10 ARCs I Didn’t Request (and why)

Posted 28th September 2021 by Sia in Top Ten Tuesdays / 0 Comments


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Check out upcoming Top Ten themes on Jana’s blog!

This week is a freebie – meaning there’s no specific prompt – and I thought I’d list 10 books that were definitely on my tbr list…but that I deliberately didn’t request when they showed up on Netgalley.

Since I started book blogging for real, and got familiar with requesting and receiving and reviewing ARCs, I’ve grown a bit more wary of them. I now know requesting dozens of books at once isn’t a great idea, because the pressure to get them all read and reviewed isn’t fun; to check when the book is being released and how crowded my review schedule already is for that month; and to be much more picky than I was in the beginning, because forcing myself to read books I don’t like + writing negative reviews about them sucks.

I’m sure bloggers who receive dozens and dozens of (unsolicited!) ARCs don’t feel obligated to review all of them – at least, I hope not, because that sounds awful – but I’m not getting books in the mail, only digital ARCs I’ve especially requested, so I do feel like I owe them all reviews.

Thus: 10 books whose ARCs I didn’t request!

The Bone Ship's Wake (The Tide Child, #3) by R.J. Barker
Published on: 28th September 2021

Discover a brilliantly imagined epic fantasy of honor, glory, and warfare in this action-packed conclusion to the David Gemmell Award-nominated trilogy.

Joron Twiner's dreams of freedom lay shattered. His Shipwife is gone and all he has left is revenge. Leading the black fleet from the deck of Tide Child, he takes every opportunity to hurt the Hundred Isles he is given. But his time is limited.

His fleet is shrinking, the Keyshan's Rot is running through his body, and he hiding from a prophecy that says he and the avian sorcerer, the Windseer will end the entire world.

But the Sea Dragons have returned, a miracle in itself, and who is to say that if you can have one miracle, there cannot be another?

I adore this trilogy, but didn’t pounce on the final book when it appeared on Netgalley. Why? Because I was never able to put down my love for the first two books into words, so I didn’t trust that I’d be able to do it for the finale either. This is a book I want to read alone, without the pressure to review it, even if I decide to write something about it later.

And it’s out TODAY!!!

Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente
Published on: 26th October 2021

Sophia was made for him. Her perfect husband. She can feel it in her bones. He is perfect. Their home together in Arcadia Gardens is perfect. Everything is perfect.

It's just that he's away so much. So often. He works so hard. She misses him. And he misses her. He says he does, so it must be true. He is the perfect husband and everything is perfect.

But sometimes Sophia wonders about things. Strange things. Dark things. The look on her husband's face when he comes back from a long business trip. The questions he will not answer. The locked basement she is never allowed to enter. And whenever she asks the neighbors, they can't quite meet her gaze...

But everything is perfect. Isn't it?

If you’ve hung around here for a while, you know I worship Catherynne Valente. I read everything she writes. But I didn’t request her Comfort Me With Apples when it appeared on Netgalley, for a few reasons. The most immediate and obvious one is that it was/is only available as a PDF file – which means I’d have to read it on my laptop or my tablet (since reading a PDF on a Kindle? Isn’t gonna happen) and both those options get very painful very quickly with my fibromyalgia. The second big reason is that Comfort doesn’t sound obviously SFF; it might be a sort of Bluebeard re-imagining, from the blurb, but then it again it might not. It’s being marketed as a thriller, despite showing up in the SFF category on Netgalley. So I didn’t want to be obligated to review it when I wasn’t 100% sure I’d love it – I’d rather wait for release day, read it privately, and then review it if I want to.

The final reason is that a lot of my life revolves around upcoming releases and looking forward to them. ARCs mess with that; if I’ve read all the April releases I’m excited about early as ARCs, then when April comes around… I don’t have anything to look forward to. Which sucks! And especially because we’re getting two Valente books this year – Comfort and The Past is Red – and I already read+reviewed one early, I wanted to save Comfort so I’d have something excellent waiting for me in October.

And with October around the corner, I can now confirm that I regret nothing!

Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente
Published on: 26th October 2021

Sophia was made for him. Her perfect husband. She can feel it in her bones. He is perfect. Their home together in Arcadia Gardens is perfect. Everything is perfect.

It's just that he's away so much. So often. He works so hard. She misses him. And he misses her. He says he does, so it must be true. He is the perfect husband and everything is perfect.

But sometimes Sophia wonders about things. Strange things. Dark things. The look on her husband's face when he comes back from a long business trip. The questions he will not answer. The locked basement she is never allowed to enter. And whenever she asks the neighbors, they can't quite meet her gaze...

But everything is perfect. Isn't it?

Like The Bone Ship’s Wake, this was a case of, I didn’t manage to review book one, so I didn’t want to commit to writing a review of the sequel. I didn’t even manage to review the prequel trilogy, when I read that! So, no. I’m dying to read it, but I didn’t want to promise I’d review it.

Along the Saltwise Sea (The Up-and-Under, #2) by A. Deborah Baker
Published on: 12th October 2021

For readers of Kelly Barnhill and Cat Valente's Fairyland books, adventure and danger lurk Along the Saltwise Sea in this new book by Seanan McGuire's latest open pseudonym, A. Deborah Baker.

Be sure to explore the myriad wonders that can be found Along the Saltwise Sea.

After climbing Over the Woodward Wall and making their way across the forest, Avery and Zib found themselves acquiring some extraordinary friends in their journey through the Up-and-Under.

After staying the night, uninvited, at a pirate queen’s cottage in the woods, the companions find themselves accountable to its owner, and reluctantly agree to work off their debt as her ship sets sail, bound for lands unknown. But the queen and her crew are not the only ones on board, and the monsters at sea aren’t all underwater.
The friends will need to navigate the stormy seas of obligation and honor on their continuing journey along the improbable road.

Writing as A. Deborah Baker, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Seanan McGuire takes our heroes Avery and Zib (and their friends Niamh and the Crow Girl) on a high seas adventure, with pirates and queens and all the dangers of the deep as they continue their journey through the Up-and-Under on their quest for the road that will lead them home....

Welcome to a world of talking trees and sarcastic owls, of dangerous mermaids and captivating queens in this exceptional tale for readers who are young at heart in this companion book to McGuire's critically-acclaimed Middlegame and the sequel to Over the Woodward Wall.

What about this one then? I managed to review Over the Woodward Wall, didn’t I?

Yes, but I felt even at the time that it was one of my weaker reviews. I didn’t love Middlegame like everyone else did – I very much feel like I missed something, like I wasn’t paying close enough attention and the greatness of the book was there, but I didn’t see it. Over the Woodward Wall springs from Middlegame, and even though I liked Woodward Wall a lot, I didn’t feel like I had a lot to say about it. I was missing something obvious.

So I wanted to read the sequel on my own time, and have the option of keeping my thoughts to myself.

The Bone Shard Emperor (The Drowning Empire, #2) by Andrea Stewart
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: F/F
Published on: 9th November 2021

The Bone Shard Daughter was hailed as "one of the best debut fantasy novels of the year," (BuzzFeed News), an "amazing start to a new trilogy," (Culturess), and a "richly told, emotional, action-laced debut," (Library Journal, starred). Now, Andrea Stewart returns with The Bone Shard Emperor, the second installment of this unmissable, action-packed, magic-laced fantasy epic.

The Emperor is Dead. Long live the Emperor.   

Lin Sukai finally sits on the throne she won at so much cost, but her struggles are only just beginning. Her people don’t trust her. Her political alliances are weak. And in the north-east of the Empire, a rebel army of constructs is gathering, its leader determined to take the throne by force.   

Yet an even greater threat is on the horizon, for the Alanga – the powerful magicians of legend – have returned to the Empire. They claim they come in peace, and Lin will need their help in order to defeat the rebels and restore peace.   

But can she trust them?  

There was so much wonderful conversation around the first book of this trilogy, and although I loved the book too, I really didn’t have anything to add to the conversation. I wrote the miniest of mini-reviews for it, but it deserved more, and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to manage more for The Bone Shard Emperor either. So, again: wanting very much to read it, but wanting to read it without needing to review it.

When Sorrows Come (October Daye, #15) by Seanan McGuire
Published on: 14th September 2021

Toby's getting married! Now in hardcover, the fifteenth novel of the Hugo-nominated, New York Times-bestselling October Daye urban fantasy series.

It's hard to be a hero. There's always something needing October "Toby" Daye's attention, and her own desires tend to fall by the wayside in favor of solving the Kingdom's problems. That includes the desire to marry her long-time suitor and current fiancé, Tybalt, San Francisco's King of Cats. She doesn't mean to keep delaying the wedding, it just sort of...happens. And that's why her closest friends have taken the choice out of her hands, ambushing her with a court wedding at the High Court in Toronto. Once the High King gets involved, there's not much even Toby can do to delay things...

...except for getting involved in stopping a plot to overthrow the High Throne itself, destabilizing the Westlands entirely, and keeping her from getting married through nothing more than the sheer volume of chaos it would cause. Can Toby save the Westlands and make it to her own wedding on time? Or is she going to have to choose one over the other?

Includes an all-new bonus novella!

This is one of my favourite series ever, and this book in particular is a big deal: Toby and Tybalt were FINALLY getting married! Why wouldn’t I want to read it early? Well, a) because I never have anything smart to say about the October Daye series, just a lot of myth-nerd geeking out over the worldbuilding and excited flailing as I shove the books into people’s hands, and b) …it’s book fifteen. If I’d gone through and reread the whole series and reviewed each book, sure, okay, probably. But I hadn’t, and I didn’t want to, and it felt really untidy to review a book so late in the series without having reviewed the earlier books.

I have reviewed sequels before without having reviewed their previous books, but it makes me twitchy and I don’t like it.

Extasia by Claire Legrand
Published on: 22nd February 2022

From New York Times bestselling author Claire LeGrand comes a new, bone-chilling YA horror novel about a girl who joins a coven to root out a vicious evil that’s stalking her village. Perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Grace Year.

Her name is unimportant.

All you must know is that today she will become one of the four saints of Haven. The elders will mark her and place the red hood on her head. With her sisters, she will stand against the evil power that lives beneath the black mountain—an evil which has already killed nine of her village’s men.

She will tell no one of the white-eyed beasts that follow her. Or the faceless gray women tall as houses. Or the girls she saw kissing in the elm grove.

Today she will be a saint of Haven. She will rid her family of her mother’s shame at last and save her people from destruction. She is not afraid. Are you?

This searing and lyrically written novel by the critically acclaimed author of Sawkill Girls beckons readers to follow its fierce heroine into a world filled with secrets and blood—where the truth is buried in lies and a devastating power waits, seething, for someone brave enough to use it.

99.9% of the time, I don’t read horror. I’m a wimp. And I’m completely okay with that! But I gambled on Legrand’s Sawkill Girls and it ended up one of my favourite books, so yes, I wanted to pounce on Extasia!

But Sawkill Girls felt more like dark fantasy than horror to me (don’t ask me to explain the difference, it’s a gut thing, not a logical thing), and I am wary that Extasia might be…a lot more horror. Closer to the scarier end of the spectrum than I can handle. And as well, I’ve not enjoyed any of Legrand’s other books, so what if Sawkill Girls was a one-off?

Better to wait and see, than read it, hate it, and be forced to write about it.

Spin Me Right Round by David Valdes
Published on: 7th December 2021

From lauded writer David Valdes, a sharp and funny YA novel that's Back to the Future with a twist, as a gay teen travels back to his parents' era to save a closeted classmate's life.

All Luis Gonzalez wants is to go to prom with his boyfriend, something his “progressive” school still doesn't allow. Not after what happened with Chaz Wilson. But that was ages ago, when Luis's parents were in high school; it would never happen today, right? He's determined to find a way to give his LGBTQ friends the respect they deserve (while also not risking his chance to be prom king, just saying…).

When a hit on the head knocks him back in time to 1985 and he meets the doomed young Chaz himself, Luis concocts a new plan-he's going to give this guy his first real kiss. Though it turns out a conservative school in the '80s isn't the safest place to be a gay kid. Especially with homophobes running the campus, including Gordo (aka Luis's estranged father). Luis is in over his head, trying not to make things worse-and hoping he makes it back to present day at all.

In a story that's fresh, intersectional, and wickedly funny, David Valdes introduces a big-mouthed, big-hearted queer character that readers won't soon forget.

Alas, this is only available in PDF, so any other considerations don’t matter.

All That's Left in the World by Erik J. Brown
Published on: 8th March 2022

What If It's Us meets Life as We Knew It in this postapocalyptic, queer YA adventure romance from debut author Erik J. Brown. Perfect for fans of Adam Silvera and Alex London.

When Andrew stumbles upon Jamie's house, he's injured, starved, and has nothing left to lose. A deadly pathogen has killed off most of the world's population, including everyone both boys have ever loved. And if this new world has taught them anything, it's to be scared of what other desperate people will do . . . so why does it seem so easy for them to trust each other?

After danger breaches their shelter, they flee south in search of civilization. But something isn't adding up about Andrew's story, and it could cost them everything. And Jamie has a secret, too. He's starting to feel something more than friendship for Andrew, adding another layer of fear and confusion to an already tumultuous journey.

The road ahead of them is long, and to survive, they'll have to shed their secrets, face the consequences of their actions, and find the courage to fight for the future they desire, together. Only one thing feels certain: all that's left in their world is the undeniable pull they have toward each other.

Another awesome-sounding queer YA! And one that has received nothing but praise from every corner! What could possibly be the problem?

Well… I’ve had worse and worse luck with YA the last couple of years. I don’t know if my standards have changed or if I just keep picking up the wrong books or what, but I’m worried that, whatever’s up with me and YA, it’ll leave me dead inside towards this book too. I don’t want to hate it, and I definitely don’t want to have to write up why I hate it if I do. I’d rather not take the risk and keep any negative opinions to myself (if I have them!) when I do get to read it.

Love from Scratch by Kaitlyn Hill
Published on: 5th April 2022

This delectable debut romantic comedy about two rival interns with the recipe for love is perfect for foodies, feminists, and fans of aspirational YA romance like LOVE & GELATO and AGAIN, BUT BETTER.

This summer, Reese Camden is trading sweet tea and Southern hospitality for cold brew and crisp coastal air. She's landed her dream marketing internship at Friends of Flavor, a wildly popular cooking channel in Seattle. The only problem? Benny Beneventi, the relentlessly charming, backwards-baseball-cap-wearing culinary intern--and her main competition for the fall job.

Reese's plan to keep work a No Feelings Zone crumbles like a day-old muffin when she and Benny are thrown together for a video shoot that goes viral, making them the internet's newest ship. Audiences are hungry for more, and their bosses at Friends of Flavor are happy to deliver. Soon Reese and Benny are in an all-out food war, churning homemade ice cream, twisting soft pretzels, breaking eggs in an omelet showdown--while hundreds of thousands of viewers watch.

Reese can't deny the chemistry between her and Benny. But the more their rivalry heats up, the harder it is to keep love on the back burner...

I’ve started dipping my toes into contemporary romance this year, and it’s gone so well! But that doesn’t mean I’m pouncing on every likely-looking romance novel I see – even if I seem to have a Thing for baking-related love stories, and Love from Scratch clearly qualifies. But it’s also het (as far as I know) and YA, which are two strikes against it. So although I’ll definitely be reading it when it comes out, I’m not going to request an ARC.

Aaaaaaand, that’s 10! Happy Tuesday, everyone! And remember to think twice before you request an ARC…


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