Rummanah Aasi
Description: Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.Nancy tumbled once, but now she's back. The things she's experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West's care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.But Nancy's arrival marks a change at the Home. There's a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it's up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things.No matter the cost.

Review: Every Heart a Doorway is a whimsical and imaginative entry into the Wayward Children series that asks if fantasy realms are real, then what happens once you leave them and re-enter the real world. Nancy is one of those children who found a magic door, but to prove that she’s worthy of staying forever in the Underworld, she is sent back—where her parents desperately enroll her in Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. The Home is an unusual cross between a boarding school and an asylum. Nancy finds that she is not alone in being labeled a "freak" and scared by her parents. She meets a prince with a mistaken identity, twins who’ve hung out with mad scientists and vampires, and many others girls like her who have wandered through other worlds only to find themselves inevitably stranded. All of the students are trying to find the portal back to their realms despite being repeatedly told that most doors open only once.
  In addition to adjusting to her new surroundings, Nancy discovers her roommate is brutally murdered and others have been attacked too. With the help of friends she begins an investigation. Though the book is very short, less than 200 pages, it manages to completely capture your attention and imagination right from the first sentence and does not let go. It is best to read the book with an open mind and allow yourself to go down the rabbit holes with the characters. Though the book does answer the murder mystery and wraps up Nancy's journey, it leaves many more questions. I'm definitely ready to go on this crazy journey and discover the different fantasy realms.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images

If you like this book try: The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children series by Ransom Riggs, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Fourteen-year-old Ahmed is stuck in a city that wants nothing to do with him. Newly arrived in Brussels, Belgium, Ahmed fled a life of uncertainty and suffering in Syria, only to lose his father on the perilous journey to the shores of Europe. Now Ahmed's struggling to get by on his own, but with no one left to trust and nowhere to go, he's starting to lose hope.
   Then he meets Max, a thirteen-year-old American boy. Lonely and homesick, Max is being bothered by a bully at school, he doesn't speak a word of French, and just can't seem to do anything right. But with one startling discovery, Max and Ahmed's lives collide, banding the boys together to help Ahmed survive. As their friendship grows, Ahmed and Max defy the odds, learning from each other what it means to be brave, and how hope can change your destiny.

Review: Ahmed and Max have been uprooted from their homes for very different reasons and form an unusual friendship built upon empathy and understanding in present-day Brussels. Ahmed flees war-torn Syria with his father after a bomb kills the rest of their family. His father jumps from the leaky raft he and other escaping refugees are on to prevent it from sinking in the middle of the Mediterranean. A rogue wave sweeps him away and he is presumed dead, adding to Ahmed's insurmountable grief and loss. A fellow refugee takes him in and they eventually join a refugee tent camp in Brussels, but anti-Muslim sentiment is running high in Belgium. When the tent city is shut down, Ahmed is terrified of being deported and takes shelter in the wine cellar of a home.
   The home is newly occupied by Max's family who has been transplanted from America to Brussels due to his father's job as a NATO contractor. Max is bullied in school for being an outsider and his poor French language skills. He becomes intrigued with the history of the house when he learns that a Jewish child was hidden in the basement during World War II. When Max discovers Ahmed and learns his story, the two form a tentative friendship at first. Max is not sure if Ahmed is a terrorist once he finds out that he is Muslim and from Syria like he has heard from his French tutor, but through common hobbies and interest, Max corrects his assumption and the two boys slowly open up to one another. Determined to keep Ahmed hidden, Max is determined help him in anyway that he can.
   Nowhere Boy is a timely novel that is at times heartbreaking and inspiring account of humanity. There is a small mistake in the mistranslated of the popular Muslim phrase in the book. Marsh utilizes both art and history to draw parallels in her story. The World War II story reminds us that hysteria and hate came at a grave consequence and asks us if we have learned from our mistakes of the past. The book skillfully discusses the perils of immigrants, openly addresses Islamaphobia, xenophobia, terrorism, and the Syrian Civil War with sensitivity and honesty. Max is a role model of standing up for what is right for young readers and all of us.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are mentions of bombings, war, and drownings of refugees on boats. There are also mentions of terror attacks in Paris, France and in Brussels, Belgium which unfortunately really occurred. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Refugee by Alan Gratz, Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini
Rummanah Aasi

Description: When everything has been taken from you, what else is there to do but run?

So that's what Annabelle does--she runs from Seattle to Washington, DC, through mountain passes and suburban landscapes, from long lonely roads to college towns. She's not ready to think about the why yet, just the how--muscles burning, heart pumping, feet pounding the earth. But no matter how hard she tries, she can't outrun the tragedy from the past year, or the person--The Taker--that haunts her.

Followed by Grandpa Ed in his RV and backed by her brother and two friends (her self-appointed publicity team), Annabelle becomes a reluctant activist as people connect her journey to the trauma from her past. Her cross-country run gains media attention and she is cheered on as she crosses state borders, and is even thrown a block party and given gifts. The support would be nice, if Annabelle could escape the guilt and the shame from what happened back home. They say it isn't her fault, but she can't feel the truth of that. Through welcome and unwelcome distractions, she just keeps running, to the destination that awaits her. There, she'll finally face what lies behind her--the miles and love and loss...and what is to come.

Review: A Heart in a Boy in the World is a timely contemporary novel that covers a lot of the relevant issues of the #MeToo movement, mental health, and grief. Annabelle is an every girl whose life is rocked nine months ago in an event involving "The Taker". When a man's leering triggers Annabelle's PTSD, she runs for eleven miles and until she stops and has an epiphany that running is the action she must take and embarks on a run from Seattle to Washington, DC, as a way to try to manage the immense anxiety, guilt, and sorrow that have haunted ever since. As she runs her daily sixteen miles, accompanied by her lovable, curmudgeon Grandpa Ed in his RV to ensure her safety and keep her in good health, she battles blisters, cramps, and dehydration. Throughout her journey we get pieces of the event, which in my opinion were just too slow and sparse. For the longest time I was confused as to what the event actually is and when it was unfolded I thought it was kind of anticlimatic because I did not feel connected to the characters that were involved. Annabelle's relationship with "The Taker" asks us of how women and girls are trained by society to act politely and how to deal with unwelcome attention as well as a rapidly abusive relationship. The book handles mental health issues quite well and realistically. We really see Annabelle agonize over what she could have done differently, and blames herself for making excuses for his behavior.
   I was not completely on board with a hike that long because I didn't think it was realistic, but running does make a good metaphor in this book and I completely understand the feeling of wanting to take action and do something. I also thought a budding romance between Annabelle and a kind young boy defeats the purpose of the story yet it lightens up the book's somber mood. The impromptu speech at the auditorium felt like an after school special but it had a strong message. The book's strength lies in taking the reader along the incredibly grueling physical and mental journey with Annabelle as she relinquishes her feelings of self-blame and inspires others to act.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, underage drinking, an abusive relationship, mentions of self harm (pushing against boundaries that are injurious to one's health), some strong violence, and crude sexual humor. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The Other Side of Lost by Jessi Kirby, Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Keneally
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Thrown from Mount Olympus as a newborn and caught by Thetis and Eurynome, who raised him on the island of Lemnos, Hephaistos had an aptitude for creating beautiful objects from a very young age. Despite his rejection from Olympus, he swallowed his anger and spent his days perfecting his craft. His exquisitely forged gifts and weapons earned him back his seat in the heavens, but he was not treated as an equal—his brothers and sisters looked down at him for his lame leg, and even his own wife, Aphrodite, was disloyal. In this installment of George O'Connor's bestselling Olympians graphic novel series, witness Hephaistos’ wrath in God of Fire as he creates a plan that’ll win him the respect he deserves.

Review: I have been a fan of the Olympians graphic novel series and have enjoyed watching the Greek gods and goddesses and their myths come alive. Unfortunately, Hephaistos is my least favorite volume so far. The dialogue which started as polished orators who recounted the rise of the Olympians and followed the stories of Prometheus soon derailed into modern colloquialism, which was really jarring and took me out of the story. While Hephaistos is the headliner of this graphic novel, the focus was much more on Prometheus' betrayal and the gift of fire to humanity. Unlike the narration, the illustrations of the panels remain consistently vibrant and full of action, humor, and subtlety especially where innuendos are involved with Aphrodite's affairs. Overall a disappointing volume in an otherwise great series.   

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There are several allusions to Aphrodite's infidelity with Ares including a scene where both gods are chained to the bed. Recommended for Grades 6 and up.

If you like this book try: Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan, Gods of Manhattan by Scott Mebus
Rummanah Aasi

Description: In this retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in modern-day Pakistan, Alys Binat has sworn never to marry--until an encounter with one Mr. Darsee at a wedding makes her reconsider. A scandal and vicious rumor in the Binat family have destroyed their fortune and prospects for desirable marriages, but Alys, the second and most practical of the five Binat daughters, has found happiness teaching English literature to schoolgirls. Knowing that many of her students won't make it to graduation before dropping out to marry and start having children, Alys teaches them about Jane Austen and her other literary heroes and hopes to inspire them to dream of more. When an invitation arrives to the biggest wedding their small town has seen in years, Mrs. Binat excitedly sets to work preparing her daughters to fish for eligible--and rich--bachelors, certain that their luck is about to change. On the first night of the festivities, Alys's lovely older sister, Jena, catches the eye of one of the most eligible bachelors. But his friend Valentine Darsee is clearly unimpressed by the Binat family. Alys accidentally overhears his unflattering assessment of her, and quickly dismisses him and his snobbish ways. But as the days of lavish wedding parties unfold, the Binats wait breathlessly to see if Jena will land a proposal--and Alys begins to realize that Darsee's brusque manner may be hiding a very different man from the one she saw at first glance.

Review: I had a very hard time reading Unmmariageable. I so very much wanted to read a fun, insightful retelling of Pride and Prejudice from my culture. My expectations were too high and instead I read what seemed like a very poor fan fiction of Pride and Prejudice without the charm, wit, and keen cultural criticism which made the original a classic.
  The author's writing was solid when it came to the description of events and showing how the world of Austen is not far from Pakistan's culture where woman are still defined by the clothes she wears and who she marries though she does not provide social context to readers who are unfamiliar with Pakistani culture. There are attempts at calling attention to fat shaming and the absurd ideal of beauty but it falls flat. The plot closely follows the original, but the characters are ridiculously named and much like a poke instead of a nudge of addressing the characters, completely flat and unlikable. Even our famous pairing is lopsided in which Alysbeth is completely annoying and insufferable that I had no idea why Darsee would be interested in her at all. There is no character development of Darsee and the romance between any of the characters is virtually nonexistent. Definitely skip this one and watch Bride and Prejudice for a South Asian spin on the classic. 

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, mention of drug and alcohol abuse, mentions of sexual situations and abortions, and crude sexual humor. Recommended to adults and older teens.

If you like this book try: Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
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