Rummanah Aasi
  Today I'm participating in R.T. Kaelin's Progeny Book Tour hosted by the Teen Book Scene. Here is a little information about the author. R.T. Kaelin grew up in Cincinnati and now resides in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and the two kids. For years, he has worked in information technology, but felt there was something more waiting for him. He always had an active imagination and decided to write. er are too young to grasp it fully, but they are the reason he writes. I'm always curious what writers do when they are not writing and today I would like to invite R.T. to give his thoughts.

When R.T. is Not Writing 

   Save for the A-List names, most of us authors have a day job. As an indie author, I am no different. During the day, I am a Software Architect for a consulting company in Columbus, Ohio. It is a job that requires me to use a totally different part of my brain throughout the day. Critical thinking, problem solving, client and team member wrangling are my chief duties during the day, leaving the creative part of my brain to build up a backload of ideas that burst forth in the evening when I get a chance to write.
    In my free time—when I am not writing—I like to spend time with my family mainly. I have two small children (the inspiration for the main characters in Progeny) and I love doing just about anything with them. In the summer, we go to the pool or waterpark whenever we can. They both love the bookstore, so a typical Saturday or Sunday morning consists of breakfast at Bob Evans and a trip to the local Barnes & Noble.
I go to the gym on a daily basis (typically after work or in the morning on the weekends) and lift and do some sort of cardio. I like to read while I am on the bike there, which is just about the only time in my life I get the opportunity to read.
   My wife and I enjoy spending time with each other, trying new things whenever we can. We love to travel and have been kicking around the idea of taking motorcycle-riding lessons in the spring. You only live life once, right? 

Nikalys and his sister Kenders grew up living a peaceful life in the quiet farming village of Yellow Mud… until the blistering hot day when they go to the nearby lake for a swim. When they reach the lake, they spy an unknown mage conjure a massive water creature hundreds of feet tall. They watch in horror as the water creature plunges toward their home, apparently drowning all in its path, including their parents and older brother, Jak. As the only survivors, brother and sister strike out on their own, hoping to discover the reason their home and family was destroyed. They must make their way through a countryside where magic is outlawed, punishable by imprisonment or even death while struggling with the revelation that Kenders has magical abilities herself. Although Kenders can feel and touch the many-colored “strands” of magic she has no idea how to use them until she and Nikalys are attacked by a pack of wolves and Kenders instinctively summons a bolt of lightning, immediately collapsing when the effort drains her of all her energy. From nowhere a giant lynx appears and saves the pair from certain death and then miraculously morphs into his natural self, a seven-foot-tall man. The shape changer’s name is Broedi and when the time is right, he reveals to the siblings that he is one of the original White Lions and he recites to them an ancient prophecy that tells of the coming of a new and even more terrible war than the one centuries ago. The evil Gods of Chaos, Strife, and Sorrow and Pain would combine efforts to unite the orcs, gnolls and razorfiends --- normally sworn enemies. The forces of good would be led by two children of other White Lions; those children are Nikalys and Kenders, the Progeny. As brother and sister struggle with the revelation that the only parents they could remember were not their birth parents, some of the Gods and Goddesses were busy setting other events in motion. Others people – strangers at first – would gather and become allies of the Progeny. Together, they were about to be caught up in the greatest conflict the world had ever seen. Ancient, powerful forces still seek the Progeny on their travels, some intent to eliminate the threat they pose, some hoping to help them fulfill a destiny of which they are unaware. Myths and legends come to life, whisking the pair along a journey they never could have imagined possible.

Progeny is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble. To learn more about R.T. Kaelin and his writings, please visit his website.
Rummanah Aasi
  Hello, readers! I wanted to let you know about a great blog tour happening this week. My good blogging friends, Bibliophile Brouhaha, Irresistible Reads, The Unread Reader, I Swim for Oceans, Supernatural Snark, and many more are supporting an Aussie writer and her debut novel, Raw Blue. I, personally, have not had the opportunity to read the novel itself but I have read nothing but glowing reviews from the bloggers mentioned above. Come and discover a new author, new blogs, and new books!

Here is the schedule for reviews, guest posts, and US/International giveaways:

Monday, August 29th

Introduction post at Irresistible Reads and signed Raw Blue giveaway (International)
- Case for Carly post at Bibliophile Brouhaha plus signed Raw Blue giveaway (US/Can)
- Raw Blue review at Buried in Books

Tuesday, August 30th

- Review for Saltwater Vampires at The Unread Reader and a signed Saltwater Vampires giveaway (US/Can)
- Guest post by Kirsty Eagar about Night Beach at Irresistible Reads
- Review of Raw Blue at Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing
 -Review for Saltwater Vampires at Bibliophile Brouhaha and Saltwater Vampires giveaway (US/Can)

Wed, August 31st
- Review for Raw Blue at Fiction Folio
- Collections of thoughts on Raw Blue at Inkcrush plus signed copy of Raw Blue giveaway (international)
- Guest post by Kirsty Eagar at I Swim For Oceans plus signed copy of Raw Blue giveaway (US/Can)
- Revisiting a favourite Book Boyfriend, Ryan, at Irresistible Reads

Thur, September 1st
- Post on Older YA at Steph Su Reads
- Saltwater Vampires cover post at Supernatural Snark plus signed giveaway of Saltwater Vampires (US/Can)
- Review for Saltwater Vampires here at Irresistible Reads

Fri, September 2nd
- Guest Review for Raw Blue at Irresistible Reads
- Other Older YA Aussie titles recommendations at Inkcrush
- Guest post by Kirsty Eagar at Bibliophile Brouhaha
Rummanah Aasi
  After finishing the shaky Absolute Boyfriend series, it was nice to get back to one my favorites series, Vampire Knight which is currently on Volume 12 in the U.S. I get so sucked into this series that it's hard to wait for the next volume to come out, which should be this fall.

Description: After a year apart, Yuki and Zero meet again. They lock eyes, but they turn away from each other, becoming strangers. Yori wanders around the ballroom, and Sara Shirabuki, a pureblood vampire,  finds and talks to her. She tries to lure Yori away, but is stopped by Zero. Yuki quickly tries to make amends, while Sara asks Yuki if she wants to be her friend. Kaname arranges for Yuki to meet privately with Yori and Zero, but Zero declines. At the party, Sara Shirabuki's Pureblood fiance, Ouri, goes missing, as well as a vampire hunter. A scent of blood suddenly fills the air, and Yuki goes to investigate while Kain finds the remains of the dead Pureblood hidden underneath a tablecloth. Yuki finds Zero and Kaien investigating the body of the dead hunter, who committed suicide after becoming a vampire. Is it really a suicide or is someone murdering vampires and vampire hunters?

Review: Volume 12 is setting up for a new story arc. We potentially have a new villain and there is already strains in many of the relationships in this series, particularly our main love triangle with Yuki, Kaname, and Zero, but also the other vampires that swear allegiance to Kaname are thinking twice about their loyalty. While there might not be as much action in this installment, there is definitely high tension and everyone seems to be on edge.
   Yuki and Zero, who have always been in each other's company, now can't stand to be in the same room together. Both are unhappy with their current status quo, but there is nothing they can do about what fate has given them. Kaname has continued to keep a tight grasp on Yuki's freedom, only allowing  her to go as long she receives permission from him. I've always been Team Zero since I started this series. While I don't necessarily hate Kaname, I seem to dislike him more and more.
  Unlike the other volumes in this series, the main focus of this volume is Yuki. I've always liked Yuki. She was a strong willed, determined, and always caring. Putting others needs ahead of her own. Once again, she is now faced to make a decision as to how she will define the rest of her life and shape it with purpose.You will never find Yuki on the sideline waiting for someone else to help solve her problems for her instead she will be the first in line to tackle the issue herself.
  What I continually find interesting in the last few volumes of Vampire Knight is the budding relationship between Aido and Yuki. I don't necessarily sense a romantic interest in Aido, but I do get a sense that they are friends and that he respects Yuki. It'll be interesting on how their relationship will continue and possibly change. Although there is not really a cliffhanger ending in this volume, we are left with some interesting tidbits about Kaname as well as hints for those who want to see some background for Yuki's foster father Kaien Cross.  This volume definitely feels like the calm before the storm of the next whirlwind of events which will undoubtedly hit Yuki, Zero, and the former Night Class. It's only a matter of time.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some violence. Rated T for Teens.

If you like this book try: Vampire Knight Vol 13 by Matsuri Hino (Fall 2011), Black Butler series by Yana Toboso, God Child by Kaori Yuki
Rummanah Aasi
  I'm very delighted to have Mary Lindsey, the author of the much anticipated novel Shattered Souls, on the blog today for her blog tour. Much thanks go out to the Teen Book Scene for hosting this incredible tour. I have been thinking quite a lot about what makes a strong, complex, female character that many readers seem to enjoy. So I pitched the question to Mary and was curious to read her answer.

How do you define a strong, complex, female heroine? 

   That is a great question, Rummanah, because I think it varies from author to author, and even from one project to another.
  Complexity is a separate component from strength for me, in that it is possible to write a complex, weak character. And it’s also possible to write a simple, strong character—I’m thinking about archetypes in allegory.
  For me, a strong heroine does not have to be fearless or devoid of weakness; nor does she have to kick butt in combat, be fiercely independent, or never cry. She must have inner strength.Just as with individual people, this inner strength can manifest in different ways. It can be evident from the start of the book, or can grow over the story. Sometimes “doormats” stand up and stomp the oppressor.
  In Shattered Souls, Lenzi is never a doormat, but certainly the growth of her strength is a major part of the story. What I wanted to avoid was having her strength come from a special power or from someone else.
It’s cool she can hear dead guys, but there’s more to her than that. Part of it is the complexity you asked about. She’s not just a girl who can talk to ghosts; she’s a girl coping with the loss of her father and the fear she could suffer from the same mental illness that drove him to take his own life. She’s struggling to fit in at high school while dealing with her mom’s grief. She’s reconciling who she was in past lives with who she is now, all the while, fighting off demons and resolving the problems of hindered spirits.
   Then there’s the issue of love. In my opinion, loving someone enough to make a sacrifice does not make a character weak. Love empowers as long as it doesn’t deny the heroine the ability to make her own choices or rob her of the power to act on her own.
   In Shattered Souls, Lenzi doesn’t step up to the plate solely because of her love for the hero. She steps up to the plate ultimately for herself and for her convictions of what is right. That, to me, is what makes a strong heroine.
  Thank you so much, Rummanah for the fun topic and for hosting this stop on the Teen Book Scene Shattered Souls Blog Tour. 

Thank you so much for being here, Mary! I'm really looking forward to reading Shattered Souls! Readers, be sure to stop by Mary's website for more book information. Shattered Souls will be out in December 2011!

A thrilling debut story of death, love, destiny and danger...

Lenzi hears voices and has visions - gravestones, floods, a boy with steel gray eyes. Her boyfriend, Zak, can't help, and everything keeps getting louder and more intense. Then Lenzi meets Alden, the boy from her dreams, who reveals that she's a reincarnated Speaker - someone who can talk to and help lost souls - and that he has been her Protector for centuries.
Now Lenzi must choose between her life with Zak and the life she is destined to lead with Alden. But time is running out: a malevolent spirit is out to destroy Lenzi, and he will kill her if she doesn't make a decision soon.

Rummanah Aasi
  When I reviewed Megan McCafferty's Bumped for the Cornucopia of Dystopia blog tour, I claimed it to be the most disturbing book I've read in 2011. I stand corrected. Lucy Christopher's debut and Printz honoree title, Stolen, let me speechless and had me thinking for days. This book was so frightening that I couldn't deal with reading it by myself and began telling coworkers just to distance myself from it. I was hooked from the start of Stolen and I can definitely see why it was listed as a Printz contender.

Description: Gemma, a British sixteen year old, is abducted while on vacation with her parents by a somewhat familiar stranger and taken to the Australian outback, where she soon realizes that escape attempts are futile. During her captivity, she learns that her captor is not as despicable as she first believed.

Review: Stolen at its core is an edge of your seat thriller. With recent news stories about kids, particularly girls, being abducted and held against their wills, we are reminded that Stolen is something that could very well happen which makes it even more horrifying.
  As our story begins, Gemma is en route to Vietnam from England with her parents with a layover at the Bangkok airport, where she meets the mysterious boy named Ty, who she believes has met before. Ty asks Gemma to a cup of coffee with him and within a few minutes, she is drugged, supplied with a new passport and clothes. When Gemma regains consciousness, she is in a rustic house deep in the Australian Outback tied to the bed with ropes with Ty who is going to "keep her forever" and "save her from the same troubles he faced".
  Though Ty never sexually abuses her, Gemma is truly a captive, stripped from vital necessities. After several escape attempts fail, Ty wears down her defenses as Gemma realizes that escape is impossible though she tries to persuade Ty to let her go or at least visit a town with people. After what feels like an eternity, Gemma begins to discover the stark power and vibrancy of the wilderness and becomes absorbed in it. She also learns how Ty orchestrated his master plan in "saving her".
  Christopher's writing is taut, beautiful, haunting, and disturbing at the same time. The book is written in a series of letters from Gemma to Ty, where she dutifully records every single incident from the beginning to the end of their journey. Her letters are urgent, especially with addressing Ty as "you" only. In addition to the fabulous writing, Christopher also zeroes in the complex psychological study that is also a reflection of the hypnotic beauty of the outback, which Ty passionately loves and feels has been “stolen” by those who would exploit it for gain. There are many symbolism and metaphors throughout the book, which some may be a bit too forced but I was captivated by the whole novel to really not notice.
  Though a thriller generally relies on a good plot, Stolen is much more of a character driven story. Gemma is a likeable character who we immediately feel sorry for. As she slowly begins to learn how Ty orchestrated his grand scheme, she realizes that he has been stalking her for years, devising a crafty plan to steal her away to make her love him-which she ultimately believes she does. It is as if Gemma never really had a chance to escape from Ty at all.
  Ty is simply a psychopath. Christopher gives us enough back story to his character and glimpses of his weaknesses that we can try to understand how his twisted mind works. After learning a bit about him, I couldn't forgive Ty for drugging, kidnapping, and violating Gemma's human rights nor do I think that's Christopher's point. I think we were shown how twisted and manipulative Ty's mindset is, because to him, Ty did nothing but love Gemma.
  Speaking of love, there is no such romance in this book not even an inkling. I was appalled to read comments from some readers who expressed how Gemma fell in love with Ty or how they wished Ty could drug and kidnap them. I don't know how you define romance but to me drugging, kidnapping and being denied your basic human rights does not equal a love story. That being said, I think Stolen would be an excellent book club choice for teens and should be read by mature high school students readers due to its disturbing and adult themes.

Rating: 5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, drug use, kidnapping, and other mature themes in the book. Recommended for Grades 10 and up.

If you like this book try: Girl, Stolen by April Henry or Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
Rummanah Aasi
 I've heard lots of great reviews on Beth Revis's debut novel, Across the Universe, since its release in January. I've had the book on my radar since then and it has been very popular at my public library where I work. I finally got a chance to check it out and read it. For the most part, I did enjoy it but I did have a few qualms.

Description: Amy has been  having been cryogenically frozen and placed onboard a spaceship which was supposed to land on a distant planet three hundred years in the future, but she is unplugged fifty years too early and finds herself stuck inside an enclosed world ruled by a tyrannical leader and his rebellious teenage heir. Confused about who to trust, Amy is convinced that someone is trying to kill her.

Review: Across the Universe is a quite deceiving book. Its cover suggests that it is a romance as a female and male figure are a breath away from an inverted kiss. The book's description suggests that it is a science fiction murder mystery. So which is it? Actually, it's kind of neither but leans toward the dystopian, science fiction thriller genre. 
  As the book opens, Amy's family chooses cryogenics (i.e. being frozen alive) so they can be defrosted when the spaceship Godspeed completes its 300-year journey to a new planet. Amy's cyro-wires are unplugged by someone on the spaceship fifty years earlier, nearly killing her. She wakes to meet Elder, another teen, named for his leader-in-training position. Elder is the spaceship next heir to command the ship. His mentor is Eldest, the ironfist leader who refuses to teach Elder the critical details for running Godspeed. While Amy and Elder get to know each other, other frozens are being unplugged and are unplugged. Amy was awaken for a reason. What is it? Is she suppose to be alive? These questions are the crux of the novel, that is until the book starts to deviate and incorporate the tropes of a dystopian novel much like the fashion of Huxley's Brave New World leaving the murder mystery lagging a bit behind.
  The narrative is alternated by Amy and Elder, both written from the first person point of view. I found myself drawn to Amy's chapters. Her voice is powerful, particularly when she describes being trapped semi-consciously frozen which gave me goosebumps. You can feel Amy's panic, longing, and anger in her chapters. The Elder chapters, however, were a bit distant, quite bland, and robotic which suits his character quite well. Elder does change from a passive role to a much more active one by the end of the novel and I'm curious at to where Revis takes his character in the next two books (There are three books planned in the Across the Universe series.) There is a very subtle romance between Amy and Elder. They find themselves attracted to one another as they get closer, but the romance doesn't really build or overtake the story. It's definitely a subplot the author could use or leave.
  As for the other characters, I didn't really find Eldest that terrifying and found his character development a bit lacking. The murderer is identified later in the book, but I had my suspects narrowed quite a bit when I got to three-fourths into the story. After knowing who, I wanted to know why, which wasn't really explained.
  I had a bit of a hard time trying to imagine a large ship that contains many floors including farms on board. On board the ship, there are people who are genetically selected to do their job. This made me wonder why have not the problems on the ship be solved if there are that many capable people on board? There are a few unexpected twists and turns just enough to hold my interest and continue to turn the pages. Across the Universe is a fast read and the plot moves fairly quickly.
  Despite a few bumps in my reading, I did find Across the Universe enjoyable and I would recommend it to readers who like "light" science fiction, dystopian or even thrillers. I also thought the reversible cover, which illustrates Godspeed, would draw more readers from boys and girls alike. I look forward to seeing what happens next in the second book, A Million Suns, which will be released sometime in January 2012.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is an attempted rape scene that is quite frightening and there also some quasi animalistic sex scenes in the book. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, A Million Suns (Across the Universe #2) by Beth Revis-Available January 2012
Rummanah Aasi
  This week has been insane with the start of a brand new school year. I'm trying to keep sane by keeping copious "to do lists" to help me stay on track. What better way to consider this line of thought than by posting a Top 10 Tuesday, which is a fabulous meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish? Today's topic is a list of books that we loved but never got around to writing a book review. I've broken my list to include Adult, YA, and Children books.

Top 10 Books I Loved But Never Wrote A Review For (in no particular order)


Arthur and George by Julian Barnes- A historical fiction novel that I randomly chose at the library one day. It's based on a true life court drama. The lives of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and country lawyer George Edalji intersect when Doyle becomes interested in investigating the case of Edalji who has been wrongfully convicted of writing obscene letters and mutilating cattle in a case clearly influenced by racial prejudice.

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton- Possibly my favorite Edith Wharton book. Wharton expertly shows how the ways money, romance, and social standing intertwine in the society of the early 20th century. Some may call it a romance gone wrong, but I see it as a female trying to break the mold of a woman needing a man to be happy and stand financially independent.

Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel- My first adventure into magical realism. Tita is the youngest of three daughters born to Mama Elena, virago extraordinaire and owner of the de la Garza ranch. Tita falls in love with Pedro, but Mama Elena will not allow them to marry, since family tradition dictates that the youngest daughter remain at home to care for her mother. Instead, Mama Elena orchestrates the marriage of Pedro and her eldest daughter Rosaura and forces Tita to prepare the wedding dinner. What ensues is a poignant, funny story of love, life, and food which proves that all three are entwined and interdependent.


The Book Thief by Markus Zusak- A fabulously written book on World War II written from the perspective of Death. It was originally released as an adult book in Australia (the author's home) but released in the US as YA. I've yet to meet anyone who hasn't enjoyed this book. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin- If you were given a chance for a redo on your life, would you take it? Naomi hits her head after falling and she can't remember anything that happened since sixth grade. She is by turns mystified and startled by evidence of her present life, Eventually, the memories return, leaving Naomi questioning the basis of a new, intense romance, and wondering which of her two lives, present or former, represents her most authentic self.Contemporary realism at its finest.

Wildly Romantic: The English Romantic Poets: The Mad, Bad, and the Dangerous by Catherine Andornik - This is definitely not your typical YA literary biography. In this book you get the juicy scandals that were left out while you were in English class. Did you know that some were drug addicts and/or sex addicts? The author reveals all when she weaves together the lives of the groundbreaking Romantic poets--Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats. It's definitely made me think twice about loving the writer or just loving the work.

Feed by M.T. Anderson- One of the most underrated YA science fiction book ever. A disturbingly realistic satire set in a future world where television and computers are connected directly into people's brains when they are babies. The result is a chillingly recognizable consumer society where empty-headed kids are driven by fashion and shopping and the avid pursuit of silly entertainment--even on trips to Mars and the moon--and by constant customized murmurs in their brains of encouragement to buy, buy, buy. Sound familiar?


Guts by Gary Paulsen- I loved Hatchet and this book explains where Paulsen got his inspiration for his Brian series. It's a very quick nonfiction narrative (i.e. reads like a novel).

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit- I finally got around to reading this for my Children's Lit class for library school. Was anyone else freaked out about the man in the yellow suit? What was his deal?

Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Staples Fisher- A heartbreaking novel about Afghanistan post 9/11 that was really well done.

Have you read any of these books before? Are there any books that you've read but never written a book review for?I'm always looking for recommendations! Just leave them in the comments.
Rummanah Aasi
  I had a very interesting reading experience with the Absolute Boyfriend manga series. I enjoyed the first two volumes of the series but then my enjoyment quickly changed to annoyance and frustration. Volume 5 reminded me why I picked up this series: trying to find out what the mangaka is saying about romance particularly from the female point of view. Volume 6 had me puzzled with an ending that I didn't see coming.

Description: Riiko has finally chosen her one true boyfriend, but she begins to have doubts as she realizes her life will quickly change after learning new information. Will Riiko and her boyfriend have their happily-ever-after?

Review: After reading the previous volumes and waiting for Riiko to make her decision as to who she wants to claim as a boyfriend, we finally have an answer. Well, kinda sort of. See, Riiko announces who "the one" is for her, but then she quickly starts to doubt herself when she realizes things will begin to change. Volume 6 gave the manga a new direction and tone. This series is known for its silly plot line and characters, but now it suddenly becomes serious and thoughtful as if it was an after thought. In my past reviews, I mentioned that I liked Soshi. I also liked Night, the figurine programmed to love Riiko, too. Night is the ideal boyfriend. Heck, he was created for that purpose, but he wasn't real. I wonder if Watase was trying to make a point that we tend to fall for the unattainable perfection. She made an interesting note in one the side panels of the manga that her readership was divided on who Riiko should end up with: the older women preferred Night while the younger ones liked Soshi more. I can see the appeal for both guys, but again one is real and the other is not!
  I liked Riiko at the start. She was a bubbly, cute gal who got herself in horrible situations, however as the series went on, she never seemed to learn from her mistakes nor did her love interests allow her to think for herself. She coddled by them and when they seemed disinterested in her, she felt lost. I'd like a heroine who has a mind of her own and who feels somewhat secure in herself (we all have our insecurities). While I had mixed feelings about this series, I did somewhat enjoy it. Perhaps I would have liked it more by just taking it at its face value and not looking for something more deep.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: This series has strong sexual overtones. There is also minor nudity. Rated OT for Old Teens.

If you like this book try: Girl Parts by John M. Cusik, The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee
Rummanah Aasi
 I'm thrilled to be part of Sonia Gensler's debut novel, The Revenant, blog tour hosted by The Teen Book Scene. For today's post I had invited Sonia to give us her top ten favorite literary couples. Here is her list:

Sonia's Top 10 Literary Couples

Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride and Prejudice

Lizzie and Darcy are intellectual equals with great chemistry, but socially mismatched. Will they get over themselves and find true love? (Yeah, we know the answer, but we still read it over and over.)

Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth in Persuasion
What do you do when your lost love -- the one you rejected -- comes back to town . . . and seems intent on marrying anybody but you? The romance in this one is more poignant than P&P, and oh so satisfying!

Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre
Plucky governess falls for brooding hero with a dark secret. This gorgeous Gothic novel may well be my favorite book of all time.

Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Green Gables (and continuing in subsequent books). 
The sweetest romance on my list -- it's a joy to watch Anne and Gilbert move from animosity to friendship, and finally, to love. 

Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane in Strong Poison (+ subsequent books). 
Elegant, intellectual and aristocratic detective falls for fiercely independent mystery writer -- who happens to be accused of murdering her lover. One of my favorite pairings of all time!

Randolph Ash and Christabel LaMotte in Possession
Doomed love between brainy Victorian poets -- excellent stuff.

Gemma and Kartik in A Great and Terrible Beauty (+ sequels). 
Forbidden passion at a Victorian boarding school for girls. Yes, please!

Katniss and Peeta in Hunger Games (+ sequels). 
You guys, he holds her all night to protect her from her nightmares. Very swoonworthy.

Mary Quinn and James Easton in The Agency: A Spy in the House (+ sequels). 
Victorian girl spies, cross-dressing, and unresolved sexual tension -- it's like this series was written just for me. 

Briony and Eldric in Chime
Since this is a relatively new title, all I'll say is that this pairing is one of the most wonderfully developed romances I've encountered in a stand-alone YA novel. 

Thanks for letting me ramble about my favorite literary pairings, Rummanah! :D
No, thank you, Sonia! Readers, what do you think about Sonia's list? Revenant is now available in bookstores everywhere. Be sure to check it out!

Cover & description courtesy of Goodreads
    When Willie arrives in Indian Territory, she knows only one thing: no one can find out who she really is. To escape a home she doesn't belong in anymore, she assumes the name of a former classmate and accepts a teaching job at the Cherokee Female Seminary.
    Nothing prepares her for what she finds there. Her pupils are the daughters of the Cherokee elite—educated and more wealthy than she, and the school is cloaked in mystery. A student drowned in the river last year, and the girls whisper that she was killed by a jealous lover. Willie's room is the very room the dead girl slept in. The students say her spirit haunts it.
     Willie doesn't believe in ghosts, but when strange things start happening at the school, she isn't sure anymore. She's also not sure what to make of a boy from the nearby boys' school who has taken an interest in her—his past is cloaked in secrets. Soon, even she has to admit that the revenant may be trying to tell her something. . . .

Rummanah Aasi
  Today I would like to introduce you to James Mascia, the author of High School Heroes and Island of Dren. James is an English Teacher in Maryland, currently teaching at the high school and post-secondary levels. He is originally from New York and received his Bachelor's degree in Creative Writing from SUNY New Paltz, and then later obtained his Masters Degree in Education with a concentration in Literature and Writing from Dowling College. Please help me welcome James to Books in the Spotlight!

 Welcome and thank you for stopping by my blog, James. With graphic novels and movies based on superheroes are hotter than ever, your book High School Heroes fits right in. Can you tell us what inspired to write this story and how you became a writer? 

The idea first came to me after talking to a man at the Baltimore Comic Con. We were talking a few years back about how there were very few, if any, prose fiction about superheroes. So, I decided I was going to write one. The only thing was, I didn’t know what to write. In my experience, as I’m sure it is with most people, the only place I’d ever read about superheroes was in comic books. So, creating a new story, from scratch, in a genre it wasn’t actually designed for, proved to be a challenge.

  I entered a contest a month or so after this conversation, in which I had to write about something scary. That was all the contest wanted: something scary. I am never one to think inside the box, so when I first thought about what I should write about, I thought about the scariest place I could think of: a high school cafeteria.      Then, I thought about what could possibly make a place like the cafeteria even scarier for someone.

That’s when I came up with the first character, and the main character of High School Heroes, Christine. I decided that the scariest power she could have, scary for her anyway, would be that she can hear the thoughts of anyone in the room with her. It sounds like a cool power, but as I always ask, “What if you can’t turn the power off?” She is afraid of the cafeteria, because with a hundred different minds all crammed in at once, it is impossible for her to think for herself, because her head is constantly being invaded by the thoughts of others.

Anyway, while writing this first short story, I discovered Christine’s second power. When she concentrates on someone long enough, she can see everything in their brain, including their greatest fear. She can then use that fear against them.

    After writing this story, which was published in A Thousand Faces, I wrote a few more, all involving a teenage superhero. Eventually, I said to myself, “I have a longer story here.” And so I set to writing the novel. It started off being told from each of the four main characters’ points of view. But after a couple of chapters, I found it wasn’t working and decided to focus just on Christine’s story.

The first draft of High School Heroes took me nearly eight months to complete. Then another five months to edit, so it was worthy of being published. A lot of people don’t realize that you can’t just write a story and be done with it. To make it good and publishable, you need to edit, edit, edit. I can’t tell you how much work it was to edit everything. I must have read the story about six times from beginning to end, to make sure everything was perfect.

   Superheroes have been in literature for quite some time. Why do you think they are so popular? Where do you think they originated from?

    The first known superheroes originated back in the Ancient Greek times and there were probably superheroes even before then. These people weren’t called superheroes then, however, they were the demi-gods. Characters like Achilles and Hercules are probably the best examples of superheroes on Earth, but one could go so far as to say characters like Zeus, Athena and Hera were also superheroes.

     Why are they so popular? Well, in my opinion, part of the appeal of superheroes is the fact that even if only a fantasy, people can believe that a man can fly, or can lift cars over their heads, in other words, it helps people believe in something more than just the regular human condition. I also think the idea of being a vigilante and using special powers to take on the “bad-guys” appeals to people because deep down, there are so many people who wish they could do it too.

 Out of all of your characters, which one could you relate to the most? Which was the hardest to write?

   I have a little of each of my four main characters in me. And for me, they were all pretty easy to write, because I simply slipped into that part of myself when I wrote them.

Christine—She has my cynicism. She sees absurdity in just about everything around her and isn’t afraid to let people know she sees it. Her fear of crowds also stems from a fear of mine, although hers is magnified quite a bit.
Ethan—He has my fun loving side. He can take just about anything and turn it into a joke. The fact that he, the jock, is also the comic book geek is very reflective of my personality. While I didn’t play football in high school, I was pretty much the fastest runner my school had, which is also kind of like Ethan.
Peter—This is my shy side. Peter has a small, tight knit group of friends, and really won’t socialize with anyone outside of that group. While I am a bit more open than that, Peter is a bit like me in this category.
Savanah—She’s rude, obnoxious, and angry. Let’s just say, that when I get angry, I take no prisoners and tend to get very rude myself. This is pretty much Savanah’s entire personality. However, when you read about her, you’ll understand where the anger comes from. She does loosen up a bit in the sequels.

  How did you come up with the characters and their assigned abilities?

Well, as far as my main characters, it you’ll notice, all of their names are alliterative, much like the old school superheroes: Clark Kent, Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Wally West, Reed Richards. I decided that anyone with superpowers in my story would also have an alliterative name. So, I came up with the names: Christine Carpenter, Ethan Everett, Savanah Stephenson and Peter Perkins. Now, as I also stated earlier, I took an aspect of my own personality and used it to create the personalities of each of these characters.

  The powers would be the most tricky part, because I didn’t want any powers to overlap, and I didn’t want to make any one of the characters too powerful. So, I stayed away from Superman: no heat vision, no flying (at least in this book, for the sequels however, that’s another story), no super-de-dooper strength. I also wanted to make their powers fit their personality. Christine’s biggest fear is crowds, and in this book, every time she has to contend with a crowd, she is instantly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of voices in her head. Ethan, who is a jock or sorts, has super-speed, making him the ultimate player. Savanah is very angry, for a good reason which you’ll have to read the book to find out about, and I figured she could be kind of like Hulk, but not like him at the same time, and so, I made her strong (but not Superman strong). Peter was the most difficult, but I figured the power didn’t have to come from his personality exactly. I figured, the first time we see Peter, he could be skateboarding, and his skateboard would have a lightning bolt on it, as would his shirt. So, it would show us he could shoot lightning from his hands.

   You are an English teacher at the high school and other post-secondary schools. Has your job influenced in your writing in any way (i.e. voice of characters, pacing, plot, etc)?

Yes and no. Yes, because I do look for tings like theme, tone and character development when I’m writing. These are things I cover in my classes just about every day. No, it doesn’t influence it because I would generally put these things in anyway. If you don’t have good character development, then the book itself will feel rather flat, and when you write a scene correctly, the tone should automatically come out on the page. Now, I learned all of these things when I was in school, so I can say that I was influenced on that end, but I would say that being a teacher hasn’t influenced my writing as heavily as one might suspect.

  Who is your favorite superhero? 

I don’t know. I like them all. If I had to pick one, I would have to go with Green Lantern. His entire power works on his own willpower. Anything he imagines, he can essentially create from his ring. I think that is just about the coolest powers out there. However, if I was to be any superhero, it would be Superman. Just because he’s Superman and there is literally nothing he can’t do.

What message would you like your readers to take away from your book? 

That with or without powers, you can be a hero by simply doing what it right at any given time. So many kids would like to be a hero, but what they don’t understand is, that they are heroes everyday. Someone drops their books in the hall, and you stop and help them, you’re that person’s hero, if even for only a second. That’s what I want people to understand from this book.

You have written other books and stories. Is there any particular genre that you would like to write but haven’t explored yet? 

I have to say that there really isn’t a particular genre I want to explore. I mainly stick to the sci-fi and fantasy genres, touching a little on historical-fiction and paranormal at times, but I don’t really think about branching out beyond that all that much to be honest. I write what I’m comfortable with and what I enjoy reading. Yes, I will occasionally pick up a mystery, and I do enjoy them when I read them, however, I don’t think I’d ever be comfortable writing one. My mind doesn’t work that way, and no matter what, I’d probably throw in all sorts of elements that would make the mystery sci-fi or fantasy anyway.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, do you have a playlist that you can share with us? 

 I like good old fashioned rock music. Give me The Beatles, Rolling Stones, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Joan Jett, Styx, Billy Joel, Elton John, The Who, Bon Jovi, U2 and pretty much anyone else that falls within this genre any day of the week.
When I write, I don’t listen to any of that though. Sadly enough, words distract me when I’m trying to write, so the music I listen to has to have no lyrics. So, I keep a bunch of movie scores, like Harry Potter, Star Wars, Saving Private Ryan and the like on my iPod to listen to while I write. But, I will say the music I like the most when doing my writing are the scores from the Final Fantasy games. The music in those is beautiful and thought provoking and helps keep me focused.

Besides writing, what do you like to do? What are your hobbies and interests? 

I slay dead people. Well, virtual dead people anyway. I play video games, go to movies, stuff like that. I read A LOT. I usually have a novel I’m working on, at the same time as reading some comic books, and I listen to audiobooks. So, at any given time, I could technically be reading 3 different things.

I like to travel too, which is good as a writer like me, because when I book appearances, then I have an excuse to travel. I went to Ocean City, MD for the first time only a few weeks ago, and had a grand time.

But then, thee is nothing like sitting down to a good old fashioned game of Risk. For those of you who have never played Risk before, go out to your nearest Target, Walmart, Toys R Us, whatever, and get a copy of this amazing game (while your there you can pick up a copy of my book too). There is no other game I can think of that is more fun, because after all, to win, you dominate the entire world!

Thank you again, James, for taking the time to introducing yourself to my readers and to your writing. I had a great time chatting with you. Readers, if you would like to learn more about James and his writings, be sure to check out his website.

 What if you were a teenager and discovered you had the ability to read minds? What would you do with that power? Those are two questions Christine Carpenter would like answered as she begins her sophomore year at Thomas Jefferson High School. She soon discovers she is not the only student Everett. They become friends, but their relationship is strained as they learn to cope with their powers while trying to keep them a secret from the world.

Christine’s questions are answered when a monster, lurking in the depths of her school, threatens to murder the student population. When it becomes apparent the monster is someone she knows, she
must decide whether to try and save him, or, if he must be destroyed, what might the consequences be?
Rummanah Aasi
  The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly was nominated for the Newberry Award in 2010. It has received several glowing reviews from a variety of book review journals. It also has been in my to be read pile for quite some time. Luckily for me, the book was also listed in the Rebecca Caudill booklist. After finishing, the book deserves all of its accolades.

Description (from Goodreads): Calpurnia Virginia Tate is eleven years old in 1899 when she wonders why the yellow grasshoppers in her Texas backyard are so much bigger than the green ones.With a little help from her notoriously cantankerous grandfather, an avid naturalist, she figures out that the green grasshoppers are easier to see against the yellow grass, so they are eaten before they can get any larger. As Callie explores the natural world around her, she develops a close relationship with her grandfather, navigates the dangers of living with six brothers, and comes up against just what it means to be a girl at the turn of the century.

Review: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a delightful book that crosses a wide variety of genres: coming of age, historical fiction, and even feminism. Calpurnia, more commonly called Callie by friends and family, is a spunky, adventurous, and curious girl. You would most likely find her out in the fields with her journal detailing the insects and other species she'd encounter rather than hosting parties at home. Growing up with six brothers in rural Texas in 1899,  Callie realizes that her aversion to needlework and cooking disappoints her mother. Still, she prefers to spend her time exploring the river, observing animals, and keeping notes on what she sees. Callie’s growing interest in nature creates a bond with her previously distant grandfather, an amateur naturalist of some distinction. I absolutely loved Callie's grandfather who is incredibly funny with his one liners and has impeccable comedic timing.
  After they discover an unknown species of vetch, he attempts to have it officially recognized. This process creates a dramatic focus for the novel, especially with how Callie mother inspects her to grow up to be: a woman who is to be married and uphold her own family. While the scientific observations are interwoven with the daily life of Callie, the main focus of the book is Callie’s gradual self-discovery as revealed in her vivid first-person narrative. While some become bored with the book's lack of a plot line, I was immediately taken by Callie's family and friends. Her bonds with her siblings, the conversations she overhears, and the meddlings that Callie gets herself into are all told wry humor, warmth that allows the characters and its setting come to life. While the book doesn't dismiss domestic work as unnecessary or demeaning, it allows young girls to realize that they should not restrict their talents and dreams to society's expectations. Callie is admirable and a role model that I think many young girls would like. I, for one, would love to have her as my friend.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Curriculum Connection: Science 

Words of Caution: There is some discussion on evolution and Charles Darwin, an incident where Callie drinks an alcoholic beverage without knowing what it is, other than that, it is very clean. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Charles and Emma by Deborah Heiligman, Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth by Jay Hosler, Kevin Cannon, and Xander Cannon
Rummanah Aasi
   Gayle Forman's If I Stay is one of my favorite YA books. I was ecstatic that there would be a companion novel, Where She Went, coming out this year I immediately put it on my Top 10 Books I'm Anticipating for 2011 and pre-ordered the book, which is something I rarely do. Once I received the book, I wanted to wait for the right moment to read it. If I Stay made me an emotional wreck and I had an inkling Where She Went would do the same. The book sat on my bookcase for a while until one of my girlfriends told me I had to sit and read it. And I did. I opened it at 10 pm on Saturday night and read halfway through until my head hurt and completed it the next day. Good thing I had tissues, because I used a lot of them.

Description (from Goodreads): It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.
   Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future - and each other.

Review: Though it is not necessary to read If I Stay to enjoy and understand what is happening in Where She Went, I would highly recommend doing so in order to get the full range of emotions for the story and its characters. If you have not read If I Stay, don't read this review any further. It will spoil the ending for you. The book takes place three years after the tragic events in If I Stay.
  Adam captured my heart from the very moment he appeared on the page of If I Stay. He is sweet, sensitive, artistic, funny, and absolutely head over heels for Mia. Adam and Mia belonged together, a couple who easily moved and thought as one. To watch Adam crumble in despair in Where She Went broke my heart and had tears streaming down my face. Seriously, I think I started crying on page 50 and didn't stop until the last page. I had my mom worry when my eyes were red after I finished. I tried telling her about the book which started me up all over again.
  Unlike If I Stay where we stayed in Mia's head, Where She Went is solely told from Adam's point of view. Forman's prose is still very spare and lyrical. There were many sentences that I reread because they were just so beautiful and spot-on. The book explores the devastation of grief and the promise of new hope. Most books written about grief and death, focus on the emotions on those who were directly involved and connected to those who have died. In Where She Went, Adam scolds himself for thinking he too should grieve for what he has lost even though they don't technically belong to him. Like me, Adam holds his emotions internally, putting up walls that are too high for others to scale or too hard for others to break down. He uses music as a catharsis, to try to make sense of what has happened, and even that he has started to hate. Adam's voice is so strong that it effectively mutes what Mia is feeling and thinking. There were many times that I was furious at Mia for being so inconsiderate and selfish. Like Adam, I knew that she deserved to be by herself, be angry, and to come to terms of the aftermath that has permanently altered her life. 
 What I also loved about the book is the New York setting, which I visited a few months ago. It was very cool reading about the locations and then picturing them in my head. What's even better is reading Adam's lyrics at the beginning of each chapter. You can almost feel his wave of anger, sadness, and grief rolling through each word. In my opinion, Where She Went, was perfectly written. It couldn't have been written or ended any better.

Some Favorite Quotes:

"I look at her there in the shadows of the shut-down city, her hair falling onto her face, and I can see her trying to figure out if I’ve lost it. And I have to fight the urge to take her by the shoulders and slam her against a shuttered building until we feel the vibrations ringing through both of us. Because I suddenly want to hear her bones rattle. I want to feel the softness of her flesh give, to hear her gasp as my hip bone jams into her. I want to yank her head back until her neck is exposed. I want to rip my hands through her hair until her breath is labored. I want to make her cry and then lick up the tears. And then I want to take my mouth to hers, to devour her alive, to transmit all the things she can’t understand." (page 143)
"Barrel of the gun, rounds one two three
She says I have to pick: choose you, or choose me
Metal to the temple, the explosion is deafening
Lick the blood that covers me
She’s the last one standing
Collateral Damage, Track 11" 
(page 113)
Rating: 5 stars

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

If you like this book try: The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Rummanah Aasi

  I haven't participated in this awesome meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish for quite some time. The meme is created to share top 10 lists with fellow bloggers on bookish topics. Today's topic is one of own choice. I wanted to do mine on literary crushes. I can't help but fall in love with some book characters. This lists focuses on my lesser known crushes. Here they are in no particular order:

Top 10 Literary Crushes

1. Curran (aka the Beast Lord of Atlanta) from Illona Andrews's Kate Daniels series is one of my all time favorite male characters  who makes me smile, laugh, and swoon. Not only is he gorgeous, but his got a wicked sense of humor and his chemistry with Kate is the highlight of this series for me.

2. Adam Wilde from If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman. I fell for him from the very first page he appeared. Adam is a singer, song writer, guitar playing, witty, smart, and all around gorgeous guy.  He is intense and flawed but has a beautiful soul.

3. Simon Lewis from the Mortal Instrument series by Cassandra Clare. I went to a Cassandra Clare signing earlier this year. She had asked who I preferred Jace or Simon. She did a double take when I told her I liked Simon better. Simon is a witty, loyal, sweet, and always around when you need him. He's a much more down to earth kind of guy.

4. Sam Roth from the Wolves of Mercy series by Maggie Stiefvater. Sam is the quiet, hopeless romantic who I adore. He has a love for poetry and constantly translates his feelings into lyrics.

5. Prince Greening Grandemalion aka Prince Po from Graceling by Kristin Cashore. While I still think his nickname is quite unusual (it's derived from the Po tree, because it's leaves are silver and gold, like his eyes), he gets bonus points for accepting Katsa for who she is and inspiring her to trust herself.

6.  Eldric Clayborne from Chime by Frannie Billingsley. Eldric could have easily run away from Briony as her troubles become larger and almost engulfing her, but refused and fought beside her to find the truth. Witty, smart, and incredibly charming, Eldric is hard to dislike.

7. Tucker Avery from Unearthly by Cynthia Hand. Tucker is the laid back, easy going kind of guy that always manages to bring a smile on your face. He is genuinely warm and will help take dateless girls to a school dance.

8. Samuel Cornick and Adam Hauptman from the Mercy Thompson series. Okay, I cheated and couldn't pick one of the two. Both are alpha males who care deeply for Mercy. Smart, sensitive, and a great sense of humor, I'd love to have either one.

9. Jay Heaton from The Body Finder, Desires of the Dead, and the upcoming Last Echo by Kimberly Derting- The epitome of a best friend turned boyfriend. He is protective, understanding, super sweet, and down right irresistible.

10. Calvin O'Keefe from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle. *Sighs* My first literary crush from 5th grade. Calvin was cute, smart, and not afraid to embrace the weird.

So that's my list. Who's on yours? Be sure to check out Missie at the Unread Reader for her fun and fabulous meme, My Book Boyfriend, which she hosts every Wednesdays!
Rummanah Aasi
  You've probably sensed my frustration with the Absolute Boyfriend manga series. At first I thought it was cute and amusing, but after the first two volumes the storyline got crazy. I started disliking most of the characters, particularly our heroine, Riiko, who can't for the life of her make a decision. I'm happy to say that the fifth volume of this series was much better than the last two.

Description (from Goodreads): A miniature version of Night has returned to Riiko while his full-size body gets repaired—but now Soshi has decided to move in with them! Can a mini Night prove to Riiko that his love is just as real as Soshi's?

Review: When the fourth volume of Absolute Boyfriend ended, there was a brawl involving Night and Toshiki. Night was injured and taken to Kronos Heaven for repairs, only to come back as a miniature. Soshi has learned about Riiko's secret and how she 'met' Night. He has requested Riiko to make her final decision as to who she loves: him or Night? 
  Riiko is hardly able to make any decisions and is confronted by the reality that Night is and will always be a figure. The concept of dating and falling in love with a figure is what keeps me drawing back to Absolute Boyfriend. It is fascinating watching Night develop normal human feelings- the longing to be desired and wanted, feeling sad, insecure, jealous, etc. There are many parts of the story where I really do consider him as a human and not just a figure, mainly because his dialogue and the way he is drawn is so lifelike. 
  As for the dragging love triangle, it is clear that the mangaka, the writer and illustrator of the manga, is herself torn. There are good arguments supporting either team. Unlike the author, I've always sided with Soshi. In this volume things turn to the serious as Night and Soshi share dialogue and time together. It is clear that both want best for Riiko. We can only wait to see who Riiko will finally pick.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is semi-nudity and sexual themes throughout this volume. Rated OT for Older Teens.

If you like this book try: Girl Parts by John M. Cusik, The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee, Absolute Boyfriend Vol 6 by Yuu Watase
Rummanah Aasi
  I picked up Heather Gudenkauf's debut novel, The Weight of Silence. I read her second book, These Things Hidden, which was a suspenseful yet disturbing read. You can read my review for These Things Hidden here. I had actually wanted to read The Weight of Silence first but I didn't get a hand on a copy of the book until now. 

Description (from Amazon): Seven-year-old Calli Clark is sweet, gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler. It happens quietly one August morning. As dawn's shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families awaken to find their little girls have gone missing in the night.
  Calli's mother, Antonia, tried to be the best mother she could within the confines of marriage to a mostly absent, often angry husband. Now, though she denies that her husband could be involved in the possible abductions, she fears her decision to stay in her marriage has cost her more than her daughter's voice.
   Petra Gregory is Calli's best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered. Desperate to find his child, Martin Gregory is forced to confront a side of himself he did not know existed beneath his intellectual, professorial demeanor.
  Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.

Review: The Weight of Silence reads like a Lifetime TV movie. I wouldn't be surprised if there is a movie based on the book. Though not as suspenseful as her other novel, The Weight of Silence left something to be desires. I enjoyed the storyline, which hooked me right away. The story focuses on three families, Calli who is dragged into the woods behind her house by her drunken and abusive father in the early hours of the morning. Her mother Antonia, searches for her and gets support from the sheriff, who was her childhood sweetheart. Calli's older brother Ben is determined to find Calli as he knows the woods that they have explored as children. Petra is an only child and has a special connection to Calli and she accepts Calli and often speaks for her. She goes missing after seeing someone familiar from her window in the middle of the night and follows them. We don't know if Petra follows her best friend or someone else until the story unwinds. Petra's father Martin is determined to find his daughter and is driven by his emotion and almost destroys his own family. Sheriff Louis still has a fondness for Toni who married another man instead of waiting for him to finish college. Louis' own marriage unravels as this story unfolds.
   The story is told in alternating viewpoints of the girls, Antonia, Ben, Martin and the Sheriff. Most of these narratives are written from the first person point of view with the exception of the third person voice of Callie, who is selectively mute. I thought multiple narratives added suspense and drove the plot, however, it didn't really develop much of the characters who are fairly one dimensional. I also thought the voices sounded pretty much the same person. If the character name wasn't given on each chapter, I wouldn't have known it was a different character narrating. 
   The Weight of Silence is a quick read, however, I thought the author lost her focus by adding too many smaller themes into her story such as small town life, childhood friendship, first loves, alcoholism and its effect on a family, etc into her story. If she would have focused on a couple or at the most three of these issues, I could've become more emotionally involved with the story. Instead I found myself far removed from the characters and the situation. I should've been horrified with what happened to the girls but I left with the feeling of "Oh, that's too bad" which is probably what the author doesn't want.
  Readers who enjoy plot driven books would probably not mind the things I didn't like the book, however, I like to connect to the characters as well as the plot. Since I was interested to see how the plot unfolds and it held my attention, I would recommend it to readers who enjoy suspenseful reads.  

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, allusion to rape, and physical abuse. Recommended for strong teen readers and adults.

If you like this book try: These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf or The Murderer's Daughter by Randy Susan Meyers
Rummanah Aasi

  I had the pleasure of participating in the And Then Things Fall Apart blog tour sponsored by the Teen Book Scene. Much thanks to Teen Book Scene and Simon and Schuster for providing me an advanced reader's copy of the book in order to provide you with an honest review.

Description (from Goodreads):  Keek’s life was totally perfect. Keek and her boyfriend just had their Worst Fight Ever, her best friend heinously betrayed her, her parents are divorcing, and her mom’s across the country caring for her newborn cousin, who may or may not make it home from the hospital. To top it all off, Keek’s got the plague. (Well, the chicken pox.) Now she’s holed up at her grandmother’s technologically-barren house until further notice. Not quite the summer vacation Keek had in mind.
   With only an old typewriter and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar for solace and guidance, Keek’s alone with her swirling thoughts. But one thing’s clear through her feverish haze—she’s got to figure out why things went wrong so she can put them right.

Review: And Then Things Fall Apart is an intricate character sketch of a teen watching her world fall apart around her and unable to gain any control over any aspect of it. Keek is under house arrest due to chicken pox at her grandmother's house. She journals her thoughts, connects her life to one of her favorite books of all time, Sylvia's Plath's The Bell Jar, to explore her own thoughts, feelings in hopes of making sense of what they really mean on her grandmother's old typewriter.
  Keek's words and emotions flow onto the page. She neither writes in prose nor in verse, but mixes many different types of writing forms that best illustrate her frustrations and  feelings. She also compares her life to that of Plath's protagonist, Esther in The Bell Jar. The connections aren't over the top nor do they match exactly, however, they do convey the same spirit and are given enough context which will help readers understand even if they aren't familiar with Plath's work.
  Keek's voice is unique, real, snarky at best, making her an instant likeable character. Her problems with her boyfriend, feeling sexually inexperienced yet curious about her own sexuality as well as her family drama make Keek approachable. I couldn't help but feel as if she were in the same room talking to me as I read the book, a trusted friend who is ready to vent and needing a confidant. Not only is she serious, she is also quite funny and quirky, making jokes and even at times sounding delirious from being sick and stuck inside a house with her grandmother, her father living in the basement, and no means to contact the outside world except a land-line phone.
    Arlaina Tibensky's debut novel makes us realize why some of us love to read: to find ourselves somewhere in our favorite characters and books, to know that we aren't alone in our own troubles. Rarely are authors able to make 'stream of conscious' writing successful and not forceful, but Arlaina Tibensky is able to create a world for Keek in which she is given complete freedom to explore every detail nook and cranny about her life. Readers who enjoy character introspection and experimental writing will surely enjoy And Then Things Fall Apart.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language as well as frank discussion about sex. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner or Paper Towns by John Green
Rummanah Aasi
  I'm really enjoying the ecclectic titles featured in the Rebecca Caudill list this year. You can find the book list at the Illinois School Library Media Association. This list is basically a reader's choice book award for Grades 4 to 8, which are selected by teachers, librarians, and of course, students. I recently finished The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas.

Description: Conn's life is forever changed when he tries to pick the pocket of the wizard Nevery. Instead of being hit with a strong jolt of magic from attempting to steal the wizard's locus magicalicus (all wizards have to have one that specifically belongs to them), Conn feels nothing. Instead of punishing the boy, Nevery takes Conn under his wing, teaches him magic, and enlists his help in finding the person responsible for stealing the city's dwindling magic supply.

Review: The Magic Thief is an enjoyable, fast paced, fantasy read that is sure to be enjoyed by younger and older elementary students. The book opens with Conn narrating his failed pick pocketing attempt with the wizard Nevery. This one encounter has altered his life for good, especially when Nevery realizes that his locus magicalicus (a stone that represents the wizards power and is only controlled by the rightful owner) doesn't harm Conn like it should. The curious wizard takes pity on the poor thief and employs the Conn as his servant, but the boy’s inquisitiveness and talents move him to apprentice status. Nevery can use all the help that he can get as he Nevery has recently returned to Willmet to save the city-state, which is faltering as its magic seeps away.
  What may seem like an ordinary fantasy book seem new is the smart alek voice of Conn and his amusing relationship with Nevery. We learn very early on that Conn doesn't have a great life as an orphaned, poor, street kid but definitely has the desire, drive, and smarts to rise above his destiny. He is able to view magic with a fresh pair of eyes and use his thieving skills as a way to understand how the magic is used. He is continually surprising his master, who seems to always be a few steps behind. As Conn becomes more enmeshed in his new life, he navigates through the intricate dealings of both the wizarding world and the political machinations of the Underlord.
  Besides Conn, the other wonderful character is Nevery. He is a renowed wizard who is grumpy and has a very dry sense of humor. His voice comes alive with his supplemental journals that alternate between Conn's narration. These journals are Nevery's observations as well as a testament as how he perceives Conn.
  While some of the plot is a bit predictable and a fantasy world that doesn't seem as lively as some of the high fantasy books targeted to the middle grade audience, the voices of the characters stand out and make the book enjoyable and I'm sure they will look forward to reading more of this series as new plot twists are revealed.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 4 to 8.

If you like this book try: Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage, The Wizard of Dark Street by Shawn Thomas Odyssey, The Magic Thief: Lost by Sarah Prineas (The Magic Thief Book 2)
Rummanah Aasi
  I've come to expect really nothing from Absolute Boyfriend manga series besides a brainless, relaxing yet more frequently frustrating read. The fourth volume has raised the bar from ludicrous to absurd. Since I have two more books left in the series and kept wondering how the series will end (I'm told it has a surprising ending), I'll push through and finish it. Night is an obvious clear runner in the race to win Riiko's heart, but will Soshi step up to the plate?

Description (from Goodreads): While out on a date with Night, Riiko meets a boy who looks like her first crush from elementary school—Toshiki Murakami. Even though she's with Night, Toshiki seizes the opportunity to steal a kiss from Riiko.

Review: This volume of Absolute Boyfriend reminded me of all the reasons why I hated the House of Night series by P.C. Cast: an annoying, repetitive heroine and her harem of love interests. Ugh. I use to like Riiko and now I can barely tolerate her. After almost losing Night, her tailor made boyfriend, to another woman, Riiko vows to do anything to keep Night by her side. As Gasku explained in the last volume, the only fool proof way Night permanently be with Riiko is if they solidify their relationship (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). When Night takes her to a luxurious hotel (all expenses paid by his company) for their special night, Riiko keeps floundering in her decision. This whole volume is based on "will she or won't she"? Also thrown into the mix are new characters, Toshiki Murakami, who claims to be Riiko's elementary school crush and his younger brother. Toshiki seems shady and wastes no time in making advances to Riiko, who is already conflicted about her feelings for Night and Soshi. Of course Toshiki and his younger brother are not who they pretend to be and more hilarity and confusion ensues.
  Speaking of Soshi, I really wished he didn't have feelings for Riiko. I really don't see anything that's charming about her. He's such a great guy and deserves so much more. More interesting tidbits about Night's manufacturer are revealed and will Soshi finally find out what Night really is? I'll find out when I read the fifth volume.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is semi-nudity and sexual themes throughout this volume. Rated OT for Older Teens.

If you like this book try: Girl Parts by John M. Cusik, The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee, Absolute Boyfriend Vol 5 by Yuu Watase
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