Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Review: Siren by Tricia Rayburn

Title:  Siren
Author:  Tricia Rayburn
Publisher:  Egmont USA
Genre:  YA/paranormal thriller
ISBN:  1606840746
Source:  Fire and Ice's ARC tour
(Thank you, Heather!)
Seventeen-year-old Vanessa Sands is afraid of everything—the dark, heights, the ocean—but her fearless older sister, Justine, has always been there to coach her through every challenge. That is, until Justine goes cliff-diving one night near the family’s vacation house in Maine, and her lifeless body washes up on shore the next day.

Though her parents hope that they’ll be able to find closure back in Boston, Vanessa can’t help feeling that her sister’s death wasn’t an accident. After discovering that Justine was keeping a lot of secrets, Vanessa returns to Winter Harbor, hoping that Justine’s boyfriend might know more. But Caleb has been missing since Justine’s death.

Soon, it’s not just Vanessa who’s afraid. All of Winter Harbor is abuzz with anxiety when another body washes ashore, and panic sets in when the small town becomes host to a string of fatal, water-related accidents in which all the victims are found, horrifically, grinning from ear to ear.

Vanessa turns to Caleb’s brother, Simon, for help, and begins to find herself drawn to him. As the pair try to understand the sudden rash of creepy drownings, Vanessa uncovers a secret that threatens her new romance—and will change her life forever.

 Overall rating: 7/10 flowers

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Tricia Rayburn's Siren, is a paranormal mystery with a nice touch of romance.  Are you looking for a suspenseful paranormal novel that doesn't involve vampires, werewolves, or angels?  If so, then Siren might be exactly what you need.  This quick summertime read follows Vanessa Sands, a teenager looking into a series of mysterious deaths off the coast of Maine.

What I Liked:
-     This book pulled me into the story immediately.  Not only is Justine's death tragic and suspicious, but the overall atmosphere in Winter Harbor is eerie and intriguing.
-      Vanessa is a likable heroine with a family that cares about her.  Vanessa's fears feel genuine and endearing, and it is impossible not to hope she is able to find some closure regarding her sister's death.
-     Simon is not a 'bad boy' romantic hero.  He is a kind, slightly nerdy guy with an interest in meteorology.  He and Vanessa have known each other for many years, and when they begin to act on their non-platonic feelings for one another, their changing relationship is presented in a lovely, realistic way.  Their romantic scenes together are sweet and sensuous without being overly explicit.
-    Winter Harbor is filled with a variety of unique characters that keep the story interesting - snotty Zara, friendly Paige, gorgeous Raina, intelligent Bettina, smitten Garrett, and unsociable Oliver.
-     Much like his brother Simon, Caleb is also sincere, thoughtful, and easy to like.  Both Carmichael brothers increase this novel's appeal, but I would still consider the story more of a paranormal thriller than a paranormal romance.
-     Siren is not afraid to venture into dark territory with several murders and an unremorseful villain. It is spooky and suspenseful, and I often found myself wondering which characters would survive until the end of the book.
-     There are quite a few twists in this story, but I think the best one involves a moment when it becomes clear that our understanding of Justine has been dictated by Vanessa's perception of her.
-      I liked the way one particular line of dialogue from the very beginning is repeated much later in the story when the stakes are high.
-     Layers of this mystery are revealed little by little which keeps the book's pace moving forward at a fast clip, so Siren feels like a very quick read.

What I Wished:
-     I wanted more answers.  A few aspects of this story are wrapped up too quickly at the end, and there are a couple of story elements that are never explained.  I don't mind mysterious or ambiguous endings if it is obvious that the author wanted readers to draw their own conclusions or intended to set up a cliffhanger ending that would leave readers desperate for a second book, but I wouldn't actually classify this book in either of those two categories.  It has a fairly conclusive ending that leaves room for a sequel but doesn't demand one, but somehow it still left me wondering if I had missed a few answers along the way.  For example, I felt that I had missed the meaning behind "Boo" and didn't fully understand why Justine was able to communicate with Vanessa from beyond the grave.  I wanted a bit more resolution and explanation.
-     While I like that this story is visually descriptive and almost reads as though you are watching a film, I was not so fond of the way the story sometimes felt a little too much like a cheesy thriller like I Know What You Did Last Summer.  Many of the secondary characters seemed conveniently devised to play a single key roll in the plot, and some characters seemed a bit like caricatures at times.  A few examples of this include the wise old blind woman, the reclusive old man who happens to have written a book about the town's dark history, and a couple of secondary characters who seem as though they are  introduced simply to become the next victims (kind of like the red-shirted ensigns in Star Trek).
-     This last note is an extremely nit-picky complaint, but Vanessa's father's nickname - 'Big Poppa' - seemed so laughably odd to me that it took me out of the story each time it appeared.  The humorous nickname just did not seem to fit the tone of the rest of the novel.

I would recommend this book to fans of paranormal mysteries and to anyone looking for a quick summer read with the spooky atmosphere of a small coastal town that finds itself tormented by a slew of unexplained drownings.  I was pleased to hear that Siren will be the first book in a trilogy, and I am looking forward to checking out Tricia Rayburn's middle-grade novels.  Her next middle-grade book, Ruby's Slippers, arrives in stores July 20th .  If you would like to learn more about Siren or Tricia Rayburn's other books, please visit her websiteblogtwitter, or facebook.


Candace said...

Great review! I've heard some of the similar somewhat negative comments and wondered how bothersome they really are. But it sounds like it's still quite an enjoyable read, so I'll continue trying to win or will get it from the library (I'm on a book buying ban).

Laurie London said...

Yes, great review, Violet. I think I'll show it to my dtr when we go to the bookstore next time because it sounds like something she'd like. She likes creepy but not freaky. And I like that you say the romance isn't too explicit. The cheesy stuff and caricature-characters never seem to bother her like they do me!

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