Ronnie's Bookshelf

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Posts tagged literary

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Didn’t Love this One Until the Second Half

The Winner’s Curse

by Marie Rutkoski

I can’t decide what to rate this book. Right up until the halfway point, I wasn’t sure I was going to finish this book. The first quarter or so of the book just didn’t hook me, not the relationship between Kestrel and her father or her almost crazy actions in buying a slave.

Kestrel is a character that I liked, she was easy to understand but still a complex character. She had those don’t-treat-me-like-a-child moments quickly followed by childish or stupid actions (though thankfully not many). Arin, the slave she bought, acts more like he runs the castle/house than a slave. He seemed way too arrogant to pass for a slave with begged the question, why didn’t he ever get in trouble?

Kestrel is faced with a choice, join the military or marry. She has a suitor that she’s not really that happy about. However, she also doesn’t want to join the military. The first half of the book is a lot of wishy washy feelings from Kestrel and it just sort of turned me off to the whole book. I wanted more of the conflict.

The second half of the book was definitely 5-star material. Mysterious deaths, secret meetings, and political intrigue are just a few of the wonderful plots to submerge yourself in. The overall world building in this book was great as was most of the character development. This just moved too slowly in the first half for me to rate this higher.

Filed under ya books literary

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Prequel Novellas as Good as Series

The Assasin’s Blade

by Sarah J. Maas

So glad I finally got to read this.

These five novellas together make up some of the backstory of Celaena Sardothien, Adarlan’s most feared assassin. As should be expected, Celaena and am get themselves into a bit of trouble in each novella. These stories offer a deeper look at Celaena without revealing anything before about her sixteenth birthday.

Maas excels with these novellas, giving readers more of the assassin they love while waiting for the next book. I want to go back and read The Throne of Glass & Crown of Midnight again after reading these stores. As a prequel, these novellas set up the story very nicely, running a timeline that ends right before the beginning of Throne of Glass.

Filed under ya literary books

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Christian Fiction Was a Surprise

The Queen’s Handmaid

by Tracy Higley

*I received a free ARC from NetGalley for my honest review*

I didn’t realize this was a Christian fiction book until about halfway through. I don’t typically read Christian fiction, but this wasn’t in-your-face enough to turn me away.

Readers follow Lydia, a  beautiful servant in Cleopatra’s palace. There are hints that she’s lost a lot in the past including family and friends. She doesn’t let herself get close to many people as a way to protect herself. When she stumbles on her mentor slowly dying, he gives her sacred writings to take to Jerusalem.

The description of this book is a little misleading. Lydia does not attach herself to the newly appointed king Herod as it says. She has no choice after she upsets Cleopatra but to go with Herod. Lydia becomes handmaid to Queen Mariamme. Lydia finds herself enjoying her position and friendship with the queen.

All of this is the backstory of Herod before he encounters Jesus/Messiah. There are hints of magic/spirits/etc. that could be taken as religious or not, depending on how the reader feels. Higley keeps the story moving at a fairly steady pace, throwing in some romance and intrigue to keep the reader interested. Lydia is a character that readers easily root for as the story moves along, especially during the darker/bloodier days towards the end of the book.

Filed under christian fiction books literary

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Angry Face

Very few thing really irritate me in the book world, but what Ebay is allowing to happen tops them all. I stumbled on an article on The Huffington Post that looked at the 9 steps to cope while waiting for the next book in a series. The article mentioned asking the author for an advanced reader copy (ARC). That’s not what bothered me. No, it was the comment left by one reader who said to just go search “advance reader copies” on Ebay.

Let me just say this, ARCs are unedited proofs printed by publishers to help get advanced reviews/sales for a book. Drastic changes can be made between printing the ARC and the final book. As a bookseller & reviewer, I’ve received my fair share of ARCs. There are few rules with ARCs, but the mother of all rules is to NEVER sell them. No one should profit off of a book that won’t get royalties for the author & may not even be a match to the final book.

Anyway, after reading the comment on the HuffPost article, I took a look at Ebay. This is what I found. Yes, 880 results under advance reader copies. First, why is Ebay allowing this to happen? Second, are we that focused on making an extra dollar? I wish I had the time to publicly shame each person selling these. You do realize that authors make $0 on ARCs, right people? There are other ways to get rid of ARCs: recycle them, share them with friends (help get more early reviews), share them with other reviewers/booksellers.

To end my mini rant, please STOP selling ARCs people.

Filed under literary books

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This Series Just Keeps Getting Better

Cress

By Marissa Meyer

I had to wait a few days to review Cress because I needed to process what happened. As I (think) I said in my review of Cinder, I waited to start the series because the thought of a main character who’s part Cyborg just didn’t sound in line with my usual taste in books. However, ever since I started the Lunar Chronicles, I’ve been astounded by how much I love them.

In Cress we meet another main character who has a likeness to Rapunzel. She’s been trapped in a satellite for 7 years. As a result, she’s become quite the computer wizard (what else would you do with all that free time?). She interacts with our favorite main character (Cinder) and the ball rolls from there.

It seems impossible to me that each book makes me love this series more & more, but it’s true. I’ve been borrowing the books so I can just (hopefully) buy a boxed set once Winter comes out. Cress is the first main character we meet who isn’t really as independent & kick-ass as the rest. Totally understandable, but a slight deviation.

Cress continues the story of whether or not Cinder will step up & just how far is she willing to go to save Kai from marrying She-Who-Is-Evil-Beyond-Belief. We get to dive deeper into Captain Thorne in this book which was refreshing. He’s a good character who’s done bad things, but it doesn’t really matter. Scarlet has her own story separate from the rest of the gang and (without spoiling) holy shit it’s going to be awesome in Winter.

I can’t even look at the date for Winter because it’s too far away…

Filed under cress Marissa Meyer YA literary

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Hateful Main Character

The Boleyn Bride

by Brandy Purdy

*I received a free advance copy from NetGalley for my honest review*

Over the decades since her death, much has been written about Anne Boleyn. This new books finally focuses on the mother of one of the more controversial women in English history. Readers meet Elizabeth Howard at the ripe age of sixteen. An only daughter, she envisions the perfectly romantic marriage after some time spent as a lady-in-waiting to the future queen Catherine. However, her dreams are quickly interrupted by the announcement that she must marry Thomas Boleyn.

Purdy doesn’t mince words on how much Elizabeth detests her husband. Hardly a page goes by without Elizabeth describing Thomas as hateful, detestable, unkind, or ambitious. Elizabeth faces life as any woman in that time period did, her only job to produce heirs. She has three healthy children: Mary, George, and Anne. Elizabeth quite obviously loves Mary and places her above Anne.

I’ve read some of Purdy’s other works and rate this one a solid 4. After a while, I wanted to shake Elizabeth. Her hate for her husband, love for Mary, dislike for Anne, and love of dallying became redundant. This paints a very vain picture of Elizabeth which makes me wonder where Anne’s brains and strength/stubbornness came from. A different look at the background of Anne Boleyn and a hint as to why she may have forced Henry into marriage instead of being his mistress.

Filed under literary tudors books

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Great Conclusion to the Ascendance Trilogy

Shadow Throne

by Jennifer Nielsen

Fans of the first two books will love this third and final installment in the series. Jaron faces more challenges than ever. War is imminent and Carthya is ill-prepared to face off against Avenia. When Jaron hears that Avenia has captured Imogen, his first instinct is to run head first to save her. Throughout this book, Jaron and his friends are flung all across the country, with constant worry that the others are dead or captured.

Jaron is typical Jaron. He gets himself into quite a bit of trouble and mostly relies on himself to get out of it. We see a different, darker side of him in the first half of the book when he is forced to deal with the loss of someone close to him. He is as cunning and tricksy as in the first two novels. Jaron’s love of his country is easy to see and endears him to me even more. I also liked seeing the deeper sides of some of Jaron’s closest friends. Mott, Tobias, Amarinda, and Roden and their relationships with Jaron get fleshed out a little more. Jaron truly grew up in this book (as he needed to).

Jaron’s plans don’t always play out perfectly, but it’s darn near close. He doesn’t play by any rules during the war and that helps his side immensely. There’s more doom and gloom in this book, but how would you feel facing a war you had little to no hope of winning?

Filed under literary young readers humor

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Happiness Found in Books

An Unnecessary Woman

by Rabih Alameddine

This was a very interesting book. Aaliya is a lonely older woman. She finds solace in translating translations of books into Arabic. She relates more to the people she reads about than the three women living in the same building. Aaliya keeps to herself, not even visiting family and she doesn’t think about any friends, giving the impression that she doesn’t really have any.

It’s interesting that we as a society place so much emphasis on getting children/teens/adults to read more. Alameddine shows that there is an extreme to be concerned with: reading so much that you shut the world out. His story is set in Beirut, a country where women are married at young ages and pulled out of school to “serve” their husbands. A culture I don’t know much about, this was an unappealing idea for me. Aaliya and her husband got divorced after just a few years and she was forever marked from it.

Alameddine intersperses his prose with quotations from some of the works Aaliya has read over the years, showcasing her intelligence. While I found the pace to occasionally be slow, it was easy to care about Aaliya and wish for her happiness. By the end of the novel, she starts to find a modicum of happiness in those around her where she only thought to find teasing.

Filed under literary books fiction

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A Different Type of Historical Fiction

The Chalice

By Nancy Bilyeau


It had been quite some time since I read The Crown, but The Chalice picked it up quickly enough for me to remember where the story had stopped.

Joanna was set to become a Dominican nun. However, with all the monasteries dissolved, she is content to live her life with her friends close to the priory. When her family comes calling, Joanna only wants a promise that she won’t have to return to court. Unfortunately, her service to Lady Mary & her Spanish heritage make her a perfect target to help a plot to save Christendom.

Bilyeau’s writing is engaging and witty. I like Joanna though she can occasionally cause some minor frustrations. Her love life is a hot mess, which only adds to her problems.

I look forward to the next book.

Filed under literary books historical fiction

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Decent Foray into Sci-Fi for Teens

These Broken Stars

by Amie Kaufman & Meagen Spooner

The Icarus is a luxury spaceliner, currently holding Lilac LaRoux (daughter of the richest man in the country/world/universe) and Tarver Merendsen (a military hero). During a party on board the Icarus, the craft is pulled out of hyperspace and plummets to the nearest planet. Tarver & Lilac survive in a pod by themselves.

Stop me if you can see where this is going.

Lilac & Tarver must work together to survive. Throughout most of it, Lilac assumes her father will turn over every stone to find her. As you likely assumed, the two start to fall for each other. Both have qualms, which they squash relatively quickly.

One of the things that excited me the most about this book was the sci-fi potential it held. However, the most we see of space is the first handful of chapters before the wreck. We don’t glimpse the sci-fi again until Lilac & Tarver start hearing unexplained whispers the farther they move on the new planet.

This wasn’t a bad book. In fact, I almost gave it an extra star just for being different. Too often YA books fall into either the love story or dystopian category. These Broken Stars was a nice deviation from that, even if it didn’t succeed as fully as I wanted.

A good pick for teens looking to bridge the gap between kids books & adult sci-fi.

Filed under literary science fiction ya books