Rummanah Aasi
 If you are a fan of fractured fairy tales, you may enjoy reading the critically acclaimed Fables graphic novel series by Bill Willingham. The series centers on these questions: What if fairy tale characters existed in our world? And what if they had ways of not revealing themselves to us per their magic? Thus far most the fairy tale characters are from the Brothers Grimm and other European regions, but there are few from other regions of the world too. According to Goodreads, there are a total of 22 volumes of Fables and four spin off series.

Description: Ever since they were driven from their homelands by the Adversary, the non-human Fables have been living on the Farm—a vast property in upstate New York that keeps them hidden from the prying eyes of the mundane world. But now, after hundreds of years of isolation, the Farm is seething with revolution, fanned by the inflammatory rhetoric of Goldilocks and the Three Little Pigs. And when Snow White and her sister Rose Red stumble upon their plan to liberate the Homelands, the commissars of the Farm are ready to silence them—by any means necessary!

Review: What draws me to the Fables graphic novel series is how the fairy tales are restructured in a completely new and refreshing way. While the fairy tale characters do retain their famous characteristics, they are also completely three dimensional and deeply flawed.
  As you may recall an entity known only as the Adversary have forced out the fairy tale characters, known as Fables, out of their homes. Some of the fables who can pass off as humans are living in Fabletown, New York (clever city name, I know). In Animal Farm, Willingham manages to rewrite his characters into playing an homage to George Orwell's political allegory of the same name by focusing on the non-humans fables such as the Three Little Pigs, The Three Bears, and Shere Khan from the Jungle Book (though I wouldn't necessarily call him a fairy tale character per se), who were forced to live on the Farm so that they would not cause suspicion to the ordinary humans. The non-human fables are unhappy on the farm and fed up with being deemed as secondary class citizens by their more "human looking" counterparts. They have organized a revolution to take back their land from the Adversary and to rule both Fabletown and the Farm. 
  I really enjoyed watching how the furor for the revolution at the Farm grow especially with the involvement unsuspecting key players like Goldilocks and the Three Little Pigs. I also  were leading the revolution, which put an insane spin on our favorite fairy tale characters. I also loved how Willingham did a great job at portraying the tumultuous relationship between siblings Rose Red and Snow White. Though they are iconic characters, their fraught relationship felt human and relateable as one sister tries to become closer and the other sister feels nothing but contempt.  
  The artwork in Animal Farm is also very visually appealing. The illustrations of the characters are life-like and convey the emotions written in the text. The coloring was also skillfully done, evoking the dark atmosphere and tone of the story. I hope that the series will add some diversity as it progresses and I look forward to reading more from this series. I would recommend this graphic novel series if you are interested in fairy tales. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and strong violence/gore in this volume. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Fables, Vol. 3: Storybook Love (Fables, #3) by Bill Willingham, Peter and Max by Bill Willingham, Fairest by Bill Willingham
Rummanah Aasi
  Introducing Greek mythology to young adults can be a bit tricky due to the strong sexual and violent content of the myths, however, George O'Connor's Olympians graphic novel series manages to teach the Greek myths in exciting ways and not sacrificing the action nor nuisances of the Greek gods and goddesses. He reminds us that before all of the superheroes that were created, the Greek gods and goddesses had the much deserved spotlight with their own drama and back stories.

Description: Volume 3 of Olympians, Hera: The Goddess and Her Glory, introduces readers to the Queen of the Gods and Goddesses in the Pantheon. This volume tells the tales of the many heroes who sought and won Hera's patronage, most notably Hercules.

Review:  Hera is not my favorite goddess from Greek mythology. She is always depicted as a shrew, jealous, and petty wife of Zeus. In the third volume of the Olympian series, however, Hera is a given a chance to appear more nuanced and multi-layered character rather than just being Zeus’ long-suffering, acid-tongued queen. Interestingly O'Connor chooses to retell the 10 labors of Heracles myth to give Hera a personality makeover since it is widely thought Hera hated Heracles, the illegitimate son of her philandering husband. I did like how O'Connor spins this tale of hate into a source of motivation for Heracles. I took me a while to even grasp that Heracles's name actually means the "Glory of Hera." 
  It was fun watching all the Olympians watch in rapt attention and amazement as Heracles makes his way through the series of impossible tasks with his strength and smarts. O'Connor's Olympian series continues to be well researched and executed. I was a bit worried as to how see how far O'Connor would take Zeus's philandering, but he does it tastefully with giving us hints but nothing too explicit or graphic. The fantastic artwork brings the gods and goddess to life in all of their glory. This series would be a great addition to supplement the Greek myths in the English curriculum as well as a terrific addition to the library's collection development. I can't wait to continue this series. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some disturbing images and violence featuring the monsters of the Greek Myths such as the Hydra and Cerebus. There is also some suggestions of nudity. Recommended for Grades 6 and up.

If you like this book try: Hercules : the Twelve Labors by Paul Storrie
Rummanah Aasi
 Today I have to really fun children books to review. Both books feature adorable animals and are really enjoyable. If you have younger readers who like animal picture books, do consider picking these up. Please note that these books were given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review and this has no way influenced my review. 


¡El perro con sombrero!

Meet Pepe! Before he got a sombrero, he was a lonely dog living in the streets. Now he is a movie star, loved by everyone! Well, everyone except…

¡El Gato en Zapatos!

El Gato is one sneaky, jealous kitty. Watch out, Pepe!

Review: Pepe is homeless, hungry, and very sad dog until a fancy sombrero lands on his head and changes his world. Almost immediately, a grocer couldn't resist Pepe's cute face with the hat and gives him a juicy bone. A movie director who drives by in his flashy convertible spots Pepe and must have him in his movies. Soon Pepe becomes famous and has a huge dog mansion, but inside he still longs for a family to love him. Then enters the jealous El Gato-the famous movie star cat whose limelight Pepe stole. Wearing snazzy purple dance shoes, the cat steals the sombrero and a chase through various places in the town ensues until finally, the two animals meet at a sandbox and Pepe's dream of finding a loving family comes true, but don't worry El Gato also has a happy ending. The fun illustrations by Jed Henry composed of pencil, watercolor, and digitalized watercolor- match really well with the fun, energetic, and lighthearted text of Derek Taylor Kent. I also am delighted to find that this book is bilingual where the red type beneath the English is translated in Spanish, which makes this a great choice for a read-aloud for younger readers but also for readers who are learning basic Spanish, and of course for fans of dog books.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades Pre-K to Grade 1.

If you like this book try: Little Dog, Lost by

Waddley Sees the World is an adorable picture book that informs us about the people, places, and things indigenous to Australia. Waddley, our very cute narrator and travel guide is a Macaroni penguin, who jumps aboard a ship traveling around the world. There were many facts in this book that I didn't know about before reading it. I think younger readers who are interested in learning about different countries would really enjoy this book. The illustrations are also great and vibrant with bright colors. I just wished the author had a bit more information on the Macaroni penguin at the beginning of the book as I was a bit confused how Waddley was scientifically able to travel without being in danger. I also thought some of the pages were just a bit too text heavy. 

My First Travel Angelic Airline Adventures by
Rummanah Aasi
 It has been a while since I read a good Shakespeare adaptation for younger readers. The Stratford Zoo is a fun graphic novel series that makes Shakespeare's famous plays accessible to younger readers. The latest graphic novel in this series is The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet. Many thanks to First Second and Netgalley for an advanced reader's copy of the graphic novel. The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet will be published and released on September 29th, 2015.

Description: The Stratford Zoo looks like a normal zoo . . . until the gates shut at night. That's when the animals come out of their cages to stage elaborate performances of Shakespeare's greatest works. They might not be the most accomplished thespians, but they've got what counts: heart. Also fangs, feathers, scales, and tails.

Review: At night the Stratford Zoo performs Shakespeare's plays. The animal thespians set the stage for the adaptation of Romeo and Juliet where a rooster and a bear play the title roles. This adaptation casts  the Capulets as bears that belong to a group called Wilders, or animals that live freely out in the forest, and the Montagues as roosters, belonging to the Petters, farm animals residing at the Verona Petting Zoo. The play follows the Shakepeare's plot except Romeo and Juliet are to be best friends instead of lovers and the "tragic" conclusion involves induced hibernation rather than suicide, making one of the Bard's famous play approachable and relatable without focusing on the too mature material such as bawdy jokes and violence for younger readers. 
 I really liked how the subplots of two bickering young monkey and sheep who could not stand one another and hurling insults at each other slowly became friends while watching the play. I also loved the audience's commentary about the play and the actors, especially the grumpy vulture who felt he could have done a better job as Romeo and Juliet. Bright and bold illustrations splash across each page, utilizing a variety of panel shapes, sizes, and full-page spreads to create a visually enticing backdrop. There is plenty of chuckles throughout the graphic novel and the director's notes at the end are a definite highlight and not to be missed. After reading this graphic novel, I can't wait to read the first graphic novel in which Macbeth is performed by the Stratford Zoo. This is a really good Shakespeare adaptation on a very basic level just note that the play's plot is completely definitely from that in the graphic novel.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth (Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue, #1)
Rummanah Aasi

Description: The action begins in October of 1875, as Secret Service agents raid the Fulton, Illinois, workshop of master counterfeiter Ben Boyd. Soon after Boyd is hauled off to prison, members of his counterfeiting ring gather in the back room of a smoky Chicago saloon to discuss how to spring their ringleader. Their plan: grab Lincoln's body from its Springfield tomb, stash it in the sand dunes near Lake Michigan, and demand, as a ransom, the release of Ben Boyd --and $200,000 in cash. From here, the action alternates between the conspirators, the Secret Service agents on their trail, and the undercover agent moving back and forth between the two groups. Along the way readers get glimpses into the inner workings of counterfeiting, grave robbing, detective work, and the early days of the Secret Service. The plot moves toward a wild climax as robbers and lawmen converge at Lincoln's tomb on election night: November 7, 1876.

Review: Told in lively dialogue and a fascinating narrative in a true crime thriller fashion, Lincoln's Grave Robbers is based on a little known event in history. In 1876 Secret Service agents were on the trail of counterfeiters who hoped to spring their leader from jail by holding the body of President Abraham Lincoln for ransom. The plot is unbelievable and perfect for the next action movie to hit the theaters, which makes it even more compelling and perfect for the reluctant reader. Throughout the book we get the point of views from various men who were involved in this scheme: "Big Jim" Kennally, the mastermind behind the plot; Terrence Mullen; and Benjamin Boyd, the man his crew is trying to save. Among the lawmen are James Brooks, chief of the Secret Service, and agents Patrick Tyrrell and Elmer Washburn. Though there are historical details interwoven with the body-snatching plot such as the presidential election of 1876 between candidates Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilde as well as Lincoln's own family, much of the focus is spent on caper plotline, which I personally found much more interesting. The book includes a glossary of phrases used in the dialogue and photos from this time period. Readers interest will be piqued by the page-turning true crime story and learn a little history along the way.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: Stealing Lincoln's Body by Thomas Craughwell for adult readers, Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James Swanson for younger readers
Rummanah Aasi
 Readers of YA paranormal romance and those who have interest in Egyptian mythology will find a lot to enjoy in Colleen Houck's new series. Please note that this review is based off the advanced reader's copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley. The book is published today and is available in libraries and/or bookstores near you.

Description: When Lilliana Young enters the Metropolitan Museum of Art one morning during spring break, the last thing she expects to find is a live Egyptian prince with godlike powers, who has been reawakened after a thousand years of mummification. And she really can't imagine being chosen to aid him in an epic quest that will lead them across the globe to find his brothers and complete a grand ceremony that will save mankind. But fate has taken hold of Lily, and she, along with her sun prince, Amon, must travel to the Valley of the Kings, raise his brothers, and stop an evil, shape-shifting god named Seth from taking over the world.

Review: Reawakened introduces a fantasy filled with romance and Egyptian mythology, but unfortunately it left me bored for most of the story. The story begins on a promising prologue where three Egyptian princes are offered to sacrifice themselves in order to protect their kingdoms and people from Seth, the god of chaos, from taking control. The princes are all gifted with different abilities and are preserved as mummies who are awakened every 1,000 years to complete a ritual that will prevent Seth from rising. 
  While the plot of the book has great potential, the major flaws of the book in my opinion are characters who are dull, cookie cutter templates of your typical paranormal romance novel. Lilliana Young is our mortal heroine who has had her whole life planned out for her by her affluent micromanaging New York City parents. Her life is turned upside down on what was suppose to be an ordinary day at the museum, but instead she becomes mystically tethered to Amon, the resurrected prince and carrier of the Eye of Horus. I found it hard to like Lilliana because her personality was so vanilla. We are told that she is pretty, has great self confidence, and is suppose to be the voice of reason and Amon's translator of the current century; however, her only main concern is trying to have a relationship with a 'really hot Egyptian prince' instead of the 'really hot Egyptian prince' who is sucking her life force out of her. Lilliana only agrees to travel to Egypt in search of Amon's brothers, who are needed to complete the necessary ritual is to have an adventure and to be reckless during her spring break of her senior year. 
  Like Lilliana, Amon is also quite tedious. His clueless nature of the advancements of our society is cute at first, but then it becomes repetitive and annoying. I couldn't help but hear a robot every time he talked. I did, however, like the stories of the Egyptian gods and goddess he tells Lilliana but that's about it. He is your average handsome and brooding paranormal romance hero. I felt zero chemistry between him and Lilliana. 
 Though there are plenty of action scenes and moments of doom where the characters lives are at stake, I couldn't help but skim a lot of the story. Even the villain was snooze worthy and very easy to identify. The ending does have a cliffhanger, but I can't muster up any interest in picking up this series. Overall Reawakened was a pretty "meh" read and would only recommend it to readers who exclusively like paranormal romances.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing scenes and minor language. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Tiger's Curse series by Colleen Houck, Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordian for those who like reading about Egyptian mythology more than romance
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Astrid has always done everything with her best friend Nicole. So when Astrid signs up for roller derby camp, she assumes Nicole will too. But Nicole signs up for dance camp with a new friends instead, and so begins the toughest summer of Astrid's life. There are bumps and bruises as Astrid learns who she is without Nicole and what it takes to be a strong, tough roller girl.

Review: Roller Girl is a delightful graphic novel that explores the mercurial nature of tween friendships and the rush of excitement of discovering a new sport. One summer tests the friendship between Astrid and Nicole who have been best friends since elementary school. As their interests diverge, they begin to explore their own individuality. 
  When the girls go to the roller derby one night, Astrid is immediately hooked and jumps at the chance to attend a roller-derby camp, skating alongside the tough, dyed girls. Nicole, however, is passionate about ballet, decides not to follow along with Astrid, creating the first real fight the girls have ever had. The rift is organic and we can identify with the emotions of both girls. As Astrid and Nicole spend time apart, they quickly broaden their horizons and make new friends in their new circles: Astrid with her roller-derby cohorts and Nicole with the popular ballet crowd. What really impressed me was Astrid's journey of becoming a roller girl from dealing with the bumps, bruises, and falls that come along with the sport as well as the emphasis on teamwork and the real meaning of friendship. 
 Jamieson captures the voice of Astrid beautifully with plenty of preteen angst, snark, and eye rolls. The juxtaposition of the winding ways of roller derby plays off of the twist and turns of Astrid and Nicole's friendship. The panels are easy to read with bright illustrations that evoke the familiar emotions from its reader and complement the text quite nicely. Definitely recommend this book to your readers who loved Raina Telegemeier's graphic novel.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: Amelia Rules series by Jimmy Gownley, Smile by Raina Telegemeier, Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge
Rummanah Aasi
  I have been wanting to pick up a book by Sarah J. Maas for quite some time. Though I have heard great things about Maas's Throne of Glass series which is still growing, I thought I would try her new series called A Court of Thorns and Roses which is a fantasy romance. Please note that this review is based on the advanced reader's copy of the book provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

Description: When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.
  As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Review: Drawing inspiration from a variety of sources including the Beauty and the Beast as well as the Ballad of Tam Lin, Maas creates a new world where humans and the faeries who once enslaved them live separated by a wall erected under Treaty. Feyre, our heroine, is solely responsible in keeping her once-affluent, now-impoverished family fed by hunting. On a desperate trip, she unknowingly kills a large wolf that's actually a fae. For retribution, Tamlin a cursed fae lord brings her to the faerie lands she grew up hating and fearing.
 Feyre is a character that I had to warm up to at first, but I admired her tenacity and strength. It is definitely clear that she is taken advantage of by her family, being the sole provider while her sisters prim themselves. What Feyre lacks in literacy, she makes up in her survival and artistic skills. She persistently tries to find a way to escape from Tamlin's court in fear that she would be tormented by the dangerous faeries. Over time her prejudices against the fae change as she learns truths and lies about faeries, who have been afflicted by a mysterious, magical deformity in which a masque is glued to their face. 
  Tamlin is a fae shape-shifter and one of the seven High Lords of faerie. When not in beast form, Tamlin is beautiful, powerful, and one of the seven High Lords of faerie. I also thought he was quite attractive in beast form too actually. I thought he was nice to Feyre and was almost always on his best behavior (he is a beast afterall). While there is a romantic relationship between Tamlin and Feyre which takes time to develop, I didn't really feel any chemistry between these characters though they did have nice moments when they were alone. 
  The world building in its exploration of the faerie lands and court intrigue is given much attention to in the book, however, it does slow the book down quite considerably. Feyre knows the fae are keeping dangerous secrets from her, but by the time she finds out the truth it might be too late. My favorite part of the book are the trials and cruel court games that Feyre must win in order to save Tamlin and the other faeries; however I found the final riddle that Feyre must solve was too-easy. The appearance of the enigmatic Rhysand has me curious though I also think he is not a great romantic fit with Feyre either given their deal. Overall A Court of Thorns and Roses ends with a satisfying conclusion to the story line, but it leaves the door open for future books. I do plan on continuing this series to see where it goes. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are a few sex scenes are more titillating than graphic as well as allusions to sex. There is also crude language, and some strong violence. Recommended for Grades 10 and up.

If you like this book try: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh, Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
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