Rummanah Aasi
I've read quite a few interesting reviews about Jane Eagland's debut novel, Wildthorn, last year. I was intrigued about the book's premise of being locked up in an insane asylum without knowing why. It was this reason why I decided to pick the book up.

Description: Louisa Cosgrove is an ambitious 17 year old. She aspires to be a doctor and refuses to conform to the traditional gender roles of a woman in the 19th century. Her dream dims as she finds herself tricked and incarcerated in Wildthorn, a Victorian insane asylum. With the help of Eliza, a worker at the asylum, escape becomes a possibility for Louisa, but the romantic love growing between the two girls presents another danger. Why was Louisa put in Wildthorn and who put her there? Will she escape?

Review: Wildthorn gives us a glimpse into the shameful history of mental health care and women's incarceration during the 19th century. As we start the book, Louisa is looking forward to seeing some family friends, however, she never makes it there and arrives at Wildthorn, an infamous insane asylum. The staff insists her name is Lucy Childs and that she suffers from hallucinations. She is immediately stripped from her clothes and given various "treatments" ranging from tranquilizers to the horrific sensory deprivation in solitary confinement. The mystery of Louisa's incarceration is revealed through alternating chapters of her present and childhood. It the mystery aspect of the novel that truly shines. We feel Louisa's tension, anxiety, and her fear of being mistakenly committed. Through flashbacks of the past, we are given hints about what lead up to the present.
  I liked Louisa. She is outspoken and refuses to conform to society's role. She has a thirst for knowledge, which she got from her father. Her mother and brother disagree with her studious habits and is she constantly in trouble for not attending to her domestic duties. Louisa knows who she is and it is her strong belief in her identity that prevents her to accept her new status quo. Unlike many of the other inmates, who seem to develop accept their "mental illness" from the cruelty of their surroundings, Louisa is determined to escape. She slowly develops a connection with a lovely asylum employee, Eliza. There is a sweet romance between Eliza and Louisa that builds slowly that adds depth to the story.
 My main problem with Wildthorn is that I hard time accepting the reason why Louisa is committed to Wildthorn and I fit the revelation was a bit anticlimatic compared to the urgent tone of the first half of the book. I also found the ending to be a bit unrealistic and wrapped in a bow too nicely considering the serious and/or topics that the author brought up in the book. Though Wildthorn is interesting for those who are curious about this time period and psychology, it may be a bit too heavy and slow for some readers. I did enjoy the book and would recommend it but I was looking for a bit more of a punch. I do look forward to reading more from Eagland.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and a very brief allusion to sex. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Rummanah Aasi
  Gary Paulsen is my go-to author for young readers who love reading adventure/survival stories. His Newberry Honor book Hatchet is one of my favorite books that I read in 5th grade. I had his latest book, Woods Runner, on my to be read pile last year but never got around to reading it until now. Thankfully, it's on the Rebecca Caudill list for this year.

Description: The year is 1776 and the American Revolution is underway. 13 year old Samuel is a highly-skilled woodsman, who returns from a journey to find his home burned down, the neighbors slaughtered, and his parents missing. He hear news that his parents may be alive in New York City. He sets out toward New York City to rescue his parents from the band of British soldiers and Native Americans who kidnapped them after slaughtering most of their community.

Review: Woods Runner is a riveting account of the Revolutionary War. Paulsen's narrative weaves a frank and deglorified depiction of the American Revolution that many of us do not find in our history textbooks. In an author's note, Paulsen indicates that his purpose is not to rewrite the war, but rather clarify some aspects of it to the reader. He definitely succeeds.
 The main story of Woods Runner revolves around a 13 year old boy named Samuel who feels right at home with hunting and living in the wilderness. When Samuel is on a fun excursion, he hears word of an uprising in Concord and Lexington, areas close to home. Afraid of his parents and his community, he rushes back to check if everyone is okay. Sadly, he finds his home burned down, the neighbors slaughtered, and his parents missing. Samuel's anguish is unimaginable and it's an emotional punch to the gut. He uses his woodsman skills along with alliances with some unlikely people to tracks his captured parents who may be taken to British-held New York. It's is Samuel's bravery, hope, and the goodness of humanity that upliftings this dark book. He reminds us that there are many ways one can be a hero.
  Readers who are in the search for a page turning, heart pumping adventure/survival story will really like Woods Runner. Learning about the American Revolution is just an added bonus. I also think it the book will be a great classroom read.

Rating: 4 stars

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies

Words of Caution: Since the book takes place during the Revolutionary War, there is strong war violence. Recommended for Grades 6 and up.

If you like this book try: Chains or Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson or My brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
Rummanah Aasi
Thanks to the recommendations of my good book friends, I discovered the Kate Daniels series. This series has quickly become my favorite. Filled with action, romance, mystery, and humor, each book is a rollercoaster ride. I was thrilled to find out that the latest book was coming out last month and I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy. Though the word slays is in the title had me worried that one of the characters will be killed, I wasn't too worried how the awesome husband and wife duo, Ilona Andrews, was going to handle the book.

Description: Kate Daniels has some major life changing events: a new job and a new relationship status to name a few. Stubborn and determined to make it on her own, Kate jumps at an opportunity for an impossible case when Atlanta’s premier Master of the Dead calls to ask for help with a vampire on the loose. Since nothing is easy for Kate, the loose vampire is not an isolated incident but just the beginning of a very probable apocalypse if Kate doesn't get to the bottom of it. The fate of the city and everyone dear to her is in Kate's hands.

Review:  Magic Slays is a terrific addition to the Kate Daniels series. It is well written, intricately woven novel that builds upon its previous installments. While Magic Bleeds may have the tone of a happily ever after, Magic Slays reminds us that the fairy tale ending is not very realistic. Kate faces new obstacles, new enemies, and once again her past threatens to shatter her one chance of happiness. 
  With each book in this series, the writting becomes better and stronger. There is definitely a shift of focus in the writing as it has matured just like our heroine. There is one major storyline which involves an anti-magic “bomb” that is being built in the city and could kill hundreds that draws our attention. While there are some deviation from this storyline, they actually add something to the overal plot and character development. What I love about the Kate Daniels series is that there is no filler. 
  There are a few twist and turns in Magic Slays including startling revelations about Julie and Kate's parents amongst other things. I enjoyed watching all of the established characters grow as well as be introduced to new ones too.
 Kate is one of my favorite heroines. She has a tough as nails exterior but a warm, vulnerable heart, which makes her all that much more endearing and lovable. I have to say that I loved her much more in Magic Slays. There are moments when she could easily back track and remove herself from everyone, but she moves past this and faces her problems head on. I loved watching Kate embrace her magic and her heritage, though it meant for her to go to the dark side.
  I think many readers of the Kate Daniels series will agree with me when I say that the best part of this series is watching Kate's and Curran's relattionship change and grow. They remind me of an urban fantasy version of Elizabeth and Darcy. Their banter always makes me smile because they are so alike and it feels very natural. 
 I know I said this before, but those who haven't read this series must put it on their to be read pile. If you are new to the urban fantasy genre or have thought about diving in but not sure where to start, I would highly recommend this series. If this book piques your interest, please start from the very first book and not the latest one. Though each book is written as a standalone, the character development and world building that occurs in the previous books are crucial to this series. You can find the reading list for the Kate Daniel series here.  

Rating: 5 stars

Words of Caution: There are strong language and strong violence in the book along with a few allusions to sex.

If you like this book try: Bloodsong series by Cat Adams, Mercy Thomspon series by Patricia Briggs, Fray or Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 graphic novel series by Joss Whedon

Image Credit: Ruby Reads

GIVEAWAY: I preordered all the Kate Daniels books this past January, but I had no idea that a friend of mine also preordered them for my birthday this May. Since I love this series so much and I highly recommend them, I'm going to giveaway all of them to one lucky reader. That's right, one person gets a chance to win ALL 5 Kate Daniels books! Since I have the books on hand, this giveaway is open to US Residents only. You don't have to follow my blog to enter, but it is appreciated. To enter, please leave your name/alias along with an email address so I can contact you if you win. I will use to select the winner. This giveaway ENDS July 22nd at 11 pm EST! Good Luck!
Rummanah Aasi
   Black Butler is a fun, strange manga that blends Victorian, gothic, horror, and comedy characteristics. It's this fitting combination that keeps me reading. The mysterious relationship between Ciel Phantonville and his too good to be true butler, Sebastian, is very intriguing and with each volume becomes more complex as we learn more backstory. I just finished reading volume 3 of this manga.

Description (from Amazon): Terrorizing its populace, Jack the Ripper has shaken London to its very core. But when Sebastian Michaelis, singular butler of the Phantomhive house, lays bare the madman's true identity, all that is left for him to do is eliminate the perpetrator in the name of the Queen and Phantomhive. But inhumanly efficient skills don't guarantee victory when the opponent is just as supernaturally gifted! And though Sebastian may be able to save Ciel from physical harm in the battle that ensues, will the young earl ever recover from the emotional scars it will leave on his heart?

Review: Volume three picks up right where the second volume ends. The the mystery surrounding the identity of  “Jack the Ripper,” comes to an inevitable climax. The mystery of the infamous serial killer is also closely linked to Ciel's family history. In this volume we also learn what happened in the 12 year old's past and how he came to be earl and run one of the most powerful toy companies in Great Britain. His past is tragic and what he learns in this volume will have create additional emotional scars on him.
  As avid mystery readers know, the culprit of the crime has been introduced earlier in the story. It just left for the reader to identity the "who" and the "why". There is a supernatural twist to the mystery and a showdown between Sebastian and Jack the Ripper is an added bonus for those who love action. Like its previous installments, the manga is prevented from being steeped into darkness with a touch of light humor. The conclusing panels of this volume introduces a pair of handsome men who seem to jump out of the Arabian Nights and I'm sure will play an imporant role in the next volumes.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong violence and language. Rated OT for Older Teens.

If you like this book try: Black Butler Vol 4 by Yana Toboso, Godchild series by Kaori Yuki, Vampire Knight series by Matsuri Hino
Rummanah Aasi

  Thank you to all who have entered the Sparrow Road giveaway. I really enjoyed the book and I hope you pick it up too. I used to select the winner of this giveaway and the winner is Beverly! Congratulations, Beverly. I have sent you an email. Please respond within 72 hours. If I don't hear from you, I will select another winner.
Rummanah Aasi
  I was very excited to read Lipstick Laws by Amy Holder when I first heard about it. The book's premise was my main draw and I wondered how the typical popularity/bullying tale will be told in this new installment. Once again, many thanks to Netgalley and Graphia for providing me an advanced reader's copy so I can give you an honest review.

Description: April Bowers is going to be a sophomore with no friends at Penford High School. Her luck seems to change when Britney, the most popular girl at school, invites April Bowers to her lunch table. Hanging out with Britney will not only get April in the in-crowd and help boost April's social status, but as April soon finds out friendship comes at a steep price.

Review: While Lipstick Laws is an enjoyable read that made me laugh and shake my head in frustration, it sadly doesn't offer anything new in the popularity/bullying sub-genre of contemporary YA literature. The premise of the book is one that we have read and seen before (i.e. the movie Mean Girls). April Bowers is an invisible teen who longs to belong and be part of the in-crowd. She seems to have a lucky day when she's paired up and loans her lip gloss to Britney, the most popular girl at school, at P.E; and gets invited to sit at the popular girl's lunch table. As you can guess, April has to prove she is worthy of Britney and her minion's friendship. April is swayed by her desire to become popular and gives in to Britney's laws, also known as the Lipstick Laws, which specifically states how girls in the clique are suppose to act. As April delves deeper into the rules, she realizes that she must either sacrifice her own identity or suck up to Britney for the remainder of her high school years.
  April is a likable character who is funny, smart, vulnerable, and insecure. She understands that doesn't make the wise choice of accepting the Lipstick Laws yet she doesn't want to remain invisible in high school. She simply wants to belong. Thankfully, it doesn't take April too long to figure it out and fight back. The first half of the book is warm and funny; however, the book falls flat in the second half. In the second half of the book we see April forming a group called Lipstick Lawbreakers who retaliate against Britney. While there are some humorous comebacks and pranks played, the epiphany that the characters come to happen very easily and quickly at the end. I was left wondering if the characters actually came to the conclusion on their own or if it just dawned on them, regardless I thought it could be flushed out more. As a result, it seemed rushed and fake. Despite these flaws, I would still recommend it for a light, contemporary YA read but I wouldn't necessarily put it at the top of my reading list.    

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and a high school party that features underage drinking. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman or Queen Bees and Wannabees: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence by Rosalind Wiseman
Rummanah Aasi
 I always seem to root for the underdog or the person who fights for his/her beliefs against the establishment. It is this thought that lead me to read J.J. Johnson's debut YA novel called This Girl is Different. Much thanks to Netgalley and Peachtree for allowing me to read an advanced reader's copy of the book in order to provide you with an honest review.

Description: Evensong Sparkling Morningdew has always been home schooled by her hippie mother. Interested in knowing what "real' high experiences are, Evie has decided to spend her senior year at the local public high school. Unafraid of speaking her mind, Evie seems to always get in trouble and is constantly challenged about her own beliefs about friendship, authority, and love. Will Evie survive her senior year of high school?

Review: I have hard time describing This Girl is Different. The closest thing I can describe it to is Legally Blonde without the blonde ditz but replaced with a brunette with hippie roots. The book isn't bad but I found it a bit too after school specialish.
   Evensong, commonly known as Evie, is an extremely intelligent and witty girl. She has been home schooled by her hippie mother almost her whole life. With aspirations of going to Cornell and majoring in social justice, Evie wants to experience high school a la John Hughes 1980s movies. After a hiking incident, she meets two of her school's most popular students, the very hot Rajas and his cousin Jacinda, whom she quickly befriends. As school starts and Evie begins to find her niche, she quickly learns the frustrating limits of high-school life and takes up the mantle of student rights, free speech, and equality. Unfortunately, no one takes Evie seriously. Sticking to her firm beliefs of equal rights, she creates a blog in her efforts to keep teachers in check and some strategically placed cardboard lightning bolts that will get the discussion started, expect everything doesn't go as planned and her admission to Cornell is in jeopardy.
  I liked some aspects of the book, in particular Evie's determination and spunk to stand up for herself and to the authority. While some of her antics such as a publicized blog may have gone too far, I do believe she had the right idea and intention. I was also very happy to find Indian American characters who are the main cast of characters instead of being in the background and who aren't stereotypically portrayed. Jacinda is the head cheerleader and who also desires to go to Cornell. Rajas, on the other hand, is not interested in school but rather taking up an apprenticeship that will showcase his art. There is a sweet romance between Rajas and Evie, but I didn't think it added much to the story.  

  Despite the fun characters, I thought there were too many issues brought up in the book and none of them are really explored or dealt with in a satisfying way. For instance, there is an inappropriate teacher-student relationship that no one besides Evie seems to be care about. Even when the issues were solved, I had to suspend my disbelief in believing it was plausible. I like the author's approach in making young readers think about authority, established rules, but I didn't think it was serious enough. 

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is a couple of heated make-out scenes that lead up to second base. There is also some language. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Schooled by Gordon Korman or The Latte Rebellion by Jamila Stevenson
Rummanah Aasi
  Fablehaven is a popular children fantasy series. Some reviewers have herald the series like Harry Potter that has captured the heart and minds of a wide reading audience. There are five books in this series. I just finished reading the first volume of this series, which appeared on last year's Rebecca Caudill list.

Description: Kendra and Seth are forced to stay with their absent grandparents from their dad's side while their parents go on a cruise with their uncle and aunts. At their grandparent's estate, they find themselves in the midst of a battle between good and evil when they discover that it is a sanctuary for magical creatures.

Review: I was looking forward to reading the Fablehaven series. I've heard lots of good things about the book from avid young readers who visit the library. Unfortunately, I had a high expectation of being swept off my feet in an exciting adventure. Instead of being a quick read, Fablehaven is quite repetitive and a slow starter.
  Siblings Seth and Kendra are dropped off by traveling parents at their grandfather's isolated Connecticut estate. After being told they are not allowed to roam outside of the estate, they quickly break this rule and soon discover his home is a secret haven for magical creatures, both good and deadly. While there is a system that holds the characters responsible of their actions, the laws are conveniently malleable and provides the context of the book's climax.
  I didn't care for any of the characters. I thought Seth and Kendra acted younger than their age and they irritated me, especially Seth. The first half of the book is cyclic and tedious in which Grandpa issues a stern warning of what not to do; Seth ignores the warning, does some mischief to see what happens and then he feels sorry. While this device might be used to be humorous, I felt that it took me out of the story and slowed my reading very much. I did like Kendra a little more towards the ending where she finally is able to stand on her own two feet but it comes very late in the long drawn out climax.
  There are many magical creatures introduced in the story, ranging from fairies to golems to witches. I felt these creatures were introduced right after one another and after a few chapters, they seem to blur. While there are some comical moments in the book that made me smile, I wasn't sure where the story was going at times. The ending wraps things up quite nicely and a few questions linger, though I'm not too excited to continue reading the series.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There are some scary situations for younger readers, but it should be okay if the book is used as a family read aloud. Suitable for Grades 5 to 8.

If you like this book try: Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley, Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman, Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black
Rummanah Aasi
  The Black Butler manga series seems to be increasing in popularity. Its later volumes have been listed on the New York Times best selling manga series. The manga has been adapted into an anime series with the same name. I haven't watched the anime but have read that the two forms have very different story arcs. I enjoyed reading the first volume and was curious to see where this manga goes.

Description (from Amazon): As high society's social calendar opens up and the Season draws to a close, London is gripped by fear. Someone has taken to stalking women of the night and painting the town their blood. The name on everyone's lips seems to be "Jack the Ripper" - and as a result, the name on Queen Victoria's lips is Phantomhive. Summoned to London to clean up the mess created by this madman, Ciel Phantomhive arrives with Sebastian, his extraordinary butler, at his side to pour him tea, polish his silver, and...investigate a serial killer. And with the aid (and occasional interference) of a few of the Phantomhive house's numerous acquaintances, little stands in the way of the young earl getting to the bottom of this mystery. However, one question remains...can he handle the shattering truth behind it?

Review: The second volume of Black Butler seems to switch its focus from character development to plot. I was surprised that the manga takes an interest in covering the Jack the Ripper tale. Though the infamous serial killer story seems less rooted in historical details but used rather for its horrific possibilities and fits well with the dark, supernatural overtone of the series. The Jack the Ripper tale is also used as a jumping point to begin exploring Ciel's past, especially the death of his parents, as well as demonstrating to the readers that evil is much more complex that a devious butler.
  We are introduced to several new characters in this volume, each with motives uncertain to both readers and to Ciel. Though their motives and connections are revealed, it was slightly predictable. I loved the beginning of this volume which well paced. I found Sebastian's irritation of trying to get his work done while also fixing the disasters caused by the other incompetent Phantomhive staff hilarious. Who knew supernatural creatures could also get stressed out and frustrated? This chapter effectively introduces Sebastian, shows off his abilities, sets the scene at the Phantomhive residence, lays out the relationships between the characters, and tells a little bit of the previous volume’s plot.   From there the story takes a slightly slower turn, getting a touch soggy by the end, but it picks up dramatically on the last page, leaving readers eager for the next volume and the promised confrontation.
  As I mentioned in my review of the first novel, humor is also used in between horrific moments of this manga series. There is a situation that calls for Ciel to dress and behave as a girl, which is quite amusing to other characters and to the reader. While there are hints at homoerotic tensions, it is subtle and doesn't push the boundaries of the manga's rating. Though the manga starts off quickly but then slows in the middle, it moves quickly towards the end leaving lots of room for more questions and action.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong violence and same language. Rated OT for Older Teens.

If you like this book try: Black Butler Vol 3 by Yana Toboso, Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino, Godchild by Kaori Yuki
Rummanah Aasi

   I apologize for this late post. Thank you to everyone who entered and commented on my interview with Jayne Fordham. A Season of Transformation sounds like a great read. I do hope you check it out on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or on Smashwords. I used to pick the winner for this giveaway. The winner is: Feverish Reader! Congratulations, Feverish Reader! I've sent you an email notifying you.
Rummanah Aasi
  Today I have the pleasure in introducing you to K.C. Blake, the author of the self published novel, Vampire Rules. Born and raised in California, she began writing when she was twelve.  She is an urban fantasy, YA author who writes about ghosts, vampires, witches, monsters, and more. Please help me welcome, K.C., to my blog.

Description from Goodreads:   They don't call him Jackpot for nothing.

Jack has always beat the odds... at least until now. When he was attacked by a werewolf, vampires saved him. When he got tired of living the vampire life, another werewolf attack freed him, making him human again. Now Jack just wants to live a normal life, but what's normal about a hunter girlfriend, a brother who wants to stake him to be on the safe side, and a head werewolf building an army to rule the world?

Jack gets caught between his old friends and new, hunters and vampires. He wants to stay loyal to both, wants to protect everyone. Unfortunately, both sides are determined to kill the other. In the end, he'll have to make a choice.

Welcome and thank you for stopping by my blog, K.C.. Vampires Rule is a story about a boy named Jack who is a vampire, but would do anything to be human again. He gets his wish but it is an ill opportune time when his enemies are more powerful than ever. Can you tell us what inspired to write this story and how you became a writer? 

A few years ago, I was one of those obsessed with vampire books, couldn't get enough.  Then I started wondering what would happen if one of them got a second chance to live his life as a mortal.  Would his family welcome him back?  How would he deal with life and death situations?  How would he deal without powers?  And so on and so on.
   I've been writing since I was twelve.  I took some creative writing classes, read a lot of books, found and lost an agent, and finally got published with Harlequin.

I know that you had a hard time with Harlequin and ultimately decided to self-publish Vampire Rules. There are many stories of vampires who long to get their humanity back yet at the same time they love their new found abilities, but Jack seems different. What makes Jack want to leave all that behind and simply be a human?

Jack's head is stuck in the past.  No matter how hard he tries, he can't get over the loss of his family.  His vampire friends don't get it.  They embraced their new identities long ago, but Jack is different.  He loved his old life too much to simply walk away.  That's why he returns once a year to check in on his former home and to visit his grave.

  Jack's reasoning makes sense. It must be hard outliving those you love and watching them die. I love a strong female character and a charming loveable villain to hate. Can you tell us about them?

Sure.  Silver is 'the' werewolf hunter.  It's true what they say: only Silver can kill werewolves.  She is a kick-butt girl, strong and opinionated, the perfect match for Jack.  Her dream is to leave hunting behind and go to college, become a lawyer, but she can't do that as long as a single werewolf draws breath.
Jersey is my favorite villain out of all the bad guys I've written over the years.  He's charismatic, smart, dangerous, and walks around with an amused glint in his eyes.  Humans are fun to watch, especially when they have no clue what he really is.  Jersey teaches English at the high school.  It's the perfect job for him, considering he's had over a few thousand years to read.  I also love it that he has a style all his own, wearing black with a hint of color at all times.

You had mentioned on your blog that you had this story for quite some time, but when you finished reading Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight you decided to pick it up again. What drew you to Meyer’s story and did you change your story or characters at all after reading her book?

I don't know what it is about Twilight, but it inspired me to return to Vampires Rule after shelving it for over a year.  The story did change a bit because it was originally going to be straight-up horror Stephen King style.  I have always loved YA, but I didn't consider writing it until I finished reading Twilight.

Even though Twilight does get a lot of flack, I know it has rekindled people's passion to read and write. Who is your favorite vampire, either in books, TV, or movies?

This is a hard question.  I loved Angel and Spike from the Buffy series, but I would have to say that right now my favorite vampire is Damon from Vampire Diaries.  Everyone loves that tortured yet evil guy who strives to be good for the love of a special girl but just can't help backsliding and killing time and time again.
I've been a Spike fan since he first appeared in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and I'm definitely Team Damon on Vampire Diaries. Now that we know your favorite vampires, who would you rather be: a vampire, a hunter, or a werewolf? Why?

A hunter.  Unless everyone I know is also immortal, I wouldn't enjoy outliving them.  Plus I don't want fleas, and I hate the taste of blood.

  Ooh, good answer! I'm always curious about what people are reading. What is on your to be read pile?

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare.  I keep meaning to pick me up a copy, but I don't have much time to read these days.
I really hope you get around to reading City of Fallen Angels and enjoy it as much as I did.  Do you have any specific requirements for your to write? 

Just peace and quiet.  I enjoy listening to music sometimes while I write, but mostly I like to write when I'm alone.  I do a lot of pacing.  For some reason I have to pace in order to think, so I'll write a little.   Then I'll get up and pace until a good line comes to me.  I'll write and pace and write and you get the picture.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, do you have a playlist that you can share with us?

I listen to different songs for different books.  Certain songs conjure certain scenes for me.  In fact, just yesterday I was listening to Heart sing All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You, and I could picture the scene in an upcoming book that will be pretty cool. 
   I have a new series starting either later this year or early next.  The first book is called Crushed, and I listened to Lady In Red by Simply Red again and again during the sexy red dress dance scene.
I tend to remember specific books and/or specific scenes when I hear a particular song and it doesn't necessarily have to be on the book's playlist. It's very cool that you can picture scenes just by listening to music. Besides writing, what do you like to do? What are your hobbies and interests?

With a full-time job, housework, church activities, and writing I don't have much free time, but I enjoy cooking new recipes, scrap booking, and traveling to new places.

Thank you again, K.C., for taking the time to introducing yourself to my readers and to your writing. I had a great time chatting with you.

Thank you for the great interview.  Vampires Rule is available at Smashwords, Amazon, and will be at other online retailers soon.  I hope you will all visit my blog soon.
Rummanah Aasi
  I love discovering new authors, particularly those who are from Pakistan. Daniyal Mueenuddin is an emerging Pakistani writer who debuted his collection of short stories called In Other Rooms, Other Wonders in 2009. He won the Pultizer Prize for Fiction in 2010.

Description: In collection of eight linked short stories, the lives of landowners and their workers on the Gurmani family farm in the countryside outside of Lahore, Pakistan are explored.

Review: Mueenuddin takes a critical look at the lives of several social classes in his debut collection of short stories. The eight stories explore relationships among the descendants of the super-rich Harouni farming family, living near Lahore, those who work on the farm, and those who marry (often unhappily) into it. Each stories are slices of life, giving the reader a glimpse of daily life. The stories are full with indigenous detail which had me transported to my last visit in Pakistan along with subtle understanding of their characters' complex experiences and destinies.
 No one is spared criticism and heartbreak in any of these stories. Servants use their years of loyalty working for their masters in hopes of getting support in return. Women expertly use their sensuality to ensnare a well off suitor and try to move up the social and security ladder are fatalistically ironic. Blind justice and characters who can almost grasp happiness are also recurring features in the short stories.
  Out of all the stories, my favorites are "Lily" and "Provide, Provide". In "Lily," we see the beginning of a budding and promising relationship. Just as the "honeymoon phase" is over, we began to witness its slow deterioration. "Provide, Provide," features the cunning and ambitious Zainab who insinuates herself among the Harounis, abandoning her weakling and drug addict husband to marry a well-placed household servant, only to lose everything. Mueenuddin is a very skillful and talented writer that left me wanting more. I will definitely pick up his next work.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, allusion to sex, and drug use in the stories.

If you like this book try: Interpreters of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, Dubliners by James Joyce
Rummanah Aasi
 I recently finished and enjoyed Sheila O'Connor's debut middle grade novel Sparrow Road. Sparrow Road is wonderful tale of coming of age, forgiveness, and discovery that I think will be very popular with upper elementary girls. Thank you to Putnam Juvenile, who provided me with an advanced reader's copy of the book so I can do an honest review for my blog. 

Description (from Amazon): It's the summer before seventh grade, and twelve-year- old Raine O'Rourke's mother suddenly takes a job hours from home at mysterious Sparrow Road- a creepy, dilapidated mansion that houses an eccentric group of artists. As Raine tries to make sense of her new surroundings, she forges friendships with a cast of quirky characters including the outrageous and funky Josie. Together, Raine and Josie decide to solve the mysteries of Sparrow Road-from its haunting history as an orphanage to the secrets of its silent, brooding owner, Viktor. But it's an unexpected secret from Raine's own life that changes her forever.

Review: Without any explanation, Raine and her mother, Molly, move for the summer from Milwaukee to an artist retreat called Sparrow Road, which overlooks Lake Michigan. Raine is understandable upset by her mother's impulsive move. She leaves her beloved Grandpa Mac behind and is unsure why her mother took the job of a housekeeper and cook at a mysterious resort.
Always in the mood to solve a mystery, Raine wonders about the relationship between her mother and the Sparrow Road caretaker Viktor, who greets her with strict rules about no noise before 5:00 PM and leave the artists alone among others; and why her mother (and seemingly the other adults) never allows her to be alone, especially outside of the manor. Though the book is written for a younger audience, many adults are featured in the story. Diego, the friendly and warm artist who enjoys making collages, befriends and encourages Raine to dream and write down her questions, which he says will help her figure out the answers. The charismatic and flamboyant Josie tells her about the orphanage that was once here. I loved all the characters in Sparrow Road. All of them were fully and well developed and each had a distinct voice and personality, but they never overshadowed Raine. I also love the relationship between Raine and her mother. The adults nurture but do not smother her, which allowed Raine to discover herself, her family and her own artistry freely. Readers discover Raine's past and secrets as she learns about dark revelations about her family. Though the issues that O'Connor brings up are serious, they are not preachy and glossed over. The author makes Raine deal with it maturely deals with them maturely and realistically.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo or Summer of May by Cecilia Galante

GIVEAWAY: I have an ARC of Sparrow Road to giveaway. Since I have the copy on hand, this giveaway is limited to US residents only. You do not have to follow my blog to enter the giveaway but it is appreciated. To enter, please include your name/alias along with your email address so I can contact you if you win. This giveaway ends June 24th at 11 pm EST. The winner will be chosen by and announced on my blog June 25th.
Rummanah Aasi
Please Ignore Vera Dietz was on my reading radar for quite sometime. The book has received several glowing reviews both in journals as well on the blogosphere. I bumped it up from my "to be read" pile when it was declared a Printz award honoree this year.

Description: Vera and Charlie have been best friends since they were toddlers. Like many, their friendship was tested and torn apart  by high school and hormones. When Vera's and Charlie's senior year rolls around, the once attached to the hip relationship is now estranged. Charlie has suddenly died under mysterious circumstances and now haunts Vera after his death. he begs her to clear his name of a horrible accusation surrounding his death. Vera knows the truth, but is she willing to help help him after he betrayed her?

Review: Please Ignore Vera Dietz shows us the dangers of an angsty teen gone awry but it is ultimately a redemptive story. Vera has followed the mantra of her thrifty father: 'Ignore the situation and it will go away'. She tries to live her life without being noticed and keeps her family life private. The only person she let in is Charlie, her childhood best friend and neighbor who has problems of his own. When Charlie betrays Vera, her anonymity is dissolved and it becomes impossible to fend off her classmates’ cruel attacks or isolate herself any longer.
  Vera’s struggle to put Charlie and his besmirched name behind her is the central focus of the book. Vera is constantly struggling to fit her predetermined destiny that of her parents, which is expertly shown in the constant battles between Vera and her father. The character growth of Vera and her father is complex, excellent, and nuanced. Chapters titled "A Brief Word from Ken Dietz (Vera's Dad)" were my favorites. These chapters allow the reader to observe how Vera's destructive actions are making her worse. Ken has been down the same road as Vera and tries everything that he can to prevent her from making the same mistakes.
  The only character that I had trouble with is Charlie. Charlie didn't appeal to me and it made me wonder what Vera saw in him. Like Vera, Charlie also has his share of family problems that trigger his own destructive behavior. Readers are given the details of Charlie's death and his relationship with Vera in flashbacks. He is easily used as a harbinger of Vera's future if she continues in her current path.
 There are many issues presented in Please Ignore Vera Dietz, however, many of them are inferred in the story which makes them hard to, well, ignore. I have a slight problem with how some of the issues are so easily taken care of, which I found to be unrealistic, but it didn't harm my enjoyment of reading the book. Please Ignore Vera Dietz is about redemption and getting another chance to make life better.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, several scenes of underage drinking and drug use. There is also an allusion to sex. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Undone by Brooke Taylor, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Looking for Alaska by John Green
Rummanah Aasi
  I decided to take a short break from reading Shojo manga, which are generally targeted to female readers and often have a strong focus on human and romantic relationships and emotions. I wanted to find a manga that would also attract male readers and was willing to try another genre. After consulting with a few teens and reading online reviews of mangas, I decided to settle on the popular Black Butler series by Yana Toboso.

Description (from Amazon): Just a stone's throw from London lies the manor house of the illustrious Phantomhive earldom and its master, one Ciel Phantomhive. Earl Phantomhive is a giant in the world of commerce, Queen Victoria's faithful servant...and a slip of a twelve-year-old boy. Fortunately, his loyal butler, Sebastian, is ever at his side, ready to carry out the young master's wishes. And whether Sebastian is called to save a dinner party gone awry or probe the dark secrets of London's underbelly, there apparently is nothing Sebastian cannot do. In fact, one might even say Sebastian is too good to be true...or at least, too good to be human...

Review: Toboso takes the common master/servant relationship and turns it into something sinister with a creepy new meaning. I was intrigued by the relationship between the perfect, calm butler and the powerful 12 year old earl who is wiser than his years. We aren't given the exact details about their relationship or how they know one another, but there is no doubt that they are the main focus of the story. Ciel, the brooding young earl has a dark past and his background is well known to other members of his society, but we don’t find out why in the first volume. We do, however, get a sneak peak of Ciel's daily routine. Sebastian, by contrast, is the quintessential British butler, who always seems to be in good spirits and is perfect beyond belief which makes us doubt that he is human. The other servants employed by Ciel are all witless and inept, used purely for comic relief.
  Black Butler juggles comedy, action, and the dark supernatural. The relationship between Ciel and Sebastian is ambiguous, which I'm sure will lead to several speculations. Although I expected the manga to be dark, which it is, it also very humorous. The setting of Black Butler is very strange. Although it has elements of Victorian England where ball gowns, pocket watches exist, there is also cars, cell phones, and machine guns.
  I really enjoyed this volume and want to know more about Ciel's past along with who Sebastian really is. We are given plenty of clues by the end of this volume, but I'll definitely pick up volume two of this manga to find out more. Readers looking for mystery, and humor with a dark supernatural undertone should definitely try this series out.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is violence and also some strong language. Rated OT for Older Teens.

If you like this book try: Black Butler 2 by Yana Toboso, Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino or Godchild by Kaori Yuki
Rummanah Aasi
Summer of May by Cecilia Galante caught my eye in Simon and Schuster's Galley Grab for the month of April. I wasn't able to finish the book due to a really hectic work and life schedule. I was grateful that my library ordered a copy for the children section and I was able to finish it. Summer of May is a bittersweet, nuanced coming of age story that I really enjoyed.

Description: May feels like she is living alone. Her grandmother, who is depressed about the absence of May’s mother, and her father, who works long hours and is almost never around, live with her. Due to her circumstance and her resentment over having to live in a low-income neighborhood, May often finds herself picking fights and getting into trouble. May crosses the line at the end of her eighth grade when she defaces her least favorite teacher’s classroom. She is given one choice: expulsion or one-on-one summer school with the teacher she most detests. Begrudgingly, May chooses summer school and ultimately learns that her teacher has a secret past, which might just hold the key as to what happened to May's mother.

Review: Maeve, preferred to be called May,  O'Toole is a spunky, hot tempered tween, who holds a lot of grudges. Known for her outbursts and antics at school, her recent target is her English teacher, "Movado the Avocado," who she blames for having to repeat English in summer school. May spends her mornings prepping and re-painting the classroom wall she defaced during the school year and doing writing assignments for her teacher, which allows her to have a lot of time to think. As readers begin to understand May's lonely situation, she builds up tall walls around her and refuses to let people inside. She constantly broods about all the things that make her mad and about all the people who have abandoned her: her old group of friends, her distant father, who now works double shifts and tends to sit on the couch and watch tv when he is home; and her grandmother, who spends her days in bed. We see May's vulnerable side when she thinks about the mother she will never see again and those terrible words she uttered the last time she and her mother were together. Galante does a great job in showing the tightly coiled May and her struggle to remain cool and collective as well as her difficulty to reach to others in a time of need. Though May makes significant progress in her one to one lessons with Ms. Movado, she still falls back to her old ways. May also discovers the unseen sides of her teacher and realizes that Ms. Movado may not be so different from her after all. Never too sappy or too angsty, Galante's prose is just right in uncovering the impact of loss and the importance of making amends. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
Rummanah Aasi
  Looking back on my high school required reading list, I only seem to have read just one book about slavery and racism which was Huck Finn by Mark Twain. I hope to read To Kill a Mockingbird later this year and recently finished John Howard Griffins amazing personal account of racism in his modern classic nonfiction novel, Black Like Me.

Description: Before the Civil Rights Movement occurred, journalist John Howard Griffin pondered what is was like to be black in the Deep South. If he only changed the color of his skin, how different would his life be? Black Like Me is a personal account on how humans reacted in the response to something is essentially really trivial, the color of ones skin. 

Review: Griffin spent a little over a month, some of November and December of 1959 with his skin artificially darkened by medication. He wanted to do a sociological experiment in how people reacted to race in America's South. Going into this project, he realized that it wasn't going to be easy and sought out help and support from various people. During those months, he traveled through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, finding out at first hand what it is like to be treated as a second-class citizen. While we all have read several stories of injustices, the lynchings, the civil rights cases before, Griffin's experiences are raw and thrust in front of faces. We both participate as both the observer and the participant of these daily injustices such as the rudeness of the clerk when he tried to pay for a train ticket with a big bill; the difficulty he had in finding someone who would cash a traveler's check for a Negro; the bus-driver who wouldn't let any blacks off the bus to use the restrooms; the white man who followed him at night and threatened to mug him.
   In attempts to not generalize, Griffin provides both from both races who helped him regardless of his race at the time. As you can imagine, this report created a lot of stir when it was officially released. Many of the people who replied to Griffin's story wrote that they too feel guiltily and ashamed about how the minority have been treated but are afraid to stand up because of the strong back lash they would feel if they had let their opinions be known and heard. While some may argue that Black Like Me is "the white experience of racism", I would actually argue that this book forces everyone regardless of their race to think about racism and stereotypes we project upon each other.
 Black Like Me is a powerful, unflinching, influential, and gripping story. Though it is nonfiction, it does not read like a textbook but rather as a nonfiction narrative with many similar characteristics of an adventure story. Like Griffin, I was always scared that someone would find out the truth. His interior monologue how he himself is transformed by simply darkening his skin is utterly fascinating. Just the simple act of writing his wife a letter explaining that he is okay seems like a crime. Though Griffin only spends a month with dark skin, his revelations of how we treat each other is still relevant today. Black Like Me is a must read and I now understand why it has been on a required reading list for many schools.

Rating: 5 stars

Curriculum Connection: English, Social Studies

Words of Caution: There is some strong language in the book. Recommended for high school students and up.

If you like this book try: White Like Me by Tim Wise or "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" by Beverly Daniel Tatum
Rummanah Aasi
  I really enjoyed White Cat, the first installment of Holly Black's latest urban fantasy series called the Curse Workers. You can read my review of White Cat here. Many people have been describing this series as "X-men meets the Sopranos", while I find the combination odd, I think it really does suit this series. Magic, mobsters, family loyalty, and ethics collide in the anticipated sequel, Red Glove

Description: All Cassel Sharpe has ever known are curses, cons, magic, and the mob. He always thought was normal, the odd one in his family who didn't have the 'touch' until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth and is constant sought out by family to do what is deemed natural and a mobster who is trying to seduce him with the easy and luxurious lifestyle. The stakes are even higher as Cassel's oldest brother is murdered. The Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue: crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. Which side will have Cassel's allegiance? Who can and can't he trust?

Review: Black effectively blends urban fantasy with a touch of classic crime noir novels. White Cat had a slow start, as numerous characters and important details to Cassel's world are introduced. New readers to this series are highly encouraged to read the first book in order to understand the major plot twist and turns in Red Glove. Red Glove picks up right a few weeks after the major cliffhanger ending of White Cat. Cassel's mother who did her son a great 'favor' has returned from prison and ready to prepare for her next con.
 While White Cat focused more how a con works and solving the mystery behind Cassel's lost memories, we are presented with complex philosophical questions about identity and responsibility as Cassel tries to find his way between magical conmen and gangsters. What I love most about this series are the multi-layered characters, particularly the charming, charismatic, and unreliable Cassel who is haunted by his past. His family has always existed within the powerful and shady Zacharov crime family. While their networks have been eliminated, they still share strong links with one another.
  Now Cassel's oldest brother has been killed, and his emotionally unstable mother is out of prison and up to her old tricks. Possibly worst of all, Lila Zacharov-best friend, love interest, victim, and conspirator is a constant reminder of the dark realities of Cassel's life. While there are several cons and fast paced adventures in the story, I was more taken by the underlying themes of this book: family and destiny. Cassel was born into a crime family. He is a lawbreaker regardless if he uses his gift and the Feds are constantly hounding him to confront the murders he committed although he doesn't remember them. Interestingly enough, Cassel also wants to do the right thing, even if it might put his family in danger and at odds with him. Like White Cat, there are a lot of twists and turns that kept me at the edge of my seat. The secondary characters get even more fleshed out as the series continues and perhaps may serve as a spin off series, which would be kind of cool. The ending of Red Glove caught me off guard and now I can't wait to see it unfolds in the third book.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and underage drinking. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Heist Society by Ally Carter or Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale
Rummanah Aasi
  I continue to discover new important figures of history as I read the Bluestem Awards. I never heard of Bass Reeves, the first African American Deputy U.S. Marshall before. His story from being a born slave to a deputy marshall is fascinating. Bass Reeves is truly an unsung hero.

Description: An illustrated biography of Bass Reeves, a former slave who was recruited as a deputy United States marshal, based on his ability to communicate with the Native Americans in what is now known as the state of Oklahoma.

Review: Bad News for Outlaws reads like a western. It opens with a showdown as readers first see outlaw Jim Webb bursting through a glass window and the lawman known as Bass Reeves looking down the barrel of his Winchester rifle. These opening pages will no doubt catch young reader's attention and the catchy narrative would make this a really fun read aloud. Bass Reeves was born a slave, but he became one of the most feared and respected Deputy U.S. Marshals to tame the West. Reeves was honorable and upheld the law, even arresting his own son when he committed a crime. Though including his background and chronological history, Bad News for Outlaws never reads like a dry textbook. The illustrations are colorful and reflect the narrative. At the end of the book, a timeline, glossary of words spoken in the Old West, recommended reading list, author notes, and a detailed bibliography are included at the end of the book. Bad News for Outlaws gives praise and appreciation to a much unknown hero.

Rating: 4 stars

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 3-5.

If you like this book try: The Legend of Bass Reeves by Gary Paulsen
Rummanah Aasi
  The Miki Falls graphic novel series is one of the hidden gems that I discovered this year. It's a great graphic novel series for older elementary and middle schoolers as well as other reluctant readers, particularly those who are hesitant to read graphic novels. While the books are wholesome they are not lacking in storytelling and drawings. I recently finished Winter, the last book in the graphic novel series.

Description (from Amazon): Can love survive? It's winter, and a bitter chill of desperation has settled over Miki and Hiro. Far from home, the young couple treks through the frozen north, with Akuzu's powerful agents hot on their trail. Miki knows they are determined to tear her and Hiro apart. But she has different plans. With the help of an unlikely ally, Miki and Hiro endure a daring journey, battling freezing conditions and frightening forces just to be together. Miki is certain they can make it, hoping that love really does conquer all.

Review: In the opening pages of Spring, the first book in the Miki Falls series, we see Miki falling out of a window and begins recounting what lead her to that moment. In Winter, the satisfying conclusion to the series, we return to that very intense moment and realize what has happened: Miki is willing to go to extremes, even causing herself harm, rather than giving into Hiro's superiors who threaten to tear them apart. Hiro and Miki are hoping to start life outside the rules that dictate Hiro's life, but unfortunately the couple can't catch a break. Each step they move forward, they are pushed back two to three spaces behind. They are finding it hard to distinguish between friends and allies. Crilley does not allow his characters to take the easy way out nor does he succumb to melodrama and despair. Miki's stubbornness remains her constant strength. She is unwilling to give up on her love, which she knows to be true, no matter what. There were a lot of twists and turns that occurred in this final volume that I didn't expect, which made the reading pleasurable and exciting. Crilley knows how to make use of different panel styles and space, sometimes spreading them across pages. One of the gorgeous spreads in this book is the snow falling with Miki and Hiro in the center. You can feel the cold air whipping around you yet feel secure and peaceful at the exact same time. As I mentioned in my other reviews of this series, readers of all ages will find much in Miki to admire, and they will be enchanted with this lovely and unique supernantural romance. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Twilight: Graphic Novel by Stephenie Meyer and Young Kim
Rummanah Aasi
  Today I'm very excited to introduce you to Jayne Fordham! Jayne is a registered psychologist in Australia as well as a freelance writer. I also run a book review blog at  The Australian Bookshelf  and a writing resource site at Sydney Health Writer. Her debut fantasy/romance novel, A Season of Transformation, was released this year. Help me welcome Jayne to my blog!

Here is the book cover and description:

A Season of Transformation is a young adult fantasy/ romance novel set in the contemporary world. It is the story of five young people drawn together to complete a Quest, to protect their town from destruction. In order to defeat the story’s villain, Maxvale, the five virtual strangers must come together and not only forge a bond of trust but become proficient with the ‘abilities’ temporarily bestowed upon them.

In the midst of the lead up to the battle each of the young people has their own personal struggles they are trying to deal with. Lucas, an adopted and bitter teenager struggles to become the person he wants to be whilst developing feelings for Makenna, a rich kid who doesn’t like his attitude. Bonnie is a ‘gothic’ that is dealing with an alcoholic father, Ben the school nerd and Adam the class clown are trying to break free from their high school stereotypes. Can these five teens put their differences aside to defeat Maxvale and save their town?

Welcome and thank you for stopping by my blog, Jayne. Season of Transformation is a story of five teens, from different walks of life, who are trying to save their town. You’ve described it as a young adult fantasy/ romance novel set in the contemporary world. Can you tell us what inspired to write this story and how you became a writer?

Thank you for having me, Rummanah! Well, I’m not sure when I ‘became a writer’ but I have always been a bit of a bookworm and enjoyed writing. I wrote many short stories as a kid, kept diaries and wrote letters to friends. When I hit my late teens and went off to University I found less time to read and write. In my early 20’s I started writing again. I can’t really recall why, but I got back into reading and thought- I should write something myself. I started writing short stories and drafting a couple of novels but I just couldn’t come up with something that was really interesting. I was writing a lot of chic lit and I just found it a bit boring. Then I read the Twilight series, probably my first encounter with the fantasy genre. Now I am hooked! It inspired me to add something new to my usual romance novels and to bulk up the plot a bit more. I began to think about the characters and then I had the vision of the box that the teens stumble upon where there abilities were evoked. From there I rapidly jotted down my thoughts and completed the first draft in three months! It took two long years to revise the manuscript (with a little procrastination) so it was ready for publication.

Wow, a first draft in three months! It takes me that long just to come up with an idea. Each of your characters has their own struggles to contend with before tackling the big bad. Which character do you relate to the most? 

That’s a good question. I guess I mostly relate to the protagonist Makenna. She is caring, wants to do the right thing and looks for the good in people. She is also curious about people and as a psychologist; I tend to have those qualities too. But I’m probably not as assertive as Makenna. There are parts of her that I would like to see in myself such as her confidence to stand up to the people around her. I am also quite shy when it comes to meeting new people, so I also relate to Bonnie a bit in that respect.

They all sound like great people and I relate to pretty much all of them in one form or the other. I’m curious about Maxvale, the villain of your story. I love to hate a good villain. Without spoiling your book, what can tell you tell us about him? What does he want? 

Well, Brian Maxvale was a wealthy man in the early 18th century who resided in Catherine Vale, where the teens now reside. He was accused of a horrendous crime and when he was executed he vowed to return every one hundred years to seek revenge on the town. The teens learn that their ancestors fought Maxvale in 1911 when he returned and so they were now preparing Makenna and her friends about the mission for 2011. The only problem is they have no idea what form his spirit will take and how to defeat him.

Hmm..he definitely sounds sinister! What made you decide to write “Season of Transformation” for young adults?

The young adult genre was new to me and I thought High School and the individual differences of the teens would be a nice starting point for the plot I had in mind. The underlying message for teenagers is not to judge their peers by what they wear, who they hang out with or what they look like because you could be missing out on a valuable friendship.

That's a great message. I can't tell you how many friends I have that are so different from me. Our differences make us interesting. In addition to being a writer, you are also a registered psychologist in Australia. Has being a psychologist influenced your writing your characters at all? 

Yes, I guess it has in a way. I had an image in my mind of how I wanted the characters to be at the beginning of the story. From there I had to work my way back through their lives to figure out how they got to that point. I suppose psychology came into it then and helped me to work out each of the characters’ conflicts and how they would grow throughout the story. Mostly, writing is a way for me to get away from the seriousness of my everyday work and escape into another (fantasy) world. *Smiles*

That's the hardest part of writing for me: trying to figure out how to write the middle or transformation of the character. I know the beginning and end, but getting to the end is the tricky part. Like me, you are an avid reader and have your own book review blog. What types of books do you enjoy reading? 

I have an eclectic taste in reading and will read pretty much anything except erotica and horror (I am a scaredy cat!) novels. Most recently I have read a lot of paranormal, fantasy, Australian literature, historical romance and even outback romance novels.

I didn't even know there was such books like outback romance novels! Because I'm always curious as to what people are reading, I wanted to know what you have on your TBR pile right now?

Three random books on my shelf are: Tempted by P.C & Kristen Cast, Power Unbound by Nicole Murphy (Australian SciFi author) and Fallen by Lauren Kate.

You weren't kidding about your eclectic taste. *Laughs*  What are some things that you must have in order to write? 

Sometimes I feel like a bit of a granny, but a cup of tea and a bite of chocolate usually gets me motivated to sit down and start typing. I also need a tidy desk or I find ways to procrastinate. On sunny days I like to sit outside with a pen and notebook and seek inspiration that way.

You can't really go wrong with chocolate. I'm convinced it's a cure for anything. So many authors have a playlist of music they listened to while they write. Do you have one?

Nah I can’t listen to music and write. It’s funny, I can read a book whilst watching television and listening to music or cooking dinner but I can’t write with those distractions- it gets me off track.

I can read while listening to music but not watching tv, but I can how distracting it can be. Besides writing, what do you like to do? What are your hobbies and interests?

I play soccer for a local women’s competition, it’s a lot of fun but it’s also quite rough and I tend to walk away with many bruises and grazes!I also love hanging out with my dog Buddy, he’s a lot of fun and makes me laugh everyday.Obviously reading is a hobby of mine too. *Smiles* Oh and I have become hooked on the ‘Words with Friends’ app on my Iphone! A little sad I know…

No, not sad but normal. *Smiles* Thank you again, Jayne, for taking the time to introducing yourself to my readers and to your writing. I had a great time chatting with you.

Thanks Rummanah, it has been a pleasure chatting with you!

To learn more about Jayne and read the first two chapters of A Season of Transformation for free, please visit her website. You also find her on Twitter, and Goodreads.

GIVEAWAY: Readers, Jayne has been very kind in providing ebook for one lucky reader. This giveaway is open internationally. You do not have to follow my blog, but it is appreciated. To enter, please comment on this post with your name/alias along with an email so I can contact you and Jayne if you win. This giveaway will end June 17th at 10 PM EST. The winner will be selected by and announced on my blog on June 18th. Good luck! 
Rummanah Aasi
 There are two main sects in Islam, the Sunnis and Shia's, which I'm sure might look familiar to you. Sunni and Shi'a appear regularly in news about the Muslim world, but few people know what they really mean. It's important to note that both Sunni and Shi'a both share the commonality of the Islamic faith, but mainly differ in politics, particularly who leads the Ummah, Muslim community, after the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) died. There are other differences too, which are concretely highlighted at the BBC Religions website. These differences got me thinking when I finished Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani.

Description: In the 17th century Iran, the death of an unnamed female narrator's father forces her and her mother to work as servants in the home of her uncle, a wealthy rug designer in the court of the Shah, where she is able to develop her talent for rug design. With a bleak future ahead, she is forced into a contract and temporary marriage that leads to unexpected results. 

Review: After reading reviews of Blood of Flowers, I had expected the book to be an Iranian take on the Arabian Nights but what I read instead was something completely different. While there are short stories infused into the plot like the Arabian Nights, where Scherazade entertains the King in order to save her life, Blood of Flowers is essentially a story of a woman bullied by men and passively wonders from one place to the other in search of refuge. The book is infused with flowery prose that contradict its dark subject, giving it an exotic feel, which put me off and left me completely unsatisfied.
   The unnamed narrator is a female teen who is initially creative, vibrant, and a talented carpet weaver. Her opportunity to a good marriage is taken away by the death of her father. She and her mother are completely dependent upon the girl's well off uncle. Tensions arrive when the uncle's wife feels like the mother and daughter have over-stayed their welcome despite that they have joined the house's servants. New hope arrive for the teen when a letter proposing a temporary marriage for 3 months arrive from a wealthy businessman. Though the businessman will provide money for the daughter and mother, she must sacrifice her virginity to him and be at his beck and call.
  Though the author does a good job in establishing an atmosphere of medieval Iran and includes interesting tidbits of carpet making, her characters however were very one dimensional and flat. The narrator spends more time saying how determined she is to change her fate yet does nothing and succumbs to the temporary marriage very quickly, thinking it will solve all her problems in a snap. All the other characters are pretty one dimensional: the helpless mother, the mean aunt, the somewhat kind uncle who usually takes the side of his wife, and the self centered cousin. Fereydoon, the businessman, is pretty much a sex addict and nothing more.
   I was surprised to find out that the author didn't include any information about temporary marriage, which gets the most attention in the book, as her heroine tries to distinguish between lust and love. The "marriage" is shown as legalized prostitution because all the narrator does is have sex whenever she is called upon. I wondered if this is the author's (who comes from an Iranian background) perspective on temporary marriage. Since I was curious about the concept of a temporary marriage, which is foreign to me as a Sunni, I did some outside research and found out that temporary marriage exists for Shia's only and was mainly intended for soldiers or man who would be away after marriage for quite some time. The temporary marriage is treated as a real marriage given on a set time that is agreed upon by both spouses and can be renewed.
  I can understand how we are at times victims of our own environment, but I prefer characters who struggle and fit to make their lives better and not just sit there and take abuse. The narrator eventually realizes her mistake towards the end of the book, but I lost interest and skimmed my way until I found the next short story told in the book. Overall the Blood of Flowers is a forgettable novel that might appeal to readers who would like to know more about medieval Iran, but I much preferred the delightful YA novel Anahita's Woven Riddle by Megan Nuttall Sayres instead.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong sexuality throughout the book. Recommended for adults only.

If you like this book try: Anahita's Woven Riddle by Megan Nuttall Sayres, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseni, Norton Critical Edition of Arabian Nights by Daniel Heller-Roazen
Rummanah Aasi
 There are many times when I get discouraged by the human race. The circuitous destruction cycle that we bring upon ourselves is disheartening. Our shining moments do happen when tragedy strikes, reminding all of us what is really important as we come together and help each other out in the greatest time of need. In the powerful picture book, 14 Cows for America, we are reminded that no nation or people are invincible to destruction.

Description: An illustrated true story of a gift of fourteen cows given by the Maasai people of Kenya to the U.S. as a gesture of comfort and friendship in the wake of September 11 terrorist attacks.

Review: Teaching about the atrocious events of September 11 in school is a tricky. It is even more difficult in trying to teaching it to elementary school students. Though there have been picture books that allude to Sept 11, never have any of them seem to reflect on these events like 14 Cows for America. The picture book tells the story of a young man named Kimeli who returns to the village where he grew up. Kimeli is Maasai, a tribe that is known for its fierce and brave warriors, and he has been studying in New York to become a doctor. However, the events of September 11th are still with him, and later he tells his people the story of that horror of that particular day. Kimeli tells the elders that he will offer his cow to the people of America. The elders agree, but invite a diplomat from the United States Embassy in Nairobi to visit the village. When the diplomat comes he is greeted with a full ceremony and is presented with not one, but fourteen cows. The cows, who are deemed sacred and never been slaughtered according to an endnote from Kimeli himself, show solidarity, friendship and compassion between two foreign nations. Though they have little or no commonalities between them, we are reminded that despite all of our labels, we are in the end the same: human.
 Carmen Agra Deedy does a good job in explaining the Maasai without sounding condensing or stereotypical. The illustrations by Thomas Gonzalez are eye appealing and fantastic. The choice of colors are vibrant that makes one feel like they are reading a documentary on paper. Though we aren't shown in great details of the attacks, we do get a sense of what happened with the colors of grey, red, and orange streaking the sky, which also provokes our emotions of those terrible images that we can't shake out of our minds. What makes this story in more remarkable is that it is true and the uplifting emotions that it stirs are genuine. 14 Cows for America would be a great addition to any elementary classrooms and children's library.

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 2 to 5.

If you like this book try: September Roses by Jeanette Winter or The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordecai Gerstein.
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