Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “urban magic”

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #71 Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

It was with some trepidation that I opened Lament after my youngest daughter finished reading it. Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver was one of the best new books I’d read a few years ago in the YA category, but the mucking about that she did to the story line with the rest of the trilogy left a bad impression to say the least.  In my opinion, Shiver remains strongest as a stand alone novel and I felt totally disenchanted by the thought that a trilogy was more marketable and profitable.  Shiver’s story was so strong, the ending so startling that I felt in awe of all the possibilities that lay before the amazing characters.  Then the two other books totally ripped apart what I had hoped and imagined, culminating in one of the most dissatisfying conclusions to a series I’d ever experienced.

Given this bias, I am amazed that I added Lament to my challenge list.  The first few chapters were hard.  I found myself thinking that the “impossible odds love story” was just too formula, too predictable and too “young”.  Slowly, Stiefvater’s incredible style and descriptive prose drew me in.  I fought it.  I didn’t want to be drawn into another tale only to hate where the author would lead me.  When the love triangle emerged, I nearly groaned.  Is there no other plot line for young women to read these days? Visions of Team Edward and Team Jacob began to blur my vision.  Luckily, the swift pace of the plot pulled me on and I ended up finishing 3/4 of the novel in a single gulp.

Lament’s ending is wonderful, poignant and satisfying.  I was also surprised to discover that this novel was actually written BEFORE Shiver, Linger and Forever.  The writing seems as mature and polished as in Shiver, so it didn’t feel like a “younger” work.  The novel didn’t try to wrap everything up in a neat package and allowed me to imagine how the story would unfold after this glimpse.  The fact that there is another novel written about one of the characters now intrigues me rather than filling me with dread, so I may see if I can find a copy of Ballad to read before the year is out.

Maggie Stiefvater has plenty of talent to share with the world and with her readers.  Whether or not she can thrive given the current market pressure of selling stories as trilogies remains to be seen.  I blame editors and publishers for that more than the authors.  When compared to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s books, all of whom could stand on their own if necessary, or even Sherrilyn Kenyon’s passionate tales that keep each book self-contained but within a much wider world behind it, I can’t help but feel as if the YA format is missing out on an important lesson…

Just tell one good story at a time.

Paperback format, 356 pages, Copyright 2008, Scholastic Canada Edition

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #65 & #66 The Godmother and The Godmother’s Apprentice by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Amid all my Darkover books, I’ve taken a few side tangents into other worlds and writers’ works.  While tidying out one of my many bookcases, I noticed my well-loved copies of The Godmother and The Godmother’s Apprentice by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough.  Once spotted, they just begged to be read yet again.

The Godmother deals with the trials and tribulations of a Seattle social worker named Rose Samson who wishes there were better ways to help some of her clients.  Into the breach appears Godmother Felicity Fortune.  This wonderful character appears to be based on fellow fantasy writer Anne McCaffrey to whom the book is dedicated.  The magic powers that Godmothers have access to in our modern era poses new challenges and strict guidelines as to  how wishes are granted.  Scarborough does a masterful, humorous job of weaving in favourite archetypes in a brand new way.

The rest of my review can be read on my bookhoardingdragon blog.

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #57 No Mercy by Sherrilyn Kenyon

I picked the hardcover copy of No Mercy in a sale bin at a local bookstore to add to my rapidly growing Kenyon collection.  It felt a bit familiar as I read the first few chapters and I have a sneaking suspicion that I might have read a friend’s copy of this.  Regardless, the story makes a lot more sense having now read the Chronicles of Nick series, Archeron and the other novels that I’ve acquired in the Dark-Hunter collection.  Since I am not reading them in pure chronological order, there are a few gaps in background character knowledge that would probably make the reading experience slightly richer, but that is the beauty of having a vast set of books in your personal library – when you complete the collection at some point, you can go back and read them in sequence to fall in love with a sweeping series such as this all over again.

No Mercy deals with one of the most intriguing characters in the series, the Sanctuary club’s bouncer Dev who just happens to be one of 4 quads (4 hunky brothers) and a Were-Bear to boot.  Kenyon has no shortage of imagination when it comes to creating unique characters that break beyond the traditional romance novel mold!  Add a 5000 year old Amazon Dark-Hunter to the mix who is haunted by the death of her husband and child in a gruesome betrayal and you have two people with far more baggage to overcome than your traditional  Harlequin lovers.  The fact that Samia is being hunted by demons who want to use her psychometric powers to find out how to destroy the Greek God Apollo also makes their relationship a little more challenging.

Once again, Kenyon’s blend of riveting story line, fascinating characters and sensual lovemaking combine for a thrilling read from start to finish.  The more of her novels I read, the better I understand how and why Kenyon has attracted such a vast and loyal fan base.  As with previous stories, the characters triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds with determination, sarcasm and cultural references that had me laughing out loud.  I can see that I will have to make more bookshelf space under the Ks again…

Hardcover format, 343 pages, published in 2010 by St. Martin’s Griffin

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #53 Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon

If Dance with the Devil was one of my favourite books by New York Times Best-selling author Sherrilyn Kenyon, Acheron was the hardest of her stories to read so far.  It wasn’t the length of the novel, but rather how deeply the main character suffered that caused me to take little breaks while reading this book.

Readers of the series know Acheron as the leader of the Dark-Hunters and the first one created as such by the Goddess Artemis.  This powerful novel, however, finally reveals the suffering, agony and humiliation that he endured as a human, before becoming the cornerstone character of her novels.

I’d known from reading her biography that Kenyon had endured some hard times in her life. Until I read the author’s note at the beginning of the book, I had no idea that she was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse herself.

That someone could not only rise above such horror to triumph as she has but also then revisit some of the darkest moments in her memory, as she must have to write some of the scenes in this novel, is a true testament to her courage and talents as a writer.  I hope it was healing for her.  It was certainly empowering to see how this powerful character was able to triumph over their tragic situation and work towards healing.

Acheron is a brilliant novel but very descriptive and difficult to read in place.  It makes your heart ache before it can soar.  If you love this series, then it is a must read for all of the in-depth, key information… but it may move you to tears before you get to the funny parts and the sarcasm Kenyon is so famous for.

Paperback format, 800 pages, published in 2008 by St. Martin’s Griffin

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #52 Dance with the Devil by Sherrilyn Kenyon

 Cannonball Challenge Completed! 52 Books read and still going strong!

I am feeling a bit obsessive right now as the pendulum swings back and forth madly between  Darkover novels and Dark-Hunter tales, but it is actually very easy to keep both series straight in my head as I plow my way through them.  For me, this is the true joy of being a natural speed reader. If only I could write my reviews as fast!

I am actually reading book #61 right now, so hopefully my reviews can catch up in August when Volleyball for both daughters winds down.  I plan to continue the challenge as some other reviewers have done to see just how many books I can get through before the end of 2012.

The review of Dance with the Devil has been posted on my BookHoardingDragon blog.

Happy Reading to all of you still working towards your full or half Cannonball!

Whooooo Hoooooooo!

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #50 Night Embrace by Sherrilyn Kenyon

From Darkover back to Dark-Hunter novels again.  Night Embrace is the 3rd book in Kenyon’s vast Dark-Hunter series that I discovered after reading her YA series the Chronicles of Nick.  These paranormal romances certainly broke the mold when they first came out at the beginning of this century (that sounds so cool to say!) and Night Embrace is no exception.  Like the first two novels, this pits a paranormally endowed character with a mere mortal so that adventure, mayhem, magic and most of all passion can ensue.  What makes Kenyon’s books so enjoyable is that the characters are ones that the readers come to care deeply about as all their flaws and strengths are revealed.

Talon is a Celtic warrior who has been protecting humanity from things that go bump in the night for centuries, but when a God-driven runaway Mardi Gras float runs him over, the human woman he was trying to save brings him home to nurse him back to health.  Sunshine Runningwolf is unaware of what she’s let into her house and her life.  Her artsy, carefree way of life and open heart seems to offer Talon the perfect one-night stand opportunity as he heals… but will a single taste of her leave him wanting more than he’d bargained for?

The celtic theme woven through this tale made it interesting and engaging without feeling like I was being thumped over the head with historic details that got in the way of the story.  As an author, illustrator and creative soul myself, I could totally relate to the things that kept distracting Sunshine or the clutter that crept in.  All in all, Night Embrace was a wonderful read and it was fun to learn the unfolding details of the Dark-Hunter world that relate back to the Chronicles of Nick.  What a complex world of characters Sherrilyn Kenyon has created!

Paperback format, 408 pages, published in 2003 by St. Martin’s Griffin

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #44 Night Pleasures by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Unlike many of the more traditional romance novels, Night Pleasures does not feature a bare chested man in some heroic pose or a slender woman swooning against his rippling muscles.  One of the many things that makes Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter novels so unique is the variety of ways in which they forge paths of their own instead of conforming to the expected.

Night Pleasures is Kenyon’s second novel in this amazing series.  It details the struggles that  the Immortal Kyrian of Thrace and paranormal-denying human Amanda Devereaux must face from the moment they awaken handcuffed together.  The forces of evil have mistaken Amanda for her vampire-slayer twin sister, Tabitha, in the hopes that she and Kyrian will destroy each other before the God-forged handcuffs are removed.

The story starts with steamy scenes and handcuffs… then devolves into a romping adventure so blatantly sensual that I found the story hard to read if my teenagers were close by.  Too many questions about why Mom is blushing that deeply!  This book also features the first appearance of Nick Gautier (albeit an older version who has his driver’s license but is still a Squire) and Kyrian’s Spanish housekeeper, Rosa.  There seemed to be  a slight inconsistency or two in some minor details… but since The Chronicles of Nick deals with a future that keeps shifting slightly, these can certainly be chalked up to the eternal time paradox escape clause!

The more I read Kenyon’s works, the more impressed I am with her vivid prose, incredible sensuality and captivating characters.  Her ability to carve out a new genre in the heavily saturated romance novel world is a testament to her writing ability.  The Chronicles of Nick series certainly proved that she doesn’t need graphic sexual scenes to sell a good story… but with the summer on it’s way, I also don’t mind having a new author and a slew of steamy books to make any rainy weather more bearable! Very few “bodice rippers” written by anyone other than Nora Roberts have remained in my household library.  Now that I am beginning to track down the Dark Hunter novels to read in the recommended chronological order, I will need to make more book shelf space among the Ks this summer to accommodate the growing collection!

Paperback format, 309 pages, published in 2002 by St. Martin’s Griffin

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #41 Svaha by Charles de Lint

There are books that you read which change how you think about the world.  There are also books that write about subject matter and issues far ahead of the trends.  Svaha by Charles de Lint is both of those for me… altering the way I think about our environment and a true dystopian tale written some 20 years ahead of the current bandwagon.

Svaha, a Native word for the moment between seeing the lightning and hearing it’s thunder or the waiting for promises to be fulfilled, is an incredible tale set not to far into our own future.  Thanks to the fame and fortune of a single Native American musician in the 1990s who invested in the education of his People, the “Clavers” as they are called by the rest of the world, became the most technologically savvy race on the planet and withdrew into Enclaves of their own design after New York and Lost Angeles were destroyed by terrorist warheads and the rest of society began to crumble. By the time the Food Riots hit Europe, Russia and the United States had collapsed after a limited nuclear exchange and Japan had claimed Canada, there were 12 Enclaves across North America, two in South America, two in Australia, one in Africa and one in Siberia as well as 3 space stations owned by the  Native Nations.  These united tribes withdrew from the Outer Lands to preserve what they could of Mother Earth while everything else fell into chaos and a huge gulf between what the rich and the poor could afford emerged.

The story begins in the endless sprawl of the Toronto-Quebec Corridor where the “plexes” offer safety to the wealthy and the squats are the home of those who are just struggling to get by.  Beyond this tenuous hold on civilization lie the Wastes where bands of radiation poisoned humans prey on whatever or whoever are foolish enough to wander into the barren territories.  Gahzee has been sent on a one-way mission from his Enclave to find out why one of their flyers has gone missing and to ensure that the computer chip with its advanced technology and closely guarded secrets, does not fall into the wrong hands.  Along the way, he discovers that perhaps Dreamtime and Realtime are not as far apart as they once seemed.  Can the ancient knowledge of his people reach out to those in need of hope?  Will he find a new tribe among these strangers or a new band of enemies against which to fight?

Svaha is one of the most amazing books I have ever read.  I made the mistake of loaning my original copy to a friend after it was Out-of-Print.  When this edition was released in 2000, I bought it the minute I saw it to fill the void on my shelves.  After reading it again as part of this challenge, I made my oldest daughter read it to compare to the current slew of dystopian novels we’ve been devouring.  Like me, she found it hard to put down, engrossing and thought-provoking to read and satisfying in how well the story ended.  The blend of Japanese culture and language with the Native philosophy was even more appreciated since our visit to Tokyo last year.

If you have never read this incredible book, it should be on your bucket list!  I hope that some of the younger readers out there will discover there are tales told over 20 years ago that deserve as much attention as the “newest” ones they read right now.

Paperback format, 300 pages, originally published in 1989 by Ace Books.

First Orb edition by Tom Doherty Associates November 2000  ISBN 0-312-87650-5

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #38 Infamous by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Infamous is the third book in the Chronicles of Nick YA series written by Sherrilyn Kenyon.  After reading the second novel, Invincible, I decided that I couldn’t possibly wait for this next installment to come on sale or be published in a paperback format.  That is usually one of the true tests for a series.  As a voracious and speedy reader, I tend to try to stretch my book budget as far as possible.  This year’s Cannonball Read #4 challenge has made me throw caution to the wind on more than one occasion and just indulge!

Infamous begins as grippingly as Invincible ended. Nick Gautier has just discovered that the man he thought was his uncle offering advice is actually his future self trying to undo a terrible reality that brings on the world’s destruction.  Nick now knows that his father is not just a criminal, but a ferocious demon who choses to live in prison to feed off the evil energy that pools in such places.  Talk about  a heavy burden to bear at 14!  Is the future set in stone no matter what?  Will those closest to him still protect him or bring about his destruction once they learn the truth.  Can he trust his own advice from the future or is he embarking on a new path because of the brave choices he continues to make?

I am catching up this week for books I read while I was recovering. The full review can be read on my bookhoarding dragon blog.

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #35 Princess of Wands by John Ringo

American author John Ringo is far better known for his military fiction and political thrillers than this quirky paperback that appeared in 2006. The cover artwork of a woman in jeans with a Japanese katana (sword) fighting some scaly beast was intriguing enough to get me to flip it over at the bookstore. The back copy about this homemaker drawn into the supernatural was clever enough to make me buy it and the ensuing tales of mayhem, magic, wry humour and Faith ensured it a permanent place on my basement bookshelves.

Princess of Wands is actually three books in one. Book One, The Almadu Sanction, explains how a seemingly normal Soccer Mom, Barbara Everette, decides to take a break from her family for a weekend to restore her sanity and discovers that she is actually a Believer who can help battle against the evil that is lurking in the Bayous beyond New Orleans. Book Two, The Necromancy Option, is Barbara’s first team mission to root out the evil that lurks at a Sci-FI/Fantasy convention (anyone who has ever been to a Con will find themselves laughing out loud on several occasions) and Book Three, Broken Sabbath, is a short but satisfying romp into how this Christian warrior manages to protect her family without truly revealing what she has been up to on the side.

For the rest of the review and a link to Baen’s FREE version of this book, check out the Book Hoarding Dragon‘s blog.

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