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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Review: The Taking by Kimberly Derting

Title: The Taking
Author: Kimberly Derting
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pub. Date: April 29, 2014
Genre: YA
Rec. Age Level: 14+

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It's been five years since Kyra Agnew mysteriously disappeared after a fight with her father. A lot can change in five years - people age, marriages fall apart, new relationships develop - but, when Kyra reappears, there's nothing new about her. Everything, right down to the bruises and dusty softball uniform she was wearing when she disappeared, are exactly the same. For Kyra, it feels like the softball game, kissing her boyfriend, and fighting with her dad happened mere hours before... for the rest of the world, life has moved on. Kyra finds her parents divorced and her boyfriend five years older... and his little brother, Tyler, too. Kyra's life has been taken from her and she's determined to find out how and why. Things have definitely taken a turn for the weird, and her father's conspiracy theories don't sound near as far fetched as they would have five years ago... or, for Kyra, yesterday.

I love, love, love this book! Admittedly, I love everything Derting has written, but still. Derting's first series, which begins with THE BODY FINDER, also has a paranormal slant, so to me, she's returning to her roots with THE TAKING. I love her dystopian series - THE PLEDGE - too, but there's something compelling about her paranormal novels. I think it's the fact that her characters are so normal, except for that one element that sets them apart. In THE BODY FINDER, it's the main character's ability to sense the aura of a dead body. In THE TAKING, it's a mysterious, perhaps otherworldly, disappearance that steals five years from the main character's life and leaves her... changed. When you read one of Derting's novels, you can't help but wonder 'what if.'

It doesn't hurt that Derting writes romantic leads that leave you a bit breathless and a whole lot in love. In THE TAKING, Kyra finds herself - somewhat inappropriately - drawn to Tyler, who was only twelve when she disappeared. Now Tyler is the same age as Kyra and all to determined to prove he's no longer a little kid. The Tyler/Kyra romance was so wrong it was right. Even though Kyra tries to resist Tyler's charm, I'm not sure any girl could resist someone so determined to sweep her off her feet.

If you haven't read a Kimberly Derting book yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!? If you have, give yourself a pat on the back, you have impeccable taste.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Review: Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Title: Open Road Summer
Author: Emery Lord
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pub. Date: April 15, 2014
Genre: YA
Rec. Age Level: 14+

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In Emery Lord's debut, OPEN ROAD SUMMER, Reagan begins the summer with the simple plan of spending the entire summer with her best friend, Dee. Reagan and Dee have been best friends for years, sticking with one another through think and thin and life changes big and small. Dee has been there for Reagan through drunken nights, hangovers, high school gossip, bad breakups, and family drama. And, though Dee has a significantly less drama filled high school experience, Reagan has been her rock through her recent break up with her long time boyfriend... and her recent rise to country music stardom. Dee is none other than Lilah Montgomery - the rising star every girl wants to be and every guy wants to date - but she's just Dee to Reagan. Reagan needs to get out of town for awhile and Dee's first nationwide tour provides the perfect opportunity: the open road, her best friend, and miles and miles between Reagan and her problems.

When scandalous pictures of Dee are leaked to the tabloids, threatening Lilah Montgomery's wholesome image and dredging up the emotional baggage of Dee's recent breakup, the record label adds Matt Finch, teen heartthrob and fellow musician, to the tour as the opening act. Matt's sudden addition distracts the media, turning the attention from the scandal to speculations about a potential relationship between Lilah and Matt. Reagan is simultaneously attracted and annoyed by the talented, confident, wounded Matt Finch. Even though she knows she has no business being interested in the guy who is keeping Dee safe from media scandal, she finds that little by little, Matt Finch is breaking down her defenses and making her feel things she'd rather pretend she's immune to.

The simple summer Reagan has planned has suddenly become a lot more complicated.

This book makes my heart happy! How can you not love a book filled with music, tension-filled romance, best friends, and roadtripping? PLUS a snarky, not-so-secretly damaged main character, a best friend dealing with the negative consequences of fame, and a love interest that's swoonworthy (not only because he's gorgeous, but because he's smart, talented, passionate, and a genuinely good guy)? This book is obviously a guaranteed win!

If you love books by Morgan Matson, Deb Caletti, Sarah Dessen, Simone Elkeles, Katie McGarry, or any other must-read contemporary YA author, I guarantee you'll devour OPEN ROAD SUMMER and immediately begin looking for the release date of Emery Lord's next book.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review: There Will Be Bears by Ryan Gebhart

Title: There Will Be Bears
Author: Ryan Gebhart
Publisher: Candlewick
Pub. Date: April 22, 2014
Genre: MG
Rec. Age Level: 8+

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In Ryan Gebhart's debut MG novel, THERE WILL BE BEARS, 13-year old Tyson can't wait for the elk hunting trip he and his grandfather have been planning. Tyson will finally get to go hunting and spend a weekend in the wilderness with Gramps, who's h. hands down the coolest grandfather around. Shortly after he and Gramps guzzle prune juice to clean out their systems in preparation for the trip, his parents break the news: the hunting trip is cancelled. To make matters worse, Gramps is sick and being moved to home in a whole different state.Tyson is stuck with his dreams shattered, an ex-best friend who's a totally yamhole, and some unexpected, difficult truths about his family weighing him down. Feeling angry and betrayed, he throws caution to the wind when Gramps suggests pulling a fast one on Tyson's parents and going on the hunting trip as planned, despite multiple reports of a dangerous grizzly bear in the area and his grandfather's deteriorating health. Will Tyson and Gramps make it through the weekend alive?

I have no doubt that middle school boys will love this book and I'm fairly confident that many girls will too. I know middle school me would have loved it. Part of the appeal for me was how much Gramps reminds me a lot of my own grandfather, prune juice guzzling and big game hunting included.

Growing up in the Midwest, specifically NE Michigan, hunting has always been a pretty big part of my life. Hunting with a parent or grandfather is as much of a rite of passage in my world as it is in Tyson's, so I could relate to his heartbreak when his trip with Gramps is cancelled. His determination to be able to shoot and clean his kill on his own - and his hesitation when that moment comes - are all important, teachable moments during a fragile time in Tyson's life.

Though Tyson's relationship with Gramps drives much of the novel's action, I also appreciated his relationship with his sort of ex-best friend. This friend, Bright, has made some new friends and he's been spending less and less time with Tyson. I love that, though Tyson is hurt by Bright's actions and behavior, he's mature enough to realize what's motivating Bright and to, eventually, forgive him.

I'm looking forward to more great MG from Gebhart!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review: On the Rocks by Erin Duffy

Title: On the Rocks
Author: Erin Duffy
Publisher: William Morrow
Pub. Date: April 22, 2014
Genre: Adult
Rec. Age Level: 18+

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After her fiance Ben very publicly dumps her on Facebook Abby retreats from both her social life and social networking, barely emerging from the comfort of her apartment, ice cream, and television binges. When her best friend Grace insists that she spend the summer with her in a rented cottage in Newport, Abby reluctantly agrees, if for no other reason than to placate Grace. With the help of Grace, an old classmate, and two new guy friends who remind Abby that good guys do exist, she takes steps to reclaim her life. Abby considers herself an old fashioned girl, but she quickly learns that, with social networking and internet stalking, the rules of the dating game have grown complicated... and utterly ridiculous. But Abby refuses to let social media and google searches rule her life. ON THE ROCKS is for every woman who's found herself on the wrong side of social media, in the aftermath of a bad breakup, or elbow deep in Ben & Jerry's when things fall apart.

Though I've never been broken up with via social media of any type (thankfully!) I found it easy to relate to Abby and her disgust with how intertwined technology and relationships & dating have become. Though Abby's engagement ended with her ex's change of relationship status and his sudden move out-of-state, she still has a hard time separating herself from him. First, she finds herself Facebook stalking him, and, after deleting her account, she's still plagued by texts and emails he sporadically sends. Even though she knows she should be strong enough to ignore his attempts at contact, she's unable to simply delete the messages and is repeatedly pulled back in, even as he dates and moves on with his life. Then, when she finally breaks back into the dating scene, she finds she still can't escape the effects of constant communication and social media. Even if she's not using social media, a simple Google search reveals all sorts of personal information (and embarrassing photos of fashion mistakes past) and not having a Facebook page has a negative connotation of its own. It's pretty safe to say that most anyone can relate to Abby's struggles in one way or another.

I really liked Abby's relationship with the two guys she befriends while living in Newport. While both have flaws, they are, at heart, good guys that restore Abby's faith in men. Both are straight shooters and tell it like it, even when the truth doesn't cast them in the best light.

Abby's snark, the beach setting, and the honesty and humor of ON THE ROCKS makes it a perfect beach read.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: Don't Call Me Baby by Gwendolyn Heasley

Title: Don't Call Me Baby
Author: Gwendolyn Heasley
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pub. Date: April 22, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 12+

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For 15-year-old Imogen, blog is the worst word in the English language. Imogen's mother, Mommylicious, is an immensely popular Mommy Blogger with fans around the world. Since before Imogen was born her mother has chronicled her experiences as a mother, dishing out advice, reviewing products, and posting all of Imogen's achievements and most embarrassing moments online for anyone to see. Everywhere she goes, random strangers recognize her as Babylicious, like the real Imogen doesn't even exist. Imogen is sick of her mother's online representation of their family, the edited, consumer-friendly version. When Imogen's teacher requires each student to start their own blog, Imogen tries to avoid it, until she decides that a blog is the best way to give her mother a taste of her own medicine. 

Gwendolyn Heasley's DON'T CALL ME BABY is a lighthearted contemporary romp that successfully tackles the often confusing issues of virtual versus real-life identity and the increasingly complicated state of parent/child relationships when coupled with social networking.

This book is falls on the young side of YA and could very easily appeal to mature MG readers. In fact, I worry that more mature YA readers will be bored by it; the characters are quite immature and seemed very young in comparison to those in other YA. 

The one element of this novel that I really just couldn't get past was how absolutely ridiculous and silly the mothers in this novel were. I really couldn't stand either one and, I have to say, these girls are much better adjusted and forgiving than I am because I would hold a grudge for much longer. Or maybe I wouldn't... it's hard to tell when my mother has probably never even read a blog, much less written one. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Weekly Wrap Up (13)

Weekly Wrap Up is a summary of the current week's blog posts, a look at what you'll find on the blog next week, and a overview of books I read this week!
This Week at The Hiding Spot
Giveaway: Rose and the Lost Princess/Holly Webb (Win It!)
Blog Tour: Ask Me/Kimberly Pauley (Post)
Review: What I Thought Was True/Huntley Fitzpatrick (Review)
Review: The Summer I Wasn't Me/Jessica Verdi (Review)
Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before/Jenny Han (Review)
Q&A Session with R.R. Russell/Wonderlight (Interview)
Next Week
Review: Don't Call Me Baby/Gwendolyn Heasley
Review: On the Rocks/Erin Duffy
Q&A Session with Corinne Demas/Returning to Shore
Review: Returning to Shore/Corinne Demas
Review: Open Road Summer/Emery Lord
Q&A Session with Jennifer Swann Downey/Ninja Librarians
Read This Week

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
Road trip, plenty of romantic tension, and a spunky, sarcastic main character? This book had everything I love, so I obviously adored it! Emery Lord has landed a spot on my must-read list. (Goodreads)

Don't Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski
This book sounds pretty fluffy. And, in ways, it reads like fluff, but it has surprising depth. It was a quick read and left me looking forward to the next book, Don't Think Twice. If you're looking for a healthy dose of humor, this one is a great read! (Goodreads)

The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes
I'll be honest, I wasn't hooked on this one from the start. I'll discuss more in my review, but it took me awhile to warm up to this MC. But, when I did, I quickly fell for this contemporary YA in which the MC uses Sun Tzu's Art of War to win back an ex. Love is a battlefield after all. (Goodreads)

The Taking by Kimberly Derting
I've been a fan of Derting's books for years. I read an arc of her debut, The Body Finder, fell in love and never looked back. The Taking is the first in a new trilogy and it is so good. A girl disappears for 5 years than suddenly reappears... and she hasn't aged a day. There's mystery, angst, and a romance that had me glued to the page! (Goodreads)

The Inventor's Secret by Andrea Cremer
Technically I'm only halfway through this one, but I'll be finish it in the next hour or so. This is the start of a new trilogy?/series? from Cremer. I was hooked from the first page - there's steampunk goodness, a corrupt government, secrets, corsets, plunging necklines, and simmering attraction. Win! (Goodreads)

Tell me what you've been reading in the comments! Have we read any books in common lately? What have you read that I need to read?!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Q&A Session with R.R. Russell, author of Wonder Light [Blog Tour]

Author R.R. Russell is at The Hiding Spot today to answer a few question in celebration of the paperback release of her book Wonder Light: Unicorns of the Mist!

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? 
Whenever something awful happens to one of my characters, it’s very hard to write. I had to write a scene that involved a terrible loss, and it was really painful for me.
I loved how loving and comforting the island and the Murleys – the couple that runs the pony ranch – are.  It is, in part, the hot chocolate and delicious meals that win Twig over when she first arrives on the island. What food item would win you over in a new unfamiliar place?
Any of the foods I wrote into Wonder Light—hot chocolate, apple cider pancakes, bacon, homemade sandwiches, pot roast, chocolate cake…
Has the title changed or stayed relatively the same as your novel journeyed towards publication? 

I called this book Unicorns of Lonehorn Island. Sourcebooks titled it Wonder Light, after Twig’s unicorn. It’s still Unicorns of Lonehorn Island in my head!

1    What can readers look forward to in your next book?

Stolen unicorns, treachery, much more about Terracornus, land of the unicorns—and swamp lizards!

What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing?

I’m still doing the job that shapes my writing the most—being a mom. I write for my kids, and they read my work as I go.

If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?
Chocolate! Because it’s delicious.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
Writing is my escape. I get to become my characters and live in another world when I write.

Learn more about R.R. Russell and her books here