3 star

Review: Such a Winter’s Day by Carlene Thompson

Juliet Reid wasn’t able to save her murdered brother almost ten years ago. Can she face her demons to stop an ice-cold killer in their tracks a decade later?

Nine and a half years ago, Juliet’s talented brother Fin should have returned home. He didn’t. When Juliet set out to find him that snowy winter evening, she made a devastating discovery.

Now, Juliet returns to the small town of Parrish, Ohio to celebrate her twenty-fifth birthday with her parents. But when she arrives, she receives the shocking news that her father appears to have committed suicide. Why was he so distant shortly before his death? And why was he suddenly asking questions about Fin before his brutal murder?

As Juliet tries to come to terms with another family tragedy, she finds herself at the center of a series of spine-tingling events. What chilling secrets did her father uncover, and can she stop an ice-cold killer who’s determined to keep them hidden?

A relatively new book and definitely a new author to me. The synopsis was interesting and had great promise (and hence why I picked it), but ultimately a couple of things fell short for me in the execution of the whole thing. Still, I think I’d be open to reading some other books by this author because there were definitely elements that I liked.

Such a Winter’s Day revolves around our protagonist, Juliet, who lost her brother nearly 10 years ago. Since then she has left town in an attempt to leave that all behind her. However, another family tragedy strikes when she returns home, and her grand homecoming becomes a huge nightmare. A classic tale of the tragic past coming back to haunt, just what was the truth behind the murder of her brother so many years ago?

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3 star, YA

Review: The Iron Sword by Julie Kagawa

Series: The Iron Fey: Evenfall #2

As Evenfall nears, the stakes grow ever higher for those in Faery…

Banished from the Winter Court for daring to fall in love, Prince Ash achieved the impossible and journeyed to the End of the World to earn a soul and keep his vow to always stand beside Queen Meghan of the Iron Fey. 

Now he faces even more incomprehensible odds. Their son, King Keirran of the Forgotten, is missing. Something more ancient than the courts of Faery and more evil than anything Ash has faced in a millennium is rising as Evenfall approaches. And if Ash and his allies cannot stop it, the chaos that has begun to divide the world will shatter it for eternity.

Book 2 in the Evenfall series and I’m starting to wonder if perhaps this series has started losing its charm on me. The Iron Sword marks the 9th book – NINTH – in this Iron Fey world Julie has created. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored it. Fairies were all the rage in the early 2010s, and may be making a mini comeback with the surge of some popular series recently. Yet there’s just something off that made me enjoy this book less than I had anticipated.

First off, let me just say that I absolutely ADORE Ash. He had his own POV book once before, in the fourth book of the overall series, and I gobbled it up like a pie straight out of the oven (not that I do that often). While Meghan was a fine protagonist, I wanted to see the world as he did, this old fey who had lived many human lives and seen the inner workings of the Winter court. He was their cruel prince (ha ha) until he fell in love and sought to become partially human by gaining a soul.

Fast forward some other doomsday prophecy the entire gang defeated – did I mention I missed the middle series and have yet to read them because I didn’t like Meghan’s brother who had grown up to be a very surly teenager? – and now there’s yet another problem coming to bite the entire land of fey known as the Nevernever. Does anyone get a break? Clearly not as Robin Goodfellow aka Puck so cheerfully pointed out. He was the protagonist of book 1 in this Evenfall series which was fun and wild as I imagined he would be, but I was more surprised and eager to know Ash would be the main POV here.

Now, I find myself here with very uncertain thoughts even after some time towards this book.

The nostalgia factor was definitely high with this one and I can’t fault it for leaning into it. Familiar faces from ALL the books make its way into this storyline and it was great to see. Julie is an excellent storyteller and can weave all these appearances as part of the plot. I didn’t mind that at all. I fell back into this world like it hadn’t been a decade since I first found this magical realm just under the human eye.

Likewise, Julie is great with the plot in the sense that it always feels like an adventure. From trekking through the Between to search for Keirran to finding interesting sources in the human world to aid them on their quest, the gang never stays just in one place or with just one task. Things move along and that’s GOOD. However, sometimes it felt like their tasks were very minor and we didn’t really get to see what it was leading towards until near the very end. Maybe this once didn’t bother me if this was a normal pattern before, but it definitely wasn’t my favourite thing to get to the climax and only then feel the adrenaline surging for “the end of the world”.

Also, how many times can the world be ending? I swear, each of these 3 series faces one doomsday prophecy and it’s starting to get old. Does nothing else exciting besides the ENTIRE fate of all the worlds happen to them all?

The only saving grace for this book and its rating is definitely because of Ash. The first prince I ever loved (who wasn’t human). Can exhibit sweetness but only to those he really cares for, and full of disgruntled charm and deadly grace in fighting. I liked that it explored his struggle with his darker, Unseelie side he thought had been vanquished when he earned his soul. Book 1 explored it with Puck which was a highlight for that book, but I liked the internal monologue we got to see up close for Ash who on the outside wouldn’t voice a thing about what was going on inside.

The ending was also just starting to get exciting. At least now I know what the heck Evenfall is, and so does the entire gang in the story, so I’m hoping the next book (please say it’s the last one in the series) will at least move into the penultimate battle against this new Big Bad. I will make one comment and say that no matter how many offshoots and tangents this series goes, Julie’s writing leaves doors open like this where it can be explored if given the opportunity. I don’t think she intended 9 books for this world, but the fact that little Easter eggs were hidden to explore further from even the very first book shows the breadth of her imagination for this world she’s built. And that, at least, is something to look forward to.

Overall Recommendation:

I’m happy to say The Iron Sword held up well with its portrayal of Ash who now gets the hot seat POV again while bringing in all the old faces from all the previous books together for another doomsday adventure. If it weren’t for him and the dive into his internal struggle against his old nature, I’m not sure what I’d do. Written in Julie Kagawa’s style, the nostalgic OG group sets off on another adventure through the Nevernever and the human realm to seek out the meaning of Evenfall and how to prevent it. Some of the earlier quests felt a little unnecessary and slow but the climax proved interesting enough to continue as they race against yet another end of the world scenario (hopefully their last one). While it’s becoming clearer that I’m outgrowing this series a little, I’m glad to see I haven’t outgrown Ash. If I could bottle up Ash into all the books I read, I wouldn’t have a problem with that at all.

3 star, Uncategorized

Review: They’ll Never Catch Us by Jessica Goodman

A thriller about two sisters vying for the top spot on their cross-country team–the only way out of their stifling small town. But their dreams are suddenly thrown into peril when a new girl threatens to take away everything they’ve worked for… until she disappears.

Stella and Ellie Steckler are only a year apart, but their different personalities make their relationship complicated. Stella is single-minded, driven, and keeps to herself. Cross-country running is her life, and she won’t let anything get in the way of being the best. Her sister Ellie is a talented runner too, but she also lets herself have fun. She has friends. She goes to parties. She has a life off the course.

The sisters do have one thing in common, though: the new girl, Mila Keene. Both Stecklers’ lives are upended when Mila comes to town. Mila was the top runner on her team back home and at first, Ellie and Stella view her as a threat. But soon Ellie can’t help but be drawn to her warm, charming personality. After her best friend moved away and her first boyfriend betrayed her, Ellie’s been looking for a friend. In a moment of weakness, she even shares her darkest secret with Mila. For her part, Stella finds herself noticing the ways she and Mila are similar. Mila is smart and strong–she’s someone Stella can finally connect with. As the two get closer, Stella becomes something she vowed she’d never be: distracted.

With regionals approaching and college scouts taking notice, the pressure is on. Each girl has their future on the line and they won’t let friendships get in their way. But then, suddenly, Mila goes out on a training run and never returns. No one knows what happened, but all eyes are on the Steckler sisters.

I love a good story about family, and They’ll Never Catch Us definitely hits this one home. With (mostly) alternating POV chapters between the two Steckler sisters, the groundwork of the story is laid out as we learn about their passion for cross country running and the infamous history of their town: murdered female runners all killed in the same fashion.

As the plot summary shows, someone new in town comes in and threatens the girls’ chances of impressing the scouts at their meets. And they must impress them, for a scholarship is their only way out of this town and its history still hanging over them occasionally like a rain cloud forming at any moment.

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