Rummanah Aasi
 Lauren Myracles Internet Girls series has been a target for challenged books for the past few years due to the frank and open discussion of sexual situations in her book. Written in completely text and instant messaging, the Internet Girls series focuses on the friendship of three high school best friends who give each other support and advice. In their latest book, the trio are trying to survive their first year of college. Please note that this review is based on the advanced reader's copy of the book that I received from the publisher via Netgalley.

Description: Now it’s freshman year of college for the winsome threesome, and *everything* is different. For one, the best friends are facing their first semester apart. Way, way apart. Maddie’s in California, Zoe’s in Ohio, and Angela’s back in Georgia. And it’s not just the girls who are separated. Zoe’s worried that Doug wants to break up now that they’re at different schools, and Maddie’s boyfriend, Ian, is on the other side of the country. In the face of change and diverging paths, Maddie’s got a plan to keep the friends close, and it involves embracing the present, making memories, and . . . roller derby!

Review: There are many books that talk about high school seniors who are excited about college, but there are a few books that actually talk about the wide range of emotions that college brings from starting from square one at a new place with new people to nerves and uncertainty. Myracle does a good job in showing how freshmen year of college can be for three very different individuals. Maddie, the driving force of the winsome threesome, comes up with the theme for the new school year, yolo (i.e. you only live once), and challenges her girlfriends to make the most of their freshmen year. Ironically Maddie seems to have the most trouble as she doesn't quite fit in at her school in California. Meanwhile party girl Angela is uncertain about joining a sorority in school at Georgia. Zoe is somewhere in the middle and mostly concerned about losing her high school boyfriend Doug as they try to work out a long distance relationship.
  Since the book is written completely in text form, it is very quick and easy read especially for reluctant readers. Each of the girls has their own different personalities that shine through in their texts. I like the fact that these girls are ordinary and so are their problems. Instead of turning to their love interests to help solve their problems, they turn to each other. I found the plot to be realistic and frank about the issues the freshmen class will face in college such as homesickness, partying, and soul-crushing rejection without being preachy or heavy-handed. I think this book would be a good read for those jittery freshmen who want some reassurance for starting a new school year. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, underage drinking, an attempt of sexual assault, frank discussion of sex though not explicit, and some crude humor. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: 3 Willows by Anna Brashares, Bass Ackwards and Belly Up by Liz Craft
Rummanah Aasi
  It's Monday and 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, is going to be finished very soon with a total of 19 volumes in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed Volume 18 which sets up the finale quite nicely and I'm very curious to see how this series ends.

Description: Yuki and Zero team up to go after Kaname. Yuki and Kaname fight each other in the headquarters of the Hunter Society while Sara tries to control Zero through her blood. The female progenitor’s origin metal intervenes, and Yuki realizes there is only one way to stop Kaname

Review: Vampire Knight Volume 18 is the penultimate volume full of action sequences and surprising twists which sets up the events for the finale. The running theme of this volume is sacrifice. Each character must make a decision to lose something precious to them. 
  Yuki and Zero continue to chase Kaname down - trying to reach him before the purebloods seal his fate, however, the progenitor furnace is also reaching its critical mass - and with it, all chances the humans have to fight the vampire menace. Yuki will learn some hard truths about Kaname in this book before taking a drastic final act at the end. Will she align with Kaname or will she join Zero who she realized she can not live without?
  Unlike a lot of the previous volumes of this series, I had to reread this volume a couple of times because the pacing is at a break-neck speed and I thought I missed a few things in my first read. The Sara arc is finished quite nicely and I'm glad that it didn't extend into the next volume. I'm still confused as to why Kaname killed a certain pureblood and was disappointed to not see his reasoning in this volume. 

  This volume has a lot of full page visuals and too many close-up of characters. I love the emotional intensity between the characters which leap off the page when it is depicted in the wide panels. It is clear that Yuki is at a crossroads and neither paths she can take are easy. I can't wait to see how this series, particularly this love triangle ends.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: Vampire Knight Volume 19 by Matsuri Hino, Black Bird series by Millennium Snow series by Bisco Hatori
Rummanah Aasi
Reading a book in the Charley Davidson series is a lot like reuniting with a great friend that you haven't talked to in a while, you just pick up right where you left off as if the absences never existed. For me the main draw of this series is its trademark humor which never fails to make me laugh out loud. I know Charley's humor can be over-the-top for some readers, but that's what I love about her.

Description: Charley Davidson isn't your everyday, run-of-the-mill grim reaper. She's more of a paranormal private eye/grim reaper extraordinaire. However, she gets sidetracked when Reyes Farrow moves in next door. To further complicate matters, Reyes is her main suspect in an arson case. Charley has vowed to stay away from him until she can find out the truth...but then dead women start appearing in her apartment, one after another, each lost, confused, and terrified beyond reason. When it becomes apparent that her own sister, Gemma is the serial killer's next target, Charley has no choice but to ask for Reyes's help. Arsonist or not, he's the one man alive who could protect Gemma no matter who or what came at her. But he wants something in return. Charley. All of her, body and soul. And to keep her sister safe, it is a price she is willing to pay.

Review: For me, Fifth Grave is where I started to become a Reyes Farrow fan. Though I acknowledged his physical appeal, I didn't see much beside that until I read this book. Reyes is a completely different person than from the first few books in this series. He becomes more human, displaying his vulnerabilities to Charlie and that's what made him click for me. I really liked his character development in this hope and I hope that continues in the future installments. I also really enjoyed the mystery behind the roomful of girls whose spirits are stuck here. I wasn't able to solve this mystery as easily as I did the others.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: 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

Description (edited to avoid spoilers): Charley Davidson is a paranormal private eye and grim reaper-in-training who is known to be a bit of a hell-raiser, especially after a few shots of caffeine. Her beloved Reyes may be the son of evil, but he is everything Charley could hope for and want, but when the FBI file on Reyes' troubling childhood happens to land into her lap, Charley can't help herself: She opens it. and then the real fun begins. First, Charley finds a naked corpse riding shotgun in her car. Then, a man loses his soul in a card game. Throw in a Deaf boy who sees dead people, a woman running from mobsters, and a very suspicious Reyes, and things can't get any worse for Charley. Right?

Review:  In this installment we do get a few answers to some of the questions and a couple of background histories that we have been waiting for, however, the real truth behind Charley's true powers as a grim reaper are still mystery. Though there are plenty of clues or little hints that Jones drops for us, we still don't know how the pieces of the puzzle fit.
   Sixth Grave has a nice balance of dark, sad moments along with the humor and sweet romance between Charley and Reyes. We are introduced to a new character, the Dealer, an escaped empathetic demon who helps people who are willing to sell their soul to him. He may know all the details that Charley wants to know about being the grim reaper but she will need to tread carefully when working with him. The Dealer is definitely going to shake things up for Charley and I do not completely trust him. Unfortunately, Sixth Grave ends in a huge cliffhanger that can completely change the course of the series and I'm super curious to see where Jones takes this story. I just hope this series continues to be entertaining and not take a dive (I'm looking right at you Chicagoland Vampires). Thankfully, Seventh Grave and No Body releases next month so the waiting game isn't too long. 

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: Seventh Grave and No Body by Darynda Jones (Charley Davidson #4), 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
 Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine! This week I'm eagerly awaiting the release of Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder, which is a continuation of the Study series despite the publisher's weird notation of a new series called Soulfinder. This book will take place sometime after the events of Spy Glass.

Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder
 Expected Pub Date: February 2015
Publisher: Mira

The Study series was one of the first book series that was recommended to me by one of my students after we chatted about Graceling by Kristin Cashore. When I started the Study Series, I immediately fell in love with the world and characters that Snyder created. I devoured each book and incessantly checked Snyder's website for any indication that we could revisit Yelena and her world. I was thrilled to find out that three more books in the Study series are in progress! I plan on rereading this series as well as the spinoff Glass series before picking this latest book up. 

New York Times bestselling author Maria V. Snyder wowed readers with Poison Study, the unforgettable story of poison taster Yelena. Now she's back with a new tale of intrigue.

Once, only her own life hung in the balance.

Oddly enough, when Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. But she'd survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia. Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands and protect her relationship with Valek.

Suddenly, though, they are beset on all sides by those vying for power through politics and intrigue. Valek's job - and his life - are in danger. As Yelena tries to uncover the scope of these plots, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. She must keep that a secret - or her enemies will discover just how vulnerable she really is - while searching for who or what is responsible for neutralizing her powers.

Yes, the days of tasting poisons were much simpler. And certainly not as dangerous

Rummanah Aasi

  It's Monday and 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. We have finally reached the last volume of Boys Over Flowers, but there is an added bonus volume to the series which was fun to read.

Description: Boys over Flowers officially ended with volume 36, but Yoko Kamio, one of the most beloved shojo creators of all time, just couldn't stay away from her beloved characters! Jewelry Box contains two short stories that take place one year after the end of Boys over Flowers volume 36.

Review: Boys Over Flowers: Jewelry Box is a supplemental read for the manga series. This volume is solely created for fans of this story as it contains contains two short stories, both of which take place a few years after the end of the manga. In the first story Tsukasa is still overseas and Tsukushi misses him dearly. Despite their best attempts to stay in a long distance relationship, it is still hard. Rui has been coming over quite frequently, much to Tsukasa's dismay when he discovers this. Thankfully Rui is only there as a friend and knows that Tsukushi has no romantic feelings for him. As a surprise, we get to go on a trip and see Shizuka's wedding as Tsukushi and the F4 reunite. The second short story is entirely about Rui, a character that is still a bit mysterious and someone who I can't really figure out. In his short story he reflects over everything that has happened over the course of the series & wonders whether or not he can truly move on or if he is capable of loving again.  While this supplemental volume doesn't entirely give a lot of closure to the series, it was a pleasure to read and seeing the characters again.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some minor language and crude humor. Recommeneded for teens and up.

If you like this book try:  Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances by Masami Tsuda, Mars by Fuyumi Soryo
Rummanah Aasi
 There are many books written about World War II, but I have not encountered many books that feature the role of animals during this historical time period like Saving Zasha. If you know any readers who enjoy reading books about pets and don't mind the historical fiction setting, they might like this book.

Description: World War II has just ended when thirteen-year-old Mikhail finds a dying man and his German shepherd, Zasha, in the woods. It's dangerous -- some say traitorous -- to own a German dog after Germany attacked Russia, so Mikhail must keep Zasha a secret to keep her alive.

Review: Saving Zasha is a sweet, quick read about a little known problem that I did not know about at all: the near extinction of any dog in European countries after World War II. As the main character, Mikhail and his familly learns that dogs were used along with soldiers and artillery in the way. The dogs were used and abused for many different purposes, including carrying bombs under tanks, carrying messages through enemy territory, and acting as guard dogs and killers. In addition, declining food resources meant that many animals starved just as humans were struggling to make ends meet. The other I had a hard understanding is that the dogs became a scapegoat and a symbol of prejudice against other nations mainly because they were bred in certain nations, mainly in Germany. 
  Zasha is a German shepherd found by a teenage boy in Russia not long after the war ended. Although he and his family take the dog in to care for her, they must also keep her a secret for the simply reason because her breed includes the word German. Too many hearts are unwilling to forgive or accept that not every aspect of the German culture was bad. I like how the author included chapters that lightened the mood by having the family grow attached to Zasha as well as suspense as the family almost getting caught because of their trespass.
  There is also a bit of a mystery in the secondary plot line as we are not sure whether Mikhail's father who was recruited by the army is alive. An author's historical note is found in the back of the book which gives a bit more details about the roles of dogs in the war and the race to start a new breed of dogs called the Black Russian Terrier.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are mentions of war violence though not graphically detailed. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Finding Zasha by Randi Barrow (a prequel novel about Zasha's background before meeting Mikhail and his family) Wild Life by Cynthia DeFelice, Duke by Kirby Larson,
Rummanah Aasi
 I struck out with both Dark Metropolis and Dream Boy. Though they both had the potential to be great reads, they felt unfinished to me. Please note that these reviews are based on the advanced reader's copy I received from the book's publishers via Netgalley.

Description: Thea Holder's mother is cursed with a spell that's driving her mad, and whenever they touch, Thea is chilled by the magic, too. With no one else to contribute, Thea must make a living for both of them in a sinister city, where danger lurks and greed rules.
Thea spends her nights waitressing at the decadent Telephone Club attending to the glitzy clientele. But when her best friend, Nan, vanishes, Thea is compelled to find her. She meets Freddy, a young, magnetic patron at the club, and he agrees to help her uncover the city's secrets-even while he hides secrets of his own.
  Together, they find a whole new side of the city. Unrest is brewing behind closed doors as whispers of a gruesome magic spread. And if they're not careful, the heartless masterminds behind the growing disappearances will be after them, too.

Review: Dark Metropolis is marketed as a magical thriller, however, it never succeeds to do both. The author has created an unique world of a pseudo magical Jazz Age that doesn't really come together. The books seems unorganized as we are shuffled between three teens who are trying to survive in this world without any smooth transitions between them. With her father missing and presumed dead and her mother becoming increasingly mentally unstable,  Thea Holder must find work that will support the two of them. The waitressing job she finds at the Telephone Club introduces her to a mysterious boy, Freddy, and the sinister underworld with which he seems to be involved. When her best friend and co-worker, Nan, vanishes, the situation becomes increasingly dire as Thea and Freddy discover that the city workers are literally dead men walking, kept alive through arcane magic. It was hard to follow this story along because I wasn't really sure where the story was going and really which character story line to follow. I didn't feel any emotional investment in these characters and as a result, I mostly skimmed this book to the end in hopes that it would redeem itself but it didn't. If you're looking for a dark urban fantasy for young adults, this isn't it.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is some minor language and a few brief scenes of torture. Recommended for strong Grade 7 readers and up.

If you like this book try: The Diviners by Libba Bray, Tithe by Holly Black

Description: Annabelle Manning feels like she’s doing time at her high school in Chilton, Virginia. She has her friends at her lunchtime table of nobodies. What she doesn’t have are possibilities. Or a date for Homecoming. Things get more interesting at night, when she spends time with the boy of her dreams. But the blue-eyed boy with the fairytale smile is just that—a dream. Until the Friday afternoon he walks into her chemistry class.
  One of friends suspects he’s an alien. Another is pretty sure it’s all one big case of deja vu. While Annabelle doesn’t know what to think, she’s willing to believe that the charming Martin Zirkle may just be her dream come true. But as Annabelle discovers the truth behind dreams—where they come from and what they mean—she is forced to face a dark reality she had not expected. More than just Martin has arrived in Chilton. As Annabelle learns, if dreams can come true, so can nightmares.

Review: Dream Boy has a really interesting premise for a paranormal romance, however due to the lack of world building and poor character development the story falls flat. After a bad breakup with a popular boy who never really got her and a rough divorce between her parents, Annabelle dreams as a means to escape. Reality and dream blur together, though, when Martin, the literal boy of her dreams shows up, live and in person, in her chemistry class. It appears as though she has conjured him from her subconscious, and he is drawn to her, reading her mind and seeking her out. At first, she is excited, because he is completely perfect and everything she would ever want in a boyfriend, but the story twists when she realizes she is not the only one who can dream up people and things. The relationship between Annabelle and her dream boy are instantaneous and occupy the first, slow half of the book. Things pick up in the second half of the book as Martin slowly opens up to talk about his world and how it functions; unfortunately, this story line doesn't get developed at all leaving us with lots of questions and plot twists that are suppose to surprise and shock us fall flat. With shelves full of paranormal romances available for young adults, Dream Boy doesn't stand out. 

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and few disturbing scenes. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach

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. We have finally reached the last volume of Boys Over Flowers. Though I had mixed feelings while reading this series, I ultimately enjoyed it.

Description: The final volume of Boys over Flowers has Tsukushi facing a very uncertain future. Forces seem to conspire against her as she races to make it in time for her high school prom. Characters from her past make cameos as she reflects on her tumultuous time at Eitoku Academy. Will she decide to join Tsukasa in New York or will she stay in Japan and finish school?!

Review: I was a bit surprised on how the author ended this manga series. Though a wedding is normally how a romance story ends like Boys Over Flowers end, we are given a more realistic solution which stays true to the characters. I thought the ending was nice as it ended on a positive note, leaving hope for the future. I really enjoyed watching the character growth of Tsukasa especially since he was the character that had me worried from the start. He has morphed from a hot head bully to someone with more patience and self awareness. I would recommend picking up Boys over Flowers because of its characters and the story much more than its artwork.

Rating: 4 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: Jewelry Box, Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances by Masami Tsuda, Mars by Fuyumi Soryo
Rummanah Aasi
 When I picked up Before I Met You by Lisa Jewel I was in the mood for a read that was similar to Jojo Moyes's writing style and it delivered. While this book won't garner literary awards, I was engrossed in this book and devoured it in a couple of days.

Description: Having grown up on the quiet island of Guernsey, Betty Dean can't wait to start her new life in London. On a mission to find Clara Pickle - the mysterious beneficiary in her grandmother's will - she arrives in grungy, 1990s Soho, ready for whatever life has to throw at her. Or so she thinks.
In 1920s bohemian London, Arlette - Betty's grandmother - is starting her new life in a time of post-war change. Beautiful and charismatic, Arlette is soon drawn into the hedonistic world of the Bright Young People. But less than two years later, tragedy strikes and she flees back to Guernsey for the rest of her life.
  As Betty searches for Clara, she is taken on a journey through Arlette's extraordinary time in London, uncovering a tale of love, loss and heartbreak. Will the secrets of Arlette's past help Betty on her path to happiness?

Review: Before I Met You is a story about two different women living in two different times whose lives converge in the most unexpected way. When she is a child, Betty first meets Arlette, her stylish and glamorous grandmother. Betty has always imagined her grandmother having wonderful adventures and wanted the same type of life for herself when she became an adult. When Arlette has a stroke and then develops Alzheimer's, Betty's parents can't cope and move out, but Betty stays, becoming Arlette's caregiver for several years. Upon Arlette's death, the will mentions a beneficiary none of the family have ever heard of, Clara Pickle, and Betty sets off to London on a search that will take her places she never imagined.
The story goes back and forth between Betty's own rites of passage of a young woman living in the city as well as her search for Arlette's story and Clara, and Arlette's coming of age story in the years from 1919 to 1921 in London. It was fascinating to see what the 1920s were like in London. Arlette's story line comes alive as Jewel sets the stage for London's fashion, music, parties, art, and love. From Liberty's to jazz clubs, parties with black jazz musicians, forbidden romance, sitting for portraits, living a life full of happiness to heartbreak and tragedy, Arlette's life is one that you won't forget. Arlette's story drew me in instantly as I wanted to figure out the mystery behind Clara. Betty's story line is also good and I like how the author made her self-discovery journey parallel that of her grandmother's. Though Betty' story can be a bit melodramatic and I wasn't always happy with the choices she made I do understand her desire to have an adventurous adulthood like her grandmother.  
 Jewell keeps the pace steady, the plot intriguing, and the characters highly relatable. Family dynamics, the search for love and personal meaning, and the simple yet evocative daily motions of each woman keep the pages turning. I was never confused with the switching of the time period and the story came together neatly in the end though I was still curious about how things went after Betty finds Clara. Though I favored Arlette's chapters more, I was still engaged in Betty's story. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy historical fiction with a bit of romance and mystery.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, sexual situations, including a brief rape scene. Recommended for mature teen readers and up.

If you like this book try: The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes, The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, Not Without You by Harriet Evans
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Three ordinary children are brought together by extraordinary events. Giuseppe is an orphaned street musician from Italy, who was sold by his uncle to work as a slave for an evil padrone in the U.S. But when a mysterious green violin enters his life he begins to imagine a life of freedom.
  Hannah is a soft-hearted, strong-willed girl from the tenements, who supports her family as a hotel maid when tragedy strikes and her father can no longer work. She learns about a hidden treasure, which she knows will save her family -- if she can find it.

Review: Clockwork Three is an ambitious middle grade debut that weaves together a good amount of reliably alluring elements such as suspense, historical facts, and some action. Initially we are introduced to three separate story lines which feature a child in a sort of Victorian-era-ish New York City. Giuseppe plays the fiddle on street corners for spare change, hoping to have enough left over after paying his wicked padrone for a ticket back to Italy; Hannah works as a hotel maid where she learns of a hidden treasure that may save her ailing father; and Frederick, an apprentice clockmaker, figures that the automaton he is crafting in secret will allow him to become a journeyman.
  The trio of strands work nicely individually as we get time to spend with each of the characters and learn their plight for freedom and happiness, however, the story begins to drag when all three stories come together in a predictable plot. Kirby wastes several pages to spell things out too bluntly and there are several plot events that happen too conveniently to wrap everything in the end in a nice bow. Though I enjoyed the detailed attention to the time period, I was disappointed to not see more clockwork elements than what is on the surface. Though Clockwork Three takes time to get started, I would recommend this book to younger readers who like fantasy-light books that contain a mystery.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There are scenes of suggested violence. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Rummanah Aasi
  I really enjoyed the Stephanie Kuehn's hard hitting debut novel, Charm and Strange, which won the Morris Award. When I saw her latest book on Netgalley, I was eager to read it. Please note this review is based on the advanced reader's copy of the book.

Description: Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else. But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie. Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell.

Review: Like her debut novel, Kuehn once again explores childhood trauma, mental illness, and the slipperiness of memory in her latest taut psychological thriller. Jamie suffers from anxiety and idiopathic cataplexy (unexplained numbness) when he learns that his volatile older sister Cate has been released from juvie. This isn't the first time Jamie's gone numb, physically and emotionally; his cataplexy first started two years ago when he heard about the barn fire Cate was later convicted of setting, and he has only fragments of memories from the time surrounding the fire and from his childhood prior to their young single mother's murder. It is clear early on that Jamie is an unreliable narrator as his flashbacks about his mother's death, the fire, and Cate's arrest don't match up to what truly happened. The reader just doesn't know how much to believe Jamie and our emotion of empathy to his struggles fluctuate throughout the novel.
  While reading this book I was surprise to see an unexpected and dark side of Jamie who is manipulative and prone to violent rage, which is completely different from his "good boy" image when we first meet him. It is almost as if he has a split personality. Kuehn maintains suspense and tension as the reader tries to figure out how much Jamie is deep in self-deception and the real role that his sister has played. Complicit ensnares readers from the first page with its surprising twists and revelations as the plot slowly unwinds. This is a smart thriller that I think many readers will enjoy.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language and disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Choker by Elizabeth Emma Woods, Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez
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. There are only one more volume left in this series!

Description: Tsukasa makes two shocking announcements! One of them is to the public and one is for Tsukushi's ears only. The couple spend some time together and visit some familiar faces not seen in a while. This second-to-last volume of Boys Over Flowers is guaranteed to please as we head toward the final climactic volume!

Review: Graduation time has come for the F4 and each of them must has to make a decision of what they want to do after high school. Tsukasa makes two very big decisions, one professionally and one personally, that will change his life forever. On his own, Tsukasa decides that he will work for his family company and be the responsible son. This choice is a clear indication of how much Tsukasa has matured in this series. I was surprised by this move as I have watched Tsukasa spend countless amount of hours avoiding any type of responsibility and spent money recklessly. His other decision didn't surprise me as much as he pops the question of marriage to Tsukushi. Tsukushi is shocked and still has her whole life ahead of her. She will still be in high school as she is two years younger than Tsukasa. I'm curious to see what choice Tsukushi makes in the final volume of Boys over Flowers.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: Boys Over Flowers Vol 36, Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances by Masami Tsuda, Mars by Fuyumi Soryo
Rummanah Aasi
  Due to my busy work schedule, I'm not able to read and review everything that comes my way. I did, however, want to share with you a YA paranormal novella that piqued my interest, In The Storm by Karen Metcalf and I hope it will capture your interest too. Check out the book cover and except below.

If you would to read more from In The Storm, you can purchase it here or buy the Kindle version for just 99 cents!

You can also find out more about Karen on her website, Facebook page and on Twitter.
Rummanah Aasi
 The Dinner is one of those books that you will either love or hate. The book was a huge bestseller in Europe last year and when it was brought to the U.S. it was dubbed "the European Gone Girl". Though I can see similarities between both books, The Dinner stands on its own and will generate immediate reactions once you are finished with it.

Description: A summer's evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the delicate scraping of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of politeness - the banality of work, the triviality of holidays. But the empty words hide a terrible conflict and, with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.
  Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. Together, the boys have committed a horrifying act, caught on camera, and their grainy images have been beamed into living rooms across the nation; despite a police manhunt, the boys remain unidentified - by everyone except their parents. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children and, as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

Review: The Dinner is a chilling novel starts out as a witty look at contemporary manners and social class before slowly turning into a I-can't-believe-the story-went there psychological thriller. As the title suggests, plot unfolds over the time over a dinner between the Lohman brothers, unemployed teacher Paul and politician Serge, a candidate for prime minister, meet at an expensive Amsterdam restaurant, along with their respective spouses, Claire and Babette, to discuss a situation involving their respective 15-year-old sons, Michel and Rick. At first, the two couples discuss such pleasantries as wine and other chit chat cleverly avoiding the reason why all four adults have come together. The  five-course dinner, from aperitif (i.e. appetizer) to digestif (i.e. dessert/coffee), we get to see the true aspects of the characters and the secrets that come out which will threaten relations between the two families. I don't want to say much more because that would spoil the suspense and the twisted plot turns, which slowly strips away layers of civility to expose the primal depths of supposedly model citizens, not to mention one character's past history of mental illness and violence. There is lots of dark humor in The Dinner and I would even go as far as saying it could be labeled as a satire about the lengths to which people will go to preserve a comfortable way of life. Though you may not find any redeemable characters and an unreliable narrator, you will be hooked once you start The Dinner. I would highly recommend it for a book club discussion.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language and scenes of violence. Recommended for older, mature teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: Defending Jacob by William Landay, God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza, We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Cally Fisher knows she can see her dead mother, but the only other living soul who does is a mysterious wolfhound who always seems to be there when her mom appears. How can Cally convince anyone that her mom is still with the family, or persuade her dad that the huge silver-gray dog belongs with them?

Review: A Dog Called Homeless is a bittersweet story of a young girl trying to come to terms with grief a year after her mother’s death. Cally Fisher has started seeing her mom's spirit everywhere, though her family thinks she is imagining things. She keeps getting in trouble at school as she fixates on her mother's spirit, her best friend has dumped her, and her home life has been tough as she internalizes her own pain and confusion. Her once-lively father is numb, distracted and withdrawn, and Luke, her brother, spends his time perpetually playing video games.
  When Cally signs up for a sponsored silence school charity fund-raiser, she discovers not speaking has its challenges but its rewards as well, and she decides to continue her silence after the event is over. Thankfully life becomes a bit brighter when her family has to move for financial reasons, and she meets neighbor boy Sam, who is blind and mostly deaf; Jed, a kindly homeless man; and a large silver-gray dog that she often sees with both Jed and her mother. Progressively, her experiences with each transform her life as well as the lives of others in unexpected ways. Cally also learns to open up her feelings and discuss them openly with others.
A Dog Called Homeless is beautifully written and offers an insightful portrayal of grief and healing without being heavy handed nor completely morose. Cally is a deeply drawn protagonist whose first-person account eloquently relays poignant and powerfully affecting moments especially her silence which speaks louder than her voice. Vivid supporting characters add depth, especially spirited, sensitive Sam, who not only embodies the meaning of friendship and family but also reinforces the value of connection, communication, and compassion in bringing hearts and lives together.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: Because of Winn-Dixie by Katie DiCamillo, Shiloh by Phyllis Naylor
Rummanah Aasi
  Otherbound by Corrine Duyvis probably has the most unique and intriguing premise that I've read so far this year. Please note that this review is based on the advanced copy that I have received for this book by its publisher via Netgalley.

Description: Amara is never alone. Not when she's protecting the cursed princess she unwillingly serves. Not when they're fleeing across dunes and islands and seas to stay alive. Not when she's punished, ordered around, or neglected. She can't be alone, because a boy from another world experiences all that alongside her, looking through her eyes.
  Nolan longs for a life uninterrupted. Every time he blinks, he's yanked from his Arizona town into Amara's mind, a world away, which makes even simple things like hobbies and homework impossible. He's spent years as a powerless observer of Amara's life. Amara has no idea . . . until he learns to control her, and they communicate for the first time. Amara is terrified. Then, she's furious.
   All Amara and Nolan want is to be free of each other. But Nolan's breakthrough has dangerous consequences. Now, they'll have to work together to survive--and discover the truth about their connection.

Review: Otherbound succeeds in its inclusion of diverse characters. The characters are diverse not only in race and ethnicity but also in physical disabilities and sexuality. Unlike many novels that expound on any and all of these issues as a theme in their stories, these aspects of the characters are just part of them and that is my favorite aspect of the book. 
 In addition to the characters, the premise is completely intriguing and something that I've never read before but unfortunately it falls flat due to weak world building. Amara lives in a fantasy world full of magic and court intrigue. She is a protector of a cursed princess. She is bound by duty and loyalty not because she believes it is the right thing to do, but mostly out of necessity to survive. I was drawn to Amara's world particularly of its caste system and wished we got more details about her society particularly about the court intrigue which seemed to be very important in the beginning of the book but then was dropped as the book ended. Nolan is a boy on Earth, a teen who wishes his life can get back to being normal, but somehow he is magically connected to Amara whenever he closes his eyes. Though it was easier to relate to Nolan, I felt that his character was boring. I had hoped that his connection to Amara would infuse life into his character but it really doesn't go anywhere.  
  The pacing of the book is also a bit uneven. After an attention grabbing first chapter, it slows down tremendously as we get adjusted to both Amara's and Nolan's world respectively but there was not a lot of plot. The second half of the book gets progressively better when Amara and Nolan are both consciously aware of their connection. The plot does take some interesting turns, but the ending feels too rushed as there are additions of villains that are abstract at best appear in the story. Overall Otherbound does make huge strides in diversifying its characters but its story feels incomplete.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There are some scenes of torture, a small fade to black sex scene and some language in the book. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Girl of Fire and Thorn series by Rae Carson
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. There are only two more volumes left in this series!

Description: Tsukushi's friend Yuki has been trying to convince herself that her crush on F4 member Sojiro is over. She has continued studying the formal tea ceremony that he introduced her to. When she invites Sojiro to help teach her tea club at school, a stunning series of events begin to unfold!

Review: There are two story lines unfolding in this volume of Boys Over Flowers. In the first story line, Tsukasa has regained his memory of Tsukushi back. The couple has realized how much they have personally changed as well as how their relationship has evolved from the antagonistic relationship to the confusing affection towards one another and being happy as a couple. Though it is clear that letting Tsukasa get amnesia was the author's way of keeping this couple interesting, I did think it was a fun way to see how these characters reacted to their situation and thankfully it didn't get drawn out too much in later volumes.
  The second story line featuring Yuki is the one that I loved the most and I was really looking forward to see how this story line concludes. Sojiro is repeatedly shown as a playboy, a reputation that he is not ashamed of but we do get to see a personal, private side to him. Sojiro has only one regret that haunts him: the failure to start a real relationship with his best friend. Once he shares this truth and vulnerability to Yuki, Yuki relentlessly tries to reunite Sojiro with his long lost friend even though it breaks her heart. Things take an interesting turn and while I wasn't initially happy with how it gets resolved, taking a step back I do realize that the direction of the plot resolution stayed true to the characters' personality and made them even more complex. As this volume concludes, the F4 are ready to graduate from high school and now must embark on a journey of college and beyond. Where does that leave Tsukasa and Tsukushi?

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some allusions to sex but it is not explicit. Recommended for teens and up.

If you like this book try: Boys Over Flowers Vol 35, Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances by Masami Tsuda, Mars by Fuyumi Soryo
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