Friday, December 20, 2013

This Place Is A Safe Haven

Book 1
By Kristi Cook

Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Destiny brought them together.
Now it will tear them apart.

Violet doesn't understand why she feels drawn to the Winterhaven school. She just knows it's the right place for her. When she discovers the school's secret, it all makes sense: Everyone at Winterhaven has psychic gifts. For the first time in her life Violet doesn't have to hide her visions. She's always seen them as a curse, but now she can hone ther ability and try to control it.

But she's thrown completely off balance when she meets the most alluring—and most mysterious—boy in school. She's never connected with anyone the way she does with Aidan, and the intensity takes them both by surprise. But as their relationship deepens, she begins to have visions of Aidan's death—and sees that she's the one who's fated to kill him.

Violet's never been able to prevent her visions from coming true. But this time she'll do whatever it takes ... even if it means sacrificing herself for the boy she loves.

I will apologize beforehand if this review gets a little repetitive because it is so hard not to make constant Twilight comparisons. No, really, almost everything in this book can be traced back to Twilight. You've heard of the Twilight Clones? Well, get ready to meet the clone to end all clones...except better?!

Violet is your typical humdrum person who transfers to a new school and is simultaneously befriended by a bunch of people AND gains the attention of the aloof hottest boy in school. Sound familiar? Thankfully she has the good taste not to instantly alienate her new friends (except when the boyfriend is involved), and she is supposedly actually good at something: fencing. I say supposedly because, apart from maybe two practice sessions, we never actually see her fence.

Still, Violet was leagues ahead of some of the other YA Paranormal heroines I've read lately. She readily accepts and values friendships, she has talents both physically and academically, and when faced with a problem she actively tries to solve it. Also, she gets mad at her boyfriend. And not just, 'Oh, you don't spend enough time with me,' or 'Why can't we have sex now?' She actually dumps him when she finds out he's keeping secrets from her. Oh, and she actually values her own safety. Shocking, I know. So while she is insanely familiar to a certain B.S. we all know, I found her so much more likeable, and thus readable.

Similarly, Violet's romantic interest, Aiden, shares a lot in common with a certain other boyfriend. Aiden is easily the hottest boy in school, the one all the girls swoon over, yet he has remained completely uninterested in everyone...until Violet shows up. But even as he starts to open up to her, he reveals even more mystery, and danger. It turns out that his special abilities come at a cost, endangering everyone around him. So he has made it his life's goal to find a cure, to rid himself of his abilities, especially now that they threaten someone he truly cares about.

Yeah, Aiden is another one of those dangerous boys with a heart of gold. A tortured soul who's finally found true love. But Aiden actually seems worthy of that love. He isn't overprotective—he actually helps Violet train to protect herself, and gives her space when she asks—and he listens to other's suggestions during a crisis. He does fight for control over his curse at times, but it's well-established that he's been searching for a cure for years prior to this romance, so it's not as if he's changing his very nature just for a girl.

And that's part of what made the romance so much more tolerable (heck, believable) than others I've read. The boy wasn't overly dark and brooding, his personality during the relationship wasn't drastically different than how he 'normally' acted. And the girl wasn't a limp doll whose every action was based around the guy, she had friends and hobbies that continued through her romance. I'm not saying every single aspect of the relationship was perfect or wholly believable. There still was love at first sight, and some very quick forgiveness turnarounds, but I at least rooted for both of them and felt good when they were together.

I touched a bit on Aiden having "special abilities" earlier, but I feel I should expand a bit. Everyone who goes to this boarding school has some sort of psychic abilities. Astral projection, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, you name it. It's like Hogwarts (a similarity the book actually references). But mind games aren't the only things going on in this book; there are also shifters, werewolves, and even vampires. Convoluted much?

Actually, I found the lore to be one of the few semi-original things in this story. Trying to mix science and paranormal stuff, even things like fate, can be nigh impossible. And yet Haven kinda sorta actually pulled it off. There were a lot of things I'd read before, especially on the topic of vampires, but the sciency part of the affliction sounded new. Add in some new (at least to me) vampire hunter lore, and I was hooked. I'm not sure if everything would hold up to close scrutiny, but I had fun in the world while it lasted.

The final verdict? I actually enjoyed Haven. Yes, I had plenty of eye-rolling moments and a few sighs interspersed here and there, but after all was said and done, I genuinely enjoyed myself. This was exactly the kind of fluff book you would expect it to be. The writing isn't overly descriptive, there's no heavy subject matter to think about, the romance is the main driving factor, and even the darker aspects of the characters and plot are still relatively light and happy. Is this the romance to end all romances? No, but it certainly won't cause brain damage reading it.

Overall, Haven was a surprisingly fun read. I'd recommend it for those who are in the mood for a light and fluffy YA paranormal romance. It does contain one f-bomb and a bit of 'heavy petting' in the romance department, so I'd say high school and above would be best reading this. If you're looking for something completely new and different, this isn't the book for you. But for those who want something fairly familiar with a few tweaks here and there, and especially for those who have read Twilight and Harry Potter, you should definitely check out Haven.

Approximate Reading Time: 5.5 hours

Disclaimer: I read an e-copy of this book for free via Simon & Schuster Inc./SimonTeen's 31 Days of Reading promotion on their website, I received nothing in exchange for this review.