A cautionary tale that pays tribute to the allure of classical music.

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PRIVATE LESSONS

A high school student pursues musical excellence and experiences the high cost of gaining her piano teacher’s favor.

Seventeen-year-old Claire Alalay dreams of attending a college where her love of classical music will not distance her from her peers. She knows that tuition at her top choices is too high for her and her widowed mother to afford. After her guidance counselor suggests that she participate in music competitions, which would enhance her college applications and potentially lead to scholarships, Claire seeks instruction from Paul Avon, one of the best piano teachers in the Bay Area. Paul maintains high standards for his students; though Claire strives to satisfy Paul’s expectations, her best efforts are not always enough, and she becomes increasingly sensitive to his critiques. Salaysay captures the mindset of a girl steeped in self-consciousness, craving praise while expecting criticism, torn between fitting in and just being herself. The leisurely paced plot allows tension to build slowly, almost imperceptibly, until things take a troubling turn in the second half of the book and Claire becomes a victim of sexual assault. The writing is poetic in the moments when Claire reflects on the music she hears and plays. Her vivid descriptions convey a deep appreciation for the genre that will resonate with readers. Claire is Filipina; Paul is white.

A cautionary tale that pays tribute to the allure of classical music. (Fiction. 16-18)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0960-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Bulky, balky, talky.

THE DA VINCI CODE

In an updated quest for the Holy Grail, the narrative pace remains stuck in slo-mo.

But is the Grail, in fact, holy? Turns out that’s a matter of perspective. If you’re a member of that most secret of clandestine societies, the Priory of Sion, you think yes. But if your heart belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, the Grail is more than just unholy, it’s downright subversive and terrifying. At least, so the story goes in this latest of Brown’s exhaustively researched, underimagined treatise-thrillers (Deception Point, 2001, etc.). When Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon—in Paris to deliver a lecture—has his sleep interrupted at two a.m., it’s to discover that the police suspect he’s a murderer, the victim none other than Jacques Saumière, esteemed curator of the Louvre. The evidence against Langdon could hardly be sketchier, but the cops feel huge pressure to make an arrest. And besides, they don’t particularly like Americans. Aided by the murdered man’s granddaughter, Langdon flees the flics to trudge the Grail-path along with pretty, persuasive Sophie, who’s driven by her own need to find answers. The game now afoot amounts to a scavenger hunt for the scholarly, clues supplied by the late curator, whose intent was to enlighten Sophie and bedevil her enemies. It’s not all that easy to identify these enemies. Are they emissaries from the Vatican, bent on foiling the Grail-seekers? From Opus Dei, the wayward, deeply conservative Catholic offshoot bent on foiling everybody? Or any one of a number of freelancers bent on a multifaceted array of private agendas? For that matter, what exactly is the Priory of Sion? What does it have to do with Leonardo? With Mary Magdalene? With (gulp) Walt Disney? By the time Sophie and Langdon reach home base, everything—well, at least more than enough—has been revealed.

Bulky, balky, talky.

Pub Date: March 18, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50420-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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An unflinching portrayal of the devastating effects of domestic violence.

WATCH OVER ME

After a horrific domestic violence incident, Zoey Ward and her family finally find their footing in Las Vegas only to have their lives overturned by a house fire.

Learning that her father has been recently released from prison, Zoey suspects he had something to do with the blaze. After their lives go up in flames, literally, Zoey along with her mom and her younger siblings, Kate and Cole, flee Las Vegas with the help of her older brother, Will, and his best friend, Tristan. They take refuge in California, where Tristan and his sister welcome them into a world where things seem hopeful and more stable than anything they have ever known. Yet the fear of being hunted down by her father consumes Zoey. The story is narrated from Zoey’s and Tristan’s first-person perspectives, and Gray (Run Away With Me, 2017, etc.) has masterfully captured the uncertainty and terror that come from domestic violence. Tristan and Zoey share a budding romance in which Zoey slowly but surely learns to love and be loved in a nondestructive, healthy way despite her fears and reservations. With everything she has been through, Zoey is the underdog readers will find themselves rooting for. Gray spares no detail in this intense tale. All characters are assumed to be white; Tristan is dyslexic, and there are several queer characters.

An unflinching portrayal of the devastating effects of domestic violence. (Fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4281-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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