Rummanah Aasi
 I absolutely love the Percy Jackson book series by Rick Riordan. I first read the first book in the series, The Lightening Thief, when it was featured on a the Abe Lincoln list, a reading list that teachers, students, and librarians in Illinois compile. As soon as I read the first page of the book, I knew I was in for a fun ride. I devoured each book and have been recommending it to people nonstop. When I finished the Percy story arc with The Last Olympian, I was bit saddened to leave Camp Half-Blood, a place where demigods learn about their heritage and study. When I heard that Riordan was going to do a spin off series called Heroes of Olympus, I was elated and I couldn't wait to get my hands on the first book, The Lost Hero. I just finished the book and I will say that it exceeded all of my expectations.
  Since the storyline for The Lost Hero is a bit complex, I will let the author describe the book to you:

Review: The Lost Hero picks up right where The Last Olympian left its readers. While the Heroes of Olympus is a spin off series of the Percy Jackson, I highly recommend that readers read the Percy Jackson series first in order to get a proper introduction to Camp Half-Blood and several major characters that are from the prior series. Otherwise readers may feel like they are dropped into a middle of a series and be a bit confused as to what is going on. 
  As the author mentioned in the video above, The Lost Hero introduced three new demigods: Jason, Piper, and Leo. All three characters are thrown in together at a school for troubled kids. During a school field trip at the Grand Canyon, they are attacked by mythical creatures and are whisked away to Camp Half-Blood where their demigod heritage is revealed. While at the camp, the trio learn that the gods of Olympus has been silent and that Percy Jackson has disappeared. If that is not enough unsettling news, the trio also discover they are involved in a new, dark, great, and complex prophecy: Seven half-bloods shall answer the call/To storm or fire the world must fall/An oath to keep with a final breath/and foes bear arms to the Doors of Death. Thus begins a new quest by the trio of newbies to find and free Hera.
  I continually appreciate that Riordan continues to give us both strong female and ethnically diverse characters. Leo is Latino and Piper is half Cherokee. He seems to effortlessly hits the right tone in depicting teenage language, emotions, and behaviors. He is able to make his characters complex by giving them interesting back stories and insecurities. I cared for each of his characters as the details of their lives are revealed in each of their chapters (the story is seamlessly told from each character's perspective without sacrificing pace and tone). With an equal balance of humor, action, and a dash of romance, I was never bored with The Lost Hero. In fact I tried really hard not to read the book so quickly because I knew I would have to wait a long time for the second book to come out.
 What I love about Riordan's books is that he is able to tell a story that is fun, action-packed and simultaneously educational. Since I love Greek mythology, I love the foreshadowing and allusions to some of the famous myths and characters. In The Lost Hero we get Roman mythology as well as Greek, which was the primary focus in the Percy Jackson series. I loved the discussions of the subtle differences in the gods from one culture to the other. The Roman names of the gods really kept me on my toes and I wanted to know more about both.
 As you can tell, I really loved this book and I can not wait until the second book reveals what happens to Percy. It was a blast getting to know these trio newbies as well as meeting old friends at Camp Half-Blood. 

Rating: 5 stars

Curriculum Connection:  English and Social Studies

Words of Caution: There are some scary, fantasy violence that is PG rated. I think this book is appropriate for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: The Son of Neptune (Book 2 of the Heroes of Olympus series, available Fall 2011), The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan, Gods of Manhattan by Scott Mebus, The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh

There is only 5 Days left in my:

Rummanah Aasi
  Moving can be a significant event in a child's life. I remember when I moved from Chicago to the Chicagoland suburb back in 1996. I lived in the city for 13 years and my life was deeply city rooted. Moving to a suburb was very much like a cultural shock and starting out from scratch. I went from being known in my neighborhood to the 'new' girl who knew practically no one. I could relate to Diana's anxiety and sadness of leaving her home in Eileen Spinelli's novel in verse book entitled Where I Live.

Description: In a series of poems, Diana writes about her life before and after she and her family moves far away to live with her Grandpa Joe. 

Review: Where I Live is a sweet and quick read. The book is told from Diana's perspective in a series of free-verse poems that describe her emotional journey of being forced to move. Diana loves where she lives. She has a house with white shutters, a maple tree she planted in the front yard, and a midnight-blue bedroom that she and her best friend Rose painted. Everything changes when her father loses his job and the family must move across the state to Grandpa Joe's. The move means leaving behind Rose, the maple tree and the poetry workshop she'd competed for a spot in all behind.
  In Spinelli's short poems, Diana's voice is effective and perfectly yet at times too idyllically describes the perfect life of a junior high kid who is too precocious for her age. It was nice to see Diana grow emotionally as she adjusts to her new home, meeting  new friends, and writes poetry to write how she feels, however, I think the adjustments were a bit abrupt. As Diana gains a friend named Sam, her best friend Rose (who I really liked) was dropped out of the picture. I wish we got to see how and if Diana connects with her old friends.
 The drawing by Phelan match the poems in brevity and sensitivity. Children, who may not grasp Diana's emotions can use the drawings as inferences and follow along the story quite well. All in all, a pretty good children's book that portrays a common event in childhood.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: None. I would recommend this book for grades 1 to 3.

If you like this book try: Love that Dog by Sharon Creech

There is only 6 Days left in my:

Rummanah Aasi

It's been a while since my last hop. So I thought I would hop back in (sorry for the bad pun) and see what's new! Book Blogger Hop is sponsored by Jennifer at Crazy for Books. As you know, the book blogger hop is a great opportunity to discover new blogs and my new blogging friends. I have a blast joining in the hop and I hope you do too.

This week's question is: "What is the one bookish thing you would love to have, no matter the cost?"

 Answer: I would love to have one large room for my own personal library. The room will be filled with bookcases, have great lightening, and cozy couches for reading. Currently, I have about 2.5 bookcases at home and I'm quickly running out of room! Part of my goal with my blog is to weed out my collection, which is a bit painful but a necessary evil. I'm slowly getting there, but I get too distracted by new book releases. LOL!

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". And since you're here, be sure to check out my current giveaway!

There is only 7 Days left in my:

Rummanah Aasi
  Sometimes I wish life came with a manual or better yet a set of instructions of how to go through the small and large bumps in the road that we all face. Would we even pick it up or even read it? All I know is that there are many times in my life where I wish I had a redo option, where I could change my choices and see what would happen. Sadly, hindsight is really 20/20, isn't it? I couldn't help but think of these things while I read Lauren Oliver's debut novel Before I Fall

Description: February 12th is a very important day for Samantha Kingston. It is Cupid Day, a day where the number of roses indicate how popular you are in school. It is the day where Sam plans to lose her virginity to her popular boyfriend. It is the day that Kent McFreaky has a party at his house. It is the day that Sam dies..well kind of. Instead of going to the afterlife, Sam relives the day over and over again. She soon discovers that the only way out of this funk is to re-examine her choices and do what is right even if that means losing everything.

Review: As you can probably tell from the book's description, Before I Fall is a combination of the movies Ground Hog Day and Mean Girls. Although the same elements of each movie are present in the novel, I think Before I Fall is much more provocative and seems to stay with you long after you finish the last page.
  Reading Before I Fall was an unique experience. When I began the book, I was completely appalled by Samantha. She is shallow, obnoxious, mean, and a sheep who blindly follows the queen bee. It was hard for me to feel sorry for her when she dies and returns to live the same day over and over again. Thankfully, Sam does change and so did my opinion of her, when she discovers that her choices alter what happens on the February 12th. It is through her choices and her epiphanies that I see Sam's complexities. While she mocks others 'below' her, she realizes her own insecurities as well as the shortcomings of others around her. It is these 'ah ha' moments that allow her to re-examine how she behaves, talks, and see her relationships for what they really are. Sam's gradual movement from being so self centered to putting others before her is compelling and believable. One of the book's strongest and my favorite moment is where Juliet, a girl who Sam's clan has mercilessly bullied, relays her feelings of what it feels to be mocked to Sam. It is this single moment that Sam realizes how much Juliet has been wronged and can only begin to understand what it means wear Juliet's shoes.
  Despite its slow pace in the beginning and the repetitive plot points, Oliver has written a book where teens can not only relate and connect, but also define and argue as to what constitutes popularity and the harmful effects of bullying. I think this book would be an excellent book club selection.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is a underage drinking party scene that occurs over and over again. There is also a scene where the main character smokes pot. There is some language and suggestions of sex throughout the book. Recommended for grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: You by Charles Benoit, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin, Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

8 Days left in my:

Rummanah Aasi

I thought about doing a post discussing some of the scariest books I've read so far for Halloween. So I was glad when I found the current Top 10 Tuesday meme that did the same exact thing! Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.This week, we're talking about our favorite scary books just in time for Halloween. Here are the books that scared and completely freaked me out, in no particular order:

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote- A chilling and true account of a family being murdered for a few cents. What is even creepier is watching the black and white movie and actually seeing the real house where the murder was committed. *Shudders*

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess- I had to read this for my Brit Lit class junior year of high school. It's mainly about a sociopath who relishes in murdering and rape. He is taken in by the government and is "conditioned" to not harm anyone, which is equally disturbing. The last chapter made my jaw drop. I only saw a few clips of the movie in class, but I can never hear Singing in the Rain without freaking out. I couldn't sleep for weeks after reading this book.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman- Going to a parallel universe where your parents want to capture you and stuff you...yeah. Creepy as hell. Not to mention buttons for eyes.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan- I had really weird and creepy dreams while and after I read this book.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman- One of my favorite YA books. I had goosebumps while reading this book. Just the thought of being torn apart and your body parts used for something else. *Shivers* Can't wait for the sequel to come out in 2012!

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson- I first read this when I was in 6th grade and it completely freaked me out. Split personality and murder, how much worse can it get?

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley- Not really scary per se, but the extremes of Victor's actions are quite chilling.

 Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice - My first vampire book that not only sucked me from the first page, but terrified me so bad that I couldn't sleep for two weeks. Of course I picked up the second book, because it was so good.

Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allen Poe- Even though these aren't books, these short stories made my heart pump. I swear I heard a heart beating long after I finished "Tell Tale Heart" and I will never look at a Raven the same again.

Are you in the House Alone? by Richard Peck- I read this in junior high, but don't really recall the plot too well. I just know that I did not want to be in the house all by myself after I finished reading it.

Rummanah Aasi
  Since the Soul Eater manga series seems to improve with the second volume, I thought I would pick up the third and then decide whether or not I'll pick up the series. After skimming through a few reviews on Amazon about the series, I've noticed that a lot more people prefer the anime series instead of the manga. Perhaps the action scenes and the translations are much better in that medium.

Description: In this volume of Soul Eater, we learn about various swords. Tsubaki and Black*Star are on their most difficult mission yet: a battle with the Uncanny Sword Masamune, a soul on the brink of becoming a Kishin. This fight has personal significance for Tsubaki. Tsubacki who is normally shy and complacent, must find her strength to defeat the Uncanny Sword before she is sucked into the darkness and evil. 

Review: In the third volume of Soul Eater, picks up where the second volume ends. While Soul and Maka recover from their previous battle, Death the Kid and Black Star go off on a special quest to recover Excalibur, a legendary weapon that can bestow unparalleled power on its meister. This tale is hiliarious and it was fun to see how these extremely confident kids make their way to Excalibur. Meanwhile we see Medusa is approached by a pair of witches who aren't in favor of her undercover job at Death School, but they have no clue just exactly how powerful she really is. 
  Our main story of this volume, however, is centered on Tsubaki and Black Star who are sent on a special, highly sensitive mission. This is by far my favorite part of the volume. It was nice to see Tsubaki become active, confident, and kicking butt. She is no longer passive and standing on the sidelines. It was also neat to learn more about her background as well as Black*Star's origins.
   Most of this volume seems to be in between stories, but doesn't seem to hold on its own. More information regarding Soul is given and there's plenty of mystery left to solve. Personally, I am not that invested in the characters nor the plot and I will stop the series here.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is language, strong violence, and some female nudity in this volume. Recommended to 17 yr old and older.

If you like this book try: Soul Eater 4 by

Rummanah Aasi
 I had such a great time reading the first Kate Daniel's book, Magic Bites, that I couldn't wait to read the second book in the series. I looked up the author online and was surprised to discover that Ilona Andrews is actually a husband and wife writing team: Ilona Gordon and Andrew Gordon. How cool is that?! There are currently four books in the Kate Daniel series with a fifth book on its way. I picked up book 2 in the Kate Daniel series called Magic Burns.

Description: Kate Daniels is a mercenary who cleans up the mess left by magic. She is very familiar with the waves of paranormal energy ebb and flow across Atlanta. Once in every seven years a flare comes, a time when magic runs rampant, which can be a really big problem. When Kate is sought out by the Pack,Atlanta's paramilitary clan of shape shifters, she quickly realizes it is much easier said than done, especially when there is a possible epic tug of war between two gods hoping for rebirth. If Kate can't stop the cataclysmic showdown, the city may not survive.

Review: Magic Burns is an excellent second book in the Kate Daniel series. Andrews weaves magic, technology, and Celtic mythology in this installment without dragging the book down. Magic Burns takes place where the first book ends. Kate is still struggling financially and takes up another project to help her income. She is still a smart-mouth, who doesn't filter any of her thoughts when she talks. Her interactions with other paranormal groups continue and she keeps trying to do good while staying as sassy and likable as before.

  The mystery and the villain this time around is much harder and complex. Many of the characters from the first book reappear and are developed. While it may not be necessary to read the first book since Andrews gives sufficient prior information, I think you might be missing out on a lot of character development and interactions. As usual, I loved the action, humor, and the tantalizing, possible romance between Curran, the Lord Beast and leader of the pack, and our plucky heroine. We are given a few more clues regarding Kate's background and her powers. I can't wait to read book three!

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language throughout the book. The violence can be a bit gory for some. If the book were a movie, I would rate it as rated "R". I can see teen appeal with this series, but I would be a bit reluctant to have it my high school library.

If you like this book try: Magic Strikes (Book 3) by Ilona Andrews, Fray by Joss Whedon, Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

Rummanah Aasi
  I wish I could be creative as Holly Black. The author is a prolific writer, who has written several different books for a variety of audiences: children to graphic novels. Earlier this year I saw a book trailer for her latest release, White Cat, that caught my interest. Take a look:

Description: Cassel Sharpe comes from a family of curse workers, people who have the ability to change things such your memory, luck, and emotions with just of a touch of their bare hands. Curse work is illegal and many of them are mobsters or con artists. Cassel comes from a criminal family and he is pretty much the least criminal out of them all. Well, not if you count, him murdering his best friend when he was in junior high.
  Now in high school and trying to pretend to 'fit in' with the normal crowd, Cassel is sleepwalking and having nightmares where a white cat is trying to tell him something. Not only does that freak him out, he is also noticing his brothers acting strangely around him. Cassel thinks he is part of a con, but he's not exactly sure what or by whom. All he knows that is somehow related to his best friend's murder that he can't forget. To find out the truth, he must outcon the conmen in his life.

Review: White Cat is an urban fantasy mystery that I really enjoyed. Black effortlessly weaves magic with con artistry and even science. Her world building and characters are intriguing. Cassel is a fun character to observe and read about. He is unlike any male, YA character that I have ever met. He is far from an innocent, sweet character. He is a bookie at his high school where students practically bet on anything. He uses his charms and quick wit to create the perfect con. While reading White Cat, I could never pin point his true intentions and I was always weary to trust him in fear that I, myself, would be tricked by him. All of these characteristics made a great, complex, shady character.
  I have talked with some readers who didn't like White Cat as much as I did mainly due to its slow pace. In my opinion, I think the slow pace was a deliberate move by the author. Cassel explains to the reader on what makes a great con: how to behave, what to and not do, etc. What I loved most about the book is trying to pick away the layers to mystery: what exactly happened on the night that Cassel murdered his best friend? How can he not know what happened? Is Cassel not really cursed or is he just told that he isn't? As I was reading, I felt that I could predict what would happen next and sometimes I was right, but not completely right. My answers would only be clues to the next con and the next. The layers of cons kept me on my feet and I absolutely loved how the book ended and I can't wait to see what happens. If you are interested in the characters and plot despite its slow pace, I think White Cat is a very worthwhile read.  

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language in the book and a few scenes of underage drinking. There is also some mild violence in the book too. Recommended to grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Red Glove by Holly Black (The Curse Workers #2, due out next year), Heist Society by Ally Carter, Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich

Rummanah Aasi
  I really enjoyed reading Sea by Heidi Kling. I contacted Heidi on her Facebook page and asked if she was willing to do an interview. I am very grateful that she said yes, despite her busy schedule. Heidi was born and raised in California. She studied and majored in English lit and creative writing at University of California at Santa Cruz. Heidi is not new to the YA genre. In fact her YA short story “Dear Mr. Moon” was published in a college anthology the year she graduated. Sea is her debut book. I asked Heidi about her writing, how it feels like to be a debut author, and our favorite show: The Vampire Diaries.

Rummanah: Heidi, welcome and thank you for stopping by. Sea is inspired by your husband’s experiences at volunteering trip to Indonesia after the tsunami disaster of 2004. Besides chatting with him, did you have to do a lot research for your book?

Heidi: I read typical travel books Sienna would read: basics about the country, language translations to get around etc., I became friends with several tsunami survivors that my husband worked with at the Pesantren and they helped me with the cultural distinctions and the true dialog.

Rummanah: Writing about a true event can be daunting. What challenges did you face while writing Sea?

Heidi: I just wanted the emotional notes to ring true. To pay my respects to what the young adults and children survivors went through. Of all the challenges, I wanted to present the culture accurately from a western teens perspective. It was hard to find the balance between an honest reaction and being over-the-top politically correct (which teens would cue on to in a second and would be suspicious of.) Sienna’s experience had to ring true for the book to ring true. 

Rummanah: I think you did that really well in Sea. Sienna is pushed out of her comfort zone, but ultimately embraces the different living style in Indonesia. When a natural disaster strikes (i.e. the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile and most recently the flooding in Pakistan), we only hear and read about it on the news for a few weeks or months but it slowly fades in the background. Why do you this happens?

Heidi:  Because of human nature. We are excitable creatures who forget things in the long term. Other wise we’d have no wars—if we remembered how horrific they were, would we get involved again? No. Humans are flawed creatures. I’m realizing this more and more. To be terribly blunt, I think we get bored, and move on. Isn’t that awful? 

Rummanah: *Nods* Yep, and yet we wonder why we do the same horrible things over and over again. We're told that history repeats itself, but you would think that we would revisit those events and come out smarter, wiser, and better. I guess we aren't smart as we like to think we are. On a bright note, what is the one thing that surprised you the most as being a new author?

Heidi: The fans. I was hoping teens would like Sea but the amount of love and attention some of them are giving it astonishes me. I love interacting with the readers on Twitter and on my blog. I love the whole thing. 

Rummanah: I noticed that on Facebook, you and I share a love for The Vampire Diaries. You know I have to ask you questions about the show. Which Salvatore brother has your heart and why?

Heidi: Nice! Don’t all roads lead back to Damon?

Rummanah: *Laughs* I know mine do.

Heidi: I wrote an essay for the upcoming Smart Pop novel, “A Visitor’s Guide To Mystic Falls” that comes out in October, 2010. It’s about the challenging relationship between the Salvatore boys. I must say, Damon has my heart, but after what he did to Jeremy and to Elena? I’m not sure I like him as much. That was unforgivable. But remember what I just said about humans being flawed? Likely they will move on.

Rummanah: I still can't believe he did that! He's got to do a lot to make up with Elena. What I love about him is that he's a shady, complex character that you can't really pin down. He is sarcastic, impulsive, handsome, and smart. He also has a heart, which is buried under all of his angst. You never know what plans he has under his sleeves, which makes him an awesome character to watch. Do you have any predictions for Season 2?
Heidi: My predictions for the season: Stefan will be stronger, more likable character, Katherine will wreak havoc, and Damon and Elena’s tension will increase. I’m guessing by season’s end, Damon and Elena will be making smoochies. ;D

Rummanah: I hope you're right. I would love Delena. There is definitely chemistry between those two. I’m always looking for the next great read, what is your favorite book that you’ve read this year?

Heidi; I just finished Linger, which I liked a lot. 

Rummanah: I absolutely loved Linger. Can't wait for Forever to come out! What else?

Heidi: Next up is Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler and Anna & The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.

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

Heidi: I’m working on a fantasy trilogy about estranged witches and warlocks. Sexy witches and warlocks. It is a ton of fun to write. Book one is complete and on my editors desk now. I’m starting book 2 shortly. I refer to it as #sexahmagicbook on Twitter. I’ll announce its real name when I announce the sale. *Fingers crossed*

Rummanah: *Crosses fingers* Thank you so much for stopping by, Heidi!

Heidi: Thanks for having me!!!

Rummanah Aasi
  I have read mixed reviews about Cate Tiernan's new series called Immortal Beloved, a paranormal romance trilogy, that is being marketed as fresh, new spin on the extremely popular genre. I wondered how much can you really change a paranormal romance book? Sure, you can switch the paranormal creature (i.e. vampire, werewolf, fallen angel, zombie) and write it from a different perspective (i.e. either the 'ordinary' or the one who holds the secret) but what else? Intrigued by the question, I sought out Immortal Beloved and decided to read it.

Description: Nastasya is over 400 years old immortal and has spent much of her life partying hard throughout the centuries. When she witnesses her best friend, Incy, use magick to break a cabbie's spine after their typical night of drinking and partying, Nastasya decides she wants to change her lifestyle. She moves to Massachusetts and enrolls in a rehab treatment center for immortals who want to maintain a balance of magick in their lives.
  During her treatment, Nastasya meets a handsome, mysterious, aloof character named Reyne, who she swears she knows from her past, but doesn't know where. Strange things begin to happen at the treatment center and Nastasya is in the center of it all. She must face her dark past and escape from dark immortals who want her in order to truly start living.

Review: Immortal Beloved has a great concept: What if there was a rehab center for paranormal characters? I can immediately picture and name a few characters who I would like to see get checked in. Despite the premise, I found my reading experience to be frustrating. In the half of the book, we meet Natasya, a partyer immortal in London, who suddenly has an epiphany when her night out goes wrong. She then decides to travel across the ocean to Massachusetts and checks into a rehab center. She complains incessantly how 'backwards' the rehab center is and how her life sucks. In between her rants, we meet Reyn aka Viking god who infuriates and tempts Natasya, as well as some interesting flashback tidbits on her many lives throughout history. All of this takes place in 200 pages, which could have easily be edited to at least 50 to 75 pages tops. The book finally got somewhat interesting at the book's halfway mark when we find out how Natasya's and Reyn's histories connect, but that plot line doesn't really go anywhere.
 To be completely honest, I was really tempted to dump this book. I didn't warm up to Natasya's elitist, snarky attitude. Nor did I care for her love interest Reyn, who didn't really come to life for me. I felt as if I read about him instead of meeting him. Their relationship is just a little bit above lust, but not much. While the book is marketed as a paranormal romace, the first book is actually about Natasya accepting who she really is, faults and all, and confronting her past, which I admit is done quite well without being too preachy.
  Since I didn't care for the characters or the plot, I'm not going to pick up this series. I'm more likely to suggest it to friends who need a filler book while they wait for something they really want to read that isn't available at the moment. All in all, Immortal Beloved is okay, but not great by any means.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language in the book. There are also some scenes that have strong violence where people are beheaded that might be a bit too gory for middle schoolers. Recommended to 9th grade and up.

If you like this book try: Marked by PC and Kristen Cast or Evermore by Alyson Noel

Rummanah Aasi
  I always try to read a few volumes of a manga series before I decide whether or not to pick it up. I thin it is unfair to judge the series by the first volume partly because the author has to not only establish its basic storyline but also introduce its main characters. I was a bit disappointed after reading the first volume of Soul Eater, but I hoped the second volume would be better. For the most part, it is better.

Description: Since the meisters and their scythe's have failed to capture one soul, they have been placed in remedial classes where they must confront Dr. Franken Stein, the strongest meister ever to graduate from Death Weapon Meister Academy. Even without a weapon, his massive soul dwarfs them all. Will our meisters succeed or will they fail in this mission impossible?

Review:  The second volume of Soul Eater brings two interesting characters: Dr. Franken Stein and Kishin. Both of these characters impede our main characters' mission in welding the ultimate weapon of Death. Dr. Franken Stein shares similar characters with the famous monster and scientist of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. He is disturbing and funny at the same time. Kishin is a mystery that our meisters are trying to figure out and it is mainly why I kept reading in this volume. 
 Like the first volume, the drawing of the action scenes were eye catching and are done well. The other panels, however, still looked too crowded with both Japanese words and English translations squeezed into the panel. If one language was chosen, it would have made things a lot easier to read. The translation of the second volume seems better and I chuckled a bit more in this volume.  There is still lots of violence in the volume, but the female nudity (the bodies are still distorted) was a bit toned down. I would definitely take the "Older Teen" rating seriously with this series and maybe place it in the adult section of the library just to be safe.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is language, strong violence, and some female nudity in this volume. Recommended to 17 yr old and older.

If you like this book try: Soul Eater Vol 3 by

Rummanah Aasi
  Gail Giles is my "go to" author for reluctant readers. Her books tend to have interesting characters and a chilling, fast paced plot that captures their attention. I read her latest and I would argue her best book to date, titled Dark Song.

Description: Amy Ford is use to living a luxurious life. She lives in a rich neighborhood, goes to private school, and is familiar with spending money without a second thought. All of that comes to a sudden end when her father loses a job after his company "downsizes" and now her family must struggle to stay above the poverty line. As her world comes crumbling down, she realizes that her parents have betrayed her in the worst possible way. She seeks refuge in a boy named Marc, who will stop at nothing to keep her safe. 

Review: If I had to describe Dark Song in one word, that word would be disturbing. Reading this book is like witnessing a car crash. You know things and people will shatter, but you can't help but be fascinated on how things collide and rip apart. The plot of Dark Song is unfortunately realistic given today's economy and how a family struggles to not fall apart.
   I pretty much did not like any of the characters in this book yet I was riveted and needed to see how the story ends. Amy is a spoiled brat, who I wanted to shake and yell: "Get over yourself and get a job like everyone else in the real world." As for her parents, her manipulative father is a character that you love to hate. While there were instances that I actually did feel sorry for him, but then like Amy, I also felt betrayed to discover his lies upon lies that he tells his family. Her mother is no better. She comes off as cold and controlling. The only person in the Ford family that I could stand was the innocent adn adorable Chrissy who is only six years old. it really is no wonder how Amy blindly falls and is trained to seek comfort and "love" for Marc. Speaking of Marc, *shudders*, he reminded me of Mark Wahlberg's character in the movie Fear. The moment he appears in the story, I could imagine a red neon sign above his head that says "Danger! Stay away from this guy at all costs", which of course our main character doesn't.
  Dark Song is a very rare book where I actually like the book as a whole without liking the characters. There is so much to discuss in this short book (it's approximately a few pages short from 300), everything from Amy's family dynamics and financial status to her troubling, abusive relationship with Marc. Readers will be thinking about Dark Song long after they finish its last page.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language in the book as well as one scene where Ames smokes pot with her best friend. There is also several sexual situations that aren't descriptive and mentioned in passing. Recommended to high school only.

If you like this book try: What Happened to Cassie McBride? by Gail Giles

Kick off Teen Read Week by entering in my...
Rummanah Aasi
Today I finished Scott Nicholson's supernatural thriller titled Drummer Boy. Scott had contacted me and asked if I would review his books on my blog.  As you may recall, Scott is a freelance writer of paranormal, supernatural thrillers and horror stories and books. He is also been ranked #1 on Amazon's Kindle for ghost and horror stories. Drummer Boy is the third book I've read and reviewed.

Description (from Scott's website): On a Blue Ridge Mountain peak, three boys hear the rattling of a snare drum deep inside a cave known as "The Jangling Hole," and the wind carries 
a whispered name.
An old man at the foot of the mountain believes something inside the Hole has been disturbed by a developer's bulldozers. A local reporter is determined to solve the supernatural mysteries that have been shared for generations. Sheriff Frank Littlefield, haunted by past failures, must stand against a public enemy that has no fear of bullets, bars, or justice.
   On the eve of a Civil War re-enactment, the town of Titusville prepares for a staged battle, but the weekend warriors aren't aware they will soon be fighting an elusive army. A troop of Civil War deserters, trapped in the Hole by a long-ago avalanche, is rising from a dark slumber, and the war is far from over. And one misfit kid is all that stands between a town and the cold mouth of hell...

Review: I had a difficult time reading this novella. I wasn't able to connect with any of the characters and the plot was just okay. Drummer Boy starts off with a similar feel to "The Body" by Stephen King, where three friends encounter a boy when they are goofing off in the woods. Instead of a body, these kids come across "The Cave", which is known to have haunts by their community. While the friendships and the bonds between these boys ring true, I hard a hard time liking them. They come off as cookie cutter stereotypes-a misfit who is poor but refuses to acknowledge his poverty in public, a closeted gay character who is too nice, and a jock whose loyalty is never really reliable.  The adults in the story weren't enjoyable as well, the males irritated and disgusted me with their crude humor and the desire to "nail" anything that walks.
   The concept of the novella was intriguing. Nicholson blends the Civil War reenactment along with urban legends effectively. The appearances of ghost soldiers were definitely creepy and kept me reading. The suspense slowly picks up as the events lead up to a dangerous ending. Drummer Boy is just an okay read that is easily forgotten. 

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language throughout the novel. There are also lots of crude humor and sexual suggestions in the book, including frank discussion of masturbation. Recommended to adults only.

If you like this book try: The Body by Stephen King or The Farm by Scott Nicholson

Celebrate Teen Read Week with by entering in my...
Rummanah Aasi
  I heard lots of buzz surrounding the manga series called Soul Eater from a library listserve. Some people had claimed it is going to be a hit series, which of course got my attention. Since I'm relatively new to manga, I thought I would check it out from my library. With no knowledge about the manga, I had anticipated the plot to be a psychological/philosophical thriller or mystery. After reading the first volume, I was totally off the mark.

Description (from the back cover of the manga): Maka is a weapon meister, determined to turn her partner, a living scythe named Soul Eater, into a powerful death scythe - the ultimate weapon of Death himself! Charged with the task of collecting and devouring the tainted souls of ninety-nine humans and one witch, Maka and her fellow meisters strive to master their weapons as they face off against the bizarre and dangerous minions of the underworld. But the meisters' own personal quirks may prove a bigger obstacle than any sultry enchantress!

Review: Soul Eater is actually a supernatural, dark comedy. The story focuses on three weapon meisters, who all have a common goal: to turn their living scythe into a full blown weapon of Death by consuming one hundred souls. Each meister has one tragic flaw that deters them from their ultimate goal. I thought this concept of the manga was kinda neat and interesting.
  The drawing of the action scenes were eye catching and are done well. The other panels, however, looked too crowded with both Japanese words and English translations squeezed into the panel. If one language was chosen, it would have made things a lot easier to read. There were several phrases that seemed out of place and were meant to be funny. I think the problem had to do with the literal English translation.
  Although there is lots of violence, what turned me off in this volume is the gratuitous female nudity throughout the volume. I don't have a problem with nudity as long as it has a purpose and can be viewed as symbolism, but in the first volume of Soul Eater, the females (who have extremely distorted bodies) are nude just for the sake of being nude.
  Since the characters and the premise were some what interesting, I'm willing to give Volume 2 a shot. I just hope I will like it better than this one.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is lots of female nudity throughout this volume. There is also strong violence and language throughout the volume. Recommended strictly to teens 17 and up.

If you like this book try: Soul Eater Vol 2 by Atsushi Okubo

Come celebrate Teen Read Week by entering in my:
Rummanah Aasi
  I started another series. I know, I know. I always say that I won't start another because I have so many series that are going on and I have a hard time keeping track of them all. My book buddy, Una, recommended that I check out the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs that has a similar feel to them as the Kate Daniel series. Well, how can I argue with that?

Description: In Mercy's world, paranormal beings live amongst humans. Due to a popular murder case, the the lesser fae have been forced out of hiding and are consequently placed in reservation-like areas. The greater fae and other beings with powers (i.e. werewolves, vampires, witches) remain hidden from society's eyes and like to keep their identities unknown.
  Mercy is not normal. She's actually a skin walker, who can easily shift to being a coyote. She has several friends from the paranormal community and runs her own car shop. When a runaway teen named Mac, who happens to be a werewolf arrives at Mercy's shop looking for work, Mercy immediately senses he  is not part of the local pack. She gives the kid a job and looks into finding him refuge with the local weres. Unfortunately, trouble is following Mac around, and Mercy finds herself knee-deep in a paranormal conspiracy! Someone is trying to "out" the werewolves and has kidnapped the Alpha's daughter. It's up to Mercy and her friends to find out what happens before things really start getting bad.

Review: I enjoyed reading Moon Called. It is a very different adult paranormal book that I have read so far. The focus of the book and probably the series is politics surrounding the paranormal beings. They have their own set of rules and are trying to live peacefully amongst each other. The book sets up this back story in great detail without ever being preachy.
  I instantly loved the characters, which is always a good sign. I was immediately drawn to our heroine, Mercy, who is compassionate, smart, loyal, stubborn, strong, impulsive, and down right funny. She is constantly reminding the men around her that she can handle her own without being making them feel stupid. The characters of two central male characters, Adam and Samuel, are both very intriguing and have interesting back stories. They are both have a connection with Mercy, which will definitely heat things up as the series continues and I look forward to exploring a bit more as I continue the series.
  The mystery and plot of  the book had lots of twists and turns that kept me on my feet while reading. My biggest problem with this novel is the inconsistent pace of the book. The story starts off very slowly in the beginning with Briggs providing lots of back story and information about werewolves and vampires, which is helpful in understanding the characters but it slowed the story almost to a halt. The book does pick up, however, in the last half of the book. Since I really liked the characters, I will continue with this series and hope that each book gets better. Bottom line is: if you're looking for a smart and strong female character and enjoy urban fantasy, definitely check this series out. 

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language in the book. The action scenes are PG-13. Although the book is marketed towards adults, I can definitely seen teens reading this series.

If you like this book try: Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews, Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs (Mercy Book 2)

Come celebrate Teen Read Week with me by entering in my..

Rummanah Aasi

  Teen Read Week, a week where libraries celebrate teen materials, starts this Sunday, October 17th and ends October 23rd. I wanted to do something for Teen Read Week to show why I love YA literature. I love YA literature because the stories and characters are straight to the point. Unlike adult literature, where you have to read hundreds of pages to set a setting, plot, and characters, YA literature is instantly gratifying, which is not to say it's not thought provoking. In order to share my love of YA literature, I'm going to have a "I Heart YA Giveaway". For this giveaway, I will be giving away 6 titles from a variety of genres for 6 winners:

Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card
Matched by Ally Condie
Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen
Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd
Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines
Looking for Alaska by John Green

 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 some of 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. Basically, first place will get first pick, second place will get second pick, etc.
To Enter...

Please leave a comment below and include the following information:
  • Blog follower: 4 points
  • Answer the following question: Why do you like YA literature? for 2 points
  • Bonus: Tweet about my contest (leave link) : 1 point 
  • Bonus: Post about my giveaway on your blog (leave link): 3 points 
Please add up your points - for a total of 10 points max.

This giveaway is now CLOSED. Winners will be announced on 11/5/10. 

Contest is open until  11:00 pm EDT on Thursday, November 4th, 2010.
  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 for celebrating Teen Read Week with me!
Rummanah Aasi
  When author Cassandra Clare announced she was writing a prequel to her best-selling series, The Mortal Instruments, I was listening closely. As more details were made known, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy. I was fortunate enough to meet Clare at a presentation and signing at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, IL, where she generously answered her fans' questions and sign books.

Description (from book's panel): When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.
Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.
   Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

Review: Clockwork Angel takes place approximately 150 years before the Mortal Instrument series and its setting is in Victorian England. Victorian England is my favorite literary time period, which is closely followed by the Romantics. The English major in me was excited and curious to see how Clare pulls off Victorian England in her book and she does it remarkably well. Clare covers the everyday Victorian lifestyle from fashion to people's mannerisms. I loved how each chapter of the book is prefaced with a quote from Victorian literature. I had a blast trying to figure out how each passage correlates to the chapter as well as the whole book.
  While there are inevitable similarities between Clockwork Angel and City of Bones in terms of plot structure and characters, Clockwork Angel does hold its own. All of the characters are fully drawn out and have unique voices, including the diabolical villain. Our heroine, Tessa, is spunky, intelligent, determined, and stubborn. She refuses to be passive, which is how women were considered to be in Victorian England. In fact, what I found most appealing in Clockwork Angel are characters who are constantly fighting against stereotypes in their society whether it be racial or gender stereotypes. There is also a struggle of accepting ones true identity, which is equally fascinating.
  Will is the handsome, sarcastic, witty bad boy who loves to make others believe he is worthless. Fans of Jace in the Mortal Instrument series will be instantly drawn to him. For me, however, I was drawn to the quite, well mannered, and incredibly sweet Jem who has a dark past. I can't wait to see how these characters develop in the sequels of this series.
  Some people have complained that Clockwork Angel is a bit hard to get into, but I didn't find that to be the case at all. There was enough battle scenes, humor, and romantic tension throughout the novel that held my attention. I never felt bored nor did I think the story lost its pace. Though some of the plot twists were predictable, I was caught off guard on a few, particularly the mystery of the Magister. Actually, I found this novel easy to follow unlike City of Bones where I was constantly trying to sort out the world building and the numerous characters introduced all at once. Clare does a good job in providing enough and clear background information for those who may not have read her first series. While reading the Mortal Instrument series is not required, readers who have read the series will be given added bonuses with the connections they can make between the two series. The book does end with a cliffhanger, so be warned, but the ride is so worth it. I can't wait for round two!

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is mild language and there is PG-13 violence in the book. I'd recommend this book to grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: The Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray, Prophecy of Sisters by Michelle Zink, or The Mortal Instrument series by Cassandra Clare
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