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
Rummanah Aasi

 If you are in the mood for a spooky graphic novel to read for this Halloween, do consider picking up Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things which has just the right touch of spookiness with a snarky main character.

Description: Courtney's parents have dragged her out to a high-to-do suburb to live with her creepy Great Uncle Aloysius in his spooky old house. She's not only the new kid in school, but she also discovers strange things lurking under her bed.

Review: Courtney Crumrin is a snarky, rude, precociously misanthropic teen who is brought to a new town by her grasping, negligent parents, where they stay for free in a rich great-uncle's mansion while trying to climb the social ladder. Courtney may not sound pleasant but I actually really liked her and I found myself rooting for her. She has no friends and doesn't fit in, but soon discovers that her mysterious Uncle Aloysius has some interesting books and more interesting hobbies, and that all kinds of ghouls and nightly creatures hang around the mansion, and the surrounding town.
  Unlike the other graphic novels I read, Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things is more episodic  with three separate adventures/stories in which Courtney has adventures with a goblin in the woods, meddles with magic to deal with bullies and her social isolation, and has to go rescue an infant she is babysitting from the Goblin Market. Finally, she is almost replaced by a doppleganger.
  The author does a good job balancing the dark and grim with some dry humor. The setting is definitely has a haunted house feeling and I really liked how Courtney and Uncle Aloysius form a bond. I was, however, not fan of the artwork in this graphic novel. I found the panels were too crammed in with illustrations and dialogue bubbles. I also thought Courtney looked a lot like those Bratz dolls you see at the toy store. I did enjoy this volume enough to seek out the other volumes in this series.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are disturbing images and scary stories for young readers. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Courtney Crumrin and the Coven of Mystics (Courtney Crumrin, #2) by Ted Naifeh, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, Anya's Ghost by 
Rummanah Aasi
 Frequent readers of my blog know that I've been interested and a huge fan of Greek Mythology. 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: In the third and final volume of the Delphic Women series, Hector is dead, Troy has fallen in ruins; and unknown to the Argives, refugees from the sack are rebuilding their civilization in New Troy. Agamemnon King of Men returns in triumph to Mycenae, bringing Princess Cassandra among his captives. Diomenes called Chryse and a Trojan sailor pursue her by sea, hoping against hope to rescue her. Their resourcefulness will be strained to its limits by war, pillage and social breakdown. For all is not well in the House of the Axe. In the king’s absence, Clytemnestra the Queen has taken a lover Aegisthus and has mixed feelings about her husband’s return. And the King’s golden-eyed daughter Electra hides a secret of her own which will bring a terrible vengeance. Meanwhile Odysseus, Sacker of Cities, has troubles of his own. He wishes only to return home to Ithaca, but the gods have other ideas.

Review: Greenwood's Electra is a very ambitious novel that mostly succeeds in retelling the myths of Electra/Orestes meanwhile continuing Cassandra's story along with a side note of Odysseus plight to go back home to Ithaca. Out of the three books in the Delphic Women series, I found Electra to be the weakest. The pacing of the book was uneven for me as we quickly go through the action and suspense right away with the Electra/Orestes myth but then really drags as the characters go on separate journeys. I would have liked to get to know Electra before all the action started and I didn't really get a sense of what kind of person she is other than cunning and observant. I didn't find Electra likable, but I can hardly fault her for her actions given the history of her family and the actions of her parents. 
  Like her other novels, Greenwood takes liberty with the Greek myths. For example, contrary to the common story of Cassandra who is tragically killed in her well known myth, Greenwood keeps her alive and she still remains a strong character. I really liked the juxtaposition between her point of view and that of Electra on the society's culture and role of women. The Greek gods still play an important role though they are mostly passive observers who play with the lives of all of mortal characters, although Zeus periodically asks them to stop. Periodically, the gods look into the Pool of Mortal Lives and comment on the action, argue, and decide the next step in these peoples' fates. We do find out the outcome of the gods' wager: the stronger of the two--love or death. I wasn't too thrilled with how everything tied up too neatly in a tight bow at the end of the book. Overall, I would recommend picking this book up if you are really interested in reading about Greek Mythology, particularly from the viewpoint of women. 

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong violence including rape 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: Age of Bronze graphic novel series by Eric Shanower, Women of Troy by Euripides, Antigone by Sophocles
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