DNF: Black Ice – Becca Fitzpatrick

Published: October 7th 2014, Simon & Schuster

Pages: 392 pages, paperback
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads)Sometimes danger is hard to see… until it’s too late. 


Britt Pfeiffer 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. 

In exchange for her life, Britt agrees to guide the men off the mountain. As they set off, Britt 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 in the mountains, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally? 

My (sort-of) review: As always, I call this a ‘sort of’ review because I didn’t finish reading Black Ice, I got to page 81 before giving up so do remember that this opinion is based on that portion of the book, as I didn’t like this enough to continue.
To be blunt, I really disliked Black Ice and it was not my thing at all. I didn’t have any intention of reading it but when a copy popped through my letterbox and the publisher encouraged me to try it I thought I might as well delve in. Plus, I always get tempted to see what the fuss is about when I read a string of negative reviews – morbid curiosity, I guess!
Often I like books that a lot of people dislike but this time I 100% agree with the negative comments Black Ice is attracting. The protagonist – oh, wow, she is something else… I’ve seen a couple of reviews say that she gets better later on and it’s easier to ignore her awful personality once the book gets going but I couldn’t carry on with this. The awful characters, coupled with the dull story and uninspiring writing meant I was turning the pages purely to try and get through it and wasn’t enjoying anything at all.
Our protagonist, Britt, is a selfish, spoiled, bitchy student who is on Spring Break with her equally dislikable best friend, Korbie. Instead of heading to Hawaii with their other friends they’re heading to Korbie’s cabin in the mountains to spend the time hiking the trails etc etc. There’s a snow storm, their car gets buried, they hike through the woods and find a mysterious cabin in the woods, where they promptly shack up with the two guys inside. Sensible? NO, OF COURSE NOT. 
Britt is a pretty vapid, spoiled piece of work, as outlined by a few quotes I’ve pulled from the first 80 pages:
‘I wondered if I’d gained any weight since he’d last seen me. I didn’t think so. If anything, the running and weight lifting I’d done to prepare for our backpacking expedition had sculpted my legs. I tried to cling to the idea of sexy legs, but it wasn’t making me feel any better.’

‘”Daddy!” I hollered…and put on my best little girl pout. “I need money for gas, Daddy.”‘

‘”Since you started pilfering Slurpee and pretending you can’t operate the gas pump so I have to come out and fill your tank for you. Every time you pull in, I want to kick myself.”
I wrinkled my nose. “I don’t want my hands smelling like gas. And you are particularly good at pumping gas, Willie.” I added with a flattering smile…
… I padded barefoot through the aisles looking for Twizzlers and Cheez-Its, thinking that if Willie didn’t like pumping my gas he really should get another job.’
The next part is too long to type out but she runs into her ex-boyfriend and proceeds to lie and pretend she has a new boyfriend, pointing to the first guy who walks into the shop and pretending he’s her new boyfriend. Seriously? This is a book about young adults, not children, right? After making up a fake boyfriend to spite her ex, she walks into the car park, sees his car and does the following:
‘Climbing through the passenger door, I knocked his rearview mirror out of alignment, dribbled Slurpee on the floor mats, and stole his vintage CD collection from the glove box.’

All of the above happens in the first 27 pages, so you get the gist.
She also admits to reading her best friend’s diary and starts flirting with one of the strangers in the cabin to try (the one her best friend likes) to try and prove a point. Yeah, a character I dislike that much cannot sustain my interest for almost 400 pages.

Oh, and my personal favourite, from page 69:

‘I tapped my cup to his, grateful to have found Shaun, because for a minute there, I’d thought I was going to have to save myself. Instead, I’d wandered into the protective care of a sexy older man.
I dared any of my friends to return from spring break with a better story.’

REALLY?! 

I don’t want my negative thoughts about Black Ice to deter anybody from reading it, as we all love different books and while this has had a lot of negative attention (particularly among UK book bloggers, which is interesting) it has also had lots of positive reviews on Goodreads, so swings and roundabouts. I do think this will be a polarising book so if you fancy reading it I’d probably download the Kindle sample before purchasing the whole thing, because if you’re going to be turned off of this one it will probably happen within the first chapters.
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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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