Review: Siren by Tricia Rayburn

Review: Siren by Tricia RayburnSiren by Tricia Rayburn
Series: Siren #1
Published by Faber and Faber on February 1st 2011
Pages: 377
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Seventeen-year-old Vanessa Sands is afraid of everything—the dark, heights, the ocean—but her fearless older sister, Justine, has always been there to coach her through every challenge. That is, until Justine goes cliff-diving one night near the family’s vacation house in Maine, and her lifeless body washes up on shore the next day.

Though her parents hope that they’ll be able to find closure back in Boston, Vanessa can’t help feeling that her sister’s death wasn’t an accident. After discovering that Justine was keeping a lot of secrets, Vanessa returns to Winter Harbor, hoping that Justine’s boyfriend might know more. But Caleb has been missing since Justine’s death.

Soon, it’s not just Vanessa who’s afraid. All of Winter Harbor is abuzz with anxiety when another body washes ashore, and panic sets in when the small town becomes host to a string of fatal, water-related accidents in which all the victims are found, horrifically, grinning from ear to ear.

Vanessa turns to Caleb’s brother, Simon, for help, and begins to find herself drawn to him. As the pair try to understand the sudden rash of creepy drownings, Vanessa uncovers a secret that threatens her new romance—and will change her life forever.

Thoughts: Siren is exactly what I expected: no more, no less. It is a YA novel with a paranormal heroine, a protective love-interest, inexplicably evil villains, a toothache-sweet best friend, and a bitchy-but-beautiful teenage competitor. I’d compare it to The Body Finder… except I actually liked Siren!

Siren had quite a few unexpected twists in it. For starters, we actually get to meet Vanessa’s sister before she dies and see what happens in the immediate aftermath of her death. It made the loss all the more real, so it is actually believable when Vanessa goes to her vacation home looking for answers into her sister’s death. Her relationship with Simon Carmichel was also extremely unusual for a YA book. There is none of the pining and hand-holding – they gradually grow to like each other, but the death of her sister and the disappearance of Simon’s brother are the priority.

But my real problem? The writing. Not necessarily the words on the page, but the words that weren’t on the page. Siren was just extremely confusing. The simple things – like who is driving the car, or what the weather is like – could not be followed. All of the sudden a character would be throwing a cup of coffee that had never been mentioned, besides a short line written paragraphs before vaguely that mentioned a convenience table.

And while we’re at it, character relationships and their individual motivations were just… unintelligible. I felt like Tricia had a plot in mind, complete with 3D characters, she just couldn’t get it onto paper! Although her one-dimensional, evil-for-the-sake-of-it villains? Yeah, I don’t think Tricia had any motivation in mind for them.

Bottom line? Siren is enjoyable but flawed. Pick it up if you’re looking for something a bit different in your paranormal YA, but don’t go out of your way to get a copy.

Review: Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Review: Enclave by Ann AguirreEnclave by Ann Aguirre
Series: Razorland #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 259
Genres: Dystopian YA
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Outpost, Horde

In Deuce's world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed 'brat' has trained into one of three groups-Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms.

Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember. As a Huntress, her purpose is clear--to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She's worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing's going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade.

When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce's troubles are just beginning. Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn't like following orders. At first she thinks he's crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don't always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth.

Thoughts: Some authors are just born better than others. Call it a natural selection or literary Darwinism, but I have found it to be one of those undeniable facts. They sit a cut above their piers, and make you glad to be a reader. Enclave is the third Ann Aguirre book I’ve read, and it confirmed what I suspected: she is one of those authors.

In case you were wondering, Enclave is a zombie apocalypse book. There are a lot of dead bodies, a few crazy!backwards!gangs, and people who will try to eat you. But that being said, it is a very different take on the whole thing. In fact, I could probably go into a whole spoiler-filled debate about whether or not Enclave should be called a zombie apocalypse book… but you’ll have to read it to see what I mean.

Okay, so on to the goodness. I absolutely adored the two main characters – Deuce and Fade. For starters, both of the characters are basically adults.  Life has made them grow up fast, and there’s little time to sulk about it.  A century ago, it was completely normal to raise children at the age of 15 – so it’s only logical that we’d fall back into the habit post-apocalypse. Both Deuce and Fade have embraced their responsibilities and are all the stronger for it.  Deuce rather reminds me of Rose from the Vampire Academy series (only about 15 years more mature) in the sense that she puts protecting others first. It’s inspiring to read and I hope more YA authors (*cough* and adult authors *cough*) consider writing more responsible!mature!characters. As Enclave proves, they can be just as entertaining.

Even though there is some romantic tension between Deuce and Fade, there are many more important things that take precedent (like survival, and whatnot). Not to mention the fact that, despite being hardcore warriors in their own right, they are pretty innocent when it comes to the whole romance business. It’s a different world, and that kind of intimacy is something that couldn’t stay alive. As readers, of course we know what to look out for, but seeing characters who do not even know what a family is… well, watching them start to develop one on their own is amazing.

Aguirre also hits on a few issues that I think some people will really be… um… shocked by? That’s not the right word… let’s just say she includes a few plot twists later in the book that may have you up in arms. We have all gotten rather accustomed to some things being labeled as badbadbad – unforgivable under any circumstance. But sometimes self-preservation is more important than justice – occasionally a person can do evil things for an apparently good reason.

I’ll leave you to ponder that one.

Bottom line? Ann Aguirre will rock the YA world. She absorbs you into her novels and pulls twists out of places you didn’t even know existed. I’ll be buying the hardcover.

Review: Green-Eyed Demon by Jaye Wells

Review: Green-Eyed Demon by Jaye WellsGreen-Eyed Demon by Jaye Wells
Series: Sabina Kane #3
Published by Orbit
Pages: 400
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Red-Headed Stepchild, The Mage in Black, Silver-Tongued Devil

The clock is ticking for Sabina Kane. She has to save her sister from her mysterious captors. And in order to do that, she has to broker a deal between the mages and the vampires before all hell breaks loose.

But as much as Sabina is focused on surviving the present, the past won’t be ignored. Before she can save those she cares about, she’s got to save herself from the ghosts of her past. Because the past is haunting her. Literally.

Thoughts: It’s no secret that I am a fan of Jaye Wells – a big fan. This woman can make me laugh and cry and squee in delight, I love her. Green-Eyed Demon was fantabulous: lots of snarky dialogue by characters that I have grown to adore. It was not quite as strong as the first two books in the series, but I blame that on the fact that I read it on my computer… and I never love things I read on a computer. It’s my reading equivalent of watching a film on a plane – distracting and unpleasant. So that I loved it as much as I did? Pretty impressive.

Sabina is still as kick-ass as ever, although she has really grown since the first time we met her. Her first instinct is to killkillkill, but she is gradually starting to get that under control. She also takes quite a few “grown-up” decisions regarding her relationship with Adam. I am so proud of this chick for getting her act together while still remaining true to herself. However, there were a few times when I felt like the development was a bit too explicit: Sabina would compare “Old Sabina” to “New Sabina” and my eyes would glaze over in boredom. *sigh*

But Wells takes strides developing Adam and Maisie. They seemed to have it all in the first two books, but the events of Green-Eyed Demon will spark a profound change both of them. I can’t wait to see what Wells does with them in the next book, Silver-Tongued Devil. I am so glad that her series was extended another two books and can’t wait to see what she has in store for us!

I also adored the New Orleans setting in this book – drag queens, voodoo . I adore New Orleans – y’all probably don’t know, but I was born in the city and a bit of me never left. Jaye Wells just gets the deep south in a way that I didn’t think a non-Southerner could (sorry Ms. Wells, but Texas doesn’t quite count). If you love the Sookie Stackhouse books and you will love this installment of the Sabina Kane series.

Above all, it’s the humour which makes this series stand out. Jaye Wells is as snarky and flat-out hysterical as she’s ever been – mocking Twilight, making some kick-ass Star Trek references, giving a brief glimpse at a funny-yet-crazy-disturbing orgy, and giving demon!cat! Giguhl some lines that you will want to draw hearts over.

Bottom line? Sakina Kane still kicks some serious ass. Wells’ frank, tell-it-like-it-is style will have you chomping at the bits for more.

Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Review: Delirium by Lauren OliverDelirium by Lauren Oliver
Series: Delirium #1
Published by HarperTeen, Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 411
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -- the deliria -- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

Thoughts: I read a number of reviews for Delirium before writing mine, and was surprised by the diverse reaction. There are a ton of glowing reviews out there, a few “I don’t get the fuss” reviews, and a some “this is just a bad book” reviews. And each and every review I’ve read – across the spectrum – I have agreed with. There are some themes are raised by the book that some people hated and others loved – it’s just a matter of taste. You know when you really enjoyed a book when the negative reviews don’t change your mind.

While I really enjoyed the plot and the characters and all of the over-arching themes explored in Delirium – it is Lauren’s writing that makes this book a keeper.  Lauren just has such a soft, elegant style to her writing. She molds and shapes her words and sentences with stellar technique. The way she writes reminds me of Maggie Stiefvater: she writes lyrical books that make you want to draw hearts around paragraphs while you’re reading.  Lauren understands love – not just romantic love, but family love – and her descriptions of the emotion are simply stunning.  This book made me re-examine the relationship I was in at the time, reminding me to appreciate love – and the delirium that accompanies it.

Even though I wasn’t over-the-moon-in-love with all of the characters, I enjoyed their part in the story.  I went in expecting to read a straightforward forbidden romance, but what I ended up with was, well, something else altogether.  Delirium was romantic, but it was also so much more than that.  It was a book about the bonds we share with family, friends and even our pets.  Stunning stuff. Not to mention, it has a few pretty fantastic twists that I never saw coming.

Bottom line?  Go out and get yourselves a copy right now – especially if you are a fan of Linger or Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.  Delirium is a lovely, elegant novel that I’d recommend to even the most hesitant of readers.  And don’t be put off by the doom-and-gloom you’re rightly expecting – it’s totally worth it.

Review: Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan

Review: Immortal Beloved by Cate TiernanImmortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan
Series: Immortal Beloved #1
Published by Hodder & Stoughton, Poppy
Pages: 400
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Darkness Falls

Nastasya has spent the last century living as a spoiled, drugged-out party girl. She feels nothing and cares for no one. But when she witnesses her best friend, a Dark Immortal, torture a human, she realizes something's got to change. She seeks refuge at a rehab for wayward immortals, where she meets the gorgeous, undeniably sexy Reyn, who seems inexplicably linked to her past.

Nastasya finally begins to deal with life, and even feels safe--until the night she learns that someone wants her dead.

Thoughts: Immortal Beloved is a difficult book to describe. In a way, it felt like adult fiction. The main character is 400+ years old, so needless to say, she’s a grown-up. And the trauma she’s been through over those past 400 years? Not teenage stuff.

At its heart, Tiernan has written a book about a woman in rehab.  I absolutely loved the main character, Nastasya.  She has had an extraordinary, painful life and watching her deal with that was just stunning.  Nas is tough and self-confident, but is also uncertain about what her ultimate purpose in life is.  She has spent 400 years suppressing all emotion and she finally needs to just deal with it – and with the clever help of flashbacks, we get to go through it with her. I loved watching her transformation, and I actually really related to it.  But plot-wise, Immortal Beloved was a let down.

This is one of those extremely rare books where I loved the main character, but was let down by everything else.  Sure there was a over-arching mystical theme, a few supposedly-sinister characters – but both seemed to be thrown in last minute.  The real drama was Nas dealing with her memories – including an unbelievable-yet-immediate threat on her life was just an unwelcome distraction from the real substance.  I also really disliked Nas’s love interest.  They had every reason to want to kill each other, and yet some sort of magical attraction conquered all.  Right.  Sure.  *stabs*  If he dropped dead for the next book, I would not mind at all.

As for the next book in the series… I do look forward to seeing more of Incy, who I found rather adorable in an evil, dark and twisty sort of way.  Is that wrong?  Perhaps.

Bottom line?  I’m not sure how much a teen reader would get out of this book, as some of the themes are rather adult.  But if you are looking for a main character to love, look no further.  Just don’t go in expecting a paranormal romance or an action flick – this book is neither.

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