Rummanah Aasi
  Happy Halloween! I hope you all found some spooky reads, but if you are still struggling to find something to read you might want to consider Emily Carroll's terrifying graphic novel called Through the Woods. Just be sure to read it with the lights still on!

Description: Journey through the woods in this sinister, compellingly spooky collection that features four brand-new stories and one phenomenally popular tale in print for the first time. These are fairy tales gone seriously wrong, where you can travel to "Our Neighbor's House"—though coming back might be a problem. Or find yourself a young bride in a house that holds a terrible secret in "A Lady's Hands Are Cold." You might try to figure out what is haunting "My Friend Janna," or discover that your brother's fiancée may not be what she seems in "The Nesting Place." And of course you must revisit the horror of "His Face All Red," the breakout webcomic hit that has been gorgeously translated to the printed page.

Review: Through the Woods is a bizarre, creepy collection of dark tales that would make both Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King proud. The graphic novel begins with a tale of three sisters who wait for their father to return, but one by one they disappear with a tall man in a broad-brimmed hat. Though the horror of this tale is subtle, it grows stronger as you continue the stories where a wealthy young woman weds a man in a lonely old house, and at night she hears a forlorn song of unavenged murder lilting from the walls and a girl spends the summer with her brother and his fiancée, who is not what she seems. All the tales in Carroll’s debut graphic novel are fairly standard ghost stories, but it is her eerie illustrations—popping with bold color on black, glossy pages—that masterfully build terrifying tension and a keep-the-lights-on atmosphere. Due to the limit of other colors in the graphic novel, the spooky images of stark forests, gaping caves, bloodshot eyes, and ominous shadows come alive and are brilliantly married to the text printed in manic handwritten fonts, some crazed and swirling, others coldly deadpan as if the words were running after the narrators. This graphic novel definitely delivers the chills and goosebumps making it a great Halloween read..

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images and strong violence. Recommended for older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol, Mercury by Hope Larson
Rummanah Aasi
 Shifting Shadows is a great short story collection for both the Mercy Thompson fan as well as new readers who are interested in picking this wonderful urban fantasy series. The stories presented in this collection give a really good context of Mercy's world and the types of characters that inhabit it.

Description: Mercy Thompson’s world just got a whole lot bigger. A collection of all-new and previously published short stories featuring Mercy Thompson, “one of the best heroines in the urban fantasy genre today” (Fiction Vixen Book Reviews), and the characters she calls friends.

Review: With the exception of Alpha and Omega, all of the short stories presented in this collection are new to me. I appreciated the prefaces to each of the story, explaining the author's intent as well as where these short stories fit in the Mercy Thompson series.
  Some of the stories filled in the blanks to some questions I had for quite some time such as when did Samuel and Bran become werewolves and at what age? There other stories that were a bit of a departure from the Mercyverse but were still pleasant to read. My favorite short story in this collection is Roses in Winter which allows us a glimpse of the softer, kinder side of an off-kilter character named Asil also known as The Moor who believes he is on the verge of insanity. Asil is a character that fascinates but also scares me. You never know what is going to set him off, but like many of Brigg's characters there are many layers to him. In Roses in Winter we see Asil cling to humanity by becoming a mentor to a young werewolf. This story, particularly the character of Asil was a nice surprise. Another character who at first seemed to be standoffish and menacing that has grown to be caring is Ben, who also goes through a great character growth and transformation in his aptly titled short story called Redemption. If you are a fan of the Mercy Thompson series do pick up this collection and if you have been considering reading this series but haven't been sure, read a few of the stories get so you can get acquainted with the wonderful world and characters. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong violence, language, and allusions to sex scenes. Recommended for older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, Chicago Vampire series by Chloe Neil, Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong
Rummanah Aasi
 The Time of Fireflies may have an innocent, non-assuming book cover, but it has a very eerie and sinister story lurking within the pages. This is a perfect children's read for Halloween. Many thanks to Scholastic and Netgalley for an advanced reader's copy of this book.  

Description: When Larissa Renaud starts receiving eerie phone calls on a disconnected old phone in her family's antique shop, she knows she's in for a strange summer. A series of clues leads her to the muddy river banks, where clouds of fireflies dance among the cypress knees and cattails each evening at twilight. The fireflies are beautiful and mysterious, and they take her on a magical journey through time, where Larissa learns secrets about her family's tragic past -- deadly, curse-ridden secrets that could harm the future of her family as she knows it. It soon becomes clear that it is up to Larissa to prevent history from repeating itself and a fatal tragedy from striking the people she loves.

Review: For those readers who prefer creepy over the over-the-top violence read for Halloween should look no further than The Time of Fireflies. I was slowly drawn into this haunting story and once I discovered the core mystery, time traveling, and a family curse I had to keep reading to find out the answers at the end. Normally a slow pace story is a sign of a bad read, but Little uses the slow pace to her benefit as she establishes the creepy setting of the Bayou Bridge in which Larissa Renaud nearly drowned and got a horrible scar down the side of her face. The Bayou Bridge is the same bridge where her aunt Gwen drowned as a young girl.The scar warns Larissa not to play with or talk to any of the kids in the town who forced her off the bridge. The scar also makes Larissa think that her Mamma, pregnant and anxious, doesn't think she is beautiful anymore. There is another thing that bugs Larissa who hasn't told anyone: her scar burns every time the porcelain doll her Mamma keeps locked in the upstairs cabinet looks at her. Is that real or is it all in her head?
  Things get even stranger when Larissa starts getting phone calls on an ancient telephone in her parents' antique store-a phone that has long been disconnected from the wall. "Trust the fireflies," the voice tells her. Believing that the message is a matter of life and death for her family, Larissa lets the fireflies swirl her across the dangerous river to travel back in time to her ancestor's rich sugarcane estate. Bouncing through the generations, we learn how valuable the doll becomes in Larissa's family. Larissa begins to piece together the history of the blue-eyed heirloom doll, Anna Marie, that her mother keeps. The doll has been at each tragic, untimely death. Is that a coincidence or is the doll somehow involved?
 Larissa is a great narrator and someone that I felt sorry for as she tried to come to terms of her scar. Her confidence grows and her insecurities diminish as she tries to solve and break her family's curse. The time traveling element was a nice surprise and worked well in bridging the gap between the past generations and the present. The large cast of characters were fleshed out well and interesting. Though it takes a while to get the different pieces of the puzzle together, the plot picks up speed and suspense as we try to figure out how everything fit together. I'm glad that I didn't figure out the mystery ahead of time and I will say that this story doesn't make me feel comfortable around porcelain dolls.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Doll Bones by Holly Black, The Old Willis Place by Mary Downing Hahn
Rummanah Aasi
 The Boy Nobody series by Allen Zadoff is a great pick for reluctant readers. There is a ton of action, suspense, and mystery with short chapters that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. I Am the Mission is a great second book in the series that avoids the middle book syndrome. Many thanks to Little, Brown Books and Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.

Description: He was the perfect sold assassin. Boy Nobody: No name. No past. No remorse. At least until he began to ask questions and challenge his orders--until he fell in love with his target. Now The Program is worried that its valuable soldier has become a liability. Boy Nobody, haunted by the outcome of his last assignment, is given a new mission. A test of sorts. A chance to show his loyalty.
   His objective: Take out Eugene Moore, the owner of a military training and indoctrination camp for teenagers. One target. Limited time frame. Public place. It sounds simple, but a previous operative couldn't do it. He lost the mission and is presumed dead. Boy Nobody is confident he can finish the job. Quickly. But when things go awry, Boy Nobody finds himself lost in a mission where nothing is as it seems: not The Program, his allegiances, or the truth.

Review: I am the Mission begins shortly after where I am the Weapon (i.e. Boy Nobody) left off. Boy Nobody, named Daniel in his last mission, is still recovering from the trauma of his last mission in New York City. He fell off of The Program's grid and now has to come to terms of what he truly is: a cold blooded assassin. Now that the Program is caught on to him, he must regain their trust not because he believes in The Program but that is how he can survive. His new mission is to assassinate the ringleader of a secret military camp in rural New Hampshire, where he indoctrinates teens to become weapons of fear. Daniel knows he must win their trust and prove his leadership abilities. His mission is anything but easy as Daniel has to hop through obstacle after obstacle with little to no help. Zadoff packs plenty of action in his short chapters where there is plenty of tension-filled moments that will leave readers on the edge of their seats. There is also a nice dash of humor and some flirty repartee that leads to a bit of steamy action with the daughter of the camp's owner to help lighten the mood just when things get a bit too dark. This time, however, there is more violence and explosions in this book that will be easily be found in many action movies in the theaters today. Along with the violence is another layer which is what draws me to this series-the shady ethical motives of Daniel and the mystery behind The Program which drives the story forward which elevates it from just another action/spy book. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong violence and some language. A few scenes of sensuality. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Alex Rider series by Alex Horowitz, Double or Die by Charles Higson,
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
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