Private Lessons by Cynthia Salaysay

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher and netgalley. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

 

Book: Private Lessons

 

Author: Cynthia Salaysay

 

Book Series: Standalone

 

Rating: 5/5

 

Diversity: Filipino American main character!

 

Publication Date: May 12, 2020

 

Genre: YA Contemporary

 

Recommended Age: 18+ (sex and sexual content, statutory rape TW, underage drinking, death, child grooming, drug use, abuse: emotional mental verbal and psychological, racism, language, self-harm TW, depression, gaslighting, wanting to kill a character more than Umbridge)

 

Publisher: Candlewick Press

 

Pages: 320

 

Amazon Link

 

Synopsis: After seventeen-year-old Claire Alalay’s father’s death, only music has helped her channel her grief. Claire likes herself best when she plays his old piano, a welcome escape from the sadness — and her traditional Filipino mother’s prayer groups. In the hopes of earning a college scholarship, Claire auditions for Paul Avon, a prominent piano teacher, who agrees to take Claire as a pupil. Soon Claire loses herself in Paul’s world and his way of digging into a composition’s emotional core. She practices constantly, foregoing a social life, but no matter how hard she works or how well she plays, it seems impossible to gain Paul’s approval, let alone his affection.

Author Cynthia Salaysay composes a moving, beautifully written portrait of rigorous perfectionism, sexual awakening, and the challenges of self-acceptance. Timely and vital, Private Lessons delves into a complicated student/teacher relationship, as well as class and cultural differences, with honesty and grace.

 

Review: This was a gorgeous book! The book does not shy from the tough points, where it shows our main character who is in love with this (for a lack of a better word) pedo who is abusing his authority to have sex with her (a minor, EW!). The book is expertly written, amazingly well detailed for world building, and the characters are engaging (and disgusting in Paul’s case). Sometimes when books say they are wrote for a certain thing (like feminism or otherwise) I find the book isn’t really embodying that movement. However, I feel like this book is a champion for the #metoo movement.

 

However, I felt like the book was a bit slower paced than what I usually preferred, but I think it’s intention. It makes you pause and forces you to hear Claire’s story, through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

 

Verdict: I recommend this as essential reading. It’s hard to read sometimes, but it’s essential to do so.

True Alpha and the Red Moon by L. Wolford Jr.

Disclaimer: I received this e-book from the author. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

 

Book: True Alpha and the Red Moon

 

Author: L. Wolford Jr.

 

Book Series: Standalone

 

Rating: 3/5

 

Publication Date: November 3, 2017

 

Genre: Fantasy

 

Recommended Age: 16+ (slight violence and gore, prophecies)

 

Publisher: Indie Published

 

Pages: 119

 

Amazon Link

 

Synopsis: Born into violence, Tyler knew nothing of his birth. Kurt and Amelia raised Tyler as their own, keeping the circumstances of Tyler’s conception and birth a secret. After believing Kurt and Amelia were his real parents, once reaching the age of thirteen, Tyler felt he was different from other vampires and that something wasn’t right, which was later revealed as his past unraveled.
At Redwood, a school for vampires, witches, and wizards, Tyler’s best friends were Max, a vampire, and Emma, a witch, who’d both grown to care so much about Tyler as years went by. They were inseparable, but even they knew nothing of what Tyler really was.
Tyler soon found out how different he really was as secrets came from out the shadows and into the light, leaving Kurt and Amelia no choice but to tell Tyler about the dreadful day he was born. That’s when he hears about the prophecy foretelling that he could be the True Alpha, the true leader of worlds, the one who could unite every supernatural from not only their world but from different realms as well.
Now, tragedy leads Tyler on a journey to find out the truth, but first, he must learn to control his newfound gift.

 

Review: Overall, I thought this was a good book. The characters were engaging. The storyline was unique, albeit borrowed from Star Wars a bit. The book also did well to make the plot intriguing.

 

However, I do feel like the world building wasn’t as detailed as it could have been and that the pacing was too fast in my opinion. The book is also incredibly small and could have been expanded upon.

 

Verdict: it was a good book!

Carla by Michael Gryboski

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

 

Book: Carla

 

Author: Michael Gryboski

 

Book Series: Standalone

 

Rating: 4/5

 

Publication Date: April 4, 2017

 

Genre: Thriller

 

Recommended Age: 17+ (death, violence, gore, terrorism)

 

Publisher: Indie Published

 

Pages: 211

 

Amazon Link

 

Synopsis: Carla al-Hassan lives in two worlds.

In one, she is known as a mild-mannered young woman who dropped out of college to work full time to pay for her grandfather’s medical bills.

In the other, she is a professional killer who does the will of a mysterious domestic terrorist group called the Cicero Organization.

For years, Carla maintained this delicate balance. But a jealous act of betrayal and an investigation by a determined lawyer
threaten this balance…and her life.

 

Review: I really liked this book overall. I liked the characters and I thought the characters and the plot were very well developed. The book was full of plot twists and it really kept you on your toes.

 

However, I think that the writing could have been a bit better and I felt it was a bit too short. Other than that, that was my only complaint!

 

Verdict: A great book!

Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab

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Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher and netgalley. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Breath Like Water

Author: Anna Jarzab

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Diversity: bipolar disorder openly discussed!

Publication Date: May 19, 2020

Genre: YA Contemporary

Recommended Age: 15+ (verbal abuse, competitive swimming, mental health, language)

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Pages: 416

Amazon Link

Synopsis: Susannah Ramos has always loved the water. A swimmer whose early talent made her a world champion, Susannah was poised for greatness in a sport that demands so much of its young. But an inexplicable slowdown has put her dream in jeopardy, and Susannah is fighting to keep her career afloat when two important people enter her life: a new coach with a revolutionary training strategy, and a charming fellow swimmer named Harry Matthews.

As Susannah begins her long and painful climb back to the top, her friendship with Harry blossoms into passionate and supportive love. But Harry is facing challenges of his own, and even as their bond draws them closer together, other forces work to tear them apart. As she struggles to balance her needs with those of the people who matter most to her, Susannah will learn the cost—and the beauty—of trying to achieve something extraordinary.

Review: This was such a sweet book! I really loved the character development, the story, and the world building. I never knew how competitive swimming could be, as I grew up in a rural school with no swimming teams. The characters were the lifeline of the story. They really made the story progress and enjoyable. The storyline was intriguing, and the detail the author incorporated was amazing.

The only issue I had with the book is that the pacing was slow in my opinion. I just wish it was a bit faster.

Verdict: It was a great read!

Breath Like Water

Anna Jarzab
On Sale Date: May 19, 2020
9781335050236, 133505023X
Hardcover
$18.99 USD, $23.99 CAD
Young Adult Fiction / Sports & Recreation / Water Sports
Ages 13 And Up
416 pages

ABOUT THE BOOK:
This beautifully lyrical contemporary novel features an elite teen swimmer with Olympic dreams, plagued by injury and startled by unexpected romance, who struggles to balance training with family and having a life. For fans of Sarah Dessen, Julie Murphy and Miranda Kenneally.

Susannah Ramos has always loved the water. A swimmer whose early talent made her a world champion, Susannah was poised for greatness in a sport that demands so much of its young. But an inexplicable slowdown has put her Olympic dream in jeopardy, and Susannah is fighting to keep her career afloat when two important people enter her life: a new coach with a revolutionary training strategy, and a charming fellow swimmer named Harry Matthews.

As Susannah begins her long and painful climb back to the top, her friendship with Harry blossoms into passionate and supportive love. But Harry is facing challenges of his own, and even as their bond draws them closer together, other forces work to tear them apart. As she struggles to balance her needs with those of the people who matter most to her, Susannah will learn the cost–and the beauty–of trying to achieve something extraordinary.

anna_jarzab_photo credit Marisa Emralino

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Anna Jarzab is a Midwesterner turned New Yorker. She lives and works in New York City and is the author of such books as Red Dirt, All Unquiet Things, The Opposite of Hallelujah, and the Many-Worlds series. Visit her online at annajarzab.com and on Twitter, @ajarzab.

BUY LINKS:
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Indie Bound
Google Play
Apple Books

SOCIAL LINKS:
Instagram: @ajarzab
Twitter: @ajarzab
Author website: https://www.annajarzab.com/

Everything’s Not Fine by Sarah J. Carlson

BANNER (1)

Disclaimer: I received this e-book from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Everything’s Not Fine

Author: Sarah Carlson

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 5/5

Publication Date: May 26, 2020

Genre: YA Contemporary

Recommended Age: 16+ (drug use, addiction, near death)

Publisher: Turner

Pages: 304

Amazon Link

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Rose Hemmersbach aspires to break out of small town Sparta, Wisconsin and achieve her artistic dreams at Belwyn School for the Arts after she graduates. Painting is Rose’s escape from her annoying younger siblings and her family’s one rule: ignore the elephant in the room, because talking about it makes it real. That is, until the day Rose finds her mother dying on the kitchen floor of a heroin overdose. Kneeling beside her, Rose pleads with the universe to find a heartbeat. She does – but when her mother is taken to the hospital, the troubles are just beginning. Rose and her dad are left to pick up the pieces. Now all that matters are her siblings. Rose doesn’t have room to do her schoolwork, let alone pick up a paintbrush. Until Rose is forced to do the homecoming mural with Rafa, a new senior at Sparta High. Rose and Rafa don’t have an ounce of school spirit between them, but Rose discovers her brain still has room to paint. As Rose fights to hold everything together, and her dreams of the future start to slip from her grasp, she must face the question of what happens when – if – her mom comes home again. And if, deep down, if Rose even wants her to.

Review: What I think really will stick with me about this book is that this book wasn’t afraid to show the rawness about how drug abuse and addiction really is, much like Ellen Hopkins poetic books do. The book showed the before, the during, and the after and it did so without backing down. The book had amazing characters who were all wonderfully developed and the world building was marvelous. I really liked this book and I think the book can help kids and adults alike.

The only issue I had with the book was that I felt that the book was a bit too happy in the end and that the book had a slow pace.

Verdict: Worth the read!

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Camp by Lev A.C. Rosen

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Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher and netgalley. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

 

Book: Camp

 

Author: Lev A.C. Rosen

 

Book Series: Standalone

 

Rating: 4/5

 

Diversity: LGBT friendly! Gay, demi, trans, lesbian, non-bininary, Korean, Jewish, Middle Eastern, Black Brazillian, Black, etc.

 

Publication Date: May 26, 2020

 

Genre: YA Contemporary

 

Recommended Age: 16+ (sexual content, mental health, toxic masculinity)

 

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

 

Pages: 384

 

Amazon Link

 

Synopsis:  Sixteen-year-old Randy Kapplehoff loves spending the summer at Camp Outland, a camp for queer teens. It’s where he met his best friends. It’s where he takes to the stage in the big musical. And it’s where he fell for Hudson Aaronson-Lim – who’s only into straight-acting guys and barely knows not-at-all-straight-acting Randy even exists.

This year, though, it’s going to be different. Randy has reinvented himself as ‘Del’ – buff, masculine, and on the market. Even if it means giving up show tunes, nail polish, and his unicorn bedsheets, he’s determined to get Hudson to fall for him.

But as he and Hudson grow closer, Randy has to ask himself how much is he willing to change for love. And is it really love anyway, if Hudson doesn’t know who he truly is?

 

Review: I was definitely worried about the book based on the blurb, but after reading it I thought it was handled excellently and the book was pretty good! The book had well developed characters with well done world building. The book also tackled the tough topics well and was very sex-positive!

 

My only issue is that the books pacing waned here and there. It was slow in a lot of places and it really took a bit for the book to pick up in my opinion.

 

Verdict: Definitely recommend!

BOOK INFORMATION

Camp

by Lev A.C. Rosen
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 26th 2020

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT, Queer

 

Synopsis:

 

From the author of the acclaimed Jack of Hearts (and other parts) comes a sweet and sharp screwball comedy that critiques the culture of toxic masculinity within the queer community.

 

Sixteen-year-old Randy Kapplehoff loves spending the summer at Camp Outland, a camp for queer teens. It’s where he met his best friends. It’s where he takes to the stage in the big musical. And it’s where he fell for Hudson Aaronson-Lim – who’s only into straight-acting guys and barely knows not-at-all-straight-acting Randy even exists.

 

This year, though, it’s going to be different. Randy has reinvented himself as ‘Del’ – buff, masculine, and on the market. Even if it means giving up show tunes, nail polish, and his unicorn bedsheets, he’s determined to get Hudson to fall for him.

 

But as he and Hudson grow closer, Randy has to ask himself how much is he willing to change for love. And is it really love anyway, if Hudson doesn’t know who he truly is?

 

BOOK LINKS

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48081823-camp

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2xTMIj7

Bookdepository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Camp-L-C-Rosen/9780241428252?ref=grid-view&qid=1584822573045&sr=1-1

iTunes: https://books.apple.com/gb/book/camp/id1479840904

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/camp-l-c-rosen/1133331865?ean=9780316537759

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/camp-22

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Camp.html?id=LQ6vDwAAQBAJ&redir_esc=y

 

 

author (14)

 

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Lev Rosen is the author of books for all ages. Two for adults: All Men of Genius (Amazon Best of the Month, Audie Award Finalist) and Depth (Amazon Best of the Year, Shamus Award Finalist, Kirkus Best Science Fiction for April). Two middle-grade books: Woundabout (illustrated by his brother, Ellis Rosen), and The Memory Wall. His first Young Adult Novel, Jack of Hearts (and other parts) was an American Library Association Rainbow List Top 10 of 2018. His books have been sold around the world and translated into different languages as well as being featured on many best of the year lists, and nominated for awards.

 

Lev is originally from lower Manhattan and now lives in even lower Manhattan, right at the edge, with his husband and very small cat. You can find him online at LevACRosen.com and @LevACRosen

 

AUTHOR LINKS

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4731557.Lev_A_C_Rosen

Website: https://www.levacrosen.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LevACRosen

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LevRosen/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/levacrosen/

 

Songs of Thalassa by Brian N. Tissot

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: Songs of Thalassa

Author: Brian N. Tissot

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 4/5

Diversity: Hawaiian main character, but not ownvoice

Publication Date: April 1, 2020

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

Recommended Age: 15+ (parental death, self-discovery, slight violence and gore)

Publisher: BookBaby

Pages: 320

Amazon Link

Synopsis: In a future where sporting competitions take place on distant planets, a Hawaiian surfer seeks to reclaim her fame and followers while defeating her nemesis once and for all.After a surfing accident claims her career and nearly takes her life, surfer Sage Thompson is at a crossroads. Still mourning her astronaut father’s death on a mission to ocean planet Thalassa, a tragedy she might be able to put behind her with the help of her fans—if they still believed in her—she’s not sure what to do, where to go, or how to move on. But when Milo challenges her to a contest on the ocean planet Thalassa, the asteroid- and tsunami-ravaged world that stole her father, she’ll discover that she not only still has what it takes to win, but once she hears the songs of Thalassa, winning might not be the most important thing.Songs of Thalassa will appeal to fans of Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Martian, and Contact, and features a young woman on a journey of self-discovery struggling to develop a sense of place and connections between herself, her culture, and the universe on a virgin ocean planet.

Review: For the most part I enjoyed the book. I felt it was a well researched and intelligent book. The book is full of information about environmentalism and oceanography. The book is well written and the characters are well developed. I loved the world building as well and I loved how the author envisioned the future!

However, I did feel like the book was a bit too slow for me. The book was good, but very slow and I felt like it just dragged for about 40% of the novel.

Verdict: A great novel, highly recommend if you are looking for a book that touches on environmentalism.

Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi

Disclaimer: I received an e-arc from the publisher and then bought my own copy. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

 

Book: Outrun the Wind

 

Author: Elizabeth Tammi

 

Book Series: Standalone

 

Rating: 3/5

 

Diversity: LGBT characters!

 

Publication Date: November 27, 2018

 

Genre: YA Fantasy

 

Recommended Age: 15+ (murder, violence, gore, animal death)

 

Publisher: Flux

 

Pages: 302

 

Amazon Link

 

Synopsis: The Huntresses of Artemis must obey two rules: never disobey the goddess, and never fall in love. After being rescued from a harrowing life as an Oracle of Delphi, Kahina is glad to be a part of the Hunt; living among a group of female warriors gives her a chance to reclaim her strength, even while her prophetic powers linger. But when a routine mission goes awry, Kahina breaks the first rule in order to save the legendary huntress Atalanta.

To earn back Artemis’s favor, Kahina must complete a dangerous task in the kingdom of Arkadia— where the king’s daughter is revealed to be none other than Atalanta. Still reeling from her disastrous quest and her father’s insistence on marriage, Atalanta isn’t sure what to make of Kahina. As her connection to Atalanta deepens, Kahina finds herself in danger of breaking Artemis’ second rule.

She helps Atalanta devise a dangerous game to avoid marriage, and word spreads throughout Greece, attracting suitors willing to tempt fate to go up against Atalanta in a race for her hand. But when the men responsible for both the girls’ dark pasts arrive, the game turns deadly.

 

Review: Overall I thought this book was really good. If you’re into Greek Mythology then this book will be amazing for you. The characters are developed and the plot is intriguing. The book is also well written and I just felt so absorbed by it.

 

However, the book does drop you off in the middle of everything and it’s very hard to follow throughout. The book is too fast paced in my opinion and there is a lot going on in the beginning and throughout the book. If the book had just slowed down it could have easily been a trilogy with the amount of events that happen in this book.

 

Verdict: It was good, but could have been less chaotic.

In the Sun by Mixie Plum

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

 

Book: In The Sun

 

Author: Mixie Plum

 

Book Series: Standalone

 

Rating: 3/5

 

Publication Date: April 5, 2019

 

Genre: Novella

 

Recommended Age: 16+ (depression, suicide, romance)

 

Publisher: Indie published

 

Pages: 84

 

Amazon Link

 

Synopsis: A novella inspired from a life lived; almost lost, & lived again.In The Sun is written in a stream of consciousness past present narrative. Phoebe finds out she has a terminal diagnosis then contemplates suicide whilst revisiting her life. Dark and Funny, it is the author’s self proclaimed “Catcher In The Rye” meets “High Fidelity”

 

Review: I thought that this book was beautiful with the prose and that the writing was compelling. The character was compelling and the way that the author describes the story is interesting.

 

However, I do feel like that the book is confusing. You’re constantly in between different time spaces and it’s hard to keep it all straight.

 

Verdict: It was a good book if you’re a poetic soul.

The Twin by Natasha Preston

Disclaimer: I received an arc of this book from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: The Twin

Author: Natasha Preston

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5

Publication Date: March 3, 2020

Genre: YA Thriller

Recommended Age: can’t recommend, dnf-ed

Publisher: Delacrote Press

Pages: 375

Amazon Link

Synopsis: In this twisty psychological thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of THE CELLAR, Ivy finds out that her twin sister, Iris, is trying to push her out of her own life–and might be responsible for their mother’s death.

After their parents divorced, 10-year-old twins Ivy and Iris were split up–Ivy lived with Dad, Iris with Mom. Now, after a tragic accident takes their mom’s life, the twins are reunited and Iris moves in with Ivy and their dad. Devastated over Mom’s death, Iris spends the first few weeks in almost total silence–the only person she will speak to is Ivy. Iris feels her life is over and she doesn’t know what to do. Ivy promises her twin that she can share her life now. After all, they’re sisters. Twins.

It’s a promise that Iris takes seriously. And before long, Ivy’s friends, her life at school, and her boyfriend, Tyler, fall under Iris’s spell. Slowly, Ivy realizes she’s being pushed out of her own life. But she’s just being paranoid, right? And Mom’s accident was . . . just an accident. Right? It’s not like she–or Dad–or Tyler–are in any danger. . . .

Review: I had to DNF this book, but I was sad to do it. The book is beautiful and the plot is super intriguing. I’ve always wanted to read a Natasha Preston book but I’ve not been able to connect with the characters in this book. Maybe it was the mood I was in overall (aka super tired), but I just couldn’t get into the writing and the story. But I’m passing this on to my friend who loves Natasha Preston because I know she’ll love it.

Verdict: Not for me, but I wanted it to be.