Title: Death Watch
Author: Ari Berk
No. of Pages: 544
“They say the dead should rest in peace. Not all the dead agree.
One night, Silas Umber’s father Amos doesn’t come home from work. Devastated, Silas learns that his father was no mere mortician but an Undertaker, charged with bringing The Peace to the dead trapped in the Shadowlands, the states of limbo binding spirits to earth. With Amos gone, Silas and his mother have no choice but to return to Lichport, the crumbling seaside town where Silas was born, and move in with Amos’s brother, Charles.
Even as Silas eagerly explores his father’s town and its many abandoned streets and overgrown cemeteries, he grows increasingly wary of his uncle. There is something not quite right going on in Charles Umber’s ornate, museum-like house – something, Silas is sure, that is connected to his father’s disappearance. When Silas’s search leads him to his father’s old office, he comes across a powerful artifact: the Death Watch, a four hundred year old Hadean clock that allows the owner to see the dead.
Death Watch in hand, Silas begins to unearth Lichport’s secret history – and discovers that he has taken on his father’s mantle as Lichport’s Undertaker. Now, Silas must embark on a dangerous path into the Shadowlands to embrace his destiny and discover the truth about his father – no matter the cost.”
Thoughts: Death Watch is an enchanting story that brings meaning to the rituals that enhance the grieving process for those who have lost a loved one. In Silas, Mr. Berk has created a most unlikely but lovable hero, and it is with great pleasure the reader watches Silas step in to fill the role his father once held. Any reader who may be frightened of the idea of death is immediately assuaged by Lichport and the seriousness with which the town goes about its duties of official grieving. Even though it is part of a series, Death Watch is more like a stand-alone novel, with almost all mysteries resolved and the main plot tidied up nicely by the end of the story. There is something decidedly simple and refreshing in this departure from typical paranormal novels, and I look forward with pleasure to the release of the second novel of the series.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association for my copy!
Title: The Name of the Star
Author: Maureen Johnson
No. of Pages: 384
“The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper in the autumn of 1888.
Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police now believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.”
Thoughts: The Name of the Star takes all previous Ripper novels and turns them on their heads with her reimagined hypothesis of the man behind the murders. In true Maureen Johnson fashion, Rory Deveaux is understatedly sarcastic, helping to ease the increasing tension that develops from this decidedly creepy story. The ending comes with quite a shock, making the anticipation for the next installment in this series that much greater. Even better, this really could stand alone if one so desires. There are enough answers and closed mysteries to satisfy all readers, while leaving hints at future stories to come. Undeniably funny and deliciously eerie, The Name of the Star is a welcome addition the growing canon of YA paranormal.
Acknowledgements: Mine. All mine.
Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkins
No. of Pages: 464
“Mara wakes up from a coma with no memory of the accident that caused the deaths of her best friend, boyfriend, and boyfriend’s sister. The doctors tell her parents that starting over in a new state and a new school will be good for her and that she should let the memories come back on their own. But Mara’s new start is anything but comforting when she sees the faces of her dead friends everywhere, and her world starts to fall apart. She begins to see people’s deaths just before they happen – at least that’s what she thinks she’s seeing. On top of that, the most beautiful boy ever is pursuing her, but his intentions may not be so pure….”
Thoughts: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was good but not great. The paranormal romance elements were all too familiar, and the writing was elementary at best. As with quite a few series these days, there are too many unanswered questions and open-ended plot points for the story to be satisfactorily resolved. This does not prevent Mara and Noah from being incredibly enjoyable however. Even though Noah is the too predictable perfect boyfriend/foil for Mara, there is something magnetic about his scenes that make them so pleasurable. Mara is a refreshing change from the damsel in distress heroines that permeate the genre, giving Noah a run for his money in stubbornness and independence. The cliffhanger ending is completely unexpected and has the potential to completely change what was previously known by Mara. This all combines to create an uneven novel that I wish I could have enjoyed more than I did. While I am looking forward to the next book in the series, it is not going to be one for which I have to drop everything and read. There are better series with sequels being released this year for that.
Acknowledgements: Mine. All mine.