Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “#vaginalfantasy”

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #63 Poison Study (Study #1) by Maria V. Snyder

Poison Study is the first book in a fantasy romance series written by Maria Snyder.  It’s actually very similar to Master of Crows by Grace Draven.  The main character, Yelena, is on death row and is offered a way out, she can become the food taster for the Commander of Ixia, tasting all his food before he does to make sure it’s not poisoned.  Of course, there’s more to the story than that.  There’s romance and intrigue and adventure.  I enjoyed this book, but not enough to carry on with the series.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #62 Master of Crows by Grace Draven

Master of Crows is what Felicia Day would call “vaginal fantasy”.  It’s a romance novel set in the context of a fantasy world.  The main character, Martise, is a bondswoman who is offered her freedom if she is willing to spy on a renegade sorcerer, Silhara of Neith.  I think if you read the description of this book, you will know exactly what you’ll get when you read it.  You know Martise is going to fall in love with Silhara and that they will struggle to trust one another for various reasons.  This book satisfyingly delivered the experience promised by the premise.  It wasn’t necessarily surprising, but it was well-drawn.  I became quite attached to the character of Martise and found myself caring about her fate.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #58 All Spells Break Loose (Raine Benares #6) by Lisa Shearin

All Spells Break Loose is the sixth in Lisa Shearin’s Raine Benares series.  It is NOT a standalone book, it’s the culmination of the story developed over the first five books.  Generally speaking, my tolerance for a series expires at book three.  I personally find it annoying to have to carry the characters in my head and then pick them all up again a year (or many years) later.  I dislike the sense that I’m not done at the end of a book.  There’s a lot of series that I’ve abandoned simply because I was tired of maintaining space in my mental hard drive for them.  I may not even read the next George RR Martin.  (But I probably will because, dammit, I’ve invested a lot of time in the series and I kind of want to know what happens.)  I enjoyed the first five Raine Benares books when I read them all together in one week long session.  But in the six month gap between my reading the fifth Raine Benares and All Spells Break Loose, I found that I’d forgotten to care about the characters, and I was just kind of meh about this book.  I’m relieved to have the series all tied up but I’ve learned an important lesson here: stop reading these series.  If, however, you ARE someone who enjoys serial novels, then the magical world of Raine Benares is a fun, light-hearted one to spend time in.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #49 Sins of the Demon (Kara Gillian #4) by Diana Rowland

I’m really torn about this, the fourth book in Diana Rowland’s Kara Gillian series.  On the one hand, the book had a genuinely interesting story.  Having set up the rules for demon summoning in the first book, Rowland casts them in a new perspective in this book and I love it when a writer does that.  However, as she shifts from telling self-contained murder mysteries with touches of an ongoing narrative into dealing more and more explicitly with the ongoing storyline, each book becomes less and less satisfying to read.  Like the third book in the series, this one ends with a major cliffhanger.  I honestly hate it when series do that and I am indifferent to the fact that a fifth book is coming out later this year.  So I guess I’m not torn, am I?  Because, honestly, I have no interest in reading further in this series.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book, and I enjoy the ongoing story, but I do not enjoy either enough to hold the narrative threads in my head while waiting another year for another book to not satisfy me.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #48 Secrets of the Demon (Kara Gillian #3) by Diana Rowland

As hard as it was to write my review of the second book in the Kara Gillian series for fear of giving away spoilers for the first, it is even harder now.

With each of these novels, there’s a self-contained murder mystery as well as narrative threads that play out across the series as a whole.  This book delves deeper into demon politics, Rhyzkhal’s motivations and the deepening mysteries about FBI Agent Ryan Kristoff.  I liked the book but was very frustrated by the cliffhanger ending.  Even though I always read these sorts of books in order (I’m pretty pathological about it), I feel as if a book should tell a self-contained story and the Kara Gillian series is starting to unravel a bit in that regard.  The murder mysteries in books three and four were less engaging than the ongoing story but we’re still only getting that ongoing story in bits and pieces.  I did enjoy this book, and I really enjoyed the fourth one, but I’m starting to get annoyed with the series.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #47 Blood of the Demon (Kara Gillian #2) by Diana Rowland

Blood of the Demon is the second book in the Kara Gillian paranormal romantic mystery series by Diana Rowland.

It’s going to be very difficult for me to write this review because, for one thing, it’s been months since I’ve read the book and, for another, I don’t want to give away spoilers on the first book.

Kara Gillian is a police detective with supernatural powers – she can summon demons.  As with the first book, she uses her supernatural abilities to help her solve a series of murders.  And also as in the first book, her efforts are hampered by a growing love triangle with Demon Lord Rhyzkahl and FBI Agent Ryan Kristoff.  We know that Rhyzkahl has his own reasons for wanting to seduce Kara, but we don’t know what they are.  We also suspect that there’s more to Kristoff than meets the eye.  Without giving anything away, I’ll just say that Rowland moves those two aspects of the ongoing story forward while still telling a self-contained story about the murders.

I liked but did not love this series. Definitely if you are a fan of the genre, it is worth checking out.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #46 Mark of the Demon (Kara Gillian #1) by Diana Rowland

I read the first four Kara Gillian books in a rush about six months ago so I apologize if my review is a little fuzzy on the details.

Mark of the Demon is the first book in Diana Rowland’s series about main character Kara Gillian.  Kara is a summoner, which means she can summon demons.  In this world, demons are beings from a different dimension; they are neither good nor evil.  Basically, summoners summon the demons into this world and then make deals with those demons, bartering (mostly) services across dimensional lines.  Of course, it’s a one-way thing and while demons and summoners can form friendly working relationships, the demons never get to choose when they are pulled into our dimension.  Because of this, demons resent their human summoners and occasionally take advantage of any loopholes in the summoning agreement to punish their human summoners.  So a lot like magical beings in old folk tales.

Kara’s day job is as a police detective in rural Louisiana (seriously, why are all paranormal romantic mysteries set in the deep south?).  At the beginning of the book she is summoned to a murder scene.  She quickly realizes that the murder fits in with a cold case serial killer referred to as “Symbol Man”.  As she is investigating the murders, she meets two men (so to speak).  One is an incredibly powerful, blonde, hunky Demon lord named Rhyzkahl (demon lords are demons so powerful that they can not be bound in any way), the other is FBI Agent Ryan Kristoff.  Kristoff is clearly intended to be a potential love interest but in this book Kara is much more absorbed with Rhyzkahl.  She’s smart enough to know that he’s dangerous and that his attempts to seduce her have to do with more than sex, but she IS human and he IS hot.

I enjoyed this book.  I thought Rowland did a good job of setting up her world and I obviously was really interested in it because I read three more books in the series one after another.  I think if you’re a fan of this particular sub-genre you will probably enjoy this book and series, too.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #41 The Devil’s Right Hand (Dante Valentine #3) by Lilith Saintcrow

This is the third book in the goth urban paranormal Dante Valentine series by Lilith Saintcrow.  It’s going to be very difficult for me to review this book because saying anything about the plot will give away spoilers for the first two books and I don’t want to do that.

So instead let me just say that this was the book that broke me.  Despite the fact that I bought all five Dante Valentine books in a bundle so I paid for books four and five, I have no intention of reading them.  The premise of the series is that heroine Dante Valentine is a seriously effed up woman who is forced by the events in the series to confront her demons and (I assume) ultimately heal.  Dante is lucky in that she survived her abusive childhood to become a functional adult.  But she’s only functional on a material level.  She’s completely messed up on the inside and because of it she is absolutely horrible to all the people who love her.  I understand psychologically why Dante is this way but honestly I broke up with her as a character just as I would break up with a friend or lover who treated me the way Dante treats her friends and lovers.  It’s not that I don’t think Dante deserves love and happiness but she needs to sort her sh*t out and she was just not doing it fast enough for me to stick around for books four and five.  I’m fairly certain that the arc of the series will get Dante there but she’ll just have to continue her journey without me as a reader.  I’m done.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #40 Dead Man Rising (Dante Valentine #2) by Lilith Saintcrow

I’m at least twenty books behind on my reviews so I apologize in advance for the brevity of this and any other reviews I write over the next week or so.

Dead Man Rising is the second book in the Dante Valentine series by Lilith Saintcrow.  When we left necromancer and bounty hunter Dante, she was completely shattered by the revelations and changes wrought by book one, Working for the Devil.  We pick up the action with Dante  back to her day job, bounty hunting, working with her former partner and lover, Jace Monroe.  It’s very clear very quickly that Dante is still not anywhere near OK with the events of book one.  She’s a shell of a woman and while Jace is helping her hold it together, she’s unable to give him anything in return.

The overall theme with the Dante Valentine series is one of dealing with one’s demons and this Dante chick has a lot of demons to deal with.  Book by book, Lilith Saintcrow mercilessly confronts Dante with not just demons from her past but mistakes she’s making in the present.  It makes for good, smart, storytelling but it also means that the main character is barely functioning on an emotional level.  Which is a nice way of saying sometimes I want to slap her because she’s lucky enough to be surrounded by people who love her, people who *literally* would do anything for her and she’s so paralyzed by her emotions that she barely acknowledges their existence.  Unless, of course, she wants to smack them down.  Kicking ass is not something that’s a problem for Dante.  She will happily fight anyone, including her friends.

In the first book, the demon Dante had to deal with was a literal one; a demon named Santorino who brutally tortured and murdered Dante’s best friend and lover Doreen.  In this book, a serial killer is hunting down former classmates from the state run institution Dante was raised in.  Of course, Rigger Hall was a hell for each and every one of the students who attended it, leaving deep psychic scars.  In chasing down the serial killer, Dante is forced to relive that hell and is directly confronted with the evidence that almost all of her former classmates continue to be deeply dysfunctional as a result of their time at Rigger Hall.

I enjoyed this book as I enjoyed the first book but I didn’t love either.  One of the problems for me was that Dante is so emotionally unavailable that it was hard for me to identify with her as a reader.  The way that she treats people around her is very unsympathetic.  I admire her strength and her willingness to put her life on the line when it matters; but, ultimately, Dante is a character who has high moral standards, standards by which she judges everyone, but who does not apply those standards to herself.  She only deals with her past because she is literally forced to do it by events of the plot but it is frustrating to see how little she perceives that she is creating her own problems.  She wants everyone to take responsibility for their actions and emotions but is unwilling to do it herself.  She’s like a cartoon character who is being followed around by a thundercloud except in this instance the thundercloud can’t move on because SHE is the one holding on to the tether.  Ultimately, I abandoned this series after the third book because I couldn’t deal with the character anymore.  Even though I think the overall arc of the series seems to be a redemptive one, I just wasn’t willing to stick around with Dante long enough to see her get her redemption.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #39 Working for the Devil (Dante Valentine #1) by Lilith Saintcrow

Even though the Dante Valentine series has gotten pretty decent reviews on Goodreads (particularly from geek goddess Felicia Day), I avoided reading the series for a really long time.  Mainly because, between the author’s pseudonym and the cover art and description, the book seemed like it would be a little goth.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with goth, there are plenty of goth or goth adjacent things that I love (Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, Storm Constantine’s Wraeththu books and, um, I can’t think of a third thing off the top of my head… the first couple of Anne Rice vampire novels maybe?) but I personally don’t find goth tropes engaging unless they’re attached to a really compelling narrative.  However, in a fit of Kindle based impulsivity, I downloaded a bundle of five Dante Valentine novels so the die was cast.

As I expected, Dante is a pretty goth character.  She’s a Necromance (a raiser of the dead), her naturally blonde hair is dyed black and she’s got a tattoo on her cheek (apparently, there’s a law that Necromances have to do these last two things so they can be identified by the public).  She (sort of) worships Anubis.  And, because this is an urban paranormal mystery, she’s also kick-ass; she supplements her Necromance income by working as a bounty hunter and wields a katana in the line of duty.  The good news is, Lilith Saintcrow does a good job with her world and with her main character so even though I’m slightly making fun of all these tropes, I think she pretty much pulls the whole thing off.

In the opening scene of the book a (hot) demon, Japhrimel shows up at Dante’s front door and brings her to a meeting with Lucifer in Hell.  The Dark Prince has a job for Dante, one she can’t turn down.  He wants her to hunt down and kill a renegade demon, Santino.  Lucifer thinks Dante might be particularly well suited for this job because Santino brutally tortured and murdered Dante’s best friend Doreen and nearly killed Dante as well.  To a certain extent all genre novels use their plot devices for metaphors; Dante Valentine is a troubled woman who is literally and figuratively forced by events in the novel to confront her demons.  A friend of mine used to say that the job of a writer was to strand her main character in a tree and then throw rocks at him/her.  Dante Valentine may want to invest in a shield because sh*t is about to get real.  In order to track down Santino, Dante is forced to work with her former lover and partner, Jace Monroe, the man who broke her heart.  Of course, a sexy love triangle (Dante/Japhrimel/Jace) ensues.  Where this story diverges from the run of the mill is that it’s not a simple manhunt.  In her pursuit of Santino, Dante uncovers truths about her past and the world around her that she’d rather not know and is changed forever.  It’s not a spoiler to reveal that the day is (more or less) saved by the end (because that’s how all books in this particular sub-genre end) but what is refreshing and interesting is that solving one problem just creates a new set of problems for Dante.  Actually, that’s not actually fresh for an urban paranormal mystery either, is it?  Since these books tend to come in series, there’s always something at the end that leads you into the adventures of the next book.  So perhaps I should say that I was really taken by the weight of the ending and engaged enough to want to know what it all means for Dante in book two.  Lilith Saintcrow has the courage to treat her heroine mercilessly and I found that very  interesting.

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t love this book as much as some other people did.  But I did like it and I think that if you enjoy this genre, you will too.

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