Review: Kiss It by Erin Downing

Title: Kiss It
Author: Erin Downing
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pub. Date: 6.15.2010
Genre: Contemporary YA
Keywords: Sexuality, Sex, Reputation, Love, Friendship, Choices, Fear
Pages: 273
Description (from Goodreads):

A girl’s gotta do who a girl’s gotta do.
Chastity Bryan has never been shy about going after what she wants. And when sexy, mysterious, so-not-from-this-town Sebastian walks into Chaz’s life, she knows in an instant that what she wants next is him. Chaz has no intention of playing for keeps—but she most definitely has intentions. Who needs true love when you’ve got true lust?
Sebastian has no idea what he’s in for—but maybe neither does Chaz….

Sometimes the greatest books come in the most unsuspecting little packages…

Yes, yes, yes! I seriously couldn’t put KISS IT down, even though it would have been in my best interest because I have plenty of homework and whatnot to accomplish. Chastity Bryan is a breath of fresh air.

Chastity, or Chaz, is almost obsessed with the idea of sex and sexuality. To her, sex and love don’t always occur in tandem, in fact, she prefers it that way. She’s the type of girl that says when and she wants it now, especially when a new, hot boy moves to town and tempts her in all kinds of ways.

Okay, but wait! I know some of you out there are thinking this might just be a bit too much for me… This Chaz girl is more sexual than I like my main characters. I like them sweet and innocent and ignorant with their sexuality. Well, I admit, this might not be the book for you, BUT, if you can handle this side of Chaz, I can promise you that there is much more to her character. And, yes, there’s teen sex in this book, but there’s a point to it and I believe it’s well done. This book sends a message to readers that’s definitely worth hearing. 

One of my favorite aspects of this book is the fact that Chaz isn’t perceived as loose or lacking morality. She keeps her sexual endeavors well under wraps… and Chaz is a lot more talk than actual action. She’s smart, funny, sarcastic, and strong – that’s what I appreciate in a main character, regardless of how raunchy some of her comments may be. But, even if her classmates knew of her preoccupation with sex and judged her for it, I had the distinct feeling that Downing wouldn’t be encouraging the reader to do the same. Even though Chaz has a few things backwards and doesn’t always make the wisest decisions, she’s real and she sticks to her guns. Sexuality and a healthy dose of curiosity are normal and they shouldn’t be condemned.

Erin Downing’s KISS IT is a quick read, due to the fact that it’s less than 300 pages and it’s difficult to put down. I’ve got my fingers crossed that she’s got more novels like this up her sleeve! Her previous two novels are part of the Simon Pulse romantic comedies, which are wonderful, but this novel puts Downing on a whole different level.

Review: Sea by Heidi R. Kling

Title: Sea
Author: Heidi R. Kling
Publisher: Penguin Putnam
Pub. Date: 6.10.2010
Genre: Contemporary YA
Keywords: Family, Loss, Natural Disasters, Volunteering, Relationships
Pages: 336
Description (from GoodReads):

Still haunted by nightmares of her mother’s death, fifteen-year-old Sienna Jones reluctantly travels to Indonesia with her father’s relief team to help tsunami orphans with their post traumatic stress disorder—something Sienna knows a lot about. Since her mother’s plane went missing over the Indian Ocean three years before, Sienna doesn’t do anything if it involves the ocean or planes, so this trip is a big step forward.

But the last thing she expects is to fall for Deni, a brooding Indonesian boy who lives at the orphanage, and just so happens to be HOT. When Deni hears a rumor that his father may be alive, Sienna doesn’t think twice about running away with him to the epicenter of the disaster. Unfortunately, what they find there could break both their hearts.

I liked this book, but I just didn’t love it.

My main problem with the book was Sienna. I just didn’t feel a connection with her character… she felt one-dimensional and I didn’t always find her very believable. I know she liked Deni and found him attractive and whatnot, but running away with him in a dangerous area when she barely even knows him? Maybe I’m jaded, but I simply didn’t believe or understand her character.

I did, however, really appreciate the rest of this novel and plot. The focus on volunteering and the discussion of the tragedy that befell Indonesia and surrounding areas are very important topics and I commend Kling for including them in SEA. I felt inspired to go out and make a difference… regardless of how big or little. This novel has the potential to encourage readers to take notice of what’s going on in the world and do their part to make it a better place and there’s always more room for that in YA lit!

SEA is definitely worth exploring… and hopefully you’ll have a deeper connection to Sienna than I did.

Review: The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade

Title: The Ghost and the Goth
Author: Stacey Kade
Publisher: Hyperion
Pub. Date: 6.29.2010
Genre: Paranormal YA
Keywords: Ghosts, Seer, High School, Romance, Social Identity
Pages: 281
Description (from Goodreads):
Alona Dare–Senior in high school, co-captain of the cheerleading squad, Homecoming Queen three years in a row, voted most likely to marry a movie star… and newly dead.

I’m the girl you hated in high school. Is it my fault I was born with it all-good looks, silky blond hair, a hot bod, and a keen sense of what everyone else should not be wearing? But my life isn’t perfect, especially since I died. Run over by a bus of band geeks—is there anything more humiliating? As it turns out, yes—watching your boyfriend and friends move on with life, only days after your funeral. And you wouldn’t believe what they’re saying about me now that they think I can’t hear them. To top it off, I’m starting to disappear, flickering in and out of existence. I don’t know where I go when I’m gone, but it’s not good. Where is that freaking white light already?

Will Killian–Senior in high school, outcast, dubbed “Will Kill” by the popular crowd for the unearthly aura around him, voted most likely to rob a bank…and a ghost-talker.

I can see, hear, and touch the dead. Unfortunately, they can also see, hear and touch me. Yeah, because surviving high school isn’t hard enough already. I’ve done my best to hide my “gift.” After all, my dad, who shared my ability, killed himself because of it when I was fifteen. But lately, pretending to be normal has gotten a lot harder. A new ghost—an anonymous, seething cloud of negative energy with the capacity to throw me around—is pursuing me with a vengeance. My mom, who knows nothing about what I can do, is worrying about the increase in odd incidents, my shrink is tossing around terms like “temporary confinement for psychiatric evaluation,” and my principal, who thinks I’m a disruption and a faker, is searching for every way possible to get rid of me. How many weeks until graduation?

Stacey Kade’s THE GHOST AND THE GOTH is just so. much. fun. 

I’ve come to appreciate novels in which the point-of-view switches between two or more characters, and I think that this tactic works really well with this particular novel. When characters are like Will and Alona, coming from totally different backgrounds with completely different views about people and their surroundings, and the reader knows their hatred is going to turn into some kind of smoldering attraction, being able to experience both characters’ emotions and snarky thoughts makes the buildup so much more intense.

I liked Will right from the start of the novel, but Alona took a bit longer to grow on me. I was worried that I’d continue liking Will and Alona wouldn’t grow on me, then the romantic plot line would fall flat, but not the case! There’s more to Alona than meets the eye… Which is good because, even though Will is a teenage boy who appreciates Alona from the outside, the reader might want a bit more for him.

This novel isn’t all ghosts, witty banter, and growing attraction though, there are some more serious elements as well. Kade seamlessly wove these elements into the supernatural plotline… It would spoilery to go into detail, but this aspect of the novel was done extremely well.

I’m anxiously awaiting the next installment of Will and Alona’s story, QUEEN OF THE DEAD, which will be released this summer!

{Book Trailer} Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala

The book trailer for Holly Cupala’s TELL ME A SECRET was released today… and I’m in awe. I’ve watched it multiple times in the last 10 minutes and I can’t stop. It’s absolutely gorgeous and, if I hadn’t already read this amazing debut, I’d be scrambling to get my hands on a copy. Check out my review of TELL ME A SECRET and my interview with Holly!

Then watch the book trailer:

Are you freaking out? I’m freaking out. It’s absolutely gorgeous!
Holly is currently hosting a huge contest! Prizes include:
Signed TMAS books!
TMAS t-shirts!
Fan-made bracelets by Hannah S!
Music that inspired the book!
Sneak Previews!
Bookmarks and Handmade Magnets!
A Tell Me a Secret handmade necklace!

HOW TO WIN? Share the Trailer Love!

Click here to go to YouTube, then click the Share button to send to your Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or blog! 5 pts each

Click here to tell us where you posted and enter to win!

Plus Holly will be featured at readergirlz for the entire month of August, with a live Twitter chat coming up!

Review: Tell Me a Secret by Holly Cupala

Title: Tell Me a Secret
Author: Holly Cupala
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pub. Date: 6.22.2010
Genre: Contemporary YA
Keywords: Teen pregnancy, Relationships, Family, Friendship, Secrets
Pages: 256
Description (from GoodReads):
Tell me a secret, and I’ll tell you one…

In the five years since her bad-girl sister Xanda’s death, Miranda Mathison has wondered about the secret her sister took to the grave, and what really happened the night she died. Now, just as Miranda is on the cusp of her dreams—a best friend to unlock her sister’s world, a ticket to art school, and a boyfriend to fly her away from it all—Miranda has a secret all her own.

Then two lines on a pregnancy test confirm her worst fears. Stripped of her former life, Miranda must make a choice with tremendous consequences and finally face her sister’s demons and her own.

In this powerful debut novel, stunning new talent Holly Cupala illuminates the dark struggle of a girl who must let go of her past to find a way into her own future.

TELL ME A SECRET is the story of a girl with a tragic past determined to find a hopeful future.

When I picked up TELL ME A SECRET I was expecting a straightforward story about a pregnant teen girl experiencing the issues that immediately jump to my mind: shocked parents, absent boyfriend, and maturity issues. Holly Cupala surprised me though; her debut is so much deeper than that. Miranda endures horrible treatment at the hands of her parents, classmates, and boyfriend, but she remains strong and fights for what she believes is right.

When Miranda first suspects she may be pregnant, she makes the decision to keep it a secret and avoids taking a prenancy test. She waits months to take the test, preferring to live in ignorance rather than face the facts. Though I was angered by Miranda’s actions, I could understand why she made those choices. In fact, I’ve known teen mothers who waited as long as possible before finally taking the test, so I know that it isn’t a far fetched idea. I’m thankful that, while Miranda didn’t want to see the proof, she still knew, deep down, that she was pregnant and she avoided alcohol and other teratogens that could seriously harm the baby.

The novel is largely about Miranda’s pregnancy, but it was her connection and relationship with her sister, Xanda, that I found most compelling. Xanda, and her death, have had an enormous impact on Miranda. Miranda constantly looks to her memories and the Xanda that resides in her mind for guidance. Xanda was definitely not a horrible person, but she also is not the person Miranda idolizes. It was interesting to see the vast differences between Miranda’s childhood perceptions of Xanda and who she really was.. the good and the bad.

Holly Cupala proves that she can, and will, tackle difficult material with TELL ME A SECRET – I can’t wait to see what she takes on next!

Grade: A- 

Review copy provided by publisher.

Contest: Win a copy of A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley!

Knopf has provided one finished copy of A LITTLE WANTING SONG to be won by a lucky reader at The Hiding Spot!

(1) finished copy of A LITTLE WANTING SONG

How to Enter:
You MUST comment on my review of ALWS or the interview with Cath Crowley. (Only one comment is required.) Then you MUST fill out this FORM. If you neglect to comment on at least one of the posts or fill out the form, you will not be entered to win.

Extra Entries:
Not required. Extra entries are detailed on the entry form as well.
+5 entries – Comment on my review or interview (whichever you did not comment on for your original entry)
+4 entries – Old Follower/Subscriber (Thank you!)
+2 entries – New Follower/Subscriber (Welcome! You will gain 4 entries in the next contest you enter at The Hiding Spot as an Old Follower/Subscriber!)
+2 Follow me on Twitter (@thehidingspot)
+2 Follow Cath Crowley on Twitter (@CathCrowley)
+3 Tweet this contest. (Leave a link.)
+3 Link this contest on your sidebar, in a post, or on FB. (Leave a link.)

Contest will close August 5th, 2010. Open to US mailing addresses only. Sorry International readers!

Good luck!

Review: A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley

Title: A Little Wanting Song
Author: Cath Crowley
Publisher: Knopf
Pub. Date: 6.8.10
Genre: Contemporary YA
Keywords: Music, Love, Friendship, Grief, First Impressions
Pages: 228
Description (from GoodReads):
A summer of friendship, romance, and songs in major chords. . . .

CHARLIE DUSKIN loves music, and she knows she’s good at it. But she only sings when she’s alone, on the moonlit porch or in the back room at Old Gus’s Secondhand Record and CD Store. Charlie’s mom and grandmother have both died, and this summer she’s visiting her grandpa in the country, surrounded by ghosts and grieving family, and serving burgers to the local kids at the milk bar. She’s got her iPod, her guitar, and all her recording equipment, but she wants more: A friend. A dad who notices her. The chance to show Dave Robbie that she’s not entirely unspectacular.

ROSE BUTLER lives next door to Charlie’s grandfather and spends her days watching cars pass on the freeway and hanging out with her troublemaker boyfriend. She loves Luke but can’t wait to leave their small country town. And she’s figured out a way: she’s won a scholarship to a science school in the city, and now she has to convince her parents to let her go. This is where Charlie comes in. Charlie, who lives in the city, and whom Rose has ignored for years. Charlie, who just might be Rose’s ticket out.

I could tell by the description of A LITTLE WANTING SONG that I would enjoy it, but I had no idea how much I would come to love it.  Often, when I finish a good novel, I’ll feel satisfied, but ALWS was different. Cath Crowly left me longing… longing for more of this brilliant, soulful novel and the characters I had come to love.

ALWS is told in alternating point-of-view by Charlie and Rose, two girls who are, at first glance, complete opposites, but, in truth, have more in common than either ever imagined. At first, I felt much closer to Charlie, which I think was primarily due to her music. Her lyrics are simple, but so incredibly full of truth and raw emotion; I could feel the power behind them. It’s just a little wanting song/ It won’t go on for all that long/ Just long enough to say/ How much I’m wishing for/ Just a little more Rose is much more guarded than Charlie and keeps her emotions tightly locked away. It wasn’t until she allowed some of that emotion to show that I really connected with her. By the time I finished the novel, I had become so invested in Crowley’s characters that it was almost painful to leave them behind.

Often, in YA literature, parents are mysteriously absent. Other times, they are completely horrid. There are, of course, exceptions, but, in my experience, those exceptions are few and far between. In ALWS, Rose and Charlie’s relationships with their parent(s) profoundly affects their actions and beliefs. I’m extremely greatful that Crowley focused on this aspect of Charlie and Rose’s life, since, in real life, this relationship definitely has an impact.

Since ALWS is told from two POVs, the romance is unique. Charlie’s budding romance with Dave, one of Rose’s closest friends, was absolutely perfect. Their relationship moves slowly, with shy smiles and wistful glances. The tension between the two was fantastic. If Charlie and Dave’s relationship is a steady flame, Rose and Luke’s is an explosion. It isn’t that the couple doesn’t care deeply for one another – they honestly do – there’s just many unresolved issues between the two. While the romantic in me dislikes their rocky relationship, I could identify with Rose’s fears and anxiety, allowing me to appreciate it.

A LITTLE WANTING SONG is a gorgeous novel that has captured my heart and refuses to let go.

Grade: A+