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Review: Haven

Haven is the debut novel for author Kristi Cook. It will be released in the U.S. on February 22, 2011 (today) in hardcover and eBook formats. It is available online in both formats from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Published by Simon Pulse, the print edition is 416 pages.

Haven is one of the books that can be chosen for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge hosted by Kristi at TheStorySiren.com and is one of my original twelve picks.

Goodreads description:

Violet McKenna isn’t a normal girl with normal teenage issues; she has more to contend with than most people could handle. Violet thought she was just crazy when she had a vivid vision of her dad’s murder. Her life started falling apart when her premonition came true. She’s had flashes of other events too. The problem was nobody believed her until she found a new school: Winterhaven.

At Winterhaven, Violet finally feels like she belongs. She quickly finds a close group friends and discovers that they too have psychic ‘gifts’—as do all the students at Winterhaven. But as soon as she feels settled she discovers the most intriguing and alluring boy she has ever met, and things quickly go awry. As the attraction between them grows, intense visions of the boy’s death start to haunt her. In her premonitions the secret he is unwilling to share begins to reveal itself. And to Violet’s horror, she learns that their destinies are intertwined in a critical—and deadly—way.

***

When her stepmother gets a job in New York City, sixteen-year-old Violet McKenna is forced to choose whether to to go with her or stay with her Grandmother. Although Atlanta is her home, and her Gran her only real family, Violet is inexplicably drawn to Winterhaven, an elite boarding school in Tarrytown, New York.

For the first time since her father’s death she feels like just maybe things will be okay. Winterhaven is a place where she can start over, where no one knows about her premonitions, and she will be able to fit in and shed her freak status once and for all.

If she had only listened to her gut she would have realized right away that Winterhaven was not a normal school and that her flashes of the future were only one of the many types of “gifts” that the students possessed – telekinesis, clairsentience and astral projection to name just a few others. Only shape-shifting labeled you an outcast at Winterhaven.

Even in a school filled with the psychically gifted, there was something different about Aidan Gray. Something that made him stand apart from all the other students. Something that drew Violet to him. Her friends called it the “Aidan effect,” but it wasn’t just attraction. Even with the intensity of his gaze, from eyes that were more blue than grey, eyes that captivated her, there was something about him that scared her.

But when her nightmarish visions, visions that foretold of her father’s death, become about him, she knows that she must do whatever she can to change the course of that future. Even if it means turning her back on her destiny.

***

Haven is an enchanting first book in this new series and a story that readers will instantly fall in love with. It has such a wonderful, easygoing flow, making this an uncomplicated and totally entertaining read.

There is a nice mix of personalities among the characters that the author has created, even though the focus is on the two main characters – Violet and Aidan. While Haven doesn’t fully delve into each character’s abilities or background, more than enough information is given to get a clear picture of who these secondary characters are. And as this is a series, there is likely to be much more revealed in books to come.

There is also a good span of time in which the book takes place that lets the plot progress naturally. This length of time allows the relationship between Violet and Aidan to have its ups and downs in a much more realistic way, without feeling jam-packed into the typical few weeks that are common in many series books.

It is easy to just relax into this book and let the story take you on its journey. There are no extreme highs or lows, no love triangle and no cliffhanger ending, but there is mystery, suspense and a climactic conclusion that will keep you engrossed.

Author Kristi Cook does a wonderful job of setting up the world and characters for this series. And notwithstanding some similarities with other books in this genre, this is a book that has its own identity.

With a number of unanswered questions and directions that the story can go in future books, there is also still much to learn about Violet and her abilities, Aidan and his past, Violet’s friends and the one thing that all the students at Winterhaven have in common, except Jack.

Reviewer gives this book [rating=5]

On a personal note:

It was just so easy to love this book. It flowed so well I didn’t even realize I was reading, I was so immersed in this story. Even though it is just over four hundred pages, I blinked and was practically finished reading it. The story just flew by.

Of course I would have loved to see some of the spaces in the timeline filled in with more of everything, like Violet’s fencing matches, Aidan’s experiments and disappearances, and stories about Violet’s friends – even the trip to St. Bart’s and the unfortunate sunburn. But then it would have been a six hundred plus page story and nothing would be saved for the sequel.

Even though I like Violet, I still don’t know enough about her yet to promote her to my favorite character in this series. Currently, Kate is my favorite female character in this book. (And it’s not just because she’s with a guy named Jack and I’m a Lost fan.) I just think telekinesis is cool. And the fact that she uses it for the most trivial of reasons makes her all the more likable.

And although many may think that Aidan is a bit of a jerk, I’m on the fence, but leaning toward “good guy.” Most of his behavior is completely understandable, except for the picture. (And I won’t say more for fear of revealing too much.)

I will definitely be reading all future books in this series. No doubt about it. And I am a new Kristi Cook fan.

***

To read an excerpt from the author’s website, click here.

According to the author’s website, unofficially, Haven is planned as a trilogy. Of course we can always hope for more!

This review is based on an eARC I received as part of Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab program.

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