Hi everyone! The day I started writing this post was the day after I posted my Autumn Vibes F/F Recommendations post, and I just wanted to say thank you so much for all the love for that post! I had so much fun writing it and I have more coming soon under the new name of Sapphic Recommendations! Today, though, is another round up of the Netgalley eARCs that I was so very kindly approved for by the publishers! Without further ado, here are my mini reviews!
When I first heard about The Bone Shard Daughter being an Asian-inspired fantasy with an established sapphic romance and bone magic, I knew I had to get my hands on it! The magic system in this book is one of the most unique I’ve ever encountered – commands are written on bone shards taken from children’s skulls and placed inside the bodies of amalgamations of different animals, all controlled by the emperor. These animals are of no surprise to people living in the kingdom, but to readers they seem almost gruesome. We follow five different POVs throughout the book – Lin, Jovis, Ranami, Phalue and Sand – and as such we see so much of the world the book is set in, but I never felt like I was being bombarded by information all at once, which is impressive for such a complex world! I really loved little Mephi, Jovis’ talking companion, and I can’t wait to find out more about him! There are only two reasons why this isn’t a five stars, the first being that so much of the story is told from Lin and Jovis’ points of view, and I wanted more from the others, specifically Phalue and Sand. Secondly, I felt that at times the plot was a bit meandering and I wanted more action, more drama. Regardless this is such a strong new fantasy novel and I can’t wait to see where the story goes in book two!
Sadly, I didn’t have as great a time reading the next book – Islands of Mercy by Rose Tremain. Historical fiction is my joint third most read genre this year, and I’ve been particularly enjoying reading sapphic historical fiction, so when I saw this on Netgalley I was so excited to read it! Sadly, however, I just didn’t click with it and eventually DNFed it. The writing style is so reminiscent of a 19th century novel and often felt like I was being read to. The book is told in third person perspectives by some omnipresent narrator that switched between characters and places halfway through a chapter with no warning, and as such I just couldn’t connect to the story at all. Theresa also mentions in her review that the topic of miscarriage is handled very poorly and extremely insensitively and I completely agree. This really just wasn’t for me but if you are a real fan of historical fiction, maybe give it a shot!
This next book however has quickly become a new favourite of mine! The Scapegracers follows Sideways, a teen outcast and lesbian witch, who is paid by the three popular girls to perform some magic at a pre-Halloween party. However, after some not so great things happen at the party, the four become best friends and eventually, a coven, cursing awful boys, trying to find Sideways a girlfriend, and even accidentally unleashing a demon! This book is honestly everything I could have wished for. The friendships in this are honestly some of the best I have ever read, and that’s saying something. The complete acceptance that Jing, Yates and Daisy had for Sideways was so amazing, especially when they were all trying to help her get a girlfriend. Everything about this book was so atmospheric and it’s definitely the perfect book for Halloween. This book is feral, it’s brutal and it’s just fucking amazing, please check it out!
This next one is, sadly, another DNF – but it’s only a DNF for now. I think the sheer size of it put me off a little, and reading it on my Kindle was not ideal, so I will be picking up the paperback copy when it is released! Legendborn by Tracy Deonn follows Bree who, shortly after her mother’s death, gets into an early college program, but witnesses a demon attack on her first night there. She discovers a secret society of ‘Legendborn’ students who hunt these creatures down, and in particular, a ‘Merlin’ who fails to wipe Bree’s memories of what happened that night. Bree finds a way to join the secret society to try and uncover what really happened to her mother the night that she died. I DNF-ed this one a quarter of the way through because I was still a little lost as to what was going on as the plot hadn’t really moved on all that far. I can say though, that I loved the discussion on race ad privilege, and also the inclusion of so much queer rep, including a non binary character! I think that if you enjoyed the Mortal Instruments books, you’ll definitely enjoy this one! I really hope I do to when I pick it up again in the near future, because the concept and the characters were really right up my street!
The last ARC was, unfortunately, also a DNF – but unlike Legendborn this was a case of it’s the book, not me. I was so excited to pick The Holiday Detour up because Christmas is my favourite holiday and there’s genderqueer and Jewish rep in here, but I was sorely disappointed. The book follows Dana, who, on Christmas Eve, is making the journey home to be with her grandmother. However, on her way there her car completely breaks down at the side of the road. Luckily, Charlie, a pig farmer, is there to help her out and offers her a ride home, but not without some diversions on the way. Admittedly, this book does have some merits – I liked the writing style a lot, it’s definitely one of the better written romance books I’ve read, and the plot was interesting with some tropes I really like getting to see (fake dating and forced proximity). However, and this is a big however, the genderqueer character’s gender was not dealt with sensitively at all in this book. Near the start of the book Charlie reveals their gender and Dana asks what their ‘preferred’ pronouns are (we’re off to a good start…not). Charlie explains that they/them are the pronouns they are the most comfortable with while stating that she/her is also fine, but heavily implying otherwise, and even explaining that their unsupportive family continues to use she/her. Every other character in the book refers to Charlie with they/them pronouns except Dana who almost makes an effort to keep using she/her. Dana is the character whose POV we read the book from, and every description of Charlie is describing them as a woman and using feminine descriptors. It’s only after Dana is called out by one of Charlie’s friends and Charlie explains for a second time why they use they/them pronouns that Dana starts using them – and that’s at 60% of the way through the book. I could deal with the insta-love romance because it’s what I expected from the book, but this was just very disappointing and I didn’t feel comfortable continuing to slog through it.
Although I did read some disappointing ARCs recently I still did read a couple of great ones and one I’m going to give another try! If you’ve read any of these, or looking forward to reading any, let me know! As always, stay safe!