Tag: fiction

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

A Journey of the Heart: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

A Journey of the Heart: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel JoyceThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Published by Random House Publishing Group on July 24th 2012
Genres: Adult, Family Life, Literary, Realistic
Pages: 368
Goodreads
five-stars

“He had learned that it was the smallness of people that filled him with wonder and tenderness, and the loneliness of that too. The world was made up of people putting one foot in front of the other; and a life might appear ordinary simply because the person living it had been doing so for a long time.

Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique; and that this was the dilemma of being human” (p. 180-181).

Suggested age range: 16 and up

The Book:

Harold Fry’s life is about to change after he receives a letter from an old friend, Queenie Hennessy. This letter informs him that Queenie is dying of cancer, and she writes to say goodbye to Harold. Out he goes to post a response back, but his walk doesn’t end at the mailbox. Instead, he continues walking, intent upon completing his pilgrimage from one end of England to the next, in hopes of saving his friend. What follows is the story of Harold’s journey, but it is much more than a physical journey. As Harold meets a variety of characters and adventures along the way, he reflects on the past, and this in turn affects his present. For just as his interactions affect those he encounters, he is affected by those he meets along the way. The story is a moving narrative of Harold’s journey of the heart–a journey that ends up changing many more than just Harold.

Spirituality in Harold Fry:

Harold’s decision to embark on this impossible walk from the south of England to the north certainly reflects his spirituality, for there is hope inside of Harold that one small act can have a significant effect on a situation. Harold doesn’t claim to be religious, but I think his  story is rife with spiritual moments. As he gets deeper into the pilgrimage, his perspective on the people around him becomes deeper and compassionate. Harold experiences significant connectedness with people and animals alike, and this adds another spiritual aspect to the story. There’s too much to discuss in detail here, but let’s just say the topic of spirituality in fiction would be an amazing area of discussion with this book!

Who Should Read This Book:

This is a book that will appeal to a wide range of readers. Though Harold is older, he is a protagonist that even young readers would be drawn to, at least I think, from my own reading experience. I wanted to know about his friendship with Queenie—what was it that was so significant about their relationship? Also, what happened between Harold and his son? His journey, which includes flashbacks and reflections on his life, unfolds throughout the narrative, leaving clues here and there so the reader can piece together a fuller picture of the character of Harold Frye. And it’s a character the reader is certainly sad to say goodbye to after the last page is turned.

The Final Word:

By all means, go and read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. This novel has received rave reviews from many sources, and I’m surprised it took me so long to read it myself. It was during a recent trip to London, while browsing in a bookstore, that I realized this book was perfect for my life in that moment. I was on a pilgrimage of sorts, of my own, so this story fell into my lap at the perfect time! I read it on planes, on trains, and while listening to live jazz one afternoon outdoors in Jerusalem. It’s a rich story, and one with loads of memorable quotes—so have a notepad ready to jot those down. You’ll definitely want to go back and read them again. Be warned–you may need tissue!

 

five-stars
What Katie Read

Top Ten New-To-Me Favorite Authors in 2013

Top Ten New-To-Me Favorite Authors in 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.

Here are my Top Ten new favorite authors for 2013—though some of these books were not published in 2013.

  1. Cristin Terrell: You may have read my review of the time traveling All Our Yesterdays. Definitely looking forward to more of her work! yesterdays
  2. Rae Carson: I just started Carson’s trilogy with The Girl of Fire and Thorns and I’m hooked by the fantasy world she’s created. Upcoming review on this one!rae carson

3. Jodi Lynn Anderson: Recommended by Epic Reads, Tiger Lily is AMAZING! A must read!tiger lily

4. Kiera Cass: I enjoyed The Selection, but for some reason, I just couldn’t get into The Elite (Selection). the-selection-the-elite

5. Felix Palma: Here’s a pick from my adult reads. I read Palma’s The Map of Time: A Novel and couldn’t put it down. If you are into time travel fiction, you must pick this up.The Map of Time UK

6. Veronica Roth: I finally read Divergent (Divergent Series) in 2013! Insurgent (Divergent, Book 2) (Divergent Series)
immediately followed, and very recently, Allegiant (Divergent Series). If you haven’t read this trilogy, you should definitely get a hold of the books before the movie release next spring! roth7. Lisa Graff: An author for the younger grades, her newest book, A Tangle of Knots is a 2013 favorite. knots

8. Michael Cox: Another adult pick, The Meaning of Night: A Confession is a Victorian mystery, and reminded me of Wilkie Collins. Currently reading the sequel!meaning

9. Chris Grabenstein: Any booklover will appreciate Grabenstein’s newest book, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. Had so much fun with this story!lemoncellos-library-300h

10. Kirby Larson: Believe it or not, I had not read Hattie Big Sky, but when Larson’s book, The Friendship Doll was published, I eventually found it. Wrote a raving review about this book.

friendship-doll

What Katie Read
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