Rummanah Aasi

Description: In a magic kingdom where your name is your destiny, 12-year-old Rump is the butt of everyone's joke. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. Rump discovers he has a gift for spinning straw into gold. His best friend, Red Riding Hood, warns him that magic is dangerous, and she’s right. With each thread he spins, he weaves himself deeper into a curse.
   To break the spell, Rump must go on a perilous quest, fighting off pixies, trolls, poison apples, and a wickedly foolish queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—he just might triumph in the end.
Review: I really enjoyed reading this different take on the Rumpelstiltskin tale. The author nicely subverts the classic tale and makes Rumpelstiltskin the hero and not the villain. In The Kingdom, one's name is full of meaning and power, and young Rump is sure that his is incomplete. Just before his mother died in childbirth, she only managed to utter, "His name is Rump.." And so Rump grows up and lives with his grandmother, mining the mountain for specks of gold for their greedy king and suffering ridicule for his name. Shurtliff's world-building is inventive and immediately believable with the inclusion of gnomes rush about delivering messages they have somewhat memorized, gold-craving pixies that fly and bite, and wise witches live in the woods, as does a band of huge intimidatingly smelly, but friendly trolls. All the elements of the original story and key characters such as the greedy miller and his dimwitted daughter, and Rump's magical ability to spin straw into gold, however, the story really shines when Shurtliff fleshes out the Rump's character making him into an appealing hero and a boy who is coping with the curse of his magical skills while searching for his true name and destiny. This captivating fantasy has action, emotional depth, and lots of humor which will appeal to wide range of readers.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 3 and up.

If you like this book try: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom series by Christopher Healey, Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley




Description: Marvin lives with his family under the kitchen sink in the Pompadays’ apartment. He is very much a beetle. James Pompaday lives with his family in New York City. He is very much an eleven-year-old boy.After James gets a pen-and-ink set for his birthday, Marvin surprises him by creating an elaborate miniature drawing. James gets all the credit for the picture and before these unlikely friends know it they are caught up in a staged art heist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that could help recover a famous drawing by Albrecht Dürer. But James can’t go through with the plan without Marvin’s help. And that’s where things get really complicated (and interesting!). 

Review: Masterpiece is an enjoyable mystery that involves two very different families that inhabit the same Manhattan apartment: the Pompadays--a superficial, materialistic couple, their infant son and thoughtful James, from the wife's previous marriage--and a family of beetles, who live behind the kitchen sink and watch sympathetically as James is constantly brushed off by his parents and his good deeds go unappreciated. Careful though the beetles are to stay hidden, boy beetle Marvin crosses the line, tempted by a pen-and-ink set James receives for his 11th birthday by his artist dad. To everyone's surprise Marvin draws an intricate picture and then identifies himself to a delighted James as the artist. Before James can hide Marvin's picture, Mrs. Pompaday loudly proclaims her son's talent and even James's laid-back artist dad compares the work with the famous drawings of Albrecht Dürer. A trip to a Dürer exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art soon follows, James stowing Marvin in a pocket; before long a curator is asking James to forge a Dürer miniature of Fortitude as part of an elaborate plan to catch an art thief. Broach poses important questions to her young readers. How far will go you go to protect a friend even if what you are doing is technically wrong? Is copying a famous drawing right if your intention is to catch an art thief? Masterpiece is fast-moving story with lots of important themes such as hidden lives and secret friendships, and even philosophy and appreciation of art pokes through, but never at the expense of plot. I think this book will be enjoyed by readers who enjoy mysteries and art. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 3 and up.

If you like this book try: Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett, The Borrowers by Mary Norton, The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
Rummanah Aasi
   Sorry for the lack of reviews these past few days. I'm afraid the craziness of the end of the school year has gotten the better of me. The books below have been given to me as advanced reader's copy by the publisher via Netgalley and are now published.


Description: Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town… until River West comes along. River rents the guest house behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more?
   Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery... who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.

Review: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is an unusual gothic paranormal romance that didn't quite make sense to me. While I liked the paranormal concept of the book, I wasn't entirely too clear on the author's explanation. It is quite possible that was done on purpose by the author since River is completely unreliable and we have no idea how his powers came to be. He seems to be a cross of a supernatural vigilante and a demon. Though described to be a looker, I didn't find River swoon worthy at all and didn't see why Violet was so drawn to him. Considering the book has the word 'devil' in its title, I thought this book would have lots of things happening, but for the most part it is quiet. There are moments of horror that happen unexpectedly without any build up that worked really well with the creep factor, but I did not anticipate these moments to be bloody in detail. The book does not end in a cliffhanger and we are given some answers to River's past, but the author does present more questions. I'm just not interested enough to pick up the second book in this series. Overall I would recommend it to readers who are looking for a book with just a hint of creepiness and gore without being a full out horror novel.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some underage drinking, intense make-out scenes, and moments of bloody violence. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Between the Spark and the Burn by April Genevieve Tucholke, Anna Dressed in Blood duology by Kendare Blake, Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff



Description: Ella and Maddy Lawton are identical twins. Ella has spent her high school years living in popular Maddy's shadows, but she has never been envious of Maddy. In fact, she's chosen the quiet, safe confines of her sketchbook over the constant battle for attention that has defined Maddy's world.
 When—after a heated argument—Maddy and Ella get into a tragic accident that leaves her sister dead, Ella wakes up in the hospital surrounded by loved ones who believe she is Maddy. Feeling responsible for Maddy's death and everyone's grief, Ella makes a split-second decision to pretend to be Maddy. Soon, Ella realizes that Maddy's life was full of secrets. Caught in a web of lies, Ella is faced with two options—confess her deception or live her sister's life.

Review: The Secrets We Keep was a disappointing read, but it had potential. The plot reminds me of a sub par tv movie. After a car accident, Ella is not certain who she is when she wakes up and assumes she is Maddy, especially when Maddy's boyfriend, Alex, is at her side. I liked the idea of Ella believing she is Maddy due to her memory loss, but I didn't like the fact that she quickly realized the truth and purposefully continues to be her sister. I understood she felt guilty causing the accident, but I didn't fit it believable. I also found it very hard to believe that Ella's parents wouldn't be able to tell their twin daughters apart. 
  Ella's effort to become Maddy is filled with melodramatic flair with a lot more emphasis of telling rather than showing, which also hindered the character development of the twin sisters. We only know about the sisters superficially by how they are described by their friends. The short chapters, however, allowed the suspense and mystery to build about a school scandal in which Maddy played a key part in and it is what held my attention. There is also a budding romance which I wished had gotten more of page time because it was one of the strongest part of the book. Overall Secrets We Keep is a forgettable read that requires suspension of disbelief and a lot of patience in dealing with melodrama.  

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is underage drinking, allusions to sex, and some language. Recommended for Grade 8 and up.

If you like this book try: All We Know of Heaven by Jacqueline Mitchard, After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, and Flew Away by Joyce Carol Oates



Description: Earth. Fire. Air. Water. One misstep and they lose it all. For the last time.

Michael Merrick understands pressure. He's the only parent his three brothers have had for years. His power to control Earth could kill someone if he miscalculates. Now an Elemental Guide has it in for his family, and he's all that stands in the way.
 His girlfriend, Hannah, understands pressure too. She's got a child of her own, and a job as a firefighter that could put her life in danger at any moment. But there are people who have had enough of Michael's defiance, his family's 'bad luck'. Before he knows it, Michael's enemies have turned into the Merricks' enemies, and they're armed for war. They're not interested in surrender. But Michael isn't the white flag type anyway. Everything is set for the final showdown. Four elements, one family. Will they hold together, or be torn apart?


Review: I really enjoyed Sacrifice.  The highlight of this book, really in this entire series, are the relationships between the Merrick brothers. Throughout the Elemental series Michael has always been supporting his brothers and trying his very best to fill the shoes in for their dead parents. It was nice to see Michael become the vulnerable, adult who doesn't have all the answers. He struggled throughout the book to let his vulnerability show whether it is being honest with his siblings or his girlfriend Hannah. In this case he faces the possibility of not only losing guardianship over his brothers but also their lives after several near death misses caused by an Elemental Guide that is stalking the Merrick brothers. There were many emotional scenes that ripped my heart out and were done very well, displaying how much these brothers have gone through and what they mean to each other. There was plenty of action to keep the story moving and I was a bit disappointed that the identity of the Elemental Guide wasn't as developed in the previous books. While the romance between Michael and Hannah were not a big part of the story, I did appreciate learning more about them as a couple in particular the own personal demons that haunt Hannah that she doesn't share with Michael. We are introduced to a few new characters and though the book ends without a cliffhanger, it feels unfinished and left open for further story developments in the future, which I truly hope is pursued in the future. I'm not ready to say goodbye to the Merrick brothers just yet.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some intense action scenes and language. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Chronicles of Nick series by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Intertwined series by Gena Showalter
Rummanah Aasi
 I haven't done a Manga Mondays in a while. Manga Mondays is a meme hosted by Alison at Alison Can Read where bloggers can share their passion for reading mangas. It's a great place to get new manga titles to try and to meet new bloggers. I actually haven't been in the manga reading mood lately, but I hope to change that soon.


Description: Cross Academy is attended by two groups of students: the Day Class and the Night Class. At twilight, when the students of the Day Class return to their dorm, they cross paths with the Night Class on their way to school. Yuki Cross and Zero Kiryu are the Guardians of the school, protecting the Day Class from the Academy's dark secret: the Night Class is full of vampires!
  Kaname vows to sacrifice himself. Yuki vows to sacrifice herself to stop him. Zero takes a weapon in hand to protect what is dear to him. Whether parted for eternity or close enough to touch, they each will always desire their beloved.

Review: Volume 19 is the last book in the Vampire Knight manga series. There is a lot happening in this volume that I had to reread it twice in order to wrap my head around the shocking revelations. In the end I had mixed feelings about the book and the series as a whole, mainly because it went in a direction that I didn't agree with.
  Volume 18 has left our three main players going their separate ways. Kaname is done with being a pureblood vampire. Sick of what has become of his race, he has made a decision and is hell bent on sacrificing himself and allowing the vampires to be exterminated for good. He reveals his master plan and acknowledges that he was the one that set Zero's tragedy in motion leading up to this end, which shocks not only Yuki but also me as a reader. I've never liked Kaname though he had some few moments, but I never trusted his motivations and disliked him because of his cruelty.
  When Yuki hears of Kaname's suicide plan, she vows that she will stop at nothing to save him even if it will cost her own life. Yuki and Kaname have had a very weird relationship, hovering between sibling fealty and love and romantic love. I was never shipping for them, but I do understand why she feels responsible towards Kaname. Of course where there is Yuki, there is Zero who keeps getting flashes of his memory that Yuki tried to erase in the previous volumes and goes after her to save her life.
  The pacing of Volume 19 was off balance. The first half moved at a leisurely pace, allowing Kaname to unburden himself and come clean. The second half of the book, particularly the ending, is put on fast forward as we get one large revelations after the other without getting any time to process them. The solution to the love triangle is a cop-out in my opinion and doesn't really work. The alleged character growth of Kaname feels a bit forced and I honestly can't buy Zero's reactions after learning what Kaname did to his family. There is a epilogue that is a bit jumbled and it needs a few rereads to figure what happened in the future.
  Overall I enjoyed Vampire Knight as a manga series. Like any other series there are volumes that were really good and others that were a bit meh. I just wished that it ended on a strong note and not a weak one. I would recommend this series to readers who enjoy paranormal romances.  

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is a small sex scene, but not graphic. There is also strong violence. Recommended for teens and up.

If you like this book try: Millennium Snow series by Bisco Hatori, Black Bird series by 
Rummanah Aasi
  I loved reading mysteries as a younger reader. I burned through all of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys titles I could find at my school and public libraries. I went on to reading Sherlock Holmes shortly then and became a big fan. I'm glad there are Sherlockian reads for younger readers and now for teens.

Description: Xena and Xander Holmes have just discovered they’re related to Sherlock Holmes and have inherited his unsolved casebook! The siblings set out to solve the cases their famous ancestor couldn’t, starting with the mystery of a prized painting that vanished more than a hundred years ago. Can two smart twenty-first-century kids succeed where Sherlock Holmes could not?

Review: The 100 Year Old Secret is a fun mystery and a very quick read. Two American children, Xena Holmes and her brother, Xander have just arrived in London and are settling in their new homes. They find out that they are the great-great-great-grandchildren of the great Sherlock Holmes. They inherit his notebook of unsolved cases, and it turns out they've also inherited his sleuthing talent. And Watson's great-great-great-grandson, Andrew Watson also plays an important part in solving the case they're working on, which involves the whereabouts of a valuable painting that went missing more than 100 years ago.
  As fan of Sherlock Holmes, it was fun seeing how all the Sherlockian lore was throughout the story. There were lots of nods to the great detective without being overly obvious and I'm sure it would inspire younger readers to actually venture out and seek the original Sherlock stories on their own. The character were lively and I liked how the siblings worked together, bouncing ideas off one another and using their strengths to solve the mystery while also bantering and squabbling like siblings are known to do with one another. In addition to the action and great characters, there were plenty of humor as Xena and Xander learn the differences between British and American English (e.g., "biscuits" for "cookies," "football" for "soccer"). I would definitely recommend this series for any younger reader who is a mystery fan who has read all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries out there as well as fans of Sherlock Holmes. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for strong Grade 3 readers and up.

If you like this book try: The Beast of Blackslope by Tracy Barrett (Sherlock Files #2),  The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas by Tracy Mack
Rummanah Aasi
 After reading a series of tough and dark reads, I needed a break and wanted to pick up a fun read. Though All Fall Down by Ally Carter has some serious aspects, there is plenty of action that kicks off this new, entertaining, and promising spy thriller series.  


Description (from the publisher): Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her -- so there's no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.
   Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can't control Grace -- no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

Review: Despite how many times she has been told that her mother was killed in a tragic accident, Grace Blakely's gut tells her otherwise. With her own eyes, Grace witnessed her mother's death. She remembers the gun, the bullet wound in her mother's chest, a man with a facial scar, and an explosion just before the shop was engulfed in flames. After three years in treatment for post-traumatic stress, Grace has returned to where she spent her childhood. She is once again living in the U.S. embassy in Adria, Italy, where her grandfather serves as ambassador. Grace is haunted by flashbacks of her mother, particularly the night that she died, and surrounded by people who believe she is crazy.
  I really liked Grace and admired her determination to prove that her mother was murdered even though the lengths she took to prove her point were extremely dangerous. Grace acts on her impulses and her hunches, especially when she identifies the man with the scar that was present when her mom died, without thinking of what repercussions it would cause to the U.S. diplomatic relations with other countries. that the death was an accident. Normally this aspect of her character would annoy me greatly, but in All Fall Down it works mainly because Carter handles her premise and characters with gravity. Unlike her previous series such as the Gallagher Girls and Heist Society where there is a lot of humor and flirtation among the characters to lighten the mood, All Fall Down is much somber in comparison. There are a few jokes here and there along with a potential romance on the horizon, but for the most part Grace isn't distracted by these elements as she is solely focused on proving her sanity, finding answers to her questions, and bringing her mother's murderer to justice.
  The plot moves as a steady pace as Carter plays with Grace's mental health as well as the shadowy actions of other members on Embassy Row. While I would have liked to believe Grace is right about her mother's death, there were times where even I wasn't so sure about Grace until the book ended with a very clever plot twist. I also liked how Carter used the Embassy Row as her setting allowing for diverse characters from different countries play a large part in her book though they are simply introduced in this book but I do believe she will flesh out these characters as the series continues. Filled with intrigue, action, All Fall Down is a solid series opener that left me wanting to know more. I'm really looking forward to the next book in the series. I think this would be a great pick for reluctant readers and for readers who enjoy spy thrillers.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some violence, but most take place off the page. There is also a scene in which Grace is drugged and kidnapped. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Dark Eyes by William Richter, The Night She Disappeared by April Henry, Also Known As by Robin Benway
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