I can’t be the only one whose virtual nightstand has drowned under a sea of unread ARCs right? Some were sent to me via publishers but most were requested voluntary and since Netgalley is basically that overtly enabling friend of the book review world the ARCs still come.
So this year, I’ve set the goal to do some mini reviews featuring a handful of ARCs, whose release dates have come and gone. Realistically, my hope is to just make a dent in the stack and not die in the process. Wish me luck!
*The following titles were free copies provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own and do not reflect the views of the publishers or authors.
Full Disclosure by Camryn GarretFull Disclosure by Camryn Garrett
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 29, 2019
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...
Quick Take: A social issue contemporary featuring an HIV positive female protagonist who worries not only about who she’s attracted to, but her diagnosis being made known by people who aren’t thrilled that she is falling hard and fast for Miles, one of the stagehands for the student production of Rent that she is helping to direct.
What I Loved: I think this is a really important book and speaks to the experience of an HIV positive teen. Simone’s voice is fierce but her character flawed enough to be both relate able and believable. Adopted by a male gay couple, Simone’s circle of support is full of heart and there were quite a few laugh out loud moments for me.
Simone’s relationship with Miles is cute, in that teen love kind of way, and it was interesting to watch their relationship develop. Simone’s love of directing also played a major role in the book and I enjoyed the conversations about musicals- as a musical lover myself. Ultimately, I think this is a very important book for the YA community and I’m glad its out in the world
What I Didn’t Love: Despite all the praise above I did feel, at times, that the characters were a bit one-dimensional and stereotypical. Not always, but here and there the dialogue just felt superficial and fabricated, like the characters were caricatures of the individuals they represented. However, don’t let my critique deter you from picking up the book!
The Family Upstairs by Lisa JewellThe Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
Published by Atria Books on November 5, 2019
An alternative cover edition for this ISBN can be found here.
From the New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone and Watching You comes another page-turning look inside one family’s past as buried secrets threaten to come to light.
Be careful who you let in.
Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.
She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.
Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.
In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.
Quick Take: When Libby Jones turns twenty five she inherits an old mansion, the mansion where she was found abandoned as a baby. The reader is privvy to Lydia’s journey to discover what exactly happened in the house all those years ago while flashing back to twenty five years before and learning in real time what led to Libby’s abandonment. It is a creepy, atmospheric thriller featuring found family, dark secrets, and a cult at the center of it all.
What I Loved: It should surprise no one that I picked up this book because the synopsis mentioned a cult. As you know that is one of the buzz words that will make me pick up a book almost instantly. That storyline did not disappoint and I was enthralled from the moment the strangers arrived at the house to the night that a handful of the residents were thought to have died in some kind of suicide pact.
What I Didn’t Love: If the timelines explaining Libby’s origins was enthralling, the other timeline where Libby met individuals who had survived the suicide pact was not as engaging. In fact, at times, it got a little confusing and I honestly could have been just as happy if it hadn’t been there at all. I still enjoyed it well enough and definitely recommend this one if you enjoy books about cults!
Dear Edward by Ann NapolitanoDear Edward by Ann Napolitano
Published by Dial Press on January 6, 2020
Inspired by a true story of one child’s incredible survival--riveting, uplifting, unforgettable.
After losing everything, a young boy discovers there are still reasons for hope in this luminous, life-affirming novel, perfect for fans of Celeste Ng and Ann Patchett.
In the face of tragedy, what does it take to find joy?
One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Among them is a Wall Street wunderkind, a young woman coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy, an injured vet returning from Afghanistan, a septuagenarian business tycoon, and a free-spirited woman running away from her controlling husband. And then, tragically, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor.
Edward's story captures the attention of the nation, but he struggles to find a place for himself in a world without his family. He continues to feel that a piece of him has been left in the sky, forever tied to the plane and all of his fellow passengers. But then he makes an unexpected discovery--one that will lead him to the answers of some of life's most profound questions: When you've lost everything, how do find yourself? How do you discover your purpose? What does it mean not just to survive, but to truly live?
Dear Edward is at once a transcendent coming-of-age story, a multidimensional portrait of an unforgettable cast of characters, and a breathtaking illustration of all the ways a broken heart learns to love again.
Quick Take: Twelve year old Edward Adler is the sole survivor of a plane crash that kills his entire family and everyone else on the flight. The book essentially follows Edward as he grieves his family, struggles with survival guilt, and just growing up. Told in two timelines, one detailing many of the passengers’ last moments together, and the other following Edward as he grows up this book as simultaneously heartbreaking and hopeful.
What I Loved: Napolitano’s writing style is at once accessible and succinct. Edward’s character was complicated and I appreciated the respectful way she handled the difficult subject matter. I was unsure of how I would feel about this book going in, I had heard mixed reviews and I fly often enough that I was deterred reading this book for a little while. But honestly, I think Napolitano did an amazing job.
What I Didn’t Love: I think it could have been shorter. I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that I just don’t love character driven novels the way I think I do. I keep picking up these books that are purported to be character studies and even though they center on plots that sound interesting, I often found myself getting bored. I think it in this case its just an instance of right book, wrong reader.
God Game by Danny TobeyThe God Game by Danny Tobey
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 7, 2020
You are invited!Come inside and play with G.O.D.Bring your friends!It’s fun!But remember the rules. Win and ALL YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE.™ Lose, you die!
With those words, Charlie and his friends enter the G.O.D. Game, a video game run by underground hackers and controlled by a mysterious AI that believes it’s God. Through their phone-screens and high-tech glasses, the teens’ realities blur with a virtual world of creeping vines, smoldering torches, runes, glyphs, gods, and mythical creatures. When they accomplish a mission, the game rewards them with expensive tech, revenge on high-school tormentors, and cash flowing from ATMs. Slaying a hydra and drawing a bloody pentagram as payment to a Greek god seem harmless at first. Fun even.
But then the threatening messages start. Worship me. Obey me. Complete a mission, however cruel, or the game reveals their secrets and crushes their dreams. Tasks that seemed harmless at first take on deadly consequences. Mysterious packages show up at their homes. Shadowy figures start following them, appearing around corners, attacking them in parking garages. Who else is playing this game, and how far will they go to win?
And what of the game’s first promise: win, win big, lose, you die? Dying in a virtual world doesn’t really mean death in real life—does it?
As Charlie and his friends try to find a way out of the game, they realize they’ve been manipulated into a bigger web they can’t escape: an AI that learned its cruelty from watching us.
God is always watching, and He says when the game is done.
Quick Take: An AI has been created programmed with all of the religious texts of the world. Personality traits are prioritized based on social relevance and number of adherents to a particular faith. Welcome to the G.O.D game, where the AI thinks it’s God and underground hackers are very serious about providing players with an immersive, rewarding experience.
What I Loved: If you read only one thriller this year this should be it. It takes a fascinating look at the morality of artificial intelligence, who is qualified to program it, and how far you will go to get what you think the world owes you. Every character’s motivations were compelling and I found myself empathizing with each of them in some way. This book got so dark and violent in ways not expecting but that I thoroughly enjoyed. God Game is a page turner that live to all the hype. You definitely don’t want to miss this one.
What I Didn’t Love: Honestly, I loved every aspect of this book and I think it will be one of my favorite thrillers of the year. Some people might be bothered by the political bent of the novel but that didn’t bother me and all. It was a roller coaster ride from start to finish.
What About You?
Have you read any of these backlist titles? What did you think of them? How are you doing with your Netgalley TBR? Let us know in the comments!