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Friday, August 29, 2014

Review & Giveaway: Six Feet Over It by Jennifer Longo

Title: Six Feet Over It
Author: Jennifer Longo
Publisher: Random House
Pub. Date: August 26, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 12+
Pages: 352
More by this author: n/a

Goodreads / Buy It

Fourteen-year old Leigh has had quite enough of death. Her older sister, in cancer remission, is focused on living life to the fullest, but Leigh feels like death is constantly lurking around the corner. Reeling from the recent loss of her best friend, the last place she wants to spend her days is a graveyard, but that's exactly where she ends up. After her father makes the ridiculous decision to purchase a graveyard, he proceeds to move the whole family from the ocean to their new home, in the graveyard. Leigh is stuck selling graves, where customers are either pre-need or at need, both pretty depressing. The only person who makes things bearable is Dario, the illegal, slightly older gravedigger who challenges Leigh to rejoin the land of the living.

Wow. The story hidden beneath this cover will knock your socks off. I was completely unprepared for how deep and emotionally powerful this novel would be. The cover and title, though fitting, seem to convey a lighter tone and, while Six Feet Over It is filled with dark humor and snarky banter, it isn't fluffy. 

There are lots of big, often difficult, questions addressed in this novel. Questions about death, about how we react to death, how we honor those we've lost, how we move on... These questions are hard to anyone to answer, but we all, at some point in our lives, will find ourselves considering them. Leigh, having nearly lost her sister and having actually lost her best friend,  is consumed by her need to find meaning in death - to understand how she is supposed to keep living each day like death isn't waiting to descend.

Leigh is right at that age where she is starting to realize that her parents are, at their core, just people. People who make mistakes and aren't always the parents they should be. People who are hypocritical and sometimes weak. Leigh knows that they aren't horrible people, but she can't help but want more from them... for them to open their eyes and see how she's struggling. Her parents do redeem themselves slightly by the novel's end, but I really appreciated the realistic, imperfect parents presented in Six Feet Over It. Leigh loves them, despite (and, in ways, because of) their shortcomings. 

Though Six Feet Over it is technically YA, it's a good pick to bridge the gap between MG and YA. The themes and content are appropriate for younger readers (there is a budding romance between secondary characters, but no sexual content) and the actual writing will prove challenging enough for those 11 and 12-year old readers who find MG too easy. Very sensitive readers might shy away from the discussion of death, but those who could handle MG realistic fiction that tackle death (like The Secret Hum of a Daisy) will be fine.  

 Win It!

Open to US mailing addresses only. One winner. Ends September 12, 2014.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review & Giveaway: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

Title: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Publisher: Doubleday/Random House
Pub. Date: July 8, 2014
Genre: Adult/Coming of Age
Rec. Age Level: 17+
Pages: 288
More by this author: The Sandcastle Girls, Midwives, The Double Blind

Goodreads / Buy It

Emily Shepherd is one of many displaced individuals who have had their lives shattered by the catastrophic nuclear meltdown in Vermont. Living in an igloo constructed of trash bags, struggling to keep her addictions in check, and fiercely protecting Cameron, a young boy she's taken in, sixteen-year old Emily's life before seems a world away. The country blames her parents, the nuclear plant's director and publicity manager, for the tragedy - and Emily by default. Terrified that the truth of her identity will ultimately be worse than life on the streets, Emily struggles to give up all vestiges of her past and embrace her bleak future. 

I can't stop thinking about this book. It's a disaster novel that is characterized by its quiet intensity, rather than nonstop action. It's truly the characters - particularly Emily - that drive the novel.

My feelings about Emily are confusing, to say the least. I feel this overwhelming sense of protectiveness when I think about her, but, at the same time, she's completely exasperating and her shortsightedness made me want to throw my hands in the air. The truth of the matter is, she's just a kid - scared, confused, and utterly alone. She makes a lot of choices that, as a 20-something reader, I thought made the situation worse instead of better. I couldn't help thinking that she could have found a better Plan A, that living on the streets should have been Plan C maybe. But, when I imagine myself in her situation, suddenly parentless surrounded by panic and grabbing hands, I really do understand how one split-second decision can lead to another until you're somewhere you never imagined you'd be. Which, in Emily's case, means selling her body, cutting, doing drugs, and living in an igloo made of trash bags. 

Though this novel is character and language driven, rather than action, it still leaves the reader with goosebumps. In fact, this might make it even scarier. I can't speak for everyone, but I tend to ignore the fact that the events that happen in Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, nuclear catastrophes like at Fukushima and Chernobyl,  could happen in the US. Bohjalian creates a convincing situation in which this can and does happen, with terrifying and thought-provoking consequences.

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Open to US mailing addresses only. Ends 9/12/14.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Review: Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff

Title: Fiendish
Author: Brenna Yovanoff
Publisher: Penguin
Pub. Date: August 14, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 12+
Pages: 352
More by this author: The Replacement, The Space Between, Paper Valentine

Goodreads / Buy It

For a decade, Clementine DeVore has been sealed within the cellar of her destroyed home, eyes sewn shut yet somehow aware of the world outside. She would have remained there for decades more if not for Fisher, a boy with whom she shares a supernatural connection. The world has changed since the fateful day Clementine was interned in the cellar, the day a lynch mob of angry townsfolk razed the homes of the fiendish folk in the Willows, scaring them into hiding. But Clementine's return - and her growing relationship with Fisher - has awoken a deep, dark magic that once again inspires fiery passions in the townsfolk. The magic of the hollow will no longer be contained and Clementine might be the only person who can prevent a cataclysmic uprising. Fiendish is an epic tale of powerful magic, persecution, and good prevailing over evil.

This novel was my first Brenna Yovanoff experience and I am definitely a fan!  Her writing is absolutely gorgeous - that is definitely what propels this story, even more so than the action. It should be noted, however, that, while Fiendish is creepy, it is not, stay-up-all-night-with-the-light-on scary. The focus is more on the romance and the divide between good and evil and the persecution of those who are 'different.' 

This book has a definite Salem witch trial vibe going on, except, in New South Bend, the rumors of witchcraft are a bit more substantial than the gossip of teenaged girls. Though those who practice magic in this novel are not necessarily evil, there is dangerous magic surrounds New South Bend - magic that is inexplicably tied to Clementine. 

There is a bit of insta-love happening here, but not in the traditional way. Clementine and Fisher meet and immediately have feelings for one another (some romantic, but some a bit more complicated), but there's a valid reason, which remedied what annoyance I met have felt about the believability. I mean, really, when you're reading a Yovanoff novel, I get the impression that some suspension of disbelief is highly encouraged.

Pick this one up - especially if you're looking for something with a bit of witchcraft  and a few bumps in the night.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review & Giveaway: Evil Fairies Love Hair by Mary G. Thompson

Title: Evil Fairies Love Hair
Author: Mary G. Thompson
Publisher: Clarion
Pub. Date: August 5, 2014
Genre: Middle Grade
Rec. Age Level: 9-12
Pages: 314
More by this author: Wuftoom, Escape from the Pipe Men!

Goodreads / Buy It

Alison Butler has a secret. In exchange for one wish, she must raise a flock of 100 fairies. Sounds easy peasy... Fairies are cute and little and sprinkle fairy dust, right? Wrong! These fairies are evil, hair-eating bullies with one or two secrets themselves. Can Alison fulfill her end of the ever-changing contract and earn her wish  or will the fairies achieve their evil goal? Evil Fairies Love Hair is a lively, creative story about fairies and the power of hair, with a lesson or two about hard work and friendship.

Watch out, these are not your mother's fairies! They might be small, but they've got a sinister plan up their  little sleeves. I love how different this book is... and the fact that the cover completely fits the story, right down to the fact that the girl has her hair up in a tight bun (otherwise the fairies will latch on and nothing good will happen after that!).

Even though the main character, Ali, has flaws - she does, after all, sign a contract with evil fairies - she's determined to do the right thing after she realizes the error of her ways, no matter the cost. There are some great messages interwoven into this novel, but young readers will never feel like positive messages are being foisted upon them. All of the characters feel realistic, some wishing for beauty, others using their wishes to cast hexes.

Evil Fairies Love Hair is a great read for both boys and girls... and everyone who's ever thought a magical wish would make their lives easier.

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Win a copy of Evil Fairies Love Hair! Giveaway open to US mailing addresses only. Ends 9/8/2014 at 12:00 am EST.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Storytime: New and Notable Picture Books (6)

Storytime is a new(ish) feature at The Hiding Spot in which I share some of my favorite new, old, & overlooked picture books.
Not a parent, teacher, or librarian? Picture books make fantastic gifts, from baby showers to birthdays and holidays. As bookworms, we all know how important books are – be the one who hands that special kid in your life the book that will make them fall in love with the magic of reading!

New & Notable

Pig and Small
Written & Illustrated by Alex Latimer

Add on Goodreads / Buy It
Pig and Bug are very unlikely friends. After all, Pig is big and Bug is small. They try doing things together, like playing chess (Pig falls asleep while Bug is making his move) and playing hide and seek (Bug always finds Pig right away, but Bug takes hours to find), but their size makes things difficult. But then, Pig has a brilliant idea! With a little bit of thinking, Pig and Bug find all sorts of activities they can enjoy together. Pig and Small wonderful, funny story about friendship and overcoming differences.
Written & Illustrated by Keith Graves

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Halloween makes Master Edgar Dreadbury yawn. He finds costumes terribly tedious and not nearly scary enough. So, when he finds a grime covered contraption called the Mosterator inside a mysterious costume shop, he inserts a dime and steps inside. Monsterated, Edgar is fearsome to behold, no one is scarier to Edgar. When Edgar finds out he can't be un-monsterated, he growls and stomps home, but all is well as Edgar grows rather fond of his freakish new features and relishes his role as a monstrous creature! The Monsterator is a fabulous read for little monsters any time of year, but will be especially loved during Halloween! The final pages flip to "monsterate" Edgar, allowing for a countless combinations and interactive fun!

Day Dreamers: A Journey of Imagination
Written & Illustrated by Emily Winfield Martin

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In Day Dreamers, the companion to Dream Animals, Emily Martin once again enchants readers with lush illustrations and soothing, rhythmic text. Day Dreamers pairs fanciful and imaginative creatures with a message that creativity and wonder are to be wholeheartedly embraced and encouraged. Breathtaking.

Bunny the Brave War Horse
Written by Elizabeth MacLeod, Illustrated by Marie Lafrance

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This is the story of Bunny, a real police horse who was transferred to Europe during WWI and, along with brothers and soldiers Bud and Tom, bravely served his country. While the main focus is on Bunny and the role of horses during wartime, the text also touches on the physical and emotional destruction caused by war. This courageous long-eared horse provides readers with an inspirational story, as well numerous starting points for the discussion of WWI.
Earth Space Moon Base
Written & Illustrated by Ben Joel Price

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In Earth Space Moon Base a surprising trio teams up to protect the planet. How will a robot, a spaceman, and banana wielding monkey keep these tentacled invaders at bay? You'll have to read this book to find out! Retro illustrations will keep listeners engaged, while the spare text propels the story.


Love any of the books featured this week? Want to see a certain theme explore, author, or illustrator explored in an upcoming Story Time post? Let me know in the comments!