Rummanah Aasi
  When I heard there was going to be a companion novel to the Wolves of Mercy series, I was ecstatic. I absolutely love this series with its fabulous writing and characters. After being disappointed by so many series finales this year, I really hoped Sinner would be just as good as the other books in the Wolves of Mercy series. And it is. Many thanks to Scholastic and Netgalley for an advanced readers copy of this book.

Description: Everybody thinks they know Cole's story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole's darkest secret -- his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel's life. Can this sinner be saved?

Review: Sinner is light on the paranormal, but fully concentrated on the nuisance of human relationships. Readers familiar with the Wolves of Mercy series know that Cole St. Clair is the bad-boy frontman of the band NARKOTIKA. He had it all: good looks, stardom, money, women until it went all wrong when he began spiraling down a self destructive path and for many people disappeared on the face of the Earth. Now the prodigal musician returns to LA and the spotlight. He is determined to live a clean life, a chance at redemption, and perhaps a chance at love and happiness with Isabel Culpeper.
  As Cole tries to reinvent himself he is pursued by reality queen Baby North of who wants to chronicle Cole's possible comeback or failure on her reality show as he produces his first album since the band's demise. In order to accept his past and move forward, Cole must deal with the skeletons lurking in his closet. I know many readers have complained about the inclusion of a reality show, but I thought this metaphor for Cole fit beautifully. Cole has always been an enigma to me. He has two separate personalities, one on the stage with fake pretense, oozing confidence and charm and the second real version of a frightened, lost, vulnerable boy. Stiefvater plays with both aspects of his personality really well. I really wished we had a soundtrack that went along with this book since music plays a huge part of
  Similarly Isabel Culpeper one who can be easily classified as an ice queen with her cold personality, becomes a three dimensional character once we see past her rough exterior. She, too, is trying to come to terms with her demons, grief and a nasty parent divorce. She rages to be heard and seen, terrified of opening herself up to Cole who can so easily win and break her heart. In order to heal, they both must reflect on what truly matters in life and whether or not they are worthy of happiness and love. Stiefvater's worthy companion novel to the "Wolves of Mercy Falls" series is brilliantly written. Her characters and their plight come to life. The alternating chapters from Cole's and Isabel's points of view not only drive the plot, but also capture the intensity and vulnerability of these deep, but flawed, characters. This powerful and compelling story is certain to be a hit with fans of the series and bring new readers who have yet to discover this fabulous series.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, underage drinking and drug use as well as allusion to sex. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Lament by Maggie Stiefvater, Nightshade by Andrea Cremer, Dark Divine by Bree Despain
Rummanah Aasi
  Revolution by Deborah Wiles is this year's National Book Award Finalist and soon to be on many best of the year selection lists for children's books. I really enjoyed reading Countdown, the first book in the Sixties trilogy which focused on the Cuban Missile Crisis, and look forward to reading Revolution which concentrates on one aspect of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Revolution is a great example of a really well written historical fiction novel. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an advanced reader's copy of this book.

Description: It's 1964, and Sunny's town is being invaded.  Or at least that's what the adults of Greenwood, Mississippi, are saying. All Sunny knows is that people from up north are coming to help people register to vote.  They're calling it Freedom Summer.
  Meanwhile, Sunny can't help but feel like her house is being invaded, too.  She has a new stepmother, a new brother, and a new sister crowding her life, giving her little room to breathe.  And things get even trickier when Sunny and her brother are caught sneaking into the local swimming pool -- where they bump into a mystery boy whose life is going to become tangled up in theirs.

Review: In Wiles's second installment of the Sixties trilogy, Greenwood, Mississippi is resisting to change during the Freedom Summer of 1964 just like Sunny who is having a very hard time adjusting to her new stepmother and step-siblings. Readers are offered given two alternate viewpoints from very different worlds within the same Greenwood, one of the white and privileged who are worried about "invaders" who are descending upon the sleepy Southern city and causing trouble and the disadvantaged African Americans who are fighting for their basic civil rights.
  As expected Sunny's point of view is very provincial, concerning about her family drama and her reluctance of opening up to her stepmother, but soon her world view expands as she tries to make sense of the upheaval of her city. Meanwhile, Raymond, a black boy from Baptist Town (known among the white citizens as "Colored Town"), is becoming increasingly aware of all the places, especially the public pool and Leflore's movie theater, he is barred from attending due to Jim Crow laws. Sunny's story intersects with Raymond's as the movement and call to the right of vote amongst African Americans becomes stronger. We even see Jo Ellen, the older sister from Countdown, take a stand for equality and her beliefs despite the dangerous consequences of doing so.
  Revolution is a bit slow moving, mainly because there is so much additional resources included in this book such as song lyrics of the time, biblical verses, photographs, speeches, essays, and other ephemera immerse readers in one of the most important-and dangerous-moments during the Civil Rights Movement. Though Sunny seems to be our primary narrator, the additional information helps the reader get a more well rounded perspective of the community. Wiles does not shy away from teh ugliness of the time period as she includes primary source materials, including the text of a real and vile pamphlet created by KKK members. Revolution is a great pick for teachers looking to use historical fiction in their classroom. There is plenty to discuss and many connections to both English and Social Studies curriculums. 

Rating: 4 stars

Curriculum Connection: English and Social Studies

Words of Caution: There is riot violence and racial slurs in the book. Recommended for strong Grade 5 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Crow by Barbara Wright, Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine, One Crazy Summer by Rita Garcia-Williams
Rummanah Aasi
  I have read and enjoyed books by Lisa Schroeder. The Bridge from Me to You is her latest YA contemporary romance, which I really liked. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the advanced copy of this book.

Description: Lauren has a secret. Colby has a problem. But when they find each other, everything falls into place. 
  Lauren is the new girl in town with a dark secret. Colby is the football hero with a dream of something more. In alternating chapters, they come together, fall apart, and build something stronger than either of them thought possible--something to truly believe in.

Review: The Bridge from Me to You is a thoroughly enjoyable, fun contemporary romance full of hope. When Lauren moves to small-town Willow, Oregon from Seattle to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousins, she feels grateful but out of place and a burden. Lauren and her mother have had an unspecified falling out that led her to be kicked out of her home. Only Lauren knows what happened to cause the rift between her mother, but she would not rather talk about the incident despite her reoccurring nightmares about her younger brother. Colby is a local celebrity as a star football player on his high school team, but while he loves his team, he secretly dreams of escaping the pressure of his father's plans for him-after graduating in order to pursue his passion for bridges and become a civil engineer.
  I really loved both Lauren and Colby. When you first meet these characters you already have a preconceived notion about them, but I like how Schroeder surprises you with their character development. Lauren could have easily become an angry, angsty teen from a broken home, yet she is caring, compassionate, and struggling to do what is best for her as well as trying to repair her broken home. Like Lauren, Colby could have become the stereotypical jock who only cares about sports, but his passion for bridges is contagious and his loyalty to his friend who is terribly injured is admirable.
 I also really enjoyed watching the romance develop between Lauren and Colby. Although they hit it off immediately, their relationship takes time to grow and I thought their pacing was done quite well. Both characters had to develop a trust between one and another, and become friends once a potential relationship proves difficult.
  The book is written in alternating viewpoints, with Lauren's chapters unfolding in free verse and Colby's in prose. It seemed fitting for Lauren, who internalizes her emotions to express herself in verse whereas Colby needs more space to express himself. The Bridge from Me to You may not have a unique plot, but the characters are what makes this book shine. It is a thoughtful, straightforward, and fairly chaste romance between two kind, generous teens-one burdened by her past, one burdened by his future.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some mild language, scene of party with underage drinking, and suggestions to sex. Recommended for strong 7 grade readers and up.

If you like this book try: Dare to You by Katie McGarry, What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
Rummanah Aasi
 Smile by Raina Telgemeier is a graphic novel that I recommend to many people who are either hesitant in reading a graphic novel or who are looking for a graphic novel for their child or younger sibling. I find Telgemeier's work is both visually appealing with it's large, colorful panels with clear dialogue as well as contains subjects that are very easy to relate to. Her latest graphic novel, Sisters, continues Telgemeier's trademark and is equally enjoyable as Smile. Many thanks to Scholastic and Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.

Description: Raina can't wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren't quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she's also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn't improve much over the years, but when a baby brother enters the picture and later, something doesn't seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all.

Review: Telgemeier has delivered another hit with a must-read follow-up to her graphic memoir Smile that is funny, poignant, and utterly relatable for anyone with siblings. This realistic graphic memoir tells the story of Raina; her sister, Amara; and her brother, Will, as they take a road trip with their mother from California to Colorado to join a family reunion. The focus as you may already know just from the graphic novel's title is on the mercurial relationship between Raina and Amara. Raina is embarking her teen years, longing to find a her own crew of friends and people who understand her. Amara is the precocious younger sister who is just as artistically talented as Raina. Amara is tuned in to the present, observant of her surroundings and is irritated by Raina's self-centered point of view.
    The author's narrative style is fresh and sharp, and the combination of well-paced and well-placed flashbacks pull the plot together, moving the story forward and helping readers understand the characters' point of view. I really like the use of colors on the pages that makes it easy to tell if a flashback or the present. Telgemeier captures the uneasiness of preadolescence in an effortless and uncanny way and turns tough subjects, such as parental marriage problems, into experiences with which readers can identify. These are all thing that make Telgemeier's graphic novels so easy to read and enjoyed by a wide variety of readers. Not only does the story relay the road trip's hijinks, but it also touches on what happens with the advent of a new sibling and what it means to be truly sisters. I'm already a big fan of Telgemeier and I always look forward to her next release.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Chiggers by Hope Larson
Rummanah Aasi
Sixth Grave was a game changer in the Charley Davidson series. A new revelation shook up all the characters, leaving the future uncertain and many questions left unanswered. Though we do get a few answers in Seventh Grave and No Body, we seem to be headed in a different direction.

Description: Twelve. Twelve of the deadliest beasts ever forged in the fires of hell have escaped onto our plane, and they want nothing more than to rip out Charley Davidson’s jugular and serve her body to Satan for dinner. So there’s that. But Charley has more on her plate than a mob of testy hellhounds. For one thing, her father has disappeared, and as she retraces his last steps she learns he was conducting an investigation of his own, one that has Charley questioning everything she’s ever known about him. Add to that an ex-BFF who is haunting her night and day, a rash of suicides that has authorities baffled, and a drop-dead sexy fiancĂ© who has attracted the attentions of a local celebrity, and Charley is not having the best week of her life. But all of that barely scratches the surface of her problems. Recent developments have forced her to become a responsible adult.  To conquer such a monumental task, she’s decided to start small. Really small. She gets a pet. But how can she save the world against the forces of evil when she can’t even keep a goldfish alive?
A tad north of hell, a hop, skip, and a jump past the realm of eternity, is a little place called Earth, and Charley Davidson, grim reaper extraordinaire, is determined to do everything in her power to protect it.
We’re doomed. 

Review: For six books in the Charley Davidson series we are told how powerful our favorite PI/Grim Reaper is but we never see these powers manifest until this book. Seventh Grave and No Body has a different tone than the other books in this series. While it still retains its trademark humor and the fantastic comradeship amongst its characters, tone is more serious forcing our heroine to become an adult.
  With a prophecy that reads like a riddle, it is hard to make sense of all the key players and their destiny. It seems every step we get closer to deciphering it, we are pushed back three steps. The Twelve Hellhounds whose presence sends chills down our spines just from their description make several appearances in this book making their threat very real to our cast of characters. I really liked how the suspense around them build and how they suddenly appeared on the pages when we least expect it. I have lots of questions about the hellhounds and I'm curious to learn more about them.
  The romance between Charley and Reyes grows stronger, however, they are both reluctant to openly communicate with one another, more out of vulnerability and fear than anything else. I have to say that when Charley and Reyes got into an argument, I would have to take Reyes side in admonishing Charley from diving head first in dangerous situations. I do enjoy, however, seeing this couple grow and try to work out their problems.
  There were really two highlights for me in this book besides Charley actually using and learning more about her grim reaper powers. One is the further character development of The Dealer, a slave demon from hell who Charley trusts implicitly and is slowly taken into her arsenal of friends. While I'm sure that The Dealer has good intentions, I do think he has other ulterior motives and I can't wait to find out more about him and his role in the big prophecy. The other big highlight was resolving what happened to Charley's father who was missing in the last book. I didn't see that plot line coming and I can't wait to see how Charley deals with that situation. Overall, I thought Seventh Grave and No Body is a solid addition of the Charley Davidson series and now we have to wait 6 months to reunite with Charley and her crew when the next book comes out. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, violence, and a couple of explicit sexual situations. Recommended for mature teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: Eighth Grave After Dark by Darynda Jones (May 2015),
Accidental Friends series by Dakota Cassidy, Peper Martin series by Casey Daniels, Undead series by MaryJanice Davidson, and the Chicagoland Vampire series by Chloe Neill
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