Ashlie’s #CBR5 Review 38 The Absolute Sandman Volume 1 by Neil Gaiman

Real talk: I am too full of Christmas goodness to be any good at a book review. Blame the breakfast casseroles.

In short, Neil Gaiman is a god among men. I had high expectations for Sandman as “American Gods” was my favorite read of the year, and I was not disappointed.

He blends common mythology with his ever-rich imagination for a fanciful and dark tale about the ruler of dreamworld. It isn’t as dark as something like “Preacher” but it has it’s moments that are pretty black.

I’m intrigued by the news that JGL may be working to adapt it for the big screen and I don’t understand how it could be adapted for film, but I remain optimistic.

Popcultureboy’s #CBR5 Review #104: The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde

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After a disappointing book for my first Cannonball, I really wanted an ace book for the double. But I chose badly. In this seventh entry of the Thursday Next series, Fforde drives his creation right off the literary cliff. It’s a clumsy and over plotted mess. Such a shame. The full review is on my blog here.

Teresaelectro’s #CBR5 Review #9: Thorn Queen by Richelle Mead

I voraciously consumed the Georgina Kincaid series by Richelle Mead. Meaning when I came across the Dark Swan books, I was instantly intrigued. Storm Born was an easy read with another kick-ass female protagonist – a shaman named Eugenie Markham. However, the tone of this series seemed far more serious than a succubus demon with romance problems. Nevertheless, I delved into the second book, Thorn Queen with no expectations.

In the first book, Eugenie discovers her father was the brutal, all powerful Storm King. A prophecy foretells she will deliver a male heir who will rule both the human dimension and the Otherworld. Thus, she must continually fight off creatures trying to impregnate her by any means necessary (i.e. rape). None of the supernaturals seem to have heard of birth control, which could totally throw a wrench in the works. Eugenie simply decides to never have kids and stay vigilant with her pill. Voila. Apocalypse averted. [small spoiler] At the climax of this first book, when Eugenie defeats an evil king, she inherits a kingdom in the Otherworld that is physically and emotionally tied to her, even when she’s crossed over by to the human world. This means she immediately and at no warning from her sexy OtherWorld tutor/ally King Dorian transforms the lush land into a desert. Almost a near replica of her Tuczon, AZ home in the human world.

 

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At the start of Thorn Queen Eugenie doesn’t want to be Queen of anything. She is afraid of the strong storm magic from her evil father who liked to murder people with lightening for fun. She rather keep her that part of her locked away, content with her semi-uneventful shamanistic existence. But she can’t give up her kingdom that easy. If she’s in the human world too long, the land literally suffers without her – a fierce drought has taken hold of the land and the fae have no irrigation systems. She takes pity on them and is eventually talked into harnessing some power to call rain for crops. Too bad, she’s pretty shit at it. Raw storms with killing lightening come natural, but seasonal rain not so much.

She calls again upon Dorian for help, who says in not so many worlds he still wants to bang her, but only willingly. And she’ll thank him for it. Talk about sure of yourself. In the end, since he likes her and is such a nice guy, he agrees to help her with no strings attached. Eugenie still suspicious demands a female teacher this time around since things got a little hot and heavy last time. So Dorian offers to lend his number 1 mistress to teach her magic. And let me tell ya, that lady is NOT pleased. Eugenie is offended but decides to get in a few quickie sessions. The plan is to learn air and water magic, call some rain, abdicate that throne and get the hell out of dodge. Leaving behind the temptation for power (and sex from Dorian) in the Otherworld. In the human world, she lives with her veterinarian/shapeshifting fox boyfriend who just moved in with her. However, even that situation is a bit of a pickle. His ex-girlfriend Faery queen is having his baby back in the Otherworld. These fae don’t get pregnant often and consider babymaking a dying art.

In summary, this Eugenie gal has to contend with a new kingdom, powerful seductive magic, hot Dorian, also hot boyfriend, potential supernatural rapists and figuring how to give up said kingdom. Throw in a mystery of disappearing girls and we got shitload of subplots going on in this book. Mead surprisingly juggles all these stakes quite well. I was way more engaged than with the first book. Instead of being afraid of the Otherworld, Eugenie feels a motherly allegiance for her kingdom especially when she learns innocent girls are being kidnapped. And with the prophecy, there is this undercurrent of anxiety with her every move. She could be seduced by her own power and embrace that dark prophecy at any moment. We do see a glimpse of her power, but of course we must wait until book 3 to see how it all unfolds.

A few spoiler-free reviews on goodreads have me quite apprehensive about the last book saying it took a horrible near offensive turn. So naturally, I’m curious for Iron Crowned but not sure I’m up for a character sabotage. Definitely at the bottom of my library wishlist.

Read my other reviews and musings on my blog.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #96: The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

repiblic of thievesThere’s always a moment of worry when you go to finally open up a book that you have eagerly anticipated, and that worry’s size correlates directly to how much you loved its sequels or its author’s previous works, and how long you’ve been waiting for its release. The Republic of Thieves isn’t my most anticipated book ever, or even the one I’ve waited the longest for, but I waited long enough for that worry to surface. What if it’s not as good? What if something really bad happens to these characters? What if everything I’ve waited for is a lie?

Glad to report that my worry was unfounded.

The Republic of Thieves (the third book in Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards sequence) picks up several weeks after Red Seas Under Red Skies. Locke has been poisoned, and there doesn’t seem to be a cure of any kind, magical or otherwise, though as Locke grows weaker, his best mate Jean’s efforts to find one for him grow even more desperate. Their only way out is with a deal sure to go wrong from the start, with the bondsmagi or Karthain. Said bondsmagi made Locke’s life a living hell in The Lies of Locke Lamora, so he is understandably reluctant to take the deal, but it’s either that or die. And, well, if the bondsmagi are planning to kill him after they’re done with him, what’s the difference, really, if he dies now or later?

But really that’s just the set-up. The real meat of the story is two-fold: First, the story of what the bondsmagi want Locke and Jean to do for them in exchange for curing Locke, and second, the parallel narrative of a con that went wrong back when the Gentleman Bastards were teenagers and still in training. How are these two narratives connected, exactly? Well, the first is that Locke and Jean are being paid to make sure that a particular side wins the most seats in an election in Karthain (the ‘election’ is too complicated for me to explain further) by almost any means necessary, and their political opposite (not by coincidence) just so happens to be one Sabetha Belacoros, she of the Gentleman Bastards and she of being loved by Locke Lamora for their entire lives. So the parallel story tells us the history of Locke and Sabetha, with a focus on the earlier mentioned con, which involves the GBs learning how to act while apprenticing in a theater company. All the while in the present narrative, Sabetha and Locke clash furiously over an election that neither one of them really care about. It is glorious.

I’m not going to go too far into detail about the plot because the twists and turns of the Gentleman Bastards’ plans are a large majority of the fun of these books (the other fun parts being the bromance between Locke and Jean, and the witty and profane dialogue). I will say that it is incredibly refreshing that each book in this series essentially tries out a new sub-genre (or two), instead of dragging the same old harried plots through the mud over and over again. The first book was essentially a long con, the second was a hybrid heist novel and swashbuckler, and this one tries on political games for size as well as being an ode to renaissance drama in the vein of Shakespeare and Marlowe. In this respect, my respect for Scott Lynch actually increased, which I didn’t know was possible. He really knows his shit when it comes to the theater, especially in regards to the play the Bastards perform (the titular Republic of Thieves), of which we actually get to see large bits of dialogue and action. Frankly, it’s unnerving how great he is at replicating the structure, the syntax, and mechanics of 16th/17th century drama. I had a total nerdgasm while reading those parts.

On top of all that, it was really satisfying to finally meet Sabetha. I felt she was a great match for Locke, in addition to being a fleshed out character in her own right, and the dynamic between the two of them was like, whiz-bang fantastic.

Also, the ending was frakkin’ NUTS, and if book four doesn’t come out next year like Lynch has promised, I’m going to have to bash in some heads.

Teresaelectro’s #CBR5 Review #8: The Water Witch by Carol Goodman

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The Water Witch is the second book in The Fairwick Chronicles trilogy. Its predecessor Incubus (see my previous #CBR5 review) was a random library pick and turned out to be more enjoyable than expected. Thus, I was quite keen to see what was to unfold in the next book.

In chapter 1, Callie is reeling from banishing her super hot, scotch drinking demon lover Liam to the Borderlands (aka some fairy purgatory). She’s tempted to bring him back to the human world, but unless she truly loves him, he will remain an incubus and will most likely kill her. Death by a super hot lover might not be so bad, but probably isn’t worth the risk. Talk about a stress on a new relationship.

Callie throws herself into her professor duties during the day while attempting to harness her inner magic skills by night. Being half-fey and half-witch she has awesome power within her. And to boot, she is a rare doorkeeper, one who can open the door to Faery. Unfortunately, pretty much most of her spells blow up in her face. The dean of the school recruits a mysterious wizard tutor to give her private lessons like shapeshifting into a deer. Kinda neat, but running around the forest naked is all fun and games until the spell wears off.

Despite not liking it as much as the first book, the world of this book like Callie’s magic skills have a lot of potential. I’ll be hanging in for the conclusion in The Angel Stone.

Full review along with a varied selection of puppy and cloud pictures on my blog.

Teresaelectro’s #CBR5 Review # 7: Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner

I had never heard of the work of Ellen Kushner before discovering Swordspoint through the Vaginal Fantasy book club. The other pick for June was Tripping the Velvet, which I knew didn’t have any fantasy elements, so I went with this tale about a master swordsman. Also, George R.R. Martin vouching for it seemed promising.

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The swordsman in question is Richard St. Vier who takes his work & matters of honor quite seriously. He may be a sword for hire, but he is careful whom he fights. He strives to ensure the fight will be clean and legal. All in Riverside, the dangerous part of town, know and respect him. His lover, Alec, the drunken university drop out is merely tolerated by his association with St. Vier. They spend the days boozing and gambling away all the coin from Richard’s fights without a care in the world. That is until they become caught up unwittingly in a power struggle and more than a few secret love triangles amongst the nobles of the kingdom. Events escalate and Richard’s honor is in question after killing one of the nobleman (who really had it coming). He could had let the offence go, but that really isn’t the way of a true man of the sword apparently.

I really enjoyed the main characters – Richard and Alec. Kushner didn’t make a big deal out of the homosexual relationship. They simply were together without question, no melodrama. And it wasn’t just them, many characters had sexual appetites for both sexes. My main gripe was the she spent page upon page outlining the power structure and intricate relationships between the nobles. It bored me to tears. I even gave up on the book 3x, only reading halfway in time for my book club meeting. I expected lots of swordplay thrills. Instead, the action played out in double entendres in public and machinations behind closed doors.  And in the end, Richard’s strict code seemed to get him into more trouble. He could have explained the full situation and probably saved himself in a manner of minutes. But he was stubborn and refused to detail events as he would have to reveal who he was working for, which is against his rules.

All in all, I’m glad I finished the book. The two accompanying short stories were fantastic giving further background on Richard and Alec. I would recommend this book for fans of this ‘mannerpunk’ genre (definition below) and books focused on Machiavellian power struggles. However, I think I’m more of a fan of action & mystery oriented tales.

Mannerpunk is the fantasy genre’s arena for the comedy of manners. Its worlds involve elaborately complex social hierarchies, and its plots revolve around its characters’ interactions within those hierarchies in the traditions of Jane Austen or Anthony Hope.

If you’re so inclined, feel free to check my writing and musings on my blog.

Teresaelectro’s #CBR5 Review #5: Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning

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At the end of January, I finished off The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. As expected, Shadowfever picks up mere seconds after the end of Dreamfever (see my previous review) so I was waiting with bated breath for the book to arrive in the mail. Mac is still stuck in the other world, led by The Beast who has been protecting her in its own wild way. She assumes it was sent by Barrons, but in a swift turn of events she kills the creature and pushes him off a cliff. To her dismay, the Beast is revealed as someone very important in her life. Once again, Mac is alone and full of grief, shaking her fists at fate. Except this time around, she stops the moping and rises to the occasion. She becomes renewed with a sharp, cold vengeance. She vows to end this apocalyptic treasure hunt for the book and use its power to avenge the death of her loved ones.

This book clocks in at 671 pages, much longer than previous ones in the series. And oh boy was it wild ride where all the mysteries were revealed. We find out what happened to the Unseelie King, whether Mac is truly human, what the hell is Jericho Barrons and all importantly, who killed Mac’s sister, which started this got this whole crazy train a’rollin. I had to re-read the ending twice to comprehend all the ramifications of what took place. The reveal of the King was quite unexpected, but everything was in its right place in the end.

I would recommend this book series to paranormal romance fans in need of a new series to consume. I never actually read the first book and have no regrets.

Read this review and other waffle on my tumblr.

Teresaelectro’s #CBR5 Review #4 – Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

Dead Ever After is the last instalment in the Sookie Stackhouse book saga. The novel begins with Sookie fretting about her relationship with Eric. He’s been incommunicado after the events of Deadlocked. She is abruptly summoned to Fangtasia where they have a vampire divorce ceremony because Eric has to marry that new vampire Queen of Oklahoma. Before Sookie can descend into a puddle of sadness, she is accused of the murder of a local woman (& ex-friend) who is dumped behind Merlotte’s bar. Turns out, the devil is in town bringing together Sookie’s enemies from books past to string her up with a murder wrap. In a predictable turn, Sookie makes bail and aims to solve the case with the Bon Temps Scooby Gang.

Read rest of the review on my blog.

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 59: Endless Knight by Kresley Cole

“Evie has fully come into her powers as the Tarot Empress, and Jack was there to see it all. She now knows that the teens who’ve been reincarnated as the Tarot are in the throes of an epic battle. It’s kill or be killed, and the future of mankind hangs in the balance.

With threats lurking around every corner, Evie is forced to trust her newfound alliance. Together they must fight not only other Arcana, but also Bagmen zombies, post-apocalyptic storms, and cannibals.

When Evie meets Death, things get even more complicated. Though falling for Jack, she’s drawn to the dangerous Endless Knight as well. Somehow the Empress and Death share a history, one that Evie can’t remember—but Death can’t forget.”

Despite kind of hating a lot of Poison Princess, the first book in this series, I decided to read the sequel, since PP ended with a bang and gave me enough confidence to soldier on. I’m glad I did, because this book had a lot more of the parts of the first that I liked: action, expansion of the cool Tarot concept, Evie not being a complete muppet. Oh, also, there are probably spoilers for PP in this review, so tread with caution. Despite it being a slight stretch of the imagination that Evie went from having literally no idea what she was capable of to suddenly displaying a massive show of power, it was kind of fun that we didn’t have to trudge through a literary training montage. In a fluffy book like this, sometimes it’s just more fun to accept that her magic is natural to her and she just needed to unlock it.

I was also curious to meet Death (the guy doing his best Spike impression up there on the cover) since I wasn’t a huge fan of Jackson, the first point of the love triangle. Kresley Cole, having quite a formidable background in PNR (just ask Malin and Mrs. Julien!) draws on traditional archetypes to set these guys up against each other. Jackson is definitely a rogueish Protector, while Death is a romantic Tortured Soul who initially lashes out at Evie because he’s all Damaged like that. It’s an interesting study in contrast, because while both have moments with her where they alternatively treat her like dirt then do something intended to be completely swoon-worthy, their actions come from decidedly different places. I guess it’s just up to readers to pick their favorite type of hero, because neither one is obviously a better choice in my opinion.

This series is meant to be Cole’s foray into YA, by virtue of having younger protagonists and fewer love scenes that are also slightly less explicit. More interestingly, writing for the YA set gave Cole an opportunity to really flex her high-concept plot muscles, which is something I think she’s done well at. She may even be better at this than traditional PNR, since in that area she comes across as having creative ideas that are weighed down with genre tropes like weird gender issues and gratuitous rough sex. And I’m not saying gratuitous rough sex doesn’t have a place in PNR, but I’ve gotten the sense from her that she almost enjoys building new worlds more than writing love scenes (see as evidence: her many sprawling high concept series for which she seems to never run out of ideas, but sex scenes that are mostly the same when you really get down to it. SEE WHAT I DID THERE) Anyway, read if you’re curious, a fan of Cole, the genre, etc.

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 57: John Dies at the End by David Wong

“STOP. You should not have touched this flyer with your bare hands. NO, don’t put it down. It’s too late. They’re watching you. My name is David Wong. My best friend is John. Those names are fake. You might want to change yours. You may not want to know about the things you’ll read on these pages, about the sauce, about Korrok, about the invasion, and the future. But it’s too late. You touched the book. You’re in the game. You’re under the eye. The only defense is knowledge. You need to read this book, to the end. Even the part with the bratwurst. Why? You just have to trust me.

The important thing is this: The drug is called Soy Sauce and it gives users a window into another dimension. John and I never had the chance to say no. You still do. I’m sorry to have involved you in this, I really am. But as you read about these terrible events and the very dark epoch the world is about to enter as a result, it is crucial you keep one thing in mind: None of this was my fault.”

I am trying to think of a weirder book than this (from my childhood: Sideways Stories from Wayside School comes to mind; I also remember Weetzie Bat being very strange but I may have just been too young to understand it.) Weirdness isn’t bad. In fact, this was a really entertaining book that was as funny as it was genuinely creepy. I’m still not completely convinced that I understood everything that was going on, and I am fairly certain that if I made this observation to the titular John, he’d simply nod and comment that I can’t be expected to; after all, I haven’t ever taken the sauce.

There is something very unique, not just about the plot — which is obviously so — but about Wong’s writing and his ability to, in the face of such weirdness, pretty thoroughly define his characters without really seeming like he is trying very hard to at all. By the end of the book, I absolutely understood the motivations and actions of each character, and that’s without any backstory worth speaking of for most of them.

Sometimes I worry that my review attempts get a little pedantic, talking too much about nuts and bolts, and since doing so for this book just seems kind of inherently wrong, like a square hamburger patty, I’ll just shut up here and say “READ JOHN DIES AT THE END.”