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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Review: The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Goodreads / Buy It
Title: The Vanishing Season
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pub. Date: July 1, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 14+
Pages: 304
More by this author: Tiger Lily, Peaches


Girls started vanishing in the fall, and now winter's come to lay a white sheet over the horror. Door County, it seems, is swallowing the young, right into its very dirt. From beneath the house on Water Street, I've watched the danger swell.

The residents know me as the noises in the house at night, the creaking on the stairs. I'm the reflection behind them in the glass, the feeling of fear in the cellar. I'm tied—it seems—to this house, this street, this town.

I'm tied to Maggie and Pauline, though I don't know why. I think it's because death is coming for one of them, or both.

All I know is that the present and the past are piling up, and I am here to dig.I am looking for the things that are buried.

From bestselling author Jodi Lynn Anderson comes a friendship story bound in snow and starlight, a haunting mystery of love, betrayal, redemption, and the moments that we leave behind.

I picked up The Vanishing Season because I really loved Anderson's last novel, a gorgeous retelling of Peter Pan. Oddly, I hadn't heard much about this newest novel and knew little about it other than the fact that it made the Summer 2014 Kids' Indie Next List. I actually decided to read The Vanishing Season after an especially long day; I had been hoping for a light, relaxing read. That is not what I found. Instead, I was up all night, caught up in this beautiful, heartbreaking book.

I would classify The Vanishing Season as literary YA. It moves slowly, the focus on the characters rather than plot or action. When I told my friend I was up all night crying over this book and she asked me what happens in it, my first response was to say 'nothing.'While this isn't strictly true - there's murder, a ghost, and romance - The Vanishing Season is a quiet book that develops with precision. 

I think it's important to clarify that this is not a ghost story per se and it is definitely not horror. The narration does alternate between the main character, Maggie, and a ghost that is haunting her cellar, but the ghost's narration isn't meant to be scary. Instead, it adds to the mystery, which is driven primarily by a series of serial killings taking place throughout the novel.

One of my favorite things about this novel is the setting. It takes place on a Wisconsin peninsula, but, because so much of the Midwest is similar, it felt just like the area where I live. In the book, the tourists are referred to as fudgies, just like in Traverse City. The peninsula juts into Lake Michigan and Maggie spends much of her time trekking through the forest and exploring. Michigan and Wisconsin are interchangeable in the scenes described in the this novel, which probably had a positive effect on my reading experience. The setting, coupled with Maggie's personality, felt very familiar to me.

Speaking of Maggie's personality, it was... unique. Or maybe just different than I'm used to seeing in YA. Maggie is nice. Readers might argue that she's nice to a fault actually. And though I sometimes wanted her to give into the anger that I knew was simmering below the surface or to stand up for herself, I also respected her politeness. I'm not really sure how to describe it - or her - other than quintessentially Midwestern.

I'll be thinking about The Vanishing Season for a very long time. It isn't your normal YA read; it likely won't conform to your expectations. It will leave your with an aching heart and a tear stained face. But, trust me, it's worth it.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Giveaway: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

I've talked about Sabaa Tahir's debut on the blog before, but, in case you've forgotten, this book needs to be on your to-read list. It's a stand alone fantasy novel, which, as any avid YA reader knows, is pretty amazing. It's near impossible to find standalone YA, not to mention standalone YA that can offers a compelling world and full-fleshed characters. This one doesn't hit shelves until April, so now's your chance to win an early copy!

Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.

LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.

ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier— and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.

When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

Vow your blood and body to the empire.

Keep your heart for yourself.
Intrigued? My arc will go to one lucky entrant here at The Hiding Spot. 

Win It!

Ends December 13, 2014. 1 winner. Open internationally.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Very Best Gift for the Young Reader In Your Life (And You!)

I am so, so excited about this - so excited, that I have to write a blog post about it. As some of you might know, I work at an independent bookstore in Traverse City, Michigan. Well, this week, we launched something really awesome, just in time for Christmas. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

One of the really cool services that Brilliant Books has offered customers for the last few years is a Book of the Month subscription. Often customers will purchase it for a family member that loves to read, other times for themselves. It's an easy and seriously awesome gift available to our customers from every corner of the US: the recipient fills out a card that details their preferences, the booksellers at Brilliant handpick a book specifically for the reader, and then the book arrives at the reader's doorstep. All costs are included in the subscription price, so the recipient has to do nothing more than fill out a card about their reading habits and then read handpicked books. Pretty great, right? 

Here's where we get to the fun part...

This week we launched a Kids and Young Adult version of the Book of the Month subscription service! We've been working on this concept for awhile, so it is so cool to see everything out in the wild. 

There are four different options:

Learn more about each option here.

Each option comes with a different preferences card to ensure that the right books are selected for each reader. Keep in mind that, though each option has specific ages listed, they are just guidelines... If you love reading Young Adult, but you aren't technically a teen, don't feel excluded. If you're a 5th grade teacher who wants to keep your classroom library stocked with fresh new titles, Middle Grade is the way to go! You're expecting and you want to start building your little one's library early? The Picture Book option is just what you need! 

What's great about Book of the Month is that you can make it whatever you want it to be and the end result is always the same: the perfect book for you.

I'm in love with this entire concept - if I didn't work at Brilliant, I'd be asking for the YA Book of the Month this year! Book of the Month, for both adults and kids, is available to you no matter where you live in the US. Your monthly selections are shipped right to your door. I'm more than happy to answer any questions you might have about Book of the Month in the comments and via email.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Storytime: New & Notable Picture Books (9)

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

A Perfectly Messed Up Story
Written & Illustrated by Patrick McDonnell

Add on Goodreads / Buy It
'In this interactive and engaging read-aloud, bestselling author and award-winning artist Patrick McDonnell creates a funny, engaging, and almost perfect story about embracing life's messes.
Little Louie's story keeps getting messed up, and he's not happy about it! What's the point of telling his tale if he can't tell it perfectly? But when he stops and takes a deep breath, he realizes that everything is actually just fine, and his story is a good one--imperfections and all.'

If You Were a Dog
Written by Jamie Swenson; Illustrated by Chris Raschka

Add on Goodreads / Buy It
'If you could be any kind of animal, what would you be? Would you be a dog that goes ARRRROOOOOOO? Or maybe you would be a sharp-toothed dinosaur that can CHOMP, STOMP, ROAR! Perhaps you might want to be a hopping frog that goes BOING, BOING, RIBBET! But maybe you would want to be the best kind of animal of all: a child!
With joyful, impressionistic illustrations from Caldecott Medal–winning illustrator Chris Raschka and spare, rhythmic text from author Jamie A. Swenson that invites playful interaction, If You Were a Dog is the perfect read-aloud for your favorite little animal.'

I Know a Bear
Written & Illustrated by Mariana Ruiz Johnson

Add on Goodreads / Buy It
In I Know a Bear, a child befriends a bear at the zoo who regales her with stories of the Land of the Bears, a vast, wondrous place the bear once called home and sorely misses. Inspired by the bear's stories, the child returns home to release her pet bird into the wild. This is a tender, touching story that gives a voice to animals taken from their natural habitats for human entertainment. Even if this message goes over young readers' heads, they'll enjoy the gentle cadence of the story and the beautiful illustrations.

While You Were Napping
Written &amp Jenny Offill; Illustrated by Barry Blitt

Add on Goodreads / Buy It
In While You Were Napping a boy's worst fears are confirmed when he wakes to discover that, while he was napping, the rest of the neighborhood kids were off on grand adventures. Dinosaur bones have been discovered, fireworks set off, pirates have invaded and nearly made everyone walk the plank (but settled for handing out peg-leg party favors), astronauts took everyone on a trip into space to try out zero-gravity, and more! While it may be best to avoid this one before the naptime (for fear of inciting rebellion!), Jenny Offill's newest offering is sure to entertain readers young and old.

Here Is the Baby
Written by Polly Kanevsky; Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

Add on Goodreads / Buy It
Here Is the Baby takes young readers through Baby's day, from the waking up to the bright morning sun to snuggling with Mama, Daddy, and Sister before saying goodnight. Colorful illustrations accompany short blocks of text, making this the perfect read aloud for little one's bedtime.

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!

Review: The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi

Goodreads / Buy It
Title: The Secret Sky
Author: Atia Abawi
Publisher: Penguin
Pub. Date: September 2, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 14+
Pages: 304
More by this author: N/A


Set in present-day Afghanistan, this is the story of two teenagers, one Pashtun and one Hazara, who must fight against their culture, their tradition, their families, and the Taliban to stay together. Told in three rotating perspectives—the two teens and another boy in the village who turns them in to the local Taliban—this novel depicts both the violent realities of living in Afghanistan, as well as the beauty of the land and the cultures there. And it shows that love can bloom in even the darkest of places.

This is an absolute must read not just for teens but for anyone who has lived during the time of America's War in Afghanistan.

From the start, I want to make clear that this book is not a swoony, romantic YA novel. I mean, I think that should be pretty obvious given the setting and description, but you know what they say about assuming.  

The Secret Sky is a powerful novel that you'll likely find difficult to read at times. Narrated by three characters, Fatima, Sami, and Rashid, Atia Abawi's debut chronicles the complicated romance between Fatima and Sami and the violent fallout. Rashid, Sami's cousin, narrates from outside of Fatima and Sami's relationship and, for me, was perhaps the most interesting character.

Rashid is a misguided youth who's moral compass is compromised by jealousy, anger, and hatred. It is Rashid who discovers the budding romance between Fatima and Sami and Rashid who manipulates the situation in an effort guarantee an outcome borne of hatred and violence. For me his character was interesting because I couldn't identify with his thought process and actions. I was fascinated this deeply flawed, deeply wrong individual. I wanted redemption for him; I wanted him to see the error in his ways. 

I really felt for Sami and Fatima. I have a hard time understanding why two people who love and respect one another shouldn't be together, so the entire concept of their relationship being forbidden because they are from different cultural groups was really hard for me to stomach. Still, I feel better informed after reading The Secret Sky. I admit that I know very little about Afghanistan or the cultural groups that make up Afghani society. I  have so much more left to learn, but, now, my interest is piqued. I hope that other readers - teens and adults alike - will read this novel and feel the need to go out and learn more about Sami and Fatima's world.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Kids' Indie Next List Winter Challenge & Giveaway

For those of you who don't know, each season (Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter) the American Booksellers Association and IndieBound releases a list of the top independent bookseller picks for kids, which includes picture books through YA. The top picks are then put on a flyer available at independent bookstores and online.The list generally includes something for everyone and highlights both debut and established authors. In sum, it's a pretty well rounded list.

Here's what I propose: 

Read and review at least one book from the Winter 2014-2015 Kids' Indie Next List and win a book of your choice from the list. 

It can be any book from any age level represented on the list, so a picture book, middle grade novel, or young adult novel. The more titles you read and review, the more entries you'll earn and, therefore, the better your odds of winning a free book of your choice!

Don't have a blog? No worries! You can post your review on Goodreads, LibraryThing, Facebook, Tumblr, anywhere as long as you can provide me with a link. Of course, I'll visit each review, comment, and spread the love!

Ready to take the challenge?! Start by browsing the Kids' Winter Next List titles included below - the bold titles are ones I've read so far (and can wholeheartedly vouch for)!

Top 10: 

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach
The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett & Jory John; Kevin Cornell
Goodnight Already! by Jory John; Benji Davies
Mortal Heart: His Fair Assassin, Book 3 by Robin LaFever
A Bed for Bear by Clive McFarland
Absolutely Truly: A Pumpkin Falls Mystery by Heather Vogel Frederick
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley
Mr. Squirrel and the Moon by Sebastian Meschenmoser

Picture Books:

Albie's First Word by Jacqueline Tourville, Wayne Evans
And Away We Go! by Migy
Cat & Bunny by Mary Lundquist
Emmanuel's Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson
Finding Spring by Carin Berger
George in the Dark by Madeline Valentine
Harlem Renaissance Party by Faith Ringgold
Herman's Letter by Tom Percival
Jim's Lion by Russell Hoban; Alexis Deacon
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena; Christian Robinson
Maple & Willow Together by Lori Nichols
The Misadventures of Sweetie Pie by Chris Van Allsburg
The Mouse Mansion by Karina Schaapman
Outside by Deirdre Gill

Middle Grade:

Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt
Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polansky
Kid Presidents: True Tales of Childhood From America's Presidents by David Stabler
Legacy of the Claw: Animas: Book One by C.R. Grey
Masterminds by Gordon Korman
The Book of Storms by Ruth Hatfield
The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart
The Last Dragon Charmer 1: Villain Keeper by Laurie McKay
The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan & John Parke Davis

Young Adult:

All Fall Down: An Embassy Row Novel by Ally Carter
The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare
Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen by Garth Nix
The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi
Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King
How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang
Stone Cove Island by Suzanne Myers
Talon by Julie Kagawa
Unbroken: The Young Adult Adaptation by Laura Hillenbrand
The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
Zodiac by Romina Russell

Ready to take the challenge?

Read (at least) one of the eligible titles, post your review, then stop back and add your review link to the Mr. Linky below before February 28, 2015! One lucky reader will win their choice of a finished Indie Next List title! This challenge is open internationally because the enjoyment of a great book shouldn't be limited by pesky things like borders and oceans.

You can also earn an extra entry by tweeting about this challenge - something like this will do:
Join the Winter Reading Challenge at @thehidingspot and win a book of your choice!
Questions? Feel free to ask in the comments or send me a tweet!

Check out the past challenges too:

Summer 2014 Challenge
Autumn 2014 Challenge

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Cover Reveals (That Made Me Swoon) Part VIII

Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales
Tonight the Streets Are Ours is a YA novel about a teen girl living in the suburbs who becomes obsessed with a blogger in New York City, and sets out to track him down in real life.
A Girl Undone by Catherine Linka

On the run with deadly government secrets, Avie must decide if she can live up to her name and truly become fearless for the cause or if it’s better to just give in.

The sequel and explosive conclusion to A Girl Called Fearless.

Having survived a violent confrontation with the US government, Avie is not out of danger. Both she and the young man she loves, Yates, have been declared terrorists, and Yates is hospitalized in critical condition, leaving Avie with the perilous task of carrying information that can bring down the Paternalist party, if she can get it into the right hands.

Forced on the run with handsome, enigmatic woodsman Luke, Avie struggles when every turn becomes a choice between keeping the two of them alive or completing their mission. With her face on every news channel and a quarter million dollar reward from the man who still owns her marriage Contract, Avie’s worst fears are about to come true.

Equal parts thrilling and romantic, A Girl Undone is sure to keep your heart racing right until the very end.
 Even When You Lie to Me by Jessica Alcott
Fans of John Green's Looking for Alaska as well as Lauren Oliver and Sarah Dessen will embrace this provocative debut novel, an exploration of taboo love set against the backdrop of a suburban high school.

Charlie, a senior, isn't looking forward to her last year of high school. Another year of living in the shadow of her best friend, Lila. Another year of hiding behind the covers of her favorite novels. Another year of navigating her tense relationship with her perfectionist mom.

But everything changes when she meets her new English teacher. Mr. Drummond is smart. Irreverent. Funny. Hot. Everyone loves him. And Charlie thinks he's the only one who gets her.

She also thinks she might not be the only one with a crush.

In this stunning debut, Jessica Alcott explores relationships-and their boundaries-in a way that is both searingly honest and sympathetic.

A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery
Perfect for fans of Nicholas Sparks, this breathtaking story of love and loss is guaranteed to break your heart and sweep you off your feet.

When high school senior Kelsey's identical twin sister, Michelle, dies in a car crash, Kelsey is left without her other half. The only person who doesn't know about the tragedy is Michelle's boyfriend, Peter, recently deployed to Afghanistan. But when Kelsey finally connects with Peter online, she can't bear to tell him the truth. Active duty has taken its toll, and Peter, thinking that Kelsey is Michelle, says that seeing her is the one thing keeping him alive. Caught up in the moment, Kelsey has no choice: She lets Peter believe that she is her sister.

As Kelsey keeps up the act, she crosses the line from pretend to real. Soon, Kelsey can't deny that she's falling, hard, for the one boy she shouldn't want.
Damage Done by Amanda Panitch
22 minutes separate Julia Vann’s before and after.

Before: Julia had a twin brother, a boyfriend, and a best friend.

After: She has a new identity, a new hometown, and a memory of those twenty-two minutes that refuses to come into focus. At least, that’s what she tells the police.

Now that she’s Lucy Black, her fresh start has attracted the attention of one of the hottest guys in school. And someone much more dangerous. She thought her brother’s crimes were behind her. But now she’s being forced to confront the dark secrets she thought were safely left behind. How far will Julia go to keep her slate clean?

One thing is clear: The damage done can never be erased. It’s only just beginning. . . .
The Leveller by Julia Durango
Nixy Bauer is a self-made Leveller. Her job? Dragging kids out of virtual reality and back to their parents in the real world. It’s normally easy cash, but Nixy's latest mission is fraught with real danger, intrigue, and romance.

Nixy Bauer is used to her classmates being very, very unhappy to see her. After all, she’s a bounty hunter in a virtual reality gaming world. Kids in the MEEP, as they call it, play entirely with their minds, while their bodies languish in a sleeplike state on the couch. Irritated parents, looking to wrench their kids back to reality, hire Nixy to jump into the game and retrieve them.

But when the game’s billionaire developer loses track of his own son in the MEEP, Nixy is in for the biggest challenge of her bounty-hunting career. Wyn Salvador isn't some lazy kid looking to escape his homework: Wyn does not want to be found. And he’s left behind a suicide note. Nixy takes the job but quickly discovers that Wyn’s not hiding—he’s being held inside the game against his will. But who is holding him captive, and why?

Nixy and Wyn attempt to fight their way out of a mind game unlike any they've encountered, and the battle brings them closer than either could have imagined. But when the whole world is virtual, how can Nixy possibly know if her feelings are real?

Gamers and action fans of all types will dive straight into the MEEP, thanks to Julia Durango’s cinematic storytelling. A touch of romance adds some heart to Nix'’s vivid, multidimensional journey through Wyn’s tricked-out virtual city, and constant twists keep readers flying through to the breathtaking end.
Which new covers are your favorite? Any that you dislike? Let me know in the comments!