State of the ARC: November, 2020

State of the ARC is a meme hosted by Avalinah’s Books in which we round up our ARCs and attempt to wrangle them into something approaching order. Sometimes it’s like herding cats.


Earlier this year, I made a vague goal to reach fifty reviews for my NetGalley account. For a long time, I didn’t think I would be able to reach that, no thanks to several books that I did not enjoy. But after a run of books that I thought were pretty great, I managed to post my fiftieth NetGalley review earlier this month. Hooray! And now I’m taking a bit of a break from NetGalley, as none of the books on my ‘Give Feedback’ shelf are due to be published until 2021.

Recently Published:

Though its importance is often overlooked by historians, fabric has been one of the most important commodities in human history. Economies were based upon it, extensive travel routes came about because of it, and it still fascinates us today. In her new book, Postrel delves into the history of fabric and shows just how integral it has been to human civilization.

Forty-something, childless, and restless, Mia Kankimäki leaves her job, sells her apartment, and heads out into the world to follow the paths of the female artists and explorers who she has long admired. From Tanzania to Italy to Japan, she investigates the lives of her heroes to see just how they made it in a man’s world, and wonders why, if they could do it, why can’t she?

Though the modern view of the middle ages is that they were an era of darkness, when books and knowledge were discarded in favor of ignorance and superstition, Seb Falk argues that this view is entirely wrong. That the age that gave us soaring gothic cathedrals and the first mechanical clocks was really an age of curiosity, when monks and scholars investigated the nature of the universe and provided the building blocks that would lead to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Using the life of John of Westwyck as an anchor for his narrative, Falk explores the nature of science and learning of the erroneously named ‘dark ages’.

Upcoming Releases:

In this second book in her Medieval Queens series, historian Alison Weir details the lives of five extraordinary queens who ruled their countries in uncertain times of war and treachery. One became a legend in her own right, but all of them changed history in one way or another.

Until the introduction of the printing press in Europe in the late 1400s, books were some of the most precious and most beautiful artworks of the late medieval era. In addition to holding the knowledge of the ages, they contained intricate illuminated pages and beautiful illustrations. In 1400s Florence, Vespasiano da Bisticci became one of the most prolific booksellers in Europe, whose clients included kings and popes. Called the ‘king of the world’s booksellers’, his literary empire would face its greatest challenge with the introduction of the printing press in 1480. The Bookseller of Florence is an ode to the world of books and bookmaking, as well as a memorial to a literary titan of the early Renaissance.

  • Dance with Death (Barker and Llewellyn #12) by Will Thomas
    Historical Mystery
    Expected publication date: April 13, 2021 by St. Martin’s Press

In the summer of 1893, the young Tsarevich Nicolas has traveled to London to attend a royal wedding. He has brought with him his ballerina mistress and his security forces, for his life has been threatened by an assassin known as La Syphide. Though Nicolas is protected by forces from both Russia and England, an attack on Prince George proves that they need more help. Enter Barker and Llewellyn, who are hired to track down the assassin. Their investigation brings them face to face with old enemies, high society, and motives both political and personal. While facing attempts on their own lives, Barker and Llewellyn must solve this case before the greatest royal families in Europe fall victim to the crime of the century.

  • The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley
    Fantasy
    Expected publication date: May 25, 2021 by Bloomsbury Publishing

In an alternate history where England is a French colony, a man named Joe Tournier is suffering from amnesia. The only thing he knows about his identity comes from a century-old Scottish postcard, written in the forbidden language of English, signed only as “M”. Joe goes in search of M in order to discover more than one identity, and in so doing, will change the course of history forever.


Save for one (The Bookseller of Florence), the upcoming releases on my NetGalley shelf are all by authors whose works I’ve read and enjoyed before, so I have a good feeling about them. And while I haven’t read any of Ross King’s other books, The Bookseller of Florence sounds super interesting. Thanks to being very picky about the books I select these days, I’ve had a great time with all the books I’ve read from NetGalley of late. I’m going to keep up this pickiness, as there is nothing quite like being stuck reading a book you can’t stand.

As of now, I have 54 approvals with 50 reviews submitted for a feedback ratio of 93%. Unless I get an approval for the last book on my ‘pending’ shelf, the ratio will probably stay right where it is, as I haven’t really seen anything available that piques my interest. That could change, of course, if some new medieval history book shows up, or if a new book by one of my favorite authors comes available. We’ll see. But for now, I’m going to take December and January off from NetGalley and enjoy the books on my own shelves.

15 thoughts on “State of the ARC: November, 2020

  1. I agree, The Bookseller of Florence does sound fascinating, especially if it’s written for a general audience. I look forward to hearing about that one if you end up reading it.

  2. YAY! 50th Review published! YAY! Congrats! That’s a huge milestone. Keep up the awesome work.

    I notice that most of the books on the post this month are nonfiction. Do you think that helped increase your enjoyment? How do you decide what to be picky about when choosing books?

  3. Thanks! It was a great goal to achieve!

    It helps that all the nonfiction books were really well done. A good nonfiction tome is every bit as fun as a good fiction book, in my opinion. I didn’t actually plan all the nonfiction titles, for all that it was Nonfiction November. That’s just how it turned out with the stuff that caught my eye (and my ARCS) this month.

  4. Just realized I didn’t say what I’ve been picky about on NetGalley picks. Basically, I’m either looking for authors whose books I’ve already enjoyed, or for subjects that sound super compelling. Then I’ll hop over to Goodreads to see how long the books are. If they’re super long, then I’ll probably pass on requesting the ARC. Who wants to read a bad book that’s 800 pages long? I’m mostly passing on YA anymore, since I’ve mostly either been “meh” about the YA books I’ve gotten or outright hated them. I think there was one YA ARC I got this year that I liked- Court of Miracles by Kester Grant.

  5. Sometimes, I wonder if publishers pay attention to blogger monthly themes. I feel like there were a lot more nonfiction book reviews from ARCs in November than I’ve seen recently — I bet publishers are intentionally aiming to publish nonfiction in November and December to catch this (and the holiday shopping).

  6. I think they’re starting to pay more attention to things like BookTube and Bookstagram (though they still can’t be bothered to pay content creators for their work). Book blogs, maybe less so. But if they’re paying more attention to people who are really into discussing the positives and negatives of books in general, then I think it’s generally a good thing.

  7. Agreed. I think there’s opportunity here for bloggers/BookTubers/Bookstagramers to connect with Indie publishers and build these relationships more. I’d love to see some really well known book reviews on any platform connect with the same publisher and help them grow from obscurity. I totally this is possible.

  8. Right? It has also helped me to avoid books that are short-dated and super long. For example, there was a biography of Mozart that sounded amazing, but it was 800 pages long and due out at the beginning of December. Waaay too short a time for something so long, no matter how interesting the subject is!

  9. The fabric of civilisation sounds like such a cool book! I like the idea of the concept… although I could see it becoming a bit predictable? I’m glad you enjoyed it anyway 😊 While I’m here, do you have any tips for how to get ARCs? I really want to try but I don’t know where to start

  10. I don’t really worth about predictability when it comes to nonfiction books. I just like to learn new things!

    I get ARCs entirely through NetGalley. Just go to their site, create an account, and you can start requesting books. There are plenty, too, that are available as ‘read now’ titles that don’t require an approval.

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