Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “book review”

Prolixity Julien’s #CBR4 Review #22 – A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long

I’ve started on reviews of many random novels and revisited the basic, and, I discovered, quite outdated romance tropes introduction from my first entry. But let’s be honest, I only wrote it because I was embarrassed about reading historical romance novels genre fiction, and wanted to be wry and self-basting. It’s one hundred and twenty books later and I know the current constructs, character types, and that the consummation devoutly to be wished occurs around page 200. I can explain which authors write the best love scenes and that the books range from fade-to-black to thisclosetoerotica. (Wikipedia tells me the when it is thisclosetoerotica, they call it “romantica” which sounds like an android sex worker who, for 5 dollars more, will tell you that she loves you.) None of this matters. What I like and don’t like in regard to the love scenes is of interest only to me, Mr. Julien, and the version of Daniel Craig that lives in my id. It would tell you more about my tastes and proclivities than about the genre; however, if YOU want to read this kind of book, I recommend not only reading the first couple of pages as you would any book, but also flipping forward to about page 200 when they get busy. Running into an off-putting love scene can derail the entire reading experience, so you should get a preview first. I once looked at a book by a major romance author and found the phrase “and sucking, and sucking, and sucking, and sucking”. That’s right, four “and suckings”. An apt description of the the writing as well.

Julie Anne Long’s A Notorious Countess Confesses continues her Pennyroyal Green series focused on the Redmond and Eversea families. In my review of What I Did for a Duke, I congratulated Long on pulling off a huge age difference. Her challenge this time is the character Malin and I enjoy referring to as “the hot vicar”. He is indeed very hot. Tall, broad-shouldered, hard-working, sincere. The novel setting is Regency (God, I hate the clothing), so it was church or military, and Adam Sylvaine ended up with a family living from his Eversea uncle. It means he need not have been chaste nor uptight, but simply a good man who ended up in an available profession, and one he turned out to be very well suited for*. The heroine is the Countess of the title, Evie. I did not realise until quite far into the book that the main characters were Adam and Eve. It is mostly forgivable and also indicative of Long’s tendency towards the quietly twee.

Evie supported her brothers and sisters by working as an actress, then a courtesan, although “there were only two”, and lastly she married an Earl who won the right to wed her in a poker game. When the story begins, she has just come out of mourning for the Earl and moved to the house he bequeathed to her in Pennyroyal Green. She has a scandalous reputation, just enough money, and a desire to start again. She falls for the hot vicar because, while he is drawn to her, he is so self-possessed and at ease with himself that he is immune to her attempts to charm him, and to the facades she wears as self-protection. He is a good man, albeit a preternaturally attractive and charming one, but this is romance fiction after all. Adam takes Evie under his wing to help her join local society and find friends. The local women are alternately horrified and deliciously shocked by her. Evie is able to build a new life and Adam is given a safe haven from the constant demands and burdens of being the (hot) vicar.

Despite the fact that I prefer more sardonic rake in my heroes, I LOVED 90% of this book and Julie Anne Long is on my auto-buy list. She always manages to balance fantastic sexual tension, sincere characters, and be funny. She is so good at the tension that the most intense scene in the book involves Adam kissing Evie on her shoulder. There were flames shooting off my Kindle. Long also pulls off a very clever running joke about embroidered pillows that crescendos with dueling Bible verses about licentiousness. So what went wrong? I overlooked the patronizing attitude towards the harried mother and the whole boots and breeches impossibility, but the ending was twee as fu*k. It started out swooningly-romantic and then kind of fell apart for me. Her last novel, How the Marquess Was Won, (she needs to fire whomever approves these titles) suffered the same fate: Fantastic romance undermined by trite plotting choices. Right up to that point though, it was wonderful: head and shoulders above the “and suckings” of the genre.

This review is also posted on my tiny little blog.

*Given that Julie Anne Long usually has a couple of enjoyably-detailed love scenes, part of me secretly hopes that some naive fool looking for “Christian romance” bought this because it was about a (hot) vicar, had her hair blown straight back, and will follow up with a horrified one star review on Amazon.

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Katie’s #CBR4 Review #50: One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

Title: One for the Money
Author: Janet Evanovich
Source: library
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: This book is like junk food for your mind. It’s fun and enjoyable, but it sucks you in with humor and sex appeal rather than good writing.

One for the Money is a surprisingly plausible story about Stephanie Plum,  a pretty average woman who loses her job and ends up becoming a bounty hunter. Sounds crazy, right? What makes it work is that she’s not instantly good at it. Her bumbling mishaps and witty commentary throughout are both hilarious and believable. Her strong personality and sheer stubbornness – enhanced by the fact that one of her targets, Joe Morelli, is a guy who slept with her once and never looked back – gives her the perseverance she needs to make the job work.

Read more on Doing Dewey.

Katie’s #CBR4 Review #49: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Title: Eat, Pray, Love
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Source: library
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Summary: A humorous and relatable story with such great characters it’s hard to believe they weren’t invented just for this book.

What do you do if you have everything you “should” want and are still unhappy? In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert shares her story of leaving it all – a promising career, a comfortable home, and even her marriage – to travel the world in search of happiness. Like Cecilia Ahearn, I expected Elizabeth Gilbert to be too “girly” or emotional of an author for me and was pleasantly surprised. Of course, the book includes many emotional topics, such as the author’s agonizing divorce proceedings, but she describes everything in a relatable, humorous way. She comes across as very down-to-earth and comfortable laughing at herself and never became too angsty.

Read more on Doing Dewey.

 

Katie’s #CBR4 Review #44: Glitch by Heather Anastasiu

Title: Glitch
Author: Heather Anastasiu
Source: library
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: Very cool idea for a world, but the plot is a little too YA cliche for me to really love it.

In this dystopian novel, humanity has given up the ability to feel emotion or think for themselves. Instead, they are all connected to a network which regulates their activities and decides when they should be deactivated. However, many young adults are beginning to “glitch”, suddenly experiencing emotion and also displaying strange new mental powers. As Zoe struggles to hide her glitches and control her erratic telekinetic powers, she also has to deal with feeling emotion for her family and for boys for the first time.

Read more at Doing Dewey.

DragonDreamsJen’s #CBR4 Review #68 Turning Japanese by Cathy Yardley

Amid all the Darkover Novels, dystopian stories and Dark Hunter romances, I found time to squeeze in a novel I picked up on sale at Chapters.  Turning Japanese is a witty and entertaining, if somewhat self-indulgent, fictional tale of a half Japanese, half Italian-American young manga artist from a small town who wins an internship in Tokyo for a year.

Lisa Falloya has been reading manga for years when she wins the contest offered by one of the comic publishers in Tokyo.  She soon finds herself leaving a boring desk job and workaholic fiancé behind for a year as she moves to Japan’s largest city where nothing goes quite as planned.

To discover why I could only give this novel 3 stars out of 5, read the rest of my review on my BookHoardingDragon blog.

HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #44: The Book Borrower by Alice Mattison

This summer, I sublet an apartment in NYC from two professors. They had a wall to wall library filled with books on political science and education, with just one shelf of fiction. I had intended to tear through the shelf, but the only book I actually ended up reading from their small fiction selection was Alice Mattison’s The Book Borrower.

This book details the friendship between two women, from beginning to end. The book is told primarily in fragments of memory of the two women, Deborah and Toby. You see them meet, become fast friends, grow their families, attempt to grow their personal and professional lives, and slowly outgrow each other.  There’s intense jealousy in the friendship, as both women are teachers trying to make their way in a struggling market. There’s also jealousy over their marriages, their past times, and the new friends they make along the way.

Read more…

 

TylerDFC #CBR4 Review 20 #Snuff by #Terry Pratchett

Snuff is the latest Discworld novel, (#39 in the series) and the first since Thud to focus on Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh Morpork City Watch. I’ve been a life long fan of the Disc, but my favorite stories are always the ones that center on the Watch. I consider Jingo and Night Watch to not only be two of the best Discworld books, but two of my favorite books in any genre. So when I rank Snuff as 4 stars its not that Snuff is bad, its that the bar is incredibly high and I can’t give all of PTerry’s books 5 stars. It wouldn’t be fair to the truly exceptional ones like the above mentioned titles, as well as Hogfather, Guards! Guards!, Thief of Time, etc.

Snuff finds Commander Sam Vimes taking a holiday with his family to the country to visit the ancestral estate of his wife, Lady Sybil Ramkin Vimes. While there, as usually happens to Sam, a murder occurs and all manner of nefarious dealings begin to make themselves known. While Sam tries to track down the culprit and unravel a conspiracy with his trusty – and deadly – gentleman servant, Willikins, the City Watch has problems of their own. While out for his daily gratuity, Officer Fred Colon managed to get infected with a goblin soul that was residing in a cigar he received gratis. Cheery, Carrot, Angua, Nobby, and Wee Mad Arthur all get involved and soon enough both Sam’s case and the others are crashing in to each other for a blockbuster conclusion.

That’s sort of what happens. There are details of the book that are a bit difficult to grasp, especially if you didn’t read Thud, like the fact Sam is possessed (sort of) by a vengeance demon that helps him see in the dark and helps him with the case. While the narrative does get a bit muddy, the classic Pratchett satire is razor sharp and serves as an allegory against the mistreatment for any marginalized people. He does a great job of making you care about the victims and feel Sam’s righteous rage at the injustice that must be corrected at all cost.

For a Watch novel it is all standard stuff, but taking Sam out of the City does make for a new setting for him to get in to scrapes. The book moves fast and, as happens in nearly all Discworld novels, around the half way point the momentum picks up considerably and maintains a breakneck speed all the way to the end.

If you’re a fan of Discworld, then definitely read Snuff. If you are new to the series, start with Guards! Guards! to get a feel for who the characters of the Watch are. The books are stand alone, but it helps to know the backgrounds of the characters and how they got to where they are by this point in the chronology.

Katie’s #CBR4 Review #38: Leviathan Wakes by James Corey

Title: Leviathan Wakes
Author: James Corey
Source: library
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: Very interesting premise, intriguing, and sometimes well written, but it didn’t really draw me in.

Typically classed as a space opera, Leviathan Wakes has a little bit of everything – action, horror, mystery, and of course science fiction. We alternate between two perspective, one a shuttle captain drawn into the mystery surrounding a deserted ship sending out a distress signal and the other a cop searching for a missing girl who we know was on the now deserted ship. This shuttle eventually leads them both to a secret some people are willing to “kill on an unfathomable scale for” – even if that means engineering a war.

Read more here…

Prolixity Julien’s #CBR4 Reviews #14 – 19: Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes & An Echo in The Bone by Diana Gabaldon

This review concludes my frantic devouring of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. How frantic? When I started this review, it was of books 2 and 3, but now includes the rest of the published series as noted below. I covered book one in a previous effort. The 8th volume, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, will be released in 2013.

1. Outlander
2. Dragonfly in Amber
3. Voyager
4. Drums of Autumn
5. The Fiery Cross
6. A Breath of Snow and Ashes
7. An Echo in the Bone

Theoretically, each Outlander book stands alone, but, really, it’s just one very, very long story. Once a reader is drawn into the series (and there is quite a subculture out there), I imagine they are in it for the long haul and not just randomly picking up the books out of order. I also believe that if they do, they will want to go back and find out what they missed. Gabaldon incorporates call backs to situations, conversations, and characters with such aplomb that she must have them planned out several books in advance. Events and references lie dormant for thousands of pages and may be only incidental to the story, but recognizing when these elements are reincorporated brings my reading experience a little extra joy.

In Outlander, Claire Randall was on a second honeymoon with her husband, Frank, in the Scottish Highlands, after a six year separation during World War II. She visited a local henge and through the magic of fiction walked between two standing stones and ended up in the same place, but in 1743 where/when she was taken in by the MacKenzie clan. As an outsider, she was viewed with suspicion and was forced into a protective marriage with the chief’s nephew, Jamie Fraser. What started as a marriage of convenience quickly developed into a profound bond between the two. It is a time of growing political unrest in Scotland leading inexorably to the Jacobite rising of 1745 which ended with the infamous Battle of Culloden. The ensuing books continue to trace their lives and relationships over time.

The historical elements of the books, specifically the day-to-day details, are of particular interest to me. The political elements play out largely as forces beyond the characters’ control, and elaborate machinations interest me neither in fiction, nor in real life. With the time travel element, of immediate import is how a modern person comes to live in the past and must cope with the challenges it presents culturally and practically. Having present day events and traveling with a ‘modern” character back in time gives the reader an anchor in the historical immersion process. It’s a tougher and more restricted world from which none of the inhabitants come away unscathed. Gabaldon’s willingness to subject her characters to the ugliness and strife of the 18th century, as well as its pleasures, holds the books together for me.

If you are here looking for book recommendations: Read these books. Are they Great Works of Literature? No, but they are engrossing, well-written, and highly entertaining. “Begin at the beginning,” The King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: Then stop.”, and wait for the next book to be published. I bought all SEVEN Outlander books in one impetuous and financially guilt-racked gesture while reading volume 3. The large paperback versions. Though they seem perfect for a Kindle given their weight, I needed to have them to hold onto, and it’s a great forearm workout. All my e-reader ever gave me was a numb hand and a serious case of Kindle Klaw™. I’m going to present the books in a kind of review summary/cluster with self-indulgent maundering about them. If you find my company as delightful as I do yours, and laugh in the face of extremely vague spoilers, please follow me to my tiny little blog.

Katie’s #CBR4 Review #36: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Title: Maisie Dobbs
Author: Jacqueline Winspear
Source: library
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: Well written mystery with an impressive female protagonist, convincingly set in the 1920′s but with too much focus on WWI’s leftovers and not enough urgency.

Maisie Dobbs, the lead character after whom the book is named, is an intelligent, independent woman and one of the first generation of women taking on traditionally male roles following WWI. She’s also a brilliant private investigator with a personal life affected by her experience as a nurse in the war.  The war also leaves it’s mark on her professional life, since many of her cases directly relate to the war’s aftermath. This includes the case which is the focus of this book which starts out as “an ordinary infidelity case” but which “soon reveals a much deeper, darker web of secrets”.

Read more here…

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