Thursday, 13 February 2014

Review - Ocean of Secrets by Aimee Friedman

Ocean of Secrets
Title: Ocean of Secrets (Sea Change in the US)
Author: Aimee Friedman
Published: 5th July 2012 by Scholastic UK
Source: Owned paperback

Many are drawn to Selkie Island. Few know why. 
 When Miranda Merchant escapes her lonely, hot summer in New York City, little does she know what awaits her. She steps off the ferry on to an island rife with legend and lore. 
 She isn't expecting to feel a connection to this unusual place. And when she meets Leo, a mysterious local boy, she finds herself questioning everything she thought she knew about boys, friendship, reality . . . and love. 
 But is Leo hiding something she never could have imagined? [Goodreads]
I was quite sceptical over this to start with due to the paranormal element, and was worried about how it would play out. However, once I got stuck in I was sucked into the world of Selkie Island and the blossoming love between Miranda and Leo. It made for a really enjoyable, light read and the mysterious paranormal side was introduced slowly and didn't overwhelm the whole plot. Although I could guess what was going on quite early on (I'm not sure if this was always the purpose of the author or not), it didn't deter my enjoyment and there were still parts that Aimee Friedman left unanswered and ambiguous for the reader to decide for themselves.

I really liked Miranda as a main female character and loved her scenes with Leo as they started to fall for each other. I also really liked the plot strand involving her mother and grandmother, and it added another level to the story. At the end of the book I was itching for more though, even just an epilogue. I know it was always the author's intentions to leave it slightly open-ended but I had so many questions! In an interview she does at the end of the book she explains why she chose to end the book that way but I would definitely read a sequal. She speaks about the possibilty of one in the interview, but I doubt that will happen now as it has been over 4 years since it was first published. Boo!

Overall though it was a great read and definitely works as a stand-alone novel, so don't be put off! If you're in the mood for an easy read with a helping of paranormal-lite romance, this could very well be for you!


Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Review - The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: The Naturals (The Naturals #1)
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published: 5th November 2013 by Disney-Hyperion
Source: NetGalley

Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie. 
 What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides— especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. 
 Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length. 
 Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive. [Goodreads]
Cassie has always been able to read people really well, yet she’s never known how special her skills really are. After she’s asked to join ‘The Naturals’, a program set-up by the FBI to train other Naturals like her, she starts to realise she has a true gift, and the FBI want to use them to crack old cases. Cassie’s story is also set on a backdrop of grief – it’s suspected her mother was murdered when she was younger, however a body was never found. 

As we’re introduced to Cassie, we get to see her gift at work as she profiles people she comes across in her day-to-day life. I loved reading these snippets, I thought they were very cleverly done and were explained subtly to the reader so we could see how she made her snap judgement. It reminded me of a teenage version of Sherlock Holmes (although of course there will never be another character like him!), but I definitely found the profiles intriguing. 

After this brilliant start I found myself totally drawn in to Cassie’s journey, from moving away from a family she feels she doesn’t quite fit in with, to thrown into a house occupied by three other Naturals. I was worried that we would be thrown straight into the suspense of the new serial killer striking and not receive any kind of character development, but the author mixes them together so well that I totally missed out on any hints or clues, and was enjoying the time I was spending getting to know the other Naturals. The other gifted teenagers should have felt quite cliché in persona – you have the brooding boy with a dark past, the cocky, good-looking but troubled boy, the socially awkward genius girl and the bitchy girl who likes to cause trouble – however, I actually enjoyed the scenes that involved them. Yes, they weren’t very original, but I think because of the situation they were all in, I didn’t mind. The only think I didn’t really like, and it’s why I gave the book 4 stars, was the love triangle – it felt like unnecessary drama when there was already so much going on and made me take a bit of a dislike to Cassie. There was no insta-love but I think the author should have made us feel like either both relationships had real grounding, or just scrapped Cassie’s attraction for one of them. I know who I would choose! 

However, the mystery and suspense as the end of the book neared had me turning the pages as quickly as I could. This thrilling element had been teasing us the whole way through as the author included excerpts from the killer’s mind after every chapter – we knew exactly what they were doing to who and how it was making them feel - it was actually quite disturbing but very entertaining to read (how sick we are…). What made the end of the mystery so perfect for me was that for once I hadn’t guessed who the killer was – I was completely taken aback but on reflection I could see the very subtle hints. The uncovering of the killer was delivered really well and I think the author has a real knack for writing these edge-of-your-seat scenes. I don’t know if this is going to become a series – if it is I will definitely be reading the next installment, but it works well as a stand-alone. Overall, I really enjoyed this and would recommend it for anyone looking for a decent murder-mystery from a different angle. 

I received this title from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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