Rummanah Aasi
Description: Have you ever had a grumpy day and not known why? Penguin is having a grumpy day like that. No matter what he does, he just can't shake it! Sometimes the only thing left to do is wash the grumpy day away and start over.

Review: We all have bad days where we are moody, sad, and grumpy. We can easily sympathize with Penguin who is in a very bad mood. He simply can't shake his grumpiness. He stomps inside and begins shedding layers. Off come the "grumpy boots," "grumpy overalls," even his "grumpy underpants." Unfortunately taking off his grumpy clothes doesn't put him in a better mood. He tries several things to help him feel better. After a nice cold shower, putting on some cozy pajamas, having a warm cup of cocoa to drink, reading his favorite book, and having a teddy bear by his side soon melts Penguin's grumpiness away. frown But not even stripping down to his birthday suit can brighten his disposition. 
 The simple text and illustrations captures Penguin's emotions. Younger readers will have a great time laughing at Penguin as he tries to brighten up his mood. The images and texts brighten as Penguin gets better and things start to look up. It's nice reminder that bad moods and bad days thankfully don't last forever. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades PreK-1.

If you like this book try: Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol

Description: Your baby's first word will be ..."Dada!"  Right? Everyone knows that fathers wage a secret campaign to ensure that their babies' first word is "Dada!" But how does it work?
One of the most popular entertainers in the world and NBC's The Tonight Show host, Jimmy Fallon, shows you how.

Review: I'm a fan of the Tonight Show so I decided to check out Jimmy Fallon's picture book. While the illustrations are cute, there really is no story. It's a repetitive narrative of a male parent trying to get his child to say Dada as his/her first word and failing miserably. It was funny for the first few pages but then it got old really quick.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades PreK-1.

If you like this book try: Me and Dad by Maria Catherine, Because I'm Your Dad by Ahmet Zappa

Description:  Hearing, smelling, seeing, touching, tasting--our five senses allow us to experience the world in so many ways! With our ears we hear the birds sing; with our nose we smell the stinky cheese; with our eyes we see the moon and stars (and sometimes glasses help us see even better!); with our skin we feel the rain (and learn not to touch the hot stove!); and with our tongue we can taste our favorite foods.

Review: This is a great introduction to the five senses for younger readers. The author presents the five senses in a large-format featuring several small pictures of children on every spacious double-page spread. Each of the book’s five sections focuses on one of the senses, illustrated by a large, multicultural cast of toddler and preschool characters which was really nice to see. Like the simple texts, the illustrations are also whimsical and charming. The white space on the pages allow the reader to focus on the individual characters displaying the senses will help younger readers make the connection between the action and the senses.  I Hear a Pickle would be a great read-aloud and also very effective if used one on one.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades PreK-1.

If you like this book try: My Five Senses by Aliki, Taste the Clouds by Rita Marshall, Hello, Ocean! by Pam Munoz,
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Addie has always known what she was running toward. In cross-country, in life, in love. Until she and her boyfriend—her sensitive, good-guy boyfriend—are careless one night and she ends up pregnant. Addie makes the difficult choice to have an abortion. And after that—even though she knows it was the right decision for her—nothing is the same anymore. She doesn’t want anyone besides her parents and her boyfriend to know what happened; she doesn’t want to run cross-country; she can’t bring herself to be excited about anything. Until she reconnects with Juliana, a former teammate who’s going through her own dark places.

Review: Ask Me How I Got Here is not an easy read and tackles serious issues such as teen sexuality, abortion, morality, and religion which may be uncomfortable for some readers. Addie Solokowski seems to fit the almost-perfect teen trope: she has supportive parents, a top athlete, and a loving boyfriend. Addie and Nick are enjoying a healthy, deeply supportive, and sex-positive relationship. When they are less careful one night, Addie becomes pregnant. After some serious deliberation and support from her parents and Nick, Addie has an abortion. The author does a good job in showing how externally Addie may be okay with her decision but internally she is grappling with depression as we watch her slowly pull away from track and lose interest with Nick. Though Addie struggles with her decision afterward, she remains solid in the fact that she made the right one. The book could easily be didactic, but Addie's musings on religion, sexuality, and keen observation avoids the preachy tone. Interspersed with poetry are Addie's letters to her unborn baby are short yet powerful and the book's strength. 
  My biggest problem with the book is that it abruptly changes direction as Addie rapidly develops a crush on Juliana, a girl who is wrestling with her own personal demons and seeking therapy for self harm. The last minute switch is jarring and undeveloped. I'm not completely sure if the novel in verse format is the right for the characters and the topic. I would much rather have had this book written in prose so it can flesh out some of the characters and under developed parts of the book.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There are allusions to sex and having an abortion as mentioned in the book's description. There is also some language, underage drinking, and crude sexual humor. Recommended for older teens.

If you like this book try: I Know It's Over by C.K. Martin, Detour for Emmy by Marilyn Reynolds
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Samir and Nagla Al-Menshawy appear to have attained the American dream. After immigrating to the United States from Egypt, Samir successfully works his way through a residency and launches his own medical practice as Nagla tends to their firstborn, Hosaam, in the cramped quarters of a small apartment. Soon the growing family moves into a big house in the manicured New Jersey suburb of Summerset, where their three children eventually attend school with Natalie Bradstreet, the daughter of their neighbors and best friends. More than a decade later, the family’s seemingly stable life is suddenly upended when a devastating turn of events leaves Hosaam and Natalie dead and turns the Al-Menshawys into outcasts in their own town.

Review: Hassib's debut novel is timely, sensitive, and offers no easy answers. The Al-Menshawys are Egyptian, Muslim immigrants to a small New Jersey town. They were once loved and embraced into their tight, niche community until a tragedy ostracized them with prejudice and shaming them with Islamophobia. The author does not hold back on how awful the family is treated. Though the actual events of the tragedy are slowly revealed, they are not the focus of the story but rather how the family members react to it. 
  The novel takes place over the five days leading up to the memorial service for Natalie, the neighbors and once close friends with the Al-Menshawys. We watch how each member of the Al-Menshawys struggles to come to terms with the memorial service and through the character's memories and flashbacks we follow the family's struggle of assimilating to the United States. Mother Nagla is paralyzed by grief and guilt. She is a traditional, conservative wife who still relies on her mother, Ehsan, to run the household while she broods and sulks in the house. She is absolutely appalled when her husband, Samir, a one-time respected doctor, decides that a memorial service is the perfect opportunity to rejoin the community and to clear the air of any misunderstanding. 
The author does a nice job in showing the range of emotions from the older generation such as Samir's overbearing personality, Nagla's passive-aggressive attitude, Ehsan's sole reliance on faith and whatever is "God's will" as well as interfering and manipulative nature and the yearning for direction in the new generation. Though all the characters are equally interesting, I was more drawn to the remaining siblings. Fatima, the youngest, has turned to religion as a source of comfort. She is becoming more pious and modest in clothing, experimenting with wearing the hijab which her family feels is adding to growing reasons why their family is singled out by their community. In contrast, Khaled is re-evaluating his entire identity and blames his brother for controlling the whole family's behavior and internally clashes with his own desires and his family's expectations. 
   The bonds of love and loyalty in the Al-Al-Menshawys is authentic and palpable. The situation they find themselves in would threaten to fracture any family. The climax at the memorial service is gut wrenching, awkward, and painful as it would be in real life. The epilogue does provide a ray of hope that affirms that people can survive even the most horrific traumas. 
  In the Language of Miracles is steeped in Egyptian culture and in Islam without being didactic while turning a sharp eye on the immigrant experience. I really enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to reading another book by Hassib.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language in the book and disturbing images. Recommended for older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: The Year of the Runaways by Imbolo Mbue, The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Soledad has always been able to escape into the stories she creates. Just like her mother always could. And Soledad has needed that escape more than ever in the five years since her mother and sister died and her father moved Sol and her youngest sister from the Philippines to Louisiana. Then he left, and all Sol and Ming have now is their evil stepmother, Vea. Sol has protected Ming all this time, but then Ming begins to believe that Auntie Jove—their mythical, world-traveling aunt—is really going to come rescue them. Have Sol’s stories done more harm than good? Can she protect Ming from this impossible hope?

Review: Don't let the "feel good" cover fool you, The Land of Forgotten Girls deals with tough issues such as abandonment, verbal and physical abuse; it mostly succeeds but doesn't quite solidify as a powerful read as it hoped to be. Sol and her baby sister Ming are abandoned by their father and raised by their unhappy stepmother Vea after their family migrated from the Philippines to a small Louisiana town. Sol creates fantasies and magical scenarios to help her and her sister escape their harsh reality. Sol often pictures herself and Ming as princesses fighting an evil dragon (i.e. their stepmother who verbally and physically abuse them) as their squalid, subsidized apartment building transform into a fairy-tale tower. As Sol begins to make friends around her, she begins to rely less on her stories while Ming desperately holds on.
   For the majority of the book I felt disconnected to Sol and Ming. While I felt sorry for the sisters and their predicament, I wasn't moved by them. I was also not a big fan of Sol who felt too pushy for me. There are several moments where she and her best friend Manny bully a white girl who they call "Casper" because she looks pale. These moments made me uneasy, especially when the bullied girl is injured by a pine cone thrown by Sol. Their resolution into friendship was not believable at all and this is where the story really dragged for me. Sol, however, does grow up a bit as she tries to stay positive for the sake of her sister and stands up to Vea. We also learn more about Sol's inner struggle with guilt, but the story lacks the momentum to turn its quiet plot into a serious one that tackles the issues of class and immigration. full-blown tale that effectively handles the class and race issues that it touches upon. Overall The Land of Forgotten Girls is a promising story that could have been so much better.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There are a few scenes where Sol and Manny bully a girl who they call "Casper" because of her pale skin and there are also a couple of scenes where Sol and Manny steal ice cream from a store. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.
At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship. Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Review: In Heartless Marissa Meyer provides an origin story of the evil Queen of Hearts in Carroll's classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Before she was a megalomaniac who ordered people's heads cut off in a moments notice, she was Catherine, a spirited daughter of royalty, destined to wed the King of Hearts. Catherine detests her fated destiny and wants to exercise her free will in becoming a baker and having her own bakery with her best friend and longtime maid. I admired Catherine's temerity in establishing her wants and desires so openly. The clash between Catherine's dreams and her mother's relentless goal of making her daughter queen is the highlight of the book and done exceptionally well.
  The world building of a refined yet still whimsical realm of Wonderland is executed quite nicely. We see favorite characters such as the mercurial Mad Hatter, who in my opinion stole the show in his short page time, and the mysterious Cheshire whose one-liners accurately sums up the emotions of others and sets the scene. We are also have a new character, the court joker aptly called Jester whose earnest boyishness makes him far more charming than his royal boss and captures Catherine's heart instantly. The clandestine romance between Jest and Catherine is inevitable. To be honest I was not a fan of Jester and Catherine's romance. I didn't feel the chemistry between the two and I really think much of him besides his flirtatious behavior.
  I found the first half of the story very slow going and boring. The slow build up that pits Catherine against her mother gets repetitive at times. There are no other subplots to make the story suspenseful. I was actually more interested in Catherine when her darkness showed. Unfortunately, her descent into darkness felt rushed. Despite my issues with the pacing and the romance in the story, I enjoyed Heartless but not as nearly as much as I enjoyed Meyer's Lunar Chronicles.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There are some disturbing images and scenes. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes, The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige, Dark Shimmer by Donna Jo Napoli
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Susan, Esther, and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends. Now, away from home for the first time, all three want to reinvent themselves. But in the face of hand-wringing boys, “personal experimentation,” influenza, mystery-mold, nu-chauvinism, and the willful, unwanted intrusion of “academia,” they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive. Going off to university is always a time of change and growth, but for Esther, Susan, and Daisy, things are about to get a little weird.

Review: Giant Days is a slice of life comic which takes a hilarious peek into freshman year of college from the eyes of three spunky, different, and realistic young women in the U.K. Susan, Esther, and Daisy have become fast friends during the first few weeks at university mainly because they all live in the same dorm. Susan is blunt and angsty since she broke up with her longtime boyfriend. Esther is a punk/goth girl who dwells in drama and Daisy is a sweet, sheltered, wallflower who is beginning to explore different parts of herself as she first experiences drugs, goes clubbing, and has girl crushes that she finds confusing.
  On the whole the graphic novel is a bit manic. There is no linear narrative or story arc, but rather episodic, misadventures of the three girls. We see them endure a dorm room flu epidemic and bringing down the frat boys who are responsible for putting Esther on a website that objectifies "hot" freshmen girls. I had a few chuckles while reading this volume and a few eye roll moments of exaggeration. Since it takes place in the U.K. the humor is British and there are few Briticism and references that are sprinkled in the volume but they are not distracting. The illustrations are vibrant, warm, and cartoony.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is drug usage and drinking, which is legal for 18 year olds in the U.K., there is also language, and crude sexual humor. Recommended for Grades 10 and up.

Description: Continuing their first semester at university, fast friends Susan, Esther, and Daisy want to find their footing in life. But in the face of hand-wringing boys, holiday balls, hometown rivals, and the willful, unwanted intrusion of "academia," they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive.

Review: I liked the second volume of Giant Days a bit more than the first. Esther, Susie, and Daisy are getting ready for a big dance at their university. Their meager budgets send them to a second-hand store on the hunt for the perfect dress. Thanks to Esther’s handy sewing-machine skills, the ladies look fantastic. What hoped to be a magical evening turns out to be the exact opposite. In the other chapters Susie doesn't have a pleasant experience going home for break considering she burned some important bridges the last time she was there. The girls also tackle exams, bad relationships, and binge watching one of my favorite tv shows, Friday Night Lights. My favorite part of the volume is the poignant moments where Daisy further explores her sexuality. The artwork continues to complement the manic tone of the graphic novel with bright colors that show the warm and colorful personalities of its characters. I'm not completely in love with this series and I don't plan on continuing it.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is drinking, which is legal for 18 year olds in the U.K., allusions to sexual situations, language, and crude sexual humor. Recommended for Grades 10 and up.

If you like these books try: Lumberjanes series by Noelle Stevenson, Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.
   Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

Review: The Hating Game is a delightful romantic comedy that is destined to be made into a movie.
Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman sit across from each other working as executive assistants for their co-CEO bosses of the merged publishing house Bexley and Gamin. They do not like one another. Lucy is petite, approachable, loves vintage fashion, fiesty, and has an affinity to her flamethrower lipstick. Josh is a tall, aloof, cold, intimidating, and wears the same colored shirts in the same sequence every week. Both take extensive notes about one another and play a game where they keep score on how they can offend one another to the extent of filing complaints at human resources, which they aptly title the HR Game. It was apparent to me that there is a lot of romantic tension and frustration lurking between these two, but it was made crystal clear when Josh kisses Lucy in an elevator that things will certainly become more interesting.
 When a promotion possibility comes up, both Josh and Lucy would do anything to get it. The Hating Game is more than just a story between two coworkers who try to one-up one another. Lucy and Josh take a long winding road from treatise, awkward friendship, and possibly love. Through their wayward journey to happiness, the characters begin to unfurl their insecurities both inside and between themselves. I appreciated that the author included both a balance between Lucy's fear of everyone liking her and her self doubts of seizing the promotion at work and Josh's own insecurities of not living up to people's expectations, particularly of his father's and interestingly his body image. I just wished we got a little bit more of this in the story. In addition to learning about their vulnerabilities,we also learn what is the heart of what makes Lucy and Joshua tick. My only big complaint with The Hating Game is that it ended too abruptly for me. I wanted to know who got the job promotion and what happened next to Lucy and Josh! I will definitely will keep an eye out for Thorne's next book as I enjoyed this one.  If you like antagonistic romance stories you should definitely pick this book up!

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, sexual crude humor, and sexual situations that are quite graphic. Recommended for adults only.

If you like this book try: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Archer Magill has spent a lively five years of grade school with one eye out in search of grown-up role models. Three of the best are his grandpa, the great architect; his dad, the great vintage car customizer,; and his uncle Paul, who is just plain great. These are the three he wants to be. Along the way he finds a fourth--Mr. McLeod, a teacher. In fact, the first male teacher in the history of the school.
   But now here comes middle school and puberty. Change. Archer wonders how much change has to happen before his voice does. He doesn't see too far ahead, so every day or so a startling revelation breaks over him. Then a really big one when he's the best man at the wedding of two of his role models. But that gets ahead of the story.

Review: The Best Man is an adorable, funny, and insightful coming-of-age story that traces the milestones in Archer Magill's life from first to sixth grade while deftly addressing a variety of social issues. The book begins at a hilarious mishap when Archer was six year old and had to perform as ring bearer duties in a pair of muddy, too-tight shorts that have split open in the back. He recalls that he never wanted to participate in a wedding again until his two favorite people in the world get married. Archer has always had terrific male role models that he always looked up to: his father, as good at fixing problems as he is at restoring vintage cars; his stylish Uncle Paul; and his dignified grandfather Magill. He adds another person to his list when he meets his student-teacher Mr. McLeod, who accidentally causes a lockdown when he shows up at school in his National Guard uniform. Each of his role models teach Archer valuable lessons about prejudice, how to solve problems by talking them out, grieving, and gay rights. None of these values are heavy handed but are woven seamlessly into the narrative as Archer gains some wisdom on his own and by talking to others such as his mom and role models. Archer also realizes that his role models also have flaws just like he does. Overall this was a delightful, fun, quick story about friendship, family, and what it means to be a best man literally and metaphorically.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is a scene of bullying in which a student writes a homophobic slur on a character's forehead. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Marco Impossible by Hannah Moskowitz, Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.
The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.
  Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy's most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.
  When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station's wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands. But relax. They've totally got this. They hope.

Review: Gemina is another action-packed, nail biting installment of the Illuminae Files. It is more like a companion novel than an actual sequel since we follow the events of Jump Station Heimdall while the spaceship Hypatia was trying to get there. Though the format of Gemina is the same as its predecessor that had a collage style narration in various formats ranging from instant messages to diary entries to video transcripts this time it is more streamlined and is framed as evidence at a tribunal investigating the activities of BeiTech Industries. While it took me a while to wrap my head around the format of the first book, I had no trouble getting sucked into Gemina thanks to authors providing a context to their story.
  We follow two new characters from complete opposite social statures. Hannah is the daughter of the station commander. She begins as your stereotypical rich girl who just wants to have a good time, but we get to see peeks of her real personality shine through when the crisis on the Heimdall begin to happen. Nik is a drug dealer and the son of a notorious crime family. Nik is your quintessential bad boy. These two characters meet when Hannah arranges for drug purchase for a party on the ship. Obviously things take a dive before the transaction when a multiracial commando team of BeiTech “auditors” board Heimdall to take over its wormhole for a BeiTech drone assault fleet sent to eliminate Kerenza’s witnesses. With lots of sneaking, combat, quick thinking, and the crucial help of Nik’s younger cousin Ella (a fiesty and snarky, brilliant hacker disabled by a space plague she barely survived), Hannah and Nik try to stay a few steps ahead of their assailants. There is also an introduction to a drug operation that relies on mind-eating, multi-headed, predatory parasites with psychoactive venom, that are let loose on the station when the cartel is out of commission, which rises the ante in suspense on this already tense survival story. The snowball effect of small complications that keep growing made turning the pages that much faster to see how our protagonists will survive. There are plenty of twists and turns to the story including a cliffhanger ending that will have readers anticipating for the last book in the Illuminae Files. Due to its fast-paced, suspense filled story, I would highly recommend this series to reluctant readers and fans of science fiction.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language (though most of it is censored out), strong violence, and some crude sexual humor. There is also mention of drug usage and allusions to sexual situations. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Starbound trilogy by Amie Kauffman and Megan Spooner, Sky Chaser series by Amy Kathleen Ryan, 2001: Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn't happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister's sake - and her own.

Review: In her latest graphic novel, Ghosts, Telgemeier tackles magical realism. Catrina and her family move north from sunny Southern California to the foggy though fictional town of Bahia de la Luna in order to make breathing easier for Cat’s little sister Maya, who has cystic fibrosis. The sisters meet their ghost-obsessed neighbor Carlos, who teaches them about the town’s traditions including celebrating the festival of Dia de los Muertos, which sparks a renewed interest in the biracial kids’ Mexican roots, especially their deceased abuela (grandmother). When the girls meet ghosts face to face, the results are scary both physically and psychologically, with Maya’s health declining and Cat’s anxieties escalating. However, the girls gradually learn the meaning behind the Day of the Dead celebration (there are obvious liberties taken in this part of the story which Telgemeier doesn't note at the end of the graphic novel), the sisters become more comfortable with the supernatural and get a chance to focus on the moment.
  Like Telgemeier's other graphic novel hits, the plot moves at a nice place, building to moments of high emotion, often seen in enlarged panels or full-page illustrations. A muted color palette reflects the foggy, misty setting. Ghosts appear bed sheet–like from afar, but at close range resemble human skeletons with smiling faces, making them more approachable and even comforting than frightening. There is a nice balance between slice of life events from sisters arguing and potential romance for Catrina and Carlos. This is a fun graphic novel but I wished there was a cultural background note that discussed what the Day of the Dead entails and its history.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are potentially scary moments when the ghosts take shape of human skeletons when they come up close to the main characters. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
Rummanah Aasi
 I'm all caught up reading the Charley Davidson series, but I'm behind in review the series on the blog. Here are my reviews for books 8 and 9 plus a Reyes novella. I enjoyed all of these books.

Description (edited to avoid spoilers): With twelve hellhounds after her, Charley Davidson takes refuge at the only place she thinks they can’t get to her: the grounds of an abandoned convent. But after months of being cooped up there, Charley is ready to pop. Fortunately, a new case has captured her attention, one that involves a murder on the very grounds the team has taken shelter upon. A decades-old murder of the newly-vowed nun she keeps seeing in the shadows is almost enough to pull her out of her doldrums.
  Charley’s been forbidden to step foot off the sacred grounds. While the angry hellhounds can’t traverse the consecrated soil, they can lurk just beyond its borders. They have the entire team on edge, especially Reyes. And if Charley didn’t know better, she would swear Reyes is getting sick. He grows hotter with every moment that passes, his heat scorching across her skin every time he’s near, but naturally he swears he’s fine.
  While the team searches for clues on the Twelve, Charley just wants answers and is powerless to get them. But the mass of friends they’ve accrued helps. They convince her even more that everyone in her recent life has somehow been drawn to her, as though they were a part of a bigger picture all along. But the good feelings don’t last for long because Charley is about to get the surprise of her crazy, mixed-up, supernatural life.

Review: Reading this installment of the Charley Davidson series is much like riding a roller coaster. There were so many moments of happiness only to crash you with the deepest lows. We finally get to see a wedding though I would have liked an actual account of it rather than the rushed version that we got. There were a two mysteries that surrounded the church, but the ones about the girls held my attention and the nun one was just filler. Like the other books, we are finally getting some answers regarding the twelve hellhounds and the mystery of Mr. Wong is finally solved! Of course with the answers we are also have a lot of more questions to ask. The ending broke me and it was horrible. This is really a world breaking installment and I'm curious to see which direction Jones takes her heroine. All I know is that I'm fully on board.   

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, some strong violence, and crude sexual humor. Recommended for adults only.

Description: All his life, Reyes Alexander Farrow has suffered the torments of the damned. Only one thing has given him hope: the woman who radiates a light that no mortals can see; a light that only the departed can see.
Told from his point of view, Brighter Than the Sun chronicles the first time Reyes ever encountered Charley, and how their relationship has been the one thing that can either save him or doom him.

Review: This is a fun novella that takes place that takes place during the timeline of First Grave on the Right and told from Reyes's point of view. While it was great hearing Reyes's voice, no new information was gained from reading this novella. I did, however, get a better sense of his discomfort in having everyone lust after him. I used to think he just tuned it out especially with the women at the diner, but it really does bother him. I would only recommend picking this novella up if you are a die hard Charley Davidson or Reyes fan.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, some strong violence, and crude sexual humor. Recommended for adults only.

Description: In a small village in New York lives Jane Doe, a girl with no memory of who she is or where she came from. So when she is working at a diner and slowly begins to realize she can see dead people, she's more than a little taken aback. Stranger still are the people entering her life. They seem to know things about her. Things they hide with lies and half-truths. Soon, she senses something far darker. A force that wants to cause her harm, she is sure of it. Her saving grace comes in the form of a new friend she feels she can confide in and the fry cook, a devastatingly handsome man whose smile is breathtaking and touch is scalding. He stays close, and she almost feels safe with him around.

Review: Like the eighth book, this one was a very bittersweet novel. After a life shattering event, Charley is suffering from amnesia and going through life as struggling waitress Janey. She has no memory of who she is or how she ended up in the café, but we as readers find familiar faces to help make sure Charley is safe and okay. It hurt my heart to see our lovable heroine be so lost especially when she felt that she was the "other woman" with Reyes. I couldn't imagine what Reyes must have gone through. We slowly watch Charley's past reasserting itself: she is still able to converse with the dead, and she realizes that there are beings out there trying to kill her. While there is a side mystery, the focus is clearly on Charley as we bite our nails in hopes that she recovers her memory by the end of the book.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, some strong violence, sexual situations, and crude sexual humor. Recommended for adults only.

If you like this series try: Naked Werewolf series by Molly Harper, Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, The Disillusionists series by Carolyn Crane
Rummanah Aasi

Description: One day, a grandmother shouts, "LEAVE ME ALONE!" and leaves her tiny home and her very big family to journey to the moon and beyond to find peace and quiet to finish her knitting. Along the way, she encounters ravenous bears, obnoxious goats, and even hordes of aliens! But nothing stops grandma from accomplishing her goal--knitting sweaters for her many grandchildren to keep them warm and toasty for the coming winter.

Review: We all have a day where we need just a few moments of quiet to get things done and/or concentrate on a project. Well, we can all sympathize with Granny who just wants to knit sweaters in peace except she is constantly interrupted wherever she goes. The story has a Eastern European folktale vibe to it. It is incredibly funny and entertaining. The repetitive line of "Leave Me Alone!" makes it a good choice to read aloud. The picture books is filled with colorful images, all white except the aliens on the moon which stand out against the white pages. This contrasts well to the place where Granny finally finds peace. 
Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for PreK to Grade 1.

If you like this book try: Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer

Description: As slaves relentlessly toiled in an unjust system in 19th century Louisiana, they all counted down the days until Sunday, when at least for half a day they were briefly able to congregate in Congo Square in New Orleans. Here they were free to set up an open market, sing, dance, and play music. They were free to forget their cares, their struggles, and their oppression. This story chronicles slaves' duties each day, from chopping logs on Mondays to baking bread on Wednesdays to plucking hens on Saturday, and builds to the freedom of Sundays and the special experience of an afternoon spent in Congo Square.

Review: This is a story that I have not heard before. In historic Louisiana, enslaved Africans were provided a half-day of rest each Sunday, and in New Orleans their official and legal gathering place was Congo Square. With two spare couplets for each day of the week, Weatherford tells readers what slavery looks like. We can see its brutality and inhumanity from the verses and the slow steady rhythm that builds until that peaceful Sunday.  I appreciated that the author didn't avoid talking about a tough subject, but does so respectfully while admitting the horrifying truths without the graphic details. The illustrations are bright and fully embrace the text that it describes. The slaves' bodies are made up of sharp angles in the slaves’ bodies while they work and they have a softer curves and angles as they relax and enjoy the dance. There is an author's note that provides historical context for the real place the book describes.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Grades 1-3.

If you like this book try: Seeds of Freedom by Hester Brass

Description: In this glorious celebration of observation, curiosity, and imagination, Brendan Wenzel shows us the many lives of one cat, and how perspective shapes what we see. When you see a cat, what do you see?

Review: This picture book is a perfect example in teaching younger readers about perspective. The author uses the word saw to its fullest extent. The repeating phrase is "They all saw a cat" as a cat walks through the world and pages. Each page reveals how the creatures sees the cat. To the child, it is big-eyed and adorably fluffy; to the fish in the bowl, it’s two huge, blurry eyes; and to the bee, it is a series of faceted dots. To create these varied visions, Wenzel uses the spacious width of double-page spreads and a wide range of materials, including oil, pastels, watercolor, and pencils. He plays with perspective in other ways, too. A yellow bird looks down at the cat below, and a flea peers through a forest of fur. While the story is simple, the concept behind the book is thought-provoking and taken into consideration.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: Press Here by Hervé Tullet, I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
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