Recent Netgalley Reads | February 2023

One of my number one goals last year was to knock off as many books as I can from Netgalley. Over a year ago, I made the dreaded mistake that I feel everyone makes on Netgalley: I went on a requesting spree.

Since then, I have started my career in teaching, started coaching volleyball, AND started grad school. You could definitely say I have not had time to get into the reading mojo I so desperately dream of. Because of all the chaos, I am not able to read for fun as much as I would like to. This also means that my Netgalley books were put on the back burner since when I did read, it was usually a book I picked up off my shelf.

I am quite proud of myself that I was able to read eight BOOKS from Netgalley in the past few months. Buckle in, because it’s about to be a ride.

Before I get to the reviews, I want to say a HUGE thank you to Netgalley and the publishers of these books for giving me a chance to do what I love and read books. I am forever grateful I have the opportunity to do what I love and find some great books for both my students and fellow book lovers.

The Photographer – Mary Dixie Carter

The Photographer is a thriller about Delta Dawn, a photographer specializing in children’s parties for high-class families. There were a lot of things to love about this book–the suspense, the narrator’s obsession, the writing style–but sadly there were a lot of things that fell short for me. The trust of some of these characters felt so unrealistic to me, but that could be because I personally would never invite a stranger to babysit my child after knowing her for a day. I also couldn’t help but feel like Delta couldn’t have been more, I don’t know, stalker-y? It was almost like it was hinted multiple times that Delta was going to go full “Fatal Attraction,” but even the flirting with the husband felt incredibly tame to me.

The ending of the book brought the rating up for me though — I had a mild suspicion of the main twist, but I was still surprised about a few things in the end. Overall, it was a thriller that I would recommend to anyone who does not mind a nice slow burn. It was a nice addition to the obsession trope.

3/5 Stars

Before We Were Blue – E.J. Schwartz

Before We Were Blue is a powerful YA novel that follows two teenage girls struggling with eating disorders. As someone who has suffered from an eating disorder since I was in high school, I am always happy to see representation in books. It has always been one of my primary goals as a teacher to raise awareness about mental illnesses and other disorders that are heavily stigmatized in today’s society.

I felt as though the author did a wonderful job of portraying the mental side of eating disorders. I have never been to a treatment center so I can not speak to the accuracy there. I felt connected to both Rowan and Shoshana instantly, as I too have used dark humor to cope. Both main characters are complex and while they both did some unlikable things, it adds to their struggles in overcoming their disorders. Story-wise, it had some pacing issues, but it was not bad enough to stop me from reading.

I think, more importantly, the author does not glamorize anything. Even with comments from the characters about their fear of being “fat”, there is nothing that suggests being either fat or skinny is bad. I have read far too many books about characters with EDs that feel extremely fatphobic or skinny shaming, but this book does neither by focusing on the mental health side of things. I definitely recommend this book to anyone looking to either find representation for themselves or are interested in learning about the mental aspects of EDs.

Note: The author begins the book with a note to the reader stating the content and trigger warnings. If you are unsure that you can handle the contents, I recommend reading this first.

4/5 Stars

Frizzy – Claribel A. Ortega | Art by Rose Bousamra

I have recently chosen to write my thesis on graphic novels, which has given me the excuse to devour as my graphic novels as I can and I am SO happy I picked this one up. Frizzy was a short, but powerful graphic novel about a young girl struggling with her hair texture. After spending every week at a hair salon getting her hair straightened, she begins to grow frustrated with the routine.

The artwork throughout is stunning. The story was stunning. Everything was stunning. I am always impressed by the growing diversity in middle-grade literature. This book really tugged at my heart and I will definitely add this one to my classroom library.

5/5 Stars

The Corpse Flower – Anne Mette Hancock

I have not read a crime thriller in a long time, but this book made me remember how much I love them. The Corpse Flower follows a Danish journalist, Heloise Kaldan, who has begun to receive mysterious letters from alleged killer Anna Kiel. Kaldan becomes determined to find Kiel and find the big break in her story that could change her life and career forever.

The pacing was one of the best parts of this book. It is really easy for a crime thriller to drag on at parts, but I always felt interested in the story. I also thought Heloise’s back story was well done. It seemed realistic but also important enough to keep the story going. There were parts of the book where the translation to English was a little iffy, but overall it was an entertaining read!

4/5 Stars

The Ballerinas – Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Sadly, I ended up DNFing at 84%. The first 30% of this book had SO much potential, but not much happened after to keep my interest. I just could not connect with any of the characters because there were not any redeeming qualities that made me root for anyone. I did not read the last 16% so perhaps there was some major twist at the end, but the book did not feel very thrilling. The plot was also confusing and I could not decide what exactly the point of the book was. I typically do not rate DNF books, but I imagine it would have been a one or two-star read for me.


The Year Shakespeare Ruined My Life – Dani Jansen

Alison Green is a dedicated student, doing everything she can to earn the valedictorian title at the end of her high school career. Her dedication leads to her saying yes to directing her school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Alison has also come out to her parents as gay but has not told most people at her school. She does not want her love life to become a distraction from reaching her goal of being valedictorian.

One major positive of this book was the characterization. Everyone in the book had distinct personalities and the side characters did not become a walking stereotype as they so often do. It also felt realistic–as a high school teacher, I can imagine this happening in my school. While I enjoyed most of the characters, I found it hard to root for Alison, a girl who made so many mistakes but did not seem to learn from all of them. Seeing her making the same mistakes over and over became so tiresome that by the end of the book, when she did have a major life lesson, it was hard to care.

Overall, this was a fun read with a lot of relatable drama, but it just felt short with the main character.

3/5 stars

Wash Day Diaries – Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith

This was a good slice-of-life story that felt painfully realistic. I really enjoyed the characters, but I would have loved to see even more of them. While it was a good story, it was hard to get attached to the characters because the stories felt like there could have been so much more. By the end of the book, it felt incomplete. However, if you are looking for a book with great characters, great representation, and beautiful artwork, I recommend picking this up. Be aware, though, that you will most definitely want more from the story by the end!

3.5/5 stars

Unretouchable – Sofia Szamosi

Unretouchable tells the story of Olive, a girl who is spending the summer before college at a digital imaging internship for a major fashion magazine. Olive has a presence on social media and has always retouched her images to look better. She quickly realizes how many people in the world do the exact same thing.

I did not expect to like this graphic novel as much as I did. While I am not the biggest fan of the art style, the story is what grabbed my attention from the beginning. I think almost everyone in the world has had some issues with self-image and self-confidence, especially due to social media. I think this is an extremely valuable lesson that needs to be taught and I have already added a physical copy of this book to my cart so I can display it on my bookshelves in my classroom. This is one anyone could relate to.

4/5 Stars

Holy moly – that’s it! After reading these books, my Netgalley review ratio is currently at 62%! It is still my goal to get to 80% by the end of the year, but I am definitely happy with the progress I’ve made! If you’re a Netgalley user, let me know your current ratio (no shame here, I was at 30% for a VERY long time) and give me your favorite tips in the comments! xx

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