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Familiar Places: Virals by Kathy Reichs

Hi there!

I’m currently typing this post up in our attic/office with the roof windows open on this rare sunny day in Manchester. It really is the perfect place to enjoy a cup of tea and write a book review!

Recently I finished listening to the audiobook for Kathy Reich’s Virals, the first book in a sci-fi series of the same name. I waited a long time to finally read this one and I’m so glad I read it now, after just moving across the pond from South Carolina, because the story is set in Charleston. Reading about the familiar places was soothing to my heart as I adjust to life in a new place out of my home country! It was comforting!

Overview

Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the VIrals by Kathy ReichsBones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage “sci-philes” who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental strain of canine parvovirus that changes their lives forever.

As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer’s scent.

Fortunately, they are now more than friends. They’re a pack. They are Virals.

My Thoughts

I don’t know what I was expecting, but when I decided to read Virals, I wasn’t sold. I assumed I wasn’t going to enjoy it and I have no earthly idea why! What I got was a fast paced sci-fi mystery/thriller that hooked me from the start. The first page lands you smack-dab in the middle of a forest where our main character, Tory, is being chased by unknown and armed pursuers. From that moment on the story is full of dead bodies, breaking and entering, fake identities, hunting for evidence, and even more being chased by armed men. As if the mystery plot wasn’t interesting enough Reichs also weaves in this whole science fiction virus plot that just takes the story to a whole new level! I was immediately sold.

Super exciting plot aside, it also helps when your main character is engaging and likable. Tory, is your average teen who is also not-so average -she is incredibly observant, intelligent, courageous, funny, and really interested in science. She feels like an outsider at her posh Charleston private school, but is also building deep friendships with the other kids on Morris Island. She is exactly the type of girl I’d want to be friends with, if you know….I was a character in a sci-fi YA novel… Out of her group of friends, Tory is the “idea person”. She’s the one who has all of these ideas that are really good ideas (mostly) but make the other characters nervous because they usually involve breaking into someplace they shouldn’t be-all for good reasons of course! haha

Virals is set on the numerous islands that dot the coast of South Carolina, just outside of historic Charleston. As I mentioned before having just moved from South Carolina, it was so comforting to read about a location I’m familiar with. I think that when you’ve been to a place it always changes how you read a book set in that same location. The story seems more alive and exciting when you have experience in that particular setting. I loved reading about King Street, Sullivan’s Island, Mount Pleasant and Fort Sumter. It felt like I was home!

I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series and if you’re into sci-fi and mysteries you should also give this series a try!

Details

Author: Kathy Reichs
Publisher: Penguin Razorbill (November 2, 2010)
Format: Audiobook
Narrated by: Cristin Milioti
Length: 9 hrs and 43 mins
Series: First in the Virals series
YA/MG: MG/YA

 

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Unstoppable: All Fall Down by Ally Carter

Hello!

Is there an author who, in your opinion, can do no wrong? That author whose books you always enjoy. Ally Carter is this author for me. Everything she writes is awesome — her Gallagher Girls series is one of my favorites and Heist Society is really fun too. I was really excited to hear about Embassy Row, her newest series, and had high expectations, so I read All Fall Down, the first book in the Embassy Row series and as I mentioned before Ally Carter didn’t let me down! She is unstoppable!

Overview

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:All Fall Down by Ally Carter

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her–so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door who is keeping an eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands. Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace–no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . .  and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world all stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

My Thoughts

I had high expectations for All Fall Down, I was also nervous that I’d be disappointed because it wasn’t a Gallagher Girls novel, which are still some of my favorite books ever. As I started listening to the audiobook I was quickly rewarded with an interesting main character, and a plot full of family secrets and political intrigue, which is exactly what I was hoping for!

That interesting main character is Grace, who is carrying some deep wounds and insecurity. Grace knows her mother is dead, feels alone within her own family and is struggling to feel normal. On top of all that she is dealing with the fact that she is alone in her belief that her mother was murdered. Grace is definitely flawed – she makes some majorly questionable choices and hurts a lot of people while trying to prove she is capable and normal. Isn’t that what makes her interesting though?

One of my favorite things about Ally Carter’s novels is that they’re set in a contemporary time, but are located in a special place that makes the story feel more fantastical.Take the Gallagher Girls series, for example, which is set in today’s United States but takes place in a secret boarding school to train young spies (super cool right?). All Fall Down is similar in that the story happens in today’s world, but it is set in a fictional European country and even more specifically in the very unique setting of the Embassy houses. Because the story takes place in the embassies of many different countries, Grace’s story is placed in the middle of political intrigue and high society events, which makes it that much more captivating! I mean seriously mystery abounds…there are secret underground tunnels! For realz!

I am so relieved and happy that All Fall Down turned out to be a great start to what seems like a fun series! Ally Carter…she will not let you down! Book two, See How They Run, is set to release in January 2016 and I’m so excited I can’t wait!!excited

Have you read All Fall Down —What’d you think? Who, in your opinion, is that unstoppable author that can do no wrong? Please leave your comments below, I love reading them!

Details

Author: Ally Carter
Publisher: Scholastic Press (January 20, 2015)
Format: Audiobook
Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
Length: 8 hours and 32 minutes
Series: First in a series
YA/MG: YA

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Reading Queue: May

The Reading Queue

Hello there!

April was such a busy, yet fun, month!

In addition to staying on routine with a newborn (now two months old!) we had a bunch of family visitors over the past few weeks. First, my brother and sister-in-law came for a long weekend to meet their little nephew for the first time! A few days later, my parents came to visit for few days. Then after that, my in-laws came into town to see Colin as well.  I’m telling you, they only want to see Colin!

Let’s talk about my May Reading Queue. I don’t know if May is going to be any slower than April, but we can hope that I get more reading in! Remember that I co-host this monthly event with Jessica at Books A True Story, so be sure to visit her blog (and her Reading Queue) too!

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How I Did Last Month

With so many visitors April was a rough reading month for me as I only finished two books. Also Shadow Scale was SUPER long so I didn’t have much time for other books this past month.

Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

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My May Reading Queue

In May I think I’ll do better than I did last month. None of the books are as massively long as Shadow Scale was and we don’t have nearly as many visitors coming in town. Plus, I’ve been cleared to start exercising again and I’ll be working my way back into running, so audiobooks are my game again!

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

The Shadow Cabinet (Shades of London #3) by Maureen Johnson

A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas

All Fall Down by Ally Carter Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1) by Ally Carter

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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What are you planning to read in May? Did you reach your goals in April?  We would love for you to join up with us! It’s a fun way to see what others are planning to read each month. Plus, you never know who wants to read the same book you do! If you’d like to join up, just link to your own Reading Queue post below!

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Not What I Expected: The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford

Hey there!

For my birthday in 2013 my husband sent me to YALL Fest in Charleston with a bunch of money to buy books. And boy did I buy books! The only problem is that I bought so many books it has taken forever to get to them all, which is why I just recently read The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford!

Overview

Laura Reid goes to Leningrad for a semester abroad as Cold War paranoia is peaking in 1982. She meets a young Russian artist named Alexei and soon, with Alexei as her guide, Laura immerses herself in the real The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie StandifordRussia–a crazy world of wild parties, black-market books and music, and smuggled letters to dissidents. She must keep the relationship secret; associating with Americans is dangerous for Alexei, and if caught, Laura could be sent home and Alexei put under surveillance or worse. At the same time, she’s been warned that Soviets often latch onto Americans in hopes of marrying them and thus escaping to the United States. But she knows Alexei loves her. Right?

As June approaches–when Laura must return to the United States–Alexei asks Laura to marry him. She’s only nineteen and doesn’t think she’s ready to settle down. But what if Alexei is the love of her life? How can she leave him behind? If she has a chance to change his life, to rescue him from misery, shouldn’t she take it?

My Thoughts

Okay, so I apparently did not read the summary of this one at all before buying it! A few pages into reading The Boy on the Bridge, I posted about it on Instagram and a friend asked me what it was about. My response was “I’m only 5 pages in but it takes place in Cold War era Soviet Union. I think there will be spies!” This is hilarious to me now that I’ve read it. There are no spies! I just assumed that there would be since it was set during the Cold War. haha OOPS!!

All, that to say this book was not what I expected, but that doesn’t mean it was bad! This book is historical fiction, but it’s too contemporary to be my usual type of historical fiction. I honestly didn’t know a single thing about what life was like in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, but Standiford’s writing drew me in so quickly and it was really eye-opening to learn more about the time period. I had no idea that average Soviet citizens were under strict food rationing while any visiting foreigners shopped at stores that sold the best of the best. Laura’s experience with her friend Alexei allows the reader to discover this divide in lifestyle alongside the Laura

Although, this is historical fiction, it is also a romance through and through! The way Laura meets Alexei is the perfect meet-cute when he saves her from being taken advantage of by a gypsy woman on a bridge. They quickly become language conversation partners before they blossom into full on romance and the best thing about this romance is that it is realistic. Standiford succeeds at making the reader feel the obsessiveness and all consuming nature that often characterizes first love.

In the end, The Boy on the Bridge was not what I originally expected, but I enjoyed it anyway! Romance lovers high school age and older will most likely enjoy this book the most so if that’s you go ahead and get your hands on this one!

Details

Author: Natalie Standiford
Publisher: Scholastic Press (July 1, 2013)
Format: Print (hardcover)
Length: 256 pages
Series: Standalone
YA/MG: YA/NA (New Adult)

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An Art History Mystery! Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

Hiya!

It was recently announced that Under the Egg, a debut by Laura Marx Fitzgerald, is on the 2015-16 South Carolina Junior Award Book list! I read it this past fall and I  can tell you that this art history mystery definitely deserves the recognition!

Overview

When Theodora Tenpenny spills a bottle of rubbing alcohol on her late grandfather’s painting, she Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgeralddiscovers what seems to be an old Renaissance masterpiece underneath. That’s great news for Theo, who’s struggling to hang onto her family’s two-hundred-year-old townhouse and support her unstable mother on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. There’s just one problem: Theo’s grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and she worries the painting may be stolen.

With the help of some unusual new friends, Theo’s search for answers takes her all around Manhattan, and introduces her to a side of the city—and her grandfather—that she never knew. To solve the mystery, she’ll have to abandon her hard-won self-reliance and build a community, one serendipitous friendship at a time.

My Thoughts

Two topics of history that my students are always interested in are World War II and the Holocaust. Under the Egg is a middle grades mystery with quirky characters that includes a little bit of WWII, Holocaust, and art history tidbits in it. These history tidbits are definitely an intriguing side story to the WWII narrative, one that might not be known to many middle grade readers.

One thing that makes Under the Egg such a fun book is the quirky characters and friendships formed between them. Theo, our main character, is not your average thirteen year old – she has been raised mostly by her grandfather, who has recently died, has a mother who requires more care than Theo can give, and because of her family’s financial situation worries about how to make ends meet and wears the strangest clothes. Theo doesn’t realize that she’s lonely until she meets Bodhi, the daughter of two movie stars who lives in the neighborhood, who is also quirky and also lonely. The friendship that unfolds between Bodhi and Theo while they attempt to solve the mystery of the painting is one of the things that makes this book so special because neither girl realized just how much they needed companionship. The supporting cast of characters are also eccentric and each (An Episcopalian priest, the local diner owner and a helpful librarian) play an important role in uncovering the truth behind Theo’s painting. Characters like these are just plain fun to read!

Overall Under the Egg is a really quick read. I finished it in less than a day because I was so fascinated by the painting’s puzzle. Middle grade readers who are interested in World War II history or those who are just looking for a quality mystery with a witty, smart, and resourceful heroine will most definitely enjoy this one. Also if fans of other art related mysteries like Shakespeare’s Secret, Masterpiece, and Chasing Vermeer will find Under the Egg just as entertaining!

Details

Author: Laura Marx Fitzgerald
Publisher: Dial Books (March 18, 2014)
Format: Hardcover
Length: 247 pages
Series: Standalone
YA/MG: MG

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Immense Like: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Hello!

I just recently taught a lesson in my library to a digital arts class about book cover design. One of the things we discussed was the things that draw us individually to book covers and I shared with them about my love for covers with pretty gowns on the front.  It’s a sign of how girly I really am! I am almost always drawn to a cover that has a gorgeous dress on the cover whether it be fantasy, historical fiction, or another genre.

Knowing this, it’s no surprise why I first picked up A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller.

Overview

Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are A Mad Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Walleroverwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.

After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

My Thoughts

Historical fiction is a genre that I usually always enjoy, being the history nerd that I am and I was pretty much immediately a fan of A Mad, Wicked Folly when I began listening to the audiobook. The story introduces us to Vicky, a student in Paris taking secret art classes to further her love for drawing. Vicky makes a choice regarding her art which immediately sends her back to her enraged parents in England who swiftly engage her to a wealthy man still willing to have her. In the meantime we see the political atmosphere in England, specifically London getting more and more tense as the Women’s Suffrage Movement is gaining speed. What I love about this book is that you see Vicky’s small-scale revolution in her own private life set up against the backdrop of a much larger, although similar, social revolution.

As a main character Vicky is believable, if not naive. Throughout the whole book Vicky is struggling. She wants to please herself and pursue her own interests and talents, but is stuck in the mire of society’s constraints. Her actions are often incredibly naive, but who can really blame her when all she knows is the way in which is brought up which was in a world of black and whites. As Vicky begins to mature she starts to see that the world is full of grays as well and that decisions and right versus wrong is not always so cut-and-dry. I liked her immensely!

What I also liked immensely is the romance! Ohhhh the romance! There is a small love triangle in A Mad, Wicked Folly and it is pretty common with its rich guy versus poor guy theme, but that doesn’t alter how enjoyable it is. This romance was one of the sweetest I’d read in a while and was one of the best things about this book!

I also have to say that I learned so much from this book! After finishing it, I immediately went online to find more information regarding the Suffragist Movement in the United Kingdom! There were parts of the suffragette experience examined in this story that sickened and shocked me and I had to figure out what was fiction and what was fact. In my mind, if you’re lead to research more about a specific topic after finishing historical fiction, the author has done his/her job! Tidbit: the title of the book was inspired by a quote from Queen Victoria calling politicians to speak out against Woman’s Suffrage…interesting!

See?! There is more to A Mad, Wicked Folly book than a pretty gown on the cover! There is have romance, suffragettes, Victorian England, art, and self discovery! Due to the detailed and pretty disturbing accounts of specific suffragette experiences, I (highly) recommend this one to fans of YA historical fiction who are 8th grade and older. I just liked this whole book immensely!

Details

Author: Sharon Biggs Waller

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers (January 23, 2014)

Format: Audiobook (Listening Library Audio)

Length: 11 hours and 13 minutes

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: YA

 

 

 

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How It Should Be Done: Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord

Hello!

In high school photography was kind of my thing. I took a photography class and was even the head photographer of my yearbook staff for a few years. There were even these little freshman boys who had lockers near mine and used to call me “Camera Girl”…I loved it! I’d read Cynthia Lord before but was really interested in Half a Chance when I realized that Lucy, the main character, was an aspiring photographer!

When Lucy’s family moves to an old house on a lake, Lucy tries to see her new home through her camera’s lens, as her father has taught her — he’s a famous photographer, away on a shoot. Will her photos ever meet Half a Chance by Cynthia Lordhis high standards? When she discovers that he’s judging a photo contest, Lucy decides to enter anonymously. She wants to find out if her eye for photography is really special — or only good enough.

As she seeks out subjects for her photos, Lucy gets to know Nate, the boy next door. But slowly the camera reveals what Nate doesn’t want to see: his grandmother’s memory is slipping away, and with it much of what he cherishes about his summers on the lake. This summer, Nate will learn about the power of art to show truth. And Lucy will learn how beauty can change lives . . . including her own.

Half a Chance is one of those middle grades novels that deals with difficult topics, but does it exactly how it should be done. Often times in middle grades fiction difficult topics are dealt with using a heavy hand, but Cynthia Lord manages to handle hard subjects with a perfect mix of sweetness and gentleness. What we see is Lucy struggling to get her father’s attention and help her new friend Nate’s family come to terms with their grandmother’s growing illness. All of this difficult stuff is approached through Lucy’s camera lens and creates a book that isn’t heavy handed in it’s struggles.

Lucy is your quintessential middle school girl who is constantly riding that line between self discovery and lack of confidence. Her father is this world renown photographer who is rarely home, she is the new girl in town who is starting to have a crush on her new friend and who isn’t too sure about the girl across the lake who hasn’t been very welcoming. I understand Lucy in the midst of all of this and she’s a very likable character.

The summer lakefront setting just adds to the gentle way Lord approaches Lucy’s story. The morning sunrises over the lake and the haunting calls of the loons (who play a major part in the story) create that kind of hazy summer setting that always seems to find itself in coming of age stories. It makes me wish I spent summers in a lake house!

I would highly recommend Half a Chance to any middle grade readers looking for a quick contemporary and even to parents interested in finding a way to open the conversation about an ill grandparent.

Author: Cynthia Lord

Publisher: Scholastic Press (February 25, 2014 )

Format: Hardcover

Length: 218 pages

Series: Standalone

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book:

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Fantasy Fest: The Song of the Lioness (Books 1-3)

Well hello there friends!

If given the choice between a whole array of books of different genres, I’d most likely choose the one that is fantasy. I’m a huge fantasy fan and am always on the lookout for my next fantasy read.

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora PierceFor years everyone had been telling me I could not call myself a fantasy fan unless I’d read the Song of the Lioness books by Tamora Pierce. I rolled my eyes and thought, yeah whatever, those old covers are so unappealing. Well, I finally decided to give them a go, so I started with Alanna: The First Adventure and could not believe I’d wasted so many years not having these books in my life! I quickly devoured book one, and did the same with In the Hand of the Goddess and The Woman Who Rides Like a Man!

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And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Disguised as a girl, Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page.

But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Piercealso learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies. Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s first adventure begins – one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and the magical destiny that will make her a legend in her land.

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If you call your self a fantasy lover and you haven’t yet read this series, you really need to add them to your reading queue. Pierce, a master of fantasy and storytelling, fills these books with magic, romance, intrigue, evil villains, humor, and many mystical happenings (like a talking cat…yes.). As a character, Alanna is a predecessor to Katniss in all of her strengths and weaknesses. She is bold, sassy, stubborn, courageous, determined, kind-hearted, naive, unsure of herself, and smart. Alanna has faults and failings, but is an admirable heroine and I just can’t help but want to read more about her and her adventures.

The world of Tortall only expands as the series continues. At first it seems that Tortall could be any medieval European setting, but as Alanna matures the world building does as well. Pierce begins to give us more of Woman Who Rides Like A Man by Tamora Piercethe cultural details of Tortall and we learn more about the gods and goddesses, mysterious sorcerers, desert dwellers and even shamans. Although these books are pretty short reads, Pierce manages to pack them full of so much action and adventure that you don’t actually realize how short the books are until the end.

I haven’t yet gotten my hands on the fourth book in the series, Lioness Rampant. As soon as I do, however, you can bet I’ll rip through it as quickly as I did the first three. So, yes, the Song of the Lioness quartet comes highly recommended by one fantasy lover to all of you other fantasy fans out there!

Author: Tamora Pierce

Publisher: First published 1983, 1984, 1986)

Format: Hardcover

Length: Alanna: The First Adventure, 274 pages

In the Hands of the Goddess, 264 pages

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, 284 pages

Series: Song of the Lioness Quartet

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Books:

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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: