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review 2018-02-18 04:20
The Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross
The Queen's Rising - Rebecca Ross

The Queen's Rising is a beautiful and imaginative story about Brienna, a young woman torn between identities, and the journey she takes to help reclaim her heritage.

The tale starts in a kind of quasi-French or other Western European Rennaissance-era kind of place where a very describable goal for children and young people is to 'passion' in a particular school: art, wit, dramatics, music, or knowledge. To do so, children must become 'ardens', attend Houses and train at an average of seven years with a Master or 'ariels'. Then they may graduate by receiving a cloak, find a patron, and continue to pursue their passion. I loved this worldbuilding, I just felt so at home with everything Brienna was learning. Brienna joins Magnolia House, but as she is unable to find a passion she can truly excel at she settles on knowledge, and when she is seventeen she finds it difficult to secure a patron until along comes someone who can help with the mysterious visions she has been experiencing. This patron leads her into a war for the throne of the neighbouring land, from which Brienna's absent father hails, and I think it's more based on the medieval Celts, with women warriors and woad and Irish-Gaelic inspired names.

I think the best thing about this book is the beautiful word choices Ross uses. Whenever there is a chance to use a bland description or a truly beautiful one, Ross manages to grab the beautiful description and wrangle it into her book. Brienna herself was a brave, resourceful character who worked hard to uncover the mysteries surrounding herself and help the plot move along. I loved the time spent in Magnolia House with her arden-sisters and the slow introduction made to the incredible worldbuilding in that respect. Magnolia House was almost like a boarding house crossed with a University and a distinct European feel to it. Think Girl with a Pearl Earring or The Merchant of Venice.  I really hope the next books in the series follow Brienna's arden-sisters and we get to see more of this kingdom.

The second half of the book takes place primarily in Maevana, a queen's realm currently being ruled by a cruel king, and Brienna is the answer the rebels have been looking for. Using a disguise, she infiltrates the king's court in an attempt to recover some lost property that will set the real queen back on the throne. This half of the book almost forgets about Brienna's time at Magnolia and turns into a very typical, predictable YA fantasy adventure. Not that there's anything wrong with that! I've simply read enough of these types of stories to know where it's going to go. I still enjoyed it, but I think since the Magnolia House half to me seemed more original and inventive, I liked the worldbuilding better in the first half. The second half, like I said, was more of an adventure that the first half was leading up to, even though they take place in two very different settings.

I do have two issues with the book. Brienna trains for a year with each ariel before she settles on knowledge as her passion, and she only has three years to master it. This means that she’s had some training in music, art, wit and dramatics, and I was really hoping that that training might come in handy during her subterfuge. Yet instead of any of her time at Magnolia being of use, the book is basically split into two parts: Magnolia and post-Magnolia, and it almost seems as if they have nothing in common. Brienna learns to swordfight post-Magnolia, and that comes in handy, but she doesn’t have to use her passion training at all. I think part of the reason why is because she kind of sucked at them, but she doesn’t even really use her expanded knowledge to help her succeed in her mission, so it feels a little disjointed.

The other issue I have with the book is that while there is conflict in that Brienna has a goal and she keeps getting hurdles put in the way, she clears these hurdles rather easily. She’s smart and can come up with solutions to her problems but I never really felt like Ross took the worst thing that could happen to her. It wasn’t exactly helicopter authoring in that Ross put Brienna in bad situations then lifted her out again, just that, for example, when Brienna was risking her life and doing things she shouldn’t be doing, she never got caught by the bad guys, even though I really hoped that was where it was leading.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed The Queen's Rising, with its gorgeous writing and creative and innovative worldbuilding. While I do think the entire story is self-contained and makes an excellent stand-alone, I would also like the next books in the series to focus on Brienna's arden-sisters and their adventures, rather than staying with Brienna and whatever she does next. I guess I'll have to wait and see!

 

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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review 2018-02-14 22:47
Dairy Queen - Catherine Gilbert Murdock
For more reviews, check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

I picked this book up at the Little Free Lending Library, because as someone who grew up in a small town in Wisconsin surrounded by farms and a bad high school football team, I thought I could find something to relate to in it. 

At first, I hated the book. I thought D.J.'s narration was really annoying and the whole Brian-love-interest storyline was eye-rolling and predictable. But as I kept reading, it got a lot better. This book isn't just about football or love or friendship. It's about finding your place in life and all of the things that are part of it. It's about family and relationships and talking things out... and yes, it's got a lot of football in it. But even if, like me, you aren't a huge fan of football, there is still a lot to enjoy in this book.

It's funny in a cute way (not a laugh out loud way). It's empowering as D.J. finally gets the push she needs. But most of all, it is a nice, fresh look at teenage life and one girl's journey in figuring out who she wants to be. 

I will say that I think the whole lesbian-plotline thing could have been handled better. There is a resolution of sorts, but I don't think it was pushed as far as it should have been. Despite the importance of the relationship, it sure didn't get a lot of mention in the text. The end seemed like a quick fix and D.J.'s thoughts and opinions about lesbians was still kind of fuzzy. She said some not-so-great things previously in the narration and while it's assumed she probably doesn't think that way by the end, things aren't laid out as clearly as I feel they should have been.

Overall, a good read and an interesting story. 
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text 2018-02-13 18:51
Vidal Update: Feb 13, 2018

On her Facebook Page:

 

 

Repeated on her blog:

 

Poor thing is stubbornly refusing to even consider the fact that her own actions and words are the cause of her troubles.

 

Also, in case you missed my updates on yesterday's post, all the comments posted by Stephen yesterday on GoodReads and Amazon are now deleted.

 

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text 2018-02-11 22:58
Vidal Update: Feb 11, 2018

Update posted to the end of her Trolls & Negative Reviews blog post:

 

Please note: Only one of the people shown in these screenshots is known to be a teacher.  I am not.  Although Ms. M. has been, she also is not.

 

Her utter lack of self-awareness when accusing others of indulging "in behavior worthy of high school bullies" and "acting in such a juvenile manner" is almost deliciously ironic, and flagrantly hypocritical.

 

She's the bully crying "victim" when her targets refuse to be intimidated.  She is the one functioning in a professional capacity gleefully spewing unprofessional garbage on her author's blog, and author's Facebook page.

 

Add this to the list of things Ms. Vidal is apparently unaware of: Readers have more of an interest than simply "merits or demerits of the books."  Authors targeting and harassing readers over negative book reviews is an interest to readers and is a valid consumer issue.  YES, readers are going to take note and share with each other about authors that target readers and attempt to intimidate them into removing reviews.

 

The first two screenshots are of Ms. M.'s reviews and the comments on those reviews (minus those that were deleted for GR TOS violations).

 

First link: https://screenshots.firefox.com/Bq1A2Bb8UqMwbHAO/www.goodreads.com

Second link: https://screenshots.firefox.com/DxNbjaezlqsj7mNB/www.goodreads.com

 

The third link is to a "Discussion" of one of her books. What she fails to mention is that this "Discussion" that is not about the "merits or demerits of the book" was started by one of her supporters, using the name "Soraya". At the time of this screenshot the original post had already been deleted by GoodReads, and the poster had been booted from GoodReads.

 

Therefore the posts that remain are in response to the original post started by one of her supporters. 

 

I don't have a screenshot of that OP, but I do have the text:

 

"It is shameful how Mrs. Vidal has been treated by certain trolls on Goodreads and Amazon. Read about it here: http://teaattrianon.blogspot.com/2017.."

 

Here's the link to her screenshot: https://screenshots.firefox.com/JLDvvI7tR2uVzJpm/www.goodreads.com

 

In the comments of her blog, Ms. Vidal seems to think a lot of hits to this blog post is a good thing.  She's apparently unaware of how many are checking it out to verify she's really posted the awful things that have been reported, and wait with their popcorn handy for the next bat shit crazy thing she comes up with (good idea to use Proxy Servers when visiting folks!).

 

She reports 1638 hits to date, and yet has only a handful willing to post in support on her blog and/or on her Facebook page.  Although she also mirrors over on Twitter, and has over 1,000 followers there, she's getting 0 responses, retweets, or likes.

 

I'm not sure those high numbers are in your favor, Vidal.

 

 

 

She also cross posted this to her Facebook page:

 

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review 2018-02-11 14:01
The Queen Bee ★★★★☆
The Queen Bee - Edna L. Lee

The endlessly quotable writing saves this book from being a fairly standard Southern Gothic Romance. The plot and characters are full of tropes. But, oh, so much fun in the way it’s written and the way the characters are drawn! It’s told from the POV of the Ingénue, who at the time of telling the story is older, wiser, wearier, and who looks back at her naïve former self with a lot of sympathy and a little impatience. For me, though, she is still far more sympathetic than I am, as Reader, and indeed much more sympathetic toward the male characters than I have patience with – I think they all deserve a good kick in the pants. And, although this is the point of the book, I simply can’t view the Queen Bee as all-powerful, though she is deliciously wicked. In order to fall in with the narrator’s POV, the reader must be willing to adopt that tired old attitude that men are helpless victims of their libido when women weaponize sex.

 

Still, though, this is a really fun read:

It was then that my aimless, drifting eyes came to Eva. Listening, she stood near a lamp, its glow enfolding and caressing the soft hair, the sweet lifting breasts, the singing line of body. Her hand rested on the back of a nearby chair. And seeing the body not yielding now but tensely held and wary, the tilted head, the raised chin, the lambent eyes which seemed to look at something far off, I was suddenly afraid. In her tense stillness there was the deadly, wary waiting of the reptile, its poisonous fang sheathed but ready to strike, swiftly and with cunning accuracy.  

 

Vintage 1949 hardcover, inherited from my grandmother. And here’s a fun bit of trivia for Texas history buffs: it still has the original price sticker, from E.M. Scarbrough & Sons (colloquially referred to as “Scarboroughs” in the way that native Austinites pronounce their places as they damn well please), stamped “Literary Guild $2.00”. I remember shopping at the Scarbroughs in downtown Austin when I was a kid. All that’s left, alas, is the historic building.

 

Disclaimer: I’ve never seen the 1955 movie. Didn’t even know there *was* a movie adaptation until I looked for a synopsis to get a sense of what the book was about, since my copy is missing the dust jacket. But, oh, I’m definitely going to spend the money to rent it. I can’t wait to see Joan Crawford bring that predatory female to life as only she can.

 

Previous Updates:

2/7/18 page 3

 

2/7/18 Movie trailer

2/8/18 page 9

 

2/9/18 page 35

 

2/10/18 page 140

 

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