Thursday, January 29, 2015

Review: The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

The Unbound is the sequel to Victoria Schwab's 2013 novel The Archived. This second installment continues the story of Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper who returns the dead, called Histories, to the post-life library that is the Archive. Incredibly intriguing premise, right? Good, go read The Archived. I'll wait.                                                                                     As this is a sequel, it's impossible to comment too heavily on the plot without immediately falling into spoiler territory. In fact, I can't discuss any of the actual plot points in The Unbound because they are so intricately tied up in Things That Happened in The Archived. Just trust me, they're both ace and brilliantly intricate. (If you've read The Archived, I'll mention some spoilery bits at the end under a read more.) The Unbound kicks off with Mackenzie starting at her new school - and seeing a whole new side of Wesley! Prep school Wesley is not a thing I knew I wanted, but boy am I glad I got it. Of course guyliner Wes is best, but it's fun to explore different aspects of Wes' life and personality that we didn't see in The Archived.

The most powerful and impactful part of The Unbound was Mackenzie's personal struggle. The events that transpire in the first book have left a mark on her - and her mental health and personal well-being suffer for it. She doesn't sleep for fear of nightmares, and an overwhelming onset of too-real hallucinations cause her mental state to deteriorate. Mackenzie struggles to stay on top of her Keeper duties whilst feeling less and less in control. Victoria Schwab brilliantly portrays that tenuous balancing act: that refusal to admit and accept you're not ok, and the even harder task of asking for help. Seeing Mackenzie, and her plan, come together at the end is so triumphant to witness as the reader, because you see her come back together as a person. Her anxiety comes across in a way that is realistic and relatable (or as much as it can be in a world where the dead are like books on a shelf). 

Mackenzie's relationship with Wesley is another personal favorite aspect of the story. Sharing their Keeper lives and "real" lives make them even closer in this second book, and my little shipper heart rejoiced. Actually squealed at one point from feels. #properadult

My only knit-picking thing: Cash. He is Wesley's friend and develops a crush on Mackenzie, but I felt like the resolution of that was just a bit too simple. Maybe that's because it's unfortunately uncommon for a guy to accept rejection with grace and still show respect for the girl afterwards. Sad but true. I hope that Cash is just genuinely that decent of a person, and his "rejection" doesn't cause trouble in a later book. That being said, I really enjoyed him as a character. Did I mention his name is CASH? Bonus points for awesome, Victoria. 

Speaking of a later book! The Unbound is the second book in this series, but I don't know the status of the third. There's no cliff hanger at the end, so you won't be left in the lurch when you read it. But you will want more. You'll want to see if Mackenzie and Wes make Crew, what Mackenzie decides to do with her new ace card. So please, if I've made you at all interested, pick up The Archived. And when you read it and love it, go buy The Unbound, too. Victoria Schwab also writes adult fiction as V.E. Schwab, so I can't wait to read the rest of her novels. 

Recently Victoria posted a short (too short for my adoring heart) story about what happens to Wesley immediately after the end of The Unbound. I'll post a reaction/review of that soon, because dear Wes deserves his own post.

Amazon | B&N | BookDepository | IndieBound


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Review: Paper Airplanes

2013: Hot Key Books UK
2014: Amulet/ABRAMS US

Paper Airplanes is the debut novel from columnist/journalist Dawn O'Porter, set on the small British island of Guernsey in 1994. The story focuses on two girls, Renée and Flo, and the friendship that develops between them after they both suffer great personal losses. 

I was really intrigued to read this novel. Usually contemporary is far from my favorite genre, but the idea of a uniquely British friendship story (set in the 90s at that!) drew me in. I appreciated that Renée and Flow went through struggles and setbacks that were portrayed realistically - one of this novel's few strengths. 

It was...ok. O'Porter did a great job of representing some of those completely unique moments of being a teenage girl, and also the way families cope - or rather, don't cope - with loss. However, that's where Paper Airplanes' strengths end. The rest of the novel was underwhelming, to say the lest. The whole subplot with Renée and Flo's brother Julian felt cheap, because it exploited both the "having a crush on your friend's sibling" and "losing your virginity" tropes, and badly at that. Renée's "relationship" with Julian isn't exactly believable, and it gets to glossed over at the end that I had to wonder what was the point of it even happening. Sally's entire storyline (spoilers: she's awful and ends up preggers!) similarly felt pointless and verged well past cliché. And since I'm putting my cards on the table here - the ending really took the cake. All this happens to and between the girls, and then miraculously everything is great! Flo's mother becomes present and starts taking care of her family, Renée's aunt shows up and magically solves all of her problems. It was just...too  much. For a book that starts out as such a true depiction of being a teen girl, it ends on a cookie cutter note that felt completely lacking.

This book is a great example of what I have trust issues when it comes to contemporary YA.

...but now I'm really craving cheesy chips from Hassan's in Oxford. Great.

Overall: 2.5 stars

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


I'm putting my blog up on bloglovin - which is a great way for you to keep track of and follow all your favorite blogs.

<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Review: The Raven Boys


The Raven Boys is the first book in The Raven Cycle quartet by Maggie Stiefvater, and launches a story that seamlessly fuses magic with the unique heartache of being a teenager, in a manner found only in the best of YA fiction.  It follows a girl, Blue Sargent, who belongs to an all-female family of psychics, but doesn't possess the sight herself. Each year she accompanies her mother on St. Mark's Eve as the spirits of those fated to die within the year pass the corpse road. For the first time, Blue sees someone - a boy from the local all-boy's prep school. Her whole life Blue's been told that she'll be the cause of her true love's death - but could this be him? Quickly Blue becomes entangled with the boy, Gansey, and his three friends Adam, Ronan, and Noah on their quest to discover hidden ley lines and awaken a Welsh king. Ok, that's enough synopsis. You're intrigued, right? Of course you are. Now we can get into the review, because I have Thoughts and Feelings.

Oh. My. God. This was the first book I read in 2015, and I'm so glad I started the year with this! It was also the first book I've read by Maggie Stiefvater - I know, shame on me! Let's cut to the chase: I LOVED this. I may have planned out a heist to break into my local library and get the next two books. They're staring at me from the top of my TBR pile and begging to be read. But I can't, because I'm still so MESSED UP over The Raven Boys. Y'all. The Raven Boys is the book I didn't know I've been waiting for. But it ticks all my boxes - magic, boarding school, intense friendships, Welsh & Celtic mythology/history, angsty boys...seriously, ding ding ding. Allow me to draw you a picture: The Raven Boys is like the Marauders meets The Secret History - but better. That's become my go-to description to entice friends into picking it up and sharing my feels. It's working.

The story itself, and the magic intricately woven into it, is beautifully written and drew me in so fully that I couldn't bear to stop reading. What really won over my heart, however, was the character development. I enjoyed Blue in this first book, but perhaps I erred as a reader and overlooked her in comparison to her male counterparts. She's so fierce though, and I can't wait to bond more with her throughout the series. I might also be in the minority that my beloved Raven Boy is not Gansey, as much as I adore him. No, the full force of my favor goes to Adam Parrish. Sigh. I described Adam to a friend as "dreamy in a Remus Lupin meets Patroclus kind of way." But with an added streak of ambition and want that makes all the difference when Things Happen. You know exactly who he is now, don't you? Yeah, because THAT'S A TYPE AND I LOVE HIM. Ride or die Adam girl.

Each character in this book, from the Raven boys to Blue's eccentric family, is so compelling and full. There are no place-holder characters, no Mary Sues. I developed a strong affection for Noah. I loved the very real acceptance of magic in the world, the honest portrayal of friendships in which the balance of power isn't a balance at all - The Raven Boys stayed with me long after I finished reading the last page. I gave it 5 stars on GoodReads, and I'm so looking forward to following these characters on their journey.

PS, The Kindle book is $1.99 right now!