Rummanah Aasi
  After reading Mockingjay, I wanted something light and funny to read. I was browsing through the stacks at my local library and came across a book titled Postcards from a Dead Girl. The back of the book's description indicated that this would be a love story starring quirky characters and with a dash of dark humor. I got the quirky characters, but I couldn't seem to find anything else.

Description: Sid Higgins is obsessed with his ex-girlfriend Zoe. He believes she is missing or quite possibly dead, except he is not sure. He has been receiving Zoe's postcards sent from her European adventure on which he was originally supposed to accompany her. The postcards just happen to be a year old. Thus, Sid starts his journey trying to retrace Zoe's footsteps, tries to find new love while dealing with his job as a telemarketer for a travel agency, and hypochondria amongst many other things.

Review: Normally, I'm up for a surrealist read but I need something concrete to hang on to when I'm on a roller coaster ride. Something to help me distinguish what is reality and what is fantasy. I had nothing while reading Postcards from a Dead Girl. I was lost right from the start, but I kept reading in hopes that I would find my way. Instead, I got deeper and deeper in a maze with no exit sign.
  The plot of the book kept going forward and backwards in time. I'm not entirely sure if anything happened or if it did. I liked Sid as a quirky character. He struggles to find some meaning his life, but I wasn't entirely sure how to react to him. Was I suppose to laugh at him, commiserate, or sympathize with him? Thankfully, this was a slender book with many short chapters. I mainly skimmed large chucks of the book until I finally reached the end of the book. If you're looking for a book that has neurotic characters and actually a story you can follow, read Nick Hornby's terrific High Fidelity and leave this book alone.  

Rating: 1 star

Words of Caution: There is language and sexual situations in the book.

If you like this book try: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Rummanah Aasi
  I spent the entire week reading Mockingjay, the third and final installment of Suzanne Collin's blockbuster and best selling series Hunger Games. Normally, I don't take a lot of time reading a very popular book that I've waited all year long but I wanted to pace myself when it came to Mockingjay. Why? Because there were a lot things hanging in the balance. Plot threads that got me wondering ever since I finished the first two books in the series. To be completely honest, I really liked the Hunger Games series, but I didn't love them. I always felt there was something missing in the first two books, mainly character development and world building. I didn't think there was enough in the first two books. Ever since Mockingjay was released this past Tuesday, I've been reading spoiler free reviews of the book, which all promise a lot more character development and world building. It's true, it does. As promised, here is my spoiler free review of Mockingjay.

Description: Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. While she has made it out alive from the brutal, bloody arena, she is not safe. A revolution is quickly unfolding and she is the center of it. It up to her whether millions live or die. The future of Panem is in her hands. What will Katniss do?

Review: I didn't really know what to expect in Mockingjay besides death and destruction, which seems fitting since a revolution and war are unavoidable. Like the first two installments, Mockingjay is told from Katniss's perspective. She is trying to absorb the information and surroundings near her. Who can she trust? Who can't she trust? Who is telling the truth? Who is lying?
  As expected, Katniss and the other tributes who have been sent to and has survived the Hunger Games are irrevocably changed and scarred. The horrors and nightmares visit them frequently and don't go away, which is very symbolic of the book as a whole. While some may argue that Katniss isn't her usual feisty self and spends lots of this book in the background at key events, I would disagree. There is only so much she could do and have control over.
  Hunger Games and Catching Fire were about action and trying to survive under dire circumstances. Mockingjay, however, focuses on the consequences of actions, the casualties and atrocities of war, and last but not least the cyclic destruction humans bring upon one another. Lots of people die in this book. Some of the characters that I really cared about. Like real war, good people die and they die for no reason. I don't think any of the deaths, except for one, could have been avoidable. What strikes me a bit odd is the fact that I did not cry at all in Mockingjay. And I do cry in books. Perhaps my lack of tears is because the heart ache these characters endure is nothing different from what I read in the newspapers and hear about in the daily news about the wars that going on overseas. Or maybe its because I was expecting to know these characters a bit more earlier on. I don't know.
   While I really enjoyed this book and think it's the best book of the trilogy, I did have some issues. First, the writing seemed a bit unbalanced. There were parts of the book that were extremely slow and others were rushed through. There were lots of metaphors that I really liked, however, I didn't feel that Collins needed to explain and spell them out. I thought the climax of the book was a bit anticlimactic, perhaps because I already guessed what would happen. Readers looking for more romance and a happy ending maybe be disappointed. The Hunger Games series is, however, a series about war and nothing else.
   Overall, Mockingjay has earned it's reputation to be the most talked book of the summer and probably of the year as there is lots to discuss in this book besides the plot such as the themes of revenge, loyalty, abuse of power, patriotism, and the horrifying events of war. 

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: This book is very bloody and violent. Its more of the side of rated "R" than "PG-13" like its previous installments.

If you like this book try: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card or Incarceron by Catherine Fisher or The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Rummanah Aasi
  Friendships are complicated and varied. Some last for a lifetime while others just last for a few days or seasons. A Friendship For Today is loosely based on the real-life experiences of author, Patricia McKissack, and the school integration in St. Louis.

Description: After the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education,  Rosemary's colored school in Kirkland, MO is closed, and students are distributed to neighboring white elementary schools. Determined to prove she is not remedial and up to par with her white schoolmates, Rosemary excels academically and refuses to be racially intimidated or stereotyped. She strikes up an unlikely friendship with mean Grace Hamilton, who is labeled and stereotyped "white trash" by snobby classmates. Rosemary and Grace both open their eyes, witness their similairities, and develop a friendship inspite of the challenges they face.

Review:  I enjoyed reading this book. Rosemary is a smart, observant, and brave girl. She refuses to be trapped in stereotypes and bullied by her classmates. She has a good head on her shoulders. The story does not only focus on Rosemary's difficult transition to a new school but also includes watching her parents get a divorce and her best friend dealing with polio. Rosemary and Grace's friendship is realistic. At one poignant part of the story is where Grace embarrassingly admits that her father believes that white people are superior to other races. It's her friendship and dialogue with Rosemary that Grace now knows better. Even for one day, they both embrace tolerance and similarities.
  While I loved the message of the book and the characters, my main problem with this book is that I didn't like how it was written. I felt that I was being told a story rather than reading one. I wished the author showed more instead of telling. Otherwise this a great historical fiction book for grades 3 to 5.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: The "n" word does appear in the book.

If you like this book try: Freedom Walkers by Russell Freedman
Rummanah Aasi
  Today I have the honor and pleasure in bringing you an author interview with Julie Halpern. Julie is a middle school librarian in the Chicagoland area and an author. While not always wanting to be an author, Julie was always writing. Her passion for writing first began when she was a pen pal, wrote short stories for her friends, and even created her own zine.
    Julie has currently written three books. Her first book is a picture book called Tobey and the Snowflakes, which tells the story of Tobey finding new friends when his best friend moves away. Her second book, Get Well Soon, is her debut YA novel where her main character Anna Bloom is sent to a mental hospital to deal with her depression and panic attacks. Her third book, Into the Wild Nerd Yonder, follows Jess as she navigates the cliques in high school while trying not to lose herself. Into the Wild Nerd Yonder was released last year and like her previous books has gained fans and acclaim alike. I read and loved Into the Wild Nerd Yonder. If you haven't read the book, pick it up! It's fabulous! Help me welcome Julie Halpern to Books In The Spotlight.

Rummanah: Julie, welcome and thank you for stopping by. I have to say that Into the Wild Nerd Yonder was an awesome book that made me laugh, think, and smile. I can empathize with Jess in her struggle to not lose herself as her friends try to join cliques in high school. How did you come up with her character?

Julie: Thanks so much for the sweet words and for inviting me by! Jessie’s character started with my own situation in high school, where I always felt like the sidekick. Most of my friends were these super punk or alternative kids, and while I was into the music, I never felt like I fit in with those groups. Instead, I sort of floated around to the punks, alternative kids, the metal-heads, and the nerdier kids. And most of the time I just hung out with my one best friend, Tracy. I wanted Jess to be an individual who also didn’t fit in with a certain group. Then there was the piece where I wanted to showcase the Dungeons and Dragons crowd. I run the Dungeons and Dragons Club at the middle school where I’m a librarian, and the kids are amazing and smart and funny, not to mention the awesomeness of the game. So I wanted to show how a really cool individual would find her way into the Dungeons and Dragons crowd. And how accepting they would be of her. 

Rummanah: I have to say that one of my favorite parts of the book is where Jess plays her first Dungeons and Dragons D game. I was lost just like her, but was amazed how passionate people are about the game. I think my vague knowledge of Dungeons and Dragons as a cartoon show in the 1980s helped me just a little in visualizing what was going on. Were you always a fan of Dungeons and Dragons or did you have to learn about the game when you wrote Into the Wild Nerd Yonder?

Julie: I watched the cartoon, too! I played a little Dungons and Dragons in high school. I have no idea what made me interested in playing, but at some point I fell in love with the concept of pretending to be someone else in a fantasy setting. Then when I went to college, I found a group of people to play with (college is perfect for Dungeons and Dragons because you can stay up all night and you all live in the same building when you’re in a dorm). Starting the Dungeons and Dragons Club with my middle schoolers allows me to play every week while passing on the game to new kids. It’s amazing what a sense of self playing Dungeons and Dragons gives these kids. You know Vin Diesel? He wrote a brilliant intro to the book Thirty Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons and Dragons about how Dungeons and Dragons changed his life.

 Rummanah: You already know that I have a huge crush on Barrett, Jess’s hot, funny, and smart brother. *Sigh* Do you have any crushes on literary characters?

Julie: I’ve been marinating on this question for a while now, and I think I have become an old, jaded person. In high school, I was in love with every book character I met, particularly Holden Caulfield (duh) and Simon from Lord of the Flies (which is just weird). As much as I love The Hunger Games, I didn’t form an attachment to any of the guys, and I’m not a Twilight fan (not a hater, either, just didn’t get into them). I guess Ron Weasley is my most current literary crush, although he’s very much a hybrid book/movie character. Barrett was pretty amazing :).

Rummanah: Like you, I’m also a librarian. I always love to hear how people got into this awesome profession. What inspired you to become one?

Julie: In college I double-majored in Communication Arts (Radio, TV, Film) and Women’s Studies. But I also worked in several libraries, both college and public. Then I moved to Australia. Libraries were so useful to me, even on the other side of the world, that when I came back I decided to get my MLIS. I think I am an excellent librarian. I have a knack for matching kids with perfect books, and I have already redesigned two libraries. It’s an amazing, fun, diverse career.

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

Julie: I don’t think I ever really knew what I wanted to be. In middle school I thought I wanted to be an accountant. And with my college major I realized the film business wasn’t for me. But I have always loved to write, whether it’s letters or little home newspapers or short stories for creative writing classes or zines. Being surrounded by books, it’s hard as someone who has always written to not want to try it themselves. And why YA? Because that’s pretty much all I read. I like the directness of it.

Rummanah: What is your writing and revision process like?

Julie: I hand-write my novels from start to finish in a series of notebooks. I rarely look back while I write the first draft, so I don’t freeze up and want to change everything. After that is my least favorite part, which is typing the novel into my computer, also a huge revision piece. I then print the book out, read it, and scribble revisions all over that. At that point, I’m usually ready to send it off to my editor. I’m a pretty low fuss author; I don’t revise huge amounts, and my editor has yet to ask me for large numbers of revisions. I hope I didn’t just jinx that.

Rummanah: I know that you’re a big TV watcher. What are your top favorite shows that you can’t miss?

Julie: I have probably said this before, but I have never gotten over "Buffy" going off the air. Because of that, I haven’t been able to commit myself to any hour long dramas. So I watch mostly crap-ish reality shows, which really aren’t crap, but aren’t anywhere near replacing the quality and joy Buffy brought into my home each week. I like "Project Runway", "Top Chef", and most of the Bravo reality shows (although not really any of the Housewives anymore). I also like to watch [I say sort of embarrassedly] "19 Kids and Counting" and "Jonas LA". Yeah. And "iCarly". Oh! And I love the online show, "The Guild". Really, I could talk about TV all day.

Rummanah: Speaking of "Buffy", I couldn't help but notice that you got to meet The Joss Whedon at Comic Con in San Diego. I’m incredibly jealous. I spent this winter watching "Buffy" and I could not get enough of Spike. I know that you also love Buffy, do you have a favorite character?

Julie: Every so often, I try to re-watch all of Buffy. It’s gotten harder with a child. Part of my birth plan was to have Buffy going the entire time I was giving birth! I don’t know if this sounds generic or not, but my favorite character is Buffy. I admire her and relate to her and root for everything she does. That’s why I totally cried when I met Joss.

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

Julie: This is such a hard question to answer because I am sitting on my couch, not surrounded by the library where I work. I kind of have to scan book shelves in order to remember anything I read. I hope this doesn’t sound snobby. I pretty much like almost all books I read because I love being somewhere else during the time I read them. I just have a crappy memory. I’m taking the next year off of work, so I won’t be of help for another year!

Rummanah: What are you working on now? Can you tell us something about it and when we can expect it to come out?

Julie: My next novel, Don't Stop Now, will be out next spring (early summer? Release date becomes official in September). It’s the story of a girl and her annoyingly platonic male best friend who go on a road trip to find their friend after she faked her kidnapping. It’s got a lot of my humor in it, but I also wrote alternating chapters from the perspective of the tragic friend. I’m really proud of it! And right now I’m smack in the middle of writing the sequel to Get Well Soon. I am at about the half-way point, and it is about the same length as Don't Stop Now was when I finished it. I’ll either have a really long book (for me), or I’ll be cutting a lot out when it’s finished.

Rummanah: You can count on me putting those on my to be read pile! Thank you so much for stopping by, Julie!

Julie: Thank you very much for having me! What a great interview!

If you would like to know more about Julie, visit her website, read her blog, and find her on MySpace
Rummanah Aasi

This week has been the first week of school. It's been an extremely busy and insane week. I'm dying to get a jump head start for the weekend. Luckily, Friday is only a few hours away and I start book blog hopping! I look forward to every Friday to participate and learn something new from each new blog that I discover and follow. Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jen over at Crazy for Books. Thanks for doing this for us, Jen!

This week's question is from  Books Are A Girl's Best Friend: Do you use a rating system for your reviews and if so, what is it and why?

 Answer: I do use a rating system. It's located on the upper right side of my blog. I'm frequently asked by many people on what I recommend them to read. It's easy for me to rate the book in order to give it a proper review. We are all busy and sometimes, you just want to cut to the chase and see if you have time to spend on a book. 

If you're a new follower and found my blog, welcome! I hope you find something that you like here. I'm always open to suggestions on what to read or make my blog better. Please leave a link to your blog so I can say "Hi". Thanks!
Rummanah Aasi
  There are some rules that are unspoken yet understood, especially when it comes to relationships. You don't date your brother or sister's best friend. You don't date your best friend's boyfriend/girlfriend. This may be easier said than done. Once you fall for someone, who they belong too doesn't really seem to matter because even if your head knows it's wrong, your heart doesn't. So which do you listen you: your head or your heart? Logic or love? This is the dilemma that Sarah gets caught in The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott.

Description: Sarah has always liked Ryan ever since 8th grade. Once Sarah found out that her best friend since kindergarten, Brianna, also liked Ryan she stood aside while Brianna and Ryan got together. Sarah has tried to forget about Ryan, but her feelings for him keeps getting stronger and her guilt keeps getting larger. Now Ryan seems to be giving Sarah mixed signals. Does he really like her instead of Brianna?

Review: I really enjoyed this book. While there is not much plot, this book is largely a character driven novel. Sarah and Brianna's relationship unfolds. You have to read in between the lines in order to really figure out their true relationship. Brianna's parents are going through an ugly divorce and have been verbally abusive. She turns to Sarah as her support network. From Sarah's perspective, she has always been loyal to her friend but there are times where her friendship is a one way street. As Sarah observes Brianna and Ryan's relationship, she slowly begins to realize and see the true Brianna.
  Scott does a remarkable job in creating a roller coaster of emotions ranging from guilt to joy to self assurance. It's a quick read and Sarah's emotions were so palpable. I have read that many readers were frustrated with Sarah and wanted her to grow a spine. I didn't find Sarah frustrating. I saw a girl who knew what roles was expected of her and didn't know anything else. Her loyal and niceness were seen as flaws instead of strengths. I also really liked the abrupt ending, which is very realistic and does not offer a tidy ending. I found The Unwritten Rule to be a well written, thought provoking, and realistic romance novel.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some mild language in the book, including a few f-bombs.

If you like this book try: Something Like Fate by  
Rummanah Aasi
  I wasn't an avid reader until I reached about fourth grade (shocked?). I found books to be boring and another form of homework. So instead of books, I parked myself in front of the television. I remember watching episodes of the Brady Bunch. For some reason, I tend to remember more of the episodes where Jan was the main character. Do you remember the episode where Jan invented George Glass, her make believe boyfriend, because she didn't want to feel left out when others had one? Well, My Invisible Boyfriend has almost the same exact plot only it's not in the 1970s but in 2010s.

Description: While watching her friends get paired off in couples, geeky yet crafty Heidi devises a plan on creating her own boyfriend, Edward Hartley, who rides a motorcycle and loves to read poetry. When her friends start turning to Edward for relationship help and when a boy with a screen name of "a real boy" knows Heidi's dirty secret, things get interesting.

Review: While reading this book, I felt some sort of deja vu going on and I couldn't remember what exactly bugged me. It's not until I the book down did I realize that I did in fact read this story. It wasn't a book, but rather the George Glass episode of the Brady Bunch!  My Invisible Boyfriend is an fun, enjoyable, and predictable teen romance. It's not as fun as watching the George Glass episode though.
  What I didn't like about the book is that I didn't really get to know Heidi's friends that well considering they are a close knit group of friends. I knew them all superficially, so when Heidi and the gang were having problems, I didn't really care about it.
   I also had an issue with the pacing of the book. The first half is dedicated to how "Edward" is created and then during the last 50 pages or so "a real boy" comes in the picture. I would've liked a little bit more mystery to "a real boy"'s identity and perhaps a more set of complicated friends problems. I felt my attention while reading this book drifted and the charm of teen speak (think the Valley Girl dialect in a British accent) rubbed off very quickly. Nonetheless, I would recommend this book for those looking for a non-complicated, beach read. 

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is mild language in the book.

If you like this book try: Faking It by Pete Johnson


Thanks to Liberty Falls Down, I was awarded the: One Lovely Blog Award.

I'm suppose to pass this award to 15 newly discovered blogs, but since I can't narrow down a list of 15 blogs I'm going to pass this award to 4 blogs that I discovered recently:

1. I'd So Rather Be Reading
2. Between the Pages
3. Pages of my Life
4. All Consuming Books
Rummanah Aasi
  YA literature is usually targeted as a lower form of reading that is filled with teen angst and no literary merit. While this may be true for some books in the YA canon, there are many others that are very profound, complex, and extremely well written. I recently came across The Lighter Side of Life and Death by CK Kelly Martin, which does a really good job in discussing teenage sexuality from a male's perspective-something that is not very common in YA literature.

Description: After the last, triumphant night of the school play, sixteen-year-old Mason loses his virginity to his good friend and secret crush, Kat Medina, which leads to enormous complications at school. Mason feels like his relationship with Kat has gone to the next level, whereas Kat doesn't seem to react that way. Bouncing back from a rebound, Mason begins an intense physical relationship with Colette, a dirty secret that becomes much more. When is it love and when is it lust?

Review: I admire Ms. Martin for writing a novel about the complications of relationships and sex that teens deal with, which seems to be taboo in our society. Although the novel is about sex, it focuses on Mason's confusion and dealing with the several different relationships in his life. The Lighter Side of Life and Death allows girls to see a teen boy's conscience and explores the emotional and frank consequences of sex without being an 'afterschool special'.
  To be honest, there are a few things that I didn't like about the book. For one, when I started reading the book I felt as if I was walking in the middle of a movie. I knew the characters by name and could maneuver my way into the plot, but I didn't establish a connection to any of the characters. We only know Mason had a serious crush with his long time friend, Kat, by just one sentence. I needed more. I needed to see their connection. I also found Mason to be annoying and self righteous. He needed people to like him. The other woman, Collette, doesn't come off as a woman, but rather a teen herself and she slowly disappears in the second half of the novel. What really confused me was Mason, who is 16,  having a relationship with a woman who was 8 years old his senior but not being able to have his car license. Maybe that's a Canadian thing, I don't know. Overall, The Lighter Side of Life and Death is a mature romance novel without your average teen romance-novel-with-a happily ever after. It is a book that will stir up some discussion though.

EDIT:  Ms. Martin was very kind in clearing up my confusion. Here's what she told me about the driver's license situation in Ontario (the province where Mason lives):

You can get a learner's permit when you turn 16 but that only allows you to drive with a licensed driver who has had their license for four years beside you. Then you can't take the test to drive alone for another eight months if you've had official lessons or another full year if you haven't. I mention this in chapter twelve where Mason thinks, "Can I just say that it’s ridiculous what they make you do to get a driver’s license here? I’ll be practically seventeen before I can go anywhere alone." However, the driving age differs by province. There's no national standard.

Wow, I'll need to remember that whenever I hear a teen gripe about driving! Thanks for the info, Ms. Martin!

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: Since this book is about sex, there are semi explicit scenes. There is also strong language in the book too. I would recommend this book to Grades 10 and up.

If you like this book try: Doing It by Melvin Burgess
Rummanah Aasi
 I think it's very hard to write a humorous book. You have to make sure the plot is plausible, the jokes aren't too pushed and hurried, and that people will actually enjoy your sense of humor. Brent Crawford nailed all of these with his debut novel, Carter Finally Gets It, a novel that made me laugh so hard that my sides hurt and I had tears in my eyes. When I found out that he was writing a sequel featuring the clueless and incredibly funny and lovable Will Carter, I had to put it high in my to be read pile. Crawford doesn't disappoint in his sequel novel called Carter's Big Break.

Description: Meet Will Carter, a 14 yr old teen who is clueless about the opposite sex and has a talent of acting. He had a pretty good freshman year of high school: getting his first girlfriend and acclaiming for his leading role in Guys and Dolls. Now, it's time to kick back in the summer, but only there's trouble in paradise. Will said something stupid to his girlfriend, Abby, and they seem to be on the outs. However things are looking up when Will finds out there is going to be a film shooting at his hometown and is casted opposite a major star, Hilary Idaho. Slowly things start looking up, but do they? 

Review: It's refreshing to read a novel where you can relax and enjoy a book without having to think too much. Will is still clueless and incredibly funny. His voice is honest, eager, hormone driven, and enjoyable. You can't help but laugh at him and with him. His charm rubs off of you. I think to get he full appreciation of Will you need to read the first book. Though the second book does a quick recap, I think readers who have not read the first book will be lost amongst the many characters of Will's posse.
  What I loved about this book is Crawford's jibes at the tween entertainment stars. Hiliary Idaho comes off as a Miley Cyrus character who works along with the Wienus/ Jonas Brothers. I thought what Crawford did was a bit tongue in cheek considering his publisher is Hyperion, a division of Disney. The humor, however, isn't ill intentioned but rather well intended and appealing. Like the first book Will does learn something, celebrity isn't all what's its cut out to be and that acting is actually really hard. Those who read and enjoyed Carter's Finally Gets It will not disappointed with this sequel. I can't wait to see what other mess Will gets himself into and out of. Perfect for boys and reluctant readers.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: I'd recommend this book to Grades 8 and up. There is mild language in the book and the humor can get a bit raunchy. There are also small party scenes of underage drinking and drug suggestions, but Will doesn't partake in any of it.

If you like this book try: Swim the Fly by Don Calame
Rummanah Aasi
  There are countless number of movies and books that share a very important message: Life is too short. Do what you love and don't sweat the small stuff. Most of us seem to embrace this message after watching said movie or read said book, but then we forget about it. It's not until we are faced by a situation where someone we love or know well has passed away and reminds us of how we should embrace life. Chris Crutcher's novel Deadline asks his reader: What would you do if you knew there was a time limit on how long you will live? What would you do differently?

Description: Ben Wolf is a star cross country runner. When he takes his annual physical exam, he learns that he has been diagnosed with a rare, incurable leukemia. His chances of living are very slim if he chooses to undergo treatment. The doctors give him a year to live. At 18, Ben has the legal right to keep the news to himself until he’s ready to reveal it. With only his doctor and therapist in on his secret, Ben sets out to live an entire lifetime in a year but how long will he go before he opens up to others?

Review: I really enjoyed this book, particularly the tone of the book which is uplifting instead of being depressing. I was initially afraid that this book would be hard to read due to its premise, but Crutcher's vivid sports action scenes, the story’s dramatic premise, and the many subplots kept my attention. Though the subplots involving intellectual freedom, incest, pedophilia, and manic depression can get a bit too much and a bit preachy, they unfortunately are realistic.
   I also really liked Ben's character. He's got a good head on his shoulders and does not allow his disease to interfere from him having his best year of school. My favorite parts of the book are when Ben has a discussion with a Jesus-look like figure called 'Hey Soos' who talk about the philosophical aspects of life. This book should appeal to boys who like reading about sports and reluctant readers. 

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language in the book. There is also a mildly explicit sex scene.

If you like this book try: Before I Die by Jenny Downham or I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
Rummanah Aasi

  Yes, I know it's technically still Thursday, but Friday is only half hour away. You know what that means? It's that time again to join in the book blog party and start hopping! I look forward to every Friday to participate and learn something new from each new blog that I discover and follow. Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jen over at Crazy for Books.

This week's question is from LibraryScatBooks: How many blogs do you follow?
 Answer: I currently follow approximately 30 blogs. I found many of them from Book Blogger Fridays! I try really hard to read each blog and comment, but it's not always that easy!

If you're a new follower and found my blog, welcome! I hope you find something that you like here. I'm always open to suggestions on what to read or make my blog better. Please leave a link to your blog so I can say "Hi". Thanks!
Rummanah Aasi
  Once in a while I come across a book that is widely popular and critically acclaimed, but for some reason I just can't get myself to like it as much as other people do. One example of this dilemma is E. Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. I read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks the first time when it was released. I couldn't get through the first 5 chapters and had to give up. I just wasn't feeling the story. However, I quickly began to notice that I was in the very small minority who didn't like the book. After it was declared a Printz Award Nominee in 2009, I felt that maybe I was a bit too judgmental and then put the book back on my to be read pile. After finishing the book this time, I like it but don't love it as much as other reviewers.

Description: At Alabaster Preparatory Academy, Frankie Landau-Banks is cute, smart, clever, and dating one of the most popular boys in school. Slowly, she finds out that her boyfriend happens to be the co-leader of an all-male secret society on campus called the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. Initially, Frankie is simply happy to be a girl friend of a popular boy in school, but the more he underestimates her intelligence and secrets he keeps from her, the more restless Frankie becomes. She quickly sets her heart at breaking into the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds. Not only does Frankie outshine the boys at their own game, but she also faces consequences that could change her life forever.

Review: Let me preface this review by saying what I like about this book: I liked the character of Frankie. She is extremely intelligent, clever, funny, and a girl who I admire for not taking "no" as an answer. I also liked the themes of feminism, girls who question and go beyond what they are told by society to do, as well as bringing up issues that tackle gender double standards. I thought the writing, especially the dialogue was witty.
  So after saying all this, why don't I like the book? I felt the book failed to grab my attention. It starts off very slow, with background information on Frankie and her social status at her prep school. Slowly, her boyfriend is introduced and the secret society is mentioned. It's not until the second half of the book, where the story picks up. Besides the slow pace of the book, I didn't really like the plot. Though I liked Frankie's attempt to subvert the male secret society in theory, I felt that it was just too easy. All the males, I thought, were lackluster and frankly (no pun intended) stupid. I didn't think Frankie was challenged enough in the book.
  All said and done, I did like The Disreputable History of Frankie and would recommend it to others, especially to those who like a strong female character and to those who need a break from the abundant amount of paranormal romances out there. E. Lockhart has written a memorable character, which I'm sure many will come to love.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There are some minor scenes of underage drinking and mild language.

If you like this book try: Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock
Rummanah Aasi

    First and foremost, I want to thank all of my followers. When I started this blog, I only had 30 or so followers. After just over 5 months, I now have 84 followers from the Network Blog application and Google Followers (some of you love me twice as much and follow me through Google as well as Facebook)! Unfortunately, since I did not reach 120 followers by this time, I will only be giving away a copy of Mockingjay. I am, however, planning another giveaway for 120 followers. Stay tuned for those details.

   There were a total of 24 people who entered the Mockinjay Giveaway. I know many people, including me, can't wait to get their hands on a copy of the book. Thank you all for sharing my excitement and making me a better blogger with each new blog post!

  Each person received a set number of points based on the point criteria that I set for the giveaway. Followers could have points from 1 to 10. 10 was the maximum points you could have received. All entries were placed in a bag and was randomly drawn. 

Now, for the drum roll.....

The winner of the Mockingjay Giveaway is Laura Hartness

Congratulations! Laura Hartness, you will have to email me at rummanaha (at) hotmail (dot) com by NOON EDT on August 20th with your mailing information. Please note that your information will be kept private and will be destroyed once your prize is mailed to you. If I do not hear from you by then, I will draw another winner. 

Once again, thank you so much for participating in my first giveaway! It was a blast and I look forward to doing many more in the future! 
Rummanah Aasi
   I read Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater last year and I absolutely loved it. When the book ended and my tears have dried, I didn't want to say good bye to the characters and hoped for a sequel. I was rewarded when I found out that Shiver is actually part of a trilogy called the Wolves of Mercy. I had to wait patiently until July 2010 for Linger, however, I was worried about the happiness of the main couple, Grace and Sam, knowing full well they would face some obstacles in the next book.
  Needless to say that when I got my own copy of Linger in the mail, I was excited. I wanted to read it right away, but then later changed my mind in reading it slowly and savoring it. I still finished it in a couple of days, because I just had to know how it ended. Linger is fabulous and I absolutely loved it! As soon as I finished the last page, I wanted to reread it again. There is no doubt that I will reread it again when the final book, Forever, comes out next July. Those who loved Shiver as much as I did will surely love Linger. Those who thought Shiver was okay, may not like Linger because it is like its title suggests slower pacing and not much action until the very last chapters.

Description: In Shiver, Grace and Sam found each other. Now, in Linger, they must fight to be together. For Grace, this means leaving her good daughter reputation behind and parents and keeping a very dangerous secret about her own well-being. For Sam, this means grappling with his past and believing that his current state isn't a cruel joke, but most of all, figuring out a way to survive into the future. Add into the mix is Cole, whose own dark past has the potential to destroy the only family that Sam knows. And Isabelle, who is still struggling to cope with the death of her brother and is irresistibly drawn to Cole. Linger is a story of love, in all of its forms, and humanity.

Review: I loved Linger a little more than I loved Shiver, mainly because this sequel is much more complex than the first book. Though there is some recap in Linger, you really need to read Shiver first to appreciate Grace and Sam's relationship. 
    Linger is told in four alternating voices: Grace and Sam, which were introduced in Shiver as well as a new character, Cole, and Isabel, who moves from a supporting character to a main character. Although the points of view jumps in the story, I felt each of the characters had distinct voices, personalities, and held their own throughout the entire book. While this may seem at bit confusing to some, I found it very easy to distinguish and hear each character in my head.
  Steifvater's writing is excellent, beautiful, haunting, lyrical, and magical. She has the true talent of evoking such strong emotions of out her characters as well as from her readers. While reading, I could sense the character's vulnerabilities, their quiet waves of happiness, and their struggle to just hold on. What I love about this series is that none of the characters are perfect. They are all flawed in their own ways. Like Shiver, I was in tears in some places and had to reread several passages because they were just so beautiful. There are some scenes such as Cole and the deer that stayed with me long after I finished the book. 
  I also enjoyed reading from four different perspectives. Though the story revolves around Sam and Grace, it is nice to hear from Cole and Isabel who are also struggling with the same issues of guilt, love, and whether or not to embrace humanity. Isabel and Cole are interesting characters that compliment one another well. I found Cole to be complex yet at times frustrating, but I wanted to know more about him. 
  Although the pace of Linger is very slow, I didn't mind it at all. Actually, I was more interested on how all of these characters interacted with one another and how they grew. There were also lots of foreshadowing on how Linger ends, but I had to watch and read how everything unfolds. I still have questions and I'm a bit frustrated on the cliffhanger ending, but that is what makes a great sequel. Now I have to wait another year to find out how it all ends. Linger proves that this story is beyond a magnificent paranormal romance. It is a story about the complexities of love and humanity.

Rating: 5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and hints of sexual innuendo. There is also references to drugs and alcohol use.

If you like this book try: The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

Rummanah Aasi
  I think writing a trilogy is hard for a writer. One has to pace the story throughout each book while having each book a separate entity. I've read many series where I loved the beginning books, but then the final book was a big let down. I was left feeling unsatisfied and jibbed out of a good book not to much my time reading, waiting, and following the series. Luckily, I didn't feel this way when I finished Gone, the last book in the Wake trilogy, by Lisa McMann.

Description: In the first two books, Wake and Fade respectively, Janie discovers she has the ability to enter people's dreams and she struggles on how she should handle her special power. When Fade concludes, Janie is now aware that her powers also have consequences. As Gone opens, Janie must decide how she wants to face her future while discovering her family's painful past.

Review: I've read many mixed reviews on Gone, but I can understand why some did not like it while others did. Gone is very different from Wake and Fade. Those who were expecting another paranormal mystery and romance will be disappointed with this conclusion.
   While the first two books focused on romance and a paranormal mystery, Gone is a more personal story about Janie's attempts to come to terms with her troubled family and with the ways that her ability will affect the rest of her life. Faced with an alcoholic and irresponsible mother, she finds some solace in her relationship with her boyfriend but then, unexpectedly, the father she's never known enters her life and seeks her help. The writing is much stronger and the themes are much maturer. Gone is a fast-paced read, written in flashbacks and sentence fragments that suggest the dream state.
   Janie is a strong, appealing character, and the depictions of her emotional turmoil and her painful dilemma are absolutely believable and ring true. I think you really need to read the first two books in order to really appreciate Jane's journey. Overall I really enjoyed this book, but I wish I was able to read a bit more of Janie and Cabel's discussion towards the end of the book.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is pretty strong language in the book. There is also a few suggestions of sex. I'd recommend this book to mature 8th grade readers to high schoolers.

If you like this book try: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
Rummanah Aasi
  I don't think today's social studies curriculum focuses on the Civil War too much. There is a lot of topics to cover: the various battles, slavery, the Underground Railroad, literature, music, and the Reconstruction. I learned a bit from each of these topics, but not much in depth. While I heard and read about the Underground Railroad, I never heard of the remarkable story of Henry "Box" Brown before until I read Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine.

Description: A fictionalized account of how in 1849 a Virginia slave, Henry "Box" Brown, escapes to freedom by shipping himself in a wooden crate from Richmond to Philadelphia.

Review: In a true story that is both heartbreaking and joyful, Levine recounts the biography of Henry "Box" Brown, who was born into slavery. As he grows up, Henry works in a tobacco factory, marries another slave, and fathers three children. Like many slave families during that time, his family is eventually sold and Henry realizes he will never see them again. With an ingenious idea, Henry persuades his friend and a white abolitionist to mail him in a wooden box to Philadelphia and freedom. Levine's storytelling is very simple and straightforward. She doesn't sugar coat the atrocities associated with slavery, yet the story is very appropriate for children. While the ending does not a happy ending per se, it does close with a bright hope of the future.
 Accompanying the story are beautiful, life-like pencil, watercolor, and oil paint illustrations by Kadir Nelson that resonate with full range of emotions which are palpable to the reader. Although the cover of the book shows a boy, this story is really about the whole history of Henry "Box Brown". At the back of the book, there are bibliographical references and an author's note. 

Rating: 4 stars

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies

Words of Caution: None.

If you like this book try: Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U. S. Marshal by
Rummanah Aasi
  Since Ramadan started, the month of fasting from sunrise to sunset for Muslims, I've been a bit bogged down and slow moving. I totally forgot yesterday was book blog hopping Friday, but thankfully Jen over at Crazy for Books sponsors the book blog hopping from Friday through Monday so I can still participate!

Book Blogger Hop

This week's question comes from Michelle from Michelle’s Book Blog: How many books do you have on your 'to be read shelf’?

Answer: I know that I can't read every book that's ever written, which kinda saddens me, but I currently have about 958 books on my to be read pile. My to be reading pile grows everyday as I discover knew books to read. So, I'm sure it'll continue to grow!

If you're coming here from the blog hop, welcome! Take a look around, read some reviews, and if you like what you see please follow. Be sure to leave a link with your name and blog so I can stop by and say hi!

ALSO: There's 3 more days left in the Mockinjay Giveaway!

Rummanah Aasi
  One of the many things that I like about reading historical fiction is that I get to learn new facts and/or information that I didn't know before picking up a book. I also like how author's pick and use a specific event in history to tell their story. As we all know, history repeats and it's fascinating to see if we learn from our mistakes or not. This week I learned about Japan's occupation of Korea during World War II. I don't know much about Korea, except from the country profiles of North and South Korea, but after reading The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim, I know much more.

Description: Najin Han is the daughter of a calligrapher in early twentieth-century Korea. She is sent by her mother to accompany the young princess in order to prevent her father from forcing her to marry, but when the king is assassinated Najin faces countless hardships on her quest for education and love.

Review: I really enjoyed reading this book. The Calligrapher's Daughter is inspired by the author's Korean mother's experiences. It is a beautifully descriptive and allegorical history of the 30 years of the Korean history. Najin struggles with her traditional upbringing, which is reflected by her aristocratic father refusing to give her name, as well as the 'modern' culture of  Korea as it under goes the occupation by Japan. Instead of wallowing in the inequalities of being a female, Najin takes action in going to college and becoming a scholar, which she feels is both patriotic and humanitarian. She also discovers love when she accepts an arranged marriage. Though all is not a happy ending when her new husband goes without her to study in America when she is denied a visa.
   As the Japanese systematically obliterate ancient Korean culture and the political climate worsens, so do Najin's fortunes. Her family is reduced to poverty, their home is seized and Najin is accused of being a spy while World War II escalates.
  It took me a while to read The Calligrapher's Daughter, because it moves at a very slow pace. We watch Najin grow from an adolescent to a woman. The descriptions are at times vibrant, frightening, and memorable, which I think mirrors the story of Korea's suffering and struggles during the Japanese occupation.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is mild language, but there is a sex scene that it is quite graphic.

If you like this book try: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
Rummanah Aasi
   Have you ever had a nightmare where you're running without really knowing why but just that you have to? Or where you find out that all that you have ever known has been all lies and you can't sort out fact from fiction? Or where the bad guys won't die and go away? What's really chilling is knowing that you're in danger without knowing the real reason why. Luckily for us, we're not Todd Hewitt, the main protagonist from The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness.

Description: Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn't she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd's gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.

Review: It is very rare that I see a book so well liked by the majority on the YALSA listserve. I've read nothing but rave reviews about The Knife of Never Letting Go and decided to see what the fuss is all about. On the whole, it is a very entertaining, frightening, dystopian nightmare.
    Like Todd, I didn't know anything about the real history of his town, but knew that he was in danger of some sort. So for the most part, I was running beside him trying to figure out the little pieces of the puzzle. It's not until the last 100 pages or so do you really find out why Todd is running and is in danger, but by then I had already put the pieces of the puzzle together.
    Although the first part of the book runs a little slow and confusing, the pace picks up at a feverish pace once Todd finds more uncovered secrets. The emotional, physical, and intellectual drama is well crafted and nonstop throughout the novel. Todd, who narrates in a vulnerable and stylized voice, due to the town's shut down on all education, is a sympathetic character who makes a few grave mistakes. Manchee, Todd's talking loyal dog, and Aaron, a zealot preacher, are both characters and serve as symbols.

  The novel ends with a cliffhanger, which makes sense since it's the first book in a trilogy. I plan to read the rest of the series at some point. The story arc of The Knife of Never Letting Go isn't very different. It reminded me a lot of the themes found in classics like Lord of the Flies, Frankenstein, and 1984. Nevertheless, if you're looking for a well written dystopian novel look no further. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language in the book. There is also pretty graphic violence (just a little over the top of Hunger Games). I'd recommend this to strong 8th grade readers and up.

If you like this book try: The Ask and the Answer by Patric Ness or Y: The Last Man by Brian Vaughan

Rummanah Aasi
  I never heard of a Diamond Willow before I read Helen Frost's book of the same name. Diamond willow is actually a tree that grows diamond-shaped cankers in response to a fungus. It is highly prized by wood carvers and furniture makers for it's contrasting colors and it's irregular shape. Thus it makes sense that Frost's Diamond Willow is composed of poems in the various shapes of diamonds that demonstrate family roots and an exciting survival adventure.

Description: Willow has lived all her life in interior Alaska. At twelve years old, she feels she is old enough to mush the family sled dogs twelve miles to her grandparents' house on her own, but an accident on the way home leaves her favorite dog, Roxy, blind. When Willow reads a note written by her mother indicating a grave vet appointment where a blanket for a body is needed, she immediately enlists a friend's help to transport Roxy back to her grandparents for safe-keeping. Snowy weather causes them to spend the night outdoors. The experience reveals Willow's maturity as well as a family secret.

Review: I enjoyed reading this book. I learned a lot about the Athapascan Indians's culture. Willow's plight to be seen by her family, especially in her father's eyes is true and realistic. Readers who aren't familiar with novel in verse format, will not be intimidated by the easy, readable short poems with great imagery, character development, and strong emotion are written in diamond shapes mirroring the pattern of a diamond willow wood. In each poem there are words in the bold font, which hold an additional nugget of meaning. At important intervals, the narrative is continued in the voices of her ancestors, who take the form of animal spirits. Frost's novel will resonate with readers who savor powerful drama and multifaceted characters along with a great dog and dogsled story.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 3 and up.

If you like this book try: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Rummanah Aasi
  I have a soft spot for John Green's books. His debut and Printz winning novel, Looking for Alaska, was the first YA book I read when I decided to go to library school. I remember feeling reluctant in picking up a YA book. Mostly because I didn't like or read the YA books when I was in high school. During my high school years, I skipped YA totally, which consisted mainly of Sweet Valley High and other fluff, and went straight to the classics and adult books. After reading Looking for Alaska, I realized how far YA has come since I was a high schooler and boy, has it come far. I found the book to be poignant, funny, and I couldn't wait to discuss it with others. Thus began my love for YA books and the beginning of my John Green groupie years.
   So when I first heard that John Green and David Levithan (another YA author favorite) have been working Will Grayson, Will Grayson together, imagine my excitement shoot to an ultimate "OMG, I can't wait to read that book!" I normally don't buy books from bookstores unless it's something that I know I will love and will reread again. Will Grayson, Will Grayson fit both categories perfectly. I put it high on my ever growing to be read pile. I'm so kind that I did both, because this book is brilliant!

Description: There happens to be two teens, from very different personalities and walks of life, who have the same name. Will Grayson (Number 1) is a dry, very cynical teen who believes in two rules of life: 1. Don't care too much and 2. Shut up. His best friend, a very lovable and flamboyant Tiny Cooper, breaks these rules constantly. He seems to fall in love hourly, and he never stops talking. Will, who appears to be fine with being in the shadows of Tiny seems to be getting fed up with this one-sided friendship. Will grayson (Number 2), is isolated from everyone. He hates his friends and suffers from depression. He is emotionally shut off from everyone except his Internet boyfriend, Isaac. When Will grayson (Number 2) heads to Chicago to meet Isaac on the same night that Will Grayson (Number 1) and Tiny Cooper are there for a music show, their lives and friendships change in unpredictable ways.

Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson is told in alternative chapters written by the two authors. It might be easy to confuse the two title characters just by reading the description above, but they're personality are completely different. Will (Number 1) is the kid who pretends he doesn't care, but really he does. For once, he would like others to be his friend and not the other way around. His chapters are conventionally written. Will (Number 2) is very sarcastic, lonely, and depressed, which is expertly shown by the lack proper punctuation, capitalization, and the very bare IM conversations Will has with others. I found both Wills to be real, well liked, and very witty. The real star, however, is Tiny Cooper. A character that is filled with life, love, and the epitome of hope. I dare anyone to not like Tiny Cooper.
  I found Will Grayson, Will Grayson to be laugh out loud funny. There were many parts of the book that I had to actually finish laughing before I could go on yet there were equally many parts where I thought to myself, "Wow, that's really true. I didn't think of that before". Green and Levithan's expert skills of writing real, tangible characters bring this book to life. There isn't a villain per se in the book, but like life, there are people who make mistakes because they are scared, people who simply make bad choices, and those who let the people that they love down. Despite all of this, Will Grayson, Will Grayson is an uplifting book that celebrates male friendship, the complications of love, tolerance, and most importantly of all, hope. This is definitely one of the best books I've ever read this year.

Rating: 5 stars

Words of Caution: This book is not for everyone. There is strong, graphic language in the book as well as sexual innuendo, which is how real teens talk. Green, himself, recommends this book to high schoolers and above only. I agree with him.

If you like this book try: Papertowns by John Green or Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn

Rummanah Aasi
  I use to complain that all the adult books that I picked up were just too dark and depressing. Now I came across an adult book that was a little bit like eating a Popsicle. It has a sweet flavor but as you finish it, you have a sickly artificial sweetener flavor on your tongue and stickiness on your hands. The Popsicle or rather book is Meg Clayton's Wednesday Sisters.

Description: In the 1960s, five women come together through weekly visits to a park in Palo Alto, California, sharing their fears, dreams, and desires and helping one another deal with the troubles of daily life.

Review: The Wednesday Sisters is firstly and mostly a book about friendship set against the historical landmarks of the 1960s. Frankie, an unassuming former Chicagoan, is the narrator of the story. Linda is the all-American athlete. Kath is the southern belle. Brett is the incredibly smart and enigmatic scientist. Ally is the shy bohemian. These five women from different walks of life and personality come together with their shared love of reading and writing. They women share their feelings about marriage and motherhood with one another. In essence they become a close knit, support network for one another. Issues such as infidelity, financial problems, and health scares are discussed.
   Overall, I enjoyed reading The Wednesday Sisters and getting to know the five women, however, I was left wanting more of reality. Clayton has a wonderful opportunity to incorporate important historical movements particularly that of the Civil Rights Movement and the beginning of the Feminism Movement to her story yet she only touches the bare surface with them in her story. The reader spends more time reading about the inane, banal daily lives of the women, which is a shame because the characters themselves want to go beyond what is expected of them in society. The story only shines when the characters come to this epiphany and make changes to their own lives instead of musing about doing so. Though the plot is predictable and the dialogue can be incredibly cheesy, The Wednesday Sisters is a book that you can read when you want to read something sweet but want to put your mind at ease. 

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: Since it's an adult book, there are pretty frank discussions about sex as well as a few sex scenes in the book. There is also mild language.

If you like this book try: The Friday Knitting Club series by Kate Jacobs or The Jane Austen Book Club by Joy Fowler

Rummanah Aasi
Book Blogger Hop 

I had a great time participating in Crazy for Book's Blog Hop that I wanted to do it again. The blog hop allowed me to find out new and interesting blogs to read and follow. Hope you join me in the hop!

This week's question is: Do you listen to music when you read? If so, what are your favorite reading tunes?

  Sometimes. I guess it depends on what I'm reading. If the book is intense enough, I don't need to have music playing in the background. If I'm reading a book where my attention wavers, I might put on what I call mellow music from bands like "Snow Patrol" and "The Sundays" that set a tone or an ambiance.

If you're here from the Blog Hop, welcome! Take a look around, read my book reviews, and follow if you like what you see. Please be sure to leave your name and blog link so I can stop by and say hi!

There's still 11 days left to enter the Mockingjay Giveaway!

Rummanah Aasi
  I've always been fascinated with magicians and magic. More so of "what's the trick?" and less of "wow, that's kind of cool." Victor, the main character in Brian Selznick's novel Houdini Box, shares my curiosity. Unlike me, Victor takes a step further in trying to duplicate Houdini's famous tricks in order to find the answer. I'd rather watch afar. ;)

Description: Victor is one of Houdini's biggest fans. After watching and reading about Houdini's magic acts, Victor tries to implement them in hopes of discovering the famous magician's tricks. One day Victor meets his idol, who leaves him a mysterious box, which might hold the secrets to the greatest magic tricks ever performed.

Review: I really like Selznick's work, especially The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which I thought was a masterpiece. Houdini Box, my second book that I read by him, also shares similar characteristics with Hugo: a story focused on a child's fascination and determination to solve a mystery accompanied with and beautifully illustrated with dark-toned art. A younger reader can still follow Selznick's story by simply analyzing the amazing, lifelike images. Unlike Hugo, however, Houdini Box reads more of a story that focuses simply on the moods of Victor rather than a fully developed story. Nonetheless it is an enjoyable, quick read that would be great for reluctant readers.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. I would recommend this book to children in grades 3 to 5th grade.

If you like this book try: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Rummanah Aasi
  I'm very excited about today for mainly two reasons: 1. There is of very cool Mortal Instrument series news and 2. I just received my very first blog award. *Squee!*

First, book news in case you missed the live chat with MI author Cassandra Clare:

1. There will be a total of 6 books in the Mortal Instrument series. The last three books are titled: City of Fallen Angels Book 4 ( slated to be released on March 11, 2011), City of Lost Souls Book 5 (slated to be released on May 2012), and City of Heavenly Fire Book 6 (September 2013).

2. City of Fallen Angels takes place 2 months after City of Glass. Here is the press release found on Clare's website:  

"Love, blood, betrayal and revenge--the stakes are higher than ever in City of Fallen Angels. Simon Lewis is having some trouble adjusting to his new life as a vampire, especially now that he hardly sees his best friend Clary, who is caught up in training to be a Shadowhunter--and spending time with her new boyfriend Jace. Not to mention that Simon doesn't quite know how to handle the pressure of not-quite-dating two girls at once. What's a daylight-loving vampire to do? Simon decides he needs a break and heads out of the city--only to discover that sinister events are following him. Realizing that the war they thought they'd won might not yet be over, Simon has to call on his Shadowhunter friends to save the day--if they can put their own splintering relationships on hold long enough to rise to the challenge."
3. The Mortal Instrument Series will be adapted into graphic novels by Th3World Publishing. Dates are yet to be determined. Here are some examples of how the graphic novels is shaping up. The examples look terrific!

4. The author has posted teasers for City of Fallen Angels here. FYI, the paperback edition of City of Glass has a sneak peak of both Clockwork Angel and City of Fallen Angels.

5. City of Fallen Angels will be an embargo book, which means no ARC copies and early release of the books will be allowed.

6. The first chapter of Clockwork Angel is available here. The next two books from the Infernal Devices are called: The Clockwork Princess (Sept 2011) and The Clockwork Prince (Sept 2012).

7. A list of signings is listed on Clare's website.

*Squee continues* Second,

I am humbled and honored to receive my first blog award by Lisa over at bibliophiliac. When I started my blog, I wanted to keep a record of what I've read, my thoughts on the book, and a place for reference for parents and teachers. I'm thrilled that I've received great feedback from you guys and I plan on bringing you much more. Now I know that I'm doing something right. ;) Thank you, Lisa! Along with the award I have to share 7 facts about me. Here goes...

1. I wasn't an avid reader until I reached about 4th grade.
2. I was terrified about vampires for the longest time until I read Meyer's Twilight Saga. Now I can't get enough!
3.  I root for Team Damon on Vampire Diaries.
4. I'm Team Peeta all the way!
5. I'm a Shakespeare groupie. Anything even remotely related to Shakespeare and I'm already sold.
6. I have a tendency to believe that characters from TV shows, books, and movies are real even though I'm constantly reminded that they don't exist.
7.  Singers, actors, and sport players are ok, but authors are celebrities to me.

Rummanah Aasi
  I seem to be on a YA faerie kick lately. I was worried at first that I would read the same story over and over again by different writers, but was glad that I thrown a curve ball when I picked up Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston. Livingston's debut novel combines faerie folklore with literary allusions to make a fun, quick read filled with romance, magic, and suspense.

Description: Kelley Winslow came to New York to fulfill her dream of being an actress. She is working as an understudy for a production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and gets her big break when the actress playing Titania is injured. Suddenly the world of Faerie becomes too real after Kelley rescues what she thinks is a drowning horse in Central Park Lake only to have it appear later on her balcony and station itself in her bathtub. She also seem to caught the eye of Sonny Flannery, a human changeling who guards the Gate between Faerie and Manhattan, who believes Kelley is more than human.

Review: Wondrous Strange is an enjoyable read. Shakespeare popular problem-comedy, "A Midsummer Night's Dream", sets an appropriate back drop to the story. Many characters, particularly the major faeries involved in the play come to life. Readers who have read many faerie stories before will recognize the familiar personality traits of the faeries, the various Faerie courts, and a distant, brooding love interest, yet Wondrous Strange stands on its own thanks to its interesting twist involving Kelley's connection to the world of Faerie.
  I loved Kelley. She is feisty, stubborn, and smart. For once, here is a heroine who doesn't passively take instructions from the love interest. She stands her own, even after discovering who she is. Sonny is equally appealing: vulnerable, yet caring and not too overprotective. There is plenty of action, a complex setup, sprinkles of Shakespearean and Arthurian allusions, and humorous plot strands to keep the pages turning. I read the book in one sitting and never felt bored. This would be a great book for those who want to read about faeries without the too dark and scary atmosphere. I'm looking forward to reading the book's sequel called Darklight.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is mild language and violence in the book. I would recommend this book to strong 6th graders and up.

If you like this book try: Darklight by Lesley Livingston or Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

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