Rummanah Aasi
I am not a fan of dragons, but Rachel Hartman's award winning debut novel Seraphina won me over with its brilliant writing and wonderful characters. When I heard there would be sequel, I was very excited but unfortunately the book did not meet my expectations. Many thanks to Random House and Netgalley for an advanced copy of the book.

Description: The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways.
  As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?

Review: World building is an important aspect of a book in which the book's setting is a place other than our real world. For a reader world building can grab your interest and make you invest your time in spending and exploring the author's world. It can also deeply hinder the reader's enjoyment if it is not too clear and detailed. Like too much of any good thing, world building can also be overwhelming and overshadow every aspect of the book, which happened in the case of Shadow Scale.
  For more than half of the book, Hartman spends her energy and focus on detailing kingdoms, their constitutes, and every aspect of their customs as Seraphina goes on a mission to find other half-human/half-dragon beings. With her loyal friend, Abdo, she searches the lands for the creatures she has only met in her mind garden. While I loved the intricate details that Hartman showcases, Seraphina's travels become repetitive and tedious. Though I understand that Serphina's mission is important in building the theme of family and community since our heroine has only lived in isolation because of her hybrid identity, I gave up on reading closely to this aspect of the story and skimmed quite a lot. The over abundance of world building is what hindered the book's pacing.  
  The plot of Shadow Scale picks up a little bit as we are introduced to the main villain and I would argue the star of the novel, Jannoula. Jannoula is a half-dragon whom Seraphina contacted telepathically in a time before she knew there were others like her, once usurped Seraphina's consciousness, and it was only by great effort and luck that Seraphina managed to fight her off. I really liked the complexity of Jannoula's character who does garner some of our sympathy as we learn how horribly she was treated and abused, but also admire and are terrified by her powers of manipulating her foe's strengths against them. She really reminded me of Queen Levana from the Lunar Chronicles. Jannoula is a worthy foe of Seraphina, but unfortunately it took Seraphina quite some time (i.e. hundreds of pages) to stop dawdling, gather her courage, and finally take some action.  I was disappointed that it took Seraphina a very long time to pull herself together along with a deux ex machina to come in the 11th hour of the civil war to defeat Jannoula. I was sad to see all the characteristics that made me love Seraphina in the first book disappear in this one.
  I was also disappointed in not actually seeing the civil war, which is what Shadow Scale was building up to and it felt very anti-climatic as it happened in what seems like less than a page. There were many new twists that seemed to be haphazardly thrown without any development or explanation in such as solving the love triangle between the Queen, Kiggs, and Seraphina, which made me scratch my head in confusion. I would have loved to see more romance between Kiggs and Seraphina. I would also have loved to see more of Orma who was hardly present in the book at all. 
 Overall Shadow Scale did not live up to my expectations and I was disappointed. What would have been a highlight in my reading for the month of April turned out to be a chore to read. Hartman is clearly a gifted writer, but she lost me early on in this lengthy book and could not win me back. I do, however, look forward to what she writes next. 

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some violence such as mental torture and a character getting stabbed, however, it is not graphically detailed. There is also minor language. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Eona by Alison Goodman, Seven Realm Kingdom series by Kristin Cashore
Rummanah Aasi

 Crossover by Kwame Alexander won the Newbery Award last year. Though marketed for younger readers, this title has crossover appeal to teens and even adults. I really enjoyed reading this book.

Description: Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story's heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

Review: Crossover is a fun read that can be enjoyed by sports fans and reluctant readers. This novel in verse is the story of Josh and Jordan (JB), identical twin sons of former basketball phenom Chuck "Da Man" Bell, are ball legends themselves, and they aren't yet thirteen. Josh is the only kid in his school who can dunk, while JB has a mean three-point shot, and together they're a well-oiled machine on the court. Josh and Jordan's relationship begins to change as JB gets a girlfriend and Josh loses his brother and friend, Their relationship is strained to the point of a mid-game altercation that lands Josh on the bench for weeks. In addition to not playing ball, there is the constant worry Josh has for his Dad's poor health.
  Some readers tend to shy away from novel in verse books, but Alexander takes this fear away as the words on the page come alive. The exciting play-by-play game details makes you feel as if you are sitting in the stands at Josh's school cheering him and his brother on the court. There is also some insightful middle-school observations, and poignant portrayals of sibling dynamics and familial love. The words move on their own as the wordplay and alliteration roll out like hip-hop lyrics, and the use of concrete forms and playful font changes keep things dynamic. This is a quick read that I think many readers will enjoy.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: D-Bow's high school hoops series by Ken Waltman, Hoops by Walter Dean Myers, Travel Team by Mike Lupica
Rummanah Aasi
 I thoroughly enjoyed Heather Demetrios's paranormal romance, Exquisite Captive, and I couldn't wait to read another book by her. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an advanced reader's copy of the book.

Description: If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.

Review: I'll Meet You There is mixture of a coming of age, love story, and a war story. It is the story of two lost teens, Skylar and Josh, who live in a very small, rundown town in California, who are struggling to escape from their personal demons and desperately searching for a fresh, new start. 
 Skylar lives in a trailer with her mother and struggles to keep her little family afloat in the aftermath of her father’s death years before. She dreams about leaving her town of deadbeats and dead-ends for a new beginning of studying art in a college in San Francisco. I liked Skylar and admired her for taking up so much responsibility for a teen, acting more like the adult than her mother, as well as her resilence to move forward despite watching helplessly as her mother goes on a downward spiral into alcohol abuse. 
 Unlike Skylar it took me a while to warm up to Josh due to his several defensive walls that he built around himself and tries to distract himself from his own thoughts by seeking refuge in bad hookups and drinking. It is obvious that Josh is not the same person after his deployment. Most notably he is missing part of his leg and harbors internal wounds from the war. Demetrios does a great job in describing and tackling the issue of PTSD as well as survival guilt that slowly eats away Josh, which is clearly evident in the short chapters written in Josh's stream of consciousness. 
  The romance between Skylar and Josh is subtle and slow burn. They slowly begin to forge a friendship though I would say that definitely use each other as a distraction more than an anchor. Personally, I was not convinced of Skylar and Josh's relationship. I didn't feel any chemistry between the two characters mainly because I grew frustrated with both of them when they would not be open about their problems and they could have prevented melodrama and heart ache had they communicated effectively. Despite this issue, however, I did like how the romance did not conquer all of Skylar's and Josh's problems, but gave us a hopeful ending that they are on a hopeful and bright path. Overall I'll Meet You There is an enjoyable read that romance fans would certainly enjoy. 

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language including homophobic slurs, underage drinking and drug usage, two sex scenes which are mentioned but not in graphic detail. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Something like Normal by Trish Doller, The Summer I Found You by Jolene Perry, 
Rummanah Aasi
 I have been anticipating the release of Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson ever since the news came out that there will be a Pakistani-American, Muslim, female superhero. I had high hopes for this graphic novel and for the most part it met my expectations and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Description: Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she's suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she's comin' for you, New York! 

Review: The theme of identity runs throughout the graphic novel. Our main protagonist, Kamala Khan is an ordinary teen who just happens to be a Pakistani-American and Muslim. Her culture and religion play a big part in her life, but they do not overshadow the graphic novel. I found Kamala to be adorkable, a genuinely good person who wants to do the right thing, and a fan of superheroes. She laments of not being able to fit in with the rest of peers, which is a nice metaphor for her struggling to accept her responsibilities, and limitations of being Ms. Marvel. 
  The author does a great job in showing how Kamala is indeed very much like ourselves by showing Kamala's relationship with others around her like her friend Nakia and Bruno, the neighborhood boy who has a very obvious crush on our heroine who is of course oblivious. The strongest relationship in my opinion is that of Kamala's strict, overprotective yet loving parents. The inclusion of the parents definitely highlights the cultural aspects of Kamala's Pakistani-American background. 
 Ms. Marvel: No Normal is very much an origins story. Kamala must come to terms that she is a superhero and has to figure out how to lead a double life as well as harness new skills and keep her power in check. The action part of the graphic novel was a bit weak. The villain wasn't as interesting nor scary as I had hoped but hopefully he will get fleshed out in the later volumes.  
 The artwork of Ms. Marvel: No Normal is well done. The characters look like real people and the colors used make the illustrations pop and are appealing to the eye. Despite some minor issues, I definitely look forward to continuing this series and I do hope that this graphic novel does pave the way for more diverse characters appearing in mainstream comics as well as debunking myths regarding Pakistanis and Muslims..  

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is a small scene of underage drinking in which Kamala does not participate in, there is some minor language. Recommended for Grades 8 and up. 

If you like this book try: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang, Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson
Rummanah Aasi
 I finally got the chance to read The Agency series by Y.S. Lee for a Victorian mystery reading challenge a couple of years ago. This series has a wonderful combination of intrigue, romance, mystery, and the rich details of Victorian England. Rivals in the City is the last book of this series. Many thanks to Netgalley and Candlewick Press for an advanced reader's copy of the book.

Description: Mary Quinn has a lot on her mind. James Easton, her longtime love interest, wants to marry her; but despite her feelings, independent-minded Mary hesitates. Meanwhile, the Agency has asked Mary to take on a dangerous case: convicted fraudster Henry Thorold is dying in prison, and Mary must watch for the return of his estranged wife, an accomplished criminal herself who has a potentially deadly grudge against James. Finally, a Chinese prizefighter has arrived in town, and Mary can't shake a feeling that he is somehow familiar. With the stakes higher than ever, can Mary balance family secrets, conflicting loyalties, and professional expertise to bring a criminal to justice and find her own happiness?

Review: Rivals in the City is a solid ending to a fabulous historical mystery series. Mary Quinn has come a long way since sitting on death row after she is caught by the police. Now she is fully established, independent, and beginning a detective agency. She is also engaged to a remarkable man who sees her as his equal regardless of what their society dictates. Now her happiness is threatened when a ruthless criminal who has a grudge against James is back.  
  The mystery in Rivals of the City is fast paced and engaging. The criminal is smart and calculating, keeping Mary and the Agency on their toes. The clues are timed and spaced evenly, which is a relief because I hate mysteries where I solve the crime before the main character does. My minor complaint about the mystery is that it overshadows the romance between James and Mary. 
  I wanted to see both of these characters interacting as I love their chemistry and banter, but I do understand why they had to be separated. Unlike the other books in the series, Rivals in the City is romance light. Mary must make a very important decision in her relationship and I was pleased that the author did take into consideration of women's roles in Victorian England, particularly that of transferring her own property and essentially her own identity to her husband. I would have loved an epilogue regarding what happens next for our couple.  
  In addition to the mystery, there is a surprise appearance by a family member from China who provides some answers to Mary's questions about her father's past. I was hoping that the appearance of Mary's relative would play a major role in this book and interact with her a bit more, but a lot of the questions that I had surrounding Mary's father were answered. Overall Lee works well with various plot threads and combines them with details of her Victorian England setting. I would definitely recommend this series to readers who enjoy historical romances or historical mysteries. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some minor violence and language. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Secret Letters by Leah Scheier, Young Sherlock Holmes series  by Andrew Lane, 
Rummanah Aasi
 I picked up The Girl on the Train because of its hype and buzz. Some review journals have declared it to be "the Gone Girl of 2015" and apparently Dreamworks has acquired the film rights so it will be coming to a theater near you soon. I know readers who absolutely loved the book and others who didn't enjoy it nor understand the hype. I belong to the latter camp.

Description: Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Review: The Girl on the Train does have similarities to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: a missing person, a possible murder, unreliable characters, infidelity, and despicable characters. Where Gone Girl won me over with its twisty plot and excellent characterizations, The Girl on the Train felt lacking and incomplete.
  The premise of the book requires some buy-in and a suspension of disbelief. Rachel is an alcoholic who has lost her job. In order to hide her unemployment, she takes the same London commuter train to her normal stop and passes the same suburban scenery every day. There is one house that catches her eye-mainly because of the married couple she glimpses living there. Rachel becomes obsessed with this unknown couple that she has dubbed "Jess and Jason" and conjures up an entire dream life for this husband and wife, even giving them make-believe careers. Rachel's fantasy about this couple gives her a little joy, which I found to be very creepy and voyeuristic. Soon Rachel finds out that "Jess" has been missing and is soon embroiled in a murderous thriller. I had a tough time in believing Rachel and I didn't understand her obsession with the couple. I expected her obsession to actually get involved in the couple's life before the disappearance that would have made more sense, but Rachel always remained as the outsider who suddenly become involved.
  The mystery aspect of the novel could have been stronger. Within the first hundred pages I had already guessed what had happened and who is responsible. I kept reading the book to confirm if my guesses were correct and they were after an anticlimactic reveal towards the end of the book. Like the mystery, the pacing of the book also felt off. The prologue grabbed my attention but I soon I found the book to be repetitive and drawn out which was caused by multiple narrators.
  Each chapter is narrated by either Rachel or Anna, who's married to Rachel's ex-husband, or, Megan aka "Jess". I typical don't mind multiple narrators but in the case of this book, they all sounded alike. Each of them are bitter, completely unlikable character, and one dimensional. While there is a solid ending, by the time I got to it I didn't really care and was upset that I didn't drop this book sooner.

Rating: 2 stars

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

If you like this book try: Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson, Little Face by Sophie Hannah, A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlante
Rummanah Aasi
  I've been trying to diversify my reading by adding more nonfiction titles to the mix. I have a harder time selecting these book as oppose to fiction titles. I have to get over my preconceived notions that nonfiction equals boring and dry textbooks.

Description: Nubs, an Iraqi dog of war, never had a home or a person of his own. He was the leader of a pack of wild dogs living off the land and barely surviving. But Nubs's life changed when he met Marine Major Brian Dennis.
   The two formed a fast friendship, made stronger by Dennis's willingness to share his meals, offer a warm place to sleep, and give Nubs the kind of care and attention he had never received before. Nubs became part of Dennis's human "pack" until duty required the Marines to relocate a full 70 miles away - without him. Nubs had no way of knowing that Marines were not allowed to have pets.
So began an incredible journey that would take Nubs through a freezing desert, filled with danger to find his friend and would lead Dennis on a mission that would touch the hearts of people all over the world.

Review: Nubs was a nice, true, and uplifting story about a feral dog from Iraq that found a home in the United States. In October 2007, Border Transition Team 3/5/2 arrived at the border of Iraq and Syria. The team members were greeted by a pack of wild dogs, whose leader became known as "Nubs" because of his docked ears. He developed a bond with Dennis, and as the troops would come and go over the course of several weeks, they were always greeted by the dogs. Nubs exhibited signs of malnutrition and abuse yet he continued to seek food and companionship from the Marines, often trying to follow them when they'd leave. In December 2007, when the Marines relocated to the Jordanian border, Nubs embarked on a treacherous journey across the desert and, two days later, walked into the camp to join Dennis. Since the Marines couldn't have a dog on base, the story then continues on how arrangements and donations were made for Nubs to be sent to the United States. Because Marine regulations prohibit the keeping of pets in a war zone, Major Dennis and his men. The story is quick and the pacing is fast for younger readers who are interested in reading pet stories or inspiring stories featuring animals.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: Dogs on Duty by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, Tara and Bella by Carol Buckley

Description: A vertible cinematic account of the catastrophe that decimated much of Chicago in 1871, forcing more than 100,000 people from their homes. Jim Murphy tells the story through the eyes of several survivors. These characters serve as dramatic focal points as the fire sweeps across the city, their stories illuminated by fascinating archival photos and maps outlining the spread of fire.

Review: I enjoyed reading the Great Fire since I didn't know a lot about the topic. The inclusion of real life characters and their personal accounts, maps, and illustrations are what brought this book alive for me.  Murphy traces the fire through its three horror-filled days as, fed by prairie winds, cinders from a Saturday night blaze, and structures (even streets and sidewalks) built almost entirely of wood, it consumed block after block of homes, businesses, and bodies, eventually leaving 100,000 people homeless. This was an engrossing read and one I would recommend to readers interested in learning the history of Chicago.

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies, Chicago History

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: The Great Chicago Fire by Tria Smith, The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 by Paul Bennie

Description: Draws on stories from survivors and archival photographs to describe the history of the "Titanic" from its launch to its sinking.

Review: Hopkinson provides a great overview of the Titanic disaster for young readers without over-dramatizing, drawing unwarranted conclusions, or prolonging the ordeal. She uses real survivors as her "characters," whose voices relay many of the subsequent events, include crew members as well as travelers in first, second, and third class. I liked the inclusion of the characters from different social classes and walks of life. Chapter notes, sources, archival photos, a timeline, short biographies of those mentioned, and more are included. Hopkinson provides a bibliography at the end of the book with suggested readings for those who want to know more details of the Titanic disaster. I would highly recommend this book for readers who don't know much about the Titanic disaster but want to know the gist of what happened.

Curriculum Connection: Social Studies

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf, Distant Waves by Suzanne Weyn
Rummanah Aasi
  I was able to catch up to Marissa Meyer's fabulous and highly addictive the Lunar Chronicles series. I remember waiting in line for half an hour at the ALA Conference in 2013 just to see if I can get an ARC of Cress. Luckily, I had and it was well worth the wait. All of these book are currently out and published. If you haven't read this series yet and like fairy tales, I highly recommend them!

Description: Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison--even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Review: Scarlet is probably my favorite of the Lunar Chronicles so far. While I liked the original science fiction spin on the fairy tales, I thought Cinder was a bit predictable. Scarlet, however, kept me on my toes with more intrigue and romance. Meyer does an excellent job of subtly using the tale of Red Riding Hood to move the plot along and even gives readers some things to contemplate. I absolutely loved Scarlet, a heroine who is fiery as her name and just as passionate. She guards her heart and finds it hard to trust anyone, which is how she has survived for so long. Wolf stole my heart and I was completely disinterested in Kai. While Wolf has the big physique and intimidating persona at first, he isn't the same bad guy we are use to in the Little Red Riding Hood story. There are many questions surrounding his past and one that I wanted to know in particular is whether or not he can overcome his past? There are plenty of viewpoints in the book and the story of Cinder and Emperor Kai are still present, but I think Scarlet and Wolf stole the show. While there are many transitions in the story, they are seamless and the plot elements meld together well. This novel has enough back story to stand on its own, but is much better after reading Cinder. Cress is introduced in a teasing chapter and I can't wait to learn more.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong violence but most of it happens off the page. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFever, Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Description: Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.
 When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

Review: As you probably guessed from the cover of the third book in Meyer's Lunar Chronicles that the heroine of this book is connected to the Rapunzel fairy tale. Cress has a different feel than the other books in that it doesn't just feature one fairy tale, but also continues two other continuing stories along with introducing two more leading ladies in the series. Meyer juggles all of the story lines well as there is no shortage of humor, action, or romance.
 Unlike the other heroines before her Cress is a self-proclaimed "damsel in distress" and an expert computer hacker. She has been imprisoned in an orbiting satellite for more than seven years, and has never been allowed to cut her hair, which has grown to Rapunzel-like lengths. Her only knowledge of the outside world is what she sees from her computer. Though Cress is supposed to be tracking down the fugitive Cinder for Lunar Queen Levana, Cress has been secretly aiding her. Cress's relationship with Captain Thorne is sweet and amusing as Thorne is constantly not living up to Cress's version of him that she has fantasized in her head. It was nice watching Cress become her own person and slowly but steady standing on her own two feet. The plan for Cinder and her crew to try to rescue Cress goes awry in more ways than one, leaving Cinder's group scattered and fighting for survival. My minor complaint of this book is that there isn't much romance between the other couples, particularly of my favorite couple Scarlet and Wolf. The plot involving warring governments and a fast-spreading plague leaves a desire for the next book while not being a complete cliffhanger. Winter, the heroine for the last book in the Lunar Chronicles is nothing like what I expected and I am very excited and curious to meet her.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong violence that mostly take place off the page. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers, Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale, Golden by Cameron Dokey

Description: Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who is the Fairest of them all?

Pure evil has a name, hides behind a mask of deceit, and uses her "glamour" to gain power. But who is Queen Levana? Long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress in The Lunar Chronicles, Levana lived a very different story—a story that has never been told . . . until now.

Review: Like many fans of the Lunar Chronicles, I was disappointed to find out that the publication of Winter, the last book in the series, has been pushed back but was glad to know that Meyer released a novella that will help with the wait for her readers. Though considered a prequel of sorts, I would recommended reading Fairest after reading Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress.
 Fairest does not have a strong story arc, but it works best as a character sketch of Queen Levana, who is more than a beautiful villain. We get an inside glimpse in the evolving character of Levana and get answers to lots of questions about her such as: how did she come to power? Where did the animosity for Cinder come from? How are Cinder and Winter connected? In this prequel, Meyer plays with our sympathies and emotions towards Levana. At times I felt sorry for her as I learned of the environment she was raised and of the childhood "accident" which forces her to permanently assume a glamour, or altered physical appearance. Her desperation of wanting to love is deep and makes her human, but the lengths of her actions as well as her justification for her actions is what repelled me. Even if readers despise her, it is worth reading Fairest to gain insight into Levana's complex character.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong violence, most of which happen off the page and are alluded to. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis
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