Rummanah Aasi
  Happy Halloween! I hope you all found some spooky reads, but if you are still struggling to find something to read you might want to consider Emily Carroll's terrifying graphic novel called Through the Woods. Just be sure to read it with the lights still on!

Description: Journey through the woods in this sinister, compellingly spooky collection that features four brand-new stories and one phenomenally popular tale in print for the first time. These are fairy tales gone seriously wrong, where you can travel to "Our Neighbor's House"—though coming back might be a problem. Or find yourself a young bride in a house that holds a terrible secret in "A Lady's Hands Are Cold." You might try to figure out what is haunting "My Friend Janna," or discover that your brother's fiancée may not be what she seems in "The Nesting Place." And of course you must revisit the horror of "His Face All Red," the breakout webcomic hit that has been gorgeously translated to the printed page.

Review: Through the Woods is a bizarre, creepy collection of dark tales that would make both Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King proud. The graphic novel begins with a tale of three sisters who wait for their father to return, but one by one they disappear with a tall man in a broad-brimmed hat. Though the horror of this tale is subtle, it grows stronger as you continue the stories where a wealthy young woman weds a man in a lonely old house, and at night she hears a forlorn song of unavenged murder lilting from the walls and a girl spends the summer with her brother and his fiancée, who is not what she seems. All the tales in Carroll’s debut graphic novel are fairly standard ghost stories, but it is her eerie illustrations—popping with bold color on black, glossy pages—that masterfully build terrifying tension and a keep-the-lights-on atmosphere. Due to the limit of other colors in the graphic novel, the spooky images of stark forests, gaping caves, bloodshot eyes, and ominous shadows come alive and are brilliantly married to the text printed in manic handwritten fonts, some crazed and swirling, others coldly deadpan as if the words were running after the narrators. This graphic novel definitely delivers the chills and goosebumps making it a great Halloween read..

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images and strong violence. Recommended for older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol, Mercury by Hope Larson
Rummanah Aasi
 Shifting Shadows is a great short story collection for both the Mercy Thompson fan as well as new readers who are interested in picking this wonderful urban fantasy series. The stories presented in this collection give a really good context of Mercy's world and the types of characters that inhabit it.

Description: Mercy Thompson’s world just got a whole lot bigger. A collection of all-new and previously published short stories featuring Mercy Thompson, “one of the best heroines in the urban fantasy genre today” (Fiction Vixen Book Reviews), and the characters she calls friends.

Review: With the exception of Alpha and Omega, all of the short stories presented in this collection are new to me. I appreciated the prefaces to each of the story, explaining the author's intent as well as where these short stories fit in the Mercy Thompson series.
  Some of the stories filled in the blanks to some questions I had for quite some time such as when did Samuel and Bran become werewolves and at what age? There other stories that were a bit of a departure from the Mercyverse but were still pleasant to read. My favorite short story in this collection is Roses in Winter which allows us a glimpse of the softer, kinder side of an off-kilter character named Asil also known as The Moor who believes he is on the verge of insanity. Asil is a character that fascinates but also scares me. You never know what is going to set him off, but like many of Brigg's characters there are many layers to him. In Roses in Winter we see Asil cling to humanity by becoming a mentor to a young werewolf. This story, particularly the character of Asil was a nice surprise. Another character who at first seemed to be standoffish and menacing that has grown to be caring is Ben, who also goes through a great character growth and transformation in his aptly titled short story called Redemption. If you are a fan of the Mercy Thompson series do pick up this collection and if you have been considering reading this series but haven't been sure, read a few of the stories get so you can get acquainted with the wonderful world and characters. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong violence, language, and allusions to sex scenes. Recommended for older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, Chicago Vampire series by Chloe Neil, Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong
Rummanah Aasi
 The Time of Fireflies may have an innocent, non-assuming book cover, but it has a very eerie and sinister story lurking within the pages. This is a perfect children's read for Halloween. Many thanks to Scholastic and Netgalley for an advanced reader's copy of this book.  

Description: When Larissa Renaud starts receiving eerie phone calls on a disconnected old phone in her family's antique shop, she knows she's in for a strange summer. A series of clues leads her to the muddy river banks, where clouds of fireflies dance among the cypress knees and cattails each evening at twilight. The fireflies are beautiful and mysterious, and they take her on a magical journey through time, where Larissa learns secrets about her family's tragic past -- deadly, curse-ridden secrets that could harm the future of her family as she knows it. It soon becomes clear that it is up to Larissa to prevent history from repeating itself and a fatal tragedy from striking the people she loves.

Review: For those readers who prefer creepy over the over-the-top violence read for Halloween should look no further than The Time of Fireflies. I was slowly drawn into this haunting story and once I discovered the core mystery, time traveling, and a family curse I had to keep reading to find out the answers at the end. Normally a slow pace story is a sign of a bad read, but Little uses the slow pace to her benefit as she establishes the creepy setting of the Bayou Bridge in which Larissa Renaud nearly drowned and got a horrible scar down the side of her face. The Bayou Bridge is the same bridge where her aunt Gwen drowned as a young girl.The scar warns Larissa not to play with or talk to any of the kids in the town who forced her off the bridge. The scar also makes Larissa think that her Mamma, pregnant and anxious, doesn't think she is beautiful anymore. There is another thing that bugs Larissa who hasn't told anyone: her scar burns every time the porcelain doll her Mamma keeps locked in the upstairs cabinet looks at her. Is that real or is it all in her head?
  Things get even stranger when Larissa starts getting phone calls on an ancient telephone in her parents' antique store-a phone that has long been disconnected from the wall. "Trust the fireflies," the voice tells her. Believing that the message is a matter of life and death for her family, Larissa lets the fireflies swirl her across the dangerous river to travel back in time to her ancestor's rich sugarcane estate. Bouncing through the generations, we learn how valuable the doll becomes in Larissa's family. Larissa begins to piece together the history of the blue-eyed heirloom doll, Anna Marie, that her mother keeps. The doll has been at each tragic, untimely death. Is that a coincidence or is the doll somehow involved?
 Larissa is a great narrator and someone that I felt sorry for as she tried to come to terms of her scar. Her confidence grows and her insecurities diminish as she tries to solve and break her family's curse. The time traveling element was a nice surprise and worked well in bridging the gap between the past generations and the present. The large cast of characters were fleshed out well and interesting. Though it takes a while to get the different pieces of the puzzle together, the plot picks up speed and suspense as we try to figure out how everything fit together. I'm glad that I didn't figure out the mystery ahead of time and I will say that this story doesn't make me feel comfortable around porcelain dolls.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Doll Bones by Holly Black, The Old Willis Place by Mary Downing Hahn
Rummanah Aasi
 The Boy Nobody series by Allen Zadoff is a great pick for reluctant readers. There is a ton of action, suspense, and mystery with short chapters that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. I Am the Mission is a great second book in the series that avoids the middle book syndrome. Many thanks to Little, Brown Books and Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.

Description: He was the perfect sold assassin. Boy Nobody: No name. No past. No remorse. At least until he began to ask questions and challenge his orders--until he fell in love with his target. Now The Program is worried that its valuable soldier has become a liability. Boy Nobody, haunted by the outcome of his last assignment, is given a new mission. A test of sorts. A chance to show his loyalty.
   His objective: Take out Eugene Moore, the owner of a military training and indoctrination camp for teenagers. One target. Limited time frame. Public place. It sounds simple, but a previous operative couldn't do it. He lost the mission and is presumed dead. Boy Nobody is confident he can finish the job. Quickly. But when things go awry, Boy Nobody finds himself lost in a mission where nothing is as it seems: not The Program, his allegiances, or the truth.

Review: I am the Mission begins shortly after where I am the Weapon (i.e. Boy Nobody) left off. Boy Nobody, named Daniel in his last mission, is still recovering from the trauma of his last mission in New York City. He fell off of The Program's grid and now has to come to terms of what he truly is: a cold blooded assassin. Now that the Program is caught on to him, he must regain their trust not because he believes in The Program but that is how he can survive. His new mission is to assassinate the ringleader of a secret military camp in rural New Hampshire, where he indoctrinates teens to become weapons of fear. Daniel knows he must win their trust and prove his leadership abilities. His mission is anything but easy as Daniel has to hop through obstacle after obstacle with little to no help. Zadoff packs plenty of action in his short chapters where there is plenty of tension-filled moments that will leave readers on the edge of their seats. There is also a nice dash of humor and some flirty repartee that leads to a bit of steamy action with the daughter of the camp's owner to help lighten the mood just when things get a bit too dark. This time, however, there is more violence and explosions in this book that will be easily be found in many action movies in the theaters today. Along with the violence is another layer which is what draws me to this series-the shady ethical motives of Daniel and the mystery behind The Program which drives the story forward which elevates it from just another action/spy book. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong violence and some language. A few scenes of sensuality. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Alex Rider series by Alex Horowitz, Double or Die by Charles Higson,
Rummanah Aasi
 Sherlock Holmes is back in pop culture, but for many he never left. While anxiously waiting for the new season premiere of the BBC Sherlock, I needed to get my sleuth fix. There are many series and books that feature Sherlock Holmes, but the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series are highly recommended and are well written. I read the first book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, which I really enjoyed and wanted to get back to this series. Note: If you are a Sherlockian purist, you may have issues with this series but I still think it's worth checking out.

Description: Looking for respite in London after a stupefying visit from relatives, Mary encounters a friend from Oxford. The young woman introduces Mary to her current enthusiasm, a strange and enigmatic woman named Margery Childe, who leads something called "The New Temple of God." It seems to be a charismatic sect involved in the post-World War I suffrage movement, with a feminist slant on Christianity. Mary is curious about the woman, and intrigued. Is the New Temple a front for something more sinister? When a series of murders claims members of the movement's wealthy young female volunteers and principal contributors, Mary, with Holmes in the background, begins to investigate. Things become more desperate than either of them expected as Mary's search plunges her into the worst danger she has yet faced.

Review: Monstrous Regiment of Women is the second book in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series. Though this book could be read without reading the first book, I would suggest reading the first book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice,  to get a firm grasp of the character development of Mary Russell and how Sherlock Holmes is portrayed. In this second book, Mary Russell has graduated and is about to debut her first Academic Article that is not attached to being a student. She is a full fledged, independent adult who get away from her distasteful, money grubbing Aunt whom has controlled her inheritance. Mary is going through many transitions as a student to a teacher, a child with an allowance to an heiress, girl to woman, and the strange tension between Sherlock Holmes and herself – she is no longer an apprentice and can she be trusted to handle a case on her own.
Mary finds herself in not just one but two mysteries in London while waiting to come into her inheritance. She runs into an old school friend, Veronica, who pulls Mary into her life. We learn of the first mystery involving Veronica's drug addicted fiance who has returned from the war. Veronica believes her fiance is a simply a drug addict, but Mary thinks there is a more serious problem but can't quite put her figure on it. The second mystery, which is more compelling, revolves around an organization called The Temple, which Veronica is a member of and holds it high regard.   

 The Temple is an organization run by a very smart and charismatic woman named Margaret, who is   rallying women who previously were nurses and running the country in the absence of the men sent to war. Now that the war is over these women are left without a place. There are simply too many women and few men returned. The men that did return, however, came back damaged and many weren’t choosing to marry, preferring to fall into paths of self-destruction. To fill the gap The Temple is giving these young women something to do: teaching women to read and build literacy, providing safety and supplies to battered women and their families, providing medical care, and working to increase women’s rights now that the vote has passed. The problem is when you have a large group of the disenfranchised that are being directed and utilized by a leader are their actions really charitable or could there be a deeper agenda at work? That is what Mary is trying to find out.
  The book is extremely well researched and written. I really liked how The Temple was constructed. It was easy to stand behind it and support its effort in helping women, which dangerously allows you to overlook the more sinister moves behind the curtains. I learned a lot regarding the time period, which was so clearly described and was sucked into the period concepts of class structure, feminism, gender roles, addiction, and PTSD. I believe King did a remarkable job exploring these subjects without being overly biased or sacrificing the pace of the book. Although this book had a lot of great ideas, I still feel conflicted about the twist at the end of the book. I prefer Sherlock the way he was originally created by Doyle and I'm having a hard time seeing him in this new light. I'm not sure if I can fully support it but I'm curious to see how it works out in later books.  
 I do recommend this book despite my issues with the ending, especially to anyone who enjoys mysteries that are well researched and have great characters.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are allusions to drug usage and sex. Recommended for teens and adults.

If you like this book try: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie  by Alan Bradley or A Letter of Mary (Book 2 of the Mary Russell series) by Laurie King or Another Scandal in Bohemia by Carole Nelson Douglas
Rummanah Aasi
 A new book in the Hundred Oaks series by Miranda Kenneally is always something that I look forward to reading. I can quickly lose myself in her books and Breathe, Annie, Breathe is no exception. Many thanks to Sourcebooks and Netgalley for the chance to read the advanced readers copy of this book.

Description: Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can’t escape the guilt that if she hadn’t broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.
  But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she’s at war with her body, her mind—and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms…and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.

Review:   I thoroughly enjoyed reading Breathe, Annie, Breathe. The writing and the characters have matured in this book, which is always a great sign for a writer. Annie is instantly likable. Many would relate to her lack of athleticism, but admire her strength to pursue a dream of her dead boyfriend. What I love most about Annie, however, is her focus on her future. She never dwells upon the melodrama surrounding high school but rather struggles to wait tables to pay for her classes and her upcoming college career, all while balancing her grueling marathon training along with juggling her wide range of emotions when it comes to Jeremiah, Matt's possibly unstable, sexy, charming adrenaline-­junkie younger brother.
  Jeremiah is the quintessential love interest. He admires Annie's purpose of running the marathon. He is able to put his feelings for Annie on pause when he clearly knows that she needs a friend first and foremost. Though I would have liked to understand his reckless Xtreme sport attitude, I adored Jeremiah and thought he complimented Annie quite well. The romance with Annie and Jeremiah is expertly paced and realistic as they try to adjust their lust with friendship and a slow burn romance. 
 As we follow Annie’s training, with helpful guides to track her progress inserted every few chapters, we can see her grow stronger as a person, watch her grieve for Kyle, and finally open her heart to a hopeful beginning with Jeremiah.  I also appreciated the slow unveiling of how Kyle died. Like any of the Hundred Oaks series, this book can be read as a standalone, however, it is really nice to see characters from the other books make a special appearance. Breathe, Annie, Breathe is another great book about dealing with grief of a loved one and healing.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language and allusion to sex. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Summer series by Jenny Han, The Bridge from Me to You by Lisa Schroeder, The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Rummanah Aasi
 Cammuso's Knights of the Lunch Table series has been highly recommended by readers. I'm so glad that I picked up this series because it is such a fun and entertaining read which will be enjoyed by many young readers.

Description: Artie King, the uncrowned good guy of Camelot Middle School, is back with his pals Percy and Wayne in tow as he tries to evade evil Principal Dagger, avoid the school bully Joe and his Horde, and unravel the secret of a pack of mysterious magic cards he finds in his locker.

Review: The graphic novel series, Knights of the Lunch Table, is a fun and entertaining read. With an homage to the King Arthur, Cammuso seamlessly blends the traditional Arthurian mythology into the every day activities of surviving middle school. Although Dragon Players is the second book in the series, it can be read as a standalone. In this installment of the series, Artie King and his knights, Percy and Wayne, are preparing for the annual Dragon Day at school. Mischief and disaster occurs quickly when Wayne's bowling ball soars into the air and lands on the principal's windshield. In order to raise money to get it repaired, the young knights are signed up by Artie's sister, Morgan, to compete in the Dragon Duel robot tournament. The only problem is that neither Artie nor his friends know how to make a robot. Hilarity and mayhem begin when the boys attempt to get help on building a robot that could possibly win against the bully, Horde, who is known for cheating. Merlin is the wise science teacher who guides Arthur in the right direction, and instead of the Ladies of the Lake, the wisdom and foresight come from the Ladies of the Lunch who stir a large boiling pot and speak in rhyme. Dragon Player is another entertaining and colorful graphic novel. Fan of Arthurian mythology will get a kick of all of the allusions sprinkled in the story and I think this series will make kids curious enough to pick up books about the Arthurian mythology.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 2 and up.

If you like this book try: The Battling Bands (Knights of the Lunch Table #3) by Frank Cammuso, Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce, the Amelia Rules series by Jimmy Gownley
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Icarus flies once more. Aztec jaguar gods again stalk the earth. An American soldier designs a new kind of Trojan horse—his cremains in a bullet. Here, in beguiling guise, are your favorite mythological figures alongside characters from Indian, Punjabi, Inuit, and other traditions.

Review: When I got XO Orpheus from the library, I was so excited to read it and discover the new ways the Greek myths would be retold but unfortunately this anthology was a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed the stories that gave the  mythological figures a 21st century makeover. Two of the stories that stood out for me was the re-imaging Demeter as a divorced mom who is struggling with the half-year custody of her daughter and a Vietnam veteran, in the spirit of Daedalus, builds an emotional labyrinth for his son. Where this anthology lost me is when it took the myths in a really bizarre direction that played with the content as well as loosely adapting the myths.
Editor Bernheimer describes her anthology as a necessary farewell to the old world of myth and acknowledgment of a modern age in which humans are regarded as the new gods. Though many of the stories maintain the timeless and quite often frightening themes of the myths, I'm not sure if this anthology is for every reader.

Rating: 2 stars

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

If  you like this book try: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales edited by Kate Bernheimer, 
Rummanah Aasi
 One of the debut novels that I was looking forward to read is Philip Siegel's The Break Up Artist. I liked the sound of the book's synopsis and the fact that the main protagonist has ambivalent feelings toward romance. While I did enjoy the book in parts, I thought it was a bit uneven.

Description: Some sixteen-year-olds babysit for extra cash. Some work at the mall. Becca Williamson breaks up couples.
  Becca knows from experience the damage that love can do. After all, it was so-called love that turned Huxley from her childhood best friend into a social-world dictator, and love that left Becca's older sister devastated at the altar. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, Becca strikes back—for just one hundred dollars via PayPal, she will trick and manipulate any couple's relationship into smithereens. And with relationship zombies overrunning her school and treating single girls as if they're second-class citizens, business is unfortunately booming. Even Becca's best friend, Val, has resorted to outright lies to snag a boyfriend.
  One night, Becca receives a mysterious offer to break up the most popular couple in school: Huxley and the football team's star player, Steve. To succeed, she'll have to plan her most elaborate scheme to date—starting rumors, sabotaging cell phones, breaking into cars…not to mention sneaking back into Huxley's good graces. All while fending off the inappropriate feelings she may or may not be having for Val's new boyfriend. No one said being the Break-Up Artist would be easy.

Review: Becca Williamson does not stand out among the hundreds of kids attending Ashland High, but has a very popular secret alter go. She is the Break-Up Artist, one who engineers couples' downfalls for only $100. Becca isn't against love, but very cynical of it. She has seen what it can do to those around her: how her sister has become bitter and lonely after she was jilted at the altar, how her parents act more like siblings than lovers, and how she lost her old best friend, Huxley, years back when Huxley started dating a popular football player named Steve.
  I liked that Becca was a complex person. On the one hand I wanted to admire her for using her keen eye and a razor-sharp wit along with her other skills to break up her classmates for profit. However on the other hand I was taken aback on how she continuously justifies herself  as she manipulates classmates' relationships with fake notes to ex-girlfriends, surreptitious text messages, and more when I thought about what she was doing a bit more. Becca's attitude toward love is deeply seated in resentment and jealousy which she refuses to accept. I kept hoping that while Becca is on a big assignment, she would become self-aware of her actions and develop some empathy for her victims, especially when she becomes someone even she would despise when she starts hooking up with her best friend's boyfriend. Becca does learn some hard lessons, but I wasn't really convinced of them.
  The Break Up Artist has all the makings of a good romantic-comedy that had humor and a plot that kept me reading, but instead of giving us a happy sigh and warm feelings as we close the book, we are left unsure of whether or not to embrace Becca or to feel sorry for her. 

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and scenes of underage drinking. Recommended for Grade 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten, Jinx by Meg Cabot
Rummanah Aasi

 If you are in the mood for a spooky graphic novel to read for this Halloween, do consider picking up Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things which has just the right touch of spookiness with a snarky main character.

Description: Courtney's parents have dragged her out to a high-to-do suburb to live with her creepy Great Uncle Aloysius in his spooky old house. She's not only the new kid in school, but she also discovers strange things lurking under her bed.

Review: Courtney Crumrin is a snarky, rude, precociously misanthropic teen who is brought to a new town by her grasping, negligent parents, where they stay for free in a rich great-uncle's mansion while trying to climb the social ladder. Courtney may not sound pleasant but I actually really liked her and I found myself rooting for her. She has no friends and doesn't fit in, but soon discovers that her mysterious Uncle Aloysius has some interesting books and more interesting hobbies, and that all kinds of ghouls and nightly creatures hang around the mansion, and the surrounding town.
  Unlike the other graphic novels I read, Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things is more episodic  with three separate adventures/stories in which Courtney has adventures with a goblin in the woods, meddles with magic to deal with bullies and her social isolation, and has to go rescue an infant she is babysitting from the Goblin Market. Finally, she is almost replaced by a doppleganger.
  The author does a good job balancing the dark and grim with some dry humor. The setting is definitely has a haunted house feeling and I really liked how Courtney and Uncle Aloysius form a bond. I was, however, not fan of the artwork in this graphic novel. I found the panels were too crammed in with illustrations and dialogue bubbles. I also thought Courtney looked a lot like those Bratz dolls you see at the toy store. I did enjoy this volume enough to seek out the other volumes in this series.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are disturbing images and scary stories for young readers. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Courtney Crumrin and the Coven of Mystics (Courtney Crumrin, #2) by Ted Naifeh, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, Anya's Ghost by 
Rummanah Aasi
 Frequent readers of my blog know that I've been interested and a huge fan of Greek Mythology. When I came across Kerry Greenwood's Delphic Women which retold the myths of Jason and the Gold Fleece, the Trojan War and its aftermath from the point of view of the important female characters, I knew I had to read them. Greenwood makes the myths come alive and provides a different spin on characters who were once thought to be weak and one dimensional.

Description: In the third and final volume of the Delphic Women series, Hector is dead, Troy has fallen in ruins; and unknown to the Argives, refugees from the sack are rebuilding their civilization in New Troy. Agamemnon King of Men returns in triumph to Mycenae, bringing Princess Cassandra among his captives. Diomenes called Chryse and a Trojan sailor pursue her by sea, hoping against hope to rescue her. Their resourcefulness will be strained to its limits by war, pillage and social breakdown. For all is not well in the House of the Axe. In the king’s absence, Clytemnestra the Queen has taken a lover Aegisthus and has mixed feelings about her husband’s return. And the King’s golden-eyed daughter Electra hides a secret of her own which will bring a terrible vengeance. Meanwhile Odysseus, Sacker of Cities, has troubles of his own. He wishes only to return home to Ithaca, but the gods have other ideas.

Review: Greenwood's Electra is a very ambitious novel that mostly succeeds in retelling the myths of Electra/Orestes meanwhile continuing Cassandra's story along with a side note of Odysseus plight to go back home to Ithaca. Out of the three books in the Delphic Women series, I found Electra to be the weakest. The pacing of the book was uneven for me as we quickly go through the action and suspense right away with the Electra/Orestes myth but then really drags as the characters go on separate journeys. I would have liked to get to know Electra before all the action started and I didn't really get a sense of what kind of person she is other than cunning and observant. I didn't find Electra likable, but I can hardly fault her for her actions given the history of her family and the actions of her parents. 
  Like her other novels, Greenwood takes liberty with the Greek myths. For example, contrary to the common story of Cassandra who is tragically killed in her well known myth, Greenwood keeps her alive and she still remains a strong character. I really liked the juxtaposition between her point of view and that of Electra on the society's culture and role of women. The Greek gods still play an important role though they are mostly passive observers who play with the lives of all of mortal characters, although Zeus periodically asks them to stop. Periodically, the gods look into the Pool of Mortal Lives and comment on the action, argue, and decide the next step in these peoples' fates. We do find out the outcome of the gods' wager: the stronger of the two--love or death. I wasn't too thrilled with how everything tied up too neatly in a tight bow at the end of the book. Overall, I would recommend picking this book up if you are really interested in reading about Greek Mythology, particularly from the viewpoint of women. 

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong violence including rape and sexual situations throughout the book as well as language. Recommended for mature teens and adults who enjoy and are serious about Greek Mythology.

If you like this book try: Age of Bronze graphic novel series by Eric Shanower, Women of Troy by Euripides, Antigone by Sophocles
Rummanah Aasi
 I had no idea that Henry Winkler also known as "The Fonz" from the television show Happy Days wrote books for kids! Color me shocked when I saw his book on the Bluestem reading list for elementary school readers.

Description: For Hank, fourth grade does not start out on the right foot. First of all, he gets called to the principal's office on the very first day of school. Then the first assignment his teacher gives him is to write five paragraphs on "What You Did This Summer." Hank is terrified-writing one good sentence is hard for him, so how in the world is he going to write five whole paragraphs? Hank comes up with a plan: instead of writing what he did on vacation, he'll show what he did. But when Hank's "living essay" becomes a living disaster, he finds himself in detention. Strangely enough, however, detention ends up becoming a turning point in his life.

Review: Hank Zipzer is a well known troublemaker at school. He doesn't do anything malicious; he just has bad luck. When fourth grade begins his class is given an assignment that he is sure he cannot do. Ms. Adolf assigns a five paragraph essay on their summer vacation. He struggles, he tries, he contemplates but he has a light bulb moment and decides to use his creativity and create a 'talking essay'. After all, he knows tons of facts about Niagara Falls, his summer vacation destination with his family, he just has a difficult time getting those facts down with pencil and paper. He creates a magnificent model of Niagara and then things take a disastrous turn. He gets detention and is grounded. Luckily for Hank, Mr. Rock, the new music teacher is his detention teacher. Together, they struggle through the essay and do a bunch of cool things, too. Mr. Rock recognizes that Hank may have a learning disability when no one else did. Hank's parents really don't believe it, but Mr. Rock and Papa Pete believe in Hank. Good thing there are compassionate people around who take the time to discover how everyone is wired a little differently and learn in their own way and their own speed.
  Niagara Falls, Or Does It? will not win high literary awards, but I did enjoy it quite a bit. I thought the story was full of full of humor, empathy, but I loved most about it was the boost of confidence it gave to readers who may be struggling with their own learning disability. It even turns out that the author has his own struggles with dyslexia.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for strong Grade 2 readers and up.

If you like this book try: I Got a D in Salami by Henry Winkler (Hank Zipper #2), School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters by Rachel Vail, Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading, Wonkenstein by Obert Skye
Rummanah Aasi
  I am honored to be one of the stops on the cover reveal of Gears of Brass blog tour. If you are interested in steampunk or just want to try out this genre, but sure to check this out. Below the cover reveal is your chance to enter the giveaway of a copy of Gears of Brass!

Gear up for GEARS OF BRASS! 

A world like ours, but filled with gears of brass, where the beating heart is fueled by steam and the simplest creation is a complex clockwork device.  

Within this tome, you’ll find steampunk fairy tale re-tellings, as well as original stories that will send your gears turning.  

Welcome to the steampunk realm, with eleven authors guiding your path. 
GEARS OF BRASS is a steampunk anthology published through Curiosity Quills.  It will be available for purchase on November 10, 2014.  Within the pages, you’ll come across clockwork inventions and steampunk-ified fairy tale retellings.  Eleven authors will guide you through worlds filled with airships, top hats, and corsets.  

Meet the authors:

Jordan Elizabeth writes young adult fantasy for Curiosity Quills, including ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW which was published in October and the upcoming TREASURE DARKLY; she’s represented by the Belcastro Agency.

J. Million is the author of Last of the Giants and can always be found reading or writing. 

Lorna MacDonald Czarnota is a professional storyteller and author of several books including, Medieval Tales That Kids Can Read and Tell, Breadline Blue, Legends Lore and Secrets of Western New York, Wicked Niagara, Native American and Pioneer Sites of Upstate New York, and Dancing at the Crossroads: Stories and Activities for At-Risk Youth Programming.

SA Larsen is represented by Paula Munier of Talcott Notch Literary and is the author of published short stories, community-interest stories, and magazine articles focused on children. 

Grant Eagar is an Engineer who would take the tales he told his children at bed time, and transform them into fantasy stories. 

Clare Weze is the author of The House of Ash (forthcoming) and the co-author and editor of Cloudscapes over the Lune.

Eliza Tilton: gamer, writer and lover of dark chocolate; author of the YA Fantasy, BROKEN FOREST, published by Curiosity Quills Press.

Heather Talty's stories have been featured in Enchanted Conversation, as well as her own fractured fairy tale site, Mythopoetical (

W.K. Pomeroy is a third generation writer who has published more than 70 short stories/articles/poems across many genres and styles, which now includes Steampunk.

Christine Baker is the author of Lana's End, The Guild of Dagda, and many more. 

Natalia Darcy: a bookilicious reader, tea drinker and Zumba aficionado who enjoys playing cards against humanity and washing her hair with ice cold water. 

You can get your steampunk fix before GEARS OF BRASS is released in November.  To enter for your chance to win a copy of GEARS OF BRASS, you will need to share the cover.  This can be on your blog, Facebook, Twitter… Each time you share the cover image, log it into Rafflecoper (#insert link) to record it.  It will give you more chances to win.  The drawing for the winner will be held on October 27th. Good Luck!

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. I haven't found a series that I want to dive in and read so I'm trying a few different series in hopes that one of them would grab my attention.

Description: Yume desperately wants to follow in her mother's footsteps and become a magic user in the worst way! She innocently practices using magic to help the people she encounters: struggling soccer players, the wrongly incarcerated, and a student who wants to show his moon-loving teacher a lunar eclipse on a cloudy evening. On this coming-of-age journey filled with genuine imagination and a passionate sense of awe, follow Yume as she learns that the true magic in life can take place right inside her own heart.

Review: Someday's Dreamers has great potential of being a great manga, unfortunately it is very slow, bland, and confusing. The world-building aspect of the story is very interesting albeit unfinished. I wasn't exactly sure how things worked in this world of magic and mages. The characters also seemed to have depth and interesting motivations. This manga has a hard time deciding whether it wanted to be an action-packed magical adventure series, a deep character study, or even a combination of both of these. The story refuses to dig into either the world or the characters and instead it meanders around on these small episodes, occasionally giving us tantalizing hints of depth, but then just as soon pulling away. The basic story that I got from this volume is a kindhearted girl named Yume travels to Tokyo to further her training as a magic user. With the guidance of her teacher, Masami Oyamada, she takes on different clients to grant them wishes closest to their heart.
As I mentioned earlier the pacing is a bit off in this series. There are a plethora of flashbacks, but it's not always clear that they are flashbacks. On the plus side, I did think the artwork was nicely done but there were a few panels that I found hard to read because there was so much crammed into them. Even though Someday's Dreamers is a two volume series, I didn't feel think this story grabbed me enough to pick up the next volume. I will try and see, however, if there is an anime based on the series that I might watch instead.

Rating: 2 stars

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

If you like this book try: Someday's Dreamer: Spellbound series by Norie Yamada
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Dee, Terrence, and Hector are very excited about Author Visit Day. Lewis Scribson is the author of the famous Flippy Bunny books, and Hector is a huge fan! And it gets Dee and Terrence out of math class. But something is a little off about this special guest. And Coach Birkby, the gym teacher, mysteriously disappears the day of his visit. What evil designs does this world-famous writer have on his agenda? Lunch Lady's going to get to the bottom of it, even if she has to kick some bunny butt!

Review: Krosoczka continues with his successful formula of featuring a superhero/Lunch Lady fighting crimes and protecting Thompson Brook School. This time around the students have long-awaited the arrival of their favorite author, Lewis Scribson, comes to their school. When Mr. Scribson shows up, there's something not quite right about the surly, bespectacled author, and mysteriously, on the same day, Coach Birkby goes missing and soon other people start disappearing too. It's up to Lunch Lady and the Breakfast Buddies to save the day once again. Their fight to uncover the truth reveals Scribson's secret plot, complete with an entire army of attack-Flippy Bunnies, all equipped with cute bow ties and deadly fangs. This series is full of silliness which makes them so fun to read. I loved the tongue-in-cheek humor in the book and its trademark gray-and-yellow palette format. Kids who are not bothered by the formulaic aspect of this series will continue to enjoy this series and welcome another addition to the Lunch Lady series, but those who are looking for something more developed in terms of the characters might find this a bit disappointing.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grade 2 and up.

If you like this book try: Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown (Lunch Lady #4), Knights of the Lunch Table series by Frank Cammuso
Rummanah Aasi
  The Husband's Secret has been on the New York Times Bestseller list for many weeks. The book is constantly checked out of my public library and many patrons have raved about the book. Naturally, I wanted to know what was so great about this book so I put myself on a long wait-list for the book. When I did finally get a chance to read it, I was disappointed and thought the story would be completely different.

Description: Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .
   Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she's an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband's secret.

Review: The Husband's Secret is a page turner and it doesn't take long for the reader to be enraptured by the story. Moriarty works the Pandora myth and the metaphor of the Berlin Wall quite nicely in her book. I didn't have any problems with the way the book was written, but I do have issues with books that deal with cheating/affairs, and choices without any consequences. The Husband's Secret hit all of these hot buttons for me and as a result, I didn't care for any of the characters nor did I find anything redeemable about them.
  The book contains three separate story lines that sort of come together. Cecila is what many would call the ideal wife. She strives to be perfect in every aspect of her life, but she is frustrated in that she can't seem to capture her husband's interest and intimacy. She jumps from one assumption to another about why they haven't been intimate. She finally gets her answer by finding a sealed letter written by her husband with strict directions of not opening it after he dies. Cecila's husband is very much alive and the temptation of what secret he is hiding is what fuels the book's suspense. Unfortunately, we find out the secret a little too early in the book which would have been fine except Moriarty didn't really go deeper beyond the surface of the truth.
  Like Cecila, Rachel is the role of a good mom whose daughter was murdered. The storyline of Tess, a young woman who finds out her husband and best friend/cousin are having an affair, does not serve any purpose to the book's story arc. Cecila and Rachel's plot lines are tightly connected while Tess's story line is more a coincidence. 
  I can see how the author tries to show how one might not really know their spouse, but the concept of justice and forgiveness which would have given this book more depth is glossed over. It almost comes across as a satire rather than a thought provoking book which left a bad taste in my mouth when I was finished it. The Husband's Secret was book that was not right for me and once again I was swept away by the hype. If it wasn't for the hype, I wouldn't have picked it up.

Rating: 3 stars

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

If you like this book try: Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain, Dear Thing by Julie Cohen
Rummanah Aasi
  I was a reluctant reader for much of my childhood. I found the act of reading boring and could not understand why it enraptured my family and friends. It's not until I found the right book did reading click for me. If you are interested in tips of how to help a reluctant reader become a reader for life, check out my own self-reflection blog post for some tips. I remembered the reluctant reader in me when I read Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading and know the then-me would have loved this book.

Description: Charlie Joe Jackson may be the most reluctant reader ever born. And so far, he's managed to get through life without ever reading an entire book from cover to cover. But now that he's in middle school, avoiding reading isn't as easy as it used to be. And when his friend Timmy McGibney decides that he's tired of covering for him, Charlie Joe finds himself resorting to desperate measures to keep his perfect record intact.

Review: Charlie Joe Jackson hates reading with a passion. He avoids it at all costs and does not understand why people love to read. When he is assigned to read a book for class, he comes with a wide variety of game plans to have someone else read the book for him. His usual plan of having Timmy McGibney to read for him in exchange for extra dessert falls through, Charlie Joe concocts a new scheme even if it involves someone else to be his crush's boyfriend. 
  Greenwald has captured the voice of a middle schooler without sounding condescending. Charlie Joe is a fun character and I liked his humor in his tips of ways to avoid reading at the beginning of each page. While avid readers can't share Charlie Joe's aversion to reading, they can enjoy the wild and crazy ride of the plot. Reluctant readers can find themselves in the same shoes as Charlie Joe. Cartoony ink illustrations are lightly sprinkled throughout, adding chuckles and punch to the text. This book would be a good candidate for a read aloud.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Extra Credit by Tommy Greenwald, Ungifted by Gordon Korman,
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