Saturday, February 21, 2015

Review: Black Ice

I loved Becca Fitzpatrick's "Hush Hush" series so when I saw Black Ice, I immediately added it to my TBR list.  The teaser was interesting and I was looking for a fun, fast-paced story to change things up a bit.

Synopsis from Amazon:
Britt Pheiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn’t prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants—but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage.

Britt is forced to guide the men off the mountain, and knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there…and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target.

But nothing is as it seems, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally?

My Review:
The drama started almost at the very beginning and the story moved fast and furious until its final moments.  I took it to the gym with me and stayed on the treadmill for over an hour because I didn't want to stop reading.  Britt is a typical young girl who still pined over her ex-boyfriend and didn't always make the best decisions. She was also however, smart and savvy and didn't give herself enough of a chance to prove this to herself.  On the mountain, when she and Korbie are kidnapped during a blizzard, she has to rise to the occasion to stay alive and she does this admirably.  She ended up being a strong character and learning a lot about herself as an individual.

Was this book incredibly deep and emotional? Not really, but that didn't in any way take away from the fun of reading it.  It was written as a fast-paced thriller with a little bit of romance and that is exactly what I was looking for.  I had my theories early on about how the story was going to turn out and I was pretty close with my predictions on who the real killer was.  I really liked how the author ended the book and then included an epilogue that took place a year later to finish out the story.  This was a bit more realistic than many stories where, after all the drama, everything wraps up perfectly with a bow on top.  

This would make a great beach read as it isn't too thick and doesn't require a huge amount of concentration. Thoroughly enjoyable.  I will definitely continue to pick up any new books by this author.

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Review: Four Rubbings

Four Rubbings is volume 1 in the Stone Witch Series, written by Jennifer Hotes. It was graciously given to me in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Amazon:

Halloween. The night the barrier between the dead and the living is as thin as muslin. Fourteen-year old Josie, haunted by the death of her mother, leads her best friends to an ancient cemetery to rub graves. Convinced she will come away with proof of her mother’s spirit at last, the evening takes an unexpected turn as the teens gravitate four ways into the haunted grounds. Set against the backdrop of the rainy Pacific Northwest, four graves will be rubbed, touching off a series of events that will rattle their once mundane lives. From the lonely World War II hero to an accused witch, the people buried beneath the stones have stories that need an ending. The journey to unravel the mysteries leaves the friends wondering if the graves would’ve been better off left alone.

My Review:

With so many YA books out there with a focus on the paranormal, it seems to be getting harder and harder to find a story that is original and engaging, but this book is both.  When I first began reading, I thought the characters were a bit young for the roles they were given, but as I continued reading and learned more about their history together and the family issues they each had to cope with, I found myself fully engrossed in their lives and in the mysteries they were pursuing. 

I really liked the premise of rubbing graves and actually went out of my way to learn more about this interesting activity that really does exist.  The grave rubbings begin as an innocent activity on Halloween and a way for Josie, one of the main characters, to find a new bond with her deceased mother.  What it ends up to be is quite different.  Each of the kids, Josie, Blaze, Seth, and Casey look further into the stories of the graves they chose and the chapters change point of view according to which story is the current focus. Normally, I would find this constant change of perspective annoying but in this case, I was so interested in all of their discoveries that I didn't mind it at all.  

The bond of the four main characters was admirable.  Being friends from birth and now 14, the story was as much about the characters coming of age as it was a paranormal mystery.  I think this added to the engagement level of the book as they supported each other through their troubles but also begin to see each other in a different light as the story developed.

My favorite aspect of the story however, was the story of the accused witch's grave and the connection between her story and the story of Josie's mother.  I've always enjoy witch stories and the history of witches and witchcraft in the world so this story was the most interesting and fun for me.  

This book is great for middle school readers and really for anyone over the age of 12.  I thought it was unique and fun to read and I liked how I didn't really know how it would end. I'm really looking forward to the second book to see where the author takes these characters on their next adventure.

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Review: The Magician's Lie

The Magician's Lie is one of the chosen books of winter at  Early reviewers compared it to The Night Circus, which is one of my all time favorite stories so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review this book.

Synopsis from Amazon:
The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. One night in Waterloo, Iowa, with young policeman Virgil Holt watching from the audience, she swaps her trademark saw for a fire ax. Is it a new version of the illusion, or an all-too-real murder? When Arden's husband is found lifeless beneath the stage later that night, the answer seems clear.

But when Virgil happens upon the fleeing magician and takes her into custody, she has a very different story to tell. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless-and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding. Over the course of one eerie night, Virgil must decide whether to turn Arden in or set her free... and it will take all he has to see through the smoke and mirrors.

My Review:

The turn of the century setting in this story is what captured my attention first.  I love books with a historical aspect to them and the traveling shows on the railway, New York, and Biltmore all lent themselves to the time period and were beautifully described.  You can tell the author did her research when you, as the reader, feel like you are there inside the story. The Amazing Arden, our main character, is truly "amazing."  She is a strong woman born in a man's time who dared to take risks in order to make it on her own and escape her past. She never gave up even when pushed to the breaking point and I like to see that in a female character.  

The story is told in one night, in a police station, while Arden is handcuffed to a chair as a suspected murderer.  She tells her story from this chair, going back to her childhood and ending with a return to the present. Her story is intriguing and I found myself constantly making mental notes when I thought I found a clue in the past that might lead to what really happened.  I went back and forth several times on the issue of Arden's guilt. When the truth was close to being revealed and I realized what truly happened, I was both surprised and also impressed that the author was able to hold onto the mystery for so long. The paranormal element of the story is minor but just enough to make it all the more engaging. The love story between Arden and Clyde is beautifully written and reminds us of the sacrifices people make for one another so they can protect and be with the ones that mean the most to them.  As a villain, Ray was the perfect example of evil.  He was truly disturbed and made me cringe on more than one occasion as I read.  I had no compassion for him whatsoever.

One thing I would have loved to have in the story was a more prominent role for Officer Holt. We get a glimpse of his life and the hardship he is dealing with but I felt that he was a good guy who was temporarily lost in life and I would have liked to see a more solid ending to his story.

There are a few disturbing scenes but these just made the book even harder to put down because I knew in my heart that Arden would prevail.  

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