Rummanah Aasi
  I have very fond memories of my parents telling me stories from the Arabian Nights during bedtime. Of course the stories were told in a G rated fashion and lead me to read various editions of the One Thousand and One Nights as I grew older. There is no official version of the One Thousand and One Nights as the stories were told orally for many generations. Acclaimed Lebanese writer Hanan al-Shaykh has selected nineteen of these stories, some of which I never read before, and translated them from Arabic into modern English, and knitted them together into an utterly captivating short story collection.

Description: Gathered and passed down over the centuries from India, Persia, and across the Arab world, the mesmerizing stories of One Thousand and One Nights tell of the real and the supernatural, love and marriage, power and punishment, wealth and poverty, and the endless trials and uncertainties of fate. They are related by the beautiful, wise, young Shahrazad, who gives herself up to murderous King Shahrayar. The king has vowed to deflower and then kill a virgin every night--but Shahrazad will not be defeated by the king's appetites. To save herself, she cunningly spins a web of tales, leaving the king in suspense each morning, and thus prolonging her life for another day.

Review: For those of you unfamiliar with the Arabian Nights, the over arching story is this: Ever since the king was outwitted by his lusty, philandering wife, he commands that he must marry a virgin woman a day and after their wedding night, the woman would be killed before she came to harm the king and his kingdom. Vizier’s daughter Shahrazad volunteers to marry this brutal king but in order to save her own life and the other young women of her kingdom she spun tales that lasted for one thousand and one nights. In this collection of nineteen short stories, al-Shaykh retells them to celebrate her ­rediscovery of the Arab classic’s stylistic artistry, portraying a complex society, and its stunning female characters in particular who are far from passive and fearful, quite aware of their social limits, yet full of will and intelligence and wit. For al-Shaykh, as for Shahrazad, stories are matryoshka dolls, nesting within one another and casting ghosts and shadows in all directions. Here, Shahrazad first tells the traditional tale of the fisherman and the jinni, and then brings together at the impressive home shared by three beautiful sisters, a porter, three dervishes, and three merchants. Over many hours, each character tells multiple stories for different goals in a context of ever-shifting personal and power relationships. These stories are like a jig saw puzzle, leaving the reader to wonder how do they connect. The stories themselves pulse with love, lust, magic, and moral ambiguities; while is a strong undercurrent of terrible violence that underscores moments of pure beauty. I thought it was very interesting to read these stories from the lens of both the Western and Eastern culture. The stories can be hilarious, horrifying, touching, enlightening, or revelatory, which reminds us of why we have been utterly fascinated and continue to be so by the One Thousand and One Nights.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are sexual situations and strong violence throughout as well as some language. Suitable for Adults only.

If you like this book try: Sharaz-de : tales from the Arabian nights written & illustrated by Sergio Toppi, Grimm's Fairy Tales, The Complete Fairytales of Hans Christen Andersen,
Rummanah Aasi
Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine!

  The Iron Trial (Magisterium #1) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Publish Date: September 9, 2014
Publisher:  Doubleday Children's Books

I'm a big fan of both Holly Black and Cassandra Clare so I'm really excited for them to write a Middle Grade series together. 

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.
Rummanah Aasi
 I really enjoyed reading Hope Larson's Mercury and was really looking forward to her take on the female superhero. Unfortunately, Who is AC? is as intriguing as Mercury, but it does have strong female characters which can be hard to find in superhero comic books.

Description: Meet Lin, a formerly average teenage girl whose cell phone zaps her with magical powers. But just as superpowers can travel through the ether, so can evil. As Lin starts to get a handle on her new abilities (while still observing her curfew!), she realizes she has to go head-to-head with a nefarious villain who spreads his influence through binary code. And as if that weren't enough, a teen blogger has dubbed her an "anonymous coward!" Can Lin detect the cyber-criminal's vulnerability, save the day, and restore her reputation?

Review: Hope Larson is known for her magical realism graphic novels, but with Who is AC?, she adds superhero into her list. Lin is a teen, an aspiring author who has just moved to a small town. She becomes a superhero,  activated by mysterious cellphone messages and visited by a "dispatcher" who nags her until she suits up. Her nemesis is a shadowy villain who possesses a glamorous rich girl in order to snare a boy named Trace.
  Readers of superhero comics will find lot of familiar things in Lin's story, however, there are many subplots that are left unexplored and gives the book an unfinished feeling. Larson's dialogue is also a bit uneven, veering into cliche superhero lingo, but also clever and comical such as Lin disguised as her alter ego asking for a performance review after she deflected a robbery.
  Pantoja's heavily inked lines hew closely to manga conventions with action-packed panel sequences, big eyes, and outsize expressions. Oddly, it's the teens' relationships with their parents that are most nuanced and memorable rather than the action sequences. Who is AC? is brimming with strong, independent girl characters, but it leaves much to be desired. I think the book could really benefit from a sequel to get deeper into the story and the characters. As a standalone, however, it doesn't really stick in the reader's mind.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some minor language including crude humor as well as violence found in a PG movie. Recommended for Grades 6 and up.

If you like this book try: Foiled by Jane Yolen
Rummanah Aasi
 I've been interested in Greek Mythology for as long as I could remember. When I came across Kerry Greenwood's Delphic Women which retold the myths of Jason and the Gold Fleece, the Trojan War and its aftermath from the point of view of the important female characters, I knew I had to read them. Greenwood makes the myths come alive and provides a different spin on characters who were once thought to be weak and one dimensional.

Description: Medea, Princess of Colchis, is a priestess of Hecate, Three Named, Lady of Phantoms. She is the custodian of the wood in which the Golden Fleece is hung. She alone can tame the giant serpent which guards the grove. And then Jason and his Argonauts come along, and she falls catastrophically in love. She helps him steal the Golden Fleece ans sails with him to claim his throne. And that's when things go wrong... and she must attempt to reclaim her humanity through abandonment, murder, grief and heavy seas.

Review: The story of Medea is not a feel good bedtime story. It is a story of a woman's rage that is so strong, she even killed her own children to make a point. Needless to say, Medea isn't a heroine girls aspire to be, but Greenwood transforms this notorious female character into someone we can sympathize and root for. Medea is a feminist retelling of the Medea and Jason and the Argonauts myths. In many renditions of these stories, Medea doesn't have a voice to share her feelings and point of view. In Greenwood's version of the tale, Medea has a strong voice that can not be ignored and it is contrasted with a fictional member of Jason's Argonauts named Naupolis.
 Greenwood's Medea is a priestess of Hecate and a princess of Colchis, in what will become the modern-day Republic of Georgia. She has learned well the teachings of her tutor, the sour Trioda, and is used to a good deal of freedom as she roams the area, always accompanied by her two black hounds. Greenwood spends a lot of time discussing Medea's upbringing which I found fascinating as Medea struggles to learn what it means to become a woman and the double standards of gender. From Argonaut Nauplios' narration, we learn of the difficulties faced by the heroes who accompany Jason in his quest for the Golden Fleece, his ticket to reclaim his rightful inheritance. After harrowing adventures, the Argonauts arrive in Colchis, where Medea's father, Aetes, sets Jason impossible tasks to acquire the fleece. It is through Nauplios' character that we see what makes a man of honor even though he may appear as a mere mortal man.
  To my surprise and disappointment, the Golden Fleece myth is only a few pages and goes by quickly. Jason as you can imagine is not seen in a good light. He is a person who has no backbone and can not make a decision to save his life. One is left to wonder why he was even picked for this dangerous quest and made a demigod. Greenwood follows the overall Golden Fleece myth with Medea instantly falls in love with the charismatic Jason and secretly helps him when he promises to marry her and be forever faithful. The best and biggest surprise is how Greenwood handles the end of her story. Though it is a drastic change in what we know of the 'original' myth, it works really well and emphasizes on all themes Greenwood touches upon in her story.
  It is clear that Greenwood has done her research thoroughly in every aspect of life in Ancient Greece. The setting and lifestyle isn't glorified but rough, messy, and full of injustices. The pacing of the book is a bit uneven and the prose is a bit clunky at times, however, I found myself really enjoying the Medea-centric parts of the story. I would recommend this book to readers who are serious about Greek Mythology and are interested in learning to read these myths from a feminist angle.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong violence and sexual situations throughout the book as well as language. Recommended for mature teens and adults who enjoy and are serious about Greek Mythology.

If you like this book try: Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood, Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Serving justice . . . and lunch!Lunch Lady can sniff out something rotten like no one else—and there's definitely something rotten going on in the library. The usually friendly librarians have become cold and secretive. Even Dee can't seem to crack a smile out of them. What darkness may lurk in the hearts of librarians? Lunch Lady is on the case! And Hector, Terrence, and Dee are along for a wild ride!

Review: The Lunch Ladies graphic novel series is so much fun to read! When not serving up lunches to students, Lunch Lady escapes to her secret kitchen crime lab to lead the life of a crime fighter. Using an assortment of lunch-themed gadgets (created by her lunch serving sidekick Betty), she is definitely a quirky superhero and one you would have not picked to be a superhero, which makes this series fun. Tipped off by the "Breakfast Bunch" (three students who discovered Lunch Lady's crime-fighting alter ego and work as team with her in Book 1), she attempts to foil the plans of the evil "League of Librarians," who seek to destroy all video games. Gasp! The black-and-white pen-and-ink illustrations have splashes of yellow in nearly every panel. The clean layout, featuring lots of open space, is well suited for young readers and those who are new to the graphic novel format. We get to see and know more about the Breakfast Bunch in this second volume, especially Dee, who asserts herself as the strong-willed leader of the group. There are plenty of winking references to book fairs, read-a-thon enrollment, and librarians all in good fun and they fit nicely in with the storyline. With its appealing mix of action and humor, Lunch Lady is a clever, entertaining series that should have wide appeal.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try:  Lunch Lady and the Author Vendetta (Lunch Lady #3), Knights of the Lunch Table series by Frank Cammuso
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