Thursday, August 20, 2015

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

SUMMARY FROM PUBLISHER: (Simon and Schuster) Danger is hard to resist in this sexy thriller from Becca Fitzpatrick, the New York Times bestselling author of the Hush, Hush saga.

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?

Black Ice is New York Times bestselling author Becca Fitzpatrick'€™s riveting romantic thriller set against the treacherous backdrop of the mountains of Wyoming. Falling in love should never be this dangerous

REVIEW: First I must say that I enjoyed Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush Hush series. I recommend it to many of the teens coming into the library looking for a paranormal romance. When I saw she had written a realistic fiction thriller steeped in mystery and intrigue I knew I just had to read it.....  

I loved the first chapter! The story begins with the drugging, abduction and murder of a young woman, Lauren Huntsman, by a mysterious man she meets at a bar. Okay so this is a great set-up to a mystery. We know we will need to look at characters in the story for clues to who is the murder. 

Unfortunately after that first chapter, the rest of the story falls apart. The characters were shallow and two dimensional and many of the situations that occur in the story are implausible. 


For example, 
1. Britt and Korbie decide to go to Korbie's family chateau on the Teton mountains for Spring Break when they are caught in an unexpected snowstorm leaving them stranded on the mountainside road. This snowstorm is still raging throughout the book. Britt mentions that she had checked the weather before the trip. But a storm that large doesn't "just appear". 
2. The two girls decide, in the middle of the snowstorm to abandon the jeep and all their hiking equipment to look for a safe place to go during the storm. What person with an ounce of brains does that?! 
3. They find a cabin with two men inside who we quickly find out are running from the law. Britt convinces them that she has been hiking the Teton's for year and can get them off the mountain and away from police. They decide to take her in the snowstorm instead of Korbie. Yet later one of the wanted men, Mason, also known as Ace also known as Jude proves to be a trained wilderness survivalist (then why did they need Britt in the first place) but insists they run when confronted with an aggressive bear. Britt keeps telling him she sure she saw that they aren't supposed to run when she was searching the internet.... wow! really!!! 

I also had an issue with the characters themselves. Britt Pheiffer's (the main character) friendship with her "best friend" Korbie is toxic. For example, Korbie actually keeps a tally of the ways she is better than Britt in her journal (yes, Britt looked) Britt also had a secret relationship with Korbie's brother.So secret he didn't even tell anyone and didn't allow Britt to tell anyone either. That's certainly not a healthy relationship.  Britt changes her mind over who she's in love with, Korbie's brother Calvin or the mysterious Mason/Ace/Jude, so often I thought I was going to have whiplash. The women are airheads and men are deviants. None of characters had likable personalities.; I found myself not caring what happens to any of them.

There are many who loved this story and gave it rave reviews. Those who love the catty relationships and LOTS of drama will love "Black Ice". Those who enjoy series like the Pretty Little Liars or Clique Series will probably enjoy this story. Honestly, this one was just not for me!  

FULL DISCLOSURE: Audio-CD from the West Springfield Public Library. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Half Bad by Sally Green

Half Bad by Sally Green

PUBLISHER SUMMARY: Coming of age in a modern England where good and bad witches live among humans, the son of a powerful black witch father and a dead white witch mother struggles to escape a violent incarceration and claim three magical gifts in order to survive. A first novel
Book #2 - "Half Wild" published March 24, 2015

REVIEW: This book wasn’t half bad!! Ok, sorry for the cheesy response but its true, I thought it was pretty good story.

There are parts that seemed to fall into the “kinda close to other famous plotlines” category. For example, “Half Bad’s” setting occurs in present time England but, similar to Harry Potter, there is another subculture of white witches and black witches. Nathan’s parentage comes from a white witch mother (who is dead) but the most infamous of black witches for a father (who is absent). Nathan’s life has never been easy because of his father’s notoriety; there’s the fact that he is the spitting image of his father, and then there is the prophecy…   in it Nathan is destined to kill his father. Nathan, although he has never met his father, has no desire to kill his father or anyone for that matter. 

Almost all of this book is taken up with Nathan’s journey from “whet” or young witch-to-be up to his seventeenth birthday when he will be given three gifts and drink the blood of an ancestor to gain his “Gift” and a witch designation. Let's just say that it is a hard journey with most against him and only a few in his corner. 

 On the negative side: the characters weren’t as well developed as I’d like and one book seemed to be completely about the “set-up” for the real action in book two: “Half Wild” I’m willing to overlook both of those issues though. I liked Nathan’s attitude and thought process through the story. I could relate to his struggle to be accepted and his need to not be judged by the actions of his father; he just wanted to be free to live his life.

 This was an interesting and engaging story that will appeal to all those upper middle school to high school students looking for the next, “magic” series.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Six by Mark Alpert

PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Adam, crippled by muscular dystrophy, and five other terminally ill teenagers sacrifice their bodies and upload their minds into weaponized robots to battle a dangerously advanced artificial intelligence program bent on destroying humanity.

REVIEW: Two questions…
1.  If you were terminally ill but were given the chance to live forever as a robot – would you take it?  
2. What if we developed a super computer programed to learn from their mistakes who decided humans were expendable?

Both of these premises come together in Mark Alpert’s thrilling novel, “The Six”. Adam and five other teenagers are given the opportunity to cheat death by having their brain functions transferred into an android. The kids and their families have a massive decision to make. Will they lose their personality? What part of us truly makes us human?  

Adam’s father is also the computer expert who had developed the super computer who learns from its mistakes. Ahh, if only us human’s would too… The computer deducts that humans; infallible and emotional creatures that we are, can shut it down permanently. The computer’s self-preservation tells it that it needs to eliminate us as a potential risk. Thus we become its prime target. The government, who has funded both products, sees the teens as an unknown equation for the computer. Perhaps they are the only way to save humanity from the super-computer we’ve created.

I was intrigued by both plot scenarios and how the author was able to meld them into a thought-provoking, high-action story. The reader is kept on the edge of their seats as the teenagers struggle to adapt to their new forms and their mission. The teens acted like teens, sometimes rebellious, sometimes cooperative, and never predictable. The computer scenario reminded me of an updated version of the 1980’s hit movie called “WarGames”. I can tell that the author, Mark Alpert, who is the editor for “Scientific American” has done his homework! This is a great book I could easily recommend to anyone from middle school to adult. The story had a satisfying conclusion but left the door open for future adventures. I can’t wait to see if there are sequels! 

FULL DISCLOSURE: copy obtained through Sourcebook publishing. 

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan

Lost in the Black Forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and finds himself entwined in a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica--and decades later three children, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California find themselves caught up in the same thread of destiny in the darkest days of the twentieth century, struggling to keep their families intact, and tied together by the music of the same harmonica.

Author Pam Munoz Ryan’s masterfully crafts a tale which is an enchanting combination of historical fiction mixed with folklore and a sprinkle of magic. The majority of the story is set against the backdrop of the 1940's when the fear and anxiety of World War II was on everyone's mind. But the common thread for each of the characters is a special harmonica, mysteriously crafted and marked with an “M” which seems to empower the owner with the strength to overcome the social inequalities and injustices they face. At first, I was frustrated at because the author leaves each of the stories of Friedrich, Mike and Ivy unfinished. A musical analogy would be listening to a song but having the last sentence cut off.  However, each story ties together well in the concluding chapters. All around a wonderful and satisfying story emphasizing the power of music and family in overcoming obstacles. Well done!! 
Full disclosure: Book obtained through the West Springfield Public Library Collection.