Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Malin”

Prolixity Julien’s #CBR4 Review #22 – A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long

I’ve started on reviews of many random novels and revisited the basic, and, I discovered, quite outdated romance tropes introduction from my first entry. But let’s be honest, I only wrote it because I was embarrassed about reading historical romance novels genre fiction, and wanted to be wry and self-basting. It’s one hundred and twenty books later and I know the current constructs, character types, and that the consummation devoutly to be wished occurs around page 200. I can explain which authors write the best love scenes and that the books range from fade-to-black to thisclosetoerotica. (Wikipedia tells me the when it is thisclosetoerotica, they call it “romantica” which sounds like an android sex worker who, for 5 dollars more, will tell you that she loves you.) None of this matters. What I like and don’t like in regard to the love scenes is of interest only to me, Mr. Julien, and the version of Daniel Craig that lives in my id. It would tell you more about my tastes and proclivities than about the genre; however, if YOU want to read this kind of book, I recommend not only reading the first couple of pages as you would any book, but also flipping forward to about page 200 when they get busy. Running into an off-putting love scene can derail the entire reading experience, so you should get a preview first. I once looked at a book by a major romance author and found the phrase “and sucking, and sucking, and sucking, and sucking”. That’s right, four “and suckings”. An apt description of the the writing as well.

Julie Anne Long’s A Notorious Countess Confesses continues her Pennyroyal Green series focused on the Redmond and Eversea families. In my review of What I Did for a Duke, I congratulated Long on pulling off a huge age difference. Her challenge this time is the character Malin and I enjoy referring to as “the hot vicar”. He is indeed very hot. Tall, broad-shouldered, hard-working, sincere. The novel setting is Regency (God, I hate the clothing), so it was church or military, and Adam Sylvaine ended up with a family living from his Eversea uncle. It means he need not have been chaste nor uptight, but simply a good man who ended up in an available profession, and one he turned out to be very well suited for*. The heroine is the Countess of the title, Evie. I did not realise until quite far into the book that the main characters were Adam and Eve. It is mostly forgivable and also indicative of Long’s tendency towards the quietly twee.

Evie supported her brothers and sisters by working as an actress, then a courtesan, although “there were only two”, and lastly she married an Earl who won the right to wed her in a poker game. When the story begins, she has just come out of mourning for the Earl and moved to the house he bequeathed to her in Pennyroyal Green. She has a scandalous reputation, just enough money, and a desire to start again. She falls for the hot vicar because, while he is drawn to her, he is so self-possessed and at ease with himself that he is immune to her attempts to charm him, and to the facades she wears as self-protection. He is a good man, albeit a preternaturally attractive and charming one, but this is romance fiction after all. Adam takes Evie under his wing to help her join local society and find friends. The local women are alternately horrified and deliciously shocked by her. Evie is able to build a new life and Adam is given a safe haven from the constant demands and burdens of being the (hot) vicar.

Despite the fact that I prefer more sardonic rake in my heroes, I LOVED 90% of this book and Julie Anne Long is on my auto-buy list. She always manages to balance fantastic sexual tension, sincere characters, and be funny. She is so good at the tension that the most intense scene in the book involves Adam kissing Evie on her shoulder. There were flames shooting off my Kindle. Long also pulls off a very clever running joke about embroidered pillows that crescendos with dueling Bible verses about licentiousness. So what went wrong? I overlooked the patronizing attitude towards the harried mother and the whole boots and breeches impossibility, but the ending was twee as fu*k. It started out swooningly-romantic and then kind of fell apart for me. Her last novel, How the Marquess Was Won, (she needs to fire whomever approves these titles) suffered the same fate: Fantastic romance undermined by trite plotting choices. Right up to that point though, it was wonderful: head and shoulders above the “and suckings” of the genre.

This review is also posted on my tiny little blog.

*Given that Julie Anne Long usually has a couple of enjoyably-detailed love scenes, part of me secretly hopes that some naive fool looking for “Christian romance” bought this because it was about a (hot) vicar, had her hair blown straight back, and will follow up with a horrified one star review on Amazon.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #104:Steel’s Edge by Ilona Andrews – Double Cannonball completed! Whoo!

This is the final book in the Edge series, and while the previous three books more or less can be read independently of each other, this one ties up enough loose ends and contains enough characters from earlier in the series that unfamiliar readers would be recommended both to avoid this review if they don’t want spoilers for earlier books, and to start the beginning with On the Edge. Go on. This review will still be waiting until you return, and the books are varying degrees of awesome.

Richard Mar is the head of the once large and unruly Edge clan, which after a huge battle with a very unsavoury character known as Spider and his band of genetically mutated minions in Bayou Moon has had to relocate to the much more magical realm of the Weird, severely depleted after many deaths. Spider was an agent of the intelligence agency known as the Hand. Richard’s brother Kaldar swore to get revenge, and joined the rival intelligence agency, the Mirror. Richard chose a different path, and chose to go after the bands of slavers who once kidnapped his young cousin Sophie. Not content to hunt down and kill random bands of slavers, Richard wants to follow the hierarchy all the way to the top, ending the unscrupulous practise once and for all.

If he lives long enough, that is. At the start of the book, Richard is lured into a trap and almost mortally wounded by a small group of slavers. He’s saved from near certain death by Charlotte de Ney, an unusually powerful healer from the Weird kingdom of Adrianglia. She sought refuge in the Edge after nearly using her healing powers to kill her husband, who married her for her exalted social position and sought an annulment the minute he discovered that she was barren.

While Charlotte is the most powerful healer in her generation, she cannot use her powers to heal herself. She was taken from her biological family as a young child once her powers were discovered, and trained at the best medical institutions Adrianglia had to offer. Adopted by one of the foremost nobles in the land, Charlotte herself was dubbed a baroness after her years of service. Yet once a healer starts using their powers to harm rather than to heal, they risk setting in motion a devastating chain of events. The more powerful the healer, the more powerful the disaster if they lose control and start inflicting illnesses rather than healing. So Charlotte runs to the Edge, where magical abilities are dampened. Eleonore, the grandmother of Rose, George and Jack from On the Edge lets her rent Rose’s old house, and helps introduce her to the locals, so she can help out, and make money.

Charlotte heals Richard, but he’s been pursued by the slavers from the Weird, and they are determined to get their hands on him, no matter what the cost. Enraged by their actions, Charlotte returns to the Weird, where she is at full power, determined to destroy the slavers, every last one. Richard realises that while Charlotte is furious, harming others and bringing death doesn’t come naturally to her. He tries to dissuade her and change her mind, but when she won’t be reasoned with, figures that she’s safer with him than pursuing the slavers on her own.

On the surface, Richard and Charlotte may seem like opposites. While Richard may have been brought up with immaculate manners from his Weird grandfather and is deeply noble in spirit, he’s still a dirt poor Edger rat with no prospect other than to meet death on his quest to destroy the slavers. Charlotte may have been born humble, but was raised in luxury and trained to be immaculately poised in any situation by one of the most powerful noblewomen in Adrianglia. She’s a baroness in her own right after her decade of healing service to the Adrianglian crown, and the adopted daughter of a very influential lady. Despite this, both Richard and Charlotte are very similar, and that’s part of the reason why the romance side of this book felt less satisfying in some of the previous Edge books.

Richard’s brother Kaldar is a rogue, charmer and consummate con man. He meets his match, Audrey, the daughter of a thief and con artist, in Fate’s Edge. The romance in that book is hindered by Audrey’s lack of trust in Kaldar, and unwillingness to settle down with a man she fears will be just like her father. They banter and constantly try to best each other, but are basically two sides of the same coin, and it’s obvious that they’re perfect for each other.

Richard and Charlotte’s romance have the same problem. Both characters are devastatingly noble and self sacrificing, to the point of idiocy on occasion. Richard is hunting the slavers so his cousin Sophie won’t be forced to do it herself. He’s almost sure he’s going to die before he discovers the leaders of the organisation, and he doesn’t mind laying down his life for the cause. Charlotte is the same. She hates using her abilities to kill, but after experiencing first hand the terror the slavers can bring, she won’t stop until she’s made sure no man, woman or child is ever hurt by them again. If she has to unleash a plague to do so, so be it.

Also, while both Richard and Charlotte are convinced that the other is horrified and repelled by the other’s capacity for bringing death, they fall in love over the course of about three days. Extremely eventful days, mind, but still less than a week. Considering their vastly different backgrounds and social status, a slightly slower development and maybe a bit more conflict would have been nice.

As always, the supporting cast of the book is amazing. Long time readers of the series will see the return of the aforementioned Eleonore, Rose and Declan, Declan’s formidable mother (briefly introduced at the end of On the Edge), Jack and George, Sophie (or Lark, as she is known as in Bayou Moon), and of course Kaldar. Sophie is growing into a terribly driven young swordswoman, and Richard is probably right to be worried about her state of mind. Jack and George have aged and developed since their adventures in Fate’s Edge and can still make me laugh, even though their subplot in this book is quite a lot darker than in the previous book.

Dark is definitely the operative word for this story. Ilona Andrews said in an interview once that if the series was a meal, On the Edge would be the starter, Bayou Moon the heavy main course, Fate’s Edge the frothy and sweet dessert and Steel’s Edge the bitter and black coffee at the end of the meal. The subject matter of this book is not a light one. There is death, so much death, and not just for deserving bad guys. I was in tears by the end of chapter three, and several times throughout the book (although some of the tears were happy ones).

A lot of story strands started in earlier books are finished off with this one, and it’s a very fitting end to the story. To say that my expectations for this book were high is a massive understatement. I started pining for this book after finishing Fate’s Edge a year ago, and every snippet and mention of it just made me want it more. I needed the book to be good, and it is. As Spider and the Hand are the main villains in Bayou Moon and secondary villains in Fate’s Edge, I would have liked it if that subplot wasn’t finished off almost as an afterthought towards the end of this. Just as the romance between Richard and Charlotte was resolved in no time at all, the final act of the book also felt a bit rushed. None of them are enough to seriously ruin my enjoyment of the book, though, and to be satisfied with the end for the characters.

Ilona and Gordon Andrews have said that they may return to Jack, George and Sophie in a later series, if they have enough material to write their story properly. I certainly hope they do, because these three characters are probably my favourite in the entire series, the world building in these books is excellent, and their writing is amazing. Congratulations on finishing on a high note.

4.5 stars

Cross posted on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #103: Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson, also known as the worst book I read this year

Marianne Daventry is an innocent 17-year-old whose mother died the year before in a riding accident. Her father’s scarpered off to France to grieve, her twin sister’s in London with family friends enjoying a season, while poor little Marianne is wasting away with boredom at her grandmother’s in Bath. Her gran, a cranky and unpleasant old biddy, decides to disinherit her no good scoundrel nephew and bestow her fortune of forty thousand pounds on Marianne, as long as the girl will learn to behave like a proper lady (she likes running about out of doors without a bonnet, and prefers the countryside to town life – dreadful stuff).

Marianne clearly needs role models, and is shipped off to Edenbrooke, the estate where Lady Wyndham, a bosom friend of Marianne’s mother lives. Marianne’s twin sister is besties with Lady Wyndham’s daughter, and the girls are set to return to the estate from London, so Marianne will have some company. On the way to Edenbrooke, Marianne’s carriage is set upon by a highwayman, and when her coachman is shot, she has to drive the carriage to the nearest inn by herself (this was one of the few useful and admirable things the girl did in the entire novel). At said inn, she’s insulted by a gentleman, because of her dishevelled appearance. Once he realises that she is of good standing, he apologises for his incredible rudeness and instead proceeds to condescendingly take matters completely out of her hands. He insists that they be on first name basis, and refuses to divulge anything about his identity.

Once Marianne arrives at Edenbrooke and promptly falls in the river, twice (because she loves to twirl uncontrollably to express happiness, and apparently never looks where she does this), she discovers that Philip is indeed Lady Wyndham’s second oldest son. They two strike up a highly unlikely and inappropriate friendship, and just before Marianne’s twin Cecily is about to arrive complications rear their ugly head when it’s revealed that Philip’s older brother died a few years back, making him the lord of the manor, and the man Cecily has set her sights on as a future husband. As Marianne apparently always gives in if her slightly older sister calls dibs on something, this means she has to give up on Philip. Oh noes! How can this conflict ever be resolved!?!

As this book is currently one of the finalists in the Goodreads Choice 2012 awards, and has a huge number of positive reviews both there and here on Amazon, I decided to give it a try. Many of the reviews compare the writing to that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, and all I can say is that both women must be spinning in their graves. Or possibly “twirling” like the heroine in this preposterous story.

It’s labelled as a “proper romance”, because there aren’t any graphic love scenes, but the behaviour of the hero and heroine is deeply improper from the moment they first meet. As the heroine is an inexperienced young girl from the country, her ignorance and foolishness might be explained away, but the so-called “gentleman” hero should know better than to encourage the girl to call him by her first name, flirt inappropriately with her in private and in front of his family. At one point, Philip encourages Marianne to take a nap outside, while he sits around watching her (Edward Cullen alert!), and subsequently claims that “she snores like a big, fat man”. If that’s the makings of a “proper” romance, give me the kind with sexy times every day of the week.
The first half is full of badly done exposition, the author overuses adjectives, and in pretty much every scene, all the characters seem to feel an excess of emotions from joy to anger to despair, if the descriptions of their feelings and facial expressions is to be believed. The book is wildly melodramatic, and might have been better if it was written in 3rd person – but sadly, it’s not.’
Then there’s the plot, highwaymen, falling into rivers, inappropriate flirting and banter, dreadfully characterised supporting characters (both Marianne’s twin sister Cecily and Philip’s younger sister Louisa are total mean girl bitches for most of the story, only to make a total turnaround and become super supportive and helpful “fairy godmothers” in the wrap up of the story), kidnappings, random due (inside in the common room at an inn – how do you even go about that?) – it may sound exciting, but most of the time, it’s just dull, and there’s a limit to how far I can suspend my disbelief.
I fully understand that readers may be looking for clean, chaste Regency romances – but do yourselves a favour and read something by Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer novel instead. This is simply a very poor excuse for a novel, pretty cover notwithstanding.
Cross posted on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #102: Easy by Tammara Webber

When Jacqueline is dumped by her preppy boyfriend two months into her sophomore year at college, she’s suddenly forced to re-examine her life choices. She has no friends outside the circle of their mutual ones (, she’s stuck at a university she followed her now ex to, and she’s failing a class for the first time in her life because she’s gutted after the breakup and can’t stand the thought of seeing her ex several classes a week. After a party, not long after the dumping, one of her ex’s frat brothers try to rape her, and would’ve succeeded if she hadn’t been rescued by a mysterious stranger, who luckily happened to be crossing the parking lot and witnessed the assault.

Jacqueline manages to get her econ professor to let her make up the missing midterm, and promises to attend tutoring sessions to catch up on the missing work. She doesn’t tell anyone about the attack, not wanting to make a fuss. While she’d never really noticed the cute guy who rescued her, she now seems to run into him everywhere. He works at the campus Starbucks, he sits in the back row of her econ class, more busy sketching than taking notes. Her roommate designates Lucas the mystery man as the perfect rebound guy. Jacqueline strikes up a flirtation with Lucas, but is also trading bantering e-mails and texts with her new econ tutor. Is she really ready for a new relationship at all, and which guy is the right one for her?

Another one of the Young Adult nominees for the Goodreads Choice 2012 awards, this one caught my eye because my friend Erica read it and rated it highly. As one of the subplots deals with sexual assault and the aftermath of that, this could be a difficult book for some to read. The frat boy who attempts to rape Jacqueline continues his threatening behaviour, and spreads lies about her alleged promiscuity following her breakup. He also goes on to rape another girl, and Jacqueline has to decide what to do about coming forward so he can be charged with the attacks.

Having defined herself almost entirely as Kennedy’s boyfriend since early high school, Jacqueline is forced to take a long hard look at her life after he suddenly dumps her, and she doesn’t like what she sees. With the exception of her room mate, most of their mutual friends take his side, as he is the handsome, popular frat member, while she is the independent, arty girl who never quite fit in. Jacqueline is very good at double bass, an unusual instrument for a woman to play, and tutors local high school kids as a part time job. She could’ve applied to a music conservatory, but followed her boyfriend to university instead. Lonely and adrift, things get even worse when she’s attacked. She doesn’t want to tell her room mate, who’s dating the attacker’s best friend. The description of Jacqueline’s loneliness and self doubt is very well done. You kind of want to slap her for being so trusting, naive and oblivious that she meekly followed her douchebag boyfriend to college, but you also feel sorry for her, and can’t help but want her to succeed in turning her life around, preferably with a hot new boyfriend and some new, better friends.

Once her attacker actually rapes someone else, Jacqueline has to come forward and admit that she was attacked as well, and the book deals with the difficult situation many rape victims find themselves in, trying to prove that the sex was not consensual. Jacqueline and her room mate start taking self defence classes, and all the things they do to help her feel more empowered and safe again were very well done.

Jacqueline’s struggle to become a stronger, more independent person were in many ways more interesting than the romantic subplot. To begin with, Lucas is pretty much the hot, dashing stranger. She’s not sure if she likes him because he rescued her from a traumatic situation or whether there’s something more there. He’s very secretive about his background and past, and to begin with there’s a few complications and misunderstandings, that thankfully get resolved fairly quickly. The romance angle is good, but the main reason to read this book is for the character growth in the protagonist. Although if rape and sexual assault are bad triggers for you, it might be best to give it a miss.

3.5 stars

Cross posted on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #101: Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Echo (named for a Greek nymph) Emerson used to be one of the popular girls in school, dating one of the stars of the basketball team. But one night two years ago, her life changed drastically, leaving her nearly dead in the hospital with horrific scars all down her arms and she doesn’t even remember what happened, only that it has something to do with her mother, who is now kept away by a restraining order. She hates going to therapy, she hates that her father is having a baby with her step-mum (who used to be her babysitter). She desperately misses her older brother, who died on a mission in Afghanistan two years ago, and now her father is threatening to sell the car he wanted to restore. She needs to get a job, so she can make enough money to complete her brother’s project, she wants to discover what happened to her, and she wants everything to return to normal.

Noah Hutchins had a stable and loving family, until his life changed drastically when his parents died in a fire. In school, he’s known as a girl using loner, a stoner kid with no prospects. Only his closest friends know that he’s been in and out of a series of shitty foster homes, and desperately wants to be reunited with his two younger brothers, who he barely ever sees, because he was judged emotionally unstable when he punched his abusive first foster father. If he’s to have any hope of gaining custody over his little brothers when he turns 18, he needs to improve his grade point average drastically, get a good job, a place to live and  hopefully discredit the foster parents now raising his brothers. He would give anything for his life to go back to some kind of normal.

The new school therapist, Mrs. Collins, decides to give Echo a job tutoring Noah. She promises Noah increased visitation with his brothers if he promises to shape up, and despite his deep mistrust of social workers and authority figures, he has no choice but to agree to his plan. Unfortunately, because of some misguided verbal exchanges with Echo, the tutoring job might not be something she’ll feel comfortable sticking with. Both teenagers are deeply vulnerable and very wounded, extremely mistrustful of the adults around them after facing bitter disappointment again and again. On the surface, they have nothing in common, but once they start talking, they’re drawn to each other like moths to a flame.

The book is written in alternating points of view, so the reader gets to follow both Echo and Noah closely. While the book blurb made me expect a fairly run of the mill high school romance, where now outcast good girl loses her heart to the resident bad boy, the book proved to be a lot more than that, and a lot better than the back cover makes it sound. Katie McGarry writes very believable teenagers, and both protagonists have gone through hell. It’s completely understandable that they feel angry, and helpless and desperate, and long for a return to the pleasant, normal lives they used to have.

The full back stories for both characters are gradually revealed, and it keeps the suspense up. Noah and Echo team up to try to get access to their files in Mrs. Collins’ office. Echo can barely sleep and is plagued with horrific nightmares every time she does sleep. She wants to know the full story behind her “incident” without having to gradually remember it through therapy, convinced that if she just knows the whole truth, she’ll find peace. Noah wants the name and address of his brothers’ foster parents, convinced that they’re being mistreated, and determined to prove it, so he can win custody over them as soon as he comes of age. It’s obvious to the reader that these are dreadful plans, but you still go along for the ride, hoping that the characters find closure and some sense of relief towards the end.

I received an ARC of this from Mira Ink through NetGalley, and am sorry that I didn’t read it sooner. Not at all the cliched teen romance I thought it at first, it’s a beautiful story of two damaged people finding each other, and helping each other through a difficult time. It’s currently a finalist in Young Adult Fiction in the Goodreads Choice Awards 2012, and available in hardcover or e-book.

Cross posted on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #100: My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland

So it’s no secret that pretty much everything I read consists of genre fiction, mostly paranormal fantasy, or romance (sometimes either of those genres aimed at young adults) or a mix of all of the above. So Felicia Day’s Vaginal Fantasy Hangout was pretty much made for someone like me. Now, for most of the time the group has been running, I’ve read at least one, if not both of the books featured as Reads of the Month. However, this month (November), they feature zombie books, with at least a bit of a romantic element to them.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve read books with vampires, werewolves, all sorts of other kinds of shapeshifters (including dinosaurs, so thanks, VFH ladies!), ghosts, demons, angels, fairies, dark elves, you name it – I’ve probably read some variation of fantasy/romance where this was a feature. Until now, I’d drawn the line at zombies, however. My husband reads, and watches The Walking Dead, and I’ve caught the occasional episode. I watched Shaun of the Dead. I don’t like horror, though, in any genre, so zombies tend to be something I avoid. I certainly don’t see it as a successful starting point for anything with romantic elements. Clearly popular culture disagrees with me, though, as Warm Bodies was a huge publishing success and now looks like it’s going to be a really rather entertaining film.

One of the reasons I join online book clubs, and browse review sites, and book blogs and participate in the Cannonball Read is to discover new things. So while I was initially reluctant, I decided to give zombie fantasy a try. My Life as a White Trash Zombie is the story of Angel Crawford, who wakes up in the hospital after what appears to be a drug overdose. She was apparently found stark naked on the side of the highway, on the same night as there was an accident not too far away, and the driver of the car was found decapitated. With the head missing from the scene of the crime. Angel has no memory at all of how any of this came to pass, but is relieved that the police only question her, as a drug overdose is in violation of her parole.

She’s given a bag of clothes and a letter from one of the nurses, where she’s told to show up at the parish morgue for a new job, and she has to hold down the job for at least a month, or the police will be told about her OD, and she’ll end up in jail. She’s also given 6 bottles of some mysterious liquid, and told to drink one every other day. The letter also states that if she were to end up in prison, she’d be dead before long, so Angel is too scared to refuse the job offer.

At the morgue, she discovers that she’s not only expected to drive a van and pick up corpses, she’s also meant to help the morgue technicians with autopsies. Previously, Angel’s not been able to see anything even vaguely gory without throwing up, but she now seems to be able to handle all sorts of disgusting smells and sights without so much as a dry heave. Strangest of all, the sight and smell of dead brains seem to drive her wild. Before long, Angel realises that she actually kind of likes her job, and wants to prove that she can stick with something, no matter what her deadbeat on again off again drug addict boyfriend or drunken father says. She just needs to figure out why she has an unnatural craving for brains, why dead bodies keep showing up decapitated, and who got her the job at the morgue in the first place?

For the first couple of chapters, I wasn’t sure about Angel as a protagonist, and her no ambition deadbeat attitude. By the time she starts her job at the morgue, I was starting to warm up to her, and I’m very glad that I kept going with the book, as it turned out to be both a fairly exciting page turner, and lots of fun. Once Angel gets developed more as a character, and starts building her self esteem and accomplishing things, I really enjoyed her and her rather snarky wit. I wish she’d wised up about her abusive, drunken asshole of a dad, and extreme loser boyfriend sooner, but we can’t have everything, now can we?

The way zombies are portrayed in the book is also really well done. Angel can pretty much survive any injury or damage as long as she ingests enough brains, and while she no longer feels the effects of pills or pot, she can eat human food as well, so long as she consumes brains every other day or so. The more energy she expends, the more often she has to have a brainy snack. Her job at the morgue is obviously perfect, and once she faces up to the fact that she’s now the walking undead, she tries to research her “condition” as best she can, and gets on with things without complaining.

There’s some pretty cool supporting characters as well (not the drunken dad or pothead boyfriend), and a subplot involving Angel’s continued crush on one of the deputies who arrested her a while back. The book is not a romance, as such, but it looks like the romance angle might be stronger in the sequel (which I’m now pretty excited to read). So I still haven’t had to face an actual main story romance where one or both of the characters is a zombie, and guess that’ll have to be next on my list.

Cross posted on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR4 Reviews # 94-99: I’m nearly done with a double Cannonball, you guys!

So in the middle of October, I once again took part in the 24-hour Read-a-thon, and I’ve obviously been reading (and re-reading) books since then, but I’ve been falling behind on my blogging. So here’s a big catch-up post, and hopefully, within the week, I will have read and blogged a double Cannonball. I only set out to do a single one this year, and as a result, it seems that completing twice the amount became less of a chore.

94. A Wrinkle in Time by Madelaine L’Engle. I suspect I would have loved this more when I was younger. 4 stars.

95. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. The first book I’ve read of hers. It won’t be the last. 4 stars.

96. Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. I know it’s been reviewed so well, so many times on here, and I have no idea why I didn’t pick it up before. 5 stars. By far the funniest book I read this year.

97. A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long. Yet another historical romance,  surprising no one, I’m sure. “The one with the hot vicar” as Mrs. Julien dubbed it. 4 stars.

98. Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor. Unquestionably one of the most anticipated books of the year for me, this turned out to be something completely different from what I’d expected. 4 stars.

99. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. So is it wrong that I was more charmed by the film? The 14-year-olds I teach, love it, though. 3.5 stars.

 

Malin’s #CBR4 Review 93: Eternal Pleasure by Nina Bangs

This was the alt-book in Vaginal Fantasy Hangout in September, and due to the rather unusual subject matter, I felt compelled to check it out. As the e-book is currently unavailable, I ended up paying 5 times the cost of the actual book to have it shipped from the US, but it did entertain me, so I guess I don’t mind too much.

There’s a lot of paranormal fantasy and romance out there featuring shapeshifters of various kinds. I suspect it’s the most common trope after vampires. The hero in this book, is a slightly different sort of a shapeshifter, hence the lovely ladies of VFH’s enthusiasm, and my needing to read the book. But what is it actually about, you ask.

Apparently there is a battle between huge and powerful forces in the world, and the bad side, known among other things as the Lords of Time (and yes, there is a Doctor Who reference in the book!), whilst the good guys are the Gods of the Night. The leader for the Gods of the Night is called Fin (he has long, silvery sparkly hair and silvery eyes with hints of purple – my brain can’t even fully visualize that, but boy, do I want to read whatever book he’s the hero of). He leads the Eleven, who are souls who have been resting since dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and now have been placed in the bodies of super hot dudes. Who have to help Fin fight the various evil supernatural creatures that are the minions of the Lords of Time (just to make it more confusing, there’s “good” vampires and werewolves too). If the Gods of the Night don’t stop the baddies,humanity will be wiped out on the 21st of December 2012 – the exact date when the Mayan calendar ended!

Our hero in this book is Ty Endeka, who when he was last conscious, was a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Yeah, I kid you not. All of the Eleven were dinosaurs in their last incarnation (although it’s suggested that that is not who they originally were, and this battle between good and evil has been going on a LONG time). They need help adjusting to the modern world, and can’t drive cars, so they have sexy ladies to chauffeur them around (because who wants a dude to do stuff like that?).

His driver is Kelly Maloy, who when she’s not making lots of money driving the hot, but clearly dangerous Ty around is a student of some sort (I don’t remember the finer details – c’mon, I just wanted to get to the dino parts!). If the Eleven don’t concentrate real hard, their inner dino-ness seems to affect everyone around them, and people tend to get twitchy when gigantic pre-historic predators are around (yeah, none of the hot dudes seem to have been herbivores, if there had been one,  I bet that guy would be the quiet, sensitive, nerdy one of the group). Anyways, Kelly is attracted to Ty, but also understands that he’s not just your normal hot dude.

While the truth behind the Eleven is supposed to be kept secret, too much stuff happens over a short space of time for Kelly not to understand that there’s a lot more out there that goes bump in the night than was dreamt of in her philosophy, and soon Fin has let her in on all the secrets, and conveniently Kelly is needed to help them defeat one of the evil lieutenants, boringly just called Nine (because there are Nine of them).

Over the course of the book, there are obviously a bunch of action sequences where the dino-dudes have to fight evil vampires and werewolves and such. I was disappointed to find that the Eleven don’t actually shapeshift into actual gigantic dinosaurs, it’s more like a big big dinosaur-shaped forcefield around each guy (which can still bite and rend and claw, so that’s convenient). Also, at least one guy is a flying dinosaur, and one is one of those gigantic toothy water-based ones, which I liked a lot.

Naturally Kelly and Ty’s attraction to each other is because they are each other’s soul mates. The romance aspect of this book is not exactly the most compelling I’ve ever read. Nor is this ever going to be classified as great literature. But it was quite fun, it certainly offered something new in a genre where a lot of things are very samey and if it turns out that Nina Bangs (I do hope that’s her real name) ever writes Fin’s book, I promise to buy, read and review that too.

Malin’s #CBR Review #92: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue Sargent lives in a household of psychics. Her mother’s one, her aunt is one, and all her mother’s friends. Sometimes their predictions are vague and non-specific, sometimes they are very accurate. Blue has known for as long as she can remember that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. Until this summer, that hasn’t been a problem. Blue knows boys are trouble, and the Raven Boys, the young men enrolled at the prestigious Aglionby Academy in town, are the most troublesome of all.

Every year, on St. Mark’s Eve, Blue and her mother go to an abandoned graveyard at the outskirts of Henrietta to watch for all the spirits who will die in the next year. Blue normally can’t see them, her power is that she enhances the psychic abilities of those around her, and it’s her job to write down all the names of the ones her mother speaks to. This year, Blue goes with her aunt, and for the first time, she sees one of the spirits on the Corpse Road. Unfortunately, that means one of two things. Either the boy is her true love, or Blue is the one who killed him. The spirit said his name was Gansey, and he was dressed as one of the Raven Boys.

Richard “Dick” Cambell Gansey III, known to all his friends and acquaintances as Gansey, is completely unaware of Blue’s vision, or even existence. He enrolled at Aglionby Academy in  Henrietta, Virginia because he is looking for the burial place of Glendower, a legendary Welsh king. With the help of his friends, Adam Parrish, Ronan Lynch and the mysterious Noah, he searches the town for evidence of ley lines and mystical artifacts.

Adam is a scholarship student at Aglionby, and only managing to keep his place there by holding down three different jobs. He’s Gansey’s best friend, but the difference in their backgrounds and financial situations create conflicts and complicated undercurrents in their relationship.

Ronan Lynch is one of three orphaned brothers, vicious as a wild animal and self-destructive to the extreme. Gansey and Adam do their best to keep him out of trouble, and from being expelled from the Academy. Noah lives with Ronan and Gansey, but seems strangely strangely quiet and distant from the others. He never eats anything when others are watching, and spends a lot of time on his own.

Having previously stayed far away from all Raven boys, Blue now needs to discover the truth about Gansey. Is he her true love? Did she cause his death? Is there any way she can prevent his spirit from ending up on the Ghost road? Can Blue and her family help Gansey and his friends in the search for Glendower?

Based on the blurb of the book, I was expecting something a bit different from what I actually got. First of all, for all the ominous talk about kissing and dooming boys, there is very little romance in the story. Blue is a very sensible girl, and fully aware that her family’s predictions are nothing to be messed with. When befriending the Raven boys, it’s not even Gansey she feels drawn to, at first, but Adam. Still, not wanting to tempt fate, Blue’s not about to be kissing any boy, rich or poor.

Gansey and Blue do not get along at first, mainly because of a massive misunderstanding, and because they come from vastly different worlds. Gansey has never known a day of want in his life, and has always had huge amounts of money that he can buy whatever he wants with. He doesn’t understand why Adam would rather work three jobs to go to the Academy and stay with his abusive father, rather than accept a loan from Gansey and stay with him and their other friends in the huge warehouse apartment off campus. He only wants what’s best for those he loves, and is painfully aware that occasionally he insults people just because of his carelessness with money. Gansey has several reasons for wanting to find the missing tomb, Adam needs to find it because of the supernatural favour the finder is supposed to be granted. He needs to get out of his dead end existence, but he can’t do it while relying on someone else – he has to know that he managed to get out while being beholden to no one.

Maggie Stiefvater has an amazing way with words, and I always have very high expectations to her books. I think that’s why I was a bit disappointed with her previous book, The Scorpio Races. I want to love her books, and it’s very difficult for me when I don’t. This book was different from what I was expecting, but drew me in and enveloped me in the sort of magical worlds that I’ve come to expect from the author.

It is very clearly the first book in a series. There are story lines that are resolved, but also new ones that clearly need to be addressed in later books. The character of Ronan, who I’ve not really written much about in this review, but who is also a very interesting and complex character (say what you want, but Stiefvater is brilliant at creating fascinating people to read about), will clearly play a more prominent part in the next book, if the last page of the book is anything to go by.

The back of the book may suggest that this is a supernatural love story, but it’s much more of a mystery, with a quest narrative thrown in. The friendships of the four Raven Boys, and the relationship of Blue to her family are central, and all really well depicted. The villain in the book could’ve been given better characterisation, and I never quite felt that the stakes were as high and dangerous as they were probably supposed to have been, but the book is very good indeed, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Crossposted on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #91:Dreaming of Amelia by Jaclyn Moriarty

This is the fourth (and as far, as I know, final) Ashbury/Brookfield novel. It can be read completely independently of the others, but as many of the characters in this book were introduced in previous books in the series, it may be more enjoyable if you’ve read at least Finding Cassie Crazy and/or Becoming Bindy Mackenzie, where several of the characters in this book were first introduced.

Like all the previous novels in this series, the book is entirely epistolary, telling the story of the graduating year of high school at the posh Ashbury high. Two new scholarship students have been accepted to the school, Riley and Amelia, and no one seems to know who they are or where they come from, only that they are a couple, and enigmatic and glamorous doesn’t begin to describe them.

Told through the exam essay accounts of Riley, the girls Emily and Lydia (both introduced in Finding Cassie Crazy), their friend Toby (introduced in Becoming Bindy Mackenzie), various meeting transcripts from the scholarship committee, and the occasional blog entry, we are given the story of how Riley and Amelia arrived at Ashbury, how they at first seemed completely unwilling to engage in anything, but slowly revealed themselves to be brilliant at swimming, various academic subjects, drama and music.

As always, Moriarty captures the voices of the various teenagers brilliantly, as well as those of the adults in the books. I’m truly sorry that this is the last of the books, as I’d grown so very fond of these characters, and would’ve loved to read more about them, and Riley and Amelia, who I only got to spend time with in this book.

Though the cover of the book is bright and pastel-coloured, don’t let it fool you. This is also a Gothic novel, complete with hidden rooms, dark and mysterious pasts, drama, jealousy, deception and manipulation, unhappy love affairs, self-serving plots, and of course, ghosts. The American title of this book is The Ghosts of Ashbury High, and the students writing exam papers all have to write with reference to the Gothic fiction they have read during the term.

As Emily begins her paper: “Lighting struck! There was a howling of wind, as if wolves roamed about, howlingly. Thunder crashed! Lightning struck again. 

 It was the first day of year 12. I had set out that morning with trepidation. I did not, in all honesty, see a crow, a raven, or any other black bird on the way to school that day. And yet! I was trepidatious.”

It therefore fits perfectly into the R.I.P VII challenge, and is probably my favourite of all the books I’ve read for the challenge so far. Highly recommended to everyone.

Cross posted on my blog.

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