mini-reviews: duds & DNFs

The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston
Pub. Date: April 21, 2015
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Thomas Dunne Books!!)
Summary: A year after her husband’s sudden death, ceramic artist Tilda Fordwells finally moves into the secluded Welsh cottage that was to be their new home. She hopes that the tranquil surroundings will help ease her grief, and lessen her disturbing visions of Mat’s death. Instead, the lake in the valley below her cottage seems to spark something dormant in her – a sensitivity, and a power of some sort. Animals are drawn to her, electricity shorts out when she’s near, and strangest of all, she sees a new vision; a boatful of ancient people approaching her across the water.

On this same lake in Celtic times lived Seren, a witch and shaman. She was respected but feared, kept separate from the community for her strange looks. When a vision came to her of the Prince amid a nest of vipers she warned of betrayal from one of his own. Prince Brynach both loved and revered her, but could not believe someone close to him wished him harm, even as the danger grew.

In her own time, Tilda’s grief begins to fade beside her newfound powers and a fresh love. When she explores the lake’s ancient magic and her own she discovers Seren, the woman in her vision of the boat. Their two lives strangely mirror each others, suggesting a strong connection between the women. As Tilda comes under threat from a dark power, one reminiscent of Seren’s prophecy, she must rely on Seren and ancient magic if death and disaster are not to shatter her life once more.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Supernatural
Recommended for: Fans of Brackston’s other novels

That summary up there? There’s more going on in it than in the book itself. This is the second Brackston novel I’ve received, but the first I’ve read and, to be honest, I’m having my doubts about reading the other. It certainly sounds interesting, but in the 70 pages I read, it was nothing but Tilda walking around the lake. Tilda going for morning runs. Tilda lamenting the blown fuses in her house. Seren’s storyline fared little better. A Celtic witch? AWESOME, right? It would be if there was anything worth reading. Instead her chapters were devoted to the clan’s Prince lusting after her while she oh-so-gallantly reminded him he has a wife. Yawn.

These two women are connected through their albinism somehow and Tilda’s grieving over her husband’s untimely death until New Love Interest shows up. Double yawn. I truly was interested to see how these storylines would weave together but all I got in those 70 pages were two instances of Tilda seeing the clan in the mist during her morning runs around the lake. This one COULD have been great, but it was just too boring for me to stick with. Maybe some day I’ll revisit it? A part of me wants to attempt it again just to see if anything DOES happen.

There was also the bizarre magical (??) element. Apparently Tilda is able to make electronics fail, hence the reason why her power always goes out. When she was able to make a boat break down just by staring at it I knew my time with this book was coming to an end.

DNF on page 70.

That Night by Chevy Stevens
Pub. Date: June 17, 2014
Source: Audiobook via library
Summary: They said she was a murderer. They said she killed her sister. But they lied.

As a teenager, Toni Murphy had a life full of typical adolescent complications: a boyfriend she adored, a younger sister she couldn’t relate to, a strained relationship with her parents, and classmates who seemed hell-bent on making her life miserable. Things weren’t easy, but Toni could never have predicted how horrific they would become until her younger sister was brutally murdered one summer night. Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder and sent to prison.

Now thirty-four, Toni is out on parole and back in her hometown, struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. Prison changed her, hardened her, and she’s doing everything in her power to avoid violating her parole and going back. This means having absolutely no contact with Ryan, avoiding fellow parolees looking to pick fights, and steering clear of trouble in all its forms. But nothing is making that easy—not Ryan, who is convinced he can figure out the truth; not her mother, who doubts Toni’s innocence; and certainly not the group of women who made Toni’s life hell in high school and may have darker secrets than anyone realizes. No matter how hard she tries, ignoring her old life to start a new one is impossible. Before Toni can truly move on, she must risk everything to find out what really happened that night.

But the truth might be the most terrifying thing of all.
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Recommended for: Readers of Stevens’ other novels, readers who are able to seriously suspend their disbelief

Another one that sounds ridiculously awesome: a teenager and her boyfriend are convicted of her sister’s murder despite their insistence they’re innocent. Sadly, this is a case of the Matthew Pearl Effect – an author has an idea that sounds fabulous, but they either don’t have the chops for it or their execution is simply awful. That Night was terrible, doubly so because I listened to the audio and the narrator sounded like she had a clothespin on her nose the entire book.

It’s clear Ms. Stevens binged on Orange is the New Black while writing this one: when Toni is in prison, we learn all about the foods the inmates make. There are fellow inmates named Mouse, Yoda, and Janet (although it’s the mama bear, iron-fisted cook with a heart of gold who’s the real yoga addict.) Toni spends all her time running, going to class where she learns all about tools and cars, and is denied leave when her grandmother passes. Sound familiar?

The entire story hinges on an instance of bullying that happened while Toni was in high school. Resident Mean Girl Shauna had a crush on Ryan and he preferred Toni instead. This lead to nearly twenty years of bullying. Seriously? Shauna and her group go from passing nasty rumors around to showing up at the restaurant where Toni worked, eventually going so far as to PLAN A MURDER. Am I truly to believe that women in their thirties would still be so determined to make a woman’s life pure hell over a boy from high school?!

Toni can’t catch a break either. I know I was supposed to be sympathetic toward her, but I felt nothing. In high school she was bullied. In prison she was bullied. In the halfway house she was bullied. She moved back to her hometown after her release and she’s seriously surprised that people are still out to get her?

The book alternates between the present day and 17 years earlier in the events leading up to Nicole’s death. I’m a big Thriller fan and have read quite a few in my time. I know what to look for when it comes to solving the case and I thought there was NO WAY Chevy Stevens would make it that obvious, that there must be some big twist coming before the big reveal. The entire story (for the past 17 years) Toni has been swearing up and down that she’s innocent and that Shauna had something to do with it. For some reason the police never interviewed anyone else, they were so convinced Toni and Ryan murdered Nicole. So for nearly 400 pages Toni has been pointing fingers at Shauna…and it turns out that’s the big reveal. Shauna did it. Where’s the surprise in that? I felt completely ripped off and the horrible ending (just wait until you hear the motive behind Nicole’s death) left a bad taste in my mouth.

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11 thoughts on “mini-reviews: duds & DNFs

  1. Small Review says:

    Whoever writes Paula Brackston’s book blurbs should write her books. I love the descriptions and the covers, but I am still reeling from the horrible experience that was The Witch’s Daughter. I had a similar experience with that book as you had with this one. I guess she’s just really not the author for me.

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