ARC Review of Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Simone has always been HIV positive. Now seventeen, she’s starting over at a new school after her ex-girlfriend blasted that info to everyone at the boarding school. Now, she’s more determined to keep her status quiet, but there’s a problem: she cannot stop thinking about someday having sex with someone.

She begins crushing on Miles, and much to her surprise and delight, Miles is interested in her too. But then a note shows up in her locker: break things off with Miles or everyone will know she’s HIV positive.

Full Disclosure is a timely look at both how much progress has been made in the treatment of HIV while also looking at how much prejudice still remains against those who are positive.

 

ARC Review of Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tam is mostly ready for seventh grade to start. She’s friendly to all, but she’s mostly friends with just Levi. Unfortunately for her, she discovers that she only has one class with him.

Kate has a plan for seventh grade which is to follow her mom’s plan for her. But this suddenly gets disrupted when she takes one for the cheerleading team and volunteers to be the mascot for a bit.

Tam and Kate end up in nearly all the same classes, and on the first day of school, Kate makes a decision that surprises herself–she sits with Tam and Levi instead of all her friends.

But the tension starts to come as Tam and Kate begin to feel things for each other. While Tam knows members of the LGBT+ community, Kate doesn’t, and Kate begins to really wrestle with what it means that she might not be straight after all.

Told in verse, Redwood and Ponytail is a delightful middle grade novel that is eagerly welcomed into the fray of #ownvoices LGBT+ representation.

It so perfectly captures the tension of becoming who you are instead of who others always thought you were supposed to be, and this will be a life-changing book for students who pick it up.

Redwood and Ponytail releases October 1.

 

My favorites so far of 2019

Just over halfway through 2019, and 2019 has seen some great book releases. I’m highlighting my favorites. Please note: this list is not in any particular order.

Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig 

Caleb Roehrig’s third book is a fantastic foray into the world of sophisticated crimes–all committed by teenagers. Margo Manning is well known for who her father is, the CEO of Manning Corporation. But Margo Manning’s crimes are well known too–from art theft to jewel heists. Did I mention the drag queens? Yes, the crimes are committed by Margo, Liesl, Anita, Electra, and Dior. All highly trained in the art of various combats with Margo’s access to high tech tools through her father’s work, they haven’t been caught yet.

Death Prefers Blondes begins right in the middle of a heist at the Los Angeles Museum of Fine Art. This book will immediately draw you in and will not let you go until you have finished the very last page.

Keep This To Yourself by Tom Ryan

One year after a serial killer terrorized the small coastal town of Camera Cove, Mac is trying his best to move on. He has just graduated high school, reuniting with some of his childhood best friends to dig up a time capsule. One member of the friend group cannot be there because Connor was the final victim of the serial killer that has not been caught.

After going home, Mac decides to finally open up a bag of comics that Connor had left on his door on a day that ended up being the last day of Connor’s life. In there, Mac finds a small note that tells him that Connor may have actively been investigating the serial killer.

Instead of moving on, Mac begins to investigate this. Under the guise of seeking items for a rummage sale, he begins to make contact with each of the victim’s families to search for clues that the police may have missed.

Obsessive search for a serial killer? What’s not to love.

Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok

Paris. 1887.

Nathalie has gotten a job as the morgue reporter for a newspaper. Every morning, she finds herself waiting outside of the public morgue waiting waiting to view the bodies for the day. Her job is then to write a brief report about the bodies and submit it.

But things don’t go as planned. After 2 weeks on the job, she views a body who has been so brutally murdered that she touches the glass separating her and the victim. Instantly, she is transported to a scene where the murdered girl is still alive. She views this as if in a dream, and when she is pulled back out of it, she is still in the morgue.

Soon it becomes clear that there is a serial killer on the loose, and perhaps Nathalie can use her newly discovered ability to find them.

A combination of thriller, historical, and a touch of fantasy. Spectacle is the brilliant debut novel by Jodie Lynn Zdrok.

Deposing Nathan by Zack Smedley

Deposing Nathan begins in conference room of a state’s attorney office. Nate had been involved in a fist-fight that led to his former best friend Cam stabbing him in the gut with a shard of ceramic.

Just how they got to that point is the question. While the book takes place over the course of just a few days, the back story takes up the course of nearly a year. The design of this book is unique; it goes back and forth between remembering that we are hearing Nate tell this story inside of the state’s attorney office and figuring out what exactly happened between him and Cam.

This story is remarkably well done and carefully handles the internal conflict of a person of faith and what the church teaches versus what he feels.

Starworld by Audrey Coulthurst and Paula Garner

Sam Jones hopes that college can be a fresh start for her. But right now, she’s still stuck in high school–the awkward girl who doesn’t quite fit in, even among her friend Will’s group of gamers.

Zoe Miller meanwhile fits in just fine, but her friends have no idea what her home life is like.

When Zoe visits the art room to find a piece for a student led production, she meets Sam. Sam doesn’t want the attention, but she eventually says yes to letting the painting be used.

What neither expected was a friendship to form.

This is an honest look at intense friendships forged in fire and carried out significantly through text messages (although it’s not done by the characters, this is true for other forms of social media messaging as well). The misunderstandings, the difficulties, the greatness–it’s all there and all so realistic.

 

Sorry For Your Loss by Jessie Ann Foley

Pup Flanagan comes from a big family. He’s the youngest of eight kids, and with all of his in-laws, future in-laws, nieces, and nephews, there’s 28 of them.

But one of them is gone. Lost. Dead.

Almost almost three years prior to the start of Sorry For Your Loss, Pup’s brother Patrick died of meningitis. Since then, one of the three beds in the upstairs attic of the Flanagan boys’ room remains empty. Patrick’s picture on the wall has been replaced with a drawing of a cherub instead.

Every Sunday, all the members of the Flanagan family gather for dinner. But still, there’s that missing piece.

This is a fantastic book about how grief can carry on and about finding your way to live through it.

The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson

Dino was friends with July. But then something happened that changed that.

But now there really is no chance for them to repair their friendship because July is dead.

Until she’s suddenly not quite dead after all. Not dead but not alive, July and Dino have to figure out what’s going on because July’s dead-not-dead moment has made it so that other people have stopped dying even when they should be dead.

Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson

Brave Face is Shaun David Hutchinson’s memoir about his high school experience and early college experience when Hutchinson experienced difficulties with coming to terms with who he is and with the struggles of mental illness that also occurred. A brutally honest memoir, Hutchinson does a great job including content warnings for the things that he went through which I appreciated as a reader. As I read, despite the fact that we are very different people, I was struck by how similar some of the things that we have gone through were. And it gave me hope that if someone else could survive it, so could I.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Jules has not had an easy life. Her sister vanished about eight years ago. Then her mom began struggling with health problems at the same time her dad was laid off. Then both of her parents died.

Now, Jules finds herself suddenly laid off and recently split up from a boyfriend who was cheating on her. She’s having no luck finding a job, and she’s staying on the couch of a friend.

So when an ad comes up that an apartment sitter is needed, Jules jumps on the opportunity. When she arrives at the address, she discovers that it’s a storied place that was used in the setting of her favorite book. She feels that something is off when she’s offered $12,000 to stay in an apartment for three months, but the money is too good to pass up.

Within hours of moving in, Jules starts to get a weird vibe from the place, and despite warnings not to, she begins snooping about.

She learns about past disappearances in the building, and she begins to realize that something sinister is afoot.

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian

Told over the course of 1989 and 1990 during the middle of the AIDS crisis, Like a Love Story is a brilliant novel. Told in three parts, Reza, Judy, and Art, this story is a compelling historical look at what it meant to be gay during the middle of a crisis where gay people were demonized as they were dying from a disease that disproportionately affected them as the government mostly refused to take action.

Reza struggles with his identity, Judy struggles with belonging, and Art fights back against AIDS while living with parents who are conservative.

As soon as I finished this book, I wanted to read it again.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga 

Jasmine Warga’s first middle grade novel and her first told in verse is a beautiful story about Jude who leaves Syria when things become more dangerous where she’s living. She ends up in Cincinnati with her mother, living at her uncle’s home.

I still struggle to put into words just how beautiful this novel is, but it’s so beautifully told.

Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Sophie and Peter have been best friends for year. Deep down, Sophie has feelings for Peter, and when the opportunity comes up for her to donate a kidney to him so that he has an opportunity to live more fully, having been on constant dialysis for years, Sophie does so willingly, hoping but not expecting that it would make a difference in their relationship.

But as Peter begins to live in his life post-transplant, he finds that he’s attracted to someone else, a boy.

Our Year of Maybe delicately explores unrequited love and friendships that turn toxic, and it’s beautifully told.

The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake

Sunny has a second chance at life after she receives a heart transplant. She has plans for her new life: find a new best friend, do things that she could never do before, and kiss a boy.

Sunny went through a friendship break up before she got her new heart, and it was for the worst reason. Sunny is learning that she thinks about kissing other girls, but she learns that other girls don’t necessarily think that way. And sometimes, those other girls are immensely cruel about it.

On top of that, for the first time in years, Sunny’s mother comes back into the picture, and Sunny struggles with this.

A beautifully told story about coming to terms with who you are, this middle grade novel is not to be missed. (It also compliments really well with Rachel Lynn Solomon’s Our Year of Maybe.)

The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg

Max and Jordan know who they are. They both know that they are gay.

Jordan’s mother has been struggling financially and decides to resurrect her husband’s old food truck. But neither Jordan or his mother know the first thing about running the food truck. When Max meets Jordan as Jordan’s mother is melting down, Max becomes roped into helping out on the food truck as a cook.

Jordan and Max begin working together on the food truck, becoming friends and exploring becoming more than friends, but both are struggling.

Max has a secret that’s eating away at him. And Jordan is having to parent his mother and may be losing his house.

Beautifully told story.

That’s Not What I Heard by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Did you hear? Teddy and Kim broke up. The it couple who seemed like they would always be together has suddenly broken up, and now the entire school is taking sides.

Told in third person but through multiple perspectives, That’s Not What I Heard is an absurd and hysterical story of what can happen when people get overly invested in other people’s relationships. I laughed out loud throughout the book, and it’s just so fun.

Rayne and Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner

Josie and Delia are best friends living in Jackson, TN. Each Friday night, for the past year and a half, they slip into their horror show host personas, Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood, to film segments that will air inter-spliced with a horror movie of Delia’s choosing from her father’s grand collection of VHS tapes that he left behind when he left her years ago.

As the end of their senior year approaches, they find out that they have been invited to attend ShiverCon, a horror movie/tv show convention in Florida. Delia finds out that Jack Devine, a horror show host from the 1970s that helped launch other careers, will be there, and she wants to meet with him to help their show launch into something that could be a career.

Add into this mix an 18 year old MMA fighter that Josie meets while performing a dog wedding, Delia’s search for her father and then hesitance to reach out when a PI does, and a lot of humor, and you’ve got a pretty wonderful book.

ARC Review of Reverie by Ryan La Sala

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

All Kane knows is that he was in an accident at an old mill in town. He disappeared for a couple days, crashed his dad’s car which burst into flames, and woke up in a hospital days later with several burns.

Problem is, he doesn’t remember the accident. Nor does he remember the summer. In fact, much of his life is a mystery.

He discovers pictures in his room that suggest that he is friends with a girl named Ursula who he doesn’t remember being friends with. He remembers being really cruel to her in third grade but doesn’t remember ever being her friend.

As he begins to unravel his life from his lost memories, he discovers that he is a part of a group called The Others who remain lucid when something called a Reverie becomes real. The Others help to protect those within the reverie before making sure it unravels safely.

But the reveries are becoming more dangerous. And Kane must rebuild his life, trust people he doesn’t remember, and become more than who he was before to save the world from a drag queen sorceress who may just be behind all of this madness.

I come into this review as someone who has genuine brain-processing issues with fantasy. This particular fantasy, however, will work well for people like me whose brains cannot process most on-page fantasies. Ryan La Sala created a grounded fantasy with solid world-building that allows for even someone like me to understand what’s happening throughout the story.

The idea is intriguing, and it’s done extremely well. This will appeal to all YA readers even those like me who normally cannot process fantasy.

Reverie releases January 7, 2020.

Pre-order Links

IndieBound

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

 

 

ARC Review of Every Stolen Breath by Kimberly Gabriel

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Two years ago, Lia’s father was killed by a mob of dangerous teenagers named the Swarm. That was that last known attack, but Lia’s convinced that this isn’t over and that the Swarm will attack again.

The Swarm appears out of nowhere, targeting one specific person, beating that person to death, before disappearing. They have done 11 random attacks like this over the course of 9 years, and Lia’s dad was investigating the Swarm when he was killed.

She becomes aware of a probable attack at Navy Pier and arrives there, taking pictures of anyone that appears to be there alone. She’s certain that she can find the people who killed her dad. What she doesn’t plan is to be discovered in this process.

Over the course of Every Stolen Breath, set in a near-future Chicago, Lia invokes the help of multiple friends, old and new, to help her in order to discover who is behind the Swarm and behind her father’s death. Unfortunately, Lia also struggles with debilitating asthma as well as PTSD that sometimes results in hallucinations which makes it difficult for her to sometimes distinguish what is a real threat and what is being hallucinated.

Every Stolen Breath is a brilliant debut novel that will steal your breath away throughout. You will cheer for Lia and be heartbroken with her, and you will desperately want to know: who is behind the Swarm and can they be stopped?

Every Stolen Breath will be released November 5.

Pre-order Links

IndieBound

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

ARC Review of Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Mooncakes is a gorgeous graphic novel. Nova is a witch who lives with her grandmas as she continues to learn magic with them rather than pursuing an apprenticeship elsewhere. One night, a report of a white wolf and glowing in the forest leads Nova to explore.

She finds her old best friend Tam in battle with a demon possessing a horse, and she helps them get away from the demon possessing horse and takes them back home. With the help of her grandmas, Nova and Tam quickly learn that this demon is one that will need some wolf magic in order to vanquish it–if Tam can figure out how to use their powers.

Mooncakes has gorgeous art throughout, and while the eARC didn’t show all of the final art details in the later chapters, the art work throughout is gorgeous, and no doubt, the final version will be even more gorgeous. The story also shines for the inclusion of a character who is hard-of-hearing and for a character who is non-binary as a part of the story while not making it the story.

Mooncakes will release in October, just in time for a delightful autumn appropriate read. Of course, the read is great any time as well. Check this one out.

ARC Review of The Babysitters Coven by Kate Williams

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Esme started a babysitters club with three friends when she was 12. Now 17, she and her friend Janis are the only two left in this club where they mostly use it as an excuse to hang out together while babysitting occasionally instead of getting a traditional job.

Strange things, however, start happening to Esme and Janis while they are babysitting. One charge ends up on the roof with no idea how she got there. And someone breaks into the house another night.

Strange things also begin happening to Esme. She finds that she is able to make things happen by thinking about them, but at first, she’s not sure what’s going on.

Enter Cassandra, new to town, who knows exactly what’s up with Esme. They both have powers.

As alluded to in the official plot description from the publisher, the two of them discover that they have lineage as Sitters who are protectors of the normal world. And something is definitely up in their town, and they may be the only two that can stop it.

The Babysitters Coven is a fun read, a bit like Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Hocus Pocus. Stories with a paranormal element aren’t usually my cup of tea, but this made it really fun to read.

As a final note, one of the disappointing things was the use of the word “crazy” thrown around to describe Esme’s mom. Esme tried to say that she was reclaiming the word from all those people who called her mom “crazy,” however, you cannot personally reclaim a word if you aren’t the person directly affected by it.

Overall, a fun read and one to check out when it releases in September 2019.

 

ARC Review of How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Remy Cameron has sworn off dating. After a bad break up last year, he’s determined that the rest of high school will be about doing all the steps necessary so he can get into Emory. To do this, he needs to do well in AP Lit, but his teacher throws him a curveball the same time life throws him one too in the form of a boy.

In order to pass the semester of AP Lit, Remy has to write an essay about who he is. Suddenly, Remy who is adopted, Black, and gay, doesn’t know quite who he is besides all of the labels that society puts on him. He begins to question all of this while becoming interested in Ian despite swearing that he would not get involved with another boy.

How to Be Remy Cameron is a unique look at how labels can be more harmful and helpful while still being an entertaining story.

Additionally, the novel manages to have a great ensemble cast. While there are some moments of homophobia from a couple of characters, we see teachers and students challenge it on page which is refreshing in respect to the teacher aspect.

How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters releases September 10.