Rummanah Aasi
 Sorry for the white noise on the blog. I'm wrapping up a few left over reads for this year and will be participating in a few reading challenges for next year. Today's topic for Top 10 Tuesday, an awesome feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is discussing our favorite reads from 2013. Here are mine, in alphabetical order, along with a link to my review. I still have to write a couple of reviews for a couple of them and hope to do that in the next few days. 

Favorite Books Read in 2013

 Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz - Brilliant, simple, poetic, and profound. Aristotle and Dante are two memorable teens who try to unveil all aspects of our identity from our socially constructed roles of being a man or a woman to our cultural identity which may embrace or ignore. I can't believe I wanted this long to pick up this book!

Clockwork Princess (Infernal Devices #3) by Cassandra Clare- a fantastic conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy and it pulls at your heartstrings from beginning to end. Politics, clockworks, heartache, hope, and a very cruel love triangle are the focus of the book.  I know there has been a love/hate relationship with the epilogue but I for one loved it.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell- I stayed away from this book because of all the glowing reviews in the YA community, but when it became the center of controversy during Banned Book Week I was too curious to not read this one. Now I see what the fuss is all about. Exceptional writing and lovable characters transcend this book from your ordinary YA romance. After reading this book, I want to go back and read everything that Rainbow Rowell wrote.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green- Amazing. I'm still trying to form coherent sentences to describe what makes this book incredible. You will smile, laugh, think, and yes, ultimately cry while reading this book but I can assure you it's worth the investment. I think to really grasp why Green is so popular amongst critics and readers, you really need to read this book. 

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith- A fabulous picture book that tells the story so effortlessly and seamlessly with illustrations and text.

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan- Quite possibly my favorite book in the Heroes of Olympus series.The stakes are higher as our band of demigods fight demons-both literally and metaphorically.

The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna- A character driven science fiction/speculative fiction/dystopian book that sucked me right in. The Lost Girl gave me much to think about while being cathartic. The characters and premise asks us unsettling questions, but ultimately it is a story about love, grief, death, and above all what makes us human.

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo- A fantastic, refreshing contemporary YA read previously released in Australia under the title Good Oil. Compelling characters and realistic slice of life plot, that made me realize that we don't always get the things we want, or what we think we want. Sometimes there's really no happy ending or a bad one. Sometimes, life is just...well, life.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller- With language both evocative and lyrical of her predecessors and fresh outlook on familiar scenes that explore new territory, Miller is clearly a lover of ancient Greece. While I will always be a fan of Hector and have my heart broken by his death, Miller did make me pause and see Achilles and Patroculus in a new light. If you are a fan of Greek mythology, do pick this book up.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Fowler- A lovely, sad and compulsively readable book. It is a common misconception that Zelda Fitzgerald was the reason for F. Scott Fitzgerald's ruin, but Fowler does a great job in making Zelda a three dimensional character and a woman who is struggling to make her own identity outside of her husband's shadow. Beautiful descriptions vividly recreate the 1920s.

What are your favorites from this year?

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. I love the Teen of Japan pageant plot arc in the Boys Over Flowers series. Let's hope the other volumes of the manga can just as entertaining!

Description: Tsukushi shocks everyone by making it all the way to the final competition in the Miss Teen Japanese Contest. Her striking individuality and dumb luck have gotten her a long way indeed! Now the field is narrowed down to Tsukushi and Ayano, the competition favorite. The final event will determine the girl most likely to become a "good wife and wise mother". Who is fit to judge such a contest?  Why, twenty-one kindergartners, of course! Unfortunately for Tsukushi, the innocent little darlings remind her of the F4!

Review: Volume 12 ends the plot arc of the Miss Teen Japanese Contest and I'm sad that it's over. To everyone's shock, Tsukushi manages to make it all the way to the final round of the contest. Her only challenger and the competition favorite is Ayano, the fiance of Amakusa. Tsukushi takes a liking to Ayano and admires her competitiveness and her dedication to Amakusa.
  The volume begins in a moment of panic and hilarity. Tsukushi has to entertain 21 kindergartners for 15 minutes. The kids are spoiled brats and they remind her of the F4. Since the kids remind her of the F4, she tries to win them over by challenging them to play simple games like Horse. Tsukushi even has Ayano join her until the competition ends and a winner is announced. Tsukushi is happy with the result and declines Amakusa's offer to be his girlfriend. Meanwhile Tsukasa tells Tsukushi he loves her during a firework celebration and of course Tsukushi couldn't hear anything!
  Tsukasa asks Tsukushi out on a date but the date is crashed by one of the kindergartner who looks strikingly similar to Tsukasa both in facial features and in temperament. So instead of Tsukushi and Tsukasa being alone, all three go on a date to the zoo. Once again we are shown the sweet, quiet moments of Tsukasa along with with his bad temper and stubbornness. The date ends in a disaster with a huge arguement between Tsukasa and Tsukushi, but have no fear, the reminder of the F4 have a plan to bring these two together but it's not going to be easy!

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some mild language and crude humor. Recommended for teens and up.

If you like this book try: Boys Over Flowers Vol. 12 by Yoko Kamio, Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances by Masami Tsuda, Mars by Fuyumi Soryo
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. I love the Teen of Japan pageant plot arc in the Boys Over Flowers series. Let's hope the other volumes of the manga can just as entertaining!

Description: Tsukushi Makino is from a poor family, but she's attending an elite school for the super rich. Her life has become intertwined with the ruling boys of the school in a whirlwind of love and confusion.
  Tsukushi has just two weeks to prepare for the Teen of Japan contest! She can't do it all on her own so Tsukasa's sister, Tsubaki, offers her tutors in everything she'll need to know to win. She must stay at the Domyoji mansion while she receives her lessons. Can Tsukushi stand the rigors of this training, and will anyone bolster her spirits?

Review: My excitement for the Boys Over Flowers manga has been inconsistent. Sometimes I can't wait to read another volume and other times I shake my head at all the silliness, but what brings me back to the manga series is our heroine, Tsukushi Makino. I love that she is always herself, though she frustrates me by being blind to all the romantic cues that Tsukasa gives her, regardless of how much pressure surrounds her to conform by her elitist classmates and is not afraid to give people her mind. It is these parts of her personality that draws the F4 to her constantly especially Tsukasa.
  Strapped for money, Tsukushi reluctantly goes to Tsukasa to borrow money and he agrees only if Tsukushi enters and wins the Teen of Japan beauty contest. Tsukasa's use of the beauty contest is really interesting. One part of him is the usual cruel guy who just loves to anger Tsukushi but the other stronger part of him truly believes that Tsukushi will have a good chance at winning because she never turns down a challenge.  
 Tsukushi goes through a vigorous training session for two weeks under the tutors and guidance of Tsukasa's sister, Tsubaki, who was a previous Teen of Japan winner. Tsukushi is clearly an underdog who has to cram each hour studying etiquette, learning English, and fashion, all of which her competitors have done all of their lives. The Teen of Japan contest is very similar to the Miss America pageant. The categories pretty much stay the same such as the clothing/style challenge and knowledge contest with the exception of the Japanese culture which the candidate has to show if they would make a good wife and mother.
  Volume 11 of Boys Over Flowers highlight Tsukushi's likability. She is vulnerable and insecure especially when she meets the girls she is up against in the competition, but instead of giving up she reminds herself why she entered in the first place. In my favorite moment of the volume, even Tsukasa tells Tsukushi that he supports and believes in her and tells her to be herself. Tsukushi's originality shines through as she sails through the first two parts of the category much to everyone's surprise including her own. The volume ends in a cliffhanger as Tsukushi and another challenger are told their last challenge: to entertain 21 little children for 15 min. Can Tsukushi succeed? Guess we'll have to wait Vol 12 to find out!

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some mild language and crude humor. Recommended for teens and up.

If you like this book try: Boys Over Flowers Vol. 12 by Yoko Kamio, Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances by Masami Tsuda, Mars by Fuyumi Soryo
Rummanah Aasi
   Usually when we hear about shipwrecks, our attentions are always focused on the hows and whys of the accident. Rarely do we take a look at what the survivors on a boat went through. Charlotte Rogan's Lifeboat presents us a captivating, ambiguously ethical story of survival and human nature.

Description: Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.
  In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying Grace and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize has exceeded capacity. For any to live, some must die.
  As the castaways battle the elements and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she'd found. Will she pay any price to keep it?

Review: Lifeboat is an engrossing and complex psychological and moral drama. Set at the beginning of World War I, Grace Winter is a newlywed and widow, newly minted heiress who survives a harrowing three weeks at sea following the sinking of her ocean liner (a la the Titanic) and the disappearance of her husband, Henry. Safe at home in the U.S., Grace and two other survivors are put on trial for their actions aboard the under-built, overloaded lifeboat. Were their actions out of self defense or calculated and intentional?
   Grace, guided by her lawyer Mr. Reichmann, who has had her write down her day-by-day account of events, pleads not guilty. The story is thus divided into the present trial and Grace's murky memory. I really liked how Rogan leaves it up to the reader to decide how reliable a narrator Grace may be. Grace is a multi-layered and complex heroine. Though we feel horrible that she had to survive such a drastic ordeal and wouldn't want to be in her shoes, her actions are not faultless. She is actually pretty calculating.  Newly impoverished after her father's financial ruin and subsequent suicide, New Yorker Grace set her sites on the wealthy young financier Henry Winter even though he's already engaged. Grace and Henry sailed together, pretending to be married, to London, where he had business and they legally wed before boarding Empress Alexandra (a nice foreshadowing of the soon-to-be-assassinated Tsarina) to return home. When an unexplained explosion rocks the ship, Henry gallantly places her, perhaps with a bribe, into a lifeboat already packed to over-capacity. She never sees him again. 
  Things get interesting when we re-live Grace's memories of the lifeboat. An Empress crew member, Mr. Hardie, quickly takes charge of the passengers, distributing the limited rations and organizing work assignments with godlike authority. Declaring who is worthy to climb aboard the boat or to kill those who are desperately clinging to the boat in hopes of survival even women and children. This portion of the story gave me goosebumps and made me wonder if fight or flight instincts would kick in. As hope for quick salvation dims, passengers fall into numb lethargy. Some go mad. There are natural deaths and drownings (voluntarily or was it murder?). 
  It is really interesting that the author doesn't judge Grace, leaving it up to the readers to form their own opinion and to wonder what it really means to be human when faced with an impossible situation. If you're own life is on the line would you honestly save someone else?

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and disturbing images. Recommended for older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: The Cove by Ron Rash, A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
Rummanah Aasi
  A chapter book is a story book intended for intermediate readers, generally for Grades 1-3. Unlike picture books for beginning readers, a chapter book tells the story primarily through prose, rather than pictures, but they do contain plentiful illustrations to highlight some scenes in the book. The book is divided into short chapters, which provide readers with opportunities to easily stop and start reading. I've reviewed two chapter books that I've read and recently enjoyed: Tales For Very Picky Eaters by Josh Schneider and The One and Only Stuey Lewis by Jane Schoenberg.

Description: James is a very picky eater. His dad has to get creative—very creative—in order to get James to eat foods he thinks he doesn't like. He presents James with a series of outlandish scenarios packed with fanciful and gross kid-friendly details—like pre-chewed gum as an alternative to broccoli and lumpy oatmeal that grows so big it eats the dog—in an effort to get James to eat. But it is eventually James himself who discovers that some foods are not so bad, after all, if you’re willing to give them a try. 

Review: Tales For Very Picky Eaters had me chuckling throughout the book. The five short chapters are conversations between James, a very picky eater, and his father at the kitchen table. James turns down meal after meal for different reasons, but after hearing his father's alternatives, he reconsiders. Dad's choices are outrageous to the extreme and will have children laughing and turning the pages. For instance in "The Tale of the Disgusting Broccoli," it's either eat the broccoli or eat dirt "walked on by the most skilled chefs"; "fine gum, carefully chewed"; or a "very sweaty sock." In another tale, James eats mushroom lasagna that "smells funny" because he doesn't want the troll that lives in the basement to lose his job as cook. The sophisticated yet silly humor will appeal to new readers wanting something a little different or even make them reconsider their own picky meals! The comical illustrations are done in watercolor, ink, and colored pencil and are surrounded by plenty of white space which are welcoming for a reader who is ready to move from picture books to chapter books on their own or a read-aloud with an adult. Tales for Very Picky Eaters is a definite crowd pleaser. 

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: Green peas in cream by Suzanne I. Barchers, Burger boy by by Alan Durant

Description: So what if Stuey isn't the world’s best reader, is only allowed to trick or treat around one block, doesn't get to play on his soccer dream team, and has to put up with the most annoying girl on the planet. Somehow Stuey always makes life work and when he puts his mind to it, he can survive anything—even second grade.

Review: In four linked short stories, Stuey Lewis conquers second grade. With a sweet supporting cast of family, friends, and a great teacher, Ms. Curtis, whom everyone wishes they had, he goes through the ups and downs of early elementary school. His fears are recognizable for readers of this age ranging from insecurities of being the best reader in his class to becoming tolerant of a really annoying classmate who turns out to be a surprising new friend. Each story neatly encapsulates a dilemma along with Stuey's schemes to go around the issue to finally the "aha" moment where everything clicks for Stuey and he learns a valuable lesson. There are enough laughs to keep readers engaged, but the illustrations could have been better. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 2-3

If you like this book try: First day jitters by Julie Danneberg, Once upon an ordinary school day by Colin McNaughton
Rummanah Aasi
   I haven't had a good streak in my reading this week. I hope that turns around soon before the year ends. Here are my mini-reviews for some of the latest YA books: Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles, Tandem by Anna Jarzab, and Unthinkable by Nancy Werlin. Please note that these reviews are based on the advanced reader's copies of the book that I received from the publishers via Netgalley.

Description: After getting kicked out of boarding school, bad boy Derek Fitzpatrick has no choice but to live with his ditzy stepmother while his military dad is deployed. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he finds out she plans to move them back to her childhood home in Illinois. Derek’s counting the days before he can be on his own, and the last thing he needs is to get involved with someone else’s family drama.
   Ashtyn Parker knows one thing for certain--people you care about leave without a backward glance. A football scholarship would finally give her the chance to leave. So she pours everything into winning a state championship, until her boyfriend and star quarterback betrays them all by joining their rival team. Ashtyn needs a new game plan, but it requires trusting Derek—someone she barely knows, someone born to break the rules. Is she willing to put her heart on the line to try and win it all?

Review: Wild Card, the first book in Simone Elkeles, satisfies on a romance level but don't expect much depth to the story. Though both Derek and Ashtyn both have their own share of serious issues to be aired out and sorted, they really aren't addressed and brushed under the rug. I liked Derek as a character, one whom you can't get angry with for a long time due to his charm and charisma. I had a hard time trying to figure out Ashtyn, however, because she came off as uneven- neurotic, confident, and insecure at different parts of the story. I was really surprised that there really isn't much football discussed or shown in the story considering what it means to the characters. Overall, a quick enjoyable read that left me wanting a deeper story. The side characters are fun to be with and I might pick up the next book in the series but it's not on the top of my list.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: Strong language, crude sexual humor, and sexual situations. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Catching Jordan by Miranda Keneally, Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Description: Sasha Lawson has only ever known one small, ordinary life. When she was young, she loved her grandfather's stories of parallel worlds inhabited by girls who looked like her but led totally different lives. Sasha never believed such worlds were real--until now, when she finds herself thrust into one against her will.
  To prevent imminent war, Sasha must slip into the life of an alternate version of herself, a princess who has vanished on the eve of her arranged marriage. If Sasha succeeds in fooling everyone, she will be returned home; if she fails, she'll be trapped in another girl's life forever. As time runs out, Sasha finds herself torn between two worlds, two lives, and two young men vying for her love--one who knows her secret, and one who thinks she's someone she's not.

Review: I was really looking forward to Tandem after reading its exciting premise, but it failed to uphold my interest. Tandem had a promising start in introducing our bookish heroine and her kidnapping to a parallel universe started the story, but then its pacing tapered off. The parallel universe that Sasha finds herself in is unfortunately really bland. I didn't really understand why it is so important for her to pose as the missing princess and what did the opposing faction really want? There is a romance but it is definitely not as dramatic as the description makes it sound.I found myself to be bored and I started to skim the story in hopes that it would pick up and it does-just the last 50 pages or so. I don't plan on continuing this series.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and a scene of underage drinking. Recommended for strong Grade 7 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Pivot Point by Kasie West

Description: Fenella was the first Scarborough girl to be cursed, hundreds of years ago, and she has been trapped in the faerie realm ever since, forced to watch generations of daughters try to break this same faerie curse that has enslaved them all. But now Fenella’s descendant, Lucy, has accomplished the impossible and broken the curse, so why is Fenella still trapped in Faerie?
   In her desperation, Fenella makes a deal with the faerie queen: If she can accomplish three acts of destruction, she will be free, at last, to die.  What she doesn't realize is that these acts must be aimed at her own family and if she fails, the consequences will be dire, for all of the Scarborough girls.
  How can she possibly choose to hurt her own cherished family not to mention the new man whom she’s surprised to find herself falling in love with? But if she doesn’t go through with the tasks, how will she manage to save her dear ones?

Review: If you are looking for a dark story featuring the fey, be sure to check out Werlin's Impossible and its companion novel UnthinkableHeld captive by a creature of the fey who killed her lover, psychologically and sexually abused, Fenella is forced to watch successive generations of young girls treated similarly and then killed. I told you it was dark, didn't I? In Impossible a teen is confronted with this prophecy and through heartbreak and support from her loving family was able to break the curse by achieving three impossible acts of creation. Now that the curse it broken, damaged Fenella wants only to die. 
  Of course whenever you ask the faeries for anything it doesn't come without a price. For Fenella to die she must do three acts of destruction  upon her family, damaging the lives of her existing. To help her with her mission, she is aided by the faerie queen's brother Ryland whose wry, amoral observations provide some comedy relief but not much. 
  Unthinkable should have been a great read with lots of food for thought as it touches on a lot of themes: survivor guilt, impossible situations and the question of what choice means, all set against a backdrop of complex familial relationships and faeries, with the bonus of tying together Impossible. Unfortunately the story is unbalanced. Fenella is flat and kind of boring and though she may elicit some sympathy, in part because her abuse is talked around more than about, and her extreme choices in how to fulfill her tasks makes it hard for readers to root for her. There is even an underlining romance that brings Fenella back to humanity, but that too is inconsistent and hard to believe because Fenella alternates between a sexual predator and the poor helpless woman. Though she undergoes some major changes towards the end of the book and takes responsibility from her actions, it's doesn't quite redeem her character. 

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is allusion to murder and rape (which takes place off the page), some language, and mature themes. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Impossible by Nancy Werlin, Lament by Maggie Stiefvater, Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr, Tithe by Holly Black
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. Things get interesting in Volume 10 of Boys Over Flowers and makes me wonder if Tsukushi will ever get a break from all the drama in her life?

Description (from the back of the volume): Rich boy Tsukasa returns to Japan after he discovers the true identity of Tsukushi's "Kinsan." Tsukushi herself is having trouble accepting his identity. Then Kinsan invites Tsukushi to a swank party where they bump into Tsukasa, who causes a major scene when Kinsan declares his intentions toward Tsukushi! Still desperate for money, Tsukushi goes to Tsukasa who comes up with a plan that everyone can benefit from. That is, if Tsukushi can win a beauty contest!

Review: Volume 10 of Boys Over Flowers sets up one of my favorite plot arcs of this manga series so far. Kinsan's real identity was a shocker at the end of Vol 9, a son of a Parliament member who disguises himself as a commoner, and it takes sometime for Tsukushi to wrap her head around this information. Tsukushi was drawn to Kinsan aka Amakusa because he didn't care for money or spent his time on obsessing over buying designer clothes and things like Tsukushi's elite classmates. Tsukushi never felt self conscious around Amakusa and I really hoped that these two would become a couple, but alas things don't work out.
  Amakusa tries to apologize to Tsukushi about hiding the truth from her and wants to make it up to her by inviting her to a dinner party. Tsukushi knows the party is definitely out of her social reach but doesn't want to go alone. She seeks Rui's help to be her date. The party as you can imagine is a huge disaster and humiliating experience for Tsukushi. In front of everyone Amakusa declares he doesn't want to follow his father's footsteps and announces that Tsukushi is the one he intends to marry! Tsukasa's anger explodes and he begins a fight with Amakusa. Tsukushi has no idea what to do and she's even more troubled when she learns that Amakusa is already engaged to the Japanese UN Ambassador. Though Tsukushi likes Amakusa, she doesn't love him or does she?
  Meanwhile Tsukushi learns that her father sought out 1 million yen from a loan shark to place a bet on horse racing in order to help the family's financial status. Unfortunately, her father lost the bet and now she must find a way to repay the loan shark. With exhausting all of her options, Tsukushi turns to Tsukasa for money but he will only give her the money if she enrolls herself in the Teen Japan beauty pageant and wins, which is less than two weeks away. Tsukushi, who never backs down for a challenge, accepts though she knows she can never win the prestigious prize. Tsukasa's sister offers Tsukushi advice and is willing to pay for tutors to help prepare Tsukushi for the event.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some violence and language. Recommended for teens and up.

If you like this book try: Boys Over Flowers Vol. 11 by Yoko Kamio, Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances by Masami Tsuda, Mars by Fuyumi Soryo
Rummanah Aasi
  I always find it hard to write a review for Neil Gaiman's books. He is one of those few authors who don't fit neatly into genre boxes, which is wonderful because I can recommend his books to a wide variety of readers. If you have been thinking about reading a book by Gaiman and have been hesitant because his ideas can be far out there, do try The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The story is pretty straightforward and the writing is beautiful, haunting, and nostalgic.

Description: It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed - within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it. His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane is an allegory of childhood. In a very slim book full of magic, wonder, adventure, and overcoming fears, Gaiman reminds his readers what it means to be a child again, to have a wisdom and understanding that adults no longer can wrap their heads round or even care to remember.
   There's an almost dreamlike quality to the narration where the imaginary and the actual easily blend into one another, making it hard to know what's real and what is not. The book opens with an unnamed middle-aged man revisiting the place where he used to live with his parents and sister when he was a young boy of seven. He visits his old house before wandering down to the farm at the end of the lane, a place that starts to bring back a strange sequence of memories as seen through the eyes of a young boy. 
  Readers live vicariously through the unnamed narrator's memories and begin to wonder about our own childhood. How real are the magic and monsters of our childhood? As we grow older, are we the enlightened ones who are pragmatic or ignorant of refusing to believe in the impossible? Are the villains we remember from our childhood monsters from another world or do they represent something real that we try to make sense of? 
  When I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I was fascinated and horrified at the same time. The creepy yet beautiful setting in the English countryside is beautifully rendered. I wanted to be there, but at a very far distance, afraid that I would not be able to resist going inside. The countryside is a little lonely, somewhat isolated as if its a world entirely of its own in which anything could be possible. 
  The characters of book have an other-worldly feel to them. Lettie Hempstock, an eleven year old who might just have been eleven for a very long time, is our friend that we can't seem to understand. As much as we try to make sense of her, she evaporates into thin air. Her quirky mother and grandmother have some strange powers and give advice that we can't might sense of until much later. Though the narrator remains nameless, I did sympathize with him throughout the story. I think many readers will be able to connect to his seven year old lack of understanding and fear of the adult world that he saw as separate from his own. I think we all create a world of our own when we're kids, one that adults aren't a part of, where it is okay to believe in magic and wizards. It just makes me wonder why losing wonder is a rite of passage and makes us adults. 
Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images and a small sex scene. I would recommend this book to older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, The Snow Child by Eowyn LeMay Ivey
Rummanah Aasi
  I haven't reviewed picture books in a couple of months. I must fix that! Today I'll be reviewing Chicken Big by Keith Graves, The Gingerbread Man Loose  in the School by Laura Murray, and The Camping Trip That Changed America by Barbara Rosenstock.

Description: On a teeny little farm, in an itty-bitty coop, a very small hen laid a big, giant egg. And out of this egg came one big, humongous . . . something. "It's big!" clucked the little rooster. "It's enormous!" clucked the small chicken. "It's an elephant!" peeped the smallest chicken. "Run for your lives!" they cried. No matter how they try, these clueless chickens can't make sense of the gigantic new member of their family until he saves the day.

Review: As you could probably tell from the title and the description of the book, Chicken Big is a hilarious spin on the classic Chicken Little story. The book features a band of not-so-bright chickens who are confused by the presence of a giant chicken who just wants to be part of the gang. 
When this enormous chicken is born the others can not understand that the newly chick is really a chicken! They manage to call all the chick everything but a chicken after coming to some ridiculous conclusion as if the sky is falling or leaking, but luckily the large chicken manages to save the day by convincing them that it’s really just an acorn and that it’s just rain. The small chickens still don’t think he’s a chicken, until the day that the humongous chick rescues all the eggs from the hungry fox. Only a chicken could be so smart, kind, warm, and brave!
  The illustrations and layout of this book are similar to that of a graphic novel, with lots of speech bubbles and multiple panels per page. The text is suited for preschoolers and up who are familiar with the original Chicken Little story. I think the young readers would get a kick out of the humor and the crazy band of chickens.  Make sure to read the front and back of the cover, as well as the title page for more chicken-y humor. 
Curriculum Connection: This would work great in a unit where students are introduced to synonyms in language arts class. 

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: The King of Little Things by Bil Lepp,  Letting go by Janet Morgan Stoeke

Description: When a class leaves for recess, their just-baked Gingerbread Man is left behind. But he's a smart cookie and heads out to find them. He'll run, slide, skip, and (after a mishap with a soccer ball) limp as fast as he can because: "I can catch them! I'm their Gingerbread Man!"
With help from the gym teacher, the nurse, the art teacher and even the principal, the Gingerbread Man does find his class, and he's assured they'll never leave him behind again.
Review: This is a fun story about a gingerbread man who gets left behind and then searches all over the school (with some bumps along the way) for his class. The rhyming narrative is entertaining, but it doesn't always work and sometimes reads awkward. I was also not a big fan of the illustrations, they looked too juvenile but that might be the appeal for the younger readers. The story is presented in a graphic novel-style format, with lots of cartoonish frames and dialogue bubbles.
 I think this story would be great during the first week of school where kids are trying to become familiar with the school's geography. I can totally see teachers going to different parts of the school and finding 'notes' as to where the lost gingerbread man could be by making trips to the gym, library, and other rooms along the way back to their own classroom trying to find the lost gingerbread man. 

Rating: 3.5 stars

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

If you like this book try: The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck by Laura MurrayMy first day of school by P.K. Hallinan

Description: In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt joined naturalist John Muir on a trip to Yosemite. Camping by themselves in the uncharted woods, the two men saw sights and held discussions that would ultimately lead to the establishment of our National Parks.

Review: Based on a true story of Roosevelt’s and Muir’s fateful camping trip, The Camping Trip That Changed America is a fun peek into a less often told history of the national park and how they came to be. I learned a lot from this book. 
Told in an engaging voice, the author chooses to introduce the two famous men as they were to their families, nicknames and all. Though they are unlike in so many ways, they both share a passion for the outdoors and outspoken about their beliefs, so it is fun to see them paired together, swapping stories, getting away from the normal busy day and take time to be with nature. 
 The author chooses vignettes from the camping trip and the tour of Yosemite that will inspire young readers today just as it did the President and provides a nice author’s note, quotes from the men, and further reading since this brief glimpse is sure to inspire further research. The illustrations have so much energy, making the characters and the story leap off the page. While simple, they pair well with the breezy text and capture the essence of Yosemite.

Curriculum Connection: Science and History

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 2-4.

If you like this book try: All the water in the world by George Ella Lyon, All the world by Liz Garton Scanlon
Rummanah Aasi

 I'm delighted to be part of the Shadows of Asphodel blog tour hosted by CBB book promotions! Today I have a guest post from the author, Karen Kincy, on her top ten favorite words along with my review of Shadows of Asphodel. You can follow the Shadows of Asphodel tour here and be sure to check out the awesome giveaway below my review.

Karen Kincy's Top Ten Favorite Words 
Karen Kincy

Since I’m a linguistics major, I’m going to have to go with my top ten favorite words. – Karen

1. Syzygy. This word is so hard to spell it’s awesome. It’s used to describe three celestial bodies in a straight line, like when you get the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon in a row during an eclipse.

2. Antediluvian. It means “before the flood” and looks appropriately epic. I used to have this word as part of a wifi password until the number of syllables drove my husband crazy.

3. Serendipity. Also has a lovely meaning. I always like happy accidents or pleasant surprises.

4. Absinthe. This one word evokes the Art Nouveau world of the Belle Époque for me. The word itself sounds smoky and slithering.

5. Lavender. Ironically, lavender makes me sneeze, but I love how this word feels in my mouth.

6. Archangel. Also brings to mind seraphim, which is another awesome word. I always loved the name Serafina Pekkala from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials for that reason. I believe he said he found the name in a Finnish phone book.

7. Maelstrom. This is why I love English. It borrows so many badass-sounding words from other languages. Maelstrom is basically a Viking word for a big whirlpool.

8. Chocolate. Especially when used in the same sentence with “Karen” and “eat.”

9. Evanescence. I think the band has put permanent dibs on this word for the time being. To evanesce means to disappear like vapor, the way a rainbow does eventually.

10. Labyrinthine. I wouldn’t want to be trapped in a labyrinth, but this word sounds like a fantasy story waiting to happen.

Review of Shadows of Asphodel

Description: When Ardis discovers a man bleeding to death on the battlefield, she knows she has to walk away. 1913. In her work as a mercenary for Austria-Hungary, Ardis has killed many men without hesitation. One more man shouldn't matter, even if he manages to be a charming bastard while he stands dying in the snow. But when he raises the dead to fight for him, she realizes she must save his life.

If a necromancer like Wendel dies, he will return as a monster--or so the rumors say. Ardis decides to play it safe and rescues him. What she doesn't expect is Wendel falling to one knee and swearing fealty. Ardis never asked for the undying loyalty of a necromancer, but it's too late now.
Ardis and Wendel forge an uneasy alliance underscored with sexual tension. Together, they confront rebels, assassins, and a conspiracy involving a military secret: robotically-enhanced soldiers for a world on the brink of war. But as Ardis starts to fall for Wendel, she realizes the scars from his past run more deeply than she ever imagined. Can Ardis stop Wendel before his thirst for revenge destroys him and everyone else around him?

Review: Shadows of Asphodel is my first dieselpunk romance, which is much like steampunk but the alternative setting is not Victorian but rather pre-World War I and the gadgets are centered on diesel instead of steam. It is clear that the author loved and did her research of this time period really well. The setting is vivid and I can imagine myself on the battlefields where we find Ardis and Wendel, the stars of the novel. Unlike some authors, Kincy doesn't dump large chunks of information on her readers, but gives us little clues as to how the society works- both on a fantasy angle as well as a social structure. Important historical figures of the time such as Francis Ferdinand and Rudolf Diesel were mentioned or even characters themselves in the story. The more I read, the book I was sucked into the world that Kincy created.
  Ardis and Wendel are both very intriguing characters who have hidden scars and haunted pasts. Though they may act as if they are two very different people, they are very similar in many ways. Ardis is afraid of death though she makes no hesitation in killing someone. Wendel is afraid of his necromancy skills but yet is fascinated by it at the same time. I also loved the fact that Ardis is of mixed race, but I wish we got to unravel the mystery of Chun Yi, Ardis's sword and family heirloom and of her father. Wendel is a character that had me curious at the start. For the longest time I was ambivalent towards Wendel. He could be at times sweet and vulnerable while other times I just wasn't sure if I could trust him. I was really surprised how fast Ardis trusted him with they first met.
  The romance between Ardis and Wendel started a bit too quickly for me. While I liked the sexual tension between the characters, I would have liked to see their relationship grow slowly since both have issues with trust, but I did enjoy their banter and their romance is sweet. I really appreciated that the romance of Shadows of Asphodel didn't overshadow the plot but rather enhanced it, showing how Ardis and Wendel came together to overcome their obstacles.
  Besides the rushed romance, the only other problem I had with Shadows of Asphodel is that the dialogue was all in modern American voice even though the characters came a different backgrounds and they should have been a bit different considering their different nationalities. The story's timeline is also a bit inconsistent sometimes such as Ardis can stay up late through one night but really three nights have past and we don't know what happened in those days. Though the action was nonstop in the book, I didn't get my reading groove into the story for about the first 6 chapters or so which is not to say a problem of the book but me trying to wrap my head around the setting and characters. Overall, I enjoyed Shadows of Asphodel and readers looking for a fun read to cleanse their reading palates should really consider picking this one up.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong violence, some language, and graphic sexual situations. Recommended for older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress, Her Ladyship Curse by Lynn Viehl


Rummanah Aasi
   It's time for Manga Mondays! 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. One of my favorite manga series, Vampire Knight, seems to be coming to an end. After a few lackluster volumes lately, Volume 17 picks up on the pace, and racks up the suspense and tension!

Description: Kaname has returned to Cross Academy to kill Sara Shirabuki. Zero has joined forces with Sara, leaving Yuki in the middle of the conflict. Even if Kaname's ultimate goal is to kill all purebloods, is Yuki ready to fight him?

Review: The seventeenth volume of Vampire Knight is filled with so much nonstop action and emotions that I had to read it twice in order to grasp everything. There are a lot of twists that I didn't expect and the epic battle of Kaname and Zero draws incredibly close.
  Unlike the other volumes of Vampire Knight, this volume is told from multiple perspectives, giving us the different angles of the vampire ruler Kaname. Kaname is on the hunt to kill all pureblood vampires and his biggest target is Sara Shirabuki, a a female vampire who has slowly seduced many followers in order to gain protection from Kaname. She has even convinced Zero to feed from her in order to gain more strength so that he can fight Kaname in exchange for his protection. What Zero doesn't know until much later is that the cost of Sara's blood comes at a very high cost. Was his decision worth the price?
  Zero and Kaname have had an antagonistic relationship from the start. At first their hatred was based on the fact that they both loved Yuki then it morphed into a vampire hunter vs. vampire relationship once we found out Zero's backstory, but in this volume their hatred takes on a new level when we see how truly conniving and manipulative Kaname really is- as if he is the puppet master moving his marionettes in a disturbing fashion. I don't quite understand Kaname's nihilistic philosophy and his drive of wanting to kill all purebloods now. What happened to his goal of vampires and humans co-existing? What changed his mind?
 In addition to the building tension between Zero and Kaname, there also snippets of romance running through the novel. Some of which are unrequited that makes your heart ache for those involved while others are a creepy, obsessive kind. There are tender moments between Yuki and Zero which makes me very hopeful as a member of Team Zero and confident that Yuki will pick a side when the battle between Zero and Kaname begins. Overall this volume of Vampire Knight definitely makes up for the slow starting previous installments and it also ends on a horrible cliffhanger which I'll have to until May 2014 to see what happens. I haven't read any news but I suspect volume eighteen will be the last volume of the series.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong violence. Rated T for teens.

If you like this book try: Vampire Knight Volume 18 by Matsuri Hino, Black Bird series by Millennium Snow series by Bisco Hatori
Rummanah Aasi
  I had really high hopes about Jhumpa Lahiri's latest book, The Lowland. When I found an ARC of it at this past summer's ALA conference in Chicago, I grabbed a copy and couldn't wait to start it. Then all the accolades and stellar reviews poured in and my expectations grew tenfold. Now I wished I had ignored everything and read it because surprisingly I felt underwhelmed about it all.

Description: Two brothers bound by tragedy; a fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past; a country torn by revolution. A powerful new novel--set in both India and America--that explores the price of idealism and a love that can last long past death.
  Growing up in Calcutta, born just fifteen months apart, Subhash and Udayan Mitra are inseparable brothers, one often mistaken for the other. But they are also opposites, with gravely different futures ahead of them. It is the 1960s, and Udayan--charismatic and impulsive--finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty: he will give everything, risk all, for what he believes. Subhash, the dutiful son, does not share his brother's political passion; he leaves home to pursue a life of scientific research in a quiet, coastal corner of America.
  But when Subhash learns what happened to his brother in the lowland outside their family's home, he comes back to India, hoping to pick up the pieces of a shattered family, and to heal the wounds Udayan left behind--including those seared in the heart of his brother's wife.

Review: The Lowland is one of those books that everyone seems to have loved this year, but I really didn't enjoy it. Its books like The Lowland that makes me wonder what am I missing whenever I read a glowing review. Personally, I think the book would have been much stronger if it was written as a collection of short stories rather than a novel. It has the slices of life feel to the story rather than a powerful, sweeping saga as its described on its book panel.
     The book starts off very slowly as Lahiri lays down her foundation for her novel. The Mitra brothers are inseparable even though they are complete opposites. Subhash is serious, cautious, and reliable, while Udayan is brash, impassioned, and rebellious. Suhbash is an upholder of traditional family roots of their quiet, middle-class Calcutta enclave and while Udayan questions everything. In college, Subhash studies chemistry, Udayan physics, but while Subhash prepares to go to America to earn his PhD, Udayan experiences a life-altering political awakening. 
  Unlike Lahiri's other books, there is a strong focus on politics in The Lowland. She takes time to set up the stage of the late 1960s, a time of international protest, but stops there. Udayan joins the Mao-inspired Naxalite movement, which isn't explained at all. All that I could understand from inferences is that the movement has socialism roots and demands justice for the poor. I wished Lahiri spent more time discussing the movement especially since it mattered so much to Udayan and that he was willing to alienate himself from his family. Instead of making the politics a theme of the story it comes across as a contrived plot device that drives the rest of the story. 
  Udayan also secretly marries self-reliant, scholarly Gauri, but we don't see this develop as all which also hinders not only the emotional impact of the story but rather another contrived plot device. Subhash’s indoctrination into American life and Rhode Island’s seasons and seashore is bracing and that of a typical immigrant story, while Udayan’s descent into the Naxalite underground, which stays firmly in the background, puts him in grave danger. 
 Most of the characters felt more touch and go for me to wrap my head around them. I only felt like I understood Gauri who is painted by many reviewers as the villain of the story. She is undoubtedly selfish and unabashedly ambitious, but also in a way victim of society. I didn't get the sense that she married Udayan and later Subhash because she loved either of them as a person but rather they were her ticket to a bright, independent future. She reminded me a lot of Edna from Kate Chopin's The Awakening. She made me wonder why can't female characters behave like male characters and be only seen as negative? Why is it that male characters can be jerks but still earn our sympathies while female characters will only remain as jerks and nothing else?
  As tragedies, and revelations multiply over the years, we do see the characters go through the psychological nuances of conviction, guilt, grief, marriage, and parenthood. I just wanted the book to dig a little deeper and not just scratch the surface of these themes. The Lowland is a decent read but I wanted and needed more especially from a very capable writer and one who was nominated for the Booker Prize this year. 

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, sexual situations, and mature themes. Recommended for adults only.

If you like this book try: The Age of Shiva by Manil Suri, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghes
Rummanah Aasi
  I've been meaning to pick up a book by Suzanne LaFluer for quite sometime now. I eyed Love, Ruby but I wasn't ready for a melancholic tone after reading some heavy books before it. I decided to try her latest, Listening for Lucca, which had a higher potential to be an uplifting read and it definitely hit the mark.

Description: "I'm obsessed with abandoned things." Siena's obsession began a year and a half ago, around the time her two-year-old brother Lucca stopped talking. Now Mom and Dad are moving the family from Brooklyn to Maine hoping that it will mean a whole new start for Lucca and Siena. She soon realizes that their wonderful old house on the beach holds secrets. When Siena writes in her diary with an old pen she found in her closet, the pen writes its own story, of Sarah and Joshua, a brother and sister who lived in the same house during World War II. As the two stories unfold, amazing parallels begin to appear, and Siena senses that Sarah and Joshua's story might contain the key to unlocking Lucca's voice.

Review: Listening for Lucca is an enticing story that effectively blends history, mystery, paranormal, and family in an enjoyable and quiet story. As the story begins, Siena moves from New York City to a Maine coastal town before she starts eighth grade. The move, which would irritate many her age, springs a new hope for Sienna and the the possibility of resolving her problem of connecting to people and curing her brother Lucca's mutism.
  Siena is unlike most teens. She is prone to have strange visions of the past in which transport her not only into another person's life and but also in a different time period. Afraid to mention her visions and being forever marked a weirdo, Siena keeps things to herself and hopes that a new home and atmosphere will maker her visions go away. She also harbors a deep guilt that she is responsible for Lucca's silence and spends lots of time with him and hoping that he will talk. She also collects all sorts of found items that she deems abandoned. 
  In Maine, she sees and hears members of the family who lived in her house during World War II. When she writes with an old pen found in the house, it produces not her handwriting, but that of Sarah, a girl from the earlier period. Even more astonishing, she seems to actually enter Sarah's mind, seeing and feeling everything along with her. Siena finds a lot of commonalities between herself and Sarah: the yearning to connect to someone, the love for a sibling, etc. She also is able to share Sarah's brother Joshua's war experiences, which send him home psychologically damaged and like Lucca completely removed from his family. 
  Through a compassionate act of courage, Siena's gift ultimately provides satisfying solutions for Sarah's family and her own. LaFleur deftly handles the tale's many layers, never allowing readers to get lost nor bored. Events and characters are fully developed and are completely believable, without making it feel contrived. 
  The paranormal aspect of Listening Lucca is very subdued, not meant to scare its readers but are suspenseful and draw you closer to the story. I also think this device serves a more complex purpose-allowing the reader to get a glimpse into Siena's psyche- her fears, vulnerabilities, guilt, and desires. Her visions bring her a renewed confidence and allows her to make new friendships who find her visions interesting and cool, even a budding new romance. Her ability to see, interact with, and even alter the past eventually provides her with the insight to help her brother regain his desire to speak and to reestablish their shaking sibling relationship. 
 Though the secondary characters are also well written and fleshed out, the story belongs to Siena and her journey to self acceptance. The first half of the book is a bit slow but soon picks up when the visions are introduced. Listening for Lucca is a heartwarming experience. I think readers will forgive its slow start and enjoy its satisfying conclusion. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are glimpses of the battlefields of World War II but they are tastefully done, not too graphic or overwhelming for young readers. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, Across the Reach by Cynthia Furlong Reynolds, or Flip-Flop Girl by Katherine Paterson
Rummanah Aasi

Today's topic for Top 10 Tuesday, an awesome feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is discussing our most anticipated books for 2014.  Here are just a few of mine:

January 2013

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own. Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over?

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Briggs Walker

Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.
            After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher

Emily’s dad is accused of murdering a teenage girl. Emily is sure he is innocent, but what happened that night in the woods behind their house where she used to play as a child? Determined to find out, she seeks out Damon Hillary the enigmatic boyfriend of the murdered girl. He also knows these woods. Maybe they could help each other. But he’s got secrets of his own about games that are played in the dark.

February 2013

Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine

A standalone built around the character of Benvolio, from Romeo and Juliet. The novel will be told from the point of view of Benvolio, who is Romeo’s cousin and, in Shakespeare’s play, attempts to get the lovelorn Montague interested in other girls after it’s discovered that Juliet is a member of the clan his family despises: the Capulets. Caine’s novel, her agent said, explores a scenario in which Romeo and Juliet are not the only couple to fall into dire romantic straits and is “a tale of intrigue, betrayal, hatred, and tragedy,” about “lovers lost, and lovers found. (Description from Publishers Weekly)

March 2013

Dangerous by Shannon Hale

Maisie Danger Brown just wanted to get away from home for a bit, see something new. She never intended to fall in love. And she never imagined stumbling into a frightening plot that kills her friends and just might kill her, too. A plot that is already changing life on Earth as we know it. There's no going back. She is the only thing standing between danger and annihilation.  How far would you go to save the ones you love? And how far would you go to save everyone else?

April 2013

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Gwen Castle's Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, is slumming it as a yard boy on her Nantucket-esque island this summer. He's a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island's summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she'll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen's dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.

In the Shadows by Kiersten White

Cora and Minnie are sisters living in a small, stifling town where strange and mysterious things occur. Their mother runs the local boarding house. Their father is gone. The woman up the hill may or may not be a witch.
  Thomas and Charles are brothers who've been exiled to the boarding house so Thomas can tame his ways and Charles can fight an illness that is killing him with increasing speed. Their family history is one of sorrow and guilt. They think they can escape from it . . . but they can't.
  Arthur is also new to the boarding house. His fate is tied to that of Cora, Minnie, Thomas, and Charles. He knows what darkness circles them, but can't say why, and doesn't even know if they can be saved.
  Sinister forces are working in the shadows, manipulating fates and crafting conspiracies. The closer Cora, Minnie, Arthur, Thomas, and Charles get to the truth, the closer they get to harm. But the threat is much bigger than they can see. It is strangling the world.  Until one of the boys decides he wants to save it.

The Break-Up Artist by Philip Sieggel

After watching her sister get left at the altar, Becca knows the true damage that comes when people utter the dreaded L-word. For just $100 via paypal, she can trick and manipulate any couple into smithereens. With relationship zombies overrunning her school, and treating single girls like second class citizens, business is unfortunately booming. Even her best friend Val has resorted to outright lies to snag a boyfriend.
  One night, she receives a mysterious offer to break up the homecoming king and queen, the one zombie couple to rule them all: Steve and Huxley. They are a JFK and Jackie O in training, masters of sweeping faux-mantic gestures, but if Becca can split them up, then school will be safe again for singletons. To succeed, she'll have to plan her most elaborate scheme to date and wiggle her way back into her former BFF Huxley’s life – not to mention start a few rumors, sabotage some cell phones, break into a car, and fend off the inappropriate feelings she’s having about Val’s new boyfriend. All while avoiding a past victim out to expose her true identity. No one said being the Break-Up Artist was easy.

May 2013

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

July 2013

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

Sinner follows Cole St. Clair, a pivotal character from the #1 New York Times bestselling Shiver Trilogy. Everybody thinks they know Cole's story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole's darkest secret -- his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel's life. Can this sinner be saved? 

What are your most anticipated books for 2014? Let me know in the comments!
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