Bluebird by Ann Penny

5 Stars!

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Review: The beginning of this book was a little slow for me personally, but then all of a sudden I got totally and utterly sucked in. All of the events that propelled the story along kept me utterly enthralled. I read the book in one night, and went through so many emotions. My heart hurt and rejoiced multiple times. I loved the history between Natalie and Luke, and the family bonds between many of the characters.

I’ve read many romances, and it’s wonderful when I find one that can still give me all the feels. I’m thoroughly impressed that this is Ann Penny’s debut! I’d definitely recommend it to my fellow romance readers.

I received an ARC of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

 

Publication Date: October 3, 2018

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Synopsis: Country music sensation, Natalie Rivers, needs a break from Nashville. She escapes to her home town in the Australian countryside to reassess what she really wants in life, away from her cheating ex, controlling record company and the limelight that is darkening her days.

But the moment she walks into her past life and finds Luke Easton waiting for her, she knows her world is about to get a whole lot more complicated.

He owned her heart, but nine years ago when he pushed her away, he shattered it to pieces. She ran from her hometown and towards her dream, never looking back…until she began to lose the one thing she had left: her music.

Natalie thought leaving Fairleigh the first time was the hardest choice she would ever have to make, until she is forced to make the choice again, only this time, there’s so much more on the line.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This full-length standalone romance contains strong language, sex scenes and sensitive subject matter.

THIS BOOK IS ON

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Pride by Ibi Zoboi

4.5 STARS!

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Review:

I loved this story. While there were multiple elements of Pride and Prejudice, I enjoyed the modern twist that brought up very important issues. Our experiences and circumstances shape us in a way, whether we are trying to fit into our environment or trying to purposely stand apart from it. While we may share parts of our cultural identity with others, that doesn’t always make us the same. This book took on thoughts around cultural identity, socioeconomic status, and what we think it means to be black, rich, etc. How we judge whether someone is enough, or whether they meet our standard of a cultural identity. There is also this underlying idea of accepting and being proud of who you are, but also not being afraid of change that is inevitable.

Another topic I thought was beautifully handdled was the many facets of gentrification. This is a real and relevant issue, because many of us disregard what is different, or  history that may not include us, yet is still so important. We tend to just want to improve things the way we think they should be improved (which is not always the best for everyone else).

Which leads me to one of my favorite parts of this book, the family dynamics of the Benitez’s. They celebrate their culture identity, and the history of their neighborhood. They treat neighbors as family, and truly care about others. They support each other in such a beautiful way. Honestly, the connection is just inspiring. I would definitely recommend this book!

 

Publication Date: September 18, 2018

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Synopsis: 

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

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Counselor Considerations contain SPOILERS.

Do not read further if you don’t want PLOT SPOILERS!

 

Counselor Considerations:

Social/Emotional: Family: Multicultural Family, Black Families, Low Income Family, Rich Family, Friends as family, Neighbors as family, Strong sister bonds, Celebration of Cultural Identity Social: Socioeconomic status differences, Social expectations, Mending Friendships, Empathy, Change, Judgement

College/Career: College Bound, Fulfilling College Requirements, College Application/Essay, Scholarships

Academic: N/A

Happy Ever After (HEA)

Love Like Ours by Melissa Foster

5 Stars!!!

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Review: I was beyond excited for Talia’s story, but I never expected Derek! The superficial parts of Derek (i.e. looks, job, etc.) are not what I was thinking of when I thought of Professor Talia Dalton, but I am so happy it’s him. The emotions, caring, and selflessness present in this story are so very heartwarming. I was deeply invested in the relationship right off the bat, and I couldn’t wait to see the development. I loved so many moments in this book, and read it all in one sitting—just like the previous two in the series. I CANNOT wait for the rest of this series and will definitely be counting down the days until I can jump back into the Dalton family’s story!

Publication Date: September 11, 2018

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Synopsis: One wrong move, and she meets a guy with all the right ones…

Talia Dalton lives her life on cruise control. Despite her successful career as a professor, she prefers protecting her broken heart to taking chances. She’s calm, cool, collected, and steady. Until the morning she takes her eyes off that familiar road and almost runs over the sexiest man she’s ever seen. It may not be the best way to start the day, but it might be the type of shake-up she needs.

Male dancer Derek Grant has goals, and nothing is going to get in the way of achieving them. As a graduate student and the sole caretaker of his ailing father, he hasn’t much time for relationships. Then Talia crashes into his life. Sweet, pretty—and so buttoned-up that he can’t wait to help her cut loose.

For Derek, falling in love was a beautiful accident waiting to happen. And it might be exactly what Talia needs—if she’s willing to let go of the past and embrace every surprise Derek has to offer.

Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer

4.5 Stars!

Review:

This was a whole new world full of dark characters and gruesome work. The characters did what they had to do, and didn’t hold back. I loved all the different types of unnaturals in this story, they really illustrated the whole idea of moral ambiguity. Nita’s struggle with her own moral dilemma was a little overdone for me at times, but that was really the only thing I didn’t love about this story. Luckily, there is a certain zannie that I just fell in love with, that made up for that.

I really enjoyed how the author tied in some religious history into the storyline. There was also a subtle acknowledgement of the problematic gender roles of our society, and how we as humans can be selective in who we bestow empathy upon.

Overall, this is a dark young adult novel that is absolutely thrilling. The characters are going off their base instincts, and holding nothing back!

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Synopsis: 

Dexter meets This Savage Song in this dark fantasy about a girl who sells magical body parts on the black market — until she’s betrayed.

Nita doesn’t murder supernatural beings and sell their body parts on the internet—her mother does that. Nita just dissects the bodies after they’ve been “acquired.” But when her mom brings home a live specimen, Nita decides she wants out — dissecting living people is a step too far.

But when she tries to save her mother’s victim, she ends up sold on the black market in his place — because Nita herself is a supernatural being. Now Nita is on the other side of the bars, and there is no line she won’t cross to escape and make sure no one can ever capture her again.

Nita did a good deed, and it cost her everything. Now she’s going to do a lot of bad deeds to get it all back.

Fresh Ink by Multiple Authors of Color

4.5 STARS!!

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Publish Date: August 14, 2018

Publisher: Crown Book for Young Readers

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Synopsis: Careful–you are holding fresh ink. And not hot-off-the-press, still-drying-in-your-hands ink. Instead, you are holding twelve stories with endings that are still being written–whose next chapters are up to you.

Because these stories are meant to be read. And shared.

Thirteen of the most accomplished YA authors deliver a label-defying anthology that includes ten short stories, a graphic novel, and a one-act play about topics like gentrification, acceptance, untimely death, coming out, and poverty and ranging in genre from contemporary realistic fiction to adventure and romance. This collection will inspire you to break conventions, bend the rules, and color outside the lines. All you need is fresh ink.

AUTHORS INCLUDE: Schuyler Bailar, Melissa de la Cruz, Sara Farizan, Sharon G. Flake, Eric Gansworth, Malindo Lo, Walter Dean Myers, Daniel José Older, Thien Pham, Jason Reynolds, Aminah Mae Safi, Gene Luen Yang, Nicola Yoon

Review: This book is like the introduction to all the diverse YA books we need. I love that authors of color write the experiences of POC that we have rarely received. I love the use of religions and cultural norms other than the white American and Christian ones we so often see. I love the heart and the perspectives that I as a reader am able to see that are outside my own. I’m so excited to see more from these authors! While short stories are always lacking for me, each one of these gave me a new perspective of situations that I very much appreciated. I think if you go in with the expectation of being entertained and expanding your perspective, you will thoroughly enjoy this book.

 

Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating

5 Stars!!!

Release Date: September 4, 2018

Publisher: Gallery Books

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Synopsis:

Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them…right?

Review:

HAZEL. Okay, at first I wasn’t sold on her, but as the story progressed I fell madly in love with her quirky spirit. And the relationship development was everything a reader could want—it helps that Josh is what dreams are made of. This is a romance book that will keep the reader completely involved, and it doesn’t even have any ridiculous or unbelievable plot points. I may have finished this book in one sitting, and I may have the biggest smile on my face after that ending + epilogue. To avoid spoilers, but still give you something to look out for, there’s this moment with a hat that just really gave me the warm heart feels! I need all of you to read this book, so you can experience this funny and warm romance.

Girl at the Grave by Teri Bailey Black

4 STARS!

The general plot of this book really intrigued me, as I love a good murder mystery. Valentine, the main character, lives her life in the shadow of her mother’s crime of murder over a decade ago. When new murders begin, she is of course the prime suspect. Oh, and let’s not forget the love triangle, which is making her life even more difficult! The historical setting, in the late 1800s, really interested me, because it played a part in how the story progressed and its characters reacted. I was also thoroughly impressed by the fact that I had no idea who the killer was! Not to mention the feminist themes that were thrown in. I really did enjoy this book. The only reason I wouldn’t give it five stars, is because of the readability. I felt like the book was going to wrap up, and then some other big event would happen. It seemed like some of the events could have been cut out, and the book would have been just as good. It was like there was just too much going on in the later part of the book, and I started to wonder if it would ever end. Overall, I enjoyed the story, and the happy ending was a pleasure.

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Counselor Considerations contain SPOILERS.

Do not read further if you don’t want to PLOT SPOILERS!

School Counselor Considerations:

Social/Emotional: Family: Mother put to death for murder, father travels for work, parents die Social: Judged for mother’s crime, strong friendships with males that are interested in more than friendship

College/Career: Desire to go to college, desire to work with change agents after high school, career planning

Academic: Valedictorian, Importance of high school and college, desire to be at school

 

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean (ARC Review)

4.5 Stars!!!!

Cover Reveal

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Synopsis:

In a palace of illusions, nothing is what it seems.

Each generation, a competition is held to find the next empress of Honoku. The rules are simple. Survive the palace’s enchanted seasonal rooms. Conquer Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Marry the prince. All are eligible to compete—all except yōkai, supernatural monsters and spirits whom the human emperor is determined to enslave and destroy.

Mari has spent a lifetime training to become empress. Winning should be easy. And it would be, if she weren’t hiding a dangerous secret. Mari is a yōkai with the ability to transform into a terrifying monster. If discovered, her life will be forfeit. As she struggles to keep her true identity hidden, Mari’s fate collides with that of Taro, the prince who has no desire to inherit the imperial throne, and Akira, a half-human, half-yōkai outcast.

Release Date: November 6, 2018

Publisher: HMH Teen

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My Thoughts:

I loved this book.

First, the world building is beautiful, especially the four seasonal rooms. The Japanese elements were new to me, and made the story that much more fascinating. The magic is alluring, yet can be deadly. The female competitors are just so strong and fierce when they enter these magical rooms. Every single female in this book is just trying to survive, and I love each and every one of them, even when they do despicable things.

Mari, the main character, is fighting societal norms, trying to do what is right, and kicking butt. She has insecurities, but she knows her strengths and uses them, which makes her that much more relatable. The other two perspectives are Taro and Akira. Prince Taro gives me so many mixed feelings, but I still kind of love him. As for Akira, talk about tugging on your heart strings. I just wanted so much more for Akira. Truly, I was invested in all of the characters, and the on-going fight between the humans and the yōkai. The underlying themes of social justice and feminism were woven in wonderfully.

The only reason this wasn’t a five-star read for me was that the ending seemed kind of abrupt, and I wanted so much more from this story (it definitely could have been a wonderful duology or trilogy). Also, there is a classic literature inspired part that I’ve never been a fan of, but I’ll let you read and figure out what it is, because maybe you’ll like it.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves a good fantasy, strong female leads, and the fight for equality and social justice!

Rock Legend by Tara Leigh (ARC Review)

4 Stars!

(adult romance read)

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This is the second book in a series about the band members of Nothing but Trouble (synopsis below).

Review: This second chance romance was full of ups and downs. I’m always interested to see how the book will proceed when huge life-changing events happen to the main characters right in the beginning. Is it going to be them just dealing with those events the rest of the book? Will another life-changing event happen? How will this affect the pacing of the book?

Tara Leigh did a good job of keeping the story engaging, which is a feat in and of itself after such a punch in the beginning. I saw one of the later events coming, but this is just because I’ve read so many romance books over the years. Even with knowing part of what was to come, I still wanted to find out what happened to these characters, and I believe that is due to the pacing of the story. I really appreciated that the characters took steps to grow, and didn’t just magically change over night. Little events happened to progress the story. Also, the characters were their own people. It is so wonderful to see that the character’s story isn’t just dependent on the love interest, but they have their own journey to complete.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I will definitely be checking out the other books in the series. I’ve read a few rock star romance series, and I’m still very interested who these specific band members are, and how they will each find their HEA.

Thank you to NetGalley and Forever Yours for the ARC to review!

 

Synopsis:

I’m no Prince Charming.

Most people know me as the drummer for Nothing but Trouble. Depending who you ask, I’m also a playboy, a loner, the life of the party, a screw-up, or according to my fans, “The Sexiest Rock Star on the Planet.” Apparently, I’m a legend.

Am I surprised? Hell, no. It’s a reputation I’ve earned behind my drum kit and behind closed doors. No one thought foster kid Landon Cox would become famous. Infamous, maybe. Notorious, probably. But successful? Never. No one except Piper Hastings. But I had to make a choice: my woman or my career. I picked fame and fortune… and spent every damn day since pretending I don’t regret it.

Now fate’s dropped Piper back into my life. I want to believe it’s a second chance for me – for us. But while I can give her a few great nights, I can’t give Piper a future.

Because there’s a difference between a legend and a fairy tale…
Only one of them ends happily ever after.

Release Date: July 17, 2018

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Freshmen by Lucy Ivison & Tom Ellen (ARC Review)

4.5 Stars!!

I read this book in one sitting, that is how much I enjoyed it. I’ve also been in a horrific reading slump where I’ve started 5 different books, so this is saying something. I was completely invested in Phoebe and Luke, as well as their friends.

CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE STRONG FEMALE FRIENDSHIPS!?!?!

This is what I hope for my students, friends that have your back and accept all your quirky differences. I loved the scenes with Phoebe, Negin, and Frankie! Not to mention D Dorm just rocked. I wish I had experienced college like this group. I just really enjoyed the exploration of starting college/university, and trying to meet new friends that you actually wanted to be around.The exploration of the character’s identity was just so realistic–especially the element of trying to fit in, which can cost you and not really lead you where you want to go.

The ending. I did not see that coming, which made me enjoy it that much more. It left me wanting to know where the lives of these characters are going (Psssst. Please do a sequel). Anyway, I really enjoyed this burst of college freshmen life, and I’d definitely recommend this to YA readers!

Synopsis:

Getting in is just the beginning.

Phoebe can’t wait to get to college. On her own, discovering new things, no curfew . . . she’ll be free. And she’ll be totally different: cooler, prettier, smarter . . . the perfect potential girlfriend. Convenient: the only person from her high school also going to York is her longtime crush, Luke.

Luke didn’t set out to redefine himself, but as soon as he arrives on campus, he finds himself dumping his long-term long-distance girlfriend. And the changes don’t stop there. In fact, being on a soccer team is the only thing that stays the same.

Just when things start looking up (and Phoebe and Luke start hooking up), drama looms on the horizon. Rumors swirl about the Wall of Shame, a secret text chain run by Luke’s soccer team, filled with compromising photos of girls. As the women on campus determine to expose the team and shut down the account, Luke and Phoebe find themselves grappling with confusing feelings and wondering how they’ll ever make it through freshman year.

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Counselor Considerations contain SPOILERS.

Do not read further if you don’t want to PLOT SPOILERS!

School Counselor Considerations:

Social/Emotional: Family: Long distance/Away at college, Social: Meeting new people, searching for new friends, dorms, social identity, navigating social circles, peer pressure, strong female friendships, strong friendships, heavy drinking, sex, partying, marijuana,  adapting to college life, romantic relationships, casual relationships, standing up for what is right, feminism

College/Career: Responsibility, College Life, working while in college, joining on-campus clubs/sports

Academic: Studying, group projects