triangle, Duty, Mystery
Pages: 454
Description (from GoodReads):
Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she'll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters' laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything--including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?

Popular genres will always be spotted with so-so imitations of the novels that started the craze, and it's sometimes easy to let those particular novels skew a reader's perception of the genre's quality. Today's shevles are crowded with paranormal and fantasy YA that end up disappointing and mundane, but NIGHTSHADE is most definitely not one of those books.

NIGHTSHADE has been heavily marketed as romance, and it is, but Cremer also included what many of those so-so novels are lacking: a fantastic plot with many different elements. There isn't just a love triangle, there's family drama, a rich history shrouded in secrets, and a look at how one's culture shapes and affects personality and beliefs, for better or worse.

In regard to the romantic elements, I felt that Cremer did well, though I personally didn't feel torn between the two interests, so the "triangle" was lost on me. In fact, I think most readers will pick a side fairly quickly. The two boys are drastically different, and, as I read, it was clear to me which of the characters Calla should choose. Later, when I discussed my opinion with a friend, she vehemently argued the opposite. In fact, every reader I talked with argued passionately and logically for one side or the other. I found it reminscent of the Peeta vs Gale (The Hunger Games) Debate, which is a good thing. I recommend NIGHTSHADE to friends because it's a great book, but also because I want to know who they think Calla should choose.

I'm eagerly awaiting the continuation of Calla's story, WOLFSBANE, which will release next year. I not only loved NIGHTSHADE, I truly enjoyed Cremer's writing, so I look forward to news of future projects as well.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cover of the Week (26)

Between the Sea & Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore
Description (from GoodReads):
For as long as Esmerine can remember, she has longed to join her sister as a siren, the highest calling a mermaid can have. But when her sister runs away to the mainland, reportedly to elope with a human, Esmerine is sent to retrieve her.

Using magic to transform her tail into legs, she makes her way unsteadily through the streets of New Sweeling. There, she will come upon a friend she hasn't seen since childhood - Alandare, a boy, now a man, who belongs to a winged race of people. Together, Esmerine and Alandare put aside their differences to find her sister, and in the process discover a love that cannot be bound by land, sea, or air.

I've been in love with the description of Dolamore's sophmore novel and I'm so glad to say that I might be even more in love with the cover!