The Queen's Handmaid by Tracy L. Higley - ARC provided by publishers for review
From the servant halls of Cleopatra’s Egyptian palace to the courts of Herod the Great, Lydia will serve two queens to see prophecy fulfilled.
Alexandria, Egypt 39 BC
Orphaned at birth, Lydia was raised as a servant in Cleopatra's palace, working hard to please while keeping everyone at arm's length. She's been rejected and left with a broken heart too many times in her short life.
But then her dying mentor entrusts her with secret writings of the prophet Daniel and charges her to deliver this vital information to those watching for the promised King of Israel. Lydia must leave the nearest thing she’s had to family and flee to Jerusalem. Once in the Holy City, she attaches herself to the newly appointed king, Herod the Great, as handmaid to Queen Mariamme.
Trapped among the scheming women of Herod’s political family—his sister, his wife, and their mothers—and forced to serve in the palace to protect her treasure, Lydia must deliver the scrolls before dark forces warring against the truth destroy all hope of the coming Messiah.
DNF'd at: 55/400 or 13%
Somehow (possibly in my excitement for an ancient Egyptian historical fiction) I TOTALLY missed that this was a Christian fiction novel. That's a big no no for me, and the repeated religious references showed me my veeeery error early on. I had no real issue with the prose or style other than the overt religiousness, so I don't see why fans of that sort of book wouldn't enjoy this. Just not a book for me.
Salvage by Alexandra Duncan - ARC provided by publishers for review
Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean, in this thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.
Ava is the captain's daughter. This allows her limited freedoms and a certain status in the Parastrata's rigid society-but it doesn't mean she can read or write or even withstand the forces of gravity. When Ava learns she is to be traded in marriage to another merchant ship, she hopes for the best. After all, she is the captain's daughter. Betrayal, banishment, and a brush with love and death are her destiny instead, and Ava stows away on a mail sloop bound for Earth in order to escape both her past and her future. The gravity almost kills her. Gradually recuperating in a stranger's floating cabin on the Gyre, a huge mass of scrap and garbage in the Pacific Ocean, Ava begins to learn the true meaning of family and home and trust-and she begins to nourish her own strength and soul. This sweeping and harrowing novel explores themes of choice, agency, rebellion, and family and, after a tidal wave destroys the Gyre and all those who live there, ultimately sends its main character on a thrilling journey to Mumbai, the beating heart of Alexandra Duncan's post-climate change Earth.
DNF'd at: 135/520* or 25%
*My egalley expired. Granted, I had taken more than a week to read that lowly 135 pages, but I was trying to continue. Salvage can boast some pretty prose, but it's almost interminably slow-going. It's a book that needs the right mood, which is why, for me, this is a DNF For Now. I can see myself trying this again on a day when a slow feminist YA sounds perfect. But that day is not this day.
Sea of Shadows by Kelly Armstrong - ARC provided by publisher
In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.
Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.
Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever.
DNF'd at: 210/400 or 52%
I was bored. The book is plodding, bland, lifeless. The pacing is so slow as to be nonexistent, the character are devoid of any kind of charisma or personality. The plot seems to be totally comprised of cliches and wholly unmemorable.
Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule - ARC provided by publishers
A young soprano enrolls in a remote music academy where nothing, not even her mysterious young vocal coach, is as it seems.
Outside Dunhammond Conservatory, there lies a dark forest. And in the forest, they say, lives a great beast called the Felix. But Sing da Navelli never put much faith in the rumors and myths surrounding the school; music flows in her blood, and she is there to sing for real. This prestigious academy will finally give her the chance to prove her worth—not as the daughter of world-renowned musicians—but as an artist and leading lady in her own right.
Yet despite her best efforts, there seems to be something missing from her voice. Her doubts about her own talent are underscored by the fact that she is cast as the understudy in the school's production of her favorite opera, Angelique. Angelique was written at Dunhammond, and the legend says that the composer was inspired by forest surrounding the school, a place steeped in history, magic, and danger. But was it all a figment of his imagination, or are the fantastic figures in the opera more than imaginary?
Sing must work with the mysterious Apprentice Nathan Daysmoor as her vocal coach, who is both her harshest critic and staunchest advocate. But Nathan has secrets of his own, secrets that are entwined with the myths and legends surrounding Dunhammond, and the great creature they say lives there.
Lyrical, gothic, and magical, Strange Sweet Song by Adi Rule will captivate and enchant readers.
DNF'd at: 100/336 or 29%
Just not my type of book. There's an evocative atmosphere, but the writing style is too scattered and meandering for me. It feels and reads like a debut novel, and I just wasn't invested enough to see where it all ended up in 240 pages.