Rummanah Aasi
 I was seeking recommendations for Victorian mysteries for my Death by Gas Light Reading Challenge and was directed by these two titles. The Woman in White is a classic and declared by many the first suspense fiction ever written. And Only to Deceive is the first book in the Lady Emily series which the Chicago Tribune heralded as "Sherlock Holmes in a skirt". Both titles caught my eye and thought I would give them a whirl.  

Description (from the back of the book): Full of secrets, mistaken identities, surprise revelations, amnesia, locked rooms and locked asylums, and an unorthodox villain, The Woman in White marked the creation of a new literary genre of suspense fiction that profoundly shaped the course of English popular writing. One of the greatest mystery thrillers ever written, Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White was a phenomenal bestseller in the 1860s.

Review: The Woman in White is a mystery of the main character as its title states. The woman is known as Anne Catherick who appears as a phantom and an escapee from a well known insane asylum. Is she a madwoman? Or a victim of foul play? The mystery goes beyond Anne, though, and victim or madwoman, she becomes the key to unraveling a whole host of deceptions involving identity theft, forgery, monetary theft, and possible murder. Every motive is explored in this hefty yet entertaining book. 
 I think a lot of people have zero patience when it comes to Victorian novels. The length and slow pace are major turn offs, but you have to remember that the novel was one of the few form of entertainment at the time. Many writers such as Collins, Dickens, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote their books/short stories in an episodic fashion and were paid by the number of words written. What really surprised me about The Woman in White is that it didn't feel as if it was written in parts and hastily put together. The story flows well and it is told from multiple perspectives and it opens as if the reader is seated at a trial and the so-called crime has already been committed. As we hear testimonials from a wide range of social ranks, we are asked to identify the criminal. 
  Like many Victorian novels, the evil people are clear-cut and justice is served, but Collins also manages to his main cast of characters depth and time to full develop. While I could foretell how the book would end, Collins manages to throw me some curves and I wasn't completely bored. I would recommend this book if you would rather read a mystery set in the real Victorian period rather than a contemporary author trying to recreate a Victorian mystery.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended to teens and adults who enjoy Victorian and Gothic fiction.

If you like this book try: Bleak House by Charles Dickens, Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Description (from the book's panel): Emily agreed to wed Philip, the Viscount Ashton, primarily to escape her overbearing mother. Philip's death while on safari soon after their wedding left Emily feeling little grief, for she barely knew the dashing stranger. But her discovery of his journals nearly two years later reveals a far different man than she imagined--a gentleman scholar and antiquities collector who apparently loved his new wife deeply. Emily's desire to learn more of her late husband leads her through the quiet corners of the British Museum and into a dangerous mystery involving rare stolen artifacts. To complicate matters, she's juggling two very prominent and wealthy suitors, one of whose intentions may go beyond matrimony into darker realms.

Review: And Only to Deceive is a charming and cozy Victorian suspense/mystery. I read the book very quickly due to its great leading, delightfully head strong heroine, Lady Emily who exudes confidence, wit, and assertiveness while retaining Victiorian sensibilities. Lady Emily is in a strange predicament. She married Philip Ashton to relief herself from her overbearing mother. Unfortunately right after her honeymoon, her husband whom she has only known less than a month dies. Lady Emily feels guilty whenever someone comes with their condolences and talks about her husband since she really has no feelings about him whatsoever. Throughout the book, Lady Emily begins to discover what kind of man her late husband was and in a weird way starts to fall in love with him until she learns that he may or may not a) be dead after all and b) be involved in the black market. Along the way we meet many colorful secondary characters such as Cecile du Lac, a Parisian of a certain age who could really care less of what society thinks of her, and it will be terribly wrong of me to not mention the irresistible Colin Hargreaves who made me smile every time he appeared on the page. The mystery is well balanced with the Victorian social mores and the sexual chemistry between Lady Emily's suitors are handled with flirtatious banter and tension. I will definitely be returning to these characters and plan to catch up on the series as there are six books already out. If you're curious at all about Victorian mysteries and looking for a place to start, I highly recommend this book. I would also recommend it to readers who enjoy an Austenesque read or a clean, fun mystery.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended to teens and adults who enjoy a clean, Victorian setting and mystery.

If you like this book try: Bellfield Hall by Anna Dean, What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris, The Blackstone Key by Rose Melikan , Snobbery with Violence by Marion Chesney, Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn, Agency series by Y.S. Lee

Rummanah Aasi
 Today I'm pleased to introduce you to Sylvia Gunnery, the author of Emily for Real. The book is currently out in Ms. Gunnery's native Canada and soon to be released in the U.S. Before we get to the interview, here's some information about Ms. Gunnery (as found on the publisher's website): She is the author of many novels for teens and children. Often, the themes and characters in her books have developed from her classroom experiences with junior high and high school students. A recipient of a Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence, Sylvia has written a teachers' resource, Just Write! (Pembroke, 1998) as well as guided reading books for Curriculum Plus. She has presented at conferences, libraries, and schools across Canada and works on curriculum development and assessment initiatives with the Nova Scotia Department of Education. Ms. Gunnery is here to talk about her writing style and her latest release, Emily for Real. I hope you enjoy the interview!

Welcome to Books in the Spotlight, Ms. Gunnery.  How do you incorporate important issues in your book without making it too serious yet realistic?

I’m really happy that you see the issues in Emily For Real as realistic and yet not overly serious. That is always one of my goals while writing. It can be so easy to moralize or try to “teach a lesson.” Of course, all our lives involve issues, but I try my best to keep myself in a kind of teen mindset without all the layers of adult judgement or expectations. For teens, a lot is being experienced or observed or considered for the first time. They can sometimes be more objective, even neutral, so issues don’t have the same weight they do for adults. This story was written from Emily’s point of view and she sees things differently from me. I really enjoyed looking at what was happening in her life through her eyes and watching her responses.

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

The character I relate to the most is Emily, perhaps because I was inside her world, listening to her thoughts and observations for so long. I also gave her a lot of experiences straight out of my own life—that first walk around the block wearing her new raincoat and rubber boots (even with her Mom phoning “Mrs. Day over on Robie Street”), shovelling snow with her Dad, hitchhiking with a guy, visits in a nursing home, taking the bus downtown, seeing people feed ducks in the Halifax Public Gardens right next to a sign that says “Please do not feed the ducks.”

   The character I found hardest to write is Leo. As I mention in the acknowledgements for the novel, Leo is based on a former student of mine named Theo. Theo’s the type of person who doesn’t say much but is always so observant, very bright, and basically a good person though his anger issues could blur that. It wasn’t easy to show readers, through Emily’s eyes, all those same qualities in Leo. I might have come closest to portraying him in the cafeteria scene where he convinces Emily to casually say hi to Brian and then nonchalantly walk on by. Leo really did understand why she felt so insecure, and he wanted her to get past that. A real good friend.

Strong friendship between boys and girls are rare to find in literature. What makes Emily’s and Leo’s relationship so special?
I agree that these relationships are rare in literature, but in real life I don’t think they are. I had lots of guy friends when I was a teenager (and now, too). As a teacher, I saw strong friendships between guys and girls in my classrooms—admittedly, a few of them did turn into romantic relationships and even marriages. Friendship is a great basis to build a romance on, for sure. I see Emily and Leo’s friendship lasting a very long time and not changing into a romance.
   The timing was really right for both Leo and Emily to become friends. He’d just switched to a new school where he knew only a few people, and he also had heavy responsibilities at home with not much room for friends. Emily was changing—the break-up with Brian and the shift in her friendship with Jennifer were, for me, symbolic of her moving from one place in her life to another. Both Leo and Emily were open to a friendship that would give them lots of room to be independent and yet be supportive when support was most needed. I’ve had those kinds of friendships and they’re really great.

 I really liked your top 10 tips for writing YA. How did you come up with your list and which would you say is the one that is often neglected by writers?

Glad you liked those tips. Thanks! Coming up with the list was easy…limiting it to only 10 wasn’t. J Basically, I thought about what I try to do to make my novels authentic. Writing YA is a complex process, just as all writing is, and respecting my teen audience is a very important part of writing for them.
It’s hard for me to say what other writers might neglect. Sometimes, though, I have wondered whether some authors put aside their adult perspectives and really do get inside the teen world—“Be a teenager thinking.”

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

I do shy away from the idea of a “message.” Each person comes into a book with unique experiences and expectations, so in some ways, everyone is reading a different book. But I hope people who read Emily For Real have a chance to think about how family secrets may not need to be secrets at all and take away a strong sense of caring for family and friends.

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

I do a lot of reading. When I was studying writing at the Banff Centre in Alberta, one of my instructors was Alice Munro and she said to me, “When you’re not writing, read.” I came to
recognize that both writing and reading engage your mind in much the same way—like musicians going to concerts or basketball players watching NBA games on television.

My partner Jim and I have flower gardens that give me a break away from my desk during the spring and summer. Though I do own gardening gloves, I love digging in the dirt with my bare hands. Also, I enjoy long walks, sometimes alone and sometimes with my neighbours’ dog Willie. I live very close to two beaches and a provincial park, so there are lots of choices for where I can wander. There’s lots of time to daydream about my characters and what they’re up to when I’m gardening and walking.

I'm always curious to see what other people are reading. What is on your to be read pile? 

I’m almost finished re-reading Leon Rooke’s short fiction collection, The Last Shot. I love his control and pace—I just counted 12 lines for a single sentence. Perfectly smooth. I’ve recently begun Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, switching from my habit of mostly reading Canadian-authored books. Last week, my sister loaned me two novels: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and the historical novel Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin which is written in the voice of woman who inspired Charles Dodgson to write Alice in Wonderland. They’ll be next. When I’m working toward deadlines (like I am right now for a junior novel ), I get a bit distracted from reading books and I switch to magazines. September’s The Walrus and Quill & Quire just arrived, so I’ll probably be reading those until my rewrites are finished.

 What is your next project? 

My next novel started on its way in early May with a bit of daydreaming and wondering when I was in Vancouver. I’ve made some notes and even written a few pages, but everything is so tentative right now. Vague. Three sisters are involved (ages 16, 17 and 21) and they’re driving from Halifax to Vancouver, something my own sister and I did with her German Shepherd dog, Max, when we were in our twenties. I wanted to minimize the world of these three sisters basically to the size of a car and always moving forward, and then explore who they are and are becoming. The other day, I gave them a hitchhiker and his dog to add to the mix. I’m curious about how things’ll work out for all of them. That’s the fun of it!

Thank you so much for stopping by, Ms. Gunnery! I wish you the best of luck with Emily for Real. Readers, if you would like more information about Ms. Gunnery or  Emily for Real, you can visit the Pajama Press website. Emily for Real can be purchased at Chapters/Indigo,, and Barnes & Noble.

Definitely check out the  following blogs participating in the Emily for Real Blog Tour running during August: Open Book Toronto, YA Booklover Blog, Pub(lishing) Crawl, Midnight Bloom Reads and Musings of a YA Reader

Seventeen-year-old Emily’s world crumbles when her boy friend dumps her, and when she thinks her life can’t possibly get any worse, a series of secrets are revealed that threaten to tear her beloved family apart. Emily’s heart has been broken into a hundred pieces and she feels like there is no one to turn to, until an unexpected friendship blossoms with a troubled classmate named Leo. Sometimes moody but always supportive, Leo is Emily’s rock in an ocean of confusion and disbelief.
   But Leo doesn’t have an easy life either. He struggles to be both mother and father to his little sister while his mom battles her alcohol addiction. His deadbeat dad darts in and out of the picture, and Leo would rather he stay away, permanently. The two friends lean on each other, and in the end discover the inner strength to face whatever life throws at them.
   With incredible insight into the teenage psyche and speckled with pitch-perfect humor, author Sylvia Gunnery has created a heart-warming coming-of-age story that explores the intricacies of family and friendship.

Rummanah Aasi
 Everyone once in a while I come across a very different book to review. Unfortunately due to my insane work schedule, I'm unable to review many books but I do want spotlight some of the books that I thought my readers would like to read about. Ms. Simon's Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite is such a book that I'm sure will generate a lot of discussion and curiosity. I have Ms. Simon and Jaime on the blog today. I hope you enjoy their interview. Also, if you are interested in reading Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite, be sure to scroll down to enter the giveaway and win a copy of the book!
Lianne: On the front cover is the face of a teenage girl. Would you like to tell us about her?

Jamie: Okay, so I looked a little bit like a girl. But it's not like I wore dresses or makeup or anything. And it was 1970, so lots of boys wore their hair long. Anyway, yeah. Lisa took that picture my first day in college.

Lianne: You look pretty young in that photo.

Jamie: I was sixteen. Some people thought I looked younger than that.

Lianne: You were still a soprano then?

Jamie: Yes, ma'am. When I was fifteen some doctor my mom worked with began giving me testosterone injections. I freaked out when my voice started changing, so I got early admission to college. Nobody at school made me take any more shots.

Lianne: You didn't want a normal male puberty?

Jamie: What's normal about shots? I wanted to be tall and strong and play sports. Like other boys. My brother was six-foot-two and played football. I would have been okay with that, but I didn't want to be four-foot-eleven and hairy.

Lianne: What about a female puberty? Would you rather be a girl?

Jamie: I was never much good at being a boy, you know, but that doesn’t mean I have this strong desire to be a girl. It would be easier. Okay? That’s all. And boys are a lot nicer to me when they think I’m a girl.

Lianne: On the back cover, it looks like there's an old stone house...
Jamie: Yes ma'am. That's the manse on Saint Andrew's Island. The little kid is Rachael. She's the orphan I babysat for.

Lianne: And the cute guy? Was he your boyfriend?

Jamie: It's complicated, okay? Mom made me stay with Sharon after my appendectomy. Sharon was a medical student and she told me I should have been raised female, so I agreed to be a girl for one day. Just one day. But her brother Tyler came home and he thought I was a girl and he was really nice to me. All we did was kiss, you know, but my mom found out and threw a hissy fit. So I had to go stay with my cousin on Saint Andrew's. To get it out of my system, she said.

Lianne: How did the rest of your family react to your being a girl?

Jamie: My sister Alicia always treated me like I was her identical twin. She’s three years younger than me, but we were the same size as kids. When we were little, we shared toys, and clothes, and stuff. My brother Scott wouldn't play with me, because he thought I was a girl. My cousin Kaylah and my sister and I played together. You know--dolls, house, dress-up. My cousin treated me like a girl until I was nine and our family moved away from hers She saw me again when I was a girl over Christmas break and was okay with it, I guess. Mom said I had to stay with my aunt and uncle until I was willing to go back on testosterone. So I spent the summer as a girl, taking care of the little orphan girl Rachael.

Lianne: Did you enjoy that?

Jamie: Yeah. I always kind of wanted to be a mom. And nobody was bugging me about my gender then. Being a girl was okay.

Lianne: How did your father react?

Jamie: Dad wasn’t happy at all. He gave me a list of Things Boys Do and sent me back to school as a boy. He thought I'd find something I liked I could only do as a boy, I guess.
Lianne: Who was the elfin princess?

Jamie: When I was a little kid I had this pixie face, so I thought the girl in the mirror was an elfin princess.

Lianne: Did you know then that you were intersex?

Jamie: My sister and I shared a bedroom, so I knew I wasn't a girl. I was a bit different from other boys down there, too. I had to sit down to pee, but Mom and Dad always said that minor surgery and a few years on testosterone would make me like other boys.

Lianne: And you believed them?

Jamie: Well, I didn't think my parents would lie to me.

Lianne: The doctors put male on your birth certificate?

Jamie:Yeah. They had to put something, now didn't they?

Lianne: But you were born with one testis and one ovary?

Jamie: Yeah, but who cares? I got cancer, so they took them both out, anyway. When I was nine.

Lianne: You had gender issues?

Jamie: I was always me, you know. Mostly it was other people who had issues with my gender.

Lianne: The book is about you becoming more aware of your body?

Jamie: Yes, ma'am. And what happened with my family, and boyfriend, and all. And Rachael.
Jamie was born with a testis, an ovary, and a pixie face. He could be a boy after minor surgery and a few years on testosterone. That’s what his parents always say, but he sees an elfin princess in the mirror. To become the man his parents expect, Jamie must leave behind a little girl’s dreams. When a medical student tells Jamie he should have been raised female, he discovers the life he could have as a girl. The elfin princess can thrive, but will she risk losing her family and her education for a boyfriend who may desert her, or a toddler she may never be allowed to adopt?
Ms. Simon has generously offered to giveaway 2 (two) copies of Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphodite to 2 (two) lucky winners. The books are either an ebook or a print copy of the book. The winners will have the choice of what format they would like. To enter the giveaway, simply leave your name/alias as well as an email address so I can contact you if you win. The giveaway is open internationally and will run until Saturday, September 15th at 11 PM EST. Winners will be selected by and be announced on the blog on Sunday, September 16th. Good luck!
Rummanah Aasi
Manga Mondays is a meme hosted by Alison at Alison Can Read where bloggers can share their passion for reading mangas. It's a great place to get new manga titles to try and to meet new bloggers. I've really been enjoying Nana, the widely popular manga series.

Description (from Goodreads): Trapnest's bassist and Nana K. are getting married, but it's far from a joyous announcement. Nobu and Nana are devastated, and even the bassist's bandmates take the news hard. Will Nana K. ever get her happily ever after?

Review: Volume 9 is not as emotionally explosive as the previous volume and works as a place holder as the characters try to sort out the shocking news about Nana K. Things are slowly spiraling out of control. The d-bag bassist has taken over Nana K.'s decisions and decides that Nana K. will move out of the apartment she shares with Nana O. Thus the once quirky relationship that helped support both Nanas is now broken. Nana O. takes the "break up" close to heart and even suffers from a panic attack.
  Things get worse for Nana O. as Blast finds out that their dream of signing up with a label is actually far from their reality. The music company isn't sure how sell-able the band will be and thus defers from making their decision. The band must reconsider what they are able to give up in order to obtain the label.  
  Meanwhile, Trapnest is blind-sided by the bassist's sudden marriage. To help avoid scandal and a paparazzi blitz, the wedding will be announced to the public, however, Ren is cautioned to be careful when meeting Nana O. in fear of bad publicity. Hypocritical, no? We also find out that Reira, for some reason that I can't understand, has strong feelings for the bassist. How many people can love this jerk? What do they see in him? I just don't understand.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong sexual content, crude humor, and some language. Recommended for mature teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: Nana Vol 10 by Ai Yazawa
Rummanah Aasi

Today is the final discussion week of the Don't Fear the Reaper read-along! We'll be discussing the last chapters  of First Grave on the Right, the first book in the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones. If you would like to join, please see this introduction post on how to get started! Many thanks to Heidi @ Rainy Day Ramblings for this week's questions.

1. What is the funniest t-shirt or bumper sticker you have encountered? If you had a t-shirt that best described you what would it say?

 Thanks to this question, I spent hours looking at funny t-shirts and bumper stickers. I thought this was pretty funny, but I really liked this one:

Found on

2. Charley is constantly helping ghosts throughout the book.  Would you like to be able to talk to ghosts and bring closure to their loved ones?  How would you feel about all the ghosts popping up at all times day or night?  Would you like to have a ghost like Mr. Wong in your house?

I wouldn't mind helping the ghosts to other side. The random popping up at all times would be annoying, irritating, and not to mention distracting. For some reason, Mr. Wong creeps me out. Why is he still there and won't talk? Maybe if he talked it would be less creepy.  

3.  Kim reveals some rather shocking and sad details about Reyes' past.  Do you agree with her decision to adhere to her promise and not intervene?  Would you be willing to keep your word and let a loved one die if it was their wish?

 That's a hard question to answer. I think it depends on the situation. If the person is causing harm to themselves and/or to others then I feel obligated to intervene. It's hard to say for Reyes because we don't really know the full story until much later.

4. Do you like the fact that Charley consistently ends up getting her butt handed to her?  What are your overall thoughts on Charley?

I adore Charley. I love her wacky sense of humor and her genuine good heart to help those less fortunate. I also like the fact that while she may have some cool abilities, she is still left in the dark about her full potential. It's annoying to read about characters who know exactly what to do and have everything turn out fine. It's fun learning more about Charley as she discovers her full potential at the same time.

5.  Chapter 20 is a big, hot, smoking chapter.  We finally get some answers on Reyes.  Does the revelation change your opinion of him?  Do you think he can overcome his "nature" and be a good person or is Charley in big trouble?  

I think we all can agree that Reyes is physically hot, but I'm still unsure about him. How long did it take him to flip the switch? He is definitely going to be an interesting character to watch and grow. It's a bit too early to say whether or not Reyes is good for Charley. Personally, I love Garrett and Charley together though Charley treats Garret like crap.

6.  Did you enjoy this book?  Will you be continuing the series?   

First Grave on the Right was exactly a book that I needed during my most stressful time at work. It was an easy and enjoyable read that kept me laughing and guessing throughout the book. I do plan on continuing the series.  
Rummanah Aasi

 Books featuring mermaids and mer-people have been very popular lately. Today I'm excited to introduce to yet a new book that also spins a new take on mer-people. Indie publisher Ciye Cho is here to talk about her book, Florence, and maybe we should reconsider somethings before wishing to be a mer-person. Be sure to check out the bottom of the post for your chance to win a copy of Florence!

7 Things That People Don't Tell You About Being a Merperson

Most people have a deep fascination with mermaids and mermen. Some
people even dream of life below the waves. And why not? Merfolk are
colorful, whimsical, and swim among dolphins. Yet, all things come with
a price, and the majesty of having a tail can come with some unexpected
hiccups. Here are some things that people don't tell you about life as a

1) You'll get seaweed stuck between your teeth. A lot of it.
2) Raw fish is a human delicacy. Sashimi 24/7 is just a whole lot of
cold fish.
3) Sleep in a bad neighborhood and you could get eaten by a shark or
covered in barnacles (note: it is rumored that mermaids use special clam
tools to scrape off barnacles--and it's about as painful as it sounds).
4) Talking to animals can be fun. The conversation? Not so exciting.
5) Painting your fingernails underwater can be very, very messy.
6) Ariel gave up legs to be a human. You'll have to give up your
7) Ever tried drinking coffee underwater?

Seventeen-year-old Florence Waverley is out of her depth. Literally. Kidnapped and taken below the waves to the mer world of Niemela, she is the ultimate gift for merman Prince Kiren: a human familiar tied to his side. But nothing is what it seems amid the beauty and danger of a dark ocean.

Every Niemelan has a role to play, from the mermaids who weave towers out of kelp to the warriors who fight sea monsters. But in trying to survive, Florence will end up in the middle of a war between the mer and the Darkness. A conflict that will push her between two brothers: Kiren, the charmer inexplicably drawn to both her and the monsters; and Rolan, the loner who has been pushing her away since the day they met. But in order to take a stand--and find out where she belongs--Florence will have to risk it all: her life, her heart... and her very soul.


  Ms. Cho is very generous to giveaway 1 (one) ebook copy of Florence to 1 (one) lucky reader! To enter, simply leave your name/alias along with an email address so I can contact you to win. Giveaway will end on Saturday, September 8th. The winner will be chosen by and winner will be announced on my blog on Sunday, September 9th. Good luck to all those who enter!
Rummanah Aasi
  School registration is currently in full force. Thankfully, I survived the first day.  I've read and finished quite a number of children's books. My reviews of these books are starting to pile up so I thought I would do a few pithy mini-reviews for you. All of these books are found on this year's Illinois School Library Media Association's (ISLMA) Bluestem Reading Award and Rebecca Caudill. For the full list of books nominated by school librarians, teachers, and students, click here for Bluestem Awards and click here for Rebecca Caudill Awards. Today I'll be reviewing The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger, Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein, and Dark Life by Kat Falls.

Description (from the Publisher): Sixth-grader Tommy and his friends describe their interactions with a paper finger puppet of Yoda, worn by their weird classmate Dwight, as they try to figure out whether or not the puppet can really predict the future. Includes instructions for making Origami Yoda.

Review:  Tommy and his friends think that Dwight is a weirdo who's always talking about robots or spiders or something. In true Dwight fashion, he shows up at school one day with his latest creation, a little origami Yoda finger puppet. Origami Yoda is not like Dwight at all as it doles out bits of wisdom to Tommy and his friends. The mystery of the book is whether the Yoda is just Dwight talking in a funny voice or if it actually has mystical powers. Told from a collection of stories gathered by Tommy and told by kids who either believe or don't in Origami Yoda. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is a quirky, fast paced book that sure to please many Star War fans.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: Mild boy humor, but otherwise relatively clean. Recommended for Grades 3-6.

If you like this book try: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger

Description (from the Publisher): When a scrappy alley cat named Aldwyn passes himself off as a magical animal companion to Jack, a young wizard in training, Aldwyn and his fellow "familiars," a know-it-all blue jay and bumbling tree frog, must save the kingdom after the evil queen of Vastia kidnaps Jack and two other wizards.

Review: The Familiars is a great choice for young readers who may be too young for Harry Potter. Just imagine Harry Potter and other popular fantasy series where the animals or familiars take center stage. The book contains your usual trope of a children's fantasy book. Characters who are trying to prove themselves and gaining self confidence as well as coming together to fit a big evil.  The consistently suspenseful narrative moves quickly and is full of twists and turns. The great combination of action and humor will keep readers' attention. For me, I don't really take an interest in animal driven stories, but I do several kids who would eagerly line up and read this one.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 3 to 7.

If you like this book try: Secrets of the Crown (Familiars #2) by Adam Jay Epstein, Warriors series by Erin Hunter

Description (from the Publisher): When fifteen-year-old Ty, who has always lived on the ocean floor, joins Topside girl Gemma in the frontier's underworld to seek and stop outlaws who threaten his home, they learn that the government may pose an even greater threat.

Review: Dark Life is essentially your typical western that takes place in the ocean. Sixteen-year-old Ty is the first child born to the pioneers who live in the depths of the ocean. He has little to no patience for topsiders (aka land dwellers) until he meets feisty Gemma, who immediately enlists his help to locate her missing older brother. The heroes and villains are fairly easy to detect and the plot was too predictable for me, but those who are interested in marine life and what would it be like living under the sea would find this book worthwhile.

Words of Caution: PG violence otherwise pretty clean. Recommended for strong Grade 5 readers and up.  

If you like this book try: Riptide by Kat Falls, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi , Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi, Stuck on Earth by David Klass
Rummanah Aasi
I'm delighted to introduce you to a new author, Brenda Stanley, and be part of the promotional blog tour for Ms. Stanley's Color of Snow. Ms. Stanley is here on the blog today to give us a glimpse of what inspired her to write her novel.

 The Color of Snow has been described as dark or mysterious.  I feel most of my writing fits this description because I enjoy looking at the strange and unusual things in life.  My novel will definitely make some people uncomfortable.  I like to look at situations and issues and try to figure out how people will react.  For years I was a crime reporter, so I enjoy investigating stories and learning about the parts of life most people try to hide.  When I wrote The Color of Snow, I was working on a story about a young girl who went missing years ago and has never been found.  I started thinking about what would happen if she were to suddenly show up now.  I loved putting myself in Sophie’s shoes and seeing things for the first time.

Sophie’s relationship with Damien is both intense and tempered.  Her father has raised her to believe that she will destroy anyone who truly loves her, so she is torn between her love for Damien and her fear of causing him harm.

The story changes between what is going on with Sophie and what happened in her parent’s past that brought her to where she is.  I wanted readers to experience the often isolated feeling of living in a vast rural area, but also the mental confinement of a small town.

Mental illness, teen pregnancy, religious intolerance, and racism are all big parts of The Color of Snow.  I like my characters to face challenges and see them grow from them.  It is not only the conflicts with the other characters that keeps the story going, but also those within the person’s own mind.

I wanted Sophie to be unusually beautiful so that people treated her strangely and therefore made her feel even more alien when she is first discovered.  She has transformed from a tragic kidnapping victim to a mythical ghost from the past and this makes her transition into her new life even more difficult.

My ties to the Mormon Church go back to my great-great grandparents.  I was raised in the teachings of the Mormon religion and even though I am no longer a member, I have many friends and family who are still very active in the church.  My descriptions of the Mormon culture are how I view it and how I feel someone who has never been exposed to it might see it.  I think there are a lot of people who are curious about the Mormon religion and have misconceptions.  I feel I’ve been both candid and fair in my portrayal.

Can a troubled young girl reenter society after living in isolation?

When a beautiful 16-year-old girl named Sophie is found sequestered in a cage-like room in a rundown house in the desolate hills of Arbon Valley, Idaho, the entire community is shocked to learn she is the legendary Callidora--a baby girl who was kidnapped from her crib almost seventeen years ago and canonized in missing posters with portraits of what the fabled girl might resemble. Authorities soon learn that the cage was there to protect people from Sophie, because her biological father believes she is cursed.

Sophie is discovered after the man she knows as Papa, shoots and injures Damien, a young man who is trying to rescue her. Now, unsocialized and thrust into the world, and into a family she has never met, Sophie must decide whether she should accept her Papa’s claims that she is cursed and he was only trying to protect others, or trust the new people in her life who have their own agendas. Guided by a wise cousin, Sophie realizes that her most heartbreaking challenge is to decide if her love for Damien will destroy him like her Papa claims, or free her from past demons that haunt her mind.

To learn more about Ms. Stanley, please check out the websites below:

Rummanah Aasi

Today is the third week of the Don't Fear the Reaper read-along! We'll be discussing the chapters eleven to sixteen of First Grave on the Right, the first book in the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones. If you would like to join, please see this introduction post on how to get started! Many thanks to Jen @ In the Closet with a Bibliophile for this week's questions.

Questions Week 3
Chapters 11-16

1. I do have a soft spot for Charley's Aunt Lilian. She is sweet and soft while somehow also being a little dirty and I find that hilarious in an aunt. Do you have any relatives dead or alive that remind you of Aunt Lillian? If not, tell me about your favorite deceased relative. 

  Hrm..not really. Aunt Lillian is much more out there than my relatives. My relatives do have a great sense of humor and are incredibly caring. 

2.  In these chapters, we get a little closer to Reyes and his secrets. Neil, the warden at the prison where Reyes is currently incarcerated - and a high school mate of Charley's - tells a story about how Reyes ended up in the Coma and something he witnessed. What do you think of the story? What does this lead you to think about Reyes?

The guy's got issues. I thought it was interesting that Reyes is always mentioned in the same breath as violence. This was the point in the book where I had to finish it to find what Reye's true identity and how well Charley's theory of him played out. Now that I know what he is, it makes perfect sense to find himself in troubling situations. 

3.  One of the things I love most about Ubie and Charley's relationship is that Ubie aka Uncle Bob has absolute faith in our Charley. Maybe it's because Charley's been solving murder cases for ages and Ubie knows that Charley knows things. If you could pick a super power, which one would you choose? Seeing the dead? Invisibility?

Telepathy would work really well if I was a grim reaper like Charley. I could mess with peoples minds if they irritated me. LOL!

4.  Okay, in my opinion, there is nothing better than walking into your living room and seeing the god-like creature  of your dreams standing there waiting for you. If you were in Charley's shoes, who would be standing in your living room??

Oh, now that's just a cruel question! I don't have much space to list everyone, but I would limit it to my top ten literary crushes. As for celebs, Johnny Depp would be awesome. I could only imagine the story's he has to share.

5.  We get a surprise visit from Rosie's husband and we find out some information about Reyes...that he and The Big Bad are the same guy. What are your thoughts? Were you surprised about Rosie's husband or did you feel that one coming? What about Bad Reyes, had you already made the connection?

 I had my suspicions before that Reyes and the Big Bad were the same guy. I also anticipated to see Rosie's husband again. What I didn't know is how he could be in two places at once? Of course we figure out why at the end. :)
Rummanah Aasi
  After reading a few serious books, I wanted something light and funny. I've gotten lots of good reviews of Let's Pretend This Never Happened from both coworkers and library patrons alike. I decided to give it a shot and for the most part I did enjoy it.

Description (from Goodreads): Jenny Lawson realized that the most mortifying moments of our lives—the ones we’d like to pretend never happened—are in fact the ones that define us. In the #1 New York Times bestseller, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson takes readers on a hilarious journey recalling her bizarre upbringing in rural Texas, her devastatingly awkward high school years, and her relationship with her long-suffering husband, Victor.

Review: If you're looking for something funny or just a reassurance that maybe you're really not that weird then Let's Pretend This Never Happened is for you. If you, however, are looking for something with a bit more depth than a few chuckles here and there, this book will disappoint you.
  Jenny Lawson is definitely funny and I can definitely see her humorist wings growing. As a writer, however, she needs to stay focused. Let's Pretend This Never Happened is pretty much composed of tangents that are not linear nor really take any shape. For instance, there are footnotes and those footnotes have footnotes, but the footnotes don't really have much to do with the narrative but just a parenthetical that happens to be there. The lack of structure makes me think that the book wasn't edited to closely or that the editors chose to have Lawson's voice go unhindered due to her already large popularity (she has one of the biggest blogs on the internet called The Bloggess that has over a million page views on a daily basis). I did think there were chapters that were filler and I skimmed them without missing much. I would recommend jumping around and reading selective chapters instead of reading it straight through.
  Most of the book is read as if Lawson is constantly onstage and having to dish out a punchline all the time. I'll admit that majority of the punchlines were funny and amusing, but after a while it got really old and I found myself getting a little bored. My favorite parts of the book moves beyond the comedy and gets a bit personal as Lawson discusses poignant issues such as her pregnancy troubles and dealing with her anxiety. I do know that Lawson plans on exploring these issues in her next book, which would make the reading experience a bit more rewarding.
  While not mind blowing or expertly written, Let's Pretend This Never Happened is an amusing read that I would recommend for readers looking for a light and fun book. I do see Lawson's talent and I plan on reading more from her in the future.   

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: Strong language, drug use mentioned, and crude humor. Recommended for older teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley, I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee, Half Empty by David Rakoff, Naked by David Sedaris
Rummanah Aasi

To celebrate the release of author, Sherry Soule’s new YA novel, Moonlight Mayhem, the second thrilling novel in the Spellbound series, we asked her fictional heroine, Shiloh Ravenwolf to stop by. She has started her own advice column “Dear Shiloh”. Since several people have asked Shiloh for help with some “very” interesting questions, she’s generously taken time away from her supernatural studies to answer them. Pasted below are some of the emails sent to her. Enjoy the snark!

Question 1:

Dear Shiloh,
My boyfriend and I have been together for six months and I love him a lot but I think he loves his computer and his X-box games more than me! All he wants to do is play online games. He never takes me on dates anymore. I love him bunches, but I don't wanna feel ignored anymore. I don't know what to do!

A. Dear Ignored-by-BF,
It’s great that he’s into video games, but he should make time for you, too. If he can’t—I advise you to move on and find someone who appreciates you like my honey, Trent.
Kind regards,

Question 2:

 Dear Shiloh,
I think my house is haunted. Objects move by themselves, I hear whispering and moaning at night, and often the rooms get super cold. Once I saw a ghostly figure in the hallway. It freaked me out. What should I do?
Scared of Ghosts

A. Dear Scared of Ghosts,
Sounds like your house is definitely haunted. My mentor Evans says that often a ghost simply wants to be recognized and sometimes they like to just hang out. Maybe the ghost really wants to play a game, like Monopoly before he/she ventures into the light. Always remember to be a good host, and even, offer your ghostly roommates some kind of entertainment.
Kind regards,

Question 3:

 Dear Shiloh,

Lately my boyfriend has been acting kinda weird. Sometimes he gets all aggressive, and then he acts all testosterone-fueled. And he seems to be inhumanly strong. One time he got so mad that he actually snarled like a wolf. Plus, he’s gotten a lot hairier, too. Whaddya think’s going on?

Peace out,
Worried Girl

A. Dear Worried Girl,

Well, his odd behavior might be a paranormal dilemma. He could have a serious lycanthrope disorder. Not sure what to tell you about his bad attitude, but you could buy him a bottle of Nair for his hairy bod. Evans told me that were-creatures cannot enter houses of worship or walk on sacred ground. Try taking him to a graveyard or church and if he freaks out—well, then you’ve got major problems, and it might be best to contact either the Paranormal Research Group or animal control.

Kind regards,

Question 4: 

Dear Shiloh,

I think I might have a “Devil’s Mark” like yours. Does that mean I have demon blood inside me? It itches a lot and occasionally the scar even pulsates like a heartbeat. Sometimes when I get upset or mad a ball of flames appears in my hand.

A. Dear Super-Worried,
Okay, it could be one of three things. One, you’re possessed by something evil. Two, you were “marked” by a demon named, Esael. Or three, you’re a half-demon, otherwise-know-as a cambion. If its number three, then you should know that in medieval legend, a Cambion is the offspring of a demon and a human. I sure hope it’s something simple like possession. Best of luck!
Kind regards,

Question 5:

Dear Shiloh,
My BFF got hit by a car and we thought she died. But now she talks with an odd gurgle sound, she shambles around school, and she looks all insipid and blue-veiny. Recently, she’s had a weird craving for brains and she smells like embalming fluid. I think something’s terribly wrong with her!
Help me,
BFF Troubles

A. Dear BFF Troubles,
Yikes! This doesn’t sound good. I fear your BFF has turned into a zombie! But on the plus side, I’ve read online that zombies can often be affectionate, but hugging one often leads to, well, having your brains eaten—so you’ve been warned.
Kind regards,

Hope you enjoyed this comical post. Now go feed your mind and read a book! Preferably mine. J

Otherworldly Creatures. Dazzling Magic. Fiery Romance.
Shiloh Ravenwolf thought she was getting used to the strange events in Whispering Pines, until the full moon brings another surge of supernatural threats to her coastal town. Ferocious wolves, deadly necromancers, and shambling zombies have descended upon the neighborhood, so Shiloh needs to gain control of her magical abilities—fast!
    It sucks that she has a crippling fear of the dark, which for a demon hunter can be an epic problem.
When her classmates are attacked by a mysterious creature and her father is murdered, Shiloh vows vengeance. Forcing her phobias aside, she forms an unlikely coven of supernaturally gifted teens to help her eradicate this menace. Except that's not all Shiloh has to worry about. She’s battling a different monster within herself and struggling not to become the very thing she fights: evil.
But with demon blood inside her—anything can happen…Moonlight Mayhem is the second novel in the unforgettably epic Spellbound series.

For more information check out these sites!

Sherry Soule: Official Website 
Official Blog
Official Spellbound Series Universe
Twitter @WriterSherry

Thank you so much for hanging with Shiloh and me today. It’s been an honor to reveal a little bit about one of my favorite characters with all of you. If you haven’t seized your copy of Moonlight Mayhem yet, please do so. More thrilling adventures await you!
Rummanah Aasi
  Manga Mondays is a meme hosted by Alison at Alison Can Read where bloggers can share their passion for reading mangas. It's a great place to get new manga titles to try and to meet new bloggers. I've really been enjoying Nana, the widely popular manga series. Out of the volumes I've read thus far, Volume 8 is by far my favorite.

Description (from Goodreads): Nana K.'s happiness with Nobu is slipping through her fingers as an unexpected complication with Trapnest's bassist threatens to upend her entire life. And unlike her past romantic woes, the choice she makes now will change the lives of everyone around her.

Review: Volume 8 is a mature exploration of the different types of love we come across in our lives, ranging from friendship, familial, and romantic. Many readers who have commented thus far on my Nana posts have stated that this series gets darker and now I know why. Things aren't great for the Nanas, both individually and together.
  Nana K's naivete and boy craziness have thus far been served as a comic relief to the serious, career focus of her roommate. Now I can't help but wonder if her ditzy, charming personality is all a front. Normally, I either felt bad for her when her heart broke from being dumped and/or used or even rolled my eyes because of her stupid mistakes. In Volume 8, however, Nana K's carelessness comes to haunt her and as a result threatens to ruin everything that has worked so well for her. At the end of Volume 8, I was so very angry at her for breaking Nobu's heart, becoming co-dependent with the dirt-bag bassist, and making everyone, including me, so disappointed in her.
  Nana O. has a strong connection with Nana K. Some reviewers have often labeled their relationship as homoerotic, but I honestly don't see it that way. I actually see Nana O. and Nana K. being more like a family unit, where Nana O. is the caretaker who shines reality upon Nana K.'s daydreams. As I mentioned in Volume 7, Nana O. has started to feel possessive about Nana K. and I now I get a clearer picture of how she reacts toward Nana K. Nana O. holds on to people in fear of losing them due to her own abandonment as a child. With her own emotional scars so fresh, she slowly learns to trust people and make friends who mean more to her than they realize. So when Nana K.'s life takes a sharp detour from Nana O., their friendship is tested in more ways than one. Nana K's betrayal of Nobu is also seen as a betrayal of Nana O. and Blast.
 Learning more about Shin and the possible reasons why he has abandoned his family also continues the theme of familial love. Perhaps he finds some fulfillment with his physical relationship with Reira, but I'm not convinced that Reira actually likes him. I see Shin as being more of a convenience though they do spend time together and look cute as a couple. It's clear that Reira's heart is set upon someone else.
  I have to mention the illustrations in this volume. They are absolutely stunning. There is a series of panels where characters are either looking back at one another or receiving the same news at the exact same time. I've never seen panels that cinematic before. The emotional expressions they emoted on the page where exactly the ones that I had on my face when I read this volume. Nana O's internal dialogue where expertly placed to mirror both her and Nana K.'s inner turmoil.
 Volume 8 was a really emotional read. It took me a while to pick up the next volume. Normally, I pick the next volume up right away to see what happens next. This time my heart broke for Nobu. He really deserves someone who will treat him right and I really hope he finds this person as the series continues because it is evident that Nana K. wasn't good enough for him.  

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong sexual content, crude humor, and some language. Recommended for mature teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: Nana Vol 9 by Ai Yazawa
Rummanah Aasi

Today is the second week of the Don't Fear the Reaper read-along! We'll be discussing the first five chapters of First Grave on the Right, the first book in the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones. If you would like to join, please see this introduction post on how to get started! Many thanks to Lia @ Babbling About Books and Stuff for this week's questions.

1.   Shiny objects and old family stories are told in this chapter, including an old nickname for our dear Charley. What was the nickname her uncle Bob gave her when she was little? Do you have an old nickname from when you were a kid? You can share it, and if it's really embarrassing we won't mind. *wink*

I love the relationship between Uncle Bob and Charley. The nickname he gave her was Calamity because she was always either causing trouble or in the middle of it. :) As I mentioned last week, I've got several nicknames and they're all different variations of my name.

2.  In this chapter we met someone. A really special guy named Rocket. Now, my memory is not what it used to be, and I just can't remember what makes him so special. Can you tell me what makes this particular ghost unique among all the others? And how about you? What can you do that makes you special? Anything? Jump on one foot for a really long time counts. *giggle*

Rocket was such an interesting character. I hope we get to see more of him! He's got a remarkable memory of the dead, particularly who had died and when. As for me, I don't have really anything that makes me special. I do have a ridiculous memory of trivial things.
3.  Charley is really *cough* not your ordinary girl. She does something that, well, there's no way around it. She named parts of her body and the names are... oh crap, I forgot. Just my luck. *sigh* But I'm sure you guys can say what part of her body she named and what the names were. And, since we are on the matter, have you ever named a part of your body? If so, what was it and what was the name? Come on, don't be shy. *wink+crooked smile*

Charley has a wicked sense of humor. I've yet to meet a character that named his/her body parts. I don't have any of my body parts named nor really have any desires to do so. I find it a bit weird.
4. We all have our little secrets. Things we don't tell anyone, not even our bff. Char (we became close :P ) is no different, but in this chapter she shared her little (big) secret (S) with her bff. What did you think about her reaction? What would be yours?
Cookie is adorable and a bit crazy but I do adore her unflinching loyalty to Charley. I was amazed how quickly she absorbed everything that Charley told her. I would have needed more time not to just believe but to process the information.
5.  In this chapter, Char continues her heart-to-heart with her BFF and comes up with some theories about our fave badboy/possibly ghost. What do you think of it? Can it be? What do you think about him? Hot? Double chocolate hot? Super duper caramel chocolate cake with a cherry on top hot?

I don't know how to answer this one as I finished the entire book during this past weekend. *Blushes* I got on a roll after the Cookie and Charley discussion and wanted to know more about the theory. As for Reyes, he's undeniably attractive and complex, but I'm not sure how I feel about his character. I need more of him to fully form an opinion.
Rummanah Aasi
  Exercise tips and new diets constantly swarm us. We know what should be done though we may not necessarily follow through. For some a frightening health incident may spark a makeover and for others a little inspiration and direction could be just want they are searching for.

Description (from the Publisher): From the bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically and The Know-It-All comes the true and truly hilarious story of one person's quest to become the healthiest man in the world. Hospitalized with a freak case of tropical pneumonia, goaded by his wife telling him, "I don't want to be a widow at forty-five," and ashamed of a middle-aged body best described as "a python that swallowed a goat," A.J. Jacobs felt compelled to change his ways and get healthy. And he didn't want only to lose weight, or finish a triathlon, or lower his cholesterol. His ambitions were far greater: maximal health from head to toe. The task was epic. He consulted an army of experts sleep consultants and sex clinicians, nutritionists and dermatologists. He subjected himself to dozens of different workoutsfrom Strollercize classes to Finger Fitness sessions, from bouldering with cavemen to a treadmill desk. And he took in a cartload of diets: raw foods, veganism, high protein, calorie restriction, extreme chewing, and dozens more. He bought gadgets and helmets, earphones and juicers. He poked and he pinched. He counted and he measured. The story of his transformation is not only brilliantly entertaining, but it just may be the healthiest book ever written. It will make you laugh until your sides split and endorphins flood your bloodstream. It will alter the contours of your brain, imprinting you with better habits of hygiene and diet. It will move you emotionally and get you moving physically in surprising ways. And it will give you occasion to reflect on the body's many mysteries and the ultimate pursuit of health: a well-lived life.

Review: I was going through a bit of genre burnout when I picked up Drop Dead Healthy wanted to read something that was completely different. While I'm not a health nut by any means, I did enjoy this book. A.J. Jacobs has been known to put himself through different experiments and chronicled what happened in his books. While he has written many books, he's mainly known for The Year of Living Biblically, in which he attempted to live his life by following every rule in the Bible for a year. In his latest release, Drop Dead Healthy, he writes about his latest endeavor: trying to become the healthiest person alive. The focus here is not just losing weight or lowering his bad cholesterol but being optimally healthiest at virtually every system of the body.
   You would think a book like Drop Dead Healthy would be boring and dull, but Jacobs infuses humor with research to prevent the book from becoming dry.  He is candid and records his results for each month and writes about what did and didn't get results. And, of course, this drives his family crazy during the whole thing.
  Jacobs covers a lot of interesting tidbits in his research, especially debunking a few well known health myths. He covered diets and exercise plans that I've never even heard of. Perhaps the book would have less staggering if he'd chosen a more narrow focus for the project, but I'm kind of glad that he didn't. There's just so much contradicting information about what is good and what isn't that it's even confusing for experts in the field. I also think that's the point of his point, there may not be just one solution and maybe the golden rule of moderation is the key to everything.

  Drop Dead Healthy is not meant to be a self-help or a manual on how to become healthy. It is a book that I would recommend in helping us rethink how well we are or aren't treating our body. I'd recommend it for those who feel like they need a boost in inspiration and who wouldn't mind to chuckle along the way. 

Curriculum Connection: Science, Health

Rating:  4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and bodily function jokes, but other than that it's pretty clean. Recommended for teens interested in health and fitness as well as for adults.

If you like this book try: A Few Seconds of Panic by Stefan Fatsis, The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted and Other Small Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg, Stay Fit and Healthy: Until You're Dead by Dave Barry
Rummanah Aasi
  I was eagerly anticipating reading Black Heart, the third book, in the Curse Worker trilogy. My only qualm with the book is the cover. I really wish they stuck to the original cover as it matches the mood and tone of the book. This new cover does absolutely nothing and doesn't showcase the awesomeness of this series. Readers looking for a good, solid YA urban fantasy series to read should definitely pick this one up.

Description: Cassel Sharpe has been a con man for all of his life. He's been used as an assassin in a dastardly plot, but he's move beyond that glitch in his life. He's trying to be good and to do the right thing, even though the love of his life is inextricably connected with crime. How can you distinguish between truth and lies when things become blurry? With his life, future, and love on the line, Cassel may have to make his biggest gamble yet. This time he is playing with his heart.

Review: Black Heart is a solid conclusion to the Curseworker series. I loved this unusual world where magic, reality are intricately interwoven. To fully enjoy the solid world building and a terrific cast of complex characters, be sure to start with the beginning of the series with White Cat and Red Glove.
After going through the ringer, in more ways than one, it's surprising to believe that Cassel is up for one more adventure. He's figured out the truth about himself and his abilities as well as made the decision to no longer con people, but of course things don't go as planned. It's hard to let go of the game especially if that's all that you really know. Throughout the book there are lots of interwoven cons Cassel has either set in motion or disrupted but their ripples are still being felt. At times the government and the criminals are hard to distinguish with each driven by their own goals and manipulate the system to get exactly what they want.
  What makes the Curseworker series work for me is Cassel's voice. It never falters yet there is a certain type of vulnerability mixed with charm and sarcasm that makes him likable. He's actually the normal one in his twisted and disturbing family. When he says he wants to be good and get away from the con, you want to believe him especially witnessing his past, however, you know you're going to miss the rush of getting a way with a con or solving one.
  The pace of Black Heart is done quite well. I've gotten pretty good at figuring out a YA book's plot within the first 50 or 100 pages, but with Black Heart I like not knowing how things will end as the plot twists and turns. Along with a twisty plot, there is also a great balance between mystery and romance. There is romance where Lila, Cassel's best friend and the love of his life, is concerned. They are not on the best of terms with one another yet you can feel the romantic tension between them. The romance doesn't overtake the story, which is great because it can appeal to both female and male readers. The book's conclusion, while somewhat surprisingly happy but certainly not a pretty bow wrapped up altogether too nicely. I'm just sad to see Cassel and company go and I do hope that Black plans on doing a spin off series. If you haven't read anything by Ms. Black, do give this series a try. If you hated her faerie series, this series is really different. It's fun, smart, and very entertaining.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, underage drinking, and a small non-explicit sex scene in the book. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Heist Society series by Ally Carter, Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich, Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale
Rummanah Aasi
 Manga Mondays is a meme hosted by Alison at Alison Can Read where bloggers can share their passion for reading mangas. It's a great place to get new manga titles to try and to meet new bloggers. I've really been enjoying Nana, the widely popular manga series. It's a great series to try if you enjoy music, friendship, and relationships. Today I'll be reviewing the seventh volume of Nana.

Description: Nana K. was happy to be Blast's biggest cheerleader, but now that the band is taking off, she's discovering that there are hordes of fans eager to take her place. At the same time, her involvement with Trapnest's hottie bassist is turning into a romantic entanglement she hadn't expected. When a chance for another kind of happiness presents itself, will Nana K. be strong enough to face the difficult choices that result?

Review: Drama continues at a brisk pace in this latest volume of Nana. Unlike the previous volumes where both Nanas take part of the story, Nana K. has much larger presence in this volume as the story centers around her.
  Nana K. has always been Blast's biggest supporter. Now that band has a very good possibility in signing with a huge music record company, she feels herself being alienated with the band. It's not that the band doesn't want her around, but she really has no sense of what they are going through at the moment. Still Nana K. shows her support making food for an after party for the band though aren't able to enjoy it together.
  The story gets interesting as we follow the tangled web of relationships that burst on to the page from volume 6. Nana K. is determined to break things off with the sleazy Trapnest bassist as she becomes closer to Nosbu. After mustering up courage, Nana K. calls up the bassist and tells him goodbye, which in everyone's book means that their 'relationship' is over. In a heartbeat later she tells Nosbu and the two are together. I was really surprised how quick Nana K. was to end one relationship and then jump into another. I have to say though that I really like Nana K. and Nosbu together. I think they fit together as they both are romantics at heart. Nosbu seems to put Nana K.'s needs first by offering support and making her happy. It's really the first time Nana K. has been in relationship where her needs are deemed important. The couple is adorably lovesick which makes we worried and wondering when the shoe is going to drop.
 Nosbu feels grateful for his relationship with Nana K. and goes to thank Nana O. for her help. Nana O. has a really strange response and says that she has to thank Nosbu for making Nana K. have free reign in her kingdom. I had to reread this a couple of times to understand Nana O.'s reaction, but I think she's a bit jealous to have Nana K.'s adoration taken away from her and maybe she doesn't feel Nana K. dating a band member to be a good thing.
 In addition to Nana K.'s relationships, Shin has an interesting problem. We are given hints in previous volumes as how he works as a male escort. Reira, the lead singer of Trapnest has request Shin of his services and actually pays him. He takes it as an insult but he also seems to be falling for her. We also get a glimpse of Shin's family background as his father appears briefly and apparently is financially well off as well as distant from his son. 
 The voiceover dialogues which I mentioned last time are really having  me curious and anxious as they become darker and lonelier. Could the happy days for the Nanas be over? If so, what exactly happened? Who is responsible for the rift and is there any chance of reconciliation? I guess I'll have to see where this all leads to in volume 8.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Strong sexuality, some language, and crude humor. Recommended for mature teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Nana Vol 8 by Ai Yazawa

Rummanah Aasi

Today is the first week of the Don't Fear the Reaper read-along! We'll be discussing the first five chapters of First Grave on the Right, the first book in the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones. If you would like to join, please see this introduction post on how to get started! Many thanks to Christy at Love Books for this week's questions.

1. We meet some of Charley's ghostly "buddies," do you believe you have ever had a ghostly encounter?

  I can't say that I ever had one, but I do believe in spirits. Just because we don't seem them doesn't mean that they don't exisit. I'll be honest and that I would get a bit freaked out if I met one. Hopefully, the ghost will be more like Casper than the ones that Charley handles. LOL!

2. Charley named her jeep Misery. Have you ever named your vehicles? What did you name them?

 I haven't named any cars, mainly because since I have a large family the cars are passed around. I have named other objects in the house like my space heater which I dubbed Jacob after the Twilight series. ;)

3. Charley says her name "...brooks no opposition. It takes s*** from no one." What do you think your name says about you to strangers? Is there a different name that you think would suit you better?

Many people can't pronounce my name even though it's spelled out phonetically. So, I'm sure the first thing that they think of right away is that it's foreign. I find it funny watching people trying to find a polite way to pronounce it. I've resorted to having friends just call me "Rum" as a nickname because a) everyone has heard of rum before and b) it's easy to pronounce. I've also got an assorted nicknames around the house. I like my name and I think it suits me.

4. Charley says her best friend Cookie is "like Kramer from Seinfeld, only not so nervous, like Kramer might have been on Prozac." Give us your best description of your best friend. How would they would describe you?

 My best friend is practical, for the most part easily detect my moods, and can call me out stuff. I think she would describe me as passionate and deceptively demure.

5. Garrett is reluctant to believe in Charley's abilities, how would you react if a friend divulged to you that they can see and speak with the dead?

 I've heard of people who believe they are ghost talkers or have communicate with the dead. Even though they are a friend, I would still need proof before I could believe them right away.
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