Sidelined by Suzanne Baltzar

3.5 Stars

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Release Date: August 27, 2019

Publisher: Gallery

Synopsis: When Connor McGuire loses out on his dream job of being the head coach of the local high school football team, he thinks life can’t get any worse. Then he discovers just who got the coveted position—it was a handout to the kid of a well-known, successful college coach. Connor’s sure this is just a publicity stunt, but the kid turns out to be not only a sharp strategist, but a driven and sexy young woman, too. Frustrated in more ways than one, Connor realizes that he might have to step up his game or risk losing altogether.

Coach Charlotte “Charlie” Gibb calls a flag on the play when she finds out that her very male, very attractive, but definitely-rooting-for-her-to-lose assistant coach resents her for taking what he considers to be his rightful position. But never one to back down from a little healthy competition, Charlie is determined to prove her worth—both on and off the field.

Review: What I love most about this book is Charlie. The position of power, all the work she did to get there, and how she persists through all the crap thrown at her. She’s strong, but still expresses her emotions. She pretty much defies being categorized, and I absolutely love that too! She’s just a very real character. I was even annoyed with her at times, but her realness is what makes the story. Connor is slightly redeemable, but I could take him or leave him. I do like the friend group Connor has though. The story also has some relevant social justice issues that I appreciated. Overall, it was a cute romance read.

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Rock Rebel by Tara Leigh

5 STARS!!!

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Release Date: December 11, 2018

Publisher: Forever Yours

Synopsis:

He’s a rock star with a secret; she’s a pop princess with a painful past, can their forbidden romance survive, or will their lies destroy them both?

I’ve earned my bad reputation.

A few years ago, I was New York City’s hottest classical music prodigy. But I wanted something else, something more. So I chased my real dream, and now… I’m rock royalty. Dax Hughes, lead guitarist of Nothing but Trouble. But to my family and former Juilliard classmates, I’m an outcast. A misfit. A rebel.

They’re not entirely wrong. I don’t give a damn what other people think, and I’m all for breaking the rules… except when it comes to our new opening act, Verity Moore.

Rock gods don’t tour with pop princesses.

It’s not personal. Actually, under that fallen diva reputation, Verity’s incredibly talented. And her fiery redheaded personality is… intriguing. But I’m convinced the skeletons in Verity’s closet are as scandalous as my own, and when we’re not sparring, she has a way of drawing out all those secrets I’m determined to keep hidden.

Yeah. Verity Moore is definitely off-limits . . .
But since when do I give a damn about the rules?

Review:

I’m just really loving the Nothing but Trouble series! Hot and flawed rock stars, strong and messy women, and just a lot of awesome friendships. Verity was such a powerful character, and I just loved her strength and growth. It can be really hard to accept your past, and move onto a better future, and her character did exactly that. I also appreciate Tara Leigh addressing the #metoo movements impact, and how grey the incidents can be. It’s confusing and troubling, but women are resilient and so very strong. Verity is a wonderful representation of that strength with her own unique situation full of highs and lows. The characters were just so human, and I LOVED that. I’d definitely recommend this series, and I can’t wait for Jett’s story next!

 

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***Thank you so much to Forever Yours and NetGalley for the chance to read this early by giving me an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review!***

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)

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.

 

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!