Rummanah Aasi
 Unlike many readers I did not fall in love with Water for Elephants, but I did like Sara Gruen's writing style and wanted to give her latest book, At the Water's Edge, a shot. Her latest book's premise sounds promising and it gave me a Downton Abbey vibe set in Scotland.


Description: After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind. To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants.

Review: Maddie, her husband Ellis, and their very close friend Hank live a luxurious life filled with parties and leisure, safe in their own bumble while World War II is raging on. Hank and Ellis are  exempt from the battle due to one of the men being colorblind and other being "flat-footed," which I never heard of before I read this book. After disgracing their aristocratic family by being overly drunk at a social event, all three characters are exiled to Scotland to find the Loch Ness Monster to restore their honor.
  Readers interested in the actual search for Loch Ness Monster will be disappointed as this aspect of the story becomes more of a plot device that boils up when it is convenient for the plot, but otherwise simmers noiselessly in the background. Much more of the story is dedicated to Maddie's self awakening and the relationships between her and Ellis, Hank, and the people they meet at the inn they stay at in Scotland who are, in my opinion, the stars of the book. Personally, I preferred watching Maddie grow from a spoiled, self centered, one dimensional woman to a three dimensional person who found her voice and grew a backbone much more than the search for the Loch Ness Monster. Her journey is well done and believable for the most part, but it is uneven when it comes to the other subplot of the story. 

  In addition to Maddie bursting out of her own bubble, we are also introduced to the lives of the Scottish residents who also face a variety of domestic tragedy such as  death and divorce. The women of the story come alive and have a strong presence, but I wished the male characters were just as nuanced. For example, Maddie's husband, Ellis, is a cad and doesn't have any additional layers to his characters while their friend Hank is an overt philander. Some of Scottish men we meet aren't any better. 
  The story veers off a few times on the melodramatic with Maddie fainting a few times and the ending that is solved too conveniently and in part takes away the strength of Maddie's journey. There are a few times where Gruen info dumps wartime statistics for paragraphs at a time that aren't particularly relevant to the specific story she's telling. Overall I would recommend At Water's Edge if you are looking for a historical beach read or a lazy Sunday read.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, domestic violence, and small sexual situations. Recommended for mature teens and adults.

If you like this book try: Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam, The Last Time I Saw Paris by Lynn Sheene
Rummanah Aasi


Description: Scarlet’s true identity has been revealed, but her future is uncertain. Her forced marriage to Lord Gisbourne threatens Robin and Scarlet’s love, and as the royal court descends upon Nottingham for the appointment of a new Sheriff, the people of Nottingham hope that Prince John will appoint their beloved Robin Hood. But Prince John has different plans for Nottingham that revolve around a fateful secret from Scarlet’s past even she isn’t yet aware of. Forced to participate at court alongside her ruthless husband, Scarlet must bide her time and act the part of a noblewoman—a worthy sacrifice if it means helping Robin’s cause and a chance at a future with the man she loves.

Review: Lady Thief rises above the dreaded middle book syndrome providing plenty of action, surprises, and more swoon inducing romance for its readers. Scarlet faces a new challenge in returning to her aristocratic title of a lady and as Gisbourne's wife, in order to obtain an annulment and marry Robin Hood, her true love. Rob rightly fears for her life, but Scar is adamant that the end will justify the means though she knows it will not be easy. Much to our liking, Scarlet does not abandon her own ways of being independent and strong when she becomes a lady. She defies Gisbourne's every request to be a demur wife while continuing to aid the commoners and still keeps her slang and improper grammar when she speaks. Her adventures as a "lady thief" are brought to a halt, however, when she learns the shocking truth of her birth and as a result becomes the victim of Prince John's brutality. There were a lot of moments where I did not see the plot twists coming. I shouted in horror at the injustices that Scarlet and the towns people faced. I was not expecting this sequel to be dark and gritty, but it made the story more realistic for its time period. I also really enjoyed the seamless blending of both a feminist retelling of Robin Hood along with the historical context of the Crusades.The book does end in a cliffhanger and I'm glad that I waited to read it close to the release of Lion Heart, the final book in the Scarlet series.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong violence, crude humor, minor language, and attempted rape. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Lion Heart by A.G. Gaughen, His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers, Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund


Description: Imprisoned by Prince John for months, Scarlet finds herself a long way from Nottinghamshire. After a daring escape from the Prince's clutches, she learns that King Richard’s life is in jeopardy, and Eleanor of Aquitaine demands a service Scarlet can’t refuse: spy for her and help bring Richard home safe. But fate—and her heart—won’t allow her to stay away from Nottinghamshire for long, and together, Scarlet and Rob must stop Prince John from going through with his dark plans for England. They can not rest until he’s stopped, but will their love be enough to save them once and for all?

Review: In this finale to the Scarlet trilogy, Scarlet is imprisoned for months by the ruthless Prince John. She dares to escape, only to learn that King Richard's life is in jeopardy. Eleanor of Aquitaine asks her to serve as her knife-wielding spy in order to bring King Richard home safely, but Scarlet is given a new title and responsibility as the Lady Huntingdon. Scarlet must now face her fate and decide how she wants to live regardless of the expectations placed up on her shoulders by her society. She must also reunite with her true love, Robin Hood. As with the previous books in this series, the finale is replete with action, suspense, court intriguing, and romance to continually engage its readers. There were a few slow moments that dragged the plot just a bit. Scarlet once again emerges as a complex, well-developed protagonist who can carry the entire series on her shoulders, while supporting characters such as Rob, Eleanor, and Prince John are quite well-rounded secondary characters. While I would have liked to see a harsher sentence for Prince John, I can understand how the author wanted to keep her story as close to the historical facts. I was also happy to see a happy ending for Scarlet and Rob. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with these characters and I am sad to see them go.


Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong violence, crude humor, minor language, and attempted rape. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Maids of Honor series by Jennifer McGowan, Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
Rummanah Aasi
 Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples is not the typical graphic novel that I tend to drift to, but I picked it up after reading several starred reviews. Saga is a hard to describe. I guess the best way to wrap your head around it is picturing a hybrid of Star Wars meets Romeo and Juliet with a lot of bizarre creatures and worlds.

Description: Saga is sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the universe. Thanks to her star-crossed parents Marko and Alana, newborn baby Hazel has already survived lethal assassins, rampaging armies, and horrific monsters, but in the cold vastness of outer space, the little girl encounters her strangest adventure yet... grandparents.

Review: Hazel, the newborn daughter of Marko and Alana, continues to narrate the story of her parents from an unknown point in the future. Marko and Alana, both soldiers from two warring alien races, have a forbidden romance that gives Romeo and Juliet a run for their money. On the run as fugitives from their respective races, they continue to search the universe for a safe place to live, love, and raise Hazel. Their mission is much easier said than done as bounty hunters continue to plague them and, worst of all, the sudden appearance of ex-flames (an enraged Gwendolyn, Marko's one time fiancée) and in-laws (Marko's parents seek out their wayward child at the worst possible of times, complicating his escape with Alana).
 This volume provides back stories on several significant characters, including how Marko and Alana met, as well as the history of the relationship between The Will and The Stalk, the star-crossed (and antithesis to Marko and Alana's relationship) bounty hunters hot on their trail. The stakes are raised higher with more mature content with sex and violence. The relationships are also established with maturity, being real without being romanticized. Despite the over-the-top worlds that Vaughan has created, the reason I keep coming back to this series is the human touch that is expressed with the beautiful artwork of illustrator Fiona Staples as well as incorporating universal human themes such as family and love that gives this otherwise cartoonish graphic novel substance and staying power. 
Words of Caution: There is strong language, violence, and sexual content including nudity. Recommended for adults only.

If you like this book try: Saga Vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Alex + Aida Vol 1 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughan
Rummanah Aasi
  Rules for Riders is a young adult romance novel by Natalie Scott. It is a fast paced coming-of-age story set in the competitive world of equestrian riding. Today I have an excerpt from the book. If you are interested in wanting to read more, enter the giveaway below!

KING
CHAPTER 1


I can still remember the first time I saw him...


He’s seventeen hands high, a dark bay, almost black, a white star on his forehead, and two white socks on his hind legs. I’m fifteen years old when I spy King bucking and rearing and giving the grooms a terrible time. I think he’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.


I point straight at him, “I want that horse.”


My father (otherwise known as the Colonel) rolls his eyes. “No, he’s wild. You just want him because he’s difficult like you.”


We’re at our neighbors, the O’Rileys, on a crisp Sunday morning. Jim O’Riley owns Starlight stables and is one of the best horse trainers in Connecticut. Jim winks at me. “For God’s sake, Colonel, everyone knows you made a ton of money in the stock market. Let her have the damn horse.”


“I said no,” shrieks the Colonel, remaining unconvinced. “Besides, who’ll train her?”


“I will,” Billy O’Riley, Jim’s oldest son, steps forward. His clear green eyes stare straight at King. “He’s a warm blood, sir, from Holland. We just bought him.”


The Colonel growls at Billy. “Listen son, I don’t care if he’s from friggin’ Japan! For God’s sake you’re only a couple of years older than my daughter.”


We all stand there watching, while his face turns bright red with rage. There’s no way in hell he's going to let me have this horse now. That would be too perfect. Instead, he shocks the pants off of me!


“Fine, but if you break your neck, don’t blame me.”


First thing the next morning I race over to the O’Rileys. By the time I reach the stables, I’m out of breath. Billy’s busy brushing down his horse, Stargazer. I walk over to King and stroke his mane. Then I pull a sugar cube out of my pocket. “Hey, boy.”


Billy looks up. “That’s funny, he doesn’t usually take to people so quickly. So let me guess, you want to take a ride?”


God, I’ve been riding since I was six! Okay, I admit it— Billy’s a hottie. I’ve had a crush on him forever. But it makes me crazy the way he still treats me like a little kid. He leans closer and places his hands firmly on his hips.


“Bebe, if I’m going to train you, there are rules for riders. The first one’s commitment. Without it, none of the other rules exist. If I agree to train you, you’ve got to give me 100 percent.”


I stare right back at him, giving him my best killer smile. “I’m all yours!”


For the next few weeks, he insists I do nothing but flat work. He hardly lets me ride across the yard without making sure I am doing it properly. Unlike the Colonel, Billy brings out the best in me and plays down the worst. Whatever I lack, he teaches me with infinite slowness; guiding King and I so we both gain confidence.


“That’s right. Keep your back straight, hold your head up, shoulders back.”


I learn from Billy that difficult horses become easy once you know how to handle them. With Billy’s training, I’m right on course. The Colonel’s threats don’t scare me. Instead, they fuel me, making me even more determined to succeed.


A few days later, I get to the stables early for some quiet time with King. Billy sneaks up behind me. I can feel his breath against my neck.


When I turn around, he has an amused look on his face. “So, do you finally want to take a ride? Isn’t that what you’ve been dying to do—jump every fence this side of Connecticut?”


I have this wild urge to hug him. Instead, I saddle up King. “C’mon, boy.”


King and I take off.


“Tell me what you’ve learned when you get back!” Billy shouts.


After a near fatal riding accident, Bebe Barkley is banned from riding and sent off to boarding school. Finn Foxley, her roommate and partner in crime, devise a plan to get themselves kicked out of school, in order to return to the world they love. 
Once back on the Equestrian circuit, best friends will become deadly rivals! Enter Billy O'Reilly, Bebe's handsome trainer, who will enforce 7 Rules that will turn Bebe's world up upside down forever.







GIVEAWAY

 Thanks to the publisher I have one (1) kindle edition of Rules for Riders to giveaway. To enter please leave your name and email address so I can contact you. This giveaway is open internationally. You do not have to be a follower of my blog to enter the giveaway, but it is much appreciated. This giveaway will run until August 7, 2015. The winner will be randomly chosen. Good Luck!
Rummanah Aasi
 The Dresden Files is a fun, long running, urban fantasy series set in Chicago. It is a great series for those who are fans of the paranormal and mystery as Harry is a wizard and a private investigator. You can still watch the short lived television show to get a feel if this series is right for you. 

Description: Ever since his girlfriend left town to deal with a life shattering change, Harry Dresden has been down and out in Chicago. He can't pay his rent. He's alienating his friends. He can't even recall the last time he took a shower. The only professional wizard in the phone book has become a desperate man.
 And just when it seems things can't get any worse, in saunters the Winter Queen of Faerie. She has an offer Harry can't refuse if he wants to free himself of the supernatural hold his faerie godmother has over him--and hopefully end his run of bad luck. All he has to do is find out who murdered the Summer Queen's right-hand man, the Summer Knight, and clear the Winter Queen's name. It seems simple enough, but Harry knows better than to get caught in the middle of faerie politics. Until he finds out that the fate of the entire world rests on his solving this case. No pressure or anything.


Review: The Dresden Files is a series that I have on the back burner and savor when I need an urban fantasy fix without any cliffhangers. Each book gets better and better as Butcher sharpens his writing. The world building is great and vast as Butcher incorporates the classic folklore of vampires, shape shifters, fae, etc. along with adding new concepts. Chicago comes alive and a character in of itself quite nicely.
  Like the world building, the characters are also the backbone of this series. Harry reminds me of the classic noir detective who is always down on his luck, has a gravely voice, and full of deadpan, self deprecating humor. He may be blunt and he isn't shy to take note, appreciate an attractive female. In the Summer Knight, Harry has had better days and suffering from depression. His serious girlfriend has taken off and doesn't anything to do with him. He has a mile long of a list of people who want to assassinate him. He may have started a war between the Red Court of Vampires and the White Council of Wizards. He is also on the verge of being kicked out of the wizard council. And this all happened in the first three books! Things really get desperate when Harry accepts a job from Queen Mab.
 We learn quite a bit of the fae in this book. Alluring, dangerous, and very cunning, Queen Mab is just how I pictured her. She definitely stood out in this book and gave me the chills. I'm sure we will see her again later in this series. It was fun watching Harry keeping himself in check as he gets caught in the web of fae politics. The mystery of surrounding who murdered the Summer Knight is nicely structured. There are plenty of red herrings sprinkled and there were a few twists that I didn't see coming throughout the book. The mystery is solved in the end without any cliffhangers. It was also really nice to see favorite secondary characters such as Murphy, Bob the skull, Toot the fairy, and the shapeshifters have some page time. 

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: Death Masks (Dresden Files #5), Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, Nightlife by Rob Thurman
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