Rummanah Aasi

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 You have probably noticed the blog has been pretty quiet in the last few days. I got a new job! I am transitioning to a brand new school district and have been busy with planning and organizing for the new school year which is less than a month away. I'm very excited though a bit nervous. I hope to return to my regular blogging schedule once I am settled which will hopefully be before the first week of September. Thanks for your patience and hope to see you all soon! 
Rummanah Aasi

Description: A. J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who's always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.'s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.
   And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It's a small package, but large in weight. It's that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn't take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.'s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn't see coming.

Review: A.J. Fikry is a curmudgeon and a book snob who owns Island Books on Alice Island, a summer destination off Massachusetts. He lost his wife, Nic, in a car accident and is grieving, trying to numb his pain by drinking until he passes out. Meanwhile Island Books drifts toward bankruptcy. Then, within a span of days, his rare copy of Poe's Tamerlane worth hundreds of thousands of dollars is stolen from his home, and 2-year-old Maya is deposited at his bookstore. Fikry cannot bear to leave the precocious child to the system once it becomes apparent her single mother has drowned herself in the sea. Both of these events dramatically change and reinvigorates his life and his bookstore.
  The next happenstance is the encounter with Amelia Loman, a quirky traveling sales representative for Knightley Press. The two start off on the wrong foot with their separate tastes in 'literature' but Amelia's tenacity and vibrant, gregarious personality draws Fikry to her. Soon a slow burn, cute romance begins.
  Book lovers will find a lot to love about Fikry, particularly his musings on what makes books and reading so pleasurable. Maya is a sweet girl who I would immediately be friends with if I met her in real life and it was a pleasure to see her grow right before our eyes into an intelligent teenager. Lambiase, a local police officer was a nice surprise to see as a reluctant reader who discovers a new passion for reading and learning. While there is really no clear villain in this book, Fikry's brother-in-law, Daniel Parish, a once best-selling author riding out a descending career arc and serves as a clear contrast of our protagonist.
 The plot folds pretty predictably, however the mystery of the stolen Tamerlane book is dropped for majority of the book and pops up suddenly in the last few chapters almost making the incident a moot point since it really did nothing more than spur the change in Fikry's transformation, which I found to be a bit disappointing. Overall The Storied of A.J. Fikry is a quick and enjoyable read with a nice balance of sentimentality, humor, and a touch of bittersweet. I think book lovers and those who love stories about selling books and finding love would find a lot to enjoy here. Don't be surprised to see this book listed for book club titles.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language and a couple of fade to black sex scenes. Recommended for older teens and adults.

If you like this book try: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Shaffer and Annie Barrow or The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Rummanah Aasi
 In the 1940s a superhero named The Green Turtle was created by unknown cartoonist named Chu Hing. The Green Turtle didn't have notable superpowers but he seemed to be able to avoid bullets. He was an superhero, defending China in the World War II against the invading Japanese army. The story goes that Hing wanted his superhero to be Chinese but the publisher didn't agree and asked him to make his character white. Seemingly Hing was not happy about it which might explain why Green Turtle's face is never to been seen in original works, always covered with something; mask, his own arm, weapons etc. 
  Unfortunately, Green Turtle never made it in the market which left the legacy containing only few volumes of the superhero adventures. However, there remained unanswered questions about the Green Turtle: why and how did he become a superhero? Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew recreate the origin story of the Green Turtle in The Shadow Hero. Many thanks to First Second and Netgalley for allowing me to read an advanced reader's copy of the book.

Description: In this origin story for the classic comic book hero the Green Turtle, Hank, the nineteen-year-old son of Chinese immigrants, resists his mother's attempts to make him a superhero at first, but when tragedy strikes he assumes the role of a caped crusader. Aided by one of the four spirits of Chinese mythology, Hank becomes the Green Turtle and sets out to rid Chinatown of the gangsters who have intimidated everyone for years and murdered his father.

Review: The Shadow Hero is a creative take on the superhero genre. Instead of a science experiment gone wrong which leads to incredible powers, we are given elements of magic, Chinese history, and mythology. Yang and Liew tackle and create the origin story of a lesser known superhero named the Green Turtle. In this graphic novel The Green Turtle is cast as an unlikely 19-year-old young man, Hank, the son of Chinese immigrants who own a grocery store in 1940s America. When his mother is rescued by a superhero, the loving but overbearing woman decides that it's Hank's fate to become a hero himself, and she does everything in her power to push her son in that direction. Though Hank initially shies away from assuming the role of caped crusader, when tragedy strikes, he's eventually inspired to call himself the Green Turtle, and fight back against gangsters who have been intimidating his family and many others in Chinatown.
  The action packed illustrations have a nostalgic feel to them and sets up the gritty/hard boiled setting of Chinatown. The text plays expertly with cliches and stereotypes about Chinese culture without ever becoming heavy-handed or obvious and actually gave the graphic novel some depth. I really liked the inclusion of the immigrant experience along with learning new things about the Chinese mythology such as the four spirits of China, one of whom allies himself with Hank's father and then aides Hank in help fighting the bad guys. The Shadow Hero is an enjoyable read and perfect for those to pick up while they wait for their favorite superhero movie to hit the movie screens.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some minor language and some violence. Recommended for Grades 8 and up.

If you like this book try: Secret identities: the Asian American superhero anthology edited by Jeff Yang
Rummanah Aasi
 If you know of any young readers who need some adventure, action, and humor in their summer reading schedule, be sure to hand them Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand. I found the book to be a quick, fast, and enjoyable read and I look forward to reading more by the author. Many thanks to Sourcebooks and Netgalley for allowing me to read an advanced reader's copy of the book.

Description: Dorrie Barnes had no idea an overdue library book would change her life. When Dorrie and her brother Marcus chase her pet mongoose into the janitor's closet of their local library, they accidentally fall through a passage into Petrarch's Library -the headquarters of a secret society of ninja librarians who have an important mission: protect those whose words have gotten them into trouble. Anywhere in the world and at any time in history.
   Dorrie would love nothing more than to join the society. But when a traitor surfaces, she and her friends are the prime suspects. Can they clear their names before the only passage back to the twenty-first century closes forever?

Review: Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand reminded me a lot of the Indiana Jones movies except it features librarians and a really cool library. Dorrie and her brother Marcus literally drop into a strange new world when they crash through the floor of their New Jersey public library and into a library that transcends space and time. The siblings discover they have landed in Petrarch's Library, a web of libraries from different places and times, with doorways to ancient Greece and to their modern-day hometown of Passaic, New Jersey. At the Petrarch Library, "lybrarians" train to become agents, or "ninja librarians" as Marcus calls them, who go on missions to rescue imperiled writers, including Socrates. Dorrie and Marcus use their temporary stay in Petrarch's Library to become apprentices, learning swordplay from Cyrano de Bergerac and the deceptive arts from Casanova. I love how the author uses both historical and literary figures in the story. Those familiar with Cyrano and Socrates will understand the hints dropped within the plot while others will be intrigued to learn to find out more. I also really appreciate the author giving younger readers an inside look at the daily duties of a librarian which include reference, research, and cataloging amongst other things. The "lybrarians" aren't your caricature figures who shush you constantly, but rather people you want to hang out with and learn from them. 
  As Dorrie and Marcus attempt to return an accidentally stolen document to the archives, they uncover other secrets and mysteries. The lead-up to the kids' discovery of Petrarch's Library is a bit slow, but it allows you to get a better sense of the characters, but once Dorrie and Marcus are in the Library, the melding of fantasy, adventure, and history is enlightening and the story takes off. Dorrie is a smart, observant, wannabe sword fighter, who is struggling to build her self confidence. Marcus is an adorable and typical teenage brother: a mix of hormones, sarcasm, and obsessed with Star Wars, but he does genuinely care for his younger sister. I really like watching the sister and brother duo work together. I don't think you can have too many good sibling relationships that are in books. The Library is a vivid, well-drawn world that you wish would really exist in real life so you can visit. There is also a large supporting cast of characters that have distinct personalities and their special talents and knowledge seem natural. This book does have a feel for a series beginner, and I hope we get to see more of Petrarch's Library and more of Dorrie and Marcus.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 4-6.

If you like this book try: The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein,
Rummanah Aasi
In an inspired collaboration, Kiersten White, an author of urban fantasies and paranormal, pairs up with artist Jim Di Bartolo to create a dark, moody, and mysterious hybrid novel. While it is certainly exciting to see authors experiment with the novel form, In the Shadows still feels unfinished and much left to be desired. Please note that this review is based on the advanced reader's copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

Description: Cora and Minnie are sisters living in a small, stifling town where strange and mysterious things occur. Their mother runs the local boarding house. Their father is gone. The woman up the hill may or may not be a witch.
   Thomas and Charles are brothers who’ve been exiled to the boarding house so Thomas can tame his ways and Charles can fight an illness that is killing him with increasing speed. Their family history is one of sorrow and guilt. They think they can escape from it . . . but they can’t.

Review: In the Shadows consists of two alternating narratives, one in prose and one in vividly colored, sometimes horrific wordless graphic novel panels. It isn't immediately apparent if or how the two narrative threads are related. As a reader, I kept turning the pages to see how these two narratives collide and I had many theories running through my mind as I read.
  The written narrative story is about two sisters, Cora and Minnie, who live with their mother in a boardinghouse in Maine. After spying on the town witch and getting caught, Cora blames herself for the death of her father the next day. When a mysterious stranger, Arthur, comes to board, along with two brothers from New York, Minnie involves them in the folklore of their sleepy Maine resort town, only to discover that they are in an evil place, surrounded by watchers, and in more danger than she could have ever thought possible. While the characters have distinct personalities, we only get brief sketches of their lives and I wanted to know more about them, particularly with the character of Arthur who drives the mystery and seems to know the answers but refuses to share them with any of the other characters and even the reader. Like the characters there are subtle romances that run throughout the story, however, I was never convinced of any of them since the characters were underdeveloped.
  For most of this slow moving story, you are wondering what exactly is going on. Though the illustrations are stunning and in color, I felt they were included in the narrative at the wrong time since the events in the graphic panels take readers across the globe and spans from the turn of the 20th century to the present, which is distracting because the written narrative story is only happening in one time period which is the late 1800s. As a result the graphic panels are more distracting, which is what I'm sure what the creators had no intention of doing.
  Though we finally do get some answers to the mystery we were introduced in the novel, I had many more unanswered questions such as how and why did the secret society start in the first place? Why did Arthur and his family only know of the secret society? Overall In the Shadows is an ambitious attempt at creating a hybrid novel, a combination of written and wordless illustrations to tell a story, but unfortunately it feels more like a rough draft storyboard rather than a novel.

Rating: 3 stars

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

If you like this book try: Balefire by Cate Tiernan, Prophecy of Sisters by Michelle Zink
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