Rummanah Aasi
  Today I am participating in my first book blogger hop! I first learned about the hop is from my dear friend, Twimom, who by the way has an awesome blog for Adult Paranormal Romances. If you love reading from that genre, be sure to stop by and check it out! The hop is hosted by Jennifer over at Crazy for Books. It's a great way in discovering new book blogs. It happens every Friday.

Book Blogger Hop

If you find my blog through the hop, please have a look and follow me if you like what you see. Be sure to leave your blog link so that I can stop by your blog and say hi.

   Question of the week: Who is your favorite new-to-you author so far this year?

 My favorite new-to-me author is Maria V. Snyder. I recently discovered the Study series and I absolutely loved them! I loved the main character, Yelena, because she is smart, tough, and can hold her own. I never met a character like her. The series has a great balance of romance, action, and suspense. I couldn't read turn the pages fast enough! I look forward to reading her Spy Glass and her other series soon.

ALSO  - please check out my Mockingjay Giveaway aka 60 Followers Giveaway!!! Click here for contest rules and entry. Contest ends August 17, 2010.
Rummanah Aasi
  I've read a whole slew of young adult paranormal romance books/series ever since Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga was released. While the genre has always been popular, it now marketed everywhere in the publishing industry. What makes a good young adult paranormal romance novel? Well for me, it simply needs: characters that I can care about and can relate to, an interesting story arc and themes, an innovative way to introduce and to create a mythology surrounding the paranormal, and of course it needs to be written well. I found these characteristics in Bree Despain's debut novel called The Dark Divine, which many of my good friends loved and recommended to me.

Description: Grace, Daniel, and Jude were three inseparable friends, however, one night Daniel disappears and Jude is left scarred. No one in the Divine family will talk about the incident. When Daniel reappears and mysterious things happen around their quiet Minnesota town, Jude warns his sister, Grace, to stay away from Daniel, but Grace is determined to find the answers. What Grace discovers will forever change their lives. What exactly happened that night?

Review: I enjoyed reading this book, though, I found the first half to start off really slow. The first half of the book establishes the Divine family and gives the reader some background information on how Daniel, Grace, and Jude interacted with one another before that fateful night. Luckly, the book's pace picks up in the second half with the unveiling of what really happened between Daniel and Jude as well as Daniel's big secret.
  In terms of the characters, I really liked Grace. I could relate to her as she struggled to fulfill her shoes of being the good daughter and friend. She equally balanced her impulsive decisions to befriend Daniel, but also uses her head when she knows that she is in danger. As for the boys, I loved both Daniel and Jude. Daniel is marketed as a bad boy, but I think that does him a disservice. I found him to be more lost, vulnerable, and a longing desire to have a place call home thanks to his dark past. Jude is your typical older brother that a little sister looks up to. He tries to uphold his responsibilities in church as well as in his family.
   As for the paranormal aspect of the book, I already knew Daniel's secret before Grace does. Mainly because there are huge clues in the first half of the book, but that didn't deter me from reading the book. I wanted to know Despain's mythology, which I found to be interesting. There are other twists and turns throughout the second half of the novel. Some of them I guessed, but I loved the ending. I don't think it could have ended better.
  Some people may be turned off by the Christian doctrine in the book, but that didn't bother me. In fact, I think Despain brings up complex questions of what it means to forgive and forget. She doesn't give any clear cut answers.  

For those of you who thought the book was left open ended will happy to know that there is a sequel to The Dark Divine called The Lost Saint that will be able on December 28th. Check out the cover here.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some sexual and drug references, but nothing that isn't alarming or mentioned on tv. There is mild scenes of violence, but nothing overtly graphic. There is also mild language. I would give this book to 7th graders and up.

If you like this book try: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Rummanah Aasi
  During my student teaching placement at Isaac Fox Elementary School last summer, I came across lots of great books for children. One of the books I saw constantly checked out at the library is Michael Buckley's quirky, fun, and action packed series called the Sisters Grimm. Buckley combines fractured fairy tales (along with other literary allusions), mystery, suspense, and humor into his series that are delightful to read. So far, I've read the first three books last year and plan to continue more. There are currently 8 books in the series. Between going to social events and doing errands around the house, I managed to finish Once Upon a Crime (Book 4) and Magic and Misdemeanors (Book 5) this past weekend.
   The Sister Grimm story begins with two sisters, Sabrina and Daphne, who are seemed to be suddenly orphaned. They move from one horrible foster home to the next until they discover their Grandmother Relda, who they thought was dead. Soon they learn that they are relatives of the famous Brothers Grimms and that the fairy tales that they've read are not only true, but the characters live in a place called Everafter. After solving various mysteries with Grandmother Relda and their friends, they find out that their parents are alive and under a sleeping spell. An secret society called The Red Hand is responsible. Now they must find a way to wake their parents up!

Description of Book 4 and Book 5: Sabrina is continually struggling with accepting her fate as a fairy tale detective. She doesn't want anything to do with the Everafters. She would love to wake her parents and start to have a normal life. Life, of course, has other plans for her. In Once Upon a Crime, the sister's friend Puck, the Trickster King, is injured they must bring him back home. Soon after they arrive, Puck's father, King Oberon, is murdered. The fairy tale detectives are not only hired to solve the mystery, but they also learn new information about their mother. The adventures take a dark turn in Magic and Misdemeanors when important magic pieces are stolen from Everafter. The results are deadly, especially if they are controlled by the Master of the Secret Hand. Will the sisters be successful and who exactly is the Master?

Review: I really enjoy reading this series, mainly because it is so much fun to see which famous fairy tale characters Buckley will use in each installment and how he uses them. For example, Prince Charming goes by the name of Billy has been married several times to Cindy aka Cinderella, Briar Rose, and Rapunzel. His current engagement to Snow White is currently off. He is extremely vain and holds a delicious gray shades of character.
   Sabrina and Daphne are great female characters who use their smarts and observation to solve mysteries on their own and with the help of their friends. The overall premise of children helping their parents is great and continues to grow in each book. Each book is roughly under 300 pages and contains about 10 chapters, but because they are action packed and funny as all heck, you can read them very quickly. I would highly recommend this series to children who are either a bit too young for the Harry Potter or Percy Jackson series. This series is also a great pick for reluctant readers. 

Rating: 4 stars each

Words of Caution: There are some fantasy violence in each book that would be probably rated PG.

If you like this book try: Tales from the Hood by Michael Buckley (Book 6) or The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

Rummanah Aasi
Here is the surprise that I have been working on. Welcome to my very first giveaway!

I can't believe that my blog will soon be 5 months and I now have over 30 followers. I’ve enjoyed sharing my book reviews and thoughts with you all. I look forward to sharing my passion for reading with all of you every day. Thanks to you, blogging has been really fun. I want to continue to grow, get better at blogging, reach new book lovers and followers, which brings me to my first giveaway. Please help me reach my next goal of 60 followers.

For those that have been following my blog from the beginning, you will know that I have a soft spot for YA literature. Like many of you, I'm also counting down the days for Suzanne Collin's Mockingjay, the third and final book of the blockbuster, bestselling Hunger Games series. So to celebrate my first 3 months and my first 37 followers, I am going to give away a copy of Mockingjay! Wait, there's more!! If I reach my goal of 120 followers I will add a second great book to my giveaway... The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. If I'm lucky enough to get 180 followers, I will throw in another item to the giveaway.

The Rules... 

    • You must be a follower of my blog. 
    • You must be over 13 years old.
    • Contest is open to US and Canadian residents only.
    • Only one entry per follower 
    • Since these books are currently only available in pre-order, they will be sent out once these books will be available in print.
    • There will be one winner per book
To Enter...

Please leave a comment below and include the following information:

  • Old (prior to contest) Blog follower: 2 points NOTE: If you follow through Network Blogs only, you must post as an Anonymous with all the required information.
  • All entries must have a name and an email address so I can contact the winners
  • New Blog follower: 1 point 
  • Tweet about my contest (leave link) : 1 point 
  • Put my button (grab on side bar) on your blog (leave blog link): 3 points
  • Bonus: Since I'm all about libraries, show your library blog some love. Leave a meaningful comment (leave link): 4 points 
Please add up your points - for a total of 10 points max.

Contest is open until  midnight EDT on Tuesday, August 17, 2010.

This Contest Is Now Closed.

Winners will be chosen randomly. I will announce the winners on my blog after contest ends. Winners will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

Good luck to you all and thank you so much for sharing in my fun!

Rummanah Aasi
  I have always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes. I love his idiosyncrasies and his use of the scientific method to solve mysteries and crimes. I do not, however, like how pompous, patronizing, and misogynistic he can often be. I don't know if that is how Doyle perceived him to be or if Sherlock is simply a product of the Victorian Ages. I recently discovered a series where an American girl of 15 named Mary Russell becomes Sherlock Holmes' apprentice and together they solve crimes. Well, needless to say I was intrigued and just finished the first book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice,  in what is currently a 10 book series. I really enjoyed this book.

Description: In the early years of World War I, Mary Russell encounters Holmes, retired in Sussex Downs where Conan Doyle left him raising bees. Mary, an orphan rebelling against her strict, guardian aunt, impresses the sleuth with her intelligence and acumen. Holmes initiates her into the mysteries of detection, allowing her to participate in a few cases when she comes home from her studies at Oxford. The real collaboration and true partnership really comes to fruition when the kidnapping in the daughter of an American senator takes place in Wales. The sleuthing duo find signs of the hand of a master criminal, and after Russell rescues the child, attempts are made on their lives. The more Mary and Sherlock investigate their death attempts, it soon becomes clear that there is a  master criminal who is out to get Holmes and all that he holds dear.

Review: The Beekeeper's Apprentice is not a Sherlock Holmes book. King makes no attempts to change the famous detective or other main characters in Doyle's classic series. King does however remain true the personalities of Holmes, Watson, and Mrs. Hudson that were in the original series. I immediately felt that I was reading about the originals in a different setting. Holmes is just as withdrawn, subtle, witty, and intelligent as he always been. I was able to see him in a different light, he is much more human, which brought out by his close relationship with Mary. He is extremely likeable. I can't wait to see how his character changes in the series.
   Another great thing about this book is the strong female protagonist, Mary Russell. She is extremely intelligent, witty, has insecurities, and a dark past. It was refreshing to watch her grow (the book is told in her perspective) and see how she at times outsmart Holmes and stands up to him. She proves to Holmes that she is very much capable of being his partner instead of being a passive aid like Watson. Holmes is constantly trying to go around the subject that Mary is female. It was interesting to note how he is sometimes surprised by her femininity. I also loved Mary and Holme's relationship. Mary sees Holmes as her substitute father, mentor, and best friend. Holmes sees her as a person who is equally intelligent to him, which he finds extremely fascinating.
  I only had a small problem with the book, which is why I gave it 4.5 stars instead of 5. The pacing of the story and the main case kind of lags in the middle. There is a section where Holmes and Mary go to Jerusalem, which doesn't really add to the story. I look forward to reading more adventures with Mary and Sherlock. Hope you do too.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There are drug references, mostly due to Sherlock history of taking opium and other drugs. There is also mild language in the book. I would easily recommend this title to YA readers who love Sherlock Holmes. It's also a great adult book too.

If you like this book try: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie  by Alan Bradley or The Monstrous Regiment of Women (Book 2 of the Mary Russell series) by Laurie King or Another Scandal in Bohemia by Carole Nelson Douglas
Rummanah Aasi
   I mentioned yesterday that I was working on a couple of surprises for the blog. Here is the first surprise: an author interview with Joelle Anthony, who wrote Restoring Harmony. You can read my review of Restoring Harmony here. Joelle is currently in the middle of editing her sophomore novel and graciously allowed me to interview her at this very busy time. Please welcome Joelle to my blog.

Rummanah: Joelle, welcome and thank you so much for stopping by. Restoring Harmony is your debut novel. What inspired you to write your novel?

Joelle: Lots of things inspired it – the end of oil, my personal interest in sustainability & self sufficiency, music, and the island I live on. It all just came together for me.

Rummanah: You're book is marketed as a dystopian novel, but it's much more hopeful than a typical novel of that genre. How would you describe your book?

Joelle: I like to think of it as a family story about courage and hope. The futuristic setting, after economic collapse, was always suppose to be just that...the setting, not what the story is suppose to be about.

Rummanah: Speaking of the setting, Molly's world is very dark considering there is no oil left in the world, food is scare, and crime is rampant, but the characters are optimistic and struggle to survive. As a writer, how do you balance the light and dark aspects of your novel?

Joelle: I am generally a very upbeat, happy, and optimistic person, so my problem has always been creating enough hardships for my characters, making things darker than I’m naturally inclined to do. A lot of people don’t see this book as very dark, which is fine with me

Rummanah: Music is a very important theme in Molly's life. Why did you choose the fiddle as Molly's instrument and folk music for her to play?

Joelle: A fiddle is portable, which was one of the big deciding factors. Also, while my husband plays pretty much every stringed instrument except the fiddle, we do listen to a lot of it here at home. He plays fiddle tunes on his guitar and mandolin, and we are big fans of old-time string music. It seemed like a natural choice.

Rummanah: There is lots of debate about what makes a strong character, especially a strong heroine in young adult novels. How would you define a strong heroine?

Joelle: Someone who rises to meet challenges and comes up with the solution at the end and is not rescued by someone else or some outside force. It doesn’t mean she can’t get help, but in the end, it has to be the heroine who saves the day (or herself, or the world, or whatever needs saving).

Rummanah: I would say that Molly fits those characteristics perfectly. What was your writing and revision process like?

Joelle: Writing new stuff is slow for me. It’s definitely the hardest part. I like to revise though. Revising is just a matter of breaking it into chunks and working through them and then going back and trying to see if everything is all linked together and has a good pace. Sounds simple, right? Haha! It’s terribly simple and terribly hard at the same time. Mostly, it’s just about staying after it.

Rummanah: Did you always want to be a writer and write for young adults? If so, why?

Joelle: I actually used to be an actress, but I’ve always written. Back then, I wrote sketch comedy and acted in it. When I did decide to write books though, it was always YA that interested me. Honestly, it’s my favourite genre to read, so it seemed like a natural choice.

Rummanah: Mine too. :) Are there any writers that inspire you?

Joelle: Any writer who’s actually written a book, published or unpublished, inspires me. When you work in this business, you know so many writers that you tend to forget it’s not really a normal, everyday thing to write a book, but it’s not. Everyone wants to write a book, but few actually do it. Those who do it are an inspiration. Also, the kids I teach writing to inspire me with their stories and their ability to really show interesting details in their writing.

Rummanah: I'm always looking for next great read, what is your favorite book that you've read so far this year?

Joelle: I really liked Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu and I loved all the Spellman Files books – they’re HILARIOUS. Those are books I wish I’d written. So much fun. It’s kind of hard for me to remember what I’ve read this year because for the first time ever, I’m just reading and not keeping note cards or lists of the books I read, or blogging about them. I just got tired of the paperwork. I wanted to read like when I was a kid…for fun. It’s been really liberating, at least until I have to answer a question like this!

Rummanah: Tell me about it. I'm doing a reading challenge and it's hard to distinguish all the books I've read this year. I just have to know whether or not you're a vegetarian. I can't tell you how many times I got hungry while reading your book. And if you are, can you please share a recipe with us?

Joelle: I am a vegetarian and I love to cook. I’m pretty “well-known in these parts” for my soups, so how about I share one of the most simple and delicious recipes I know for soup. I make up most of my recipes, but this one comes from Julia Child (for the most part).

4 Cups red or white potatoes, roughly chopped (you’re going to puree them, so they don’t have to be small)
3-4 Cups of leeks, sliced, and rinsed well
7-8 Cups of water
1.5 tsp salt (you’ll probably need more at the end)

Throw everything into the pot, bring it to a boil, turn it down to simmer. Cook for around 30 minutes until everything is soft, blend with a hand blender or do in small batches in the a blender (large batches will blow the top off!). Season with salt and pepper. Yum. You could add some cream or half & half at the end, but I don’t usually bother.

Rummanah: That sounds delicious! You mentioned earlier that you were an actress. Do you have a favorite movie, actor, or actress?

Joelle: I have to admit that I’ve only seen about three movies in the last three years and two of them were the Harry Potter movies (which were huge disappointments, if you ask me) and one was Shrek 3 with my niece. I used to go to the movies all the time, but now I live on an island it requires a ferry trip and my car to get to the theatre. I can’t be bothered! Before, though, my favourites were always Dame Judi Dench, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Emma Thompson, and Hugh Laurie.

Rummanah: Before you go, can you tell us a little about the next book you're working on?

Joelle: My second novel is called The Right & The Real. It’s about a girl whose father gets mixed up in a cult and when she won’t join, he throws her out onto the street. Like Restoring Harmony, it’s a bit of an adventure, and there might just be a bit of romance, but it’s mostly about family. It should come out in 2012, but I don’t have a firm release date yet.

Rummanah: Sounds interesting. I'll be sure to check it out! Joelle, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us.

Joelle: Thank you so much for having me.

To learn more about Joelle, please visit her website.
Rummanah Aasi
  There are a few surprises that I'm working on for next week so I asked my dear friend, Leanne Ayer, to do a guest review for me. Thank you, Leanne! Enjoy her review of Infinity by Sherrilyn Kenyon.

I was excited when Rummanah asked me to pop by and write a guest review of the first book in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Chronicles of Nick series, Infinity.  I've read many of her adult books and was intrigued by the concept of a young adult series based on the adolescence of Nick Gauthier, whom we meet and come to love in the Dark-Hunter series.
     The successful Dark-Hunters series follows a group of warriors, per se, who give up their souls and pledge fealty to the Greek goddess Artemis by becoming a Dark-Hunter in exchange for one shot at avenging their deaths.  They spend their nights hunting Daimons--cursed Apollites, who are very much like vampires only they live off souls, not blood.  Many of the Dark-Hunters have squires, humans who can tend to their needs during daylight, as they will die if exposed to sunlight, and that’s where I first met Nick; he was introduced early on as squire to Kyrian. As the series progresses, we see the friendship between him and the incredibly powerful and mysterious wrangler of the Dark-Hunters, Acheron Parthenopaeus grow, and then implode.

Description: Fourteen year-old Nick Gauthier’s already messed up life suddenly takes an even stranger turn when he tries to thwart his friends’ plot to mug two innocent tourists; his so-called friends shoot him. This incident seems to be the beginning of a chain of interesting paranormal events, leading Nick to discover that in New Orleans nothing is what it seems. If being a low-income kid attending a private school on scholarship wasn't bad enough, realizing that half the school turns into wolves or bears or that the football team is hell-bent on trying to eat you really takes the cake.

Review:  I devoured Infinity.  It was a quick read, the action pushed along the plot, and Nick as a teenager is just as snarky, witty, and endearing as I found him to be in Kenyon’s adult series.  Although there were a few points that left me scratching my head, I have faith that Kenyon will fill in the gaps in later books.
    You really don’t need to have read the Dark-Hunter series to get a grasp of this book.Information is imparted in relatively palatable chunks so it’s not overwhelming, and I have every faith that each subsequent book will build on the incredibly rich mythology that Kenyon has created.
    So why do I love Nick so much? Nick is a wise-ass, he is smart-mouthed and sometimes his sarcasm makes me laugh out loud. I think part of the reason I like him is that he came from a rough beginning (as we are reading about in this series) so he’s tough, unrepentant, and yet he loves his Mama.  Nick was brought up to respect the women in his life, and he does in a way that kids today don’t necessarily understand.  He also has an intriguing way of seeing the world—it’s black and white, and yet in this book we’re starting to see some grey sneaking in.  I love being able to see his progression from quasi-naive teen to the man he becomes in the adult series.
   This book is engaging and drew me in right away.  It would be a great one for reluctant readers because of its fast pace—there’s really no time to get bored with this book.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution:  There is mild language, violence, and adult themes (Nick's mom is an exotic dancer), and supernatural beings. This book might be best for 14 and up.

If you like this book, try: Invincible by Sherrilyn Kenyon (due out in May 2011)
Rummanah Aasi
 As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a hard time finding an adult book that I actually enjoy to read. I had asked one of the librarians at my local public library for some suggestions. She of coursed asked me what was the last good book I read. I had promptly replied The Help by Kathryn Stockett (a great book, by the way, if you haven't read it yet). She then directed me to Mudbound by Hiliary Jordan, what she thought was a read-alike to The Help. The two books do have similarities, but I didn't like Mudbound as much or more than The Help.

Description: It's 1946 in the Mississippi Delta, where Laura McAllan is struggling to adjust to farm life, raise her daughters, and be the wife her land-loving husband, Henry, wants her to be. It is an uphill battle every day. To make things worse, Henry's father, Pappy, an old, rude, misogynous, and racist man moves in them. The heart of the story, however, is the friendship between Jamie, Henry's too-charming brother, and Ronsel Jackson, an African American man who is the son of the sharecroppers that live on the McAllan farm. Both return and are forever changed by World War II. Told in alternating chapters by Laura, Henry, Jamie, Ronsel, and his parents, Florence and Hap, the story of forbidden love, murder, and betrayal unfolds with a chilling inevitability.

Review:  As I mentioned earlier, Mudbound does have similarities with The Help: both take place in the South and are told in multiple perspectives, but that's about it. In The Help, I was able to connect to the their main narratives in the story, sympathize when they struggled, and cheered for them when they were victorious. I had the opposite effect when I read Mudbound. I thought the characters could have been introduced better. My main problem is that I really didn't care much for the characters except Ronsel. Laura is a self involved wife who refuses to grow a spine and stand up to her husband. Henry is the stereotypical absent minded husband who only cares what other people think of him. Jamie is suppose to be charming and likeable, but I thought he was weak and passive. I absolutely hated Pappy.
    In terms of the story, the tagline of a "forbidden love, murder, and betrayal" are somewhat misleading and does not occur until the second half of the book. When those events did happen, I wasn't shocked or effected by any means. I saw everything happen before it unfolded. Mudbound is a well written novel that had the potential of being a more powerful book if only the characters were more alive. The book contains classic and powerful themes: racism, traditional values, freedom, and identity, however, I felt it got lost in the shuffle of the multi-narrative structure of the book. This book is definitely not in my top 10 books of this year, but I would still recommend it.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language and sexual situations throughout the novel. There is also a particularly violent scene as well, but much of the violence does take off stage (thank goodness).

If you like this book, try: The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng
Rummanah Aasi
  I used to think that faeries were beautiful and nice creatures. It's not until I read books that solely focused on the fey did I realize that they were actually really mean, manipulative, and dark. Most of their stories don't have a happy ending. I just finished two books that illustrate this point very clearly: Holly Black's Kith, the second volume of her Good Neighbor graphic novel series, and Melissa Marr's Radiant Shadows, the fourth book in her Wicked Lovely series. Both works efficiently combine urban fiction with the fey.

Description of Kith: In the first volume of the Good Neighbor series, Kin, Rue discovers that she is half faerie and uncovers a dark secret that her father has been keeping. In this volume, Rue finds out what really happened to her mother. She must now decide whether she will give in to her faerie instincts and join the faerie realm, especially after she overhears the faeries plans on conquering the mortal world. What will Rue do? 

Review of Kith: I really enjoyed this second installment much more than the first volume. This sequel focuses more on the Faerie world than the first volume. It focuses less on the teenage relationships and more about the supernatural, which quickly bordered on the very creepy side. Naifeh's illustrations are dark and shadowy, giving the story the feel of a horror movie. The book ends on a strange note, a last minute twist that made me want to read the third volume to this series.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some mild language and suggestions of sex in the graphic novel. Some of the illustrations of the fey are a bit scary for elementary and maybe middle schoolers. I think this book would be appropriate for strong 8th graders and up.

Description of Radiant Shadows: When I think about Radiant Shadows in comparison with Kith, it's not that much different. The main difference is that the heroine, Ani, already knows that she is half faerie and half human. Ani's main struggle is to be part of her father's pack and she wants to give in to her faerie side's desires. It's only when Ani and Devlin, the High Queen's and her twin sister of War's brother and assassin, meet do things gets tricky and dangerous. Why? Because Devlin had been ordered to kill Ani when she was first born and hasn't done so because he is oddly attracted to her. As the two characters are drawn together, each with reason to fear the other and to fear for one another, a larger threat imperils the whole of Faerie. Will saving the faerie realm mean losing each other?  

Review of Radiant Shadows: I'm a fan of the Wicked Lovely series ever since I read the first book in the series. I loved how Marr combined elements of romance, mystery, suspense, and folklore in her books. Radiant Shadows, however, was not my favorite book in the series and I thought it was just an okay book. My main problem with this latest installment is that I had to learn two new characters in the Faerie world, which is totally fine, but I had a really hard time connecting with them. It's not until the last half of the book that I finally cared and rooted for them. I also had an issue with the pacing of the book. I thought the first half was a bit slow and drawn out. The book takes an abrupt turn from Devlin and Ani's relationship to the problems in the Faerie world. I just wished I had gotten to know both characters a bit more and had seen some of my other favorite characters like Seth, Ash, and Keenan a bit more too. I'm curious as to how this series will conclude and will be waiting for Marr's next book.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some mild language and suggestions of sex in the graphic novel. Some of the descriptions of the fey and the few action scenes may be a bit scary for elementary and maybe middle schoolers. I think this book would be appropriate for strong 8th graders and up.

If you like Kith, try: Desert Tales: Sanctuary (Wicked Lovely Manga Series Vol 1) by Melissa Marr

If you like Radiant Shadows, try: Lament by Maggie Stiefvater or Tithe by Holly Black
Rummanah Aasi
   I have been meaning to pick up Mike Carey's Re-gifters ever since I saw it on ALA's list of Best Graphic Novels a few years ago. I'm glad that I did pick up and really enjoyed this title. It has everything that makes a good romantic comedy movie: romance, action, humor, and introspection.

Description: Korean American teenager Dixie and her best friend, Avril, practice hapkido, a Korean martial art. There is a big hapkido tournament coming up in their South Central, Los Angeles neighborhood. Dixie, who has a bad temper, loses her focus when she develops a crush on Adam, another teen hapkido artist. To show how much she likes him, she spends her contest entry fee on an exorbitant gift for him and then realizes that he has no romantic interest in her. Dixie must now find a way to enter the tournament and somehow Adam seems to be interested in her, except he has a condition: throw away the game so he can win. Will Dixie listen to her mind or her heart?

Review: As I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed this graphic novel. There are well-developed characters, plot, and setting make this title a standout for both regular and reluctant comics readers. I loved Dixie. She is spunky, smart, and funny. Anyone who has witnessed and lived through unrequited love will sympathize with her. There are plot twists that are both realistic and nicely paced in the graphic novel. The black and white artwork reflects well with the narrative and pops with expressive faces, postures, and martial arts moves. I could really envision myself sitting at the tournament and seeing everything that is happening. Although I did have a few questions after I finished the book, I did this graphic novel does a great job in explaining the Korean art of hapkido and the Korean immigrant experience as well as the turmoil of high school relationships.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is mild language. I would recommend it to 7th graders and up.

If you like this book, try: The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci
Rummanah Aasi
   I really enjoyed reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but to be honest I did struggle with the first half of the book. I got lost with the business angle and the information overload concerning a key family, but once I got over that hurdle it was an intense read. I was a bit worried that I would face the same dilemma with the second book, The Girl Who Played with Fire, but I was assured by many that the second book is much better. With that in mind, I waited patiently on a waiting list with other 30 patrons at my local public library and was excited to read it. Of course my advisers were right and I loved every minute of it.

Description: Mikael Blomkvist is publishing the story that exposes the extensive sex trafficking operation between Sweden and Eastern Europe, however when two investigative journalists are killed the night before the story runs and Lisbeth's hand prints are on the murder weapon, Mikael vows to clear the girl's name and find the true killer.

Review: I could not put down The Girl Who Played with Fire. From the very first page, Larrson captured my attention mainly because the second book revolves around Lisbeth a savvy, intelligent computer hacker that doesn't take nonsense from anyone. She really does remind me of a female version of Jason Bourne. A person who does not really know how much power they have until they are in a particular situation. In the first book, readers are given a hint about Lisbeth's dark past. In this book, her back story is fully explored and drives the novel. The book is written from multiple perspectives: Mikeal, his partner Berger, and the police officers assigned to Lisbeth's case, but there is only one storyline to follow, which made reading and following the author much easier. Without giving anything away, there were some surprises regarding Lisbeth's past that I didn't see coming. There are also some really cool car chases and cliffhangers. I'm really looking forward to reading the third and last book in this series. I'm not ready to say goodbye to Lisbeth.  

Rating: 5 stars

Words of Caution: Like it's predecessor, this book also contains adult situations. There is strong language and sexual content throughout the novel. The violence is much more graphic and disturbing. I would recommend this book to strong, mature teen readers, and adults who enjoy an action packed and intelligent mystery novel. 

If you like this book, try: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornest's Nest by Steig Larsson
Rummanah Aasi
   The Empire State Building is a well known landmark in New York. It is frequently used in movies where the hero and heroine either meet or get together. Sleepless in Seattle or An Affair to Remember, anyone? Do you know why the Empire State Building was built in the first place? I don't and that why I picked up Deborah Hopkinson's historical fiction, picture book called Sky Boys.

Description: In 1931, a boy and his father watch as the world's tallest building, the Empire State Building, is constructed near their Manhattan home.

Review: I really liked Sky Boys from the moment I opened the book up. The front and back panels of the book are actual photographs of men working on the Empire State Building. The photographs grabbed my attention right away and I couldn't wait to start the book. The story's setting is the Great Depression and is told from the point of view of a 10 year old boy. The boy learns about how the building is built. The illustrations compliment the lyrical and information packed words quite well. Though the worker's experience of creating the Empire State Building isn't mentioned, you can just feel how the building soon becomes a symbol of hope during the darkest days of U.S. History. This would make a great read aloud for 1st and 2nd graders.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Squeaky clean.

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies and English (Poetry)

If you like this book try: Skyscraper by Susan Goodman or Sky Dancer by Connie Ann Kirk
Rummanah Aasi
   Dystopia is usually defined as a society characterized by human misery such as oppression and disease, and majority of the time the horrible status is caused by humans themselves. I enjoy reading dystopic novels because I am forced to see the flaws in humankind and I am curious as how humans get themselves out of their own mess. I came across an enjoyable dystopic novel called Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony. 

Description: The year is 2041. There is no oil in the world, food is scarce, and crime is rampant due to the Collapse of 2031. Molly is on a fun trip to United States. She must convince her grandfather to come back to her family farm in British Columbia, Canada,  and be the island's doctor. Molly's exciting trip soon becomes a scary, rescuing mission, which tests Molly's strengths, confidence, and will. She faces an unknown world where people will do almost anything to get what they need.Will a farm girl like Molly survive in this upturned world? Will she be able to return with her grandpa in time for him to help her ailing mother? Can she trust anyone to help her achiever her goal? And to what extent is Molly willing to go in order to get back to British Columbia with her grandparents safely?

Review:  I really enjoyed Restoring Harmony. It has a great balance of the light and dark aspects of Molly's world. While there is hardly any food available or limited resources due to the Collapse of 2031, Molly reverts to her farming skills and her music to help her and her grandparents survive. Molly is a character that I really liked. She is resourceful, ingenious, funny, and warm. Although times are tough for her, she doesn't whine but looks for a solution. Her optimism is what keeps this book from being too dark. Though her naivete of the city life is a bit of a stretch, I love that Molly is determined to get back home to Canada. 
    In addition to great characters, there is also adventure and a dash of romance that made me what to keep reading. Unlike most books that I read, the romance does not take over the plot but it does, however, offer a shining light that things will be okay for Molly. The romance is sweet and chaste. 
   While serious science fiction readers may think Restoring Harmony doesn't fit the genre, I would still highly recommend it to readers who liked  Life As We Knew It, but thought it was a bit too real for them. Anthony creates a world where family matters and a sassy, smart, hopeful, fiddle playing heroine must face obstacles after obstacles. I couldn't help but cheer Molly on and I hope you do too. I look forward to reading Anthony's second novel.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some mild language and violence, but nothing more than a PG movie. I would easily recommend it to strong fifth grade readers and up.

If you like this book, try: Memory Boy by Will Weaver

Resources: If you would like to use Restoring Harmony for a book discussion, here is the discussion guide. Be aware the study guide contains spoilers!

Stay tuned for an upcoming author interview with Joelle Anthony!
Rummanah Aasi
   I am very excited and fortunate to bring you all an interview I conducted with Brian Katcher. Brian Katcher is the author of Playing with Matches and Almost Perfect. Almost Perfect is in the ALA's Best Books for Young Adults list in 2010, A Capitol Choice Noteworthy Book for 2010, and A Lamda Award nominee in 2010. I first came across Brian's book as an ARC (Advanced Readers Copy), while I was attending the ALA conference in Chicago. I was first drawn to the title and cover of the book. The book synopsis piqued my interest and it quickly became one of the best books I read last year.

Description of Almost Perfect: Logan Whitherspoon recently discovered that his girlfriend of three years cheated on him. Since then–much to his friends’ dismay–he has been despressed, pessimistic, and obessed with this ex, Brenda. But things start to look up for Logan when a new student breezes through the halls of his small-town high school. Tall, unconventionally pretty, and a bit awkward, Sage Hendricks somehow appeals to Logan even at a time when he trusts no one. As Logan learns more about Sage, he realizes that she needs a friend as much as he does, if not more. She has been homeschooled for several years, and her parents have forbidden her to date, but she won’t tell Logan why. The mystery of Sage’s past and the oddities of her personality intrigue Logan, and one day, he acts on his growing attraction and kisses her. Moments later, however, he wishes he hadn’t. Sage finally discloses her big secret: she’s actually a boy. Now Logan must decide what kind of relationship, if any, he wants to have with Sage.

Please welcome Brian to my blog.

Rummanah: Brian, welcome and thank you for stopping by. I came across your book first as an Advanced Readers Copy at an ALA conference in Chicago last year. I was first drawn to the title and then the cover. I was a bit disappointed about the huge spoiler on the blurb of the book, but I still loved your book and finished it in one evening. Did you wanted your reader to know Sage’s secret ahead of time or was that the publisher’s decision?

Brian: It’s funny, but the whole time I was editing my story, my editor kept warning me not to give away Sage’s secret. She kept warning me to let the readers be surprised, to not give hints, to take out a lot of references about Sage’s husky voice, broad shoulders and big hands. Then, when I get the sample cover, I realize that the big secret is printed right there! The publishers’ thought was that people who are interested in transgendered themed books need to know that this book it out there. I have to agree, though people who read this book without looking at the cover have told me they were utterly surprised when they got to page 99. My wife, when reading the first draft, shouted “SHE’S A GUY?” Personally, I would have left the secret a secret and let word of mouth do its thing. 

Rummanah: I would have preferred the secret too, yet  I was more curious as to how Sage would break the news to Logan. Speaking of Sage, I absolutely adored her and was cheering her on throughout the entire book. How did you come up with her character?

Brian: Through interviewing lots and lots of transgendered women online. I talked to people who transitioned almost right out of high school, people who transitioned late in life, and people who were still living as the ‘wrong’ gender. Sage was the kind of girl a lot of my correspondents wished they could be: A full time girl who could easily pass as female, someone whose family, while not accepting, didn’t force her to deny who she was. 

Rummanah: It is so easy to lump Almost Perfect into a YA GLBT and realistic fiction, but I think the book is so much more complex. How would you describe your book?

Brian: Well, it clearly is a GLBT book, but I’d like to think the plot isn’t so much about Sage’s gender identity as Logan’s relationship with Sage, how he grows up, and how he both supports and fails to support Sage. After all is said and done, Almost Perfect is a love story.

Rummanah: Now that you mention Logan and Sage's relationship, it reminds me of one my favorites parts of your book, where Sage writes a letter to Logan.Your book could have easily ended on a sad note, but I’m thrilled that it didn’t. What made you decide to write a “happy ending”?

Brian: It’s funny, but I don’t consider the ending a happy one. I was rewriting that ending even after the ARC came out, and I’m happy how it turned out. But I think Sage is destined to have a happy life as a woman, and that’s a happy ending in itself.

Rummanah: Young Adult books that generally deal with the subject of GLBT books are frequently challenged in public and school libraries. Were you worried that your book would be controversial and did you find that you were censoring yourself while writing the book?

Brian: Well, when I tackled this subject, I knew some people weren’t going to appreciate it, and braced myself for the negative feedback. Strangely, I haven’t heard of anyone who had a problem with the topic, directly or indirectly, though that may just be because not enough people have read it.. There’s been plenty of criticism, but it’s about the book itself: It’s too long, Logan was too whiney, the situations were contrived. There’s nothing worse than legitimate criticism. Sheesh, what’s a guy got to do to get his book burned in this town?  

Rummanah: What was your writing and revision process like? 

Brian: Sit down, drink a lot of coffee, bang on the keyboard, dislike what I've written, start over, and repeat.

Rummanah: Did you always want to be a writer and write for young adults? If so, why?

Brian: Nope. Growing up, it never once occurred to me that I’d enjoy writing for fun. It wasn’t until I was 25, down and out in Mexico, did I decide to crank out a novel to pass the time. They say write what you know, so I wrote about being awkward and dateless in high school. That story eventually turned into ‘Playing With Matches.’ I think I was more surprised than anyone when it was published.

Rummanah: Are there any writers that inspire you?

Brian: John Green, Brent Hartinger, and Patrick Ryan are some great YA novelists. I wish I could write like those guys. Holly Schindler and Antony John are a couple of up and comers (like myself) that are worth watching. I really enjoy the writing style of H.P. Lovecraft, though I’d prefer to be less racist and less dead. I don’t read a lot of Stephen King, though I’m always inspired by how rich he is. 

Rummanah: You've held lots of different jobs in your lifetime. What inspired you to become a school librarian?

Brian: I was a classroom teacher for five years, which I enjoyed. I kind of just stumbled into the library when there was an opening and discovered that I loved it. There’s nothing like inspiring little kids to read, plus I get to do the funny voices during story time. 

Rummanah: In addition to being a school librarian, you are also a parent of a little one. How do you find time out of your busy schedule to write?

Brian: Well, being a librarian I have less take home work than most teachers. Also, I have the whole summer off, which is when I do most of my writing. Finally, I have a very understanding wife who watches our daughter when I write. I couldn’t do this without her.

Rummanah: I'm always looking for the next great read, what is your favorite book that you've read this year?

Brian: I have to recommend Happenstance Found by P.W. Catanese. It’s a fantasy book, maybe geared more for upper elementary/junior high, though I couldn’t put it down. As for YA, A Blue so Dark by Holly Schindler was amazing. It’s about a girl dealing with her mother’s mental illness.

Rummanah: I'll definitely add those to my ever growing list of books to read! On a serious note,
I know you have a soft spot for Wayne’s World. Do you have a favorite quote from the movie?

Brian: Ah, Wayne’s World. That movie kind of defined high school for me. Seeing that film was the first time I ever called in sick from work (McDonalds) to hang out with my friends. No real quote from the movie, though I remember that most of my friends were huge Queen fans at a time when Queen wasn’t popular with teens. The scene where everyone started singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, they were squealing like girls at a boy band concert.

Rummanah: Are your working on a new book at the moment? If so, can you tell us something about it and when we can expect it to come out?

Brian: I have a book with my editor, and I’m biting my nails to see what she thinks. It’s called ‘Mysterious Ways.’

Katrina Aiden has a rough life. Her parents mock her attempts to become an artist, and have driven her older brother out of the house. Her closest friend, Darren, is the biggest nerd ever to hurl a ten sided dice. So why is she so suddenly jealous when he starts dating someone else? When Katrina meets a boy named Jonah, she’s turned off by his arrogance. Jonah believes that the internet doesn’t report the news, it controls it. People believe whatever they read, and by posting false news stories and starting rumors, Jonah is able to change the public’s perception of events. Katrina finds herself lured by Jonah’s strong personality. Too late does she realize he has an agenda of his own. He’s out for revenge, and Katrina will help him, whether she wants to or not.

Rummanah: I'm sure it'll be great. It's already in my "looking foward to reading it" list. Brian, thank you so much for taking the time and speaking to us.

Brian: Thanks for interviewing me.

To learn more about Brian and his books, please visit his website. If you haven't read, Almost Perfect, you're missing out on a great story about identity, acceptance, and the complexities of relationships.  
Rummanah Aasi
  I found my next book while doing grocery shopping at Costco. I got easily distracted by their table of books displayed in the aisles while I was on my way to grab something. My eye caught a title that made me take a second look, open and read the exerpt, and then immediately put it on my list to read. The book I''m talking about is called The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott.

Description: Based on some facts from her journals and other works, author Kelly O'Connor McNess imagines Alcott's 1855 summer experience in which she falls in love in a small town in New Hampshire, but must choose between her heart and her ambition to become a writer in Boston.

Review:  I distinctly remember reading Little Women in 7th grade. My good friend Amelia had lent me her gorgeous illustrated, hardcover copy of the book. I loved the book, but was a bit frustrated about why Laurie and Jo didn't end of together. I didn't understand why Jo choose the German professor and why of all the characters Amy got to have Laurie. As you can see, I still fume about it. ;)
    McNess's debut novel asks what inspired Alcott to write Little Women and the relationship between Jo and Lawrence. I thoroughly enjoyed this bittersweet romance. I know the basic facts about Alcott's personal life such as how her family lived in poverty due to the fact that her father, Bronson, had strict philosophies. McNess does a great job in recreating the nineteenth-century milieu. I was easily transported back in time and could vividly picture Alcott's world. Louisa's character is easily likeable: ambitious, assertive, and passionate about wanting independence. Her struggle to fulfill her dream job as a writer and be financially independent really struck a chord with me. Louisa's father is portrayed complexly in the story. I couldn't figure out if I disliked him for what he put his family through or admire him by staying true to his beliefs. Other characters from Alcott's neighborhood such as Joseph Singer and Louisa's characters are models for the characters in Little Women. When I read this book, I thought of how similar it is in themes and characters with the movie Becoming Jane, which I really enjoyed too. Overall, I thought the book was well written and fans of Little Women will surely enjoy it.   

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is an allusion to sex, which happens in the background and can be inferred. This book is a pretty tamed romance that I wouldn't be hesitate to recommend to teens.

If you like this book try: Romancing Miss Bronte by Juliet Gael
Rummanah Aasi
   I was feeling patriotic during the July 4th weekend and picked up a picture book biography on Abraham Lincoln called Stand Tall, Abe Lincoln. Unlike most biographies that focus on Lincoln's presidency and his policies, Stand Tall Abe Lincoln, centers on Abe's childhood. So what was our 16th president like as a kid?

Description: Abraham Lincoln grew up poor and without schooling in a Kentucky wilderness and lost his mother before he was ten. His stepmother, Sally Bush Johnston, brought a library of books to their log cabin home, ignited Abe's passion for learning, and believed in Abe from the beginning. She was an inspiring turning point for young Abe, who went on to become America’s sixteenth, most popular, and respected president.

Review: I really enjoyed this well written and illustrated picture book biography. The book portrays Abe as an ordinary people who goes to school, makes his friends, and does his chores around the house. Along side this light-hearted moments are hard obstacles such as losing a parent at a very young age and living in poverty. Of course the educator in me loves how young Abe discovers his passion for learning by reading books from his illiterate stepmother's library, which also gave him a way out of poverty. While some may think Faulkner's  illustrations are comical and exaggerated, I thought they were warm, intimate, and caught my attention. I saw a real person in those pictures not a cold portrait that is displayed in many biographies on Abraham Lincoln.  A biographical note on Lincoln's later life is also included and a bibliography is also appended. If you don't have this book in your collection, I highly recommend it that you add it.

Rating: 4 stars

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies

Words of Caution: None

If you like this book, try: Take the Lead, George Washington or Make your mark, Franklin Roosevelt by Judith St. George
Rummanah Aasi
   As you know, I’m an ardent Twilight fan. I refuse to call myself a twihard because the name is stupid and I’m not in the rabid fan category. I have met Stephenie Meyer twice at two different book signings, devoured each book of the Saga, and have “bitten” others to read the series too. In other words, I am the targeted audience for the Twilight Saga movies. Currently, I have seen Eclipse twice (at a midnight showing for the first time and the second for fulfilling a promise) and don’t plan on seeing it anymore. I have been asked what I thought about the movie at the end of each screening and both times my reaction has been “eh”. If you have not seen the movie or have read the book, please stop reading this post now. The review below contains spoilers as well as captions from the movie.

Description of the movie: Seattle is being ravaged by a mysterious string of murders. Victoria continues her quest for revenge. Bella is in the middle of all the danger, where she not only needs to make a decision on whether or not to choose her love for Edward or her relationship with Jacob, but also a choice between life and death. Which will she choose?

Review: Eclipse is my favorite book in the Twilight Saga. Meyer successfully combines humor, romance, and suspense into a thought provoking novel. The theme of choice is predominant in the book. In the first two books, Bella has already made up her mind to become a vampire without comprehending how much she will lose in that process. In Eclipse, she not only understands but chooses to become a vampire despite all the things she might lose. Every aspect of the novel revolves around this point.

    My main problem with the film adaptation is that this theme of choice is danced around and the characters vaguely talked about it, but it is never shown to the viewer throughout the movie. It was as if the director, screenwriter, or both, were not sure what to make of the theme, which as a result made the movie choppy and left me empty and confused. I know that film adaptations of books and the original novels are two separate forms of art that depends on one’s interpretation or vision. I also know that the films will change parts of the book, but they should retain at the very least the spirit of the book. Eclipse, however, resembles the book in its superficial form; however it lacks the heart and emotions that affected many of its readers.
     In my opinion what has plagued the Twilight Saga movies so far is the lack of character and relationship development, particularly of the leading pair. In the Twilight movie (which I absolutely abhor), Bella and Edward’s relationship isn’t discussed. In the span of one hour they meet, dislike one another, and then can’t live without one another. Even literature’s fastest relationship, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, took at least three days to develop.
    To say the least there were many things missing in the first two movies. The viewer needed to see Bella and Edward talking and getting to know one another. We also needed to see how both of them loved each other in their own way. In other words, we needed to see why Bella is so devastated when Edward leaves in New Moon. In New Moon (which I thought was very well done out of the three movies), we needed Edward to apologize for leaving and have his epiphany of loving Bella. We needed to recognize that Bella is a strong, different person now who sees Jacob as a satisfying match (if monsters and magic didn’t exist), but who also knows that Edward is someone she can not live without. These necessary parts can be shown through dialogue and emotions in the movies. The relationships in Eclipse continue the trend of its predecessors. Instead of a complex love triangle, I saw a nonexistent one.

Bella continues to be robotic and cold. She has some powerful phrases that are suppose to tug on your heart strings, but they just come out as words without any emotions. For example, when Bella visits Jacob after he is injured from the battle scene is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the Twilight Saga. This is the moment where she has finally admits to herself that she does love Jacob, but is ready to leave him. She is in tears for leaving her best friend, who has helped her in her darkest times and who she possibly may not see ever again. In the movie, the scene lacks emotion from Kristen Stewart. She does not seem sad or even comes across as even caring for Jacob in any way. There are no tears or watery eyes or even a lip tremor from her. Taylor Lautner (who continues to improve from each film), however, does a great job in expressing Jacob’s anguish through is facial expressions. This scene is extremely important thematically. Jacob represents what Bella would have if she continues to live her life as a human. Jacob and Bella’s complex relationship, which is developed quite nicely in the New Moon movie, is negated and not recognized at all in Eclipse. A missing scene where Bella breaks down in front of Edward needed to be included to show the viewers just how much Jacob means to her.
  Another scene that left me unsatisfied is the ending of the movie. Bella has finally made her well informed decision to become a vampire. She states that she wants to become a vampire (I’m paraphrasing): “It was never a choice between you [Edward] or Jacob, but between who I should be and who I am.” While I love this line, but I think it does not send the real message of the book. Bella is choosing to become a vampire because of love, but rather the statement says that Bella is choosing to become a vampire because it gives her another opportunity for her to fit in. True, it is ultimately Bella that must make a choice, but the reason why she chooses is for love. I think was the screenwriter's last ditch effort in showing Bella's choice.
   Edward for the most part is emasculated and mute for most of the movie. Many of his dialogues in the book allow the readers to see not only his flaws, but also his many attempts to make up for his dramatic exit in New Moon. In the movie, Edward comes across as a lovesick puppy whose main goal is to try to persuade Bella in marrying him. He seems less concerned and frustrated with her making the choice of joining him. Serious issues such as having a soul and experiencing humanity are glossed over in the few minutes before and after the proposal. I am the first person to admit that I do not like Robert Pattinson as an actor. I don’t think he can act and he is most definitely not my version of Edward. I do, however, see the screenwriter not giving him a voice or even an opportunity to try to become Edward. It comes across as if the viewers already know Edward and therefore, he does not need to be explained. Robert does a have a few good scenes such as the the proposal scene, but he still needs to work on having more than three expressions. What continues to bother me is that Edward is supposed to be a good fighter, who uses his ability to read minds to his advantage. He appears to be the opposite in the movies and has a hard time defeating his opponents.

    Unlike the mute Edward, Jacob is given a voice and presence in the movie. Instead of continuing his role as Bella’s best friend, he comes across as a spoiled, whiny boy who is struggling to win something that he knows he can never have. Jacob’s role in the Twilight Saga is complex. He is not only Bella’s best friend, but also a symbolism of the humanity Bella would lose if she becomes a vampire. It is clear from the movie that he does not agree with Bella’s decision; however, Jacob should be seen as trying to understand why Bella makes her choice. The movie should have built upon their friendship. I saw a flicker of this in the scene where Jacob and Bella attend the tribe meeting where the Third Wife story is mentioned. I can see the two characters feel uncomfortable in their possible future roles. More scenes like this where these two characters connect with one another should have been added.

   In addition to the lack of a love triangle, I also found two inconsistencies in the movie that really didn’t sit well with me. The first scene is at the graduation party where Alice sees a vision. Alice can not see her visions when wolves are present. Therefore the graduation scene where the wolves are present and the vision takes place doesn’t make sense. The second inconsistency has to deal with Bella’s engagement ring. I found the ring in the movie to be hideous. The ring in the book is described as a long oval face, set with slanting rows of glittering round stones, and a golden band. The ring from the movie looks like a shined, ordinary rock on a silver ring band. As a side note, Kristen Stewart's wig was not only the wrong color, but was awful and completely distracting.
    There are parts of the movie, however, that I really enjoyed (no, really) such as the “talk” between Charlie and Bella as well as Bella visiting her mother in Florida, which were both very well executed by the actors in the movie. The Cullen training session and Jasper’s background story were well done. I glad that Jackson Rathbone finally had an opportunity to shine and was not creepy like the first two movies. The graduation speech and the appearance of the humans in the movie added a nice touch, but I wished they played a bigger part in Bella realizing the various relationships should be losing. Eclipse definitely has more of the humor and action than the first two movies. I just wish the movie spent a bit more time in developing the various relationships in the movie. If you’re a fan of the book series, it might be worth your time to see the movie but wait for the dvd. If you're a purist, I highly suggest buying the terrific soundtrack and playing it in the background while you reread Eclipse. Thankfully, the people who created the soundtrack understood the book. If you haven’t seen the first two movies or read the books, save your money and time.

Words of Caution: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some sensuality.

Rating: 2 stars (Get it from the library if you can)
Rummanah Aasi
  Although I really enjoyed A Thousand Ships, the first volume of the Age of Bronze series, I was a bit curious as how the author will portray the tougher issues of the Trojan War in graphic novel format and whether or not I'd get bored with the series quickly since I already know how the war ends. Shanower proved me wrong on multiple levels in the next two installments of this brilliant graphic novel series: Sacrifice (Volume 2) and Betrayal (Volume 3A).

Description: Sacrifice picks up where A Thousand Ships ends: Paris has just returned to Troy with Helen and loot from Egypt and Sidon in tow. Although Paris is thrilled with his prize and capture of Helen, he absolutely no clue about his actions and the political complications. Priam does however, but he is swayed by the machinations of Helen and by Hecuba's generosity. Readers get to see how the major characters such as Achilles, Klytemnestra, and Odysseus grow and become more complex, but even a minor player like Telephus is carefully developed and has significance in the story. In Betrayal, High King Agamemnon is consumed with his desire to conquer Troy. He leads his army across the sea, fighting all the way. On the island of Tenedos, just off the coast of Troy, Achilles leads the attack and finds himself one step closer to his tragic fate that his mother always warned him about. Meanwhile, the Trojans prepare their defenses and gather allies. Agamemnon offers a peace embassy to King Priam, but the embassy fails to reassure peace. War appears inevitable.

Review: So far I have to say that Sacrifice is my favorite volume in the Age of Bronze series. Not only does the author brilliantly create each panel with such detail and precision, he also understands the human psychology, dramatic pacing, and narrative structure. As the title suggests, Sacrifice focuses on the human psychology of our main characters, particularly of Agamemnon, Odysseus, and Achilles, who have gray shades of their personality and are not always shown in the great light. Tough issues such as Agamemnon's family history as well as how Kassandra got her "powers" are addressed and handled tastefully. Whereas the human aspect of the warriors are shown in Sacrifice, Betrayal emphasizes on the political aspects of the war. I didn't know there was actually an attempt of making a truce between the two opposing sides (it doesn't surprise me, unfortunately that it wasn't unsuccessful). Shanower beautifully crafts a work that combines myth, legend, and historical facts. Accompanied in each volume is an extensive bibliography as well as two family trees. I really look forward to reading more of this series. 

Rating for each volume: 5 stars

Curriculum Connections: Social Studies and English-Greek Mythology 

Words of Caution: There are some serious issues discussed in these two volumes such as incest, sexual abuse, nudity, sex, and violence, however, these scenes are not drawn in graphic detail but enough detail for the reader to understand what is going on. For the reasons listed above, I would recommend this series to mature teens and adults only.

If you like these books, try: The Illiad from Marvel Comics by Roy Thomas
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