Rummanah Aasi
I know many of us have limited reading time and we all want to fill it with quality books. If your reading schedule allows for a graphic novel, be sure to squeeze in Cece Bell's fabulous memoir El Deafo. The graphic novel has won awards and received critical acclaim. I absolutely loved it and it will definitely go on my favorite books of 2015 list.

Description: Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece's class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends.
  Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school--in the the teacher's the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it's just another way of feeling different... and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend?

Review: El Deafo is a humorous and touching graphic memoir about growing up deaf, finding friendship, and self acceptance. When Cece is 4 years old, she becomes deaf after contracting meningitis. She begins to realize that her world is changing when she is fitted with a hearing aid and learns to read lips. Cece is even enrolled in a school for deaf children in order to equip her with new resources and skills such as teaching her how to lip read. Cece finds the new adjustments to her lifestyle frustrating and challenging.
  After her family moves to a new town, Cece begins first grade at a school that doesn't have separate classes for the deaf. Like many children of her age, she is anxious and scared to start a new school with new kids. She is constantly worried what her peers reaction will be to her new hearing aid, called the Phonic Ear, which allows her to hear her teacher clearly, even when her teacher is in another part of the school. The Phonic Ear is bulky, hard to hide, and uncomfortable to wear. Cece can't help but feel different and alone much like her favorite superheroes. It dawns on Cece that like her idols, she too has a special ability and in her fantasies she becomes the superhero "El Deafo", who is her subconscious and fights against her fears and self doubt.
 What I loved about this graphic novel is warmth and sensitivity Bell brings to her story. The word clouds of fading words or squiggly lines indicate misheard speech. All the human characters are anthropomorphic rabbits coupled with humor and relatable problems such as finding real friends and dealing with a school crush, makes the story more accessible and takes it a few steps above a "disability book". I empathized with Cece as she struggled to find friends who weren't bossy or inconsiderate. I also appreciated Cece's honesty in not wanting to learn ASL at first, but most of all I  loved her epiphany that hearing disability doesn't define her as a person and her journey of self acceptance, which is what makes her worthy of a superhero.

Rating: 5 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 2 and up. I have this graphic novel in my high school collection and it has been circulating quite often.

If you like this book try: Smile by Raina Telgemeier, Stitches by David Small
Rummanah Aasi
 Princeless grabbed my attention when I heard the creator, Jeremy Whitley, talked about the lack of diversity in comics in a Graphic Novel panel at the ALA Annual Conference this summer. He explained that his own daughter inspired him to write a comic in which she can see and identify herself in the story.

Description: Adrienne Ashe never wanted to be a princess. She hates fancy dinners, is uncomfortable in lavish dresses, and has never wanted to wait on someone else to save her. However, on the night of her 16th-birthday, her parents, the King and Queen, locked her away in a tower guarded by a dragon to await the rescue of some handsome prince. Now Adrienne has decided to take matters into her own hands!

Review: Princeless is a great, fun graphic novel that will appeal to both boys and girls as well as young readers and adults alike. The graphic novel stands out for many reasons: an African American family are the main characters, the plot subverts typical fairy tale and comic cliches as well as gender roles and expectations. The graphic novel opens as Princess Adrienne questions why princesses are always the damsel in distress in stories and a hero is always needed to help rescue the princess, a question I'm sure many of us have asked ourselves. Soon Princess Adrienne is tricked into becoming a damsel in distress despite her disgust. She watches helplessly as her pet dragon scares the pants off of her "rescuers". In an impulsive moment, Princess Adrienne decides to rescue herself as well as freeing her other sisters who are also trapped in castles.
  With interesting characters, funny and snappy dialogue, the graphic novel moves quickly and there is not a dull moment. One of my favorite parts of this volume is when Adrienne befriends a female blacksmith named Bedelia who Adrienne recruits to help design her warrior outfit. The two female characters debate the various female outfits such as the chainmail bikini armor and other variations found in popular comics and TV shows as they brainstorm designs for Adrienne's outfit. Young readers will enjoy an action heroine who takes her destiny into her own hands and stumbles over obstacles along the way, but never gives up. The artwork is beautiful with vibrant colors and careful, clear illustrations that perfectly capture the physical expressions written in the dialogue.
  With the positive message of female empowerment and smart female characters, Princeless is a very appealing comic and it stands out for all the right reasons. I definitely look forward to reading more from this series. I hope more graphic novels also follow its path.

Rating: 4 stars

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

If you like this book try: Princeless Vol 2: Get Over Yourself by Jeremy Whitley, Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack, Zita the Space Girl series by Ben Hatke, Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson
Rummanah Aasi
    Today I am happy to bring you an author interview with Megan Tayte, the author of the Ceruleans series. If you are a fan of paranormal romances and are looking for something new to read, check out her series and the excerpt from her latest book, Devil and the Deep, which releases today! Ms. Tayte was also generous in providing a giveaway, just fill out the Rafflecopter below.

In a few words can you tell us what Death Wish, the first book in the Ceruleans series, is about?

An isolated cove. A tragic suicide. A girl alone, but for two boys who’ll do anything to save her. A summer of discovery. Of conquering fear. Of falling in love. Of choosing life. Of choosing death. Of believing the impossible.

There are so many books in the paranormal romance genre. Why should readers pick up Death Wish?

Because if they start reading Death Wish, they may find they don’t want to stop. Common themes coming through in reviews of my books are ‘read it in one sitting’, ‘couldn’t put it down’ and ‘when’s the next one out – I need more now, dammit’. I write twisting, turning books with plenty of intrigue and suspense and drama. If that’s your cup of tea, you may like The Ceruleans.

What influenced your creation of The Ceruleans? What can you tell us about them without giving too much of the book away?

The series is quite personal to me, based on a mix of experience and fiction woven from my imaginings and ponderings. The setting – in a part of coastal Devon where I spent every summer as a child – was a key inspiration. But the story, about love and loss, light and darkness, good and bad, is based on my own efforts to make sense of a world in which people close to you can die; in which being true to yourself can be incredibly difficult; and in which love – for people, for places, for a way of being, for a passion and an ethos – is the only reason to hold on.

If you could match Death Wish with another paranormal romance readalike what would it be?

Well, one reviewer compared it favourably to Twilight, so I’ll guess I’ll go with that. But the story and characters are very different, and the mood is sometimes darker and sometimes much lighter. And the writing style is more creative. And the romance is different: more grounded in realism. And the paranormal world is more unsettling than appealing to the main characters. So, er, not that much like Twilight then...

 Love triangles are the bane of most readers’ existence. What is your biggest pet peeve as a reader and as a writer?

Characters that don’t feel real. Whether it’s a hero/ine, a foil, a villain or a secondary character, I want to believe in them. I don’t like perfect; I like perfectly flawed. That’s how I aim to write my characters: messily real. I don’t want to approach writing like a colouring book, shading neatly between the lines. I want to scribble madly over the picture, going right over the lines; I want to draw the picture for myself.

Excerpt from Devil and the Deep (Ceruleans #4)

It began with screaming. Shrill, ear-piercing, horrified screaming.

A girl shrieked, ‘Blood! Look, look – it’s everywhere!’ and pressed her hand to her mouth.

A man shouted, ‘Good grief!’ and another, ‘Great Scott!’

An old lady swooned gracefully and would have tipped over the balustrade of the riverboat had a lanky lad not caught her.

The cause of the excitement – a woman lying slumped on the long table on deck, cheek on her bread plate, headdress in the butter dish – twitched a little.

‘She’s alive!’ cried a lad beside her delightedly. ‘She moved!’

‘Did not,’ argued another.

‘Did too!’

‘Gentlemen,’ interjected a short, portly man with a twirly black moustache, ‘if you will forgive my intrusion, it must be noted that this woman has a bullet hole in her head and is logically, therefore, quite definitely deceased.’

Another old dear folded to the deck with a prolonged ‘Ohhhhhh’ and her husband grabbed a feathered fan and began wafting cool evening air in her face while calling, ‘Smelling salts – does anyone have any?’

I tried to keep a straight face. Really I did. I bit my bottom lip until I tasted my cherry-red lipstick. I pinched my leg through the cream satin of my gown. I dug my long cigarette holder into the sensitive flesh of my arm.

But it was no good.

The ‘What ho, chaps’ posh accents.

The buxom woman sagging in the arms of an elephant hunter wearing Converse All Stars.

The production of smelling salts in a bottle whose label read Pepto-Bismol.

The corners of the little round man’s moustache coming looser with his every word.

The fast-pooling puddle of pinkish blood on the bread plate, buffeted by the steady in-and-out breaths of the corpse.

Take it from a girl who’s really died – death on the River Dart, Devon, is hilarious.

‘Dear me, Ms Robson here appears to be quite overcome with shock,’ said the guy at my side suddenly, and he slipped an arm around me and turned me away. ‘Come, madam. Let us get some air.’

I smiled at him. Then grinned. Then choked back a guffaw. Thankfully, by the time full-scale hilarity hit me I’d been led to the rear of the boat, away from the rest of our party, and could bury my face in the bloke’s chest and shake mutely with laughter.

The gallant gentleman rubbed my back soothingly as I let it all out and said loudly, for the benefit of any onlookers, ‘There there, pignsey, there there.’

‘Pigsney?’ It was the final straw. My high-heeled sandals gave way and I melted into a puddle of mirth on the deck.

‘I’ll have you know, Scarlett Blake,’ hissed Luke, my boyfriend a.k.a. gallant gent, hoiking up his too-tight corduroy trousers so he could squat down beside me, ‘I Googled “old-fashioned terms of endearment” and pigsney’s a classic.’

I wiped tears from my eyes, dislodging a false eyelash in the process, and tried to catch my hiccupping breath as Luke went on.

‘Means pig’s eye. No idea why that’s appealing, but apparently in the seventeenth century, calling a lady pigsney was the very height of courting.’

Through his fake specs Luke’s blue eyes fixed me with a stare so earnest I almost managed to stop laughing.

‘But this is a Death on the Nile-Stroke-Dart murder mystery night, Luke,’ I managed to get out. ‘Set in the nineteen thirties, not the seventeen thirties.’

‘Ah,’ he said, ‘but my character tonight, Mr Fijawaddle, is a historical fiction writer, isn’t he? So as well as dressing like a brainy recluse – and I’m warning you now, I won’t hear another slur against this tweed jacket – he’d know all kinds of obscure terms. Like ginglyform and jargogle and nudiustertian and bromopnea and farctate and quagswag and philosophunculist.’

His showing off sobered me just enough to control the giggles. ‘You made those words up,’ I accused, poking a crimson talon into his mustard-yellow shirtfront.

He blinked at me innocently. ‘Did not. I told you before we left the house, I did my homework.’

I narrowed my eyes. ‘All right then, Mr Fijawaddle, what does that last word you said mean?’


‘Yes, that.’

‘Er…’ Luke gave me a sheepish grin.

‘Spill it,’ I said menacingly. As menacingly as a girl dressed up as a vintage Hollywood starlet with cute little pin curls and rouge aplenty can be, that is.

‘Philosophunculist,’ recited Luke. ‘Noun. A person who pretends to know more than they do in order to impress others.’

I threw my head back and laughed. ‘Busted!’

Luke slipped an arm around me and pulled me close. Really close.

‘Bet you like it when I use long words,’ he said huskily, eyes fixed on my too-red lips.

‘Bet you like it when I wear a clingy nightgown as a dress,’ I replied, eyes fixed on his too-kissable lips.

‘Brazen hussy,’ he growled at me.

‘Randy boffin,’ I murmured back.

Then neither of us said another word for quite some time.

Buy the book on and

About Megan Tayte

Once upon a time a little girl told her grandmother that when she grew up she wanted to be a writer. Or a lollipop lady. Or a fairy princess fireman. ‘Write, Megan,’ her grandmother advised. So that’s what she did. Thirty-odd years later, Megan is a professional writer and published author by day, and an indie novelist by night. Her fiction – young adult romance with soul – recently earned her the SPR’s Independent Woman Author of the Year award. Megan grew up in the Royal County, a hop, skip and a (very long) jump from Windsor Castle, but these days she makes her home in Robin Hood's county, Nottinghamshire. She lives with her husband, a proud Scot who occasionally kicks back in a kilt; her son, a budding artist with the soul of a palaeontologist; and her baby daughter, a keen pan-and-spoon drummer who sings in her sleep. When she's not writing, you'll find her walking someplace green, reading by the fire, or creating carnage in the kitchen as she pursues her impossible dream: of baking something edible.

You can find Megan online at: her website, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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Rummanah Aasi

 Banned Book Week is officially underway. I have been busy presenting and advocating our intellectual freedom to my Social Sciences and English classes. Students are shocked and appalled about the book challenges and we are having lots of great discussions. Due to time restraints, I will not be reading a banned/challenged book at the moment but I hope to do sometime this year. Check out of my Forbidden Reads feature if you are curious about some of the books that I have lighted on this blog. You can also see what Banned/Challenged Books I've read in 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Here is an infographic from the American Library Association on the Top 10 2014 Book Challenges:

Click the caption to enlarge

It is important to note how diversity in books are widely targeted in 2014. I really don't see that declining. I've read 8 books on this list including the two graphic novels, Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples and Drama by Raina Telegeimer. How many have you read? Any books on this list that surprised you? Let me know in the comments!

Rummanah Aasi
 Today I am excited to bring you a guest post from author Elizabeth Wheatley who is celebrating the release of her new book, The Key of Amatahns, on Amazon Kindle.  Download the book from Amazon for $0.99 for a limited time!  Ms. Wheatley is also giving away a FREE copy of the book! Fill out the Rafflecopter below if you are interested.

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Five Favorites in Fantasy: Boy/Girl Friendships

Janir and Karile’s relationship was actually modeled on my brother and I, who were best friends growing up and are still very close. Probably in large part to this, I absolutely LOVE sweet brother/sister relationships in books as well as boy/girl friendships.

1. Sunny and Tuck from TheWitches’ Sleep by Kaitlyn Deann

Kaitlyn Deann knows how to write characters you love. I adored Sunny and Tucks and their mutually protective relationship made them even more so.

2. Sora and Dorian from Sora’s Quest by T.L. Shreffler

I think some people shipped this, but I didn’t. Dorian and Sora did, however, have some of the wittiest and funniest dialogue I’d read in awhile. A+

3. Branwen and Rhodri from Warrior Princess by Frewin Jones

I’m really glad the author decided not to make this a romantic relationship, because it looked like it was headed that way for awhile. But you’ve got to love two characters who would do anything for each other because they’re good friends—not  because of some unrequited love thing.

4. Kaliel and Pux from Surrender by Rhiannon Paille

These two were just so cute! Seriously, there is nothing to hate. They are both little dandelion floofs of cuddliness and to hate them requires the removal of one’s soul.

5. Harry Potter and Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
Anyone who watched the movies will understand, never mind reading the books. Luna and Harry’s strictly “just friends” policy was carried off wonderfully and here’s another beautiful example of platonic loyalty. Good old JK!

thekeyofamatahns_LARGE In a land where those with magic are esteemed and revered, Janir guards a secret that would send her to the headsman's block at a word. As one of the reviled Argetallams, she has the power to destroy enchantments and steal others' magic—an ability that has caused bloodshed for generations.

Raised as the illegitimate daughter of an influential lord, she was determined to turn her back on her heritage, but when her power manifests, leaving a nobleman dead, she has no choice but to flee her adoptive home. In exile with the help of a fearless young enchanter and an elf sworn to protect her, she finds herself entangled in a quest to hide an ancient artifact from the kingdom’s enemies.

But they are not the only ones after the relic and soon their paths cross with a rival from Janir's distant childhood. With no hope of help or rescue, the fate of nations will depend on a fifteen year old girl and her mastery of powers she doesn't understand.

About the Author

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Elisabeth Wheatley began what would be her first novel at eleven and hasn’t stopped writing since. When she’s not daydreaming of elves, vampires, and/or hot guys in armor, she can be found wasting time on the internet, fangirling over her latest obsession, and pretending to be a functional citizen.

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