The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

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Move over, Harry, there’s a new wizard…umm…mage in town! Callum Hunt has been told to suppress his magical talent and taught by his father that the Magisterium (Hogwarts) is evil and that the mages are liars who will end up killing Callum. When Callum is forced to participate in the Iron Trial to see if he will attend the Magisterium, his father tells him to intentionally fail the test, but when Callum attempts to fail, he ends up succeeding.

Though I knew there was something different about Call, I have to admit I was a little surprised to learn how different! I always appreciate when a book shocks me. This book will appeal to Harry Potter fans, and there are many similarities: Harry, Ron, Hermione trio; Hogwarts; Dumbledore; Drako Malfoy; magic; young wizards who solve the problems; good versus evil; etc.

Authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare plan for this to be a 5-book series. This book is highly recommended for middle grades and up.

The Girl with the Wind Up Heart by Kady Cross

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In this final book of the Steampunk Chronicles, Griffin finds himself held prisoner by the Machinist in the Aetherworld. In order to rescue him from extreme physical and emotional torture, Finley must die to join him there.

Mila, the automaton turned human, is falling in love with the rogue, Jack Dandy, who happens to be her guardian. But Mila is growing up, and Jack begins to see her in a different light. Unfortunately, she has to run off and join the circus to prove her point and encounters Jack’s villainous father.

Emily, Sam, Finley, Jack, Mila, Jasper, and Cat all work together to bring a fascinating conclusion to this series. Romantics will be pleased with the finale.

Highly recommended for high school (and up) Steampunk fans!

Panic by Lauren Oliver

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Panic (2014) is the ultimate book for dare devils! After high school graduation any senior is eligible to participate in the highly secretive game of Panic. Every student is required to pay $1.00 every day of school, and the winner of Panic takes the pot. This year the total is $68,000! The money is very motivating to Heather who plans to take care of her younger sister, Lily, so they may escape the trailer park and drunken mother.

Of course, participants must face some of their darkest terrors to win the game, and there will only be one winner who is determined by the secret judges. This year Panic is deadly, and some of the participants take matters into their own hands.

I enjoyed this thrilling book of dares and fears. Lauren Oliver has a talent for making her characters realistic. Other great books by this author are the Delirium series (dystopian) and Before I Fall (realistic fiction), also highly recommended.

Fragile Destiny by Suzanne Lazear

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Fragile Destiny (2014) is the third book in the Aether Chronicles by Suzanne Lazear. Ever the Steampunk fan, I always gravitate to these novels. I thought this book was going to conclude this series, but the ending makes that impossible. There will be at least one more in the series.

In book 3, Noli and V are together, and in true Noli fashion, she rashly makes a decision that changes their lives forever! I don’t want to give it away, so I’ll just say…Noli and V’s relationship is taken to a new level, Elise becomes a prominent character, Kevign Silver returns to the Dark Court which becomes a surprising ally to the Earth Court, and an absentee character makes a grand appearance!

If you enjoy Steampunk, then I recommend this series.

Four, A Divergent Collection by Veronica Roth

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It was so great to be back in the world of Divergent prior to the breakup of the factions, and of course, when Tris was still alive! Until Allegiant, Four was one of my favorite characters. Unfortunately in Allegiant he became weak and whiny, completely uncharacteristic of him. MANY things disturbed me about that book, BUT Four, A Divergent Collection, is back up to par with Divergent.

For fans of Veronica Roth’s world, you don’t want to miss this collection of novellas from Four’s point of view!

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

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Isla and the Happily Ever After is the third book in Stephanie Perkins’ romantic trilogy. Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door are the two first. They are all really wonderful realistic fiction YA romance novels. (FYI…The first and third are my favorites.)

Isla (pronounced “Eye la”) is a senior at an American school in Paris where she is struggling to know what to do after graduation. She is undecided about where to attend college and what major to pursue. What she does know is that she has been in love with Josh, an artist and fellow senior, since 9th grade, and finally the stars align. Once Isla and Josh make their feelings known, their relationship becomes a passionate whirlwind. Josh is confident in his artistic ability and knows what art school he will attend next year; he hopes to persuade Isla to attend Dartmouth so they can stay together. Isla is insecure in the relationship, never feeling that she is deserving of Josh’s love or that he truly loves her. Unfortunately, she allows low self-esteem to overwhelm her which causes her to make poor decisions.

In the end, the whole gang is reunited in Paris: Anna and St. Clair, Lola and Cricket, and Isla and Josh.

This trilogy is highly recommended for romantics.

Doll Bones by Holly Black

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Doll Bones (2013) by Holly Black is a creepy young adult novel about three middle school friends, Zach, Poppy, and Alice, who still enjoy elaborate make believe scenarios using dolls and old toys. The “Queen” of their game is an old China doll that Poppy’s mom keeps locked in a glass cabinet, and when Poppy removes the doll from the cabinet to lure Zach into playing the game, Poppy begins to dream about Eleanor Kerchner, a ghost trapped within the doll.

Zach, Poppy, and Alice then embark on a REAL adventure that puts them on a bus in the middle of the night, unbeknownst to their families, in order to bury Eleanor in the cemetery with her father. The trio encounters obstacles like a depraved old man, adults who think they are runaways, lack of money, transportation issues, hunger, and a librarian who holds them hostage. Along the journey, each of them realize they are changing…maturing into a teenager and that life will be different, but that is okay.

This novel is designed for middle school ages and is a great odyssey with depth and complexity, not often found at this age level. Recommended!

UnDivided by Neil Shusterman

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UnDivided (2014) is book 4 and the final book in the Unwind Dystology. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of Unwind, then be prepared for a very disturbing (yet irresistibly compelling) story line!

Recap: America agreed that life begins at conception; HOWEVER, if parents are not happy with the outcome of their children between the ages of 13-18, then they may have them “unwound” — meaning ALL of their body parts are harvested and used in other people so that technically the teens are still alive…just in other people!

Book 4 gives Unwind fans the end result we all desire, but not without some shocks — including the hero, Connor! Fortunately, Shusterman does not go totally Veronica Roth Allegiant on readers, but he definitely added some serious obstacles to achieve the satisfactory end result. Nelson, Roberta, Starkey…all reap what they have sown. (I took particular pleasure in what happened to Nelson.)

Due to the disturbing nature of this series, these books are recommended for high school and up.

Endgame The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton

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Endgame The Calling (October 2014) by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton is the first in this new series. Before I bought the book, I looked up the reviews and it was compared to The Hunger Games mostly and even A Tale of Two Cities. A combination of Dickens and dystopian really peeked my interest, and I am glad I took the chance. It is a GREAT book!

Although some reviewers said this book’s plotline is straight from The Hunger Games, I completely disagree. Sure, there’s the children killing children part, but the story is much more than that. My comparison would be a mixture of The Amazing Race, The Hunger Games, A Tale of Two Cities (I love that analogy), with some alien undertones in a pre-apocalyptic world.

The “alien” founders (gods) of earth are disgusted with civilization’s treatment of the gift bestowed upon them and therefore have signaled the Endgame to begin. Twelve teens from around the world have been highly trained for just such a moment in case the time came during their lifetime. The players will fight each other to be the winners of Endgame so that their society will be the one to remain and rebuild earth – all other 11 civilizations will perish.

There is action, adventure, surprises, romance, and these authors definitely do not mind killing off their twelve “main characters.” I know who I want to win! I’m also curious to know if the players will find a way to out maneuver the immortals (gods) and find a way to save earth without the destruction of humanity.

Due to some language and mature scenes, I would recommend this book to high school and up.

Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger

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The video is simply for Steampunk fans and is based on the Finishing School series, but is not specifically from Waistcoats & Weaponry.

This book begins with Sophronia and her friends in finishing school, continuing their espionage training. Of course Sophronia excels. In this Harry Potter meets Steampunk series, there is always an adventure that only our heroine is capable of solving. Sophronia and a few of her friends attend her brother’s engagement ball where they witness the mechanicals go crazy. Sophronia (and gang) fly away in an airship and then steal a train with the hopes of solving the mechanical mystery as well as delivering Sidghead to Scotland to deal with a family werewolf issue. Sophronia is caught in a love triangle between the handsome yet spoiled Lord Mercy and the sootie, Soap. It’s a lot of fun!

This series is recommended for fans of Steampunk adventure and is appropriate for upper middle school and up.

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