Review: The Archived

The Archived
by Victoria Schwab
★★★★☆

Victoria Schwab created an intricate, unique world where the dead aren’t dead; they are Histories and their souls are kept in vaults in the Archive. If a History wakes up, it is the duty of Keepers, who are alive in the Outer world, to wrangle them and send them back to the Archive where Librarians oversee and keep members of the Archive in line.

Our main character is Mackenzie, a teenage girl who balances her secret life of being a Keeper by lying to her family and friends.  Whenever a name appears on a piece of paper she keeps in her pocket, it’s her duty to use her key to open up doors to the Narrows, where she hunts down the rogue History. Mac moves to new town after the death of her little brother, and her new section in her apartment, the Corondo, frequently has Histories waking up. She then becomes tangled up in a plot where someone is altering Histories; erasing memories and deaths.

The plot and world building are unique and well crafted; most of the rules made sense but there was still confusion towards certain elements of the Archive world. As the story progressed, more and more was revealed but even by the end of the novel, not all my questions and wonders were answered (but I mean there is a sequel for a reason). Also, I found the beginning was quite confusing as I assumed Da was Mackenzie’s father, then I thought he was her older brother…  and then he was finally addressed as her grandfather. There are multiple flashbacks with Mac’s memories of her bonding with Da woven into the present, and in my opinion there were too many and they didn’t add to the plot or characters at all.

Mac was a character who I really enjoyed reading about as she was brave, smart and willing to make sacrifices.  She actually thinks before acting and thinks about possible consequences (but of course, she is not perfect and makes several stupid decisions as well). She struggles with bearing the burden of being a Keeper, and I really felt her struggle with the guilty feeling and her want to be just a normal girl and her responsibilities and promise to Da.

  “I would give anything to be normal. The thought creeps in, and I force it away. No I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t give anything. I wouldn’t give the bond I had with Da. I wouldn’t give the time I have with Ben’s drawer. I wouldn’t give Roland, and I wouldn’t give the Archive, with its impossible light and the closest thing I’ve ever felt to peace. This is all I have. This is all I am.”

Next, I have to introduce Guyliner. He is hands down the BEST part of this novel.  Wesley is such a sweet guy who supported Mac in everything she did and helped her learn to trust and rely on others. He provided witty banter and made me smile in almost every scene he was in.  I just wish he had a bigger part in this novel! (sequel please don’t disappoint)

“Looks like you’ve lost a couple fights of your own,” I say, running my finger through the air near his hand, not daring to touch. “How did you get that?”

“Scuff with a lion.”

Watching Wesley lie is fascinating.

“And that?”

“Caught a piranha bare-handed.”

No matter absurd the tale, he says it steady and simple, with the ease of truth.

“And this?”

“A History.”

Everything stops. His whole face changes right after he says it, like he’s been punched in the stomach. The silence hangs between us. And then he does an unfathomable thing. He smiles.

“If you were clever,” he says slowly, “you would have asked me what a History was.”

Blehhh, and then there’s Owen. I was not a fan of him at all and I felt that the author didn’t need to add him as an unnecessary romantic interest. Seriously there is no need for love triangles people. I honestly couldn’t care less about finding out why Owen was able to defy the laws of the Archive; if he was a History or a live person, meh its all the same for me.

Overall, this was an enjoyable YA-paranormal novel with great characters and an exciting, creative plot.  I’m excited to read the second book (MORE WES PLEEAAASE) but I just felt there could be more potential as some things just didn’t really click for me, but hey maybe that’s just me.

priscilla

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Review: Of Dreams and Rust

17558151Of Dreams and Rust
by Sarah Fine

★★★★☆

Of Dreams and Rust is the incredibly bittersweet, fast-paced sequel to Of Metal and Wishes. It picks up a year after the end of the last novel. Wen is now working in Gochan 2, the war machine factory, and overhears a rumour that leads her to believe Melik’s life is in danger and so she leaves the safety and familiarity of her father and Bo to warn him. When they finally reunite however, he’s not the same person she knew a year ago and she begins to question betraying her own people for the sake of his.

It is not a happy realization. It does not bring me any pleasure, not even the savage, animal kind. I thought my own people were the villains, but now I see the truth: all of us are villains. The Noor are just as bad, just as bloodthirsty, just as willing to cause suffering and death. If they had war machines, they would use them. When they have the ability to hurt, they do.”

Never fear however! Despite all the obstacles keeping them apart, Melik and Wen’s relationship is just as heartwarming as ever, if not more! Although I couldn’t blame Wen at the beginning for believing the worst of Melik – I mean come on, if someone threw down decapitated pinkies at my feet, I’d probably have good reason to think he had killed them too! But of course Melik proves his love to be loyal and true, using his super intense gazes that just melt me from across the pages and an ultra-protective but not overbearing attitude that I seriously could not get enough of – I find that often in YA and NA we get a lot of alpha-male personas that are swoony on paper but whom I’d never want to have a relationship with in real life, but Melik is a whole ‘nother story. He would be protective of Wen but he respected her as a person who was capable of actually making a change. (Wen, you lucky, lucky duck.)

‘I am not Itanyai, Ghost. I am Noor and we value our women for what they can do.’ He gestures to the group that will journey into the hills, some of whom are female. ‘We do not shackle them the way you do. They may not fight at the front line, but they are strong, and they do fight.’ “

I also love that Fine didn’t shy away from the grittiness of war and its profound effects on character development. Melik did whatever he had to in order to survive and fight for his people, even if it came at the cost of his conscience. I think I respected him a lot more because of the actions he took and how the war forced him, and Sinan as well, to grow beyond their years. So clearly, nothing but love for the Red One!

As the novel progressed however, I found myself missing that intense social division that Fine wove into Of Metal and Wishes. It seemed to me that this book was just so focused on the romance that it lost some of the intensity of the plot being carried over from the first novel in the series. (Not that I can complain too much, Melik and Wen did have me swooning left, right and centre after all…) The end especially left me without a sense of closure – years and years of social oppression ended with a single battle and a treaty? Where was the political strife? The glaring tensions between the Itanyai and the Noor? Not only did I find it a little unlikely that the Itanyai would even propose this but I WANTED MORE. I wanted dirty, gritty politics, I wanted a face-off between the leaders of the Noor and the Itanyai. I wanted all the Noor to unify and rise up as a whole against the injustices they’ve faced. The final battle felt like a triumph for Wen, Melik and the village of Dagchocuk when I wanted it to belong to an entire people.

Overall though, I have nothing but love for this series. It’s been a wild rollercoaster of emotions, with both tears and laughter alike. Fine has this raw, emotional writing style and wonderfully complex characters that never fail to hook me in and never let me go, even long after I’ve read the last words.

sheryl

Review: P.S. I Still Love You

P.S. I Still Love You
by Jenny Han

★★★☆☆

This book was the highly anticipated sequel to Jenny Han’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and continues with Laura Jean’s relationship with her now “real” boyfriend Peter K.

As much as I enjoyed Peter and Laura Jean together, I was pretty frustrated that the author decided to make them “that couple”; the ones that have petty fights and don’t talk things out with each other or apologize. I could see the conflict brewing from ten miles away. There was an unnecessary love triangle/square in the book that was also super annoying because John was actually such a sweet guy! The conflict got “resolved” (if you can call it a resolution even) so quickly, and then bam, the book was over just like that. (where are my cheesy epilogues at??) And let me just say, there were moments where I liked Peter.. but most of the time I honestly thought he was a bit of a douchebag.

But, in a sense, their rocky relationship was also a likeable point from this book since they were portrayed realistically and they weren’t those super lovey –dovey couples in novels that have no arguments what so ever. Their problems and arguments were things that go on in the teenage world today (e.g. sex, the power of social media/online bullying, labels [being called a slut and being gay], popularity, etc.), and I was glad the author addressed these issues. I also loved how she incorporated Laura Jean’s Korean heritage and culture in the book, as you don’t typically see diversity in YA books.
Even though there were quite a few parts of this book where I felt frustrated, this was still a loveable book because it was realistic, and Laura Jean is a main character that you just can connect to, from her inquisitive attitude and worries to her love and care for her family and friends.

“Lara Jean, I think you half-fall in love with every person you meet. It’s part of your charm. You’re in love with love.
This may be true. Perhaps I am in love with love! That doesn’t seem like such a bad way to be.”

She’s a character that grows so much in this book and you just feel so proud of her when she overcomes obstacles and reacts to situations in a new, better light. There are some profound and heartwarming moments in this book where Laura Jean discovers more about herself and who she is, and learns about love.

“People come in and out of your life. For a time they are your world; they are everything. And then one day they’re not. There’s no telling how long you will have them near.”

Also can I just say I love the Song family; their honesty and love for each other was so genuine, and I just really felt their family situation since it is so similar to mine. Those little moments when Laura Jean misses her mom… yeah me too girl, me too. I love how there are moments when Laura Jean has real talks with her dad, as well with her older sister Margo, who’s living in another country. Also, Kitty is an adorable, badass little sister who can always get a laugh out of me.

Although I love reading in first person because I find that it helps me connect to the characters better, there were times where I found the writing a little childish – which is understandable since it is the voice of Laura Jean.

This book was full of emotions, from my cringing moments of second-hand embarrassment, the tears forming in my eyes from Laura Jean’s troubles, to the wide smiles from cute couple moments, this book still leaves me conflicted with my emotions… I’m happy with the novel overall but at the same time I’m not fully satisfied.

priscilla

Review: Crimson Bound

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Crimson Bound
by Rosamund Hodge
★★★ ½

I really, really wanted to love this book. I’m actually kind of angry at myself for not liking it as much as I wanted to. There were so many incredible elements of this novel – from the powerful writing, to the sheer emotion and the tingling eeriness that I’ve come to expect from Hodge – but in the end, while I definitely enjoyed it, I didn’t feel as utterly captivated as I did while reading Cruel Beauty.

I think most of this lack of engrossment came from my inability to connect with the main characters. For me, if I have difficulty connecting with the main characters right off the bat, I’m unable to really get into and appreciate the rest of the novel. Which is one of the reasons why I’m so upset – honestly, I think if I loved Rachelle and Armand as much as I did Nyx and Ignifex, this book would’ve been an out-of-this-world favourite for me. But it’s not as if Hodge didn’t give me enough opportunities to connect with Rachelle –

Every day for the last three years, she had thought she deserved to die. She still didn’t want to. She wanted to live with every filthy desperate scrap of her heart.”

 She’s utterly complex, both viciously dark and haunted by her past yet still unbroken and fighting to save the people she loves. However, in the end, I just couldn’t get past the bitter self-hatred and self-pity that she puts herself through. I understood it and my heart went out to her for the horrific things she experienced but I just couldn’t read it over so many times.

Armand was also a character I had difficulty liking. There was nothing wrong with him necessarily – other than being a bit predictable, but I couldn’t find anything spectacular about him either.

The writing on the other hand, was absolutely dazzling. The descriptions of the Château de Lune made me swoon with giddy delight while the Great Forest made me sit up straighter and hold my book tighter with anticipation every time it came into play. The back story with Zisa and Tyr was enthralling, both bone chilling and heartbreaking, a combination that Hodge employs perfectly. Usually I’m not a huge fan of a story within a story but I couldn’t get enough of this one!

“Zisa would have gladly lost hands and feet and eyes and tongue for her brother. But she knew that if she waited for him to pick up the sword, he would refuse and die beside her, and his death was the one thing she could not endure. So she picked up the sword and cut off his right hand.”

All in all, I enjoyed reading Crimson Bound and loved the darkness it lent to the beloved Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale but I just wanted something more out of the characters!

sheryl

Review: Inside the O’Briens

Inside the O’Briens
by Lisa Genova

★★★ ½

“But Huntington’s isn’t the absence of moving, thinking, and feeling. This disease is not a transcendental state of bliss. It’s a complete freak show – ugly, constant, unproductive movements, uncontrollable rage, unpredictable paranoia, obsessive thinking. “

After reading and absolutely loving Lisa Genova’s debut novel, Still Alice, I had high hopes for this book.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it as much as her first novel. Inside the O’Briens focuses on the effect of Huntington’s Disease on a family. HD is a genetic, neurological disease that will slowly kill you, and once you are gene-positive, there is no cure. If your parents have the gene that codes for HD, you have a 50/50 chance of inheriting this disease. This novel centers around the O’Briens family, where Joe O’Brien, a 44 year old police officer, husband and father of four is diagnosed with Huntington’s. Throughout the novel, we read about his daily struggles and the progression of the disease and how it affects not only his life but his family and those around him.

There are multiple points of view, which are mainly Joe and Katie, his 21-year old daughter. Katie is a yoga teacher and always feels like the shadow to her older sister Meghan, who performs with the Boston Ballet. We follow her constant internal struggle of choosing whether or not to take the test that will tell her if she has the Huntington’s gene.

“When I was a kid and we played truth or dare, I always picked dare”, says Katie.
Truth: Find out whether she is going to get Huntington’s disease or not.
Dare: live without knowing , wondering every other second whether she already has it.
She never liked that game. She still doesn’t want to play it.

Reading about the stages of denial, helplessness, anger and grief were really well written and I did feel empathetic towards the characters. With that being said, personally I felt this book lacked a stronger emotional pull towards the characters and at times it felt like reading a medical report on Huntington’s. (I am a pretty sensitive person,  and cry easily, but this book didn’t get me emotionally invested enough to the point where I shed even a couple tears…) Each of the characters could have had more complexity and I wish there was more interactions between them, as this novel focuses on family. I wanted to see Joe’s relationships with each of his individual kids, with dealing on how they were reacting to the news and how they are coping with the possibility of them being gene positive. I also wanted to see more interaction between the kids in the family, especially how each of them reacted when they found out the results from their tests.

In my opinion, I didn’t find the ending frustrating because ultimately Katie made a decision on getting the test, which she was struggling with in the first place. SPOILER – highlight to read(In this case, the actual results of the test don’t matter, and I believe that the author purposely omitted this for a reason, and it worked well with the ending as it ended with love and the acceptance of herself to live life to it’s fullest regardless of the results.)

Overall, this book did give me a broader understanding and more insight on Huntington’s disease, which is what the author aimed to do.  Although fictional, I believe it portrays realistically a family who is battling this cruel and merciless disease, but gives words of hope and encouragement for the future.

priscilla

Review: Of Metal and Wishes

Of Metal and Wishes 
by Sarah Fine

★★★★☆

Of Metal and Wishes is a profoundly poignant, bittersweet retelling of The Phantom of the Opera that I suspect will stay on my mind for many, many nights to come (or until the sequel, Of Dreams and Rust releases for which I am counting down the days!).

I found that the main character Wen, was not terribly remarkable. She’s likeable for sure and I found her brave and defiant but in contrast, her relationships with the people around her, namely Melik, Bo and her father, are absolutely dazzling.

I’m a sucker for forbidden romances – especially those between different classes, and Fine executed this one gorgeously. It was more than just cute, it was raw and vulnerable and reading it, I felt stripped down to my bones with sorrow and despair and quiet, poignant moments of joy. The kind of love that can transcend years and years of cultural prejudice, that stands upright against everything society  dictates – that’s the kind of romance in this novel and I loved everything about it.

I am so tired right now, and the chill has crept into my bones and made them ache. But I will not fall asleep; no, I will sit here with this boy who does not know his place, and I will be with him until our time runs out.”

Bo is perhaps the most captivating character of the novel. He’s a perfect, terrifying blend of childlike cruelness and utter loneliness but so absolutely lost that I just wanted to cry reading about his tragic past, how he feels for Wen and how absolutely fervently he dreams for the future. Seriously, I can’t help but want to give him the biggest hug ever.

I do wish however, that there could’ve been a stronger female-female relationship and a more positive portrayal of women.  I feel as if Wen gave up on her relationship with Jima far too easily, especially when she realized that Jima had been forced into prostitution after losing her job at the factory. Society and Wen’s earlier perceptions that prostitution is shameful was a bit irritating to read – especially when it was implied several times over in the novel. Similarly, I thought that Wen could’ve put more effort into her relationship with Vie.  She says that they had been friends since childhood, going to the First Holiday together every year but she never truly tries to explain her actions to Vie or to convince her that the Noor are not what they have been propagandised to be.

The writing is beautiful – as expected when the story is set in a slaughterhouse, there is a lot of gore but Fine has this way of describing it that makes the carnage more chilling than grisly or bloody which vastly heightens the atmosphere. Normally, I’m not a fan of horror or thriller  by any means but in this case,  I couldn’t get enough of the eeriness it lent to the words. I definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone looking for their next spectacular read!

sheryl

Review: Love Show

Love Show
by Audrey Bell

★★★★☆

Wow, this was one of those books that I could read over and over again and it would never fail to put a smile on my face! Love Show is a New Adult novel that centers on the romance between Hadley Arrington and Jack Diamond, two of my favourite MCs (like ever).

Hadley Arrington is a senior college student who is the Editor-in-Chief for her school’s newspaper, which basically is her life. She rooms with her gay best friend, David, and they have such a fun and honest relationship with each other.  (#realtalks everywhere)

“You have a 4.0 GPA. You are the last person in the world who needs to study. Here are some people who need to study. Me. Tara Barnes. Kim Kardashian. Miley Cyrus. You do not need to study. You need to take a nap, a Xanax, and a two-year vacation.”

On a dare from David, she kisses a stranger in the rain at tailgate. This stranger turns out to be Jack Diamond, a good-looking, laid back, vice-president of his frat house, who doesn’t have a clue what he wants to do in the future. Their chemistry together was instant, but Hadley doesn’t want to be in a relationship (with anyone – ever) so they agree on being friends with benefits. They set up a bunch of rules to follow, and over time get to know each other more and rely on each other.

He chuckled. “Dinner? Would you want to go to dinner sometime? Can I ask you out?” “Ah, look, I’m at the bookstore.” “Oh, I got it. I heard about that law. You can’t agree to go on a date with anyone when you’re at a bookstore.” “I don’t think I’m available,” I managed to say. He didn’t sound at all displeased. More than anything, he sounded amused. “Ever? You are never available for dinner? Wow.”

Hadley’s resistance to trusting other people stemmed from her six-time divorced mother who constantly craves love, and her absent career-driven father.

“It made one thing very clear to me: being afraid to be alone made you dependent on someone else. Someone you hadn’t met yet. A stranger. And a stranger was an incredibly stupid and unreliable thing to depend on.  I promised myself I would never do that. And I never did.”

This book was essentially a really good chick-flick movie, complete with all the references too. It made me laugh out loud, aww at cute moments, smile at the witty banter and tear up in the emotional parts. There was no angst or insta-love; whenever there was an argument, they communicated with each other or apologized (something people don’t seem to do in many books.. or in real life) and it was resolved. The chemistry between them was so real and genuine and their character growth in the novel was done really well. They didn’t compromise their own values but still pursued their own dreams; Hadley’s being pursing a career in war combat journalism. Although David and Hadley’s relationship was secondary, it never felt that way. Their friendship was something that was so real and heart-warming in this novel. She supported him through his rocky relationship with a jock that was still in the closet (UGH Ben…) and they stuck by each other through thick and thin. And can I just say the banter between Jack and Hadley was so on point? (it was so hard just to pick out quotes.. honestly I could copy and paste the whole book here gah)

“So, this is the library, huh?” Jack said, as we approached the building so I could work on a paper for my Arabic class. “You realize I am a library virgin, right?” I opened the door. “You need to be quiet.” “Thank you for that valuable bit of information, Hadley Arrington. I will treasure it all my life.”

Even though this was a NA book there was nothing too graphic, but it had just the right amount of steamy-ness don’t worry. 😉 Besides a couple grammar and formatting errors and the fact that this book is not available in paperback (UGH I NEED A HARD COPY PLEASE) this would be a 5 star book. Honestly, this was absolutely one of my favourite books  that has a special place in my heart so I hope you’ll give it a try! priscilla