Rummanah Aasi

Description: Ever since Reyes Farrow escaped from a hell dimension in which Charley Davidson accidentally trapped him, the son of Satan has been brimstone-bent on destroying the world his heavenly Brother created. His volatile tendencies have put Charley in a bit of a pickle. But that's not the only briny vegetable on her plate. While trying to domesticate the feral being that used to be her husband, she also has to deal with her everyday life of annoying all manner of beings--some corporeal, some not so much--as she struggles to right the wrongs of society. Only this time she's not uncovering a murder. This time she's covering one up.

Add to that her new occupation of keeping a startup PI venture--the indomitable mystery-solving team of Amber Kowalski and Quentin Rutherford--out of trouble and dealing with the Vatican's inquiries into her beloved daughter, and Charley is on the brink of throwing in the towel and becoming a professional shopper. Or possibly a live mannequin. But when someone starts attacking humans who are sensitive to the supernatural world, Charley knows it's time to let loose her razor sharp claws. Then again, her number one suspect is the dark entity she's loved for centuries. So the question becomes: Can she tame the unruly beast before it destroys everything she's worked so hard to protect?

Review: Jones takes a page out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and throws a wrench into Charlie and Reyes' relationship. Reyes is not in good place. He is not the Reyes that we have come to love. He is far off the deep end and making his father proud in causing chaos and danger. Charlie has this whole new title resting on her scared shoulders and she is the only one who can stop Reyes, but it will not be easy. She could potentially lose the love of her life for good. As if the Reyes situation is not enough for our gifted PI, there is another mystery that boggles her mind. Someone or something is killing gifted people and Charlie needs to find answers while protecting her friends. While there are many things going on in this book, Jones seems to wrap and connect everything together quite satisfyingly in the end. We see pieces of the big picture come together and connect in surprising ways. Even though her life is messy and crazy, Charlie is lovable as ever as she never stops looking for answers and provides plenty of humor to keep this story afloat. The ending came at a complete shock and exemplifies the type of heroine Charlie is in this series. Lots of questions remain and will hopefully be resolved in the last and final book. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, sexual situations which are times graphic, strong violence, and suggestive humor. Recommended for adults only.

Description: Charley Davidson, Grim Reaper extraordinaire, is pissed. She’s been kicked off the earthly plain for eternity – which is the appropriate amount of time to make a person starkraving mad. But someone’s looking out for her, and she’s allowed to return after a mere hundred years in exile. Is it too much to hope for that not much has changed? Apparently it is. Bummer.

She’s missed Reyes and her daughter, Beep, but now that she’s back on earth, it’s time to put to rest burning questions that need answers. What happened to her mother? How did she really die? Who killed her? And are cupcakes or coffee the best medicine?

Review: Summoned to Thirteenth Grave is a bittersweet book to read because it marks the end of the Charley Davidson series. In traditional Jones fashion, Charley has a mission impossible, save the world from a demon dimension in just three days. She also has told solve a murder mystery in which Reyes is being framed for a crime he did not commit once again. It was an absolute pleasure visiting all of the major characters in this series in the final book. The stakes are even higher in the last book as the safety of Beep and all of the citizens of New Mexico are at risk. 
 This series has provided laughs, shocks, and emotional moments for me as a reader. I wished a few of the twists were a bit fleshed out, but we do get some closure on a few details that have been left open for a while in particular with Charley's mother and her birth. We also get closure on most characters' issues and/or catch a glimpse of their future. The pacing of the plot is quick without being distracting from extraneous side stories. The trademark humor is present without being overly bearing. I was also nice to see Reyes and Charley be on the same page and work together. I will really miss this series, but with an open ending I am crossing my fingers and toes for a spin-off.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, sexual situations which are times graphic, strong violence, and suggestive humor. Recommended for adults only.

If you like these books try: Arcadia Bell series by Jenn Bennett, Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, Black Wings by Christina Henry
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Zane has always enjoyed exploring the dormant volcano near his home in New Mexico, even though hiking it is challenging. He'd much rather hang out there with his dog, Rosie, than go to middle school, where kids call him Sir Limps a Lot, McGimpster, or Uno — for his one good leg. What Zane doesn't know is that the volcano is a gateway to another world and he is at the center of a powerful prophecy.

A new girl at school, Brooks, informs him that he's destined to release an evil god from the ancient Maya relic he is imprisoned in — unless she can find and remove it first. Together they return to the volcano, where all kinds of crazy happens. Brooks turns into a hawk, a demon attacks them in a cave, and Rosie gives her all while trying to protect Zane. When Zane decides to save his dog no matter the cost, he is thrust into an adventure full of surprising discoveries, dangerous secrets, and an all-out war between the gods, one of whom happens to be his father. To survive, Zane will have to become the Storm Runner. But how can he run when he can't even walk well without a cane?

Review: The Storm Runner is a page turning, wild ride adventure in Mayan mythology. Though it is part of the Rick Riordan imprint, the book stands on its own and avoids the cookie-cutter format. Unknowingly Zane Obispo and unleashed the lord of death, darkness, and despair from imprisonment and he now has three days to correct his mistake in order to save the world.
  I adored Zane who is instantly relatable, funny and sweet. He is content exploring the volcano in his backyard with his dog, Rosie, and doing what he can to please his mother, who works hard for little. He is insecure of his disability, where one of his foot smaller than the other, and one leg shorter than the other, which subjects him to bullying. Like Percy's dyslexia was a signal of his demigod status, Zane's limp does the same for him. When he meets Brooks, a girl who appears after a mysterious plane crash, and she warns him, first, that he's in danger, and, second, that he's destined to set off the apocalypse his whole world goes topsy-turvy. Cervantes wastes no time getting right into the action. We follow Zane as he tries to make sense of the prophecy, his own supernatural origins, and fights demons and tries to outsmart gods who mean to harm him. It is absolutely refreshing to learn about non-European centric mythology. The conversational tone of the book which includes plenty of humor and Spanish words sprinkled in make the characters sound authentic and easy to read. There are plenty of action sequences and suspenseful moments that will keep the pages turning as the tension escalates and the characters face deepening stakes. While this is a no-brainer recommendation for the millions of Percy Jackson fans, this would also be a great book to highlight Mayan mythology and Mexican culture. While the book does not end in a cliffhanger, there are plenty of questions left to answer in the following books of the Storm Runner series.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There are disturbing images and injuries to a pet. Recommended for Grades

If you like this book try: Charlie Hernandez and the League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo, The Fire Keeper (Stormrunner #2) will able available September 2019
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Stolen from her family as a child, Aspasia has clawed her way up the ranks of Cyrus's black market empire to captain her own trading vessel--and she risks it all every time she uses her powerful magic to free as many women, children, and Elementae from slavery as she can. But Cyrus is close to uncovering her secrets--not only that Aspasia is an air Elementa with the ability to sail her ship through the sky, but that she is also searching for her lost family. And if Aspasia can’t find her younger siblings before Cyrus does, she will never be able to break free.

Armed with her loyal crew full of Elementae and a new recruit who controls an intriguing power, Aspasia finds herself in the center of a brewing war that spans every inch of the ocean, and her power alone may not be enough to save her friends, family, and freedom.

Review: Imprison the Sky is another action packed, thought provoking addition to the complex fantasy series, The Elementae by A.C. Gaughen. Once again the author weaves weaves big concepts and difficult subjects without slowing down the pace or being heavy handed. In this second installment we move from the land to the sea where a powerful air Elementa Aspasia "Asp" is the captain of a ship. Captain, freedom fighter, slaver, and slave, Asp crews a diverse collection of children and teens, all formerly enslaved, many with powers, who come from all the races and nations of Asp’s world. It is fascinating to note that the characters have a range of skin tones and race is not treated the same to our world. Like the first book, Reign the Earth, which dealt with domestic and emotional abuse, Imprison the Sky delves into all aspects of slavery, the complex dynamics of power, and freedom. There are no easy answers in this book and the complex, multi-faceted characters deal with these issues. 
  The plot moves between personal motives such as Asp searching for her lost siblings and possibly falling in love with new crew member Kairos (Shalia's brother) who also has a personal agenda, and the political, as Asp and her crew work to harry slavers and find themselves instrumental in the growing war. There are plenty of dark and gritty moments as people lose their lives and a moral toll that plagues Asp's moves, there are lighter moments of romance and tender intimacy which help elevate the plot and keeps things moving. The final battle, when characters from both volumes come together, sets the scene for the explosive conflict to come without reverting to an unnecessary cliffhanger. I love how this series features powerful young women who have hope and agency to change the world. I am really looking forward to seeing how this multi-layered fantasy series wraps up.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some minor language, strong violence, and a fade to black sex scene. Sexual abuse of female slaves is hinted. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Dark Caravan Cycle series by Heather Demetrios, Winner's Trilogy by Marie Rutkosi, Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
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 me. 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 Seattle, Washington.

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 2018 Caldecott Medal is: 

Honorees of the 2019 Caldecott are:

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal
A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin
The Rough Patch by Brian Lies
Thank you, Omu! by Oge Mora

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 2019 Newbery Medal is: 

Honorees of the 2019 Newbery are:

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

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 2019 Morris Award is: 

Honorees of the 2018 Morris Award are:

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough
Check, Please!: #Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper

 The Michael L. Printz Award was named in the honor of Michael L. Printz, a school librarian in Topeka, 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 2019 Michael Printz Award is: 

Honorees of the 2019 Printz Award are:

Damsel by Elana K. Arnold
A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti
I, Claudia by Mary McCoy

 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 surprise you? I am so happy that so many diverse titles, authors, and illustrators have been recognized. I have read a few of these titles and will be reviewing them shortly. Stay tuned!
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Part-time PI and full-time grim reaper, Charley Davidson has asked a lot of questions throughout her life: Why can I see dead people? Who is the hot supernatural entity following me? How do I get gum out of my sister's hair before she wakes up? But, "How do I trap not one god, but three?" was never among them. Until now. And since those gods are on earth to kill her daughter, she has little choice but to track them down, trap them, and cast them from this dimension. But one of them stole her heart a very long time ago. Can a god of absolute death and destruction change his omniscient spots, or will his allegiance lie with his brothers? Those are just some of the questions Charley must answer, and quick. Add to that a homeless girl on the run for her life, a man who's been framed for murdering a woman who is still very much alive, and a pendant made from god glass that has the entire supernatural world in an uproar, Charley has her hands full.

Review: I completed the Charley Davidson series over this weekend and enjoyed the ride. I am, however, behind on reviewing the last few books in this series. With ten books in a series, the momentum and the charm of the Charley Davidson series has not worn off. The trademark humor, sizzling romance, and interesting mysteries keeps the series afloat and holds my interest. In this installment we see Charley back at home and has regained her memories along with new information and new problems. She is hiding some big secrets from Reyes, and things don't feel quite right between them. She is worried about the god glass she carries in her pocket, and whether she will have to turn against the one she loves. Charley is also constantly worried about her daughter and she is determined to get her back one way or another. Along with her own drama, there are two mysteries that occupy her time. Charley does not have dull moment. 
  Jones does not pull any punches with startling new revelations. There are a lot of things that are building up to the climax of this series. Charley is also getting more confident in her role as a supernatural being. I am eager to see where things will go. The two side mysteries which involves a runaway girl and a murder where someone is mostly liked framed are also interesting and I liked following the clues to getting them solved. 
  The humor balances out all of the heavy topics that are on the horizon. I was a bit frustrated on the miscommunications between Charley and Reyes. They both are hiding vital information and I just wanted them to sit down and hash every thing out. A fun addition to the series.
Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, sexual situations which are times graphic, strong violence, and suggestive humor.

Description: A typical day in the life of Charley Davidson involves cheating husbands, missing people, errant wives, philandering business owners, and oh yeah...demons, hell hounds, evil gods, and dead people. Lots and lots of dead people. As a part time Private Investigator and full-time Grim Reaper, Charley has to balance the good, the bad, the undead, and those who want her dead. In this eleventh installment, Charley is learning to make peace with the fact that she is a goddess with all kinds of power and that her own daughter has been born to save the world from total destruction. But the forces of hell are determined to see Charley banished forever to the darkest corners of another dimension. With the son of Satan himself as her husband and world-rocking lover,maybe Charley can find a way to have her happily ever after after all.

Review: The problem with the Charley Davidson series is that I read them so quickly and then I have to wait in agony for the next installment. In the Eleventh Grave we finally get the whole picture surrounding the upbringing of Reyes and in particular how he got into the hands of the diabolical and abusive Earl Walker. We were given hints about Reyes sprinkled in the past volumes, but getting the whole story was completely satisfying considering the long buildup. We are also getting a clearer picture of the prophesied end of the world and Charley's daughter role. We also learn more about Jehovah and Charley’s past. We have been told by several major characters on Charley's power and importance, but we finally see her at work. She is learning more about her powers and position.
  The frustration between miscommunication and hiding secrets keep plaguing Charley and Reyes. While the secrets do not necessarily break them apart, it is annoying to keep seeing them go through this cycle. The book ends with a horrible cliffhanger that reminds me of Buffy, but it is a cruel wait until we see how it is all resolved in the next book. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, sexual situations which are times graphic, strong violence, and suggestive humor.

If you like this book try: Arcadia Bell series by Jenn Bennett, Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, Black Wings by Christina Henry
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal's Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she's busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when—as the eldest daughter—she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn't lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens—after an accidental run-in with the son of her village's corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family's servant to pay off her own family's debt.
  Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal—especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal's growing awareness of the Khans' nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

Review: Amal lives with her family in a small village in Pakistan. She dreams of becoming a teacher, but as the eldest daughter her education takes a backseat to familial responsibilities after her mother gives birth to another girl and suffers from postpartum depression. Amal longs to catch up to her studies and hopes her mother can recover soon so she can go back to school. When Amal is grazed by a car at the market and the stranger who emerges from it is rude to her, she stands up to him, with dire consequences. The man is Jawad Sahib, the son of the town’s villainous landlord. Enraged at Amal’s disrespect, he demands that Amal’s father pay back his debts, forcing Amal into indentured servitude. As Amal bonds with the other servants and tries to adjust to her new life, she learns more about the Sahib family’s history and gains knowledge that will implicate them in a crime. When she has an opportunity to expose the truth, she takes it.
  Amal Unbound covers a lot ground in its short chapters, focusing particularly with gender roles and class. It is important to note that Amal is not a slave in what we are use to seeing, but nevertheless bound metaphorically. The story is accessible and straightforward with Amal’s emotions, perspective, and strength anchoring the narrative. I wish the author had spent more time talking about the cultural context of the story such as the village structure and the role of the landlord. A lot of the action of the story take place off the page and we are told what happens. The ending though hopeful and uplifting happens too quickly and is unfortunately, not reality. Regardless, Amal is a great role model for younger readers who fight injustice across the globe, often without recognition.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Violence is alluded in the story and hints of inappropriate behavior of men towards girls. Recommended for Grades 5 and up.

If you like this book try: Beneath My Mother's Feet by Amjed Qamar
Rummanah Aasi

Description: In this powerful collection, YA authors answer real letters from teens all over the world about the dark side of love: dating violence, break-ups, cheating, betrayals, and loneliness. This book contains a no-holds-barred, raw outpouring of the wisdom these authors have culled from mining their own hearts for the fiction they write. Their responses are autobiographical, unflinching, and filled with love and hope for the anonymous teen letter writers.

Review: When I picked up Dear Heartbreak I was expecting that the YA authors had written essays on love and relationships in this anthology, but I am pleasantly surprised by the format. Each chapter begins with letters from real teens addressing their insecurities, fears, and vulnerabilities surrounding love and relationships followed by the author's or in one particular case author and her husband. The teenage writers of the letters share their stories—some in great detail, some in only a few words—and the responses are equally varied in terms of how deeply the authors reopen their old wounds. Becky Albertalli, Libba Bray, Corey Ann Haydu, and Kim Liggett reflect back on their teenage experiences, while Kekla Magoon talks about a flaw that he is presently working on herself in order to share wisdom. The authors do not sugar coat their answers and offer empathy to the teens. Topics such as mental health, unhealthy and abusive relations, survivor's of sexual assault, and the universal question of how we can be our authentic self while we are constantly bombarded by societal expectations of how we should live our lives.  Some of the letters get repetitive by the alarming theme of not loving yourself and how you should complete yourself. One downside to this collection is that it only includes a few male perspectives, however, the range of emotional experiences covered is vast.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language throughout the book and frank discussion of sexual assault, mental health, and abusive relationships are included. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios, It Ended Badly by Jennifer Wright
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Now that high school is over, Ari is dying to move to the big city with his ultra-hip band―if he can just persuade his dad to let him quit his job at their struggling family bakery. Though he loved working there as a kid, Ari cannot fathom a life wasting away over rising dough and hot ovens. But while interviewing candidates for his replacement, Ari meets Hector, an easygoing guy who loves baking as much as Ari wants to escape it. As they become closer over batches of bread, love is ready to bloom . . . that is, if Ari doesn’t ruin everything.

Review: Recently graduated from high school Ari dreams of moving to the city with his bad and leaving his work at his family's bakery behind. He knows his dad will need help, though, so he tries to at least find a replacement before he leaves forever. Enter Hector, the adorable cooking-school dropout who’s in town cleaning out his late grandma’s house and is absolutely perfect for the job. Over baking, deliveries, and languorous summer fun, Ari and Hector get closer during the quiet, everyday moments that draw them together. The romance is a slow burn and perfectly paced. When disaster strikes and the future of the bakery is called into question, Ari has to face some hard truths about himself.
  The montages of Ari and Hector are beautiful as Ganucheau’s artwork captures the unspoken intimacy between Hector and Ari as well as the variety of baking techniques of making bread and cakes. You definitely don't want to read this graphic novel when you are hungry. Unfortunately, the character development is lacking in this graphic novel. I wanted to learn more about Ari outside of his interactions with his band and Hector. When he has his epiphany towards the end of the graphic novel, it doesn't particular stick nor is it profound. I also wanted to learn more about Hector. We learn that he is Samoan and that his past relationship did not turn out well, but that's pretty much it. I also wanted to learn more about Ari's band of friends and how his friends shaped Ari's personality and desires. Overall Bloom is a quiet, sweet romance that has a lot of heart and warmth, but it left me wanting more.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, partial nudity, and suggestive humor. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Check, Please by Ngozi Ukazu
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Loveday Cardew prefers books to people. If you look carefully, you might glimpse the first lines of the novels she loves most tattooed on her skin. But there are some things Loveday will never, ever show you. Into her hiding place - the bookstore where she works - come a poet, a lover, and three suspicious deliveries. Someone has found out about her mysterious past. Will Loveday survive her own heartbreaking secrets?

Review: The Lost for Words Bookshop is truly a book for bibliophiles. Loveday Cardew is an anti-social, awkward tattooed 25-year-old bibliophile who works at Lost for Words, a secondhand bookstore in York. Despite her name, Loveday doesn’t much care for people except her boss Archie and her current love interest Nathan who is a slam poet and magician or anything except for books. She’s reserved and painfully sarcastic, and the surrounding characters either exacerbate or find her charming. Switching between the past and present, the chapters are organized by genre—Poetry, History, Crime, Travel, and Memoir—and correspond to the plot (i.e., Poetry chapters center around Nathan). Told from Loveday’s perspective, the casual first-person narration provides a way into the mind of Loveday who is otherwise a closed-off character. As mysterious packages start showing up at Lost for Words, only Loveday knows of their significance and we are hinted of a dark past which shaped her personality. In flashbacks we get to witness how her charmed childhood descends into darkness, one life-altering moment shatters her world—and sense of self—forever. The buildup to and aftermath of this moment feel earned and purposeful.
  I really liked Loveday and felt for her throughout the novel. What is problematic in the book is that it sometimes veers into stereotypes about mental illness by equating it violent behavior (perhaps unintentionally) as Loveday recalls her physically abuse father and her menacing bipolar ex-boyfriend. There are certainly dark moments in the story, but the romance between Loveday and Nathan is sweet and helps elevate the story. I wished we got to see more of Nathan in the story. The ending is hopeful, but there is a lot of serious issues lurking behind the cute book cover and synopsis.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language throughout the novel, instances of physical abuse, and allusions to sex. Recommended for older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Miles is an anxious boy who loves his family's bowling center even if though he could be killed by a bolt of lightning or a wild animal that escaped from the Philadelphia Zoo on the way there.
Amy is the new girl at school who wishes she didn't have to live above her uncle's funeral home and tries to write her way to her own happily-ever-after. Then Miles and Amy meet in the most unexpected way and that's when it all begins.

Review: Gephart returns with another sensitive portrayal of friendship and grief in In Your Shoes, her latest novel. The story is told in two alternating chapters. Amy Silverman's mother has died from cancer, so she and her father move to Pennsylvania, more specifically into her uncle's funeral home, where her dad will work once he finishes his classes in funeral arts. Amy is lonely and grieving. Meanwhile, Miles Spagoski, whose family owns Buckington Bowl, the local bowling alley, is also feeling sorrow, as well as anxiety. He misses his grandmother, who died a year ago, and is worried about his ailing grandfather.
  The tweens meet under unfortunate and awkward circumstances on Amy's first day of school: before Amy even enters the building, Miles's lucky bowling shoe gets tossed in the air and clonks her on the head. Though Amy and Miles are destined to become close, Gephart takes her time in the build up to friendship which is adorable and entertaining. Through Amy and Miles the reader is able to see how different people deal with the death of a loved one and grieve. Amy turns to creative writing as her outlet when life becomes to much to handle whereas Miles bowls. The bowling motif is woven well into the story from the terminology to the very structure of the novel. Unfortunately, intercepting Amy's and Mile's narration is an omniscient narrator which did nothing for me as a reader. The narrator pointed things out that were clearly obvious and took me out of the story. I would have much rather spent more time with Amy and Miles who are endearing main characters, as are their friends, Randall and his weight-lifting, blue-haired crush, Tate. The plot moves at a swift pace with several crises that help move the story along. Ultimately it is the burgeoning relationship between Amy and Miles who need (and find) both help and hope that will capture your heart.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: Death of a parent. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson
Rummanah Aasi

Description: Hey, Kiddo is the graphic memoir of author-illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Raised by his colorful grandparents, who adopted him because his mother was an incarcerated heroin addict, Krosoczka didn't know his father's name until he saw his birth certificate when registering for a school ski trip. Hey, Kiddo traces Krosoczka's search for his father, his difficult interactions with his mother, his day-to-day life with his grandparents, and his path to becoming an artist.

Review: I was first introduced to Krosoczka's work while I attended my first library conference in Chicago a few years ago. I read and reviewed his hilarious Lunch Lady series which is an elementary/middle grade graphic novel series in which the Lunch Lady of the school is an undercover vigilante who saves the day. So when I read the press release for Hey, Kiddo his latest graphic memoir I was taken aback on the subject and maturity of the style and themes, which is not necessarily a bad thing. 
  In a deeply sensitive, candid, vulnerable memoir Krosoczka recalls the triumphs and tragedies he experienced from infancy through his high-school years. He was figuratively left in the dark regarding the identity of his father and his mother's strange behavior and absences. When he was less than five years old, his grandparents took official custody and it was not much later did he learn about his mother’s addiction to heroin, her habitual incarceration, and the swinging door of rehab facilities. Other serious hardships such as verbal abuse, violent crime, and family alcoholism also have a strong impression on Krosoczka’s childhood and adolescence. Though there are heavy themes in the graphic memoir, there are also some lighter moments too such as Krosoczka and his friends try to do their own version of Wayne's World and the author's sense of humor in his art which he initially used to impress his friends but later became his way to survive.
  I really like the addition of Krosoczka’s actual childhood artwork (from early crayon drawings to high-school gag comics) and handwritten letters to and from his mother and others which are seamlessly inserted into the gracefully rendered ink illustrations. This gives the graphic memoir an intimate feel and sets it apart from other graphic memoirs that I have read before. It was also interesting to note that the brush stroke changed just like the emotions the panels try to capture.  The graphic memoir also has a limited palette of gray and orange washes that makes it easy for the reader to know that the story is a memory. What I most appreciated about Hey, Kiddo is that Krosoczka has meticulously crafted an uncompromisingly honest portrayal of addiction, resilient familial love, and the power of art, which was no doubt incredibly hard to do.

Rating: 5 stars

Words of Caution: There is strong language, underage drinking, and allusions to drug abuse. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Stitches by David Small, Blankets by Craig Thompson
Rummanah Aasi
  Every year there are several young adult debut novels that are published. I have picked the top 19 titles that have caught my eye and wanted to share them with you. It was very hard to narrow down my list and I am sure that I will keep adding to this list as the year goes on. Please note that I received the information regarding release dates from Goodreads. I am thrilled that we continue to see diversity in representation and tops in a wide variety of stories and genres. Fingers crossed that these debuts do not disappoint us! I have organized the list according to list dates and will have a link to each title if you would like to add them to your Goodreads shelves. Enjoy!

Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.

Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.

Release Date: Feb 5 | Add to Goodreads

Melati Ahmad looks like your typical movie-going, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother's death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.

A trip to the movies after school turns into a nightmare when the city erupts into violent race riots between the Chinese and the Malay. When gangsters come into the theater and hold movie-goers hostage, Mel, a Malay, is saved by a Chinese woman, but has to leave her best friend behind to die.

On their journey through town, Mel sees for herself the devastation caused by the riots. In her village, a neighbor tells her that her mother, a nurse, was called in to help with the many bodies piling up at the hospital. Mel must survive on her own, with the help of a few kind strangers, until she finds her mother. But the djinnin her mind threatens her ability to cope.

Release Date: Feb 5 | Add to Goodreads

At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband's household or raise his children. Both paths promise a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class.

Daniela Vargas is the school's top student, but her pedigree is a lie. She must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society.

And school couldn't prepare her for the difficult choices she must make after graduation, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio.

Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or will she give up everything she's strives for in pursuit of a free Medio--and a chance at a forbidden love?

Release Date: Feb 26 | Add to Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol's mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a life like Aimee and Amber's, the title characters of her favorite American TV show. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death and stealing across the US border as "an illegal", but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi's, life is also placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn't be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn't have been caught crossing the border.

But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She's asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It's a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.

Release Date: Feb 26 | Add to Goodreads

After Zan's best friend moves to California, she is baffled and crushed when Priya suddenly ghosts. Worse, Priya's social media has turned into a stream of ungrammatical posts chronicling a sunny, vapid new life that doesn't sound like her at all.

Everyone tells Zan not to be an idiot: Let Priya do her reinvention thing and move on. But until Zan hears Priya say it, she won't be able to admit that their friendship is finished.

It's only when she meets Logan, the compelling new guy in Spanish class, that Zan begins to open up about her sadness, her insecurity, her sense of total betrayal. And he's just as willing as she is to throw himself into the investigation when everyone else thinks her suspicions are crazy. Then a clue hidden in Priya's latest selfie introduces a new, deeply disturbing possibility: Maybe Priya isn't just not answering Zan's emails. Maybe she can't.

Release Date: March 5 | Add to Goodreads

Jack Ellison King. King of Almost. He almost made valedictorian. He almost made varsity. He almost got the girl.

When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack. Jack’s curse of almost is finally over.

But this love story is complicated. It is an almost happily ever after. Because Kate dies. And their story should end there. Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Beautiful, radiant Kate. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind. Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do—and let go—to save the people he loves.

Release Date: March 12 | Add to Goodreads

James Mills isn't sure he can forgive his parents for dragging him away from his life, not to mention his best friend and sister, Anna. He's never felt so alone.

Enter Tomas. Falling for Tomas is unexpected, but sometimes the best things in life are.

Then their world splits apart. A war that has been brewing finally bursts forward, filled with violence, pain, and cruelty. James and Tomas can only rely on each other as they decide how far they are willing to go―and who they are willing to become―in order to make it back to their families.

Release Date: April 2 | Add to Goodreads

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death... because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant and alluring investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

Release Date: April 2 | Add to Goodreads

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light.

Release Date: April 2 | Add to Goodreads

Esha lost everything in the royal coup--and as the legendary rebel known as the Viper, she's made the guilty pay. Now she's been tasked with her most important mission to date: taking down the ruthless General Hotha.

Kunal has been a soldier since childhood. His uncle, the general, has ensured that Kunal never strays from the path--even as a part of Kunal longs to join the outside world, which has only been growing more volatile.

When Esha and Kunal's paths cross one fated night, an impossible chain of events unfolds. Both the Viper and the soldier think they're calling the shots, but they're not the only players moving the pieces.

As the bonds that hold their land in order break down and the sins of the past meet the promise of a new future, both the soldier and the rebel must decide where their loyalties lie: with the lives they've killed to hold on to or with the love that's made them dream of something more.

Release Date: April 23 | Add to Goodreads

Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents...sounds ideal -- but Shane's made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance...what's that?

Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time's a ticking, and she needs a change -- there's nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She's going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure!

Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart. Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic - the possibilities are endless.

Release Date: May 7 | Add to Goodreads

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Release Date: May 14 | Add to Goodreads

Fatima lives in the city of Noor, a thriving stop along the Silk Road. There the music of myriad languages fills the air, and people of all faiths weave their lives together. However, the city bears scars of its recent past, when the chaotic tribe of Shayateen djinn slaughtered its entire population -- except for Fatima and two other humans. Now ruled by a new maharajah, Noor is protected from the Shayateen by the Ifrit, djinn of order and reason, and by their commander, Zulfikar.

But when one of the most potent of the Ifrit dies, Fatima is changed in ways she cannot fathom, ways that scare even those who love her. Oud in hand, Fatima is drawn into the intrigues of the maharajah and his sister, the affairs of Zulfikar and the djinn, and the dangers of a magical battlefield.

Release Date: May 14 | Add to Goodreads

Kimi Nakamura loves a good fashion statement. She's obsessed with transforming everyday ephemera into Kimi Originals: bold outfits that make her and her friends feel brave, fabulous, and like the Ultimate versions of themselves. But her mother sees this as a distraction from working on her portfolio paintings for the prestigious fine art academy where she's been accepted for college. So when a surprise letter comes in the mail from Kimi's estranged grandparents, inviting her to Kyoto for spring break, she seizes the opportunity to get away from the disaster of her life.

When she arrives in Japan, she loses herself in Kyoto's outdoor markets, art installations, and cherry blossom festival--and meets Akira, a cute med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot. What begins as a trip to escape her problems quickly becomes a way for Kimi to learn more about the mother she left behind, and to figure out where her own heart lies.
Release Date: May 28 | Add to Goodreads

In the Cyrilian Empire, Affinites are reviled and enslaved. Their varied abilities to control the world around them are unnatural--dangerous. And Anastacya Mikhailov, the crown princess, might be the most monstrous of them all. Her deadly Affinity to blood is her curse and the reason she has lived her life hidden behind palace walls.

But when Ana's father, the emperor, is murdered, her world is shattered: Ana is the one framed as his killer. To save herself, she must flee the safety of the palace and enter a land that hunts her and her kind. And to clear her name, she must find her father's murderer on her own. Yet, what Ana finds is far worse than she ever imagined. A greater conspiracy is at work in Cyrilia, one that threatens the very balance of her world. And there is only one person corrupt enough to help her get to its rotten core: Ramson Quicktongue.

A cunning crime lord of the Cyrilian underworld, Ramson has sinister plans--though he might have met his match in Ana. Because in this story, the princess might be the most dangerous player of all.

Release Date: June 4 | Add to Goodreads

Anne Ellison and Freddie Whitlock were best friends all through middle school, even though they never met in person. But when Anne did something unforgivable to Freddie, their friendship quickly fell apart.

Four years later, Freddie comes to Anne’s town for the summer before she starts college. He’s training to be an Olympic gymnast. Anne knows that Freddie is the boy from her past—but Freddie has no idea. As Anne and Freddie start to spend more time together, Anne can’t help but fall for Freddie.

Can Anne find a way her way into Freddie’s heart—while keeping her identity secret? Or will the lies she’s telling tear their relationship apart?

Release Date: June 18 | Add to Goodreads

When a guy named Martin Nathaniel Munroe II texts you, it should be obvious who you're talking to. Except there's two of them (it's a long story), and Haley thinks she's talking to the one she doesn't hate.

A question about a class project rapidly evolves into an all-consuming conversation. Haley finds that Martin is actually willing to listen to her weird facts and unusual obsessions, and Martin feels like Haley is the first person to really see who he is. Haley and Martin might be too awkward to hang out in real life, but over text, they're becoming addicted to each other.

There's just one problem: Haley doesn't know who Martin is. And Martin doesn't know that Haley doesn't know. But they better figure it out fast before their meet-cute becomes an epic meet-disaster.

Release Date: June 25 | Add to Goodreads

No one in modern-day Seoul believes in the old fables anymore, which makes it the perfect place for Gu Miyoung and her mother to hide in plain sight. Miyoung is a Gumiho, a nine-tailed fox, who must eat the souls of men to survive. She feeds every full moon—eating the souls of men who have committed crimes, but have evaded justice. Her life is upended when she kills a dokkaebi, a murderous goblin, in the forest just to save the life of a human boy. But after Miyoung saves Jihoon's life, the two develop a tenuous friendship that blooms into romance forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon's.

Release Date: June 25 | Add to Goodreads

It's been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty's life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don't dare wander outside the school's fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there's more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
Release Date: July 9 | Add to Goodreads

Related Posts with Thumbnails