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Monday, December 26, 2011

Top 10 Books I've Read in 2011

This post is part of a 5 day blog event hosted by A Life Bound by Books. More information can be found here.
2011 has a been a crazy year and I can't say I'm sad to see it go... And, while I didn't get to read as much as I would have liked to, I still was able to read quite a few great books. Below are my Top 10 of 2011, in no particular order:

The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal
Princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia's led a privileged life at court.  But everything changes when it's revealed, just after her sixteenth birthday, that she is a false princess, a stand-in for the real Nalia, who has been hidden away for her protection.  Cast out with little more than the clothes on her back, the girl now called Sinda must leave behind the city of Vivaskari, her best friend, Keirnan, and the only life she's ever known.
Sinda is sent to live with her only surviving relative, an aunt who is a dyer in a distant village. She is a cold, scornful woman with little patience for her newfound niece, and Sinda proves inept at even the simplest tasks.  But when Sinda discovers that magic runs through her veins - long-suppressed, dangerous magic that she must learn to control - she realizes that she can never learn to be a simple village girl.
Returning to Vivaskari for answers, Sinda finds her purpose as a wizard scribe, rediscovers the boy who saw her all along, and uncovers a secret that could change the course of Thorvaldor's history, forever.
A dazzling first novel, The False Princess is an engrossing fantasy full of mystery, action, and romance.

Stay by Deb Caletti
Clara's relationship with Christian is intense from the start, and like nothing she’s ever experienced before. But what starts as devotion quickly becomes obsession, and it's almost too late before Clara realizes how far gone Christian is—and what he's willing to do to make her stay. Now Clara has left the city—and Christian—behind. No one back home has any idea where she is, but she still struggles to shake off her fear. She knows Christian won't let her go that easily, and that no matter how far she runs, it may not be far enough....

Red Glove by Holly Black
Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe's world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else. 
That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she's human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila's been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila's love is as phony as Cassel's made-up memories, then he can't believe anything she says or does. 
When Cassel's oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can't trust anyone—least of all, himself? 
Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

Divergent by Veronica Roth
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. 
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her. 
Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
Katarina Bishop has worn a lot of labels in her short life life. Friend. Niece. Daughter. Thief. But for the last two months she’s simply been known as the girl who ran the crew that robbed the greatest museum in the world. That’s why Kat isn’t surprised when she’s asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald so it can be returned to its rightful owners. 
There are only three problems. First, the gem hasn’t been seen in public in thirty years. Second, since the fall of the Egyptian empire and the suicide of Cleopatra, no one who holds the emerald keeps it for long, and in Kat’s world, history almost always repeats itself. But it’s the third problem that makes Kat’s crew the most nervous and that is simply… the emerald is cursed. 
Kat might be in way over her head, but she’s not going down without a fight. After all she has her best friend—the gorgeous Hale—and the rest of her crew with her as they chase the Cleopatra around the globe, dodging curses, realizing that the same tricks and cons her family has used for centuries are useless this time. 
Which means, this time, Katarina Bishop is making up her own rules.

Paradise by Jill S. Alexander
Paisley Tillery is the drummer for a country rock band. If they can make it to the stage at the Texapalooza music fest, then Paisley will be closer to her dream of a career in music and a ticket out of her small Texas town.
Drumming and music are what Paisley has always wanted. Until the band gets a new lead singer, the boy from Paradise, Texas. With Paradise in her life, what Paisley wants, and what she needs, complicate her dreams coming true.

Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton
Ari can’t help feeling lost and alone. With teal eyes and freakish silver hair that can’t be changed or destroyed, Ari has always stood out. And after growing up in foster care, she longs for some understanding of where she came from and who she is.
Her search for answers uncovers just one message from her long dead mother: Run. Ari can sense that someone, or something, is getting closer than they should. But it’s impossible to protect herself when she doesn’t know what she’s running from or why she is being pursued.
She knows only one thing: she must return to her birthplace of New 2, the lush rebuilt city of New Orleans. Upon arriving, she discovers that New 2 is very...different. Here, Ari is seemingly normal. But every creature she encounters, no matter how deadly or horrifying, is afraid of her.
Ari won’t stop until she knows why. But some truths are too haunting, too terrifying, to ever be revealed.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. 
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low. 
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war. 
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out. 
When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Saving June by Hannah Harrington
When her older sister commits suicide and her divorcing parents decide to divide the ashes, Harper Scott takes her sister's urn to the one place June always wanted to go: California. On the road with her best friend, plus an intriguing guy with a mysterious connection to June, Harper discovers truths about her sister, herself and life.

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
What girl doesn't want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn't just surrounded by hot guys, though - she leads them as the captain and quarterback on her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that's just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. But now there's a new guy in town who threatens her starring position on the team... and has her suddenly wishing to be seen as more than just a teammate.

Check out my Top Books of 2010:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review: Saving June by Hannah Harrington

Title: Saving June
Author: Hannah Harrington
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pub. Date: 11.22.2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Keywords: Road trip, Loss, Grief, Angst, Suicide
Pages: 336
Description (from Goodreads):
When her older sister commits suicide and her divorcing parents decide to divide the ashes, Harper Scott takes her sister's urn to the one place June always wanted to go: California. On the road with her best friend, plus an intriguing guy with a mysterious connection to June, Harper discovers truths about her sister, herself and life.

It's been a long time since I've loved a book as much as SAVING JUNE... I think my excitement about this book can be compared to how I felt about ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS and THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE - which means that I love this book with a passion. I've said before that there are certain books that feel like they've been written just for you. They don't come along very often, but, when they do, it's one of the best feelings in the world. 
These books usually leave you a bit breathless and teary-eyed. Once you recover, you recommend that book like your life depends on whether others read it. That pretty much sums up how I feel about Hannah Harrington's debut novel!

I easily connected with Harper, the main character of SAVING JUNE. Part of me wonders if this was due, in part, to Harper's roots. Like me, Harper was raised in a small Michigan town. Perhaps I'm just imagining that this detail makes her character easier for me to relate to... or maybe Harrington truly understands how big of impact small town Michigan can have on person and has successful woven this into her character. I tend to believe the latter. Where you're from can have a monumental impact on how you view and interpret the world... and Harper and I are eerily similar.

I've yet to be disappointed by a book which features a road trip. There is something magical about the open road, the right music, and the right person sitting next to you. Harrington has all three elements locked down in SAVING JUNE.

I must say that I was especially impressed by the song selection and play lists in this novel. There are so many great songs that fit perfectly into either specific scenes or the book in general. 

To top it off, this book deals with some pretty heavy topics, including suicide and teen pregnancy. It's difficult to find a novel that can discuss tough subjects truthfully and tactfully while maintaining a tense, yet realistic love story. Often, one aspect is lacking, but this is definitely not the case with SAVING JUNE. I can't complain about any element of this novel... if there was anything I found bothersome, it must have been only a small detail, as I can't recall anything distracting or disappointing.

Please, take the time to pick up Harrington's debut... Not only did I adore SAVING JUNE, I truly believe Harrington is a contemporary author to watch.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Review: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Title: Anna Dressed in Blood
Author: Kendare Blake
Publisher: Tor Teen
Pub. Date: 8.30.2011
Genre: Horror/Paranormal
Pages: 316
Description (from Goodreads):
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life.

I'm the biggest wuss ever, so I rarely ever pick up horror novels, but it was absolutely impossible for me to ignore a book with a cover this gorgeous. Plus I kept seeing tweets and reviews gushing over the greatness of ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD. All this goes to show that, for better or worse, both cover art and bloggers can have a pretty big impact on a reader!

I honestly wasn't expecting this book to be as gruesome as it was. It isn't the jumping out and whatnot that makes me skip horror under normal circumstances, it's the gore. My imagination is just a bit too vivid... But, though there were a couple spots where I set the book aside for a moment or two The gory scenes weren't overly long or extravagant, which made them easier for me to stomach. One should note, however, that my idea of gory is actually quite tame... I have a sneaking suspicion most readers wouldn't bat an eye at these scenes that had me taking a moment to collect myself.

The only part of ANNA that I wasn't completely sold on was the romantic plot line. At first I wondered how Blake pull off a romance between a bloodthirsty spirit and a teenaged ghost killer, but she actually made it seem surprisingly possible. Still, I didn't buy it...  the love story just didn't fit for me. I think, that in my mind, romance and horror are too distant to mesh convincingly. 

Overall, this was a fantastically creepy debut and I'll definitely be reading Kendare's next novel.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Win Audition and How to Save a Life!


1 winner will receive:
(1) arc of HOW TO SAVE A LIFE by Sarah Zarr
(1) arc of AUDITION by Stasia Ward Kehoe

How to Enter:
You MUST leave a comment on this post with an email address so I can contact you if you win.

Extra Entries:
Comment on one or both of the following reviews:
1 extra entry per comment.

Tweet this contest. Please include @thehidingspot. extra entry.

Maximum of 4 entries.

Contest will close November 10th, 2011. Open to the US and Canada only! You must be age 13 or older to enter.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review: Audition by Stasia Ward Kehoe

Title: Audition
Author: Stasia Ward Kehoe
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Pub. Date: 10.13.2011
Genre: Contemporary
Keywords: Fine Arts, Ballet, Relationships, Family, Competition
Pages: 464
Description (from Goodreads):
When high school junior Sara wins a coveted scholarship to study ballet, she must sacrifice everything for her new life as a professional dancer-in-training. Living in a strange city with a host family, she's deeply lonely-until she falls into the arms of Remington, a choreographer in his early twenties. At first, she loves being Rem's muse, but as she discovers a surprising passion for writing, she begins to question whether she's chosen the right path. Is Rem using her, or is it the other way around? And is dancing still her dream, or does she need something more? This debut novel in verse is as intense and romantic as it is eloquent.

AUDITION wasn't exactly what I was expecting... it was even better.

I'm not sure I didn't know this prior to reading, but AUDITION is told entirely in verse. I generally love novels told in this format, but I think it was a particularly good choice for this novel. AUDITION is about the pressures of becoming a professional ballerina while simultaneously leaving home for the first time, living in an foreign environment, and falling for  an older, off-limits man... These are all rather intense events and nothing conveys intensity and emotion like verse. Interestingly enough, this format, with it's patterns and movement, almost reminds of a dance, which is appropriate.

I've been reading quite a few fine arts themed novels lately (dancers, pianists, violinists, etc.) and each has had it's own twist, but, much to my surprise, I found Sara to be the strongest main character of the group. At the beginning of the novel, I didn't think things would end well for our budding ballerina, but she proved me wrong... and I ended up quite proud of her. 

I found Sara's story inspiring. For me, the aspect of the novel that was most important is the fact that, even though Sara was so invested in pursuing ballet, she still decided to do what was right for her. Forget that she left home and dedicated hours and hours of her life to ballet: when she realized her true passion was writing, she followed that dream. This might sound suspiciously like she gave up after experiencing the pressure of ballet, but, in Sara's case, she wasn't giving up, but growing up. I think many realize that they aren't doing what they truly love in life, but instead of making the effort to follow their dreams, they don't want to put in the effort or they worry that it's too late for them. I think Sara's story can teach each of us a thing or two about second chances.

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Review copy provided by publisher.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Title: How to Save a Life
Author: Sara Zarr
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pub. Date: 10.18.2011
Genre: Contemporary
Keywords: Adoption, Single Parents, Loss, Family, Relationships
Pages: 341
Description (from Goodreads):
Jill MacSweeney just wants everything to go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she's been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends--everyone who wants to support her. You can't lose one family member and simply replace him with a new one, and when her mom decides to adopt a baby, that's exactly what it feels like she's trying to do. And that's decidedly not normal. With her world crumbling around her, can Jill come to embrace a new member of the family?

Mandy Kalinowski knows what it's like to grow up unwanted--to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, she knows she wants a better life for her baby. But can giving up a child be as easy as it seems? And will she ever be able to find someone to care for her, too?

I'll be honest: I didn't immediately love this book. I liked Jill well enough, but I wasn't sure how to feel about Mandy. She's... different. But, the more I read, the more I came to care for both of these characters.

I found Jill easy to relate to. I think I would have been just as moody and skeptical if my mother decided to adopt a baby just before I went off to college and directly after my father passed away. Truthfully, I think I would have been moody and skeptical regardless of the circumstances. 

Mandy wasn't quite so easy to understand at first, but, in retrospect, I think this made the novel better and built a stronger bond between the character and reader. Little by little, Zarr reveals pieces of Mandy's past and, as the reader begins to fit these experiences together, her actions and thoughts start to make sense. 

I liked how incredibly different Jill and Mandy are. Both have survived horrible things in their lives... and they've both dealt with their experiences in entirely different ways. On the outside, Jill appears tough and independent, but, on the inside, she's falling apart. Mandy may appear naive and soft, but she's much stronger and determined than one would guess.

I loved getting to know both of these characters. There are wonderful friendships in this novel, a hopeful romance, and a fantastic mother figure, but it was these two young women and their strength that have inspired me to recommend this novel.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday feat. Lies Beneath

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown
Delacorte/Random House/6.12.2012
Description (from Goodreads):
Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans, killing them to absorb their energy. But this summer the underwater clan targets Jason Hancock out of pure revenge. They blame Hancock for their mother's death and have been waiting a long time for him to return to his family's homestead on the lake. Hancock has a fear of water, so to lure him in, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock's daughter, Lily. Easy enough—especially as Calder has lots of practice using his irresistible good looks and charm on unsuspecting girls. Only this time Calder screws everything up: he falls for Lily—just as Lily starts to suspect that there's more to the monsters-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined. And just as his sisters are losing patience with him.

The only brother of murderous mermaids...? Seduction and murder... and accidentally falling in love? Count me in! Plus, that cover is soooo pretty!

ADD it on Goodreads.

WoW is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Review: Paradise by Jill S. Alexander

Title: Paradise
Author: Jill S. Alexander Website
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Pub. Date: 7.5.2011
Genre: Contemporary
Keywords: Music, Relationships, Bands, Love, Romance
Pages: 256
Description (from Goodreads):
Paisley Tillery is the drummer for a country rock band. If they can make it to the stage at the Texapalooza music fest, then Paisley will be closer to her dream of a career in music and a ticket out of her small Texas town.
Drumming and music are what Paisley has always wanted. Until the band gets a new lead singer, the boy from Paradise, Texas. With Paradise in her life, what Paisley wants, and what she needs, complicate her dreams coming true.

It isn't easy for me to coherently explain my feelings about Jill S. Alexander's sophomore novel, PARADISE. I really enjoyed Alexander's first novel, THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY, but I wasn't at all prepared for how much I would adore PARADISE. Not only does PARADISE feature a fantastic plot and engaging setting, the characters are phenomenal. 

The main character, Paisley, caught me off guard... The name Paisley seemed a bit pink to me. I literally pictured a pink paisley pattern when I first saw her name and that didn't seem all that appealing at the time. (Okay, I never find pink paisley appealing... I'll admit it.) Eventually I stopped picturing her as a pink psychedelic pattern and accepted her for the badass she is. I think her parents really wanted her to be a Paisley, she just refused to be one... She's spunky, direct, and a drummer. And the fact that she's a drummer was, in my mind, a key part of her being a legitimate badass. She wasn't up on stage do wear skimpy clothes and dance around, she was behind an entire drum set rocking out and being awesome. Love it!

And then there's Paradise. Not only was he an interesting character on his own, he was a great match for Paisley. I liked that they challenged one another and didn't immediately fall madly in love. Paisley may have acknowledged his good looks early on, but she didn't fall for him for shallow, physical reasons, which sometimes happens and leaves the reader perturbed and not at all supportive of the relationship. I appreciated the banter between the two and the small moments that eventually led them to develop feelings for one another.

And the ending... oh my goodness. I definitely didn't see it coming at all. Since I read this novel in one sitting, I actually reread the ending a couple times just to make sure I wasn't just getting a bit loopy and imagining things. After becoming so invested in PARADISE's characters, I may have cried a bit to see it end, especially so surprisingly. 

Okay, I'm lying, I cried a lot. Sobbed really. This isn't a bad thing though: if I hadn't cared about the characters, I wouldn't have been moved to tears... Especially not big, sloppy tears. I won't be forgetting about Paisley and Paradise any time soon.

Alexander is one of those authors whose books are, for me, an automatic buy. I highly, highly recommend both her debut and sophomore novels.

Helpful Links:
BUY it on IndieBound.
ADD it on Goodreads.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Upcoming Michigan Book Events: Mike Mullin (Author of Ashfall)

Mike Mullin, author of the recently released ASHFALL, is in Michigan this week and will be doing 3 different events! If they're in your area, I urge you stop in... I haven't read ASHFALL yet, but it's been highly recommended and many booksellers were singing it's praises at the trade show I attended this weekend!


Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano. It has erupted three times in the last 2.1 million years, and it will erupt again, changing the earth forever.
Fifteen-year-old Alex is home alone when Yellowstone erupts. His town collapses into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence, forcing him to flee. He begins a harrowing trek in search of his parents and sister, who were visiting relatives 140 miles away.
Along the way, Alex struggles through a landscape transformed by more than a foot of ash. The disaster brings out the best and worst in people desperate for food, clean water, and shelter.  When an escaped convict injures Alex, he searches for a sheltered place where he can wait—to heal or to die. Instead, he finds Darla. Together, they fight to achieve a nearly impossible goal: surviving the supervolcano.


Monday 10/17 from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.
Grand Rapids Public Library
111 Library Street NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Tuesday 10/18 from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.
Schuler Books & Music
1982 Grand River Avenue
Okemos, MI 48864

Thursday 10/20 from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.
Cromaine District Library -- Crossroads Branch
1788 N. Old US 23
Howell, MI 48843

Find out more about the author and his book here.

Friday, October 14, 2011


This weekend I'm at The 22nd Annual GLiBA (Great Lakes Independent Bookseller Association) Trade Show in Dearborn, Michigan!

Next week, I'll share any interesting bookish news picked up at GLiBA... especially the titles of some great upcoming books!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow by Daniel Nayeri Commercials

Whoa... wow... I don't even know what to say. Today something magical appeared in my inbox: links to 4 commercials showcasing each of Daniel Nayeri's new novellas. These novellas will be released October 11, 2011 by Candlewick in a collection called STRAW HOUSE, WOOD HOUSE, BRICK HOUSE, BLOW. I'd never heard of it before today... I now NEED this collection.

Utterly imaginative.

You need to watch these videos:

Description (from Goodreads):

Written entirely on an iPhone, this quartet of YA novellas by Another Pan and Another Faust author Daniel Nayeri showcases four different genres.
This bold collection of novellas by Another series author Daniel Nayeri features four riveting tales. These modern riffs on classic genres will introduce young adult readers to a broad range of writing styles that explore universally compelling themes such as identity and belonging, betrayal and friendship, love and mortality.

Straw House: A Western sizzling with suspense, set in a land where a rancher grows soulless humans and a farmer grows living toys.

Wood House: This science-fiction tale plunges the reader into a future where reality and technology blend imperceptibly, and a teenage girl must race to save the world from a nano-revolution that a corporation calls "ReCreation Day."

Brick House: This detective story set in modern NYC features a squad of "wish police" and a team of unlikely detectives.

Blow: A comedic love story told by none other than Death himself, portrayed here as a handsome and charismatic hero who may steal your heart in more ways than one. With humor, suspense, and relatable prose, this hip and cutting-edge collection dazzles.

Add it on Goodreads here.