Rummanah Aasi
  If you are in the mood for a light and uplifting read full of friendship, love, and food definitely check out Jenny Colgan's Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe. This is a perfect read when you want to escape into a book just for a little while.

Description: Having grown up in an apartment above her Grandpa Joe's little bakery, Issy Randal has always known how to make something sweet. She's much better at baking than she is at filing, so when she's laid off from her desk job, Issy decides to open up her own little caf . But she soon learns that her piece-of-cake plan will take all her courage and confectionary talent to avert disaster.

Review:  Issy works for a property development company and has a clandestine romance with her hot and ambitious boss, Graeme. Though she likes her job, she doesn't find it fulfilling and when rumors spread that the company is down sizing, Issy feels at ease that at least Graeme will help her in securing her job. The rug is ripped under Issy's feet when she gets laid off and Graeme breaks up with her.
   Issy, understandably wallows in her bad luck, but with the nagging from her feisty roommate, she finally musters the courage to move on in her life. She remembers that her fondest memories are of those helping her grandfather in his bakery in northern England. He always told her that bread was life and baking was love, and each chapter opens with one of his recipes. Feeling inspired, Issy finds her dream in opening a bakery/cafe. We follow Issy as she becomes her own boss and establish herself on her own two feet.
  I loved the humor of this book, especially with the clueless Issy who has no idea about what it means to run a business. Issy wins people over with her warmth and sincerity, which can also be found in her baked goods. There are a wide variety of positive relationships, both of friendship and those of business, that are examined. Even the secondary characters of a single mom trying to make ends meet as well as another woman going through a hard breakup with her child's father that come to life in the story.
  Along with following her dreams, Issy also gets a second chance at love with Austin, the adorable bank manager who also has his own hands full. I loved watching Issy and Austin together, their hilarious miscommunication always made me smile. Though they are bumps in their romance, I loved how they came together. I just wished their romance wasn't rushed too quickly in the end. I would have loved to see them resolve and talk about their issues.
  Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe will have you smiling, laughing, and craving for pastries. While it may not stick with you long after you read it, you will enjoy it while reading it. It definitely hit my spot of wanting a fun and light read. Just be sure not to read this book on an empty stomach because it will most definitely make you hungry.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and sexual situations of the PG-13 variety. Recommended for teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Chocolat by Joanne Harris, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella
Rummanah Aasi
Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine! This week I'm eagerly awaiting the release of two books: Blood Passage by Heather Demetrios and Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs. Both of these books will be published next month so the wait isn't too terrible. 

Blood Passage by Heather Demetrios 
Publish date: March 1, 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray 

 Exquisite Captive was my favorite YA paranormal romance that I read in 2014. It has been a long time since I read a book that completely sucked me in right from the start. I hope to find out more about Nalia's world along with her dangerous quest along with Malek's past. I am, however, disappointed that the publisher changed the book cover. Maybe they wanted to get away from the exotic stigma?

A jinni who's lost everything.

A master with nothing to lose.

A revolutionary with everything to gain.

When Nalia arrives in Morocco to fulfil Malek's third and final wish she's not expecting it to be easy. Though Nalia is free from the shackles that once bound her to Malek as his slave, she's in more danger than ever before.

Meanwhile, Malek's past returns with a vengeance as he confronts the darkness within himself, and Raif must decide what's more important: his love for Nalia, or his devotion to the cause of Arjinnan freedom.

Set upon by powerful forces that threaten to break her, Nalia encounters unexpected allies and discovers that her survival depends on the very things she thought made her weak.

Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs 
Publish date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: Ace

 The Mercy Thompson series is an auto-read urban fantasy series for me. I loved watching Mercy grow as a character as well immersing myself in the world that Patricia Briggs created. With the potential war with the fae seems to be just around the corner, I'm sure Fire Touched will be filled with non-stop action and political intrigue.

Tensions between the fae and humans are coming to a head. And when coyote shapeshifter Mercy and her Alpha werewolf mate, Adam, are called upon to stop a rampaging troll, they find themselves with something that could be used to make the fae back down and forestall out-and-out war: a human child stolen long ago by the fae.

Defying the most powerful werewolf in the country, the humans, and the fae, Mercy, Adam, and their pack choose to protect the boy no matter what the cost. But who will protect them from a boy who is fire touched?
Rummanah Aasi
 Emery Lord's The Start of Me and You was featured in many favorite lists from last year from some of my trusted blogger friends. After reading several glowing reviews, it was high on my reading pile for this year. I'm so glad I found time to fit this book in because I really enjoyed it.

Description: It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

Review: The Start of Me and You is a terrific pick for Valentines Day or any day you are in the mood for a second chance story with a sweet romance and a great cast of characters.
  Paige Hancock wants to begin her senior year of high school with a fresh start. She is determined to redefine herself one year after her boyfriend, Aaron, drowned. She wants to shake off the label of "the girl whose boyfriend drowned" in her small-town Oakhurst, Indiana. Paige begins with a checklist of things she wants to accomplish: becoming social again, gain more friends, apply for a screenwriting program, and maybe a second shot at romance.
  I loved Paige. She embodied resilience, strength, yet vulnerability. Her introspective voice made her instantly relateable and you could not help but to root for her. Paige grows throughout the story at her own pace though the road she faces has plenty of bumps and setbacks. Though tragedy is mentioned in the story, the book is never weighed down thanks to the varied and numerous positive relationships found in the book, whether it is from her own parents who are also starting a new chapter in their own lives to her solid best friends with their unwavering support, and her unexpected romance.
   The romance in this book was also very cute and slow burning. I did get annoyed with Paige's relentless swooning over the popular and handsome Ryan Chase even when she admitted that her attraction to Ryan was a superficial one. Though Paige has her eyes set on Ryan, Ryan's cousin Max stole my heart. Like Paige, I instantly adored the smart, witty, and adorkable Max Watson. I thought Max and Paige had a lot more chemistry and they suited each other very well,  In the end, I was happy with how the book ended, but I would have loved more page time with Paige and Max.
  The Start of Me and You is not just another book that deals with grief and death. As its aptly title suggests, it is an upbeat story that will inspire teens to persevere during their dark points in their life. I would highly recommend this title to readers who enjoy a romance with depth.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some minor language and reference to a teenage party where underage drinking takes place. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally
Rummanah Aasi
  When I met with my student book club last year, we discussed our reading pet peeves. The usual pet peeves that ails bloggers and readers such as the stupid-to-live main characters who don't take any time to actually think before they act, unnecessary series that could have been told much more sufficiently in one book instead of being drawn out in three, but the one pet peeve that stood out was the inclusion of romance.

The students didn't mind having a romance or a love interest in the book, but what annoyed them the most is how slowly the romance grew like ivy and took over the entire plot of the book. Inspired by their annoyance, I thought it would be fun to create a book list of books that either a) has a romance but it is not the books main plot or b) contains no romance at all. You know, books that the Grandson from Princess Bride would approve.

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She's been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the giant, genetically engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas's first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas's dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup and teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

Breakaway by Kat Spears

When Jason Marshall’s younger sister passes away, he knows he can count on his three best friends and soccer teammates—Mario, Jordie, and Chick—to be there for him. With a grief-crippled mother and a father who’s not in the picture, he needs them more than ever. But when Mario starts hanging out with a rough group of friends and Jordie finally lands the girl of his dreams, Jason is left to fend for himself while maintaining a strained relationship with troubled and quiet Chick.

Then Jason meets Raine, a girl he thinks is out of his league but who sees him for everything he wants to be, and he finds himself pulled between building a healthy and stable relationship with a girl he might be falling in love with, grieving for his sister, and trying to hold on to the friendships he has always relied on. 

Gateway by Sharon Shinn

 As a Chinese adoptee in St. Louis, teenage Daiyu often feels out of place. When an elderly Asian jewelry seller at a street fair shows her a black jade ring—and tells her that “black jade” translates to “Daiyu”—she buys it as a talisman of her heritage. But it’s more than that; it’s magic. It takes Daiyu through a gateway into a version of St. Louis much like 19th century China. Almost immediately she is recruited as a spy, which means hours of training in manners and niceties and sleight of hand. It also means stealing time to be with handsome Kalen, who is in on the plan. There’s only one problem. Once her task is done, she must go back to St. Louis and leave him behind forever.

Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace

 Wasp's job is simple. Hunt ghosts. And every year she has to fight to remain Archivist. Desperate and alone, she strikes a bargain with the ghost of a supersoldier. She will go with him on his underworld hunt for the long-long ghost of his partner and in exchange she will find out more about his pre-apocalyptic world than any Archivist before her. And there is much to know. After all, Archivists are marked from birth to do the holy work of a goddess. They're chosen. They're special. Or so they've been told for four hundred years.
  Archivist Wasp fears she is not the chosen one, that she won't survive the trip to the underworld, that the brutal life she has escaped might be better than where she is going. There is only one way to find out.

About a Boy by Nick Hornby

 Will Freeman may have discovered the key to dating success: If the simple fact that they were single mothers meant that gorgeous women—women who would not ordinarily look twice at Will—might not only be willing, but enthusiastic about dating him, then he was really onto something. Single mothers—bright, attractive, available women—thousands of them, were all over London. He just had to find them.
  SPAT: Single Parents—Alone Together. It was a brilliant plan. And Will wasn't going to let the fact that he didn't have a child himself hold him back. A fictional two-year-old named Ned wouldn't be the first thing he'd invented. And it seems to go quite well at first, until he meets an actual twelve-year-old named Marcus, who is more than Will bargained for

The Naked Mole Rat Letters by Mary Amato

When her father begins a long-distance romance with a Washington, D.C. zookeeper, twelve-year-old Frankie sends fabricated e-mail letters to the zookeeper in an attempt to end the relationship in this story about family, friendship, and growing up.

The Boy on Cinnamon Street by Phoebe Stone

7th grader Louise should be the captain of her school's gymnastics team - but she isn't. She's fun and cute and should have lots of friends - but she doesn't. And there's a dreamy boy who has a crush on her - but somehow they never connect. Louise has everything going for her - so what is it that's holding her back?


Jackaby by William Ritter

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary--including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police--with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane--deny.

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr

As children, Jennifer Harris and Cameron Quick were both social outcasts. They were also one another's only friend. So when Cameron disappears without warning, Jennifer thinks she's lost the only person who will ever understand her. Now in high school, Jennifer has been transformed. Known as Jenna, she's popular, happy, and dating, everything "Jennifer" couldn't be---but she still can't shake the memory of her long-lost friend.
When Cameron suddenly reappears, they are both confronted with memories of their shared past and the drastically different paths their lives have taken.

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Lily Bart, beautiful, witty, and sophisticated, is accepted by "old money" and courted by the growing tribe of nouveaux riches. But as she nears 30, her foothold becomes precarious; a poor girl with expensive tastes, she needs a husband to preserve her social standing and to maintain her life in the luxury she has come to expect. While many have sought her, something—fastidiousness or integrity—prevents her from making a "suitable" match.

Will and Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge

Wilhelmina “Will” Huckstep is a creative soul struggling to come to terms with a family tragedy. She crafts whimsical lamps, in part to deal with her fear of the dark. As she wraps up another summer in her mountain town, she longs for unplugged adventures with her fellow creative friends, Autumn, Noel, and Reese. Little does she know that she will get her wish in the form of an arts carnival and a blackout, courtesy of a hurricane named Whitney, which forces Will to face her fear of darkness.
Laura Lee Gulledge’s signature visual metaphors will be on full display in this all-new graphic novel, a moving look at shedding light on the dark corners of life.

 There are a lot more titles that fit this criteria, but these are the titles that stood out for me. Have you read any of these books? Do you think they fit? Let me know in the comments!
Rummanah Aasi

Description: As a half-Japanese, half-Italian girl with a ridiculous name, Amber’s not feeling molto bene (very good) about making friends at her new school. But the hardest thing about being Amber is that a part of her is missing. Her dad. He left when she was little and he isn't coming back. Not for her first day of middle school and not for her little sister’s birthday. So Amber will have to dream up a way for the Miyamoto sisters to make it on their own.

Review: Dream On, Amber is a poignant coming of age novel about navigating middle school, awkward friendships, a budding first crush, an intimidating bully, and the realities of being a biracial tween in a single family home. The book does a great job in handling all of these issues with humor, heart, and also introspection without making the story sapping or its characters wallowing in  self pity.
  Amber is the star of this book and it didn't take long for me to adore her. Snarky, artistic, and an introvert, Amber is not the easiest person to get to know. She has a chip on her shoulder, feeling a bit different than her peers in South London. Her biracial status, half Italian and half Japanese, make her exotic in the eyes of her peers and she is constantly confronted with racial insensitivities such as "say something in Japanese."  Her loving and free-spirited mum; maternal grandmother, Nonna; and rambunctious little sister, Bella, keep Amber on her toes and feel loved. Along with the dealing with the anxieties of starting middle school and all that comes along with it, Amber reveals that her her sadness is from her absent father. Amber's father left the family when she was six, and it's a loss that feels like a "black hole."
 Amber's black hole grows even larger when she and Bella witness an innocent father-daughter moment in the park. Amber knows she may not get to have that father-daughter moment ever, but she is determined to protect her younger sister from the pain she feels. When finds out that her sister is writing to her father and wants Amber to deliver her letters to the post office, Amber begins forging letters from her father to Bella. The letters are heartbreaking to read and while we may not morally support Amber in how she handling the situation, we can definitely empathize with her. Things quickly spiral, and what seemed like a white lie intended to help may wind up causing more harm than good.
  Amber comforts herself and works through her insecurities through her artwork and by creating an imaginary "Dream Dad" with whom she shares her deepest fears. Amber's authentic tween voice will resonate with readers, both younger and older, who have ever felt like an outsider. The conversational first-person narration is enhanced by black-and-white doodles throughout. While I would have liked to get more information as to what happened to her father, Amber does have significant character growth and is on her way to be more comfortable in her own skin.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for strong Grade 3 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Dork Diaries series by Rachel Renee Russell, Shug by Jenny Han
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