Thank you, Candlewick Press, for providing me with a free e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
‘Private Lessons is the story of a seventeen-year-old girl who confuses idolisation with affection when she starts to attend lessons with a charismatic, male piano teacher, Paul Avon. She has always loved playing but things become exponentially more serious when she realises that she’s desperate for even a hint of Paul’s approval and her feelings begin to spiral out of hand.
This is a beautiful and heartbreaking story of a girl who becomes so obsessed with being loved that she is taken advantage of, and how she makes it through this. With a devastatingly, heartbreakingly vulnerable protagonist, this is a painful and necessary story in light of the #MeToo movement.
I think that this book is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever read. The writing style is easy and readable, jumping between harshly realistic whilst Claire is in the real world and beautifully poetic whilst she’s playing the piano, but this book contains a lot of difficult content that is not for the faint of heart. It’s the kind of thing that you don’t want to read but you know you have to, and I found myself crying more than once at what Claire was going through. A lot of what happens is stuff that, as someone who has gone through my teenage years already, was so believable for me and that really hit me hard. I have thankfully never been through anything at all like what Claire has in this novel, but I know how easy it is to be swept up in trying to impress people and how quickly you can lose yourself to please others, and that made this story especially poignant.
Claire makes mistakes in this book, and normally I’d call a character out on such problematic thoughts, actions and feelings, but I can’t bring myself to with her. The mistakes that she makes are not mistakes made by the author in writing the story, but very intentional reminders that Claire is only seventeen-years old and trying to fit in. She’s an incredibly vulnerable, innocent young girl who is desperate to be loved and found beautiful, and that’s something that both the reader and the other characters can tell about her. It’s painfully believable the way others take advantage of her and, in terms of emotional connection, she is probably the character I’ve cared about the most so far this year.
Many of the characters in this story are bad for Claire, at least at certain points, but all of them are completely believable. Every single character in this story is going through something that is affecting their emotional or mental health, and it’s so impressive to see such three-dimensional characters that aren’t completely over-exaggerated. It’s heartbreaking that Paul is so realistic, rather than a caricature villain, and that Claire’s friends so quickly swept her into lifestyles that she wasn’t comfortable with. Rather than getting annoyed at Claire for her mistakes, I wanted to protect her.
The final part of this book is, thankfully, a little easier to read. Seeing the character growth in Claire and her mother particularly, and the way they are able to leave others behind, is so important to tie this story together and Cynthia Salaysay handled this incredible well. I literally couldn’t put this book down until I finished the entire thing and I’m so glad that I powered through such an uncomfortable but hopeful tale of growth and recovery.
If you’d like to buy a copy of this book, it publishes on May 12th and you can get it here.*
*I get a small commission if you use any of my links.
I don’t know what’s happened in the past few days, but it actually seems like I’ve remembered how to read! Which is super exciting and is something I’m absolutely going to be taking advantage of. But instead of continuing to work my way through my Netgalley shelf (as I should be doing), I saw that Loveboat, Taipei was 99p on Kindle and could not resist picking it up. In less than 24 hours, I’ve gone on a whole emotional rollercoaster with this story. And… now I’m going to talk about it.
Loveboat, Taipei is the story of a girl named Ever Wong, who has always been the only Asian-American in her class and has lived a lifetime under her parents’ heavy expectations. When she decides to spend her final summer before college getting her passion for dancing out of her system, ready to follow in her father’s footsteps of going to med-school, her plans are rapidly derailed- by a trip to a summer school in Taipei.
What Ever sees initially as a punishment, however, turns rapidly into the trip of a lifetime and a chance to live without parental restrictions, breaking every Wong family rule and getting in years’ worth of teenage rebellion before college begins.
This book is so much like Anna and the French Kiss that I’m finding it difficult not to draw excessive comparisons. Studying abroad, a love interest in a long-term relationship, insta-friendships, first-time clubbing experiences, rich kids with political connections and very teenage betrayals appear in both, and I saw so much in common that I guessed multiple times at what would happen next.
That being said, I’m going to try not to compare the two any further.
So. I found that I had a complicated relationship with Ever throughout this book. It seems that teenage rebellion was the entire purpose of the majority of the story and I loved seeing her journey to discovering the difference between purposely going against her parents to deciding what she truly wanted. Her character growth was huge and it was amazing to see how she developed and, likewise, how other characters including Xavier and Sophie particularly grew as well. My main issue was with just how stupid some of her rebellious decisions were. The book acknowledges this, which I appreciate, so I don’t fault Abigail Hing Wen at all for adding these elements to the story, but multiple times I wanted to scream at Ever to stop and think before doing anything.
What I really did love about Ever, though, was how strong her voice is throughout the entire book. Even when her decisions are wrong, she knows exactly what she wants and goes for it. A few times, she’s led astray, but I really appreciated that her passion, particularly for dance, never faltered throughout the entire plot. Her ability to own up to her mistakes was also very impressive.
The love triangle in this book was entertaining in a frustrating kind of way. Both boys were equally viable as love interests (though I, I’m sure like anyone else who reads this book, found myself developing some clear favouritism) and I found myself rooting for different couples at different times. In the end, I think(?) I was happy with the result on that front, but I definitely enjoyed the romantic ups and downs as the story went on.
I liked this book. It isn’t perfect, but it turned out to be a very moving story of how a young girl realises her true self and re-evaluates her relationship with life and her family. It was a very easy book to get through in a day and, if you’re looking for something that is somehow both incredibly light and still poignant, it could be just what you’re looking for.
If you want to read this book, you can grab a copy here.*
Hi! I’m back with a review of a book I was actually supposed to review for the first time in like two months! It’s been an interesting few weeks especially and I’ve really been struggling to read, but I think I might be getting back into it.
My Netgalley TBR is terrifying right now but, after weeks of trying and failing to read, I finally got through one of my anticipated reads! This was a super quick and easy read, and I actually found it great as a short escape from being locked in the house…
So thank you, Headline Review, for an e-arc of ‘To Lahore, With Love.’
‘To Lahore, With Love’ is the story of Addy, a British woman with an infectious love of cooking, and her journey to discovering her true self when her life in London is turned upside down. We learn that she has been raised as British, aware of both her Irish and Pakistani heritage, and that she’s perfectly content with little knowledge of the side of her family from Pakistan- namely, the now-deceased father who left when she was younger- until a secret about her marriage sends her spiralling into depression and, very suddenly, on a healing trip to Lahore.
For the first half of this book, I thought it was good. The writing style throughout is easy and very readable, and the recipes at the start of each chapter provided such refreshing mini-commentaries on the story as a whole that I found myself to be as excited about what she would be cooking next as I was about the progression of the story. I liked Addy as a character and I loved how passionate she was about cooking, which was and will always be her truest passion.
It was the second half of the book that made me fall in love with it, though. As soon as Addy reached Lahore, her character development increased exponentially. The way she connected with the city and her newfound family was beautiful to read and her changed perspective was drastic and yet completely believable. I found myself seriously rooting for her towards the end of the novel, grinning like an idiot when she did something I was proud of. It’s a feeling I haven’t felt about a book for a while and it was an absolute pleasure to experience. I must say that Addy makes a lot of discoveries that I didn’t always find to be quite as believable or developed as other aspects of the book towards the end, but the growth visible in her responses alone to these made them completely necessary, in my opinion.
As well as the characters, two things that can’t be ignored about this book are the recipes and the scene setting. Both of these elements were huge parts of the story and I found them to be so beautifully done that I was, at times, starving for some of the delicious meals that Addy described, tasting them from the descriptions alone, and craving a trip to Lahore. The portrayal of Pakistan was not always idyllic, but the overall description was stunning, with the vibrant sounds, atmospheres and (specifically for Addy) flavours being so incredibly believable. This book contains the kinds of descriptions that make you desperate to go and see the featured places for yourself and I certainly find that, now I’ve finished it, I’ve got serious wanderlust.
This book is perfect if you’re looking for escapism through a funny, reassuring, and easy read. With the current incapacity to leave the house, I found the ability to escape to Lahore in this story incredibly calming and refreshing. It made me forget my surroundings for hours whilst I kept turning the pages and I’m sure that it would have the same effect on anyone else who picks it up.
If you want to read this book, you can grab a copy right here.*
I get a small commission if you use any of my links 🙂
I’m super excited to be part of the Notorious Minds blog tour this week! Today’s post is a Q&A with Adam Alexander, author of Masters of the City, in which he shares some of his best tips and some fun facts about his own writing. Hope you enjoy!
HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER? I think I’ve always been a writer, but I spent a long time listening to the wrong voices, and not believing enough in myself. If I’d listened to my own inner voice instead of the people in my life who told me I couldn’t, or I shouldn’t, I would have published my first book years before I did. What made me finally finish my first novel wasn’t a change in my abilities, or some magical formula that I suddenly discovered. I simply found someone who believed in me more than I did, and I started listening to that voice. Once I finished my first novel, writing the next one became easier and easier.
YOUR JOURNEY TO FINISHING THAT FIRST NOVEL. There are about a dozen half-finished and abandoned attempts at writing books on my computer hard drives, and even one written on paper before I even had my first computer. That’s going back a long time. What finally made me start and finish my first novel was a dream, oddly enough. I had a dream of a girl in a forest in the darkness, burying something. I woke up and this dream was still vividly implanted in my mind, and I figured it would make a great opening scene for a book. A girl is burying something in the forest because she has to hide it. But what’s she burying and who wants it so badly? Then I came up with the idea for Lost Soul: Immortality. She’s burying her soul because she can’t let the evil wizards get it, because she has this gift that only comes around once every thousand years, and if they get it, it will give them immortality. But if you’re an aspiring writer, you’re well aware that having an idea is not the same thing as writing a book. The writing part takes hard work. Lots of it. Up until that point, I’d never shared my writing or my ideas with anyone because I was afraid of the reaction. Would people like it? Would they hate it? What if they did hate it? They’d think I was dumb. I only had that state of mind because of people in my life up until that point who had done exactly that. Anyway, heart in my mouth I shared the idea with my wife and she loved the idea, and demanded the first chapter. And so began my journey to the end of my first novel. I’d write a chapter, give it to my wife to read, and she’d love it and ask for the next one. At that point in my life writing was a dream. I remember clearly sitting in my study writing those last words, throwing my hands up in the air with a sense of triumph having done something that I’d literally waited half my life to do.
DETAILED ADVICE FOR ASPIRING AUTHORS. Start early and don’t give up. If you believe you’re good enough, and if you have a story you want to tell, write it and don’t look back. If you feel like your writing sucks, get better. Get into a habit of writing, whether it be a target number of words every day, or every week – set a goal for yourself and break it down to a daily goal and write. Join author groups online an get involved in a writing community. Contrary to what you might think, communities of authors are amazing places to find help and encouragement.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THE NOVEL IN THIS BOXSET? In the Notorious Minds Boxset, you’re getting Episode 2 in the Matt Porter Series. I created Matt Porter because I had always wanted to write a thriller, in the genre of the Bourne Identity, where the hero is out there on his own, and all the odds are stacked against him. Episode 1, Slave to the City, introduces you to Matt Porter, a cop in a big city doing his best to bring in the bad guys, but his only weakness is his constant downfall. As long as he stays away from women, he’s fine. But every time he gets involved, things don’t end well. I won’t spoil Slave to the City by telling you too much here, but what you get from the blurb of the book is that Matt Porter steps in to help Grace when he sees her in the diner surrounded by the guys in dark suits, and from everything falls apart for him. He crosses so many lines and ends up on the wrong side of the law with people trying to kill him, the police after him, and he has to figure out why fast before he ends up dead.
Matt Porter returns in Masters of the City for an even more nail biting adventure. The opening scene sees him positioned on the roof, aiming his rifle and he’s about to pull the trigger. He’s supposed to be one of the good guys – how the hell did he end up here? I wanted to put Matt Porter in an even more impossible situation in the sequel to Slave to the City, and the opening scene does just that. Matt Porter takes on a new client, but things fall apart again right from the start, and it all goes back to his golden rule. Rule #2 – all women are trouble. No exception. I think the very character of Porter lends itself to the situations he finds himself in. He’ll never walk away from a woman in trouble, yet stepping in to help always gets in in trouble.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALISE YOU WANTED TO BE AN AUTHOR? I started writing a book about a homeless guy who gets hit by a car late one night and ends up in hospital, and the book was going to be about how the guy ends up winning Wimbledon. That was the idea anyway. I think I was about eighteen, and that’s when I got the writing bug. I won the Editor’s Prize for English at school, and I figured I had some writing talent and I saw myself penning this amazing novel, getting published and making millions. It didn’t pan out that way. I soon realized that having a beginning and an ending for a story is not the same as writing a novel. The bits in between are what make a good story.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE A BOOK? It takes me anything from 6 to 9 weeks to write a book. I used to write whenever, and finish a book when I felt like it with no deadline. When that was my approach, I finished one book a year, maybe. Then I set myself an impossible target to finish a book in 90 days. I made it with 4 days to spare. Now I try to bring that down by writing a little more each day. I wrote my latest book in six weeks.
WHAT IS YOUR SCHEDULE LIKE WHEN YOU’RE WRITING? I’m not a full-time writer. I run a growing IT business so my days are pretty busy, and my mind is usually preoccupied with work when I get home in the evenings, so I can’t just switch off from work and flip over to writing. I do a lot of my writing on weekends. First thing in the mornings is best for me. A good start to my writing sets a good pace for the rest of the day. If I procrastinate and let fear of the blank page get inside my head, my day’s writing is doomed.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INFORMATION OR IDEAS FOR YOUR BOOKS? Right now I’ve written two series and three standalones. That gives me established characters to work with, and worlds I’ve created to explore. It makes it easier to find new ideas for books. For example, I wrote Garage Band as a standalone, and I got the idea for that one when I went shopping one Saturday morning in Sandton City. My wife commented on how ridiculous it was that we like to drive our fancy expensive cars, and looking around the parking garage I said that the cars in the parking garage must be worth more than the building. Then as a joke, I said that if you wanted to do some damage, you didn’t have to blow up a whole building, just blow up the cars in the garage. That got me thinking, and I started developing the plot for Garage Band. You take a complete anti-hero, the kind of guy you want to smack upside the head and say, “get a life!” and you make him the hero of the story, give him a reason to want to blow up all the cars in Sandton City, and so began the best comedy thriller I’ve ever written. That gave rise to the sequel (the book I wrote in my first 90 day challenge). And the world I created gave rise to a prequel based on one of the characters that I mentioned in a one-liner in Garage Band, and now I’m writing another prequel based on one of the other supporting characters in Garage Band. If you let your imagination flow, there’s no shortage ideas. Just don’t make the mistake of sitting with a blank page in front of you stressing that you’re not coming up with ideas. You don’t find them that way.
WHEN DID YOU WRITE YOUR FIRST BOOK AND HOW OLD WERE YOU? I wrote Lost soul: Immortality in 2013. I was 42 when I finished my first novel.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT WRITING? I think about writing.
WHAT DOES YOUR FAMILY THINK OF YOUR WRITING? My wife is my biggest fan. She reads all my books first, and she was in the inspiration behind getting my first book on paper and making me finish the book. Family have to love your books, that’s their job. The real test is putting your books in the hands of total strangers.
HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN? WHICH IS YOUR FAVOURITE? I’ve written 9 fiction and 1 non-fiction books. My favouriteis probably Garage Band – it was a comical thriller, and I had great fun creating some of those moments. My wife’s favourite is Lips of an Angel, without a doubt. I can tell by the amount of time it takes her to read the manuscript. Normally it can take three to four weeks for her to read one of my books. She’s always up before anyone else in the house, and she reads in the early mornings while she creates amazing pictures with her canvasses and brushes. I used to hear her laugh out loud with Garage Band, and I really enjoyed that. But when I wrote Lips of an Angel, she devoured it in three days, and she literally couldn’t speak when she finished it.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS TO HELP ME BECOME A BETTER WRITER? Write lots, and write often. You get better the more you write. Read lots too. Find a great team of editors. Editors are gold. Join writing groups and mix with writers you aspire to be.
DO YOU HEAR FROM YOUR READERS MUCH? WHAT DO THEY SAY? I get to hear from my readers in the reviews they write. Obviously I have a close circle of friends who interact with me more than my regular readers. The best comment I ever had was from a friend who was beta-listening to the Garage Band audio book. He was supposed to be driving to a meeting and became so wrapped up in the story that his mind went into autopilot and he ended up driving home and totally missed his meeting.
DO YOU LIKE TO CREATE BOOKS FOR ADULTS? All my books are for adults, but not the naughty kind.
WHAT DO YOU THINK MAKES A GOOD STORY? Characters with depth and a well-crafted plot.
If you’re interested in the Notorious Minds Boxset, here’s a little more information about it from the publisher, Fire Quill Publishers:
What does it take to commit the perfect crime?
Delve into these dark and twisted tales by twenty USA Today and International Bestselling Authors. No matter what kind of crime story typically catches your imagination, there’s sure to be something for everyone.
Conspiracies, political plots, and yes, even murder, are just a few of the crimes waiting inside this box set. Discover a narcissistic grandmother running an underground syndicate, or a support group bent on murder…and even a serial killer who turns his victims into fairytale creatures.
Prepare to delve into an elite killing team who made a mistake, an oil rig filled with secrets ready to explode, and a reporter uncovering a treasonous plot.
Uncover how fatal passion, jealousy, and fear can be to a group of royal marines and learn from a detective who is far from home fighting demons from his past in order to stay alive.
Can you figure out how the police solve a killer’s confession to nine murders that haven’t happened yet? or how a girl that got a heart transplant became the FBI’s number one ally in solving crimes?
This box set is packed with thousands of pages that will hold you on the edge of your seat, crying for answers. Definitely a must for fans of Patterson, Lee, and Grisham. One-click it today!
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE……
Pre order now and you will receive our amazing pre-order gift – products are digital and printing is at reader’s cost.
I think, if you’ve ever 1) seen my twitter, 2) met me or 3) read any of my old blog posts, you know that 99% of what I talk about is Marie Lu books and why you should read them. Warcross is my favourite book in the entire world (please read it and talk to me about it!!), and the Legend series is just as impressive. I have never read anything by Marie Lu that I didn’t love and I own every single book she’s ever published so- I’m kind of a major fangirl.
That being said, I was very excited about The Kingdom of Back. I grew up playing piano and this book is about Nannerl Mozart so that was a major plus. Then there’s the fact that it’s a historical fantasy (featuring all manner of beautiful and magical things), and the cover is absolutely stunning.
So I read the entire book today, and I’m now going to review it. This will definitely be biased, but I can assure you that this book deserves all. the. hype. Anyway-
The Kingdom of Back is the untold story of Nannerl Mozart, with a fantastical twist. We begin by learning that Nannerl is a young musical prodigy, playing instruments from a young age and talented enough to wow all of Austria. She’s an ambitious and highly talented child, with dreams of being remembered for her talents and her music. It isn’t until her younger brother, Woferl, reveals his musical talent that she even gets noticed, however. And very quickly, Nannerl gets overshadowed by her younger brother’s extraordinary musical ability.
When a magical boy named Hyacinth appears first in her dreams, and then in her home, with an offer to make her legacy immortal, she is swiftly drawn into the beautiful and backward, magical world of Back. The place seems familiar in a fairytale kind of way, and she’s drawn in instantly by the new world’s whimsical beauty. It doesn’t take long for Nannerl to realise, however, that her dream may come at a cost, and that everything in Back may not be quite what it seems.
Nannerl, like all of Marie Lu’s protagonists, is fascinating to read about. She’s a kind, compassionate and ambitious girl who gets quickly drawn into feelings of jealousy and envy, and I was incredibly impressed by how easily I could feel her resentment and fury. I love how strong her voice remains throughout the entire novel, and how believable her emotional outbursts are. She is truly an eighteenth-century teenager with feelings and dreams that her time period simply won’t allow.
The writing in this book is absolutely stunning. The imagery drew me in within seconds, and I found myself getting sucked into the Kingdom of Back, just as Nannerl was. Similarly to Warcross, a whole world is created in this story that is so unique and unbelievable, and yet still so easy to find yourself getting lost in.
If you’re looking for a historical fiction read, this book is incredible, with just enough factual content that you can consider yourself to be learning whilst reading. And if you’re looking for a fantasy, with faeries and ogres and magical forests, this is also for you. There are so many different elements for different readers and age groups that I would recommend this book to near-enough anyone.
Basically, I love, love, love this book. It has been so long since I got so deeply absorbed in a story that I forgot my own surroundings, and I already wish that I could read this story for the first time all over again.