Book I Heart: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Title: The Archived
Author: Victoria Schwab
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Hyperion

Back Cover Copy:
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 that 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 hardwon redemption.

Why I Love It:
“The Narrows remind me of August nights in the South.”

This book drew me in with the very first line. Victoria Schwab has the rare gift of being able to fully immerse the reader in the world she’s created. For me, the first line, and the first two pages of not-quite-prologue before chapter one starts, did just that. I could feel the heat and the thick night air wrapping itself around me and pulling me onto that porch with Mackenzie and Da.

This is a book about grief and loss, and about secrets and the loneliness they bring. But it’s also a book about learning to live with loss, about learning to open up and share, and to trust. I don’t know that I’ve read another book that captured the longing and emptiness of grief so well. The Bishop family, especially Mackenzie, is so well written that the grief is palpable. Even the Coronado, the former hotel that provides a backdrop for the story, longs for better days. I could see the peeling wallpaper, the cracked molding and worn carpet. And the Archive, the library of the dead, comes alive on the page.

The heart of the plot is a mystery, and it’s well-developed and intriguing. The clues and discoveries fold seamlessly into the narrative and the reveal is both surprising and, in hindsight, inevitable. There’s also a very yummy boy and a bit of romance that elevates the plot rather than simply running along side it. Basically everything that I adore in a book is in this book. Beautiful writing, well-woven plot, and characters to fall in love with. And let’s not forget gargoyles, guyliner, and a very cool librarian.

I was fortunate to win an ARC of The Archived in a twitter contest – thanks Victoria! – so I got to read all of its deliciousness early. The hardcover of The Archived releases tomorrow and the ebook will be out on the 29th, so place your pre-order or mark your calendar to hit up your favorite bookstore. You don’t want to miss this one.

Year of the Fantasy Classic

Challenge: The Year of the Fantasy Classic
Hosted By: Lurv a la Mode
Challenge Dates: January 1 – December 31, 2012
Yes, I am late to the game!

“The first rule of Year of the Fantasy Classic is there are no rules.”
- KMont, Lurv a la Mode

How could I turn down a challenge that has no rules?

I grew up reading fantasy, but somehow I’ve fallen out of the habit of reading high fantasy in favor of urban fantasy.  So, this year I intend to get back to my roots.  I’ll be re-visiting some of the classics that I loved as a child, and reading a few that I’ve always wanted to read.  I’m keeping the definition of “Classic” very loose here – if it was around when I was in grade school, it’s fair game for me.

I’m getting a late start, and an even later start on the actual reading, but, hey, no rules, right?  Feel free to join me; we can get caught up together.

Here’s what I’m planning on reading:

  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • A Wizard of Earthsea
  • The Golden Compass
  • The Last Unicorn
  • The Neverending Story
  • Alanna
  • The Blue Sword
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • The Mists of Avalon
  • Ender’s Game
  • Something with dragons… maybe Anne McCaffrey?

I don’t know if I’ll get to all of them this year, and I may switch out some titles for others, we’ll see how it goes.  I also plan to blog about everything I read in the challenge, not just those that I love, though I hope to love them all :).  This month is looking a bit booked, but I’ll be starting a challenge book in May.

What are you reading?

Book I Heart: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Back Cover Copy:
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Why I Love It:
When I first read the cover copy for Daughter of Smoke and Bone I was intrigued, and when multiple writer friends recommended it, I knew I had to read it.  It did not disappoint.  Actually, that’s a pretty massive understatement.  I adore this book.  I am in massive book crush love.

I won’t tell you much about the story, because one of the best parts of reading this book was not knowing what was going to happen next.  I don’t usually talk while I read, but I seemed to have a never-ending stream of oh-my-gods and no-ways coming out of my mouth with this book.  What I will tell you is that you can set your preconceived notions about angels and demons on the shelf.  Ditto for star-crossed lovers.  Shakespeare has nothing on Laini Taylor!  She turns all the usual conventions on their heads and tells a story that is beautiful, masterful and heartbreaking in all the right ways.

Part of the beauty of this book is Laini Taylor’s lyrical style of writing, particularly her word choice.  Each word, meaningful.  Each word thoughtfully chosen.  The book is very quotable, from the simple, “Love is an element” and “Hope makes its own magic” to longer passages, including  a great conversation about inessential penises that had me chuckling.  The world-building is also fantastic.  Taylor masterfully captures the beauty and mystique of Prague in a way that made me long to return for another visit, but it’s the other world of the story that really blew me away.  I never once felt confused about what the characters or the world looked like, and never felt overwhelmed by too much information.  The details came as they were needed and in just the right amount.

The characters and the relationships between them are also well-developed.  The story unfolds in layers, and with each layer I learned a bit more about the characters.  Each of the main characters, and some of the side characters, knows what he/she wants and goes after it, but they’re all very real, and flawed.  And as with real people, sometimes the best intentions can go terribly wrong, particularly when those intentions involve keeping secrets.  The impact of their choices is all the more poignant because it’s easy to see the love the characters feel for each other, in all its complexity.

This is the kind of book that inspires me.  It makes me want to be a better writer, and I love it all the more for it.

For an in-depth review, I recommend this one by The Book Smugglers.

Universal Pictures recently purchased the film rights.  I think Daughter of Smoke and Bone could be a fantastic movie and I really hope they make it.  And soon.