Random Musings by Frodosco

Posts tagged “Middle Grade

Mini Review Monday: The Iron Trial

MiniReviewMonday

The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

Summary From GoodreadsThe Iron Trial

From NEW YORK TIMES bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a riveting new series that defies what you think you know about the world of magic.

From two bestselling superstars, a dazzling and magical middle-grade collaboration centering on the students of the Magisterium, an academy for those with a propensity toward magic. In this first book, a new student comes to the Magisterium against his will — is it because he is destined to be a powerful magician, or is the truth more twisted than that?

It’s a journey that will thrill you, surprise you, and make you wonder about the clear-cut distinction usually made between good and evil.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews on Mini Review Monday! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

I received a copy of The Iron Trial via NetGalley, which I was thrilled about because I love Holly Black’s work, had never had the pleasure of reading Cassandra Clare’s, and needed some more MG in my life. The Iron Trial was a highly enjoyable fantasy MG read, filled with magic of all kinds, not just of the elements on which it is focused. There is also the magic of the bonds you make, the wonder of a new world, and the thrill of facing your biggest fears and conquering them.

With the book being by Black and Clare, it is no surprise that the writing style was fantastic, and that I easily read The Iron Trial in one sitting. The pacing is excellent, the world has been fleshed out really nicely, and the Magisterium is a fascinating place to explore. Plus, how can anyone resist elemental powers and all of the cool ways you can use them? I know I couldn’t!

The cast of characters is one of the biggest highlight of the book. Black and Clare really took their time in developing each one, not giving away too much about any one character early on, including the MC. Call (short for Callum) is not your typical main character, being more moody and reserved than a standard hero, and the way his mind works is something quite fresh and interesting, though difficult to describe. Without giving too much away, he does open up after a while, which isn’t too surprising given that the supporting cast is stellar. I can’t wait to see how they develop going forward!

Comparisons to Harry Potter have been made, and while I can see how that might be, I would argue that The Iron Trial is darker in its undertones, and with significantly better (and more interesting) twists. Also, the Magisterium is nothing like Hogwarts, of that I can assure you! If I had to give any criticism to the book it would be that (even for 12yr olds) the characters are a tad slow on the uptake for certain things, and seem a little to clueless at times, but that’s a small issue. If you are looking for a MG fantasy story in the vein of Harry Potter, but with a unique personality and tone, then I’d recommend giving this one a try. Thanks as always for reading.

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Mini Review Monday: Into the Icebound by Larry Kollar

MiniReviewMonday

Into the Icebound

Summary From GoodreadsInto the Icebound

In the fourth “Accidental Sorcerers” story, Sura, Mik, and Bailar set sail for the Northern Reach, with Lord Darin in pursuit. Their journey is anything but smooth, with storms, raiders, and the prince of Westmarch standing in the way.

Joining an expedition to the ruins of Isenbund, Bailar disappears in the night. Now, Mik and Sura must help rescue their mentor from a legendary foe thought long extinct.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews on Mini Review Monday! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

Into the Icebound, the fourth book in the Accidental Sorcerers series, is a fun and easy YA read that could even appeal to MG audiences. This continuation of the exciting fantasy series that I have come to enjoy incorporates a few more classic elements, including goblins and northerners that might as well be cut-outs of vikings or Norse mythology.

Another enjoyable change from previous entries in the series is that it has far more action in it and doesn’t focus as much on the romance. While I like the pairing of Mik and Sura just fine, Into the Icebound is certainly the most entertaining read because of that change.

Displays of magic are plentiful, adventures are undertaken, and history is told in a grand fashion, but in such a way that even younger readers will enjoy. What makes Into the Icebound stand apart the most, however, is that the danger factor is cranked up a few notches. Where as in the first books in the series it felt like the characters were invincible, here this is not nearly the case as many of them encounter real threats to their lives. It isn’t that I want to see Mik or Sura hurt, but having godlike main characters isn’t desirable either, and Kollar manages to balance that aspect the best in this entry to the series.

If you enjoy sorcery, young love (in moderate doses and not graphic), great adventures, and/or great MG/YA style storytelling then this series, and this book especially, is one I’d recommend. You can pick it up on Amazon for a mere dollar here, it’s well worth your time and a fast read to boot. Thanks as always for reading.

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Middle Grade Books: Why I Love Them & Need to Read More

Middle Grade Books: Why I Love Them & Need to Read More

My latest Book Outlet binge (you’ll see the books tomorrow if you are interested) included a few MG books and made me wonder why I enjoy them so much, yet read them so sparingly. The Middle Grade books I have read recently such as Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver, Doll Bones by Holly Black, and, of course, the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, were absolutely amazing. That is not to say that I would or will enjoy all MG books, because that’s not the case for any age range, but so far my track record has been extremely positive. Why is that?

The running theme through all of the books I mentioned, and even ones I didn’t, have been that they are in the fantasy genre, as well as being in the MG age range. The childlike wonder that I see these characters expressing, something their more jaded or skeptical older counterparts in YA do not show, is beautiful. I don’t think that the fantasy genre has a monopoly on that, but perhaps it has the ability to show it off the best.

That belief that anything is possible, dreams can come true, magic is everywhere, and friendships can be just as strong (if not stronger) than romantic relationships, while all cliches, is refreshing and invigorating to witness. Maybe this just means I miss that time in my life or that getting older has jaded me and I wish for the innocence I no longer have, or perhaps MG authors just bring about a different set of emotions than YA, I don’t know.

Something that is a misconception, at least that I’ve seen among bloggers that tend to read YA and avoid MG for the most part, is that MG books are too simple, that the writing is too basic. Sure, MG books are targeted toward a younger audience so the word choice and length are often at a lower level, though not usually by all that much. However, I’ve found that MG books are just as deep, filled with as much content as YA, and often painting a picture that is easier to envision (at least for my brain, not sure what that says).

It's so beautiful

That brings me to my second question, and also my request. Why don’t I read MG more often if I enjoy it so much? Percy Jackson, Liesl and Po, Doll Bones, they have another thing in common: I found out about them through other bookish people, in this case specifically Kat at Katytastic (who is awesome). Maybe I don’t follow the right book bloggers (not that I don’t love the ones I do!) or I don’t pay attention, or whatever other reason there may be, but I never hear about MG books. It’s rare.

So perhaps I should follow more MG readers, if there are ones I can find, or just do some hunting myself. Once in a great while I will see a blog or vlog post that has maybe one or two MG books in it and I run off and insta-buy them. Though…that may speak more to my book buying addiction than anything else. o_o

So my questions to you! First, do you read MG, if so do you enjoy it as much as YA, adult, etc. and where do you discover new ones if you do? Second, are there booktubers/book bloggers I should be watching/reading more of and it boggles your mind that I haven’t already been doing so? Finally, what MG books would you recommend (with the knowledge that I read any genre and basically have no recent MG under my belt)? Thank you so much for reading and have a great weekend! ^.^


Mini Review Monday: Doll Bones by Holly Black

MiniReviewMonday

 

Doll Bones

Summary From Goodreads

Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a 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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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews on Mini Review Monday! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

Doll Bones is a book I read during the Fraterfest readathon in October, and it is the book that surprised me the most this year. I don’t read a lot of middle grade books, so I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy this one, but I figured I would give it a shot. I’m so glad I did because this book was wonderful! It was sweet, a bit creepy, lovable, charming, and all around a great story.

I fell in love with the trio of friends, adored how the romantic feelings (that they didn’t even realize were such a thing) were handled, and by the end I was just as exhausted and drained (in a good way) as they were from their journey. This was my first experience with Holly Black, but after reading Doll Bones I know I’ll be back for more. The imagery was fantastic, the struggles the characters went through with this doll felt so real, and just…everything. Great MG read, highly recommend it, and it was such a nice change of pace from my usual YA/Adult mix. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for my Top Ten Tuesday about my favorite new-to-me authors of 2013! ^.^

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #165/200

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The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger: Frodo’s Review

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

Summary From Goodreads

IT TAKES THE WISDOM OF YODA TO SURVIVED THE SIXTH GRADE

Meet Dwight, a sixth-grade oddball. Dwight does a lot of weird things, like wearing the same T-shirt for a month or telling people to call him “Captain Dwight.” This is embarrassing, particularly for Tommy, who sits with him at lunch every day.

But Dwight does one cool thing. He makes origami. One day he makes an origami finger puppet of Yoda. And that’s when things get mysterious. Origami Yoda can predict the future and suggest the best way to deal with a tricky situation. His advice actually works, and soon most of the sixth grade is lining up with questions.

Tommy wants to know how Origami Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. Is Yoda tapping into the Force? It’s crucial that Tommy figure out the mystery before he takes Yoda’s advice about something VERY IMPORTANT that has to do with a girl.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work or before I go to bed. Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is a lighthearted story of some middle school kids and the mystery that is Dwight and his Yoda-shaped origami puppet. I wanted a change of pace from my usual reads and this middle grade book is exactly what I was looking for. It’s funny, an easy read and remembering what it was like to be that age was a treat. The book uses multiple perspectives to piece together what makes Origami Yoda so special in a kind of case file type format. The puppet has been known to (seemingly) predict the future, how does he do it? Some characters believe in the puppet being magical somehow, others are undecided and one is a complete non-believer. Each short story, or case file, is hilarious and sheds some more light on Dwight, his puppet and how from the perspective of a middle school kid almost anything can be amazing and magical.

The underlying theme if you go beyond the humor is that you shouldn’t judge people based on their appearance or some of their habits. Because Dwight is known as a goofball, unobservant and not all that bright it gives Origami Yoda that much more mystique. While some of the kids seem to think Dwight might have more to him than meets the eye it is up to you as the reader to decide. What will you see?

I enjoyed The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. It was a quick read (only 145 pages) and was a wonderful change of pace from the usual books I read that are far more complex. If you want something light to read or need a good laugh I’d recommend picking this one up. It’s the first book in a trilogy and I will likely be picking up the other two books somewhere down the line. Thanks as always for reading!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #111/200; Mount TBR Challenge #65/150; 2013 TBR Pile #65/50; Genre Variety Reading Challenge – Category – Middle Grade #27/30

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Day 89: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Day 89

Summary From Goodreads

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

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I was lucky enough to get a copy of Wonder from the awesome people over at ARCycling and because of the amazing hype surrounding it I knew I had to read it right away. Oh and did I mention it is a SIGNED copy?! How awesome is that?! *does my happy dance* Oh I’m supposed to be reviewing it? Right so onto the review…

I really enjoyed Wonder. I hadn’t read a MG/kids book in ages and that by itself made the experience refreshing and new for me as it kicked me right out of my usual reading range. I thought that the writing was fantastic overall and I breezed through the book with ease. Even though the subject matter is serious in nature (accepting people for who they are on the inside, don’t judge by appearance, life as a kid with these issues, etc.) it was actually (likely by design) quite funny throughout. Oh, certainly there were serious scenes in it, but really it is a kids book and that gave it a lighter feel to it.

The issues I had with Wonder were pretty minor. I thought that the mom and dad were quite cookie-cutter in nature, the mom was overprotective and super devoted and caring while the dad was funny and supportive of his son but he pushes him more instead of coddling. Maybe it is just me but I thought that those two were left in those molds for the most part and I didn’t connect with them at all. Perhaps this is because the focus is on the kids, but it was still a minor weakness that is noticeable especially in contrast to the stellar younger characters, especially that of August. My other minor complaint is with the point of view switches. They come a bit too quickly, usually right after you are accustomed to reading from the new perspective and enjoying their voice you are shuffled to a different one. The August sections were very well done and I liked his sister and Summer as well, but I felt Jack was weak comparatively speaking. I never felt like his feelings were impactful or very important, it didn’t feel that genuine, to much like an add on.

The growth of August’s character and how he views the world is fantastic. He was one of the easiest MCs for me to connect with that I’ve read in quite a while even though I have almost nothing in common with him (well maybe a shared love for Star Wars). He was resilient despite all the teasing and looks he constantly receives and his sense of humor in the face of it is nothing short of courageous and remarkable. You can’t help but root for him.

However, what made Wonder stand out for me was actually the section from August’s sister, Olivia’s (Via) point of view. She brought up an interesting, if not overly surprising side to things, explaining how it is hard being the secondary kid and the struggles she had to go through at a very early age to adapt to having that knowledge. She would almost always come second, it was just the way things were for her. I felt bad for her and gave her immense credit for being able to bottle up those pent up emotions so well, even if it isn’t the healthiest course to take. She doesn’t even resent August, something I do find somewhat hard to believe, but is amazing nonetheless.

I definitely enjoyed Wonder overall and would recommend it to anyone. The flaws are minor and hardly even detract from the book. You will love watching August’s journey and learning about what it could be like for someone that has an outward appearance that doesn’t remotely match their inner self. It isn’t perfect, but it’s better that way and it definitely deserves all the accolades it has received. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 90!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #89/365

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Day 56: Heroes & Vallenez by Angela Kulig

Day 56

Summary From Goodreads

Victor Vallenez might not be a villain, but that doesn’t make him a saint. At age 16, Vic could be a career criminal, but instead he spends his time lurking in corners and telling other peoples’ secrets—for a price. As a professional snitch, money is the only thing that talks more than he does. Still, as much as Vic hates to admit it, there are some things even blood money won’t buy—mainly Emily. So, when her chivalrous butthead of a boyfriend shows up and asks for his help, there is one very good reason he won’t turn him down—and that’s his angle.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work or before I go to bed. Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

Heroes & Vallenez is an interesting and humorous short story, but one that I have a hard time categorizing. For one thing, the main character, Victor, does not seem to be at all like a teenage character, and had I not known that he was going in I would have though that he was an adult who happened to be a snitch. That doesn’t necessarily detract from the story, but as this is intended as more MG, not even YA, it throws me off a bit. Also, I don’t want to spoil the story, so suffice it to say there are some certain “unreal” elements that are thrust at you in the latter half. Those elements seem a bit forced, if you take them away completely I don’t know that you really lose any of the major plot points or developments that occur which makes me wonder if it is simply because it is an MG piece that Kulig thought they were necessary. Not sure.

I did enjoy the novella overall. It was an easy read and the ending certainly was interesting. The humor used was easily my favorite part of Heroes & Vellenez and from reading Kulig’s other works that comes as no surprise. There were things I might have changed or left out, but the piece worked, and a MG reader probably wouldn’t even pick up on the subtle ticks that I found which might mean they’d enjoy it even more. Try it out for yourself! Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 57!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #56/365

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