Review: Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman

Kindness for Weaknessis a remarkable novel that illustrates a harsh reality the average person does not consciously consider much. The story told here is gripping. It could easily be read in one sitting: its relatively short length and an absolutely enthralling story. I heavily invested in James’ endeavors; I read it in two sittings with nearly no interruption. Kindness for Weakness is powerful that I would read two lines and the world around me would fade away so I was exclusively listening to James explain his struggle to find his manhood in a hard world. I was so absorbed by the story that the transitions to and from reading were jarring.

Of course, it is possible to get this feeling from any really well written novel, but Kindness for Weakness is different because (at least in my case) it was entirely new.  This was startling, I didn’t think a modern, realistic fiction novel would present deal with a topic I would find completely foreign. I thought I would recognize the world; the culture; the struggle – but I didn’t.  That’s what makes this read so absolutely unforgettable. It gives the average person – born into the average middle class family, with the average knowledge of the world – a new vantage point. Kindness for Weaknessexplored something that most of us tend to experience only peripherally. It’s a story always at the edge of our vision, but something most of us never really think about. Who is that unwashed kid in class, and what’s his story? Why don’t the kids who are always getting into trouble ever learn how to stay out of trouble? The answer seems simple to most of us. It isn’t so simple for everyone.

Kindness for Weaknessfocuses on a boy from an abusive home, where his father has left and his mother has given up on life, and his journey to learn what it takes to be a man with no guide to lead him there. The novel deals with the hardships of a young kid just coming into adolescence, without friends or a father figure, and a main character who doesn’t know how to conquer these fears and challenges on his own. He does his best and he makes the usual mistakes, which Goodman no doubt witnessed time after time, as boys like James tried to find their way on their own.

Goodman obviously draws on his experience working in the juvenile justice system to tell this grim tale with no restraint. The story is not bright or cheery, nor funny or satirical. There are uplifting passages and entertaining pieces, however it is clear that his intention was to tell the story of the kids he has worked with over the years as honestly as possible. It is raw and raunchy at times, because that is what is necessary to make it real. Without a doubt, it succeeds at being real. It opened my eyes to the lives of a social class I never have much interaction with.

After reading Kindness for Weakness, I am a little embarrassed at my previous ignorance to this aspect of the world. I’m glad I broadened my horizons and read this novel, since it is different from what I’d typically read. I’d speak more about the obstacles James faces in the novel, but, in an attempt to avoid spoilers, I feel like I can’t reveal too much about his journey. This book is worth a read for any guy over the age of 12 and for any adult. Goodman wrote something passionate and full of conviction that should be on your “to read” shelf, if it’s not already.

More about the book…

Amazon Description: “In an environment where kindness equals weakness, how do those who care survive?

Shawn Goodman will capture your heart with this gritty, honest, and moving story about a boy struggling to learn about friendship, brotherhood, and manhood in a society where violence is the answer to every problem.

More about the Author…

Thanks for reading, feel free to leave a comment below or tweet me with any questions!

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!

Review: Warped by Maurissa Guibord

Title: Warped
Author: Maurissa Guibord
Publisher: Delacorte BFYR
Pub. Date: 1.11.2011
Genre: YA Fantasy
Keywords: Unicorns, Mythology, Fate, Romance, Time Travel
Pages: 352
Description (from Goodreads):
Tessa doesn’t believe in magic. Or Fate. But there’s something weird about the dusty unicorn tapestry she discovers in a box of old books. She finds the creature woven within it compelling and frightening. After the tapestry comes into her possession, Tessa experiences dreams of the past and scenes from a brutal hunt that she herself participated in. When she accidentally pulls a thread from the tapestry, Tessa releases a terrible centuries old secret. She also meets William de Chaucy, an irresistible 16th-century nobleman. His fate is as inextricably tied to the tapestry as Tessa’s own. Together, they must correct the wrongs of the past. But then the Fates step in, making a tangled mess of Tessa’s life. Now everyone she loves will be destroyed unless Tessa does their bidding and defeats a cruel and crafty ancient enemy.

I’ll admit, it was the mention of a unicorn that attracted me to WARPED, so I was totally unprepared for the epic storyline that I discovered within the covers of this debut novel.

After reading just a few pages of WARPED, in which the Fates examine and manipulate the threads of life they rule over, I was completely dedicated to finding out what would happen next. The Fates have always fascinated me and Guibord’s unique treatment of the related mythology was exceedingly clever. The idea that someone might steal life threads from The Fates for their own nefarious use… ingenious!

To add to the mayhem, Tessa finds herself falling for William de Chaucy, who is as alluring as he is maddening. I enjoyed the push and pull between these characters. They both have strong personalities that don’t always mesh and neither controls the other… they’re very much equals.

WARPED is one of the most creative YA contemporary fantasy novels I’ve ever read. Guibord combines magic, time travel, and mythology to create a fantastic story with a convincing villain and a much deserved happily ever after.


Check out my interview with Maurissa Guibord HERE.

Interview: Maurissa Guibord (Author of Warped)!

Today author Melissa Guibord visits The Hiding Spot to chat about her debut novel, WARPED! Stay tuned for my review and a chance to win a copy of this fantastic novel!

Give a short statement describing WARPED. 
Warped is the story of a modern-day girl from Maine who discovers the secret woven within an ancient unicorn tapestry. When Tessa pulls a dangling silver thread from the tapestry she begins to unravel a dangerous mystery, hidden for five hundred years. Along the way she meets Will de Chaucy, a handsome (though sometimes irritating) young nobleman from the sixteenth century, an evil sorceress and oh yeah, a vicious hell-hound or two.

Was there a particular story or idea that inspired the writing of WARPED? 
Warped was inspired by the beauty, mystery and lore of the famous unicorn tapestries that are housed in the Cloisters Museum in New York City. The tapestries date back to the early sixteenth century and depict various stages in the hunt for a unicorn. According to legend, a unicorn can only be lured to capture by a young maiden, a virgin. Unicorns are also said to have the mythic quality of immortality. All these elements- the physical nature of weaving, magic, and the capture of a beautiful wild creature came together, nagged at me, and suggested a story.

As you wrote, did you have a specific message in mind, regardless of the message readers ultimately end up taking from the novel? 
 The theme of fate or destiny runs throughout the story. In particular- are we in control of our own? This is a question that my main character is confronted with in a very scary way. Tessa likes to believe (as we all probably do) that she’s in control of her life- that she’s in charge of her future. But soon things start to happen that she has no control over-and she learns in fact, that someone else is pulling the strings.

What are you currently working on? 
I’m working on a story about a girl who comes to an island off the coast of Maine called Trespass Island. On the surface it seems like a quiet, private community but she soon learns that nothing is as it seems. The island is in fact, home to two communities. One is human, the other…not.

Name a novel that had a distinctly influenced you (your life, your writing, your attitudes, or something of that nature) and explain.
I loved the books of Mary Stewart when I was a teen. The combination of romance and gothic mystery was irresistible. I loved in particular This Rough Magic. I think her style definitely influenced me- I was always able to picture the atmosphere and scenery of her settings so distinctly. It made me feel like I had traveled to those exotic places myself. The books also have very witty dialogue.

My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality? 
I love rereading old favorite books from the classics as an escape. It’s like hearing the voice of an old friend. Agatha Christie is particularly comforting to me, as is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jane Austen. I enjoy the work of many living writers of course- but I would have to say these great ones of the past are my hiding spot.

Thanks for inviting me Sara!


Thanks, Maurissa! I’m eagerly awaiting that next novel…! 🙂

Review: Other Words for Love by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal

Title: Other Words for Love
Author: Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
Publisher: Delacorte BFYR
Pub. Date: 1.11.2011
Genre: Contemporary YA
Keywords: Love, Break-ups, Friendship, Family, Depression
Pages: 368
Description (from Goodreads):
Ari Mitchell feels invisible at her Brooklyn high school. Her hair is too flat, her style too preppy, and her personality too quiet. And outside school, Ari feels outshined by her beautiful, confident best friend, Summer. Their friendship is as complex and confusing as Ari’s relationship with her troubled older sister, Evelyn, a former teenage mom whose handsome firefighter husband fills Ari’s head with guilty fantasies.

When an unexpected inheritance enables Ari to transfer to an elite Manhattan prep school, she makes a wealthy new friend, Leigh. Leigh introduces Ari to the glamorous side of New York–and to her gorgeous cousin, Blake. Ari doesn’t think she stands a chance, but amazingly, Blake asks her out. As their romance heats up, they find themselves involved in an intense, consuming relationship. Ari’s family worries that she is losing touch with the important things in life, like family, hard work, and planning for the future.

When misfortune befalls Blake’s family, he pulls away, and Ari’s world drains of color. As she struggles to get over the breakup, Ari must finally ask herself: were their feelings true love . . . or something else?

I was first drawn to Lorraine Zago Rosenthal’s debut by the title and cover. It was immediately obvious that it was a contemporary YA title, which I’m always on the lookout for, and including “love” in the title always catches my eye. Little did I know that OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE would end up being so much more to me than a well told, entertaining story.

OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE tackles a variety of pertinent issues, including depression, discrimination based on socioeconomic status and cultural differences, teen sex and pregnancy, and general teenage angst. The novel’s 1985 setting offers a twist while reminding readers that these issues, in many ways, defy time.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of Rosenthal’s debut was her treatment of Ari’s first crush, first love and first real relationship. This novel poses the question: “[Was it] true love… or something else?” In many cases, especially in YA literature, true love is always the answer, but Rosenthal strays from this well-beaten path and battles through the unforgiving undergrowth of that little used second path. Love is not simple or easy or perfect, but it can make us radiantly happy for a time and teach us valuable lessons – Ari’s story reinforces this.

I read this novel at a time when I was feeling jaded about relationships and love, so maybe this mindset influenced me somewhat and fostered a closer connection with Ari… Regardless, Ari’s romantic adventures left me hopeful. I love a happy ending with passionate kissing and whatnot, but the ending of OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE was different. It was still happy, but it wasn’t happy because of a boy or a relationship… it was happy because Ari knew who she was, what she wanted, and that she was perfectly capable of being single. Go, Ari!

OTHER WORDS FOR LOVE is a gorgeous novel and I’ll definitely be reading more from Rosenthal. Don’t miss this fantastic debut!

Review copy provided by publisher.

Review: Aces Up by Lauren Barnholdt

Title: Aces Up
Author: Lauren Barnholdt
Publisher: Delacorte BFYR
Pub. Date: 8.10.2010
Genre: Contemporary YA
Keywords: Gambling, Collusion, Secrets, Lies, Family, Love, Friendship
Pages: 288
Description (from GoodReads):
Seventeen-year-old high school senior Shannon Card needs money. And lots of it. She’s been admitted to Wellesley, but her dad just lost his job, and somehow she has to come up with a year of tuition herself. But Shannon’s dream of making big bucks waitressing at the local casino, the Collosio, disappears faster than a gambler’s lucky streak. Her boss is a tyrant, her coworker is nuts, and her chances of balancing a tray full of drinks while wearing high-heeled shoes are slim to none. Worse, time is running out, and Shannon hasn’t made even half the money she’d hoped.

When Shannon receives a mysterious invitation to join Aces Up, a secret network of highly talented college poker players, at first she thinks No way. She has enough to worry about: keeping her job, winning the coveted math scholarship at school, and tutoring her secret crush, Max. But when Shannon musters up the nerve to kiss Max and he doesn’t react at all, the allure of Aces Up and its sexy eighteen-year-old leader, Cole, is suddenly too powerful to ignore.

Soon Shannon’s caught up in a web of lies and deceit that makes worrying about tuition money or a high school crush seem like kid stuff. Still, when the money’s this good, is the fear of getting caught reason enough to fold?

ACES UP was my introduction to Lauren Barnholdt and her writing, and I must say, it was a great first impression.

Despite the fact that I know nearly nothing about poker and the colorful world of gambling, I found it remarkably easy to identify with Shannon. It wasn’t so much the fast, faintly sinister world she found herself in that I found intriguing, but the reason she felt she needed to venture there.

Shannon’s family has fallen on hard economic times and they’ve had to give up many extraneous expenses. The one thing Shannon refuses to give up is her dream to attend her Wellesley after she completes her senior year. Shannon must decide is the money and the guarantee of being able to afford Wellesley worth the risk. And the risk is huge.

It isn’t hard to put myself in Shannon’s shoes… I think the majority of college and college bound students will empathize with her fear and stress. It’s insanely difficult to pay for school today. Students are often told that if they work hard, get good grades, etc, etc, everything will be fine. Shannon’s story is very true to life: sometimes, everything isn’t fine.

The novel primarily focuses on Shannon, but she also has a sister who is also struggling to pay for college as well. The difference between the two, is that her sister doesn’t attempt any get rich quick schemes, illegal or otherwise, but instead, continues to work hard and remains positive. I liked that the reader was able to compare the vastly different paths each sister chose.

The one element of the novel that I wasn’t completely sold on was the romantic bits. I felt more of a connection to the boy Shannon wasn’t supposed to fall for than the one she did, which made for a lackluster response.

The story’s resolution may have been idealized. Shannon does, of course, learn her lesson and the story ends, more or less, happily. But many are or will be facing a similar situation and I think that ACES UP will guide them. Yes, we are all free to make our own decisions, but there is comfort in picking up a novel where the main character is in a similar situation. Even if the reader’s situation isn’t identical to Shannon’s, it still serves as a reminder that no matter how good that “bad” choice may seem, it’s in one’s best interest to veer toward the “good.”

Grade: B+

Cover of the Week (18)

Cover of the Week is a weekly feature at The Hiding Spot, in which I share a cover that gives me that swoony feeling.

Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris
Description (from GoodReads):
Someone’s been a very bad zombie.

Super-smartie Kate Grable gets to play doctor, helping out her high school football team. Not only will the experience look good on her college apps, she gets to be thisclose to her quarterback crush, Aaron. Then something disturbing happens. Kate finds out that the coach has given the team steroids. Except . . . the vials she finds don’t exactly contain steroids. Whatever’s in them is turning hot gridiron hunks into mindless, flesh-eating . . . zombies.

Unless she finds an antidote, no one is safe. Not Aaron, not Kate’s brother, not her best friend . . . not even Kate . . .

It’s scary. It’s twisted. It’s sick. It’s high school.

Do I even have to explain why I love this cover? I dare you not to pick this book up when you see it in the bookstore. Seriously. And that pink. I need nail polish that color!

Judging by the description, BAD TASTE IN BOYS look like a fresh take on zombies… and high school.

I highly suggest you check out Carrie’s website as well – it’s so fun!