Monday, 24 November 2014

#CBR6 Book 131: "The Hero and the Crown" by Robin McKinley

Page count: 225 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Disclaimer! This was granted to me by Open Road Integrated Media through NetGalley in return for a fair and unbiased review.

Aerin is the lonely, ostracised daughter of the ruler of Damar. She has pale skin and fiery red hair amongst a people who are bronzed with dark hair. She cannot even remember who first told her the story, but she has known for as long as she can remember that her mother was a commoner witch-woman who came from the North, who ensorcelled the king into marrying her, swearing she would bear him an heir. When she bore a daughter, she died of despair. While most of the common folk and the servants love her for her gentle, generous and unspoiled manner and the fact that she has taken upon herself to rid the countryside of the small, yet fierce dragons who threaten livestock and snatch the occasional baby to eat. The higher born, especially most of her royal cousins are deeply scornful of her, calling her names, mocking her and never letting her forget her half-blood status.

The one exception is Tor, the heir to the throne, one of her cousins. Since she was young, he has been kind to her, and he has taught her to ride, to use a sword and other soldierly arts. As she comes of age, it becomes very obvious to everyone in Damar that Tor is in love with the witch-woman's daughter. That she has managed to combine herbs to make a fire-proof ointment to help her hunt dragons or successfully trained the king's old, injured war horse back to health is turned into sinister and negative things rather than admirable and impressive ones.

There is more discord spreading in Damar, and the common belief is that all the problems would be solved if the ancient crown, lost some generations ago, was found. Even after Aerin is nearly killed, becoming severely damaged when single-handedly killing Maur, one of the enormous, ancient dragons, the popular opinion of the court is against her. While recovering, she has dreams about a mysterious man, who claims she needs to find him, so he can aid her further in saving Damar, and when she's at her absolute lowest, convinced everyone will be better off without her, she goes off to find him. Can Luthe, this stranger from her dreams, heal her and train her into facing her greatest fears? If she fails, it means the destruction of Damar and all the people she loves.

In late September, I started reading Robin McKinley's most recent book, Shadows, which I didn't even make it a third through before I had to abandon it. It was written in some made up teen speak and the characters and story was so unengaging that I just didn't have the patience to finish it. Now, considering the literary quality of some of the books I HAVE managed to read this year, this says a lot. So when I was offered one of her classic works through Netgalley, the prequel to possibly my favourite of her books The Blue Sword, which I will be re-reading as soon as I can dig out my paperback (as it sadly doesn't exist in e-book format yet), it seemed like a very good way of getting the figurative bad taste out of my mouth.

While Aerin has a pretty sucky childhood, growing up with only the older Tor or her maid as her closest friends, she seems to grow more confident, or at least less self-conscious and bothered about what others think of her and the possible motives of her long dead mother. She's brave, kind and persistent, with a gift for scientific thought that allows her, after years of trial and error, to recreate a long believed to be mythical ointment that is immune to dragon fire. Her patience and perseverance wins her the loyalty of her father's injured and anti-social war horse, who through the training that Aerin slowly coaxes him to do, eventually becomes almost his old self again.

Her father and Tor clearly love her, and it is made clear that many people in rural Damar see her as a hero. Yet Aerin cannot get over the constant digs and misgivings from those around her, and their malicious gossip is also what lets her fall under the spell of the evil dragon Maur, whose powers don't diminish even though he has been killed. Some enterprising people drag his skull back to the capital, and the dragon's malevolence, combined with the horrible burns (her ointment doesn't work against the fire of ancient dragons) and injuries she sustained, nearly kills her.

This is a great book, generally aimed for a middle grade to younger adult audience, I think. Aerin is a wonderful role model for young women. She's an outcast, but works to overcome her many challenges. She rarely masters something on the first try, all Mary Sue like, but practises and trains, using her perseverance and inner strength to succeed. She is loyal and brave, risking her life time and time again at thankless tasks, only to have most of those who should have been her strongest allies undermine her and gossip about her perceived evil intentions. While I didn't love it as much as some other McKinley books, I'm so glad I got a chance to read this, especially after Shadows turned out to be such a disappointment. Turns out that McKinley's early career is a lot more to my taste than her recent literary efforts.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

#CBR6 Book 130: "Yes, Please" by Amy Poehler

Page count: 288 pages
Audio book length: 7 hrs 31 mins
Rating: 5 stars

As far as I can tell, I'm the fifth Cannonballer so far to read and review Amy Poehler's new book Yes, Please. I'm a huge fan of Parks and Recreation and the episode where Ann and Chris leave nearly destroyed me, because Ann and Leslie's friendship in many ways reminds me so much of that between me and my best friend Lydia (who unfortunately lives across the Atlantic in New York City). I've liked Amy Poehler in Mean Girls and on  SNL, and I love her various hosting gigs with her friend Tina Fey, whose celebrity autobiography I read way back in 2011. I think Bossypants is funnier in terms of laugh out loud moments and hysterical anecdotes, but Yes, Please affected me more and seemed more honest somehow.

In a book that's part autobiography, part advice book, and in terms of the audio book that I got, part  humorous banter with celebrity guests (supposedly recorded in the audio booth Amy built herself, the book has audio cameos from Kathleen Turner, Patrick Stewart, Carol Burnett and Amy's parents, plus one whole chapter is read by Seth Meyers), Amy Poehler covers a lot of different things. The book is divided into three parts: Say whatever you want, Do whatever you like and Be whoever you are, which I think illustrates quite nicely what Amy Poehler wants for the lives of pretty much everyone, certainly herself. She's not afraid to be honest about the less admirable qualities about her personality here, and claims that despite what her public persona has led people to believe, she's really not all that nice, and she thinks that it's important that people, and especially women, are allowed to not always be quiet, polite and pleasant. The final chapter of the audio book is recorded live at a theatre, complete with the audience reacting enthusiastically to her reading.

While not all of the chapters were as funny, I still appreciated hearing all her various opinions, and as I said, of the various funny celebrity autobiographies I've read, this is probably the one that felt like it was the most relevant to me. I may not have laughed out loud as much while listening to this book, but I still think about parts of it now and come back to it, even weeks after I finished it. Amy Poehler is a brilliant woman, she has strong opinions and she's a staunch feminist without any of this becoming the focus of the book. She seems to be a devoted and hard-working mother, a loyal friend and a really fun woman to hang out with. I respect her greatly and wish she could be my friend.

Now, while there is no way I have the time and energy to complete a full triple of 156 this year, it feels good that this book is my 130th, which marks my two and a half Cannonball. Having reached this milestone also means that I will be posting  less frequently. I need to recharge a bit for next year. So with the exception of books so excellent I think the world needs to know about them, or the books I need to review to complete my various reading challenges, I will probably not be posting. This means that there may be another tend or so reviews, but unlikely more than that. Thanks for reading my reviews, commenting and cheering me on in 2014. Bring on CBR7.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

#CBR6 Book 129: "Blue Lily, Lily Blue" by Maggie Stiefvater

Page count: 416 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Blue Sargent's mother is missing, and it's quite clear that time passes differently where she's gone. This loss affects Blue deeply, although she has Mr. Grey around and her Raven Boys to take her mind off things. Blue, Gansey, Ronan, Adam and even Noah are still trying to find Glendover, looking in caves all over the area. They are told repeatedly that there are three Sleepers under the ground, and it is imperative that one of them not be woken. They now have the aid of Gansey's elderly British professor friend, Mr. Malory, who seems to find being in "the Colonies" fascinating.

Malory is not the only new arrival in Henrietta. Colin Greenmantle, Mr. Grey's former employer and a very dangerous man, is in town, keeping himself busy plotting revenge and destruction, while also teaching the Aglionby boys Latin. His wife Piper may seem vapid and distracted at first, but it becomes clear after a while why the two were drawn to each other. Ronan is determined to get Greenmantle somehow, and enlists the aid of Adam, whose affinity with Cabeswater is getting stronger, allowing him a wholly new perspective. Adam needs all the distractions he can get, he's about to face his father in court, and he's making very sure that none of his friends find out about it.

While it is always lovely to spend time in the world of Blue and her Raven Boys, this book, number 3 in The Raven Cycle is so clearly a bridging book. Unlike in books 1 and 2, where we were introduced to all the characters and a lot of dramatic things happened, most of the story is in a holding pattern here, slowly moving the pieces into place for the final act, which I'm hoping will be spectacular.

Colin Greenmantle is a chilling new potential villain, and all the ominous messages about the third sleeper promise more complications in the final book, which is out at some as of yet not confirmed point in the second half of next year. In The Raven Boys, Blue saw Gansey on the Corpse Road, and with each season passing, they are getting closer to his doom. In this book, the other boys discover that the women of 300 Fox Way have a book where they write down the names of everyone who will die in the coming year, and Adam is clever enough to figure out that Blue is so secretive about the book because one of their names is in it. She finally has someone to share her secret with, not that it makes the situation any easier.

Blue and Gansey are growing closer, but trying to hide it from the others, especially to avoid hurting Adam. Ronan and Adam conspire to remove the threat of Colin Greenmantle behind Gansey's back, as they know they're not going to be able to play by the rules, and their best friend would be deeply uncomfortable.

I love these books, but this is clearly the least engrossing in the series so far. I understand that not every book can have the intriguing setup of The Raven Boys or the thrilling revelations of The Dream Thieves, but it would have been nice if there was a little bit more development. Some pretty thrilling stuff happens in the last few chapters, but mostly this is just the literary equivalent of hanging out with friends you like.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

#CBR6 Book 126-128: "The Disillusionists trilogy" by Carolyn Crane

Total page count: 1139 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Once again, I'm going to make things easier for myself, by using a blurb:

Justine knows she's going to die. Any second now.

Justine Jones has a secret. A hardcore hypochondriac, she's convinced a blood vessel is about to burst in her brain. Then, out of the blue, a startlingly handsome man named Packard peers into Justine's soul and invites her to join his private crime-fighting team. It's a once-in-a-lifetime. With a little of Packard's hands-on training, Justine can weaponize her neurosis, turning it outward on Midcity's worst criminals, and finally get the freedom from the fear she's always craved. End of problem.

Or is it? In Midcity, a dashing chief of police is fighting a unique breed of outlaw with more than human powers. And while Justine's first missions, one against a nymphomaniac husband-killer, are thrilling successes, there is more to Packard than meets the eye. Soon, while battling her attraction to two very different men, Justine is plunging deeper into the world of wizardry, eroticism and cosmic secrets. With Packard's help, Justine has freed herself from madness - only to discover a reality more frightening than anyone's worst fears.

November's main pick for Vaginal Fantasy is a bit of a slow starter, and I found myself actually wishing for a bit more exposition in order to establish the world in which these books take place. The concept of the trilogy is so clever, though, and I was very quickly hooked, to the point where I couldn't stop after the first book (which is quite frequently the case with the VF books), but read the whole series in less than a week. 

The books are set in Midcity, an urban fantasy city that reminds me a lot of Chicago. There are some people with special powers, known as highcaps, who can do everything from move objects with their minds, manipulate matter, invade people's dreams or psychologically manipulate their victims. There are some who suggest that the highcaps are just an urban legend, but as more and more people are dying from bricks flying out of nowhere, it seems very likely that highcaps exist and are very dangerous. Midcity is in the midst of a crime wave, and handsome new police chief Otto Sanchez seems to be the only one willing to try to make a change.

Justine is not a highcap, she's a neurotic young woman whose mother died of a particular kind of aneurysm, called a vein star, and Justine is convinced this is what's going to kill her too. She gets panic attacks at the most inconvenient moments and has spent a small fortune going to doctors and the emergency room when she's convinced she's near death. It's putting serious strain on her relationship with her boyfriend, who just wants her to get over her irrational fears. So when she meets the mysterious Packard while at a Mongolian restaurant and he claims that unless she accepts his help, her fear is leading her on a rapid path into crippling insanity. He says he can teach her to channel her fears into other people, using it as a weapon to destabilise them. Justine scoffs at this idea, but can't quite put the idea out of her mind. She returns to the restaurant, and Packard introduces her to some of the other Disillusionists who work for him. He has a secret, private group of vigilantes, who use their powers to psychologically bring criminals towards rock bottom, forcing them to change their ways and minds. They can channel rage, ennui, addiction, gambling problems and the like and Packard thinks Justine could be an invaluable asset because of her health fears.

Once the Disillusionists "zing" their worst impulses into their victims, they themselves are free of them for up to a month and feel great as a result. However, according to Packard, they can't just go around channelling their fears or rage or cravings into anyone, or the psychic backlash could kill them. Packard is a highcap with unique psychological insight into everyone he meets and this allows him to see exactly how they can be broken down, or whether they can. He alone also seems immune to the "zings" of the various Disillusionists, allowing them to channel even when there isn't a suitable criminal that needs taking down. This allows him to show Justine just how good it can feel when she gets rid of her crazy health fears. She agrees to help him, as she is loving the normal life she is suddenly able to enjoy with her boyfriend, free of anxiety and stress, but she is only intending to do it short term, not comfortable with the moral implications of psychologically attacking people, even criminals.

Then she discovers that Packard is quite ruthless in achieving his goals. One of the other Disillusionists is surprised when Justine claims she's only part of their little team for a short while. It seems that once they start "zinging" others, their brain chemistry is gradually altered and if they suddenly stop, they're going to be overwhelmed by the very negative impulses they have gotten used to channelling and will end up in a vegetative state. Packard didn't tell Justine because he, very correctly, knew she'd never agree to join up if she knew. He isn't just destabilising criminals from the kindness of his heart, he makes a lot of money from people these criminals wronged, and his ultimate endgame is revenge against the individual who trapped him in the very restaurant Justine first met him. For more than eight years, Packard has been unable to leave the place. He's also unable to change the decor, or the menu and if things get destroyed, they're back the way they were before the very next day. Justine, who during her training has grown more and more attracted to Packard, is appalled and swears that she will figure out a way to be free of his manipulative control. She and the other Disillusionists can't really help themselves from trying to figure out exactly who trapped their boss, and how they can work together to free him.

In the second book, Double Cross, Justine and the other Disillusionists are working to rehabilitate a number of criminals that Packard's nemesis had kept locked away in various locations in the city, just like he had Packard. A trio of men nicknamed the Dorks (because former Chief of Police, now Mayor, Otto Sanchez, has forbidden the media from glorifying criminals with cool monikers, and all criminals written about in the media now have randomly selected humiliating names instead) are targeting highcaps, and mysteriously seem to be completely immune to all their powers, while able to identify them from normal humans. As both the men Justine feels drawn to are highcaps and thus in danger of being the next victim, she is feeling stressed and affected, even though she's able to channel her fears away. If Packard is killed by the Dorks, Justine and her dysfunctional friends will all eventually become drooling wrecks, so they work together to discover the true identies of the killers.

In the third book, Head Rush, Justine should be blissfully happy. She's finally free of Packard's control and doesn't have to channel her crippling fear into others to stay sane. She's attending nursing school (not just posing as a fake nurse like when she was a Disillusionist), she's engaged to the man of her dreams and the big hero of Midcity, planning the wedding of the year. Her best friends are going to be attending her at the wedding, so why is she plagued by constant headaches, vague nightmares, anxiety and an unsettling distrust for her beloved fiancee?

Midcity is under martial law, with a strict curfew being enforced because sleep-walking cannibals are roaming the streets at night. There are more dangerous criminals around than ever before, but Mayor Otto Sanchez is staunchly promising that things will change very soon. Thanks to the help of her reclusive, paranoid father and a few of her very loyal friends, Justine is able to unravel the mysteries surrounding her and figure out who her heart really belongs to.

Product warning from book three: This book contains high-speed rollerblade chases, a mysterious green dashboard ornament, a father of the bride in full hazmat gear and a delicious kebab. 

I read a lot of urban/paranormal fantasy, and finding something a bit different from your kickass heroine with a sword/crossbow/magical powers/shapeshifting/shiny daggers is very refreshing. Justine is a wreck, a self-absorbed, neurotic hypochondriac who constantly lies to herself about what she really wants from her life. She's not stupid, but certainly no genius. She's not exactly a coward, but she's certainly no action heroine. She's stubborn, quick to anger, quite often petty and very easily persuaded. Yet she's a loyal friend, she's not afraid to speak her mind and she quite naturally just wants a normal life and a reliable guy who loves her.

Neither of the two men that she falls for in this trilogy are exactly stable, reliable, trustworthy sort of people. They are childhood friends and long time enemies, sometimes working together, but more often to destroy one another. They are dangerous, ruthless, powerful and extremely manipulative. One of the things I liked about the series is how many times the status quo is completely turned on its head. You think you know what's going on, and then there is a surprise twist, and another, and a third, until you're really not sure who you should be rooting for. Who is the hero and who is the villain? Is it ok to completely destabilise and rewrite people's psyche to turn them from a life of crime? Is it ok to keep people under house arrest without any verdict or trial to protect the majority of the populace? Just how far can one person go to impose their unique idea of justice and order? While I'm really not a huge fan of love triangles, this one was very central to the plot of the series and the fact that the reader, as well as Justine, honestly doesn't entirely know who to trust, or who she should choose, makes for interesting reading.

I liked that all the various Disillusionists were severely screwed up individuals who would have been crazy or worse if they hadn't joined up with Packard and learned how to channel away the worst of their impulses into others. They all make for an interesting supporting cast of characters, although some are given a lot more prominence than others. I loved the idea that someone crippled by drug or alcohol addiction, or chronic gambling problems, or debilitating anxiety and hypochondria could transfer this to someone else, and use it as a weapon. It's such a very unusual idea and one of the reasons I really just dropped everything else to read these books. While by no means flawless, the books were different and extremely entertaining. I suspect I will be checking out what else Carolyn Crane has written, and I hope her other works are as fun as these books.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

#CBR6 Book 125: "The Outsiders" by Susan E. Hinton

Page count: 190 pages
Rating: 5 stars

Ponyboy Curtis is an orphan. He lives with his two older brothers, Darry, who works construction and Sodapop, who dropped out of school to work in a garage to help support the family. Ponyboy and his friends are Greasers, kids with leather jackets and long, grease-slicked hair from working class backgrounds, often with a lot of trouble at home. Quite a few of the Greasers are part of gangs and having a criminal record isn't all that uncommon.

Ponyboy would much rather be a Greaser with no parents than a Soc, however. The rich, privileged society kids with their expensive cars and their letterman jackets, whose favourite pasttime is teaming up to beat up Greasers. Ponyboy is the baby of the gang, and clearly the one with enough smarts and academic prospects to have a chance of getting a good college scholarship and making something promising with his life. Darry had to give up on his college dreams when their parents died, and Sodapop would much rather work on cars than go to school.

While the clashes between the Socs and the Greasers can get pretty rough, they tend to be broken up before anyone can get badly hurt. One fateful evening, when Ponyboy and the badly traumatised Johnny Cade are attacked by a gang of drunken Socs who get particularly threatening, everything goes to hell. Ponyboy and Johnny go on the run, hiding out from the cops in a countryside church. When there's an unexpected fire, the boys get a chance to show that hoodlums from the wrong side of the tracks can make a real difference.

The Outsiders was one of my favourite books as a young teen. I can't entirely remember how old I first read this book, but I can vividly remember my reaction to it. I stayed up way later than was sensible, considering it was a school night to finish it, and I cried so hard that I couldn't see the pages anymore. Big, racking sobs and full on ugly crying. I remember being amazed that the author was only fifteen when she started writing the book. Is it a literary masterpiece? No, probably not, it's a fairly simplistic story but it's a compelling novel written by a teenager, in the voice of another teenager and having re-read it for the first time in about fifteen years, in English for the first time, I was still really strongly emotionally affected by it.

Unfortunately, I no longer remember exactly what I thought about the social situation of the various Greasers described in this book, nor what I felt about Ponyboy's strained relationship with his oldest brother. Now, as an adult, I probably see a lot of the relationships in this book from a very different perspective. I still cried a lot at certain sections of the book, but I suspect I cried the hardest at other parts than when I was a young teen. I can't objectively judge the quality of this book, because it's such a powerful piece of nostalgia for me, and will always be an emotional reading experience for me. My husband has never read the book, nor watched the film (which I'd love to rewatch now, having not seen it for about as long as since I last read the book), and I plan to read this out loud to him, as he, early in our relationship, read me The Hobbit and The Wind in the Willows.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

#CBR6 Book 124: "Burn for Me" by Ilona Andrews

Rating: 4.5 stars
Page count: 384 pages

In a world where magic exists and is passed down through generations, the most influential families in society are called Houses, and tend to breed selectively to create the most powerful magic users, known as Primes. Nevada Baylor is a struggling P.I in Houston, trying to make ends meet. Nevada's powers (which she keeps secret to avoid being exploited by one of the ruthless Houses) allow her to sense any time someone is lying. It comes in handy in her line of business, but isn't exactly going to make her a magical superstar, like Adam Pierce, the man she has been forced to locate.

A Prime pyrokinetic, Adam Pierce grew up in a life of luxury, before he decided to turn his back on his family, start a motorcycle club and becoming a radical. His fire can melt solid steel and he's the main suspect in a series of arsons, the last at a bank where a police officer got killed. The House that owns the Baylor family's mortgage needs someone to go on what is likely to be a suicide mission. Nevada could refuse, but it would mean not only losing the family business, but the warehouse, where they all live. Desperate, but resourceful, Nevada is able to do what a lot of others haven't. She tracks down Pierce and manages to peak his curiosity. She hopes this will keep her alive long enough for her to figure out a way to get him arrested.

Then she is drugged and abducted by Connor "Mad" Rogan, the head of House Rogan and a Prime Telekinetic, one of the most powerful magic users in the world.  Formerly employed by the US Army and involved in decisive victories against the war of Mexico, he now has nicknames like the Hurricane and the Butcher of Mexico. Having agreed to help his cousin track down her son, who is implicated in the latest arson with Pierce, he has ascertained that Nevada is the easiest way to get to the man. She doesn't take well to being kidnapped, threatened and questioned, and doesn't hesitate to tell Rogan (who terrifies her as he tends to do most people) exactly how unhappy she is about his heavy-handed ways. He proposes that they join forces to catch the pyrokinetic, and Nevada reluctantly agrees, even though she suspects Rogan may turn to be more dangerous to her than Pierce, in the end.

This is the first book in Ilona Andrews' new paranormal series, Hidden Legacy. While there is a clear attraction between Nevada and Rogan and lots of the amazing banter that Andrews does so excellently, nothing is resolved in this book, the first in a trilogy. Because Avon usually focuses on romance, a lot of readers seem to be disappointed by the lack of romantic resolution in this book. A regular reader of their blog, I was expecting a setup book and that is what this is. Andrews writes the slow burn very well, as evidenced by their Kate Daniels series, where it also takes multiple books for the central romance to really develop.

Being a huge fan of ALL of their books (I don't care if they start publishing their shopping lists, I will pay money for them, frequently more than once), I was very excited about this release, and it didn't disappoint. I suspect I may even rate it a full five stars on a repeat read (which I plan to do in December). So much of what the Andrews team does so well can be found here. Fascinating world building, with the idea that much of the population possess magical powers to some extent, in lots of interesting variations. Great characters, both the protagonists and the antagonist - Andrews is fond of a charming anti-hero to pit against the main characters. Action, humour, romance, banter, suspense and entertainment.

Nevada is the main breadwinner for her family, living with her widowed mother (a former army sniper), her grandmother (who seems to have magic that allows her to be a super mechanic), her two teenage sisters and two male cousins (one of whom is a computer genius who helps her in the P.I. business). One of the things I love about Andrews' books is how well they write families. Kate starts out a hard-edged loner in Magic Bites, but finds an extended family in the Pack and her ward. Family is hugely important in all of the four Edge books and locating her lost family is one of the things driving Dina in Clean Sweep. Families who bicker and fight and may be at each others' throats, but who will unite against a common enemy and protect each other to the death. Nevada is clever, inventive and brave, but she's not exceptional at her job. She's not a total hardass like Kate or Cerise in Bayou Moon; if Nevada is in a life threatening situation, her first instinct is to run to save herself, not face the danger head on. She works hard, and without her, her family won't be able to pay the bills. Forced into an impossible situation, of taking on a suicide mission or have her entire family tossed out into the streets, Nevada does the only thing she can. But she's not happy about it, and dreams of the day when she can tell Montgomery House, the ones pulling her strings, to get lost. Over the course of the story, it's quite obvious that there is more to Nevada's powers than she's been told, and her mother and grandmother, while clearly having kept things from her, seem unaware of the true extent of Nevada's abilities.

As well as great and complex heroines, there tend to be good heroes in the Andrews' books. Mad Rogan is no exception, although it's clear that there's going to have to be a hell of a character arc over the next two books for Rogan to be a worthy match for Nevada. He's genuinely scary and can do terrifying things with his powers. He's insanely wealthy and not used to people saying no to him. He is quick to anger and kills without remorse. He finds Nevada very attractive and can't understand why she refuses to submit to his attempts at seduction. While his public persona is that of an uncaring, ruthless man, it's quite clear that there is a lot more depth to Rogan. With the exception of the epilogue, the entire story is told from Nevada's point of view and she doesn't see all that we, the readers see. While he is wealthy and Nevada finds him extremely sexy, she's fully aware that he is extremely dangerous and that a no-name nobody like her has no future with the head of House Rogan, the most powerful and influential of all the magical families.

Sadly, there is no release date for the next book in the series and now I have to wait impatiently for both more Kate books and more Hidden Legacy. I can't wait to see how the story will develop and suspect that while this is great, the sequels will be spectacular.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

#CBR6 Book 123: "Horns" by Joe Hill

Page count: 416 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

Pretty much exactly a year after his girlfriend Merrin Williams was found raped and murdered, Ignatius "Ig" Perrish wakes up after getting blackout drunk and discovers horns spouting from his forehead. He's not entirely sure they're not a hallucination at first, but when he discovers how people behave around him due to the horns, he realises that they are sadly all too real. Turns out the horns make everyone around him spill their deepest, darkest secrets. They confess to their most shameful wishes and desires and they bluntly tell Ig to his face what they actually think of him. Pretty much everyone in town is convinced that he murdered Merrin, and that it was only through the wealth and position of his parents that he got off without a trial. Ig faces harsh truths from the local priest, his new girlfriend, his grandmother and his parents.

The terrible compulsion from the horns allows Ig to not only stop deluding himself of what his life has become, but he eventually discovers who raped and murdered Merrin. He is determined to get revenge any way he can, and wants to use his demonic new powers to get it. But what if the murderer is the only one seemingly immune to Ig's new "gift"?

As well as the story of Ig, his horns and his quest for revenge, the book shows much of Merrin and Ig's relationship together, from before their first meeting until the bitter argument they had on the fateful night that Merrin was abused and killed. The many players in this revenge drama are introduced, all part of Ig's life from an early age. We see him meet Merrin and fall in love with her. We see him with his brother and his friends. The book cuts between the present and the past throughout, alternating from the horror of Ig's current situation with the privileged upbringing and past he had.

I normally don't read a whole lot of horror. I suspect that this year I have read more of the genre than in several of the past years combined. Because I really liked what I've read of Joe Hill's Locke and Key so far, and having discovered that this book was being adapted into a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe (say what you want, but the boy has been in a LOT of different things since he finished the last Harry Potter movie. He seems determined not to risk being typecast), I was intrigued, and when in need of some entertainment while on vacation in New York, I picked this up. Normally I hate movie tie-in covers, but the original cover was boring and ugly, and the non-mass market paperback was more than twice as expensive. There are limits to how much money I'm willing to spend on my light holiday reads.

Looking on Goodreads, I see that several other Cannonballers really loved this book. It's been very highly rated twice so far this year on the group blog. Unfortunately, it wasn't really my sort of thing. I think the way the book alternated between the mundane, almost boring at times and the gruesome was distracting and I kept wanting to reach into the book and slap some sense into Ig, because to me, it was obvious who the real killer was even before this is revealed. I also thought the book got more and more surreal towards the end, and am not thrilled with how the dramatic climax played out. I did like the slow reveal of some stuff (being extremely vague here so as not to spoil for anyone), and Merrin's last letter to Ig was very touching.

The film seems to have gotten more negative than positive reviews, with Vivian on Pajiba really hating it. As I thought the trailer made it look as if it really could go either way, I doubt I will be watching it. I also suspect that I will be donating the paperback to my school library.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.