Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review: In the Afterlight

In The Afterlight (The Darkest Minds, #3)In The Afterlight by Alexandra Bracken
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the Afterlight is the third and final installment in the Darkest Minds trilogy by Alexandra Bracken. This installment follows Ruby, Liam, Chubs, and the rest of the gang following the climactic scene in the previous book. Everything comes to a head as Ruby, having finally accepted who she is with her powers, risks everything to regain her freedom, and the freedom of every child affected by the IAAN virus.

This must be the year of stellar finales, because this is the second one I've read that has hit all the right notes at the right time, and was generally an excellent book.

I loved seeing Ruby act the way she did in this book, especially when compared to who she was only two books ago. She knew who she was, and she wasn't afraid of her ability anymore, but that didn't mean she was ok with the abilities themselves. It's difficult to separate those kind of things, but she did (finally) and it made her a stronger person.

All the relationships. ALL OF THEM. Were delightful. Whether you were reading a scene with Ruby and Liam, Ruby and Cole, Chubs and Vida, even Ruby and Clancy, were dynamic and thorough looks at the different ways a person can mean to someone.

This book works through the struggles put up through the stellar worldbuilding Bracken has developed, which is not only impressive in its own right, but downright scary, since I felt that the way the government and the country had devolved was something not too far off from what the real world is capable of right now. A place where people can live and love and go about their lives, while consciously ignoring injustices that are literally happening in their backyard right now. Doesn't sound too fictional, does it?

All in all, I loved this installment. Each of these books has a unique personality and identity that totally sets them apart from each other, but also complements each other in a way that a trilogy ought to. I honestly can't tell you which I would save in a fire, because they're all uniquely incredible. The ending may have felt a little rushed, but that also might just be me. I've noticed that after all the buildup of previous books, any ending of a big struggle seems a little bit strange to the point where you don't always believe it. But I'm babbling. On to the next book in my (immortal) TBR shelf.

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Book Review: The Retribution of Mara Dyer

The Retribution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #3)The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Retribution of Mara Dyer is the third and final book in the Mara Dyer trilogy by Michelle Hodkin. This installment begins with Mara having awoken in a hospital after the events of the previous book, as she fights to find out what has happened and to finally put an end to the nightmare that has plagued her since the accident that started it all.

This was a fantastic conclusion to a trilogy that had me hooked literally months before they'd even released the first book. This is like the previous two books, but on a more intense and fast-paced level. Some freaky shiz happens in this book, and yet it all manages to be explained clearly, and in the right time. You never feel rushed, or like you have to go back and reread a section to understand what it means.

The third book in a trilogy, at least in YA fiction, is always as much about the main character finally coming into their identity and deciding to own themselves as much as it is about plot lines being resolved. This was done so well with Mara, because she has always straddled the line between hating herself and reveling in her destructive capabilities. That's not something easily resolved, and you see her go back and forth between this even up to the point of the story's climax.

I won't spoil anything else, because this story is leaving you guessing on CERTAIN THINGS for a very long time, and spoiling them would be an act against my basic sense of humanity. I will leave you with the knowledge that this novel is as full of fear, intensity, and witty pop culture references as either that have come before it, and I CANNOT WAIT to see what else Michelle Hodkin's mind has in store for us. Well done, you.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

The Unbound (The Archived, #2)The Unbound by Victoria Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Unbound is Victoria Schwab's sequel to her novel The Archived. Following the events that occurred in the first book, Mackenzie is not doing well. Her dreams terrorize her into barely sleeping, and as a result her nightmares are bleeding into real life, just as her life of the Archive is slipping into her "normal" life. What's more, her relationship with her best friend and Keeper partner Wesley is more complicated than ever, and her secrets threaten to put the people she loves in danger.

The Unbound is an incredible sequel that may even surpass its predecessor, The Archived. I ate this book up in less than forty-eight hours, and I'm still thinking about it. Victoria Schwab's writing is so unique, and I can only describe what I feel by quoting another book (Catcher in the Rye): “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though.” It happened here, and it's practically a problem, because all I want to do is rant at her about how much I love it, but then you seem like a stalker, and there's legal intervention, yada yada yada. Oh well. I guess I can just list all the things here for her to see:

-Mackenzie's nightmares. It's weird to say that a supernatural story is handled so realistically, but it fits Mackenzie has dealt with trauma after trauma, and to have her walk away without so much as a mental scratch wouldn't be very realistic. I felt for her, and I wish she hadn't had to experience it, but it is what would happen.

-The private school trope was quickly rejected here for something fresh and original. Usually when a protag (who usually doesn't come from money) enters a private school, it's all about the drama between her and the stuck-up students. That didn't happen here. The most drama was between her and Safia, and it wasn't any more dramatic than it would have been in real life. Cash is preppy, but he's not egotistical or jock-ish.

-Her and Wes. OHMYGODCANYOUNOTWESLEYAYERS?! Once again, I liked how the relationship was handled. He likes her, and it's highly likely that he's aware of her feelings for him, but because of events, he doesn't try to take things any further. That being said, their relationship that's not a Relationship is very sweet. They both care about each other, and even if there wasn't a romantic element going on, I suspect they'd still act that way towards each other, because their friendship is that naturally strong.

There's not much more to say, except GIVE ME THE NEXT ONE and also GIVE ME THE WESLEY POV SHORT STORY PLEASE AND THANK YOU. January can't come soon enough.

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The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Egads! She is risen! For all one of you that may be reading this, I dropped off the face of the earth (or just this blog) for a while. Since then, I have traveled all over Europe, seen natural wonders of the world, and read a crap ton of books. I'm going to be posting a couple reviews from what I've read, and then will do my best to keep it up from then on. It's not like I'm gonna run out of books any time soon.

So with that in mind, let's get cracking.

The Archived (The Archived, #1)The Archived by Victoria Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Archived is an eerie fantasy novel by Victoria Schwab. The protagonist, Mackenzie Bishop, has not had the easiest life. Along with losing her younger brother to a hit and run and having to deal with her parents moving them to a hotel-turned-apartment building for a fresh start, she's also a member of the Archive, a place where the histories of the dead are kept organized.

So, I'm rather embarrassed of myself. I bought this book...when it released? Which was, what, 2012? And through no fault of its own (and much of mine--I actually have a problem), I owned so many books at the time that I never really got around to reading it. When I would try, my headspace wouldn't be right for reading it, and I couldn't latch on to it like I needed to. So a while later, it comes up on the Kindle Store for 99 cents. "Less than a cup of coffee," as Victoria said herself. So I got it (before actually owning a Kindle. I do now).

Yesterday afternoon, having finished one book and needing another right away, I picked this up. I finished it this morning. And it blew me away. So much that I'm having to restrain myself from buying The Unbound on my Kindle, because I'll be in the US to buy a physical copy in two days, but I almost can't actually wait that long.

This book made me want to write. Made my fingers itch, made me want to bring a world to life with such tangible clarity as Victoria did. The hotel is practically its own character, and the characters are forces to be reckoned with, regardless of if you ever actually see them or not.

I recognized some of myself within Mackenzie. Granted, I don't have the responsibilities of the afterlife causing my problems, but things she would say, like being the less active friend in a friendship, or not necessarily being able to deal with her parents' fragility. These things seemed to have been pulled out of my head as I was reading the book then and there.

I also thought that the various ways people deal with grief, and grief on its own, were expertly handled. When a loss occurs, no two reactions are the same. Some people want to push forwards in hopes that the loss gets lost underneath it all. Some push on, but let it drain them. Some force themselves to address it. Some let it flow over them, like Wesley lets Noise flow over him. I liked that there was never any solution to the problem of the characters' grief, because there is no solution. You have to let it happen in due course; you have to learn to weather the storm.

Mackenzie and Wesley's friendship is probably my favorite boy-girl YA relationship in a very long time (and not just because Wesley is played by Jess Mariano in my head). There's obvious chemistry between them, but it's never forced. They're friends first, Keeper partners second, and everything else is currently floating in a vague cloud of Potential. This works for me, because sometimes a relationship has to evolve from more than smoldering good looks and kisses that are described in pyrotechnic terms. Sometimes, it can merely start from recognizing a bit of yourself in someone else, and just being content to exist around each other. That being said, I ship these two like Jack Sparrow and the Black Pearl, and if they don't end up together by the end I will be very sad.

I may also be a bit of a dunce, but I didn't actually expect things with Owen to turn out as they did. I was more or less completely blindsided by that, so well done there.

Conclusion? Fantastic novel. I'm kicking myself for taking TWO YEARS to read it (I got it signed, for crying out loud!), and now kicking a bit more that I have to wait TWO DAYS for the next one.

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