review: the summer prince by alaya dawn johnson

Author: Alaya Dawn Johnson
Publication Date: 03/01/2013
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
A heart-stopping story of love, death, technology, and art set amid the tropics of a futuristic Brazil.

The lush city of Palmares Três shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Três will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.
 In the wake of global nuclear war and a plague that ravaged the Y-chromosome, Palmares Três rises along the coast of Brasil, an enclosed pyramid of vibrant Brasilian culture against the elements. In the futuristic society, the matriarchy of Palmares Três blame both men and technology for the fall of the world and so have established a system where kings have limited power, but queens rule without fetter. June Costa, living a lofty life as a Tier Eight, exists for a few things: art, her best friend Gil, and to live in constant argument with her mother, whom she blames for not doing enough to prevent her father's death. When along comes Enki, the Summer King, and the future of Palmares Três - and June's - may never be the same.

It's difficult to describe my relationship with this book because I absolutely adored elements of it; this book took risks and some were brilliant and others felt trapped by the novel's construction. (To be fair, the copy I read was an eBook and so the formatting will obviously be different as a finished product, though that was only part of it.) Straight away I could tell that this book pulsed with a beautiful sense of something. Johnson has a firm grasp with words and deftly chooses diction and phrasing that helps to better envelop the reader within the bubble of what has become of Brasilian culture in June's world. It is because of this that I think a few issues cropped up; the author knew exactly the kind of world building she wanted to strive for, but the construction of the story itself hindered the reader from being fully immersed into the story. There were moments early on when too much was happening too soon and it took me a while to let the Portuguese terms wash over me and become embedded as part of the book's vocabulary. (Mind you, I wouldn't change the usage of the language because it makes the book, but perhaps a bit of spacing it out could be less intimidating for the curious reader.)

There were a few times where its construction made me think about putting the book down, but the invigorating story prevented me every single time. Because rather than being another post-apocalyptic story that focuses on the steadying of the world back to its feet, this one focuses on the microcosm of culture and life within the existence of Palmares Três and what has happened to these people since. The political structure is fascinating: the first king and queen of the city decided that the king would sacrifice his life for the city at the end of summer. The king's power lay in choosing, every five years, which queen should rule for the next ten; these are referred to moon year (almost like a midterm) and sun year (when a new queen is crowned). This was done to equalise power between the genders without entrusting too much power to the one (apparently universally blamed for, if any existence of the Y-chromosome plague is used as a reference) blamed for the world's destruction. I've read discussion of this book where readers haven't fully understood just why the Summer King has to die, and I think us as readers are just looking for some form of deeper meaning that we can rationally understand; the meaning is intrinsic to their culture during their period of living. (And, to be honest, a surprise relating to the Summer Kings is revealed near the end.)

The world of Palmares Três wouldn't work - wouldn't be brought to life - without characters who could take that background and paint their lives with it. June Costa is a sixteen year old artist that always wants to push the limits and see how she can explore her world, how she can understand it and herself through the art she is able to create. June lives in a world where a Summer King is chosen every year and where that same king is killed every year as a symbolic gesture for the city. She also lives in a world rife with caste and age discrimination, and as such she and the majority of Palmarinas choose Enki to be their Summer King - an outgoing, clever, and charismatic boy who grew up in the verde (the lowest level of caste structure in the pyramid). This might have been any other year except June, her friend Gil, and Enki meet in an explosion destined to alter their society, leaving people to wonder just what it means to be Summer King along with the intersection of long life and what it means to actually live, all set amidst the landscape of a vibrant and futuristic Brasilian culture.

This book, though not without its flaws, is a beautiful work full of characters that light up the world they inhabit. Though there are a handful of sexual instances in the book, they bothered me not a bit in the larger context of character and setting. Johnson has created a rather literary young adult novel that may take some persistence to get through, but in the end is more than worth it due to a stunning setting, unique set of circumstances, and characters that make it worth it.

It was a pretty easy decision, when invited, to participate in Mary Pearson's blog tour for FOX FOREVER. If you've read THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX you might think it were a complete story, and in some ways, you might be right. However, upon finishing the last book in the trilogy I find that not only is it my favorite of the three, but it feels to me as if the entire series were leading to this point - that this is the story you were meant to take to heart.

While I plan on discussing that in a review post next week, here is a passage that I selected from FOX FOREVER for Mary to tell us all a little bit about, and the question I posed:

Q: The scene beginning on page 73 and extending until page 78 set up a really nice dichotomy of what a Non-pact was - just people doing things that normal people do, and no different than anyone else. I half expected that Xavier was trying to make a point to Locke by saying these are the people you'll be protecting but it was quite the opposite - Locke realised that all on his own. Was this passage always included and what about it makes it important for you?

The below is an abridged passage from pages 73-76. Mary summarises, "Locke is on his way to secretly have dinner with Xavier, trying to follow the directions he was given. He thinks he's only having dinner with Xavier and sharing a can of beans at most."
Xavier was clear. Don’t walk in a straight shot. Double back. Watch. And make sure it’s dark [ . . .]
The neighborhood appears to be deserted. It’s an area of run-down row homes and apartments that I think date back to my time. Most look like they’re ready to fall down with a good wind, but I’m guessing the real estate around here is free for the taking and that’s probably the right price for Non-pacts. Some of the lots contain nothing but mounds of rubble and weeds, like the earth is swallowing up the decaying neighborhood in gradual bites. [ . . .] This has to be the blackest, most depressing place anyone could live.[ . . .]
Halfway down the alley I hear murmurs and music [ . . .] I turn left and find myself looking into a huge [ . . . ] courtyard. Dozens of people occupy it. At least sixty. Scavenged chairs, sofas, and crates form a circle around a bonfire in the middle. Children run on the perimeters, laughing and playing tag. I take a few steps closer. Slabs of meat cook on an open grill in one corner, and in another three men and a woman play a violin, a guitar, a flute, and something that looks like a small harp. A little farther over, three old women laugh, trying to persuade some young children to dance with them. [ . . .] The sounds of all the activity bounce off the surrounding walls and blend together in a pleasant rumble.
[ . . .]
I can’t move. I can hardly think. I just watch until Xavier spots me and waves me over. Heads turn. A young girl with long braids squeals and runs and grabs my hand like she knows who I am and she drags me over to Xavier. “Locke’s here!” she says [ . . .]   
Xavier and I sit beside each other in chairs, both of us silent.
“You have children,” I finally say.
“I didn’t expect this.”
“You thought I lived in that basement? And only ate stale
nuts? Non- pacts have lives too.”
Kaye, you’ve chosen one of my favorite passages from the whole book.  Yes it was always included and I thought it was so important to show that the shady characters Locke was dealing with, the Non-pacts, had actual lives outside of their business with him.  That even though they were poverty stricken, living on the fringes of society with next to no rights, they had built lives of enormous value. Suddenly Locke’s efforts had a much more real face and meaning.

In the earlier book, The Fox Inheritance, Miesha said that “we always find some group to marginalize,” and I think that’s true--even today.  I tried to show that those people we may not know who are living on the fringes have very similar needs, joys, and aspirations as anyone else

This was my favorite passage as well, and reading it, you can tell how much heart went into its creation. Of all of the things that happened to Locke in his new timeline, this was something that both he and the reader could resonate with. A semblance of normalcy of human life, regardless of form. If you haven't read any of The Jenna Fox Chronicles yet, you can try the first few chapters of book one here for your e-reader, and, trust me, it's worth it!

But, wait - what if you don't have an e-reader and happen to live in the United States or Canada? Then here is your opportunity to win a complete set of The Jenna Fox Chronicles courtesy of Mac Teen! No addresses are collected in the form - if you win, you can send it to me where I will forward it on to the publisher for your prize. :)

You can visit Mary on her Twitter account (@marypearson), via her official website, or  by following her on Pinterest. Summaries for The Jenna Fox Chronicles are available on Goodreads. A very kind thank you to Mary and the wonderful people at Macmillan for their participation in this wonderful tour.

books and covers: why I eventually read ANNA

Probably one of the most cliché adages I could mention on this site, being a book blog, is:

Don't judge a book by its cover.

While this phrase is generally used in application to interpersonal relationships, I'd like to take a moment to examine its barebones meaning, as well: don't judge a book by its cover. I will admit that I am guilty of wandering idly through a bookshop, finger and eyes both trailing across a sea of spines and titles, and I tend to gravitate toward the aesthetically well done. Meaning, they have a nice design, well-chosen and placed typography. Sometimes a title can affect things, but personally the title is the last variable in the haphazard equation whose result ends in my either buying the book or leaving it on the shelf.

Occasionally I can bypass this by being intrigued enough to flip through and read the first chapter - it's my rule of thumb that if I go into a bookstore and leave with a book I didn't intend to buy, I read the first chapter there to see if I'm hooked - and if I like it, I pick it up. Otherwise if a friend has discussed the title on their blog, Twitter, or at work, I can circumvent ignoring a book that I might have never read of my own accord.

Why does this even matter? As many of you probably know by now, the new covers for Stephanie Perkins' books have been revealed and I find myself not-so-secretly pleased by the new look. For the longest time I held off on reading ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS on the basis of two factors: the pastel, curlicue font, and, in ANNA's case, its title. The ANNA I created in my head every time I looked at the book was far different than the reality that I know and adore. I couldn't get past it. And then I finally read the book, holed up under the covers during Hurricane Irene, and I got it. I loved this book, I love its characters. I understood its title and I was incredibly grateful for finally giving it the chance it deserved. 

Still, when it was announced not long ago that the series would be receiving a makeover I was part-thankful, part-hesitant. I believed that a cover change could be beneficial in helping draw in a crowd of readers that, unlike me, may not have a group of people surrounding them telling them to give it a chance. While I won't post the new covers for ANNA and LOLA, as EW has that exclusive, here is the similarly themed cover for LOLA from Goodreads:

It is everything I love. Simple, bold font choices. Even-spaced typography and a beautiful sky-colored ombre. The rose? Almost a harken back to the old design, most likely intrinsic (like the heart and star) to the main characters involved. The most important thing ANNA (and, perhaps more aptly, LOLA) taught me, though, was to look beyond the design. It is the words, the emotion bottled between sentences that make the story come to life. The cover is just the doorway to Narnia.

review: unravel me by tahereh mafi

Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publication Date: 02/05/2013
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 461
Source: Purchased

it's almost
time for war.
Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.
She's finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.
Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.
In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam's life.
The review for UNRAVEL ME me is going to be different than usual, mainly because as I was trying its threads together throughout the day I kept on coming back to a theme and it was something I wanted to structure my discussion of its story around. There will be mentions of things that happened in both SHATTER ME and DESTROY ME (mainly because I think they're quite relevant to what goes on in this book), so please consider yourself warned.

The theme of this review is independence and will be discussed in terms of characters.

Juliette: When we first meet Juliette Ferrars in SHATTER ME (r) we meet a shell of a girl, a gleaning of possibility inside a female frame. We find her not quite broken, but not quite whole. As someone who's spent her life being shunned, being told that she was different to the point of being a monster, Juliette has been denied human interaction for most of her life. The social experience that is necessary for the human psyche has been withheld from her and when she finds Adam it's almost as if she were a moth and he a flame. He can touch her, he can interact with her, and Juliette was able to feel as if she could be a person. It's almost as if Juliette thought that he was her independence, that his touch would set her free. And, to be frank, that worried me with SHATTER ME. In this installment Juliette has a fantastic moment with Kenji who sets her straight and begins to poke holes in the mental picture she's constructed of herself; she's painting herself in watercolors without knowing there is the possibility of oils and acrylics. Over the course of UNRAVEL ME Juliette finds the means to paint her future in a way that she never could have expected. She defines her own independence. Which leads to

The Reestablishment & The People: One of my favorite things about the previous installment was the way Tahereh was able to paint such a beautifully destructive picture of what was going on. Birds cannot fly, the Earth was giving up on itself, and humans were doing what they could - had put their faith in the last effort - to put things right. Without having all of the information, the reader was able to put together a puzzle in order to create a vivid image of the world. UNRAVEL ME, however, touches upon the lives of the people in a peripheral way that sets the stage for what may be an uprising. As this is a dystopian story, the government is supposed to be protecting the people (and perhaps they believe they are, in a way) but we begin to see what their lives look like and what little options they have. The luxury of choice is affordable only to those in the Reestablishment; citizens are scant less than pawns to be moved around. And these pawns are sick of it - they want to reach the other end of the board and have the chance to become what they want. The move toward freedom.

Warner: Warner is not a nice person. He's just not - he's killed people, he's ordered people to death, he's had people tortured. And so when there were mentions that from this book sprang some form of "Team Warner" I was incredibly concerned. To be fair, I'm not in love with Adam the way Juliette is (mainly because I haven't been missing that same need for connection that she has), but I appreciate his presence in the book. (I also liked him more in SHATTER ME than I did in this book, but that's neither here nor there.)  While I wouldn't call Warner a megalomaniac, he definitely has very specific personality traits, and if you've read DESTROY ME you get a glimpse of them: extremely orderly, well-groomed, habitual. Warner, it seems, doesn't care too much for change merely because change has never offered him anything. The one exception to this rule has always been Juliette, which brings me to this: Warner is not a "bad boy", he's not the brooding type that leans in doorways and will smother you with mystery. He's the type that will shoot you if he has to and then not think about it, because that's how he was raised. There is a very clear difference between the two, and I don't think that those facets alone make him interesting or attractive. For me, Warner's arc started in DESTROY ME and reading that is key to understanding why and how Warner also finds his own independence.

The thing about Warner, for me, is that he is the one that has supported Juliette's independence the most. Though he had his moments of professing his love throughout the series, he's never made any pretense about it. So while people's favorite chapter may be the infamous sixty-two, mine is the very last chapter of the book because it's the one point where we've seen Juliette in a situation that seems completely normal, a scene that would not be out of place today.

Juliette has always wanted to see a bird fly. In UNRAVEL ME she found her wings. Tahereh Mafi has built upon a ravaged world where her characters shine the brightest, and there just might be a possibility for flight.

I started paper reader two years ago come 1 February. My first post consists of a simple greeting, a statement (of my love for books) and a list of some books that I had currently checked out from the library. My lifelong passion for words had come to a head and it was no longer something that I wanted to keep to myself, and with the advent of blogs everywhere I no longer had to. I never, ever in my wildest dreams thought that my blog would take me to where I am today. I never thought it would be an affirmation of everything I hold dear. 

I started my blog the winter before I started university in autumn 2011. Though I was working part-time, I was not yet in school, and so I was afforded the liberty of being able to devote large amounts of time and effort into reading. And the more I read, the more I wanted to talk about it, share it with people who felt the same. The more I researched, the more I understood how things generally worked, and began to formulate how I wanted to structure my blog. I wanted to read books, I wanted to share what I found in them in an impactful way with the internet and thought that a review would be the best way to do it.

A review, for me, generally takes me about an hour, sometimes an hour and a half, mainly because I like to write in-depth, spoiler-free reviews. I want the words that I'm sharing with the world to be helpful, but also able to express how I feel about what I read. And the more I read, the more I wrote. The more I wrote, the more books I bought. (...and I bought a lot of books.) I grew the number of blogs I read, the comments I wrote. I created a Twitter account and spent hours replying and perusing to see what was new in the literary and publishing world. I met incredible people. With Tawni's help, I redesigned my blog. (And I'm in the process of doing it again.)

And then school began. I became nervous, stressed. I very much wanted to continue the amazing thing that I had started, but I needed to be able to balance it in a way where my education remained (and still remains) my first priority. It was - and is - incredibly difficult. I barely had any time and felt at times that I was falling behind in reviews. Books I wanted to read, thoughts I wanted to share, but couldn't. Sometimes there just isn't enough time and energy in the day.

I realised that I had to cut back on what I was doing. Less review books, posts in general, but the ones that I wrote, I promised myself, would be the best they could be. I never once thought that I would stop, but instead make it function in a way that suited both university and the amount I was able to read. This semester is my thesis semester, and I'm planning on having one review per week and one discussion post per week, if not every other week.

The summation of what I'm saying, or trying to say, is that though I love what I do - and I would not trade it for anything - it takes effort, money, persistence, and time time time. 

I write this because Wendy has created a poll that ends tomorrow on the cost and value of book blogging. The results will be both surprising and anticipated. My stress, my nerves are not everyone's, and there will be different ways in which people maneuver their time and energy and this will affect their overall response in ways I could not have thought of. I just want to say, however, that every one of you is important. You devote your time and love and it shows. Your input is also necessary, and if you have fifteen minutes to spare, your thoughts would be appreciated and helpful to show how blogging affects us.

A book blog, just like the person behind it, doesn't look like any one thing. There are types and varieties and personality that make them unique. Thanks for doing what you do.

review: shadow and bone by leigh bardugo

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publication Date: 06/05/2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Pages: 358
Source: Purchased

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Note: As much as I wanted to keep this review completely spoiler-free, it is impossible for me to gloss over the discussion of an important turning point in the book. In order to avoid spoilers if you have not read this book yet, please skip the fourth paragraph.

Alina Starkov grew up as one orphan in a household of many at Keramzin, her parents having died in the wars that have ravaged Ravka for well over a century. The orphans of Keramzin are educated and then conscripted into the King's First Army, leaving their childhood years a period of waiting and loneliness. Alina didn't think she'd be any different until Mal came; the two became fast friends, traversing the depths of boredom and existing as a pair amidst the sea of many. Alina and Mal's regiment are scheduled to cross the Unsea, a dangerous journey when even the most talented individuals are involved. Alina always thought that she would never be special, that she would be alone; she never could have known that confronting her fear of the darkened Fold would challenge both of those things and turn her world inside out.

Within twenty pages of reading SHADOW AND BONE I knew that I was in for one of those rare all-nighters. I started this book and read and read and read and when I stopped it was 4.30 and, exhausted and full of fantastical places, I fell asleep to dream of Grisha wearing colorful kefta. I was pulled in immediately with the story of Alina as an orphan, hints at adventures with Mal, and the introduction of the mysterious Grisha and their leader, the Darkling. Though I was slightly taken aback when the time period shifted forward to her as a young adult, now conscripted in the First Army of Ravka, it only took a page or so for me to fall right into the older version of Alina and Mal. One of my favorite things about this story is how incredibly well developed the descriptions are; there was not a moment that didn't have some small element seamlessly weaving together a portrayal of a scene, whether it be for world building information or for what a character is wearing. As Grisha are one of the main themes in the book, the usage of color is inseparable from the narrative in order to separate the different specialties: Red, blue, purple, yellow, black, among others.

SHADOW AND BONE would just be a story without the magical way Leigh was able to dip into the depths of Russian history to create a narrative that is nuanced, gripping, and incredibly compelling. Not a page went by where I couldn't perfectly envision the world that was playing out in word form before my eyes. The embroidered keftas, the sense of urgency in running, awe and excitement at new circumstances - they were all detailed in such a way as to put the reader directly into a cast of wonderfully developed characters. Alina was, without a doubt, my favorite of lot. Much of the story is about Alina's sense of self-discovery, but told in a way that seamlessly created a narrative around her journey. She's strong, thoughtful, and knows when to say no. Thought there are moments when she wavers, I believe they're done in a way that are completely relatable to human experience.

As beautiful as the first part of the book was - and it was stunning - the pacing about one hundred pages from the end was the one thing that was able to remove me from the story and make me aware that I was an active reader and not living events through Alina's eyes. While a setup such as Alina had with the Darkling ("champion", distant trainer, love interest) is almost always too good to be true, the timeframe in which she is able to go from "the Darkling is not looking at me" to "he is a ruthless traitor" was unsettling. I never disagreed with her; I knew that she was right. But for all of the strong feelings that she had developed while at the Little Palace, that slight twist of belief changes the entire direction of the story. In her conversation with Baghra (and afterward), Alina reflects on certain moments and phrases that were breadcrumbs that eventually lead to shining light on what the Darkling was really after - all done in a compressed timeframe. While I fully believe those moments definitely allude to his foul play, her acceptance seems to be too much, too fast. Still, there's something about the play between  darkness and light in this book that leads me to believe that all is not done between these two, and to say that I'm interested in seeing where Leigh takes things would kind of be an understatement.

SHADOW AND BONE is one of the most beautifully constructed and compelling fantasies that I've read in quite some time. Everything about it hits just about every one of my interests: just the right amount of world building, characters that feel complete and nuanced, and a narrative that is able to tie all of these things together. If you have the opportunity, and a few hours block open on your schedule, I definitely suggest that you find a comfy, quiet spot and read it at your leisure. I absolutely cannot wait to read SIEGE AND STORM.

review: the archived by victoria schwab

Author: Victoria Schwab
Publication Date: 01/22/2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 324
Source: ARC (Thanks to Hyperion and Victoria at NYCC!)

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.

Sometimes there are just books that you know are meant for you. Maggie Stiefvater's THE SCORPIO RACES was one of those books, and as soon as I read the tagline for THE ARCHIVED, I knew it would end up on a very small shelf of favorites, too. The narrative beautifully transitions from the present to the past, highlighting the moments that Mackenzie spent with her grandfather that lead her to becoming his successor as Keeper. Though we don't see much of him throughout the course of the book, we don't need to as the moments in which he's present his personality are vivid and commanding. These flashbacks highlight his importance in Mackenzie's life, their bond, and the rules that, as a Keeper, she must live by. Though the Archive and the outside world have a symbiotic relationship, it is precariously balanced, and it's Keepers like Mac that have to play by the rules for order to be sustained. Bruises, omissions, and absences in order to create peace for both.

The incredible thing about this book is the way Victoria effortlessly links the construct of the Archive into present-day reality. We open countless amounts of doors per day, we go to libraries for history and knowledge. Topics and genres mapped out on shelves for our perusal. But with the touch of a key Mackenzie has access to a library that makes her life so completely different than anything we can imagine. The Archive has history and knowledge on shelves, collecting first-hand accounts. Every time Mac stepped into the Archive I could imagine a sweeping great room with stacks higher than I could see, cathedral ceilings and a gilded desk neatly arranged with papers and writing utensils. And, of course, a sign. An information desk like any and none other.

In a book about information and what it means to have it, THE ARCHIVED's characters are equally nuanced. Just when I thought I knew something about someone, a layer quietly peeled back and revealed just enough of something else to be surprising but not too much so that it would be out of place with what I had already learned. Mac is a clever and strong girl with quick responses who struggles with how to relate her position as a Keeper to her life as a daughter and a normal person. She has to deal with extraordinary circumstances, yet her struggles are relatable and convincing. One of my favorite things about this book is that every conversation - every word - has a purpose without feeling overwhelming. My favorite character, Roland, is one you meet fairly soon into the story, though it's almost difficult to pick because the Archive is literally riddled with a small starring cast that shines.

THE ARCHIVED has something in it for everyone: strong characterisation, mystery, beautiful prose, and a narrative that includes a touching and believable romance. This is literally a book that I had to pace myself reading because I didn't want it to end. I will say, however, for those that tend to prefer stand-alone to series, I absolutely believe that it will stand on its own as a singular story without the necessity of reading on. Me, though? I can't wait to pre-order the second installment.

mini-review: days of blood and starlight

Author: Laini Taylor
Publication Date: 11/06//2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 294
Source: Purchased
Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?
Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to 
imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world. 

One of my favorite things about DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT is its pacing; if you've read DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE then you know what happens to Karou at the end. In many books the division between characters* would have been navigated inexpertly and some sort of unsatisfying reunion would take place. Laini Taylor deftly avoids that in her writing by her incredibly talented narrative pacing throughout the arc of the series, leaving this installment to explore Karou and what needs to happen in order for her to grow and accept the possibility the future brings. While I would classify this book ultimately as one that focuses on Karou, the Akiva (and other) moments were perfectly tuned to the overall octave of the story. It is a beautiful and compelling read.

If you have not begun this series I highly, highly recommend it for its beautiful creativity and writing. If you read book one at some crazy point in 2011, don't worry, this installment will catch up up with all of the pertinent points and then some to fill in all of the gaps.

Also, as I'm sure you've by now noticed, the titles of both books contain the same amounts of the same letters. The acronym for book one is DOBAS and book two's is DOSAB. I'm rather curious to see if book three will follow in the same footsteps.

*I'm being deliberately vague here to avoid large spoilers for both books.


I am presently on hiatus into the foreseeable future. You can find me on twitter, tumblr, or my writing website,

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