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
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Only the very brave or the very desperate dare enter the Spill Zone—Addison Merritt is a little of both. In exchange for a suitcase full of cash, she made one last to the Zone. She survived the encounter, but came back changed. Addison is not alone. In a remote village in North Korea, a young man named Jae was touched by the unholy fire of the Spill Zone. He made it out alive—alive, but also changed.
  Now bestowed with uncanny powers, Addison and Jae may be the only ones strong enough to face a new threat that has risen in the Spill Zone. This deadly entity is searching for his runaway bride—and his hunt is bringing him closer and closer to Addison and her little sister.


Review: The Broken Vow immediately picks up where the first volume ended. Addison has returned from a quest in the Spill Zone and has new abilities while being in contact with dust in the danger zone. Soon is she able to hear the voice of her sister's doll, Vespertine, who is possessed by a being whose past is intertwined with the Spill's origins. Meanwhile, the North Korean Spill site has given a young man named Don Jae powers. When the sinister connection among Vespertine, the Spill, and Don Jae's abilities is revealed, Addison must fight for her sister's life and avenge their parents.
  The second (and maybe last volume?) of Spill Zone is full of non-stop action. We are given answers to our questions that were unresolved in the first volume. Many of the plot threads close and increase the speed of the climax of the graphic novel. The art is consistently bright and unsettling, perfectly matching the graphic novel's creepy atmosphere. Unfortunately, I found the climax anticlimactic and was left unsatisfied and rushed. Addison's story seems to have wrapped up but there are lots of opportunities for this author and artist duo to tell more stories in this world.

Rating: 3 stars

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

If you like this book try: Junior Brave of the Apocalypse series by Greg Smith, Warrior Smart by Jonathan Maberry
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.
As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents as she goes in search of stories for her book. In amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and decidedly odd online daters, could there be a a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love ?

Review: Marketed as a "Muslim Bridge Jones Diary", I took a chance on reading Sofia Khan is Not Obliged. While it is a romantic comedy and it is narrated via a blog/diary format, Sofia Khan is far from Bridget Jones and thank goodness for that. Sofia is a wickedly funny and smart first generation Pakistani Muslim hijabi living in London and working in the book publishing industry. Just bouncing back from a broken engagement with a man, Sofia is ready to swear off men except, she accidentally pitches a book about Muslims "dating" to her publicity director. Suddenly she has a book deal and is frantically trying to pull it off. The book is much more than a romantic comedy as it tackles many of the stereotypical and preconceived notions others may have about Muslims and our cultures and is presented in such a funny way. I loved the constant sarcastic dialogue, how the cultural aspects were infused and how Malik gave insight into a genuine Muslim family.

  Sofia is an observant Muslim who chooses to wear the hijab, prays five times a day (even during work), but she is not angelic. She swears and smokes. She is also very stubborn and often makes poor decisions with good intentions. She's independent, witty and an incredible friend. Most importantly, she's human.
  Malik captures the Pakistani culture beautifully from capturing the right accent of her Punjabi speaking family and relatives and by fleshing out Sofia's family. There were may laugh out loud moments that I found in this book in particularly how her parents bickered with one another and all the craziness of family. Sofia also has a great solid group of friends from different backgrounds that also provide a glimpse on how others live their lives.
  The romance part of the book was not as well developed as Sofia and her family and friends. The potential love interests were distinct and had my interest, but I wanted to know more about the guy she chose at the end of the book.
This is a solid start for a romantic comedy featuring Muslim characters and I really hope more books like this will get published and are available.

Rating: 4 stars


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


If you like this book try: The Other Half of Happiness by Ayisha Malik
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