NetGalley TBR – November 2020

Good afternoon!

Today’s post is inspired by Alexa’s NetGalley Update series, which you can go check out on her blog, Writing the universe (and don’t hesitate to follow her blog if you haven’t subscribed yet!).

These past few months, I’ve done my best to improve my NetGalley ratio, which was at a low 65 at some point this year (yeah, I know, that’s pretty bad… I might have requested a bit more books than I could actually read…).

It’s now gone up to 78%, and I’m doing everything everything I can to get it all the way up to the recommended 80% – I feel like I’d be pretty happy if I could get it to 85, but then again, since I’m not a US-based reviewer, it won’t drastically augment the number of books that are available for me, so I’m not stressing too much about it.

Related posts : The eternal frustration of an international book blogger, by @insidemylibrarymind, My story with ARCs as an international book blogger, by Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane books

My NetGalley “to read” and “to review” shelves have now been almost fully emptied, but I do still have some books I’d like to get around to reading and reviewing sometime before the end of the year :

  • Slingshot, by Mercedes Helnwein – I got an invitation to get this e-ARC in my email a while ago, and almost didn’t see it at all – it had slipped in my spam folder by accident. Fortunately, I managed to find it before the publication date!
  • Men who hate women, by Laura Bates – I read a book on this exact topic from a Québécois author last year, and I’m supposed to be taking a class on it next semester, so I thought it might be useful for me to read this one!
  • The truth and other hidden things, by Lea Geller – this just sounded fun and full of drama – exactly what I’ll need once my finals are done in mid-December!
  • Viral BS : Medical myths and why we fall for them, by Seema Yasmin – I felt like this was going to be particularly interesting considering the year we’ve just had, so my expectations are pretty high for this one!

I think I’ll prioritize them by their publication dates – the last one on the list here is due for January 2021, and it’s the earliest one here so far, which means I’ve got all the time I need to read and review them all before I end up with late ARCs.

I did wish for a lot of new ones, but I’m not holding out any hope of actually getting them, since most of them were highly anticipated YA novels for which I’m sure a lot of other people made wishes.

One thing that would be pretty useful, though, would be if NetGalley could add a “wished for” tab in the library section, so we could see those books in the same way we can see the pending requests – I’ve wasted time more than once opening a ton of NetGalley tabs to check out interesting books, only to realize that I’d been here earlier in the month / year and already wished for those…

There’s been a lot of change in my life recently, and lots of added stress, so I’m not sure how fast I’ll be able to check these books off my list, but I’m genuinely excited to read them all, so we’ll see how it goes over the month of December!

ARC review : Tweet Cute, by Emma Lord

I know, I know, I’m super late in posting this review. I’ve been trying to adapt to my new university schedule and I thought I had everything under control, but this post was supposed to be up a week ago, in time for the publication of the book… and it clearly wasn’t. But hey, better late than never, right ?

Tweet Cute is author Emma Lord’s debut novel, a contemporary YA rom-com filled to the brim with cuteness, lovable characters, and a ton of food references. It’s everything I was looking for in a book at the end of 2019, and I was absolutely delighted to get to read an ARC of it through NetGalley.

Synopsis

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

What I liked

Finally, a novel where teens using social media actually act like teens using social media ! The cultural references used by Jack and Pepper make the twitter war much more realistic than lots of supposedly “teen” characters in other YA novels, whose only references are their Hogwarts houses and how much they love Lady Gaga – we get it, Harry Potter is very popular, but it’s clearly not representative of everything that teens have an interest in !

The main characters, Pepper and Jack, were what really sold me on this book from the first couple of pages in. Their characterization is well done and they come off as believable teenagers, and the alternating POV helps the readers understand their actions and their behaviours, outside of what they think of each other.

The way they talk about their challenges and struggles is extremely relatable, and the author doesn’t hesitate to tackle the subject of unhealthy competition between students and the academic pressure to get into a good college, be the best of your class, and the effects it has on teenagers’ mindsets.

What I didn’t like

One of the plot points described in the longer synopsis available on Goodreads mentions an anonymous text-chat app that Jack built – and as much as this could have been an interesting way to connect the two characters, I felt like it was a bit too underdeveloped, and could have been cut out of the story without losing much in terms of character development. For me, this specific part would have had its place in a story without the twitter war, but the two in the same narrative felt a bit too heavy in drama.

A thing I would have liked to see more of was Pepper and Jack’s respective parents. Without giving away any spoilers, they obviously play a big role in their children’s lives, and in the reasons for the “twitter war” that starts everything, and I would have loved to have a bit more insight into their motivations and their stories.

Conclusion

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Overall, I had a really good time reading this book, and I would recommend it to YA contemporary readers without hesitation : it’s fun, lighthearted, and the romance is terribly cute but also realistic enough to be believable. 

Did you get a copy of this book, or did you add it to your 2020 TBR ? Did you write and post a review of it on your blog ? Feel free to link it in the comments so I can check it out !

The priory of the orange tree, by Samantha Shannon

The priory of the orange tree, by Samantha Shannon, is a standalone 848-pages novel published in February 2019, and hyped everywhere from booktube to bookstagram, including book blogs and book twitter, for months on end. So, of course, when my local library obtained a copy – and by that I mean when I asked them to loan it from another library at the other side of the province –  I had to read it immediately.

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Synopsis

A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction—but assassins are getting closer to her door.

Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.

Across the dark sea, Tané has trained all her life to be a dragonrider, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel.

Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.

What I liked

  • The cover is gorgeous.

You know the “don’t judge a book by its cover” saying, that everybody ignores because a good cover is often the first thing that attracts someone to a book in a bookstore ? It’s especially true with bookstagram – I find I tend to bookmark books on there because of a gorgeous cover, then when I’m at the library or the bookstore I check their Goodreads rating and synopsis and decide whether or not they’re worth my time. This one looked incredible, and the various recommendations I saw on all book-related platforms convinced me to put it immediatly on my TBR.

  • The characters

I got attached to Sabran, Ead and Tané really quickly, and loved the way each one had the time to evolve and grow during the course of the book. They’re not perfect, they all have their flaws – some more obvious than others – but they learn from their mistakes and adapt to their environment pretty fast.

I also would like to note the fact that this book has several well-written same-sex relationships, and that’s something I haven’t found that easily in fantasy or in YA without it being the main plot point. I really appreciate that kind of representation.

By the way, for those of you who have read the book (or aren’t afraid of spoilers) : here’s some very nice fanart ! (And a meme – also a spoiler !)

  • The magic system and the overall plot

I found the first very original (and I’m always a hoe for original systems of magic), and the second just complicated the way I like. It’s been compared to Game of Thrones a few times, and while I can’t say whether or not it’s an apt comparison since I haven’t read all Game of Thrones books, it is filled with political intrigues and will keep you on your toes until the very last pages.

  • The extremely rich world-building & the length

With 800+ pages, you have all the time you need to build your world and show it to your readers in as much detail as you want – and Samantha Shannon did that well.

I read this book on a very long work day, where my job was to sit behind a desk and wait until people came up to me with problems to solve, while keeping an eye on the company’s Facebook page – not the busiest day ever.

Where, for some people, the length and all that world-building felt heavy and unnecessary (I read a review from someone saying it took the 6 weeks to get through all of it because of that), I personally loved it and would like to see more of this type of novel in my TBR.

What I didn’t like

Not much. I would have liked to learn a bit more about the dragons, though, and the draconic plague felt a bit under-developed. My least favorite character was Niclays Roos, the exile desperate to return to his home and ready to do anything it took to do so, but I think that’s only because I read him as a mix between protagonist and antagonist, and found it a bit confusing.

Conclusion

You know how, when you put a review up on NetGalley, they ask you if you’d be willing to meet the author or to buy this book for a friend ? I’d 100% do both. In fact, I’m buying this book for my boyfriend’s birthday in a month, and if I ever get the chance (if she comes close enough to my city for me to go !), I’m getting it signed by the author.

If you’ve been wondering whether or not you should read this ? You definitely should.

If you’ve read this book and have a different opinion, or liked something I didn’t – or didn’t mention – feel free to comment !

Family Trust, by Kathy Wang

I finally had the time to read Family Trust, by Kathy Wan, during the #AGameOfBooksathon readathon !

I’ve been seeing that book everywhere for such a log time now, and to be honest, now that I’ve read it, I’m a little disappointed. I almost didn’t want to write a review, because so many people had a good opinion of it and I felt like it just didn’t live up to the hype. Some reviewers recommended it to readers who liked Crazy rich Asians, (which I loved, and reviewed here) and most of the reviews I saw before getting it myself were really positive, so I had great expectations.

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Synopsis

Meet Stanley Huang: father, husband, ex-husband, man of unpredictable tastes and temper, aficionado of all-inclusive vacations and bargain luxury goods, newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. For years, Stanley has claimed that he’s worth a small fortune. But the time is now coming when the details of his estate will finally be revealed, and Stanley’s family is nervous.

What I liked

Kathy Wang’s writing is really good, and easy to read, which is probably why this book didn’t end up in my DNF pile – I never had a moment when I didn’t understand what was going on, or who was who (which happens way too much in some books, to be honest). The pace of the story was also good, with enough action to keep the reader alert and interested, but not too much so they don’t have to .

The characters were all interesting in their own way, even though I didn’t always understand their motives for acting like they did. I loved how the author kept switching between each character’s point of view, so we could see how the others saw them, and themselves, and their opinions on the other’s stories. Each character had something new to bring to the story, and it all worked really well  as a whole.

What I didn’t like

The characters were interesting on their own, but I didn’t really feel that much engaged in their individual stories – the parts where they interacted together in me “main plot” was very interesting, but whenever those main characters were on their own, it wasn’t quite as captivating. It felt a bit underwhelming, and even though the idea of the story was really good – a dying man holding on to his secrets while his family members desperately try to secure their inheritance – I felt like it wasn’t executed as well as it could have been.

I also wish we had gotten to see more of Mary’s story (Stanley’s new wife, now caring for a rich old man while her own family tries to get a part of the inheritance too) – I felt like her character was a bit underdeveloped compared to the others, when her story seemed so interesting to read about !

Conclusion

I was expecting to be blown away by this story, but instead, I was left with a vague feeling of unfinished business – unsatisfying, even if the writing was very good. This book isn’t bad at all – it just didn’t work for me. It’s definitely worth reading, if you enjoy complex stories and realistic family dynamics 🙂

Overall, I think this is a 3/5 stars for me, but don’t let that stop you from trying it and make your own opinion ! (And if you do read and review it, feel free to link your review in the comments, I’d love to see what you thought about it !)