Rummanah Aasi

Description: When Marvin Johnson's twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid. The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it's up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.

Review: Tyler Johnson Was Here is another debut novel that tackles the timely topic of police brutality. Marvin and Tyler Johnson are twin high school seniors at a crossroads. Marvin is on the road to attend college while Tyler finds himself involved in gang life. When a police officer shoots Tyler dead after he attends a questionable neighborhood party, Marvin's life is thrown off track. Unfortunately, this is not the first time nor the last that Marvin and his friends have witnessed police violence. They’ve seen officers lift firearms at children, slam them to the ground, and verbally abuse them, with no consequences. Deep down, Marvin knows that he cannot become the hate that he senses in the world around him. He and his family struggle to find justice, peace, and justice.
  Cole's debut novel effectively shows the human experience and ethical questions that drive the Black Lives Matter movement. The book does have flaws such as lack of character development in particular of the relationship between Marvin and Tyler. I did not have a good grasp on what their relationship was like and Tyler was not given enough time to develop into a three dimensional character when he was tragically killed. I also felt like Marvin was a passive character and his decision about his future did not make sense to me. Similarly, Marvin's friends and love interest were very one-dimensional. The added romance was completely unnecessary in the book and did not add any importance to the story. Despite these flaws, Tyler Johnson Was Here adds another voice and shines more light on an important and often misunderstood movement.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language throughout the book, allusions to sex, drug use, and gang violence. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Atticus’s apprentice Granuaile is at last a full Druid herself. What’s more, Atticus has defrosted an archdruid long ago frozen in time, a father figure (of sorts) who now goes by the modern equivalent of his old Irish name: Owen Kennedy. And Owen has some catching up to do. Atticus takes pleasure in the role reversal, as the student is now the teacher. Between busting Atticus’s chops and trying to fathom a cell phone, Owen must also learn English. For Atticus, the jury’s still out on whether the wily old coot will be an asset in the epic battle with Norse god Loki—or merely a pain in the arse. But Atticus isn’t the only one with daddy issues. Granuaile faces a great challenge: to exorcise a sorcerer’s spirit that is possessing her father in India. Even with the help of the witch Laksha, Granuaile may be facing a crushing defeat. As the trio of Druids deals with pestilence-spreading demons, bacon-loving yeti, fierce flying foxes, and frenzied Fae, they’re hoping that this time, three’s a charm.

Review: I completed the Iron Druid Chronicles earlier this year and enjoyed the ride. I am, however, behind on reviewing the last few books in this series. Shattered is full of action as Atticus is running away from a peeved Loki, Granualie is a fully fledged druid, and the archdruid Owen from ancient Ireland has awoken. Unlike the previous books in the series thus far, Shattered is narration is split in three sections as Atticus, Granualie, and Owen are off to their separate adventures until they converge in the last half of the book. The point of views was a little jarring at first because I was not expecting it, but each character has a distinct voice so it was easy to tell which chapter belonged to our three main characters.
  It was wonderful to see Granualie kick butt and be a strong character instead of being in the shadow of Atticus like she has been. She is on a personal mission and we get a glimpse of her back story and her desire to become a druid. I also loved the foul mouthed Owen as he tries to navigate the modern world and understand English idioms. His confusion and commentary on the modern word provides the humor in the story. There is no time to be bored in Shattered as the story moves at a fast pace and there are plenty of action scenes and mythological characters to keep this book fun and entertaining. A handy summary of the book allows new readers to join in, but I would definitely recommend reading the previous books to get a better hold on the characters and the interesting world Hearne has created.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language and violence throughout the book. There are also allusions to sex in the book too. Recommended for older teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: Staked by Kevin Hearne (Iron Druid Chronicle #8), Age of Misrule trilogy by Mark Chadbourn
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Matthew Corbin suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. He hasn't been to school in weeks. His hands are cracked and bleeding from cleaning. He refuses to leave his bedroom. To pass the time, he observes his neighbors from his bedroom window, making mundane notes about their habits as they bustle about the cul-de-sac. When a toddler staying next door goes missing, it becomes apparent that Matthew was the last person to see him alive. Suddenly, Matthew finds himself at the center of a high-stakes mystery, and every one of his neighbors is a suspect. Matthew is the key to figuring out what happened and potentially saving a child's life... but is he able to do so if it means exposing his own secrets, and stepping out from the safety of his home?

Review: The Goldfish Boy is a multilayered mystery that is suspenseful and an eye-opening look at mental illness. Matthew Corbin has severe obsessive compulsive disorder and his illness has caused him to be agoraphobic, where he won’t go beyond his bedroom and the office across the hall. When he isn’t washing his hands and cleaning his surroundings, Matthew watches his neighbors in their cul-de-sac. He writes down his observations with meticulous care, and when his neighbor’s grandson, 15-month-old Teddy, suddenly goes missing, he realizes that he could have vital information. Reluctantly, he joins forces with neighbor and classmate Melody to solve the mystery.  
   While readers learn clues about Teddy's disappearance, Matthew comes to terms with the root of his condition and learns that everyone has secrets and stories. Matthew narrates the story with a voice that is initially slow paced, stilted and formal but which fills out as he lets go of his fears and develops compassion for his parents and neighbors. By locking into Matthew’s perspective, the reader gets a better understanding of his mental illness while also waiting for the book's suspenseful resolution regarding Teddy. While the ending is hopeful with Matthew on the road to recovery, the author does note that his mental illness will not miraculously disappear at the end of the book.

Rating: 4 stars


Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.


If you like this book try: Footer Davis is Probably Crazy by Susan Vaught
Rummanah Aasi

Description:  For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.
    Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a cafĂ© and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.
  When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

Review: Unlike her flirtatious and gregarious mother, Penny Lee is much reserved but she hopes that things will change when she goes off to college in Austin, Tex., in hopes of becoming a writer. She soon meets Sam, her roommate's 21-year-old uncle, a college dropout and talented baker who works (and lives) at a local coffee house. They barely know each other, but, after Penny catches Sam in a vulnerable moment they agree to be each other's emergency contacts. Soon, they are exchanging texts and sharing secrets they've never divulged.
  Emergency Contact is very much a slice of life story that has great potential, but unfortunately the author does not take full advantage of her characters and their issues. Penny is a smart and funny but hides under a quiet and at times abrasive manner. Sam plays the role of a tortured artist quite well, he is still trying to get over a serious relationship and become sober. In alternating chapters we see Penny and Sam slowly come out of their shells and act like real people. The book does discuss some serious issues such as abandonment, addiction, and identity which I liked but wished it explored more in the story. This book read like an episode of "Girls" and was at times long winded. I would not consider this book to be a meet-cute romantic comedy as its description implies. 

Rating: 3 stars


Words of Caution: There is strong language, underage drinking and drug use mentioned, allusions to sex and sexual assault. Recommended for Grades 10 and up.

If you like this book try: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Jubilee Jenkins is no ordinary librarian. With a rare allergy to human touch, any skin-to-skin contact could literally kill her. But after retreating into solitude for nearly ten years, Jubilee’s decided to brave the world again, despite the risks. Armed with a pair of gloves, long sleeves, and her trusty bicycle, she finally ventures out the front door—and into her future.
    Eric Keegan has troubles of his own. With his daughter from a failed marriage no longer speaking to him, and his brilliant, if psychologically troubled, adopted son attempting telekinesis, Eric’s struggling to figure out how his life got so off course, and how to be the dad—and man—he wants so desperately to be. So when an encounter over the check-out desk at the local library entangles his life with that of a beautiful—albeit eccentric—woman, he finds himself wanting nothing more than to be near her.

Review: Jubilee is deathly allergic to other people. For Jubilee, skin-to-skin contact with anyone else could lead to horrific reactions, even death (the proteins in her skin trigger an extreme intruder alert in her immune system). Unfailing vigilance, ever-present gloves, and self-imposed isolation help Jubilee survive her allergy and school until just before high school graduation. One kiss with a popular guy puts her into anaphylactic shock and results in nine years of seclusion after her mother marries a rich man and moves away. Jubilee adjusts to her agoraphobia since she has been receiving checks to take care of her finances and she spends her time with books and various delivery services.
However with the sudden death of her mother and the liable checks stop, Jubilee is forced to re-evaluate her lifestyle. Self-help for agoraphobia and an old bike bring the protagonist into the orbit of Madison, a high school classmate, and then lead to a job as a library assistant (Side note: it really irritates me when people assume that anyone working in a library is a librarian. There is a clear difference between being a library assistant and a librarian. End of rant.).
  Reclaiming her independence in small steps leads her into contact with Eric, a recently divorced man who has moved with his traumatized and introverted adopted son to Jubilee's New Jersey community. Eric's first-person chapters are interspersed with Jubilee's to personalize all the quirks and hurdles of this most impossible, charming romance. I liked the romance between Jubilee and Eric, but the plot idles and goes nowhere. The realistic situations turns into a Hallmark movie with a perfectly wrapped up bow ending.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language in the book. Recommended for teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
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