Saturday, March 1, 2014

Books of Note: Winter Reads

Well, I just realized I haven't done a montly favorite reads post for, well, months. Mainly because I haven't had a lot of time to read, and most of the books that I have gotten to read haven't been very good, and because of it have been lazy with my reviews. I did however find several very good reads and now my choices are looking up with a lot of new releases that look promising, and also the fact I am finally getting to ones I've wanted to read for a long time. So this is kind of a winter summary more than anything. The best books I've read since the last Books of Note Post.

One war.
Too many deadly battles.
Can a king save his kingdom, when his own survival seems unlikely?

War has come to Carthya. It knocks at every door and window in the land. And when Jaron learns that King Vargan of Avenia has kidnapped Imogen in a plot to bring Carthya to its knees, Jaron knows it is up to him to embark on a daring rescue mission. But everything that can go wrong does.

His friends are flung far and wide across Carthya and its neighbouring lands. In a last-ditch effort to stave off what looks to be a devastating loss for the kingdom, Jaron undertakes what may be his last journey to save everything and everyone he loves. But even with his lightning-quick wit, Jaron cannot forestall the terrible danger that descends on him and his country. Along the way, will he lose what matters most? And in the end, who will sit on Carthya's throne?

Rousing and affecting, Jaron's adventures have thrilled and moved readers in The False Prince and The Runaway King. Journey once again with the Ascendant King of Carthya, as New York Times bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen brings his story to a stunning conclusion withThe Shadow Throne.


Thoughts on the Overall Book: I've enjoyed this series from the start, but with each book I just seem to have a new respect for the characters and the author and this one did not leave me disappointed. In a word: Brilliant

Cover--Yea or Nay: Yes, I always love the covers for these. They are simple but neat, and I love the title font especially.

Characters: Sage (okay, Jaron, but I'll always call him Sage) is just as awesome as usual, if even more so in this book. I love him so much, I can safely say he's probably one of my favorite fictional characters ever. I really liked seeing a more responsible Sage in this book, and also see a different range of emotions from him from his usual cocky self to true despair. It made him all the more real to me. I liked how we got to see more of Roden and Tiberius in this one too, I like the both of them a lot and how they support Sage and help him along. I especially liked the character development we see from Tiberius. I loved to see Fink again too, he's the typical street smart little hustler, but I always love those characters. I still love Imogen and liked Amarinda even more in this story now that we get to see more of her character. I continue to adore the father-son relationship between Sage and Harlowe. Vargan made a good villain and didn't seem overblown either which I appreciated. In short, just an awesome cast.

The Romance: Sorry this all has to be a spoiler (view spoiler)

Writing Style: Awesome as usual. I just love Sage's narration, and now that I expect it, I love the author's ability to keep important information from the reader. I read this book so anxiously knowing Sage must have had some plan to get everyone out of trouble, but I had no idea what it was, and for a few times I was holding my breath, afraid he really didn't have a plan. In short it kept me guessing through the whole thing and I was just in total giddy laughter by the end when I saw how it all worked out. As I said before we get to see more of an emotional rise and fall in this story than any of the others. Sage is brought very low at one point and though it's hard to read, I also loved it because it really showed him as human to me and I always appreciate that a lot in characters.

Accuracy/ Believability: What I love most about these books is that while they hold everything a classic adventure novel does, they somehow manage not to be so overblown they are cliché. The characters come into difficulties that people would in real life, and though they are able to solve their problems in rather fantastic ways, it's more ingenious than impossible. As I think I said in my review of The Runaway King I also appreciated the fact that when a character gets wounded he isn't just running around in the next chapter like nothing happened. I always hate continuity problems like that in books, so I enjoy it when an author makes sure to do that properly, even if the characters are getting hurt, and let's face it, these characters get beat up a lot. It's always nice to know I'm not the only author who whumps characters beyond normal limits. *evil laugh*

Problems/What bothered me: Nothing, I loved this book!

Conclusion: 5 stars. More if I could give them. I am so sad that this series is over, but I could not have asked for a better ending and I'm content with it. Now I just have to go back and read them through all together =)

Recommended Audience: If you enjoy good adventure novels and haven't read these READ THEM! You will not be disappointed.

(Read with review with spoilers on Goodreads)

Trapped in a hidden fortress tucked between towering mountains and a frozen sea, Solveig, along with her brother the crown prince, their older sister, and an army of restless warriors, anxiously awaits news of her father's victory at battle. But as winter stretches on, and the unending ice refuses to break, terrible acts of treachery soon make it clear that a traitor lurks in their midst. A malevolent air begins to seep through the fortress walls, and a smothering claustrophobia slowly turns these prisoners of winter against one another.

Those charged with protecting the king's children are all suspect, and the siblings must choose their allies wisely. But who can be trusted so far from their father's watchful eye? Can Solveig and her siblings survive the long winter months and expose the traitor before he succeeds in destroying a kingdom?


Thoughts on the Overall Book: I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from this book, and I haven't read any others by the author before this, so I wasn't sure if it would life up to my expectations, but in one of those lovely reader moments, it really did, and might have even surpassed my expectations in character development and story.
Cover--Yea or Nay: I love the cover for "Icefall". while not necessarily true to the story, it's pretty and shows that it's a Norse themed book (something that always catches my eye)

Characters: Solveig is one of the loveliest female protagonists I have read in a long time. She suffered from being the younger daughter to a Norse chieftan and was rather plain compared to her older sister and often forgotten by her father. But instead of being bitter like some girls would be, it make her quietly strong and into an even better person, because she tried to do whatever she could, because there really wasn't all that much she could do in everyone else's perspective. However, as is found in the story, she's actually the only person who can really accomplish what needs to be done. In any case, I became very attached to her, and was easily able to sympathize. Her older sister Asa and her younger brother Harold were also characters that are easy to understand, even if on occasion they might not always be in the right (at least in Asa's case) but I liked how they still loved and supported Solveig even if her father didn't think much of her. I had mixed feelings about Per, for the most part I liked him, but sometimes I think he could have handled situations better, but I won't say too much about that. My second favorite character apart from Solveig though was definitely Hake, the berserker. He was a strong man, self-sacrificing, and what made him more likable was the fact that he feared himself and what he was capable of but yet he still did what he had to do and his loyalty was unending. I really liked the sort of father-daughter relationship that formed between him and Solveig. The skald Alric was also a likable charatcer, but then, I have rarely met a skald or bard character I haven't liked. And for the little time we get to see him Gunnlaug was a character easy to dislike. He could have been worse, but he was bad enough. Bere and Raudi were also likable characters.

The Romance: There isn't any!!

Writing Style: While this book is present tense, and I don't usually like that, I didn't mind it in this book, and from Solveig's point of view, it seemed to fit really well. It was all rather beautiful and almost told as if from a skald which went on with the theme of the book since Solvieg is the one telling it, and she's learning the art of the skald. I also really liked the inclusion of the little flashback scenes between the chapters. I think it helps get to know the characters better and gives a little more insight into the impact they had on Solveig. Even though the style is completely different there was just something between how it was told and the characters and setting that really reminded me of Rosemary Sutcliff's books. Solveig seemed like the kind of characters she wrote about and it just had the same feel to it, which made me like it even more. The only thing I could say against this book at all is that it's a little slow to start, and the plot really doesn't pick up until about the last third, but it never seemed to drag for me because I was totally invested in the characters and I was eager to continue even after reading just the first chapter.

Accuracy/ Believability: It's never really said whether this story actually takes place in our world or in another, but it all seemed pretty sound to how the Viking people's lived and I liked that about it. You really don't need to know when this was set or where, because it's about the characters--it's definitely a character driven story. And the situation is very believable because I know wars were fought for these very reasons in Viking days.

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

Conclusion: 4 stars. I really enjoyed it. This was one of the better new books that I have picked up in a long time and I look forward to reading more from this author.
Recommended Audience: While this was aimed as a middle-grade book, I think it can definitely appeal to teens and adults and since we are never really told how old Solveig is, I don't think it really matters. Anyone 12 and up who like strong heroines and the Viking era would enjoy this. Probably more of a girl read than a guy read.

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.

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?

With stunning prose and a captivating mixture of action, romance, and horror, The Unbound delves into a richly imagined world where no choice is easy and love and loss feel like two sides of the same coin.
Thoughts on the Overall Book: Like "The Archived" "The Unbound" is a very interesting, intriguing story, part paranormal part mystery with a cast of awesome characters. I don't think I liked this one quite as much as the first one, (reasons I'll explain later) but it was still a very good sequel, and I was not disappointed by any means.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I really like the covers for these books. They are both creepy and beautiful, and I think they fit the feel of the story well.

Characters: I loved Mackenzie in the first book, I didn't change my opinion of her in the second, though she is not the same Mackenzie either, which partly made me sad. She was very depressed, the events of the last book having weighed heavily on her, but she fought against them, which gave me new respect for her even if that is not the best thing she could have done, and ultimately brought her down lower. My only complaint about her is that she second guessed herself too much, but what kept me from disliking her for it was that she knew well enough she was doing it and knew she had to stop, but almost physically couldn't which made me more sympathetic than anything. Wesley however, continues to be my favorite character. I just love him, and I kind of liked getting to see another side of him in this story, more the real Wesley beneath the smiles and optimism. I also liked the new characters we get to meet. I particularly liked Amber and Gavin and Cash was pretty cool too, even though he had the potential to get annoying. Thankfully, he knew when to back off, which I respect. I really look forward to seeing more of them if the series continues (which I suspect it will)

The Romance: In this book we begin to see a little more of a romantic attachment form between Mackenzie and Wesley, and though I loved their just friendship, I am not against their romance, because I think they can both handle it without losing that tight bond they had to begin with. Even so, it's still moving slowly which I also appreciate. To me that always makes relationships seem more real. Definitely no insta-love here.

Writing Style: As always, Victoria Schwab presents a beautiful written masterpiece. People who follow my reviews probably know I'm not a huge fan of present tense, but her books never bother me, in fact I think the stories fit present tense better. It's visually beautiful and makes you feel very much in the moment. I think this one actually had more of a mystery than the first one did and I really enjoyed it. But I won't say much for fear of spoiling!

Accuracy/ Believability: Not really applicable, but I will say something on Mackenzie's condition, and I do beleive that it is very reasonable for a person to experience what she does after what she went through. However, I always felt that she was stronger than that, and that was the main thing that bothered me in this book. Yes, I loved flawed heroes, I really do, and I put my characters through some pretty nasty stuff, but I think part of me wishes she had been able to help herself a little more than she did.

Problems/What bothered me: I'm just going to continue on what I started above. And I want to note that this is no mark against Victoria Schwab's writing, this is personal preference and I don't think it will bother everyone. (view spoiler)

Conclusion: 4 stars. Again, not quite as good in my opinion as the first one, but I really did enjoy it, and I really hope Victoria Schwab decides to continue the series.

Recommended Audience: Readers who enjoyed the first one will not be disappointed. Probably more of a girl read 16 and up.
(Read this review with spoilers on Goodreads)
(Read my friend Mara's review here)


  1. All of these books sound really good! I wish I had more time to read for pleasure! Spring break will be soon, though, and I can pick something up then!

    1. Let me know if you want any suggestions! Though if you're like me, you probably already have several in mind =)