Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the category “3 stars – a good book”

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #90 The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel is the first in a series of historical romantic swashbucklers that Baroness Orczy wrote about the title character, which form the basis for countless film and television adaptations. It features a foppish aristocrat who secretly spirits aristocrats out of France, saving them from the guillotine. It was written over a hundred years ago and is totally dated in its politics and characterizations but for all that it’s a cracking good read and I would recommend it.

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #89 The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

When I first read The New York Trilogy in my late teens it blew my mind.  I became slightly obsessed with Paul Auster and read everything he published for about ten years (through the 90s) and then… I sort of lost interest in his writing.  I was curious to see how I would respond to these three novellas, reading them a second time.

Each of the novellas takes on a different story about writers, private investigators and identity.  Each storyline has a surreal element.  These novellas are seething with ideas and are a very intellectually stimulating read and have that haunting quality that all good noir fictions seem to have but I have to say that while I found the trilogy an interesting read, I didn’t really love The New York Trilogy.  In the time since I first read Paul Auster’s books, I’ve become increasingly more disenchanted with literary fiction – generally I don’t find litfic particularly satisfying to read and The New York Trilogy is no exception.  Still, this is a well-written and thoughtful collection of stories.

Miss Kate’s CBR4 Review #13: Last of the Amazons by Steven Pressfield


I really like Steven Pressfield as a writer. My favorite book of his is Gates of Fire, about the Spartan stand at Thermopylae. He is able to bring Ancient Greece to life in a way that other authors can’t.

In the Bronze Age (and before Homer), Theseus, the king of Athens, travels on a quest where he encounters the Amazons nation. They call themselves tal Kyrte (the Free People), and live by a strict code of honor. These warrior women are bound to each other in war and marriage. They welcome the Greeks, but when their Queen Antiope falls in love with Theseus, things get sticky. The queen’s defection is seen as a betrayal. Antiope’s tal Kyrte lover Eleuthera leads the Amazon invasion of Greece, with the destruction of Athens as their ultimate goal.

The book is told from 3 points of view: Mother Bones, an Athenian girl raised on Amazon stories, Damon, her uncle, and Selene, an Amazon warrior (and close companion to Eleuthera).

The story is involving. I confess I was unfamiliar with the details of Theseus and Antiope’s story, so I wasn’t sure what would happen next. Pressfield’s descriptions of life on the steppes were, for me, the highlight of the book. We gets sense of the desperation in a culture that’s on the verge of extinction and knows it.

The battle scenes were a bit too detailed for me, though. I found those portions a bit of a slog – not because of the subject, just that who was marching in front of who and where the Amazons dug their latrines just seemed to take up a lot of space. Space that could be filled with more action! But that’s just me. I also felt the ending to be a bit rushed. Pressfield doesn’t seem to have much use for his characters once the main storyline is done. Things are wrapped up pretty quickly. All in all, though, these are minor quibbles. I enjoyed this book.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #42 – Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

At the end of Catching Fire, Katniss was knocked out by the whole lightning thing.  She wakes up en route to the mystical District 13, along with Finnick, Beetee, and Haymitch.  Sadly, Peeta and Johanna have been captured by the Capitol. Gale finds Katniss and tells her that District 12 has been bombed and destroyed, but he was able to get her family out.

Katniss becomes the symbol of the rebellion, the mockingjay of the title (and those special birds from the first book that helped her and Rue), although reluctantly (like everything Katniss does). Meanwhile, the Capitol trots out a damaged and tortured Peeta like the Viet Cong. The rebels rescue Peeta, but his loyalties and sanity remain in doubt.

The rebels take over the various districts on their way to capture the Capitol and kill President Snow. There are some harrowing street to street battles, which should not be read if you need to go to sleep. Some horrible things happen to some of the main characters, and a few big deaths.

The trilogy is pretty well wrapped up, with as happy an ending as can be expected. I’d recommend this series, but anyone that’s reading this has already read the books.

Miss Kate’s CBR4 Review#12: The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill


I read this book last year around the time the movie starring Daniel Radcliffe (who will always be Harry Potter in my heart) came out. I haven’t seen the movie, but intend to! As soon as it hits Netflix instant. I’m a sucker for a good ghost story. I love them, but they are hard to come by these days. I don’t need gore, just some good old fashioned chills. Scare me. Is that so much to ask for?

For the most part, The Woman in Black delivers. Set in Victorian England, Arthur Kipps is a solid man, a solicitor with a happy family. One Christmas while his kids are sitting around telling ghost stories, he is cajoled into telling his own. He recounts an experience that terrified him so much he had not spoken of it since.

As a young man, Arthur is sent is sent to the tiny coastal village of Crythin Gifford to settle the affairs of the late Mrs. Alice Drablow. While at the funeral, he sees a mysterious woman dressed in black. After the funeral, he makes his way to Eel Marsh House, a creepy mansion on an island only accessible via causeway. There he attempts to go through his late client’s papers, and wrap everything up before he goes back to London.

During his stay, things start to happen. There are spooky noises in the house, and strange, unexplained movements in the nursery. He sees the Woman in Black again. He also hears the sounds of an adult and child crashing a pony trap and sinking into the marsh. Arthur makes a friend in a local man, and discovers the secret of Eel Marsh House and the tragedy that occurred there years before. Without telling you any more, the story ends tragically.

The Woman in Black is chilling in it’s atmosphere. Hill is able to pull the the reader into the story pretty completely. Although there are only a couple of startling, jump-out-of-your-seat moments in the book, there is a creepiness that pervades each page. It does end very abruptly, and at first I was bothered by it. But really, extending it, I think, would give it less of an impact.

The Woman in Black is a very short book. At just over 120 pages, I’m eager to see how they were able to stretch it to fill a whole movie.  I recommend reading it alone, at night, preferably in a creepy mansion!

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #41 – Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

OK, spoiler alert – Katniss and Peeta win the Hunger Games.  Makes sense, otherwise there wouldn’t have been a trilogy.  Their victory has inspired at least some of the population of Panem to rebellion. It starts when the winners are touring the country to celebrate their victory.  They return home, and get fancy nice houses in the same neighborhood as Hamish – they’re the only ones that live there.

President Snow is, of course, perturbed, and devises a fun way to punish Katniss:  The Hunger Games All-Stars! And of course Katniss and Peeta are selected. Each decides to protect the other, without the other knowing.  If that makes sense. So now we’re back to the Hunger Games, with the training, the tributes, etc. Some of the tributes are older, and some are not quite all there.  This time they’re in a kind of biodome of death, with water, fire, nasty trees and animals, and all kinds of fun stuff.

They team up with some of the other tributes to work together, and (spoiler alert) defeat President Snow’s evil scheme again. How’d this guy get to be president, if he keeps getting outsmarted?

Anyway, this was clearly a mid-trilogy book, but it was no less exciting and gripping than the first book. I’m interested to see how the movie comes out.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #40 – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This is something of a tough one to review, since everyone’s read this book and/or seen this movie.  You know the story, so there’s not much I can say about that.  Blah, blah, dystopian not-too-distant future; blah, blah, plucky survivalist, yet of course also beautiful heroine; blah, blah, really awful way of keeping the populace in line.

We all know about the sorting, we all know about Katniss taking her sister’s place (people seem to think it’s a noble sacrifice, but I don’t know one big sister that wouldn’t do the exact same for her little sis). We all know Peeta adores her, he threw burnt bread to her when they were kids, and they end up having to play up that angle during the games so that people will root for them.

I held off reading these books for as long as I could, but when the movie was coming out I felt like I should. Then I didn’t want to like them, but I did. Are they the best written books?  No.  Does that matter?  Not in the slightest.

One caution – do not read any of these books at bedtime, especially if you’re the type who gets completely submerged in stories.  You’ll lose more sleep than you care to.

Jen K’s #CBRIV Review #45: Bossypants

While I enjoyed Tina Fey’s book, I wasn’t quite as in love with it as many others. May have had slightly different expectations. It’s funny, but I felt like Fey still kept readers at a distance even though she did reveal a bit about her life.

Jen K’s #CBRIV Review #43: Side Jobs

Collection of short stories related to the Dresden Files. Pick it up if you’re a fan of the series.

Captain Tuttle’s #CBR4 Review #38 – Seep by J. Eric Laing

And here’s yet another Kindle freebie I picked up – it’s an interesting one, too, based on a true story.  The true story is that in 1951, in Pont-Saint-Esprit, France, there was an outbreak of some kind of poisoning.  People went crazy, literally; 50 were committed to asylums, and four people died.  The outbreak was traced to bad bread – although how it got bad is a matter of some mystery.  It could have been ergot, maybe mercury, maybe aspergillus, or maybe a CIA experiment.  (I got this info from Wikipedia, so it could be totally wrong).

Laing moves the story from 1950s France to the American Southwest in the 1920s. In a small town founded by the Sweet brothers (and run with a fairly iron fist by them as well), something goes horribly wrong with just about the entire population. Times have been hard, and people have been on edge to begin with. People begin hallucinating, and becoming violent. Not just violent, but homicidal.

Fires are set, houses and businesses destroyed, and the violence spares no one – not man, woman or child. It all comes to a head on one horrible day when the few people who have retained their sanity try to get away.

This book was scary, and gripping. There were times when I wanted to put it down, but just couldn’t.  If you’re looking for a good, creepy scare, then this is the book for you.

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