Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Scootsa1000”

Scootsa1000′s #CBR4 Review 52: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Yay! Finally book #52, and I’m happy to report its a really good one.

But first, a bit of housekeeping. Now that I’ve hit my goal, I have to say I just don’t think I’m going to get around to reviewing the stack on the “to review” pile. These books include: Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner, World War Z by Max Brooks, Enders’ Game by Orson Scott Card, Julia’s Child by Sarah Pinneo, 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, Wool Vol. 1 by Hugh Howey, Messy by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, and The Truth About Forever/Keeping the Moon/Someone Like You/This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen. Some were great (World War Z, Wool). Some were completely entertaining (Messy, Julia’s Child). Some were formulaic and predictable (Then Came You, all books by Sarah Dessen). And some I just didn’t get (I’m looking at you, Ender’s Game). I’ll start reviewing again in January for CBR5, but until then will be helping Joemyjoe and Bunnybean meet their Cannonball quotas by posting some reviews for them.

Earlier this year, along with many of my fellow Cannonballers, I fell under the spell of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I immediately pre-ordered the sequel on my Kindle, and was pleasantly surprised when it showed up last week.

Days of Blood and Starlight takes place pretty much immediately after the end of Smoke and Bone. After breaking her wishbone, Karou remembered her life as Madrigal, and her love story with Akiva. Now that she knows he is responsible for the deaths of Brimstone and the rest of her chimaera family, she will never forgive him or allow herself to love him again.

The brutal war between the chimaera and seraphim wages on. The chimaera are almost completely destroyed, but for a small group of rebels who are holding their own against the armies of angels attacking them night after night. For both sides, the only strategy is to kill as many of their enemies as possible — all of the potential peace and harmony once dreamed of by Madrigal and Akiva is now an impossibility.

While Karou and Akiva are still the main characters in the story, Taylor has introduced and/or expanded the roles of a lot of the others, and the narrative jumps from human to angel to chimeara smoothly. We spend time with Karou’s friends from Prague; Akiva’s bastard brother and sister; the seraphim emperor and his horrible brother; Thiago the wolf (who originally had Madrigal be-headed); jumping from past to present without a hitch.

The last book was a bit of a war-torn love story. In this book, I’d call it more of a love-torn war story (is love-torn a thing?). We spend a lot of time reading about the brutality of this ongoing war, and of the innocence lost by so many good souls. The love story is still lurking around in the background, but is by no means the main attraction here.

I’ll be honest, I had a tough time getting into the story. I expected to jump right in and be as swept up as I was last time. But it took me about 70 pages until I really got into its rhythm — and then, I couldn’t put it down. For once, I’m looking forward to the last book in a trilogy!

You can read more of my reviews (and Joemyjoe & Bunnybean) on my blog.

Scootsa1000′s #CBR4 Reviews 50 & 51: Wolves of the Calla (Dark Tower 5) and Song of Susannah (Dark Tower 6) by Stephen King

For anyone out there that has made their way though Stephen King’s Dark Tower opus, you know that the last three books have definitely split the Constant Reader’s opinion. Many feel that King went way over the top by inserting himself into the narrative, while others didn’t mind it so much, and just wanted to go with the flow of the tale. Personally, I didn’t care. I just wanted to know what was up on at the top of the Dark Tower, and who from Roland’s Ka-Tet would make it there.

The first time I read Wolves of the Calla, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. And I found that I still enjoyed it this time around. Its a much lighter (and shorter) book than some of its predecessors, that takes place over a short 30-day time period. A quick refresher: Roland and his friends find themselves in the small, idyllic town of Calla Bryn Sturgis. The townspeople need the help of the gunslingers: in 30 days, “wolves” from Thunderclap will come and take half of their children away, only to have them returned “roont” (i.e., mentally and physically changed, and not for the better). The good folks of the Calla want the gunslingers to help them stand against the Wolves and save their children. Its a classic western tale — taking many plot points from The Magnificent Seven/The Seven Samurai, as well as Star Wars, Harry Potter, Marvel Comics, and even King’s own ‘Salems Lot (with the re-introduction of Father Callahan, the vampire-fighting Pere of the Calla).

Song of Susannah, however, was my least favorite Dark Tower book when I first read it. And I can safely say that it will always be my least favorite.

As a character, and a member of Roland’s Ka-Tet, Susannah Dean has never been all that interesting to me. And having an entire book be more or less about her doesn’t help. A quick refresher: Susannah finds a new personality has taken over her body — that of Mia, who is pregnant with a child that belongs to The Crimson King. Mia and Susannah are transported through the  magic door in the Calla to deliver the baby in New York. The Ka-Tet splits up: Roland and Eddie go to Maine to find Calvin Tower and make sure he sells them his vacant lot, and Jake and Pere Callahan (and Oy!) go to New York to find and help Susannah (and really, only appear briefly in the book). And oh, its also when Stephen King becomes a major character in the story.

I’m about to start the last — and most controversial — Dark Tower book. I remember not minding the ending the first time I read it…we’ll see if that hold true this time or not.

Lastly, recently Aaron Paul announced that he’d love to play Eddie Dean if these books ever really get turned into a movie. How perfectly wonderful would that be?

Four stars for Wolves of the Calla.  Two stars for Song of Susannah.  Five stars for Aaron as Eddie.

You can read more of my reviews on my blog.

Joemyjoe’s #CBR4 Review 6: Ghost Buddy Zero to Hero by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

I just read a book called Ghost Buddy: Zero to Hero (I just call it Ghost Buddy) by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver. I loved it.

Its about a boy named Billy Broccoli and a ghost named Hoover Porthouse. Billy and his family move into a really old house and it has a ghost in it, a ghost of a boy who died there 99 years ago. At first, Hoover scared Billy, but they became friends after a while. Billy didn’t want his own ghost, but he realized that his ghost could help him with some bullies who bothered him at school.

Billy and Hoover played some tricks on a bully named Rod Broadstone. They made it seem like Billy was much stronger than he was, so that Rod wouldn’t think he was a weakling to pick on.

It was a good story about bullying and why you should never do it. It can hurt peoples’ feelings and their bodies. But it was also a really funny book. It made me  laugh.

There are more Ghost Buddy books and I want to read them all.

My mom says that when she was little, Henry Winkler was a really cool and famous guy. She sent him a tweet about how much I loved this book, and she was really excited that he tweeted her back!

 

 

You can read more of Joemyjoe’s reviews on his mom’s blog.

 

Scootsa1000′s #CBR4 Review 48 & 49: Wither and Fever by Lauren DeStefano

Wither was a book that kept popping up on my radar.  A few Cannonball reviews, and some recommendations from Amazon based on past purchases.  I wasn’t dying to read it, but last week when I walked in to my library, it was literally the first thing I saw when I opened the door (the YA section of our lovely little library is directly inside the door).  So I figured, why not?

Wither tells the story of Rhine Ellery, a 16 year-old identical twin living with her brother Rowan in future Manhattan.  In Rhine’s world, a terrible virus kills all females at 20 and all males at 25, so beautiful young women of child-bearing age have become a precious commodity. Rhine is OF COURSE kidnapped and brought against her will to become one of many brides for a young, rich man in Florida. And, you guys, SHE MISSES HER BROTHER SO MUCH. And she just has to get back to New York, no matter what.

I really didn’t care for Rhine, or anything that happened in her world.  I was more interested in the little tidbits of information that were casually tossed throughout the story about when the virus started, how it could potentially be stopped, and what happened to the rest of the world.  Rhine has been taught that the rest of the world no longer exists, but sometimes the story hints that JUST MAYBE that isn’t true.

When I took the book out, I had no idea that Wither was the first in a trilogy. The second installment, Fever, was also available, so I read that one, too (give me a break, we had a hurricane, so pickings were slim!).

Fever was even less interesting than Wither.  Rhine and her friend Gabriel are on the run, trying to get back to New York.  They get caught up in some crazy prostitution/carnival ring that takes WAY too many pages to get away from, but does give them some new and somewhat interesting characters to interact with.

I don’t know when book #3 comes out, and I”m not sure I’ll read it when it does.  I’d rank these two somewhere above Twilight, but below the Delirium books.  Meh.

 

Scootsa1000′s #CBR4 Review 47: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

Take a little bit of Jasper Fforde, Joss Whedon, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, The X Files, and Sherlock. Now mix them together.  What you get is The Rook, a delightful — and sometimes disgusting — tale of a kick-ass amnesiac named Myfanwy Thomas, a woman who has no memories of her life and who happens to work for a secret branch of the British government that deals with the supernatural.

I first heard about The Rook a few weeks ago, when I read narfna’s entertaining review (thanks, narfna!).  I started reading, and to be honest, well, I wasn’t too impressed.  The story starts out with a bang — a woman suddenly finds herself in a park, in the rain, surrounded by dead bodies all wearing rubber gloves, and has no idea where she is or WHO she is — but I just wasn’t that into it.  I kept putting it aside, reading a page here and there, but not really into it.

And then.  Well, then we meet Gestalt, Myfanwy’s co-worker.  I’m not going to give any spoilers, but MY GOD.  Gestalt is one of the most interesting and original characters I’ve ever come across.  And suddenly, I was hooked.  I seriously could not put this book down and stayed up way past my bedtime for two nights in a row to finish it.

The plot is crazy.  Amnesiac Myfanwy finds a letter in her pocket from old Myfanwy, who knew she was going to lose her memory and prepared her new self for it.  She gives new Myfanwy a choice:  take all of my money and a new identity and move far, far away, but be aware that whoever did this to you could someday come after you and kill you OR take my place, take my job, take my old life, and find out who did this to us and why.

Its no secret to tell you that Myfanwy chooses option two.  She decides to “become” Myfanwy Thomas, and dives headfirst into a world of monsters (both natural and created) and superpowers.

I really enjoyed this story.  O’Malley is a very witty writer, and its always refreshing to read about such a kick-ass heroine.  I gather that a sequel is in the works, and I’m quite OK with that.

Added bonus: Myfanwy’s sister is named Bronwyn, and that happens to be my oldest daughter’s name.

Scootsa1000′s #CBR4 Review 46: The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

When I first took on the challenge of last year’s CBR3, I decided that I’d attempt to re-read the massive Dark Tower series.  I finished the first three books in no time at all…and then, well, there was the fourth book.

The fourth book took me so long to finish, that while I was reading it, Stephen King went ahead and wrote a brand new Dark Tower book.  Supposedly, this new book would fit nicely between Wizard and Glass and The Wolves of the Calla.  And while I was eager to get back to the story of Eddie and Jake and the path of the beam (and Oy!), I decided to give the new book a quick read and see how it fits into the DT universe.

The Wind Through the Keyhole is actually three stories in one.  In the first, Roland and his ka-tet have just left the emerald palace where they find themselves at the end of Wizard and Glass.  They come to a huge river that they need to cross, and meet a lovely older man who has a ferry, and is happy to take them across.  And then he warns them about the coming storm…a “starkblast” and tells them to take shelter sooner than later.  Roland and friends find shelter just in time — the wind starts whipping and freezing, killing everything in its path.  As they wait out the storm, Roland tells them another story from his past…

Roland tells them of an adventure he had (not long after the affair of Susan Delgado), where he and his fellow gunslinger Jaime were sent to a nearby town to look into the mystery of what has been killing and terrorizing the locals.  Some report they had seen a bear, and some say a wolf.  Roland’s been told that perhaps it is a “skin man” — a cursed man that can shift shapes at ease.  When the skin man kills dozens at a local ranch, Roland and Jaime find the lone survivor, a young boy who is scared to death.  While waiting for a posse to round up some suspects, Roland tells young Bill his favorite story from when he was Bill’s age: The Wind Through the Keyhole.

This is a fairy tale, a story of a young boy named Tim who has lost his father and is suffering at the hands of his cruel stepfather, and who risks everything to save his mother.  Fans of Stephen King will see many details connecting this simple, yet pleasant tale, to the world of the Dark Tower…North Central Positronics, nineteen, gunslingers, dogans, and our old friend Randall Flagg.  Tim journeys through a dangerous land to find the famous Maerlyn the magician, looking for help for his mother.  He also finds himself stuck in a starkblast, along with a tiger and a bit of magic. And Tim himself grows up to become a brave gunslinger, the stuff of legends.

Not the most exciting Stephen King book out there, but a nice bit of storytelling, and it fits nicely between books four and five of the Dark Tower series.

Scootsa1000′s #CBR4 Review 45: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I’ve read a lot of scary and disturbing books over the years.  Lots of Stephen King, Peter Straub,  Dean Koontz,  Joe Hill, Battle Royale-esque stories, etc.  And I keep going back for more.  I’ve seen — and have enjoyed — tons of horror movies (Eli Roth is one of my brother’s BFFs from childhood, you can see him die brutally in most of Roth’s work. Fun!).  I guess what I’m trying to say is that I guess I’ve become desensitized to the “horror” genre.  And maybe that’s why I think its such a big deal that I found Gone Girl so downright frightening.  I started the book expecting a Dennis Lehane style mystery, and ended up with something much, much different.

Gone Girl has been everywhere for the past few months.  Book clubs.  Online discussions.  Displays at Barnes & Noble.  And before I read it, I knew a little bit about it: a young wife goes missing and her husband becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance.  Told partly in flashback and in journal entries, we get the story of a marriage from both sides.  We also get to see what happens when a news story (like a missing spouse) turns into a media circus, complete with a terrible Nancy Grace-esque talking head, and how the media can sway public opinion regardless of the facts.  I expected and was interested by of it.

What I was not expecting, and ended up being both fascinated and terrified by, was the rest.  This book surprised me more than any other book I can remember reading.  Every 30 or 40 pages, I would completely change my mind about what I think the ending would be and what had happened to Amy (the wife).  Was it handsome husband, Nick?  Or his adorable mistress, Andie?  Or maybe one of the many people who have been accused of stalking Amy over the years?  A jealous neighbor?  A homeless vagrant?  His angry father? Her bizarre parents? Who would want to hurt beautiful, lovely, wealthy, perfect Amy?  And why?

And then, about halfway through, something shifted…and the psychological portrait the story painted of this seemingly normal American couple turned into the scariest thing I can remember reading in ages.  And at that point, I couldn’t put the book down.  I’ll definitely be seeking out other books by Gillian Flynn.  The characters she painted were vibrant and real, and the backstories and details about each of them were fascinating.

I love that this book seems to have fallen into the Sixth Sense/Fight Club/The Crying Game territory, where nobody who has read it is willing to spoil the outcome, leaving interested readers to find out for themselves.

Scootsa1000′s #CBR4 Review 44: The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King

Another super quick review from the huge pile of finished books on my desk…

A few weeks ago, while reading TylerDFC’s review of The Night Circus, I was reminded of how much I love Stephen King’s criminally overlooked The Eyes of the Dragon.  I’ve read this book a few times, first in high school, then again while I was waiting for the last few Dark Tower books to come out (I went through a phase while I was waiting…I read everything I could get my hands on that had a tie to the Dark Tower universe…Insomnia, Salems’ Lot, Rose Madder, short stories, etc.).  I just finished reading it for the third time, and it holds up just as well as ever.

What I love most about this book is that it was written specifically for his young (at the time) daughter, Naomi (who also features as a heroic character in the story).  Naomi King had complained to her father that he had written all of these famous books, but that she hadn’t been allowed to read any of them yet.  And so her dad wrote her this book — a bit of a derivation from his normal writing, this story is a fantasy-based fairy tale.

The Eyes of the Dragon tells the tale of King Roland of Delain, his beautiful young wife Sasha, his two sons Peter and Thomas, and his evil magician Flagg (as in Randall).  King Roland is getting older, and his power is slowly being handed over to his chief advisor, Flagg.  When Queen Sasha (a major vocal opponent to Flagg) is about to give birth to Prince Thomas, Flagg arranges her murder, leaving Roland to raise the boys on his own.  Prince Peter is smart and brave and strong, and will someday make a wonderful King, which of course threatens Flagg. But Thomas is a different sort of boy — a bit bitter, definitely jealous, and not as smart as Peter — all traits that Flagg finds much more appealing.  Flagg engineers the murder of good King Roland, and frames Peter for his death, leaving young Thomas to become a puppet King, while Flagg runs the Kingdom.

All of this is simply the background for a wonderful tale of bravery and friendship, as well as a classic battle of good vs. evil.  Not your typical King story, but a fun fantasy.  A must for anyone interested in the world of The Dark Tower.

Scootsa1000′s #CBR4 Review 39: The Life of Pi by Yann Martel

I hate to do this, but I’m quite far behind in my reviews, and I’m realizing that I read a few of these so long ago (March?  April?  Ack!) that I honestly don’t have too much to say about them anymore.  Ergo, I’m joining in the new trend to write thoughtful, yet INCREDIBLY BRIEF reviews for these that I read prior to June.  I promise to write proper reviews for everything else.  I read this AGES ago.  I apologize in advance for taking a great book and telling you almost nothing about it.

I’m sure that anyone who has ever had any interest in reading The Life of Pi has probably already read it.  This was actually my second time through (my husband and I started a “mini book club” this year…this was our first — and so far only — selection), and I found that it was even more interesting the second time through.  For those who might not know:  it tells the story of Pi, a young Indian boy who’s family owns and runs a local zoo.  Pi is a very devout and pious young man, and his belief in God knows no bounds — he was born a Hindu but also practices Islam, and has been baptized as a Catholic.  When Pi’s father sells the zoo, and all of the animals in the zoo, his entire family decides to move to Canada, to the zoo where many of the animals are going.  Disaster strikes, and their ship sinks, leaving only Pi, a zebra, an orangutang, a hyena, and Richard Parker.  Oh, did I mention that Richard Parker happens to be an enormous Bengal Tiger?

Pi and Richard Parker are at sea for over 200 days together, as Pi learns how to survive by providing for himself and for Richard, and Richard learns how to not eat Pi.  Oh, and meerkats!  Lots of adorable meerkats.

There is a “Sixth Sense” style twist at the end…and I enjoyed looking for clues regarding the ending the second time around.  A great story about faith and belief, and I look forward to the film later this year.

You can read more of my LONGER, less lame reviews on my blog.

Scootsa1000′s #CBR4 Review 38: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

I was raised a fan of movies.  My dad loved movies and wanted to share all of his favorites with us whenever he could.  By the time I was 8 or 9, I had seen all of the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies, preferred Gene Kelly to pretty much any other movie actor (except maybe Harrison Ford), and could quote freely from Auntie Mame. And I still love spending a cozy night at home watching a Burt Lancaster movie or Rock Hudson comedy.

This is probably why I always am intrigued by stories of “old Hollywood” — in particular, the kind of story where fame is a dark and dangerous trait to acquire: James Ellroy’s books about 1940s LA; Whatever Happened to Baby Jane; The Sweet Smell of Success; or any number or strange and sad biographies of stars, directors, producers, and failed productions.  And there was no bigger a failure in Hollywood than Cleopatra.

When I first picked up Beautiful Ruins, I had no idea that part of it was about the filming of Cleopatra, but I had seen it on several “best of” lists at the end of Summer.  (My library had it on the “great reads for the beach” shelf, which on the day I saw it, was being packed up and replaced by “back to school” suggestions.)  It tells several interweaving stories — between World War II and the present, in Europe and the US, Idaho and Hollywood — that all come together in the end.

I don’t want to get into the plot too much, as I think it is better left as a surprise for the reader.  The story starts out in rural Italy in 1962, when an actress filming the movie Cleopatra comes to a small hotel on the coast to wait for her boyfriend so that she can tell him that she’s dying of cancer.  Chapters jump through time from 1962 to present day Hollywood, where an idealistic young producer wonders if she should stick with her job working with a Hollywood legend, or curate a film museum for the church of Scientology.  And somehow, these two stories become one.  Characters include a young Italian hotel owner, a beautiful Hollywood starlet, a failed writer, an alcoholic rock musician, a ridiculous Hollywood producer (think Robert Evans), and an entertaining and inebriated Richard Burton.

A lovely story, with beautiful descriptions of Italy, and horrible descriptions of Los Angeles.  I really enjoyed it.

By the way, I never looked at the bookflap with the Author blurb until after I finished the book…I was completely surprised to find that Jess Walter is a man.  Weird that I assumed all along that Jess is a woman.

You can read more of my reviews on my blog.

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