Rummanah Aasi
 Sherlock Holmes is back in pop culture, but for many he never left. While anxiously waiting for the new season premiere of the BBC Sherlock, I needed to get my sleuth fix. There are many series and books that feature Sherlock Holmes, but the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series are highly recommended and are well written. I read the first book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, which I really enjoyed and wanted to get back to this series. Note: If you are a Sherlockian purist, you may have issues with this series but I still think it's worth checking out.

Description: Looking for respite in London after a stupefying visit from relatives, Mary encounters a friend from Oxford. The young woman introduces Mary to her current enthusiasm, a strange and enigmatic woman named Margery Childe, who leads something called "The New Temple of God." It seems to be a charismatic sect involved in the post-World War I suffrage movement, with a feminist slant on Christianity. Mary is curious about the woman, and intrigued. Is the New Temple a front for something more sinister? When a series of murders claims members of the movement's wealthy young female volunteers and principal contributors, Mary, with Holmes in the background, begins to investigate. Things become more desperate than either of them expected as Mary's search plunges her into the worst danger she has yet faced.

Review: Monstrous Regiment of Women is the second book in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. Though this book could be read without reading the first book, I would suggest reading the first book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice,  to get a firm grasp of the character development of Mary Russell and how Sherlock Holmes is portrayed. In this second book, Mary Russell has graduated and is about to debut her first Academic Article that is not attached to being a student. She is a full fledged, independent adult who get away from her distasteful, money grubbing Aunt whom has controlled her inheritance. Mary is going through many transitions as a student to a teacher, a child with an allowance to an heiress, girl to woman, and the strange tension between Sherlock Holmes and herself – she is no longer an apprentice and can she be trusted to handle a case on her own.
Mary finds herself in not just one but two mysteries in London while waiting to come into her inheritance. She runs into an old school friend, Veronica, who pulls Mary into her life. We learn of the first mystery involving Veronica's drug addicted fiance who has returned from the war. Veronica believes her fiance is a simply a drug addict, but Mary thinks there is a more serious problem but can't quite put her figure on it. The second mystery, which is more compelling, revolves around an organization called The Temple, which Veronica is a member of and holds it high regard.   

 The Temple is an organization run by a very smart and charismatic woman named Margaret, who is   rallying women who previously were nurses and running the country in the absence of the men sent to war. Now that the war is over these women are left without a place. There are simply too many women and few men returned. The men that did return, however, came back damaged and many weren’t choosing to marry, preferring to fall into paths of self-destruction. To fill the gap The Temple is giving these young women something to do: teaching women to read and build literacy, providing safety and supplies to battered women and their families, providing medical care, and working to increase women’s rights now that the vote has passed. The problem is when you have a large group of the disenfranchised that are being directed and utilized by a leader are their actions really charitable or could there be a deeper agenda at work? That is what Mary is trying to find out.
  The book is extremely well researched and written. I really liked how The Temple was constructed. It was easy to stand behind it and support its effort in helping women, which dangerously allows you to overlook the more sinister moves behind the curtains. I learned a lot regarding the time period, which was so clearly described and was sucked into the period concepts of class structure, feminism, gender roles, addiction, and PTSD. I believe King did a remarkable job exploring these subjects without being overly biased or sacrificing the pace of the book. Although this book had a lot of great ideas, I still feel conflicted about the twist at the end of the book. I prefer Sherlock the way he was originally created by Doyle and I'm having a hard time seeing him in this new light. I'm not sure if I can fully support it but I'm curious to see how it works out in later books.  
 I do recommend this book despite my issues with the ending, especially to anyone who enjoys mysteries that are well researched and have great characters.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are allusions to drug usage and sex. Recommended for teens and adults.

If you like this book try: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie  by Alan Bradley or A Letter of Mary (Book 2 of the Mary Russell series) by Laurie King or Another Scandal in Bohemia by Carole Nelson Douglas
Rummanah Aasi
 A new book in the Hundred Oaks series by Miranda Kenneally is always something that I look forward to reading. I can quickly lose myself in her books and Breathe, Annie, Breathe is no exception. Many thanks to Sourcebooks and Netgalley for the chance to read the advanced readers copy of this book.

Description: Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can’t escape the guilt that if she hadn’t broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.
  But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she’s at war with her body, her mind—and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms…and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.

Review:   I thoroughly enjoyed reading Breathe, Annie, Breathe. The writing and the characters have matured in this book, which is always a great sign for a writer. Annie is instantly likable. Many would relate to her lack of athleticism, but admire her strength to pursue a dream of her dead boyfriend. What I love most about Annie, however, is her focus on her future. She never dwells upon the melodrama surrounding high school but rather struggles to wait tables to pay for her classes and her upcoming college career, all while balancing her grueling marathon training along with juggling her wide range of emotions when it comes to Jeremiah, Matt's possibly unstable, sexy, charming adrenaline-­junkie younger brother.
  Jeremiah is the quintessential love interest. He admires Annie's purpose of running the marathon. He is able to put his feelings for Annie on pause when he clearly knows that she needs a friend first and foremost. Though I would have liked to understand his reckless Xtreme sport attitude, I adored Jeremiah and thought he complimented Annie quite well. The romance with Annie and Jeremiah is expertly paced and realistic as they try to adjust their lust with friendship and a slow burn romance. 
 As we follow Annie’s training, with helpful guides to track her progress inserted every few chapters, we can see her grow stronger as a person, watch her grieve for Kyle, and finally open her heart to a hopeful beginning with Jeremiah.  I also appreciated the slow unveiling of how Kyle died. Like any of the Hundred Oaks series, this book can be read as a standalone, however, it is really nice to see characters from the other books make a special appearance. Breathe, Annie, Breathe is another great book about dealing with grief of a loved one and healing.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language and allusion to sex. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Summer series by Jenny Han, The Bridge from Me to You by Lisa Schroeder, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Rummanah Aasi
 Cammuso's Knights of the Lunch Table series has been highly recommended by readers. I'm so glad that I picked up this series because it is such a fun and entertaining read which will be enjoyed by many young readers.

Description: Artie King, the uncrowned good guy of Camelot Middle School, is back with his pals Percy and Wayne in tow as he tries to evade evil Principal Dagger, avoid the school bully Joe and his Horde, and unravel the secret of a pack of mysterious magic cards he finds in his locker.

Review: The graphic novel series, Knights of the Lunch Table, is a fun and entertaining read. With an homage to the King Arthur, Cammuso seamlessly blends the traditional Arthurian mythology into the every day activities of surviving middle school. Although Dragon Players is the second book in the series, it can be read as a standalone. In this installment of the series, Artie King and his knights, Percy and Wayne, are preparing for the annual Dragon Day at school. Mischief and disaster occurs quickly when Wayne's bowling ball soars into the air and lands on the principal's windshield. In order to raise money to get it repaired, the young knights are signed up by Artie's sister, Morgan, to compete in the Dragon Duel robot tournament. The only problem is that neither Artie nor his friends know how to make a robot. Hilarity and mayhem begin when the boys attempt to get help on building a robot that could possibly win against the bully, Horde, who is known for cheating. Merlin is the wise science teacher who guides Arthur in the right direction, and instead of the Ladies of the Lake, the wisdom and foresight come from the Ladies of the Lunch who stir a large boiling pot and speak in rhyme. Dragon Player is another entertaining and colorful graphic novel. Fan of Arthurian mythology will get a kick of all of the allusions sprinkled in the story and I think this series will make kids curious enough to pick up books about the Arthurian mythology.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 2 and up.

If you like this book try: The Battling Bands (Knights of the Lunch Table #3) by Frank Cammuso, Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce, the Amelia Rules series by Jimmy Gownley
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Icarus flies once more. Aztec jaguar gods again stalk the earth. An American soldier designs a new kind of Trojan horse—his cremains in a bullet. Here, in beguiling guise, are your favorite mythological figures alongside characters from Indian, Punjabi, Inuit, and other traditions.

Review: When I got XO Orpheus from the library, I was so excited to read it and discover the new ways the Greek myths would be retold but unfortunately this anthology was a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed the stories that gave the  mythological figures a 21st century makeover. Two of the stories that stood out for me was the re-imaging Demeter as a divorced mom who is struggling with the half-year custody of her daughter and a Vietnam veteran, in the spirit of Daedalus, builds an emotional labyrinth for his son. Where this anthology lost me is when it took the myths in a really bizarre direction that played with the content as well as loosely adapting the myths.
Editor Bernheimer describes her anthology as a necessary farewell to the old world of myth and acknowledgment of a modern age in which humans are regarded as the new gods. Though many of the stories maintain the timeless and quite often frightening themes of the myths, I'm not sure if this anthology is for every reader.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, sexual situations, and adult themes. Recommended for adults only.

If  you like this book try: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales edited by Kate Bernheimer, 
Rummanah Aasi
 One of the debut novels that I was looking forward to read is Philip Siegel's The Break Up Artist. I liked the sound of the book's synopsis and the fact that the main protagonist has ambivalent feelings toward romance. While I did enjoy the book in parts, I thought it was a bit uneven.

Description: Some sixteen-year-olds babysit for extra cash. Some work at the mall. Becca Williamson breaks up couples.
  Becca knows from experience the damage that love can do. After all, it was so-called love that turned Huxley from her childhood best friend into a social-world dictator, and love that left Becca's older sister devastated at the altar. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, Becca strikes back—for just one hundred dollars via PayPal, she will trick and manipulate any couple's relationship into smithereens. And with relationship zombies overrunning her school and treating single girls as if they're second-class citizens, business is unfortunately booming. Even Becca's best friend, Val, has resorted to outright lies to snag a boyfriend.
  One night, Becca receives a mysterious offer to break up the most popular couple in school: Huxley and the football team's star player, Steve. To succeed, she'll have to plan her most elaborate scheme to date—starting rumors, sabotaging cell phones, breaking into cars…not to mention sneaking back into Huxley's good graces. All while fending off the inappropriate feelings she may or may not be having for Val's new boyfriend. No one said being the Break-Up Artist would be easy.

Review: Becca Williamson does not stand out among the hundreds of kids attending Ashland High, but has a very popular secret alter go. She is the Break-Up Artist, one who engineers couples' downfalls for only $100. Becca isn't against love, but very cynical of it. She has seen what it can do to those around her: how her sister has become bitter and lonely after she was jilted at the altar, how her parents act more like siblings than lovers, and how she lost her old best friend, Huxley, years back when Huxley started dating a popular football player named Steve.
  I liked that Becca was a complex person. On the one hand I wanted to admire her for using her keen eye and a razor-sharp wit along with her other skills to break up her classmates for profit. However on the other hand I was taken aback on how she continuously justifies herself  as she manipulates classmates' relationships with fake notes to ex-girlfriends, surreptitious text messages, and more when I thought about what she was doing a bit more. Becca's attitude toward love is deeply seated in resentment and jealousy which she refuses to accept. I kept hoping that while Becca is on a big assignment, she would become self-aware of her actions and develop some empathy for her victims, especially when she becomes someone even she would despise when she starts hooking up with her best friend's boyfriend. Becca does learn some hard lessons, but I wasn't really convinced of them.
  The Break Up Artist has all the makings of a good romantic-comedy that had humor and a plot that kept me reading, but instead of giving us a happy sigh and warm feelings as we close the book, we are left unsure of whether or not to embrace Becca or to feel sorry for her. 

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and scenes of underage drinking. Recommended for Grade 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten, Jinx by Meg Cabot
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