ARC Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

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***I received a free e-ARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review***

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Girl, Serpent, Thorn

by Melissa Bashardoust

Release Date: July 7th, 2020

Genre: Fantasy, Retelling

Age Category: Young Adult

Publisher: Flatiron Books

 

 

Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a tale that takes influences from Persian mythology and Zoroastrianism and turns around and provides a fairy talelike journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, monsters that seem all too human, and even sneaks in an adorable sapphic romance. Bashardoust enthralled me right from the first page, and I didn’t want her to release me upon the end.

Soraya is a princess with poison that runs through her veins (and even turns them green). Locked and kept away from her family, friends, and court, Soraya despises her curse and yearns to be a true member among her family. When Soraya learns of a div (demon) captured and imprisoned in the dungeons, she believes she has finally found a path that will help her lift her curse. But those around her aren’t as they seem, and when Soraya accidentally unleashes destruction upon her kingdom, she must decide what she truly values and seek power in her flaws.

The strength of Girl, Serpent, Thorn comes from its deceit. As the book first unfurls, the tale appears to pass quickly, Soraya finally able to grasp hope in a different future for herself with a handsome guard now by her side. But as the halfway point approaches, twists and monsters are unleashed, completely changing the direction of the plot. The novel doesn’t shy away from the threads of darkness that run through its pages.

Bashardoust’s tale is simultaneously refreshing in its originality and nostalgic in its whimsical and mystical atmosphere. Soraya is also a relatable and realistic protagonist; she desires to be accepted in her community, she lets herself be selfish, and she hates herself for her flaws. Despite the fantastical adorning, the novel’s dilemmas are relatable to all types of readers.

My only complaint is that Girl, Serpent, Thorn gifted us with a world that could have been further explored and a tale that easily could have been expanded upon. But then again, a captivating story always leaves you wanting more, does it not?

I would recommend this book to any reader who enjoys YA, fairy tale retellings, and monsters. This book is a shining reminder why fairy tales (and their retellings) never tire, and that there are always new ones to be told.

Trigger Warnings: imprisonment, murder, scarring from torture (torture scenes not actually in the book), battling, strained familial relationships

Rating: 4.5 stars

“…so, are you my book?”

“I have without a doubt slithered into a spot among your new favorites.”

ARC Review: The Girl Next Door by Chelsea M. Cameron

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***I received a free e-ARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review***

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The Girl Next Door

by Chelsea M. Cameron

Release Date: May 26th, 2020

Genre: Romance, Contemporary

Age Category: New Adult / Adult

Publisher: Carina Adores*

*A new trope-driven LGBTQ+ contemporary romance line!!

 

Welp, I devoured this book in a single evening. This sapphic summer romance was a cute, entertaining, and quick read. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, and I had some problems with the pacing and writing, but if you’re looking for a light, easy f/f romance, this is definitely one to consider!

The Girl Next Door follows 22 year-old Iris and 26 year-old Jude, who—as you would expect by the title—live next door to each other. Iris has just moved back in with her parents after being unable to get a decent job after college. Jude moved back into her parents’ house two years before, wrecked to her core by a traumatic event she refuses to talk about. The women are quickly attracted to one other, and together they must decide who they want to be, and what they’re willing to risk with each other.

One of my favorite parts about this book was how cute all the characters were. Iris’s dad literally spends the entire story reading YA books and even recommends queer YA books to Iris and Jude! Literally my new favorite parent character. Jude is your classic mysterious “bad girl” who rides a motorcycle and is super toned. Iris is a cute and bubbly young woman (who has a dog named Dolly Parton!) and is stressed about her future, which as a recent college grad myself, was totally relatable. I also adored how the characters showcased the importance of communication and consent in their relationship—I feel as though romance books often skip over these moments to make a scene more ‘sexy’.

But while I liked the idea of the story and the characters, I struggled a bit with the execution of the story. I was immediately annoyed with the writing style, which was awkwardly blunt and had a lot of over-telling and exposition. Additionally, the plot felt very unbalanced. The summary stated Iris and Jude decide to engage in a “no-strings summer fling” yet the story instead gave a weird insta-attraction and slow-burn tension that in the last quarter immediately rushed into instalove. The women didn’t even decide to engage in a summer fling until the 70% mark of the eARC. I feel like this decision should have come in the first half of the book??

Overall, I found this to be a decent romance, but it wasn’t a new favorite. I will say that I will definitely be keeping an eye on Carina Adores (a new trope-driven LGBTQ+ contemporary romance line!!) to see what they release in the future!

Trigger Warnings: grief, reflecting on the death and loss of a lover

Rating: 3.25 stars

“…so, are you my book?”

“Sadly not. I could definitely be someone’s new favorite, but I didn’t live up to your expectations.”

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Gifts and ARCs I Need to Prioritize (AKA Winter TBR Part #2)

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This week’s TTT topic is “Books I Hope to Find Under My Tree” but I decided to tweak it to “Book Gifts and ARCs I Need to Prioritize (AKA Winter TBR Part #2)”? Get it? Because all of these books and ARCs have been “gifted” to me? (See how desperately I’m trying to stay on theme?). But yeah, I didn’t want to stick to this week’s topic because 1) even though I’m fortunate enough to have family that are able to gift me books, it’s awkward to put my wish list up here and 2) I feel uncomfortable participating in a theme that only caters to one religion/culture, ya know?? Not to mention, I have SO MANY books I want to read this winter. It’s getting very overambitious, but oh well. 😅

If you want to see what’s on the first part of my Winter TBR, you can see it here.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.


Upcoming ARCs:

1. The Will and the Wilds by Charlie N. Holmberg

Release Date: January 21st

OMG GUYS, this is my first ARC that I’ve been contacted by a publicity agency to read and review. I was so shocked and honored when I got the message. And not to mention it’s a fantasy standalone?! I’m so excited! I will definitely be reading this ASAP (hopefully when I finish my current reads).

2. A Queen in Hiding by Sarah Kozloff

Release Date: January 21st

I won this ARC in a Goodreads giveaway! Look how beautiful the cover is! I hope the story is just as awesome.

3. What I Want You to See by Catherine Linka

Release Date: February 4th

I’m participating in the FFBC blog tour in February, so reading this eARC is kinda a must. But a contemporary/mystery set at art school?? Yay for YA books that are really NA! *insert a hint of sarcasm*

4. The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

Release Date: February 11th

A fantasy novel that tackles gods, sacrifice, and fate?? I’m so grateful I got approved for this eARC on Netgalley. But yeah, fam, I don’t know how I ended up with ARCs that all release back-to-back??

Fingers crossed I can start the year off right and read these all in a timely manner!


Past ARCs:

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5. Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliot

Release Date: March 26, 2019

6. Two Girls, a Clock, and Crooked House by Michael Poore

Release Date: September 10, 2019

7. Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

Release Date: October 29, 2019

Though I got these from a take-shelf during my publishing internship in the spring and technically have no obligation to read & review them, I still want to. I totally meant to get to all of them in August and completely forgot. In fact, I think I had these all listed on both my Summer and Fall TBRs.


Book Gifts & Loans:

8. The Power by Naomi Alderman

I got this from a white-elephant-styled book exchange last year and I still haven’t read it. The premise is so intriguing and I wanna be able to discuss it with my friend before we both graduate college in the spring.

9. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Same gift exchange, though this is the book I got this year. But it was from the same person as last year, so I need to put in the extra effort to get these two read. She’s a really good friend and I don’t wanna disappoint her!

10. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

My grandpa’s wife loaned me Sager’s latest thriller! I actually read Sager’s two other books this summer, so I’m super excited to pick up his latest release. I probably won’t see my grandpa and his wife for at least another 5 months, so I thankfully have more leeway on when I read this one.


Are you excited for any of these ARCs on my list? Have you already read any of these books? If so, what were your thoughts?

What ARCs do you need to read ASAP? What books have your friends and family gifted or loaned you lately?

If you did a TTT post, feel free to share your link in the comments below, I would love to check it out!

ARC Review: Enchantress Undercover

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***I received a free e-ARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review***

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Enchantress Undercover

by A.C. Spahn

Release Date: March 18th, 2019

(yes, I’m horribly late with this review)

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal

Age Category: New Adult (?)

Publisher: Sealook Press

 

I had low expectations for this book, but apparently I should have had lower. I requested this book on a whim, hoping it was be a cheesy but fun fantasy romance, and that was not what I got at all. This novel is extremely lackluster, which is why I was grateful it was short. Every aspect, from the characters, to the awkward teen-like romance, to the goals and motivations, felt generic and cardboard-like, or simply not developed at all.

Honestly, I’m not sure I could properly describe Enchantress Undercover, one because after finishing the book, I promptly forgot most of the book, and two, because I never really understood the logic behind Adrienne’s goals and motivations. None of her reasoning really made sense and everything she did just made what started out as a small concern, more and more of a problem for herself. Literally, no one suspected her of breaking the law until she started purposely involving herself and investigating the unknown enchanter.

Additionally, Adrienne’s narration was just…too much. Every chapter, if not more frequently, I was rolling my eyes and saying “No, really? Thanks, Captain Obvious.” I also found it irritating how in attempt to avoid exposition, the characters awkwardly forced out background info through dialogue. It made every detail that could have added character depth, come off as superficial and trivial.

And the romance. This was what I had placed all my hope on, and I was completely let down on it. I totally thought I was picking up a NA fantasy romance…but the romance was basically nonexistent? There was romantic tension, sure, but nothing came of it other than nerdy, awkward, high school crush-like interactions. Which is totally fine in some cases, but not when a book needed the romance to hold it up.

I will say that I did found the setting and the magic in this novel relatively intriguing, but again, the execution of the story was just so dull and shallow, that the worldbuilding couldn’t make up for it. I’m not sure I could think of any type of reader to recommend this to, and there is no circumstance in which I could picture myself continuing on with the series.

Trigger Warnings: Cults, Magical-related abuse and pain

Rating: 1.5 stars

“…so, are you my book?”

“Heck no, and not even an enchantment could make you believe otherwise.”