Rummanah Aasi

  I will be participating in my very first blog tour! Much thanks to Casey at The Bookish Type and Danya at A Tapestry of Words for setting up this tour and inviting me to participate. 2011 is filled with several dystopian YA releases. The event to highlight a few of the titles being released this year with book reviews, author interviews, cover redesign contests, and of course giveaways!

Books featured in the blog tour:

Photo credit: 365 Days of Reading

 Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Wither by Lauren DeStefano
XVI by Julia Karr
Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky
Dark Parties by Sara Grant
Memento Nora by Angie Smibert
Possession by Elana Johnson
Bumped by Megan McCafferty

Stops that I will be hosting:
  • March 24: Delirium Review
  • March 26:  Dark Parties Review
  • April 2: Awaken Review
  • April 3: Author Interview: Katie Kacvinsky (Awaken)
  • April 7: Author Interview: Sara Grant (Dark Parties)
  • April 12: Memento Nora Review
  • April 13: Author Interview: Angie Smibert (Memento Nora)
  • April 16: Possession Review
  • April 17: Bumped Review
  • April 18: Author Scavenger Hunt Interview: Lauren Oliver (Delirium)

 Awesome Blogs Participating in the Tour:

  The event kicks off with Casey and Danya's blogs.You can find the whole schedule at Casey's blog.
 We all hope you will join us to celebrate a month of great dystopian reads!
Rummanah Aasi
  I bit surprised that there are not too many ghost stories or stories dealing with ghosts for young adults much less for adults. It seems as if the vampires, werewolves, were-creatures, and the fey seem to take over the broad term of paranomral creatures. Ghosts are the subject for Jeri Ready-Smith debut YA novel called Shade, which is the first book in a planned trilogy. Interestingly enough, I haven't heard much buzz about the book but I'm sure there is lots of appeal for it.

Description: Aura is the first “post-Shifter," which means that she, like everyone born after her, can see and communicate with ghosts. Aura doesn't think much of her ability until her boyfriend, Logan, suddenly dies and begins to haunt her. As if that wasn't complicated enough, Aura is also trying to find out the secret behind the Shift while growing increasingly attracted to her research partner. Aura is caught in a different love triangle: stay true to someone she can never be with, or move on with her life. What is she going to do and who is she going to choose? 

Review: Ghosts are visible, everyday creatures, that are only perceptible to those born after the Shift. The world shaking event has subtly created a "before" and "after" between generations. What the Shift was and why it occurred are still unknown. For most people, the Shift is just an event that happened, however for Aura, is it very personal. She was the first post-Shifter and she works with her pre-Shift aunt's law firm that specializes in helping ghosts to gain justice for their untimely death and helps them to move on. Aura has always separated her work life from her personal one, but that all changes when her boyfriend dies on his birthday.
  While Aura thought her ability was a hindrance, she can now communicate with Logan's ghost and that brings some comfort. The only drawback to this scenario is that Logan can't touch her or interact with the world the way the living Logan did. Aura tries to distract herself by immersing in her mission to figure out what caused the Shift and how her absent parents were involved. She is partnered with a charming Scottish transfer student, Zachary, who also shares a mysterious bond with Aura. As Aura grows closer to Zachary, she must decide whether to hold on to the past or to let go and move on.
  Shade has some interesting characters. Aura is a self determined girl who has a good head of her shoulders. She is smart, driven, and sassy. She feels strongly about Logan, however, I couldn't help but feel that her relationship was one sided. I didn't feel the emotional connection between Aura and Logan. It almost seemed as if they got together simply because they use to hang out as friends before.
   Logan irritated me. I thought he was immature, impulsive, and selfish rock star wannabe. While his death is sad, I thought he caused it and didn't gain any sympathy from me. Zachary, the Scottish transfer student, is the exact opposite of Logan. He seems to genuinely care for Aura by being an active listener and by being supportive during her mourning process, which as a result made his romance with Aura more passionate and tender. While there is a technical love triangle, it seems more about Aura's decision to let go of the past than of the two love interests.
  My main problem with Shade is that there is too many subplots going on at once. At times I felt like I was reading three novels at the same time. The plot flips back and forth between the emotional impacts of Logan's death with a side introduction to Zachary and Aura's quest of wanting to learn more about her mother. I found myself wanting more of Zachary and Aura's interaction than of Logan's. Since this is the first book in the series, however, I hope these threads become more streamlined in the later books.
  Shade is an enjoyable, quick, paranormal romance read with well developed characters. There is plenty of loose ends and romance left for the next few books. I plan on continuing the series. 

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, discussion of sex including a brief scene of self-pleasure, and lots of underage drinking. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Shift by Jeri Ready-Smith (Book 2 due out May 2011), I Heart You,You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder, Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Rummanah Aasi
  I grew up learning about superheroes. My older brother was a very avid DC and Marvel fan during his junior high, high school, and college school years. We would go out and see the latest superhero adaptation in the theaters and then talk about the movie compared to the comics. I instantly loved Batman and the Xmen comics and cartoons. We already made plans to see Thor, which just so happens to fall on my birthday. Like many children, I wondered how cool it would be to have a superpower and what superpower I would have to fight evil. I wanted to be someone like Rogue from the Xmen who was strong yet vulnerable and human. Reading Sybil Nelson's Priscilla the Great, reminded me of that childhood moment. Note: I was given a copy of this book by the author for an honest review.

Description (from author's website): Hey, I’m Priscilla and all I want is to be a normal seventh grader. That’s hard enough with an older brother annoyingly obsessed with Christina Aguilera, mischievous baby twin brothers who could scare the sin off of Satan, and parents more puzzling than a Rubik’s cube in the Bermuda triangle. But when psycho, genetically enhanced assassins start trying to kill me and my family, being normal is downright impossible.

Review: Priscilla the Great is a delightful family adventure, and coming of age story that is purely an escaptist read and that many who are fond of superheroes will really enjoy. In the first chapter, we are immediately thrown into action. Priscilla is kidnapped by an unknown organization who wants her dead. Like her, the reader is confused by what is happening but the present situation is put on pause while Priscilla fills us in with pertient background information about her past and how she got into her current predicament. I loved reading the beginning of the book and it immediately caught my attention, however, the middle part of the book seemed a bit slow and underdeveloped for me. I would have liked more information about Priscilla's mom and her story as well as Priscilla to be more conflicted about her powers like her brother Josh rather than immediately embrace it and be okay.  Fortunately, the book picks up its speed once the villians are revealed and the events that lead to an epic battle.
  Priscilla is a spunky and strong heroine who I liked from the start. At first she seems to be your typical middle schooler who loves playing video games, competiting with her peers, chats with her best friend, and experiences bullying, confusing crushes, and all the stress that comes along with being in middle school. What sets Priscilla apart is her family history and of course her powers, which include shooting fire out of her fingers. After getting to know Priscilla, I couldn't help but root for her.
  Nelson does a good job in creating an authentic tween voice and great characters. Priscilla's twin baby brothers had me laughing out loud with their antics. Despite the predictable "Oh my God, I have superpowers", I was quite impressed by the story as a whole. Avid comic book heroes will make allusions and connections to famous superheroes. A fast plot and great cast of characters, would make this a good candidate for reluctant readers. I would recommend it to fans of upper middle grade and lower young adult readers, especially those who enjoy a good science fiction or superhero story.
Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: The violence in the book is borderline PG-13. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try:  The Kiss of Life by Sybil Nelson (Priscilla the Great #2), Wolverine: Worst Day Ever or Archvillan by Barry Lyga
Rummanah Aasi
  I'm really enjoying the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs. I'm almost all caught up with the series, just need to read Silver Borne, before the latest book River Marked is released in a few weeks. The Mercy series is a unique urban fantasy series in that while there is lots of action and mystery, I can't help but be more vested in learning about the politics involving the paranormal creatures such as the werewolves, vampires, and the fey. I recently finished the fourth book in the series called Bones Crossed.

Description: Werecoyote and car mechanic Mercy Thompson can't get a break. While recovering from a recent trauma, she is put through the grinder once again when her past comes to haunt her and a whole slew of problems, nasty vampire politics to be exact, arise. How can she protect those she loves without getting killed in the process? 

Review: Bone Crossed picks up about a week after the horrific events in Iron Kissed. Mercy is still recovering physically, mentally, and spiritually. While the series involves magic to erase problems or make them better, Briggs refuses to make things easier for her heroine. As a result, Mercy becomes that much more attainable and real. Mercy is coping and dealing with her new role as the mate of the local werewolf pack. She is also suffering from side-effects of previous events such as panic attacks and re-establishing her self confidence and trust. While it may seem to some, including Mercy, of being weak, I think it's the exact opposite. Mercy has established herself as a fighter. A fighter of justice, regardless of the person's race or how harmful it might be to her. She refuses to give up and in my eyes that makes her admirable.
  Briggs does a great job of keeping the story moving by introducing not only new elements in her story but she also refers back to the recent changes in Mercy's life that forces her to re-evaluate and adjust her lifestyle. It's great to know that life's problems, even in urban fantasy, aren't solved by the last few pages in the book or even by magic, but they are continous and our protagonists keep trying to work them out. I don't want to give the impression that Mercy's life is a constant hell, but rather Briggs refuses to make things easy for our heroine.
    While all of the main characters reappear in Bone Crossed, I think the book really spotlights Stefan, Mercy's vampire friend. In the previous books, Stefan makes a fleeting appearence that just makes an impression on the readers. In Bone Crossed, we get to witness his internal struggle of what it means to be good and loyal. His comment of him being more Spike than Angel in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series made me think. I never saw him as either male character in Buffy, but rather a mixture of the two. Stefan's and Mercy's friendship is a definitely a highlight for me and I hope to see more of them together in the future books.
  Bone Crossed is a quick read, filled with lots of action, chilling moments, warmer moments with Adam and Stefan, and humor. One of the many moments that made me laugh out loud is the comment about carpeting: "What kind of stupid person puts white carpet in a house frequented by werewolves?". What I love about the Mercy books is that the mystery goes beyond the traditional and over-used conflict of werewolves vs. vampire. The mystery and/or conflict is more about the politics played by each paranormal race and therefore emphasizes the human tendencies and behaviors rather than the 'beast' part of their nature.
 Although Briggs provides plenty of detail about Mercy's complex world without large, boring information chucks, which will satisfying both new and longtime readers, I would highly suggest that you start this series from the beginning or at the very least with Blood Bound, the second book of the series. If you're thinking of trying out the urban fantasy genre, I think reading the Mercy Thompson series would be a terrific choice.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, violent scenes, and an allusion to sex. The series is marketed to adults, however, mature teens should have no problem with the series.

If you like this book try: Silver Borne (Mercy #5), Kate Daniel series, Study series by Maria V. Snyder, Fray by Joss Whedon, Graceling or Fire by Kristin Cashore
Rummanah Aasi
 It's Tuesday and time for another top ten list from the gals over The Broke and the Bookish. Today's topic of choosing our favorite book to movie adaptation was quite hard for me. I tend to either really hate a lot of movies that are based on a book that I have read. I also realized that I really like some movies that are based on books (i.e. The Princess Bride, Ella Enchanted), but I haven't read the book so I can't comment on how faithful it is to its original work.

Top 10 Favorite Books into Movies (in no particular order)

   Clueless is  a modern adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. This is one of those rare cases where I liked the movie much more than the book. Austen's Emma got on my nerves so much that I couldn't enjoy the book. I hated her righteous attitude. When I met Cher, I instantly liked her for being...well so clueless about what was going around her.

   The Joyluck Club by Amy Tan is a book that broke my heart into many pieces with its heart wrenching stories of how mothers sacrfice things for their children. The movie had the same effect of me, my mom, and my sisters. A fabulous cast and screenplay that handled the various stories and different character point of views very well.

   Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R. Tolkein- I'm blown away by how much detail Peter Jackson included in his trilogy. I couldn't decide which movie of the three to put on here, so I cheated and included all of the. My favorite book, however, is The Two Towers. The movies really helped me get the various characters, races, and languages straight in my head when I read the books. The movies also introduced me to fabulous actors like Viggo Mortenson who I knew nothing about.

   The Outsiders by SE Hinton- This is probably the most faithful book to movie adaptation that I've ever seen. The actors became the characters. Their comraderie, loyalty, and love for one another leaped off the screen and felt authentic. Out of all the actors, I would say that Matt Dillon's Dallas broke my heart. Looking back at it now, the cast is unbelievable: Patrick Swayze (RIP), Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise (before he went psycho), Ralph Macchio, and Diane Lane amongst the noteables. I still don't understand how all the actors except for C. Thomas Howell, who played Ponyboy,  seemed to make it big in Hollywood.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen- Okay, so technically this is a TV miniseries, but I absolutely loved it. The screenplay is fantastic and hits on the right notes of Austen's social and political points. I watch this yearly during Winter Break and still can't get enough. It's my first introduction to Colin Firth and I have watched almost anything with him every since. To me, Colin Firth will always be Mr. Darcy.

   William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet- I absolutely love everything about this Baz Lurhman's adaptation. It beautifully and creatively captured the spirit and tone of the play while making the film contemporary with its awesome soundtrack, clothing, set, and a terffic, diverse cast. I can watch this film several times and have several different reactions to it everytime I finish it. My VHS copy of this movie is so run down that I have to go and buy the DVD. 

What's Eating Gilbert Grape?  by Peter Hedges- Everyone knows about my obsession over Johnny Depp, but that's not why I liked this movie (well, okay just a little ;) ). What's Eating Gibert Grape is a beautifully shot movie of that transferred the book's tenderness, teen angst, caring and self-awareness of the Grape family. I firmly believe Leonardo was cheated out of getting an Oscar for his portrayal of Arnie. He was phenomenal and solidified him, in my opinion, as an actor. 

   About a Boy is possibly my favorite Nick Hornby novel. It compacts a romantic comedy, family drama, and self awareness all into one. While reading the book, I couldn't think of anyone else to play the despicable yet loveable Will than Hugh Grant. Talk about a role made for an actor! Although the ending is different than the novel, it stays true to the characters and spirit of the book.

   Hamlet by William Shakespeare-  I've loved all of the adaptations that I have seen so far by Kenneth Branaugh, but I think Hamlet is his best. The movie is shot like an old school epic film like Lawrence of the Arabia, leaving no details untouched. While the movie may be long for some, I was glued to my seat watching how the characters and play unravel. I thought Branaugh's Hamlet had a wide range of emotions instead of the confused, crazed lunatic that is popularly portrayed by most actors. Kate Winslet's Ophelia broke my heart. 

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier- Not only is the movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, but I think it perfectly captured the creepiness of the novel, especially Mrs. Danvers. Joan Fontaine effortlessly captures the innocence and mannerisms of Mrs. Dewinters.

These are my favorite movies based on books. What are yours?

Rummanah Aasi

Thank you to all of those who entered my giveaway and showed your support for L.K. Madigan and her family. I used to choose the winners for this giveaway. The winners are: Spav and Aleeza!

Spav won a copy of The Mermaid's Mirror and Aleeza won a copy of Flash Burnout.

Congrats to the winners! Winners, please check your emails for further instructions!
Rummanah Aasi
  I had the wonderful opportunity to chat with L.K. Madigan, the author of The Mermaid's Mirror, last month when I finished the book. L.K. was born in Portland, Oregon but grew up in Los Angeles, California, where she held a cool job working at Warner Bro. Records. When she was 28, she decided to relocate with her husband back to her hometown. L.K. enjoys traveling, meeting new people, and of course writing. Her debut novel, Flash Burnout, received the William Morris Award in 2010. This year her sophomore novel The Mermaid's Mirror was released. L.K. and I chatted about her books and writing. I hope you enjoy the interview and be sure to read about the giveaway details below!

Rummanah: Welcome and thank you for stopping by my blog, L.K. It’s so great to have you here. I absolutely loved your debut novel Flash Burnout and expected you to write another contemporary, realistic novel, but was pleasantly surprised to find out that your second book, The Mermaid’s Mirror, is a fantasy novel. What made you to decide to switch to another genre? As an author, is there a genre that is ‘easier’ to write?

L.K.: Thank you for the kind words about Flash Burnout! I had planned to follow it with another contemporary realistic novel, but my editor didn’t like the premise of the new manuscript. My agent asked me, “What about your mermaid novel?” I answered, “What about it?” I couldn’t imagine that my editor would be interested in it … but she was. I spent several months revising it for a YA audience, since I first wrote it as a middle grade novel. We sent it to my editor, she loved it, and We All Lived Happily Ever After.

‘Is there a genre that is easier to write?’ Hahaha! Oh. You were serious. Well, to be blunt … no. Writing is hard. I suppose there are a few rare birds out there who find it easy, but I don’t even want to know them.

Rummanah: I'm also envious of creative writers who seem to effortlessly write their books. Both of your titles have similar themes of love and consequences, what draws you to these themes?

L.K.: Love is primal, timeless, fascinating, complicated, fierce, fragile … you get the idea. I think every book is about love, in some form or another.  There’s no story without action. And all actions have consequences. I love to explore the gray areas of our choices.

Rummanah: I always say the more shades the better. It's not only realistic, but it's also interesting to deconstruct too. What I love most about your books is the real presence of a family. In a lot of young adult literature, the family is usually in the background and is either completely clueless or all together absent. How important is having a family in your stories?

L.K.: Parents are people, too! J

Rummanah: Exactly, which is why I can't help but think of how we hear the grown ups in the Peanuts comics and cartoons whenever I read YA!

L.K.: The device of the absent parent is a time-honored tradition, and one that comes in very handy – the main character is forced to cope with challenges on his or her own. But in real life, as opposed to fiction, most children and teens do have parents, whether they’re happily or UNhappily married, divorced, remarried, widowed, etc. I wanted to reflect that reality. I like books with a rich cast of characters, too. It seemed natural to surround my fictional people with lots of friends and family.

Rummanah: And as a result, I felt a stronger connection to your characters. It was as if I became part of the family too. In Flash Burnout, you wrote from a teenage boy’s perspective. Blake’s voice was so authentic, funny, and honest. After finishing your book, I visited your website and was blown away when I found out that you are a woman. I don’t think there are that many female writers who can really pull off a real teenage boy. I’m sure you get this comment a lot. In The Mermaid’s Mirror, however, the narrator is a teen girl, who is also very real and likeable. What was your experience writing from different genders? Did you channel one character more than the other?
L.K.: Thanks for the compliment! I had so much fun writing in Blake’s voice. He still feels like a real person to me. (Sanity check: I do know he’s not.) I told Lena’s story from the third-person-past-tense point of view, which had the effect of separating me very slightly from her. (Blake’s story was first-person-present-tense – you can’t get more immediate than that.) But I still drew upon my years of teen girl drama to create Lena. I’m glad you found her likeable … I’ve read reviews in which the reviewer felt differently. I like her. Maybe I identify a little too closely with her stubborn streak.

Rummanah: I'm glad that you brought up writing from different perspectives. Although I noticed the difference, I still felt that I could relate to both characters almost equally. I understood Blake's struggle with loyalty and love whereas with Lena I shared her confusion of what or who to call home. The Mermaid’s Mirror does a great job in balancing Lena’s two different worlds, on land and in water. Did you have a hard time switching between these two settings?

L.K.: No, they’re so symbiotic. And both so rich in sensory details … truly a pleasure to imagine myself in both worlds as I wrote.

Rummanah: My favorite part of The Mermaid’s Mirror is the world building under the ocean. How did you come up with this world and the mermaids’ culture? Did you have to do a lot of research?

L.K.: The world beneath the waves was a joy to create. It got darker and more complex with each rewrite. I read as much mermaid lore and literature as I could find, but I definitely envisioned my own world, complete with songs, customs, traditions, hierarchies, duties, etc.

Rummanah: I’ve been fascinated by mermaids ever since reading Han Christian Andersen’s story The Little Mermaid and then the Disney adaptation as well as the movie Splash. How about you? Were you always drawn to mermaids? Why?

L.K.: My earliest childhood memory of mermaid-love also stems from the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale! In my case, it involved a Viewmaster. I hope you don’t mind if I direct you to an interview I did with Jaclyn Dolamore – who also has a mermaid book coming out in the spring – in which I share a couple of vintage pictures. 
Rummanah: Not at all! I'm sure you are always asked this question, besides I love pictures! When I finished the book, I asked myself whether or not I would have made the same choice as Lena. It’s actually not an easy question to answer. I think I would after thinking things through. So I’m curious, if you were in Lena’s position, what choice would you make?

L.K.: I like to think I would have made the same choice as Lena … but I can’t be certain my emotional teen self would have been that strong.
Rummanah: I know some reviewers might disagree with me, but I really liked the ending of The Mermaid’s Mirror, however, it definitely leaves me wanting more. I know that you hope to write a sequel in the future. Would you continue to write it from Lena’s perspective or from a different character?

L.K.: Lena would still be the main character, but I see Lorelei playing a bigger role in the sequel.

Rummanah: Do you have any other projects that you’re working on at the moment? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

L.K.: I’m revising another contemporary realistic boy book. Then … more mermaids!

Rummanah: Thanks so much for stopping by. I  hope my questions weren't too redudant or tedious for you.

L.K.: Your questions were not tedious or redundant - they made me think. :-)  Thanks again for inviting me to your blog.

Readers, shortly after this interview I had learned that L.K. was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. Like many readers and fans, I'm sad about the news and sent out heart felt prayers and love to L.K. and her family. I wanted to show her my support so I'm offering to giveaway her books, essentially one winner for each book, so that more readers can enjoy L.K.'s fabulous writing.

Rules for the L.K. Madigan's Books International Giveaway:

 1. You must be 13 years or older to enter. Only one entry per person.

 2. Leave a comment with your name/alias along with an email at the end of this post. The email is required so that I can contact you if you win. 

3.  I will be ordering the books from Book Depository so be sure to check if they send it to your country before entering the giveaway.

You do not have to follow my blog, but if you like what you see here then it would be greatly appreciated. Giveaway ends 11 pm EST on 2/20/11. The winner will be notified via email and announced on my blog 2/21/11. Good Luck!
Rummanah Aasi

  I'm thrilled to find out that I have been awarded the Stylish Blogger Award. Much thanks to Adriana at Nostalgic Librarian for passing it along to me. I apologize for posting this so late! With all the craziness of life and work, this slipped through the cracks.

 Now that I have accepted the award, I have to tell 7 facts about myself.

7 Facts About Me

1. I was born in New York, but have lived in IL all of my life.
2. I organize my bookcase according to author and then in format (i.e. hardcover, paperbacks, etc.)
3. If I need to have all my books in a series to be in the same format. If I buy the first book in paperback then the rest have to be in paperback too.
4. My siblngs teased me that I was named after the character Ramona Quimby. Instead of being upset, I took it as a compliment.
5. I hated reading Jane Austen in high school, but grew to like her in college.
6. I had an unhealthy obsession with The Babysitters Club, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, and R.L. Stine's Fear Street series when I was in 5th grade.
7. One of my favorite movies of all time is Shakespeare in Love.

The award also requires me to pass it along to 15 other blogs, but since I can't narrow my choices I'm going to award 5 blogs that I newly discovered this month:

Rummanah Aasi
 Gary Schmidt is a skillful children's author who is able to create a powerful, multilayered novels for young readers. The first book I read by Schmidt is his Newberry Honor The Wednesday Wars were he seamlessly weaves the cultural revolution of the 1960s, the trials of coming of age, and  the wise words of William Shakespeare which Holling Hoodhood reads in the classroom. Trouble by Gary Schmidt is just as powerful where death, grief, and racism collide and forces us to ask questions that are not easily answered.

Description:  Henry wishes to fulfill his brother Franklin's dying wish, which is to climb Maine's Mount Katahdin with his best friend and dog accompanying him, however another unexpected companion joins the journey- the person accused of  fatally injuring Franklin in a car accident. As Henry learns more about what happened that fateful night, his perception of his brother along with his familly's proud history are not what they seem.

Review: Trouble is a story of moral awakening as well as an exploration of how tragedy and racism affect individuals, families, and whole communities. The novel is set in an affluent provincial town in north shore Boston, where racial tension amongst the minority community is simmering. Things turn to the worse when Henry's older brother and prep-school rugby star, Franklin, is accidentally run down by a Cambodian classmate, Chay Chouan, where he lies briefly in a coma before dying. When Chay is given a plea bargin, the community is in uproar.
 Understandably, Henry's family is torn apart by grief and anger. Henry's parents deal with their grief in their own way by internalizing their pain and putting on a face of being "fine". Louisa, Henry's younger sister, feels responsible for Franklin's death yet refuses to disclose any of her knowledge of how she may be involved. Henry feels alone and isolated. His only companion that he can rely on is an abandoned and abused dog he names Black Dog, which he saves from drowning. The only things that keep Henry from falling apart are his hatred for the boy who drove the truck, his love for the stray Black Dog, and his determination to climb Maine's Mt. Katahdin, a herculian task that his brother told him he could never accomplish.
  Trouble is a gritty and moving read. The book slowly unveils its complexity of plot and characters, which may drag down some readers but I thought the slow pacing was delibrate so readers can see how each layer and relationship build with one another which allowed the reader to have a real, emotional impact once they are finished turning the last page. Although some incidents seem to be a little too convenient, I liked how the characters interacted with one another. While there may be little dialogue exchanged between the characters, just their mere prescene and working together speaks volumes of their relationship growth. The humor exchanged between Henry and his best friend, Sanborn, lifts the story up as needed.
   At first I did not like Henry who was easy to accept the status quo of his family and of his provincial town's attitude towards minorities, however, he changes from a boy filled with anger at his adored brother's death to an empathetic young man who is able to see all sides of people around him, including Franklin's flaws. I also enjoyed learning about Chay, but I wished the author expanded a bit more on the snippets of information we are told about the connections between Henry and Chay as told by Chay.
  Trouble reminds us that even though we may come from different backgrounds, we all share universal human experiences which allows to connect and communicate with one another. Despite the color of our skin, our class, or our social status, we are first and foremost human.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Most of the violence described in the book take place off the page. There are some racial slurs in the book too. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Friendship for Today by Patricia Mckissack or Noughts and Crosses trilogy by Malorie Blackman
Rummanah Aasi

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This meme allows bloggers to connect with one another and share their top ten lists on specific topics. Today's topic is our top ten favorite love stories, which seems appropriate because yesterday was Valentines Day. While I have you here, I would love your input on my booklists: Love Will Tear Us Apart, Bizarre Love Triangle, and I Can't Help But Fall in Love, which I created for Valentines Day. Feel free to add your suggests in the comments!

  I would like to preface this list by saying that Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy along with Bella Swan and Edward Cullen are a given. I wanted to create a list of other fabulous couples that you may or may not have heard of, who also deserve the spotlight. Without further ado...

Top 10 Favorite Love Stories (in no particular order)

Benedict and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare- While they may not be the central couple of this romantic comedy, I can't help but laugh at their bickering and love how they fall in love despite how much they are reluctant to accept it.

Grace and Sam from The Wolves of Mercy series by Maggie Stiefvater- Grace and Sam's chemistry is undeniable. Pure, passionate, rich, and real. Stiefvater's writing is magical and before you know it you begin to become the characters and know exactly what they are feeling and thinking.

Katsa and Po from Graceling by Kristin Cashore- I love how Po does not feel insecure by Katsa's strength, but rather encourages her to trust and accept it. He accepts Katsa for who she is and does not try to change her. For once, to fall in love is not seen as a step back, but rather a step forward.

Kate and Curran from the Kate Daniel series by Ilona Andrews- I hope by now that I have convinced you to read this series. Kate and Curran's chemistry is off the charts. They are both incredibly strong characters who are also vulnerable and flawed as humans.

Anna and St. Clair from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins- I love how Anna and St. Clair develop their relationship from mere acquaintances to friends to something more. I find St. Clair's nervous ticks, imperfect teeth, and his British accent completely adorable and swoon worthy.  

Auden and Eli from Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen- Dessen has written several teen romances and it was hard to choose just one, but Along for the Ride struck a strong cord for me. Auden and Eli are both trying to come to terms with issues in their lives. For Auden, it is trying to understand her parents divorce and living a carefree teen life which she has been denied. For Eli, it is to come to terms with the guilt he feels for the death of a friend. Auden and Eli's relationship is the catalyst that helps them both accept their short comings and move forward to the future. 

Jenna and Cameron from Sweethearts by Sara Zarr- Zarr has a way in telling a rich, complex story in a very small amount of pages. Sweethearts is a story of two people: Jennifer aka Jenna and Cameron. Jennifer and Cameron have been childhood friends. One day, Cameron doesn't go to school. Jennifer hears a rumor at school that Cameron has died in an accident, which her mother later confirms. Eight years later, Cameron reappears on Jennifer's birthday. What happened between those eight years? How will Jennifer and Cameron work it out? Their relationship is hard to define-more than sister & brother, lovers, friends. I would say they are kindred spirits.

Adam and Mia from If I Stay by Gayle Forman- I know I've mentioned this book several times in several different lists, but it's honestly one of the most incredible books I've ever read. The book centers around Mia, who is lying in a coma after a tragic car accident that claims her parents and her sibling. Mia now has to decide whether or not to stay and be alive or join her family in death. Adam is Mia's boyfriend who could have easily walked away from the situation, but instead he fights to stay by her side and visit her regardless of what the hospital visiting rules are. I can't wait to revisit Adam and Mia in Where She Went, the sequel to If I Stay.

Jessie and Henry from Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern- A charming, witty romantic comedy that makes you think. Jessie is a sophomore in high school. A self-professed “mathelete,” she isn’t sure where she belongs. Her two best friends have transformed themselves into punks and one of them is going after her longtime crush. Her beloved older brother will soon leave for college and has started dating the prom princess of all people. With things changing so fast, Jessie needs new friends. And her quest is a hilarious tour through high-school clique-dom, with a surprising stop along the way—the Dungeons and Dragons crowd. Will hanging out with them make her a nerd, too? And could she really be crushing on a guy with too-short pants and too-white gym shoes? Jessie and Henry reminds us that it is completely okay to be quirky and to love one another for just they way we are. 

 Paul and Noah from Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan- In a society where people's sexual orientation does not make or break a person, Paul meets and falls for Noah. Things were going great, until Paul blows it and now he has to win Noah back. Paul reminds us that sometimes things need to fall apart to make us understand how it all really fits together. Paul and Noah's relationship is sweet as they both compliment each other very well. Boy Meets Boy is a heart warming, meaningful romantic comedy about finding love, losing love, and doing what it takes to get love back that anyone despite their sexuality can enjoy and relate to. 
Rummanah Aasi
   As I mentioned before, I love doing booklists and book displays in the library. With it being a weekend leading up to Valentines Day, I thought it would be fun to create a list of books that show the complexities of relationships: the good, the bad, and the ugly. You can find my list of break ups and unrequited love in my Love Will Tear Us Apart Booklist and yesterday's Bizarre Love Triangle Booklist, which illustrates the unusual circumstances we find ourselves in when we fall in love whether it's by falling for someone we can't have or just bad timing. Since today is Valentines Day (Happy Valentines Day!), today's list, Can't Help Falling in Love, composes of books that celebrate relationships. I have to say, out of three lists this list was the hardest one to do! I have tried to pick titles that are from a variety of genres, some of which tend to be overshadowed by popular ones but are nonetheless good reads.

    The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan- I'm a huge Levithan fan and loved all of his YA books, but The Lover's Dictionary is his first entry into writing fiction for adults. A young man chooses to record the details of his longtime relationship with a woman he meets online in a dictionary format. Each entry stands for something associated with their relationship. Reviewers call this title a quirky Valentine to modern romance, from the guy's point of view.

    Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted- Lucius, whose arms were blown off in an explosion, forms a relationship with Aurora, a young girl whose mother recently died, in hopes that she will be able to help free him from the stigma of being different. Hailed by Kirkus Review as a romance that "transcends all of its potential pitfalls to create a powerful story about recovery and friendship."

    The Visconti's House by Elsbeth Edgar- Laura Horton always feels like an outsider. When Leon Murphy, a loner in his own right, moves in with his odd grandmother, Laura notices that they have more in common than she originally thought, including wanting to solve the mystery behind Mr. Visconti, his once-ornate house and the woman he loved.  Part realistic fiction, part mystery, and part romance is sure to satisfy lots of readers! (Available on 2/22)

    Sand Chronicles by Hinako Ashihara- Ann, having moved to her mother's hometown in rural Shimane after the divorce of her parents, struggles to get used to her new surroundings, until a tragedy forces her to appreciate the people around her. Ann leans on Daigo, the first boy her own age that she met in Shimane, and their budding romance becomes the story's focus of this incredibly popular manga series. A must read for romantics!

    The Return of Jonah Gray by Heather Cochran- Sasha Gardner is an auditor for the IRS. When she starts receiving angry calls haranguing her for auditing a man she has never heard of, she's puzzled, until she learns a man named Jonah Gray has written on his website about the letter he received from her about a random audit. Sasha finds herself increasingly curious about Jonah, and what begins as a simple audit turns into anything but when the details about Jonah's life is discoverd. With her father gravely ill and a possible love interest at work begins, Sasha isn't sure if she's willing to risk her heart by pursuing a man she's never met. 

    My Most Excellent Year: a novel of love, Mary Poppins, & Fenway Park by Steve Kluger- Boston teens T. C. and Augie are best friends who are more like "brothers". Alejandra has recently arrived from Washington, D.C., where her father served as a Mexican ambassador to the U.S. For an eleventh-grade writing assignment, the teens recount, in alternating chapters, the shenanigans, friendships, and heartaches of their "most excellent" freshman year. At the center of My Most Excellent Year is three heart pulling romances and a what it really means to be a family. 

    Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen-  From the time Bryce moves into the neighborhood, Juli knows there is no one else but Bryce for her. Bryce cannot stand Juli and thinks she is weird. As they grow older, their feelings don't change until junior high. Bryce now can't seem to get Juli off of his mind, but Juli isn't so sure with Bryce is all that appealing as she once thought. A cleverly written romantic comedy perfect for tweens and older alike.

    Stupid and Contagious by Caprice Crane- Indie record producer Brady and surly waitress Heaven are neighbors. When Heaven keeps receiving Brady's mail, which she promptly opens and reads it immediately solictating Brady's irritation. Soon irritation blossoms into attraction as the two eventually take a wacky road trip to Seattle, where Brady waxes enthusiastic about signing a young band and attempts to set up a meeting with the founder of Starbucks about his idea for a new drink. A witty romantic comedy done right.

    Storky: How I lost my nickname and won the girl by  D.L. Garfinkle- Fourteen-year-old high school student Michael "Storky" Pomerantz's journal describes his freshman year, from dealing with his mother's dating his dentist to attempting to win the heart of the girl he loves. A book guarenteed to make you laugh out loud and at the same time make you think with Storky's poignant introspection.

    Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry- Orphaned as a small child after her wealthy parents were killed in a carriage accident, Lucinda is now 15 and working as the maidservant in her goldsmith uncle’s home while suffering abuse at the hands of her aunt. Life changes quickly for Lucinda she attempts to return a strange glowing stone to a woman locally known as the Amaranth Witch. A street thief, a prince, a goat, and an evil chief justice are just a few characters who complicate Lucinda’s life as tries to discover her own past and Beryl's true identity. Brimming with romance, danger and suspense is a sure win for romantics and fantasy lovers.
Rummanah Aasi
  One of my favorite things to do in the library is to come up with book displays and booklists. With Valentines Day fast approaching, I thought it would be fun to create a list of books that show the complexities of relationships: the good, the bad, and the ugly. You can find my list of break ups and unrequited love in my Love Will Tear Us Apart Booklist. Today's topic is again inspired by one of my favorite bands, New Order's Bizarre Love Triangle, which illustrates the unusual circumstances we find ourselves in when we fall in love whether it's by falling for someone we can't have or just bad timing. There are lots of books to choose from, but I tried to choose from a variety of genres. Here goes...

      Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins- A fabulous contemporary romance set in Paris, the City of Love. Plenty of teen angst, however, it's not the kind where you want to strangle the characters but rather you can't turn the pages to find out what happens. Perkins is right on target with Anna's confusing relationship with Entienne St. Clair. Are they just friends or are they more? Is he still with his girlfriend or are they on the outs? Full of swoony moments, humour, and loveable characters. If you haven't picked this book up yet, what are you waiting for?
    24 Girls in 7 Days by Alex Bradley- Jack Grammar's love life is in ruins. The love of his life has rejected his invitation to the senior prom and now Jack is dateless for the big event. In order to help him out, his best friends run a online school ad soliciting a date. Instantly Jack has gone from 0 girls interested in him to 24. The result is a hilarious adventure as Jack tries to speed-date 24 girls in 7 days. As if the selection process isn't complicated enough, Jack also has to contend with a mysterious online pen pal who gives him dating advice. 24 Girls in 7 days is a cute, quick, and entertaining guy's-eye view on dating, friendship, and understanding oneself.

    Cupid by Julius Lester- The Greek gods give a new meaning to dirty little secrets. Psyche is a princess who is so lovely that people come to worship her instead of Venus, the goddess of love. Upon hearing this, Venus can't tolerate being usurped, so she sends her son, Cupid, to shoot Psyche with one of his love-tipped arrows. The problem? Cupid sees and falls hopelessly in love with Psyche. In order to conceal his mistake from his mother, Cupid only comes to Psyche only under cover of darkness and asks her to vow never to gaze upon his face or risk losing him forever, which seems simple enough until Psyche's sisters begin to plant seeds of doubt into her mind. Will Psyche abide by her promise or will she lose her love forever? Cupid is a clever retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth with a little twist. Fans of both romance and mythology should not miss out on this book.

    Scott Pilgrim series by Brian O'Malley- Scott Pilgrim has the perfect life playing guitar in a rock band and dating a cute high school girl..that is until he meets Ramona Flowers, an unforgettable rollerblading delivery girl. Smitten and obsessed, Scott has to battle and defeat Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends if he wants to win her love.

    M or F? by Lisa Papademetriou and Chris Tebbetts- Marcus and Frannie are "brain twins," who have similar interests and tastes. The only thing is that Marcus is gay and Frannie is straight. Both best friends are looking for romance. Frannie thinks she has found the right guy in Jeff, but she's too shy and insecure to send him an e-mail. Marcus, on the other hand, has no problem finding the right words to keep Jeff interested, when he impersonates Frannie online. M or F? is a creative, funny romance, and well written. It's a classic tale of mistaken identity and inaccurate assumptions, filled with twists of plot that will tantalize and please readers.
    The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott- We all know the unwritten rule is to not fall for your best friend's significant other. Sarah knows it too, but she can't help it. Sarah has liked Ryan since eighth grade, and now he's her best friend Brianna's boyfriend. Sarah is trying to restrain her feelings and be a good friend, but she is starting to sense that Ryan likes her back too. What are they going to do now? Scott takes a fresh look at a familiar dilemma by adding an extra layer of exploring what is means to be a friend.

    Persuasion by Jane Austen- We are always told to listen to our elders, but what if they were wrong?  Welcome to Anne Elliot's world. Persuaded by family and friends that the charming and handsome Frederick Wentworth is not worthy of her and rejects his advances. As luck would have it, Wentworth returns after seven years and is now a captain. In other words, he's out of Anne's league. Anne can't help but still feel attracted to Wentworth, but the question is whether or not he is interested in her? Romance, wit, social and political commentary all rolled into one. You can't go wrong with Jane Austen.

    Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt- When Lord Death comes to claim sixteen-year-old Keturah, while she is lost in the King's Forest, she charms him with her story and is granted a twenty-four hour reprieve in which to seek her one true love. As Lord Death falls in love with Keturah, her life twists and turns. Will Keturah find her true love before it's too late? With intense romance, excellent writing, and a spellbinding story, it's hard to turn away from this book.

    Beatle meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams- Are we destined to fall in love with someone or is it just pure coincidence? This is the question that superstitious John "Beatle" Lennon struggles with when  he meets Destiny McCartney while dating the best friend of his twin sister. Beatle and Destiny seem to hit off right from the start with their shared quirkiness. Are they meant to be together?

    Mikki Falls: Spring by Mark Crilley- Miki Yoshida has decided to be confident and aggressive in her senior year of high school. Her renewed sense of self is challenged when she sets her sights on Hiro, a tall, handsome, and decidedly antisocial new boy at school who is hiding a dangerous secret. Miki will stop at nothing to find out what Hiro is hiding and what she may discover will be the last thing she expected.

    Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton- Sometimes love triangles doesn't make anyone happy. Ethan Frome, a poor farmer in nineteenth-century Starkfield, Massachusetts, sets off a devastating chain of events when he falls in love with the vivacious Mattie, cousin of his sickly, demanding wife. Romantic, bleak, and tragic, Ethan Frome is one of Edith Wharton's best and most popular written novels.

    My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr- Ellen has been in love with her brother Link's best friend, James, for years. Ellen wrestles with her deep love for her brother and the intensity of her feelings for his best friend. Are James and Link a couple? Ellen wrestles with that possibility as well as what it might mean to be gay. When Link begins dating a girl, James and Ellen try to find what they are to each other without Link. My Heartbeat is a complex look at love, loyalty, and sexual ambiguity.

I hope you today's edition and stop back for tomorrow's I Can't Help Falling in Love Booklist on Valentines Day. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this booklist, feel free to add them in the comments. Thanks!
Rummanah Aasi
   With Valentines Day fast approaching, most people tend to focus on celebrating their relationships but did you know that a lot of people also break up on Valentines Day too? It is a truth universally acknowledged that break ups suck whether or not you are the dumper or the dumpee. With this in mind, I thought I would do three different types of book lists that reflect different stages of relationships. Today's list, Love Will Tear Us Apart (which is inspired by my favorite Joy Division song, comprises of books where the main characters have gone through a serious break up and/or their love has gone unrequited.

    Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte- A beautiful, dark, and heart wrenching book of love, brutality, and betrayal. Catherine Earnshaw must choose between the good and socially acceptable Edgar Linton or her childhood best friend and soul mate Heathcliff. Cathy's final decision, which may surprise you, and the revenge that follows will tear both the Lintons and Earnshaws apart for generations.

     The Boyfriend list : (15 guys, 11 shrink appointments, 4 ceramic frogs and me, Ruby Oliver) by E. Lockhart- Ruby, aka Roo, Oliver was a moderately popular at her high school until she quickly become a social pariah. In order to figure out what is causing her panic attacks, Roo begins seeing a psychiatrist and makes a list of all her past boyfriends in an attempt to understand where her life went wrong. Ruby is a loveable character. Her dialogue and introspection are right on target, which makes this book painfully real and quite addictive to read.

    The Breakup Bible by Melissa Kantor- Jen Lewis is having a great junior year.  She is the features editor of the school paper, and she's dating Max Brown, the paper's editor-in-chief. Everything is perfect until Max gives her the "maybe we should be friends" speech. Jen is shell shocked and wonders how she is going to deal with her breakup. Her misery only intensifies when her grandmother gives her a book that she heard about on the radio. Dr. Emerson's The Breakup Bible claims that "there's no reason a woman can't get over a breakup very quickly if she'll just follow a few basic commandments." Jen is doubtful. What does Dr. Emerson know about her and Max? The Breakup Bible tackles the aftermath of a high school romance with honesty, humor, and wit.

    An Abundance of Katherines by John Green- Can you calculate how long your relationship will last? Colin Singleton likes to think so. After being dumped by a series of girlfriends (19 to be exact) who all share the first name of Katherine, Colin is on a mission to prove his theorem: The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which will predict the future of all relationships. Green's signature of smart characters, witty dialogue, and thought provoking subjects shine through giving dumpees everywhere hope after going through a horrible break up.

    Audrey Wait! by Robin Benway- What happens when you break up with your boyfriend who is in a band? Why, he writes a song about the break up of course! Welcome to Audrey Cuttler's world. After dumping her self-involved Evan, the lead singer of a little band called The Do-Gooders, he writes, “Audrey, Wait!,” a break-up song that’s now the number one song in the country. Suddenly Audrey is  a famous celebrity. Will she ride the fickle wave of her fifteen minutes of fame or will she put it behind her? Audrey Wait! is a must read for those who love romance and music.

     Song of Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell-
A retelling of Lord Tennyson's popular poem The Lady of Shallot. Elaine, the Lady of Shalott, is hopelessly in love with Lancelot, who has his sights on another woman.

    Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception
by Maggie Stiefvater- Deirdre Monaghan is a timid but incredibly gifted musician. She's about to discover that she is not quite human either. Deirdre is a cloverhand,  one who can see faeries. Deirdre finds herself infatuated with a mysterious boy named Luke, who suddenly enters her ordinary suburban life. Luke is hiding a secret: he is a gallowglass, a soulless faerie assassin on a mission to kill. Is Deirdre his next target? Lament is a beautifully written dark faerie fantasy that features authentic Celtic faerie lore and a had an ending that made my jaw drop.

    Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan- Naomi and Ely are best friends. Naomi loves Ely and Ely loves Naomi, but prefers to be in love with boys. In order to compromise and keep their sanity, they both create a "No Kiss List" of people neither of them is allowed to kiss, which works out fine until Bruce shows up. Bruce is Naomi's boyfriend, so there's no reason to put him on the List., but on a whim Ely kissed Bruce, who is now questioning his own sexuality. The result? A rift of universal proportions and the potential end of "Naomi and Ely: the institution." Can these best friends come back together again? A YA book with college bound students that explore the different shades and complexities of love.

    If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson- Sometimes your relationship suffers from outside forces that force you to break apart. After meeting at their private school in New York, fifteen-year-old Jeremiah, who is black and whose parents are separated, and Ellie, who is white and whose mother has twice abandoned her, fall in love and then try to cope with peoples' reactions.

    Atonement by Ian McEwan- On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment's flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia's childhood friend. Briony's desire to be center stage, her inability to understand adult motives, and her wild imagination brings about a crime that will change all their lives. An eloquent novel on love, war, loss of innocence, class, guilt and forgiveness that engages the engages the reader on every conceivable level. It is a book that I wish I had written.

There are tons of books out there that fit in today's category, but these are the ones that stood out to me.  What books would you put on this list? Please let me know in the comments. I hope you stay tuned to tomorrow's list: Bizarre Love Triangle.
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