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.

In the End by Demitria Lunetta

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In the End is the conclusion to In the After. Warning, SPOILER ALERT if you have not read In the After

In book one, everyone thought that the world had been invaded by aliens — little green men killing (and eating) the few survivors on earth. Now Amy knows the truth…the “aliens” are really humans who have been infected with a bacteria that changes them into monsters. The bacteria, she learns, was created by her own mother! In book one, Amy is rescued by some friends in New Hope and released back into the Florae infested world.

After learning that Baby was captured in New Hope and is being tested and tortured for a cure, Amy seeks help in a former prison that is “protection” against the Floraes. Fortunately Amy meets Jacks who helps her survive the grim environment mostly filled with former prisoners, and she is able to return to New Hope where she plans to rescue Baby and hopefully find a vaccine.

I thoroughly enjoyed these books. They are exciting and fast-paced — great for fans of zombie apocalypse novels. Recommended for 8th grade and up.

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

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Mortal Heart is the third book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy. [Grave Mercy and Dark Triumph are books one and two.] I really enjoyed Grave Mercy, and Dark Triumph was simply okay, BUT neither of them hold a candle to Mortal Heart, the story of Annith! I could barely put this book down, and when I was forced to, it was all I could think about!

Annith was the novitiate waiting at the convent as she watched her friends Ismae and Sybella sent out to do Mortain’s (Death) work. Annith mastered every assassin’s tool and was still not chosen for an assignment until one day the Abbess selects her to be the next Seeress — a job that would confine Annith to a room of isolation never to leave the convent. Annith does not feel suited to this position and is insulted that her superior assassin skills will not be used as a Handmaiden of Death. In order to find answers, she runs away from the convent only to immediately encounter Mortain’s Hellequin army and fall under the protection of the head Hellequin, Balthazaar.

Once Annith reaches the palace, she is able to serve the Duchess as she has long desired. The Duchess must make some difficult decisions to save her beloved country, but never fear…true love prevails!

This fantasy assassin series is highly recommended for 9th grade and up. Other books that you many enjoy in this genre: Rift by Andrea Cremer, The Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, and The Young Elites by Marie Lu.

Michael Vey: Hunt for Jade Dragon

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Michael Vey Hunt for Jade Dragon is book 4 in this exciting series. In this Michael Vey adventure, the Electroclan is prepped to rescue Jade Dragon, a young Chinese girl who is autistic, deaf, and can not speak. However, she is brilliant and knows the formula to create electric children — exactly what Hatch and the Elgen have been seeking. The Elgen kidnapped Jade and are holding her captive in Taiwan; the Electroclan work to create a plan to rescue the child from a heavily secured facility.

Like the other books in this series, the problem is resolved in the way the reader would like, BUT there is always a cliffhanger that keeps us anxiously awaiting the next book. This series is great, especially for middle school boys, but is certainly an enjoyable read for all.

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

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The Infinite Sea is the second book in The 5th Wave series. This book picks up where the first left off. Warning, SPOILER ALERT if you have not read The 5th Wave

Cassie, Ben, and Zombie are rescued from the explosion by Ringer, but what about Evan – Cassie’s “alien” boyfriend who helped save her brother?

In order to save Teacup, Ringer allows them to be captured by Vosch who then experiments on Ringer, testing the limits of his “alien” technology. Ringer plays a large role in this novel.

Like The 5th Wave, The Infinite Sea is filled with exciting twists and turns. I highly recommend this series.

In the After Light by Alexandra Bracken

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I have to admit that I’m glad to see The Darkest Minds trilogy concluded. It was more drudgery than enjoyment for book 3 (In the After Light), but I persevered. What I didn’t like about this book was Ruby turns from kind and naïve knowing little about her mind powers to being one of the top two people in charge of running a rebellion just a few months after her camp escape. She and Liam butt heads due to this sudden rise to power as well as her close relationship with his brother, Cole. In the end she must return to the camp that she called “home” for six years of her life. (That part was great!)

If you like book 1 and 2 then you must read book 3…I just did not like it as well as the others. This series is recommended for high school and up due to extreme language (mostly from Vida).

Never Fade by Alexandra Bracken

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Never Fade (2013) is book 2 in The Darkest Minds trilogy, and it is an exciting continuation of Ruby’s story in this dystopian adventure with a dash of romance.

Warning! Spoiler alert for The Darkest Minds…Ruby has erased Liam’s memories of her to protect him from the Children’s League and give him an opportunity to reunite with his parents without worrying about her…or so she thinks. With her power to read people’s minds, she becomes one of the League’s greatest weapons for interrogation and operations. Liam’s older brother, Cole, is rescued by the League, and then sends Ruby on a private mission to locate Liam and retrieve a flash drive that was sewn into a coat he is wearing. From this op, old friends are reunited, and new alliances are formed. Also, previous villains resurface to aid in this novel’s nail-biting suspense. The end definitely leaves the reader ready to pick up book three, In the Afterlight (2014).

Great book! (But do be forewarned…lots of language…recommended for high school and up.)

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