ARC Mini Review – The Beholden

Today I have another mini review, and unfortunately, it is a pretty negative one. I had planned to do a longer review of this book, but almost everything I have to say is negative, and I don’t want to spend that much time in a negative head space. I’ve already spent enough time trudging through this book as it is. Needless to say, I’m disappointed that my first full read of the year was a dud, but oh well. Here’s to hoping the next one is better.

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ARC Review – REPLAY: Undoing the Apocalypse

Author: Trevor Morris

Publication Date: December 2, 2020

Length: 157 pages

Read Date(s): May 5, 2021 – May 7, 2021

⭐⭐

NetGalley Description

Alex is a graphic genius who can create a superhero but does he have the courage to become one? Apple is the warrior princess who will fight to the death, but can she learn to listen to her heart?

They live in different worlds but are thrust together on the same quest. A quest to undo the Apocalypse. If they fail, life on Earth as we know it will end.

When Moon, a mysterious stranger gives Alex extraordinary powers, then drags him into her post-Apocalyptic world, he doesn’t know whether he’s dreaming or drugged. But, by the time he falls back into his own world, only he knows about the terror attack that’s about to trigger a global nuclear war. And in spite of the clock ticking down, no-one he turns to believes a word he says…

If you like epic adventure, featuring time-travel, action and romance, then you’ll love this new book by Trevor Morris.

My Review

***Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of the book. The following review is composed of my honest thoughts and reactions to this book.***

NOTE: This review does contain some vague, minor spoilers.

I thought this book would be a great fit for me. The description included adventure, time-travel, action, and romance, which are all things I love to read. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a dud.

The premise of the book is very intriguing. I liked the idea of using art to travel through time, and the plot of needing to stop the apocalypse before it occurs was interesting enough. However, the book was not executed well. The story was confusing and almost nothing was explained. I really wanted to learn more about how the time travel was possible, but the explanations in the book were weak and vague and made it seem as though the author never really thought out the mechanisms for how it was supposed to work. The plot was also confusing and somewhat nonsensical. I had a difficult time following what was happening at many points in the book, and there were alternate plans and other plot points that seemed important but ended up going nowhere.

The pacing of the book was also a large problem, which I think contributed to the confusing nature of the story. The book is constantly jumping between different perspectives at a very frenetic pace. It seemed there was a different POV every couple of paragraphs. The story also often jumped abruptly in time and location, as well, and gave very few details to fill in the gaps. The pace and writing style contributed to a tense atmosphere within the novel, which I expected given the story is about rushing to save the world, but I think this could have been accomplished without the jumpiness and confusion it created.

The characters were not well-developed. I honestly felt that I knew just as much about the characters after the book as I did before I started reading it. Due to the book’s short length and quick pace, there was little room for delving into any of the characters with any depth. The focus was largely on the plot, which was the driving factor in this novel despite how confusing it was. I really wanted to see more internal reactions of the characters to get to know them more intimately. It didn’t help that many of them died shortly after they were introduced. I think I was supposed to care about their deaths, but I really didn’t care at all. By the end, I felt as though I wouldn’t have cared if they all died because I just did not feel connected to any of the characters. Also, as a side note, the romance in the book was sparse and extremely shallow and wooden, which is probably also a side effect of not feeling anything about the characters involved.

Despite the flaws of the book, there were parts that stood out to me as being pretty great. The author was very good at writing descriptive deaths. His description of someone being eaten alive by a pack of dogs left me with chills because of the imagery it had evoked in my head. I also really enjoyed the flight battle sequence and found it to be really engaging.

Overall, I didn’t really enjoy this book. It was confusing, jumpy, and lacking in compelling characters. However, people who enjoy a quick read filled with fast-paced action and can overlook the flaws and lack of explanations may enjoy it more than I did. Therefore, I rate the book 2 out of 5 stars.

ARC Review: The Other Side of Magic

Author: Ester Manzini

Publication Date: April 6, 2021

Length: 362 pages

Read Date(s): May 1, 2021 – May 5, 2021

⭐⭐

Goodreads Synopsis

A revolution is brewing.

Everyone within the realms of Epidalio and Zafiria is born with magic. However, it is also true that for every spell each and every magic-user casts, their innate abilities begin to slowly wane until their power is feeble and depleted.

True, that is, for almost everyone.

Princess Gaiane Asares of Zafiria is the result of a nearly perfect genetic union. Harnessing royal and magical lineage in her conception, the princess was born infinitely powerful and with no limits upon her magic. Sequestered in a lonesome tower as her strength is used against her will to conquer the land of Epidalio, she must find a way to fight against her captors.

Elsewhere within the realms, Leo—a commoner—was born with no magic at all. Except for her brain, wits, and her own anger, she must confront the circumstances thrown at her without the magical gifts that so many take for granted.

THE OTHER SIDE OF MAGIC is a diverse fantasy filled with action and adventure that is sure to pull you in and hold you fast through each twist and turn!

My Review

***Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my honest assessment of the book.***

The premise of this book sounded so fascinating. The magic system had me intrigued and the story of a princess designed as a weapon who escapes and turns on her captors, who also happen to be her parents, seemed really cool. But I did NOT like this book. It actually put me in somewhat of a reading slump because I dreaded having to read more of it. I hate DNFing books, but the only reason I finished this one is I wanted to give feedback via NetGalley to help improve my percentage there. If I had gotten this book from anywhere else, I would not have finished it.

As mentioned earlier, the idea for the story is a really good one, and the first chapter was gripping and set the stage well for a good novel. I did like the magic system, and the author described the use of the magic really well. However, one of the main problems with the book was the limited prevalence of magic throughout and a lack of depth regarding how magic functioned in this world. I really wanted more info about it and to see it used more often throughout the book. The story also took a quick downhill turn after the first chapter. The plot was rather predictable and not very interesting. Perhaps the most frustrating part for me is that even after reading I still don’t know why they created the super-powerful princess other than the nebulous need for more power and domination, which fell flat to me as a rationale.

The characters were also pretty flat, and some of them were so bad they made me want to quit reading. The princess, in particular, was annoying and whiny throughout the book. She was entitled and cried at the drop of a hat, which I wasn’t expecting since she was supposedly the most powerful person in the kingdom and a captive her entire life. Her character became marginally less awful as the book progressed but not much. I found the relationship between her and the other girl, Leo, to be rushed and not very believable. I love queer representation in books, but I like it to be done well. That being said, I did like the diversity in queer representation in this book; I just wish their relationship had been more believable. My favorite character in this book was Evandro. He was the most well-rounded and exhibited the most character development. I enjoyed his redemption story from fallen knight to hero, and his budding relationship with the fun Ampelio was also a highlight.

The story really had an opportunity to explore some very powerful themes, especially grief, the aftermath of trauma, and taking back power after being manipulated and abused. However, none of this was covered very well, with the exception of Evandro’s part of the story.

The worst thing about this book was the writing. It was choppy and clunky. The ARC I received is also the worst-edited copy of a book I have read in my life. It seemed like there were grammar or spelling errors in almost every other sentence. These problems made the book very difficult to read and repeatedly pulled me out of the story to try to figure out what the author was trying to say. I hope the final version of the book received several more rounds of edits beyond the copy I received because it desperately needed it.

Overall, this book was not an enjoyable experience. The unique magic system, diverse queer rep, and Evandro are the only things that keep it from being a one star book for me. Therefore, I rate it 2 out of 5 stars.