Rummanah Aasi
 Students at my high school are required to do summer reading as part of their English assignments. I found Brain on Fire on their list and the title caught my eye. Brain on Fire is a engrossing read, giving us an insight into a rare autoimmune disease called Anti-NMDA Receptor Autoimmune Encephalitis, which causes the body to attack itself and in the author's case the brain.


Description: When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she'd gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened?

Review: Part medical mystery and part memoir, Brain on Fire is a fascinating and harrowing true story of a healthy young woman descent into madness and the struggle to find out answers to her mental disorder. Susannah Cahalan is a bright, ambitious young reporter for the New York Post. She describes how she wasn't feeling well one day. Her physical discomfort grew to paranoia, hearing voices, and even attempts to jump out of a moving car. As Cahalan's condition deteriorated she sought medical advice from several doctors who repeatedly misdiagnosed her with either having bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and even perhaps linking it to alcoholism. Still unsatisfied with not having answers, Cahalan and her family pursued other opinions. Her divorced parents put aside their differences and rose to the occasion, sitting by her during the month she was confined to the hospital, about which she remembers nothing. Her boyfriend stayed with her, and one wonderful doctor was determined to get to the bottom of her medical mystery.   It turns out that Cahalan has a very rare autoimmune disease in which an unknown pathogen invaded her body and caused an autoimmune reaction that jump-started brain inflammation, paranoia, and seizures.  Luckily, she was insured, since her medical costs were about $1 million.
 Cahalan expertly weaves together her own story and relevant scientific and medical information about autoimmune diseases, which are about two-thirds environmental and one-third genetic in origin. I was fascinated with the medical mystery aspect of the story. It was truly horrifying reliving her hallucinations and paranoia. She is very upfront in telling the reader that she doesn't remember everything about her story, but I don't think this hinders the book at all. Actually the lack of information is very telling on how far behind we are in understanding the brain and on mental illness. This is a very important story to remind us to fight for our own health and seeking answers when you instinctively know that there is something wrong with you.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language. Recommended for strong Grade 9 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Welcome to My Country by Lauren Slater, Madness by Marya Hornbacher, Falling Into the Fire by Christine Montross
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: Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally and Rivals in the City by Y.S. Lee.


Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally
Publish date: July 1st, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks



 I have thoroughly enjoyed every book that Miranda Kenneally has released and I always look forward to reading more from her Hundred Oaks series. Here's hoping we see some cameos of characters from the previous books!

Practice Makes Perfect.

Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow *the* Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol.

But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo?

 


Rivals in the City (Agency #4)
Publish Date: March 10, 2015
Publisher: Candlewick

Last year I participated in the Victorian mystery challenge which was a lot of fun and discovered the Agency series. I devoured each book and was hoping a final book in this series would come out. If you are looking for a fun, historical mystery with fantastic characters do give the Agency a try. 

Mary Quinn has a lot on her mind. James Easton, her longtime love interest, wants to marry her; but despite her feelings, independent-minded Mary hesitates. Meanwhile, the Agency has asked Mary to take on a dangerous case: convicted fraudster Henry Thorold is dying in prison, and Mary must watch for the return of his estranged wife, an accomplished criminal herself who has a potentially deadly grudge against James. Finally, a Chinese prizefighter has arrived in town, and Mary can’t shake a feeling that he is somehow familiar. With the stakes higher than ever, can Mary balance family secrets, conflicting loyalties, and professional expertise to bring a criminal to justice and find her own happiness?
Rummanah Aasi
 Exquisite Captive is my favorite YA paranormal romance thus far this year. It was very hard to put this book down once you get sucked into Nalia's world of magic, politics, and romance. Inspired by the Arabian folklore, Exquisite Captive is a wholly original and enthralling story.


Description: Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.
   Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?

Review: Nalia, a powerful jinni from the world of Arjinna, has been on the dark caravan of the jinni slave trade for three years. After a deadly coup almost wiped out her entire clan, Nalia was captured by a slave trader who sells jinn to humans. Now she is trapped in Hollywood and bound to a handsome master, Malek, who is as ruthless as he is powerful. Malek showers Nalia with gifts, but refuses to give her what she wants most: her freedom. Nalia is desperate for the chance to return to Arjinna and rescue her captive brother-something that seems impossible while bound to her master and the bottle that can hold her prisoner. When Nalia agrees to a dangerous bargain with the leader of Arjinna's revolution, she will have to decide if any price can be too high for her freedom.
  I absolutely loved Nalia. She is unlike many heroines that we encounter in ordinary paranormal romances in that she doesn't run headlong and make impulsive decisions. Her goals are simple and focused: free herself so she can save her brother. She is very aware of her surroundings and threats that revolve around her, knowing that just one wrong move can place her in bottle that will slowly suck the life out of her. She uses her strengths to her advantage and delicately walks the tightrope of interacting with her master Malek. I was constantly on pins and needles as Nalia tried to get her hands on her bottle and her freedom from Malek within her grasp.
  Malek is a fascinating character who at once repulses you but also draws you in. His moods are violent and unpredictable. While you can never forget that he owns Nalia like an object, there is a light flicker of what could be "love". There is no way that Nalia can see him as a viable love interest, you can't deny that there is a very strong sexual tension between them.
  In addition to Nalia and Malek, Raif, the leader of the revolution is also a very compelling character. He bears the burdens the responsibility of the revolution from a very young age. Like Nalia he doesn't waste time dithering about but is very focused on saving his people and the world of Arjinna. I had a great time watching his relationship with Nalia shift from prejudice and wariness to a slow burn romance. I only wished we got to see him and Nalia have more quiet moments.
  The world building in Exquisite Captive is done very well. With nods to the jinni folklore as well as the blend of modern urban fantasy works very well in the novel.  I loved learning about the various jinns as well as their realm of magic, politics, spirituality, and history. Needless to say that it didn't take very long for me to get sucked into this story and world that the author created. The story unfolds at a fast and even pace. I really wish I could already have the second book in the series especially with how the book ends.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution:  There is some strong language, sensuality, disturbing images, and violence. Recommended for Grade 9 and up.


If you like this book try: Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor, Everneath series by Brodi Ashton, The Fire Wish by Amber Lough
Rummanah Aasi
The Olympians graphic novel series combines Greek mythology retelling along with superhero action and pacing in a graphic novel format will appeal to many readers. Knowledge of the myths are not required to enjoy the graphic novel and it would serve as a really good introduction to those who are curious about Greek myths.

Description: A fictionalized retelling, in graphic novel format, of the Greek myth that details the story of Zeus, describing his boyhood through the beginning of his reign as the ruler of the Olympian Pantheon.

Review: The Greek Myths get the superhero makeover in this new series by George O'Connor. The first volume of this series focuses on Zeus from his miraculous birth to his journey of destroying his father and freeing his siblings. What I really liked about his volume was how O'Connor took his time to visualize the creation myth that establishes Gaea, the Titans, and other important Olympian entities that are often neglected or quickly glossed over. O'Connor introduces Zeus once his stage is set. His godly powers slowly develop along with his flirtatious manner.  The extended, earth-shattering battle he wages with his father, Kronos, takes up the bulk of the story, delivering page after page of action packed panels that keep the pages turning much like those found in a superhero comic. The artwork and coloring are stunning and the panels leap off the page. Before you know it, the graphic novel ends, but the good news is that there many volumes of this series are already out and ready to be read. I would definitely read this graphic novel to fans of Greek mythology.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some violence though not too graphic. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.


If you like this book try: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Lightning Thief Graphic Novel Adaptation by Robert Venditti, Olympians Vol 2: Athena by George O'Connor
Rummanah Aasi
 I rarely read books written by celebrities, but since I liked what Lena Dunham has done with her smart tv show Girls I wanted to read her memoir aptly titled Not That Kind of Girl. Instead of focusing on what it means to be a celebrity, Dunham focuses on the more personal, embarrassing moments that might not shine a good light upon us.


Description: "There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told," writes Lena Dunham, and it certainly takes guts to share the stories that make up her first book, Not That Kind of Girl. These are stories about getting your butt touched by your boss, about friendship and dieting (kind of) and having two existential crises before the age of 20. Stories about travel, both successful and less so, and about having the kind of sex where you feel like keeping your sneakers on in case you have to run away during the act. Stories about proving yourself to a room of 50-year-old men in Hollywood and showing up to "an outlandishly high-fashion event with the crustiest red nose you ever saw." Fearless, smart, and as heartbreakingly honest as ever, Not That Kind of Girl establishes Lena Dunham as more than a hugely talented director, actress and producer-it announces her as a fresh and vibrant new literary voice.

Review: Lena Dunham's memoir is written in the same vein as her hit tv show Girls, in which she explores the confusing state of trying to figure out what it means to be an adult in your 20s and 30s. Her scenarios are raw, real, and painfully naked in exposing blatant vulnerability. What I enjoyed most about this book is the fact that Dunham is very straightforward on what many would call horror stories-events in our lives that we swear to ourselves that we will never tell anyone. The memoir is broken into different parts highlighting stupid jobs, bad boyfriends, upsetting sex, psychological struggles, and other hypothetical scenarios that shaped her life. What I love most about the show beside the great characters is the the introspection and the epiphanies that the characters have throughout the season. I just wished there was more of that in Dunham's memoir than a list of events that she recounts. The book does shine, however, during the wistful imaginations of a young girl who imagines various monumental steps leading to adulthood that either come as anticlimactic at the time these events occur or not really understanding them until you had some distance to reflect on them. Not That Kind of a Girl is like reading someone's achingly self-aware diary.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: Strong language and sexual content throughout the book. Recommended for adults only.


If you like this book try: Girl Walks into a Bar by Strawberry Saroyan, Cherry by Mary Karr
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