Rummanah Aasi
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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. As promised here are my top 14 books of 2014 in no particular order. I still have to write a couple of reviews for a couple of them and hope to do that in the next few days.

 We Were Liars by E. Lockhart- Riveting, brutal and beautifully told, We Were Liars is hard to put down and much harder to forget. Cloaked in secrets, greed, and deception, it is best to read We Were Liars without knowing anything about the book. After a jaw dropping ending, I wished the book was a little bit longer.

 The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion-  The Rosie Project reminded me of one my favorite sitcoms, The Big Bang Theory, and I think it would be enjoyed by fans of the tv show as well as others looking for a quick, cute read.

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (League of Princes #1) by Christopher Healy-  Inventive and hilarious, this book should come with a warning to not read in public if you don't what to get weird stares every time you irrupt in giggles. I highly recommend this book if you are fans of the animated movies Shrek and Tangled, if you enjoy reading about fairy tales, or if you are looking for a fun read.

 These Broken Stars (Starbound #1)- Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner- A near perfect science fiction romance read. I can't wait to pick up the second book which was released just last week.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell- I discovered Rowell quite late last year, but became quite a fan after reading Eleanor and Park. Attachments is the perfect read in a dreary, cold day. When I finished it I had a big smile on my face and if you're in the mood for an incredibly sweet and quirky romance then this book is for you.

 Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld- This is the most original book that I have read this year. I loved the combination of two narratives and getting an insiders look at publishing.

Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios- This is my favorite paranormal romance that I have read this year. The world building, characters, and romance were outstanding. I can't wait to dive back into this world with book 2!

 Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater- While the paranormal elements take a back seat in this companion novel to the Wolves of Mercy series, I loved watching Isabel and Cole come to terms with their own metaphorical demons and come together.

Navigating Early by Claire Vanderpool- To be honest, I wasn't sure what to think of this book when I started it, but the author's beautiful writing and her skillful yet subtle exploration of themes such as friendship, loss, and self discovery really made me love it. 

 The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters- I'm a big fan of how Winters combines the touch of paranormal along with historical facts to not only create an eerie environment, but an intriguing way to look at history. This book made me angry for all of the right reasons.

Night Broken by Patricia Briggs- Unlike the previous books, Night Broken is filled with nonstop action, few unexpected surprises, and fascinating new characters. I'm really curious to see how the new developments in the Mercyverse will work out.

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd- A delightful, inspiring, and heartwarming book. I would definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy books that have magical realism or those who are a bit reluctant to try a fantasy read. This book is guaranteed to make you smile the all the way through and feel great. This is my favorite book by a debut author.

 Almost Home by Joan Bauer- Almost Home is a moving and powerful story of a young girl who overcomes adversity. Sugar's optimism and strength is very admirable. 

 Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin- I am not a big fan of nonfiction in general, but I found this book riveting. Weaving scientific and historical facts this is not your textbook read. It actually reads very much like a spy thriller with its excellent storytelling and how the famous and infamous cast of characters such as Robert Oppenheimer and spy Harry Gold are brought to life in this book.

Rummanah Aasi

 Wishing all of my readers and fellow bloggers a very happy holiday season! The blog will be quiet for a few days as I try to wrap up my last few readers of 2014. I'll be back next week to post my top 14 reads of 2014.
Rummanah Aasi
 I was a big fan of Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier, especially with its exploration of melding two cultures and finding your identity. I expected something similar with its sequel, Bombay Blues, but unfortunately I will had to add this one to my growing list of disappointing reads of 2014. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book.

Description: In Born Confused, Indian-American just-turned-17-year-old Dimple Rohit bhai Lala found love, friendship, art, and home where she least expected it. But a lot's gone on in the years that have followed. And what happens if what you thought you wanted wasn't what you wanted after all? As she learns during adventures that take her from India to New York to London and back, with a little luck and a lot of vision, the journey home might prove just as magical as what you left behind to make it.

Review:  Bombaby Blues had a lot of potential, but with its experimental narrative filled with characters once loved and now unfamiliar made this a very disappointing read. American born and of Indian descent, Dimple Lala travels to Bombay with her Indian parents and her longtime DJ boyfriend, Karsh Kapoor, to attend the wedding of a cousin, Sangita. Both Dimple and Karsh believed their trip to India will bring them closer as a couple, however, the trip puts a strain on their relationship. Dimple immerses herself in family, culture, photography, music, love, and a search for self; while Karsh embarks on his own spiritual journey.
  There are many, many pages filled with the sights and sounds of India that bring this book alive, however, many of the Hindi words included in the narrative are haphazardly translated. While I can understand having the 'lost in translation' feel to the story considering Dimple's hindi isn't very strong, I wish the author made a choice in translation and stuck to it. Since I was familiar with the Hindi language I didn't have any problems with the book, but I can definitely see where many readers get stumped.
  For majority of the book there is not a whole lot that happens, but then there is a rush of melodrama that takes up space. We see Sangita abruptly announces she is not marrying but instead pursuing a burgeoning art career. Sangita's sister, Kavita, opens up to the family about her homosexuality. Dimple struggles to understand her unraveling relationship with Karsh, but out of characteristic of her, has a spontaneous sexual affair with a random boy she dubbed as the "Cowboy" she just met. There is also the unveiling of a long kept secret of why Dimple's mother and her aunt don't get along well also tacked on.
   I was hoping a bit more of introspection from Dimple while we do get some, it is mostly in the form of stream of consciousness. The inclusion of the "Cowboy" completely threw me and I didn't understand his purpose at all since we know virtually nothing about him. I felt bored with this book and skimmed a lot of it in hopes that I was see a sliver of the characters that I loved in the previous book. Unfortunately, they were not found.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, brief discussions of sex, and a small sex scene. Recommended for Grades 10 and up.

If you like this book try: Shine, coconut, moon by Neesha Meminger, Skunk Girl by Sheba Karim
Rummanah Aasi
 Students at my high school are required to do summer reading as part of their English assignments. I found Brain on Fire on their list and the title caught my eye. Brain on Fire is a engrossing read, giving us an insight into a rare autoimmune disease called Anti-NMDA Receptor Autoimmune Encephalitis, which causes the body to attack itself and in the author's case the brain.

Description: When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she'd gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened?

Review: Part medical mystery and part memoir, Brain on Fire is a fascinating and harrowing true story of a healthy young woman descent into madness and the struggle to find out answers to her mental disorder. Susannah Cahalan is a bright, ambitious young reporter for the New York Post. She describes how she wasn't feeling well one day. Her physical discomfort grew to paranoia, hearing voices, and even attempts to jump out of a moving car. As Cahalan's condition deteriorated she sought medical advice from several doctors who repeatedly misdiagnosed her with either having bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and even perhaps linking it to alcoholism. Still unsatisfied with not having answers, Cahalan and her family pursued other opinions. Her divorced parents put aside their differences and rose to the occasion, sitting by her during the month she was confined to the hospital, about which she remembers nothing. Her boyfriend stayed with her, and one wonderful doctor was determined to get to the bottom of her medical mystery.   It turns out that Cahalan has a very rare autoimmune disease in which an unknown pathogen invaded her body and caused an autoimmune reaction that jump-started brain inflammation, paranoia, and seizures.  Luckily, she was insured, since her medical costs were about $1 million.
 Cahalan expertly weaves together her own story and relevant scientific and medical information about autoimmune diseases, which are about two-thirds environmental and one-third genetic in origin. I was fascinated with the medical mystery aspect of the story. It was truly horrifying reliving her hallucinations and paranoia. She is very upfront in telling the reader that she doesn't remember everything about her story, but I don't think this hinders the book at all. Actually the lack of information is very telling on how far behind we are in understanding the brain and on mental illness. This is a very important story to remind us to fight for our own health and seeking answers when you instinctively know that there is something wrong with you.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language. Recommended for strong Grade 9 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Welcome to My Country by Lauren Slater, Madness by Marya Hornbacher, Falling Into the Fire by Christine Montross
Rummanah Aasi
 Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine! This week I'm eagerly awaiting the release of two books: Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally and Rivals in the City by Y.S. Lee.

Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally
Publish date: July 1st, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks

 I have thoroughly enjoyed every book that Miranda Kenneally has released and I always look forward to reading more from her Hundred Oaks series. Here's hoping we see some cameos of characters from the previous books!

Practice Makes Perfect.

Everyone at Hundred Oaks High knows that career mentoring day is a joke. So when Maya Henry said she wanted to be a rock star, she never imagined she’d get to shadow *the* Jesse Scott, Nashville’s teen idol.

But spending the day with Jesse is far from a dream come true. He’s as gorgeous as his music, but seeing all that he’s accomplished is just a reminder of everything Maya’s lost: her trust, her boyfriend, their band, and any chance to play the music she craves. Not to mention that Jesse’s pushy and opinionated. He made it on his own, and he thinks Maya’s playing back up to other people’s dreams. Does she have what it takes to follow her heart—and go solo?


Rivals in the City (Agency #4)
Publish Date: March 10, 2015
Publisher: Candlewick

Last year I participated in the Victorian mystery challenge which was a lot of fun and I discovered the Agency series. I devoured each book and was hoping a final book in this series would come out. If you are looking for a fun, historical mystery with fantastic characters do give the Agency a try. 

Mary Quinn has a lot on her mind. James Easton, her longtime love interest, wants to marry her; but despite her feelings, independent-minded Mary hesitates. Meanwhile, the Agency has asked Mary to take on a dangerous case: convicted fraudster Henry Thorold is dying in prison, and Mary must watch for the return of his estranged wife, an accomplished criminal herself who has a potentially deadly grudge against James. Finally, a Chinese prizefighter has arrived in town, and Mary can’t shake a feeling that he is somehow familiar. With the stakes higher than ever, can Mary balance family secrets, conflicting loyalties, and professional expertise to bring a criminal to justice and find her own happiness?
Rummanah Aasi
 Exquisite Captive is my favorite YA paranormal romance thus far this year. It was very hard to put this book down once you get sucked into Nalia's world of magic, politics, and romance. Inspired by the Arabian folklore, Exquisite Captive is a wholly original and enthralling story.

Description: Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.
   Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?

Review: Nalia, a powerful jinni from the world of Arjinna, has been on the dark caravan of the jinni slave trade for three years. After a deadly coup almost wiped out her entire clan, Nalia was captured by a slave trader who sells jinn to humans. Now she is trapped in Hollywood and bound to a handsome master, Malek, who is as ruthless as he is powerful. Malek showers Nalia with gifts, but refuses to give her what she wants most: her freedom. Nalia is desperate for the chance to return to Arjinna and rescue her captive brother-something that seems impossible while bound to her master and the bottle that can hold her prisoner. When Nalia agrees to a dangerous bargain with the leader of Arjinna's revolution, she will have to decide if any price can be too high for her freedom.
  I absolutely loved Nalia. She is unlike many heroines that we encounter in ordinary paranormal romances in that she doesn't run headlong and make impulsive decisions. Her goals are simple and focused: free herself so she can save her brother. She is very aware of her surroundings and threats that revolve around her, knowing that just one wrong move can place her in bottle that will slowly suck the life out of her. She uses her strengths to her advantage and delicately walks the tightrope of interacting with her master Malek. I was constantly on pins and needles as Nalia tried to get her hands on her bottle and her freedom from Malek within her grasp.
  Malek is a fascinating character who at once repulses you but also draws you in. His moods are violent and unpredictable. While you can never forget that he owns Nalia like an object, there is a light flicker of what could be "love". There is no way that Nalia can see him as a viable love interest, you can't deny that there is a very strong sexual tension between them.
  In addition to Nalia and Malek, Raif, the leader of the revolution is also a very compelling character. He bears the burdens the responsibility of the revolution from a very young age. Like Nalia he doesn't waste time dithering about but is very focused on saving his people and the world of Arjinna. I had a great time watching his relationship with Nalia shift from prejudice and wariness to a slow burn romance. I only wished we got to see him and Nalia have more quiet moments.
  The world building in Exquisite Captive is done very well. With nods to the jinni folklore as well as the blend of modern urban fantasy works very well in the novel.  I loved learning about the various jinns as well as their realm of magic, politics, spirituality, and history. Needless to say that it didn't take very long for me to get sucked into this story and world that the author created. The story unfolds at a fast and even pace. I really wish I could already have the second book in the series especially with how the book ends.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution:  There is some strong language, sensuality, disturbing images, and violence. Recommended for Grade 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor, Everneath series by Brodi Ashton, The Fire Wish by Amber Lough
Rummanah Aasi
The Olympians graphic novel series combines Greek mythology retelling along with superhero action and pacing in a graphic novel format will appeal to many readers. Knowledge of the myths are not required to enjoy the graphic novel and it would serve as a really good introduction to those who are curious about Greek myths.

Description: A fictionalized retelling, in graphic novel format, of the Greek myth that details the story of Zeus, describing his boyhood through the beginning of his reign as the ruler of the Olympian Pantheon.

Review: The Greek Myths get the superhero makeover in this new series by George O'Connor. The first volume of this series focuses on Zeus from his miraculous birth to his journey of destroying his father and freeing his siblings. What I really liked about his volume was how O'Connor took his time to visualize the creation myth that establishes Gaea, the Titans, and other important Olympian entities that are often neglected or quickly glossed over. O'Connor introduces Zeus once his stage is set. His godly powers slowly develop along with his flirtatious manner.  The extended, earth-shattering battle he wages with his father, Kronos, takes up the bulk of the story, delivering page after page of action packed panels that keep the pages turning much like those found in a superhero comic. The artwork and coloring are stunning and the panels leap off the page. Before you know it, the graphic novel ends, but the good news is that there many volumes of this series are already out and ready to be read. I would definitely read this graphic novel to fans of Greek mythology.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some violence though not too graphic. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Lightning Thief Graphic Novel Adaptation by Robert Venditti, Olympians Vol 2: Athena by George O'Connor
Rummanah Aasi
 I rarely read books written by celebrities, but since I liked what Lena Dunham has done with her smart tv show Girls I wanted to read her memoir aptly titled Not That Kind of Girl. Instead of focusing on what it means to be a celebrity, Dunham focuses on the more personal, embarrassing moments that might not shine a good light upon us.

Description: "There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told," writes Lena Dunham, and it certainly takes guts to share the stories that make up her first book, Not That Kind of Girl. These are stories about getting your butt touched by your boss, about friendship and dieting (kind of) and having two existential crises before the age of 20. Stories about travel, both successful and less so, and about having the kind of sex where you feel like keeping your sneakers on in case you have to run away during the act. Stories about proving yourself to a room of 50-year-old men in Hollywood and showing up to "an outlandishly high-fashion event with the crustiest red nose you ever saw." Fearless, smart, and as heartbreakingly honest as ever, Not That Kind of Girl establishes Lena Dunham as more than a hugely talented director, actress and producer-it announces her as a fresh and vibrant new literary voice.

Review: Lena Dunham's memoir is written in the same vein as her hit tv show Girls, in which she explores the confusing state of trying to figure out what it means to be an adult in your 20s and 30s. Her scenarios are raw, real, and painfully naked in exposing blatant vulnerability. What I enjoyed most about this book is the fact that Dunham is very straightforward on what many would call horror stories-events in our lives that we swear to ourselves that we will never tell anyone. The memoir is broken into different parts highlighting stupid jobs, bad boyfriends, upsetting sex, psychological struggles, and other hypothetical scenarios that shaped her life. What I love most about the show beside the great characters is the the introspection and the epiphanies that the characters have throughout the season. I just wished there was more of that in Dunham's memoir than a list of events that she recounts. The book does shine, however, during the wistful imaginations of a young girl who imagines various monumental steps leading to adulthood that either come as anticlimactic at the time these events occur or not really understanding them until you had some distance to reflect on them. Not That Kind of a Girl is like reading someone's achingly self-aware diary.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: Strong language and sexual content throughout the book. Recommended for adults only.

If you like this book try: Girl Walks into a Bar by Strawberry Saroyan, Cherry by Mary Karr
Rummanah Aasi
 I really wanted to like The Iron Trial and was really looking forward to seeing what Holly Black and Cassandra Clare would bring with their joint effort in a middle grade read. Unfortunately, I didn't like this one as much as I had hoped. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an advanced reader's copy of the book.

Description: Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial. Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.  All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him. So he tries his best to do his worst - and fails at failing. Now the Magisterium awaits him. It's a place that's both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future. The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .

Review: The Iron Trial was a difficult read not due to the authors' writing, but rather the numerous parallel connections that I was making with Harry Potter throughout the book from the set up of three main characters one of which was not suppose to be alive, a sage magician who are the children's mentor, to a magic school where the students are sorted into groups. I know that there are books written about magicians and boarding magic schools written before Harry Potter, but there were so many connections that it was difficult to look beyond the similarities. In fact I ended up skimming a lot of the book because the similarities were so distracting.
  Once you get past the similarities, you can start to appreciate the positive aspects about the book. It was nice to see a diverse cast of characters in the book where each character had depth and avoided one dimensional characterizations. Callum is nothing like Harry Potter though you do feel kinship towards him as he struggles to fit in with his peers at the Magisterium. Similarly, the Magisterium is much darker and sinister than the homely Hogwarts. I also enjoyed the new take on the good versus evil in the book where people struggled with their addiction to power. There is also a nice twist albeit a bit predictable one in the story that would keep readers' attention in this series, but I sadly I don't think this series is for me. I will, however, look forward to other titles released by Black and Clare. 

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: Most of the violence takes place off page, but there might be disturbing images for some readers. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones, The Copper Gauntlet (Magisterium #2) expected to be released in 2015,
Rummanah Aasi
After a doppelganger filled fifth season of Vampire Diaries last year I was really hoping I wouldn't see or hear the word for a very long time. Once the word popped up in descriptions and reviews of Josephine Angelini's latest book Trial by Fire, I was equally worried and intrigued. I hoped for the best and by lowering my expectations of this book I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed it.

Description: This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying experiences that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and longtime crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear.
  Suddenly, Lily is in a different Salem—one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of them all is Lillian . . . Lily's other self in this alternate universe.
  What makes Lily weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone and a love she never expected.

Review: Trial by Fire has a unique premise that mixes magic, parallel universe with some really cool elements of science fiction and romance. Lily Proctor is virtually allergic to everything. Her very existence on Earth seems to be killing her. She always seems to be running on a very high fever, sometimes severe fever-induced seizures, and breaks out into hives very easily. Lily's hope of being a normal teen is dashed when not only does she catch her best friend turned boyfriend cheating on her, but also has a fever-induced coma when vodka is slipped into her soda. Soon Lily is transported into an alternative Salem that is ruled with an iron fist by an evil version of herself. 
   Lily is a likable character. She is kind, caring, and smart but not always wise when it comes to relationships. I never understood what she saw in Tristan, her philandering jerk of a boyfriend and thankfully she didn't take long to decide that relationship was not worth the heartache nor drama. What I found really interesting in this book is Lily's transformation throughout the book. When we first met her, we are immediately struck by how physically fragile she is but also meek and self conscious. As she journeys through alternative Salem, Lily becomes a more solid character, one who isn't afraid to take risks, know when to stand down, voice her own opinion, and adapt to her surroudings. I loved how Lily's weaknesses in one world became her biggest strength in the other world. 
  The world building in Trial by Fire was also done really well. The alternative Salem features Crucibles, witches who control technology, and monsters that haunt the shadows. I was intrigued by the constant push and pull of science versus magic. For instance the cruel Lillian is doing everything she possibly can to stop any scientific advantages even if that means killing innocent people. 
  In addition to the world building, I also loved the secondary characters that we meet in alternative Salem, particularly Rowan Fall. Rowan is the complete opposite of Earth Tristan. Like Lily, he too was once seen as weak and seemed to be preyed upon Lillian at one point.  I loved the slow burn romance between Rowan and Lily which unfolded at the perfect pace as both try to win each others trust and respect.
  There is plenty of action in Trial by Fire that kept the pages moving. I wanted to know more of Lillian's plan and why was Lily in particularly picked to travel to alternative Salem. I also want to know more about the downcast Outlanders that pose a threat to Lillian. There is plenty to enjoy in Trial by Fire and I am really looking forward to seeing what will happen next to Lily and Rowan.  

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is underage drinking at a party, allusion to sex, and some language. Recommended for Grade 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Under the Never Sky series by Veronica Rossi, Weather Witch by Shannon Delaney, Tandem by Anna Jarzab
Rummanah Aasi
 While I struck out with my last read, I thoroughly enjoyed Julie Berry's The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place a tongue in cheek Victorian boarding school mystery. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an advanced readers copy of the book.

Description: The students of St. Etheldreda's School for Girls face a bothersome dilemma. Their irascible headmistress, Mrs. Plackett, and her surly brother, Mr. Godding, have been most inconveniently poisoned at Sunday dinner. Now the school will almost certainly be closed and the girls sent home—unless these seven very proper young ladies can hide the murders and convince their neighbors that nothing is wrong. 

Review: An immensely entertaining, smart, and frothy in the best possible way, The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is a lot like Clue only it's set in a Victorian boarding school where seven young women find themselves free from adult supervision when their judgmental, penny-pinching headmistress and her odious brother die suddenly during dinner. Rather than alert the authorities and risk having the school shut down and all the students sent to unwelcoming home, the girls decide to keep things under wraps and proceed as if the late headmistress and her brother were still alive. The girls bond together to bury the bodies in the garden while dodging questions from their noisy neighbors, potential suitors, a suspicious housekeeper, and a host of charmingly annoying villagers with a penchant for showing up at the worst possible moment. While juggling mounting debts and increasingly precarious fabrications in order to keep up their charade, the students also try to discover who poisoned the deceased and what was the murderer's motive.
 Berry's prose is very much like the classic Victorian detective novels. Though there are a lot of girls to keep track of in this story, all of them are identified largely by an adjective that precede their name such as Disgraceful Mary Jane or Dour Elinor. I liked how these names are used ironically, rather than highlighting a weakness it it often comes across as a girl's strength. The girls avoid the stereotypical cliques or cat fight and work together as a team. The pacing slows a bit in the middle of the book, but I continued reading because I wanted to see how the girls solved the mystery and avoid obstacles thrown in their way.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for strong Grade 5 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Murder Most Unlady Like by Robin Stevens, Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
Rummanah Aasi
 After reading the description of Evidence of Things Not Seen, I was really looking forward to reading this mystery with a touch of science fiction. As I opened the book, I quickly discovered that the book blurb describing a coming different book.

Description: When high school junior Tommy Smythe goes missing, everyone has a theory about what happened to him. Tommy was adopted, so maybe he ran away to find his birth parents. He was an odd kid, often deeply involved in his own thoughts about particle physics, so maybe he just got distracted and wandered off. He was last seen at a pull-out off the highway, so maybe someone drove up and snatched him. Or maybe he slipped into a parallel universe. Tommy believes that everything is possible, and that until something can be proven false, it is possibly true. So as long as Tommy’s whereabouts are undetermined, he could literally be anywhere.

Review: Sometimes readers get duped by a great description. This is one of those times. Evidence of Things Not Seen is composed of disjointed, confusing, and rather bizarre novellas told from a different point of view that are strung together with only one connection in that at least one character knew or even heard of Tommy. You don't revisit any of these narrators again nor do you get an answer regarding to Tommy's disappearance and by the end of the book you really don't care about any of these characters. You are actually upset that you took the time to go on this weird journey and finished without any resolution. While some of the novellas were interesting and vary in topics from hard to read topics such as a mother drugging and forcing her daughter into prostitution in order to make a living at a very young age or the very odd where a girl who sees sex and losing her virginity in a completely scientific nature and practically forces herself upon her best friend in hopes of understand what the fuss is all about. 
  Though the book itself was well written and had a stream of consciousness feel to to the narrative, I had no clue how these stories and topics such as abuse and rape added to the overall plot arc. In fact there were many times where I completely forgot about Tommy at all. I was completely lost with all the quantum physics talk too, perhaps that's where the answer lay. Overall I didn't understand Evidence of Things Not Seen and I can't really recommend it anyone.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, allusions to sex, physical abuse, and rape as well as drug use and alcohol. Recommended for strong Grades 9 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Rummanah Aasi
 It has been a while since I did a post 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. Instead of reviewing each volume separately, I'm going to review the entire series of Sand Chronicles since it is complete at 10 volumes. I hope you like this review format!

Description (of the first volume): After her parents get divorced, Ann Uekusa and her mother move from Tokyo to rural Shimane. Accustomed to the anonymity of city living, Ann can't get used to the almost overbearing kindness of the people in her mother's hometown. But when personal tragedy strikes, Ann discovers how much she needs that kindness.

Review: Sand Chronicles is a standout shojo (i.e. romance) manga that tackles series issues as such suicide, depression, betrayal, and infidelity although at times it tends to veer close to melodrama. In each volume there are series topics that are discussed and a nice character growth arcs for its cast of characters which gives this manga series more depth unlike the many silly, typical shojo mangas. The series is framed by the seasons and time a running theme throughout the manga. In the first volume 12 year old Ann Uekusa and her mother have been abandoned by Ann's debt-ridden father and forced to move from Tokyo to Ann's grandparents' home in Shimane. At first, Ann feels both oppressed by her mean, strict, conservative grandmother and totally out of place in a small town, but once she makes some friends she adapts quickly. When her disillusioned, depressed, and demoralized mother commits suicide, Ann leans on Daigo, the first boy her own age that she met in Shimane, and their budding romance becomes the series's focus. Ann and Daigo's romance is sweet and develops at a realistic speed. Though there is a necessary love triangle in this manga, it thankfully doesn't hold much weight. The real obstacles that Ann and Daigo's relationship faces are Ann's nightmare of becoming her mother and her failure to grieve her mother's death.
   Ann is an extremely likable character. An every girl who is forced to grow up faster and become an adult. She deals with normal every day situations from a rival girl who is scheming for Daigo's affections, stumbling through the mysteries of a relationship, both romantic and friendships. Daigo is the perfect boyfriend whose only fault is that he wears his heart on his sleeve. What impressed me with this series is that the fact that the secondary characters were also strong and dynamic pushing the plot forward and not making it stale.
 I like the artwork in this series with its delicate lines and the beautiful scenery which also becomes a landmark on these characters' rite of passage. I highly recommend reading this manga series if you prefer reading true to life scenarios with a sweet romance. A great pick for Sarah Dessen fans and a really good primer for reading Nana by Ai Yazawa (a manga series that nearly broke me).

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Due to mature themes, a few scenes of sexual situations, some nudity. I would recommend Sand Chronicles for high school readers and up.

If you like this series try: We Were There by , Nana by Ai Yazawa, Kimi Ni Todoke by
Rummanah Aasi
  When I heard there was going to be a companion novel to the Wolves of Mercy series, I was ecstatic. I absolutely love this series with its fabulous writing and characters. After being disappointed by so many series finales this year, I really hoped Sinner would be just as good as the other books in the Wolves of Mercy series. And it is. Many thanks to Scholastic and Netgalley for an advanced readers copy of this book.

Description: 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?

Review: Sinner is light on the paranormal, but fully concentrated on the nuisance of human relationships. Readers familiar with the Wolves of Mercy series know that Cole St. Clair is the bad-boy frontman of the band NARKOTIKA. He had it all: good looks, stardom, money, women until it went all wrong when he began spiraling down a self destructive path and for many people disappeared on the face of the Earth. Now the prodigal musician returns to LA and the spotlight. He is determined to live a clean life, a chance at redemption, and perhaps a chance at love and happiness with Isabel Culpeper.
  As Cole tries to reinvent himself he is pursued by reality queen Baby North of who wants to chronicle Cole's possible comeback or failure on her reality show as he produces his first album since the band's demise. In order to accept his past and move forward, Cole must deal with the skeletons lurking in his closet. I know many readers have complained about the inclusion of a reality show, but I thought this metaphor for Cole fit beautifully. Cole has always been an enigma to me. He has two separate personalities, one on the stage with fake pretense, oozing confidence and charm and the second real version of a frightened, lost, vulnerable boy. Stiefvater plays with both aspects of his personality really well. I really wished we had a soundtrack that went along with this book since music plays a huge part of
  Similarly Isabel Culpeper one who can be easily classified as an ice queen with her cold personality, becomes a three dimensional character once we see past her rough exterior. She, too, is trying to come to terms with her demons, grief and a nasty parent divorce. She rages to be heard and seen, terrified of opening herself up to Cole who can so easily win and break her heart. In order to heal, they both must reflect on what truly matters in life and whether or not they are worthy of happiness and love. Stiefvater's worthy companion novel to the "Wolves of Mercy Falls" series is brilliantly written. Her characters and their plight come to life. The alternating chapters from Cole's and Isabel's points of view not only drive the plot, but also capture the intensity and vulnerability of these deep, but flawed, characters. This powerful and compelling story is certain to be a hit with fans of the series and bring new readers who have yet to discover this fabulous series.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, underage drinking and drug use as well as allusion to sex. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Lament by Maggie Stiefvater, Nightshade by Andrea Cremer, Dark Divine by Bree Despain
Rummanah Aasi
  Revolution by Deborah Wiles is this year's National Book Award Finalist and soon to be on many best of the year selection lists for children's books. I really enjoyed reading Countdown, the first book in the Sixties trilogy which focused on the Cuban Missile Crisis, and look forward to reading Revolution which concentrates on one aspect of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Revolution is a great example of a really well written historical fiction novel. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an advanced reader's copy of this book.

Description: It's 1964, and Sunny's town is being invaded.  Or at least that's what the adults of Greenwood, Mississippi, are saying. All Sunny knows is that people from up north are coming to help people register to vote.  They're calling it Freedom Summer.
  Meanwhile, Sunny can't help but feel like her house is being invaded, too.  She has a new stepmother, a new brother, and a new sister crowding her life, giving her little room to breathe.  And things get even trickier when Sunny and her brother are caught sneaking into the local swimming pool -- where they bump into a mystery boy whose life is going to become tangled up in theirs.

Review: In Wiles's second installment of the Sixties trilogy, Greenwood, Mississippi is resisting to change during the Freedom Summer of 1964 just like Sunny who is having a very hard time adjusting to her new stepmother and step-siblings. Readers are offered given two alternate viewpoints from very different worlds within the same Greenwood, one of the white and privileged who are worried about "invaders" who are descending upon the sleepy Southern city and causing trouble and the disadvantaged African Americans who are fighting for their basic civil rights.
  As expected Sunny's point of view is very provincial, concerning about her family drama and her reluctance of opening up to her stepmother, but soon her world view expands as she tries to make sense of the upheaval of her city. Meanwhile, Raymond, a black boy from Baptist Town (known among the white citizens as "Colored Town"), is becoming increasingly aware of all the places, especially the public pool and Leflore's movie theater, he is barred from attending due to Jim Crow laws. Sunny's story intersects with Raymond's as the movement and call to the right of vote amongst African Americans becomes stronger. We even see Jo Ellen, the older sister from Countdown, take a stand for equality and her beliefs despite the dangerous consequences of doing so.
  Revolution is a bit slow moving, mainly because there is so much additional resources included in this book such as song lyrics of the time, biblical verses, photographs, speeches, essays, and other ephemera immerse readers in one of the most important-and dangerous-moments during the Civil Rights Movement. Though Sunny seems to be our primary narrator, the additional information helps the reader get a more well rounded perspective of the community. Wiles does not shy away from teh ugliness of the time period as she includes primary source materials, including the text of a real and vile pamphlet created by KKK members. Revolution is a great pick for teachers looking to use historical fiction in their classroom. There is plenty to discuss and many connections to both English and Social Studies curriculums. 

Rating: 4 stars

Curriculum Connection: English and Social Studies

Words of Caution: There is riot violence and racial slurs in the book. Recommended for strong Grade 5 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Crow by Barbara Wright, Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine, One Crazy Summer by Rita Garcia-Williams
Rummanah Aasi
  I have read and enjoyed books by Lisa Schroeder. The Bridge from Me to You is her latest YA contemporary romance, which I really liked. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the advanced copy of this book.

Description: Lauren has a secret. Colby has a problem. But when they find each other, everything falls into place. 
  Lauren is the new girl in town with a dark secret. Colby is the football hero with a dream of something more. In alternating chapters, they come together, fall apart, and build something stronger than either of them thought possible--something to truly believe in.

Review: The Bridge from Me to You is a thoroughly enjoyable, fun contemporary romance full of hope. When Lauren moves to small-town Willow, Oregon from Seattle to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousins, she feels grateful but out of place and a burden. Lauren and her mother have had an unspecified falling out that led her to be kicked out of her home. Only Lauren knows what happened to cause the rift between her mother, but she would not rather talk about the incident despite her reoccurring nightmares about her younger brother. Colby is a local celebrity as a star football player on his high school team, but while he loves his team, he secretly dreams of escaping the pressure of his father's plans for him-after graduating in order to pursue his passion for bridges and become a civil engineer.
  I really loved both Lauren and Colby. When you first meet these characters you already have a preconceived notion about them, but I like how Schroeder surprises you with their character development. Lauren could have easily become an angry, angsty teen from a broken home, yet she is caring, compassionate, and struggling to do what is best for her as well as trying to repair her broken home. Like Lauren, Colby could have become the stereotypical jock who only cares about sports, but his passion for bridges is contagious and his loyalty to his friend who is terribly injured is admirable.
 I also really enjoyed watching the romance develop between Lauren and Colby. Although they hit it off immediately, their relationship takes time to grow and I thought their pacing was done quite well. Both characters had to develop a trust between one and another, and become friends once a potential relationship proves difficult.
  The book is written in alternating viewpoints, with Lauren's chapters unfolding in free verse and Colby's in prose. It seemed fitting for Lauren, who internalizes her emotions to express herself in verse whereas Colby needs more space to express himself. The Bridge from Me to You may not have a unique plot, but the characters are what makes this book shine. It is a thoughtful, straightforward, and fairly chaste romance between two kind, generous teens-one burdened by her past, one burdened by his future.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some mild language, scene of party with underage drinking, and suggestions to sex. Recommended for strong 7 grade readers and up.

If you like this book try: Dare to You by Katie McGarry, What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
Rummanah Aasi
 Smile by Raina Telgemeier is a graphic novel that I recommend to many people who are either hesitant in reading a graphic novel or who are looking for a graphic novel for their child or younger sibling. I find Telgemeier's work is both visually appealing with it's large, colorful panels with clear dialogue as well as contains subjects that are very easy to relate to. Her latest graphic novel, Sisters, continues Telgemeier's trademark and is equally enjoyable as Smile. Many thanks to Scholastic and Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.

Description: Raina can't wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren't quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she's also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn't improve much over the years, but when a baby brother enters the picture and later, something doesn't seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all.

Review: Telgemeier has delivered another hit with a must-read follow-up to her graphic memoir Smile that is funny, poignant, and utterly relatable for anyone with siblings. This realistic graphic memoir tells the story of Raina; her sister, Amara; and her brother, Will, as they take a road trip with their mother from California to Colorado to join a family reunion. The focus as you may already know just from the graphic novel's title is on the mercurial relationship between Raina and Amara. Raina is embarking her teen years, longing to find a her own crew of friends and people who understand her. Amara is the precocious younger sister who is just as artistically talented as Raina. Amara is tuned in to the present, observant of her surroundings and is irritated by Raina's self-centered point of view.
    The author's narrative style is fresh and sharp, and the combination of well-paced and well-placed flashbacks pull the plot together, moving the story forward and helping readers understand the characters' point of view. I really like the use of colors on the pages that makes it easy to tell if a flashback or the present. Telgemeier captures the uneasiness of preadolescence in an effortless and uncanny way and turns tough subjects, such as parental marriage problems, into experiences with which readers can identify. These are all thing that make Telgemeier's graphic novels so easy to read and enjoyed by a wide variety of readers. Not only does the story relay the road trip's hijinks, but it also touches on what happens with the advent of a new sibling and what it means to be truly sisters. I'm already a big fan of Telgemeier and I always look forward to her next release.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: Chiggers by Hope Larson
Rummanah Aasi
Sixth Grave was a game changer in the Charley Davidson series. A new revelation shook up all the characters, leaving the future uncertain and many questions left unanswered. Though we do get a few answers in Seventh Grave and No Body, we seem to be headed in a different direction.

Description: Twelve. Twelve of the deadliest beasts ever forged in the fires of hell have escaped onto our plane, and they want nothing more than to rip out Charley Davidson’s jugular and serve her body to Satan for dinner. So there’s that. But Charley has more on her plate than a mob of testy hellhounds. For one thing, her father has disappeared, and as she retraces his last steps she learns he was conducting an investigation of his own, one that has Charley questioning everything she’s ever known about him. Add to that an ex-BFF who is haunting her night and day, a rash of suicides that has authorities baffled, and a drop-dead sexy fiancĂ© who has attracted the attentions of a local celebrity, and Charley is not having the best week of her life. But all of that barely scratches the surface of her problems. Recent developments have forced her to become a responsible adult.  To conquer such a monumental task, she’s decided to start small. Really small. She gets a pet. But how can she save the world against the forces of evil when she can’t even keep a goldfish alive?
A tad north of hell, a hop, skip, and a jump past the realm of eternity, is a little place called Earth, and Charley Davidson, grim reaper extraordinaire, is determined to do everything in her power to protect it.
We’re doomed. 

Review: For six books in the Charley Davidson series we are told how powerful our favorite PI/Grim Reaper is but we never see these powers manifest until this book. Seventh Grave and No Body has a different tone than the other books in this series. While it still retains its trademark humor and the fantastic comradeship amongst its characters, tone is more serious forcing our heroine to become an adult.
  With a prophecy that reads like a riddle, it is hard to make sense of all the key players and their destiny. It seems every step we get closer to deciphering it, we are pushed back three steps. The Twelve Hellhounds whose presence sends chills down our spines just from their description make several appearances in this book making their threat very real to our cast of characters. I really liked how the suspense around them build and how they suddenly appeared on the pages when we least expect it. I have lots of questions about the hellhounds and I'm curious to learn more about them.
  The romance between Charley and Reyes grows stronger, however, they are both reluctant to openly communicate with one another, more out of vulnerability and fear than anything else. I have to say that when Charley and Reyes got into an argument, I would have to take Reyes side in admonishing Charley from diving head first in dangerous situations. I do enjoy, however, seeing this couple grow and try to work out their problems.
  There were really two highlights for me in this book besides Charley actually using and learning more about her grim reaper powers. One is the further character development of The Dealer, a slave demon from hell who Charley trusts implicitly and is slowly taken into her arsenal of friends. While I'm sure that The Dealer has good intentions, I do think he has other ulterior motives and I can't wait to find out more about him and his role in the big prophecy. The other big highlight was resolving what happened to Charley's father who was missing in the last book. I didn't see that plot line coming and I can't wait to see how Charley deals with that situation. Overall, I thought Seventh Grave and No Body is a solid addition of the Charley Davidson series and now we have to wait 6 months to reunite with Charley and her crew when the next book comes out. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, violence, and a couple of explicit sexual situations. Recommended for mature teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: Eighth Grave After Dark by Darynda Jones (May 2015),
Accidental Friends series by Dakota Cassidy, Peper Martin series by Casey Daniels, Undead series by MaryJanice Davidson, and the Chicagoland Vampire series by Chloe Neill
Rummanah Aasi
 The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan was one of the highly anticipated book release for this year. While it was a satisfying ending to a great series filled with mythology and demigods, I was expecting a bit more from it. Below is a spoiler free review of the book.

Description: Though the Greek and Roman crew members of the Argo II have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaea. Her giants have risen-all of them-and they're stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaea plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood-the blood of Olympus-in order to wake.
  The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half-Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it might be able to stop a war between the two camps.
   The Athena Parthenos will go west; the Argo II will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaea's army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.

Review: With over 500 pages in length and an ominous title, I was a bit hesitant in reading The Blood of Olympus in fears that my favorite characters would meet their end. With so much plot that involves many characters, I highly suggest reading the Heroes of Olympus series from the beginning as Riordan doesn't fill the reader in with much background information. The story picks up right where it left us in The House of Hades. Time is not on the side for our demigods. With just 12 days to go until Gaea awakens fully on Aug. 1 and brings an end to the world as we know it, the Greek and Roman demigods must put their differences aside and work together to stop her.Aboard the Argo II, Percy, Annabeth, Jason, Piper, Frank, Hazel and Leo race to Athens for the final showdown. Meanwhile, Nico, Reyna, and Coach Hedge. 
  Each chapter is told from a different demigod's point of view, which keeps the pace, plot, and suspense moving. The book is filled with what Riordan is known for: comedic, action-packed encounters with deities most readers--and sometimes characters--have never heard of such as Nike, the Goddess of victory Nike. With each previous book in this series, we are given herculean obstacles that the characters face and in this book the real highlight are the characters growths of both Nico's and Reyna's arduous and emotional journeys from outcast loners to self-acceptance.
  What disappointed me the most in The Blood of Olympus is how anticlimactic it seemed. The blood chilling prophecy was resolved too easily in my opinion with convenient plot points. I also would have liked to have chapters from Percy and Annabeth, the stars of the series and well known to readers. The story's occasional ventures into romance are also a bit stilted and awkward, but fortunately they are brief. While the book ended on a good note, which might bring some peace and quiet to its characters, I was hoping it deliver a greater punch than it did. Overall, I enjoyed this installment but I didn't love it like the other books in the series.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are a lot more battle scenes in this book. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan, Blackwell Pages series by K.L. Armstrong, The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh, Gods of Manhattan by Scot Mebus,
Rummanah Aasi
  It seems fitting to review Laurie Halse Anderson's latest novel, The Impossible Knife of Memory, in observance of Veterans Day. The book written about the difficulties some veterans face in assimilating back to civilian life after going off to war.

Description: 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?

Review: The Impossible Knife of Memory is a compelling and well timed story about a family who struggles to hold itself together in the wake of war. Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, a decorated veteran, have returned to their small upstate New York hometown after years of so-called homeschooling and long-haul trucking. They have returned so that Hayley can have a typical senior year of high school and think about her post-high school future, but it's clear that Andy's untreated post traumatic stress disorder has made it impossible for him to make a living as a trucker.
  I really liked Haley as a character. She is forced to grow up and mature quickly into the role of a caretaker as her father's mental and physical health deteriorate. She has been a loner for so long, putting up defensive walls to prevent others from getting close to her in fears of her family's secret coming out that she is having a hard time to opening up to people who care about her including her sweet, bantering boyfriend Finn who wiggles his way into her heart. I also liked how the romance between Haley and Finn allowed Haley a chance to live a "normal teen" life and allowed some levity with the book's tough topic. Though there are many secondary characters in this book that are important, I wish they were fleshed out a bit more. For instance, we get hints that Finn has his own family problems as well as Gracie but I would have liked to know more.
 The book really shines in depicting the emotional torment of Andy as he tries to repress his agonizing memories during his four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and his failed attempts to self medicate himself with drugs and alcohol. We get to see first hand how debilitating PSTD can be and Anderson addresses the many problems such as physical recovery, grief and survivor's guilt, chemical dependency, panic attacks and suicidal tendencies--that veterans can face when trying to reintegrate. Despite my minor issues, The Impossible Knife of Memory is an important novel that honestly and deeply explores the lingering internal scars of war.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, scenes of drinking, and drug use as a way to self medicate. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller, Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt
Rummanah Aasi

 I am very excited to be part of the Embers blog tour hosted by the lovely ladies, Jenny and Danny, of the Kismet Blog Touring. If you are a fan of angels and demons, then this book is right up your alley! There are several great giveaways accompanying this tour. One lucky winner will receive a $100 gift card, another will receive a signed Temptation Series book set, including Temptation, Belonging & Forever, and ten lucky winners will receive an eCopy of EMBERS! Don't forget to enter the giveaways below the review, and please make sure to visit the other tour stops as well. Many thanks to Jenny and Danny from Kismet for organizing this great tour.

Description: There are descendants of angels walking among us. Ember is one of them. And she may be the only hope mankind has as the rapture approaches and evils rises.
  Embers is an epic paranormal adventure about a seventeen year old girl who discovers that she's immune to fire and any other injury when she’s in a horrific car crash that kills her parents. Following a violent episode with her aunt's boyfriend, Ember flees Ohio to live with an old relative in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Ember's exuberance at escaping a bad home life soon turns to trepidation when she finds out that she's a Watcher, a descendant of angels. While Ember learns about her heritage, and the powers that go along with it, she strikes up friendships with two teenagers who live in a frightening walled compound in the forest. Inexplicably drawn to one of the young men in particular, an impossible romance develops. But it is cut short when Ember discovers that her new friends are fighting on the opposite side of a war, one that’s been raging between two factions of Watchers for thousands of years. When the compound’s inhabitants threaten the townspeople, Ember takes action, sealing her fate in the ancient battle of good versus evil, and the grayness in between. Ember is up to the challenge, until she realizes that she isn’t only fighting for the lives of the locals and the souls of her new friends. She also might be one of the few champions who will make a stand for all of mankind as the rapture approaches and the end of days begin.

Review: When I began reading Embers, I anticipated finding all the tropes of your typical YA romance. While those tropes of a girl discovering she is not wholly human, a bad boy who may have a golden heart, and a pending war on the horizon that said girl and bad boy will participate in hopes of saving their loves ones exist, Embers has a refreshing take on the whole angels and demons concept that I found really refreshing and that's what propelled me to read it.
   The world of Embers is large and strange, filled with creatures like shape shifters that are similar to what we encountered before and Watchers who we have not heard of until this book. Embers belongs to the latter, a young girl who is literally fueled by fire. Much to the awe of everyone she escaped unscathed from a horrible fiery crash that killed her parents. Ember is a likeable character from the start, who admirably is ready to fight for her beliefs and protect her loved ones at any cost. She is a leader with an immeasurable amount of power who is trying to understand her new role as a Watcher and a warrior in the End of Days. I really liked learning what powers that Embers possessed and I enjoyed watching her become more confident in her skills. 
   Besides Ember another intriguing albeit ambiguous character is Sawyer. I had a hard time trying to finalize my opinion of Sawyer. There were times when I sympathized with him when we learn of his long life and how he was forced to live his life as a Demon, but I was also irritated at his alpha male traits such as being possessive and obsessive about Ember. His struggle to keep a shred of his humanity was a constant source of tension, and his occasional slips into his dark nature, while rationalized and perhaps even necessary, was a bit hard to read and support.
  There were also many interesting secondary characters such as Ivan, Aunt Ila, and Horas that I wish were flushed out a bit more. I'm sure we will get to see and hear from them in the future volumes. They all had great back stories and I'm sure lots of stories to uncover.
   I was not a fan of the insta-romance between Ember and Sawyer. Though Ember did listen to the warning bells ringing in her head about Sawyer, I thought the progress of their relationship moved way too fast for my taste. I also wasn't really sure if Embers even wanted to be with Sawyer since her reasons to be with him were a bit unclear to me. I was really surprised that just after a few meetings with Sawyer, she was ready to take drastic steps for him. It was really hard for me to root for Ember and Sawyer, but luckily the romance didn't take away much from the story.
   Overall Embers was an enjoyable read if you would like to escape to a supernatural world where things are not always clear and definite. The ending left me with lots of questions and wondering what would happen next. I would definitely recommend this book to paranormal/supernatural romance fans.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, allusions to sex but no graphic details, some strong violence, and disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Angelfell by Susan Ee, Shadows by Paula Weston

About Karen: A native of New York State, Karen Ann Hopkins now lives with her family on a farm in northern Kentucky, where her neighbors in all directions are members of a strict Amish community. Her unique perspective became the inspiration for the story of star-crossed lovers Rose and Noah. When she’s not homeschooling her kids, giving riding lessons or tending to a menagerie of horses, goats, peacocks, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs and cats, she is dreaming up her next romantic novel.
Find her at: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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Tour Schedule

Monday, October 20th Unabridged Bookshelf & Book Briefs
Tuesday, October 21st A Thousand Words A Million Books & Books and Things
Wednesday, October 22nd Sweet Southern Home & Tween 2 Teen Book Reviews
Thursday, October 23rd the unofficial addiction book fan club & Becoming Books
Friday, October 24th A Dream Within A Dream & Becoming Books

Monday, October 27th The Avid Reader & Lost in Ever After
Tuesday, October 28th Lose Time Reading & So Bookalicious
Wednesday, October 29th Such a Novel Idea & Reading Addict
Thursday, October 30th Curling Up With A Good Book & Coming at YA
Friday, October 31st Actin' Up with Books & To Each Their Own Reviews
Monday, November 3rd GenGen's Book Blog & A Bookish Escape
Tuesday, November 4th Sassy Book Lovers & Bittersweet Enchantment
Wednesday, November 5th Nay's Pink Bookshelf & The Nocturnal Library
Thursday, November 6th The Book Faery Reviews & Bumbles and Fairy-Tales
Friday, November 7th Books in the Spotlight & Her Book Thoughts

Rummanah Aasi
 Like many people, I feel like I have been run over with the onslaught of political ads this election year. It is hard to remember that the right to vote, which we take for granted, was desperately fought for by many different people throughout history as demonstrated by Olivia Mead, the protagonist for Cat Winter's enthralling sophomore novel The Cure for Dreaming. Many thanks to Abrams and Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.

Description: Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl--a suffragist--in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It's 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia's father, concerned that she's headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she's able to see people's true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she's drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women.

Review: Olivia Mead is a strong willed young women who thinks on her own and fully supports women's suffrage despite the growing opposition the topic in both her state of Oregon and in her own home. Her overbearing single father who rules the household with an iron first adamantly does not agree with Olivia and fears her 'rebellious' nature will further break down her family unit just like her selfish mother. After Olivia attends a pro-suffrage demonstration, her father hires handsome visiting hypnotist Henri Reverie to "teach her to accept the world the way it truly is…make her clearly understand the roles of men and women" -- and to squelch Livie's ability to argue. It was very hard to read this part of the book without your anger rising and wanting to jump inside the story and throat punch Olivia's father. Unfortunately, his view on women's rights are not in the minority.
  Luckily sympathetic and enigmatic Henri (who has his own reasons for taking the assignment) finds a loophole in Olivia's father's request, hypnotizing Olivia to see the way things are -- not accept them. Olivia now has the ability to discern peoples' true natures; for instance, unscrupulous men appear as vampires just like her favorite horror novel, Dracula. Her visions are as unsettling and surreal as nightmares, but I really liked how Olivia used these visions as her strengths rather than being scared of them. Winters does a great job in fluidly going back and forth with what is real and imaginary, which is appropriate of the story that features hypnotism and emotional manipulation.
  I also loved the inclusion of Dracula into the story, which at first glance doesn't really seem much of a connection until you begin to think about how the ideal women is described. The two main female characters of Dracula are discussed: the wanton Lucy who openly expresses her sexuality when she becomes a vampire and dies a gruesome death and the saintly, virginal, passive Mina who escapes the grasp of Dracula and evil. Olivia doesn't belong to either of these small boxes, but is constantly fighting against those like her father who want her to easily fit into labels. Along with Dracula, there are also other texts and famous quotes that provide the social and cultural context of the 1900s.
  I would definitely recommend Winter's book to anyone who believes historical fiction is boring. Winters combines the touch of paranormal along with historical facts to not only create an eerie environment, but an intriguing way to look at history.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is minor language, a scene of underage drinking, and disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs, A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
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