Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “vampires”

Siege’s #CBR4 #47: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

In which Siege is impressed by the historical accuracy on display in a very fictional book.

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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.

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.

llp’s #CBR Review 17: Fever Dream by George R. R. Martin

This book was one of my few impulse book purchases, drawn in my Martin’s name. It is an ok book, really, but vampire novels are not really up my alley. I am sure it would seem better if my mind wasn’t tainted by Twilight osmosis.

Amanda6′s #CBR4 Review 39-40: The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice

I’m doing these two together because I read them together, and because Queen of the Damned picks up right were Lestat left off. Beginning in Lestat, the titular character has awoken some time in the 1980’s after years of sleep. He comes across the
“memoir” Interview with the Vampire, written by Louis, the vampire he had created over a century earlier. He decides, partly to get the attention of Louis, and partly to set the record straight, to form a hugely popular rock band and release an album and novel (all called “The Vampire Lestat”) at the same time to create intrigue. What we are reading, then, is his novel of his early life as a vampire, bookended by more recent exposition at the time of his awakening.

Queen of the Damned begins on the evening of The Vampire Lestat’s debut concert, when Lestat’s music has awoken Akasha, the millenia-old original vampire. Lestat is the narrator of this story, too, but he has also “collected” the stories of other vampire characters as they concern their whereabouts and doings that evening of Akasha’s rise. Akasha, herself, has a plan (that Valerie Solanas would love) to “save” humankind from itself, and she has taken Lestat with her as her prince to put the plan into motion.

Taken together with Interview with the Vampire, I found the story overall to progressively pick up steam. Interview was an interesting read, but a rather slow one. Lestat started off much the same, and I wasn’t intensely interested in most of his backstory; he engaged in a lot of the kind of existential whining and drama that Louis did for most of Interview. It wasn’t really until Lestat relates the story of Marius, which gets into the detailed history of vampires themselves and introduces Akasha and Enkil, the original Mother and Father, that I started to really feel engaged. That anticipation continued into Queen, and as such I finished this novel much more quickly than either of the other two. It had a lot more action, and the idea that it was taking place in the present rather than being presented as a memoir worked to up the excitement for me as well. Finally, in the third novel, we also get to meet many more of the older vampires, and the dynamics of the group as they come together provided a welcome dimension of interaction that differed from the histrionic “fatal attraction” type of love that was often described between several of the vampire “couples.”

As these are “classic” (in their own way) vampire novels, it is hard for me to recommend some over the other, as there are extremes these days in what people like in their vampire stories. For me, if I were to do it over again, I would skip Interview entirely and begin with Lestat’s story. Though the first half of the novel wasn’t my favorite, it provided the necessary backstory to understand Queen, which was my favorite.

Malin’s #CBR4 Review#77: Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong

This is the final book (at least so far) in Kelley Armstrong’sWomen of the Otherworld series. This review may contain spoilers for previous books in the series, and anyone who hasn’t read Kelley Armstrong before, would be better off starting with Bitten, Dime Store Magic, Haunted, Personal Demon or Spell Bound.

Thirteen starts pretty much immediately after the cliffhanger ending of Waking the Witch. Savannah Levine has rescued her half-brother from a renegade group of supernaturals determined to reveal their existence to the world. They’ve injected Savannah’s half-brother with some something containing the DNA of several supernatural races, and it’s making him really sick. Savannah and her friends need to make sure that the Supernatural Liberation Movement don’t succeed in their plan, but with powerful forces involved, both on the demonic and angelic sides, the struggle could turn into an all-out war, and that would be very bad for humans and supernaturals alike.

As a fan of Kelley Armstrong since 2004, it was both nice and a bit strange to readThirteen, the culmination of all her Women of the Otherworld books. Like the previous book in the series, this book features pretty much every major character in the series, both protagonists of previous books and a large cast of supporting characters. As such, I doubt it’ll be very satisfying to anyone for whom this is their first foray into Armstrong’s supernatural universe. Armstrong writes good heroines, and no one can say that she has cookie cutter characters. While the quality of the series has been a bit varied (I went off it for a bit, only to go back and rediscover why I loved it a few years back), this is a solid ending, and it was great to see all the former heroines and heroes working together towards a common goal.

Savannah, who started out as a supporting character in Stolen and Dime Store Magic wasn’t always a very likable character, and even annoyed me quite a bit in the previous two books in Armstrong’s final trilogy. Yet it was obviously carefully calculated by the author, to show just how much growing and development the character had left to do. I’d rather a character had too many flaws, rather than none and it’s always nice when they develop and mature into someone better after a series of trial and tribulations.

If you’ve read some or all of Armstrong’s other books in this series, then you’ll probably enjoy this one a lot. If you haven’t, do yourself a favour and check out one of the earlier ones I mentioned, they’re some of the finest paranormal fantasy out there.

Also published on my blog.

Siege’s #CBR4 #29: Blood Groove by Alex Bledsoe

In which Siege enjoys a vampire book (no sparkling, thank  you very much!) and ponders the changes that can occur in society over the course of six decades.

Malin’s #CBR4 Reviews #70-74: Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost, Timeless by Gail Carriger, Grave Memory by Kalayna Price, The Thief and The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

More of my backlog being cleared, here are five more reviews:

Book 70: Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost. First book in new series of paranormal fantasy books, where a girl who channels electricity and can read the history of objects, and the vampireVlad Tepesh (who hates being called Dracula) fall in lust and get into hijinx. 4 stars.

Book 71: Timeless by Gail Carriger. Fifth and final novel in the Parasol Protectorate series. Fluffy fun. 3 stars.

Book 72: Grave Memory by Kalayna Price. Third book in a well-written paranormal series I discovered through Felicia Day. 3 1/2 stars.

Book 73: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. I wasn’t very impressed with this book the first time I read it, and nearly stopped reading half the way through. Boy, am I glad I stuck with it. Essential young adult literature. 4 stars.

Book 74: The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. I loved this one the first time I read it, and even more on a second reading, when I really knew how clever and wonderful it was. Everyone should read this book. 5 stars.

Amanda6′s #CBR4 Review 35: The Passage by Justin Cronin

Amazon says: “An epic and gripping tale of catastrophe and survival,The Passage is the story of Amy—abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. But Special Agent Brad Wolgast, the lawman sent to track her down, is disarmed by the curiously quiet girl and risks everything to save her. As the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, Wolgast secures her escape—but he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.”

That’s… a pretty condensed description, given that this book is ~800 pages long and Amy is in about 60% of it (not because she dies! Not a spoiler.) In fact, that’s really more of a set-up than it is in the description. The majority of the novel concerns human refugees trying to survive following a viral pandemic that killed most humans, and turned the rest into a vampiric species that has decimated most remaining human enclaves.

Immediately after I finished this a few weeks ago, I had a lot of thoughts about it, positive and negative. After those few weeks of reflection, the aspects of the book that stick with me the most are, unfortunately, the ones that left a negative impression. To start with the positive before I get too critique-y: I always love a good pandemic/survival plot, and Cronin keeps good pacing and suspense throughout the lengthy expanse of the novel. I didn’t get bored of reading and was overall invested in the story. But.
The novel is as long as it is mainly because Cronin insists on having, like, 20 main characters, and giving each of them a few narrative pages, and then giving some supporting characters narrative first-person pages too, just for shits and giggs. As a result, there are so many characters, and very few of them are really developed. Or, a character will become fully fleshed out, and we’ll start caring about him/her, and then we won’t hear from him/hear again for the next 200 pages. It’s quite frustrating. The Passage is still essentially linear, and the shifts between character POVs don’t break up the time continuum much, but character continuity is often completely destroyed. I got so tired of having to jump to another character just when one got interesting.

Given all of that, it shouldn’t have been surprising how disappointing, nay, infuriating, the ending was. There are “open” endings, and there are cliffhanger endings, and this was worse. Whatever precious little emotional goodwill invested in the characters is absolutely shat on, as precisely zero of the characters are granted any kind of resolution whatsoever. The ending read like one of the abrupt transitions between character POVs, except it was the end of the whole book. It’s almost like Cronin was like, “Well, I’m tired of writing, and after 800 pages, they’re probably tired of reading, so this should be good enough!” I don’t know. In true Pajiban spirit, I’m a bit drunk at the moment, so this review is more candid than it is balanced, but the whole affair was supremely frustrating. I had major emotional blue balls.

So — would I recommend this book? Well, no, honestly. And I feel bad, saying so, because it didn’t really feel like a bad or sub-par book as I was reading it. I was engaged. It was well-written. But it was a bit jumpy and abrupt, and for it to end as such just seemed lazy. I understand, and often enjoy, open endings, because they are thought provoking, and on top of collecting my own thoughts, I often want to go out into the fandom and connect with other people and read their thoughts. But this wasn’t like that. It just pissed me off, to be honest. It’s like the last 50 pages of the book just got lost in between the editor’s desk and the printing press. It’s as if I were to end this review without actually

rdoak03’s #CBR4 review 30: ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Pretty standard vampire lore, presented in a characteristic King town. Enjoyable, but not WOW. Read my full review here.

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