Mystery

SNEAK PEEK of The Archived by Victoria Schwab

I really enjoyed Victoria Schwab’s The Near Witch last year so I was so excited when I was able to read a sneak peek of The Archived, only the first 100 pages, but oh so good. It makes me want to wear a key around my neck and carry chalk in my pocket.

Details Please (Publisher’s description)
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.

So What?
Like I said before I just read the first couple of chapters and was just barely scratching the surface of the story, but I can tell this will be a book to look out for. I really liked the whole premise about Mackenzie sending back the Histories that escape through the cracks in the Archive. Mackenzie has a start as a Keeper at a relatively young age and on top of that she is dealing with deaths in the family, and the lack of closure there. There is also Roland a really cool librarian who catalogs the dead, and hasn’t aged a day, and the mysterious Wesley with scars of his own. Also there are a whole lot of doors and shadows just waiting to be explored.

As a side note, have any of you seen the Japanese film Be with You, base off Takuji Ichikawa’s novel? When I started reading this that movie came to mind because in the film the mother dies and goes to a planet named Archive. I had always wondered why they named the planet Archive and now after reading this I understand. Two totally different things but I had such a eureka moment. Lol.

I’d like to imagine that Mio from Be With You escaped from the Archives in Victoria Schwab’s world and came back in the rainy season in Takuji Ichikawa novel.

Anyway,I believe that everyone is approved for the Sneak Peek on NetGalley so you guys should go seek it out. Then we can all patiently wait for January 22nd to come. So. Far. Away. 😦

I can’t wait to read the whole story.

The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Details, Please (Publisher’s description)
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.

And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

So what?
I believe this is Clarke’s debut novel, and it makes me want to read more pirate books. Yes, please! Ananna of Tanarau wants to learn navigation, a ship of her own, her own armada and maybe become the richest woman in the world. Really, is that too much to ask? For an ambitious girl, Ananna wants to do so at her own pace and is not one of those cringe worthy characters who steps on everyone to get her way. She knows her worth, she isn’t superficial, and she can take care of herself (plus she has a cool pirate tattoo)…However, don’t ask me how to pronounce her name, I have no clue.

Naji on the other hand, for being an assassin has a bit of a complex. Don’t get me wrong, he is a pretty awesome character and is ultra-cool, but Ananna came across as the more reliable of the two. Both of them went through different places out of their comfort zone whether it be the desert, the ocean or some scary island both adapting well to whatever the venue. They had a mission to accomplish, and it was a joy to go along with them.

As far as assassin books go it’s much better than some of the most recent ones (Throne of Glass, I’m looking at you) and if you liked the Rain Benares Series by Lisa Shearin which is neither about pirates or assassins (but has both) you would really like The Assassin’s Curse.

So what do you get when you have a pirate and an assassin? Awesomeness.

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Details, Please (Publisher’s description)

Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty’s anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen’s Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

So what?

High Fantasy! I went on this kick last year trying to find recent YA, high fantasy books, and it was much harder than I thought. Sometimes with that genre I feel the book can drag on and on, but I didn’t feel that way with this book. Also as a plus there wasn’t an abundance of fight scenes or dream sequences that I usually associate with them. It is also neat that Seraphina is a musician and assistant to the court composer.

As for the world building there are a lot of customs and philosophers that are mentioned that just add to the book. It’s pretty cool when people ask who your psalter saint is, but what would you do if your psalter saint was a heretic? Another thing about this book is that it would be best if you kept a dictionary near you while reading. Can you tell me what ‘perspicacity’ means? I didn’t know and had to look it up, among other words…but that’s good, right?

If you are a fan of the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey you might like Seraphina. It mostly reminded me of the same spirit as Dragonsong and Dragonsinger though. So check it out on July 10th.

Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Soul (2009, MBC horror miniseries)

I’ve never watched a horror miniseries before, and usually when I see Korean dramas I see romantic comedies. This was my first foray into horror television (not counting The X-Files) and the one thing that stuck solid in my mind was Im Joo Eun’s solid acting performance. Apparently she beat out 1,058 girls for her role as Hana. This is my first choice of peril for Carl’s R.I.P. VI challenge.

Details, please
The opening of Soul starts in medias res, there is no dialogue in the first seven minutes — just action. “Kill me,” are the first words spoken and we as the audience don’t know why the heck this girl wants to be killed and worst off the guy looks like he’s going to do it…then she wakes up.

Im Joo Eun is Yoon Hana, a happy-go-lucky high school student who happens to suffer from nightmares and is carrying some sort of repressed memory that the audience doesn’t know the story behind. She gets through her everyday life with her loving twin sister Doo-na. From the onset we are made aware that there’s a serial killer on the loose, targeting high school girls with long hair. Shin Ryu (Lee Seo Jin) is the criminal profiler assigned to the case. Si-Woo Hana’s classmate is Ryu’s biggest fan.

All the horror starts happening when a girl commits suicide and on the way to her death makes eye contact with Hana. This would naturally traumatize anyone, but it goes beyond that. It’s not just trauma it becomes possession.

So what?
A line frequently used in the drama is, “the dead are throwing their tempers,” and although this is indeed true, this is really more than a ghost story or even possession. There’s this running theme about how criminals can change and if rehabilitation programs really work and such. It feels like a social commentary on the justice system. The bad guys actually use the law as their weapons, and so that’s another kind of terror. But at the heart of it all, Soul is really a revenge story, and in it people try to play angels and others God. I never thought the line, “let’s help God paint his picture,” would freak me out. It gave me chills.

I really loved Hana as a character. Her relationship towards almost everyone in this drama was as a protector, and to see her placed in many situations where she was helpless or unaware of what was happening through her was frightening. She really was a tragic character. I as an audience member wanted to protect her and Doo-na. Unfortunately every vengeful ghost within a ten-mile radius found her body the perfect place to live. It’s almost comical.

A character I wasn’t expecting to like was Si-Woo, the amateur sleuth/profiler. From the beginning we see he’s a bit of a loner who is weak and Hana comes to his rescue in degrading situations. When she asks why he doesn’t stick up for himself he says he deserves it because,

“My birthday happens to be my mother’s death anniversary. It seems she died not long after she gave birth to me. On my 9th birthday, my dad had a major car accident. I cursed my mother after I was born.They also said that I’m a cursed child. That’s why you should not meddle in my affairs again. My bad luck may pass on to you.”

Later on towards the end of the first episode we see him in a similar situation and when he tries to tell her he is cursed Hana retorts with:

“My birth date is the 28th of March 1993. To be exact, it was 5:30 p.m. At 5:30 p.m. on March 28th 1993, at that same time, train number 117, which was traveling from Seoul to Busan overturned at Jeok Baek, 78 people were dead and 112 of them were either heavily injured or had minor injuries. It’s reported to be the most deadly accident in Korea in the 100 years of railroad history. Do you need more? On March 28th 1979, in an American nuclear reactor plant there was a radiation leak resulting in 22,000 people with cancer as of 2009. On March 28th 1941, Virginia Woolf died. On March 28th 1969, Eisenhower died. On March 28th 1985, Chagall died. Do you still need more? Then, am I also considered a cursed child?”

This conversation shows you a bit of Hana’s personality, and of course the irony is that the audience starts to wonder if she really is cursed. All that to say that Si-Woo started as a weak person, and because Hana got through to him he becomes strong and would do anything to keep her safe (almost in a disturbing way… a scene with turtles comes to mind.)

The profiler Shin Ryu was probably the biggest mystery of all. There is no grey area on Ryu’s stance on criminals. He defends a mysterious person for killing them, because they’re “merely clearing out garbage,” besides, “Is there a need to hesitate when killing a cockroach?” As the series progresses we see why he has such strong feelings on the subject. The two men in Hana’s life both think they’re protecting her or helping her to do what they think is right, and throughout the drama it’s fun to see our perceptions of each change.

Things I noticed:

*Nothing good ever happens in a parking garage.

*You’re not even safe in a glass elevator (where you are clearly visible)

*The cops in this drama seriously need to be trained again…at various crime scenes they missed a book bag, a sweater, a phone, and a bike. How they managed to miss all this evidence was a bit puzzling.

*A ghost is strong enough to open a car door at the bottom or a river, yet it can’t save someone from drowning in a bathtub.

*An interesting thing I kept thinking to myself was that the ghosts in this drama weren’t as scary as the living…maybe that was the point.

Overall

The acting and directing were well done, but the point of focus was a bit scattered. Soul went from being about serial killers, to ghosts, to a somethings wrong with our justice system story, and although there’s nothing wrong with that…it didn’t really mesh. It’s like they were trying to make purple but they didn’t properly mix blue and red. In my opinion things started falling apart around episode six (although there’s a cool fight scene in episode 7.) Some of the scenes got a bit redundant at times, but you have to give Im Joo Eun credit for having to convey so many different faces of terror. Despite saying all that, I felt the drama was polished. Is that weird? It came across like a glossy book with pretty pages. I just wish it hadn’t deviated into rabbit trails and that the ending wasn’t severely lacking.

For those interested:

Dramabean’s Recap of episode 1
Watch the whole miniseries on DramaFever

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

I’d been hearing a lot of buzz about The Near Witch, and was glad I was approved for a galley. The Near Witch is a hybrid of folklore and fairy tales. There is a slight semblance to The Pied Piper, and yet Miss Schwab manages to make the story all her own. It is certainly worth the hype. What an awesome debut novel.

Details Please
It is said witches and hunters live on the edge of the village of Near. Lexi Harris being a child of the latter lives in such a spot, having the advantage of seeing the comings and goings of town. The thing is, there are no strangers in Near, so when one catches her eye in the window she is curious about him. He seems to melt into the darkness. The town where everybody knows everybody wants to know who this stranger is, but before anyone can meet him the children of Near start vanishing. Lexi’s sister Wren hears children outside asking her to come play; a melody that adults do not hear. Who is responsible for luring the children out of bed and can Lexie convince the town from repeating history?

So What?
The Near Witch gave off a nostalgic feeling and it flowed so well. It was well paced and it had just enough romance. It’s lyrical, full of pretty prose and not in a confusing way. One thing I wasn’t expecting was to genuinely be scared. What started as sort of mysterious grew into a genuinely chilling book. One scene in particular really freaked me out and I had trouble sleeping that night. It had me wanting to double check my windows. It’s funny because although some parts scared me, I felt the book was lovely (such a strange dichotomy, but it worked.) I felt for the characters, and I felt outraged at the villagers. I wanted to be best friends with Lexi, and I wanted a sister like Wren. I love when I actually care for the characters I’m reading about.

Overall
I love this book. It has everything, it’s a ghost story with magic and witches. What’s not to love? It kept me repeatedly guessing, and I also learned a lot about how fear can blind us. You know what else is awesome? It’s a standalone! 

P.S. Has anyone seen Sigur Ros’s Glósóli video? It sort of reminded me of The Near Witch, with the same kind of eerie, magical, fairy tale feeling.

I received this ARC from publishers via NetGalley. 

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien

Details, Please…

In a dystopian future, society is marked by the privileged that live inside the Enclave and those who live a life of poverty and no education outside. Following in her mother’s steps, sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone becomes a midwife and the best in her sector outside the wall. Her job wouldn’t be so bad if she didn’t have a quota of babies to give to the Enclave for “advancement.” Mother greed is supposed to be unnatural and disloyal to the Enclave; mothers should be happy their children will be given better opportunities, but something seems off about all of it. One night her parents are taken in for questioning. It stretches to three weeks and still no word from them. Meanwhile, Gaia’s being questioned by the mysterious Sergeant Grey about a list or some secret code her parents made about the babies her mother helped bring into the world. Determined to get into the Enclave to save her parents, she smuggles herself in and her life drastically changes. What does the Enclave want with her parents, and what is in the mysterious ribbon with an embedded message? Gaia soon realizes it’s not so simple to rebel, especially against an elitist society that’s all about their exclusive gene pool.

So What?

Wow. I wanted to read this book for a while now, and I honestly don’t know why it took me so long to finally read Birthmarked. I love strong heroines that stand up against authority! Gaia isn’t your traditional perfect character with overwhelming beauty either. The scars of life are on her face quite literally. She goes through life with different forms of bravery, and doesn’t even think so. She’s just doing what she has to do. There is also slight romance and it doesn’t impair her judgment. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever used my dictionary as much as I did reading this book. I feel like I learned a volume of words I never even heard of before. It’s always nice to learn something new.

Overall

If you love dystopia, then this is one of the best I’ve read recently. The only bad thing about this book is that the next one (Prized) doesn’t come out till the early part of November. It doesn’t leave off on a cliffhanger, but it certainly has you wanting to read more about Gaia and those she loves. Put it on your TBR list, because it’s excellent.

Through Her Eyes by Jennifer Archer

I haven’t entered many book challenges as I’m sort of new to all this, but I really wanted to sign up for the Gothic Reading Challenge hosted by Susan B. Evans of Well-Mannered Frivolity. I mean castles, scary branches and girls with hair blowing in their face, what’s not to love? I chose to read Through Her Eyes by Jennifer Archer. Well, not really I just started reading it and realized it totally fit this challenge.It’s like an episode of The X-Files or the Twilight Zone. Plus I like reading about middle of nowhere Texas towns.

Details, Please

Tansy Piper’s mother is like the female Stephen King, so for inspiration for her books they end up moving a lot. The latest move is from San Francisco to Cedar Canyon Texas where she mopes about hating the small town life. It’s the kind of town where all the teens her age grew up with each other since kindergarten so she feels left out. Fighting loneliness she also struggles with the grief of her grandfather’s dementia. Not to mention her new house is said to be haunted, it even has a turret and everything, but things change for her when she finds a pocket watch, a journal and a small crystal pendant in the cellar. They seem to have a life all their own. Not only that, but when Tansy an aspiring photographer looks through her camera’s viewfinder it’s as if she time travels to past memories of her grandfather and Henry the young man who haunts her house. While in these past memories she inhabits the body of Isabel (hence the title of this book.) It becomes hard for her to differentiate her feelings from Isabel’s. It’s interesting because as she spends more time in the past her present starts to fade literally. Her present becomes grey while the past is vibrant with color. It’s as if Henry is enticing her to stay with him. If she gives in she has a feeling she can never come back.

Gothic Elements

Well at first glance this book just seems like a contemporary tale. It is, but definitely Gothic. It’s not set in a castle, but it’s a once abandoned castle-like house complete with creepy cellar. This whole book is full of mystery and suspense. No one seems to know who the real Henry was and the mystery behind his death. It’s all just a spooky legend that unfortunately unravels for Tansy. He is a ghost but we as the reader never really see him in the present world. In the present he comes as a nightingale. Constantly Tansy feels threatened by Henry. His love is obsessive and tyrannical at times. He makes a lot of demands on Isabel that seems to transcend to her. Tansy experiences a lot of disturbing dreams and things she can’t explain she starts to think she has schizophrenia. The narration is sentimental because it has a lot to do with the memories of her grandfather who she dearly loves. There was a lot of anger, sorrow and terror that is present in Gothic novels. Often times Tansy feels panic that she will not come back to the present world. Our heroine is lonely, and pensive, and she suffers more because she feels afraid to ask for help.

Unique and unusual

I like that since Tansy is a photographer we get a lot of photography lingo and vocabulary. I also love the fact that all the characters seem equally fleshed out. Her closest friend in town Beth, is a thirteen-year-old genius who constantly quotes Shakespeare. Even though the story is about the Tansy-Isabel-Henry dynamic, it still manages to be about everyone else in that small town. Don’t worry Henry isn’t the only one vying for her attention. After all, there has to be someone in the present world fighting for her to stay. This book just had that almost tangible feeling to it. As if you could actually feel the suspense and taste the mystery. A lot had to do with the poems in the journal she found and in a way this book reminded me of Chime by Franny Billingsley. And while I seem to be the only person who actually dislikes that book I feel that Through Her Eyes did the whole poetic-Gothic-suspense-mystery thing much better than Chime. I mean time-travel can be annoying because it has the propensity to get confusing and aggravating, but it wasn’t in this book. The reading flow wasn’t hindered by any of the poems or other worldly experiences. It just flowed and the closure we feel in the end is pretty awesome. Check out some other reviews and then read it, because it’s scary cool.