SILVER THAW by Catherine Anderson

Series: Mystic Creek, #1
Publisher: Signet
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Source: Borrowed from the library
Rating: ★★

After years of living in fear of her husband, Amanda Banning has left him and moved to Mystic Creek, Oregon, for a fresh start. But she’s having a tough time providing for herself and her six-year-old daughter. Writing her secret yearnings on slips of paper and sending them into the wind helps her cling to the hope that things will get better…and that she can find happiness again.

Jeb Sterling has no idea that the handwritten messages he finds scattered across his land are the first hints that his life is about to change. Nor does he understand why he feels so compelled to help Amanda Banning and her daughter when a cold snap leaves them temporarily homeless. Maybe he’s inspired by Amanda’s courage or perhaps by her beautiful brown eyes. Either way, the man who once renounced love suddenly finds himself willing to do anything for the pair. Amanda seems to have given up on her dreams, but Jeb refuses to quit until he makes her every wish come true.

I enjoyed the beginning of this book: secret messages on pink paper blowing in the breeze, a potential “stranded in a snowstorm” romance, and a beautiful Oregon setting. Unfortunately, my joy was short-lived. The story moved sooo slowly. I think at least a hundred pages could have been cut out. After the much anticipated showdown with the bad guy just past the halfway mark, it was just plain boring.

SILVER THAW was the first book I’ve read by Catherine Anderson. Is she a Christian Romance author? I would definitely put this book in the Christian Romance genre, though it wasn’t tagged as such in the library.

I was hoping this book would be similar to Robyn Carr’s Virgin River series, but it didn’t even come close!! I’m giving it two stars, and my two stars = nah.

INK AND BONE by Lisa Unger (Audiobook)

Ink and Bone
INK AND BONE by Lisa Unger
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Unfortunately this book didn’t click with me, and clearly I’m in the minority here, because there are many, many great reviews for INK AND BONE. Reading this book, I felt like I’d been dropped in the middle of an ongoing saga, like there’s a whole lot of back story I should already know. Besides that, there just seemed to be so much going on, so many subplots and characters, so many POVs, that it made me dizzy.

The main storyline involves the kidnapping of a young girl while the family was vacationing in The Hollows, New York. Ten months later, the distraught parents return to the area and hire a private detective, who’s aided by a young woman with psychic ability.

While I was drawn in by the premise, especially the paranormal elements, the story was too disjointed and confusing for me. One reason could be that I listened to this book on audio, which makes it harder to keep all of the layers straight. I would imagine that readers familiar with her previous books set in The Hollows would enjoy INK AND BONE more than I did.

Lisa Unger’s In the Blood is one of my favorite suspense novels ever, so I’d definitely give her next book a try!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

THE WORLD BEFORE US by Aislinn Hunter

Publisher: Hogarth
Released: March 31, 2015
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★

Deep in the woods of northern England, somewhere between a dilapidated estate and an abandoned Victorian asylum, fifteen-year-old Jane Standen lived through a nightmare. She was babysitting a sweet young girl named Lily, and in one fleeting moment, lost her. The little girl was never found, leaving her family and Jane devastated.

Twenty years later, Jane is an archivist at a small London museum that is about to close for lack of funding. As a final research project–an endeavor inspired in part by her painful past–Jane surveys the archives for information related to another missing person: a woman who disappeared more than one hundred years ago in the same woods where Lily was lost. As Jane pieces moments in history together, a portrait of a fascinating group of people starts to unfurl. Inexplicably tied to the mysterious disappearance of long ago, Jane finds tender details of their lives at the country estate and in the asylum that are linked to her own heartbroken world, and their story from all those years ago may now help Jane find a way to move on.

THE WORLD BEFORE US wasn’t my cup of tea, unfortunately. After reading the blurb, I was expecting the book to be about Jane (or someone) solving the mystery of Lily’s disappearance, and figuring out how it was connected to the Victorian woman who went missing. Nope, not at all. While some questions were answered, the ending was unsatisfying.

The language and descriptions in the story were beautiful, and that probably kept me reading. I also enjoyed that the story was told by a collective “we,” and it takes a while to figure out who is included in the group. It seemed like a lengthy book, with much of the story taking place during the later Victorian years. I think it probably rambled on too long in the historical parts, while the “Lily” mystery was neglected.

Intriguing premise and lovely writing, though the lack of resolution in the end was disappointing.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

THE MAGICIAN’S LIE by Greer Macallister

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Released: January 13, 2015
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★

Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus in The Magician’s Lie, a debut novel in which the country’s most notorious female illusionist stands accused of her husband’s murder –and she has only one night to convince a small-town policeman of her innocence.

The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. One night in Waterloo, Iowa, with young policeman Virgil Holt watching from the audience, she swaps her trademark saw for a fire ax. Is it a new version of the illusion, or an all-too-real murder? When Arden’s husband is found lifeless beneath the stage later that night, the answer seems clear.

But when Virgil happens upon the fleeing magician and takes her into custody, she has a very different story to tell. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless—and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding. Over the course of one eerie night, Virgil must decide whether to turn Arden in or set her free… and it will take all he has to see through the smoke and mirrors.

THE MAGICIAN’S LIE had the potential to be amazing (just like the main character’s stage name), but, for me at least, it fell short. I thought it would be a historical mystery, with a plot filled with clues to help expose who killed Arden’s husband, but it wasn’t. Instead, it was a book of backstories as Arden tells Officer Holt how she became a famous illusionist. Some of her tale was interesting, like when she described the tricks of the magic trade. Overall though, the plot and characters couldn’t hold my attention, and in the end I had no idea what lie the title was referring to. Just didn’t work for me.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: THE BARTER by by Siobhan Adcock

Publisher: Dutton Adult
Released: September 4, 2014
Source: Review copy through Penguin’s First to Read Program
Rating: ★★

A heart-stopping tale as provocative as is suspenseful, about two conflicted women, separated by one hundred years, and bound by an unthinkable sacrifice.

The Barter is a ghost story and a love story, a riveting emotional tale that also explores motherhood and work and feminism. Set in Texas, in present day, and at the turn of the twentieth century, the novel follows two young mothers at the turning point of their lives.

Bridget has given up her career as an attorney to raise her daughter, joining a cadre of stay-at-home mothers seeking fulfillment in a quiet suburb. But for Bridget, some crucial part of the exchange is absent: Something she loves and needs. And now a terrifying presence has entered her home; only nobody but Bridget can feel it.

On a farm in 1902, a young city bride takes a farmer husband. The marriage bed will become both crucible and anvil as Rebecca first allows, then negates, the powerful erotic connection between them. She turns her back on John to give all her love to their child. Much will occur in this cold house, none of it good.

As Siobhan Adcock crosscuts these stories with mounting tension, each woman arrives at a terrible ordeal of her own making, tinged with love and fear and dread. What will they sacrifice to save their families—and themselves? Readers will slow down to enjoy the gorgeous language, then speed up to see what happens next in a plot that thrums with the weight of decision—and its explosive consequences.

THE BARTER was a book that had my favorite elements – dual time periods and a ghostly presence – but in the end just didn’t work for me. The pacing was slow and the characters just didn’t engage me. The story is about two women, Rebecca living in the early 20th century, and Bridget from present-day. Both women are dealing with the struggles of motherhood, unhappy marriages, loss of identity, and what society expects from them.

Bridget gave up her job as a successful attorney to stay home with her daughter, a decision that obviously isn’t working for her. Then suddenly one night a ghost appears in her house, one that only she and her daughter can see. The ghost wants something, but can’t seem to get its message across. I had an idea about what the ghost represented, but nothing was clearly spelled out, and the ending was just – confusing. Other than both women being unhappy with their lot in life, I couldn’t see anything specific that connected them.

Unfortunately, I have to disagree with the blurb describing this book as heart-stopping and suspenseful. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I had understood the two women’s connection and the ghost had been spookier.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.