Rummanah Aasi

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I'm in my final stages prepping for the beginning of the new school year and won't be able to keep up with the blog. I'm already up to my eyeballs with work! I plan on being back to my regular schedule by September 2nd. Thanks for your patience and hope to see you all soon!

Rummanah Aasi
  I've always been a fan of multicultural and immigrant reads. When I read the synopsis to Jennifer Zobair's Painted Hands, it hit close to home and I knew I had to read it. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for a chance to read an advanced reader's copy of the book.

Description (from the Publisher): Muslim bad girl Zainab Mir has just landed a job working for a post-feminist, Republican Senate candidate. Her best friend Amra Abbas is about to make partner at a top Boston law firm. Together they've thwarted proposal-slinging aunties, cultural expectations, and the occasional bigot to succeed in their careers. What they didn't count on? Unlikely men and geopolitical firestorms. 
    When a handsome childhood friend reappears, Amra makes choices that Zainab considers so 1950s--choices that involve the perfect "Banarasi "silk dress and a four-bedroom house in the suburbs. After hiding her long work hours during their courtship, Amra struggles to balance her demanding job and her unexpectedly traditional new husband. Zainab has her own problems. She generates controversy in the Muslim community with a suggestive magazine spread and friendship with a gay reporter. Her rising profile also inflames neo-cons like Chase Holland, the talk radio host who attacks her religion publicly but privately falls for her hard. When the political fallout from a terrorist attempt jeopardizes Zainab's job and protests surrounding a woman-led Muslim prayer service lead to violence, Amra and Zainab must decide what they're willing to risk for their principles, their friendship, and love.

Review: Marketed as The Namesake meets Sex in the City, Jennifer Zobair's debut novel Painted Hands is thankfully much of the former than the latter book. Though the story follows three different women's journeys, at its very heart, Painted Hands, is an exploration of what it means to be a Muslim woman in the post 9/11 world. Though I was drawn to the subject matter because I closely identify with the characters given my own personal background, I was also a bit concerned on how the characters would be written and how the tricky subject of religion is discussed. I'm happy to say that the book went beyond my expectations. I loved and cared for the characters so much that I compulsively read it in one sitting. 
  Zobair creates a cast of characters that give a wide ranging and for many a new look at Muslim-American culture from a female perspective. Within her story about navigating love and life while balancing Muslim religious and cultural beliefs with an American way of life, Zobair provides an array of characters covering the spectrum between devout followers of Islam and those who reject the beliefs of family and childhood.
   The story is very simple as it follows a group of friends for more than a year as they juggle careers, political differences, the trials and tribulations of love and prejudice. Zobair deftly captures the conflict all women face between the desire to be true to themselves and their own beliefs and the struggle to meet the expectations of family and friends. I think it's super important that Zobair made these women intelligent career women who think critically and logically for themselves and are assertive. While I may not agree with some of their decisions and/or actions, I felt the characters were authentic and not caricatures that I've met over and over again in other multicultural reads.
  Even though I was wrapped up in the lives of her characters, what kept me glued to the pages is how Islam is explored, defended, and supported in the book. Zobair's characters aren't afraid to raise questions and think outside of the traditional box. It gave me a lot to ponder. I also very much appreciated on how the characters varied in their devoutness to Islam without any suggestions of whether they are good or evil, which probes the reader to think about the Muslim identity.
  Painted Hands balances a story of women without overdoing it on the politics and religion. It allows readers to be exposed to the lesser known and good side of Muslim-American culture and the politics of being Muslim in America. Ultimately, I think the book shows that no matter the differences we share, we all are trying to achieve the same goals.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and sexual situations discussed. Recommended for mature teens and adults interested in exploring contemporary literature featuring Muslim protagonists.

If you like this book try: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee by Meera Syal
Rummanah Aasi
  In approximately two weeks, summer is officially over and the new school year begins, which means my posts will be a bit sporadic. Sorry! I did finish a charming and light book called My Ex From Hell which is perfect for a breezy, lazy summer day. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an advanced reader's copy.

Description: Sixteen-year-old Sophie Bloom wishes she'd been taught the following:
a) Bad boy's presence (TrOuBlE) + teen girl's brain (DraMa) = TrAuMa (Highly unstable and very volatile.)
b) The Genus Greekulum Godissimus is notable for three traits: 1) awesome abilities, 2) grudges, and 3) hook-ups, break-ups, and in-fighting that puts cable to shame.
   Prior to the Halloween dance, Sophie figures her worst problems involve adolescent theatrics, yoga girls, and being on probation at her boarding school for mouthy behavior  Then she meets bad boy Kai and gets the kiss that rocks her world. Literally. This breath stealing lip lock reawakens Sophie's true identity: Persephone, Goddess of Spring. She's key to saving humanity in the war between the Underworld and Olympus, target numero uno of Hades and Zeus, and totally screwed. Plus there's also the little issue that Sophie's last memory as Persephone was just before someone tried to murder her.
  Big picture: master her powers, get her memories back, defeat Persephone's would be assassin, and save the world. Also, sneak into the Underworld to retrieve stolen property, battle the minions of Hades and Zeus, outwit psycho nymphs, slay a dragon, rescue a classmate, keep from getting her butt expelled from the one place designed to keep her safe ... and stop kissing Kai, Prince of the Underworld.

Review: If you have been following my blog, you will already know that I'm a big fan of Greek Mythology. The synopsis above, which has a new take on the famous Hades and Peresphone, caught my eye. Unlike the other YA books with the similar theme, My Ex From Hell is very light and humorous which made it very easy to read and get into the story. 
  Sophie Bloom is quite the character. She is a bit ditsy, blunt, and has a lot of sass. She's just like any sixteen year-old girl; she goes to school, has her fair share of family problems, belongs in a tight group of friends, and has a knack for getting into trouble. The thing that I liked the most about Sophie was her voice- she was snarky, sarcastic, and quite often overly dramatic. She becomes alive to the reader and you feel as if she's really present telling you all the events in her life. One downside to Sophie's voice is that she can become annoying very quickly, kind of a like a summer song that you liked a few times on the radio but now it's played constantly that make you want to switch radio stations constantly (Yes, I'm talking to you "Call Me, Maybe) and make you so thankful for Pandora/satellite radio. 
  I really got a kick out of the world Tellulah created for My Ex From Hell, both the Greek mythology and boarding school aspects of it. It's not very far from the setting of Percy Jackson and other quest types of stories. I'm glad that Tellulah's decided to use other lesser known characters and places based on the Greek myths. One thing that sets My Ex From Hell apart from other Persephone books that I have heard of is that Tellulah doesn't pair off Persephone/Sophie with Hades but with Hades' son Kai. I also liked how current pop culture is brought into the story for current young adults without being too distracting.
   My Ex From Hell lost a bit of its steam somewhere in the middle. Some things felt a bit too forced and important events that I would have liked to know more about were a bit rushed. The humor was getting a bit old and I just wanted the characters to be a little bit more serious especially when their lives at stake.  If the characters weren't sixteen, the language, and mention of drinking weren't present, the book felt very much like a middle grade novel. While I enjoyed reading the book, I'm not entirely sure whether I will be picking up this series, but I will definitely will be interested in what the author is planning next.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and underage drinking. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: My Date from Hell by Tellulah Darling (Oct. 2013), Death and the Girl Next Door by Darynda Jones,
Rummanah Aasi
  I got another great batch of picture books from the Monarch Book Awards.  The Monarch books are a great way to highlight some terrific books for K-3 readers. Today I'll be reviewing Swirl by Swirl, One, and Brothers at Bat.

Description (from Goodreads): A Caldecott medalist and a Newbery Honor-winning poet celebrate the beauty and value of spirals.What makes the tiny snail shell so beautiful? Why does that shape occur in nature over and over againbut also celebrate the beauty and usefulness of this fascinating shape.

Review: Swirl by Swirl is a wonderful introduction to natural science for young readers. The text is very simple, usually containing descriptive words to explain how nature has different spirals and the many ways it is used. The illustrations are amazing- eye catching, colorful, and full of such detail and color that I lingered on the pages much longer just to capture everything on the page. Fun and educational, Swirl by Swirl has now made me aware of the many spiral shapes around me after reading this book.

Rating: 4 stars

Curriculum Connection:

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

If you like this book try:
Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner, A Butterfly is Patient by Dianna Hutts Aston

Description: Blue is a quiet color. Red’s a hothead who likes to pick on Blue. Yellow, Orange, Green, and Purple don’t like what they see, but what can they do? When no one speaks up, things get out of hand — until One comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up, stand together, and count.

One is a deceptively simply book that can be read on many levels. On the surface, young readers can learn about colors and counting. If you take a closer look, however, the book has a powerful message on the subject of bullying- how it feels to be bullied, actions to take to stop bullying, etc.
  The art in One is very minimalist. There is basically a dot and/swirls of watercolor paint to depict the characters in the story. Though the artwork isn't much to look at, the antibullying message will resonant with readers much longer.

4 stars

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

If you like this book try:
Zero by Kathryn Otoshi

Description (from Goodreads): The Acerra family had sixteen children, including twelve ball-playing boys. It was the 1930s, and many families had lots of kids, but only one had enough to field a baseball team . . . with three on the bench! The Acerras were the longest-playing all-brother team in baseball history. They loved the game, but more important, they cared for and supported each other and stayed together as a team. Nothing life threw their way could stop them.

Compared to today's standards, I come from a large family but I can't imagine living in a house of 15 other siblings. That's insane! Brothers at Bat is an engaging story that details the lives of the Acerra brothers who all played their favorite sport, Baseball, until the World War II in which they served the army and later when on with their lives. Based on a real family, I was unaware of the Acerras story and I liked how the book pulled me in since I'm not really a fan of baseball and gave a true sense of how closely knitted the family was. The illustrations definitely has a retro-feel that perfectly fits to the stories historical context. I'd definitely would recommend this book to young readers who enjoy sports.

4 stars

Words of Caution:
None. Recommended for Grades 1-3.

If you like this book try:
We are the Ship by Kadir Nelson, Hey Batta Batta Swing! by Sally Cook
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