Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “#CBRIV”

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.


Jen K’s #CBRIV Review #37: The Greatest Show on Earth

A good book for anyone that needs a refresher on the science and facts behind evolution. I’m not sure it would convince anyone that didn’t want to be convinced but at least I’ll be able to defend my position even more accurately.

Jen K’s #CBR 4 Review #36: The Rook

Yes, another review of The Rook. I enjoyed it – it was a bit quirky and humorous while also having a mystery. Kind of comparable to The Eyre Affair in tone. 3.5 stars.

Jen K’s #CBRIV Review #33: How to be an American Housewife

Mother-daughter narrative about a Japanese woman and her Japanese-American daughter. Unfortunately, only one of the perspectives was interesting as tends to be the case more often than not in dual narrative stories, especially the multi-generational ones. I’d give four stars to the mom’s story, and two to the daughters for an average of 3.

Doctor Controversy’s CBR4 Review #5: “The Average American Marriage” by Chad Kultgen

Chad Kultgen is back, which means it’s time to think long and hard about our long and hard…


ElLCoolJ’s #CBR4 review #5: Cloud Atlas: David Mitchell

ElLCoolJ’s #CBR4 review #5: Cloud Atlas: David Mitchell

Every so often Hollywood takes a great piece of literature and makes a movie or TV show out of it. A byproduct of this is that it makes some people, like yours truly, want to go read the original text before beginning to watch. Take Game of Thrones for example. It is a runaway hit for a network I don’t get to watch, so I am resigned to watching it on disk at my own time frame. I decided to read the book first, so I went to my library, waited my turn for a copy of the super popular book to come in and started reading. I got 30 pages into Game of Thrones before I returned it to the library, bored out of my skull.

Compare this with when I read Cloud Atlas. I read a review of the movie that made the book sound very intriguing, so I got on the library wait list. When I got my copy I dove in, but only got 1/3 of the way through before I had to return it to the library. Knowing that I was going to 25th on the wait list I decided to go purchase it (from my local book store… buy local) and could not have been happier. It is a book that I am proud to own and will lend to all my friends until they have all had a chance to delve into the mastery that Mitchell shares with us.

By now you know the basic storyline, so I won’t spend too much time reviewing what happens. I will also keep this basically spoiler free, or as best as I can do. This event (I feel bad calling it mere book or story) is six individual stories nestled together. The first takes place on a 18th c sailing vessel in the South Pacific. The second is a failed composer in  post Great War Europe. The third is a hard boiled investigative journalist in sunny California in the 1970’s. Next comes the contemporary geriatrics in England. Then comes the futuristic Korean society with human clones. And finally the post apocalyptic Hawaii. Well that’s not entirely all. Each story is only HALF the story and then after the post apocalyptic tale comes the conclusion of the Korean clones, the aged Brits, the muckraking Californian, the broken down composer and then the story ends with the salvation of the sailor.

Mitchell himself wrote, as the composer describing his latest piece:

Spent the fortnight gone in the music room, reworking my year’s fragments into a “sextet for overlapping soloists”: piano, clarinet, ‘cello, flute, oboe and violin, each in it’s own language of key, scale, and color. In the first set, each solo is interrupted by it’s successor, in the second each interruption is recontinued  in order. Revolutionary or gimmicky? Shan’t know until it’s finished and by then it’ll be too late, but it’s the first thing I think of when I wake, and the last I think of before I fall asleep…

Mitchell is describing not just the epic musical piece, to be called “Cloud Atlas”, but also his own story. Yes it’s a bit gimmicky, but BLAM does it ever work!!! I was thinking of it when I woke and when I went to sleep.

Each story is indeed in it’s own voice. The change in language from the High-Formal gentleman speak of the 19th century learned men to the pigeon-English of the postapocalyptic is outstanding. As each new tale began it took a bit to get used to the style of writing and the patter of speech. I found myself annoyed a number of times at the start of a new section because it wasn’t as good as the past section…until a few pages later when I didn’t want to put it down. And then I got upset when the next section began because it couldn’t hold a candle to the previous section, until it blew it away with its’ own mastery. On the descent (as I am calling the second half of each story) I ripped through them knowing how good they were. It felt like seeing an old friend again.

I’ll admit that I was skeptical on the way up. I was really enjoying the variety of language, the interesting story lines, and navigating the structural changes. There were some connections between the stories, but not really. Then on the way down, it all fell in to place. Starting with the conclusion of the Korean sci-fi I realized that Mitchell was not just talking about this story, but explaining parts of the postapocalyptic plots, as well as making direct references to themes from other stories. The next and next and next story kept opening up and opening more themes that I had not realized were there the whole time. I had to go back and check earlier sections to prove to myself that those clues were really there. (It was not unlike LOST with clues hidden way back).

I got goosebumps when I finished the second to last section when I realized what a genius Mitchell is with this book. He cleverly wove strands of what it is to be human throughout all the stories, from the savage South Pacific Islanders to the corporate CEO’s to the human fabricants in a futuristic society and back to primitive beings after the fall of civilization. What is our role here during our brief sojourn on this planet? How can the actions of one person impact those of future generations. Mitchell has one character write “A life spent shaping a world I want Jackson (his son) to inherit, not one I fear Jackson shall inherit, this strikes me as a life worth the living. ”

Not all of the sections are equal. My favorite world that he shared with us was the Korean-sci fi.The 1970’s was the most pedestrian  but it was still very interesting and captivating. On the way back down each story took turns that I did not see happening which shifted my preconceived perception of each of the plot-lines (also like LOST).

I give this book a “one of the best I have ever read” ranking. I could not put it down and really enjoyed the world he created. I have decided NOT to see the movie, my original impetus to reading the book, because I don’t want to lose his world as I see it in my mind. Read and enjoy.



CBRIV: Book#13: Divergent Book 2: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Malin’s #CBR4 Reviews #66-69: Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin, Becoming Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta Chase

So I did a fair bit of reading over the summer, even though I actually spent 15 days while in Iowa not so much as thinking about opening a book (which may be the first time in my adult life I can remember that happening). I did fall dreadfully behind on my reviews, and I’m not even blogging everything I read anymore. You can therefore expect several bulk posts from me in the coming weeks.

Book 66: Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin.  Beginning of a very enjoyable paranormal fantasy series. The covers are particularly awful, even by the standards of the genre. Please don’t let that put you off if you like light-hearted adventure fantasy. 4 stars.

Book 67: Becoming Bindy Mackenzie by Jaclyn Moriarty. Extremely well-written young adult novel with a protagonist it’s difficult to like at first. More teenagers should discover these books, they’re an absolute delight to read, and a million times better than most YA fiction out there. 4 stars

Book 68: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I break my own rules for the first time in three years of reviewing for CBR. I’ve read this book four times now, but it’s one of my absolute favourites, and when Mrs. Julien and a bunch of others were reading it, I had to revisit it as well. 5 stars

Book 69: Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta Chase. One of her weakest efforts, but still quite entertaining. Worth checking out if you like this sort of thing. 3 stars.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review # 65: A Beginner’s Guide to Rakes by Suzanne Enoch

Lady Diane Benchley’s late husband was a dissolute gambler, who left her with nearly nothing after she paid off his creditors. She does possess the deed to his town house in London, however, and has very specific plans to make herself a fortune. Shocking all of polite society, she sets out to establish an exclusive gentleman’s gambling club, run and staffed entirely by respectable women.

Oliver Warren, the Marquis of Haybury, has tried to forget Diane for two years, since they shared two incredible weeks of passion shortly after she was widowed. Diane knows only that Oliver abandoned her in Vienna without a word and sped back to England, and his heartless behaviour means she has no qualms about blackmailing him into providing the start-up capital for her club. She intends for him to be a silent, entirely passive partner in the club (once he has used his considerable experience as a very successful gambler to help train her staff).

Oliver has other plans. He’s not spent long with Diane again before realising that he was a fool to leave her. Now he just has to convince the woman whose heart he broke to take him back, through fair means or foul.

While the book has an utterably baffling title, which has NOTHING to do with the plot of the novel at all, A Beginner’s Guide to Rakes is a lot of fun, and can now be added to my list of delightful romances where the heroine shoots the hero at some point. Diane has very good reasons for detesting Oliver, and being reluctant with trusting any man with her heart. To his credit, and very refreshingly in a romance hero, once Oliver realises the truth about his feelings for Diane, he does whatever he can to make up for his previous misdeeds and sets out to prove to her that he can be trusted.

As well as creating an engaging central couple, who spar most entertainingly, Enoch doesn’t neglect the supporting cast, making sure that they are fully fleshed out, making the reader more invested in the creation and continued success of the Tantalus Club. Several of the characters are also clearly going to feature in future books, without their introduction and presence in the story feeling as forced as it sometimes does in planned multi-book series by other authors. The first installment in the Scandalous Brides can definitely be recommended.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #64: At Your Pleasure by Meredith Duran

The year is 1715, and England is a divided county, with a lot of complicated political and religious unrest. Lady Eleonora is a young widow, who’s put in a very difficult position when an agent of the Crown comes to search her brother’s estate, where he has weapons and barrels of gunpowder buried in the basement, to be used in a Jacobite rebellion against King George I. If the weapons are found, Nora and her brother will be tried for treason. Making the situation even harder is the fact that the King’s agent is Adrian Ferrers, the Earl of Rivenham, and Nora’s first love.

Adrian used to be a Catholic, and Nora’s family refused to let them marry, forcing Nora into an unhappy marriage with an older, violent man. Now that she’s a widow, she wants nothing more than to manage her brother’s estate for him (a place she loves, but has no rights to, being a mere woman in a time when women were considered chattel). Adrian, however, doesn’t know that Nora was forced, and believes she faithlessly abandoned him. Having converted to Protestantism and worked his way up in Queen Anne’s court, he’s now helping King George track down and stop Jacobite rebels. He knows Nora’s brother is guilty, he now needs to know if she’s willingly abetting him, or unaware of his doings and whereabouts.

During Adrian’s siege of the estate, he learns just how miserable Nora’s marriage was, how much she lost when her family discovered her youthful tryst with Adrian, and that she thought he’d abandoned her. Can the lovers be reunited, even though they are on opposite sides of the political and religious divide?

This book was a huge disappointment to me, made even more so by the fact that I rate Meredith Duran’s previous novels so very highly, with several of them being among my all time favourites. Add to that the fact that this book’s been very favourably reviewed by a lot of reviewers whose opinions I trust on the internet, so my expectations were high. As it was, only stubbornness, and the desperate hope that it would get better at some point if I only kept reading, allowed me to finish the book and not quit it in anger and disgust.

While Nora should probably be pitied, being a woman in a time when they were completely at the mercy of the men in their lives, and treated like property, I just wanted to reach into the book and slap her, hard and repeatedly, for her incredible stupidity. Even though she owes her brother nothing (he helped sell her into marriage to an abusive man) and knows he’s committing treason, she helps him endanger her life and those of all the people on the estate she loves, by letting him bury huge amounts of very volatile and dangerous explosives under the manor house. She keeps protecting him, even after it’s clear that he intended to marry her off to a cousin, again without even asking how she felt about the match.

Adrian is no prince, either. He tortures Nora by depriving her of sleep for several days, acts in an incredibly arrogant and high-handed way towards her, and even marries her by force (she’s bound and gagged at the time) because he’s decided that it’s what’s best for her. Even with all this, he’s still the more sympathetic of the two, and that should tell you how insufferably idiotic Nora was.

The only reason I’m giving the book 2 stars is because even though I hated the main characters, and had to force myself to finish the book, Duran still has a magnificent grasp of language and should also be commended for writing a novel set in a different time period than most historical romances. The book is very well researched and written, I just really disliked the plot and central premise. I really hope that this was a one-time occurrence, and that Duran’s next book is more to my liking. I would hate for this to be the last of her books I ever read.

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