Favorite MG Reads of 2013

This year, I ventured into the world of MG fiction… and fell in love! In 2014, I’m hoping to read read a larger number of MG titles and explore some established MG series that I’ve been missing out on, like Percy Jackson, Fablehaven, and Ranger‘s Apprentice! Below, in no particular order, you’ll find my 5 favorite MG reads of 2013. I did not include MG titles that will be published in 2014, though I have read quite a few already and I thoroughly enjoyed them all!

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The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

the real boyOscar is the shop boy to the most powerful magician in the Barrow, an ancient forest that surrounds a perfect city that was once almost decimated by a plague decades before. Oscar, who was brought to the Barrow from a far away land devoid of magic, spends his days gathering and preparing ingredients for the magician’s potions and spells, avoiding the magician’s assistant, a bully who spends his days looking for new ways to pick on Oscar, and talking to his many cats who understand him when no else seems to. Oscar likes simple things, structure, and quiet, but his small rebellion is his love of books, which he sneaks secretly from the magician’s library. When an unknown monster begins terrorizing the Barrow and the children of the perfect city within its protection begin falling ill, Oscar must step out from the comforting shadow of life and face his fears to save day.

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

picture me goneRosoff, as always, delivers a stunning, emotional read with PICTURE ME GONE. 12-year old Londoner, Mila, has accompanied her father, Gil, to New York where is estranged best friend, Matthew, has disappeared. Mila notices things. An observer with a keen eye, she connects small details others dismiss or overlook. She’s puzzled by Matthew’s disappearance, and as she and Gil attempt to unravel the mysteries of Matthew’s life – his motives, his relationships, his guilt – Mila comes to realize big ideas about life, trust, and the things that define who we are. Absolutely brilliant and beautifully written, PICTURE ME GONE is Important with a capital I.

The Time Fetch by Amy Herrick

the time fetchThe Time Fetch by Amy Herrick features a unique premise and a diverse group of main characters. The novel follows a group of four classmates who, though they interact daily, know very little about one another. This changes after the students are tasked with bringing a rock to school for their science class. Edward, waiting to the last minute to finish the assignment, grabs the only rock he can find on his way to school, but this isn’t any ordinary rock. The rock is actually a Time Fetch, the resting place for foragers who do just that: fetch – or collect – time. Soon, with time disappearing all over the place and some particularly nasty witches on the hunt for the time fetch, their whole world is thrown off course. And it’s up to these four unlikely allies to band together to set things right!

The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin

the sinister sweetnessThe novel is packed with magic and mystery, making it more fantastical than realistic, but it still leaves readers with an important message about eating well and being healthy. In the real world, there (probably) isn’t a witch who’s trying to fatten you up so you make a better meal, but they are still definite negative consequences to bad eating habits and lack of exercise and The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy is the perfect novel to start this discussion with young readers.

Ghoulish Song by William Alexander

Ghoulish SongWilliam Alexander’s Ghoulish Song is a short read and an adventurous, magical tale. Though technically the companion to GOBLIN SECRETS, in which readers are first introduced to the city of Zombay, it isn’t necessary to read this previous offering to enjoy Kaile’s story.

Did any of my favorites from 2013 make your Best MG of 2013 list too? Are there any that you recommend I read in 2014? I’m always open to suggestions of new and old titles! If you have a “Best of” list, feel free to leave me a link in the comments section.

Check out my Best YA of 2013 list too!

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Birthday Giveaway

One of the  things that makes me incredibly happy is hearing other bookworms get excited about books… so, for my birthday, I’ve decided to host a giveaway for some upcoming 2014 titles! I haven’t hosted a giveaway in quite awhile, it’s the end of the semester, and my bookshelves are packed, so I figure it’s the perfect time!

I’m giving away four books, so there will be four winners! More information about each title can be found by clicking on the images below!

Panic

PANIC
Lauren Oliver

impossible knife of memory

THE IMPOSSIBLE KNIFE OF MEMORY
Laurie Halse Anderson

the winner's curse

THE WINNER’S CURSE
Marie Rutkowski

the killing woods

THE KILLING WOODS
Lucy Christopher

For your chance to win, see below!

You must follow The Hiding Spot via Networked Blogs, BlogLovin, WordPress, Email, etc. Tell me how you subscribe in the comments! Leave your email or twitter handle too, so I can contact you if you win!

+1 extra entry for following me on Twitter (@thehidingspot) Leave your @name in the comments.

+1 extra entry for tweeting about this giveaway. Leave a link to the tweet in the comments.

+1 extra entry for following me on Goodreads. Leave you username in the comments.

+1 extra entry for liking The Hiding Spot on Facebook. Leave your username in the comments.

That’s a total of 5 possible entries per person!

Each winner will be chosen using a random number generator on January 1st, 2014. The 1st person selected will get first choice of the 4 books, the 2nd will get to choose from the remaining 3 books, etc. International entrants are welcome, but, there will one international winner (I’d wish I could have more than one, but I just can’t afford it!)

Review: Life by Committee

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Title: Life by Committe

Author: Corey Ann Haydu

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books/ HarperCollins

Pub. Date: 4/23/2014

Genre: Contemporary YA

Recommended Age: 14+

More by author: OCD Love Story

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A lot has changed for Tabitha in the last few months. Suddenly, guys have started to notice her… and she can’t say she doesn’t like the attention. Her friends, on the other hand, are less than thrilled. Tabitha insists she’s still the same person, just, ya know, better looking and with a sense of style, but her friends are convinced she’s traveling down a dark and dangerous path. Still, it’s hard not to wonder if maybe there is something wrong with you when you’re constantly being judged and critiqued by your former best friend. Plus, Tab does have a secret that might damn her if others new about it… She’s falling for a boy. A boy that has a girlfriend. And he might be falling for her too. To distract herself from her all too complicated life, Tab loses – and finds – herself in the annotations of used classics. When her father brings her home a copy of The Secret Garden, Tab finds the previous owner is a kindred spirit with secrets of her own. Within the pages of the book, Tab finds an online community that will change how she lives her life – for better or worse.

One of the reasons I adored Life by Committee so much was because of the strength of the main character, Tabitha. Not only is she ridiculously bookish, which I’m sure many readers will relate to, she’s also very honest and strives to stay to herself. Even when Tabitha’s ex-friends have disowned her and are constantly attacking her choices (how she dresses, who she is friends with, who she is), she never apologizes being herself – flaws and all! This book perfectly illustrates the oft used phrase friends and parents use any time situations like this arise: “Don’t worry, they’re just jealous.” Tab’s ex-friends make a valiant attempt at slut shaming her and, while it’s obvious that Tab is hurt by it, she never lets them win.

I especially loved that one of the reasons Tabitha was so comfortable with being herself was because of her parents. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book in which the main character’s parents were like Tabitha’s… They were teen parents and, though they definitely made (and make) some mistakes throughout the novel, you can tell that they really try to understand and support her.

Tabitha definitely has a flaw or two as well. Namely her relationship with a very taken guy. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to really judge her. To me, he was the one who was being sleazy and playing on her feelings. What she did wasn’t right, but Tabitha’s situation showcases how difficult it can be to make smart choices when your emotions take over and you feel like you’re in love for the first time. And, I think Tab provides a perfect example of why slut shaming is not okay. She didn’t set out to hurt anyone, nor did like being with someone in a relationship. Not once is the boy, who is also participating in the affair, called a slut or shamed at all for his actions. I think it’s incredibly important that teens (and adults!) realize that there is always more to a situation. And even if a girl does set out to ruin a relationship or have an affair, there are always two participants. And slut shaming will never undo the damage or help in any way.

Life by Committee has a Post Secret vibe happening that I adored. There is something incredibly liberating about anonymously sharing your secrets with strangers. And something horribly terrifying about the possibility of someone you know finding out your secrets. It’s easy to imagine Tabitha being pulled in to the secret-driven community she finds online, especially with the burden of her inappropriate relationship that she’s been holding in. When Tabitha joins the community and spills her secret – that she’s kissed a boy who has a girlfriend – she’s given the assignment of kissing him again. She feels completely adrift… being given direction (and permission to pursue the relationship) would have been intoxicating. Plus, Tab is painfully lonely. Sharing secrets bonds people, giving Tab a sense of companionship, something she desperately missed.

Review: School of Charm

school of charmTitle: School of Charm

Author: Lisa Ann Scott

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins BFYR

Pub. Date: February 18, 2014

Genre: MG

Rec. Age Level: 8-12

More by author: n/a

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Chip has always been a tomboy and daddy’s girl and she’s never felt even the littlest bit self conscious about it… until her father dies and her mother decides to move Chip and her two sisters down south to live with her mother, Chip’s grandma. It doesn’t take long to figure out that Grandma doesn’t at all approve of Chip, who’s entirely too much like her Yankee father. As her perfect sisters prepare for the annual Miss Dogwood pageant – a pageant both Chip’s mother and grandmother won a swell – Chip feels even more left out. She likes who she is, the outdoorsy girl who loved her daddy and is determined to remember him no matter what, but what if the only way to make people, including her own family, like and love her is to be someone else? When Chip stumbles across Miss Vernie’s School of Charm, she decides that she’s willing to change to fit into her new life without father. Led by the supportive and quirky Miss Vernie, Chip struggles to fit into the straight-laced, judgmental southern society along with two fellow classmates (one messy and overweight, the other African American) and learns lasting lessons about being true to yourself and acceptance.

I struggled to keep my outrage in check as I read about tomboy Chip and her judgmental Grandma, who appears bent on tearing Chip down and making her feel worthless. This woman is horrible! Seriously. By the end of the novel, Chip’s mother finally starts standing up to her grandmother, but, in my opinion, neither was a very great role model for Chip. Still, this horrible grandmother offers an accessible way to present a variety of difficult topics to middle grade readers. Through Chip’s interactions with her Grandma, the reader is presented with racism, bullying, the ridiculous enforcement of gender roles, not to mention judgment and rudeness disguised as Southern hospitality.

Not only does School of Charm follow Chip’s growth, readers also follow the growth of her fellow classmates at Miss Vernie’s School of Charm. One of the best lessons illustrated by this debut from Lisa Ann Scott is the importance of who you are versus what you look like. All three girls face judgement and unequal treatment because of their physical appearance. There’s a fantastic scene in the novel when all three girls are working in Miss Vernie’s pond and end up with mud facials. As they stand together, peering at their reflections in the pond, Chip notes that, when covered with mud, all the girls look essentially the same. On the outside, they have physical differences, but at their core, they’re essentially the same and are all deserving of respect and fair treatment.

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Review: Control

controlTitle: Control

Author: Lydia Kang

Publisher: Dial/Penguin

Pub. Date: December 26, 2013

Genre: YA

Rec. Age Level: 12+

More by author: n/a

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The year is 2150 and Zel, her younger sister Dyl, and their father are, once again, moving. The trio moves often, jumping from one state to the next, but this time is different. This time, Zel’s father is acting different and doesn’t seem to have a clear cut plan… and things go from bad to worse when, shortly into their trip, their vehicle is slammed into and totaled. Zel’s father doesn’t make it through the accident and, then, Zel and Dyl are mysteriously tested and then forcibly separated. Zel’s life is quickly spinning out of control. She’s lost her father and her sister and is suddenly overwhelmed with the knowledge that there are individuals, Dyl included, with mutated genes that give them special abilities and powers. Dyl has been taken by Aureus, a group that seeks to exploit her abilities, but first they must figure out what those powers are. As Zel races the clock to uncover the secrets hidden within Dyl’s DNA, she forms unexpected bonds with a group of mutated kids her father and new guardian, Marka, have kept hidden and safe from the evil clutches of Aureus and discovers shocking truths about her past, present, and future.

Lydia Kang’s debut has been compared to Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies books, but, to me, it had a similar feel to Kelley Armstrong’s Darkest Powers books. Ultimately, Control was not what I expected. It’s been a long time – probably since I read the Darkest Powers books – since I’ve read something quite like this. There is something that I can only describe as gritty happening within the pages of this novel. The characters aren’t perfect or stereotypically beautiful or attractive, but, as you sink further into the world and story, you find your idea of what is beautiful and attractive changing. The love interest, who you might not normally label attractive or “hot” is suddenly your biggest crush, even though your were a bit miffed about his looks at the start of the book. I love that. As Zel comes to appreciate the unique qualities and outward appearances of the kids she meets, we, the readers, do too!

As much as I loved all the secondary characters in Control, I did find myself frustrated with Zel quite often. I suppose, if she would have been smart all the time, not much would have actually happened in the book, but she really had an issue with thinking things through. That drove me absolutely bonkers sometimes, as she regularly made situations much worse than they had to be by being stubborn and not listening to reason. Still, I had to admire her determination and unfailing love for her sister.

I’ll definitely be reading next installment of Zel’s story, Catalyst, which is slated for a 2014 release. She changed a lot through the course of the novel and I came to appreciate her strength by the final pages. I’m excited to read what other kids with powers exist that Zel and her group are sure to meet!

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Hello to The Hiding Spot!

Hey, Hiding Spot community, I’m Jacob Grochowski, and I’m going to be your newest member! I’m the younger brother of Sara, your resident book fanatic, and I like to think I have a passion for reading as well. I am a senior at Alpena High School in Alpena, Michigan. I will be going to the University of Michigan school of Literature Sciences and the Arts this fall. I plan on majoring in business, but that is by no means certain. I have always loved reading, and I have always been inspired to be a better reader and writer by my sister Sara. I am partial to post-apocalyptic and fantasy novels, but one of my favorites of all time is a historical fiction, Catch 22. I look forward to being an active member of The Hiding Spot  and to getting to know all of you here. To help you get to know me a little better, here is are lists of my top ten favorite books/series and of my top five favorite authors. 


Books… In no particular order

  • The Bartimeaus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
  • The Belgariad by David Eddings
  • Dark Inside and Rage Within by Jeyn Roberts
  • The Molly Fyde Series by Hugh Howey
  • The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
  • The Keys to the Kingdom by Garth Nix
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien 
  • The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy by Kristin Cashore
  • The Fablehaven Series by Brandon Mull
  • Airborn – Skybreaker – Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel

Authors… In no particular order

  • Jonathan Stroud
  • David Eddings
  • Garth Nix
  • Kenneth Oppel
  • Kristin Cashore


If you’ve got any more questions for me feel free to ask in the comments or via Twitter!                                                                                          -Jacob                           @ParsonaG

Back to School & Judy Blume’s Forever

Hi everyone!

So, as I’m sure is the case with many of you, I’m back in university right now… which, unfortunately, means spending time that I’d rather be spending reading and blogging reading essays and doing homework. 


That said, I’m working (as always) on being more organized so I can still post at least a couple times a week. I plan on continuing my new feature, Reasons to Read, and reviewing at least one title a week. I’m trying not to set myself up for failure by aiming low, but, of course, I’d like to post more than that!


In addition, in an effort to not end up with the crazy amounts of books I usually have in my apartment, I’m going to be holding regular giveaways to spread the wealth on to YOU. 


Luckily, I have some great classes this semester, including Shakespeare, Literary Theory and Critique, and Adolescent Literature… so don’t be surprised if some of the things I’ve been learning and discussing in class find their way onto the blog. In a fun, non-boring way of course. 


For example, I’ve just finished reading Judy Blume’s Forever, which was, in a word, interesting. This iconic young adult text was considered quite risque when it was first released, but how does it compare to today’s popular YA titles? Does it really promote sexuality and sexual liberation or is there another message hidden deeper within the dialogue and events of the novel? 

Maybe I’m just a nerd, but I think these questions are super interesting. And next we’ve been assigned to read Powell’s Swallow Me Whole, which will be my first experience reading a graphic novel in full. Wish me luck.


I hope everyone you’re all enjoying your classes or enjoying your kids being back in school or simply enjoying the beginnings of autumn! 


And I’d love to hear how the rest of you students are faring… How are your classes? Is there a class you’re particularly excited about (or not so excited about)? Are you just as bad about making time to blog regularly as I am? I’d love to tips in becoming more organized in this aspect of my life! 🙂