Rummanah Aasi
  Happy Halloween Everyone! I've been reading a few Halloween themed picture books to get into the spirit.   Be sure to check out part 1 and part 2 for books you may want to read next year with your little ones! Today I'll be reviewing Scary, Scary Halloween by Eve Bunting, The Fierce Yellow Pumpkin by Margaret Wise Brown, Zen Ghosts by Jon J. Muth, and Night Fright Flight by Laura Kraus Melmed.

Description: A band of trick-or-treaters and a mother cat and her kittens spend a very scary Halloween.

Review: This book is a treat! A suspenseful mystery with enough creepy moments to keep the young kids interested. Two sets of stark green eyes begin Bunting's teasingly scary poem describing a parade of creatures that moves down the path on Halloween night. More mysterious sets of green eyes appear nervously and we get to hear more voices as they view the creepy pedestrians. It turns out the anxious watchers appear to belong to a mother cat and her kittens, who, when the monsters trick-or-treaters in costume are gone, prowl the night for their own brand of fun. Deep, dark nighttime backdrops make the bursts of color in costumes, jack-o'-lanterns, and candle-lit faces especially vibrant. The scenes play out across double spreads that adeptly lead the eye from left to right. This book would make a great read-aloud on Halloween.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades K to Grade 2

If you like this book try: Bone Soup by Cambria Evans (best suited for Grades 1-2), The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams, The Three Bears' Halloween by Kathy Duval

Description: A little pumpkin dreams of the day when he will be a big, fierce, yellow pumpkin who frightens away the field mice as the scarecrow does.

Review: This book is better suited for younger children who are just beginning to grasp the basic concepts of Halloween. Seasonal changes are discussed as well as baby steps to suspenseful moments are well plotted throughout the story as the simple pumpkin transforms in a spooky one. Older readers, however, will find this book a bit boring and would want their stories with larger doses of fright.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades Preschool to Grades 1.

If you like this book try: The Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Steven Kroll, Pumpkin Heads! by Wendell Minor

Description: On Halloween night, Stillwater the giant panda tells Karl, Addy, and Michael a spooky and unusual story. Based on a Zen koan.

Review: I've not heard of the Zen picture book series by this author so I had no idea what to expect in reading this book. While I did get the anticipated ghost story which was unique, I was left scratching my head. I later realized that there is an author's note explaining a Zen koan. A koan is a spiritual riddle. While I would not choose this one as a read-aloud because the ghost story doesn't have much oomph and action to keep readers entertained, I do think this would be a good choice in reading about ghost stories from Eastern culture as well as learning about Zen Buddhism and philosophy. Though filled with gorgeous colors and illustrations, this book may be a bit too cerebral for younger children and would be better appreciated by older readers.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 6 and  up.

If you like this book try: The Three Questions by Jon Muth, Zen Ties by Jon Muth, and Zen Shorts by Jon Muth

Description: On her way to Halloween trick-or-treating, a witch makes room on her broom for a group of fiendish friends.

Review: If you are looking for scary but not too scary for 3-4 year olds, Fright Night Flight is a good choice. The rhyming text is really fun. The full-spread illustrations are rich with color and amusing detail, which will draw their attention while they listen to the story. You could ask them questions about who the witch will pick up next. The classic scary characters such as the vampire and werewolf are drawn in a nonthreatening cartoon style that will not scare young children.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Preschool to Grade 1.

If you like this book try: Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler and In the Haunted House by Eve Bunting
Rummanah Aasi
   One more day left until Halloween! What better way to excite the little ones about the holiday than to read them Halloween themed picture books? I've got several picture books ready to review. This is my second installment of Halloween picture book themes. Be sure to check out part 1 and stay tuned for part 3 tomorrow! Today I'll be reviewing Bone Dog by Eric Rohmann, Boris and Bella by Carolyn Crimi, The Halloween Kid by Rhode Montijo, and Sheep Trick or Treat by Nancy Shaw.

Description: Although devastated when his pet dog dies, a young boy goes trick-or-treating and receives a timely visit from an old friend during a scary encounter with graveyard skeletons.

Review: Bone Dog is a bittersweet read about friendship, loss, and slightly spooky Halloween story with a humorous twist. The book begins on a sad note when Gus's dog, Ella, tells her owner that she is getting old and may not last long, but she will always be with him because promises under a full moon can't be broken. Days pass and we realize that Ella is no longer. Gus doesn't feel like participating Halloween this year but he begrudgingly dresses as a skeleton for trick-or-treating. A shortcut through the graveyard results in being surrounded by nefarious, real-life skeletons until ghost Ella comes to the rescue, howling so as to summon a legion of living dogs to chase down the skeletons. I really enjoyed this book that has many layers built around the Halloween theme. Most of the important action takes place off the page, but the illustrations, tones, and colors effectively alerts the reader of what is going on. Thick-lined illustrations filled with autumn colors give this a true Halloween feel, but I loved the three wordless two-page spreads in which the skeletons run, the dogs give chase, and a single mutt struts back, bone in mouth, which gives the book a little lightness in the story. Several moments border on frightening so be sure to peruse the book to see if it's safe for your little ones. Some may call the book morbid, but Bone Dog is a tender story of love and friendship that transcends all bounds.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: Sammy in the Sky by Barbara Walsh, A Dog Like Jack by DyAnne DiSalvo

Description: Bella Legrossi and Boris Kleanitoff, the messiest and cleanest monsters in Booville respectively, do nothing but argue until the night of Harry Beastie's Halloween party.

Review: With Boris and Bella, I think I may have found a Halloween favorite read! Bella Lagrossi is the dirtiest and messiest monster in Booville. Her neighbor, Boris Kleanitoff, is the complete opposite, a complete neat freak with nothing out of place. Naturally, Boris and Bella are not the best of neighbors. To celebrate Halloween, each decides to have a Halloween party, but no one will come. They find a common enemy, Henry Beastie, who's throwing a party of his own. All their mutual monsters are going there; no one wants to go to a party at a house so dirty--or so clean. An infuriated Bella and Boris head off individually to give Harry a piece of their minds, but they wind up together, on the dance floor, and then holding hands in the moonlight. While Halloween is clearly the back drop of this story, there is more of a story here as Boris and Bella learn there are good parts of their personalities and learn to compromise. The story is fun and the illustrations are along the lines of the Addams Family (I had the theme song of that show running through my head while reading the book). There is also some really nice word-plays through the narrative. I think this is one of the few books that could be read and enjoyed on any day.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 1 and up.

If you like this book try: Monster Mess by Margery Cuyler, Cinderhazel by Deborah Nourse Lattimore

Description: The brave and trusty Halloween Kid saves trick-or-treaters from a crowd of sweet-stealing Goodie Goblins.

Review: The Halloween Kid is a weird yet entertaining mash up between the classic Western and the spooky night of Halloween. When tricks interfere with treats on a suburban street, it's up to the Halloween Kid to save the night. With his trusty stick horse, mysterious Lone Ranger mask, and contagious catchphrase, Yee-Ha-lloween! he is able to foil all the monsters such as the TP-crazy mummies, pumpkin-sucking vampires, and tropical werewolves, but when Goodie Goblins who steals all the candies from the children The Halloween Kid has a real challenge. It's the Kid himself who needs saving, and the neighborhood teams up to do just that, proving that even heroes can use some help now and then. The orange, yellow, and black digitally-enhanced art sets the 1950s-flavored scene, and the cowboy lingo adds even more fun when reading this one aloud. I kind of wished it comes with an audio cd as I don't have the western style of talking down pat.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades K-2.

If you like this book try: Halloween Mice! by Bethany Roberts, Spooky Hour by Timothy Mitton

Description: When sheep dress up to go trick-or-treating at a nearby farm, their costumes scare away some wolves lurking in the woods.

Review: I have to say this book was my least favorite in the bunch that I reviewed today. The illustrations are okay, a bit shadowy and not that large to share in a big reading group. The text is a bit blah with some forced rhymes and it doesn't really match up to the pictures. It's hard to get excited about this story because it isn't very interesting and it doesn't really stand out with all the other Halloween books out there.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades K-2.

If you like this book try: Here They Come by David Costello, Shake D'em Halloween Bones by W. Nikola-Lisa
Rummanah Aasi
  Manga Mondays is a meme hosted by Alison at Alison Can Read where bloggers can share their passion for reading mangas. It's a great place to get new manga titles to try and to meet new bloggers. At the moment, I've got sucked into the world of Nana where music is the back drop and fuels the characters' passions and love and heartbreak go hand in hand. It seems that the closer that I get to volume 21 where the series is at a stand still, the more ominous the tone gets. I hope my characters will be alright.

Description (from back of the volume): Ever since she got engaged to Takumi and moved out of apartment 707, Nana K. has felt like she's slipping out of Nana O's life. When the tabloids start digging up Nana O's troubled family history, Nana K tries to step in and take care of things. But will her good intentions stir up more trouble? Blast is rocketing to stardom, and the price for bringing them down keeps going up.

Review: In the last few volumes of Nana that I've read, we are steered to the more personal aspects of Nana O.'s life. Volume 17 gives us a little more insight into Nana O's family and her past. There are two story lines going on, one of the future and one of the present. In the future, Nana O. has gone missing. People in the music industry believe she is dead, much like many young rock stars who diffuse easily once they reach the flames of popularity. Her bandmates, however,  strongly believe that is she is alive but just doesn't want to be found.  One day when Nana K. comes to apartment 707, the apartment she shared with Nana O. when they first moved to Tokyo, and checks the mail, she finds an envelope addressed to her with pictures of a girl with long hair and the same tattoo as Nana on her arm, singing at a bar. With clues such as this photo, the band is beginning to investigate Nana O. possible whereabouts. Blast's band status is still unknown, but I'm guessing that they either completely broken up or just put on pause until they reunite with their lead singer.
  After a stressful and anxiety ridden first chapter in the future, we are now taken to the present as Nana K. has been approached by a tabloid reporter saying he knows about Nana O's past and hints at Nana O's family's current location will publish it as the next big story. Nana K., who is always noted for her brilliance (yes, that's sarcasm) decides to go to Nana O's hometown and warn Nana's mother about the paparazzi blitz that will surely take place, but the woman denies having a daughter named Nana though they share many familiar physical features. As readers, we know that the woman is lying and is indeed Nana O's mother. We are also given more information about Nana O's family background, particularly of the strained relationship between Nana O's mother and grandmother, which might explain the nonexistent mother and daughter relationship between Nana O. and her mother. To cheer Nana O. up when she realizes that the story will break, Nana K. comes to live with her until Takumi returns from his trip. After this sudden turn of events, we are left with several questions. Will Nana O. be fine? Now that Misato, Nana O's half-sister who is a fan of hers, knows about their relationship, how will she react? And will she leave Nana O. alone? Will Nana O's mother's life be the same and will she ever reunite with her daughter?
 In other plot developments, Reira have broken up with Shin because she said she wanted to focus on her career. Hurt and heart broken Shin cuts all ties with Reira, but Reira seems to be the one who can't let go by sending him text messages and proposals for nightly visits. What is interesting is that the more time Ren spends with Reira and the two openly talk, we suspect that Reira's real plans are of wanting to be near Takumi. And in a scene from Reira's childhood, we see her telling Takumi that she loves him. What are Reira's true intentions? And does she really have feelings besides lust for Shin?

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Language, sexual situations, and crude humor. Recommended for mature teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: We Were There by Yuuki Obata, Nana Vol 18 by Ai Yazawa, Honey and Clover by Chica Umino, Tramps Like Us by Yayoi Ogawa
Rummanah Aasi
 With less than a week left until Halloween, what better to excite the little ones about the holiday than to read them Halloween themed picture books? I've got several picture books ready to review and this is just the first installment. Be sure to come back and check out parts 2 and 3 next week! Today I'll be reviewing Monster Museum by Marilyn Singer, Boogie Knights by Lisa Wheeler, and Just Say Boo! by Susan Hood.

Description (from the publisher): Come in--if you dare--and meet the werewolf, Count Dracula, the mummy, and some of their slimy, screaming, slithering friends. They're just dying to show you a good time!

Review: Singer describes an array of scary apparitions and frightful figures in this "ghastly" collection of poems. Children take a field trip and walk through a museum filled with monsters. The poetic verses found below the illustrations cleverly describe the monsters in a variety of poetic forms including limericks.  Grimly's (yes, that's the illustrator's real last name) colorful caricatures add to the fun by diffusing scary illustrations with humor. Several of the monsters wend their way out to the parking lot-one even drives the school bus. The "Glos-Scary" helps to keep all of the creatures straight. This fresh, witty book will be popular for not-so-scary story times, as well as independent reading for kids who just love monsters.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 1 through 5.

If you like this book try: Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich by Adam Rex, Boris and Bella by by Carolyn Crimi, Grimericks by Susan Pearson

Description (from the publisher): In this rip-roaring picture book, readers are invited to the party of the year, as all monsters large and small throw the most outrageous, most bodacious bash of them all--the Madcap Monster Ball.

Review: Monsters galore show up at a spooky castle for a whimsical Madcap Monster Ball and dance their hearts out. Upstairs seven knights with unusual names (Sir Veillance, Sir Prize, Sir Loin, Sir Round, Sir Cumference, Sir Ender, and finally my personal favorite, the lone Sir Vivorare awakened at various times to find out what all the commotion is about and join in the fun. At the same time, a young prince wakes up scared and cautiously investigates the noise. A wild and crazy time is had by all with the final spread picturing the knights back in their places dreaming of next year's ball and the prince is happily asleep in his bed. This book was hysterical and I loved the clever wordplay of the text which is filled with puns and double meanings that I think will work well for many age levels. The cartoon illustrations perfectly catch all of the high-flying whimsy with small figures dancing and whirling across each double-page spread. When the ball begins, the illustrations are monochrome, but when the seven knights join in, the style changes and more color is added. To enhance the surreal and chaotic nature of the story, many art styles are used on each page, but it all works fantastically well. Readers and listeners will want to return the book without being bored as there is so much to unravel.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 1 through 5. 

If you like this book try: Bedtime at the Swamp by Kristyn Crow, Jumpy Jack & Googily by Meg Rosoff

Description: Young trick-or-treaters learn what to say in different Halloween situations.

Review: Halloween can be a frightening time for kids, but do you know what to do everything becomes too scary on this day? Just say Boo! This adorable story follows three young trick-or-treaters as they encounter frightening Halloween antics in their neighborhood when they go trick or treating. The story is simple and seasonable but the text is multi-functional and does a great job as it connects the traditions of the holiday (trick-or-treating), teaches manners (saying thank you), and shows what to do with a scared, teary toddler: Teach him to just say Boo! Advanced readers will find natural rhymes, use of alliteration, and strong images. Illustrated with an appropriate palette of fall colors and cozy images, the book embraces all good things about Halloween. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for preschool through Grade 1.

If you like this book try: It's Halloween Night! by Jennifer O'Connell and Ollie's Halloween by Olivier Dunrea
Rummanah Aasi
  After being disappointed in Hunting Ground and River Marked , both of which I thought were lack luster reads by Patricia Briggs, I was hoping that Fair Game would infuse a bit more oomph to the characters and to the story line. I'm pleased to say that Fair Game delivers and sets up an interesting new direction for Briggs's future releases.

Description (from the publisher): They say opposites attract. And in the case of werewolves Anna Latham and Charles Cornick, they mate. The son-and enforcer-of the leader of the North American werewolves, Charles is a dominant alpha. While Anna, an omega, has the rare ability to calm others of her kind.
   Now that the werewolves have revealed themselves to humans, they can't afford any bad publicity. Infractions that could have been overlooked in the past must now be punished, and the strain of doing his father's dirty work is taking a toll on Charles.
  Nevertheless, Charles and Anna are sent to Boston, when the FBI requests the pack's help on a local serial killer case. They quickly realize that not only the last two victims were werewolves-all of them were. Someone is targeting their kind. And now Anna and Charles have put themselves right in the killer's sights...

Review: Fair Game is the third book in the Alpha and Omega series, a spin off to Brigg's popular Mercy Thompson series. Though the two series can be read independently, I would highly recommend that you read the Alpha Omega series in order and begin with the novella On the Prowl which first introduces us to the relationship of Charles and Anna.
  Briggs continues to explore the dynamics between the very alpha, serious and quiet wolf Charles and his stubborn, deceptively demure, and omega wife Anna. While they are still learning about each other and enjoying the early stages of their mating, Charles and Anna have hit a new bump in the road. Charles has a problem and he refuses to open up and let Anna help him.
   For many years, Charles has worked as Bran’s (the alpha of all werewolves in North America and Charles's father) executioner, destroying those who have broken the code of werewolves and have threaten the safety of the werewolf packs. Recent events have led werewolves to come out to the public and now Bran is trying to maintain a positive and safe image for his wolfs.
  Briggs's werewolves manage to keep the carnal aspects of the wolf without losing their humanity. While they can assimilate with the general public, they still pose a volatile and violent threat to those around them as their anger can be triggered very easily. For this reason, Bran sends Charles out to kill those wolves who are unable to keep their wolf in check. Neither Bran nor Charles take pleasure in hunting down fellow werewolves, but a system of balance is needed. Charles's executions are now taking their toll and as a result he is emotionally shutting everyone out, especially Anna.
  Charles's conflict is very complex, which Briggs effectively demonstrates this by showing how it effects many people especially Anna and Bran through their point of views. If we are placed in Anna's shoes, we can't help but wonder if Bran is just using his son to do the dirty work and is completely oblivious to see the ramifications on his son. If we see it through Bran's eyes, he knows he asks a lot from his son and feels guilty about it, but he really can't send out other alphas, fearing they couldn't handle it and it would push the older wolves to go lope. As for Charles, it's just another thing that he has to deal with and sort through himself.
  Readers of this series know that Charles is very introverted. His physically aggressive demeanor is a front and his reputation of a killer doesn't exactly make him approachable. In Fair Game we see Charles at his most vulnerable state. He has the ghosts of his previous kills lurking around him. They talk to him, scare him, and he is terrified if he acknowledges them too much, they will take control of him and eventually harm his wife. So he fights against the spirit's growing strength and keeps this pain and torment hidden from her. For the majority part of the book, Charles resorts to transforming himself to Brother Wolf, the name of Charles’s wolf, in order to deal with people.
  Brother Wolf is an interesting character. Though completely separate from his human side. He is more forth coming and direct to the point. They both love Anna, but sometimes they disagree with each other. It is fascinating how Briggs is able to create different voices to these two aspects of Charles along with the long and serious struggle for Anna to break through Charles's walls.
  In order to reprieve Charles from his duties to the pack, Bran comes up with a somewhat temporary solution for him. There have been a string of murders in the Boston area involving werewolves. The FBI are desperate to catch this serial killer, and have given into the fact they might need a werewolf to give them some insight. With Adam Hauptmann home helping Mercy recover, Bran sends Anna and Charles to Boston. When a powerful fae’s daughter becomes the next victim, Charles and Anna stick around until they can bring justice. The mystery is probably one of the best plots written by Briggs as it not only matches the inner turmoil of her characters, but it also stays on track. There is no lengthy, long winded explanation of how the murder is solved like they can be in some of her books. There is also enough clues to keep the pages turning. While there is no cliffhanger per se, the ending leaves us with lots of questions about the future the political maneuverings of the various paranormal creatures in Briggs's world. It's too bad that we have to wait until March 2013 to find out what happens next.
Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Strong violence, language, disturbing images related to mutilations and rape, and a small sex scene. Recommended for mature teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: Mercy Thomspon series by Patricia Briggs, Nightshade series by Andrea Cremer, Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, Silver by Rhiannon Held, Touch the Dark by Karen Chance
Rummanah Aasi
 Ruby Red is a delightful romantic comedy with a good dose of a complex, unresolved time-travel mystery that can be enjoyed by a wide range of audience. Readers new to this series won't have to wait long for the sequel as it is expected to be released later this month.

Description (from the publisher):  Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!
  Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon--the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

Review: Gwen is a contemporary English teen who lives in London with her mother's eccentric family. She has the girl next door flair to her along with a wonderful sense of humor. Gwen has always heard of the time traveling gene that her family possesses, but she really can't understand why her cousin Charlotte thinks having the gene is such a big deal. You see, Charlotte is the expected carrier of the family time-travel gene that has been passed along the female line in the girls' family since the 16th century and has trained her entire life for this one opportunity, but it never happens. Unexpectedly, Gwen experiences the symptoms of the time traveling gene in the middle of her class.
  Everyone including Gwen is surprised and utterly shocked when Gwen is not only the gene carrier but a very special time traveler. Gwen quickly realizes that her mother has fabricated her birth date in order to protect her from the Guardians, the old, powerful and dangerous secret society obsessively watching over the time travelers and protecting the chronograph, a device for negotiating time travel. To the Guardians, Gwen is not your ordinary time traveler but the Ruby, the crucial last link in their Circle of Twelve. To complicate matters more, Gideon, Gwen's handsome, insufferable and arrogant fellow time traveler in the male line, is the Diamond. Together Gwen and Gideon are expected to complete the Circle and solve an undefined mystery involving Count Saint-Germain, a malevolent time traveler from the 18th century, that is if they can work together without killing each other first.
  As she narrates her adventures, Gwen convincingly conveys her bewilderment, fear and excitement of a being an ordinary teen who is comfortable with her mundane routine and then suddenly finds herself transported and disorientated into an unknown past. Though she has absolutely no idea of what to do, she manages to think quickly and surprises everyone including Gideon who has her pegged as an inferior time traveler and doesn't waste an opportunity to let her know that.
  What I loved about Ruby Red is the attention to the historical setting from the fashion to the mannerisms, especially since the book is originally published in German and then translated into English. While reading the book, I had no idea it was a translated copy of the book. It seems as if the author did a great job with historical accuracy.
  Of course I have to mention the relationship between Gwen and Gideon. They both share the tensions found in a love/hate relationships that are common in most romance stories, but the romance doesn't instantly happen for these characters. Gwen and Gideon have to overcome their prejudices of one another to not only solve the mystery they are both assigned to, but also to show the various layers of their personalities. Their relationship grows slowly but realistically and while we don't have a full blown romance we can see it budding.
 With engaging characters, a chaste but sweet romance, and unique plot line involving time traveling, Ruby Red is a sure fire hit and would be a great selection for a vacation read. I really look forward to going on more journeys with Gwen and Gideon  and to seeing how this mystery unravels.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. This is a relatively clean book with a chaste budding romance. I would feel comfortable in giving this book to a very strong Grade 5th reader.

If you like this book try: Saphire Blue by Kerstin Gier, The Time Traveling Fashionesta by Bianca Turetskey, Devil's Kiss by Sarwat Chadda
Rummanah Aasi
  Are you looking for a gothic,ghostly read that isn't overly scary for you? Then I would suggest picking up Kenneth Oppel's new series called the Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein, which is a re-imagined origin story of Shelly's anti-hero. Such Wicked Intent is the perfect read for this Halloween season.

Description (from the publisher): When does obsession become madness? Tragedy has forced sixteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein to swear off alchemy forever. He burns the Dark Library. He vows he will never dabble in the dark sciences again—just as he vows he will no longer covet Elizabeth, his brother’s betrothed. If only these things were not so tempting.

When he and Elizabeth discover a portal into the spirit world, they cannot resist. Together with Victor’s twin, Konrad, and their friend Henry, the four venture into a place of infinite possibilities where power and passion reign. But as they search for the knowledge to raise the dead, they unknowingly unlock a darkness from which they may never return.

Review: Such Wicked Intent begins three weeks after the events of This Dark Endeavor took place. We find Victor and his family in mourning for their terrible loss. He rejects alchemy and complies with his father to burn down the Dark Library where he first heard of the Elixir of life. All of the books in the library burn with the exception of one. Soon visits to a spirit world and discovery of an ancient text on the wall of a cavern beneath the chateau revive Victor’s hopes, leading him to attempt creation of a replica body for Konrad’s spirit to inhabit. Of course the traveling back and forth from the spirit world has consequences, but that doesn't stop Victor's obsession nor does it quell Elizabeth's yearning to hold her fiance once again.
  This Dark Endeavor presented us with a love-triangle with Konrad and Victor pitted against one another for their affections for Elizabeth. Such Wicked Intent now turns the triangle into a square by adding another pursuer of Elizabeth's heart which complicates matters, as does Victor’s growing obsession with power. How far is he willing to go to bring his brother back to life? Does he really want to re-animate his brother? And for whom? What else could he learn from the spirit world? Oppel fleshes out these questions through Victor’s internal moral quandaries and continued scheming.
  I loved the vivid descriptive language found in the book and the further character development of the main characters. I like how Oppel uses Elizabeth, the symbol of passivity as well as Victorian female virtue in the original novel, as a three dimensional person who has her own selfish desires despite her tireless efforts to stay true to societal's conventions in his story. The conflict of interests among all of the characters keep the narrative intense and engaging. The reoccurring theme of science versus religion is done very well without being too heavy handed. While the dark supernatural powers and the back-and-forth travel to the spirit world aren't necessarily plausible, however, Oppel's great storytelling skills doesn't make us seem to notice. Plus, there isn't really much of an explanation in the original Frankenstein of what mixture of science and magic Victor exactly used to create his monster.
  Though Victor learns an important lesson at the end of this book, there is still the curiosity and the drive to see how far humans can go with science in the back of his mind that is not only very chilling but in a morbid way excites us to learn what boundaries he will cross next.

Curriculum Connection: Use to accompany the original novel.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Mild PG language, an attempt at sexual assault, and some disturbing images. Recommended for strong Grades 6 and up particularly for those who enjoy historical fiction, horror, and adventure with a minor romance subplot.

If you like this book try: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Death Note manga series by Tsugumi Oba, Clay by David Almond, Prodigal son by Dean Kootz (an adult book with YA appeal)
Rummanah Aasi
  Gone Girl is probably the most talked about book of this summer. I wouldn't be surprised if you've seen the cover graced upon the displays at your local bookstore or be a suggested read from librarians, booksellers, or even from friends. The book has sat comfortably on the New York Times bestseller list for many weeks. If you only have limited reading time this year, definitely put Gone Girl on top of your reading list.

Description (from Goodreads): On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

Review: A common complaint of not liking a book is the failure to connect to the main character(s). Readers, including myself, want to have the ability to align themselves and support or at the very least find something redeemable about the protagonist in order to have an active, enjoyable role in reading. There are a very few books I have loved that feature despicable characters and Gone Girl has made that list.
  Deliberately deceptive, Gone Girl is set up to be your average "who dunnit" murder mystery. You are given an outline of a typical murder plot. A perfect wife's disappearance plunges her husband into a nightmare as it rips open ugly secrets about his marriage and, just maybe, his culpability in her death. In the first half of the book we are introduced to Nick and Amy as they revel in the happy bliss of marriage. Soon that mirage ebbs away after both individuals are laid off from their jobs and a sudden move from move New York to North Carthage, Mo., where Nick ailing parents suddenly need him at their side. Since Nick and Amy were so good playing the part of a perfect couple, no one ever suspected that the marriage was fraying, until the fateful morning on their fifth anniversary when Amy vanishes with every indication of foul play.
  With mounting evidence stacking up against Nick, his innocence is immediately questioned. His is incapable  of communicating any grief over the sudden loss of his darling wife, which doesn't help him in the case at all.  As a reader, I was even appalled at his insensitivity, his ineptitude of not cooperating with the police, and his insistent whine about Amy's flaws. Soon I began to see the real Nick. A hollow man who used his wife to give himself an identity and resented her when he failed to live up to her expectations of a great husband, but does this mean he deserves to get tagged as his wife's killer? And if by the off chance that Nick is actually innocent then what really did happened with Amy? Flynn intersperses the mystery of Amy's disappearance with flashbacks from her diary, which allows us to get a chance to know Amy and her perspective of her failing marriage. Her silent cries, only written on paper, earn our sympathies.
  The first half of the book is purposely very slow as Flynn sets up the players of her story. We are given enough time to form our opinions about Nick and Amy from either their own accounts or what they've written about themselves. We are manipulated to believe certain things are true until the huge twist at the half way mark of the book is revealed and then we are asked to re-evaluate the characters. My feelings for the characters changed quickly like a mood ring and I couldn't wrap my heads around how incredibly sick and twisted these characters can be.
  After discussing this book with several others who have also read it, the twist will either make you love the book and continue to read it in a feverish attempt to finish it or hate the book and make you regret for falling for the hype. I, personally, thought the twist was incredible and raised the book from your average murder mystery to a psychological cat and mouse thriller. I was so happy to find a book that I couldn't predict in advance. Many readers have also complained that the ending was anticlimactic  but I would have to disagree. I think Gone Girl is one of those rare thrillers whose revelations actually intensify its suspense instead of dissipating it. The final pages are chilling and I don't think it could have ended any other way. Once I finished the book, I had to find someone to talk about it and that is why it will be my selection for my turn to host the book club in January.

Rating: 5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, violence, implied sex, and disturbing themes. Recommended for mature teens and adults only.

If you like you like this book try: The Girl in the Box by Sheila Dalton, Our Dailly Bread by Lauren B. Davis, Never Tell a Lie by Hallie Ephron, Dare Me by Megan E. Abbott, Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Hayes
Rummanah Aasi
  While the Heroes of Olympus is a spin off series of the Percy Jackson, I highly recommend that readers read the Percy Jackson series first in order to get a proper introduction to Camp Half-Blood and several major characters that are from the prior series as well as the first two books in the Heroes of Olympus series. Otherwise readers may feel like they are dropped into a middle of a series and be a bit confused as to what is going on. The review below does not contain any spoilers for The Mark of Athena.

Description (from the publisher): In The Son of Neptune, Percy, Hazel, and Frank met in Camp Jupiter, the Roman equivalent of Camp Halfblood, and traveled to the land beyond the gods to complete a dangerous quest. The third book in the Heroes of Olympus series will unite them with Jason, Piper, and Leo. But they number only six--who will complete the Prophecy of Seven?
   The Greek and Roman demigods will have to cooperate in order to defeat the giants released by the Earth Mother, Gaea. Then they will have to sail together to the ancient land to find the Doors of Death. What exactly are the Doors of Death? Much of the prophecy remains a mystery. . . .
With old friends and new friends joining forces, a marvelous ship, fearsome foes, and an exotic setting, The Mark of Athena promises to be another unforgettable adventure by master storyteller Rick Riordan.

Review: Thus far all of Rick Riordan's mythology/adventure books have followed a simple formula: a group of heroes are given incredibly ominous and vague prophecy and in order to understand the prophecy and to avert the end of the world they must go on a quest. Riordan's formula is no different from the original Greek or Roman myths, but he brings a new angle in The Mark of Athena, the third book in his Heroes of Olympus series.
  The Mark of Athena is full of expected adventure and humor along with connections to classic myths, but we are also given an opportunity to witness character and relationship growth of the key characters involved.  The demigods embarked on the dark, twisty, and complex prophecy first mentioned in The Lost Hero, are from two camps, Camp Half-blood for the Greeks and Camp Jupiter for the Romans, who don't have very good diplomatic relations (and that's an understatement). Not only do these demigods have to work together, but they have to build trust, a working relationship, and eventually friendship in order to complete their quest. Riordan builds upon the great foundations of the characters in his other two installments of the Heroes of Olympus series. He successfully achieves this as the demigods also have to complete several mini-quests in addition to the large over-arching adventure.
   The mini-quests not only brings our heroes closer to solving their riddle, but the readers get a great opportunity to zero in on the characters.   This is further amplified when the narrative is once again from multiple point of views, which I didn't find difficult in following at all. We find each character alone and are able to feel their fears, frustrations, and insecurities when they are forced to be in the spotlight instead of on the outer fringes. For example in the Percy Jackson series, Percy is aptly the star hero and though Annabeth was a very strong secondary character, she remained so for the entire series. In The Mark of Athena, we finally get a chance to be in her shoes and see how she uses her trademark wit, smarts, and wisdom to be a heroine.
  I really enjoyed how The Mark of Athena forces our heroes to question themselves. Riordan spends time asking readers what it means to be a hero, to be selfish, and whether or not the gods (major and/or minor) acted out the right way in some of the popular myths, particularly in the case of Athena and Hercules. It's nice to know that even though these characters have divine blood in them, they also retain their very human aspects, which is why I think so many readers are able to connect with them on many levels.
  Though the book is at a hefty tome, less than 600 pages, you can't help but devour it. I finished in less than a week because I needed to know what happened next. Readers will most likely be so immersed in the story and action that they probably wouldn't notice the page length. I do have to warn you that the book ends in a very clever yet cruel cliffhanger. The next book, House of Hades, does not come out until next year. It's going to be a long hard wait to find out what happens to our favorite heroes and heroines.

Rating: 5 stars

Curriculum Connection: English and Social Studies

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

If you like this book try: The House of Hades (Book 4 of the Heroes of Olympus series, available Fall 2013), Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan, Gods of Manhattan by Scott Mebus, The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh, Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu
Rummanah Aasi
    Suspenseful and chilling are the two words that best describes Tracey Bilen's debut novel, What She Left Behind. Readers looking for a character driven thriller may be disappointed, but those seeking for a page-turning plot What She Left Behind will fit your needs.

Description (from Goodreads): “Don’t even think of leaving… I will find you,” he whispered. “Guaranteed.”

Sara and her mom have a plan to finally escape Sara’s abusive father. But when her mom doesn’t show up as expected, Sara’s terrified. Her father says that she’s on a business trip, but Sara knows he’s lying. Her mom is missing—and her dad had something to do with it.
  With each day that passes, Sara’s more on edge. Her friends know that something’s wrong, but she won’t endanger anyone else with her secret. And with her dad growing increasingly violent, Sara must figure out what happened to her mom before it’s too late…for them both

Review: When we begin What She Left Behind, Sara and her mother are plotting to leave their town in a desperate attempt to escape from Sara's abusive father. They both agree to pack their bags with only their necessities and meet at the local Dairy Dream as planned, but her mother never shows up. Although her father claims she's on a business trip, Sara fears that something is terribly wrong. With her own growing anxiety and fears coupled with witnessing her father's increasingly erratic behavior, Sara puts on an exterior that says everything is okay until she can assemble enough clues to find her mother.
 Sara does a decent job in trying to be normal. She allows herself to get a bit sidetracked by getting involved in a budding romance with the high school football star. I was fine with the hint of romance in the book as it wasn't unnecessarily thrown in, but served a purpose. Sara's mother's disappearance follows her like a shadow so the light romance enables her to have just a few moments of lightness in her dark, dreary life. Despite the momentary smiles we witness during these moments of reprieve, we continuously feel Sara's isolation and confinement, which are clearly expressed in her free-writing assignments and internal dialogue.
  I often times wondered why Sara doesn't seek out help from the domestic abuse, but then I chillingly remembered that Sara's abusive father is a well known and liked retired cop in her small rural town, which means there is hardly anyone would either believe her or much worse, report back to her father. With the clock counting down, however, Sara has no choice in letting some people help her.
  Though I thought Sara was pretty likable, her father is repulsive but there is a very small part of me that felt sorry for him. We don't get too much information about her father, but we do know that he was traumatized by an incident on the job. He has also clearly suffers from mental illness which may have been sparked by the sudden death of Matt, Sara's brother. Sara's father has become delusional and acts as if Matt is still alive.  With a suspenseful plot and short chapters, Bilen effectively thrills the reader until the very last page and would be a good choice for high school reluctant readers. The ending reveals a chilling picture of domestic violence.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: The book contains strong violence and some language. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.  

If you like this book try: Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer, Freaks Like Us by Susan Vaught
Rummanah Aasi
Manga Mondays is a meme hosted by Alison at Alison Can Read where bloggers can share their passion for reading mangas. It's a great place to get new manga titles to try and to meet new bloggers. At the moment, I've got sucked into the world of Nana where music is the back drop and fuels the characters' passions and love and heart break go hand in hand. I'm coming close to where the series is at a stand still and I'm nervous that the series will end in a cliffhanger of sorts.

Description: Blast is at the top of the charts, and the band is making all kinds of P.R. appearances. Nana just wants to sing though, and all the marketing is starting to wear on her. A party planned for the loyal fans might be just what she needs to cheer her up. But there are secrets about her past lurking in Osaka, and the magazine Search Weekly is determined to bring them to light!

Review: In Volume 16 of Nana, we take a nice break from the melodrama surrounding the various romantic relationships in the book. Normally, I don't mind the drama as it makes the reading quicker, but I get so frustrated because I want to see all the characters (well, except for evil Takumi) to be happy! Happiness in the world of Nana is fleeting, which gives the series a melancholy touch.
  As this volume unfolds, the plot focuses on the tabloids crazy obsession to find more dirt on Nana O. especially as her band Blast's popularity surges and sits comfortably at the top of the charts. Since they were unable to publish the rumored "Ren's having an affair!" headline thanks to Taukmi's smart diversion, the tabloids are now hunting any snippet of information regarding Nana's past, particularly about her family history.  
 Even though we are into 16 volumes of this series, we are left much in the dark about Nana's past. We do know that she was abandoned by her mother at a very young age and was raised by her grandmother. In this volume, we discover that Nana's mother is still alive, has been remarried, and now has two children. There has been no communication between Nana and her mother, who she presumed was dead. Nana has not even visited her hometown nor shows any desire to do so. So when Misato, Blast's biggest fan now turned Assistant Manager, and Nana K. catch wind about Nana's mother they try to keep the news away from Nana O. in fear of making her sad and angry. What Misato and Nana K. don't know is that Nana's half sister is actually at the party that Blast held for its biggest fans. Nana's half sister, also named Misato, is adorable. She really looks uncannily like Nana O. with the same hair style and physical features. The two girls meet but only as singer and fan.
  While I understand Nana K. and Assistant Manager Misato's attention of wanting to keep this information from Nana, I do think they are being a bit too presumptuous and cuddling Nana. Unlike Nana K. who falls apart with any hint of sadness that touches her life, Nana O. has endured pain and made stronger of it. Of course, Nana O. will be devastated to find out the news about her mother and siblings, but I think that continuous hole she feels inside of her might just close. 
  Hanging over this possibility is the cloud of doom that scares me most, as we are given a cruel sneak peek at the future where Nana O. has disappeared and feared dead. How's that for an attention grabber? 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Language, sexual situations, and crude humor. Recommended for mature teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: Nana Vol 17 by Ai Yazawa, Honey and Clover by Chica Umino, Tramps Like Us by Yayoi Ogawa
Rummanah Aasi
  Happy Friday, Everyone! Today I'm pleased to have author E.K. Henry here to give us a little sneak peek to her book Freak. Before we get to the interview, here is a little info about E.K.: E.K. Henry has always had a passion for books ever since she can remember. She has grown up spending countless nights being swept away by her favorite books into the wee hours of the night. She lives with her son and husband in Tennessee. Freak is her debut novel.

Welcome to Books in the Spotlight, E.K.! Freak is a paranormal story with dystopian elements. What made you decide to blend these two genres in your story?  

Well, I did not really plan for it to be that way; it kind of just happened.  I came up with the idea for Freak while reading a story about a Mormon family that was getting their own reality television show.  Most of the family seemed thrilled about the idea, but one child in particular wasn't.  They didn't want the world to see how different their family was from mainstream society.  This story got me thinking about what it would be like to be forced to participate in a show that was meant to spotlight how different you are than everybody else.  I tried to imagine the worst scenario that I would hate to be put in myself, and that is how Freak was born. 

Books featuring vampires are pretty abundant. How did you make your book different? What draws you to these creatures of the night?  

Yes, vampire books are abundant, but that is actually what inspired me to write one.  I wanted to challenge myself to write a new twist.  That twist included having humans be the minority, vampires that could go out in the sun, and a reality television show.  I haven’t seen anything else out there that had all of those elements.

What are some of your favorite scenes or lines from the book?

 My favorite scene is actually a spoiler so I can’t go into too much detail, but the scene is where Juniper reveals to her friend, Abi, her thoughts on what the medicine has done to her friend.  When I was writing it, it took a twist that even I didn’t see coming.

Do you have a favorite vampire from books or movies? If so, who and why?  

I love the main character [Selene] in Underworld.  She is strong woman who stays true to herself.
If you could live in any paranormal world, either in books or movies, TV, where would you live and why?

I would live in any of Stephen King's books because I love the world he creates. I still blame him for my irrational fear of clowns.

Did anything surprise you while writing Freak?  

Yes, these characters took on  life of their own and quite frankly my nice outline that I created went out the window because the characters didn't want to behave and started doing what they wanted.

In less than 10 words, how would you describe Juniper? 

Determined and spirited

October is the month we gear up for Halloween. What is your most memorable Halloween?  

The Halloween where I dressed up like a killer clown.  I hate clowns and to be dressed like a psycho one freaked me the hell out, but I did it.  It made me feel empowered because I fought through a fear.

What can readers expect from Freak

A quick fun read that is full of action.

What's next for you? 

I am planning on at least a sequel.  There are also some novellas in the works that go deeper into some of the other character’s stories.

Readers, if you would like to know more about and contact E.K. Henry, please check out her website, Twitter, and email. You can also find her at Goodreads too. 

Be sure to check out the awesome giveaway that I'm currently running for Freak. Just click on the cover below to enter the giveaway. There is still plenty of time to enter!

Rummanah Aasi
  Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon is not a book I would have probably chosen on my own, but I have seen it on several library's summer reading suggestions. I did pick the book up as it selected by a member of the book club I recently joined.

Description (from the publisher): The lives of three strangers interconnect in unforeseen ways - and with unexpected consequences - in acclaimed author Dan Chaon's gripping, brilliantly written new novel. Longing to get on with his life, Miles Cheshire nevertheless can't stop searching for his troubled twin brother, Hayden, who has been missing for ten years. Hayden has covered his tracks skillfully, moving stealthily from place to place, managing along the way to hold down various jobs and seem, to the people he meets, entirely normal. But some version of the truth is always concealed. A few days after graduating from high school, Lucy Lattimore sneaks away from the small town of Pompey, Ohio, with her charismatic former history teacher. They arrive in Nebraska, in the middle of nowhere, at a long-deserted motel next to a dried-up reservoir, to figure out the next move on their path to a new life. But soon Lucy begins to feel quietly uneasy. My whole life is a lie, thinks Ryan Schuyler, who has recently learned some shocking news. In response, he walks off the Northwestern University campus, hops on a bus, and breaks loose from his existence, which suddenly seems abstract and tenuous. Presumed dead, Ryan decides to remake himself - through unconventional and precarious means

Review: When I started Await Your Reply, I wasn't sure if I would like it. The disjointed narrative structure took a while to get use to, especially when I found myself rereading certain sections over and over again with a sinking feeling that I must have missed something because the transition to other characters were whiplash fast. It's not until reflecting on the story and having an insightful book discussion did I seem to actually digest the story.
  Await Your Reply may be set up like your ordinary suspense/thriller read, but it was unexpectedly philosophical which was a nice surprise and added a complex layer to the story. The book's central theme of the mutability of identity, which Dan Chaon explores through three seemingly (at first) unrelated narratives is absorbing. To narrow this broad theme a bit further is analyzing the extent of how identity is influenced, reinforced, or even granted to a person by others - especially those others whom we consider authority figures. Can a soul have more than one identity? Don't we all have multiple personalities if we put in different social situations? If so, can the personalities be completely separate?
  In a way the three stories in Await Your Reply are each examining the dangers of relying to heavily on others for one's sense of self. If you define yourself as a function of someone else, what happens when that someone else is not who you think they are? What if they disappear from your life and you have to go back to square one? Ryan, whom we meet in a gruesome introduction, has just met a man claiming to be his real father and so estranges himself from his newly-discovered-to-be-adoptive parents. Lucy is unable to cope with the death of her parents, abandons her sister, and runs away with a high school teacher in hopes of starting a new life full of possibilities  And Miles is lost and struggling to find his metaphorical phantom limb, his missing twin brother, who he's realizing has become insane. The characters, some invoking sympathies while others make us pensive, appalled, are constantly awaiting the reply of the other - the real father, the older lover, the missing twin brother to help make them whole  because they cannot close the loop on their own selves until that feedback is received.
  I enjoyed the deeper aspect of the book, while I wasn't too thrilled with the suspense part of the book. The first have of the book is extremely slow and that's where the philosophical portion takes root. The second half is more plot heavy and moves quickly. Unfortunately, the author doesn't spend much time showing the intimacy of the different relationships posed in the book, which I think could have added more depth to the story. Out of the three story threads presented, the Miles/Hayden tale was the most enjoyable to me, but I couldn't really figure out the timeline of those events as it jumped around quite a lot. The Lucy/George tale had a hint of Lolita in the story, but didn't the relationship didn't really do much as you couldn't really see the chemistry between these two supposed romantic couples. I felt that the Ryan/Jay story suffered a bit from not really have a lot for the characters to do, but kept suspense in the novel as their stories seemed to always end on cliffhangers until we returned to these characters.
  If you're looking for a meaty suspense read, I would give Await Your Reply a try. The plot twist and how these three different story lines converge is interesting though it might take patience to get there. Overall, I enjoyed it much more than I originally thought.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: Strong language, suggestions of sex, and strong violence. Recommended for mature teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb, Blame by Michelle Huneven, American Rust by Philipp Meyer 
Rummanah Aasi
  Usually when you think of paranormal your mind instantly goes to vampires, werewolves, zombies, demons, and et. al., but what about highly gifted humans? Storm, the first book in the Elemental series by Brigid Kemmerer is a refreshingly human paranormal romance that will keep you glued to the pages.

Description (from Goodreads): Becca Chandler is suddenly getting all the guys all the ones she doesn't want. Ever since her ex-boyfriend spread those lies about her. Then she saves Chris Merrick from a beating in the school parking lot. Chris is different. Way different: he can control water just like his brothers can control fire, wind, and earth. They're powerful. Dangerous. Marked for death.
  And now that she knows the truth, so is Becca. Secrets are hard to keep when your life's at stake. When Hunter, the mysterious new kid around school, turns up with a talent for being in the wrong place at the right time, Becca thinks she can trust him. But then Hunter goes head-to-head with Chris, and Becca wonders who's hiding the most dangerous truth of all. The storm is coming.

Review: I had no idea what to expect when I picked up Storm, but after reading many positive reviews from fellow trusted bloggers I knew I was in good hands. Reading Storm was a lot like watching a really good pilot episode of a promising TV show. You get introduced to a large cast of characters, some of which you align yourself instantly after a few dialogues are exchanged while others you release a sigh of frustration when the opposing side appears. The closest thing I could describe Storm to is a paranormal re-imagining of one of my favorite reads growing up: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Both books contain similar elements, particularly the strong bond between a group of brothers that are left alone and struggle to survive along with the feeling of always being on the outer fringes of their society, which enthralled me the moment I began to read the book to the excitement of knowing the story continues in a new installment.
   Storm is not a complex read and the writing may not draw your attention, but the story is very straightforward. The dialogue like the characters feel realistic and natural. The series revolves around the Merrick brothers who all have a very strong elemental connection. Eldest brother and sole legal guardian Michael controls earth, where as the twins Gabriel and Nick control fire and air respectively. Youngest brother Chris can control water. All four of them are far more powerful than they should be which causes the rift among other Elementals and inspires fear and hate.
  When we first meet Chris, he is at his most vulnerable state both physically and emotionally. He has been ambushed and beaten to a pulp by two older boys. Chris can't use his powers to defend himself because he has yet learned to master his strength and is afraid to lose control. Luckily, Becca comes to his rescue, some how wards off the boys, and takes him home. There she is met with much hostility from the other Merrick boys, who are suspicious of her kindness. Chris doesn’t really know Becca though they share some classes together. He is definitely aware of rumors of her promiscuity that follows her like a shadow. Becca, however, is far from the girl she is perceived to be. Smart and snarky, she avoids the spotlight and tries to fight against slander. I think she sees similarities between herself and Chris. Then, suddenly, she is thrust into the middle of Chris’s drama, and a gorgeous new boy is showing a real interest in her.
  Yes, there is a love triangle brewing in the story and normally I would moan and say "Not again" but while reading Storm, I didn't have any qualms about it because I liked how Kemmerer takes her time to unfold all the individual relationships with a natural pacing with just enough surprises to keep us on our toes. I would have liked more romantic moments in the book, but I really do think this is a budding romance that will definitely become sweeter as it grows.
  While there is no cliffhanger per se at the end of Storm, there are many unanswered questions left. I can't wait until I read the next book which features Gabriel. This would be a series that I wouldn't hesitate in recommending to teen boys as there is plenty of action and the romance doesn't overtake the plot. As a side note, I highly suggest reading the prequel found at the back of the book (really publishers? how does that make sense?) to really understand Michael. After reading his beginnings, he may not seem as prickly in Storm. Personally, I think he's an awesome older brother trying to do the best that he can.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Strong language, underage drinking, attempted sexual assault, and crude sexual humor. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Chronicles of Nick series by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Intertwined series by Gena Showalter, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Rummanah Aasi
  The week would seem incomplete without reviewing a volume of Nana, the popular manga series where love and heart break go hand in hand. Reading this manga series is like going on an emotional roller-coaster every week. Always anxious to see who is enjoying happiness and who is wallowing in sorrow.

Description (from Goodreads): One of the tabloids hounding Blast and Trapnest have photos that make it look like Reira and Ren are having an affair. With Nana and Ren's engagement recently made public, the photos could spell doom for both bands. Takumi's willing to do whatever it takes to save his band, but how will it affect Nana K. and the happily ever after she's still hoping for?

Review: After Search’s cruel engagement gift which contained suggestive photos of Ren and Riera at the end of volume fourteen, this volume opens with the fallout from that and Takumi’s cunning efforts to keep the photos and bad publicity out of the papers. Unfortunately, the ramifications of the photos aren't easily rectified as Nana O's and Ren's relationship begins to fray further and they have to confront one another. Nana K. and Takumi are finally get married, thanks to Takumi’s sly plans of diverting the intention from Nana O. and Ren to himself and Nana K. Yasu and Miu begin to solidify their relationship as well, which makes me really happy because both of these characters do so much for other people's happiness. Of course all this new news brings Nana O’s abandonment issues to the fore front as she watches the most important people in her life drifting further away from her. Nana O. isn't a perfect heroine by any means and she can be quite self centered, but you can understand how she uses Yasu and Nana K. as her own anchor. In the earlier volumes, she came off as a strong, independent, force of nature, but I think she's terrified of being abandoned again and her fear is quickly triggered.  Like Nana O. and Ren, Shin, too is dealing with the aftermath of the Search incident as Reira, suddenly aware of how vulnerable her world is to scandal, suggests they stop seeing each other. I was incredibly sad for Shin as I think he has finally fallen in love with a person who returns his feelings without making him feel like a prostitute.
  Nana can easily follow the path of a soap-opera with the wild melodramatic plot twists, but what I think that elevates this story from that level is the attention to human interactions in the series. With her brilliant close-up shots of the characters, you can actually delve deeper into the psychology of each of the characters. No character is absolutely good or evil. Even as much as I hate Takumi (and boy do I hate this guy), I can't help but give him kudos for thinking on his feet. I also love the simple inner monologue lines that are written on the page which can exude so much truth that it can make you flinch with its brutal honesty. It is this attention to the details that keep me riveted and wanting to continue reading this series.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Sexual situations, crude humor, some language, and nudity. Recommended for mature teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: Nana Vol 16 by Ai Yazawa, Honey and Clover by Chica Umino, Tramps Like Us by Yayoi Ogawa
Rummanah Aasi
  Happy Monday! I have another wonderful opportunity to introduce you to a brand new author and Lucy Day, the heroine of Deadgirl by B.C. Johnson. Lucy was suppose to have a great time on her first date with Zack. Instead she gets killed and wakes up alive the next morning trying to sort things out. Help me welcome Lucy to the blog and learn about her current predicament. If you're interested to learn more about Lucy, check out the giveaway at the bottom of this post.

  Before we get to the interview, here is the book cover and description of Deadgirl by B.C. Johnson:

Fifteen-year-old Lucy Day falls between the gears in the machinery of the afterlife. She is murdered while on her first date, but awakens a day later, completely solid and completely whole. She has no hunger for brains, blood, or haunting, so she crosses “zombie,” “vampire,” and “ghost” off her list of re-life possibilities. But figuring out what she is becomes the least of her worries when Abraham, Lucy’s personal Grim Reaper, begins dogging her, dead-set on righting the error that dropped her back into the spongy flesh of a living girl.

Lucy must put her mangled life back together, escape re-death, and learn to control her burgeoning psychic powers while staying one step ahead of Abraham. But when she learns the devastating price of coming back from the dead, Lucy is forced to make the hardest decision of her re-life—a decision that could save her loved ones...or kill them.

Hey Lucy. Welcome to the blog! In Twitter style, how would you describe yourself?

Confusingly hilarious, occasionally terrified, slightly less stubborn than a herd of donkeys. Atlanta High School resident student smartass.

Who is Zack?

Zack is . . . complicated. We had a mess of a non-relationship our Freshman year. One of those "will they won't they ah crap they messed it up" kind of deals. If either of us had guts or a working head on our shoulders things might have turned out differently.

Zack is smart, Zack is brave, Zack makes me want to be a better person just by being around him. Zack makes me stronger, and I like to think I make him stronger too. I don't know.

What was the first thought that popped into your head when Zack asked you on a date?

Probably something like "AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH." What do you think when you try not to pee yourself? I guess I just couldn't believe he'd finally asked, really. Why had he finally asked? What had taken a year of flirting and significant glances to finally say "Hey Luce, wanna hit the movies? By the way, I want to kiss you."

Unfortunately, your dream date didn't happen, but what did you hope for?

Certainly not for what happened. I don't know. It was my first date - I'm not exactly an expert. A million Julia Roberts / Kate Hudson movies have told me there ought to be flowers, a stunning act of heroism, maybe lips. Yeah, lips. Lips are good. Oh, and maybe the coat-over-the-rain puddle thing. I'm a sucker for the classics. If somehow a puppy could have been involved . . .

What are you exactly?

Lucy Day, fifteen-year-old girl who is completely normal and nothing at all weird happened to her. Some people disappear for a day. It happens.

In honesty? I've heard the word Phantom thrown around, but I don't know what any of that means. My sole source of information is a mute dude. It's less "ironic" and more "terrifically irritating." I tell you this - I'm alive. I'm not a monster. Woe to the person who tries to disagree.

Best thing about being re-animated? Worst thing?

Best thing? Not bleeding out in a bank parking lot. I'd call that the incredible upside.

Down side? I guess it's a toss up between "being stalked by a monster made of light" and "never having to sleep." I'll tell you what - sleeping is highly underrated. Do you have any idea how hard it is to fill the time when you don't sleep? I guess I need to take up crochet or sculpting or brain surgery. I've got a LOT of time to kill.

What's the most important lesson that you learned so far?

Never give up. Never stop. Never let anyone tell you what you can't be, and never let anyone try to take from you what's yours. All the strength you'll ever need is already there.

There's always a catch with getting a second shot at life, what's yours?

Let's just say that my body doesn't run off sandwiches anymore.

If you could change one thing about yourself it would be...

If I look in the mirror, plenty. Heh. I guess I'd say my heart - I have no ability to hold back. I just can't. I wish I could get a rein on that thing, but I don't think I'm in the driver's seat. I just feel.I love hard, I die hard, and I'm fiercely protective of my friends. I make bad decisions sometimes, I mess up, I leap to spectacularly wrong conclusions. I wish my heart wasn't pumping right there on my sleeve. I guess I'm saying a cold-calculating-logic injection wouldn't go amiss.

What would you like to say or do if you were to meet Abraham, the Grim Reaper, face to face?

I'll go with the "non-profanity" version. I guess it'd be something like: "You just signed up for the hardest gig of your life, buddy. I'm a weed with deep roots, I'm a cockroach, I'm Superman. Good luck you son of - " Sorry. No profanity, got it.

Thanks for stopping by, Lucy, and I hope you figure things out quickly.


This giveaway is open to U.S. and international readers! Please read the details below:

For U.S. READERS: ONE (1) lucky reader will get 1 (one) signed paperback copy of Deadgirl along with 1 (one) signed bookmark
For INTERNATIONAL READERS: ONE (1) lucky reader will get 1 (one) ebook copy of Deadgirl

To enter the giveaway, please leave your name and email address so I can contact you if you win. The giveaway will be held until SATURDAY, November 17th. The winners (one U.S. and one international) will be chosen randomly by and will announced on my blog on SUNDAY, November 18th. Good luck! 
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