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review 2018-12-11 09:35
The Ebony Swan
The Ebony Swan - Phyllis A. Whitney

If reviews came with musical accompaniment, you'd be hearing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah as you read this.  I've finally finished this book.

 

There's a combination of factors involved in the blame for my incredibly slow progress: I'm in a slump, and therefore easily distracted by anything right now - it doesn't even have to be shiny; life has been busy and when I did sit down to read, interruptions abounded; this is not Whitney's best work.  By a long shot.

 

Susan's father took her away from her grandmother's home and cut off all contact, after the death of her mother under mysterious circumstances.  Susan was the only witness and at 5, suppressed the memories.  Now her father's dead, she's an adult, and she's returning to her grandmother's home in Virginia to get to know her and figure out why she can't remember her own mother.  But grandma has a trunk-load of secrets she's less than enthusiastic about sharing, and nobody else seems to want Susan to come back at all. 

 

This is one of Whitney's later books, written in the 80's, and she's still got her magic touch when it comes to atmosphere, setting, and characters.  But the story dragged... the pacing was continental drift slow, and there was so much time spent in the heads of the characters, it was a challenge to keep myself engaged.  And when everything came together with a solution/ending that was twisted in that way in which Whitney excelled (this is an author who really understood long-simmering anger and epic grudges), I was so ...exhausted by the slow pacing that I just couldn't feel the punch I should have. 

 

It's good, it's even a bit haunting, but you have to really be patient with it, and in the midst of a slump, patience is thin on the ground.

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review 2018-11-19 21:37
Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck (Southern Eclectic Novella)
Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck - Molly Harper, Amanda Ronconi

If you read the Southern Eclectic novels, this is a prequel back story for one of the characters, Marianne, and how she ended up with Carl.

 

It's short, but it covers all the bases, introducing most of the family, including one character that dies before the full-length books begin.  We get a bit more insight into Donna, Marianne's curmudgeonly mother.  Less funny than most of the other books, it's sweet in its way and since I went in already invested in the characters, I enjoyed it well enough.

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review 2018-04-13 05:37
How to Find Love in a Bookshop
How to Find Love in a Bookshop - Veronica Henry

The title's a pretty strong implication of romance, but it's not, strictly speaking, a romance novel.  Left to standard categorical labels, I'd call this more a blend of contemporary and chick-lit with a strong thread of love throughout.

 

The story follows the lives of half a dozen people, 4 of whom have their lives altered by their connection to the village bookshop, Nightingale Books.  Emilia is the only daughter of the recently passed owner, determined to carry on and keep the doors open in spite of the uphill battle.  Sarah is the lady of the manor house and is the poster child for silent suffering; her daughter Alice is lightness personified but dreadfully naive.  Jackson is a man with a good heart and the victim of his own lack of courage and conviction, who gets himself stuck doing something distasteful.  Thomasina is a painfully shy introvert who crushes on the cheese monger she met in the cookbook section.

 

They all have different stories, and their stories involve the stories of others.  Some are painfully predictable (mostly the falling-in-love ones) but some are more complicated, with the author choosing to take the story in an unexpected, or at least atypical, direction. For me, Emilie's story was the most compelling and the reason I kept reading - I wanted to know about the bookshop!  It sounded magical, perfect and I wanted to know what happened to it.  But everyone else's story was good too.  ;-)

 

It was an easy, enjoyable read.  Almost a beach read, but not.  There are a lot of painful moments scattered throughout, especially at the start when there are a few chapters that take place in the past, building up the world that's crashing down in the present; sniffly moments.  Maybe good for the beach if you remember to pack tissues in your beach bag.  Just in case.

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review 2018-01-02 06:00
The Peach Keeper
The Peach Keeper - Sarah Addison Allen

I've thoroughly enjoyed all the Sarah Addison Allen books I've read, but I stayed away from this one for a long time because, frankly, I don't like peaches*.    

 

As reasons go to not read a book, it's a pretty stupid one, so when I saw the title at a library sale for $1 I did the mature thing and bought it.  

 

I LOVED this book!  It was SO good.  It had shades of Practical Magic in it, and a cameo by Claire Waverly from Garden Spells and a small but very important murder mystery.  The only thing it needed to make it perfect was Claire's apple tree.

 

The Peach Keeper felt like Allen crossed from Magical Realism into straight magic; there aren't a lot of logical reasons (or any) for why the strange events in Walls of Water were happening.  The character development felt a lot richer too; limiting the plot to only 4 people, and really focusing on the 2 female protagonists made it feel like a much tighter story.  The romantic tension was intense (although the sex scenes were almost non-existent).

 

Is this Pride and Prejudice good?  No, of course not (nothing is that good), but it is Practical Magic (the movie, not the book) good.  If you liked that movie, or you enjoy good stories about the power of friendship, I think you'll enjoy this.

 

* It's a tactile thing; peach fuzz = fingernails on a chalkboard.

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review 2017-05-26 08:17
The Last Light of Day: A Gay Gothic Romance
The Last Light of Day: A Gay Gothic Romance - Rachel Kane

This is a 'new to me' author. It appears they have released 10 books since Dec 2016 which always makes me wonder if it is another writing collective. Anyway, regardless I'm here to review this book not the entire back catalogue. 

 

The cover of this book is deceiving, I thought this was an historical. Then when I first started reading I did wonder if maybe it was a paranormal and Cornell had actually gone back in time. What it is really is a contemporary about a family stuck in the past and clinging to its former glory by its finger tips. For some its about the money, for others it about the prestige and legacy. For our MC, Hayes, it's about protecting the land.

 

As the subtitle (which is a self-publishing marketing technique that I hate btw) tells us, this is styled on gothic novels of old and brings it up to date. The tone of it is moody, atmospheric, and creepy.

 

I liked that we got most of the story (in 1st person) from Cornell's pov, the outsider pulled by circumstances into the strange atmosphere of the house. However every so often we get a 1st person pov from Hayes, the broody son and heir of the house. These chapters are important in our sympathy for Hayes' situation, without them some readers may find Hayes a difficult character to like. 

 

There is a degree of suspension of disbelief required, the whole family seems stuck in another century with no internet/mobile phones etc.

 

I really enjoyed this book. It was fascinating watching the family reach breaking point as Hayes 30th birthday approached and terms of a will needed fulfilling. And honestly those chapters in Hayes pov quite often broke my heart, this man trapped in his upbringing, and tied up in his desire to protect his property, and fighting his true desires.

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