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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Interview with Burn Mark Author, Laura Powell!

Today, The Hiding Spot is visited by Laura Powell, author of the recently released Burn Mark! Check out the book trailer at the end of the interview to learn more about Burn Mark.

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? 
My two main characters, posh-boy Lucas the Inquisitor’s son, and wild-child Glory the wannabe criminal, came to me quite fully-formed. From there, it was easy to build a picture of their different worlds. But I did struggle with the witch-ducking scene that happens towards the end of the book. Even though Burn Mark is a fantasy novel, I wanted it to be relevant to the here and now, and so the ducking was very much based on accounts of water-boarding I read. I wanted the violence to be shocking, but thought-provoking, not sensationalist. 

Has the title changed or stayed relatively the same as your novel journeyed towards publication? 
The title came to me relatively early on. Fire and the scars it leaves, both literally and metaphorically, plays a big part in the story. 

What book or author has most influenced you as a writer or in general? 
There’s no one person or book. But my favourite authors include Jane Austen, Maurice Sendak, E. Nesbitt, Mary Renault and Margaret Atwood. 

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 worked in publishing for five years before leaving to concentrate on my own books and there is no better apprenticeship for a wannabe author! I got to work with some fantastic writers, but learned most from the editors I worked under. Publishing is packed with interesting and creative people, but it’s also a hard-nosed commercial business. The more a writer understands what goes on behind the scenes, the easier their journey to publication will be. Now I have a part-time job at a ballet company, which fulfills all my childhood dreams of hanging out with ballerinas and playing dress-up with tutus. 

If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why? 
I love “perhaps”. It’s full of promise and possibility, and can herald either disappointment or gratification. Doris Day sang it best! 

My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality? 
Whenever grown-up life gets too much, I head back to my childhood home in rural Wales. It’s in a hidden valley, with a ruined castle across the way, and lots of ravens, wild ponies and waterfalls. Plus, there’s no mobile phone reception and a very dodgy internet connection, so it’s tricky for people to get hold of me there.

To find out more about Laura and her writing, check out her website

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Interview & Giveaway with Shadow and Bone Author, Leigh Bardugo!

Today Leigh Bardugo, debut author of the fantastic Shadow and Bone, is here at The Hiding Spot to answer a few questions about her novel, her inspiration, words, and hiding spots. Enjoy!

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? 
There's a scene a little over halfway through the book that I call the "pivot," where everything changes for my main character. Big revelations. Lots of new information. I rewrote that scene so many times that I actually gave myself hives. I am not exaggerating. I don't know that anything was "easy," but I really enjoyed writing the scenes between Alina and Genya. On the surface, they're so different, but they're both outsiders who have found their own ways to survive. I like the bond that forms between them. 
Has the title changed or stayed relatively the same as your novel journeyed towards publication? 
Oh no, Shadow and Bone has had a few titles. Back when it was a WIP, I called it The Darkling. Then I heard about a little book called Graceling and I knew I had to change it before I queried agents. I wanted something that would stand out and hint at the book's Russian inspiration, so I called it The Grisha (referring to the kingdom's magical elite). Then, after the sale, my publisher felt that particular title would be too hard to pronounce or google, so we put our heads together and came up with Shadow and Bone. I know it's been confusing because of Laini Taylor's and Robin Wasserman's books, but hopefully the cover will help it stand out in people's minds. (On a sidenote, I posted about this on Pub(lishing) Crawl recently and Robin tweeted that she'd been thinking about calling her next book The Gathering Dark-- the UK title of Shadow and Bone!) 
What book or author has most influenced you as a writer or in general? 
Such a hard question. I'm not sure about influences, but I can tell you that Dune was the first book I was truly sorry to finish. I just didn't want to leave Frank Herbert's world behind, and that was a powerful thing. Also, I remember Louise Erdrich's story "Fleur" wrecked me. I read her a lot when I was younger, and she had a big impact on the way I understood myth in relation to narrative and language. 
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 worked at an ad firm, as a journalist, for a dotcom, for the FOX network, and as a beer girl. (I sat at bars and said, "Brand X beer tastes delicious!" Lies! That beer did not taste delicious.) I wrote movie trailers ("in a land without justice" etc.) and eventually I ended up as a makeup and special effects artist. I've had a few monstrous bosses and I suspect they've all made it into my work, one way or another. 
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why? 
Oooh, so many! Kerfuffle! Dubloon! Umbrage! Rhombus... Oh how I love to say "Rhombus." Also, "toothsome" makes me laugh for some reason. "Was he hot?" "Oh yes, get this, he had all of his teeth." I really want to bring that back. Who's in? 
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality? 
Last year, my friends and I spent July 4th eating pupusas, drinking cocktails in the garden, and marathoning the entire first season of Game of Thrones. Days like that are all the escape from reality I need.

You can find out more about Leigh and her novel on at her website. And be sure to check out my review of Shadow and Bone, here! Don't forget to enter to win a copy for yourself below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

Jett is a girl disguised as a boy, living as a gambler in the old West as she searches for her long-lost brother. Honoria Gibbons is a smart, self-sufficient young woman who also happens to be a fabulous inventor. Both young women travel the prairie alone – until they are brought together by a zombie invasion! As Jett and Honoria investigate, they soon learn that these zombies aren’t rising from the dead of their own accord … but who would want an undead army? And why? 
This gunslinging, hair-raising, zombie western mashup is perfect for fans of Cowboys vs. Aliens and Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

I didn't think I was going to be able to finish this novel. It started out at an extremely slow pace and the characters were just... weird. So, I set Dead Reckoning aside. For weeks. And then I decided to give it another try... and I fell in love and couldn't stop reading.

First off, I'm not a fan of the novel's description. Not only does it make Dead Reckoning sound much more happy and girly than it really it, it doesn't mention the third main character, White Fox, at all. I feel like the description is trying to promote some type of girl power vibe, which is somewhat present in the novel, but not to the extent implied. 

That said, Jett and Gibbons are definitely strong, unique women. Once I got used to Gibbons' quirks and learns more about Jett, I kind of loved them. A lot. And, though we didn't get to know White Fox quite as well, he grew on me as well. In fact, I'm actually very curious to see what happens to them next. When the characters finally started to grow on me and I became more invested in the story, I though to myself, I actually don't mind this, but I don't think I'd read a sequel... but now I take that back. 

For me, the best part of Dead Reckoning was the interactions and relationships between the three main characters. They are all ridiculously different that being together at the beginning is a mess, but, as they grew on me, they also grew on one another. At one point, White Fox notices that the two girls are bickering like sisters - and it was true! And then I realized, this odd little trio actually works together. Whoa.

Dead Reckoning combines many elements that really shouldn't work together: westerns, zombies, steampunk, and cults, but Lackey and Edgehill make it work. I'm not sure how they came up with such a crazy idea for a novel, but it's obvious they thought it through because I never found myself thinking "okay, that's just too far-fetched"... as I read about zombies, westerns, cults, and steampunkery. 

I also found Dead Reckoning to be rather funny. And sometimes quite touching. And sometimes scary. And other times exciting. I was surprised by how much I felt as I read this novel, considering that I'd almost given up on it.

I'm so glad that I gave this novel a second chance, and I'm hoping that my review will convince you to give this crazy book a try. It won't be for everyone, but there are readers out there who are going to love the hell out of it!

Bloomsbury, June 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9781599906843, 336 pages.

This post is part of the Dead Reckoning Blog Tour organized by Bloomsbury.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Review: The Story of Us by Deb Caletti

Cricket’s on a self-imposed break from her longtime boyfriend—but she’s picked a bad week to sort out her love life. For one thing, her mother’s romance is taking center stage: After jilting two previous fianc├ęs, her mom is finally marrying Dan Jax, whom Cricket loves. But as wedding attendees arrive for a week of festivities at a guesthouse whose hippie owners have a sweet, sexy son—Ash—complications arise: 
Cricket’s future stepsisters make it clear they’re not happy about the marriage. An old friend decides this is the week to declare his love for Cricket. Grandpa chooses to reveal a big secret at a family gathering. Dan’s ex-wife shows up. And even the dogs—Cricket’s old, ill Jupiter and Dan’s young, lively Cruiser—seem to be declaring war. 
While Cricket fears that Dan is in danger of becoming ditched husband-to-be number three, she’s also alarmed by her own desires. Because even though her boyfriend looms large in her mind, Ash is right in front of her....

My feelings about Deb Caletti's newest offering, The Story of Us, are divided. 

On one hand, I really enjoyed the story as I read it... and related to it on a very personal level, having done something very similar to Cricket a year or two ago. On the other hand, there are aspects of this novel that are a bit blurry to me after having only read it a couple days ago. 

While some aspects of the novel resonated deeply with me, I didn't feel a deep connection to any of the characters, including the main character, Cricket. This is a definite issue and I think it's why the details of the novel failed to stick. The overall story - Cricket's confusion regarding her relationships and her search for herself - was wonderfully done. I truly enjoyed the themes of the novel. The characters and setting, for whatever reason, didn't do it for me. There wasn't an actual event that caused a deeper connection to form between myself and the characters.

Caletti is a must-buy author for me, so I now own a copy of The Story of Us... and I don't regret buying it. The writing in this novel is fantastic and I don't feel like reading it was time well spent, but this book isn't one that I'll reread, like Caletti's Stay or The Secret Life of Prince Charming. If you're a Caletti fan or simply a fan of contemporary YA, give The Story of Us a chance, it's worth a read and you may end up loving it!

Simon Pulse, April 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9781442423466, 389 pages.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Top Ten Books on My Summer TBR Pile

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

Sweetly by Jackson Pearce
I really loved Sisters Red, so I bought a copy of Sweetly as soon as it released... but I haven't found time to read it. I've heard such good things about it though, so I NEED to make time.

Starters by Lissa Price
I need to just sit down and read this because I'm pretty sure I'll love it, but the cover has never appealed to me all that much, so I keep passing it by for prettier things. Which is not cool, not cool at all.

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
I am so behind when it comes to Clare's novels! I've yet to read Clockwork Prince, even though I adored the first book... and I'm two books behind in the Mortal Instruments series as well!

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
I listened to part of this on audio, but then never picked it back up... It was hilarious, so I much finish it!

Looking for Alaska by John Green
I really need to read this simply because I feel like it's a YA must read. I've read Paper Towns and I watch Green's vlogs all the time, but I still need to read this. It's happening this summer.

Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer
My friend Kristen loves these books, so I've been meaning to read them forever. I bought the first one over a year ago, but still haven't read it!

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
Marchetta's Jellicoe Road is my favorite book, but I still haven't found time to read this one.

Such A Rush by Jennifer Echols
I read all of Echols' books... it's like a tradition. :)

Insurgent by Veronica Roth
I need to reread Divergent before I read this one, which is why I haven't even though it's been out for awhile, but I'm SO EXCITED FOR IT.

The Book Thief by Markus Zuszak
This is another must read that I've failed to pick up. But I own it, so it's on the list for this summer! :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Review: The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe

“With every fiber of my being, I yearned to be normal. To glide through my days at Iverson without incident. But I’d have to face the fact that my life was about to unfold in a very, very different way than I’d ever envisioned. Normal would become forever out of reach.” 
Lora Jones has always known that she’s different. On the outside, she appears to be an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl. Yet Lora’s been keeping a heartful of secrets: She hears songs that no one else can hear, dreams vividly of smoke and flight, and lives with a mysterious voice inside her that insists she’s far more than what she seems. 
England, 1915. Raised in an orphanage in a rough corner of London, Lora quickly learns to hide her unique abilities and avoid attention. Then, much to her surprise, she is selected as the new charity student at Iverson, an elite boarding school on England’s southern coast. Iverson’s eerie, gothic castle is like nothing Lora has ever seen. And the two boys she meets there will open her eyes and forever change her destiny. 
Jesse is the school’s groundskeeper—a beautiful boy who recognizes Lora for who and what she truly is. Armand is a darkly handsome and arrogant aristocrat who harbors a few closely guarded secrets of his own. Both hold the answers to her past. One is the key to her future. And both will aim to win her heart. As danger descends upon Iverson, Lora must harness the powers she’s only just begun to understand, or else lose everything she dearly loves. Filled with lush atmosphere, thrilling romance, and ancient magic, The Sweetest Dark brilliantly captures a rich historical era while unfolding an enchanting love story that defies time.


I've been a fan of Shana Abe's adult romance novels for years, so when I discovered she was writing a Young Adult novel along the lines of her Drakon books, I was intrigued. So far, every YA novel I've read written by a adult romance novelist has been fantastic. I've noticed that many of these authors are able to tone down the sexiness enough so that it's appropriate for younger audiences, while still smoldering. In addition, many of these crossover authors write romance with a plot, so they're actually able to write a good story, despite the lack of sex. Abe is no exception and I'm definitely a fan.

Abe's Drakon novels feature characters that look like humans, but have the ability to shift into the shape of dragons. Fans of Sophie Jordan know that she is also a crossover adult romance author that writes YA novels featuring dragon shapeshifters. While these two sets of novels feature distinct similarities, the history and paranormal aspects definitely different. Abe's Drakon lore is firmly established due to her adult Drakon novels, so I doubt that readers will find the similarities troubling. Instead, I hope that fans of other shapeshifter novels, like Jordan's, will embrace The Sweetest Dark.

I will admit, The Sweetest Dark is a bit slow, but, since I genuinely enjoyed the characters, I didn't mind that the action was a bit lacking. Plus, this is only the first book and I fully anticipate the next to take things to the next level, especially after the intensity of this installment's ending. And, while Abe only touched on the paranormal aspects and the powers of the Drakon in this first book, having read her adult series dealing with the Drakon, I know that we can expect some pretty amazing things in the upcoming books.

Another aspect that I wasn't a huge fan of was the love triangle... primarily due to the fact that I wasn't a fan of one of Lora's possible matches. Armand is not my type of guy, but, with any luck, readers will see another side of him in book two. I feel like this is a very likely scenario and I look forward to seeing how Abe spins his sour disposition from book one.

Part of me wants to recommend that those of you are interested in reading The Sweetest Dark when it releases in August check out Abe's three adult novels that focus on the Drakon. Though I did enjoy this novel and I'll definitely reading any subsequent books, I don't know if it showcases just how strong Abe's writing can be. And, if you're interested in more of the history regarding the Drakon, you can find it in The Smoke Thief, The Dream Thief, and Queen of Dragons.

I'm glad to see another romance novelist try her hand at the YA genre... I think readers will enjoy this latest shapeshifter novel with it's historical elements and romance.

Random House Publishing Group, August 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780345531704, 352 pages.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Review: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

A gorgeous debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another. 
“One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.” 
The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase's family makes Samantha one of their own. Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself? 
A dreamy summer read, full of characters who stay with you long after the story is over.


Beach reads can be great, but they imply a certain amount of fluffiness that simply doesn't come to mind when I think about Huntley Fitzpatrick's My Life Next Door. Not that you'd know that just from a quick glance at the cover art and brief description... so I was surprised when I quickly discovered that My Life Next Door is most definitely not a turn off your brain and settle in for a comfy, sedate ride kind of book. Instead, it was filled with angst, painful decisions, and intense romance and friendship and family drama. 

The characters of My Life Next Door are one of the best aspects of the novel. Each has a very distinct personality (even the littlest of the Garrett's) so, despite there being quite a few children running around in various passages, each character was easily identified. I honestly felt like I knew these characters. Like maybe I lived on the other side of the Garrett's growing up and we all happened to be neighbors. I found myself tightly wrapped in the emotional ups and downs of these characters. 

The main character, Samantha, is not perfect, though she's spent much of her life trying to fit the image her mother so carefully cultivates. I cheered each of Sam's rebel moments, proud of her for doing something for herself rather than her mother. And I appreciated the fact that Sam really didn't do anything that would be harmful to herself. Her rebellion wasn't full of drugs, alcohol, and sex, but rather the bravery to accept the sometimes messy, but rewarding parts of life outside of one's comfort zone.

Huntley Fitzpatrick is a talented writer and I can easily imagine her novels gaining a healthy following, much like Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti's novels. I, for one, am anxiously awaiting news of her next project!

Dial Books for Young Readers, June 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780803736993, 395 pages.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Review: Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

Your mother hollers that you’re going to miss the bus. She can see it coming down the street. You don’t stop and hug her and tell her you love her. You don’t thank her for being a good, kind, patient mother. Of course not—you launch yourself down the stairs and make a run for the corner. 
Only, if it’s the last time you’ll ever see your mother, you sort of start to wish you’d stopped and did those things. Maybe even missed the bus. 
But the bus was barreling down our street, so I ran. 
Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong. 
In Emmy Laybourne’s action-packed debut novel, six high school kids (some popular, some not), two eighth graders (one a tech genius), and six little kids trapped together in a chain superstore build a refuge for themselves inside. While outside, a series of escalating disasters, beginning with a monster hailstorm and ending with a chemical weapons spill, seems to be tearing the world—as they know it—apart.
Emmy Laybourne's Monument 14 blew me away. I devoured this debut novel and, when I finished, I found myself in a satisfied stupor wondering where the past few hours had gone.

I sometimes have difficulty connecting to male main characters, so, when I opened Monument 14 and discovered that the narrator was one of the boys trapped in the superstore, I paused for a moment. I was entirely too interested in the premise to ever put down the novel, but I wondered if Dean would detract from my reading experience... I very much wanted to put myself in the position of the main character and I didn't know if I could make myself think like a teenage boy. I can't guarantee that Dean's thinking and actions were entirely true to life, but he felt realistic enough to me that I never forgot the fact that he was a boy, but I could still understand his emotions and motivations. In the end, I grew to like Dean a lot and I was happy that he, rather than one of the girls trapped in the superstore, was the narrator.

One of the most interesting aspects of this novel was the presence of small children as well as teens. I think having small children trapped as well added another dimension and sense of urgency to the situation. I found the differences between the reactions of each age group really put things into perspective... for both the characters themselves and the reader. It's already crazy that these teens are trapped and had to learn to trust one another and work together, but then to throw in small children that are alternately panicked or wanting to play and do something fun... the situation was terrifyingly real.

The giant hailstorm, the chemical weapons spill, the bus crashes, and the other events that lead to the fourteen kids being trapped inside the superstore all seemed carefully thought out and contained just enough detail to create a realistic picture within the reader's mind. The entire novel felt very cinematic. I actually found myself matching characters from the novel to people I knew in real life. Each character felt so impossibly real that my mind needed a three-dimensional body to go along with the personality Laybourne created.

Monument 14 has landed a spot on my Best of 2012 list. I'm already anxious for the next installment, as the novel ended on a cliffhanger... I seriously get shivers just thinking about the intensity of the final scenes!

Feiwel & Friends, June 2012, Hardcover, ISBN: 9780312569037, 294 pages.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fantastic Five: Upcoming Middle Grade Titles

Fantastic Five is a new-ish feature at The Hiding Spot! These posts will always feature five of something - whether it be forthcoming novels, favorite authors, books with a common theme, or newly released covers. Whatever the topic, there will always be five items featured and they will always be fantastic!

The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann 
Greenwillow Books/9.18.2012 
Bartholomew Kettle won't live long. Changelings never do. The child of a human mother and a faery father, Bartholomew is a secret, despised by both his races. If the English don't hang him for witchcraft, the faerys will do something worse. So his mother keeps him locked away, hidden from the world in the faery slums of Bath. 
But one day Bartholomew witnesses a mysterious lady kidnap another changeling through a shadowy portal, and he realizes the danger is closer than ever before. Changelings are surfacing in the rivers, their bodies empty of blood and bone and their skin covered in red markings. A powerful figure sits in the shadows, pushing the pieces in place for some terrible victory. When a sinister faery in a top-hat begins to stalk Bartholomew's steps, he knows it's his turn. Something is coming for him. Something needs him. But when you're a changeling there's no where to run...
Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has a secret. She's a Telepath--someone who hears the thoughts of everyone around her. It's a talent she's never known how to explain. 
Everything changes the day she meets Fitz, a mysterious boy who appears out of nowhere and also reads minds. She discovers there's a place she does belong, and that staying with her family will place her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave behind everything and start a new life in a place that is vastly different from anything she has ever known. 
Sophie has new rules to learn and new skills to master, and not everyone is thrilled that she has come “home.” There are secrets buried deep in Sophie's memory—secrets about who she really is and why she was hidden among humans—that other people desperately want. Would even kill for. 
In this page-turning debut, Shannon Messenger creates a riveting story where one girl must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world, before the wrong person finds the answer first.

The Spy Princess by Sherwood Smith
Viking Juvenile/8.2.12

When twelve-year-old Lady Lilah decides to disguise herself and sneak out of the palace one night, she has more of an adventure than she expected--for she learns very quickly that the country is on the edge of revolution. When she sneaks back in, she learns something even more surprising: her older brother Peitar is one of the forces behind it all. The revolution happens before all of his plans are in place, and brings unexpected chaos and violence. Lilah and her friends, leaving their old lives behind, are determined to help however they can. But what can four kids do? Become spies, of course!

The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver

When Liza’s younger brother Patrick’s soul is stolen by the evil Spindlers, spider-like creatures who live underground, she knows she must set out on a heroic quest to the world Below to rescue it.

The Wednesdays by Julie Bourbeau
Random House Children's Books/8.14.12

Max’s village is absolutely normal in every single way and on every single day—except Wednesday. Most of the townsfolk shutter their windows and lock their doors to hide away from the many peculiar things that happen—things like cats getting stuck in the vacuum cleaner and birthday cakes meeting fiery and horrific ends. But Max is too curious for that, and so, breaking every rule in the village, he searches out the cause of all the Wednesday weirdness. What he uncovers is a secret so devious—so dastardly and mischievous—that life as he knows it will never be the same. Max himself is not the same. Suddenly the mysterious little accidents so common on Wednesdays are happening to him on Thursdays, Fridays—even Saturdays! What’s come over Max? And more importantly, is there any cure for a case of the Wednesdays? Mystery, magic, mischief and monsters abound in this slightly fantastical story of a human kid who wants to stay that way.

Which upcoming MG books are you looking forward to? Are there any particularly good ones that you've read recently?