Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the category “5 stars – a favorite”

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #22: War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells

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I’m sure I’m not the only one whose only previous experience with H.G. Wells was the 2005 War of the Worlds movie starring Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning and the character on Warehouse 13 . While the movie was entertaining, it had the usual Hollywood dramatic scenes with the hero fighting to protect their family, where everything is frantic and full special effects.

With that in mind, I found the audiobook refreshing. It has a much slower start than the movie. The aliens don’t just pop up out of the ground. Strange objects, apparently from Mars, land on the earth and are later reveled to contain aliens – Martians. We don’t know at first if they are friendly or malicious. They construct their tripod killing machines while people watch and wonder.

When the machines are operable, their destruction of humanity and civilization begins. Of course, this is a time before cars, so people are fleeing by foot and horse and buggy and they don’t have access to instant news or telephones like we do which makes for even more confusion. Everyone is on their own.

See the rest of the review at Loopy Ker’s Life

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #15-#18: His Dark Materials, Books 1-4 by Philip Pullman

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A bit of a cheat on this one in my rush to get some more up for the CBR4 deadline. Review combining Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Books 1 thru 4, The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass and short story, Lyra’s Oxford is at Loopy Ker’s Life.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #95 The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

If I were to write a top five list of my all-time favorite Georgette Heyer novels, this one would definitely qualify.  Set in the 18th century, this romantic comedy has one of Georgette Heyer’s most captivating heroines – the stammering, diminutive Horry.  The Convenient Marriage is one of the first Heyer novels to be enlivened a pack of dimwitted and silly young society men (think Wooster in PG Wodehouse’s books) whose antics add a dimension of hilarity to the storyline.  This bright, light, witty romantic comedy is an absolute delight to read.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #93 These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer

This is absolutely one of my favorite Georgette Heyer novels.  It is almost a sequel to her first novel, The Black Moth.  Almost all the main characters are here but with different names and slight adjustments to their back stories (hence the title).  It’s a swashbuckling historical romance in the vein of Scarlet Pimpernel and Alexandre Dumas and is absolutely delightful to read.  Georgette Heyer is one of the most elegant and witty prose writers I’ve ever come across.  She’s like a cross between Jane Austen and PG Wodehouse but with an air of sophistication and an exquisiteness of taste that is all her own.  This book is an excellent example of why Heyer’s writing has been so admired by various more famous writers such as A.S. Byatt.  But this book is not just well-written – it’s blessed with one of her best plots and most memorable characters.  It’s a book that will make you laugh and cry and which you will close with a smile on your face.  If you are only going to read one Georgette Heyer novel, then I nominate this as one of the contenders for that slot.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #91 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice is one of my all-time favorite books, it’s one of my desert island books. Absolutely every time I read it, I get something about it.  When I was in my teens, I read it for the romance, but as I matured, I started to get more and more out of it.  Although I’ve heard the book dismissed as “wedding porn”, the fact of the matter is, Jane Austen is pragmatic rather than romantic about marriage.  Written at a time when divorces were almost impossible to get, Jane Austen’s book takes marriage very seriously as who one marries permanently impacts the quality of one’s life (which is still true, particularly if one has children).  The book is full of unhappy marriages, most notably Mr. and Mrs. Bennett.  Although at first glance, Mr. Bennett is more sympathetic than Mrs. Bennett, closer reading reveals an indictment of Mr. Bennett’s laziness and contemptuous attitude towards his wife.  In all of Jane Austen’s novel, the romantic leads must earn their happy ending by getting to know one another very well, by establishing that their love interest is worthy of love and respect and, most importantly, have the stability that Jane Austen deems a necessary ingredient to a felicitous union.  In every book there’s an attractive, charming love interest whose flightiness makes them a bad bet for a long-term commitment like marriage.  Her heroes and heroines have near-misses, avoiding marriage to these creatures.  It’s not particularly romantic, but honestly, I think Jane Austen’s wisdom on these matters is still relevant.  Love is a good starting point, but it’s not really enough if you want to have a successful marriage or partnership.

I love this novel for its wisdom, it’s well-observed comedy of manners.  I love it because it’s light and bright but also deep and wise.  I love it because it entertains and informs.  I just love it.

meilufay’s #CBR4 reviews #79-81 the Phèdre trilogy by Jacqueline Carey

Last year, I reread one of my all-time favorite series of books – Jacqueline Carey’s Phèdre trilogy (Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Chosen, Kushiel’s Avatar).  I highly, highly recommend this series.  I’m a lifelong fantasy reader but I have to admit that I find the whole white guy on a horse carrying a sword aspect of fantasy highly problematic.  What’s so great about a white guy on a horse carrying a sword?  That’s the last thing the American Indians saw before their entire civilization was destroyed and their populations completely decimated.  In this trilogy, Carey subverts the tradition of the warrior hero.  She still tells a broad, sweeping, epic adventure story about a chosen one who saves the world in a time of epochal war but in her story the chosen one is a woman whose power is the ability to transmute pain into pleasure.  Phèdre is an anguisette – a woman gifted by the gods with the ability to turn pain into pleasure.  Yup, basically her magic is all about sex.  Which means these books are chock-full of sex scenes and there’s a strong BDSM element to those sex scenes.  But before you write this book off as another 50 Shades of Grey, let me emphasize that the books are well-written and that Jacqueline Carey thinks very carefully about the implications of what Phèdre’s abilities mean and these books are as intelligent as they are fun.

The theme of these books can easily be “that which yields is not always weak”.  Fantasy heroes and heroines tend to be warriors.  A sword is an inescapably masculine object.  Warriors, regardless of sex, are yang.  Their success depends upon aggressive action.  But the heroine of the Phèdre trilogy is not a warrior.  She is completely yin.  Her strength lies not in her ability to use overwhelming force, but in her ability to love, in her intelligence, in her resilience.  Jacqueline Carey uses the idea that “that which yields is not always weak” and takes the heroine and the reader on a surprising journey over the course of these three books.

I wish I could write more about these books but I have 20 books to review in two days so I’ll just have to hope that someday I’ll do Jacqueline Carey justice and write a better, deeper review of her amazing series.

Jen K’s #CBR IV Review #40: Days of Blood and Starlight

This sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone continues the story and may even be better than the first one. Very impressive series so far.

lefaquin’s #CBR4Review #25: Shopgirl by Steve Martin

I just sent in my list of favorite books I read this year during the cannonball read, and I’m already regretting not putting Shopgirl on the list. Although this was really a re-reading, since I first read Shopgirl around 2004, when I was much younger than Martin’s target audience, I loved it just as much the second time around. Some books, for whatever reason, just end up resonating with you. I think it has to do with place, time, and who you are at that particular moment more than the books themselves, but Shopgirl has always been one of those books for me. I’ve always seen melancholy as more of a sadness tinged with happiness, and I think that particular feeling captures this book very well. That Martin has even described this book as a novella seems fitting – at just 130 pages, it’s a quick read, but to me it feels like a longer, more luxurious book, something to savor.

The book centers around Mirabelle, a lonely and introverted girl who works at the glove counter at Neiman Marcus in LA. She meets Ray, an older man (even before the movie came out, I always imagined Steve Martin as Ray) and they begin to see each other. Martin does a fantastic job of painting Mirabelle’s single life, her inner thoughts and desires, but maintains a certain aloofness in her description. Mirabelle is isolated and lonely, as is Ray.

Check out the rest of my second to last review here!

Rebecca’s #CBR4 Review #52: The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler

The Lady in the Lake is another Philip Marlowe mystery written by Chandler. This time, the private detective is retained by a rich executive whose wife has disappeared. Marlowe goes to investigate, finds the body of another man in a lake, and ends up involved in a mess much more complicated than just a missing woman.

The novel is written with Chandler’s typical sparse prose, written from Marlowe’s perspective. Marlowe is observant and quiet, and sees everything. He is constantly in danger, whether it is from crooked cops, tough guys, or dangerous women. It’s a little hard to talk about Chandler without lapsing into what sounds like a parody of 1940′s detective stories.

The only complaint I can make about The Lady in the Lake is that it ends with a long speech summing up the solution to the mystery. We are given the pieces, and then Marlowe sets it up so all the key parties are present, and then he gives a speech that details what happened and when, and it’s different from what the solution seemed to be 20 pages before. However, a novel with pacing, atmosphere, and characters this good is more than worthwhile even with that flaw.

Siege’s #CBR4 #46: The Hotel New Hampshire

In which Siege finds a new contender for the top-ten desert island book list.

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