Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “rahael”

Rahael’s #CBR4 Review #17: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

A plane carrying the participants for the Miss Teen Dream contest crashes on a tropical island leaving only twelve surviving girls and no chaperones or adults.  The chapters switch from focusing on one girl to the next and are separated by short contestant fact sheets or outlines for fake commercials.  The one saving grace for the book is that it’s very tongue-in-cheek and doesn’t take itself too seriously at all.  The downside however is that Bray ends up bouncing between way too many ideas and is unable to properly flesh out any one single topic or character.

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Rahael’s #CBR4 Review #16: Soulless by Gail Carriger

Soulless is the first of the five books in Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, a mish mash of several genres including paranormal romance and steampunk.  The novel centers around Alexia Tarabotti, a 26 year old lady whose mother has decided that she is destined to be a spinster, and her attempts to navigate Victorian high society and find a niche for herself.  In Carriger’s England, vampires and werewolves live openly and participate as an integral part of society.  Although the premise is a little complicated, the book ends up working quite well on the strength and humor of Alexia’s character.  There’s a scene very early on featuring some upturned treacle tarts that serves as a good indicator of whether or not you’ll enjoy the book.

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Rahael’s #CBR4 Review #15: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I’ve been struggling with what to write about Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One for almost a month now because while I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, I don’t necessarily think it was a great book.  It’s been reviewed a number of times already this year, and the target audience probably overlaps quite well with the Pajiba readership (in the 25-40 age range, interested in popular culture, movies, video games in a more than superficial way).  Although it’s a really fun adventure, the book is over-stuffed with trivia and I think Cline got a little too caught up in the gimmicky aspects of the novel and forgot about plot consistency.

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Rahael’s #CBR4 Review #14: Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Every morning, Christine wakes in an unfamiliar room next to a strange man thinking that she’s just had a one night stand.  She moves quietly to the bathroom and finds the wall covered in photographs.  Looking down at her hands and then in the mirror, she realizes that somehow she is years older than she remembers being.  Closer examination of the photos shows her with various people that she cannot recollect.  The man wakes and tells her that he is her husband, Ben.  She has suffered a traumatic accident that causes her lose her recent memory each time she goes to sleep.  The hook for the novel is pretty compelling, but unfortunately I figured out the ending very soon into the book which was a bit of a let down.

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Rahael’s #CBR4 Review #13: A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres

After reading Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick about North Korea, I was left with many questions about the nature of cult figures and how they could convince otherwise seemingly rational people of completely irrational things.  My next book ended up being an oddly appropriate (though unintentional) companion piece.  A Thousand Lives chronicles the rise in popularity of Pastor Jim Jones, his move of the People’s Temple from America to Guyana and the eventual mass murder/suicide in which 918 people lost their lives.  The phrase “drinking the kool aid” has become such an pervasive joke in our culture, that it was refreshing to see a sensitive and unbiased account of the tragedy.  The book however essentially stops its timeline shortly after the massacre and only gives scant information on the survivors and family members of the dead.  I was left really wanting to know more about how their lives unfolded and what happened in the subsequent investigation and classification of documents by the FBI.

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Rahael’s #CBR4 Review #12: Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

Try to picture a physician who has studied hard and tried to give selflessly to her government and people for many years.  Over time, she has found herself working in a hospital that lacks electricity to run it’s equipment, cannot spare antibiotics to treat patients with any form of criminal background, relies on herbal remedies scavenged from the surrounding hillsides and has even stopped paying and feeding the doctors and nurses working there.  She has given up her main love, pediatrics, because she cannot bare to deal with the daily influx of children dying to undernourishment.  Starving and exhausted, she finds herself crossing the river in the dark of night and walking in a haze towards a barn hoping to dig through the dirt and find some corn to eat.  She comes across a metal bowl on the floor filled with white rice and pork, two foods that she has not seen or eaten in years.  Confused and overwhelmed, she slowly realizes that “in China, dogs ate better than doctors did back in North Korea.”

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Rahael’s #CBR4 Review #11: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children has shown up on a bunch of Best of 2011 lists and is currently still so popular that I had to wait a few months to receive my hold copy from the library.  It was reviewed six times for CBR3 and twice already so far for CBR4.  The main character, Jacob, is a teenager who grew up listening to his grandfather’s fantastic tales of fleeing from monsters to an island filled with children with special powers.  Although he believed the stories when he was younger, as he ages Jacob begins to believe that the monsters were in reality Nazis and the island was a home established for refugee children.  When Jacob discovers his grandfather’s dying body, he starts to believe that there might be some truth to the tales and decides to try to find the island and home.  To supplement the novel, Riggs uses creepy found photos which is an intriguing idea but actually bogs the book down as the characters and plot are forced to fit his favorite photos instead of being allowed to progress organically.

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Rahael’s #CBR4 Review #10: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I hated this book so much that I’ve put off writing up a review for it for the last week and a half.  The novel takes place in the early 1960s and is narrated by Skeeter Phelan, a young white woman who recently graduated from Ole Miss, and Aibileen and Minny, two black maids who work for people that Skeeter knows.  Skeeter convinces Aibileen and Minny to help her with a book revealing what it’s like to be a black maid working for a white family in “separate but equal” Jackson, Mississippi.  I grew up in a household where books were never written in or put on the floor out of respect for their value, and one of the great joys of reading things on the Kindle for me is that I can highlight or add notes without feeling guilty for destroying the page.  In the entirety of The Help, the only line that I highlighted was:  “But it’s a sorry fact that it’s a white woman doing this.”

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Rahael’s #CBR4 Review #9: The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi

I randomly checked this book out while surfing through the available Kindle books on the website of my local public library.  At the time, I was unaware that Douglas Preston is actually a thriller and horror fiction author of quite some note and acclaim.  The Monster of Florence is however a non-fiction book relating to a series of 16 grisly murders that occurred in the Florence, Italy region between 1968 to 1985.  The same gun and pattern was used to commit 8 different crimes against young couples alone in their vehicles in secluded areas.  Although several suspects have been accused, arrested and convicted at various times over the years, the cases against each have been flimsy at best and it is widely believed that the true killer still remains at large.

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Rahael’s #CBR4 Review #8: Wildwood by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis


There was a time where I listened to Picaresque by The Decemberists on repeat; fascinated by the storytelling in songs like The Infanta and Eli, The Barrow Boy.  Through random clicking on Wikipedia, I discovered that Colin Meloy, the lead singer/songwriter of The Decemberists, and his wife Carson Ellis, an acclaimed illustrator, had collaborated on a children’s fantasy novel last year.  I was really excited to get the book from the library, and it ended up far exceeding my expectations.

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