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Waiting on Wednesday: One of the Guys

Hi there and Happy Wednesday!

For this week’s Waiting on Wednesday I’m excited about One of the Guys by Lisa Aldin! It sounds like it has potential to be a cute contemporary read!

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Tomboy to the core, Toni Valentine understands guys. She’ll take horror movies, monster hunts and burping contests over manicures any day. So Toni is horrified when she’s sent to the Winston Academy forOne of the Guys by Lisa Aldin Girls, where she has to wear a skirt and learn to be a “lady” while the guys move on without her.

Then Toni meets Emma Elizabeth, a girl at school with boy troubles, and she volunteers one of her friends as a pretend date to make Emma’s ex jealous. Soon word spreads of Toni’s connections with boys, and she discovers that her new wealthy female classmates will pay big money for fake dates. Looking for a way to connect her old best friends with her new life at school, Toni and Emma start up Toni Valentine’s Rent-A-Gent Service.

But the business meets a scandal when Toni falls for one of her friends—the same guy who happens to be the most sought-after date. With everything she’s built on the line, Toni has to decide if she wants to save the business and her old life, or let go of being one of the guys for a chance at love.

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One of the Guys won’t release until February 2015, but I would love to get my hands on a copy of the ARC…must begin contact the powers that be. haha  Well, I shared what title I’m waiting on, so what books are you waiting for this week?

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One of the Best: Doll Bones by Holly Black

Happy Sunday everyone!

Writing reviews when I truly enjoyed/loved a book can either be difficult (fear of too much gushing) or really easy (the love just flows). Writing my review for Doll Bones by Holly Black was incredibly easy. This book is that good.

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Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining Doll Bones by Holly Blacka magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity.

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If you asked me for one of the best titles to introduce you to middle grades fiction, Dolly Bones would be the book I pressed into your hands. Everything about this book is well done. This is quality middle grades fiction right here people!

As I look back on some of the best middle grades books I’ve read (and coming of age tales in general) I’m noticing a major commonality between them; that perfect yet strange mix of realism and fantasy mixed together (think the Sandlot with “the beast” for example). When a book succeeds at weaving both the realistic and fantastic together what you get is a blindingly beautiful portrayal of that preadolescence stage in life where you’re stuck in limbo between childhood and the teen years. The characters, Zach, Poppy and Alice are each exploring (in different ways) their new teenage interests, yet are still clinging to the comforts of childhood, like imagining and playing games. This struggle is exemplified so flawlessly well on the cover. I love how this cover sets the stage for a coming of age story (yes the kids are on a physical and emotional journey) set in and spurred on, by the atmosphere of a ghost story.

Another major factor in this whole coming of age theme is realizing that adults, specifically your parents, are human being with flaws. We see this primarily in the strained relationship between Zach and his father. Because it hurts so much to realize that his dad isn’t perfect Zach longs for the days when his father wasn’t there; its easier to ignore him than face the truth. When in reality this often painful father/son relationship is caused by a hurt man doing the best he knows how with a son he doesn’t quite understand. There is just so much truthful emotion going on here!

There are some slightly creepy goings on in Doll Bones, but it is completely appropriate for middle grade readers and up (perhaps even a mature fifth grader) who crave a good adventure tale. The audiobook would make for a good family listen as well, so if you haven’t read Doll Bones yet, please get it added to your (or your reader’s) TBR stack; you wont be disappointed.

Author: Holly Black

Publisher:  Margaret K. McElderry Books (May 7, 2013)

Format: Audiobook (Listening Library)

Length: 5 hours and 15 minutes

Narrator(s): Nick Podehl

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book:

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Sadly, Not Much to Offer:The Hypnotists by Gordon Korman

Welcome back friends!

I was lucky enough to met author Gordon Korman a few years ago, and he was such a friendly and humble individual! He’s one of my librarian crushes, I have to admit.  My students adore his books, mostly because he is a good storyteller and writes interesting and funny characters, but I was a little disappointed with The Hypnotists.The Hypnotists by Gordon Korman

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Jackson Opus has always been persuasive, but he doesn’t know that he’s descended from the two most powerful hypnotist bloodlines on the planet. He’s excited to be accepted into a special program at the Sentia Institute — but when he realizes he’s in over his head, Jackson will have to find a way to use his powers to save his friends, his parents, and his government.

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The world Jax (Jackson) lives in mirrors our own but with one big difference, some people have hypnotic powers. Overall, The Hypnotists was an interesting idea, but was also completely unbelievable and what it was lacking is the follow through to make be believe it.

The pacing of the story was quick and a lot of action happens, especially in the first few chapters where we meet Jax on a seemingly out of control bus speeding through the city streets. Adventure and action scenes like this are one of Korman’s strong points but unfortunately it’s the only thing that this book has to offer.

I’m sad to say that the majority of the characters, Jackson included, are not well developed, which is unusual for Korman. Jackson goes from being naive to knowledgeable and wavers between the two the whole time. I found myself more than halfway through the book when I suddenly realized that I just didn’t care about Jax or saving the world from evil hypnotists. Really. And because I had read so much of the book already, and I feel loyal to the author, from that point on I was skimmed the pages just so I could finish it.

I was disappointed in my usually awesome Gordon Korman, but The Hypnotists just doesn’t have much to offer the reader other than a few exciting action scenes and I wouldn’t make this book your introduction to Korman’s books. I do think some of my students will still enjoy anything written by this author because of his normally great track record, and the quick pacing might really appeal to reluctant readers, but I doubt that I’ll be doing much recommending of this one in my library, which is a shame.

Author: Gordon Korman

Publisher: Scholastic Press (August 1, 2013)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 232 pages

Series: First book in The Hypnotists series

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book:

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Shadow Cabinet

Hi!

I honestly can’t believe I haven’t posted about The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson, and how much I want it to be released already!!

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The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen JohnsonAt the end of Maureen Johnson’s New York Times bestselling novel, The Madness Underneath, Rory, Callum and Boo are reeling from the sudden and tragic death of their friend and squad leader, Stephen. The Shadow Cabinet picks up where readers left off, and now Rory is convinced there must be a way to bring Stephen back. Meanwhile, new dangers arise: Rory’s classmate Charlotte is missing, and Jane and her nefarious organization are clearly planning something big—with Rory as their most valuable asset. Time is running out as the ghost squad struggles to protect London and Rory fights to bring Stephen back.

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The Shades of London series is one of my favorite unfinished series out there right now! I’m not normally drawn to creepy reads, but these books combine the right amount of creep with humor, history, romance, and suspense. To make it even better, all of this fun stuff is placed smack dab in the middle of a boarding school in LONDON. YES!!!

According to Goodreads, The Shadow Cabinet isn’t scheduled to release until March 2015. So, we have a bit to wait don’t we?!

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Top Ten Tuesday: My TV Stories

Hiya!

It’s clear that I’m a fan of stories in print, but this book lover also loves to watch her stories too!  Watching my storiesThis week’s Top Ten Tuesday is centered around all of those non bookish stories we enjoy, be it movies or TV shows, so I’m focusing on my fave TV shows of all time. For the most part I tend to enjoy shows with a little romance, comedy, and drama all mixed in together…just like my books! All of the shows mentioned on my list are those that I could watch and enjoy over and over again.

Dawsons CreekDawson’s Creek

Oh the teenage drama! This show was my high school obsession.

goldengirlsGolden Girls

Sitcom comedy at its best! It still cracks me up.

FireflyFirefly

The show that got me into Sci-Fi. It’s just SO GOOD!

Veronica MarsVeronica Mars

Although I’m only in Season 2, it’s already on this list!

Midsomer MurdersMidsomer Murders

This British murder mystery show is full of quirky characters!

Doctor WhoDoctor Who

Do I even need to explain why I love this one?

SeinfeldSeinfeld

My husband introduced me to this when I was in college. Comedy gold!

My So Called LifeMy So Called Life

So much teen angst and awesomeness.

Dr QuinnDr. Quinn Medicine Woman

I love historical fiction! (Old Colleen all the way!)

LOSTLOST

I thought I’d hate it when it was first on, but I was hooked after the first episode! Watching this every week was an event.

Now that I’ve written this post, I’m craving some of these shows! I’m going to have to go back and watch a few! Yay for summer vacation where I actually have the ability to do that!

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Excessively Diverting: Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore

Hi!

Who doesn’t enjoy Downton Abbey-like upstairs/downstairs drama?!

Okay, there are probably some people out there who don’t enjoy it like I do, so if it’s you then Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore is most likely not the book for you.

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The year is 1911. And at The Manor, nothing is as it seems. Lady Charlotte Edmonds: Beautiful, wealthy, and sheltered, Charlotte feels suffocated by the strictures of upper-crust society. She longs to see the world Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshorebeyond The Manor, to seek out high adventure. And most of all, romance.

Janie Seward: Fiery, hardworking, and clever, Janie knows she can be more than just a kitchen maid. But she isn’t sure she possesses the courage — or the means — to break free and follow her passions.

Both Charlotte and Janie are ready for change. As their paths overlap in the gilded hallways and dark corridors of The Manor, rules are broken and secrets are revealed. Secrets that will alter the course of their lives. . . forever.

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Take one guess as to why I was immediately drawn to Manor of Secrets.

Here, I’ll help you out: 1. pretty gown, 2. the word “manor”. Either guesses would have worked. Both signs point to “YES” for Tina! My reading preferences are pretty predictable.

Overall, Manor of Secrets was a fun and amusing read and sometimes you just need an uncomplicated story to tumble into for a while. Although there were definitely weaknesses, I enjoyed the story so much I can overlook them. For the most part the writing fell much more on the “telling” instead of “showing” side of things and the plot twist was spotted clearly from a mile away! Additionally, other than a few basic descriptions of the manor and the characters, there was nothing strong about the setting, it is kind of invisible. The book really could have taken place in any British manor house in any historical era because it was lacking in anything that specified this was 1911.

The relationship that grows between Charlotte and Janie is the story’s strong suit. Although the characters themselves are nothing new (we have a poor-little-rich-girl constrained by her upbringing and a rags-to-riches Cinderella), the friendship that is being forged between the two makes for interesting growth in both girls. You have Charlotte learning (a little bit) about the seriousness of world and how her actions can affect others, while Janie is learning more about what family really is. Add in all of the secrets, flirtations, and deception going on amidst Charlotte and Janie’s growing friendship and you have a book that is so excessively diverting you can’t help but enjoy yourself.

As mentioned earlier, I can overlook the weaknesses in Manor of Secrets because the story is just so fun and I’m always interested in the whole upstairs/downstairs thing. If there was a sequel planned, which I don’t think there is, I would definitely pick it up although I don’t think I’d rush to get my hands on it. In the end, I can identify some of my students who would really enjoy this read, mostly middle school girls who already enjoy Downton Abbey and books with pretty dresses on the cover.

Author: Katherine Longshore

Publisher: Point (January 28, 2014)

Format: e-galley

Length: 320 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book:

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Complex Relationships: Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper

Hello friends!

It’s always nice when a book pleasantly surprises you. I didn’t go into reading Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper expecting to enjoy it as much as I did.

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On the winter day Little Hawk is sent into the woods alone, he can take only a bow and arrows, his handcrafted tomahawk, and the amazing metal knife his father Ghost Hawk by Susan Coopertraded for with the new white settlers. If Little Hawk survives three moons by himself, he will be a man.

John Wakely is only ten when his father dies, but he has already experienced the warmth and friendship of the nearby tribes. Yet his fellow colonists aren’t as accepting of the native people. When he is apprenticed to a barrel-maker, John sees how quickly the relationships between settlers and natives are deteriorating. His friendship with Little Hawk will put both boys in grave danger.

The intertwining stories of Little Hawk and John Wakely are a fascinating tale of friendship and an eye-opening look at the history of our nation. Newbery Medalist Susan Cooper also includes a timeline and an author’s note that discusses the historical context of this important and moving novel.

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I started Ghost Hawk, expecting to be underwhelmed, but quickly realized that I was turning page after page to find out what would happen next. I was completely riveted to this story of an unlikely friendship between two boys from vastly different worlds. Woven between this story of friendship is the turbulent history between colonial New Englanders and the Native Americans of the region detailing one of those difficult and change ridden era in American history. The complexity of the relationship between these two wildly distinct cultures is handled well here. Cooper doesn’t over simplify the overlapping layers of mistrust and kindness, but it is also written appropriately for middle grade readers to grasp to basic themes.

However, I do wonder if this is truly a book geared towards middle grades readers. It is already a struggle to get my students to pick up a historical fiction title, and there is at times a slowness to the story (that isn’t a negative thing just an observation). Due to the sometimes complex themes, I don’t know if any of my students would enjoy and completely understand the whole story and context of Ghost Hawk while reading it independently. I feel like it would be best read, and enjoyed, in a guided group setting (for middle school readers at least) so that they can discuss the story and it’s depth with other readers.

When I read other online reviews of this story, most people complained that they lost interest once the narration switches primarily to John’s life, instead of Little Hawk’s. It seems that people thought the pacing slowed done and the story just kind of plodded along, but I totally disagree. Maybe it’s because of my own preferences with regards to historic events, but I enjoyed reading about the Puritans and John’s experience so much more and this book became more interesting to me as it progressed. I was especially intrigued by the “rebel” Puritan and his breakaway colony, so much so that I’ve spent some extra time researching a little more about it.

In the end Ghost Hawk is a hauntingly beautiful story of friendship and tolerance of those who are different than ourselves. These themes are as important for adults to be reminded of as well as younger readers, so I think that readers of all ages (who enjoy historical fiction) will get something out of this book.

Author: Susan Cooper

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (August 27, 2013)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 336 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book:

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Ups and Downs: The Flame in the Mist by Kitt Grindstaff

Welcome back BookTasty Friends!

I’ve been working pretty hard to get caught up with my book reviews, because as of now I’m still a month or two behind! *GASP* I just read so much faster than I can write a review, which isn’t really a problem! haha

Today’s review is for fantasy read, The Flame in the Mist by Kitt Grindstaff.

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Set in an imagined past, this dark fantasy-adventure is for fans of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass and features Jemma, a fiery-headed heroine held captive in Agromond Castle, yet destined to save mist-shrouded Anglavia.

Fiery-headed Jemma Agromond is not who she thinks she is, and when the secrets The Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaffand lies behind her life at mist-shrouded Agromond Castle begin to unravel, she finds herself in a chilling race for her life. Ghosts and misfits, a stone and crystals, a mysterious book, an ancient prophecy—all these reveal the truth about Jemma’s past and a destiny far greater and more dangerous than she could have imagined in her wildest fantasies. With her telepathic golden rats, Noodle and Pie, and her trusted friend, Digby, Jemma navigates increasingly dark forces, as helpers both seen and unseen, gather. But in the end, it is her own powers that she must bring to light, for only she has the key to defeating the evil ones and fulfilling the prophecy that will bring back the sun and restore peace in Anglavia.

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Fantasy is most definitely my favorite genre. I just love the idea of different worlds where magic is the norm! Because so many of my favorite books are fantasy, so I was excited to pick up The Flame in the Mist. In the end this book had it’s ups and downs. I didn’t love it, nor did I totally hate it either.

First of all the pacing of Jemma’s story is pretty slow, which was a struggle for me because the book is well over 400 pages (which makes for a long audibook!). It’s not that I don’t have the attention span for slowish story-lines, but Jemma makes two perilously long journeys that just felt like they dragged on and on at times. These journeys were necessary and many significant events occurred on them both, but I found myself thinking that the story could have been condensed a bit to make it seem less sluggish.

Jemma is one of those characters that are, from the beginning, pretty easy to cheer for. Her life has been full of so many secrets and betrayals relating to her detestable family that the reader turns every page with the hope that the Agromonds will get what’s coming to them. Although Jemma is easy to root for however, she isn’t that multifaceted a character, which makes the cast of secondary characters all the more exciting because they all (mostly) are surprisingly complex, especially some of Jemma’s family members. In fact, I believe that one of this book’s strongest qualities is it’s characters. Also, let’s not forget about Jemma’s two sidekick rats, Noodle and Pie – I loved them!

The Flame in the Mist is definitely a middle grades fantasy novel, but will appeal to older fantasy lovers as well. As with most fantasy novels magic is a common theme in this story, but there are times where I wonder if some of the said magic is too dark and creepy for younger middle school readers. Although this wasn’t the best fantasy I’ve read, it was still a fun audiobook to listen to and it kept me entertained.

Author: Kitt Grindstaff

Publisher:  Delacorte Press (April 9, 2013)

Format: Audiobook (Listening Library)

Length: 13 hours and 29 minutes

Narrator(s): Rosalyn Landor

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG/YA

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Young Elites

Hi!

I hope you’re having a good week so far. If you haven’t made time to read a good book yet, what are you waiting for?! Get on it!

This week for Waiting on Wednesday I’m showcasing The Young Elites by Marie Lu.

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Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness The Young Elites by Marie Luswept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

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My husband and I listened to Lu’s Legend trilogy on audiobook together and really, really liked it. So, because I am always a fan of fantasy, and Marie Lu has a great track record so far, I have high hopes for this new fantasy series! The Young Elites is scheduled to release in October 2014, so I only have a few short months to wait!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Classics

Hiya!

I skipped lat week’s Top Ten Tuesday because I just didn’t sit down and just write it, but I really wanted to talk about some of my favorite classics, so I’ve decided to create my list of Favorite Classics this week instead.

Going back over this list before posting has made me realize that more than half of the classics that I love are British…There is no shame in the fact that I’m a total Anglophile!

Northanger Abbey by Jane AustenPride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskill

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskill

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettPersuasion by Jane Austen

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Are any of my favorite classics your favorites as well?