Review: Sea Change by Aimee Friedman

Review: Sea Change by Aimee FriedmanSea Change by Aimee Friedman
Published by Scholastic on June 1st 2009
Pages: 292
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Sixteen-year-old Miranda Merchant is great at science... and not so great with boys. After major drama with her boyfriend and (now ex) best friend, she's happy to spend the summer on small, mysterious Selkie Island, helping her mother sort out her late grandmother's estate.

There, Miranda finds new friends and an island with a mysterious, mystical history, presenting her with facts her logical, scientific mind can't make sense of. She also meets Leo, who challenges everything she thought she knew about boys, friendship. . .and reality.

Is Leo hiding something? Or is he something that she never could have imagined?

Thoughts: Oh my, this book was so very very lovely. I realised the other day that I hadn’t reviewed it and – even though I read it months ago – I knew I had to post something about it. Because, like many standalone novels, I feel like Sea Change doesn’t quite get the press it ought to!

Let’s start off with the main character, Miranda, who I absolutely adored. She had a thirst for logical answers that I could completely relate to. And, on occasion, she wanted something completely out-of-the-box illogical… which I could also relate to! She is a scientist with an artistic heart. Unlike a lot of YA novels, Miranda’s mother plays a key role in this novel, and in Miranda’s overall development. While Miranda had a lovely but realistic relationship with her mother before the book – over the course of the novel, her mother begins to act most peculiarly. She begins to seem rather foreign to Miranda… and it is scary, having someone you love seem different. I loved how their whole plot line developed – realistic but beautiful.

While Sea Change is a paranormal novel with real romantic elements in it, it is a coming of age novel above all. That isn’t something that usually makes me pick up a book, but in Sea Change it was perfect. While there is a slight paranormal mystery, uncovering the answers to the island is not the most important part of the book. Miranda needed to find the answers to herself (does that sound deep, or what?). And when she does, the book ends.

And, oh, what an ending! I love books that leave you wondering; books that leave you hopeful yet still thinking. Aimee Friedman doesn’t answer all the book’s questions – and trust me when I say that you will love her for that.

Bottom line? Sea Change is a beautiful, mystical, romantic YA novel that I can easily recommend. Get a copy!

Review: Hourglass by Claudia Gray

Review: Hourglass by Claudia GrayHourglass by Claudia Gray
Series: Evernight #3
Published by HarperCollins, HarperTeen
Pages: 256
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Bianca will risk everything to be with Lucas.

After escaping from Evernight, the vampire boarding school where they met, Bianca and Lucas seek refuge with Black Cross, an elite group of vampire hunters. Bianca must hide her supernatural heritage or risk certain death at its hands. But when Black Cross captures her friend—the vampire Balthazar—all her secrets threaten to come out.

Soon, Bianca and Lucas are on the run, pursued not only by Black Cross, but by the powerful vampires of Evernight. Yet no matter how far they run, Bianca can't escape her destiny. Bianca and Lucas have always believed their love could survive anything—but can it survive what's to come?

Thoughts: The one thing good thing I can say about Hourglass is that it is easy reading. Even when I wasn’t enjoying myself, I could get through the pages. But – honestly – that is the one and only good thing about this book.

Seriously. That’s it. But just because the book was readable, that doesn’t mean I’d recommend you actually read it. In Hourglass, all the things that had once merely annoyed me about Claudia Gray’s series amalgamated into 300+ pages of pure hell.

My problem with this novel – and the entire series, now that I think about it – is that it all revolves around the hideous Lucas/Bianca relationship. And guess what? I would pay money to have both of those characters killed. They are just so utterly and terribly self-involved – hideously self-involved. Every single waking thought that Bianca has revolves around Lucas… and yet, she seems more in love with being in love than she is with him. *spoilers* When Lucas is literally dying in her arms, is she thinking about him? Is she utterly distraught beyond recognition? No. She is comparing herself to Juliet watching Romeo die in her arms… seriously?? *end of spoilers* I mean, people complain about the Twilight series? Seriously? Bella is absolutely nothing compared to Bianca.

And, you know what, that would be fine if this were any other series. But in the Evernight world, Bianca and Lucas being together doesn’t just affect them – it affects everyone else too (although, mostly due to their stupidity and inability to form a plan – they could have found a nice island to live on if they had been more with it). Bianca and Lucas will commit crimes and condone murder in order to stay together. And I find that kind of selfishness absolutely loathsome. Your relationship is NOT more important than someone’s life. Full stop.

Bottom line? Even hardcore YA Paranormal Romance fans should stay far far away from this series.

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: The Glass Demon by Helen Grant

Review: The Glass Demon by Helen GrantThe Glass Demon by Helen Grant
Published by Puffin on 2011-06-14
Pages: 305
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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The first death: Seventeen-year-old Lin Fox finds a body in an orchard. As she backs away in horror, she steps on broken glass.

The second death: Then blood appears on her doorstep – blood, and broken glass.

The third death: Something terrible is found in the cemetery. Shards of broken glass lie by a grave.

Who will be next? As the attacks become more sinister, Lin doesn’t know who to trust. She’s getting closer to the truth behind these chilling discoveries, but with each move the danger deepens. Because someone wants Lin gone – and won’t give up until he’s got rid of her and her family. Forever.

Thoughts: Helen Grant is one of the few YA authors to have gotten her novels reviewed by the mainstream newspapers – The Guardian, The Times, etc. have given her glowing reviews you’ll find spotted across the back cover of her books. This unusual sight made me pick up The Glass Demon, and I am pleased to report that the blurbs were right. Helen Grant is pretty fantastic.

Grant took a risk when writing The Glass Demon – even though the novel is narrated by an English girl, it is set in Germany and the majority of the dialogue is in German. (That is, fake!German that we read as English.) Jumping between languages, and all the complications that arise because of it, is part of everyday life for Lin. As someone who grew up bilingual, I adored finally reading a novel in which the protagonist had two languages to choose from. It’s unusual in YA fiction – hell, it’s unusual in adult fiction too!

US Cover

Then there’s atmosphere – something The Glass Demon had in spades. It is set in a small, creepy town in the backwoods of Germany – complete with gothic ruins and forests that the Brothers Grimm grew up in. To that Grant added a series of terrifying deaths and a demonic legend, all written in a light, suspenseful style… the book is scary yet utterly captivating.

As for Lin? Well, she’s actually rather ruthless. I simultaneously loathed her and loved her as she made both brilliant and incredibly stupid decisions.  In short, this girl was as realistic as they come – she didn’t fall head-over-heels for the “love interest”, she had wildly inappropriate thoughts about priests, and had a family that took the fun out of dysfunctional.

And then there’s the ending… which just made the book for me. It left room for interpretation while leaving no room for a sequel. In short? Fan-bloody-tastic.

Bottom line? The Glass Demon is a spooky, atmospheric, captivating read – if you are looking for an excellent standalone YA novel, look no further.

Review: Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Review: Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCulloughOnce a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
Series: Witch #1
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: 292
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin's magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agrees to find a lost family heirloom for him. The search—and the stranger—will prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful that it could destroy them all. This is a spellbinding display of storytelling that will exhilarate, enthrall, and thoroughly enchant.

Thoughts: Is there a nice way to say mediocre?  Because, if there is, that would be how I would describe Once a Witch. I had had such high hopes for this book. In fact, I was so convinced that I’d love it, I bought the US hardback. Now? Well, let’s just say I wish I’d waited for the paperback.

There were just too many problems with the plot – and try as I might, I couldn’t overlook them. Some of these are rather hard to get into (such as WTF was with Tam’s family treating her like she was useless when…), but others will be apparent after only a few chapters. For example, love interest Gabriel? He was one of the most obvious problems.  Even though he’s only been back in Tam’s life for about a minute-and-a.half, they act as though they see each other constantly. I don’t mean in the kind of “our love knows no time limit” way, but in the “I know details about your life that you cannot possibly have told me” way.

See what I mean? Plot holes really do ruin a book – it’s like the author/editor is just not trying.

And then there’s the supposedly-central save-the-family plot.  To call it disjointed is putting it mildly. Gabriel and Tam were jumping through time for reasons that were never really clear – they’re chasing down an artifact, then they’re after her aunt, suddenly they’re trying to rescue Tam’s sister – oh wait… nope. Turns out they’re just in the 1930s to play dress-up. I dislike people not having a plan; I seriously dislike people time-travelling without a plan.

Bottom line?  Once a Witch is mediocre. While it’s not a complete waste of time, neither is it an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. I’m afraid I won’t be picking up the sequel.