Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “vaginal fantasy”

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #100: My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland

So it’s no secret that pretty much everything I read consists of genre fiction, mostly paranormal fantasy, or romance (sometimes either of those genres aimed at young adults) or a mix of all of the above. So Felicia Day’s Vaginal Fantasy Hangout was pretty much made for someone like me. Now, for most of the time the group has been running, I’ve read at least one, if not both of the books featured as Reads of the Month. However, this month (November), they feature zombie books, with at least a bit of a romantic element to them.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve read books with vampires, werewolves, all sorts of other kinds of shapeshifters (including dinosaurs, so thanks, VFH ladies!), ghosts, demons, angels, fairies, dark elves, you name it – I’ve probably read some variation of fantasy/romance where this was a feature. Until now, I’d drawn the line at zombies, however. My husband reads, and watches The Walking Dead, and I’ve caught the occasional episode. I watched Shaun of the Dead. I don’t like horror, though, in any genre, so zombies tend to be something I avoid. I certainly don’t see it as a successful starting point for anything with romantic elements. Clearly popular culture disagrees with me, though, as Warm Bodies was a huge publishing success and now looks like it’s going to be a really rather entertaining film.

One of the reasons I join online book clubs, and browse review sites, and book blogs and participate in the Cannonball Read is to discover new things. So while I was initially reluctant, I decided to give zombie fantasy a try. My Life as a White Trash Zombie is the story of Angel Crawford, who wakes up in the hospital after what appears to be a drug overdose. She was apparently found stark naked on the side of the highway, on the same night as there was an accident not too far away, and the driver of the car was found decapitated. With the head missing from the scene of the crime. Angel has no memory at all of how any of this came to pass, but is relieved that the police only question her, as a drug overdose is in violation of her parole.

She’s given a bag of clothes and a letter from one of the nurses, where she’s told to show up at the parish morgue for a new job, and she has to hold down the job for at least a month, or the police will be told about her OD, and she’ll end up in jail. She’s also given 6 bottles of some mysterious liquid, and told to drink one every other day. The letter also states that if she were to end up in prison, she’d be dead before long, so Angel is too scared to refuse the job offer.

At the morgue, she discovers that she’s not only expected to drive a van and pick up corpses, she’s also meant to help the morgue technicians with autopsies. Previously, Angel’s not been able to see anything even vaguely gory without throwing up, but she now seems to be able to handle all sorts of disgusting smells and sights without so much as a dry heave. Strangest of all, the sight and smell of dead brains seem to drive her wild. Before long, Angel realises that she actually kind of likes her job, and wants to prove that she can stick with something, no matter what her deadbeat on again off again drug addict boyfriend or drunken father says. She just needs to figure out why she has an unnatural craving for brains, why dead bodies keep showing up decapitated, and who got her the job at the morgue in the first place?

For the first couple of chapters, I wasn’t sure about Angel as a protagonist, and her no ambition deadbeat attitude. By the time she starts her job at the morgue, I was starting to warm up to her, and I’m very glad that I kept going with the book, as it turned out to be both a fairly exciting page turner, and lots of fun. Once Angel gets developed more as a character, and starts building her self esteem and accomplishing things, I really enjoyed her and her rather snarky wit. I wish she’d wised up about her abusive, drunken asshole of a dad, and extreme loser boyfriend sooner, but we can’t have everything, now can we?

The way zombies are portrayed in the book is also really well done. Angel can pretty much survive any injury or damage as long as she ingests enough brains, and while she no longer feels the effects of pills or pot, she can eat human food as well, so long as she consumes brains every other day or so. The more energy she expends, the more often she has to have a brainy snack. Her job at the morgue is obviously perfect, and once she faces up to the fact that she’s now the walking undead, she tries to research her “condition” as best she can, and gets on with things without complaining.

There’s some pretty cool supporting characters as well (not the drunken dad or pothead boyfriend), and a subplot involving Angel’s continued crush on one of the deputies who arrested her a while back. The book is not a romance, as such, but it looks like the romance angle might be stronger in the sequel (which I’m now pretty excited to read). So I still haven’t had to face an actual main story romance where one or both of the characters is a zombie, and guess that’ll have to be next on my list.

Cross posted on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review 93: Eternal Pleasure by Nina Bangs

This was the alt-book in Vaginal Fantasy Hangout in September, and due to the rather unusual subject matter, I felt compelled to check it out. As the e-book is currently unavailable, I ended up paying 5 times the cost of the actual book to have it shipped from the US, but it did entertain me, so I guess I don’t mind too much.

There’s a lot of paranormal fantasy and romance out there featuring shapeshifters of various kinds. I suspect it’s the most common trope after vampires. The hero in this book, is a slightly different sort of a shapeshifter, hence the lovely ladies of VFH’s enthusiasm, and my needing to read the book. But what is it actually about, you ask.

Apparently there is a battle between huge and powerful forces in the world, and the bad side, known among other things as the Lords of Time (and yes, there is a Doctor Who reference in the book!), whilst the good guys are the Gods of the Night. The leader for the Gods of the Night is called Fin (he has long, silvery sparkly hair and silvery eyes with hints of purple – my brain can’t even fully visualize that, but boy, do I want to read whatever book he’s the hero of). He leads the Eleven, who are souls who have been resting since dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and now have been placed in the bodies of super hot dudes. Who have to help Fin fight the various evil supernatural creatures that are the minions of the Lords of Time (just to make it more confusing, there’s “good” vampires and werewolves too). If the Gods of the Night don’t stop the baddies,humanity will be wiped out on the 21st of December 2012 – the exact date when the Mayan calendar ended!

Our hero in this book is Ty Endeka, who when he was last conscious, was a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Yeah, I kid you not. All of the Eleven were dinosaurs in their last incarnation (although it’s suggested that that is not who they originally were, and this battle between good and evil has been going on a LONG time). They need help adjusting to the modern world, and can’t drive cars, so they have sexy ladies to chauffeur them around (because who wants a dude to do stuff like that?).

His driver is Kelly Maloy, who when she’s not making lots of money driving the hot, but clearly dangerous Ty around is a student of some sort (I don’t remember the finer details – c’mon, I just wanted to get to the dino parts!). If the Eleven don’t concentrate real hard, their inner dino-ness seems to affect everyone around them, and people tend to get twitchy when gigantic pre-historic predators are around (yeah, none of the hot dudes seem to have been herbivores, if there had been one,  I bet that guy would be the quiet, sensitive, nerdy one of the group). Anyways, Kelly is attracted to Ty, but also understands that he’s not just your normal hot dude.

While the truth behind the Eleven is supposed to be kept secret, too much stuff happens over a short space of time for Kelly not to understand that there’s a lot more out there that goes bump in the night than was dreamt of in her philosophy, and soon Fin has let her in on all the secrets, and conveniently Kelly is needed to help them defeat one of the evil lieutenants, boringly just called Nine (because there are Nine of them).

Over the course of the book, there are obviously a bunch of action sequences where the dino-dudes have to fight evil vampires and werewolves and such. I was disappointed to find that the Eleven don’t actually shapeshift into actual gigantic dinosaurs, it’s more like a big big dinosaur-shaped forcefield around each guy (which can still bite and rend and claw, so that’s convenient). Also, at least one guy is a flying dinosaur, and one is one of those gigantic toothy water-based ones, which I liked a lot.

Naturally Kelly and Ty’s attraction to each other is because they are each other’s soul mates. The romance aspect of this book is not exactly the most compelling I’ve ever read. Nor is this ever going to be classified as great literature. But it was quite fun, it certainly offered something new in a genre where a lot of things are very samey and if it turns out that Nina Bangs (I do hope that’s her real name) ever writes Fin’s book, I promise to buy, read and review that too.

Malin’s #CBR Review #88:Master of Crows by Grace Draven

The god Corruption is trying to gain control in the world, and has chosen the outcast sorcerer Silhara of Neith, known as the Master of Crows as his avatar. He tries to seduce Silhara to his cause with promises of property, riches and limitless power, but the sorcerer is not about to submit to anyone, and fully aware that the dark god is not to be trusted. Silhara seeks a way to destroy the god, who torments him every night, knowing that it’s only a matter of time before he breaks down and acquiesces to Corruption’s wishes.

Martise of Asher is a young woman raised by the mage-priests of the Conclave. One of the powerful bishops holds a sliver of her soul, and she can never be free without it. Trained in every form of theoretical magic (although her latent magical powers have yet to manifest) and extremely skilled translator, Martise strikes a deal with the Conclave. She will apprentice with the Master of Crows and spy on him for the Conclave, in return for the soul-shard and her freedom.

Silhara is fully aware that the plain, subservient mouse of a woman that the Conclave bishop arrives with is a spy (although she is presented as a poor, yet talented relation). He also knows that the Conclave would love nothing better than to see him brought down. He tries his very best to scare Martise away, but while she’s quiet and unassuming, she also hides a will of iron, and with her freedom on the line, nothing is going to frighten Martise away from her mission.

Once it becomes clear that none of his scare tactics can make Martise leave, nor wake her hidden magical powers, he instead decides to utilise her scholarly abilities and sets to work in his vast library, helping him find a way to defeat Corruption. During their search for a way to kill a god, Martise’s powers are finally awakened, and Silhara and Martise grow ever closer, until their antagonism turns to friendship and later affection. Silhara wants to defeat Corruption with any means available to him, but can he do it if it means possibly sacrificing Martise to do so?

I bought this as an e-book back in May, after a recommendation on Dear Author, but there are always so many shiny new books out there for me to read, distracting me, and it ended up forgotten, until it became one of the October picks on Vaginal Fantasy Hangout. So I stuck it on my trusty Reader, and mostly liked it.

What I really liked: Martise wasn’t some sort of super gorgeous ingenue, whose feminine wiles won Silhara over. She’s plain, and has no illusions about her attractiveness to the opposite sex. Nor is she a blushing virgin (as a matter of fact she learned the hard way that men can be untrustworthy douches), which is less unusual in fantasy romance, but in the minority nonetheless. She’s pretty much been a slave her entire life, and clearly had a hard time as a bond servant to the Conclave, but has worked hard and is proud of her skills. She wants her freedom and is determined to work hard for it.

Silhara and Martise’s romance builds very slowly, and for two characters who start out in an antagonistic relationship, it doesn’t suddenly switch so that one day they wake up and can’t be without the other. Silhara knows that Martise is a Conclave spy, and that anything unorthodox he does can be reported back to her superiors. He doesn’t realise how much is at stake for her, though, and why she agreed to the assignment in the first place. While he starts out wanting to scare her, her bravery and refusal to break down or even complain wins his respect, and her scholarly abilities further wins his approval. Martise acknowledges early on that Silhara’s physically attractive, but as she’s terrified of him to begin with, and knows that if she fails the mission, she will never be free, she’s not going to let herself be distracted by trivial things like physical beauty.

What I wished there was more of: The book is not a very long one, and the situation is explained fairly quickly at the beginning of the book, without resorting to clunky exposition scenes. However, because what we do see of the world building is so intriguing, I wish there’d been a bit more time spent on just establishing the world, and the beliefs of the people in it. The characters constantly use swearing relating to “Bursin” and his various body parts, such as “Bursin’s wings” and so forth, yet we never learn anything more about him or his importance in the religious systems of this world. It’s established that the Conclave are mages and priests, and that some of them may be cruel, corrupt and in general, not very nice (after all, they are the adversaries of Silhara, who’s the hero), but not enough was really revealed about their role in the larger society.

What I was annoyed by: Silhara has a dog, some sort of large, ferocious beast who can sniff out magical ability in people, and which was apparently, in the past, used to hunt down those suspected to be witches or sorcerers. The dog’s not really described too clearly, so in my head, it looked a lot like a wolfhound. The dog is described as being very smelly. Now, I see how this adds verisimilitude if mentioned once or twice. But throughout the book, this dog’s intense malodorousness is commented upon by several of the characters (at one point, it’s said that it smells worse than the rotting carcass zombie-dog that tries to attack Silhara in one scene). If your dog is that stinky, it needs to be cleaned. If no one does so, it does not deserve mention that many times in the story!

I get that this is a minor niggle, but it really stood out to me. This book is currently not available in print, but you can buy an e-copy fairly reasonably in a bunch of places online. It’s a fun little fantasy story with a romantic subplot, and all the more enjoyable for being a standalone, a rare and happy occurrence in the life of a fantasy reader.

Cross posted on my blog.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #54: Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

Sirantha Jax has a rare gene that allows her to jump spaceships through Grimspace, allowing them to travel huge distances in relatively short amounts of time. Hence she’s been prized as a navigator for the Corp. However, on Jax’ last journey, the space ship crashed, killing the several hundred passengers (including a very beloved diplomat), as well as the pilot (Jax’ lover). Jax is in jail, being questioned and blamed for the disaster, but has absolutely no memories of what happened.

Jax is broken out of jail by a band of mercenaries, who want her help in starting up a rebel academy for navigators, to challenge the Corp’s monopoly in space travel. One of the down sides of being a Jumper is that travelling through Grimspace takes a heavy toll on the navigators who do it, and they tend not to have very long life expectancies, because they burn out. Jax has survived a surprisingly high number of jumps, and lives with the knowledge that every jump could be her last. She’s devastated by the loss of her pilot/lover/best friend, and not all that inclined to help the merry band of rogues who come to bust her out of prison. Yet their jumper burned out on the way to rescue her, so she has to help them at least get away, and once she joins up with them, they become fugitives hunted by the powerful and influential Corp. Will the mercenaries convince Jax to join their noble cause? Will Jax find out what actually happened with the crash? Will she survive the bounty hunters the Corp are sending after her? Can she settle in with a new pilot and crew and get over the massive emotional trauma of losing her partner?

Grimspace was this month’s backup book in the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout, and while at first glance, it shares many similarities to Gabriel’s Ghost, I ended up liking this one a whole lot more. While both books start with a heroine being broken out of prison by the hero (with psy mind powers) they will later develop a romance with, having been set up/framed for some huge accident, the plots of the books then diverge pretty rapidly.

I really liked the concept of the Jumpers, with a special gene that made them unusual and highly valued. Clearly being a Jumper also takes a massive toll on people, though, and Jax is messed up for a whole host of reasons, not just because she’s the sole survivor of a massive crash where she lost her partner. Cynical, sarcastic, yet brave sometimes to the point of stupidity, she’s a very interesting heroine. She and March (the love interest) start out having a decidedly antagonistic relationship, and as she figures out really quickly that he can read her mind, she keeps thinking of all sorts of horrible things happening to him, just to wind him up.

Having been lauded as one of the darlings of the Corp, Jax’ change in situation, where she is imprisoned, then hunted and forced to flee with a band of merry misfits, is not an easy adjustment for her. She’s not at all enthused about the idea of throwing her lot in with them, and certainly not keen on the idea of travelling around the galaxies, one step ahead of whomever the Corp has sent after them, to gather recruits for the new Jumper academy that the rebels want to set up. Jax just wants to clear her name and get on with her life. Of course it’s not that simple.

With a very prickly, but likable heroine, a pretty intriguing romantic subplot, a cast of interesting supporting characters and very cool world building, Ann Aguirre succeeded where Linnea Sinclair failed. I will absolutely be reading more books in this series, even though I normally avoid sci-fi, and I will probably check out her series of paranormal fantasy books too.

Cross posted on my blog and Goodreads.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review #53: Gabriel’s Ghost by Linnea Sinclair

Captain Chasidah “Chaz” Bergren has been stripped of her rank, court-marshalled and sent to die on a remote prison planet for a crime she didn’t commit. She is defending herself from a brutal attack from a jukor, a vicious genetically engineered  killer creatures believed to be extinct, when she is rescued by a man she (and most of the rest of the world) thought was dead. Gabriel Ross “Sully” Sullivan needs her help in tracking down the people who are once again breeding jukors, and he’s willing and able to get her off the planet in return for her aid.

In the years before Sully faked his own death (for a whole number of reasons), he was known as a mercenary, smuggler, sometimes space pirate and all around rogue. On opposite sides of the law, Chaz and Sully would banter and flirt, but Sully would always get away in the end, and Chaz was always drawn to him. So when they team up for a dangerous mission, it doesn’t take long before sparks fly between them. But Chaz also wants to find out who set her up, and Sully has a number of secrets that could stand in the way of their future.

I don’t normally read a lot of sci-fi, and mainly picked this up because it was May’s pick of the month in Felicia Day’s Vaginal Fantasy Hangout. Besides, I do try to challenge myself to trying new things occasionally. When reviewing the book at the end of this month, the four ladies who run the book club all highlighted a number of things they weren’t overly fond of about this book. I agree with them on several points.

As far as I can tell, this is one of Sinclair’s earliest novels, and some of the writing is quite repetitive and clichéd. There’s also Sully’s deep dark secrets. I didn’t  have problems with Sully having things he was hiding from Chaz (dude’s entitled to some privacy now and then), but the truth kept coming out in little drips, where every time, the situation got a bit more extreme, and he ended up a little bit more unbelievably special and unusual. I can see why there are sides he’s afraid to reveal to Chaz (due to the nature of said secrets), but he also takes liberties which are not cool, and when Chaz eventually finds out, her reaction is not to turn around and confront him with the massive betrayal of her trust, but to pretty much instantly forgive him, because, well she loves him now. I don’t want to go into more specifics for fear of spoiling the plot.

Chaz starts out as a strong and independent heroine, but seems to change her character almost entirely towards the end of the book, when she pretty much submits completely because of her woobly feelings for Sully. I have no problem with character development, but it makes me sad when the supposedly strong female regresses into a weak-willed ninny just because she’s found the love of a big strong man.

There’s good stuff in this novel too, though. While normally not a fan of sci-fi (I don’t know why I’m fine with dragons and faeries and vampires and werewolves etc. in fantasy, but the minute it’s set in space, my brain goes: meh), the actual space travel and quest to stop the evil jukor breeding was pretty good. Ren, who is Sully’s blue-haired alien sidekick is awesome, and I pretty much enjoyed every scene he was in. A lot of the dialogue was excellent, and I did like the depth of feelings Sully clearly had for Chaz, and had never had the guts to tell her about before he rescued her from the prison planet.

Felicia Day insists that several other Linnea Sinclair books are much better than this one, but while I didn’t hate this one, it didn’t exactly wow me either. I doubt I’ll be checking out others by her any time soon.

Cross posted on my blog and Goodreads.

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