Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Angels”

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.

 

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Malin’s #CBR4 Review #82: Archangel’s Storm by Nalini Singh

This book is the fifth in a series, and will most likely contain spoilers for previous books the Guild Hunter series. So avoid if you dislike that sort of thing. Also, this book refers back to a lot of characters and events in the previous four books, so it’s probably not the best one to start with. The first one in the series is Angels’ Blood.

Jason is one of the archangel Raphael’s Seven, the angels and vampires who work for him and that he trusts implicitly with his business and security. Jason is his spymaster, and can literally fade into the shadows and move unnoticed in the places he visits, should he wish to do so. Jason also has a type of psychic power where he can hear whispers on the wind. He’s quiet, deadly, and extremely aloof, unable to fully engage with the world around him, due to some seriously horrific experiences as a child. A lot of Nalini Singh’s characters have troubled pasts, Jason’s is worse than most.

At the wedding of another member of the Seven, hears a whisper on the wind alerting him that the archangel of India, Neha (who has the power over snakes and poisons), has lost her consort Eris, and it appears to be murder. Neha hates Raphael after her murderous daughter was caught breaking the laws of angelkind and executed – but she’d love to steal Jason away to her court, so when Raphael offers to send his spymaster to India to investigate the murder, Neha accepts. She wants Jason to swear a blood oath, ensuring he can’t reveal any secrets of her household without forswearing herself. Being bound to Raphael, Jason refuses at first, but a compromise is made. Jason is to swear to princess Mahiya, Neha’s niece, thus making it safe for him to explore Neha’s palaces and grounds to find the killer, without betraying any of her business to Raphael.

Mahiya seems like a timid and weak angel, but Jason soon discovers that she has a quiet strength that has helped her endure centuries of her aunt’s displeasure. The daughter of Neha’s consort Eris and her twin sister Nivriti, Mahiya is a constant reminder to Neha of the betrayal of her most loved ones, and she’s put the princess through all manner of torture, both physical and emotional. Mahiya has endured, silently, plotting quietly and planning to get away. She’s afraid that the blood bond with the deadly spymaster will jeopardise her plans, but discovers that she may instead have found an ally. As the two work together to discover the identity of the murderer, who is not content to stop at one victim, Mahiya and Jason are drawn towards each other. But Jason has had all capacity for tender emotion burned out of him by the horrors in his past – is there any possibility of a shared future for them? And will Neha ever let Mahiya leave her court?

While I much preferred this book to the previous one, Archangel’s Blade, I wish that Singh had focused entirely on Jason and Mahiya’s story, rather than interrupting the main plot every so often with subplots having to do with Raphael or Dimitri (hero of the previous novel) and his preparations for turning his wife into a vampire. It added absolutely nothing to the story, instead it kept distracting me from the flow of the main plot, and I don’t entirely understand why, if this was vital to the plot of the next book, the readers couldn’t be let in on it in flashback then. Singh does really good flashbacks. From the prologue of the book, continued in little glimpses throughout, revealing a little bit more every time, we are shown why Jason has become the man he isuntil he finally reveals it in the last third of the book. Both he and Mahiya have experienced terrible things, which makes it even more remarkable that Mahiya has retained hope and a stubborn insistence on forgiveness and softness, refusing to give in to hate and bitterness.

I liked the couple a lot, and their romance was slow to build. The murder mystery, however, I figured out a little bit too soon for my liking. I like when mysteries actually take a bit of figuring out, because if I can solve them so easily, why would it take the characters so much longer? If Jason’s as capable and brilliant as he’s said to be, it shouldn’t have taken him so long to come to the same conclusion I did.

While I really liked the first two books in the series, I’ve had complaints with the last three, and if it wasn’t for the excellent world building, and the fact that I really did enjoy this one quite a lot, I would be considering stopping. At this rate, I will give Singh one more chance to win her way back into my good graces (after all, I’m still reading Charlaine Harris), and hope that the next one is back to the form of the early ones.

Also posted on my blog and Goodreads.

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #53: Angelfall by Susan Ee

The world ended six weeks ago when angels from heaven descended to destroy mankind and take Earth for their own. Most people, seventeen year old Penryn included, have no idea why this has happened, but they’re so busy trying to survive that asking why doesn’t seem that important. So when Penryn and her family witness a brutal attack by a gang of angels on an angel in the middle of the road in the middle of the scary, scary night, and the attack ends with the shearing off of the victim Angel’s wings, and the kidnapping of Penryn’s seven year old, wheelchair bound sister, Paige, Penryn reluctantly pairs with the wounded Angel in a desperate attempt to find her missing sister. Penryn and the Angel — who is called Raffe — set off to the Eyrie, the headquarters of the Angels on Earth, in hopes that they can both regain what they have lost (wings, sister, etc, etc.) Trouble ensues.

To say that I am skeptical of indie authors might be a bit of an understatement — I think “wary” might be a better word. On the one hand, I applaud anyone who has the cajones to actually finish a book and then put it out into the world, particularly if said person takes on all the publicity and financial risk of the thing themself, with no one to back them up if things go wrong. And I certainly applaud anyone who does so and manages to get their baby out into the world and read by a respectable amount of people (as has happened with E.L. James, as blechy as I think those books are, and with other indie authors like Amanda Hocking — both of whom eventually partnered with official publishing houses).

On the other hand, we have authors like Christopher Paolini and Colleen Houck, whose homespun success translated into book deals based more upon popularity than actual talent. Granted, Paolini is a certified child prodigy with an outrageous imagination and a terrific work ethic, but after a promising first novel in the derivative but still enjoyable Eragon, his Inheritance Sequence turned into something of an unwieldy mess, like his editors were afraid to mess with his writing for fear of losing whatever untouched magic spun Eragon into a word-of-mouth bestseller. And Ms. Houck — lovely and kind person that she is — has written a book with an intriguing premise in a genre that is just begging for a fresh idea, but is so overwhelmingly unaware of how to write and structure a book, even on the most basic sentence level, that Tiger’s Curse (the first in her book series, and the only book of hers I’ve managed to finish) ends up feeling more like something an intelligent seventh grader would have written as an exercise in wish fulfillment.

So, like, what the hell, Ashley? Isn’t this review supposed to be about Angelfall? Yes, but I felt the context was necessary for you to fully understand where I’m coming from on this one. I’ve read Paolini, Houck, and a good chunk of James out of curiosity, and I eventually plan on checking out Hocking’s work just to see what all the fuss is about, so I had certain expectations going into Angelfall. Even despite the glowing word of mouth reviews I’d heard about the book, all the people whose opinions I respected who had absolutely fallen in love with this book, I was wary — wary that Ee’s prose would be self-indulgent, that her characters would be derivative or that she might Mary Sue herself into the story, that the story would be over the top premise-heavy and that her characters would be neglected. These are not uncommon fears when you’re dealing with un-edited first time authors. But get the fuck out of here, you guys, because this is exactly why people tell you not to judge a book by its cover (although, to be honest, I was more judging it by genre than cover, because that cover is actually kind of awesome).

Dudes. This book was better than a lot of the crap I’ve read that’s been published by actual official publishing companies. Sure, it had a roughness to it that would probably have been missing if Ee had an editor working with her, certain turns of phrase that were awkward or repetitive, some images that were a little over-written* . . . but if I hadn’t known it was an indie book, I never would have guessed. Susan Ee is a hell of a writer. To give you a little more context, apocalypse and post-apocalypse stories scare the ever loving shit out of me so I usually avoid them at all costs. That goes for stories about mental illness as well, and there’s lots of that in Angelfall, what with Penryn’s mother being schizophrenic and off her meds because of the end of the world and all. And if you add on to that my snobbery about paranormal romance as a genre, and angel fiction in particular (I’m a hypocritical asshole sometimes, what can I say? Maybe it would be better if I used “wary” here as well, instead of “snobby,” and would piss off less people — probably), me and this book would have lived our lives, and never the twain shall meet. But we did meet, and I’m very glad it was so. I’m also glad that Ee didn’t have an editor, as I suspect the book would have been cut for content considerably, and most of its more disturbing parts removed or changed entirely (and there were some very disturbing parts in this book, all of them intriguing and scary, but in a good way). I suspect it would have been sanitized to nothingness, or worse, not published at all.

*Speaking of over-written, I’m in the middle of re-reading Delirium at the moment, despite my middling reaction to it the first time around, but I wanted to be prepared for the sequel. Anyway, my point is, Lauren Oliver is a poet at heart and as a result, her book is chock full of lovely poetic imagery. In fact, it’s a little too chock full. She has a tendency to rely on poetic imagery and comparisons, and it’s a technique she goes to just a little too often. In comparison, while some of Ee’s phrases are a little too much, she uses her images and poetry more sparingly, and as a result, when you actually get to one, it’s a gutpunch feeling, rather than “Oh, not this again,” which is how I’ve been feeling with Oliver. Less is more**. Oh my God, shut up, Ashley.

**Ironically, this is the longest, most self-indulgent review in the history of the universe. I told you: hypocrite.

If you have eyes, you will have noted that despite my praise for the book and its author, this is not a five star review, and that’s because the book did have some minor conceptual flaws (flaws which are easily forgiven in the face of the rest of the story, by the way). Ee was perhaps a little too spare with her worldbuilding details. I appreciated the organic nature of the worldbuilding (not a single drop of extraneous exposition to be found), but as a reader enamored of the world she’s created, I wanted more, and I wanted it right away. Penryn was pathological about avoiding direct conflict on this topic in her conversations with Raffe, and while I can buy that she just doesn’t want to get involved, or that she even cares about participating in the eventual resistance movement (although no doubt she will in future books), I don’t buy that she wouldn’t have at least exploited her alone time with Raffe just a little bit, to learn more about the enemy, or hell, even their plan to infiltrate the Eyrie (which she practically goes into blind, by Raffe’s request). I also didn’t think it was believable how soon Penryn was able to admit her attraction to Raffe to herself. The angels destroyed her world and killed billions of people — there should have been much more hatred and fear in her mind, and it should have been much tougher to get over for her than it was. None of this, “Oh, he’s the enemy, but look at how pretty!” Or at least, not as soon as Ee had it happening. It would have been even more fulfilling at the end, then, when she’s finally able to admit that Raffe is her ally, and well . . . I don’t want to spoil the end for you, but just trust me. It would have been better. (P.S. The end of this book is BATSHIT INSANE, just as a warning.)

SO ANYHOODLE. If this review has made you at all curious, just give up already and buy the dang book. Penryn is a badass who keeps knives in her boots, and Ee is a badass for writing her. It’s an incredibly fast read, and it’s only $3 for the ebook. You’ll be supporting a pretty brassy, classy lady, and you’ll be getting a good story in the process. And hey, here’s five free chapters to whet your whistle. The bad part is that when you’re done, you’ll have to wait just like the rest of us for the sequel to be released, and who the heck knows when that’s going to happen. Liking things really sucks sometimes, you know?

meilufay’s #CBR4 review #36 Angels’ Blood by Nalini Singh

As I’m sure you all have noticed, the genre market has exploded with books that are a cross between romance novels and fantasy/sci fi.  It’s a movement I love because I have blood sugar problems – a little sweet is about all I can tolerate.  Obviously, this being the case, the sort of “vaginal fantasy” (as Felicia Day calls it) that I like is science fiction or fantasy action with a taste of romance.  This bestselling series by Nalini Singh is romance with a taste of fantasy.  Essentially, a Harlequin romance (am I dating myself with this reference) with supernatural elements.  I did not enjoy this book.  I’m not saying it’s terrible, it’s just not my cup of tea.  In it the world in run by angels.  Angels produce this kind of toxin as a side effect of being almost immortal and have to get rid of it periodically or something really really bad will happen.  The toxin, when fed to a genetically appropriate human, creates vampires.  Elena, the main character, is a vampire hunter.  It’s literally in her genes (I guess in the same way some people are genetically designed to accept the change into vampirism – whatever, this is not the kind of pseudoscience that bears any relationship to actual science).  Normally, she hunts down rogue vampires (that’s vampires who escape their angel masters and go on killing sprees) but she’s been hired by Raphael, the archangel of New York, to hunt down a rogue angel.  Not only an angel, but an archangel – one of a handful of angels who rule over all other angels.  (Are you annoyed with this mythology yet?  Because I’m sort of annoyed typing the whole thing out.)  Of course, it goes without saying that Elena is a leather wearing badass and that Raphael is a hot hot hottie and that they play that line between killing each other and f*cking each other.  (It may be like a romance novel, but this ain’t your Momma’s Harlequin.)  At one point, Raphael covers Elena with angel dust – think glitter with an aphrodisiac element – from his wings.  Yeah.  It’s just way too… I just can’t, ok you guys?  I know lots of people love these books and lots of people love these kinds of romance and I say to those people be proud!  Do not be ashamed!!  Do not hide your book covers on the subway!!  Do not allow yourself to be embarrassed by it! Ignore all the sarcasm and snark I’ve loaded into this review because I happen to be a bitter cynical bitch who hates this crap!!  Enjoy this series if it’s the kind of thing that floats your boat – just don’t expect me to march in the purple glitter unicorn parade OK???

rusha24’s #CBR4 review #3: Angels by Denis Johnson

Denis Johnson’s first novel Angels is a terrifying book. It’s scary how good someone can be in their first big swing at fiction, though his three previously published volumes of poetry surely helped to hone the crackle of his prose. But mostly, it’s scary to read a book that’s relatively short, seems small in scope, and ends up encompassing just about everything and everyone, in a way that leaves you utterly breathless. I know, I know—that sounds grandiose. But it is; it’s a walloping gut-punch of a book. And while most of Johnson’s fiction falls under the same category, it seems particularly distilled here in this slim novel, as if this story gave Johnson no choice but to tell it.

Angels picks up with the story of Jamie, a youngish mother of two small girls, as she hops on a Greyhound to flee her cheating husband with the two kids dragged along (very much baggage in more than one sense). That Jamie is so nonchalant in her disdain for having to take care of these kids is just one of the things that makes her hard to sympathize with—an interesting choice on Johnson’s part, to open the book with what appears to be a protagonist who is simply difficult to like. She’s poor, with little to her name and little to travel toward, yet so infantile and gratingly naïve that the only way to feel for this character is to pity her. Jamie meets a fellow pitiable on the bus, an ex-Navy washed-up con named Bill Houston, and the book follows their travels together as they bounce from Pittsburgh to Chicago to Arizona in a series of increasingly tragic acts.

It’s hard to say what draws Jamie and Bill together, besides a shared penchant for booze, drugs, and quick money. They love each other almost instantly, but it’s certainly not a kind of love that would be recognizable to most people—it’s not even recognizable to themselves. I think it’s more than just two broken people propping each other up with the bond of shared suffering; rather, they both sense in the other a desperate desire to become something better, something more than their circumstance, even while they can’t help but fuck it all up again and again and call it “living.”

The second half of the book sees Jamie float to the background a bit, as Bill Houston and his brothers take charge of the narrative with their small-bit criminal aspirations that, inevitably, go horribly wrong. The last thirty pages or so are written in a twisted, Expressionistic way and are horribly brutal—characters waiting to die, or enduring the gruesome wounds inflicted by a life lived too carelessly. And it’s here where Johnson is at his sharpest. These people have done awful things, have refused to accept the responsibilities of adulthood as we know it. They have lived in and among the fringes of society, scraping the bottom without a sense of shame, and yet they are never hopeless. Johnson never denies his characters the chance for redemption, and it’s the most beautiful thing about this book.

Johnson went on to receive a ton of critical praise for his books Tree of Smoke, Fiskadoro, and the short story collection Jesus’ Son, but Angels can really stand among those. It’s an impressive debut not because of implicit potential—you get the sense that he’d already arrived, was just waiting. This is the fierce announcement of a voice that speaks for those who most of us would walk past on the street without a look back. Johnson makes us stop and turn around; he makes us consider why they matter.

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