Rummanah Aasi
It's that time of year again! As this post goes live, I will only have two days left of the school year before summer starts. Once again I am composing a summer reading list for myself to help me work through my TBR pile. I had great success with the list in the past. All of these books are in addition to the Ramadan Reading Challenge. Here is my list in no particular order.


Circe by Madeline Miller- I really enjoyed Miller's debut novel, The Song of Achilles, and I can't wait to see how she retells Circe's story. 

Girls Burn Brighter by Shoba Rao - A contemporary title that focuses on female friendship set in India and America.

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden - I didn't get a chance to fit this in when it was released in January but I'm really looking forward to more adventures with Vasya.


Again I had the hardest time with creating this portion of my list!

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon- I loved When Dimple Met Rishi and I'm really looking forward to see what Twinkle has to offer.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black- I waited until the hype died down but I'm excited to jump back in to the fae world.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan - I know this is not going to be an easy read but I have never heard nothing but rave review for this book.

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren- I can't count how many times people have asked if I read this book and I have seen it populate so many favorite lists from last year. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Middle Grade/Childrens

Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead- With two powerhouse middle grade writers, I have really high expectations for this one!

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore- A contemporary debut novel that won the Coretta Scott King Award and the movie rights have been sold to Michael B. Jordan's production company.

Burning Maze (Trials of Apollo #3) by Rick Riordan - Of course summer would not be complete without a book by Rick Riordian!

This is just a small sampling of book that are on my reading list. Looking at my current spreadsheet, I have around 50 titles or so. I'm also catch up on my Netgalley queue too.  Have you read any of these titles? If so, what did you think of them? What is on your summer reading list? Let know in the comments below!
Rummanah Aasi

Ramadan is is the holy month of fasting and the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. During this month Muslims abstain from food and drink (including water) from sunrise to sunset. We break our fast when the sunsets. Many people tend to focus on the physical hardships of the month, but I like to view it as a spiritual reassessment. During this month I am always reminded of how fortunate I am, exercise my willpower, strengthen my empathy skills, and most importantly making my faith stronger.
  In past years I found a Ramadan Reading Challenge online, but I was always too late to join. I am not sure if there is an official reading challenge, but I am creating one on my own with a particular focus on reading and supporting Muslim #ownvoices authors. I've listed my tbr pile for this challenge. Check it out below:

Ramadan Reading Challenge TBR:

Children Picture Books

Time to Pray by Maha Addasi: Yasmin is visiting her grandmother, who lives in a country somewhere in the Middle East. On her first night, she's wakened by the muezzin at the nearby mosque calling the faithful to prayer, and Yasmin watches from her bed as her grandmother prepares to pray. A visit with Grandmother is always special, but this time it is even more so. Her grandmother makes Yasmin prayer clothes, buys her a prayer rug, and teaches her the five prayers that Muslims perform over the course of a day. When it's time for Yasmin to board a plane and return home, her grandmother gives her a present that her granddaughter opens when she arrives: a prayer clock in the shape of a mosque, with an alarm that sounds like a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer.

Lailah's Lunchbox by Reem Faruqi: Now that she is ten, Lailah is delighted that she can fast during the month of Ramadan like her family and her friends in Abu Dhabi, but finding a way to explain to her teacher and classmates in Atlanta is a challenge until she gets some good advice from the librarian, Mrs. Scrabble.

Yo Soy Muslim by Mark Gonzales: From Muslim and Latino poet Mark Gonzales comes a touching and lyrical picture book about a parent who encourages their child to find joy and pride in all aspects of their multicultural identity.

Night of the Moon by Hena Khan: Yasmeen, a seven-year-old Pakistani-American girl, celebrates the Muslim holidays of Ramadan, "The Night of the Moon" (Chaand Raat), and Eid. With lush illustrations that evoke Islamic art, this beautiful story offers a window into modern Muslim culture—and into the ancient roots from within its traditions have grown.

Middle Grade Fiction

One Half from the East by Nadia Hashimi: Obayda's family is in need of some good fortune. Her father lost one of his legs in a bomb explosion, forcing the family to move from their home city of Kabul to a small village, where life is very different and Obayda's father almost never leaves his room. One day, Obayda's aunt has an idea to bring the family luck -- dress Obayda, the youngest of her sisters, as a boy, a bacha posh. Now Obayda is Obayd. Life in this in-between place is confusing, but once Obayda meets another bacha posh, everything changes. The two of them can explore the village on their own, climbing trees, playing sports, and more. But their transformation won't last forever -- unless the two best friends can figure out a way to make it stick and make their newfound freedoms endure.

Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai: After Nadia is separated from her family while fleeing the civil war, she spends the next four days with a mysterious old man who helps her navigate the checkpoints and snipers of the rebel, ISIS, and Syrian armies that are littering Aleppo on her way to meeting her father at the Turkish border.

The Garden of My Imaan by Farhana Zia: Aliya already struggles with trying to fit in, feeling confident enough to talk to the cute boy or stand up to mean kids — the fact that shes Muslim is just another thing to deal with. When Marwa, a Moroccan girl who shares her faith if not her culture, comes to Aliya's school, Aliya wonders even more about who she is, what she believes, and where she fits in. Should she fast for Ramadan? Should she wear the hijab? Shes old enough for both, but does she really want to call attention to herself?

YA Fiction

Love, Hate, & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed: Maya Aziz, seventeen, is caught between her India-born parents world of college and marrying a suitable Muslim boy and her dream world of film school and dating her classmate, Phil, when a terrorist attack changes her life forever.

Not the Girls You're Looking For by Aminah Mae Safi: Lulu Saad doesn't need your advice, thank you very much. She's got her three best friends and nothing can stop her from conquering the known world. Sure, for half a minute she thought she’d nearly drowned a cute guy at a party, but he was totally faking it. And fine, yes, she caused a scene during Ramadan. It's all under control. Ish. Except maybe this time she’s done a little more damage than she realizes. And if Lulu can't find her way out of this mess soon, she'll have to do more than repair friendships, family alliances, and wet clothing. She'll have to go looking for herself.

Mirage by Somaiya Daud: In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.
 But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.
 As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancĂ©, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection...because one wrong move could lead to her death.

Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir: Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear. It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do. But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy. There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Graphic Novels

Escape from Syria by Samya Kullab: Escape from Syria is a fictionalized account that calls on real-life circumstances and true tales of refugee families to serve as a microcosm of the Syrian uprising and the war and refugee crisis that followed. The story spans six years in the lives of Walid, his wife Dalia, and their two children, Amina and Youssef. Forced to flee from Syria, they become asylum-seekers in Lebanon, and finally resettled refugees in the West.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 8 by G. Willow Wilson: The villains are at Kamala's door, and Ms. Marvel has to save a city that doesn't want saving. The malleable Ms. Marvel continues her hero's journey as an enemy from her past begins targeting those closest to her, a challenge that calls into question everything about her -- not just as a super hero, but as a human being! Who can Ms. Marvel trust when everyone in Jersey City is against her? As Kamala's life hangs in the balance, a new crimefighter moves in on her turf.

Adult Fiction

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty: A brilliantly imagined historical fantasy in which a young con artist in eighteenth century Cairo discovers she's the last descendant of a powerful family of djinn healers. With the help of an outcast immortal warrior and a rebellious prince, she must claim her magical birthright in order to prevent a war that threatens to destroy the entire djinn kingdom.
The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan: Despite their many differences, Detective Rachel Getty trusts her boss, Esa Khattak, implicitly. But she's still uneasy at Khattak's tight-lipped secrecy when he asks her to look into Christopher Drayton's death. Drayton's apparently accidental fall from a cliff doesn't seem to warrant a police investigation, particularly not from Rachel and Khattak's team, which handles minority-sensitive cases. But when she learns that Drayton may have been living under an assumed name, Rachel begins to understand why Khattak is tip-toeing around this case. It soon comes to light that Drayton may have been a war criminal with ties to the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.
  If that's true, any number of people might have had reason to help Drayton to his death, and a murder investigation could have far-reaching ripples throughout the community. But as Rachel and Khattak dig deeper into the life and death of Christopher Drayton, every question seems to lead only to more questions, with no easy answers. Had the specters of Srebrenica returned to haunt Drayton at the end, or had he been keeping secrets of an entirely different nature? Or, after all, did a man just fall to his death from the Bluffs?

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik: Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene. As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents as she goes in search of stories for her book. In amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and decidedly odd online daters, could there be a a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love? 


Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age Story by Amani Al-Khatahbeh: A harrowing and candid memoir about coming of age as a Muslim American in the wake of 9/11, during the never-ending war on terror, and through the Trump era of casual racism.

Letters to a Young Muslim by Omar Saif Ghobash: In a series of personal letters to his sons, Omar Saif Ghobash offers a short and highly readable manifesto that tackles our current global crisis with the training of an experienced diplomat and the personal responsibility of a father. Today's young Muslims will be tomorrow's leaders, and yet too many are vulnerable to extremist propaganda that seems omnipresent in our technological age. The burning question, Ghobash argues, is how moderate Muslims can unite to find a voice that is true to Islam while actively and productively engaging in the modern world. What does it mean to be a good Muslim?
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.
But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together. What could go wrong?
  With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely. And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

Review: Starry Eyes is the perfect book to kick off your summer vacation. Zorie and Lennon are former best friends (and crushes) and now enemies, but they rediscover and fall for each other on a backpacking trip in in Jenn Bennett's latest sweet romance novel. Zorie and Lennon were once inseparable and potentially on the verge of becoming more during their junior year homecoming, but they haven't talk since Lennon stood Zorie up and broke her heart.
  Zorie and Lennon are completely different. Zorie becomes anxious when her day is not followed by a rigid schedule where everything is written down. She is fascinated by astronomy. Lennon is a horror fanboy, an amateur herpetologist, music aficionado, and a skilled hiker. These two characters collide when they discover they are both attending the same glamping vacation in northern California hosted by Reagan, the popular girl in school and sometimes friends with Zorie. Zorie Everhart uncharacteristically agrees to go, figuring she can still manage to meet up with fellow astronomers to witness a meteor shower on a nearby mountain.Whereas Lennon was invited by Instagram obsessed Brett who is always looking for the perfect selfie to post online. Like most YA dramas and romances, there is drama and misunderstanding between the groups of friends which leads Zorie and Lennon alone together to find their way home. I was actually thrilled to get away from the drama as Reagan and company got on my nerves.
   I have read quite a lot of books where friends turn to a couple, but you don't get to witness the romance. This is not true in Starry Eyes. You can actually see Zorie and Lennon interact and there is a lot of things to resolve and move past old hurts. I also liked that while these two were working out their problems figuratively, they were also doing it literally as they cover tough terrain and animal attacks.
  I appreciate the inclusion of diversity in Starry Eyes too. Zorie's stepmother is Korean-American. Lennon has two moms and an Egyptian-American biological father. It is so refreshing to see how both families have a positive and strong bond with their children. I also really enjoyed seeing some serious topics such as grief, betrayal, divorce, mental illness, and loss were also explored in the book along side humor which gives the book depth. While I didn't love it as much as Alex, Approximately, I still think it is a solid read and I would definitely recommend it.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is discussion of sex as Lennon's mothers own an adult store and the characters openly discuss it themselves. There is also a small consensual sex scene but not too explicit. There is also mention of suicide, underage drinking, and some strong language. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The Summer I Turned Pretty series by Jenny Han, Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Around the time that Freya loses her voice while recording her debut album, Harun is making plans to run away from everyone he has ever loved, and Nathaniel is arriving in New York City with a backpack, a desperate plan, and nothing left to lose. When a fateful accident draws these three strangers together, their secrets start to unravel as they begin to understand that the way out of their own loss might just lie in helping the others out of theirs.

Review: Gayle Forman's If I Stay and Where She Went were both cathartic reads for me that left me emotionally spent. I expected to feel the same with her latest book, I Have Lost My Way but unfortunately I felt underwhelmed and disappointed.
   I Have Lost My Way takes place in a span of a day where a chance meeting leads to intimate connections for three struggling teens who are all reeling from loss and aimlessness.  Freya is an up-and-coming singer who has lost her voice, to her controlling manager’s chagrin. She sacrificed her family for a musical career that seems ephemeral. It was not clear to me whether or not Freya wanted a musical career at all or if it was just an opportunity to have felt desired and loved which is noted by the number of fans she has on social media. Compared to Harun and Nathaniel, Freya was the weakest character and her problem didn't seem as important.
  Harun is a closeted Pakistani Muslim gay teen who is terrified to come out to his conservative family and let his family down. Considering my own background as a Pakistani Muslim, I was immediately drawn to Harun and I wanted to know more of his heartbreaking story. There is an attempt to explain Islamophobia post-9/11 that completely fell flat for me. Harun's parents also felt very much like caricatures too.
 Nathaniel just flew into the city, and he’s hiding the true reason for his visit. Nathaniel was a complete mystery to me. There are mentions of mental health issues with his story, particularly with the way his father behaved and I wanted some clarification as to what Nathaniel and his father ailed from rather than a vague notion.
  The book's structure follows the slice of life, twenty-four hour setting trope which, in my opinion, hinders the emotional impact of the book. After colliding into each other in Central Park, the teens each privately are drawn to one another and begin to develop connections as they open up to each other and become vulnerable. The narration changes among the teens’ perspectives which keeps the pace quick and lively, but the transitions between narrators is jarring and abrupt; making the execution too choppy. There are intermittent flashback chapters that focus on each character which allows the reader to understand their backstories, however, I still felt disconnected to Freya, Harun, and Nathaniel. There are many important issues brought up in the book from abandonment, mental health, and sexual identity but none of these topics are fully discussed. I would have liked to spent more time with these characters and really understand them. It is clear that they provide an important community for one another, but I would have liked to have seen it as a participant rather than a viewer. I don't mind that there are no easy answers for these characters, but I do want to have an idea of what happened next.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, mentions of sex, underage drinking, and a suicide attempt. Recommended for Grades 10 and up.

If you like this book try: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
Rummanah Aasi
Description: Thanks to his relationship with the ancient Druid Atticus O'Sullivan, Oberon the Irish wolfhound knows trouble when he smells itand furthermore, he knows he can handle it.When he discovers that a prizewinning poodle has been abducted in Eugene, Oregon, he learns that it's part of a rash of hound abductions all over the Pacific Northwest. Since the police aren't too worried about dogs they assume have run away, Oberon knows it's up to him to track down those hounds and reunite them with their humans. For justice! And gravy! Engaging the services of his faithful Druid, Oberon must travel throughout Oregon and Washington to question a man with a huge salami, thwart the plans of diabolical squirrels, and avoid, at all costs, a fight with a great big bear.But if he's going to solve the case of the Purloined Poodle, Oberon will have to recruit the help of a Boston terrier named Starbuck, survive the vegetables in a hipster pot pie, and firmly refuse to be distracted by fire hydrants and rabbits hiding in the rose bushes.At the end of the day, will it be a sad bowl of dry kibble for the world's finest hound detective, or will everything be coming up sirloins?

Description: Oberon the Irish wolfhound is off to Portland to smell all the things with canine companions wolfhound Orlaith and Boston terrier Starbuck, and, of course, his human, ancient Druid Atticus O'Sullivan. The first complication is an unmistakable sign of sinister agendas afoot: a squirrel atop the train. But an even more ominous situation is in store when the trio plus Atticus stumble across a murder upon arrival at the station. They recognize Detective Gabriela Ibarra, who's there to investigate. But they also recognize the body--or rather that the body is a doppelganger for Atticus himself. The police, hampered by human senses of smell and a decided lack of canine intuition, obviously can't handle this alone. Not with Atticus likely in danger. Oberon knows it's time to investigate once more---for justice! For gravy! And possibly greasy tacos! Alongside his faithful Druid, Oberon and the other loyal hounds navigate by nose through Portland to find a bear-shifter friend with intel, delicious clues at the victim's home, and more squirrels. Always more squirrels! But will our hungry band of heroes be able to identify the culprit before someone else is murdered? Will there be mystery meat in gravy as a reward or tragedy in store for the world's (or at least the Pacific Northwest's) greatest dog detective?

Review: I picked up the Oberon's Meaty Mysteries novellas in order to softly re-enter the Iron Druid series after being behind a couple of books. They are quick, enjoyable, and humorous reads. These novellas can be read independently of the Iron Druid series though there are interesting tidbits for loyal reader's about Atticus's past. I would highly recommend them in case you are curious to see how Kevin Hearne writes his stories.
 The highlight of these novellas is Oberon's narration of the stories. Oberon is Atticus's prized Irish Wolfhound who is usually a lovable side character who can communicate with his human. This time Oberon is the lead character and Atticus takes a secondary but still important role. Both of these characters stumble upon mysteries that they need to solve; in the Purloined Poodle, show dogs have been suddenly vanishing and in Squirrel on the Train, a murderer eerily looks a lot like Atticus. These fantasy-mystery novellas are delightfully funny as Oberon tries to learn new vocabulary and idioms. I love how Oberon's and Atticus's banter plays off each other without being too much. Hearne balances the doggy humor, light touches of fantasy, and a good old fashioned mystery plot to entertain his readers. These novellas allowed me to comfortable get back to this action-packed series that wraps up this year.  

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like mysteries featuring dogs try: Chet and Bernie series by Spencer Quinn, Paw Enforcement series by Diane Kelly, Raine Stockton mysteries by Donna Ball
Rummanah Aasi

Description: The day Grace is called from the slave cabins to work in the Big House, Mama makes her promise to keep her eyes down. Uncle Jim warns her to keep her thoughts tucked private in her mind or they could bring a whole lot of trouble and pain. But the more Grace sees of the heartless Master and hateful Missus, the more a rightness voice clamors in her head-asking how come white folks can own other people, sell them on the auction block, and separate families forever. When that voice escapes without warning, it sets off a terrible chain of events that prove Uncle Jim's words true. Suddenly, Grace and her family must flee deep into the woods, where they brave deadly animals, slave patrollers, and the uncertainty of ever finding freedom.

Review: Unbound is a story in verse that illuminates the horror of slavery without being overly graphic and informs the reader about the real history of the Great Dismal Swamp sanctuary. This book was heartbreaking to read but enlightening and showed the strength and power of hope and familial love in the face of adversity. Grace is a light-skinned, blue-eyed slave who is called to work in "The Big House," leaving behind her family and friends in the fields. Though she promised her Mama to keep her head down and cause no trouble, Grace can not keep quiet and incessantly questions the injustices she observes from the Master and the Missus, which gives her even more motivation to escape. When Grace crosses the line, she discovers the Missus's decision to sell members of Grace's family at the auction block. Soon, Grace and her family flee to the Great Dismal Swamp on their precarious journey to freedom and become "maroons" who survive independent of society. Though some young readers might find the language and format challenging, they will soon appreciate the rhythmic flow of the poetry and the well-executed pacing. I had never heard of the Great Dismal Swamp and the runaways' sanctuary and learned a lot from this book which in the author's note explains is based on the narratives of the formerly enslaved.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are allusions to slaves been beaten and hunted by their slave owners though there are no graphic details mentioned. Grace is also light skinned with blue eyes and her father is believed to be a white slave owner though it is not verified in the book. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Calico Girl by Jerdine Nolen, Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
Rummanah Aasi

Description: The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath. Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.
 The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

Review: I was not a fan of The Wrath and the Dawn duology, which in my unpopular opinion is too focused on the romance and light on the fantasy/retelling apects, but I did see Ahdieh's potential as a writer so I decided to pick up her second duology. I enjoyed Flame in the Mist, which is set in feudal Japan, much more and though it resolved some of my major issues with her previous series, there are still some aspects that still need to be developed.  
  Mariko is bound to the empire's center and has been destined to marry the royal son as part of an arranged, political marriage. Her caravan is set upon by raiders who ambush, slash and kill their way through the convoy. Using her wits and cunning, Mariko is the only survivor. Mariko now sets out with a vengeance upon the Black Clan, whom she holds responsible for her attempted assassination and the murder of her convoy.
  Mariko is a fierce character who wants more out of life rather than be a political pawn to be used by her royal family. She is clever, but also inexperienced given her sheltered, privileged life. Her plan to disguise herself as a boy and infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan is not clearly thought through and it does not take long for the leader of the clan, Takeda Ranmaru, to suspect her. The clan's broody, best fighter, Okami, or "The Wolf," is more complex than Mariko originally thinks. There is a slow burning, antagonistic romance building between them as both characters are trying to figure the other out. Interspersed with Mariko's interactions and understanding of the Black Clan, is the political intrigue and the real players behind Mariko's assassination attempt. When Mariko's twin brother, a famed samurai, finds her alive and well, Mariko has to make a decision between her blood family and the newly one that she created with the clan.
 Ahdieh's strength lies in her intricate characterizations and detailed descriptions, which held my interest. The continuous lines that invoke female power and gender injustices are anachronistic, but could have been better utilized if it was shown by Mariko rather than told to the reader. There were moments that were slow, but my biggest qualm about the book is the unbalanced amount of magic in the book. During the first half of the book, magic is in the background but then it immediately comes to the forefront without any explanations, especially when it comes to major characters who have the ability to shape shift. I wanted to know more about this aspect and I hope it is discussed in the upcoming finale. As a side note, this book is being pitched as a "Mulan" inspired story, which though it features an Asian female character discussed as a boy, Mulan is a story set in China not Japan. Despite my issues, I look forward to reading the conclusion.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong and violent images in the book such as a beheading and Hara-Kiri (death of a samurai by suicide). There is also some crude language too. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Smoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh (coming in June 2018), Scarlet series by A.C. Gaughen
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