Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review: Winter Fire - Laurie Dubay

A copy was provided by the Author
in exchange for
an honest review.
Winter Fire by Laurie Dubay
Series: Winter Fire #1
Genre: YA, paranormal, romance
Published on May 19, 2013
Published by CreateSpace
Read From: 6.12.13 - 6.14.13

"I should have seen Bren for what he was right away." 
A brooding, powerful god, hiding out with his rebel friends in the snowy mountains of Pennsylvania. 
"Loki stood before the flames in a black leather jacket and tattered jeans. . . .the son of the grim reaper." 
A captivating master of danger who threatens their secret. 

When Jenna becomes the center of a clash between Asgard's most powerful expatriates, she will have to choose between what she wants most in the world, and the world itself. 
After her parents' divorce, Jenna and her mother find shelter in the frozen world of Yew Dales Resort, where Jenna meets Bren Bergan, a mysterious snowboarder who, while proving elusive, seems to show up at all the wrong times. Intrigued, and anxious to escape the gloom of her own life, Jenna begins to notice the strangeness that surrounds Bren. Hills rise and fall beneath his board, trees sway aside as he passes, and time itself seems to shrink and stretch at his silent command. As she searches for answers, Jenna learns that Bren is an expatriate Norse god who has escaped his home in Asgard in order to break a cycle of destruction that threatens both of their worlds. When Loki, hypnotic master of discord, arrives from Asgard seeking to bring Bren home, he discovers Jenna as well, and she becomes the center of a struggle which will determine all of their fates.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? While not the most attention-grabbing cover I've seen, I do like its simplicity. The title alone would make me pick up the book.

Characters: In a story like this, protagonists such as Jenna are very often highly annoying and shallow. So I was a little surprised to discover that Jenna was neither. She makes no real attempt to fit in to the new crowd, despite pressure to, and instead stays true to who she is. She also doesn't quit when she sets her mind to accomplishing a task, gets over her hurt and irritations quickly, and takes what happens in stride. While Jenna makes plenty of mistakes, she learns from them and tries her best to rectify her poor decisions. In short, Jenna was a very realistic, down-to-earth protagonist, and I appreciated that. I liked Bren right off. He has a quiet personality, but also has a great sense of humor and is very protective of his friends. He affects arrogance, but it's so obvious that he's teasing that I actually liked it rather than finding it annoying. I didn't form a great deal of attachment to any of the other Bergans (though I still liked them), except Skye. A girl who threatened to have a real Attitude, I ended up really liking Skye. She could have been an absolute jerk to Jenna, but instead looks after her right along with the other Bergans, and seems to have a real practical and independent streak to her. Meanwhile, on the "characters to hate" side, we have Tyler, Brianna, and - of course - Loki (who actually falls somewhere in between). Tyler was a joy to hate, the little creep, and Brianna rubbed me the wrong way the moment I met her, with her overly bubbly personality and a penchant for flirting with most of the guys she ran into. And then there's Loki, the true villain of the piece (or is he?). Naturally Loki is bursting with personality, from his quick wit, suave manner, cool temper, and tendency of quoting famous poets. But at the same time, we glimpse a side of Loki that I was able to sympathize with; a tortured soul that has been driven to desperate acts - and yet is still quite evil. And those are my favorite kinds of villains: those that we can understand and sometimes even agree with, but are still evil to the core.

The Romance: Need I really point out the obvious fact that of course Jenna and Bren fall in love? For the most part, I was okay with the romance. While there was more smooching and cuddling than I like (and descriptions of Bren's scent and tasty minty breath), I did still like both Bren and Jenna as characters. What lovers' quarrels they have are resolved long before they can become annoying. The romance starts out at a practical pace. It's obvious that Jenna is attracted to Bren, but it isn't an automatic "Oh my gosh, I can't live without him, even though we have known each other for, like, an hour!!!!!!" It's more of a "He's cute, he seems interesting; I want to know him better." Of course, with the story only being 140 pages, the romance does become accelerated after a while, but again - I still liked Jenna and Bren enough to not be as bothered by it as I usually am.

Plot: After moving to Yew Dales Resort in Pennsylvania, Jenna has pretty much decided that her life sucks. She doesn't have any friends, she'll be the new girl at school, and forget about snowboarding or skiing, 'cause Jenna and sliding down a snowy slope don't mix. That is, until Jenna meets Bren Bergan and his Norwegian cousins. They're instructors at Yew Dales Resort, and they're also strange, going out for after-hours snowboarding, sometimes disappearing for days on end into the snowy mountains. But it's how Bren snowboards that catches Jenna's attention, because it isn't normal. The air, the snow, even the trees seem to obey him, and time seems to slow and stop altogether. It's breathtaking and frightening all at once. So when Bren offers to teach Jenna how to snowboard, logic says that she should refuse. But she doesn't, and as her friendship with Bren deepens into something more, it's the beginning of the end - in more ways than one. Bren is forced to reveal his secret to Jenna - that he and his cousins are Norse gods, who have left Asgard in an attempt to stop the destructive cycle of Ragnorak: living life over and over and over again. His affection for Jenna turns her into a target for the mischievous Loki, who comes down from Asgard for some mysterious purpose. But what is he up to exactly? Bren and Jenna must find out before it's too late - for them and for the mortal world itself. Winter Fire is more of a paranormal romance that it is a story about a Norse god rebellion, so the plot begins very sedately, with lots of snowboarding and sorting out of Jenna's feelings for Bren. And then . . . more snowboarding. Now, snowboarding isn't my thing, so for those Readers who understand that special zen that comes with the sport will probably appreciate this part of the book far more than I did. And to be fair, the snowboarding scenes weren't totally pointless; something happened in each part, whether it was further character emotions development or Jenna noticing small, strange details about how Bren and Co. could snowboard so bloody well. And once Asgard and Loki's arrival are all introduced, the plot picks up and becomes faster paced and (for me) more engaging.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: First person, past tense! Yay! Jenna's sense of humor is very subtle, so having the story told in first person worked really well. We Readers are able to enjoy her slight sense of sarcasm this way. The writing style itself was actually rather nice. I'm not a big fan of modern styles, but I did like this Author's style. She had some great descriptions of mountains in the winter - an ambiance that is much harder to capture in writing than one might think. Sometimes the writing is choppy, but that's to be expected in modern stories, and what typing errors I found were mostly unnecessarily capitalized words at the end of dialogue (like "He said") and a very few spelling errors. It was nothing that obstructed the narration's flow.

Content: 1 s-word, 1 f-word. Jenna is almost raped (pg. 34-35), but the scene is interrupted long before it gets far (the dude doesn't even get his or her trousers unbuttoned). Bren and Jenna cuddle and kiss quite a bit, but Jenna keeps their cuddles from going any further, and Bren respects her wishes.

Conclusion: As Loki carefully lays his trap, Jenna is faced with some very difficult decisions, and either choice she makes could end in her and Bren's separation forever - or the earth's total destruction. For Loki will stop at nothing to get what he's come for; failure for him will come at a very high price. Where Winter Fire began sedately, the climax is anything but. I was very near on the edge of my seat, quite uncertain how things would turn out. And the conclusion did come as a surprise, nicely setting up the book's sequel at the same time without creating a killer cliffhanger. I'm not normally a fan of paranormal romances, but Winter Fire was an enjoyable and quick read, perfect for the weekend or a few hours at the coffee shop. With likable characters and a great climax, it delivered in areas that most paranormal romances don't.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, fifteen-and-up, good for Readers who are looking for a paranormal romance that has likable characters, a non-aggravating romance (and no love triangles!), and a plot that does speed up as the story progresses.

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