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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

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Completely Underwhelmed: Icons by Margaret Stohl

Well hello there!

I hope everyone had a fun-filled Fourth of July!

After celebrating my Husband’s birthday on the 3rd with a shin-dig at our house, we spent the holiday hanging out with friends and basically just relaxing. That’s what summer is made for!

Now, on to more bookish things. Sometimes I disappoint myself. There are way too many awesome books out there for me to stick with one I’m just not that into. Do I follow my own advice though? Nope! I tend to stick it out until the end because I hate putting down a book. Well, recently I stuck with Icons by Margaret Stohl until the bitter end…there very bitter end.

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Everything changed on The Day. The day the windows shattered. The day the power stopped. The day Dol’s family dropped dead. The day Earth lost a war it didn’t know it was fighting. Since then, Dol has lived a simple life in the countryside — safe from Icons by Margaret Stohlthe shadow of the Icon and its terrifying power. Hiding from the one truth she can’t avoid. She’s different. She survived. Why?

When Dol and her best friend, Ro, are captured and taken to the Embassy, off the coast of the sprawling metropolis once known as the City of Angels, they find only more questions. While Ro and fellow hostage Tima rage against their captors, Dol finds herself drawn to Lucas, the Ambassador’s privileged son. But the four teens are more alike than they might think, and the timing of their meeting isn’t a coincidence. It’s a conspiracy.

Within the Icon’s reach, Dol, Ro, Tima, and Lucas discover that their uncontrollable emotions — which they’ve always thought to be their greatest weaknesses — may actually be their greatest strengths.

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The idea behind Icons is kinda cool. One day alien ships visited earth, everyone but a small few died, leaving those behind to fight for humanity. Sounds cool right? Well, I think what we have here is a classic case of poor execution. This interesting premise was not matched with strong writing or characters. As a reader, I just felt completely underwhelmed.

Honestly, it took me a while to figure out that I just wasn’t into this book so when I finally did I felt like I was too far along to quit. The dystopian setting Stohl has created is not bad, especially with the insertion of poems, government documents and letters which give the reader more insight and context for the type of world this story takes place in. But that was pretty much it. I just didn’t care enough that these alien creatures were oppressing humanity at large.

This lack of connection also carried into the characters as well. The characters and their relationships were so flat and predictable that there was nothing that made me like, hate, or relate to them. I just didn’t care and on top of that I really didn’t understand why these characters were doing the things they did. They fight, love, follow, trust and betray each other all too easily. I get the feeling the characters are supposed to group together like the the kids in Captain Planet to save the world “with their powers combined”, but in the end I actually am still not completely sure what exactly the four main characters can do.

It really is a shame because there was a lot of potential in Icons, (and I really liked Beautiful Creatures) but for me, it just fell flat. I’ve read other reviews where the readers absolutely loved it though, so don’t ignore Icons on my account if it sounds like something you’d really enjoy. I just think there are much better dystopian, sci-fi titles out there for you to sink your teeth into.

Author: Margaret Stohl

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (May 7, 2013)

Format: Audiobook (AudioGO)

Length: 9 hours and 30 minutes

Narrator(s): Therese Plummer

Series: First in the Icons series

YA/MG: YA

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Again! Again! 2014 YA Audiobook Challenge

Who else likes audiobooks?

I do! A lot!

For the past two years I’ve participated in the YA Audiobook Challenge hosted by Jen at  Book and a Latte.

2014 YA Audiobook ChallengeThis is my favorite bookish challenge because I seriously LOVE audiobooks. Just ask my husband! I always have one going and I listen while driving, running, folding laundry etc… My husband knows I’m listening to a particularly good audiobook if I offer to do the dishes (it’s the chore I dislike the most!). hahaha

Last year I reached the “Rocking Out” level of the challenge because I was literally one audiobook short of my goal of 36. One! Ugghhhh The shame! hahaha If you’re interested, can see my 2013 YA Audiobook Challege Wrap Up here. I listened to so many awesome books in 2013!

This year I am participating again (of course!!!), and am shooting for the “Head Bang’n levelOver the course of 2014 I need to listen to 36+ audiobooks and review at least 24 of them.

I know I got this!

If you like audiobooks and young adult fiction, you should join us! Check out the Challenge Info Page to find out more and sign up.