Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

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In a community that isn’t always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love–and lust–for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon.

Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on.

I got this ARC at Book Con 2019.

I am a bit torn about my feelings for this book. I really liked the message it sent to teens and young adults to educate yourself and take responsibility when it comes to sex and HIV. Simone takes her condition seriously and asks her doctors questions. And that is a really good example to set.

The novel did have some flaws that I will address with spoiler tags.

Well this one is not much of a spoiler but something that Camryn Garrett can learn not to do. The teens roll their eyes way too much. It felt like it happened on every page and it would irate me to no end. There are many different ways to express a teenager being annoyed. The side eye, the stink eye, the squint eye; as well as verbal sounds: “Ugh,” “Ew,” and “Pfft,” just to name a few.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

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The Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel by Jeanne Mackin

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An American woman becomes entangled in the intense rivalry between iconic fashion designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli in this captivating novel from the acclaimed author of The Beautiful American.

Paris, 1938. Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli are fighting for recognition as the most successful and influential fashion designer in France, and their rivalry is already legendary. They oppose each other at every turn, in both their politics and their designs: Chanel’s are classic, elegant, and practical; Schiaparelli’s bold, experimental, and surreal.

When Lily Sutter, a recently widowed young American teacher, visits her brother, Charlie, in Paris, he insists on buying her a couture dress–a Chanel. Lily, however, prefers a Schiaparelli. Charlie’s beautiful and socially prominent girlfriend soon begins wearing Schiaparelli’s designs as well, and much of Paris follows in her footsteps.

Schiaparelli offers budding artist Lily a job at her store, and Lily finds herself increasingly involved with Schiaparelli and Chanel’s personal war. Their fierce competition reaches new and dangerous heights as the Nazis and the looming threat of World War II bear down on Paris.

 

I won this ARC through a Goodreads giveaway! My first win! Thank you to Goodreads and Berkley Pub.

I was very interested in this novel because not only do I love Historical Fiction but I also love fashion. I was surprised to learn by reading other reviews – and even from my own sister – that they never heard of Elsa Schiaparelli. I assume it is because the Chanel brand still exists and Schiaparelli went out of business.

Although I knew about the lasting fashion influences and the signature looks of Schiaparelli and Chanel, I was not familiar with their political beliefs nor what they did and were accused of before and during World War II. Jeanne Mackin really did her research well and I learned a lot about both iconic designers.

(Side note: I learned that Schiaparelli’s daughter had polio, and her granddaughter, Berry, married Tony Perkins and she died in the 9/11 attacks. Berry was on one of the planes that went into the World Trade center. I was shocked.)

The novel is a great blend of historical and fictional elements as told by the fictional character of Lily. I saw some reviews mention that they wished it was just from the point of view of Schiaparelli and Chanel, and that Lily was a dull and unnecessary narrator. I disagree. Through Lily get to know these influential designers, but it is not just about their rivalry. We also get to see the beautiful city of Paris pre-WWII and the people who live there and then see the sad, sometimes bitter-sweet, aftermath of WWII.

My one critique for not giving the novel a perfect score is that sometimes, not overwhelmingly so, but sometimes it did get a little bit repetitive.

There were a few quotes I really liked. I know they say not to quote an ARC and check it against the final publication, but I am not doing that. Do it yourself 😉

This one made me laugh. Page 134: Men who persist in the belief that women are soft, sentimental creatures have never worked in the fashion industry.
4 out of 5 Couture Gowns

A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck

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Matt Wainwright is constantly sabotaged by the overdramatic movie director in his head. He can’t tell his best friend, Tabby, how he really feels about her. He implodes on the basketball court, even though no one cares about the JV team. And the only place he feels normal is in Mr. Ellis’s English class, discussing the greatest fart scenes in literature and writing poems about cantankerous candy-cane lumberjacks.

If this were a movie, everything would work out perfectly. Tabby would discover that Matt’s madly in love with her, be overcome with emotion, and fall into his arms. Maybe in the rain.

But that’s not how it works. Matt watches Tabby get swept away by senior basketball star and all-around great guy Liam Branson. Losing Tabby to Branson is bad enough, but screwing up and losing her as a friend is even worse.

After a tragic accident, Matt finds himself left on the sidelines, spiraling out of control and in danger of losing everything that matters to him. From debut author Jared Reck comes a fiercely funny and heart-wrenching novel about love, longing, and what happens when life as you know it changes in an instant.

Even though this book came out in September 2017, the copy I read was an ARC I had on my TBR pile since Book Con 2017.

I was so surprised by how much I really loved it. I thought it would just be another YA novel about unrequited love and it would get put in the donate pile when I was done.

At first I thought it was ok, and the basketball lingo went over my head, but I really grew to like the characters. Especially Tabby, Matt’s mom and his grandpa. Oh, and I love that Matt, his dad and Tabby love Star Wars.

Jared Reck is an 8th grade teacher and that really helped with setting the tone of what teenagers are like. I felt like I was thrown back into high school.

The book takes a dramatic turn and I found myself unexpectedly bawling my eyes out. But the story ends with hope and I really liked the message.

So, I am not going to put this in the donate pile. It’s book with a lot of heart, some humor, and it’s got short chapters (which was a relief after the last book I read). It’s a quick 2-3 day read.

5 out of 5 Nerds.

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

This is the story of Louis, as told in his own words, of his journey through mortal and immortal life. Louis recounts how he became a vampire at the hands of the radiant and sinister Lestat and how he became indoctrinated, unwillingly, into the vampire way of life. His story ebbs and flows through the streets of New Orleans, defining crucial moments such as his discovery of the exquisite lost young child Claudia, wanting not to hurt but to comfort her with the last breaths of humanity he has inside. Yet, he makes Claudia a vampire, trapping her womanly passion, will, and intelligence inside the body of a small child. Louis and Claudia form a seemingly unbreakable alliance and even “settle down” for a while in the opulent French Quarter. Louis remembers Claudia’s struggle to understand herself and the hatred they both have for Lestat that sends them halfway across the world to seek others of their kind. Louis and Claudia are desperate to find somewhere they belong, to find others who understand, and someone who knows what and why they are.

Louis and Claudia travel Europe, eventually coming to Paris and the ragingly successful Theatre des Vampires–a theatre of vampires pretending to be mortals pretending to be vampires. Here they meet the magnetic and ethereal Armand, who brings them into a whole society of vampires. But Louis and Claudia find that finding others like themselves provides no easy answers and in fact presents dangers they scarcely imagined.

Originally begun as a short story, the book took off as Anne wrote it, spinning the tragic and triumphant life experiences of a soul. As well as the struggles of its characters, Interview captures the political and social changes of two continents. The novel also introduces Lestat, Anne’s most enduring character, a heady mixture of attraction and revulsion. The book, full of lush description, centers on the themes of immortality, change, loss, sexuality, and power.

 

I did not finish this. I stopped reading at page 288 (out of 340). I tried to push through to the end, but I just got so bored and uninspired. I already wasted too much time on it.

I got this 20th Anniversary Edition for free at Book Con in 2014 and I have been trying to dwindle my Book Con pile. This book put me behind schedule. I need to learn to just give up when I have stalled and have no desire to continue.

The thing is that it started off with promise, and with the exception that I hated that there were no chapter breaks, I thought it was interesting. I liked the twisted dynamic between Lestat, Louis, and Claudia. Claudia was the most interesting character. The mind of a woman trapped inside the body of a child and frustrated that she will forever look like a child and be vulnerable.

It wasn’t until Louis and Claudia got to Paris that I became so bored and really tried of Louis’s depressing contemplations.

Some parts are really poetic and I bookmarked them:

Page 13: “Evil is always possible. And goodness is eternally difficult.”

Page 161: “It seemed at moments, when I sat alone in the dark stateroom, that the sky had come down to meet the sea and that some great secret was to be revealed in that meeting, some great gulf miraculously closed forever.”

…but Louis’s musings became way too much. Like every sentence and sometimes they felt like run on sentences. So when I gave up I just looked up the ending on wikipedia. I barely remember the movie with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. I saw it once almost twenty years ago, and besides the movies always differ from the books.

So, yea, I am done with this book. I don’t have to finish every book.

2 out of 5 Bites.

Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray, narrated by January LaVoy

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Witness the birth of the Resistance

When the Rebellion defeated the Empire in the skies above Endor, Leia Organa believed it was the beginning to a lasting peace. But after decades of vicious infighting and partisan gridlock in the New Republic Senate, that hope seems like a distant memory.

Now a respected senator, Leia must grapple with the dangers that threaten to cripple the fledgling democracy—from both within and without. Underworld kingpins, treacherous politicians, and Imperial loyalists are sowing chaos in the galaxy. Desperate to take action, senators are calling for the election of a First Senator. It is their hope that this influential post will bring strong leadership to a divided galaxy.

As the daughter of Darth Vader, Leia faces with distrust the prospect of any one person holding such a powerful position—even when supporters suggest Leia herself for the job. But a new enemy may make this path Leia’s only option. For at the edges of the galaxy, a mysterious threat is growing.

This is one of the top notch Star Wars novels. It’s my first Claudia Gray novel and she is an excellent author. (I plan to read more of her work. My sister is a fan of her Firebird series.)

Leia is so in character and it’s fantastic. Gray wrote her perfectly. She really got her intelligence, her heart, her temper and her sass so well.

There is some action and adventure in the story, but it is more political – and not in a boring way. The story takes place six years prior to Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens. Not an era I care for but after reading this I have more insight into how the First Order came to power.

January LaVoy’s narration was great. She sounded similar to older Leia’s voice. Her voice for Lady Carise Sindian was spot on because she sounded just like a prissy royal bitch. And I liked what she did for Ransolm Casterfo’s voice. It was great for his character development where he starts out as a stuffy ass and then by the end you are sympathizing with him.

I loved the development of the friendship between Leia and Ransolm. The turn around from enemies to friends to enemies to friends again was an emotional rollercoaster.

I can’t go further without going into some spoilers:

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Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

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Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland.

 

I got this book as a give away at Book Con 2017.

I really enjoyed this story. While the world and story isn’t anything new, Córdova did a great job of incorporating old Latin American lore into a modern story.

I love the family dynamics and the fact that the characters are from Brooklyn. Alex’s coming of age journey and acceptance of herself and her powers was well done.

If your are looking for a fantasy book with diverse representation, read this. The leads are POC and there is a bisexual love triangle. Luckily the story doesn’t lean too heavily on the typically overdone love triangle aspect and concentrates more on the world building, the character development, and the magic.

I do have a small critique about the villain. I didn’t find her as scary or threatening as she was supposed to be. She was more cartoonish in my opinion. I also wished to know more about her history.

Overall I enjoyed it so much I bought the sequel right away because I want to see more from Brooklyn Bruja sisters (and Nova too) and know more about their family history and future.

Favorite quotes:

page 126: What’s the point of being what I am if I can’t use it when I need it to save my life?”

page 234: But burden or gift, this is who we are. Just think, nena, if you didn’t fear your own power, then you wouldn’t have respected it enough to rein it in.

4 out of 5 Death Masks.

Year Zero by Rob Reid

 

I got this book at NYCC 2017. I saw the author speak at a panel about deleted scenes and then went to his book signing.

I found his deleted scene (for After On) to be very funny and that prompted me to go to his book signing.

The plot of Year Zero had lots of promise and it started out really funny, but about half way through the jokes got old and I also became bored by the story. Sometimes it was hard to follow all the descriptions of copyright laws and the descriptions of the alien worlds. I hate to admit that I started to skim about three quarters of the way through.

Also, the footnotes were distracting. Small ones were fine, but they often turned into whole paragraphs. That tangent is just unnecessary and I also just skipped reading those all together towards the end.

I didn’t find myself connecting with any of the characters so in the end I didn’t really care what happened. Hence the skimming.

I feel horrible giving such a poor review but it is an honest one.

Since I already bought After On I will give that one a shot and hope I like it better than Year Zero.

2 out of 5 Downloaded Songs.