Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Unbound (The Archived #2) by Victoria Schwab

Published: January 28th 2015
Publisher: Hyperion
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes&Noble / Book Depository
Goodreads: Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she's struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn't easy -- not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she's really safe.

Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She's sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she'll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?

While I did enjoy the first book, The Archived, this book is my favorite of the two. It's everything the first book was, and then some which was great. The stakes are higher and it left me breathless with anticipation.

Victoria plops us into the aftermath of the first book, where Mackenzie is still recovering from the trauma of the first book's events. She's vulnerable, much more so with the the Archive keeping watch over her and nightmares overtaking her, bleeding into her waking moments. Being in Mac's head was harrowing, with her constant fear and panic palpable throughout. But she has Wesley, her partner-in-crime, the only person who knows her secrets about being a Keeper. Except this time, she knows the risks, which would be hurting him.

Taking a moment here, I'd like to say that Mac and Wesley are one of my favorite pairs that I have ever read about. They're genuine and full of heart, characters that strengthen each other. Mac is a girl with a chip on her shoulder, but her unwavering strength is inspiring, and her flaws come from trying too hard, something I can easily relate to. Wesley is a true gentleman, despite the guy-liner image he seems to project, and it's touching to see his caring nature while his crooked smile is a welcome spot of sunshine in this book. He is one of my favorite male characters, and how he grounds Mac throughout her nightmares and such are As Keepers, they share the same secret and duty, the one that leaves them isolated from others at times and their close bond is strengthened by how much they seem to care for each other. Speaking of them, this book explores the dimensions of their relationship, and the potential cost it could have, regarding their chances at Crew, the next level in their roles with the Archive.
"Love breaks," he says. "The bond between Crew doesn't. It has love in it, though, and transparency. Being Crew with someone means being exposed, letting them read you — your hopes and wants and thoughts and fears. It means trusting them so much that you're not only willing to put your life in their hands, but to take their life into yours.
Their relationship with each other was given more depth in this book, and I liked how Victoria portrayed the inner conflict Mac has with her Keeper duties and her own feelings, the ones that could endanger him.
...the rock band noise washing over me, pouring in wherever our skin meets. And through his chest and his noise—or maybe in it—I can feel his heart beating,  the steady drum of it hitting my palms. And as it echoes through my own chest, all I can think is: Why can't things be this simple?
Meanwhile, mysterious disappearances are occurring around Mac, and as she hunts down clues on the truth behind this set of events, there is a mother lode of secrets and truths tumbling out. It is starkly painful to see Mac searching for answers alone, and props to Victoria for making me swoon and hurt in one breath.

An immensely satisfying sequel, I cannot wait for the next book in The Archived series. While there is no set date on the next and final book in this series, I dearly hope it comes sooner than later, as I would love to fall back into the journey of Mac and Wesley, as I can only hope Victoria will deliver a satisfying conclusion.

My Rating: ★★★★ (4.5 stars)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Conspiracy of Us (The Conspiracy of Us #1) by Maggie Hall

Published: January 13th 2015
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes&Noble / Book Depository
Goodreads: Avery West's newfound family can shut down Prada when they want to shop in peace, and can just as easily order a bombing when they want to start a war. Part of a powerful and dangerous secret society called the Circle, they believe Avery is the key to an ancient prophecy. Some want to use her as a pawn. Some want her dead.

To unravel the mystery putting her life in danger, Avery must follow a trail of clues from the monuments of Paris to the back alleys of Istanbul with two boys who work for the Circle—beautiful, volatile Stellan and mysterious, magnetic Jack. But as the clues expose a stunning conspiracy that might plunge the world into World War 3, she discovers that both boys are hiding secrets of their own. Now she will have to choose not only between freedom and family--but between the boy who might help her save the world, and the one she's falling in love with.

Just by the synopsis, this book promised a great deal. Conspiracy, romance, mystery, political intrigue, beautiful locations, and an adventure worthy of glorifying in addition to a comparison to Ally Carter. All of my favorite things in the world, and this book gave it to me in dazzles.

The Conspiracy of Us spins us a tale of one girl caught up in the tantalizing what if, where the world is controlled by those who hold the puppet strings behind the world leaders and politics, one that harkens back to Alexander the Great. (cue the mini-shriek from my ancient history loving self. And it is something I had never heard of, refreshing to read about compared to the more prevalent historical tangents that have been used too often in books.)

First and foremost, the conspiracy. Avery is introduced to the all-powerful Circle of Twelve, a set of twelve families that control everything, or at the very least, hold the strings to do anything with the world. Bloodlines that run back eons, to the ancient times of elaborate tombs and whatnot. The same families that believe Avery is a very deadly piece in the chess game of world power.

Getting caught up in the whirlwind of Avery's quest to discover just what she is a part of was an exhilarating ride.  Seeing Paris and Istanbul was another bonus, and I loved reading about the cities. And of course, meeting the equally charming and deadly members of the Circle as well as mysterious foes completed the merry adventure.

As the blurb suggests, there is the simmering question of a love triangle. We're introduced to two swoon-worthy boys, as far as looks go. Thankfully, they're both vastly different from each other, and we're not thrown into a pseudo-argument between them about Avery. That's not to say that there isn't any biting banter, because who doesn't enjoy subtle subtext behind pleasant politeness. (Excuse the alliteration, I wanted to feel fancy.) Both present interesting pieces to the puzzle that encompasses the book. I have a fondness for one over the other, since objectivity is something I have never quite mastered, but both are rather appealing, in case you must know.

Maggie has an effortless way with words that is both beautiful and easy-to-read, simply delectable.
If it was, it was a shade of toshka. A craving for something you couldn't possibly understand. A craving I was finally letting myself feel, only to wish I hadn't.

While it's not a perfect book, because there were certain instances of things that maybe should have stretched believable limits for some, but overall this book was an adventure that touched my particular tastes, and I adored it. And, the ending scene was brilliant, the way things fold together—I cannot wait to see where Maggie takes us in the second book.

(And crossing my fingers that Map of Fates takes us to Florence, I'm dying to read about that magical city.)

My Rating: ★★★★ (4.5 stars)

Friday, May 15, 2015

Every Breath (Every #1) by Ellie Marney

Published: October 14th 2014
Publisher: Tundra Books
Purchase: Amazon / Book Depository / Barnes & Noble
When James Mycroft drags Rachel Watts off on a night mission to the Melbourne Zoo, the last thing she expects to find is the mutilated body of Homeless Dave, one of Mycroft's numerous eccentric friends. But Mycroft's passion for forensics leads him to realize that something about the scene isn't right--and he wants Watts to help him investigate the murder.

While Watts battles her attraction to bad-boy Mycroft, he's busy getting himself expelled and clashing with the police, becoming murder suspect number one. When Watts and Mycroft unknowingly reveal too much to the cold-blooded killer, they find themselves in the lion's den--literally. A trip to the zoo will never have quite the same meaning to Rachel Watts again...

I had been eyeing this book from a distance for quite some time until I finally had the courage to splurge and purchase it. It promised a murder mystery and sleuthing fuss with the added splash of teen romance that I never seemed to find in a good mystery book. Which put frankly, is a book made for the likes of me. The blurb on the cover said it all: what if Sherlock Holmes was the boy next door?

James Mycroft and Rachel Watts, our Holmes-Watson pair, are fabulous characters. They are teenagers, with just the right amount of snark and banter in them (i.e. a tad too much to be healthy), and were a delight to read about. For some reason, I have a fondness for boys who call girls by their last names, and vice-versa, which this book gave to me in both manners, a fact that I fondly took note of.

But before I get sidetracked with these two charmers, let's get into what this book is. It's part murder mystery and part romance, a combination that worked beautifully in this case, with just the right amount of swoony chemistry but didn't skimp on the gory details. Because if you've seen enough crime shows the way I have, the details that pack a punch give you that grimy taste of a crime scene.

Rachel, or Watts, is the responsible girl. She has a solid head on her shoulders, and she's caring and loyal as well. She's a country girl forced to live in the city, where she met Mycroft, her next door neighbor and a crime solver in the making. She feels real and has palpable worries, ones that I could relate to, from the family dynamic to the financial straits she was in. It is all too easy for fictional characters to lose their heads when involved in something like crime and an attractive boy, but Watts thankfully did not lose herself and for that I was thankful.

Mycroft is great, a genuinely interesting guy to read about. He's curious, and methodical, having that inquisitive  and sharp nature that we all associate with the illustrious Holmes, but with the added warmth of a teenage boy who has that oblivious side to him that I found quite endearing. But alas, not everything is crystal clear with him, and his backstory is one that piqued my heart. Needless to say, it involves his family, a juvenile record, and a drive to figure stuff out. Hopefully, the sequels will reveal more about him, but for now, I quite like who he is as is.
Does being an eccentric genius excuse any kind of behavior, no matter how antisocial or self-destructive?
What surprised me in a good way was that when the book starts, you're in the midst of Watts and Mycroft's friendship. They have a camaraderie and bond that's close enough to warrant friendship, maybe something more. It sets the stage for the dynamic they have together. Moving on to their relationship, or lack thereof, I was very pleased with. You can feel the unspoken tension and chemistry between Watts and Mycroft in brief flickers since the very beginning. It's one of those slow burn ones, where you keep rooting the characters on until that inevitable moment occurs. And when it does, it was well worth the wait of two characters tiptoeing around the attraction they share.
Everything inside me is suddenly reduced to feeling. That's all there is, just pure sensation.
As for the murder mystery, I give props to Marney for crafting a believable and well-crafted case. It was intriguing, and had everything I could hope for, including dysfunctional tragedies and a touch of madness. The sleuthing, of course, is the best part of any mystery, and while I enjoy my fair share of confounding twists and turns, it was nice to be able to sit back and enjoy the characters and their chemistry as much as the actual mystery, without having my head hurt trying to figure out the case.

With such a promising start, I am very much looking forward to the rest of this series and cannot wait to catch up with Watts and Mycroft soon.

My Rating: ★★★★ (4.5 stars)