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review 2018-06-27 16:11
Blood Magick by Nora Roberts
Blood Magick - Nora Roberts

They were never meant to be together, she one of the three, he the spawn of evil, carrying his mark, yet Branna and Fin still fell in love. Oath, blood and the curse of a dying witch might've kept them apart for more than ten years, but now, as the final battle approaches and the future is uncertain, they must take what moment they can to experience what has been denied them.


And then this happened. After two books of hyping the "epic, star-crossed lovers" tale of the eldest of the three recent descendants of Sorcha, the Dark Witch and the man carrying the blood (and mark) of Cabhan, the evil sorcerer that killed Sorcha and her man, bringing about the creation of the three and prompting Sorcha's curse, this is what we got.
Blah, blah, blah, boohoo to me, I-love-you-but-cannot-be-with-you-no-matter-what-but-have-to-be-with-you-no-matter-what, wringing of hands, cooking, cleaning, blah, blah, blah, let's-make-some-more-witches, let's-make-demon-poison, blah, blah, blah, the end.

This is this third book in a nutshell. Boring.

Where was the drama? Where was the angst of this star-crossed, doomed, cursed love? I have no idea. This book sure didn't deliver.
Even the characters and their interactions were boring. There was no sign of friends and family from the previous two books. They were just there for form's sake, to warrant another book, if you will.
There sure wasn't enough material for an entire book in this story, so it had to be filled with ballast and redundant scenes (cooking, cleaning, making of soaps, taking strolls in the woods...)

Even the final confrontation with the big bad wasn't that satisfying. It read like overkill, too large-scale, too much everything; it actually turned into almost a parody (and it would've, if this series had any more books to come).

Come to think of it, the entire arc of the trilogy didn't have enough story meat to fill three books. It could've easily been condensed into a single one (like Three Fates for example). It would've packed more of a punch, instead of spreading itself thin.

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review 2018-06-26 15:38
Shadow Spell by Nora Roberts
Shadow Spell - Nora Roberts

They've known each other since they were children, but they were always only friends. Then, one night after his near brush with death, things change with a sizzling kiss, and their friendship evolves, strengthening the circle against evil...


The evil Cabhan still isn't vanquished (that's why it's called a trilogy folks), but the bonds of family, blood, love and friendship still hold true in this particular trilogy. It was like visiting with old friends, ones you know from childhood, ones you share joy and sorrow, know their deepest secrets. And this is what I love most about Nora Roberts writing—realistic characters. True, they're mostly flawed, with deep-seated issues and scars, but they feel real, normal, living, human. Their relationships and interactions are always a pleasure to read.

This time it was Connor and Meara's turn. It could've gone the icky way, this friendship of theirs "marred" by deeper emotions, but having gotten to know both of them, the reader knows and feels those emotions are already there, they just needed to be dug out.
It brought heartache and annoyance (thanks to the heroine and her abandonment issues), but it also brought joy and laughter. Much needed before the final battle begins; both with Cabhan, but mostly between Branna and Fin.

This was the middle one of the trilogy, so it didn't bring anything really new to the table as far as the big bad is concerned (except for a few new forms of fighting him and him eluding them), and nothing really new about the characters (except for the two best friends turning into lovers), but it wasn't bad.

Well-written and well-paced, it gave us the calm before the storm, some lighthearted scenes, and the warning to brace before the big finale.

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review 2018-06-25 09:15
Dark Witch by Nora Roberts
Dark Witch - Nora Roberts

Iona Sheehan finally found the place where she belongs. She had to travel from America to Ireland to accomplish it, but she did it. And she finally found people, unlike her distant parents, that love her—her Irish cousins, Branna and Connor O'Dwyer and their three best friends, Boyle McGrath, Meara Quinn and Fin(bar) Burke.

There's a connection with her cousins that transcends family, forged in blood centuries ago, when their ancestor, the Dark Witch, Sorcha, shared her power with her three children to vanquish evil. That evil is back, strong as before, thirsty for the power Iona, Branna and Connor share, and it will take their combined magick, alongside bonds of love and friendship shared by the six, to banish the evil forever.


This is very similar (in theme) to the Sign of Seven trilogy, and in drama to Three Sisters Island trilogy (at least the promised showdown between star-crossed lovers Branna and Fin in the last book), but still, it holds its own weight, no matter the similarities.

In such trilogies, it always comes down to family and friends in Nora Roberts books, to the power of love that transcends the familial, to the power of blood bonds forged through life and hardship. True love and true friends are hard to find, and those who are lucky to have them, can achieve all...even fight and banish ancient evil.
That's the metaphor of this book and this series.

The feelings of love and friendships are immediately palpable, as soon as Iona lands on her cousins' doorstep, meets the three friends (even if one of those descends from the same evil they're trying to fight—drama, drama, drama). I loved the easy rapport between them, the camaraderie between friends, the love between the five people who knew each other since childhood, and quickly included the one that's been missing from their life so far.
The romance itself was nothing to write home about—a tad rushed, and quite desperate from the heroine's point of view—but the friendship and bonds of family were top notch.

The characters, once again, shone, with their layers, issues, little idiosyncrasies, their bonds (I know I'm repeating myself), their differences and similarities...And yes, there were those sprinklings of humor I so love with this author.

The paranormal elements didn't dominate the narrative, but what there was served as great augmenter for the suspense, the heightening of feelings of danger and peril the characters were in (and will be in the future). This was more of an appetizer, preparing our palate for the main course.

The same could be said about the entire story, really. A very good appetizer, that makes you really look forward to the main meal.

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review 2018-03-28 22:33
A great study of the Celtic Revival and the visual arts
The Rediscovery of Ireland's Past: The Celtic Revival, 1830-1930 - Jeanne Sheehy

As a force fueling the development of an Irish national identity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Celtic Revival proved an important movement in modern Irish history.  Yet with such luminaries as William Butler Yeats and J. M. Synge among its leading figures, the literary expression of the movement has overshadowed its other elements.  In this book, art historian Jeanne Sheehy seeks to provide a more complete understanding of the Revival by examining its impact on the visual arts of the era.

 

Sheehy begins by tracing the origins of the movement to the developing interest in history throughout Europe in the early nineteenth century, particularly in medieval history.  This fueled the first significant study of Irish antiquities, particularly those of the Celtic and early Christian (pre-English) eras.  These discoveries generated a growing respect for Ireland’s cultural heritage, one neglected by elites in recent centuries who sought to identify themselves more closely to English culture.  Now Irish emblems such as the shamrock and the harp became symbols of Irish pride, and were seized upon by activists such as those in the Young Ireland movement as badges of identity.

 

Sheehy chronicles this development with a sure command of the artistic developments of the era.  She notes the reflection of the movement in the painting, sculpture, and architecture of the era, demonstrating how the Revival was reflected in nearly every field of artistry.  Though she concludes that a distinctively Irish style failed to develop from the Revival, she nonetheless identifies several threads of development that demonstrate the importance of the Revival to Irish art from the era.  Thoroughly researched, generously illustrated, and well-written, this is a valuable study of its subject, one that offers an added dimension to studying the interaction between culture and nationalism in modern Irish history. 

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review 2018-03-11 21:48
Myth and Middle-earth
Myth & Middle-Earth: Exploring the Medieval Legends Behind J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings - Leslie Ellen Jones

I enjoyed this book about how various mythologies and legends were re-used and presented in a new light by J. R. R. Tolkien, especially the section on drowned lands. The Celtic myths of Ireland and Wales were interesting too. There's much more inside for anyone interested in mythology and how Middle-earth reflects these. Recommended!

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