Monday, April 29, 2013

Books of Note: April Reads

This month had a few ups and downs as far as reading went, but I did read some very good books, so I was thankfully able to pick some for my favorites of the month. If you want to read the bad ones, check out these:

The Bughouse Mystery
Legacy of the Clockwork Key

And now on to the good ones:

Azalea is trapped. Just when she should feel that everything is before her . . . beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing . . . it's taken away. All of it.

The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. And so he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest.

But there is a cost.

The Keeper likes to keep things.

Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.


Thoughts on the Overall Book: This was a wonderful re-telling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses and actually one of the best fairy tale re-tellings I have ever read. Wonderful cast, beautiful visionary, and to top it all off a lovely family story as well, of which I am very partial.

Cover--Yea or Nay: Yes! It's so pretty, I love her dress and the silver ivy around the edges. One of the prettiest covers I have seen.

Characters: The cast was wonderful in this story. I really liked Azalea, she was smart, and easy to sympathize with. There were only a couple minor parts where I got a little annoyed with her but in the way of a friend you just want to help do what's best. I loved the sisters too, and how you actually got to know them all even though there were so many of them and how they all had their own personalities. The menfolk of the story too were just as well crafted. I grew to like the king very much, and also ended up liking Fairweller too even though I wasn't sure if I would in the beginning, or if he was even a good character. I adored Lord Teddie, he was just so sweet and a bit silly but so kind-hearted. And I loved Mr Bradford from the beginning. I wish he were in the story more, but I still felt I got to know him sufficiently. As for Keeper, he was throughly creepy, but in the subtle way that makes him even more so. He's my favorite kind of villain and I literally had shivers down my spine reading about him.

The Romance: Since this is a fairy tale re-telling, it was obvious there was a romantic plot line, and I had no objections, in fact, I supported all the pairings in this and felt the characters truly deserved them. My only complaint was that I was always really sad when Bramble was so mean to poor Lord Teddie, but as that was all resolved, I am okay with that now.

Writing Style: Heather Dixon has a lovely writing style. It's very fairy-taleish. I loved the way she described everything to where it felt so magical and yet the parts that were real, felt real, and likewise the scary parts and action scenes were vivid and gripping. As I said before, the characterization was wonderful, and I think what made Keeper even creepier was that the she never really goes into a whole lot of detail about him and his powers. There's just enough to make you really scared of him, and that's another ploy I love in writing.

Problems/What bothered me: I didn't have any problems with this story.

Conclusion: 5 stars. I really enjoyed this book, and I hope the author has more of this calibre.

Recommended Audience: Fans of re-tellings should check this out if you haven't already, and those who don't mind a bit of a darker fairy-tale. Girl read 14 and up.

Break the curse or howl forever.

Etienne, son of a lord in the kingdom of Armorique, goes to train as a knight with Geraint of Lucanne. Geraint is brave and kind, a good teacher and master - but he has a secret that he has kept from his family. He is bisclavret, a born werewolf. When Geraint is betrayed, Etienne must ally with the local wise-woman and her daughter, themselves bisclavret, to save his lord. But time is running out. If Geraint's enemies have their way, Geraint will soon be trapped in his wolf form.

And Etienne has his own secret. The decisions he makes will change his life forever . . .

Inspired by a medieval romance, this engaging novel forces us to question everything we thought we knew about werewolves.


Thoughts on the Overall Book: I'm not usually a frequenter of paranormal, but this one caught my eye and I'm really glad I gave it a go, because it's just the kind of paranormal novel I love to read. When I do read paranormal it's usually ghosts, faeries and occasionally werewolves, and this one had faeries and werewolves, so that made it all the more awesome. And the fact that it was taken from a medieval story and Celtic myth made it all the more intriguing.

Cover--Yea or Nay: Yes, it's very simple and pretty and I love the wolf on it.

Characters: Etienne (a name I love by the way) is a great protagonist and narrator. He's an honest, good-hearted and brave young man and a character the reader is able to connect with easily. I also liked how he could have been worried all the time because of his bisclavret (werewolf) family history, making it possible he could turn into one at his age, but he didn't let it bother him or get in the way. I really loved Armand too, he was a great comrade in arms character, and I wish we had gotten to see more of him. Geraint was also a good character even though he was quite a victim of circumstance. A lot of times characters like that can get washed out or annoying, but Geraint didn't. I also liked Jeanne and Sylvie, in fact, all the women in this story (apart from Eglantine, of course) were strong characters without attitudes which I liked. The villain Dupre, wasn't in the story a lot physically, but you still got to know him and also know he really was evil and scary too.

The Romance: There is a romance between Etienne and Jeanne, but it doesn't interrupt the plot and is in the easy way of two people who know they love each other. There's a little bit of drama concerning them at the end, but nothing horrible. In short, I really liked them as a couple.

Writing Style: I don't know if Sue Bursztynski has read any of Rosemary Sutcliff's books, but her writing style reminds me of Rosemary's. It's not quite as beautiful, but it's still good writing, and the way she crafted the story line as well as portrayed the relationships between the characters, especially Etienne and Armand and Etienne and Jeanne was really reminiscent of Rosemary's. I loved how she took the idea for this story from an old medieval tale, making this almost a re-telling. I really want to read the original now. I also loved the addition of Celtic folklore in this story. This is historical fantasy, so it's not necessarily "our world" but she paints a picture that is quite like Saxon Britain with even mentions of the "Rom" (Romans in our wolrd) having occupied their country centuries before. It gave her place an easy history for readers to follow. She changed some things around with the Celtic folklore too, with mentions of feasts like Beltane and Samhain. There was also a part where Etienne and Armand end up in the "Otherworld" with is the realm of the Fae, and there's several times where the Wold Hunt appears as well as "Kernun" who is supposed to be Cernunnos--though the portrayal of him in this book is not nearly as frightening as some I've read. Overall, it made the read all that more intriguing, and I liked this take on werewolf legends.

Problems/What bothered me: I didn't have any problems, but I can see where some readers might run into issues with this book, so I'll address that here. If a reader is not acquainted with the actual Celtic legends that this is based on, it might be a little confusing, because the author doesn't go into a lot of detail about any of it. You can google all this stuff though, and it will be fine. For readers who do know all the Celtic legends, this will only make the read more interesting as it did for me.

Conclusion: 4 stars, I really enjoyed this, and I hoped the author will write more books like this because there are so few paranormal authors that I actually enjoy reading.

Recommended Audience: Guy and girl read, 15 and up. There's a lot of violence mentioned, but nothing is ever shown in any detail. Fans of Rosemary Sutcliff who don't mind reading something different would like this, I think. Also those who enjoyed Katy Moran's "Bloodline" books would like this too. I thought it kind of had the same feel to those as well.

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.


Thoughts on the Overall Book: This was such a unique story, with a wonderful cast of characters and twists that kept me guessing to the end. I really enjoyed it all the way.

Cover--Yea or Nay: It's kind of weird and eerie, but I like it. It almost has the peaceful quality the Narrows were described with. I think it really goes along with the story well.

Characters: I loved Mackenzie, she's just the kind of female heroine I love to read about. I loved that despite the fact she could have been emotionally messed up from her brother's death (and she was, it just wasn't in the unstable way most female characters are) she was strong enough to get through it, yet, still human enough to feel the pain of the loss. She's a character I was able to sympathize with. As a Keeper, I also really loved her personality. She was not one of those kick-butt heroines, but she was simply sensible, and she didn't always win. I also liked her appreciation of a good knife. I hate all these heroines who can do hand to hand and despise weapons because they think they're too good for that. Okay, and can I just say how much I loved Wesley? He's definitely a new character crush. I rarely like goth-like characters, but it's obvious Wesley is not goth, and that he only uses it as a facade. He's just such an awesome guy. He's a little bit cocky, but in an endearing way and not annoying, but he's also a gentleman. He's just the kind of friend everyone would like to have. I also really did like Owen, you just felt so bad for him, and I wanted to give him a hug.

The Romance: Well, I'm not really sure whether I would call the relationship between Mackenzie and Owen 'romance' because it wasn't really. And I'm not exactly sure how I felt about it either.

Writing Style: Beautiful. Victoria Schwab has a lovely writing style, even though "The Archived" in in present tense, which I usually hate, this was just so lovely. Present tense actually worked really good for this story, and the way she writes it makes it easy to forget that its present tense at all. I kind of forgot after the first couple chapters. I really loved the world she created with the Archive and the Narrows and all that. It was so eerie, and yet I could totally understand Mackenzie's love of it's quiet and peacefulness at the same time, because I think I would feel the same. The setting of an old hotel turned apartment building was awesome too. All the descriptions in the book were so well done and vivid that I got a perfect picture of everything and everyone in my head. It's what I like to call "effortless description" where the author never belabors the description but the reader can see it like a movie in their head. There were a lot of other things that I liked in the story too. I really appreciated the fight scenes, because they did not portray Mackenzie being able to do anything she shouldn't have been able to do in real life. I liked how she got bruised and cut because it showed that she wasn't the best, and she knew it too. But she was also not a rubbish fighter like those heroines who play the "well I'm a girl so how was I supposed to do that?" card. In short, the right balance in between.

Problems/What bothered me: See review on Goodreads for spoiler:

Conclusion: 4 stars, I really liked this book, and I am excited to read the next one, and Victoria Schwab's other books too.

Recommended Audience: It's kind of hard to compare this book to anything else, but readers wanting something really different and an awesome YA contemporary story without love triangles, would enjoy it. Girl and guy read both, 15 and up.

Read Mara's review here


  1. My library doesn't have WOLFBORN! :( I'm going to have to Interlibrary Loan it, I guess - it sounds like a surprisingly good book.

  2. I think you'd like it. And Sue Bursztynski is a really nice lady too, she emailed me to thank me for the review =) It's sad some people didn't rate her book very well on GRs but I think it's because they are Twihards :P