Rummanah Aasi
  Books about time traveling are very popular. It is very interesting to see how different authors approach the concept of time. The Loop by Shandy Lawson is very much like the movie, Groundhogs Day, where the characters relive the same day over and over until they find a way to break their loop of time. Thank you to Disney Hyperion and Netgalley for an advanced reader's copy of the book!

Description from the Publisher: Ben and Maggie have met, fallen in love, and died together countless times. Over the course of two pivotal day--both the best and worst of their lives--they struggle again and again to resist the pull of fate and the force of time itself. With each failure, they return to the beginning of their end, a wild road trip that brings them to the scene of their own murders and into the hands of the man who is destined to kill them.
  As time circles back on itself, events become more deeply ingrained, more inescapable for the two kids trapped inside the loop. The closer they come to breaking out, the tighter fate's clutches seem to grip them. They devise a desperate plan to break free and survive the days ahead, but what if Ben and Maggie's only shot at not dying is surviving apart?

Review: The Loop is a perfect example of a really clever premise marred by flawed execution. Ben and Maggie are two teenagers who relive their violent deaths over and over when they find themselves stuck in a time loop. Ben and Maggie have met several times, but they just don't quite remember. Both experience a very strong sense of deja vu when they accidentally bump into one another at a mall in New Orleans. Their innocent and awkwardly cute encounter leads to attempted murder, 24 hours on being on the run from authorities, an envelope full of racetrack winnings and a final showdown in a dirty storeroom, where they are shot in cold blood by the same criminal over and over for their misbegotten cash. Like many novels involving the themes of fatalism and time traveling, each time Ben and Maggie attempt to change the circumstances that lead to their demise, they are thwarted by fate, which keeps placing them in the bullets' paths. Is escape possible, or are Ben and Maggie doomed to repeat the worst day of their lives forever?
   The Loop does not lack in action. The pace is relatively quick with short chapters, however, the author doesn't seem to take time to fully develop it. We are given rash explanations of what stated the time loop. For example Ben finds out about being in a time loop by a weird psychic on the street named Steve and quickly seems to accept it. Steve, like Ben, is also part of a time loop of his own but we are never told what happens to him before and after he meets Ben. Ben and Maggie supposedly meet at the racetrack and receiver their large sum of money, however, we never see this happening. Their loop is only regulated to meeting one another and are quickly confronted by a man who basically tells them to give him the money (which seems to magically appear) or die. Big questions surrounding Ben and Maggie's time loop are either lightly touched upon or never addressed. The unimaginative answer to Ben and Maggie's time loop trouble is completely unsatisfying and frustrating.
  While I was somewhat okay with a weak plot as I didn't have any great expectations of it, I was completely disappointed with the lack of character development of our two protagonists. Since the book starts in medias res, I kept hoping for more background to flesh out Ben and Maggie. While we do get a little bit more about Maggie, I would have liked a lot more. I was never convinced that these two characters were romantically linked but they rather had been stuck together at the wrong place and wrong time. I really think that focusing on the characters a bit more would answer a lot of the questions I had the plot. For example, why are two teens at a racetrack to begin with? How did they meet and decide to place their bets together? Why was there only one person who is after them? Unfortunately by the time I finished the book, I didn't really know Ben and Maggie much better than I did at the beginning of the book. As a result, I didn't really care a whole lot about them and the book. If you're looking for a good book about time traveling, I suggest looking somewhere else.

Rating: 2 stars

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

If you like this book try: Tempest by Julie Cross, The Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher
Rummanah Aasi
  I'm not a fan of action flicks. My idea of a great movie isn't watching things blow up or seeing two guys beat each other to a pulp. I need depth, a story, and characters that are three dimensional that I can root for in my action movies such as the Bourne series, which sucks me in regardless of how many times I've watched the series. Boy Nobody, a new edge-of-your-seat thriller series by Allen Zadoff reminded me of good, quality action films. I had a really hard time putting Boy Nobody down and I think a lot of readers will have the same problem. Many thanks to Little, Brown for providing me with an advanced reader's copy of the book. If you're interested, you can enter the giveaway for the ARC at the end of my review.

Description:  They needed the perfect assassin.

Boy Nobody is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinks much about. He shows up in a new high school in a new town under a new name, makes a few friends, and doesn't stay long. Just long enough for someone in his new friend's family to die-of "natural causes." Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, moving on to the next target.

But when he's assigned to the mayor of New York City, things change. The daughter is unlike anyone he has encountered before; the mayor reminds him of his father. And when memories and questions surface, his handlers at The Program are watching. Because somewhere deep inside, Boy Nobody is somebody: the kid he once was; the teen who wants normal things, like a real home and parents; a young man who wants out. And who just might want those things badly enough to sabotage The Program's mission.

Review: An unnamed teen assassin saw the life of his father ripped away by a close friend when he was 12. Since then, he's been under the employ of "Mother" and "Father," the heads of an organization called "The Program" that uses children as hired killers. Boy Nobody is one of the best assassins "The Program" has ever seen. He is distant from his marks, only building relationships with them so can manipulate the situation to his benefit. He is also professional and always finishes the job smoothly and cleanly without a mess. The killings all have low levels of blood and gore and usually look like accidents so he can escape the scene without any suspicion. He completes his missions with no questions asked and then waits for his next job.
  "Mother" and "Father" have tapped him with a new job: killing the mayor of New York City. A simple job quickly gets complicated when he develops feelings for the mayor's daughter. Instead of relying on the cliched romance, Zadoff emphasizes Boy Nobody's lack of a real life, particularly the void of human interaction and affection. When the mayor and the mayor's daughter actually feel like people to him, Boy Nobody begins to ask questions about his origins and how he has lead to The Program.
   Zadoff's chapters are short, to-the-point, and almost always ends of the height of action, mirroring the narrative voice of his protagonist. I had a very hard time finding a spot to put down the book. His nameless, tough-as-nails lead character has just the right balance of cunning, heart and conscience to win my respect and admiration. The plot speeds along seamlessly with plenty of action and drama. I was delighted to find some twist and turns that surprised me, especially how the book ends. I can't wait to share this book with my male teens who are always on the lookout for a great read that isn't derailed by an overwhelming romance plot thread. I would even recommend this one to reluctant readers as the neck-breaking action will surely keep them turning pages. I'm eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series, which I hope comes out soon.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, sexual innuendo, underage drinking, and PG-13 violence. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier, Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz, Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum


Thanks to Little, Brown I have an ARC of Boy Nobody to giveaway.  To enter, simply leave your name and email address so I can contact you if you win. This giveaway is open to U.S. mailing addresses only. The winner will be selected by and the giveaway will run until FRIDAY, 7/12/13 at 11 PM EST. The winner will be announced on my blog on SATURDAY, 7/13/13. Good luck!
Rummanah Aasi
  I haven't participated in Manga Mondays for quite some time due to time constraints. 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.

Description: The exclusive St. Kleio Academy is in jeopardy. Kai and his following have become terrorists who vow to protect those who remain at the academy. Rockwell, the head of the Academy, calls for Shiro to end his time at the school and move on to his next step: being the ultimate protector of St. Kelo Academy like his his original. What does being protector entail?

Review: Unlike other mangas that I've read, I read a volume of Afterschool Charisma at least twice. that's not to say that I put the volume down or that I become disinterested in it but rather the plot becomes more complicated with each volume. In this volume, we learn that Shiro is a clone of the person who created the St. Kelo Academy. He is caught in the middle of helping his friends by working with the Academy and joining the extreme terrorist group created by Kai.
  When he unexpectedly graduates from the Academy, he is given the huge responsibility to take care of the Academy. The Academy is still very much a mystery. From what Shiro is told, it was the vision that the clones of great and infamous historical figures is to lead society in the right direction. One wonders if that is the real reason or if it's the reason that sounds the best.
  Shiro is now educated by clone Leonardo De Vinci, where he is to learn how to become a leader. Once he arrived, he discovers some surprises such as an older clone Freud and even Marie Curie, who Shiro (and myself) believed to be dead. As Shiro tries to wrap his head around his new surroundings, Kai and the terrorists appear on public television to expose St. Kleio in hopes of getting the public sympathies how the clones are treated.
   Just like other volumes of this series, more questions are raised than answered. How does exposing the St. Kleio Academy help either side? What will become of St. Kleio in the meantime? I guess I have to wait until October to know.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some sexual innuendo and mature themes. Recommended for older teens and up.

If you like this book try: Afterschool Charisma Vol. 8 by Unwind by Neal Shusterman, Hetalia: Axis Powers by 
Rummanah Aasi
  I listed Magicalamity on my reading recommendations for Spring Break this year. Magicalamity reads like a Pixar movie that is full of adventure, mystery, humor, and as the title suggests, magic.

Description: Tom is in shock. He's just discovered that his dad is an escaped fairy on the run. And that he must trust his life to three dangerous fairy godmothers he's never met. Two of them are hardened criminals, and one falls out of the window when she tries to fly . . . Will their mad magic be enough to help Tom rescue his dad from the clutches of some killer fairies?

Review: Magicalamity is a fun filled fantasy that has spies, secret organizations, fairy godmothers, flying carpets, and of course magic. Tom Harding is under the mistaken impression that he is a normal young boy until his parents disappear and he finds a bumbling fairy in his kitchen, making eggs for breakfast. It turns out that she is one of his three fairy godmothers, who answered his father's call for help. His father is a fairy who is arrested for attempted murder and is in mortal danger, his mother has been hidden in a jar of sun-dried tomatoes, and Tom is actually a demisprite, a half fairy who is an abomination in the fairy kingdom. Despite all this confusing introduction to the news, it is clear to Tom that he will have to save his parents from the fury of the ruling Falconer family. With the help of his fairy godmothers and Pindar, a renegade Falconer, he uses his determination, courage, and clear-sightedness to bring the story to a satisfying resolution. The characters are lively and the plot quickly moves in short chapters. I couldn't help but chuck at the sly humor and clever asides the author uses such as the Realm Wide Web with the Abracadabra browser. Your readers, both boys and girls, looking for a fun book to read over the summer should definitely pick this one up.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some adult humor and themes that children may not understand. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
Rummanah Aasi
    When asked for a recommendation on a good romantic supernatural suspense series, one of my go-to authors is Lisa McMann. I absolutely adored her Wake trilogy, which grabbed my attention right away from the first book. The captivating and quickly moving plot and extremely likable characters are the main reasons I think McMann's books are hit with reluctant readers. You simply don't have a chance to be bored, especially when the author started a brand new, four book series called Visions. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series which is available now.

Description: Jules lives with her family above their restaurant, which means she smells like pizza most of the time and drives their double-meatball-shaped food truck to school. It’s not a recipe for popularity, but she can handle that. What she can’t handle is the recurring vision that haunts her. Over and over, Jules sees a careening truck hit a building and explode...and nine body bags in the snow.
   The vision is everywhere—on billboards, television screens, windows—and she’s the only one who sees it. And the more she sees it, the more she sees. The vision is giving her clues, and soon Jules knows what she has to do. Because now she can see the face in one of the body bags, and it’s someone she knows. Someone she has been in love with for as long as she can remember.

Review:  Crash is a mash-up between Romeo and Juliet and the horror movie series Final Destination. Julie Demarco keeps seeing on vision of an out-of-control snowplow crash into a restaurant, causing an explosion and killing several people inside on nearly every flat surface--billboards, televisions and road signs. With a depressed grandfather who committed suicide and a moody, hoarder father, she's almost certain that her visions is a sign of some mental illness. She keeps the terrifying images to herself, certain her Italian family will commit her if they find out about her visions. In addition to the puzzling and horrific images, the restaurant in jeopardy belongs to no one other than their rival pizza parlor, and one of the dead is Sawyer Angotti, Julie's one time good friend and her secret, lifelong crush and son of the adversarial restaurateur.
  McMann succeeds in creating another unput-downable supernatural thriller. With quick pacing, realistic dialogue, and the right amount of romance (which thankfully isn't insta-love), the story takes flight and I kept turning the pages to find out what would happen next. Julie is a strong female protagonist, who is aware of her shortcomings but her determination to thwart a disaster regardless of who is involved is admirable. Instead of impulsively plunging head first like most of the heroines we encounter, Julie uses clues from her ever more frequent visions to try to figure out the exact time of the crash in an attempt to prevent it from happening, risking her already shaky standing with Sawyer, her parents and her classmates. Her relationship with Sawyer and her siblings are natural. McMann fleshes out Sawyer's character as he becomes his own person as he and Julie discover some dark family secrets. My only complaint about Crash is the lack of explanation of how the vision works and I'm hoping this will become clearer as the four book series continues. While the book doesn't end in a cliffhanger per se, there are many questions left unanswered and I'm eagerly awaiting the release of the second book told from Sawyer's point of view called Bang, which is set to release later this fall.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language in the book and some disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Wake trilogy by Lisa McMann, The Bodyfinder series by Kimberly Derting, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Rummanah Aasi
  I absolutely loved Laura Lee Gulledges debut and Eisner Award nominee graphic novel Page by Paige and was so excited to see that she had a new graphic novel being released this year. Many thanks to Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams, for giving me an advanced copy of the graphic novel to read.

Description (from the Publisher): Wilhelmina “Will" Huxstep is a creative soul struggling to come to terms with a family tragedy. She crafts whimsical lamps, in part to deal with her fear of the dark. As she wraps up another summer in her mountain town, she longs for unplugged adventures with her fellow creative friends, Autumn, Noel, and Reese. Little does she know that she will get her wish in the form of an arts carnival and a blackout, courtesy of a hurricane named Whitney, which forces Will to face her fear of darkness.

Review: Willhemena, Will to her friends and family, is planning on spending a perfectly quiet summer working at her aunt's antiques shop, making lamps and spending time with her friends. She openly admits that she is afraid of the dark though we don't know the reason behind her fear. Is it a phobia or has some big event triggered her panic? Readers don't know for sure until Will slowly starts to break down her walls which is catalyzed by two fateful events quickly steer her plans off course: a chance meeting with a group of teens who are putting together an eclectic carnival and a savage summer storm named Whitney that will plunge her town into a prolonged blackout in its wake.
  Forced to confront her fears of the dark, both literal and figurative, Will finds herself stronger and happier than she could have imagined. Peppered with pop-culture references from Doctor Who to The Hunger Games and supported by Gulledge's stylish and life-like black-and-white illustrations, this sophomore graphic novel is upbeat despite Will's tragedy. The chapters are short and pack a lot of visual metaphors and foreshadowing of the tragedy that haunts Will. Will is an intensely likable character, as are her funky group of friends. I love how this book focuses on trauma and creativity, strength in community, and insightful truths that don't come off sounding too preachy. Quirky, intelligent, and fresh, Will and Whit is another winner from Laura Lee Gulledge and I can't wait to see what she has lined up next.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some PG-13 language. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Page by Paige by Gulledge, Laura Lee, Drama by Raina Telgeimer
Rummanah Aasi
  Even though I'm on a blogging break, I wanted to take some time and introduce to you a suspenseful read by D.A. Bale. Before I let D.A. talk about her expectations of what makes a good suspense/mystery book, check out the cover and synopsis for her book, Running into the Darkness, and be sure to check out the cool giveaway at the end of the post.

Death follows Dr. Samantha Bartlett throughout her life until it claims everyone close to her. There's one powerful man responsible on whom Samantha sets her sights for revenge. The price is her soul. For centuries, sex has been the weapon of it's her turn.
“I never intended to kill the President. As a doctor, I swore an oath to protect life – not take it. But that was before...”

Second year resident, Dr. Samantha Bartlett, is swept from the frigid New York winter to once again confront the sting of death back home – and face those she left behind. But she’s not alone. A strange man she dubs Shades haunts her every step as she seeks answers to the inferno which claimed her grandmother, an eerie reminder of her parents’ deaths. The secrets Samantha uncovers forever changes her image of those she only thought she knew.

Confronted by Shades, Samantha joins a secret underworld known only as the Elite, where a web of power and control is woven deep within governments worldwide. Their sights are set on the power structure of the United States, and Samantha becomes the unlikely key to infiltrating the White House at its most intimate levels. 
The quest for blood threatens to destroy Samantha. From the darkness there is no escape.

D.A. on what makes a good suspense/mystery read
  Have you ever picked up a novel and got what you expected?  Now let me ask another question.
Was this a good thing? Call me weird – and yes, I’m okay with that designation – but I’m not necessarily happy with the expected when I read.  Don’t get me wrong here; there are certain anticipations with every genre. When you read romance, you know the guy will eventually get the girl.  With mystery, you’re trying to figure out who did it.  Horror, you expect to pee your pants when the boogeyman jumps out from under the bed.  Readers are typically perusing the shelves for something familiar from their genre of choice.

 But what if you were surprised?  Pleasantly surprised? Thrillers and suspense are some of my favorites:  action, adventure, and the bad guys getting their butts kicked by the good guy/girl.  However, when I figure out pretty much the entire plot in the first few pages, it turns what could have been an interesting read into a real letdown. So in my opinion, what makes a good thriller?  I’m glad you asked.
   Thrillers are usually known for action, action, and lots of action, but I also like moments woven into the story that allow me to get to know the primary characters.  What is it in their backgrounds that play into motivation for why they make the choices they do throughout the novel?  How have their choices led them to where they are?  These tidbits give them purpose, help me determine whether their actions have merit and make them feel three-dimensional – like real people.  I need to feel connected to them in some way.

 Layers to the storyline add depth and dimension, keeping me guessing as to what potential direction(s) the novel could take.  It’s a good book when I am not sure what happens next or how a character or event ties into the main arc.  Many stories are very linear:  point A leads to point B, to point C, and so on until we get to point Z.  That works for a lot of people.  But I love the novels that take me from point A to point M, back to D and so on.  That’s rather the way I write too!  But the important thing is that all of these little loose ends eventually tie together somehow.  If secondary or tertiary characters and situations are tossed in willy-nilly and never meet the main arc somewhere, it just seems more like unnecessary filler.

 What about the bad guys?  They need to be REALLY bad!  Not caricatures, mind you, but nasty, sick, twisted, and messed up characters who don’t give a rats-rear-end about anyone but themselves and the power they crave.  If you have any knowledge of history, it’s full of super nasty individuals (Hitler anyone?).  You many have experienced a few bad guys of your own in real life – I have too.  When there’s a really good bad guy, it makes their comeuppance that much sweeter.

Believe it or not, a dose of humor makes for a good thriller read too.  Humor gives another element of depth to people, as long as it is still true to the character and isn’t too disruptive to the story flow.  It also allows for a bit of a breather in the midst of non-stop action and when the stakes ramp up and threaten to spin out of control.

So give me a good thriller to read any day, as long as it keeps me on my toes, on the edge of my seat, and still guessing about what’s coming when I turn the page.  This, in my opinion, is what takes the expected into the realm of pleasantly surprised.  Happy reading!

 Thanks for the enlightening post, D.A.! If you would like to purchase a copy of the book, it is available at Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.

To learn more about D.A., please visit her website, on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Tribute Books is kindly giving away a $25 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash to one lucky reader! To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter below:
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Rummanah Aasi
  While I'm taking a blog break, I wanted to let you know about a really interesting YA paranormal romance series called The Forbidden Trilogy by 

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