Rummanah Aasi

Description: When geek girl Elle Wittimer sees a cosplay contest sponsored by the producers of Starfield, she has to enter. First prize is an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. Elle’s been scraping together tips from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother’s back, and winning this contest could be her ticket out once and for all—not to mention a fangirl’s dream come true.
  Teen actor Darien Freeman is less than thrilled about this year’s ExcelsiCon. He used to live for conventions, but now they’re nothing but jaw-aching photo sessions and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Federation Prince Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the die hard Starfield fandom has already dismissed him as just another heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, closet nerd Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

Review: Geekerella is a thoroughly enjoyable Cinderella retelling with a fandom/geek culture twist. Elle Wittimer is unhappy with her social climbing stepmother and her Kardashian-like stepsisters. Elle seeks solace in participating in the cult television show Starfield, which she shared with her deceased father. To Elle Starfield is more than just a show, it is a way of life. Disappointed that her beloved television show's film reboot will not do its fans justice, Elle anonymously blogs about the show and has expressed her lack of faith in Darien Freeman, the Hollywood heartthrob who's been cast as Prince Carmindor in an upcoming film adaptation.
 Meanwhile Darien is tired of playing the next Hollywood heart throb where his showing off his chiseled and insured abs get much more attention than his acting skills. Secretly, Darien grew up loving Darien grew up loving SF conventions and Starfield but has avoided them since his uncomfortable ascension to the "it list." When Darien is blindsided in participating in ExcelsiCon, a convention filled with Starfield fans, he tries to back out and begins texting an unknown number linked to the convention founder, which happens to be Elle.
  I adored both Elle's and Darien's point of views. Each character had their own distinct voices and their points of views allowed the characters to unveil their flaws and weaknesses. Their anonymous text-based romance was super cute and allowed them to be themselves before the big reveal. In addition to the main characters, I also loved Sage, Elle's first real friend/coworker at a vegan food truck who was unabashedly herself. I found Calliope, one of Elle's stepsister intriguing, but wished her character was more fleshed out. I appreciated that Elle's stepfamily is complex.
 The book hits on all the necessary fairy tale plot points from the pumpkin carriage to the dress and to finding out the real Elle. The author does a fabulous job in explaining the phenomenon of fan culture especially from the perspective of a fan as one trying to find their right niche and where everyone is welcomed. She also takes a critical view of fandom from looking at the actor's perspective and how far fans are willing to go to meet their favorite characters. Overall, Geekerella is the perfect book to kick off your summer. It's hip with today's social media, full of laughs and warmth, but most importantly it will give you feel good vibes when you are finished. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some minor language and scenes of underage drinking. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde, The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash, The Only Thing Worse than Me is You by Lily Anderson, and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Jeremiah is the world’s biggest baseball fan. He really loves baseball and he knows just about everything there is to know about his favorite sport. So when he’s told he can’t play baseball following an operation on his heart, Jeremiah decides he’ll do the next best thing and become a coach.
  Hillcrest, where Jeremiah and his father Walt have just moved, is a town known for its championship baseball team. But Jeremiah finds the town caught up in a scandal and about ready to give up on baseball. It’s up to Jeremiah and his can-do spirit to get the town – and the team – back in the game.

Review: Soar is a fun book that combines sports, friendship, and hardships with a resilient and inspiration main character. Jeremiah has been through and continues to have obstacles in his way. He was abandoned as a baby, but adopted by a loving and adoring single father. Jeremiah lives and breathes baseball and dreams of one day to become a professional baseball player. His dreams, however, are shattered when he is diagnosed with a severe heart condition, had to get a heart implant at just 12 years old, and has to avoid any and all activities that requires his heart to pump faster. It is very easy to Jeremiah to pout and sulk about his limitations, but always takes things in stride. Soon after he and his single father move to a town that is something of a baseball capital, the entire community is shaken by the death of a beloved school baseball player-and a town scandal that is revealed in the aftermath.
 Jeremiah finds himself playing the sport that he loves-just not as a player but as a coach and instilling pride and motivation into bringing baseball back to the local middle school, reviving a lackluster team, and ends up stealing the hearts of the entire town. It is hard to not like Jeremiah as his enthusiasm and charm are contagious. I just would have liked to get to know more back story to the secondary characters such as Franny and her autistic brother. Overall, Soar is a great summer read with the baseball season underway and will be enjoyed by sports fans and non-sport fans alike.

Rating: 4 stars 

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

If you like this book try: New Kid by Tim Green, The Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles, The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochran
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.
Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past.
  When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

Review: If you are looking for a romance that has depth then I would highly suggest picking up Letters to the Lost. Despite its heavy topics and angst, what sets this book apart from other heavy issue driven romances are the great, full dimensional characters.
 Declan and Juliet are two teens that live in two separate social circles at school. Declan is the notorious bad boy with a "I hate the world and the world hates me" attitude. He is quick to lash out and act out, mainly because that is what people expect him to do and he uses his anger as a shield to protect himself. Declan is a prickly character at first glance but once we get to know his real side his actions become understandable. Like Declan, Juliet is also hot tempered and gives the air of a prima donna who seems to have everything at her finger tips. She is working her way through her loss of her famous mother who is a photographer and whom Juliet idolizes. The author does a fabulous job describing Juliet's grief by commenting on the photographs her mother took which revealed both devastation and hope in a single picture. What neither Declan nor Juliet knows is that they both share a connection of grief, guilt, and loss of a loved one and it is that connection that brings them together as they swamp anonymous letters and emails.
  I loved how the book used the pen pal narrative structure in this book. As Declan and Juliet exchange letters and emails, they allow each other to be vulnerable, honest, and most importantly flawed. It is through these various communications that we see their character and relationship grow whether it is each individual recognizing they are being judgemental or irrational or encouraging each other to step outside of their comfort zone and do something that scares them. Essentially, without realizing it Declan and Juliet become each others confidant and support network making their relationship more intimate. I know some readers have argued that there is hardly any romance in the book since there isn't a lot of physical contact between Decland and Juliet, but I would disagree. I liked how their relationship was built emotionally first and physically second. While Declan and Juliet could have found out a lot sooner about their pen pal identities I appreciated that they didn't reveal themselves until they were ready. 
 I also appreciated that the adults in the story also played an important role. Declan's mother and his stepfather shape Declan's behavior patterns. Declan's mother is passive and childlike yet is desperate to reconnect with her son and let go of guilt that also plagues her. Declan's stepfather also expects the worst of Declan, but he does truly care for his family. Similarly, Juliet's father seems to be the bubbling ordinary man but hides a quiet inner strength and her mother who in Juliet's eyes is perfect in every way imaginable is just human. In addition to the fleshed out adult characters, I absolutely loved Declan's best friend Rev who is always by his side and tells Declan frankly when he is being a jerk. Rev has a rough back story, but I'm sure he will also have a hopeful ending too in his own companion novel.
 Don't let the angst stop you from picking up this book. This book grabbed my attention right from its opening paragraph and I had a very hard time putting it down. As much as I loved Kemmerer's Elemental series and the Merrick brothers, Letters to the Lost is her best book so far. The book is very likely to be on my best book list for this year.

Rating: 4.5 stars

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

If you like this book try: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Rummanah Aasi



  Last year I composed a summer reading list for myself to help me work through my TBR pile. I had great success with the list and ended up finishing about 80% of the books on the list! I am hoping that I will as successful or even more so this summer. Here is my list in no particular order.


Adult


A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab - I really enjoyed the first two books in the Darker Shade of Magic series (reviews coming soon!) and I can't wait to see how this series wraps up.

The Others series by Anne Bishop - An urban fantasy series that all of my trusted blogger friends have loved.

A Man Called Ove by Frederik Brackman - A contemporary title that has been recommended to be by coworkers and students at my library.



YA


Again I had the hardest time with creating this portion of my list!

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas- I have read nothing but rave reviews for this book.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli- I loved Simon vs. the Homosapien Agenda and I'm really looking forward to this companion novel.

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas - I was completely sucked into this fantasy series especially with the epic cliffhanger in the second book. I have avoided reviews and spoilers of this book. I can't wait to dive in and see what happens next.

The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah- This is timely contemporary that has been on my radar ever since it was a tiny blurb.


Middle Grade/Childrens


Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh- A collection of diverse stories that has received awesome reviews.

Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail- A contemporary retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac that sounds super cute.

Dark Prophecy (Trials of Apollo #2) by Rick Riordan - Of course summer would not be complete without a book by Rick Riordian!



This is just a small sampling of book that are on my reading list. I'm hoping to tackle these before I attend the ALA Annual Conference in June where I'm sure I will get a ton of galleys that I will also add to the list. Have you read any of these titles? If so, what did you think of them? What is on your summer reading list? Let know in the comments below!
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Attacked and abducted in her home territory, Mercy finds herself in the clutches of the most powerful vampire in the world, taken as a weapon to use against alpha werewolf Adam and the ruler of the Tri-Cities vampires. In coyote form, Mercy escapes only to find herself without money, without clothing, and alone in the heart of Europe.
  Unable to contact Adam and the rest of the pack, Mercy has allies to find and enemies to fight, and she needs to figure out which is which. Ancient powers stir, and Mercy must be her agile best to avoid causing a war between vampires and werewolves, and between werewolves and werewolves. And in the heart of the ancient city of Prague, old ghosts rise.

Review: With ten books in the series, the Mercy Thompson series is still going strong. Silence Fallen is different than the earlier books in the series but it still maintains it trademark action, humor, romance, and suspense. Unlike the other books in the series, Silence Fallen primarily takes place in Europe and it was fun to step outside the Tri-Cities. Briggs does a good job in providing enough details about the new setting's history and folklore to make the countries come alive. I'm being vague on purpose as to avoid spoilers.
 Silence Fallen refers to Mercy's removal from her pack and from Adam. While I missed several my favorite pack members, it was nice to get Mercy on her own. This book really examined Mercy's fear of abandonment and showed how incredibly resourceful she is as a survival. Where many of us would cry and given in to our fears, Mercy doesn't have many "woe is me" moments but rather keeps a cool head and thinks things through rationally although she may not necessarily have control as to what comes her way.
Silence Fallen also has a different narrative structure than the other Mercy books. The story is told in two different timelines and switches point of views between Mercy and Adam. Mercy is still written in the first person point of view whereas Adam's point of view is written in the third person. While I understood the rationale of having two timelines I felt it disrupted the story for me mainly because the chapters for Mercy were a bit too long and then it would quickly switch to Adam's timeline. Had the chapters been a bit shorter it might have flowed better. The other thing that was jarring for me was Adam's point of view being written in the third person, which made it less intimate. While his perspective was a nice surprise and added to the story, I would have liked to get inside his head a bit more. It was also nice to get back to the vampires. I forgot how tricky they can be! Overall, Silence Fallen is another great installment of the Mercy Thompson series.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong violence and some language. Suitable for mature teen readers and adults.

If you like this book try: Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs, Kate Daniel series by Ilona Andrews, Others series by Anne Bishop
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.
  Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.


Review: The best way I could describe The Bone Witch would be a mash-up between fantasy and Memoirs of a Geisha. While an original concept, I had a really hard time getting into this book. It read as a very long prologue as this is clearly the first book in a series. 
 Tea is an asha, known for performing, fighting, and magic. Ashas are revered for their talents yet treated as outcasts and feared by their kingdoms. Tea stumbles upon being an asha when she accidentally raises her dead brother Fox. The narrative is split into two timelines. The past timeline details Tea’s early training as an asha and the future timeline shows a hardened, cynical Tea on a lonely beach raising monsters and planning war, relating her past to a nameless bard. I didn't mind the back and forth timelines as they were easily to distinguish the two and I also found the world building confusing but fascinating as the author combines several Asian influences into her book. I also liked the concept surrounding the heartglass which dictates a person's emotions and intentions. 
  The book is very slow pace and I mostly skimmed much of it as it could not hold my attention. We are told in the beginning about a dark force descending upon Tea's people, however, we don't hear of it until the last 100 pages in the story where all the action seemed to happen all at once. There is surprisingly very little magic performed in the book which I found disappointing. I also found some of the secondary characters such as Fox and Tea's mentor to be much more interesting than Tea herself. Tea was stubborn and headstrong and there were a few times she came across as very young. I really liked Chupeco's debut novel, The Girl from the Well, and I will keep an eye out for what she writes in the future, however, I struck out with this new series and don't plan to continue it.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little. But one day, Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of a circle of friends called The Group. Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen's #1, and some girls would do anything to stay on topeven if it means bullying others. Now every day is like a roller coaster for Shannon. Will she and Adrienne stay friends? Can she stand up for herself? And is she in The Group—or out?

Review: In this charming graphic memoir Hale reflects on her elementary school years and focuses on childhood friendship. As a child Shannon feels lost. She does not quite fit in at home, being the middle child between two older and two younger siblings. Shannon also feels a bit lost at school with not finding friends her own age until she meets her first friend Adrienne who Shannon attaches to pretty quickly. As we all have experienced, childhood friendships are mercurial and changes quite frequently. When Adrienne moves up on the social ladder and becomes more popular she leaves Shannon behind and joins the "the group"'s ringleader Jen. Shannon remains on the outer fringes of the "group" where mean girl Jenny is determined to keep Shannon there by spreading rumors and bullying her. Eventually Shannon does find friends in sixth graders Zara and Veronica who show Shannon that being yourself and being nice is the key to popularity.
 I like how the book is divided into sections titled with the name of a friend or frenemy: Adrienne, Jen, Jenny, Zara and Veronica, and Shannon's oldest sister Wendy, whom she imagines as an angry bear. It was very easy to empathize with Shannon’s painful experiences of being left out, teased, and bullied. While there are dark moments for Shannon, readers will rejoice whens he learns how to find real friends, avoid toxic ones, and stands up for herself. There is also a brief mention of Shannon developing mild OCD and undiscovered anxiety which contributed to her stress and frustration with making friends. Hale also does a good job in showing how Wendy also faced similar setbacks on finding friends too and eventually bonded with Shannon.  
   The illustrations are vibrant and the characters leap off the page. There is a nice balance between   humorous and sensitive depictions of the young characters’ wide-ranging emotions that work well with the text. Real Friends will be a hit with fans of Raina Telgemeier’s and Cece Bell’s graphic memoirs.

Rating: 4 stars

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


If you like this book try: Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, El Deafo by Cece Bell, Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Rummanah Aasi
I didn't anticipate doing another WOW post this week but there so many great books coming out this summer and fall that I'm very excited about. Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine! This week I am waiting for the release of two books, one adult and one YA: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld and Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley.



The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Publish date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins


I found this book while attending a library webinar and after reading its description I knew I had to read it. 

“Where are you, Madison Culver? Flying with the angels, a silver speck on a wing? Are you dreaming, buried under snow? Or—is it possible—you are still alive?”

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old by now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl, too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

Told in the alternating voices of Naomi and a deeply imaginative girl, The Child Finder is a breathtaking, exquisitely rendered literary page-turner about redemption, the line between reality and memories and dreams, and the human capacity to survive.







Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
Publish Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Random House/Knopf Books for Young Readers

 I really enjoyed Cath Crowley's Graffiti Moon and would love to read more from her. Judging by the book's premise with letters and a second chance romance I think I will also really this book too. 

Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.

Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore.

As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

Review: Though a slight book, Nina LaCour's We Are Okay is able to address all of the levels of grieving and a spot-on voice of Marin, a teen who is unable to face her past. After completing her first semester of college, Marin stays alone in the dorms over break. She would much rather be alone, isolated even with the threat of a snowstorm looming, rather than return to San Francisco, where bad memories and pain lurk. Marin's best friend Mabel comes to stay with her and over the next few days tries to coax Marin to return to San Francisco wither her. As Marin slowly opens up, we learn more about her life. Her mother, a surfer, drowned when Marin was just a toddler. She has an absentee father who she never knew. Marin was lovingly raised by her grandfather yet he also held up walls between them. After painful events where Marin felt loss and betrayal, Marin packs up and runs away.
 I really liked how LaCour took advantage of her settings and created distinct emotions associated with them. In San Francisco there is warmth, memories filled with people who held personal relationships with Marin. In New York there is isolation, cold temperatures, and loneliness. I also really liked Marin as a character too. She is introspective and introverted and the story reflects her personality as there is very little plot in the book and the narrative emphasizes Marin's internal dialogue and musings on literature and art. Along with coping with grief, Marin is also dealing with her complicated relationship with Mabel who may be more than just her confident and best friend. Though the book deals with loss it does thankfully end on a hopeful note as Marin begins to face her problems and let others help her instead of pushing them away.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and a scene of underage drinking. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera, The Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner


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