Dry
Rummanah Aasi

Description: The drought—or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it—has been going on for a while now. Everyone’s lives have become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t fill up your pool, don’t take long showers. Until the taps run dry.
  Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a war zone of desperation; neighbors and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return and her life—and the life of her brother—is threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she’s going to survive.

Review: Shusterman's latest YA thriller is scarily realistic and plausible. In the near-future or alternate-present America, a prolonged drought called the Tap-Out results in the sudden depletion of Southern California's water supply. When their parents vanish while seeking desalinated water, Alyssa and her 10-year-old brother Garrett embark on a harrowing journey, searching for their parents and fending for themselves as society around them deteriorates. Along the way, the siblings pick up three teens: their survivalist neighbor Kelton, unpredictable lone wolf Jacqui, and calculating opportunist Henry.
  Dry alternates between the teens' distinct viewpoints and intersecting snapshots that supplement the backdrop of how others are dealing with the dire circumstances.The snap shots doesn't distract the reader and only enhances the hysteria, suspense, and time constraints on our characters until they die of dehydration. I liked Alyssa but she came across as your generic teen. I would have much rather preferred if the story was told by the spirited and impulsive Jacqui. I was intrigued by Kelton's family dynamic who were super prepared for any crisis and I wanted to learn more about them. Henry was well fleshed out despite the limited page time he appeared in the story.
  The story does have its share of bleak moments. I did have to suspend my disbelief in the lack of warning before the Tap-Out comes into full swing. I also had questions towards the ending that were not addressed and glossed over. While not my favorite Shusterman novel, Dry is a solid dystopian/survival thriller.

Rating: 4 stars


Words of Caution: There is some language and strong violence in the book. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.


If you like this book try: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Thirteen-year-old Bina has a long summer ahead of her. She and her best friend, Austin, usually do everything together, but he's off to soccer camp for a month, and he's been acting kind of weird lately anyway. So it's up to Bina to see how much fun she can have on her own. At first it's a lot of guitar playing, boredom, and bad TV, but things look up when she finds an unlikely companion in Austin's older sister, who enjoys music just as much as Bina. But then Austin comes home from camp, and he's acting even weirder than when he left.

Review: I have a hit or miss relationship with Hope Larson's works, but I did enjoy All Summer Long which is her latest slice of life graphic novel. Bina and Austin have been best friends since they were babies. They are use to seeing and talking to each other all the time, but the summer before eighth grade, things start to get change and become weird. Austin’s leaving for a month-long soccer camp and leaving Bina alone for the entire summer. He rarely texts her while he's away at camp and he thinks their annual “summer fun index” tradition is dumb. During Austin's absence, Bina finds plenty to occupy herself, and  focuses on her passion for music.
  I was thrilled to see a female and male friendship with no romance tension between them, which is what I initially feared when I read the graphic novel's premise. I love the friends to lovers trope, but I also think it's really important for readers to see that there are strong friendships too. Larson perfectly captures the anxiety and relief that sometimes accompanies changing childhood friendships. Bina is initially adrift at the beginning of her summer, but she seems just as happy to find her own path while he’s gone. I also liked the diverse side characters found in the graphic novel too. Bina's ethnicity is vague, but it makes her story universal and approachable. I also liked the illustrations with bold, black outlines and a sunny yellow palette, which makes summer come alive for the characters and the reader.

Rating: 4 stars


Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.


If you like this book try: Smile by Raina Telgemeier, Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, Real Friends by Shannon Hale
Rummanah Aasi

Description: When a druid has lived for two thousand years like Atticus, he's bound to run afoul of a few vampires. Make that legions of them. Even his former friend and legal counsel turned out to be a bloodsucking backstabber. Now the toothy troublemakers—led by power-mad pain-in-the-neck Theophilus—have become a huge problem requiring a solution. It's time to make a stand.
  As always, Atticus wouldn't mind a little backup. But his allies have problems of their own. Ornery archdruid Owen Kennedy is having a wee bit of troll trouble: Turns out when you stiff a troll, it's not water under the bridge. Meanwhile, Granuaile is desperate to free herself of the Norse god Loki's mark and elude his powers of divination—a quest that will bring her face-to-face with several Slavic nightmares.
  As Atticus globe trots to stop his nemesis Theophilus, the journey leads to Rome. What better place to end an immortal than the Eternal City? But poetic justice won't come without a price: In order to defeat Theophilus, Atticus may have to lose an old friend.


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. Staked is another great installment of the Iron Druid Chronicles. The plot becomes complicated as Atticus has tunnel vision on exacting revenge, which has consequences for everyone that we have met throughout this series thus far. As with the previous book, Staked is told in three different points of views: Atticus, Granuaile, and Owen. Each of these druids have separate story lines where he/she go on their individual adventure, but they all converge in the end. I enjoyed the three different points of views as it does not interfere with what I expect from this series, which is a ton of action and humor.
    Atticus is back in Toronto, a place he swore he would never visit again, but he has a purpose which is to steal a list of all the vampires in the world. His trip has several unexpected surprises and I enjoyed revisiting some of the past characters such as The Hammers of God and The Dark Elves, not to mention an intense and bitter encounter with Leif. Granuaile is in Asgard with Oden, working on a way to remove Loki’s mark. I love that she is independent and given actual obstacle to overcome. Hearne does not make things easy for her and I really appreciated it. It always irks me when female characters are given simple tasks because they are "delicate" or can not handle it. Owen's relationship with Greta continues to grow and Greta convinces him to six young, diverse humans to become Druids.
  Emotions get the best of Atticus in this book and he really digs himself a huge hole. His actions will have huge consequences as we speed to the conclusion of this series. I was surprised by the characters that we lost in this book and I am sure Hearne is trying to prep his readers by what is about to happen in the finale.

Rating: 4 stars


Words of Caution: There is strong language and violence throughout the book. There are also sexual situations and crude humor in the book. Recommended for older teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: Besieged by Kevin Hearne (short stories in the Iron Druid Chronicles), Scourged by Kevin Hearne (Iron Druid Chronicles #9), The Age of Misrule trilogy by Mark Chadbourn
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Ever since her near-fatal drowning, Cassidy has been able to pull back the "Veil" that separates the living from the dead and see ghosts, not that she wants to, and she was really looking forward to a ghost-free summer at the beach; however her parents are going to start filming a TV series about the world's most haunted places, starting with Edinburgh with its graveyards, castles, and restless phantoms--and Cass and her personal ghost companion, Jacob, are about to find out that a city of old ghosts can be a very dangerous place indeed.

Review: A near-death experience leaves Cassidy Blake altered and with a ghost named Jacob for a best friend. She can also sense other ghosts and when she chooses, she can pull back “the Veil” between the living world and the dead to visit spirits caught in a kind of limbo. When her parents, paranormal investigators who ironically can’t see ghosts, begin hosting a ghost-hunting TV show, the Blakes travel to Scotland to film in Edinburgh’s most haunted areas, which has an alarmingly strong pull on Cass.
 City of Ghost is a quick spooky read for younger readers. Schwab brings the creepy vibe behind Scotland's graveyard sites to life and it jumps off the page. The book, however, flounders when it tries to juggle with world building of what seems to be a new series and plot of the first book. The world building at times comes across as info dumping when Cassidy and Jacob meet the feisty, know it all Lara Jayne Chowdhury, a British-Indian girl who shares Cass’ ability. I was confused as to why only Lara and her dead uncle are the ones who know of the "purpose". The climax of the book comes at a break neck pace and is quickly resolved in a matter of pages. I also wanted to know more about Cassidy as a person and a backstory of Jacob which we sadly do not get in this story. Still I am intrigued enough to pick up the next book in the series but it will not be on the top of my reading pile.


Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images and stories about some of the adult ghosts such as a serial killer. Recommended for strong Grade 4 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Lockwood and Co. series by Jonathan Stroud
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water. But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meagre clues to find him.
  When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late.


Review: Sadie is a powerful, gut wrenching, thriller that will elicit strong emotions from you as you read it. The book has a very simple plot, Sadie Hunter is going to kill the man who murdered her 13-year-old sister, Mattie, but its execution sets it apart from other thrillers. The story alternates between Sadie's first-person point of view as she makes her way across Colorado in search of Keith, who sexually abused her when he dated her mother and who she believes murdered Mattie, and the transcript of a serialized podcast called The Girls by a well established journalist West McCray who is both drawn and repelled by Sadie's and Maddie's story. His interviews with her family and those who crossed her path provide an outsider's perspective to Sadie's actions and interior monologue and always remains painstakingly close to Sadie's present story. The podcast makes the story come alive and expands on book's themes of revenge, ineffective policing, poverty, and addiction and its impact on parenting. 
  Sadie is a precocious survivor. Her mother, Claire, is a drug-addicted, single mother. When Mattie was born Sadie became a de facto parent at the age of 6. Though both sisters had different fathers, Sadie was determined to never let Mattie feel unloved. Her baby sister’s love filled a hole in Sadie’s fiercely protective heart and quickly became her world. Claire favored Mattie, who remained attached to her long after Claire disappeared from their grim, trailer-park home in rural Colorado. Sadie believes that Mattie’s determination to find Claire led to her brutal murder. Without Mattie Sadie has lost her anchor, but her drive for justice, revenge, and hope of preventing other girls like Mattie from abuse and murder propels her into action.
  Sadie is an extraordinary female heroine that I have not seen in a long time in YA thrillers. She is smart, observant, tough, and at times heartrendingly vulnerable. Sadie exempts no one, not even herself, from her unsparing judgment. It broke my heart several times when Sadie immediately questioned a person's kindness, though she was almost always right, but it made me feel incredibly uneasy.
  The book set me on edge and I had to put it aside a few times because of its intensity, but I did feel compelled to find out what happened next. Summers does a fantastic job in not reveling in shocking the reader with graphic and gratuitous detail of the abuse that Sadie encountered, but just the right amount that we can connect the dots. I am still unsure of how I feel about the open ending, perhaps it is selfish of me for wanting a glimmer of hope for Sadie but she really deserves one.
  Sadie is a very timely book especially at a time where female survivors of sexual assault and abuse are being silenced and doubted. This will make an excellent book club discussion and the format lends itself to also be a fantastic audiobook if done well. Unforgettable and one of the best thrillers I have read in a very long time.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, allusions to sexual abuse and attempted rape, pedophilia, drug abuse, and parental neglect. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis, Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess, All the Rage by Courtney Summers
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