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: 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

Review: The Stars Never Rise

The Stars Never Rise
by Rachel Vincent

★★★★☆

I could read this book for breakfast, lunch, dinner…and then reread it for dessert. It was action-packed (seriously, this one is a real page-turner!), had a kick-ass heroine and a cute romance that didn’t detract from the wicked world-building. I mean, what more could you ask for out of a book??

Not much, would be the correct answer! Nina Kane, sixteen-year-old heroine, lends a genuine, honest voice to the novel – I literally got chills down my back a few times while reading. I admire her tenacity in the face of overwhelming odds, both with her mother and at school. She’s willing to sacrifice everything she has for her family, even deciding to pledge herself to the Church to give her and her sister the best possible chance for survival.

Having a sister of my own, strong sibling relationships are one of my favourite things to read about. Nina and Mellie have a sweet, genuine relationship that really gave strength to the novel. When Mellie’s secret is revealed and when Nina’s mother reveals that Nina uses her body to help her family, there is zero judgement between the sisters, just the need to help each other and lean on each other’s strength.

I like that Nina’s strength doesn’t necessarily come through in her physicality, (becoming an exorcist definitely didn’t come easy to her – she didn’t magically become a super-star exorcist overnight but had to struggle, sweat and bleed to exorcise the demons she encountered) but through her tenacity and grit.

..they could come at me with scalpels and sutures and sever my bloodline along with my fallopian tubes, but they could never cut out my thoughts, and they could only kill my dreams if I let them. I still had worth. I still had hope. My future was whatever I wanted to make of it.”

Having been oppressed by the Church her whole life, sterilized at fifteen for having allergies, flat feet and mild myopia, it’s commendable that she hasn’t broken down and is still fighting for the people she loves and the values she believes in. It was really refreshing and engaging to read about a heroine that was so steadfast and resolute throughout the entirety of the novel.

The romance gave off a few instalove vibes and took me by surprise. It’s mentioned a few times from the members of the Anathema that Finn really likes Nina but why?? Sure, he admires her strength, but I wish there was just a little more relationship development. Nevertheless, the quick romance was definitely offset by how much I loved Nina and Finn. They were just so darn adorable that the romance actually turned out to be a huge plus for me – especially after the fascinating plot twist with Finn.

I’m a sucker for green eyes and cutesy smiles just as much as the next girl but even I will admit that the “green eye” description felt like beating a dead horse for the first third of the novel, although the reasoning for this did become clear eventually! Finn is absolutely charming and undeniably, an easy character to love. Although his situation sucks – it must be so emotionally tolling and difficult to live how he does and to finally meet a girl he likes but be unable to offer her the things a normal person could! I just feel so horrible for him – but he never comes across as bitter but is instead hopeful and spirited. A totally swoon-worthy character.

Although it was most definitely a page-turner, I can’t help but wish that even more stuff had happened. I want more Nina, more Finn, more time to get to know the rest of the Anathema (especially Reese and Maddox – whom I found a little harder to connect to, the main reason probably being that they had to share their screen time with someone else) and more relationship and character development! I’m beyond excited to read the next novel in the series and will be anxiously awaiting its arrival!

sheryl