December 29, 2012

Review: The Archived

Title: The Archived
Author: Victoria Schwab
ISBN: 978-1-4231-5731-1
Pages: 336                                   
Ages: 12 and up
Available: January 22, 2013

Summary (from the book jacket):

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous-it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da's death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

My Thoughts:

I cannot express the love I have for this book. I originally read the first 100 pages when given the chance on NetGalley, and then I was fortunate enough to get my hands on the ARC. Guys, Schwab has a gift with storytelling. I thought so with The Near Witch, but her latest novel seals the deal for me.

We are thrust into a world of the dead, into the world of Histories. But sometimes they get a little restless, and they get out. It is up to Keepers like Mac to put them back. Sometimes that easier said than done.

But that is not the heart of this story. Self-discovery, knowledge, and understanding. Those three elements are the heart – and those three elements drive the plot for me. It is these three elements that humanize Mac and make her character development strong. Mac understands her role in the world, but does she truly understand the impact of that role? Especially when things are not as they appear. Especially when her life as a Keeper is so steeped in mystery that is seems impossible to solve.

Self-discovery: Mac, while keeping up with her duties as Keeper, is also learning about herself. How to deal with loss. How to deal with parents. How to deal with romantic feelings. Three things that many of us experience as we grow up. But there is a luxury the rest of us do not face. We are not constantly being summoned to help return a History to its rightful place.

Knowledge: Throughout the novel Schwab provides snapshot conversations between Mac and Da. I loved these. I thought they were a nice addition, a nice way to reveal more to readers about her relationship to Da and the knowledge he wanted to impart on her as a Keeper. But more than that, these conversations gave Mac knowledge that helped her put the puzzle pieces together. And they helped the reader as well. We discovered the necessary knowledge the moment she did, and for me I have several “a ha!” moments during these snapshots.

Understanding: Mac is dealing with loss. She is dealing with parents who are dealing with loss. And she is dealing with a job she can share with no one. As I previously stated, the snapshot conversations help put puzzle pieces together, but it the understanding of the necessary knowledge that puts Mac at ease, that allows her to move forward to do the job that needs to be done. To help her move forward within her own life.

And what is a beautiful YA story without beautiful, hunky male characters? We are treated to Owen and Wesley, two paths that Mac could take. In many YA novels, there is a bit too much “mushy mushy” to really fit into the plot. It feels as if the mush is there simply to be there, no real purpose. Well, let me tell you—not is that the case with this novel. These two gentlemen are necessities to the overall plot as well as Mac’s own self-discovery of who she is, and what she was born to do. Schwab takes care with the development of Owen and Wesley, providing enough mystery to make readers question the purpose and motives of these two characters without making us feel overwhelmed with a love triangle.

Because this book is not about a love triangle. Not even close.

The plot of the novel is nicely paced as well. Elements are revealed as they are necessary. Sometimes I read novels and it seems that authors either make them front or back heavy with information, and that can become overwhelming, especially when reading a mystery. But that is not the case with this novel. We are given information as we need it, not want it, but need it.

Ultimately Schwab delivers a tale that will keep readers engaged, cheering for Mac, and for the Histories, while guessing what will happen next. While this is a beautifully written story, it is also a mystery that needs solving, before it is too late to save the archive.

I don’t know about you, but when I read a mystery, I like to take a moment to (1) close the book, (2) look at the person next to me, and (3) guess what the author has in store. Anyone else?

Well…I did just that throughout this book, and I am usually right. But Schwab is so crafty in her storytelling that while I was able to figure out bits and pieces, I was still gasping with a beating heart as all was revealed. Ladies and gents, that is good storytelling.

I do wonder about Mac’s last name though, Bishop. Is that eventually going to tie into some kind of interesting history that leads all the way back to the Salem Witch Trials? Or am I just thinking too much about it? I swear, every time I read that last name I am just waiting for Bridget to pop up in the stories…and many times she does. I will be curious to see if there’s any kind of tie to her.

Have you read The Archived? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Have you reviewed the novel? Leave a link.

Happy Reading!

Reading Challenge Status

With the daily demands of work and home, my reading time has dwindled a lot lately. This year, with the upcoming holiday break, I decided to challenge myself to read ten books. But, the break is the shortest it has ever been, and with only three days of break remaining (not counting today), I have to terms with the fact that I'm not going to reach my goal.

As of today, I have completed five of the ten books I was hoping to read. I will begin reviewing them today, but reading time is being stolen from my grips once again because I must prepare for a new semester with my students.

At this point, here's what I have read, in the order that I have read them:
  1. The Archived by Victoria Schwab - so in love with this book; seriously! Cannot wait to review it
  2. Splintered by A.G. Howard - wow! This book really takes an interesting twist of the famed Alice in Wonderland
  3. Rapture by Lauren Kate - a fitting conclusion to this tale of fallen angels
  4. The Second Spy by Jacqueline West - love Olive and her quirky house; cute mystery for third to fifth graders
  5. The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse - absolutely loved this dystopian tale that had the pacing of The Hunger Games but with elements of The Lord of the Flies as well
Today, I am tackling The Diviners by Libba Bray, whom I adore as a writer.

So, what you have read this holiday season? 

Any of you challenge yourself to read through a mound of books? 

What has been your favorite so far?

December 16, 2012

Review: Finale

I have put off writing this review because I was just not ready to say good-bye to this series. This is one of my favorites, and up to the final page, Fitzpatrick did not disappoint me.

Title: Finale
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
ISBN: 9781442426672
Available: NOW at your local bookstore and library

Summary (from the book jacket):

Will Love Conquer All?

Nora and Patch thought their troubles were behind them. Hank is gone and they should be able to put his ugly vendetta to rest. But in Hank’s absence, Nora has become the unwitting head of the Nephilim and must finish what Hank began. Which ultimately means destroying the fallen angels—destroying Patch.

Nora will never let that happen, so she and Patch make a plan: lead everyone to believe they have broken up, and work the system from the inside. Nora will convince the Nephilim that they are making a mistake in fighting the fallen angels, and Patch will find out everything he can from the opposing side. They will end this war before it can begin.

But the best-laid plans often go awry. Nora is put through the paces in her new role and finds herself drawn to an addictive power she never anticipated.

As the battle lines are drawn, Nora and Patch must confront the differences that have always been between them and either choose to ignore them or let them destroy the love they have always fought for.

My Thoughts:

As the title suggests, this is the end of Nora and Patch’s story. I was hesitant to read it because I love these two, but ultimately all good storytelling must come to an end, and I was anxious to see how Fitzpatrick was going to end this one.

The plot contains the basics: romance, intrigue, kidnapping, betrayal, grueling workouts, addiction to Nephilim stimulants, you know, the usual. But these basics all build and explode to a heart-pounding conclusion. I almost felt as if I ran a race by the time the novel was over. I may have even said a few things out loud too in the anticipation of where the author was leading me.

Fitzpatrick does a nice job bridging the events together to a satisfying conclusion. At least, I was satisfied. Were you?

Nora’s character becomes more developed. She is now the fearless leader, and she must act as so. This means training with Dante to prove that she is worthy of the title, a title she must keep in order to protect the one she loves. This was a fun Nora, one that was all about “girl power” and fighting for what she loves the most. But I did not buy the element of “addiction”—not even a little bit. I felt that was too contrived and too out of character for her. Maybe that is what Fitzpatrick was going for, but it is the one flaw I had with the novel.

With Nora’s character development, don’t expect the same from Patch. We do not learn anything new about him. We only see his dedication to keeping Nora safe—the same from all the novels. But I am okay with this. I think sometimes it’s important to see that in a relationship growing happens in all forms. For Patch, it is his growing love and protection of Nora that makes him a worthwhile character. And he’s hot, so that helps too.

The secondary characters in this novel added a lot, and they helped compliment Nora’s character. Whether it was during training or during a bar fight, all the characters acted as pieces to a bigger puzzle. I think my favorites were Dante and Marcie. I enjoyed reading Nora’s interaction with these two for very different reasons, but there were times I found myself smiling, laughing, and even cringing, especially during Dante’s training sessions with Nora. Ouch!

As a whole, I enjoyed Finale. I am a huge fan of Becca Fitzpatrick’s storytelling. I find Nora and Patch to be a lovely paranormal couple, and I am sad that with this review it is finally time to bid the two adieu.

Patch and Nora FOREVER!!!

Have you read/reviewed Finale? Share your thoughts/links below.

Who is your favorite paranormal couple?

Happy Reading!

December 15, 2012

My Upcoming Reading Challenge

With it being the end of the semester, demands of my job steal my reading time. Many teachers can relate, and during any break I relish my reading time. 

Here are 10 books I'm challenging myself to read during my small break: 

1.    The Archived ARC by Victoria Schwab

2.    The Forsaken by Lisa M. Stasse

3.    Every Day by David Levithan

4.    Rapture by Lauren Kate

5.    Splintered ARC by A.G. Howard

6.    The Second Spy by Jacqueline West

7.    Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

8.    Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh

9.    Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter

10.  The Diviners by Libba Bray

And of course, I am looking forward to finishing my audiobook, Days of Blood and Starlight. 

Have you read/reviewed any of the above? If so, leave a comment/link.

Which of these novels do you recommend I read first?

Happy Reading!

Review: Origin

I bought this at B&N after viewing the cover and title and thinking it looked interesting. It was - I did not want to put this book down. I had to because of my teaching responsibilities, but it was a captivating read.

If you're looking for a gift for the YA reader in your life, you should consider adding this title to your gift-giving list. 

Title: Origin 
Author: Jessica Khoury 
ISBN: 9781595145956 
Available: NOW at your local bookstore and library 

Summary (from the book jacket): 

Pia has always known her destiny. She is meant to start a new race, a line of descendants who will bring an end to death. She has been bred for no other purpose, genetically engineered to be immortal and raised by a team of scientists in a secret compound hidden deep in the Amazon rainforest. Now those scientists have begun to challenge her, with the goal of training her to carry on their dangerous work.

 For as long as she can remember, Pia’s greatest desire has been to fulfill their expectations. But on the night she turns seventeen, she finds a hole in the seemingly impenetrable fence that surrounds her sterile home. Free in the jungle for the first time in her life, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Unable to resist, she continues sneaking out to see him. As they fall in love, they begin to piece together the truth about Pia’s origin—a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever. 

Origin is a beautifully told, electric new way to look at an age-old desire: to live forever. But is eternal life worth living if you can’t spend it with the one you love? 

My Thoughts: 

This debut novel is one of my favorite reads of the year. Khoury delivers a solid story, but do not be fooled—this is not a love story. This is a story about choice.

As the story opens, readers are thrust into a “world” that is searching for eternal life. The scientists are convinced they have conquered death in Pia, a girl whose sole purpose is to live forever, and to lead more like her. But there is a flaw in this thinking—she is not ever asked if this is what she wants. She is told.

This book is both character-driven and plot-driven. Sometimes I read books that have interesting plots but dull characters and vice-versa. Not the case here. I was engaged from the first page until the last. I was invested in Pia as a character as well as the secondary characters, who were there to help Pia on her quest—whether they were there to move her forward or hold her back. And of course, I was invested in the plot.

As knowledge of the world becomes a part of Pia, so does her want for the truth of her existence, and of her family’s past. This is where Khouy had my heart pumping. She thrusts Pia into danger through knowledge, not through action. And one question becomes quite clearly quite quickly: what happens when too much knowledge is a part of daily life? This is one element of the novel’s plot I enjoyed, the exploration of such danger.

What I really enjoyed was the fact that I tended to have the same questions at the same moment Pia did, and the answers to those questions were answered within a reasonable timeline within the plot.

While the ending left me with a few unanswered questions, nothing major was left unanswered. I was still satisfied with the idea that I could fill in those questions myself.

Final thought: the novel was interesting and enjoyable—and made me question whether or not laboratories such as this truly exist in the jungles of the world.

Have you read and/or reviewed Origin? Post a comment and/or link, and let’s have a discussion on this debut novel.

Happy Reading!