Welcome to another edition of Better Late Than Never: Reviews of eARCs/ARCs 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 these 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 I decided to start attacking that stack with the promise that if I didn’t like what I was reading, I could DNF at any time and write short reviews if I needed too. I am trying my best to read through these quickly, so I am most definitely going to miss subtle details. And that’s how this blog feature was born.
After a few of these posts, I’ve decided to include ARCs as well. I try to read all the ARCs publishers send me, and I usually do, but sometimes I get them unsolicited and don’t have time to fit them into my schedule. I’ve also been to several book conferences, and unfortunately I’ve picked up quite a few ARCs there that I haven’t been able to get to. I’ve started attacking them though. Slowly, but I am trying. That said, I can’t and won’t write full reviews for all of these books. So I’m adding them here.
To see my last post of Better Late Than Never, go here!
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
on January 9th 2018
Genres: adult, historical
Buy on Amazon
If you were told the date of your death, how would it shape your present?
It's 1969 in New York City's Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.
Their prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in '80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11, hoping to control fate; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.
Four siblings see a fortune teller who tells them the very day/year they will die which affects their future choices and how they live. Tragic book about death, fate, and the choices we make. But it’s also a book about life.
There are four different POVs from each sibling, starting with Varya as a child, when the siblings go to see the fortune teller and find out their death dates, and then we move to Simon’s POV and his decision to leave home and go with his sister Klara to San Francisco. Each sibling lives a different, dramatic life, and each approaches their death date in a different way. What could have happened if they had never gone to see the fortune teller? There is something to be said for not knowing when your life will end. I would not want to know because I would live each day with dread, not with the abandon that I do now. And that’s not living.
Trigger warning for HIV/AIDS, suicide, and animal testing. I highly recommend this novel, but it’s a super depressing book with a lot of dying. I think the author meant for it to be more uplifting than it is, because it’s being blurbed that way, but it really isn’t at all.
Ironic title is ironic.The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Published by Flatiron Books on January 30th 2018
Genres: young adult, fantasy
Buy on Amazon
Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”
Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.
I don’t know what I was expecting from The Hazel Wood but it wasn’t this. I’m not sure if this book is a very loose retelling of Alice and Wonderland or not, but it does have some similarities? Main character is named Alice and towards the second half of the book, she enters a different world that’s whimsical and weird. I think maybe it’s not a retelling but the author did make a conscious choice to name her protagonist Alice so some readers are going to think that, and I’m not sure I agree with the decision or if you want readers making that comparison because it’s a classic and hard to live up to.
The prose was gorgeous though. Even though this book didn’t live up to my expectations, I’d definitely try again with this author just because I loved her turns of phrase and flow. A good way to describe this book would be “haunting and unsettling.” The characters of the Hinterland are particularly creepy, and I was always looking forward to what happened next, but let down often about where the author went with it.
Earlier, I compared this book to Vassa In the Night, and I stand by it. I LURVED Vassa but I do realize it was not everybody’s cup of tea. The story is completely different, but this book is a lot like Vassa in style and tone, with a similar whimsical, wandering writing quality. I definitely loved Vassa more, but I do think this author can reach the same potential, since her ideas are so inventive.