Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Urban Fantasy”

Robert’s #CBR4 Review #13: My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland

My Life as a White Trash Zombie

My Life as a White Trash Zombie

Angel Crawford is not what you would consider a sympathetic hero. She’s a drug addict who dropped out of high school to enter the real world but can’t even hold down a simple retail job long enough to move out of her alcoholic father’s house. Her boyfriend is involved with a whole lot of criminals, including the guy who sells Angel a stolen car that sends her away on federal charges. As if life wasn’t bad enough, she’s turned into a zombie after a bad car wreck.

My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland is another urban fantasy book that changes the rules of what it means to be a zombie. So long as the living dead feed on brains every couple days, they pass as living humans with all their faculties in tact. The difference from other modern romance/horror/urban fantasy books is that Rowland’s mythology is well-developed and works for the story she’s telling.

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Amanda6′s #CBR4 Review 48-52: The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning

Here’s the series, in order:

  1. Darkfever
  2. Bloodfever
  3. Faefever
  4. Dreamfever
  5. Shadowfever

These five officially complete my Cannonball! Yay! I had initially signed up to do the half-cannonball — a formerly avid reader, I hadn’t really done a lot of reading for pleasure in the past few years, and I was unsure how many books I’d be able to cover. I want to say: THANK YOU Cannonball read, and THANK YOU Pajiba, for giving me the motivation to rediscover reading, one of my true loves in life. For the remainder of this year, I won’t be writing any more reviews, because I’ll probably be re-reading some of my favorite new books that I discovered this year 🙂 (EDITED TO ADD: Administratively, I’ve done this Cannonball as Amanda6, which was my Pajiba name under the old commenting system. On Disqus, like here on WordPress, I’m alwaysanswerb.)

I read these based on Malin’s reviews. I’m fairly new to urban fantasy and paranormal romance, being somewhat averse to cheese. For some reason, despite that Darkfever cover, Malin’s review convinced me to give these a try, and I’m really glad I did. More about Fever behind the jump…

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Fofo’s #CBR4 Review #37: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

Target: Jim Butcher’s Ghost Story (Dresden Files #13)

Profile: Modern Fantasy, Urban Fantasy

I have to give this to Jim Butcher: he knows how to drag a series past its expiration date.  Changes, book twelve in this somewhat mammoth sequence, took some major risks and really shook up the Dresden formula.  And ended with a hell of a cliffhanger.  It was/is such a big cliffhanger that I can’t actually talk about the plot of Ghost Story at all without spoiling everything.  So where does Butcher take this embarrassment of storytelling riches?  Straight back into the ground.  Or do I mean grind?

Butcher had such a great opportunity to do something different with Ghost Story.  The protagonist had been shoved conveniently off camera, and at just the perfect pivotal moment that his absence would actually have a major impact on the shape of the supernatural world.  The status quo had been shattered, with all the nice power vacuum implications therein.  And the supporting cast had really come into their own, putting up a sizable fight with the big bad at the end of Changes, even without Harry’s help.  The setting, the book title, even the metaplot was begging for a one off novel that could focus on the people who are normally sidelined to Harry’s megalomaniacal hero complex.  It could have been soooooo good!

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Fofo’s reviews of The Dresden Files

Amanda6′s #CBR4 Review 43-45: The Mortal Instruments 1-3 by Cassandra Clare

This review covers the “original” trilogy of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass. More books have been written and the series is up to five now; I have no idea how long the author intends for the series to run at this point.

Look at those covers — aren’t they kind of hilarious? Anyway, being the dedicated Tumblr user that I am, I couldn’t help but notice the fervor over these, particularly with the movie adaptation currently filming and slated for release in spring 2013. Turns out, I’m way behind on this phenomenon, since City of Bones was first released in 2008. Anyway. Onto the actual review-y stuff.

Set in modern New York, the series concerns the re-education of “mundane” Clary Fray, who grew up much like you and I, blind to the supernatural worlds that exist intertwined with ours. That changes one evening at a nightclub when she witnesses a group of Shadowhunters engaged in a bit of demon-slaying. Shadowhunters are humans that are angel-blessed and have the ability (and responsibility) to fight demons and other forces of evil. Shadowhunters are born only from the established bloodline of known Shadowhunters, so when the supposedly-normal Clary is able to see what ordinary humans, called “mundanes,” cannot, the Shadowhunter group takes her back to their lair. Meanwhile, her mother is kidnapped, as it turns out, by demons, and Clary and her new companions, along with her other mundane friend Simon, learn Clary’s true heritage and begin a quest to rescue her mother.

This is basically the setup for the first three books in the series, which has everything you would expect from a supernatural YA series: the epic and passionate romance that appears delayed by insurmountable circumstances and kind of leads to a love triangle, except that you’re never quite convinced that there is really any competition; the showdown between good and evil, which in this case is led by a former Shadowhunter-turned-bad; appearances from vampires, warlocks, werewolves, and faeries — etc, etc. There is also a lot of meta humor and current pop culture references, which make the books fun now but will probably lead to them seeming really dated in another few years.

Overall, yes, these were really fun. I read all three over the course of a single weekend, and I can understand why teenagers (aka, the actual target market for YA) have gone rabid over them. I really enjoyed the world-building and fast paced plot, both of which kept me engaged and caused me to want to zip through these quickly. The romance was fun too, due to a legitimately surprising twist, which keeps them “apart” for a good 2/3 of the trilogy and makes for some deliciously conflicted sexual tension. The writing itself was kind of hokey and immature, and didn’t really achieve the same kind of character depth or development that, say, Collins does in The Hunger Games, or even that THG would-be competitors like Divergent (Roth) do. What the characters lack in depth, though, they make up for in sassy quips. Again, these lend themselves to fun, quick reads rather than truly thought-provoking YA, but I’m not really complaining. One of the things that the Cannonball has done for me is taken away a bit of my prejudice regarding “serious” books. If I’m trying to read at least 52 books in a year, I owe myself a few silly fun ones along the way! So that’s what I recommend to this audience. The Mortal Instruments make a great palate-cleanser as part of the Cannonball: you’ll probably enjoy them, even if they don’t “stay with you,” as they say. And if this kind of stuff is actually right up your alley, you’ve probably already read them, since like I said, I’m late to this game.

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #57: Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

More people need to read Jim C. Hines so he can quit his day job and become a full-time writer. I want this for two reasons: 1) Because it must suck to work a full-time job and write on the side like he does (I think he actually writes on his lunch break), and his writing is good enough that I feel like he deserves it; and 2) Because I want him to write more books for me to read.

Isaac Vainio is a libriomancer, a sort of magician who can reach into books and pull things out of them, but if he’s not careful, the books can pull back. Two years before the events of the novel, Isaac was taken out of field duty for pushing himself too far with his magic. Sure, he saved a bunch of people, but he almost lost himself in the process. So he became a librarian, forbidden from using magic himself, who secretly catalogs books for the Porters, a magical organization surrounding the practice of libriomancy that was founded by Johannes Gutenberg six hundred years before. Gutenberg is still alive thanks to his own practice of magic, which is extremely powerful, and he rules over the Porters and the magical world, ostensibly to keep the borders between our world and the magic of the books from breaking down and causing chaos.

But all of that is just backstory. The book opens with Isaac being attacked by vampires in his library (these vampires in particular, Sanguinarius Meyerii, leaked out of the pages of Twilight, and Hines hilariously calls them “sparklers”) because they think the Porters are coming after them and they want information. When a dryad named Lena shows up both to rescue him, bringing bad news about a series of brutal attacks (and the murder of his mentor) by the same unknown and very powerful assailant that’s been attacking the vampires, Isaac is pulled back into the field. Vampires are about to declare war on both Porters and non-magical humans, Porters are being killed by possessed vampires, and Gutenberg is missing, along with the incredibly powerful automatons he uses to enforce his magical laws. Isaac and Lena have to find out who’s behind all of it before his magic begins to consume him once more.

This book was just an amazing amount of fun. I was a bit skeptical during the first chapter, but as the book goes along, Hines builds an impressively detailed and fun world based entirely on the premise that stories really are magic. Isaac (and by extension Hines) knows books backwards and forwards, and he uses his love like a weapon. In fact, Hines’ love of the written word permeates the whole novel. More importantly, his characters are fun to hang around with, and they are (thank God) incredibly non-annoying. I’m not usually into urban fantasy, but there are several authors whose imagination overcomes whatever it is I find so unappealing about the genre (I honestly have no idea why it turns me off so much). Jim C. Hines is one of them. By the end of the book, I was physically incapable of putting it down.

So often in these types of books (you know, the ones were the heroes have to push themselves to the brink because an unimaginable danger is threatening to destroy them and they only have days to save the world — which describes most urban fantasy that I’ve read, actually, so maybe this is the problem that I have with it), the ending is rushed and confusing. But the ending to Libriomancer was darn close to perfect*. It was surprising, and yet as it was happening I could see very clearly how Hines had elegantly built up to it. Hines’ description made the chaotic magical denouement that so happens in these types of situations very clear, even exciting, and he does this thing with the automatons that just made me squeal with glee. Also, did I mention that Isaac owns a fire spider named Smudge who is awesome?

*The only thing about the ending that made me feel weird was how the relationship between Lena and Isaac was resolved, but I don’t want to say anymore as it’s a huge spoiler. I’m just going to say that it kind of freaked me out and leave it at that.

Anyways, this was a super fun way to spend three hours on a Saturday morning. Definitely recommend it to all you yahoos.

[Cross-posted to Goodreads]

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #55: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

I picked this book up because of the cover, checked it out of the library because of the blurb, and stayed glued to my couch for hours because of the opening sentence (“Dear You, The body you are wearing used to be mine.”) I haven’t heard many people talking about The Rook yet, so I figure I should get things started. I loved this book. It wasn’t perfect and I wouldn’t necessarily call it a favorite, but it was unbelievably engaging and creepy, and I became rather attached to all the characters by the end of it. I kind of hope there’s not a sequel, but I’m sure there will be. Authors these days.

The Rook is the story of Myfanwy (Welsh, pronounced Miff-an-ee) Thomas, or rather, the person who is now inhabiting the body of the former Myfanwy Thomas. New-Myfanwy wakes up in a park in London with no memory of who she is, surrounded by dead people wearing rubber gloves. She finds a letter in her coat pocket addressed to “You,” and upon reading it, discovers that Former-Myfanwy had been aware she was going to lose her memory for quite some time and had made extensive preparations. The letter sends new-Myfanway to a bank and gives her a choice: pick this safety deposit box and you can leave London and live a new life, rich and free (with the possibility that someone may try to track you down in the future and kill you); pick that safety deposit box, you find out who I am and how to take over my life. New-Myfanwy chooses the latter and soon finds herself one of the leaders of a top-secret shadowy pseudo-government agency called The Checquy which trains young Britons with superpowers and keeps the world safe from paranormal threats. Oh, and also she has superpowers herself. With help from former-Myfanwy’s letters, Myfanwy must navigate her new life and somehow unravel the mystery of who is trying to have her killed, and why.

Okay, so writing it out like that makes me remember it even more fondly, and I think my opinion of the book just went up even more. I kind of want to retract my previous statement — this book might be on its way to my favorites shelf after all.

There is a shit ton of urban fantasy being written these days, and most of it is not my cup of tea — too urban, too gritty, too formulaic. But The Rook manages to avoid all those things I don’t really like, instead providing heaping spoonfuls of atmosphere (mysterious, creepy, beautiful, elegant, to abuse a few adjectives), characters that felt like real people, and genuinely frightening (and at times horribly disgusting) threats. But really it was the storytelling that got me. The main conceit of the novel — Myfanwy learning about her life through letters her former self had written — was extremely effective. I might even call it charming. It made the book feel like a story, and all the magic that implies. Something else I loved about The Rook is what it did for Myfanwy, who should be added post-haste to every list of badass female characters. I want to say more about this particular line of thought, but I’m trying to keep this review spoiler free. You’re just going to have to take my word for it and go read this book.

Plus, if all of that doesn’t sell you, one of the characters in this book is one person who happens to inhabit four different bodies at the same time. I mean, come on. How cool is that?

CommanderStrikeher’s #CBR4 Review #26: Summer Knight: Book Four of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

 

HALFWAY POINT!  WOO HOO!

 

This is the fourth book in the series, so there are minor spoilers for the previous three books.

 

Harry Dresden is still a Wizard.  Like Harry Potter, if Harry Potter was more of a sasshole.  The Red Court of the Vampires has declared war on the Wizard’s Council.  It’s Harry’s fault.  Of course.  Harry gets sucked into doing errands for the Winter Court of the Faeries and their political machinations.  It’s all really convoluted and if you are interested, you should just read the book.  Honestly, I finished it a couple of weeks ago and I don’t remember much of what happened.  I like this series, but I don’t love it as much as I probably should.

 

This series is always a quick read and pretty entertaining.  The action never really lets up.  Sometimes I just want poor Harry to just take a nap for a chapter.

 

3/5 Stars

 

 

 

One of the things that I am enjoying most about this Cannonball Read IV challenge is how it lets me track my reading patterns. I tend to go in themes or off on tangents. My current thread of reading books about demons, demigods and other things that might go bump in the night reminded me of something in an older tale by Charles de Lint. I scurried down to my bookcases in the basement to reread this incredible tale of the supernatural and Gypsy culture penned by one of Canada’s best fantasy authors in the mid-eighties.

Mulengro is a tale of dark magic set in Canada’s capital city and into the Ontario countryside. A series of murders is baffling the police and haunting the Romany community. The police think that a serial killer is on the loose but the Gypsies know better. Something is stalking them and any who get in the way. Their name for this darkness is He Who Walks With Ghosts….Mulengro.

You can find the rest of my review and the ISBN number for this amazing book on my Book Hoarding Dragon blog.

Cfar1′s #CBR4 review #05 of Kalayna Price’s Grave Witch

I discovered the Anita Blake series long ago and fell in love with the mix of fantasy and action.  I think she was actually the first female protagonist I really enjoyed reading about.  I devoured everything I could get, then the series became more about sex than the story or the characters and I quit.  I still reread the early books on occasion and recommend them to friends.  I credit the series with both introducing my to dark urban fantasy and kick-ass female protagonists.  I keep buying books searching for something to fill that void in my reading diet.  I have discovered a few writers and characters that partially do so, but not yet found one I can say solidly does so.  My most recent attempt isn’t a bad start though.

 

Alex Craft isn’t the tough, vampire slaying, zombie raising Anita, but there are some similarities.  Alex raises shade rather than zombies, and makes them visible so they can speak with relatives, testify in court, whatever is needed.  There weren’t any vampires or werewolves in this first book in a series, however there were witches, warlocks, gargoyles and several types of fairy.

 

Alex Craft is estranged from her family.  She is a grave witch, born with the ability to see ghosts and act as a bridge between the worlds of the living and the dead.  She can also do other types of magic, although not as well as she should be able to.  Alex’s sister asks her for a favor, to look into the death of a coworker of their father.  She sometimes acts as a police consultant and tries to do the favor using her connections only to end up finding something very odd about the body.  She does the job she was supposed to do for the police, raising a shade to testify in court about her murder, then is nearly killed by a gunman while leaving court.  Her friend, the detective she works with is seriously wounded by a spelled bullet, meant for her, and she finds herself stalked by both a persistent ghost and a mysterious detective she finds both attractive and sinister.  As she pokes deeper into the case she uncovers a ritualistic serial killer, strange information about her past, and lots of  nearly deadly encounters.

 

There isn’t a lot new to the world, but everything is done pretty well.  There are interesting supporting characters, we don’t find out much about them, but that leaves the author plenty to do in the following books.  The protagonist is rounded out fairly well and is both believable and sympathetic.  She lets the reader find out the rules of her world naturally rather than spoon-feeding it to us.  I though it was a good introduction to the series and already have the second book ready to go.  She also has another series I may check out.  This was also the first book read completely on the kindle app on my droid phone.

 

Fofo’s #CBR4 Review #12: Kraken by China Miéville

Target: China Miéville’s Kraken: An Anatomy

Profile: Speculative Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Metafantasy

If Perdido Street Station was an angry letter from Miéville to the world, reminding us that fantasy didn’t have to be simple or stupid, Kraken is his love letter to his geeky fans.  The book is chockablock with references to the best cult science fiction, fantasy and pop culture memes that make up the vocabulary of nerds everywhere.  What is amazing is that even though Kraken isn’t overtly trying to be one of Miéville’s smart novels, it is still an incredibly witty approach to urban fantasy that anyone will appreciate.  It’s just that geeks will get it a little better.

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