Rummanah Aasi
  Have you ever had an epiphany where you realized that not everyone around you shares your same beliefs? That absolutes aren't applicable in real life? Welcome to Kate's conundrum. She finally has a chance to have a real relationship and real friends, but in order to have all that, she must figure out what she believes. This review is based on the advanced readers copy provided by Sourcebooks via Netgalley.

Description: Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different…

This summer she’s a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He’s the first guy she ever kissed, and he’s gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt--with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn’t that easy…

Review: Miranda Kenneally's latest novel in the Hundred Oaks series, Things I Can't Forget, explores one teen's struggle for self-identity and faith. Kate is spending her summer working as a counselor at a church-run camp. She's still reeling from her decision to help her best friend Emily in a desperate situation that went against her beliefs and ruined their friendship. Kate hopes that in the mountains of Tennessee, she will get a sign that God forgives her. Summer camp brings new experiences and challenges for Kate. She is constantly, unfairly singled out by the camp director for doing something wrong and she doesn't fit in with the other counselors who, according to Kate's opinion, don't act very Christian.
  Kate is a very hard person to approach and like at first. She comes across as very judgmental. She only believes in absolutes, those dictated by her church, the same church that ostracized Parker in Stealing Parker.  Kate's sheltered world view is well-drawn and believable. As a reader you realize that her provincial outlook at life is constructed by only what she has been taught and blindly followed. The crux of the book is Kate's hesitant first steps on her spiritual journey to find out what she believes in and her relationship with her faith. Though religion plays a large part in this book, it is never heavy handed. There is a wide range of people who differ in their beliefs and their relationship with God, no true way is emphasized. The  more Kate begins to understand that faith is personal to each person, the more she comes out of her shell and becomes a real person. You get to witness her developing friendships with other counselors, particularly Parker who helps her sort out her confusion on what to make of her blossoming and incredibly sweet relationship with Matt, the boy who gave Kate her first kiss years ago at camp. Kate's character growth is a testament to Kenneally's skill as a writer. I loved watching Kate grow as a person, a girl who is more self confident in herself and willing to vocalize her needs.
  In addition to Kate, Matt is a very interesting love interest. He is incredibly charming, sweet and clearly crazy about Kate, but he's also a contradiction in Kate's eyes. He attends church but has no problem drinking beer with his frat brothers. The way Matt makes Kate feel contradicts everything she's learned in church where sex is concerned. The best thing in my opinion about Matt and really all of the love interests that Kenneally has created is that they accept their girlfriends for who they are. Matt accepts and acknowledges the boundaries that Kate sets, even though he may not understand and agree. He gives her space and time to sort things out.
  Though there are other important issues only touched upon in the book such as parental abuse and gay relationships, which I would have liked to see explored more, the book never loses its focus. Kenneally has given us an honest and realistic story about a teen's exploration of her own sexuality and faith. I applaud her in taking a big step in writing about sensitive topics in a sensitive and introspective manner. As always, I thoroughly enjoy her work and I can't wait to read her next book.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, underage drinking, and strong sexual content. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Blind Faith by Ellen Wittlinger, Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr, The Patron Saint of Butterflies by
Rummanah Aasi
   I'm absolutely delighted to participate in a blog tour for Miranda Kenneally's latest release, Things I Can't Forget. Many thanks to Sourcebooks for allowing me to part of this blog tour and to read an advanced reader's copy of the book via Netgalley. Be sure to stop by tomorrow for my review of the book! Below is a guest post by Miranda on what inspired her to write Things I Can't Forget

“Why Different Beliefs and Values Fascinate Me”

When I was sixteen, one of my closest friends got pregnant. At the time, I certainly hadn’t agreed with her decision to have sex, especially with a guy who wasn’t her boyfriend, but she was still my friend, so I wanted to stick by her. A lot of kids at my school ridiculed her and made fun of her, especially guys. I remember being shocked that one boy was particularly hurtful to her, and I couldn’t understand it because I knew he was trying to convince another friend of mine to have sex. The whole situation was crazy, especially when other kids started teasing me for being friends with a girl who was pregnant.

Still, I knew I had to stand by her, so I spoke to a woman at my church and we found a special home my friend could go away to so she could have the baby, put it up for adoption, and stay in school. My friend ended up never coming back to my high school.

I was proud of the decision I had made, to help my friend and stay by her. A couple years later, when I was 18 and still in high school, the same friend got pregnant again. This time by a different guy. And this time, she wanted to have an abortion. Her parents refused to help her, so my friend turned to me again. She didn’t need money, but she needed someone to drive her to the abortion clinic and bring her home after.

I was so pissed at her. I knew her parents wouldn’t let her go on birth control (!!!), but I’d told her to buy condoms. Still, this was a friend who had stuck by me through high school and had been my friend even when she was much more popular and prettier than me, but ultimately I decided I couldn’t help her. It wasn’t that I was against abortion – honestly, I’d never much thought about it, but I worried what other people would say if they found out I helped her get an abortion. My parents would be pissed. Kids at school would tease me again, just like when my friend got pregnant the first time. My church would be totally upset.

I had no thoughts of my own.

My friend found someone else to help her. She paid some random man to drive her there and back, which was totally unsafe. Our friendship kind of dissolved after that, but I often still think about what happened.

What if I had helped my friend? To this day, I don’t know if I made the right decision or not. At the time, it was a decision made based mostly on other people’s beliefs, not my own. Today, I probably would do whatever a friend asked of me, regardless of what I believe. It’s not my decision to make.

Things I Can't Forget, my third book, is about a girl named Kate, a devout Christian, who makes a decision to help her friend get an abortion, and afterwards she has to deal with the guilt and the resulting fall-out of their friendship. This book isn’t autobiographical at all – I was never as devout as Kate, but I feel this book gave me the opportunity to explore the guilt and to show that “your truth isn’t necessarily everyone else’s truth.”

I know that a lot of readers were shocked when I decided to include religion in my books Stealing Parker  and Things I Can't Forget (this will be my final book that explores religion), but religion is a big part of people’s lives here in America. The last census said that 78% of Americans claim they are Protestant. I wouldn’t call myself a Christian – I haven’t been to church in 12 years, but I still often think about what I believe, and I want teenagers and readers of all ages to know they can believe whatever they want to believe, regardless of what their parents and friends say. You need to make your own decisions.

Things I Can't Forget also aims to show that you can be friends with people who don’t necessarily believe what you believe, whether it’s about your idea of heaven, or Coke vs. Pepsi, or Mets vs. Yankees. This book is all about a willingness to be open.

If I could go back in time to my 18-year-old self, I wouldn’t tell myself whether or not I should help my friend get an abortion. I’d tell myself to do what I know in my heart to be right.

 Thank you for sharing, Miranda! Things I Can't Forget is such a thought provoking journey of self discovery. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I really hope you all check it out! Things I Can't Forget will be published on April 1st, 2013 by Sourcebooks. 

Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different…

This summer she’s a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He’s the first guy she ever kissed, and he’s gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt--with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn’t that easy…
Rummanah Aasi
 I'm a bit behind on my children and middle grade reads, but I hope to catch up really soon. I find nonfiction books for kids really hard to circulate, but I've discovered some great titles that are fun, easy to read and educational. Both of the books below were featured on the Bluestem Book Award last year.

Description: Brothers Joe and Bob Switzer were quite different. Bob was a hard worker and planner who wanted to grow up to be a doctor. Joe dreamed of making his fortune in show business and loved magic tricks and problem-solving. When an accident left Bob recovering in the dark basement, the brothers began experimenting with ultraviolet light and fluorescent paints. Together they stumbled on a formula for colors that glows with an extra-special intensity-Day-Glo colors.

Review: I had no idea that fluorescent colors were created out of a bad experiment and business idea. Barton takes on the role of a cool and fun teacher and discusses how two brothers worked together to create the eye-popping hues. Joe Switzer figured out that using a black light to create a fluorescent glow could spruce up his magic act, so the brothers built an ultraviolet lamp. They began to experiment with various chemicals to make glow-in-the-dark paints. Soon Joe used fluorescent-colored paper costumes in his act and word got around. Through trial and error, the brothers perfected their creation. The story is written in clear and simple language. It reminded me a lot of my favorite science shows, Bill Nye the Science Guy, that incorporates fun and education seamlessly. The book also has lots of whimsical cartoons. While endpapers are Day-Glo bright, most of the story is illustrated in black, white, gray, and touches of color, culminating in vivid spreads. The Day-Glo Brothers is a fun story that is sure to be enjoyed by those who love science.

Rating: 4 stars

Curriculum Connection: Inventors, Science

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 3 and up.

If you like this book try: So you want to be an inventor? by Judith St. George, How nearly everything was invented by Jilly MacLeod

Description: When you’re a guy, nature is one big playground—no matter what the season. There are puddles to splash in the spring, pine trees to climb in the summer, maple seeds to catch in the fall, and icicles to swordfight with in the winter.
     Nature also has a way of making a guy appreciate important stuff—like how many rocks it takes to dam up a stream, or how much snow equals a day off from school.
So what kind of poetry best captures these special moments, at a length that lets guys get right back to tree-climbing and kite-flying? Why, guyku, of course!

Review: Poetry is very hard to understand and write. Haiku seems like a terrific way to introduce poetry to young readers and in the case of Guyku- to boys though girls will gravitate to this title too. Haikus are  deceptively simple and very accessible to almost any reader. The poems in this picture-book collection capture natural moments that young readers have while playing outdoors. Each season is addressed, and moments associated with spring such as riding bikes with baseball cards attached to the wheels to mimic the sound of a motorcycle brings the book to life and almost define spring. The artwork created by pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations mirror the simplicity of each entry and capture the expressions of the boys and their adventures honestly and charmingly. This book could easily work with students learning about the seasons as well as teach them about poetry in a fun way.  

Rating: 4 stars

Curriculum Connection: Poetry and seasons.

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 1-3.

If you like this book try: Don't Step on the Sky by Miriam Chaikin, Song of the water boatman by Joyce Sidman
Rummanah Aasi
   Kay Honeyman's debut novel, The Fire Horse Girl, is a different kind of immigrant story. Instead of focusing on how immigrants try to assimilate to American culture, we are offered a different take of the immigrant journey where dreams and expectations are easily traded and sold in seedy places. This review is based on the advanced reader's copy I've received from the publisher via Netgalley. Thank you!

Description (from the Publisher): Jade Moon is a Fire Horse -- the worst sign in the Chinese zodiac for girls, said to make them stubborn, willful, and far too imaginative. But while her family despairs of marrying her off, she has a passionate heart and powerful dreams, and wants only to find a way to make them come true.
  Then a young man named Sterling Promise comes to their village to offer Jade Moon and her father a chance to go to America. While Sterling Promise's smooth manners couldn't be more different from her own impulsive nature, Jade Moon falls in love with him on the long voyage. But America in 1923 doesn't want to admit many Chinese, and when they are detained at Angel Island, the "Ellis Island of the West," she discovers a betrayal that destroys all her dreams. To get into America, much less survive there, Jade Moon will have to use all her stubbornness and will to break a new path . . . one as brave and dangerous as only a Fire Horse girl can imagine.

Review: Jade Moon was born in the year of the Fire Horse, a cursed year for girls. Her horoscopes dictates that she will be too bold, too brash, too stubborn, and she will bring nothing but sorrow and bad luck to her family. Jade Moon unsuccessfully tries to show her family and friends that she is not cursed, but things always go wrong. When a stranger named Sterling Promise shows up at her home in China carrying papers to America with her dead uncle's picture, a plan is hatched for Jade Moon, her father, and Sterling Promise to journey to a new country. Jade Moon is fully convinced that when she goes to America, her cursed label will be forgotten and that she, for the first time, will decide on how to live her life.
  The voyage to America is nothing like what Jade Moon imagined. It is perilous as she is being forced to spend desperate months on Angel Island waiting to be approved to enter California. She is completely taken aback on how poorly Chinese immigrants are treated. As she gathers clues, Jade Moon discovers that her father and Sterling Promise are using her for their own ends, she sets out on her own.
  I got involved with the story of Jade Moon right away. I really liked her character, but after a while I thought she became too much of a caricature. There was really no balance in her personality. She was just too stubborn, impulsive, and hot tempered, but I understood her desire to branch out on her own and make her own destiny. Sterling Promise, however, didn't really make that much of an impression on me. I never really trusted him as he keenly manipulated others to get his own way. There is a lot of potential for his character to become more. There is also hint of a romance along the lines of a love/hate one between him and Jade Moon, but it didn't really develop as much as I would have liked.
  The pace of the book is somewhat uneven. The first half of the book discusses Jade Moon's life in China and the build-up of the possible journey to America. The action stalls as we are given details on the life on Angel Island, but soon picks up when Jade Moon's path diverges from those of her father and Sterling Promises. The parts where she is forced to dress up like a boy and where no one notices for quite some time as well as get involved with the gangsters in San Francisco's Chinatown requires readers to suspend their disbelief. I wish we got to see more of Jade Moon become independent, but I did like how she grew and realized that who really wants to become is inside herself and not from what society expects from her.
  There are a lot of historical details including lots of facts of prejudice and injustice inflicted upon the immigrants on Angel Island that I was unfamiliar with before reading this story. The Fire Horse Girl is a different and refreshing take on the usual immigrant story.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and mention of brothels, prostitution, and gambling. Recommended for strong Grade 7 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Flowers in the Sky by Lynn Joseph, Thief Girl by Ingrid Lee, Learning to Fly by Paul Yee
Rummanah Aasi

   I've been asked by several people of what they should pick and up read for Spring Break so I thought I would make a blog post about it. Below are some of my suggestions of books that I loved (most of them are from my pre-blogging days) as well as a little sneak peek at titles that I can't wait to get my hands on that have already been released. I hope I can find something for everyone!

My Children's Picks:

Realistic Fiction: Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass - A great fun story with food for thought that will easily appeal to both girls and boys.

Historical Fiction: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson - A very interesting look at the American Revolution and the concept of freedom. 

Fantasy: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman- No one does creepy, weird, fantastical yet rooted in real life better than Neil Gaiman. Just think of this one as a paranormal Jungle Book.

Science Fiction/Dystopia/Mystery: Double Helix by Nancy Werlin - A fast paced, thought provoking dystopian novel that is sure to hook its reader right from page one.

Steampunk: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld- A steampunk adventure set in alternative World War I that is sure to please both girls and boys. This is a trilogy- all books have been released.

Books that I can't wait to read:

One Boy:  Jack McKinley is an ordinary kid with an extraordinary problem. In a few months, he’s going to die.

One Mission: Jack needs to find seven magic loculi that, when combined, have the power to cure him.

One Problem: The loculi are the relics of a lost civilization and haven’t been seen in thousands of years.

Seven Wonders: Because they’re hidden in the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The Colossus Rises is a new series by Peter Lerangis and it is aimed towards Percy Jackson fans. I love the concept of going to the Seven Wonders of the World.

Tom is in shock. He's just discovered that his dad is an escaped fairy on the run. And that he must trust his life to three dangerous fairy godmothers he's never met. Two of them are hardened criminals, and one falls out of the window when she tries to fly . . .

Will their mad magic be enough to help Tom rescue his dad from the clutches of some killer fairies?

 Magicalamity by Kate Saunders had me at dangerous fairy godmothers!

Gorse is the thirteenth and youngest in a family of fairies tied to the evil king's land and made to do his bidding. Because of an oath made to the king's great-great-ever-so-many-times-great-grandfather, if they try to leave or disobey the royals, they will burst into a thousand stars.

When accident-prone Gorse falls ill just as the family is bid to bless the new princess, a fairytale starts to unfold. Sick as she is, Gorse races to the castle with the last piece of magic the family has left--a piece of the Thread of Life. But that is when accident, mayhem, and magic combine to drive Gorse's story into the unthinkable, threatening the baby, the kingdom, and all.
Curse of the thirteenth Fey : the true tale of Sleeping Beauty by Jane Yolen - I'm always up for a really good fairy tale retelling and this one promises to be one.

Fever Crumb is a girl who has been adopted and raised by Dr. Crumb, a member of the order of Engineers, where she serves as apprentice. In a time and place where women are not seen as reasonable creatures, Fever is an anomaly, the only female to serve in the order.
Soon though, she must say goodbye to Dr. Crumb - nearly the only person she's ever known - to assist archeologist Kit Solent on a top-secret project. As her work begins, Fever is plagued by memories that are not her own and Kit seems to have a particular interest in finding out what they are. Fever has also been singled out by city-dwellers who declare her part Scriven.

The Scriveners, not human, ruled the city some years ago but were hunted down and killed in a victorious uprising by the people. If there are any remaining Scriven, they are to be eliminated.

All Fever knows is what she's been told: that she is an orphan. Is Fever a Scriven? Whose memories does she hold? Is the mystery of Fever, adopted daughter of Dr. Crumb, the key to the secret that lies at the heart of London?

Fever Crumb is a steampunk series that I've been meaning to pick up and read. I've read nothing but rave reviews for this one.

My YA Picks:

 Complete series you should really pick up if you haven't:

  • Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare- A prequel series to the Mortal Instrument series that combines steampunk, paranormal, and the supernatural. In my opinion, I love this series so much more than the Mortal Instruments series. The first book is called Clockwork Angel.
  • Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand- I'm not a fan of angel books, but this series won me over with great writing and fabulous characters. The first book is called Unearthly
  • Summer series by Jenny Han- Though we might jumping ahead of ourselves into another season, this series is the perfect getaway read and a terrific contemporary romance series. The first book is called The Summer I Turned Pretty
Paranormal Romance: Everneath and Everbound by Brodi Ashton

Dystopian: Under the Never Sky and Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi, Unwind series by Neal Shusterman

Thriller/Suspense: Stolen by Lucy Christopher, I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Unique take on fairytales: Cinder and Scarlett by Marissa Meyer, Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott

Historical Fiction: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Books that I can't wait to read:

Jules lives with her family above their restaurant, which means she smells like pizza most of the time and drives their double-meatball-shaped food truck to school. It’s not a recipe for popularity, but she can handle that.

What she can’t handle is the recurring vision that haunts her. Over and over, Jules sees a careening truck hit a building and explode...and nine body bags in the snow.

The vision is everywhere—on billboards, television screens, windows—and she’s the only one who sees it. And the more she sees it, the more shesees. The vision is giving her clues, and soon Jules knows what she has to do. Because now she can see the face in one of the body bags, and it’s someone she knows. Someone she has been in love with for as long as she can remember.
Crash by Lisa McMann sounds like a great paranormal mystery. I absolutely loved McMann's Wake trilogy and this one seems to be just as great or even better.

The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.
  Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson - A heart-stopping romance that features death, technology, and art set in futuristic Brazil? I'm in!

My Adult Picks:

Thriller/Suspense: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, World War Z by Max Brooks, Libra by Don Delilo

Nonfiction: Bossypants by Tina Fey, Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Paranormal: Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones, Graveyard Queen series by Amanda Stevens

Contemporary Literature: The Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, About a Boy by Nick Hornby,

Books that I can't wait to read:

Orphaned at birth, seventeen-year-old Korobi Roy is the scion of a distinguished Kolkata family and has enjoyed a privileged, sheltered childhood with her adoring grandparents. But she is troubled by the silence that surrounds her parents’ death and clings fiercely to her only inheritance from them: the love note she found hidden in her mother's book of poetry. Korobi dreams of one day finding a love as powerful as her parents', and it seems her wish has come true when she meets the charming Rajat, the only son of a high-profile business family.

But shortly after their engagement, a heart attack kills Korobi's grandfather, revealing serious financial problems and a devastating secret about Korobi's past. Shattered by this discovery and by her grandparents' betrayal, Korobi undertakes a courageous search across post 9/11 America to find her true identity. Her dramatic, often startling journey will, ultimately, thrust her into the most difficult decision of her life.

Oleander's Girl by Chitra Banerjee- I love a great coming of age story. Lots of reviewers have been raving about this book.

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes- A sweeping romance that could very likely bring me to tears.

For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.

Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.

Drawing on the rich history of the twentieth century—from the late twenties to the mid-sixties—and featuring cameos from such notable characters as Joseph Kennedy and Amelia Earhart, The Aviator’s Wife is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage—revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows. With stunning power and grace, Melanie Benjamin provides new insight into what made this remarkable relationship endure.

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin- I've heard so much about Charles Lindbergh, but not much about his wife. Sounds insightful and wonderful.

What are you reading over Spring Break? What are your Spring Break recommendations?
Rummanah Aasi
  Like many libraries, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand has been extremely popular. The book has been checked out constantly, close to about 100 times the last time I checked my libraries stats. Though released in 2010, it has stayed on the New York Times Bestsellers list and has taken me three years to finally read the book.

Description: On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared--Lt. Louis Zamperini. Captured by the Japanese and driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor.

Review: Hillenbrand shifts her focus from the usual Nazi Germany focus to the horrors of WWII Japan's most brutal POW camps. With a plot so ready made for the movies, you are left astounded that this actually took place and it happened to a real person. The core of the novel is Louie Zamperini, a loveable hero that exudes charm and wit, but also is a rough around the edges. He is  a disciplined champion racer who ran in the Berlin Olympics and his love for life is cruelly tested when he becomes an Army Air Corps bombardier in 1941.
   The young Italian-American from Torrance, Calif., was expected to be the first to run a four-minute mile. After an astonishing but losing race at the 1936 Olympics, Louie was hoping for gold in the 1940 games but the war ended those dreams forever. In May 1943 his B-24 crashed into the Pacific. After a record-breaking 47 days adrift on a shark-encircled life raft with his pal and pilot, Russell Allen "Phil" Phillips, they were captured by the Japanese. In the "theater of cruelty" that was the Japanese POW camp network, Louie landed in the cruelest theaters of all: Omori and Naoetsu, under the control of Corp. Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a sadist who never killed his victims, but got pleasure out of watching them slowly suffer. With his defiant and unbreakable spirit, Louie was Watanabe's perfect target.  After two incredibly grueling years and near death, Naoetsu was liberated in mid-August 1945 and Louie was freed.
  Hillenbrand doesn't just stop writing her story when Louie was rescued from the POW camp, but she also sheds light on the aftermath of war, particularly Louie's descent toward alcohol abuse and struggling with post-traumatic syndrome. For me, I was more interested in the second half of the book rather than the first. The first half started a bit slowly for me, but soon took off once the preparation for WW II began. I couldn't help but cringe and put the book down the torture in the POW camps became too much. The second half  digs a little deeper into Louie's psyche and troubles, reminding us that is just like any other fallible human being.
  Unbroken is unlike many WW II books that I've read in that it doesn't categorize its self as a history book, but crosses genres of survival literature and biography. It is a story of heroism, cruelty, life, death, joy, suffering, remorselessness, and redemption. It's a book that you don't want to miss.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language and graphic description of torture and abuse in prison war camps. Recommended for mature teens interested and adults interested in survival stories, World War II, and history.

If you like this book try: Devil at My Heels: A Heroic Olympian's Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese POW in World War II by Lost in Shangri-la by In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by
Rummanah Aasi
 Everneath by Brodi Ashton was my favorite paranormal romance read and one of my favorite debuts from 2012. While weaving familiar Greek myths into its overall plot arc, it brought a refreshing story to a genre that is usually filled with cookie-cutter character and plots. I have been looking forward to reading Everbound as soon as I finished the last page of Everneath and thankfully, it did not disappoint. Please be aware that Everbound has spoilers from the ending of Everneath but no spoilers from Everbound. Read at your own risk.  

Description (from Goodreads): Nikki Beckett could only watch as her boyfriend, Jack, sacrificed himself to save her, taking her place in the Tunnels of the Everneath for eternity — a debt that should’ve been hers. She’s living a borrowed life, and she doesn’t know what to do with the guilt. And every night Jack appears in her dreams, lost and confused and wasting away.
   Desperate for answers, Nikki turns to Cole, the immortal bad boy who wants to make her his queen — and the one person least likely to help. But his heart has been touched by everything about Nikki, and he agrees to assist her in the only way he can: by taking her to the Everneath himself.
  Nikki and Cole descend into the Everneath, only to discover that their journey will be more difficult than they’d anticipated — and more deadly. But Nikki vows to stop at nothing to save Jack — even if it means making an incredible sacrifice of her own.

Review:  On a very rare occasion the second book in a series, generally a trilogy, surpasses the first book. Everbound is an excellent example of this. The book picks up a short time after Everneath finishes and moves the story to its suspenseful climax. Everbound doges the pitfalls of middle book syndrome effortlessly and reassure its readers that they are in for an enthralling read. Ashton hones her skills as a writer. The story line is more focused and the flashbacks used in the story are integrated and allow to show relationship development while moving the plot along, but most importantly there is significant and evident character growth and relationships are solidified . Although the plot of Everbound is very simple, but it isn't under any circumstances boring. I was sucked in right away from the beginning and could not put the book down.
  Once again I found the incorporation of mythological ideas and metaphors that play a substantial role in the story to be absolutely captivating. Our return to the Everneath is vividly brought to life as we get to visit the actual realms of the Underworld and witness first hand of its dangerous allure. The world-building, albeit still unfinished in places, is completely original and I'm very excited to see it complete in the final installment.
  Nikki proves to be an admirable character. Though wrecked with guilt over Jack's current fate, she allows her time to wallow, but is soon spurred to action to save him rather than mope and circle into a fetal position. Her fidelity and feelings for Jack are true and drives her to take action. I absolutely loved how Ashton took advantage of flashbacks and memories to not only get us glimpses of Jack but further show how Nikki and Jack's relationship developed over time. I thought this approach to be refreshing instead of just telling the reader how much they loved one another.
  As I mentioned, Jack isn't fully present in the story as much as we like, but his absence allows us to see how Cole and Nikki interact with each other. Some readers have mentioned that there is a love triangle in this trilogy but I would argue there really isn't one. Nikki is very much decided on Jack, but it's difficult to ignore Cole’s role in the plot and his apparent feelings for Nikki. Though Jack’s presence is realized in dreams, Everbound essentially gives us an opportunity for Cole and Nikki to draw closer together. Cole is a still a character that is hard to define. Intriguing, enigmatic, alluring, and dangerous, Cole is brilliantly developed. He manipulates emotions, those of Nikki and of us as readers, to make us see him in different lights.
 Everbound nicely plays on the heartstrings. We have several heartbreakingly emotional scenes give the romantic plot some appropriate substance, as do a few cheerier flashbacks. We know that Nikki's goal seems impossible, but we can't help but root for her. Her passion and determination are genuine. Just when we think there may be a happily ever after on the horizon for our hero and heroine, a cliffhanger ending- so perfectly shocking that me wonder how I completely overlooked the steps that lead to it- temporarily closes our story. Without a doubt, I am anxiously waiting for the final book to come out.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, underage drinking, and some disturbing images. Recommended for strong Grades 8 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman, Abandon by Meg Cabot, Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
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. Normally I get manga recommendations from friends or what's been popular in libraries. I stumbled upon Boys Over Flowers when I was listening to segment on NPR called "You Must Read This". This short piece caught my attention and I had to find out why it was so strongly recommended. Boys Over Flowers is one of the best selling shojo manga series of all time in Japan and it has been adapted into dramas and animes in Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. Thankfully, the series is now complete so I don't have to wait to see how it ends!

Description (from the book's panel): Tsukushi continues to fight back against the F4 and protect an old friend who has also been given the infamous "red flag." Rui's old flame returns from France. Can Tsukushi really compete with this "perfect girl"? Meanwhile Tsukushi's resistance to the F4 seems like it might actually work.

Review: In the second volume of Boys over Flowers, the relationship triangle that will move this series forward is starting to quickly take form. Tsukushi has developed a crush on Rui, the quiet and most unlike of the stuck-up and hormone-driven of the F4 group who has saved her from humiliation more than once. I like Rui so far. He really reminds me of Jordan Catalano from My So-Called Life, the misunderstood slacker who has so many mysteries behind his gorgeous eyes. Like our heroine, I want to know more about him.
  Under the pretense that Rui would attend a party, Tsukushi allows herself to get excited to attend a party hosted by the richest kids of her school, but soon she realizes that she was only invited to serve as live entertainment as the mean girls publicly belittle her and dump champagne over her head. Instead of running away crying, Tskushi holds her ground and fights back with her words and calls out on the mean girls snarky  and earns our support more than ever.
  Interesting developments happen the next day where Tsukushi finds out that Rui is in love Shizuka, his childhood best friend who has become an extremely popular model that is returning to Japan after a photo shoot in France. Tsukushi is very much aware that can not compete with Shizuka's beauty, popularity, nor social status yet a small part of her hopes that Rui feels something toward her. It's pretty evident that Shizuka only loves Rui as a brother, but maybe it's just me having wishful thinking as I think Tsukushi and Rui would make a great couple.
   Things get more dicey as we find out that Domyoji starts to have feelings toward Tsukushi. He is completely confused and fascinated by her as she is the first girl who calls him out on being a jerk. He tries to win her over by changing his appearance such as straightening his curly hair thinking Tsukushi would see him differently. I'm sure there is more to Domyoji's character than being a clueless jerk. You do see glimpses of her vulnerability and he clearly uses his anger as a defense mechanism. He definitely has a hot temper that gets him in trouble especially when it involves Tsukushi. For example, Domyoji gets jealous and angry at anyone (particularly if it's a boy) who gets close to Tsukushi. He blindly hands out a red slip to the new boy in school. That new boy is actually Kazuya, an old optimistic, yet clueless childhood buddy of Tsukushi who harbors a crush on her. He even has a huge fight with Rui when Rui refuses to join in the bullying. 
   The volume ends on a very interesting incident as Domyoji over hears Tsukushi's Spring Break plan of meeting up with Kazuya at Atami and decides to vacation there as well. Needless to say Tsukushi and Razuya are less than thrilled when they notices Domyoji and the F4 clan. Tsukushi is stunned when Shizuka offers her to join their party and realizes that she really is genuinely nice to let Tsukushi borrow her clothes and help her get dressed up. Suddenly an announcement is made that the lights will be off and everyone needs to choose a person to kiss. The person who kisses Tsukushi is who we do not expect! I'm really curious to see what Tsukushi's reaction will be in the next volume.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language in this volume. Recommended for teens and up.

If you like this book try: Boys Over Flowers Vol. 3 by Yoko Kamio, Ouran High School Host Club by Bistco Hatori, Kodocha by Miho Obana, Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances by Masami Tsuda
Rummanah Aasi
  Scent of Magic is the second book in the Healer/Avry of Kazan series by Maria V. Snyder. Since I enjoyed the first book, I was really happy to find the second book on Netgalley. Many thanks for the publisher and Netgalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this book. Scent of Magic has already been released and is now available at a library/bookstore near you.

Description (from Goodreads): Hunted, Killed—Survived?

As the last Healer in the Fifteen Realms, Avry of Kazan is in a unique position: in the minds of her friends and foes alike, she no longer exists. Despite her need to prevent the megalomanical King Tohon from winning control of the Realms, Avry is also determined to find her sister and repair their estrangement. And she must do it alone, as Kerrick, her partner and sole confident, returns to Alga to summon his country into battle.
  Though she should be in hiding, Avry will do whatever she can to support Tohon’s opponents. Including infiltrating a holy army, evading magic sniffers, teaching forest skills to soldiers and figuring out how to stop Tohon’s most horrible creations yet; an army of the walking dead—human and animal alike and nearly impossible to defeat.
  War is coming and Avry is alone. Unless she figures out how to do the impossible ... again.

Review: Scent of Magic picks up right where Touch of Power leaves off. Though the author does provide a good recap of what previously happened, I would still recommend reading Touch of Power to get a good sense of the characters and the world building. Avry and Kerrick are together, but their friends and enemies think she is dead. Using the advantage of her rumored death, Avry impersonates a soldier, infiltrates and teaches the High Priestess Estrid’s army how to move silently through the forest undetected while trying to get close to her estranged sister. Meanwhile, Kerrick leaves to warn his own kingdom of Tolon's threat and sets off on his own adventures.
  Scent of Magic tries hard to avoid the middle book syndrome, but doesn't quite succeed. There are tons of new characters introduced and a new game plan is set to avoid the potential catastrophe of the incredibly evil Tolon's army. Tolon as you may recall is a magician who has the ability to awaken and control the dead. The book's structure is quite strange. Each single chapter is divided into Avry's and Kerrick's point of view. Avry's parts of the story were more enjoyable because I really like her character plus we also get to spend time with our great secondary characters. (As a side note, Snyder is only of the few authors that I've read who creates fantastic secondary characters that you love just as much as you love the main leads.) Kerrick's point of view, however, didn't really have much excitement. While the author does try to put his best characteristics forward, Kerrick does absolutely nothing for me. Can you believe that I wouldn't really mind it if there was a love triangle in this series?
  In addition to the clunky structure, I felt the plot twists were a bit too convenient and easy to figure out. Instead of being completely surprised, I thought they were anticlimactic, especially with the rushed and melodramatic cliffhanger ending. Some events such as the meeting between Avry and her long lost sister happened too quickly than I would have liked. Also Tolon unfortunately changed from a formidable and unpredictable villain to a complete moron. I was really embarrassed for him.    

  While Scent of Magic is a bit disappointing, I'm still curious to see how Avry's journey ends. I do like and care for the majority of the characters enough to see this series ending. 

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, disturbing images, and sexual situations. Recommended for teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: The Shifter by Janice Hardy, Study series by Maria V. Snyder, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Fire by Kristin Cashore, Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Rummanah Aasi

   Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine for bloggers to share upcoming titles that we just can't wait to read. I've found some great reads from following this meme so I thought I'd join in the fun!

I can't wait to read these upcoming books:

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
Publishing date according to Goodreads is: March 26th by St. Martin's press

Summary courtesy of Goodreads: I wish I could tell everyone who thinks we’re ruined, Look closer…and you’ll see something extraordinary, mystifying, something real and true. We have never been what we seemed.
  When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the “ungettable” Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn’t wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner’s, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.
   What comes, here at the dawn of the Jazz Age, is unimagined attention and success and celebrity that will make Scott and Zelda legends in their own time. Everyone wants to meet the dashing young author of the scandalous novel—and his witty, perhaps even more scandalous wife. Zelda bobs her hair, adopts daring new fashions, and revels in this wild new world. Each place they go becomes a playground: New York City, Long Island, Hollywood, Paris, and the French Riviera—where they join the endless party of the glamorous, sometimes doomed Lost Generation that includes Ernest Hemingway, Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gertrude Stein.
   Everything seems new and possible. Troubles, at first, seem to fade like morning mist. But not even Jay Gatsby’s parties go on forever. Who is Zelda, other than the wife of a famous—sometimes infamous—husband? How can she forge her own identity while fighting her demons and Scott’s, too? With brilliant insight and imagination, Therese Anne Fowler brings us Zelda’s irresistible story as she herself might have told it.

The Game (Jasper Dent #2) by Barry Lyga
Publishing date according to Goodreads is April 16th by Little, Brown Young Readers

Summary courtesy of Goodreads: I Hunt Killers introduced the world to Jasper (Jazz) Dent, the son of the world's most infamous serial killer.
  When a desperate New York City detective comes knocking on Jazz's door asking for help with a new case, Jazz can't say no. The Hat-Dog Killer has the Big Apple--and its police force running scared with no leads. So Jazz and his girlfriend Connie hop on a plane to the big city and get swept up in a killer's murderous game.

Meanwhile, Jazz's dad Billy is watching...and waiting.

  It's very rare that I get excited about an upcoming adult book, but I'm very curious to read about Zelda Fitzgerald since she was indisputably present in some form or another in F. Scott Fitgerarld's work. I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga is a book that I thought I would never like but it sucked me in right away, gave me restless sleep, and yet I still want to learn more about Jasper and his scheming ways. What are you waiting for this week?
Rummanah Aasi
   Erica Lorraine Scheidt's debut novel, Uses for Boys, is not a book that everyone will like, but I think it is important to know about. With a deceiving book cover and synopsis, book is much more serious than it appears. This review is based on the advanced readers copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley (Thank you!).

Description: Anna remembers a time before boys, when she was little and everything made sense. When she and her mom were a family, just the two of them against the world. But now her mom is gone most of the time, chasing the next marriage, bringing home the next stepfather. Anna is left on her own—until she discovers that she can make boys her family. From Desmond to Joey, Todd to Sam, Anna learns that if you give boys what they want, you can get what you need. But the price is high—the other kids make fun of her; the girls call her a slut. Anna's new friend, Toy, seems to have found a way around the loneliness, but Toy has her own secrets that even Anna can't know.
   Then comes Sam. When Anna actually meets a boy who is more than just useful, whose family eats dinner together, laughs, and tells stories, the truth about love becomes clear. And she finally learns how it feels to have something to lose—and something to offer.

Review: Uses for Boys is a haunting, unflinching, dark, and honest portrayal of a young girl's silent call for help. Anna Bloom and her mother are everything to each other, for a limited time. Anna observes her mother falling for one man after the next, leaving young Anna alone for extended periods of time and marrying and divorcing in a vicious cycle. Without any parental or adult guidance and observing her mother's appalling behavior, Anna begins to understand what she seems to be missing can be solved with getting boy's attention. She starts to look to boys in order to define her own self-worth, and she mistakenly equates sex with love and intimacy.
  Anna loses her virginity at age 14, and by 16, she has dropped from school and moved in with Joey, a boy she feels who take care of her and she of him. Many readers have noted their levels of uneasiness while reading the book since it has a very strong sexual content, but I think that's the very point of the book. In Uses for Boys, sex is treated without any romantic notions but it's mechanical. For Anna, having sex is equivalent to a hug or even having a deeply shared discussion. There is desperation in Anna's need for sex and in her need to mold boyfriends into the family she never had. Her loneliness is palpable and she is without a doubt lost in every sense of the word.
  Anna's voice is very clear throughout the book. She wears her emotions like piece of clothing, which she is ready to take off at the drop of a hat. Our heart aches as Anna is abandoned again and again throughout the story. We can finally breathe a sigh of relief when she does finally find her first friend and a boy who seems to really take care of her.
  Scheidt could have easily spiraled into preachy territory many times in the book especially where teen pregnancy and sexual assault are brought up, but she never does. Though the issues are serious to us, readers, they don't hold importance in the novel because Anna either can't understand their significance nor has anyone to share her concerns with.
 Though short in pages, Uses for Boys is an emotionally exhausted but hopeful read. Scheidt's spare, honest and poetic debut offers up pretty images for some decidedly ugly situation. The prose seems to be more heavy on the lyrical side yet it doesn't detract much from Anna's journey which is unfortunately very common. Uses for Boys is a book that I think most readers would enjoy reading due to its frank discussion of teen sexuality, but I found it worthwhile and it gave me lots to think about. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy hard hitting realistic fiction.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong sexual content, explicit at times, throughout the novel. There is also a scene of sexual assault. Strong language as well as underage drinking and drug use are also found in the book. Recommended for mature teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: Tilt by Ellen Hopkins, Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr, Loose Girl by Kerry Cohen
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. Vampire Knight is one of my favorite manga series. Getting each new volume of the manga is like watching a new episode of your favorite TV show. Hino has hinted that the series will come to a close soon. I have so many theories on how the story will end, some of which I like more than others. I'm excited to see how this popular series ends and whether or not a third season of the anime will be in works.

Description (from the back cover): The Night Class is back in session, but Yuki finds herself quickly becoming second fiddle to Sara Shirabuki. With Kaname gone, Yuki is now desperate for blood, so Zero offers hers his own. Will she break her promise to Kaname and drink from Zero?

Review: Full of action and teasers, Volume 16 of Vampire Knight moves the plot forward but leaves its readers with lots of questions. Kaname is still missing, but we have come to learn that he is on a mission to annihilate all pureblood vampires. The only question we have is: why? Why take this drastic step? What possibly could he achieve by killing other purebloods and what does this mean for Yuki now that she is one? From previous volumes, we have been accustomed to Kaname's strange, ambiguous plans. They are never straightforward as they seem.
  Meanwhile Yuki is having trouble in embracing her leadership role. While she has lost a popular election to Sara Shirabuki as class president, Yuki is appointed by Sara to do the busy work of overlooking the Night Class. Not only is Yuki trying her best to keep the Night Class under control, she is also struggling to make sense of her attraction to Zero. Though they both have claimed to cut ties with one another, it is evident that they both share strong feelings that they refuse to admit. The panels featuring Zero and Yuki alone are my favorite to read as their tension flies off the page.
  As much as I like trying to sort out the very tangled love triangle in this series, the person who stole the spotlight in this volume is Sara Shirabuki. Quiet, creepy, and extremely cunning Sara has managed to take control of both vampires and humans by creating tablets that are made using her blood. When vampires and humans take these "new and expertly" designed tablets, they become addicted to the blood and compelled by Sara to do what she wills. The only way to defeat these tablets is to come another pureblood vampire's blood. Like many other villains in the Vampire Knight series, Sara also has ulterior motives. She has convinced Zero to be on her side by whispering some of "Kaname's secrets." I'm anxiously awaiting the release of Volume 17 to see what Sara told Zero and what will happen if Kaname does return.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong violent scenes in the book. Recommended for teens and up.

If you like this book try: Vampire Knight Volume 17 by Matsuri Hino, Black Bird series by Millennium Snow series by Bisco Hatori
Rummanah Aasi
  It seems apropos to read a title called Biting Cold after getting over five inches of snow yesterday. I picked up the book in while waiting to get my hands on a copy of the latest book in the Chicagoland Vampires series, House Rules. Unfortunately, my streak of bad reading experiences continues. Instead of being a great read, Biting Cold was a biting dud. 

Description (from Goodreads): Turned into a vampire against her will, twenty-eight-year-old Merit found her way into the dark circle of Chicago’s vampire underground, where she learned there was more to supernaturals than met the eye—and more supernaturals than the public ever imagined.And not all the secrets she learned were for sharing—among humans or inhumans. Now Merit is on the hunt, charging across the stark American Midwest, tailing a rogue supernatural intent on stealing an ancient artifact that could unleash catastrophic evil on the world. But Merit is also the prey. An enemy of Chicagoland is hunting her, and he’ll stop at nothing to get the book for himself. No mercy allowed. No rules apply. No lives spared. The race is on.

Review: After having mixed feelings about Drink Deep, I was really looking forward to reading Biting Cold, the sixth book in the Chicagoland Vampire series. Unfortunately, Biting Cold didn't meet my expectations and for me, it lacked excitement and humor unlike the first four books in this series. Instead of filling in the plot holes and making sense of the illogical plot developments of Drink Deep, Biting Cold pretty much ignores them and focuses its attention to a new mystery revolving around the shady, mysterious, and powerful former mayor of Chicago, Seth Tate. Normally, I would have welcomed a new mystery with this story but I was left with so many questions after Drink Deep that I wanted answers and explanations. The explanations that we received just seem to patted down and well, anti-climatic after a huge ordeal in book four which left the fans of this series stunned.
  Though we are introduced to a new paranormal/supernatural creatures in this book, I felt myself losing interest with this book quickly and honestly, Seth Tate isn't really a fascinating character. Everything about Biting Cold felt repetitive. The sexual tension between Ethan and Merit which drives this series became dull and annoying. I couldn't help but roll my eyes and say, "Really?! We're going back to this after all that you both have gone through?" Ethan is as infuriating as ever and I wanted to hit him upside the head several times.
  As much as I like hanging around Ethan and Merit, I wanted to get back to the crew of awesome secondary characters. While they do make an appearance, their absence is well noted. Biting Cold does leave us with some questions as to what will happen with the political structure for the vampire houses. Even though I'm still curious to see what happens next in the series, I can wait a bit longer to read the next book. It just a shame to see a series that I really like take a nose dive. I really hope House Rules makes up for the last two books. Perhaps I should lower my expectations, but I'm sad to say that I'm just not as excited about this series as I use to be. 

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There some language and a small sex scene. Recommended to mature teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: House Rules (Chicagoland Vampires #7) by Chloe Neill, Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter, Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs, Greywalker by Kat Richardson
Rummanah Aasi
   Looking for some books to pick up and read during Spring Break? You might want to consider reading Maureen Johnson's fun and charming, Suite Scarlett.

Description (from Goodreads): Scarlett Martin has grown up in a most unusual way. Her family owns the Hopewell, a small Art Deco hotel in the heart of New York City. When each of the Martins turns fifteen, they are expected to take over the care of a suite. For Scarlett's fifteenth birthday, she gets both a room called the Empire Suite and a permanent guest named Mrs. Amberson. Scarlett doesn't quite know what to make of this C-list starlet and world traveler.
  And when she meets Eric, an astonishingly gorgeous actor who has just moved to the city, her summer takes a second unexpected turn. Before the summer is over, Scarlett will have to survive a whirlwind of thievery and romantic missteps. But in the city where anything can happen, she just might be able to pull it off.

Review: Suite Scarlett is a cute and fun read. Scarlett's family operates and lives in a rundown art deco hotel in Manhattan. Scarlett's sister's cancer treatments have drained the family's finances and so when the Martin children turn 15, they inherit a suite in the family's small Manhattan hotel and a job: to take care of the rooms and their occupant. On Scarlett's 15th birthday, a mysterious and affluent woman named Amy Amberson sweeps into the suite that Scarlett has just inherited. Mrs. Amberson claims that she wants to write about her life and hires Scarlett to be her assistant.
   Mrs. Amberson can be demanding and brash, but she does have her charms and a weird sense of humor. Scarlett's job changes on a whim when Mrs. Amberson decides to help fund the theater troupe that Scarlett's brother is involved in put on Hamlet. The financial support is actually a cover up for a revenge plan that Mrs. Amberson concocts to get back at an actress who she claims has stolen the spotlight role that belonged to her. Meanwhile Scarlett begins a romance with one of the actors. Once the play begins, everything starts to go awry. Mrs. Amberson abandons ship leaving more Scarlett in charge and left to save the play, sort out her own confusing romance along with troubles of financing the family business, and sibling rivalry.
   I adored Scarlett and loved her dry humor which Johnson does so well. I also loved how family is important to the overall plot as well as to Scarlett's character development. She loves her family and her siblings, which is shows in their interactions and dialogue exchanges. I just wished the book would stay focused. The side plots of  the play, the revenge scheme, Scarlett's romance, the hotel and family messiness were a bit too much to keep track of. There were also some scenes that were really far fetched and hard to believe especially when Mrs. Amberson and her foe have their show-down which I thought was resolved a bit too neatly.
  Overall I found Suite Scarlett to be an enjoyable book that I would recommend to readers looking for a light and fun book. I think it would be especially enjoyed during spring break and/or summer vacation.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: Mrs. Amberson provides alcohol to the cast and to the theatergoers.Other than that, the book is relatively clean. Recommended for strong Grade 7 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Scarlett Fever (Scarlett #2) by Maureen Johnson,  Dramarama by E. Lockhart, Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle
Rummanah Aasi
   Once again I was swept away with high recommendations and hype over a book. In this case the book is Marie Lu's Legend. I know many people who really enjoyed or loved this book, but I thought the book was just okay and really didn't offer anything new or exciting since the last YA dystopian book published. 

Description (from Goodreads): What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.
   From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Review: Legend is your usual concoction of YA dystopian tropes along with a dash of forbidden romance, some adventure and intrigue. Just avoid my big mistake in reading the inner panel of the book where the virtually the entire plot is written out and spoiled for you.
 Our heroine is named June, an exceptionally gifted prodigy who is being groomed to become a military star a la Ender in Enders Game by Orson Scott Card. When her brother is mysteriously and senselessly murdered, she embarks on a mission to find his killer. All signs point to one person, a boy named Day, a notrious criminal who is already wanted by the Republic. 
  While I thought both both June and Day were likable characters, I didn't really find anything that would set them apart from the other numerous YA dystopian characters that I've met. Sure, they had moments that made me smile and root for them, but ultimately I thought their cat and mouse chase as well as their insta-romance happened just a little too conveniently for me. I actually wanted to learn more about the big mystery behind why the government is so interested in Day's brother. While there are some great action scenes in the book and the pace moves rather quickly, I grew bored with the book since the plot was incredibly predictable. There is absolutely no fun in seeing where the plot goes where you already know what will happen before the characters do. Legend reads like a first book since there really aren't enough answers found and the world building is very weak.
  Though Legend is probably one of the better YA dystopians released and it does have its entertaining moments, I wanted something with a bit more depth and originality. Since I didn't feel compelled to see where these characters go in the story, I don't plan on continuing with the series. I would, however, recommend this series to readers who are looking for another series to tie them over to the film release of Catching Fire.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and violence. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu, Article 5 by Kristen Summons, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Roar by Emma Clayton
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