Category Archives: Three Star

Book Review: A Witch in Winter

A Witch in WinterA Witch in Winter
By Ruth Warburton
January 5, 2012
Hodder Children’s Books
Review Format: e-book
Author’s Website
Paperback | Kindle

Anna Winterson doesn’t know she’s a witch and would probably mock you for believing in magic, but after moving to the small town of Winter with her father, she learns more than she ever wanted to about power. When Anna meets Seth, she is smitten, but when she enchants him to love her, she unwittingly amplifies a deadly conflict between two witch clans and splits her own heart in two. She wants to love Seth, to let him love her – but if it is her magic that’s controlling his passion, then she is as monstrous as the witch clan who are trying to use her amazing powers for their own gain.

JEN’S REVIEW:

My interest in A Witch in Winter sparked by a recommendation on Goodreads.com and my decision to purchase it was based upon many high reviews and ratings. I was very intrigued by the plot so I decided to take the risk and purchase this mystery novel. Normally I try not to buy books on a whim. I know well in advance what I’m getting into when I put my own money on the line. Unfortunately, in the end the reviews led me astray. I was expecting a story that would blow my mind but instead I got a story that I only somewhat enjoyed.

A Witch in Winter is about a teenage girl named Anna and her father who move from London to a small village called Winter. They move into a mysteriously beautiful home that resides on top of a hill that overlooks the ocean. The rundown mansion has a history of harboring a real witch many years ago. No one has lived in the house since its previous tenant was run out and executed because of who she was. But of course Anna doesn’t believe any of that “hocus pocus”.

While doing some renovating to the home Anna’s father finds what he believes to be a simple cookbook. Later that night while Anna and her buddies are having a sleep over they examine the book more closely and realize the book is not a cookbook. It’s a spell book. The girls find an incantation that puts a spell on the ‘object of their desire’ and makes them fall desperately in love. Anna is skeptical but decides to play along. The next morning, the boy she’s been crushing on at school professes his undying love. Can Anna finally come to grips with the knowledge that magic exists and that she’s a witch? Can she learn to control her power before something bad happens? Can she find a way to undo the spell that she has placed on Seth? Does she even want to? What happens when other witches and wizards, some good and some evil, discover who Anna is and decide they want her to play on their team? Whom will she choose?

Plot: 6

Although the plot was intriguing it wasn’t executed very well. Occasionally, the story would follow a path that churned my stomach. To be honest, at times it was just frightening. I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of this girl messing around with a magic book and accidentally conjuring a demonic creature that attacks her. I’m a firm believer in that if you meddle with dangerous things than you’re bound to find trouble. It hit a soft spot with me so if you’re sensitive to that kind of content as well than I’d think twice about reading this book.

The plot hooks you in and keeps you reading but it isn’t developed nearly enough as it should be. To be frank, the entire novel felt like one big prologue to me. I was reading the book on my Kindle and was enjoying it until I realized I’d nearly read the entire novel and nothing really major had happened. As it stands right now, I don’t have much incentive to continue the series because the author failed at completely hooking and reeling me in. I feel like a fish that fell for the worm, got hooked, but fought back and snapped the fishing line. Now I’m forever stuck with a hook in my mouth, but hey, at least I’m not dinner.

Another aspect of this book that most definitely needed some more thought and development was the relationship between Seth and Anna. One of the biggest questions a reader will have while reading this book is: Are Seth’s feelings genuine? At the beginning, we understand that Seth is under a spell. So thankfully this is not another horrible case of “insta-love” that befalls most YA authors. As the story continues we learn that Anna tries several times to break the spell that Seth is under but the situation never really has a conclusion. Is he or isn’t he still under a spell? Based upon my own opinion, and the opinion of several of the characters in the book, the spell is eventually broken. But deep down I’m hoping it isn’t because if it is then I take back what I said about there being no “insta-love” in this book. If the spell is broken, this book has the absolute WORST case of “insta-love” I’ve ever come across. Their love has no structure or foundation. It’s built upon nothing. They barely speak two words to each other before they apparently fall in love…gag.

Characters: 5

Character development also needs some serious improvement (not surprisingly). After finishing the book and looking back I honestly feel like I don’t know the characters at all. They don’t stand out to me. They just slip away and get lost in a sea of hundreds and hundreds of characters I’ve read about over the years. I want to know who these characters are. What are their interests? How do they act around others? What are their hobbies? What are their personal characteristics? If I were an actress trying to portray the character of Anna I wouldn’t even know where to start. I honestly don’t feel I know her. One thing I hated was that Seth smokes, drinks, and is sexually active. Some might not find any of that offensive but it struck a nerve with me, especially since he’s only 17. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a British thing.

Setting: 8

The setting is nothing extraordinary. Majority of this novel takes place either at school, at Anna’s home, or at a friend’s house so to be honest it’s pretty dull. It was fun imagining the mansion though. If anyone has seen the movie Casper with Christina Ricci and Bill Pullman that’s the house I pictured while reading this book. I do give the author props for her extraordinary ability to describe things. Check out this blurb from the book:

“The heavy front door swung shut, and suddenly the house was full of small sounds, almost as if it was waking up, stretching, yawning. A clock ticked; pipes expanded, clunking and dinging; floorboards creaked; the wind shushed and moaned in the maze of cavernous chimneys. The house was coming to life.”

Pacing: 5

I would be lying if I said I didn’t skim here and there while reading this book. When I skim it’s a guarantee my interest has wavered and my interest wavered a lot during this book, especially during the middle. The beginning was exciting and the end is where all the suspense happens so that kept me hooked. The middle, however, was a struggle. There just wasn’t enough going on in this book.

Style: 6

I questioned the author’s choice of content quite frequently throughout this book. I didn’t approve of a lot of things. I didn’t approve of high school kids smoking. I didn’t approve of teenage girls having a slumber party and drinking three bottles of wine and a bottle of whiskey. I definitely didn’t approve of the fact that it was Anna’s Father who recommended such beverages to drink at this party.

At times the author’s dialogue was very repetitive. I’ve learned the author’s favorite word is “Oh.”  “Oh (character name)” and “Oh please” came up a lot. The author utilized colon marks a couple times which didn’t make any sense to me. For example the author would write something like, “Later on:”(continues with story). What’s the point of the colon?

Well, it’s hard to summarize a book like this because I feel the biggest problem with it is that it doesn’t stand out enough. As of right now I haven’t added book two to my reading list and who knows if I ever will. We’ll just have to wait and see. Maybe someday I’ll be desperate for a read.

Grade: 80

Book Review: Touch of Power

Touch of Power (Healer #1)
By Maria V. Snyder
December 20th, 2011
Mira Publishing
Paperback/eBook
Author’s Website
Paperback | Kindle

Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan absorbs their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Fifteen Realms, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.

Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life…

JEN’S REVIEW:

Oh my gravy boat…what to say about this book. I’m at a loss for words. Fortunately, my stilled tongue is not necessarily from my complete and utter hatred of the book. Unfortunately, neither am I running up and down the sidewalk, praising the book in all its glory. Honestly, if someone were to ask me what I felt about Touch Of Power by Maria Snyder I think all I’d be able to muster is – (shrug shoulders) “Meh.”

This book is about a woman named Avry who has a magical ability to heal people by absorbing their afflictions and enduring them herself. Pretty special gift right? You’d think people would cherish “Healers” and protect them at all costs. Unfortunately, the exact opposite goes on in this book. Healers are accused of spreading the plaque and are hunted by bounty hunters for a sum of gold. All healers have been executed except for Avry.

Avry has spent the last three years on the run when she’s captured by a group of men who wish to take her to their ailed prince who needs healing. Problem is, Avry doesn’t particularly like this prince! And doesn’t feel his life is worth saving. Can the band of rogues convince Avry to change her mind? Was she a victim of malicious rumors and the prince is not as bad as she thought he was? Is she willing to give up her own life so he may live?

Plot: 5

The synopsis obviously intrigued me enough to give the book a chance. The concept of “Healers” was new, fresh, and it’s been a while since I’ve read a Fantasy novel so I was excited to give it a shot. Unfortunately, everything fell flat. I felt there was no depth to the story. In the end, it was all very simple and to be honest not as exciting as I anticipated. Basically the entire book is this one journey. Avry is kidnapped in the beginning of the story and it takes two months to travel to where this prince is hiding. Of course a series of unforeseeable and rather unfortunate circumstances hinder their travels but when you take a step back that’s really all you get…That’s the story. This one trip. I also felt majority of these “unforeseeable circumstances” were rather pointless and didn’t help support the story. They were just random events that deviated the party from their course.  It became boring real fast.

Characters: 4

I had a really hard time with the characters. Just like with the plot I felt there was no depth, no development. Being a Healer, Avry is obviously a very caring and self-sacrificing individual. She clearly puts others first before she thinks about herself. As noble as that is I couldn’t help thinking – WHY? Why is she the way she is? Why is she constantly looking for people to heal? Why does she not take a moment to stop and think what would happen to her if she healed someone? I have no doubt that it’s possible for someone to be so…”Christ-like”…if you will, but it’s highly unlikely. Humans are naturally selfish creatures. I couldn’t stand the fact that the author provided no justification for what Avry was doing or why she chose to be the way she is.

Kerrick was a pickle…Kerrick is the leader of this band of misfits. He’s in charge and calling all the shots. Of course it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that he’ll be the love interest in this novel. In the beginning, Kerrick is cruel, hot-tempered, and selfish. He only has one focus on his mind and that is to find a way to heal the prince. He’s willing to sacrifice anything and anyone that gets in the way of achieving this goal. Some might consider him courageous and admirable but seeing as how I knew from the get go that he and Avry were eventually going to fall for each other, it was really hard to see him be so mean to her. Just like with Avry, there was no development. There was no change to his character. He was like a brick the entire time. Well, actually that’s not true. Towards the last few pages Kerrick does a complete 180 and his entire character flips. Instead of cruel, hot-tempered, and selfish he’s kind, patient, and loving. As great as the turn around is there was no progression to his change. One minute he’s cruel and the next he’s kind. I felt I was reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Didn’t work for me.

Another thing that irked me about the characters was how non-chivalrous all the men in the group were. Call me old fashioned but I love my men to be “knight in shining armor” material. I really hated how all the men didn’t seem to care or even acknowledge the fact that whenever Avry healed one of them she basically endured the pain FOR them. Not once did anyone try to stop her because they couldn’t bare the thought of putting a woman through such pain. They were just happy to be rid of the injury. For the love, if you’re going to be that selfish at least care for her until she heals! Don’t just let her roll over onto her bed and be alone!

Setting: 10

The setting was actually well thought out and put together nicely. The author provides a map at the beginning of the book so readers can visually see the world she created. Everything was very detailed and it wasn’t hard to imagine everything in your mind.

Pacing: 4

I blame my pacing issues on the unforeseeable, random, useless turn of events that kept pulling the company off course. At first I was going along for the ride just fine but after I started to realize how useless everything that was taking place was it wasn’t hard to just start skimming and still get the gist of the story. Of course, once I start skimming its nearly impossible for me to stop. It literally got to the point where I didn’t even care if I missed something important. I just thought, “When will this silly story just end!”

Style: 5

Just like the plot and characters, the writing style was also very simple and just plain, blah. I felt I was listening to a narrator just list off certain events one by one. People died, people almost died, people healed, people fell in love, and it was all narrated in this very nonchalant, “Oh this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened…” kind of manner. I also felt the author didn’t plan her novel thoroughly enough. She leads you to assume certain things will happen but then she gets carried away with the story and forgets to follow through with her plan. So what’s the solution? Oh just resolve the issue at the end with no explanation or justification and let’s hope the readers don’t mind. Yeah, I mind. A lot.

Well, the novel had great potential but unfortunately didn’t exceed my expectations. Sadly to say this is a series I most likely will not be finishing.

Grade: 78