ARCs Update: Reviews + Added to the shelf

Hello readers!

I haven’t been writing reviews a whole lot lately, but I wanted to talk more about the ARCs that I receive, as they’re usually recent releases that my readers might be interested about and I have to review them for Netgalley / Edelweiss anyway. December 21 and January 22 I basically decided to read every brick I received, which means it took me weeks to write this (brilliant planning, as usual) even though there are only a couple reviews. Anyway!

Reviews

Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee
Pub Date 2 Dec 2021

The Green Bone Saga is one of my favorite series of all time, and I can say with no hesitation that it’s one of the best fantasies out there. I adore Fonda Lee’s ability to bring the stakes higher and higher, keeping me on my toes during the entire book. This was about 700 pages long and yet I was never bored. Politics, family drama, so much scheming, martial arts, plots twits, this really has it all. I cannot express enough how much this world is vibrant, complex and so wonderfully crafted.

This final book of the series completely blew my mind. I gave 5 stars to every single book of the trilogy, but this might just be my favorites. The author did NOT hold back and I had to fight tears very often (I was reading this in buses and trains a lot) and take breaks to fully absorb what had just happened. Really, this is even more explosive and incredible than the other two books. Highly recommend for fantasy fans!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara

Pub Date 11 Jan 2022

Okay so I enjoyed A Little Life when I read it some years ago but didn’t think I’d pick up another Yanagihara book after that. But then this one started getting so much hype and discourse that I just couldn’t help picking it up.

The book is divided into three stories, the first one set in an alternate universe in the 19th century in which the US separated into three countries. Honestly this first story was nothing too special, it felt like the usual “rich main character meets poor love interest who shows them how to enjoy life” plot in a queer setting. It was fine, I even liked it. What I was less sure about was the treatment of Black people in the story. Honestly I am not sure what to think about it, as I don’t think authors should have to deal with social issues in their books, but it was mentioned a few times that Black people had right in one or two of the countries but not in the one this story is set in, and then it was dropped entirely – left me feeling like, was that just for world building? Not really relevant to the story at all? I don’t know, I wish this had been developed a lot more. Even the class discussion I thought this part of the story would bring didn’t quite deliver.

The second book was a mixed bag. It starts off as if it’s going to be about AIDS and what it was like living as a gay man during the epidemic, but then it takes a turn and tells another story altogether (which is far more interesting than the story of two rich men with no personality). Once again, though, I felt like I didn’t quite get this story. Why start with David and Charles when they were the least interesting story? We could have just jumped into the second part of this story and reduced a hundred pages.

And the third part. Oh my god, I was so bored, PLUS it’s the longest part of the book. The endless descriptions of how the dystopic world worked bored me to no end. I feel like I’ve read a million “bleak, totalitarian future” books and while this one had its moments of brilliancy, heart and of course, gorgeous writing (this is Yanagihara after all), I was mostly just reading this for hours on end like a chore I was not particularly interested in.

All in all, this book gave me the impression of being one big “epic project” that the author put lots of effort to and it was mostly successful in being three gorgeously written stories about love, desire and hope, but it was just incredibly boring, a bit pretentious and it could have easily been 200 pages shorter. I was also a bit frustrated because this seemed like it would touch on racism, classism, homophobia but it never really does. The commentary is so superficial it feels more like part of the world building as a background to the story than like anything more, which I had hoped for, and some of the most interesting character are never really explored (books 2 and 3 Eden for example) and instead we follow wet-towel David and lovesick-but-and-also-a-wet-towel Charles. In all three stories Charles and David are privileged and rich, which means there was SO much of the world left unexplored because we always saw it thought the lenses of privilege.

It took me a bit of time to decide on a rating, because 2 stars felt unfair to this gorgeous, extensively crafted novel, but 3 stars would not realistically represent how many times I wanted to put this down and not pick it up anymore. In the end, because this was a long chore that I mostly had to make myself read plus the other issues I mentioned before, I gave it 2 stars. It took me about a week to read this but it felt like a month.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Received ARCs

I may have been a bit too excited lately requesting ARCs because I don’t seem able to keep up with them but… new books are so shiny. I ended up receiving this week Douglas Stuart’s new novel, which will surely break my heart, and the two first novels of the Wolf Den trilogy! I think I’ll just binge them at some point.

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

A story of queer love and working-class families, Young Mungo is the brilliant second novel from the Booker Prize-winning author of Shuggie Bain

Douglas Stuart’s first novel Shuggie Bain, winner of the 2020 Booker Prize, is one of the most successful literary debuts of the century so far. Published or forthcoming in forty territories, it has sold more than one million copies worldwide. Now Stuart returns with Young Mungo, his extraordinary second novel. Both a page-turner and literary tour de force, it is a vivid portrayal of working-class life and a deeply moving and highly suspenseful story of the dangerous first love of two young men. Growing up in a housing estate in Glasgow, Mungo and James are born under different stars–Mungo a Protestant and James a Catholic–and they should be sworn enemies if they’re to be seen as men at all. Yet against all odds, they become best friends as they find a sanctuary in the pigeon dovecote that James has built for his prize racing birds. As they fall in love, they dream of finding somewhere they belong, while Mungo works hard to hide his true self from all those around him, especially from his big brother Hamish, a local gang leader with a brutal reputation to uphold. And when several months later Mungo’s mother sends him on a fishing trip to a loch in Western Scotland with two strange men whose drunken banter belies murky pasts, he will need to summon all his inner strength and courage to try to get back to a place of safety, a place where he and James might still have a future. Imbuing the everyday world of its characters with rich lyricism and giving full voice to people rarely acknowledged in the literary world, Young Mungo is a gripping and revealing story about the bounds of masculinity, the divisions of sectarianism, the violence faced by many queer people, and the dangers of loving someone too much.

The Wolf Den (Wolf Den Trilogy #1) by Elodie Harper

Sold by her mother. Enslaved in Pompeii’s brothel. Determined to survive. Her name is Amara. Welcome to the Wolf Den…
Amara was once a beloved daughter, until her father’s death plunged her family into penury. Now she is a slave in Pompeii’s infamous brothel, owned by a man she despises. Sharp, clever and resourceful, Amara is forced to hide her talents. For as a she-wolf, her only value lies in the desire she can stir in others.
But Amara’s spirit is far from broken.
By day, she walks the streets with her fellow she-wolves, finding comfort in the laughter and dreams they share. For the streets of Pompeii are alive with opportunity. Out here, even the lowest slave can secure a reversal in fortune. Amara has learnt that everything in this city has its price. But how much is her freedom going to cost her?

The House with the Golden Door (Wolf Den Trilogy #2) by Elodie Harper

The life of a courtesan in Pompeii is glittering, yet precarious…
Amara has escaped her life as a slave in the town’s most notorious brothel, but now her existence depends on the affections of her patron: a man she might not know as well as she once thought.
At night she dreams of the wolf den, still haunted by her past. Amara longs for the women she was forced to leave behind and worse, finds herself pursued by the man who once owned her. In order to be free, she will need to be as ruthless as he is.
Amara knows her existence in Pompeii is subject to Venus, the goddess of love. Yet finding love may prove to be the most dangerous act of all.
We return to Pompeii for the second instalment in Elodie Harper’s Wolf Den Trilogy, set in the town’s lupanar and reimagining the lives of women long overlooked.

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