Rummanah Aasi
Description: The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.


Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow is an immersive historical fantasy set in the Jazz Age and is steeped in Mayan mythology. Casiopea Tun and her mother are treated horribly by their more wealthy relations. They work as servants rather than being acknowledged as part of the family. Casiopea has large dreams of following the stars like her namesake, but any dreams that she had has been dashed by her grandfather's demands. She has been his maid ever since they returned to their small village after her father's death. As a small act of rebellion, Casiopea opens her grandfather's secret chest, releases the injured and imprisoned Mayan death god, Hun-Kamé, Supreme Lord of Xibalba, and inexorably binds her to his quest to regain his underworld throne. Casiopea's journey with Hun-Kamé's not only changes her fortunes but also has a largely consequence on the fate of the world.
  I really enjoyed the blend of historical fiction along with learning new things about Mayan mythology. The world building is done well and is not too out there for reluctant fantasy readers. It was fascinating to read about Mexican life during the Jazz Age. I liked watching Casiopea go on a self discovery journey to learn about herself and become an advocate for herself. Similarly, her interactions with Hun-Kamé allows him to become much more than an avengeful god and be humanized by addressing his own fears and vulnerabilities. I also enjoyed their slow burn romance. The plot moves quickly as we follow two parallel journies of  Hun-Kamé and Casiopeia's cross-country adventure-from the Yucatán to Mexico City, Arizona, and more-in search of his missing body parts, which his twin brother and rival has scattered among demons, sorcerers, and others; and Vucub-Kamé's, Hun-Kamé's ambitious twin brother, plot to undermine his brother and is assisted reluctantly by Casopeia's narcassitic cousin Martín who also has an inferiority complex. I would recommend this book to readers who are interested in learning more about Mexican folklore as well as those who enjoy reading fairy tales with complex characters and slow burn romance. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The Bear and Nightingale by Katherine Arden, Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Rummanah Aasi
Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine! There are so many new releases in October that I can not wait to read. I had a hard time narrowing it down. This week I am eagerly awaiting for the release of Leigh Bardugo's adult debut novel Ninth House and The Athena Protocol by . Both books will be released on October 8th.



Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Publish date: October 8, 2019
Publisher: Flat Iron Books/Macmillan

  I'm really curious how Bardugo incorporates fantasy, paranormal, murder, and secret societies at her alma mater.  The book has been getting a lot of press and positive buzz ever since it was announced.
 
 Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.




The Athena Protocol by Shamim Sarif
Publish date: October 8, 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen

  I'm always on the lookout for diverse thrillers to recommend to my students. When I read the book's description about an all female spies who enact vigilante justice around the world I knew I had to add it to my tbr asap.  
 
 Jessie Archer is a member of the Athena Protocol, an elite organization of female spies who enact vigilante justice around the world.

Athena operatives are never supposed to shoot to kill—so when Jessie can’t stop herself from pulling the trigger, she gets kicked out of the organization, right before a huge mission to take down a human trafficker in Belgrade.

Jessie needs to right her wrong and prove herself, so she starts her own investigation into the trafficking. But going rogue means she has no one to watch her back as she delves into the horrors she uncovers. Meanwhile, her former teammates have been ordered to bring her down. Jessie must face danger from all sides if she’s to complete her mission—and survive.
Rummanah Aasi
Description: It's been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty's life out from under her. It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don't dare wander outside the school's fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
  But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there's more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.


Review: Wilder Girls is part survival thriller, part dystopian, and part horror. It manages to do justice to all of these genres, but it still felt unfinished to me. The book is often marketed as a feminist retelling of William Golding's classic Lord of the Flies and while it does share similar themes to that dystopian classic, Wilder Girls holds its own.
  It's been a year and a half since the Raxter School for Girls was ravaged by the Tox, a mysterious sickness that crept in slowly through the woods, distorting the properties and bodies of anything in its path. The teachers' and students' bodies have been changed in vicious ways, ranging from new body parts to skin changing into scales for those who survive and those who don't suffer an excruciating death as they wilt and their bodies blackened as the Tox eats away at them. Left with the promise of a cure, the quarantined girls watch out for one another. That's precisely what Hetty is doing when her friend Byatt disappears, and together with her friend Reese, she breaks quarantine to penetrate the wild beyond the fence to find her.
   Wilder Girls has a very creepy atmospheric quality to the story that hovers around our main characters rather than the traditional jump scares. For much of the story, the reader and the girls do not know much of what is happening but we are enraptured by this twisted tale by the little hints of a backstory dropped throughout the book and effective foreshadowing done by the author. The elements of body horror is quite striking throughout the novel with the graphic mentions of a stitched-up eye with something lurking underneath, a second protruding spine, animals growing three times their size. There is a connection between the Tox and the female physical development which I found to be fascinating and wanted to learn more about.
  The story is divided into mainly two narratives of Hetty and Byatt and it is Hetty's fierce loyalty which drives the story. Unlike Lord of the Flies, in which their isolation catalyzes their social hierarchy and eventually makes the characters turn on one another, Wilder Girls has the complete opposite result. The girls' solidarity and their relationships help foster their survival. While there are clear differences as to who holds power, the story does not focus on the girls tearing each other down, which I really appreciated. I also appreciated that our main characters all fall in the spectrum of LGBTQ+ and their sexual identities are not a big deal. There is a hint of romance or perhaps two are that are brewing in the background, but it is not the main part of the story. Overall I really loved the themes of the story and the representation of the characters, but I wished I had gotten a few solid details of the Tox and I did not care for the open ending. I would recommend this book to readers who are looking for a unique horror book that moves beyond the scares. I am looking forward to see what the author does next.


Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, scenes of self harm, gory violence, and disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The Fever by Megan Abbott, Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer, Quaratine series by Lex Thomas
Rummanah Aasi

Description: See the Bell family in a whole new light through Dawud Anyabwile's illustrations as the brothers' winning season unfolds, and the world as they know it begins to change.

Review: I had no idea a graphic novel adaptation of Kwame Alexander’s 2015 Newbery Medal winner was in the works, but I was delighted to revisit the story of the Bell family and their personal connection to basketball in a new format. The graphic novel is more like a hybrid of graphic illustrations and text rather than the traditional format of graphic novels that utilizes image panels, text bubbles, and gutters as part of the storytelling.
  The story revolves around the Bell family as the father Chuck “Da Man” Bell teaches his twin sons, Josh and Jordan, how to follow in his star-studded footsteps. Josh “Filthy McNasty” Bell is our main narrator as we get an in-depth look at his slice of life both on and off the court as he navigates adolescence, balancing brotherhood and becoming his own person.
  The graphic novel keeps Alexander's wide variety of poetic forms. The rhythmic verses is a nice throwback to the hip-hop’s origins. The illustrations done by Anyabwile are stunning and provide a wide range of emotional expressiveness to the characters and defy the one-story notions of black boys. There is a nice balance of humor and pop-cultural references to make the story feel up to date without trying too hard. I loved the grey, black, and orange color palette used throughout the graphic novel, which reinforced the basketball metaphor running throughout the graphic novel.
 While the story and the illustrations shine, I do not think this graphic novel is needed unless the print novel is not available in your classroom or libraries. I would suggest getting this source as a supplemental and for those who are die hard Crossover fans.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: Rebound by Kwame Alexander
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents...sounds ideal -- but Shane's made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance...what's that? Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time's a ticking, and she needs a change -- there's nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She's going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure! Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart. Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination, one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic - the possibilities are endless.

Review: I do not pick up books written by Youtubers because they do not interest me. I did pick up Again, but Better because I am a fan of Christine Riccio's booktube channel. I love her energy, enthusiasm, and candidness in expressing her joy and frustration with books and life.
  Shane Primaveri is a shy, introverted, and socially awkward college student who feels she has done college wrong. When a chance to study abroad catches her eye, she immediately signs up and vows to become more confident, outgoing, and possibly get a chance at love. The roommate-assigning fates gift Shane with instant friends, she meets a flirtatious boy named Pilot, and she excels in her classes. Every thing is going swimmingly well until Shane admits she’s lying to her parents about continuing her pre-med track when she’s really studying writing. At a surprise visit and a horrendous dinner, Shane's scary, controlling parents discover her deception, and Shane returns to America dejected. Fast forward six years later, Shane has walked the path of her parents yet she still feels hollow and regretful. She looks up Pilot and they accidentally stumble back in time at the exact moment they both study abroad for a second chance.
   Again, but Better is a charming story that made me smile, laugh, and cringe at the awkward moments. Shane is utterly relatable. She keeps to herself, is haunted by self doubt, awkward, and distant until she warms up. I love that she lectures herself in interior monologues to be more confident and to take chances. Her personality is very much like Christine's Youtube persona. Pilot is an endearing love interest though I did find him to be frustrating at times from withholding information and towing the lines of flirtation and disinterest. Though the characters are in their twenties, teens can easily see themselves in the characters. I liked watching Shane's character arc go from socially awkward "new adult" to a confident woman who knows exactly want she wants. I also enjoyed the scenic views of London, Rome, and Scotland that are in the book and appreciated the diversity nod in the secondary characters.
  I did have a few quibbles about the book. I found the extensive use of "um" and "likes" to be annoying and distracting in the dialogues. I also wanted to know a bit more of future Shane before we are bumped back in time and more about the secondary characters, especially about their future selves.  

 Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language and a fade to black sex scene. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
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