ARC Roundup: February Edition

The good, the bad, and the ugly of this month's ARCs. #spon | Book reviews by

Note: I received the following ARCs from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All summaries via

I’m still working through the huge amount of ARCs and review copies I got from NetGalley at the beginning of the year. I’m like a kid in a candy store with requesting books–everything looks so good! So which ones satisfied my sweet tooth, and which ones just gave me a stomachache? Read on to find out.

Radical Self-Love

Have you ever dreamed of a life full of laughter, love, and sequins … but felt totally clueless about how to make it happen? You’re not alone. Best-selling author and speaker Gala Darling spent years in soul-sucking jobs, battling depression, an eating disorder, and a preference for chaos and disaster—simply because she didn’t know how to create the life she dreamed about.

In Radical Self-Love, you’ll discover exactly what makes you so magnificent, and you’ll gain a litany of tools and techniques to help you manifest a life bursting with magic, miracles, bliss, and adventure! Featuring fun homework exercises and cool illustrations, this book will take you from learning to fall madly in love with yourself, to loving others, to making your world a more magical place through style, self-expression, and manifestation.

So, I admit, I’m not sure why I expected something different from this book than what I got. I wanted a book filled with inspiration, if not actual practical advice, something that would make me look at life differently. But really, this book was way too “woo-woo” for me. I dropped it after the first two chapters.

Rating: DNF

The Art of Being Normal

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth: David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy.

As David prepares to come out to his family and transition into life as a girl and Leo wrestles with figuring out how to deal with people who try to define him through his history, they find in each other the friendship and support they need to navigate life as transgender teens as well as the courage to decide for themselves what normal really means.

I requested this book because I’m doing my best to diversify my reading even more this year, and I don’t think I’ve read even one fiction book about transgender teens before this one. The book was interesting, but it didn’t go very in depth into the issues it presented, as I had hoped. I wanted it to be thought-provoking, but it was pretty forgettable.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

The Restaurant Critic’s Wife

Lila Soto has a master’s degree that’s gathering dust, a work-obsessed husband, two kids, and lots of questions about how exactly she ended up here.

In their new city of Philadelphia, Lila’s husband, Sam, takes his job as a restaurant critic a little too seriously. To protect his professional credibility, he’s determined to remain anonymous. Soon his preoccupation with anonymity takes over their lives as he tries to limit the family’s contact with anyone who might have ties to the foodie world. Meanwhile, Lila craves adult conversation and some relief from the constraints of her homemaker role. With her patience wearing thin, she begins to question everything: her decision to get pregnant again, her break from her career, her marriage—even if leaving her ex-boyfriend was the right thing to do. As Sam becomes more and more fixated on keeping his identity secret, Lila begins to wonder if her own identity has completely disappeared—and what it will take to get it back.

Lila is a former businesswoman and mother of two, and she is going crazy taking care of her kids full time. Her husband, Sam, is in love with his job as a restaurant critic, and to protect his identity, he has requested that his wife quit her high-profile job and not make any friends in their new town. This book absolutely drove me insane. I totally identified with Lila’s desire to have an outlet for meaningful work and adult friends in addition to raising her children–it’s the same impulse that makes me cringe whenever a well-meaning acquaintance implies that of course I will quit my job and become a full-time stay at home mom when I have kids. Being a full-time, at-home parent is a tough job, and it’s not for everyone. Lila is one of those people who can’t handle it, and her husband is forcing her into that role for the sake of his own career.

Now, I will say that the author does a masterful job of making Sam a well-rounded character. He does things for Lila and the kids that are truly sweet, and the reader never gets the sense that he is putting Lila in this position because he doesn’t care about her or her needs. Still, this book stressed me out, and I wanted more of a resolution than it offered.

Rating: Meh

About Monica

I am obsessed with all things books. I'm a music teacher by day and a freelance editor by night.

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