Rummanah Aasi
 Perfect for both the reluctant reader and avid bibliophiles, Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library is a fun paced book that takes place in the library. With a touch of humor, popular culture references along with literary ones, this book is hard not to enjoy.

Description: Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library.
  Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. And the stakes are very high.

Review: I thoroughly enjoyed and was highly entertained while reading Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library. It reminded me a lot of Roald Dahl's classic children book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory minus the creepy and weird Willy Wonka. Instead of a candy factory, the setting here is a futuristic and an awesome library.
  Kyle Keeley and his friends have the opportunity to be locked-in at the newly open Alexandriaville Public Library. Billionaire game-maker Luigi Lemoncello, who has donated a fortune to building the public library in a town that went without one for 12 years, has created intricate games and puzzles throughout the library for the children to solve. The children must use their library skills and library resources in order to find their way out of the library. The game enhances the suspense and pace in the story. 
   Although the characters, from gamer Kyle to scheming Charles Chiltington, are lightly developed and somewhat one dimensional, I did like the emphasis on working together as a team and pooling each individual's strength to achieve their goal. The main star, however, is the library itself which includes modern technology that I would love to have in my own library such as changing video screens, touch-screen computers in the reading desks and an Electronic Learning Center as well as floor-to-ceiling bookshelves stretching up three stories. There are plenty of nods and literary references that are in the book which will make bibliophiles rejoice, but young readers who love video games will also enjoy trying to figure out Mr. Lemoncello's puzzles. I applaud the author in making the library a cool place and I look forward to seeing what Mr. Lemoncello is up to in the sequel.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of caution: None. Recommended for Grades 3 and up.

If you like this book try: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, Help! I'm a Prisoner in the Library by Eth Clifford, Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics (coming March 2016)
Rummanah Aasi
  Alex As Well is a thought provoking realistic fiction read from Australia. Teens looking for books that tackle the issue of identity confusion or even realistic fiction that are written with grace and sensitivity without the bad aftertaste of saccharine should pick up this book. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for the advanced reader's copy of this book.

Description: Alex is ready for things to change, in a big way. Everyone seems to think she’s a boy, but for Alex the whole boy/girl thing isn’t as simple as either/or, and when she decides girl is closer to the truth, no one knows how to react, least of all her parents. Undeterred, Alex begins to create a new identity for herself: ditching one school, enrolling in another, and throwing out most of her clothes. But the other Alex—the boy Alex—has a lot to say about that. 

Review: Alex Stringfellow has lived her entire life feeling like she's two people, male and female. She is born with female and male reproductive organs. Her parents had chosen to not tell her this information and chose which gender that Alex should be without her consent. These hidden facts has made Alex's life miserable. Alex has always felt like an outsider, a "freak" that never belonged. Though previously identified as male, Alex takes a very courageous step to live her life openly, honestly, and decides to begin living as a female. 
  I loved the voice of Alex, which is alive, smart, and open in contrast to those of her close minded, narcissistic parents. Knowing that her parents can't and refuse to help her, she takes the assertive step in enrolling to a new school where she quickly makes friends. I was a little lost on how easily it was for Alex to attend school without the necessary paperwork and had to suspend my disbelief in order to roll with the story. While her adjustment is mostly smooth, Alex is concerned about how her friends will react if they find out she's a lesbian or if they find out about her "condition." Adding dimension to her voice and character, Alex has internal conversations with the male and female sides of herself which not only reflect on her confusion of her identity, but also highlights what society would deem as "normal." It is very easy to support and root for her. 
 Unlike her somewhat smooth transition at school, her life at home is intolerable and a hot mess. After telling her parents that she identifies herself as a girl, Alex's father leaves home and her mother struggles with Alex's gender identity and often handles it with fits, abuse, and attempts to control her child. Her absent father offers little support. While there are intersecting chapters of Alex's mom, Heather, blogging about her experiences with handling Alex that allows us to see Heather's emotions in context, I still needed a bit more proof of character development to make Heather a full three dimensional character. I would also have liked Alex's father to have more page time as well as he sort of pops in and out. Thankfully, Alex does find adults who do support her. 
  Alex As Well is a powerful story of courage, where our protagonist is not afraid to stand up for herself and find a support system that works for her. We definitely need more books like this one and I would recommend it to fans of good realistic fiction.  

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of caution: There is some language, a scene of bullying, and crude humor. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Double Exposure by Bridget Birdsall, Pink by Lili Wilkinson,
Rummanah Aasi
 I am not a big fan of nonfiction, but I did find The Other Wes Moore to be a fascinating memoir. I think this would be a great book for a book club. Unlike many popular memoirs written, The Other Wes Moore is relevant and asks important questions about our society, youths.

Description: The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his.

Two kids named Wes Moore were born blocks apart within a year of each other. Both grew up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods; both hung out on street corners with their crews; both ran into trouble with the police. How, then, did one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ended up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence? Wes Moore, the author of this fascinating book, sets out to answer this profound question. In alternating narratives that take readers from heart-wrenching losses to moments of surprising redemption, The Other Wes Moore tells the story of a generation of boys trying to find their way in a hostile world.

Review: The Other Wes Moore is a story about two young African-American men who share the same name and grew up on the same inner-city streets, but wound up in vastly different places. Author Wes Moore is a Rhodes Scholar, former Army officer and White House Fellow. He works in investment banking. The other Wes Moore, a drug dealer, is imprisoned for life. Both are in their early 30s and grew up in a fatherless home. While reading this memoir you can't help but think how could two young men who had so much in common could take such different paths.  
  Drawing on conversations with the other Wes and interviews, the author creates an absorbing narrative that makes clear the critical roles that choices, family support and luck play in young people's lives. The author Wes Moore was fortunate to have family support and people who were determined to make a future for him, pushed for discipline when the author found himself drawn to the street life of Baltimore and his grades dropped significantly. He was very fortunate that his family was able to pool their limited financial funds and send him to military school where he learned responsibility and gained a sense of purpose. Unlike the author, the other Wes had a drug-pusher older brother and began dealing at an early age. His mother's efforts to help were ineffectual. Often arrested--car theft, attempted murder, etc.--the other Wes dropped out of school, fathered four children with different women and tried unsuccessfully to go straight. Then he took part in the store hold-up, which led him to spend the rest of his life in prison.
  The Other Wes Moore is not didactic. While it is quite obvious that the author was very lucky and had several priviledges that were not available for his counterpart, the availablity of a mentor could have been there for the other Wes. The message of this book isn't just to compare two lives, one a success story and the other a tragedy but rather it is a wake-up call for all of us to understand the importance of a good and positive role models which can dramatically affect the lives of young adults. I would definitely recommend this book for readers who are interested in sociology and like narrative nonfiction.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of caution: There is some language and drug use. Recommended for teens and adults.

If you like this book try: The New Kids by Brooke Hauser, In the Place of Justice by Wilbert Rideau
Rummanah Aasi
  It is nice to take a break from reading novels and picking up a picture book which are full of color, whimsy, and just down right adorable. Today I'll be reviewing Hibernation Station by Michelle Meadows, Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle, and Ella Sarah Gets Dressed by Margaret Chodos-Irvine.

Description: Everybody at the station! It’s time for winter hibernation! The sweet rhyming text of this book will calm even the most rambunctious kids and have them dreaming about what it’s like to hibernate. Young readers will be soothed and delighted as this story introduces them to different types of hibernating animals. The creatures on the train are preparing to snuggle into sleep, although with a passenger list that includes chipmunks, bears, snakes, hedgehogs, groundhogs, frogs, turtles, mice, bats, and more, there’s a lot of noise! Will the hibernating critters ever get to sleep? Take a trip to Hibernation Station to find out!

Review: Hibernation Station is full of color and warmth. The book imagines hibernation as a train of hollow logs that runs through the forest on tracks of sticks and gathers all the animals for their winter sleep. Big and small, pajama-clad adorable critters carry their bedding into the logs and make themselves comfy, while two bears, the train’s engineer and conductor, respond to a variety of complaints and technical difficulties. Eventually, as snow begins to fall, the animals settle down and fall asleep. The text is written in rhymed couplets, move along just as the train would which sets a good pace for younger readers. The illustrations are done well with lots of colors and textures that make you wish you had the animal before you so could hug and snuggle with them. In an appended note, Meadows discusses hibernation, “deep sleepers,” and “light sleepers.” Hibernation Station is a charming and sweet read.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades PreK-Grade 2

If you like this book try: Are you sleeping, little one? by Hans Chrisitan Schmidt, Everyone Sleeps by Marcellus Hall

Description: In this innovative wordless picture book with interactive flaps, Flora and her graceful flamingo friend explore the trials and joys of friendship through an elaborate synchronized dance. With a twist, a turn, and even a flop, these unlikely friends learn at last how to dance together in perfect harmony. Full of humor and heart, this stunning performance (and splashy ending!) will have readers clapping for more!

Review: The author imagines a wordless encounter between a lithe, sultry flamingo and an adorable, pudgy, little girl in a bathing suit, swim cap, and flippers. The plot of the book is very simple: in a series of movements, Flora copies the movements of the flamingo poses. Flora does her best to mimic her model though her movements are awkward. The book has its humorous moments when Flora begins to model her movements of the flamingo's, unbeknownst to the model. A series of stumbles draws a sharp reaction from the flamingo and a sulk from Flora, but the flamingo relents and the two collaborate on a graceful duet that ends with a joyous flourish. I read this picture book as an ebook but I'm told that it has inset flaps which adds drama by revealing new poses. My copy of the book instead had a linear progression of the movements that showed Flora's increase of self esteem and confidence. I do plan on picking up the actual book to see how the flipping of the insets works and enhances the reading experience since I really enjoyed reading this book. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades PreK-Grade 2.

If you like this book try: Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle, Dance! A Story about Being Happy by Tiziana Bendall-Brunello

Description: Ella Sarah may be little, but she has a BIG sense of style--and it isn't at all like that of her mother, father, and older sister. Yet they all want her to dress just like them! Ella Sarah will have none of it--and when her flamboyantly dressed friends arrive, it's clear that Ella Sarah's favorite outfit is just right for her. 

Review: Like many toddlers, Ella Sarah has her own ideas about what she should wear and persists in making her own choices despite her family's suggestions. Kids will definitely see themselves as the spunky and determined Ella Sarah as they chant her refrain: "I want to wear my pink polka-dot pants, my dress with orange-and-green flowers, my purple-and-blue striped socks, my yellow shoes, and my red hat!" At the end, her equally "well-dressed" friends arrive for a tea party. The illustrations do a good job in showing how the adults are larger-than-life as they tower over Ella Sarah, with only their torsos and legs showing. The exuberant illustrations aren't the typical ones found in picture books but with a variety of printmaking techniques. The pictures dance and tumble across the pages, adding emotion to Ella Sarah's defiance. The vibrant yellows, oranges, pinks, and purples work together surprisingly well and make the book pop. Ella Sarah Gets Dressed would be a great read-aloud or simply a one to one share.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: A Style All Her Own by Laurie B. Friedman, Birdie Plays Dressed Up by Sujean Rim, Let's Get Dressed by Caroline Church
Rummanah Aasi
  With frost temps on the horizon, it is hard not to think about summer and traveling. Adi Alsaid's debut novel Let's Get Lost is a good choice for those who have a bit of wanderlust or cabin fever. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an advanced reader's copy of the book.

Description: Five strangers. Countless adventures. One epic way to get lost.

Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named Leila. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most.

There's Hudson, a small-town mechanic who is willing to throw away his dreams for true love. And Bree, a runaway who seizes every Tuesday—and a few stolen goods along the way. Elliot believes in happy endings…until his own life goes off-script. And Sonia worries that when she lost her boyfriend, she also lost the ability to love.

Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila's own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth— sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you're looking for is to get lost along the way.

Review: Let's Get Lost reads like a five vignettes held loosely by Leila, the one character that appears in each short story. Leila is driving from Louisiana to Alaska to see the Northern Lights. We don't know if she is driving away from her past or is just simply on an adventure. Along the way, she befriends four fellow teenagers in need: Hudson, who's so smitten with Leila that he jeopardizes a big opportunity; Bree, who's aimlessly hitchhiking, trying to forget a tragedy in her past; Elliot, who's devastated after the girl of his dreams rejects him; and Sonia, who's feeling guilty about moving on after her boyfriend's death. Leila improves each of their lives by inspiring her new friends to take risks and to seize the day. It is not until the final section where we discover the truths about Leila and why she's undertaken such a long journey. 
 While I liked the characters that Leila meets, I didn't really love or care enough for them. For instance I had a hard time getting over the insta-love that Hudson felt for her which impacted a huge decision about his future. There are also some over-the-top adventures such as when Leila and Sonia attempt to sneak over international lines--into Canada--with the help of "Stoner Timmy" and a dozen donuts that made my eyes roll. While the book definitely had its light moments, I kept waiting for the heavy moments to come up but it didn't really quite hit that mark. Even Leila's final reveal was anti-climatic for me. Overall Let's Get Lost is a decent road trip with equal parts heartache and hope, but it didn't blow me away.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of caution: There is some language, underage drinking and drug use, and vandalism. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Paper Towns by John Green, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Rummanah Aasi
  The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger is a fun, fast-paced thrilled ride with a mash-up of paranormal along with light steampunk series. Many thanks to Little, Brown for advanced copies of these books.

Description: Sophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy--won't Mumsy be surprised? Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.
  Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers' quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship's boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot--one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.
Review: Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is not your typical boarding school. While girls learn the rules of etiquette and how to behave like a 'proper lady', they also learn how to be a stealthy spy. Sophronia is now in her second year at the school and has established herself as one of the top recruits, at least in terms of espionage. Her suspicious nature and incurable curiosity continues to drive her as she uses her skills and training to uncover the true reason behind the school trip to London. Carriger does not reintroduce characters or give any backstory; instead she jumps right into the thick of the action, developing a fast-paced plot that is sure to keep readers' attention as Sophronia discovers a conspiracy involving a technology that will affect vampires, werewolves, and humans alike. New characters are introduced, some of which are interesting and instantly likable while others are just okay. The highlight for me has always been Carriger's humor and the various shenanigans that Sophronia gets into.  

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is mild flirtation and some insults but nothing serious. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

Description: Sophronia continues second year finishing school in style -- with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown. She, best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and charming Lord Felix Mersey stow away on train to return classmate Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. No one suspects what or who would be aboard the suspiciously empty train.

Review: Sophronia Temminick and her friends once again face adventure and mystery. Sophronia is going home for a ball in honor of her brother's wedding. Her biggest concern should be practicing her etiquette and the use of her fan as a weapon, but instead she is worried about her friend Sidheagh, whose family of werewolves are facing exile or perhaps worse. Sidheagh is determined to return home to help her family and Sophronia is just as determined to help her. Soon she and her friends, including Dimity, Soap, and Lord Felix Mersey, are on their way via hot air balloon and train. The political factions and social class are brought to the forefront in this book, causing Sophronia to stop and think about her own view of politics as well as challenging herself to see what lengths she is willing to go to in order to help her friends.  Along the way a Pickleman plot is unveiled and a love triangle between Sophronia, Lord Felix, and Soap seem to be forming; however, I think our heroine seems to be leading in one direction (which I certainly hope is the case because I do love Soap!). There were a few surprises that were a nice addition in the end and I'm looking forward to see how everything plays out in the next book. Carriger's trademark wit and humor are the reasons why I keep coming back to this series.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is minor violence as two people are shot by gunfire, and there's hand to hand combat. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.  

If you like these books try: Gallagher series by Ally Carter, Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger
Rummanah Aasi
 Dawn of Arcana has been on my manga reading list for quite some time. The series is now complete with thirteen volumes. It is also my first foray into fantasy shoujo and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This review is for all thirteen volumes.

Description: Princess Nakaba of Senan is forced to marry Prince Caesar of the enemy country Belquat, tantamount to becoming a hostage. While Caesar is pleasing to the eye, he is also selfish and possessive, telling Nakaba outright: “You are my property.” With only her attendant Loki at her side, Nakaba must find a way to cope with her hostile surroundings, her fake marriage...and a mysterious power!

Review: Dawn of Arcana is a light fantasy that has the usual tropes of a shoujo manga. The plot is very easy to follow and the characters are quite likable. The heroine, Nakaba, has been discriminated all of her life. Her grandfather denies her royal status and stows her away in a tower where she is treated poorly by many except her loyal servant Loki. Nakaba is a strong heroine, a person always seeing the good in everyone. She has been gifted a power called the Arcana, which allows her the ability to see the past and the future. She struggles to find a balance to use her gift to make a good decision rather than abusing it.
  In another kingdom,
Caesar is born as the second son to the king of Dequat. His desirable black hair makes people believe he is fit to be the next king. There is hidden deceptions and factions working to make Caesar the next king. Caesar doesn't crave power, but just wants the love of his family. He is played like a pawn in the politics of the castle and thus grows into a young man who has a negative outlook and distrust of people. Caesar is not a great guy we are first introduced to him, but I like the way his character changes throughout the series. He really grows up and takes his role as a prince seriously and fights for Nakaba.
  Nakaba and
Caesar were married only to keep a treaty between the two warring kingdoms. At first Nakaba and Caesar have an antagonistic relationship, but it slowly develops into trust, loyalty, friendship and eventually love to  much of the kingdoms surprise and disgust. Their relationship is tested the true motives behind their respective kingdoms are revealed as well as their individual opinions on how the Aijin should be treated. Aijin are creatures who share traits with various animals with uncanny fighting abilities and skills. Due to their physical appearance, they are horribly treated and used as slaves.
 This series also has a great cast of secondary characters that are given sufficient page time, well flushed out and quite complex as the story continues. I absolutely loved Loki, Nakaba's Aijin servant, who I couldn't quite figure out. I loved reading about his background and the surprise ending which fits everything quite nicely. The artwork is also quite stunning and it was easy to differentiate all the different characters, which can be difficult sometimes in mangas. I highly recommend Dawn of Arcana to anyone who enjoys fantasy with a nice romance and a strong heroine.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution:  There is some violence, brief nudity and scenes of sensuality in the later volumes. Recommended for teens and up.

If you like this book try: Arisa by Natsumi Ando, Sakura Hime by Arina Tanemura
Rummanah Aasi
 The I Hunt Killers is a wonderful, thrilling, grizzly, and disturbing series. The series is very far from my comfort zone, but I can't seem to get enough and neither can my students. Lyga has created a thriller/horror series that is hard to put down. Many thanks to Little, Brown and Netgalley for the advanced readers copies of these books.

Description: In an effort to prove murder didn't run in the family, Jazz teamed with the police in the small town of Lobo’s Nod to solve a deadly case. And now, when a determined New York City detective comes knocking on Jazz’s door asking for help, he can’t say no. The Hat-Dog Killer has the Big Apple–and its police force–running scared. So Jazz and his girlfriend, Connie, hop on a plane to the big city and get swept up in a killer’s murderous game.

Review: Game is an engrossing sequel to I Hunt Killers. Jazz is sought out by the police in order to investigate and help out with tracking The Hat-Dog serial killer due to Jazz's uncanny skill in following the mindset of killers thanks to being a son of a serial killer. The Hat-Dog Killer is more gruesome and disturbing as the Impressionist, a copy-cat killer mimicking the infamous sociopath, Billy Dent-Jazz's own father. The Hat-Dog Killer disembowels victims who are also cut with images of either a dog or a hat. To heighten the book's suspense, Billy has broken out of prison and may or may not be at the heart of this new investigation, testing his son's ability to piece together a new "game." 
  The narrative is split between Jazz and his friends trying to figure things out with chilling random chapters from the killer's point of view allow readers to know things that Jazz has yet to figure out. Although I liked knowing things that the main characters do not, I felt this narrative style slowed down the book's pace and it read very much like a middle book. There are multiple subplots going on in the book, which some where interesting and others seemed extraneous. The ending has multiple cliffhangers which leaves each main character in a dire situation. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language as well as violence at times bloody and gory. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

Description (edited to avoid spoilers): From New York City to the small town of Lobo's Nod, the chase is on, and this time, Jazz is the hunted, not the hunter--while Billy Dent lurks in the shadows. And beyond Billy? Something much, much worse. Prepare to meet...the Crow King.

Review: After waiting for a cruel year to finally get answers to the multiple cliffhangers that were left at the Game, Lyga retches up the violence, the darkness, and the complexity of his hit murder/thriller serial killer series. Blood of My Blood doesn't waste precious pages in catching us up on what happened in the first two books of this series. It picks up immediately from the multiple cliffhanger ending in Game. Jazz Dent is the son of escaped serial killer Billy Dent and he relentlessly continues to aid the police in his father's recapture. Unaware that his girlfriend Connie and his hemophiliac friend, Howie, have been brutally attacked, Jazz faces his demons alone-including repressed memories with sexual undertones, and the creepy voice of Billy educating his son on the acumen required to be a good serial killer (appearing in italics). 
  Jazz continues to be haunted by the idea that his father's violent and sociopathic tendencies are genetic. It is this thought that propels Jazz in the right direction to foil some copycat killers and elude authorities long enough to solve his own life's mysteries. There are many moments that you have to suspend your disbelief while going on the adrenaline ride with Jazz as he outsmarts adults and the police in his wake until he goes back home to Lobo's Nod for the chilling climax and surprise ending, which made me shudder and my jaw drop. While I had a hunch about the ending, I really hoped it didn't turn out the way it did. Disturbing, chilling, and incredibly smart, the Jazz Dent series is definitely worth checking out if you are a thriller fan but just be aware it is not for readers with a light stomach. 

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language as well as violence at times bloody and gory. There is also allusions to sexual abuse in the book. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like these books try: Made for You by Melissa Marr, The Body Finder series by Kimberly Derting, Ripper by Stefan Petrucha, The Naturals series by Jennifer Barnes, Dexter series by Jeffry Lindsay, I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells
Rummanah Aasi
Stories usually end with a marriage and a presumably a happily ever after. What happens when that happily ever after seems to be falling apart at its seams? What lengths are you willing to go in order to salvage it? These are the questions that are posed in Rainbow Rowell's adult book titled Landline.

Description: Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble;it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now. Maybe that was always beside the point.
  Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn't expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her. When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.
  That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts. Is that what she’s supposed to do? Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Review: Landline is an examination of a marriage on the verge of falling apart. Georgie McCool seems to have it all: two wonderful daughters, a loving husband, and a career as a TV writer which she loves.  The career opportunity of a lifetime has appeared, but now her marriage may be ending as a result. Fed up with her work excuses, her husband, Neal, heads to Nebraska for a family Christmas with their kids--without her. 
  The set-up for Landline is very similar to another contemporary novels that center around midlife struggles and marriages falling apart; however, Landline takes a magical realism turn when Georgie finds a way to talk to Neal of the past, before they got engaged through a landline phone. As the days leading up to Christmas tick by, Georgie goes back and forth between talking to the old Neal she fell in love with and avoiding her rapidly crumbling current life, she starts to realize that she might be able to undo the complications of the present and has to decide whether she wants to. 
  Like all of Rowell books that I've read, I loved the characters in this book. Georgie and Neal are extremely likable characters. I also loved watching how Georgie and Neal met and fell in love. The story moves quickly with smooth transitions between the past and the present. I wished we got a reason why the magical landline exists, but it is never mentioned. I also wanted to find out the thoughts and reflections of the present Neal who is always conveniently not picking up his cell phone anytime Georgie calls. 
  Compared to my previous Rainbow Rowell reads, Attachments and Eleanor and Park, I didn't like this one as much. It felt unfinished and a bit too simple without the complexity of adult love, despite the mysterious magical phone. Nonetheless, I'm always excited to see what Rowell comes up with next. 

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language and allusion to sex. Recommended for mature teens and adults.

If you like this book try: One Plus One by Jojo Moyes, The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson, The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
Rummanah Aasi
  With the recent snow storm in the Chicagoland area, my internet connection has been inconsistent. Things seem to look better now and hopefully my posts will be published as scheduled. Thanks for your patience!

Description: The Knights seek fame and fortune by entering a talent show! 
A battle is looming at Camelot Middle School--a battle of the bands, that is! Artie, Wayne, and Percy enter the talent show seeking fame and fortune. But only one of them plays an instrument: Percy. And he plays the tuba. Their only hope of winning is finding the long-lost "Singing Sword," the fabled instrument of awesome power, but how can Artie find time to rock when he's been assigned a new lab partner, Melody Claymore? Melody is a klutz and a goof, and she harbors a not-so-secret crush on Artie. Is Melody his worst nightmare or secretly the answer to his prayers?

Review: The third and final Knights of the Lunch Table is a highly entertaining read both for young readers as well as adults. Artie and his friends have been challenged by the bullies in his school to compete and win the Battle of the Bands in their school. The winner of the competition wins bragging rights as well as a trophy. Artie has added pressure and incentive to win the Battle of the Bands competition because if he loses his favorite teacher, Mr. Merlin, will get fired from his job. 
  I like how this book shows Artie and his friends defeat the bullies by using their skills and creativity. Artie also learns a valuable lesson in not having preconceived notions about Melody, his classmate. Along with the action and humor in preparing and leading up to the Battle of Bands, we do see allusions to the Arthurian legends sprinkled throughout the graphic novel which adds inside jokes to those familiar with the legends. 
  The illustrations are vibrant and visually appealing, however, I was left with the feeling of the series being unfinished. Though we do get to see some character development, I wish there was more of a fleshed out plot arc in the story, perhaps continuing the story until Artie and his friends finish middle school. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 3 and up.

If you like this book try: The Lunch Lady series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Mal and Chad series by Stephen McCranie
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