Welcome to another edition of Better Late Than Never: Reviews of eARCs for the Lazy!
Do you have review copies piling up? Do you have eARCs that you requested but never got to because you got overwhelmed by life? Or did you just bite off more than you can chew? (That’s me.) At some point I was still hoping I could review those books, even though my review wouldn’t really be of use to the publisher anymore because it would be still useful to readers, and also to me, because the pile-up was giving me anxiety every time I thought about it. So since it was the new year, I tried my best to suck it up with the promise that if I didn’t like what I was reading, I could DNF at anytime. (I am not great about forced reading. 2016 was almost exclusively mood reading.) And write short reviews. That was important too. I am trying my hardest to read through these quickly, so I am most definitely going to miss subtle details. So that’s how this post was born. And any future posts of late eARCs.
To see my last post of Better Late Than Never, go here!
The Shadow Queen (Ravenspire, #1) by C.J. Redwine
Series: Ravenspire #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 16th 2016
Genres: young adult, fantasy, retellings
Buy on Amazon
Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.
In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.
But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.
I gotta be honest and say I didn’t really expect much from The Shadow Queen. I’ve heard a lot of mixed things about CJ Redwine’s books, and I don’t have any close blogger friends that really love her stories. The cover of this book really drew me in and when I saw it was a Snow White retelling, I just had to have it.
I was impressed. Though it’s a retelling of the original story, it reads as if it’s brand new with the basic elements that made Snow White great in the first place. The evil queen Irina is SUPER fucking evil. Like seriously. There’s all that stuff about stealing hearts, but the seven dwarves are missing. Were they in the original story? I’m not really sure. I get why they were left out though. And it’s not like the side characters didn’t live up to their legacy. They were excellent.
The writing was vivid and well done, and the world-building easy to follow, which I was thankful for because I do believe the author intends to write numerous works set in this world, and so far there are two. The magic system could use a little more explanation but for the most part it worked for me. One race of people are dragon shapeshifters (Eldrians), and our male love interest is one of them. So yes, there are dragons in this book, but they aren’t in it that much, though I do have hope they will be in later installments as well.
Speaking of the romance, I liked it. Obviously the romance is a main focus of Snow White, and it was here too. It came off a little bit insta to me, but not to the point of annoyance. I just felt their feelings for each other developed a bit too fast. By the end though, I was onboard, though I do wish I could feel the chemistry more. The stakes were constantly high and though there was a ton of romance, they didn’t spend a lot of time together, and to me it showed.
All in all, I really enjoyed this though. Strong plot and characters I cared about. A couple twists that left me breathless. I’m really intrigued to see what the author will do with the next book in the series, The Wish Granter, and I will be reading that soon.
Forest of Wonders by Linda Sue Park
Series: Wing and Claw #1
Published by HarperCollins on March 1st 2016
Genres: middle grade, fantasy
Buy on Amazon
Raffa Santana has always loved the mysterious Forest of Wonders. For a gifted young apothecary like him, every leaf has the potential to unleash a kind of magic. If only Raffa's cautious father would allow him to experiment freely, Raffa knows he could discover miracles.
When an injured bat crashes into Raffa's life, he invents a cure from a rare crimson vine that he finds deep in the forest. The powers of the vine are stronger than Raffa could have imagined. His remedy saves the animal but also transforms it into something much more than an ordinary bat, with far-reaching consequences. Raffa's experiments lead him away from home to the forbidding city of Gilden, where troubling discoveries make him question who he can trust . . . and whether exciting botanical inventions, including his own, might actually threaten the very creatures of the forest he wants to protect.
This enchanting new series from Linda Sue Park, recipient of the Newbery Medal for A Single Shard, richly explores the links between magic and botany, family and duty, environment and home.
Forest of Wonders just really, really bored me to tears. It was just flat and pointless. There was really no plot and the story arc that was there was incredibly weak. It was honestly forgettable. I finished it last night and I’ve already brain dumped it.
The only thing cute was the talking bat. I honestly don’t know how I would even be able to review this because it is so unmemorable, but I’m giving it two stars for the bat, and because the world-building was decent and I believe the author has potential to grow, but this particular book left me feeling flat and emotionless, to the point that I skimmed the last third of the book just so I could get answers and finish and move on to something else.
The Spiritglass Charade (Stoker & Holmes, #2) by Colleen Gleason
Series: Stoker & Holmes #2
Published by Chronicle Books on October 7th 2014
Genres: young adult, mystery-thriller, steampunk
Buy on Amazon
After the Affair of the Clockwork Scarab, Evaline Stoker and Mina Holmes are eager to help Princess Alix with a new case. Seventeen-year-old Willa Aston is obsessed with spiritual mediums, convinced she is speaking with her mother from beyond the grave. What seems like a case of spiritualist fraud quickly devolves into something far more menacing: someone is trying to make Willa "appear lunatic," using an innocent-looking spiritglass to control her. The list of clues piles up: an unexpected murder, a gang of pickpockets, and the return of vampires to London. But are these events connected? As Uncle Sherlock would say, "there are no coincidences." It will take all of Mina's wit and Evaline's muscle to keep London's sinister underground at bay.
Solid three stars. I still like Evaline Stoker but Mina Holmes is just ridiculous. She annoyed me sooooo much. For that reason and because the story arc wasn’t as strong as in the first book, this one only gets three stars from me. I’m not sure if I will continue this series or not. I will decide at a later date, but I am leaning more towards a no.
After thinking about it for a few days, I am still on the fence. I’m probably going to continue it at some point, but I am in no hurry to do so.