Rummanah Aasi

Description: When Yelena was a poison taster, her life was simpler. She survived to become a vital part of the balance of power between rival countries Ixia and Sitia. Now she uses her magic to keep the peace in both lands—and protect her relationship with Valek. Suddenly, though, dissent is rising. And Valek’s job—and his life—are in danger.
As Yelena tries to uncover her enemies, she faces a new challenge: her magic is blocked. And now she must find a way to keep not only herself but all that she holds dear alive.

Review: I absolutely loved the first three books in the Study series by Maria V. Snyder. I really enjoyed the balance between political intrigue, magic, and romance in those books and I read them very quickly. I was elated and also scared when it was announced that the Study series would continue for three more books. I was really hoping that it would not result like my depreciating excitement for the extension of the Mortal Instrument series.
  For the most part I enjoyed Shadow Study, but the writing is not as strong as its predecessor. I had no issues with the plot which was complex and moved the story quite nicely. Yelena is on her way to enjoy a much-deserved vacation with her lover Valek when she is attacked. Believing herself healed from the arrow wound, she later discovers that a poison has stripped her of her magical powers. While Valek is far away in Ixia dealing with political plots against the ruler there, Yelena must find who did this to her and whether there is any way to reverse the damage. I also appreciated seeing returning secondary characters from both the Study series and the Glass series play a pivotal role in this book as well as some new characters. My main issue in this book was the unnecessary split of narration between Yelena, Valek, and Janco. I wouldn't have mind if the book had a dual narrative of just Yelena and Valek, but the Janco portion of the story didn't need his point of view because in my opinion it didn't add any new information.
 The transition between narratives isn't smooth as I had hoped and I thought it was weird that Yelena's point of view is in first person and Valek's and Janco's point of views were not. However my favorite part of this book hands down is getting a glimpse into Valek's past and the path he took to become the most fearful and deadly spymaster and assassin. The cliffhanger and surprise ending definitely makes me want to continue this series.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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

Ever since being kidnapped from the Illiais Jungle as a child, Yelena Zaltana's life has been fraught with peril. But the recent loss of her Soulfinding abilities has endangered her more than ever before. As she desperately searches for a way to reclaim her magic, her enemies are closing in, and neither Ixia nor Sitia is safe for her anymore. Especially since the growing discord between the two countries and the possibility of a war threatens everything Yelena holds dear.
  Valek is determined to protect Yelena, but he's quickly running out of options. The Commander suspects that his loyalties are divided, and he's been keeping secrets from Valek...secrets that put him, Yelena and all their friends in terrible danger. As they uncover the various layers of the Commander's mysterious plans, they realize it's far more sinister than they could have ever imagined.

Review: I liked Night Study more than Shadow Study. We get more pieces to the puzzle regarding the Commander's strange behavior. Yelena still remains powerless, but there are strange things happening with Valek. As Yelena and company try to advance on Owen Moon's shoes, the magician always seems to be a few steps ahead of them. The plot keeps at a good pace with lots of action and humor. There is also a nice touch of romance without overshadowing the important plot-lines. There were a few times I had to roll my eyes in the implausibility of Yelena's action in particular to her new state. Again the narrative is split into multiple points of views jumping from Yelena, Valek, Janco, and Leif. I didn't mind the multiple points of views as much in this book considering the characters were further apart, but in scenes in which they all stayed together it made little sense to switch point of views. I also really enjoyed seeing and reading about Valek's family. A big battle is brewing at the end of the book and I'm really curious to see how Snyder wraps up her series.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like these books try: Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, Grave Mercy series by Robin LaFevers, Remnant Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Shunned even before she was born and destined to live a life of solitude, Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, finds power through her skilled hunting ability and mighty bow. She slays those who wish to do harm to the innocent and takes care of the young and helpless. She protects women and young girls, helps in childbirth, soothes, and is unrivaled in her hunting abilities.

Review: O'Connor continues his Olympian graphic novel series with lots of action and the Greek deities are given superhero status. His latest entry focuses on Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. The narrative of this graphic novel is told through various perspectives ranging from Artemis's mother, brother, and her maidens and they all form a nuanced portrait of Artemis: formidable, quick-witted, occasionally cruel, yet always deeply devoted to the natural world and intensely protective of women and girls.At first I wasn't sure if I liked how the narration was formed but ultimately I was on board with it as it created drama and suspense in the story. Like the other graphic novels the images are eye appealing and dynamic. The images are dynamic, with the use of different perspectives creating drama and suspense. Artemis is drawn androgynously, highlighting her strength without sacrificing her feminity. The graphic novel explores popular myths such as Actaceon who was turned into a stag and eated by his own dogs as punished for leering at Artemis and her crew as they bathe in the water. There is also the inclusion of the haughty Orion who felt he could pressure Artemis to go against her vow of never being touched by a male and the trickery that befell of Atalanta (a story that never sit right with me). Blonde, blue-eyed Artemis is illustrated with cool tones, befitting her characterization.
 The graphic novel also contains source notes and O'Connor's own insightful and witty commentary. I like how O'Connor stays true to the original tales as much as people without dumbing it down for younger readers. In this installment there is particular attention to the strong female bonds throughout the graphic novel which I appreciated.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some suggested nudity but it is kept PG, some crude humor, and some strong violence. Recommended for Grade 4 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Percy Jackson and the Olympians graphic novel series by Rick Riordan and Robert Venditti, Heroes of Olympus graphic novel series by Robert Venditti
Rummanah Aasi
 I am a big Sherlock Holmes fan. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective was my first gateway to mystery novels and that lead to my love of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. So whenever I spot a book or tv show that pays homage to the great detective it immediately grabs my attention. I've seen A Study in Scarlet Women pop up on many blogger's Waiting on Wednesdays posts and it didn't take long for it to be on my reading pile. Many thanks to Berkley and Goodread's Giveaway for providing me a copy of this book.

Description: With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.
When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

Review: A Study in Scarlet Women is an example where my expectations and the realities of the book were like two ships passing each other by in the night and it greatly affected my enjoyment of this book. This is not to say that the book was bad, but for me it was under-whelming though I liked the clever winks at the classic stories and changes made by the author.
  I had several issues with the book. My biggest problem is with Charlotte herself who I felt was inconsistent throughout the story. Charlotte is suppose to be a genius and whose acute eye to observation astonishes everyone, but I was so frustrated how the simplest things eludes her. It made me angry and shocked that Mrs. Watson comes up with the idea that Charlotte could use her special talent to use and make a job out of it. Plus, Charlotte goes through extraordinary lengths to ruin her reputation in order to remain independent and "un-marriageable" but she has no idea how the repercussions of this impulsive thinking will tarnish everything she will ever do in Victorian England. I could not take Charlotte seriously and I did not find her believable at all. Plus, it doesn't help that she is a secondary character in her own story.
  The crime and investigation was just okay. It involved the deaths of characters that I didn't care about and though Treadles was a good guy, I found him to be rather dull. The investigation, normally my favorite part of a mystery, was slow paced and it dragged out for most of the book.
 There is also a hint of romance for Charlotte in the book that also didn't work for me. I have big issues with adultery and cheating. Though I get the forbidden love appeal, it's a ship that I can not support regardless of how much Charlotte and this person is meant to be. Overall A Study in Scarlet Women was an okay read. The Sherlockian in me was very disappointed, but if you enjoy mysteries set in Victorian England I would try it out. I'm not sure if I'm going to pursue this series.

Rating: It is somewhere between 2 to 3 stars.

Words of Caution: There is an allusion to sex and minor language. Suitable for older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: A Conspiracy in Belgravia (Lady Sherlock, #2) available Sept 2017, Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barrons (Jane Austen Mysteries, #1), Silent in the Grave (Lady Julia Gray #1) by Deanna Raybourn 
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Sylvie and Jules, Jules and Sylvie. Better than just sisters, better than best friends, they'd be identical twins if only they'd been born in the same year. And if only Sylvie wasn't such a fast—faster than fast—runner. But Sylvie is too fast, and when she runs to the river they're not supposed to go anywhere near to throw a wish rock just before the school bus comes on a snowy morning, she runs so fast that no one sees what happens…and no one ever sees her again. Jules is devastated, but she refuses to believe what all the others believe, that—like their mother—her sister is gone forever.
  At the very same time, in the shadow world, a shadow fox is born—half of the spirit world, half of the animal world. She too is fast—faster than fast—and she senses danger. She's too young to know exactly what she senses, but she knows something is very wrong. And when Jules believes one last wish rock for Sylvie needs to be thrown into the river, the human and shadow worlds collide.

Review: I had no idea what to expect when I picked up Maybe a Fox. I noticed that it was getting starred reviews from a lot of library journals and I thought I should read it to find out what all the fuss was about. I figured since it a fox in the title and story it would be a cute story, but I was so wrong. Maybe a Fox is a bittersweet middle grade novel about death, grief and the coping mechanisms we use to carry on living in the aftermath of devastating loss through magical realism of talking animals. It is a heavy read, but once I got over my shock and wrapped my head around the themes I was easily able to submerse myself into this quiet novel.
Sylvie is the older of the two Sherman sisters. She is the runner and the impetuous one. A year younger is Jules, the introverted thinker who is also a rock collector. The morning of the last snowfall of the season in rural Vermont, Jules and Sylvie build a miniature snow family before getting ready for school. After playing in the snow, Sylvie darts off into the woods, much against their father's orders, to throw a wishing rock into the Slip and that's the last time anyone sees her. At that moment, a fox kit is born. One of a litter of three, this kit is a "kennen," a being that has an understanding that others do not possess and a destiny that it cannot escape. It's tied to Jules and to Sylvie. Although Sylvie's body is not found, everyone knows she drowned in the river and is gone.
  The story is written in a dual narrative. One from Jule's point of view as she describes "the After Sylvie time" as she and her father grieve together and try to find some hope to move on.  Jules thinks of it as "the After Sylvie" time, and she and her father grieve together, struggling to cobble together some hope for the future. The other point of view belongs to the kennen fox kit who is observing Jules' movements and maybe the answer to Jules' question of where people go after they die.
 There are a lot of heavy elements in this beautifully written book. Jules alludes to the death of her mother in which she vaguely remembers her. The devastating and numbing experience of Sylvie's sudden loss and disappearance as well as the grieving of a neighbor who was deployed with his best friend to Afghanistan. At times these events drag the book done and I had to read it in spurts, but the inclusion of the magical foxes help bring it up a bit. The authors don't hold back nor are they afraid to not have answers about younger reader's questions about death either. They do convey to younger readers that grief is a journey that takes in many forms and a person can recover after a terrible loss and be hopeful for the future.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are a lot of questions about death in the book. There is also a war veteran who suffers from post traumatic disorder and whose suicide is alluded to in the book. Due to the strong topics in this book, I would recommend it to Grades 6 and up.

If you like this book try: Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson, Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, After Eli by Rebecca Rupp, See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Hermione Winters is captain of her cheerleading team, and in tiny Palermo Heights, this doesn’t mean what you think it means. At PHHS, the cheerleaders don't cheer for the sports teams; they are the sports team—the pride and joy of a tiny town. The team's summer training camp is Hermione's last and marks the beginning of the end of…she’s not sure what. She does know this season could make her a legend. But during a camp party, someone slips something in her drink. And it all goes black.
  In every class, there's a star cheerleader and a pariah pregnant girl. They're never supposed to be the same person. Hermione struggles to regain the control she's always had and faces a wrenching decision about how to move on. The assault wasn't the beginning of Hermione Winter's story and she's not going to let it be the end. She won’t be anyone’s cautionary tale.

Review: When Hermione Winters arrives at Camp Manitouwabing for the final pre-season cheer camp of her high school career, she's prepared for intense competition and exhausting practices. Working with her equally fierce and driven best friend Polly as co-captain, Hermione anticipates athletic challenges and triumphs, but she never imagined being drugged and raped at a camp dance. Despite being a book that revolves around sexual assault, Exit, Pursued by a Bear is an inspiring story of survival in the face of adversity. The author takes an unconventional route in focusing on Herminone's recovery and her refusal to wallow in self-pity or avoiding the world. This book transform our vocabulary of "rape victim" to "survivor of sexual abuse". It also shows that everyone has their own way to cope with trauma, which is why I didn't mind so much that Hermione seemed detached to what happened to her. I actually thought working with a therapist and navigating her way through certain trigger points made the story stronger and allows the author to explore recovery emotionally, mentally, and physically.
  Exit, Pursued by a Bear is also a clever albeit loose retelling of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale where victim blaming and a woman's reputation are some of the core topics of the play. I applaud the author for approaching the hard topics such as sexual violence and abortion in unflinchingly honest and frank manner without being graphic or preachy about it. More over the book tackles rape culture through a feisty and audacious heroine who does not want people to feel sorry for her, pray for her, and refuses to be labeled. While it is true that Hermione's recovery may be too good to be true because she enjoys all the advantages of being popular and middle-class, and she gets the help she needs so she can continue to enjoy that life. This doesn't make Hermione's journey easy or less inspiring. Hermione's victories are earned. I really appreciated the author's note that is upfront in explaining that Hermione's experience is a best-case scenario while also providing links for both U.S. and Canadian resources, and offering encouragement to readers not so lucky as Hermione.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, crude sexual humor, underage drinking, allusions to rape, and abortion is mentioned. Recommended to strong and mature Grade 8 readers and up.

If you like this book try: All the Rage by Courtney Stevens, Asking for It by Louise O'Neil, The Way I Use to Be by Amber Smith
Rummanah Aasi
I have been looking forward to this morning and anxiously awaiting the announcement of several Children and Young Adult book awards. There were so many great books that were published last year and I don't envy the award committee to narrow their choices to just a few. The Young Media Awards are like the Oscars for many librarians, including myself. It's one of my favorite times of the year. I usually discover new titles that I fall in love with and book talk to my students. The awards took place at the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting at Atlanta, Georgia. Although there are many awards honored today, I was looking forward to finding out the winners for the CaldecottNewberyMorris, and of course the Michael L. Printz Award. You can find the other winners on the Association for Library Services to Children website and the Young Adult Library Services website (YALSA).

The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of  Randolph Caldecott, who was a nineteenth-century English illustrator. The award is given annually by the Association for Library Service to Children to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Winner of the 2017 Caldecott Medal is: 

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

Honorees of the 2017 Caldecott are:

Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol
Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford
They All Saw a Cat by Brenan Wenzel

The Newbery Medal was named in the honor of John Newbery, who was an eighteenth century British bookseller. Like the Caldecott, it is also awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

Winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal is: 

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Honorees of the 2017 Newbery are:

Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan
Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

The William C. Morris YA Debut Award was first awarded in 2009 by YALSA. The award is given to a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature.

Winner of the 2017 Morris Award is: 

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Honorees of the 2017 Morris Award are:

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard
Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel
The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
Tell Me Something Real by Calla Devlin

 The Michael L. Printz Award was named in the honor of Michael L. Printz, a school librarian in Topeaka, Kansas, who was a long-time active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association. The Michael L. Printz Award is an award given annually by the Young Adult Library Services Association to a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature.

Winner of the 2017 Michael Printz Award is: 

Honorees of the 2017 Printz Award are:

Asking For It by Louise O'Neill
Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

 Congratulations to all of today's winners! The library associations have spoken. What do you think of these book awards? Will you read the books that have won and have been honored? Did any of the award winning books surprised you?
Rummanah Aasi

Description: In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.

Review: I normally don't read books by celebrities in particularly memoirs, but since I'm a huge Gilmore Girls fan and I adore Lauren Graham I was really looking forward to reading this book. This is a fun collection of essays that bring out Lauren Graham's contagious enthusiasm and giddy personality. While she does talk about Gilmore Girls and Parenthood, both of which received critical acclaim and popular viewership, Lauren also addresses her struggle with becoming an actress, addressing sexism indirectly, and her weird relationship with acting like a celebrity.
 Like her character Lorelai Gilmore, this entire book was fast, loud, hilarious, filled with pop culture references. By the end of the book you realize how incredibly down to earth Lauren is in real life and in role. While she does talk about her experiences on the set of Gilmore Girls, I was disappointed in that she didn't go beyond the surface with her look back at the show. I wasn't looking for dirty gossip or her badmouthing her costars, but more of her thoughts on her character's story arc. Be aware that if you have NOT yet watched A Year in the Life on Netflix you cannot read the last 25% of this book since there are spoilers, so before reading I highly recommend watching that first because honestly the last 25% was my favorite. Like us Lauren is also wondering if there is more Gilmore Girls to come.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Suitable for teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick, Bossypants by Tina Fey, Yes Please by Amy Poehler, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Review: Wolf Hollow is my favorite children's book of 2016. Set against the backdrop of World War II, eleven-year-old Annabelle lives in a rural Pennsylvania community in 1943. While the war rages on outside of her town, her life is mostly peaceful until Betty Glengarry's arrival. Betty is cruel and threatening and thrives on inflicting pain. She is virtually a sociopath with zero empathy and has selected Annabelle to be her victim. At first, Annabelle is slightly comforted to know that Toby is watching out for her. Toby is a local vagabond, a World War I veteran of few words who has become something like a friend of Annabelle's family. We don't know much about Toby though there are discussions that he is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder from the war as indicated by carrying firearms around with him and is likely to be unstable.
  As Betty's violent malice grows, she successfully makes herself become the innocent victim while placing the blame on others particularly on a kind German man and Toby. One day Betty goes missing and Toby immediately becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance. Gossip ranging from Toby aloofness to him possibly being a pedophile is spread among the community. Annabelle is sure of Toby's innocence and is determined to prove it. 
  The story of Wolf Hollow is powerful, complex, and relevant. As Annabelle grows, she loses her childish naïveté in a life-altering way. She begins to see the various spectrum of people in her community from those who are plainly cruel without any purpose, courageously kind people, and those who simply pass the gossip without seeking the truth and analyzing it. The witch hunt of tracking down Toby reminded me of The Crucible and his character is much like Boo Bradley in To Kill a Mockingbird. Thematically, this book raises some of the same issues as To Kill a Mockingbird, but with social status rather than racism as the basis for injustice. Despite the darker overtones in the book, the heart of this story is ultimately one of hope and empathy. There is plenty to discuss and talk about with this book and it would be an excellent choice for a book club pick for younger readers.  

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There are scenes of bullying with one incident being particularly violent. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Revolution by Deborah Wiles, 
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Grace's past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

Review: See How They Run is the second book in the Embassy Row series. It picks up where All Fall Down left off and deftly avoids the dreadful middle book syndrome. Grace is reeling from the realization of what actually happened to her mother and the lies her own family had encouraged her to believe. Her guilt and anger are all consuming and she barely eats or sleeps. Partially in explanation for what happened, her grandfather's chief of staff, Ms. Chancellor, reveals the existence of a secret society of women of which Grace's mother was a member and to which Grace herself will soon belong. Ms. Chancellor reveals little more other than that the society is an ancient one that has been involved in much of Adria's political intrigue. Concerned about her mental state, Grace's brother Jamie returns to the embassy from West Point, bringing along a friend whose grandmother was from Adria. When the friend winds up dead and Jamie's Russian friend Alexei is accused of the murder, the action picks up and never ends. Along with Grace, we uncover more conspiracies and perhaps Grace was right about the events all along? Though there are plenty of eye rolling moments where Grace acts impulsively and puts herself in harm's way, the story line and plot development depends on her actions. There is some romantic tension in this book but it is a secondary plot point, which is fine by me. I was surprised by the cliff-hanger ending and couldn't wait to find out how this series ends. If you enjoyed All Fall Down then this sequel will not disappoint.

Rating: 4 stars

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

Description (edited to avoid spoilers): Centuries ago, the royal family of Adria was killed or so everyone thought. Now Grace Blakely knows the truth: There was one survivor. This simple fact could cause a revolution — which is why some people will stop at nothing to keep it from coming to light.
  There is only one way for Grace to save herself, save her family, and save the boy she loves. She must outmaneuver her foes, cut through the web of lies that has surrounded her for years, and go back to the source of all her troubles, despite the risk.

Review: While we did find some answers in See How They Run, we were still left with plenty of questions. Carter takes us on another twisty-turny journey to find all the answers in this series finale. Now aware of the truth, Grace is once again on the lam, hopping from the U.S. to the streets of Paris to the bitterly cold weather of Russia. No matter how much she tries, she can not escape her past and her future. Since her brother Jaime's life is in limbo, it is up to Grace alone to find out what her mother was searching for and to finally reclaim her life and those of her family once and for all. Full of action and suspense this finale delivered and kept me on my toes. I also really liked learning more about Alexei's family. The romance thread is sweet though does not overshadow the plot line. I would definitely recommend this series to readers who enjoy mysteries and thrillers.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like these books try: The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall, The Fixer by Lynn Barnes.
Rummanah Aasi
Description: After the success of the Nashville sit-in campaign, John Lewis is more committed than ever to changing the world through nonviolence - but as he and his fellow Freedom Riders board a bus into the vicious heart of the deep south, they will be tested like never before.
  Faced with beatings, police brutality, imprisonment, arson, and even murder, the young activists of the movement struggle with internal conflicts as well. But their courage will attract the notice of powerful allies, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy... and once Lewis is elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, this 23-year-old will be thrust into the national spotlight, becoming one of the "Big Six" leaders of the civil rights movement and a central figure in the landmark 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Review: While I enjoyed reading Book One of the March trilogy, I didn't learn anything new about the events covered in that volume. Book Two, though continues memorializing the civil rights movement, has a distinctly different tone. It is much darker as brutality and visceral hatred is on full display, but it also shows how the tensions within the movement of itself is starting to splinter and develop own separate factions. This second volume focuses on the dangerous freedom rides in 1961 as well as the monumental March on Washington in 1963.
  Continuing their nonviolent action meant facing potentially fatal consequences; Lewis and the freedom riders, for instance, all signed wills before they embarked on their historic ride, and Martin Luther King Jr. himself declined to participate. What I found particularly eye opening is how the politicians used the civil rights movement mainly for their own selves (ensuring votes, saving public face, etc) even if they may or may not agree with what the civil rights movement represented. The graphic illustrations powerfully captures the danger and tension in stunning cinematic spreads, which dramatically complement Lewis’ powerful story. There is no added melodrama in the story but real, raw, authentic account of history. The overlay of President Obama's inauguration with snapshot glimpses of the bloody, angry aftermath of the freedom rides in Montgomery, Alabama, makes you stop and reflect on the significance represented by Obama’s election and the sacrifices many made to achieve it. The story of the civil rights movement is told in several books and other mediums and sometimes in a legendary, mythologized tones. This graphic novel series keeps it grounded by people questioning their actions particularly with remaining true to the nonviolent movement versus taking action and resist, being a idealist like Dr. King or a realist like Malcolm X. Both viewpoints are presented and credited. This is an incredibly important graphic memoir that is a must-read.

Rating: 5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong violence and the "n" word is used frequently and purposefully. Recommended for teens and adults.

Description: By Fall 1963, the Civil Rights Movement is an undeniable keystone of the national conversation, and as chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis is right in the thick of it. With the stakes continuing to rise, white supremacists intensify their opposition through government obstruction and civilian terrorist attacks, a supportive president is assassinated, and African-Americans across the South are still blatantly prohibited from voting. To carry out their nonviolent revolution, Lewis and an army of young activists launch a series of innovative projects, including the Freedom Vote, Mississippi Freedom Summer, and a pitched battle for the soul of the Democratic Party waged live on national television. But strategic disputes are deepening within the movement, even as 25-year-old John Lewis heads to Alabama to risk everything in a historic showdown that will shock the world.

Review: This is the concluding volume in the critically acclaimed March graphic novel trilogy. The graphic novel opens with the heartbreaking and gut wrenching bombing of the Birmingham Baptist Church, where innocent children were murdered in the name of hatred and intolerance. The violence and tension among the activists in the civil rights movement are at an all time high. This graphic novel covers the Freedom Summer and President Johnson's eventual signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  Once again politics, protests, and marches are divided and their significance are explored in this volume. Opinions among the activists in the civil rights movement are varied. Many are rethinking of putting themselves in self-harm in marching is worth it. Others wonder if they should trust politicians who are only willing to meet them half way. There is a lot to take in and digest in this final volume and like the movement they cover in this graphic novel series the message of equal rights is long and hard journey that took immense sacrifices, time, devotion, and faith to succeed. While the series continues to shine the spotlight on President Obama's presidency as the light at the end of the tunnel, it is clear that we are far from ending the movement. This graphic novel series proves once again in the power of the people and the power to change. This is an essential read and bound to become a classic.

Rating: 5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong violence and the "n" word is used frequently and purposefully. Recommended for teens and adults.

If you like these graphic novels try: Strange Fruit by Joel Christian Gill, The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long and for nonfiction titles try Blood Brother by Rich Wallace, Across that Bridge by John Lewis
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South and the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program—and whose contributions have been unheralded, until now.
Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as “Human Computers,” calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts by Jim Crow laws, these “colored computers,” as they were known, used slide rules, adding machines, and pencil and paper to support America’s fledgling aeronautics industry, and helped write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Review: Hidden Figures is an inspiring and enlightening story that gives us an inside look at the "invisible" World War II–era black female mathematicians who assisted greatly in the United States’ aeronautics industry. I have never heard of this important story and this is why this book is written to give due credit and acknowledgement of these hardworking women who endured so much in their careers and person life. The author draws her inspiration for her story after her father told her stories of the black female “computers” who were hired in 1943 to work in the computing pool. The first female computing pool, begun in the mid-1930s, had caused an uproar among the sexist men who didn't believe the female mind could not handle the rigors of math and work the expensive calculating machine. In 1941, Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802, desegregating the defense industry and paving the way for Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and others to begin work in 1943.
  All of these women who were hired were mathematicians, either already holding master’s degrees or destined to gain one. It was hard enough to be a woman in the industry at that time, but to be a double minority it took an extra dose of courage and tenacity. These black women were incredibly strong, ambitious, sharp, and resilient enough to question their superiors when they are clearly wrong. They sought information, offered suggestions, caught errors, and authored research reports. They were professionals in every sense of the word, battling discrimination and sexism while managing their own personal lives. These stories are amazing not because how high the obstacles are stacked against them but because they helped each other rise up. Their work outside the office from Scout leaders, public speakers, and leaders of seminars to promote science and engineering was even more impressive and a testament to who they are. While all the science and math that were discussed in the book went over my head, I still really enjoyed this book and I look forward to seeing the movie adaptation of this incredible story.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt, The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Ghost has a crazy natural talent, but no formal training. If he can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons—it all starting with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—and running away from them—until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who blew his own shot at success by using drugs, and who is determined to keep other kids from blowing their shots at life.

Review: Ghost is very quick and engaging read. It is authentic in tackling heavy issues such as theft, bullying, and domestic violence without being heavy handed yet with honesty and frankness. Reynolds has perfectly captured the funny and heartbreaking voice of a tween's pain and longing for a better life.
  Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw has been running for three years, ever since the night his father shot a gun at him and his mother. Though naturally talented, Ghost is also a hot head and a regular attendee at the principal's office. When he gets recruited by a local track coach for a championship team, they strike a deal: if Ghost can stop getting into fights at school, he can run for the Defenders, but one altercation and he’s gone. Despite Ghost’s best intentions to walk the straight line, everyone always has something to say about his raggedy appearance or where he lives which stokes his anger and he doesn’t last 24 hours without a brawl. Will Coach and his mom give him another chance to be part of something bigger than himself, or is he simply destined to explode?
  I really like the combination of sports and self discovery in this book. Ghost comes to terms on what is bugging him. He also learns how to channel and hone his anger into his talent. He is also discovers that he is not the only person on the team that is dealing with personal demons either, leaving the door open for empathy and discussion. This is a first book in a planned series and I'm looking to finding out more about Ghost and his teammates.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher, Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

Review: Unlike many people, I didn't love The Sun is Also a Star, but I did enjoy it a little better than Everything Everything. The two things that bothered me most about the book is the fact that the events, for the most part, occurred in 24 hours and the insta-love trope. While I liked Natasha and Daniel individually, I didn't feel the swoony romance between them though I can see Yoon trying to balance the reality versus dream theme throughout the story. I did enjoy, however, the other themes in the book such as immigration, identity (in particular of the first immigrant generation), and personal desires versus familial expectations which I wished were explored more. I also liked how the book was told from essentially three point of views: Natasha, Daniel, and the third person view of the universe which highlights and fills in the backstories some of the minor characters that Natasha and Daniel encounter in their escapade. Ironically, I was more curious about these minor characters rather than our star couple. I also like how all of these characters and their stories connected back to our main characters though some were too convenient. Overall The Sun is Also a Star is a fine read that some may find to be profound, lyrical, and romantic, but it didn't work for me.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language and crude sexual humor. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Something in Between by Melissa De La Cruz, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
Rummanah Aasi
There are a lot of great titles coming out in 2017! I'm thrilled to see a lot more diverse titles and subjects continue to being published this year. In addition to the new releases by already established authors and series, I thought I would post some of my anticipated reads either by debut authors or some authors that fly under the radar. Please note that all of these books all have tentative release dates.

Anticipated Titles of 2017

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

Synopsis: Solimar Castro Valdez is eighteen and dazed with optimism when she embarks on a perilous journey across the US/Mexican border. Weeks later she arrives on her cousin's doorstep in Berkeley, CA, dazed by first love found then lost, and pregnant. This was not the plan. But amid the uncertainty of new motherhood and her American identity, Soli learns that when you have just one precious possession, you guard it with your life. For Soli, motherhood becomes her dwelling and the boy at her breast her hearth.
Kavya Reddy has always followed her heart, much to her parents' chagrin. A mostly contented chef at a UC Berkeley sorority house, the unexpected desire to have a child descends like a cyclone in Kavya's mid-thirties. When she can't get pregnant, this desire will test her marriage, it will test her sanity, and it will set Kavya and her husband, Rishi, on a collision course with Soli, when she is detained and her infant son comes under Kavya's care. As Kavya learns to be a mother--the singing, story-telling, inventor-of-the-universe kind of mother she fantasized about being--she builds her love on a fault line, her heart wrapped around someone else's child.

Release Date: January 10, 2017

City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

Synopsis: Marketed as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Gone Girl in this enthralling YA murder mystery set in Kenya. 

In the shadows of Sangui City, there lives a girl who doesn't exist. After fleeing the Congo as refugees, Tina and her mother arrived in Kenya looking for the chance to build a new life and home. Her mother quickly found work as a maid for a prominent family, headed by Roland Greyhill, one of the city’s most respected business leaders. But Tina soon learns that the Greyhill fortune was made from a life of corruption and crime. So when her mother is found shot to death in Mr. Greyhill's personal study, she knows exactly who’s behind it.

With revenge always on her mind, Tina spends the next four years surviving on the streets alone, working as a master thief for the Goondas, Sangui City’s local gang. It’s a job for the Goondas that finally brings Tina back to the Greyhill estate, giving her the chance for vengeance she’s been waiting for. But as soon as she steps inside the lavish home, she’s overtaken by the pain of old wounds and the pull of past friendships, setting into motion a dangerous cascade of events that could, at any moment, cost Tina her life. But finally uncovering the incredible truth about who killed her mother—and why—keeps her holding on in this fast-paced nail-biting thriller.
Release Date: January 24, 2017

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Lantham

Synopsis: When seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase finds a skeleton on her family's property, she has no idea that investigating the brutal century-old murder will lead to a summer of painful discoveries about the past... and the present.

Nearly one hundred years earlier, a misguided violent encounter propels seventeen-year-old Will Tillman into a racial firestorm. In a country rife with violence against blacks and a hometown segregated by Jim Crow, Will must make hard choices on a painful journey towards self discovery and face his inner demons in order to do what's right the night Tulsa burns.

Through intricately interwoven alternating perspectives, Jennifer Latham’s lightning-paced page-turner brings the Tulsa race riot of 1921 to blazing life and raises important question about the complex state of US race relations – both yesterday and today.

Release Date: February 21, 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl's struggle for justice.

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

Synopsis: Frances Janvier spends most of her time studying.
Everyone knows Aled Last as that quiet boy who gets straight As.

You probably think that they are going to fall in love or something. Since he is a boy and she is a girl.

They don’t. They make a podcast.

In a world determined to shut them up, knock them down, and set them on a cookie cutter life path, Frances and Aled struggle to find their voices over the course of one life-changing year. Will they have the courage to show everyone who they really are? Or will they be met with radio silence?

 Release Date: March 28, 2017

Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

Synopsis: There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.
Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

Release Date: May 16, 2017

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Synopsis: Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?
Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Release Date: May 30, 2017
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