Tag: mystery

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

Parisian Rooftops: Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (20130)

Parisian Rooftops: Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (20130)Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell
Published by Faber & Faber on February 26th 2013
Genres: Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Mysteries & Detective Stories
Pages: 288
Goodreads

Suggested age range: 9 and up

“Perhaps, she thought, that’s what love does. It’s not there to make you feel special. It’s to make you brave. It was like a ration pack in the desert, she thought, like a box of matches in a dark wood. Love and courage, thought Sophie—two words for the same thing.”

The Book:

Found as a baby in a cello case floating in the English channel, Sophie grows up with the eccentric and wonderful Charles, a loving guardian who only wants the best for this extraordinary girl. When authorities begin to question whether Charles is the best parent for a girl like Sophie, though, the two leave for Paris, in search of Sophie’s mother. What follows is an adventurous romp over the rooftops of Paris, as Sophie meets Matteo, an orphan who is an expert in living on the rooftops. Matteo will prove invaluable in helping Sophie navigate the city in the midst of her quest to find the mother she has longed for her entire life. Danger and mystery hover over the narrative, and once you begin this delightful award-winning British novel, you won’t want to stop the race with Sophie for her cello-playing mother.

Spirituality in Rooftoppers:

The story celebrates several spiritual aspects—the first obvious one is the way that Charles intentionally loves and cares for Sophie—an orphaned girl with no one else in the world. When Charles is asked what he can possibly offer a child, he replies, “ ‘I am going to love her. That should be enough, if the poetry I’ve read is anything to go by’” (p. 6). Then there’s the aspect of hope—a hope that defies what the world is telling her. Sophie is continually told that there is little chance of being reunited with her mother. There were not survivors in the shipwreck; she can’t possibly be alive. However, Charles has taught her to take note of a “possible” and if it’s possible, it’s worth pursuing. This is a spiritual idea in the narrative that offers a lot of room for discussion and reflection. The way Rundell brings it up throughout the story, in my opinion, strengthened the book.

Who Should Read This Book:

If you enjoy mystery or adventure or classic children’s literature, there’s something here for you. The book contains all the characteristics of a good story—fantastic characterization, a fabulous setting, a mystery, and thought-provoking themes. The spiritual concept of hope—of not ignoring “a possible” is especially strong in the story, and that alone gives it a high rating in my book. It also received the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize in England. Rundell has another book published called Girl Savage (British title: Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms).

The Final Word:

I had been waiting to read Rooftoppers because when I knew I was traveling to London, I decided I would pick up a copy there. After all, it was a British book, and I usually gravitate towards British covers more than the American covers of children’s books. When I bought the book, I immediately sat down with a cup of tea and a brownie and started reading. I was hooked from the start. I loved Sophie and her “father,” Charles, and I was on the edge of my seat as they fled London and traveled to Paris in search of Sophie’s mother. This is a delightful and heartwarming story for all ages—strongly recommended.

What Katie Read

Exploring The Mystery of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (2014)

Exploring The Mystery of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (2014)We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published by Random House Children's Books on May 13th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Death & Dying, Emotions & Feelings, Family, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 240
Goodreads
four-stars

Suggested age range: 13 and up

The Book: Cadence is part of a privileged family: the Sinclairs. But like many families, this family harbors secrets. Summers find Cadence with her family on their private island off the coast of Massachusetts. There, she becomes part of the “liars,” a group including herself, her two cousins, and a grafted in “cousin,” Gat. They sneak out together, they get in trouble together, but when the summer ends, they each go their separate ways. Except for one summer. What secret is the family holding back from Cadence of that fateful summer, and what happened that she is desperately trying to remember?

Spirituality in We Were Liars: Topics like greed, racism, and dysfunctional family relationships in a story can certainly make room for spirituality. Without giving anything away, I will point out that the issue of materialism surfaces in the story—and one character’s response to this excessive greed is an interesting aspect of the narrative. Feel free to let me know in the comments your thoughts on these aspects of the story!

Who Should Read This Book: If you can read and you like a beautifully written story with a mystery at its heart, you need to sit down with The Liars. You owe it to yourself to visit this island off the coast of Massachusetts, and learn about the Sinclairs with all their flaws. Whether you like a good contemporary realistic novel or a thought-provoking mystery, I’m certain you’ll find something in this story to enjoy. This is the kind of book that kept me close to the page, tracing it for hints as to what really happened during “Summer 15” for the Liars.

The Final Word: Lockhart’s prose is clever, crisp, and beautiful. I hadn’t read anything by her before, but now I plan to change that. I appreciate her style, and I was glued to this story for several days. My only regret is that it had been longer. Now, I’m planning a re-read, especially since I want to return and scour the pages for clues. An unreliable narrator can really make a narrative more fascinating, and Lockhart expertly weaves a story that you will be thinking about long after you have closed the book.

 

 

 

four-stars
What Katie Read
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