Tuesday, December 21, 2010

CBR III Review #2 - Winter Rose by Patricia McKillip

"Then he walked out of the light."

I love McKillip's books because she creates such beautiful fantasy realms.  She doesn't go Tolkien and create elaborate mythologies (well, not often, as The Riddlemaster of Hed series is contrary to this), but you feel like her worlds are full and lived in.

Winter Rose is the story of Rois Melior, a farmer's daughter.  A stranger named Corbet Lynn comes to the village and turns their lives upside down.  Corbet, it seems, has a curse on his family.  He has returned to build Lynn hall, where is grandfather, Nial, and father, Tearle, had lived decades before.  Lynn Hall was the site of his grandfather's mysterious death, assumed to be at the hands of Tearle himself, although he disappeared and no one saw him again.  So the village lays in wait for some part of the curse Nial laid on his descendents to fall upon Corbet.

Corbet, meanwhile, takes the time to befriend the Melior family, which in addition to Rois includes her father, her older sister, Laurel, and Laurel's betrothed, Perrin.  Rois is infatuated from minute one, having seen Corbet shape out of light long before he introduced himself in the village.  She knows there is more to him than the stories he tells.  The wild Rois, who has spent her whole life wandering about the wood in all seasons and all weather, starts questioning who she is under Corbet's eyes.  She watches Corbet look at Laurel the way she wishes he would look at her.

As Rois starts to work through the tangled web of Corbet's past, and where he is really from, tensions rise, and then something happens to make Laurel start to behave like their mother did before she died - wasting away watching for a season.  As winter settles in, Rois must figure out how to fix the damage Corbet's past has wrought on all of them, and find out not only who she is, but what that means to who she will be.

It's a great, easy fantasy read, with characters I love.  One of my favorites, and a great winter read.

CBR III Review #1 - Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

"To the Brides of Vows and their happy ever afters"

Don't judge - I love me some Nora Roberts on occasion. She writes some lovely, fluffy romance, especially when she writes in a series.  This book is the fourth and final in what's known as The Bride Quartet.  I devoured all of these and anxiously awaited each new volume.  Maybe it's my lifelong obsession with bridal culture, maybe my own impending nuptials. But I think what really draws me to these books is the four women that Roberts created with this series.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The Bride Quartet focuses on the love, life and business of four women who are lifelong friends.  Parker Brown, Mackensie "Mac" Elliot, Laurel McBane, and Emmaline "Emma" Grant grow from playing "Wedding Day" as children to running their own wedding business, called Vows.  Mac is the photographer, Laurel the pastry chef, Emma the florist, and Parker runs the show.  The first three books focus on each girl in turn finding their romantic match and getting engaged by the book's end.  I'd say this is a spoiler alert, but anyone who doesn't realize what they are getting into with these books is someone too dull for me to worry about offending with a spoiler.  This last volume is about Parker, the brains behind the whole operation and a queen of detail.  Her love story is already foreshadowed in the previous installments, which is true of all the relationships.  You know by half way through the first book which woman will end up with which man, and it hardly matters - the journey between sparks to "I do" is what matters, as is the incredible friendship between these four women.  What really draws you is how different all four are, bound by their love for each other and for helping people make their happily ever afters.  In a way, each woman's romance comes second to the most important love of their lives - each other.  As trite as it sounds, girlfriends can be the most important part of your life, and the relationship these women have is wonderful to read about.  They all end up living happily ever after, but what matters is that they do it on their own terms and while keeping their friendship in tact and stronger than ever.

And so it begins...

There's this wonderful site I've visited just about every day for the past...oh...5 or 6 years, called Pajiba.  The wonderful folks over there started a tradition in 2008 called Cannonball Read.  The basic principle behind this is to read 52 books in as many weeks.  It was started by a lovely person called Prisco who challenged the hospital bound AlabamaPink to read 100 books in a year.  (Both being regular contributors and commenters on the site at the time.)  Between this challenge and its second year, 'Bama lost her battle with cancer. Then Pajiba took this competition and made it into something really special - every time one of us completes the new challenge of 52 books in a year, with accompanying reviews, money is donated to a college fund for AlabamaPink's child.  This is magical.

As an avid  reader, I've always watched and longed to be part of the Cannonball Read, but was always too daunted by the volume.  I wasn't sure I could read AND review that many books in a year.  I'm still not. So I am pledging myself to the newly modified challenge - I'm attempting a Half Cannonball.  That's 26 books in the year 2011.  I think this is doable.  If I manage the full Cannonball, so much the better!

Added bonus incentive this year?  We're allowed a head start. As the Cannonball Read has previously started in November, we are allowed to include anything read since November in the 2011 read, despite the contest beginning in good earnest on January 1st. So I'm starting tonight.  Wish me luck and happy reading!