Genre: Paranormal

Undertow (2013) by K.R. Conway

Undertow (2013) by K.R. ConwayUndertow by K. R. Conway
Published by Kathleen R. Conway on September 27th 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 390
Goodreads
four-stars

Luckless Eila is unknowingly the last of her kind: Rare. Gifted. Breakable. Stunning Raef is her kind's historic enemy: Soulless. Lethal. Lost. A legendary death 160 years before would set their lives to collide, forcing a beautiful killer to become a savior, a simple wallflower to become a warrior, and ruthless destiny to become a death sentence. SUMMARY: Eila Walker knows luck is not a friend, so she is downright shocked to inherit a million-dollar Cape Cod home. And yeah, her new town isn't perfect: the cheerleaders are heinous clones, the local undertow can kill ya, and her Great Grams was supposedly fried by lightning in the harbor square. Still, Eila is hopeful her luckless days are in the past . . . until history decides to repeat itself. When drool-worthy Raef O'Reilly becomes her friendly, yet weirdly protective shadow, Eila thinks life is pretty darn perfect - until she is hauled beneath the waves by an unnatural undertow. Revealing coal-black eyes and iron-like strength as he rescues her, Raef can no longer hide what he is . . . or what she can do. Eila, last of her kind, can supposedly channel the power of human souls, while Raef is more adept at stealing them. Even worse, the legend about her ancestor isn't such a myth, since Eila's grandmother was one kick-butt warrior until her lightning-like power backfired. A power that is written all over Eila's DNA. Determined to stay one step ahead of a dangerous clan that is hunting her, Raef, along with three unlikely allies, will do all they can to protect her. But as hidden pieces of their brutal histories unravel, Eila begins to understand just what went down in the harbor square. She soon realizes that following in her grandmother's fearless footsteps may be the only way to save those she loves . . . including Raef.

Suggested Age Range: 14 and Up

When I read that one reviewer described this as Dawson’s Creek meets The Goonies meets Jaws, I thought: Ok.

yes

I wasn’t disappointed. This was an entertaining read! And there are definitely some fascinating dimensions that lend themselves to the notion of spirituality in the narrative.

Illuminations of Spirituality in Undertow:

For example, the book opens with a glimpse into the last moments of the life of Eila’s 4th great-grandmother. This opening scene establishes an air of mystery in the narrative. As the reader, you assume there’s something significant about Eila, the protagonist, due to the fact that her great-grandmother possessed some kind of supernatural ability. They’re family, right, so maybe there’s a link in their gifting and abilities? But, Eila doesn’t know anything about this supernatural aspect of her 4th great-grandmother’s life in the beginning of the story, so she doesn’t even consider the fact that she might be special.

This was a part of the story that I appreciated—this mysterious (at first) family history of Eila’s. It added a depth to the narrative that drew me in as a reader. It also reminded me of the potential strong connections between family members. There is definitely a kind of spiritual connection between Eila and her great-grandmother—eventually you realize she is dreaming her great-grandmother’s last moments. Over and over again. There is something Eila must know, and it seems to me almost a kind of transcendent moment when she is having these dreams that reflect the perspective of her great-grandmother.

To me, that’s a spiritual thing—when we can place ourselves in the shoes of someone else. This dimension of Conway’s story definitely leaves room for discussion about spirituality! And you know I’m into that.

Who Should Read This Book:

If you like any kind of YA Urban Fantasy, pick this book up. Seriously—give this series a try. You’ll probably want to read the second book. I know I want to—and there’s a prequel coming out in March, Cruel Summer. Conway’s characters are really well-developed, and the prequel focuses on two of the characters in Undertow, providing a deeper glimpse into how these two (Kian and Ana) met.

I really enjoyed the pace of this book—the end of chapters left me wanting to continue onto the next. Even though there is some resolution at the end of the first book, I definitely closed it wanting to know more. In some ways I wished the end had been a little longer with more wrapping up. There are quite a few open-ended issues that promise readers there are further installments to come.

One thing I did notice is that the characters don’t always use contractions when you think they should—but I’m looking forward to see if this changes in the second book or in Cruel Summer. That was really the only thing I noticed during my reading of Undertow that I would have changed.

The Final Illumination:

So Urban Fantasy isn’t usually my thing, but when I read the premise of this book and saw that it was like Goonies meets Jaws, I was hooked, to say the least. Also, since I met the author at a high school writing club I was visiting and REALLY liked the feedback she gave me on my own writing, I thought, “I have to read this book!” I was excited to buy a copy and get it signed for my Over 30 Blogger Secret Santa partner, Sarah, over at What Sarah Read. I then promptly bought the Kindle version of the book for myself.

I loved that this was the kind of book I could read and read–I needed to know more. Would Eila ever find out what was going on? Would the mystery be solved? Would dangers be avoided? What was the deal with this guy who seemed to always show up?

I felt like Conway’s premise was a refreshing one—though there some echoes of other Urban Fantasy stories I had encountered, this didn’t seem like recycled material. And after Twilight, that seems to happen a lot.

I liked these characters—they were dealing with some very dangerous circumstances and people (beings) but they were also high school students who cared about pizza and dressing up and hanging out at the beach. There are some laugh aloud moments (when Eila “accidentally” spills a milkshake all over that cheerleader snob) and nail biting ones as well.

Know any teens who are into this genre? Definitely consider gifting them with a copy of Conway’s book!

 

four-stars
What Katie Read

The Vanishing Season (2014) by Jodi Lynn Anderson

The Vanishing Season (2014) by Jodi Lynn AndersonThe Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Published by Harper Collins on July 1st 2014
Genres: Death & Dying, Fantasy, Friendship, Girls & Women, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 272
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Suggested age range: 13 and up

The Book: At first glance, this might seem like a ghost story. In some ways it is. In some ways, it isn’t. It’s about Maggie, who moves to Door County, Wisconsin where a bitterly cold winter ushers in a dangerous season for girls. They start disappearing. Having moved from Chicago, Maggie and her parents slowly start to make a home for themselves in this bleak and yet beautiful landscape, and Maggie develops connections with neighbors Pauline, and Pauline’s good friend, Liam. The friendship between these three teens is the central focus of the book, but woven within that narrative is a mystery—including a mystery about the narrator of the story—who is telling us what happened and what role did he/she have to play in the events that transpired that tragic winter?

Spirituality in The Vanishing Season: Anderson touches on some interesting topics that illuminate issues of spirituality—what happens when we die, if we are tied in some profound way to another person, and the power of relationships to bring healing and forgiveness.

Though I don’t necessarily agree with the author’s depiction of what happens when someone dies, the story definitely would provide an opportunity for some fascinating discussion. The question of uncertainty about the narrator brings up the idea that different people see the same events in various ways—it seems that when we come to that awareness, it may be  easier to understand others.

Who Should Read This Book: If you loved We Were Liars, you should read Anderson’s new book. Those of you that love Tiger Lily, yes, I would recommend you read The Vanishing Season, but I wouldn’t say this is at the same level as Tiger Lily. It’s a different kind of book, and, as you might have read on GoodReads, opinions were widely varied. I didn’t have the problems with this story that some other reviewers did, but I can see their frustration with the idea that not much happened in the story. However, I found myself gripped and turning the pages, wanting to know what was going on with these vanishing girls, but also wondering how the connections between Maggie, Pauline, and Liam were going to work out.

The Final Word: This book gave me a hangover when I finished it. I will eventually re-read it though. I want to comb through the story, look for clues, and appreciate again Anderson’s rich and atmospheric language. I enjoyed the book (as much as you can when you get to the end of a book and just want to sit and stare into space) but I struggled with the ending a bit. I wanted something different for the central characters, but I could understand where Anderson was going with the narrative. Point of discussion—compare the ending of this story with Tiger Lily. Could be an interesting talk!

 

three-half-stars
What Katie Read
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