Review: The View from the Top by Hillary Frank

Title: The View from the Top
Author: Hillary Frank
Publisher: Dutton
Pub. Date: 5.13.2010
Genre: Contemporary YA
Keywords: Love, Friendship, Choices, Split Narrative
Pages: 272
Description (from arc):
Tobin won’t miss anything about life in Normal, Maine, when he leaves for Conservatory… except for his dream girl.
Jonah would give up his players ways – and his best friend – for a chance with his best friend’s girlfriend.
Lexie desperately hopes her crush will see her in a new light, but fears that her love will remain unrequited.
Matt is anxiously clinging to the past, afraid that he won’t be a part of his girlfriend’s brighter future.
Mary-Tyler wishes people would look past her weight and wealth and accept her for who she is.
And then there’s Anabelle, the one who ties them all together. As she sorts out her love life and tries to make sense of her increasingly complicated friendships Anabelle begins to question how well her friends really know her… and how well she knows herself.

I knew had to read Hillary Frank’s newest release when I asked one of the librarians at my local public library what she’d read recently and been impressed by and she named THE VIEW FROM THE TOP. Coupled with the fact that some of my recent favorites have been books that I had never heard of before, just randomly selecting them from the shelf, I knew that I had to give THE VIEW FROM THE TOP a shot.

I’ve been reading many wonderful contemporary YA novels lately and I always think that the next one can’t possible be better than the last. I’ve come to the conclusion that I can no longer have a favorite book – I just can’t pick only one! I was shocked by how quickly I was pulled into this novel and how deeply I identified with the characters, particularly Anabelle. I understood the characters and their motivations in such an intimate way, which caused an emotional connection to the story, and, I think, provided a more intense reading experience. But, even without this deeper connection, I think I would have loved this novel.

The story is told in alternating POV by the six different characters, each chapter and character beginning where the last left off. I’ve been reading quite a few novels done in this format and I’m really starting to like it. Seeing situations from more than one POV adds another dimension; it’s like going from 2D to 3D. I was worried that having six narrators would be confusing, but this definitely wasn’t the case. Each character had a unique voice and a completely different view of the summer… and Anabelle.

THE VIEW FROM THE TOP takes on many different, and sometimes sticky, situations. Some of these situations I’ve experienced myself, so it’s understandable that I identified with those, but I felt a connection to the others as well, which can be only be credited to Frank’s fantastic writing. I’ll definitely be reading more by Hillary Frank!

Grade: A+

Cover Notes:
I liked the cover before I read the book, but I loved it after.

Advertisements

Interview: Jessica Day George (Author of PRINCESS OF GLASS)!

Today author Jessica Day George visits The Hiding Spot. Her recently released novel, PRINCESS OF GLASS, is the companion novel to PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL and a retelling of the classic tale Cinderella.

____________________________________

A Brief Bio
Jessica Day George likes chocolate, knitting, books, travel, movies, dragons, horses, dogs, and her family. These are all things to keep in mind if you ever meet her. For instance, you could bring her chocolate to make the meeting go more smoothly. You could also talk about how adorable her children are, even if you have never seen them. You could discuss dog breeds (she has a Maltese named Pippin, and grew up with a poodle mix and a Brittany Spaniel). You could talk about Norway, and how it’s the Greatest Place On Earth, and Germany, The Second Greatest Place On Earth. You could ask her about yarn, and indicate a willingness to learn to knit your own socks, if you can’t already do so.

And, well, you could talk about books. Jessica’s books, other people’s books. It’s really all about the books. To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, Friends, family, school, they were just obstacles in the way of getting more books.
She would like it if books came with chocolate to eat while reading them.
_________________________________________
The Interview

Give a short statement describing PRINCESS OF GLASS.

I’ve never wanted to do a Cinderella story, since it’s been retold so many times (and so well), but I fell in love with the idea of putting one of my twelve princesses from PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL into another situation where she would have to dance. And what would be worse than just having to dance when you hated dancing? How about dancing in glass slippers? Ouch! Add in a fairy godmother who is decidedly evil, a handsome prince, and not one but two dark-haired girls in masks and glass slippers, and we’ve got ourselves a very interesting dilemma!



I love the originality of your novels and how each character has an unexpected, unique trait. As you read the original stories and tales, do the character and plot twists come easily or do they take time to develop?
Usually the characters come to me first, and I think, HEY! Isn’t that the soldier from Twelve Dancing Princesses? What’s he doing stuck in my head? Or: I think I want to do a retelling of East o’ the Sun, West o’ the Moon, where’s my copy of the original? First I find the character, and the story they want to be in, then I look to the original for more ideas.


PRINCESS OF GLASS is a companion to PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL and some of my favorite characters from the first novel make an appearance in the second. I’m still not ready to let these characters go! Are you considering writing the stories of the other sisters?
Don’t worry! I can’t let them go, either! Let me put it this way: the princesses were divided into three groups: the older set, the younger set, and the in-betweeners. I’ve done the older set, I’ve done one about an in-betweener, which leaves us with . . . *wink, wink*


Can you tell us anything about your next YA novel?
My next YA novel will be the first book in a series about a world similar to ours circa WWI, but with the twist that horses are considered unclean and it is forbidden to even speak of them. Naturally the king of my England-esque nation is having a cavalry force secretly trained . . .

My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
Oh, I’m with you on the books! I grew up in a rural area of Idaho where being able to escape into a fantasy story of dragons and castles and magic was my Christmas and dessert all rolled into one! It’s all about the books, baby!

Thank you, Jessica! Be sure to check out my reviews of PRINCESS OF GLASS and PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL!

Review: Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George

Title: Princess of Glass
Author: Jessica Day George
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pub. Date: 5.25.10
Genre: MG/YA
Keywords: Fairytale, Retellings, Cinderella, Love, Family, Hidden Identity, Magic
Pages: 257
Description (from GoodReads):
Hoping to escape the troubles in her kingdom, Princess Poppy reluctantly agrees to take part in a royal exchange program, whereby young princes and princesses travel to each other’s countries in the name of better political alliances—and potential marriages. It’s got the makings of a fairy tale—until a hapless servant named Eleanor is tricked by a vengeful fairy godmother into competing with Poppy for the eligible prince. Ballgowns, cinders, and enchanted glass slippers fly in this romantic and action-packed happily-ever-after quest from an author with a flair for embroidering tales in her own delightful way.


As a fan of fairy tale retellings, I’m always excited to hear that Jessica Day George is releasing a new novel. Her retellings always offer a unique twist, while incorporating small details that allow the reader to clearly identify the original tale.


With PRINCESS OF GLASS, George retellls the classic tale of Cinderella in a way readers have never seen before. George’s version features a dark love triangle and a not-so-nice fairy godmother, causing my childhood perceptions of Cinderella’s story to crumble. While PofG does have a more sinister feel than the original, I feel that younger readers will have no issue with its content. In my mind, PofG is more of a middle grade novel than young adult, though readers of any age will enjoy it.


Readers are briefly introduced to Poppy in George’s PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL and I was delighted to find that she is PRINCESS OF GLASS’ main character. Poppy is smart, independent, and skilled with a deck of cards. I definitely think that I better understood Poppy’s motivations and attitude in PofG because I read PatMB first, but it isn’t required to identify with Poppy or enjoy the novel.


I loved the villain in PofG. I think that this aspect of the novel was the element that made it truly unique. After all, who suspects the fairy godmother to be the villain? Even more compelling is the why behind her nefarious deeds.


The only part of the novel that I was bothered by was the prince. I found him to be exceedingly bland and extremely easy to manipulate. This unfortunately, ruined the romantic elements of the plot. I would have liked someone with a bit more fire for Poppy. Luckily, the rest of the novel made up for my disappoinment in the prince.


I highly recommend George’s retellings. They’re light, quick reads and always entertaining!


Grade: B


Cover Notes:
I must say, I liked the cover of PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL better than this one. This cover looks too MG for a YA novel, which probably explains, in part, why I feel like PRINCESS OF GLASS is more MG than YA.

Review: Perchance to Dream by Lisa Mantchev

Title: Perchance to Dream
Author: Lisa Mantchev
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Pub. Date: 5.25.10
Genre: Fantasy YA
Keywords: Theatre, Shakespeare, Fairies, Love, Family, Adventure, Magic
Pages: 384
Description (from GoodReads):
The stuff that dreams are made on.

Act Two, Scene One
Growing up in the enchanted Thèâtre Illuminata, Beatrice Shakespeare Smith learned everything about every play ever written. She knew the Players and their parts, but she didn’t know that she, too, had magic. Now, she is the Mistress of Revels, the Teller of Tales, and determined to follow her stars. She is ready for the outside world.
Enter BERTIE AND COMPANY
But the outside world soon proves more topsy-turvy than any stage production. Bertie can make things happen by writing them, but outside the protective walls of the Thèâtre, nothing goes as planned. And her magic cannot help her make a decision between—
Nate: Her suave and swashbuckling pirate, now in mortal peril.
Ariel: A brooding, yet seductive, air spirit whose true motives remain unclear.
When Nate is kidnapped and taken prisoner by the Sea Goddess, only Bertie can free him. She and her fairy sidekicks embark on a journey aboard the Thèâtre’s caravan, using Bertie’s word magic to guide them. Along the way, they collect a sneak-thief, who has in his possession something most valuable, and meet The Mysterious Stranger, Bertie’s father—and the creator of the scrimshaw medallion. Bertie’s dreams are haunted by Nate, whose love for Bertie is keeping him alive, but in the daytime, it’s Ariel who is tantalizingly close, and the one she is falling for. Who does Bertie love the most? And will her magic be powerful enough to save her once she enters the Sea Goddess’s lair?


I love so many things about Lisa Mantchev’s novels. The settings and characters are imaginative, colorful, and undeniably fun. Both EYES LIKE STARS and PERCHANCE TO DREAM are gorgeous novels, inside and out.
 
I am definitely Team Nate, so the parts of the novel where Bertie’s relationship and love for Ariel deepens was complete torture. I don’t think I’ve ever been so unsure of a character as I am with Bertie; I really have no clue who she’ll choose. And I can’t help but hope, that if she doesn’t pick Nate, that she’ll decide to choose neither. I don’t know what it is about Ariel, but I just loathe the thought of her being with him. I think Ariel is a bit too pretty for my tastes. I feel like Nate genuinely loves Bertie, while her relationship with Ariel is based more on lust. I’ll never understand you, Team Ariel.
 
Bertie learns more about her role as Mistress of Revels and Teller of Tales and her magical word-related abilities in PTD. The mishaps that occur due to sloppy word choice were entertaining and redefined the importance of choosing your words wisely.


The fairies provided many hilarious lines and situations… as well as a growling stomach with all their talk of scrumptious treats.


The ending of PTD left me a bit disappointed and anxious for the next installment. I can’t say too much without spoiling it for those who haven’t read it yet, but it simply didn’t satify me. I’m confident that Mantchev will resolve the issues in the next novel, but I’m too impatient to wait!


Grade: B+


Cover Notes:
I always look forward to seeing the cover art for the Theatre Illuminata books because they are always stunning!

_______________________

What team are YOU? And if you’ve read PERCHANCE TO DREAM, what did you think of the ending?

Review: Jump by Elisa Carbone

Title: Jump
Author: Elisa Carbone
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Pub. Date: 5.13.10
Genre: Contemporary YA
Keywords: Rock climbing, Runaways, Relationships, Love, Insanity
Pages: 272
Description (from GoodReads):
Jump. That is what P.K. has done. A totally wild, crazy jump from a restrictive life with her family into a life of total adventure—rock-climbing out west with a guy she barely knows. At first, everything’s amazing. Not only are they climbing in awesomely beautiful national parks like Yosemite but they seem awesomely made for one another. P.K. is in heaven. And then the cops show up . . . with an arrest warrant. And P.K. has to decide who to believe: this amazing guy whom she trusts with her life—or the cops, who want her to believe that he may take her life.

I picked up JUMP on a whim… I had never heard of it and had nothing more to recommend it than the description on the back and the interesting cover. After reading, I have absolutely no idea why no one is discussing this novel.

I’ll admit that I was a bit worried about the climbing jargon when I first started reading. I have absolutely no experience with rock climbing or rock climbing lingo, but Carbone writes with ample detail and I had no difficulty deciphering and filling in the blanks. I’m actually thankful that she did include the jargon, even though she could have told the story without, because it made the characters much more real.

JUMP is told from alternating point-of-view by P.K. and the mysterious boy she runs away with, Critter. I may have questioned P.K.’s sanity a bit more if I didn’t have the opportunity to see Critter’s POV. After all, running away to perform a dangerous activity with a boy (named Critter!) that you’ve only known for a half hour (at the most) is most definitely insane. Usually, when a novel is told by two or more characters, I favor one voice over the other(s), but this wasn’t the case with JUMP. I especially enjoyed Critter and P.K.’s budding romance, as the reader gets to experience it through both characters.


Generally, I have no problem figuring how how a story will end, but Carbone kept me on my toes. I loved that! There are a few heart pounding passages where I honestly had no clue what was going to happen next!


JUMP is rife with action, romance, and humor – the trifecta! I’m not sure how this novel slipped under my radar for so long, but I’m infinitely glad I stumbled upon it!


Grade: A


Cover Notes:
I’m definitely a fan of the cover, especially since I probably would have passed over it if it weren’t so bold and unique. I love the placement of the title and the fact that both Critter and P.K. are represented.

Review: Faithful by Janet Fox

Title: Faithful
Author: Janet Fox
Publisher: Speak
Release Date: 5.13.10
Genre: YA (Historical)
Keywords: Mothers & Daughters, Love, Family, Loss, Social status
Pages: 336
Description (from GoodReads):
Sixteen-year-old Maggie Bennet’s life is in tatters. Her mother has disappeared, and is presumed dead. The next thing she knows, her father has dragged Maggie away from their elegant Newport home, off on some mad excursion to Yellowstone in Montana. Torn from the only life she’s ever known, away from her friends, from society, and verging on no prospects, Maggie is furious and devastated by her father’s betrayal. But when she arrives, she finds herself drawn to the frustratingly stubborn, handsome Tom Rowland, the son of a park geologist, and to the wild romantic beauty of Yellowstone itself. And as Tom and the promise of freedom capture Maggie’s heart, Maggie is forced to choose between who she is and who she wants to be.

I’m sorry to report that I didn’t enjoy this book as much I had expected to. I still think that the cover is unbelievably gorgeous – I couldn’t stop myself from picking it up and admiring it in the bookstore – but I found the pages within sadly lacking.


First off, I will say that Janet Fox appears to be a competent writer with a wonderful imagination – that was not my issue with the novel. My main two complaints stemmed from the main character and the pace of the novel.


Maggie is one of the whiniest characters I’ve ever read. I’ll admit that her situation isn’t desireable and I would be miserable as well, but after chapters upon chapters of her bemoaning her lot, I started to lose interest. I wanted her to take charge of her life and go after what she wanted, instead of merely talking about it! Part of her behavior (and lack of initiative) may be due the time period in which the novel takes place. If this is the case, I feel confident saying that my annoyance at this aspect of the novel may have been merely personal perference, rather than the fault of the character.


Usually, if a book has a strong plot and characters that I feel a connection to, I don’t mind – and appreciate – a slower plot. Unfortunately, since I wasn’t particularly attached to any character, the slow pace of Faithful made it difficult to for me to stay focused on the story. The only character that I truly enjoyed was Tom.


That said, I wasn’t particularly impressed by Maggie and Tom’s relationship. Maggie acted like a spoiled little girl most the time, so it was refreshing to see Tom confront her when she said particularly rude and narrow things. I really did like Tom’s character, though he did come off as preachy in a couple passages.


Faithful did improve toward the end of the novel, so I will probably look into the next book, Forgiven. Readers who generally enjoy Historical YA should still take the time to read this novel, especially since it was released in paperback and can be obtained at a reasonable price.


Grade: C


Cover Notes:
I adore this cover! I’ve always wanted to go out west and this cover makes me daydream about Yellowstone! Plus, it totally made me pick up this book, even though it’s something I might not usually read.

Contest: Win a copy of The Tension of Opposites!

Kristina McBride is kindly offering readers of The Hiding Spot a chance to win a signed copy of her novel, The Tension of Opposites and some other fun swag! Be sure to check out my review of this unforgettable novel and my interview with Kristina!

Prizes:
Grand Prize: 1 signed hc of The Tension of Opposites, a framed photograph of sunflowers (taken during the filming of the trailer!), and bookmarks.
(2) Winners: 1 journal (with note from the author) and bookmarks.

^^^ Grand Prize ^^^



How to Enter:
You MUST comment on my review of The Tension of Opposites or the interview with Kristina McBride. (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)
+5 entries – The Tension of Opposites is one of my all time favorite reads because it had so many of my favorite elements. Comment on this contest post w/novel or author that fits you perfectly as a reader.
+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) Leave your @name for verification.
+2 Follow Kristina McBride on Twitter (@McBrideKristina) Leave your @name for verification.
+3 Tweet this contest. (Leave a link.)
+3 Link this contest on your sidebar, in a post, or on FB. (Leave a link.)


Details:
Contest will close June 17th 2010. Open to US and Canadian mailing addresses only. Sorry International readers! 


Good luck!