Review: Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep

Touch of Frost
by Jennifer Estep
Kensington Teen
YA – Fantasy

 

Wow–I’ve read every book Jennifer Estep has ever published. Well, I’m a little behind on the Elemental Assassin series, but I’m still reading them–I tend not to read books in series back t0 back. I admire how prolific she is. Things can only get better as her career progresses.

As evidenced by Touch of Frost. This is my favorite novel by her. Gone is the campiness from the Bigtime books. Gone is the grittiness from the Elemental Assassin. (Well, mostly). What isn’t gone is the voice, which has remained distinctive throughout all her novels.

Touch of Frost is about Gwen Frost, a girl of Gypsy lineage who is a new student at the Mythos Academy, a school for descendents of ancient world heroes like Vikings, Spartans, Sumerians, Samuari, Amazons–you name it. As a Gypsy, she doesn’t really fit in, or at least she doesn’t think she does.

It opens with this scene where we get to learn just what Gwen’s special gift is. She uses her gift in a novel way, charging rather steep fees to locate lost things. It leads her to popular mean girl Daphne Cruz, an unexpected friendship, and a supernatural murder mystery.

I’m a sucker for boarding school novels. Always have been. However, it does always seems rather heartless of the parents to shlep their kids off to boarding school, and you can’t imagine that they have good relationships with their parents. (Remember in The Sound of Music when the Baroness said, “Darling, haven’t you ever heard of a delightful little thing called boarding school?” Deliciously evil!) The cool thing about this novel is the school just happens to be located in Gwen’s home town. So, most afternoons, she sneaks off campus to visit her grandmother, her only living relative. What a great way to get around the limitations of the boarding school trope!

If I had encountered this novel when I was a teenager, I would have fallen in love with it. As an adult, I was enthralled enough to read this rather thick novel in a matter of days. The worldbuilding is fantastic. The character building is superb. Daphne, for instance, turns out to have a hidden vice–she is a closet computer geek. The leading guy–a Spartan bad boy named Logan Quinn–is rumored to sign the mattress of every girl he sleeps with. However, by the end of the book, we still aren’t sure if that rumor is true. I’m guessing (and hoping!) not.

As you might have guessed, this is a novel for older teens. The age range of the school is from sixteen to twenty-one, and it seems more like a college campus than a high school–with minimal supervision and lots of hanky-panky going on, strictly off the page. However, for the purposes of the story, the older students are hardly visible.

And as usual, Ms. Estep includes Easter Eggs of her earlier stories–both Bigtime and Elemental Assassin. Keep a lookout for them!

Obviously, I enjoyed this novel a great deal. I look forward to seeing where Ms. Estep takes this story in the next book in the series, Kiss of Frost.

EPIC Award Finalist!

I am thrilled to announce that The Sevenfold Spell finaled in The Epic eBook Awards!It finaled in the Fantasy category.

This is the first time my writing finaled for any contest, so I am very excited. And now I have to seriously consider going to the annual EPIC convention, which–conveniently enough–takes place on a cruise sailing out of my home town. Convenient, but still expensive.

So wow–lots to think about. But still exciting!

Lots of Reading – Upcoming Reviews – Musings

I’ve been reading a lot of books, and I hope to get some reviews written in the next few weeks. Here are the books I’ve completed lately:

Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep

The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall

The Wet Nurse’s Tale by Erica Eisdorfer

Eon by Alison Goodman

Plus I have Spellwright by Blake Charlton on my iPod/Kindle app (sorry Katie–I couldn’t resist!) and I was just sent a copy of Prospero Regained by L. Jagi Lamplighter (thanks, Tor), which just shot up to the very top of my reading list. It’s the third book in the series, yanno. I’m hoping it’s also the conclusion, but I think I’d tolerate a book 4, if this one proves to be as good as the other ones.

~*~

So why am I reading books on my iPod/Kindle when I have a Nook? Because I FINALLY, after being an Amazon Associate since 2007, made enough money to earn a gift certificate. I intended to buy Eon (because the publisher sent me Eona), but I didn’t have the gift card set up properly and Amazon charged my credit card. After turning off the default purchase option, I properly credited my gift card and used it to buy Spellwright (because Tor sent me the sequel–thanks again, Tor). And I used the spare change that was left to buy The Sevenfold Spell, because I thought I’d be able to use the Kindle Notes to make publicly visible author notes, but apparently it doesn’t work like I thought it did and oh, well, I guess I’ll get 15% of it back as royalties. Anyone know how to make Kindle notes publicly available?

Have I ever bought a NookBook for my Nook? No. I always buy DRM free if I can, direct from the publisher. Not always an option, but I do try. Besides, B&N always seems to sell at the cover price, with only certain books discounted. Love my Nook, hate the Nook store.

~*~

I’ve taken to drinking tea in the evening because my high blood pressure meds puts me out like a light and it really cramps my style as an author. High blood pressure sucks. Meds suck. Better than dying I guess, but in the meantime, I hate being a zombie by 9. So I just had a most delightful cup of Irish Afternoon Tea by Bewley’s Tea of Ireland. And guess what! I’m awake enough to write a blog post.

~*~

Even though I’m not really working on my novel, somehow words keep finding their way into the manuscript and now I’m flirting with 40,000 words. This novel (the time travel historical) is the first one I’ve written that didn’t hit a brick wall at 20,000 words. Maybe because I’m not really trying? I’m also over halfway through with my edits for the Snow White story. So I guess I’ve been pretty productive with all this time that I have not been … er … blogging (wince).

And now, I sign off to not write, not edit, not blog … no, to watch, with my husband, an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise , of which I’ve gotten hopelessly addicted.

First Weekend of Autumn

It’s fall! My favorite season!

Author Betsy Horvath inspired this post.

At last, after a brutal summer of fires, smoke, and intense heat, the first weekend has arrived where it really felt like fall. In Florida, this is such a welcome season that it is easily my favorite.

I was able to spend some time outside today with only a slight darkening of my skin and no misery. It’s been a very long time since we’ve been able to spend some time outside because there were so many fires in this area in the spring. The bog fire in the Okefenokee Swamp is still burning after 5 months. The peat is actually burning in the ground, and they say only a soaking tropical storm will completely put it out. And more recently, there have been fires burning in the Ocala National Forest. Both fires often blanket our area in smoke.

But today, there was no fire as we headed to the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, and spent at least an hour outside, communing with butterflies.

Well … I don’t know about communing, but a few butterflies landed on me, and I even got to hold one. Way cool. My daughter got to hold it as well and we have some great pictures of her looking thoroughly delighted and enchanted. Don’t you love the expressive faces of children?

We are looking forward to more outings, because we are seriously overdue. I want to make some research trips down to St. Augustine for my time travel historical, and I want to make some for-fun trips as well. (But research is fun–really!) And I want to take some walks in the woods. I adore taking walks in the woods.

I imagine in the northern states, spring is a much-welcome season, just like fall is so welcome after summer in these parts. Sometimes, just the change is welcome, but I must say I never especially welcome spring, because I know the brutal hot summer is not far behind.

Do you have a favorite season?

Internetless

Due to an utterly ridiculous policy at AT&T, I will be Internetless until the 13th. Well, we’ll have access via our phones. But that’s it.

I’m not really concerned about being internet-free for 3.5 days. What I am annoyed about if AT&T’s ridiculous policy concerning cancellations. We had intended to go with a cable company, so that didn’t work out so we called AT&T to cancel our cancellation.

And they couldn’t.

Quite frankly, I don’t believe them. I think it’s a matter of they wouldn’t.

Why would you have a policy in place where you cannot cancel a cancellation? A customer was planning to leave; why make it harder to have them come back or change their mind? We are having to start over with a new account. Which they can’t turn on until the 13th.

So, for the next 3 days, we will be reliving the 80s (we were early adopters of the Internet and have had some sort of online access since 88 or so). Kinda.

So if you use AT&T, think very carefully about taking any actions. Because it’s like having that action inscribed in stone–instead of in electrons.

Too Much Suspense

Do you think it’s possible for stories to have too much suspense?

So many stories these days are so loaded with suspense that it can be a little fatiguing. I think it actually has the opposite of the intended effect on me. When I get to the end of yet another cliffhanger chapter ending, instead of avidly turning the page, I can get to the point where I simply sigh and put the book down.

I guess this is a big reason I don’t like a lot of pulse-pounding urban fantasy. I need the characters to be able to take a little breather every now and then and indulge in a little character development. There has to be a careful balance.

The same goes for books that are just dripping in angst. So much bad stuff happens that I just need something–a small thing–to happen that is actually funny. I think it can really help. We have all this tension building, and I think a little moment of humor helps loosen up that tension just a little bit so the author can build it back up again. Moviemakers do this a lot. We have Bruce Willis, pulling glass out of his feet looking like a bloody wreck, yet the insults and wisecracks to Alan Rickman’s character never stops.

No story in particular inspired this post, but one story that did do a good job of breaking up the suspense was In Enemy Hands by K. S. Augustin. It has some erotic elements, but I found it extremely compelling and difficult to put down.

A Sad Story. Plus Happier Stuff

A local news story this week just broke my heart. A young woman was sleeping in her bed, when her next door neighbor–with whom she shared a wall–inexplicably left his car running all night long.

She died.

Here’s the story.

How awful. A 23 year old woman, recently graduated from college, juststarted her first post-college job–which isn’t easy to find these days–goes to sleep one night and that’s it. She never wakes up.

She probably didn’t think much about death. Young people don’t–usually. As you get older, this changes. I don’t think about death every day–thank God–but I do thank God every day for every day I am given. Because I have seen so many times that death can come along and wipe you out like that.

My sincere condolences to the family of Rebecca Hawk. They want people to buy carbon monoxide detectors instead of sending flowers. Will do, and thank you.

***

I’m finished with the first draft of my Snow White story, and I’m really plowing through edits. I took the last couple of days off, but I had a very productive weekend. I also have been reading books, which I will review here. Among them is Jennifer Estep’s Touch of Frost, which I think is her best book yet.

I’ve kind of had my head down all summer, doing almost nothing but writing when I’m on the computer. And I guess I ended up taking an unplanned blog hiatus. Thanks for sticking with me.

***

You tell me–what do you think is the next big thing in fantasy fiction? The chatter is that paranormal romance is out, but steampunk fantasy is in. I have not heard of as many vampire fantasies as I once did, and zombies seem to have been a short-lived craze. I’m currently reading Eon, which is a secondary world fantasy that seems to be patterned after medieval China. Are nonwestern cultures in? I’d love to see a fantasy based in India, or a secondary world India. I’d also love to see a culture I know nothing about.

***

I have to admit–I miss running Fantasy Debut/Debuts & Reviews. This blog has been kind of directionless since I stopped my debut fixation. Anyone got any ideas on things I can cover in this blog? I’m a bit stumped. I want it to be fiction-oriented, but I need a focus. Ideas welcome.