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review 2019-09-10 02:27
St. Peter's Fair (Brother Cadfael book 4)
Saint Peter's Fair - Ellis Peters

I had a bit of genre whiplash with this one, as I'd picked it up after a month of binge re-reading urban fantasy.  To say that the change in pace required an adjustment is an understatement.  So it's possible that this book deserves a higher rating even than the 4 stars I gave it, but the fact remains that as much as I loved the writing, it felt like it was taking forever.


I can think of a few authors who try to use the structure of the book to build up suspense, but I'm not sure I've seen it so effectively done as Ellis has here.  Breaking each day into it's own section doesn't sound like much, but - in my edition at least - each day is announced on it's own page, free of any other text; the result was a quiet tension.


Unfortunately, as effective as it was, I still found that the bad guy was telegraphed by virtue of the cast of characters; the person served no apparent use to the plot.  The character wasn't the only one I suspected, nor the only one that was seemingly useless, but he was the one that felt the most obvious.


Nevertheless, it was an excellent mystery and brilliant writing.  I'm giddy, having so many more adventures with Brother Cadfael to look forward to.


I read this for Halloween Bingo, Murder Most Foul square

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review 2019-09-02 19:46
Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin, #3)
Mortal Heart - Robin LaFevers

I was so interested in this book, I actually started it before I'd finished the second book.


Unfortunately, though it was a good read overall, it didn't quite meet my expectations.  Though the first two books contained an element of romance, this one was almost exclusively a romance from almost the beginning, and the big plot twist concerning the abbess was telegraphed rather early on, so that didn't work all that well for me.


But I did enjoy the interactions between Annith and Balthazar, and oddly, the part of the story that centered on the Hellequins was the part I found the most interesting.  I could have happily spent a few more chapters running around the woods with them on the hunt.


I read this as part of Halloween Bingo, and though the story is centered on Anne of Brittany and her struggles against the French, at least half the book takes place in the woods and forests of Brittany, where Annith meets up with Balthazar and the hunt, fights more than a few battles, and seeks refuge amongst the trees several times throughout the book.  So, I'm using this for In the Dark, Dark Woods square.

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text 2019-09-02 04:57
Lost Among the Living re-read
Lost Among the Living - Simone St. James

When I was putting together my possible Bingo reads, I went to my shelves for Simone St. James' Silence for the Dead as a re-read for the Psych square (a ghost story in an asylum), and I saw this title next to it.  I remembered not one thing about this book, though I vividly remember all her others, so I grabbed it for the Ghost Story square.  As I had my first lazy weekend in recent memory, I cracked it open in the broad light of day yesterday (Sunday).


Nice timing on my part!


Once I started reading it, it all came back, and I stand by my original review.  Not one of St James' best, but still a good ghost story - especially for those that like their hauntings on the less intense side.


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review 2019-09-02 02:57
Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassins, Book #2)
Dark Triumph - Robin LaFevers

I put off reading this second book for years, because I didn't care for the allusions made in the first book that Sybella, the MC of this story, had a dark past involving parental sexual abuse.  But I really wanted to read the third book, and I can't stand reading out of order, so I sucked it up.


The allusions were not misdirection; Sybella's background is full of abuse and cruelty, and the author walks a fine line in terms of incest, stopping short by the strictest definition, if not the spirit of it.  Either way, it's distasteful and unpleasant; I'd have enjoyed the story more had it not spent so much time on the setup and background.


Once Sybella commits to her mission to rescue the Beast of Waroch from her family's dungeons, the story improves, as does the pacing.  There's a Deus-ette ex machina in Sybella's unexpected connection to The Beast that I'm not sure was really necessary, though it didn't really affect the plotting one way or the other.


Generally, not as good as the first book, but an engrossing read nevertheless.  I appreciated the author's note at the end outlining that while the story itself was whole cloth fiction, the events and many of the characters were historically accurate, though she owns to compressing the timeline for dramatic purposes.  If I can read and be entertained, and learn a bit about the Duchess Anne of Brittany at the same time, all the better.


 I read this for a Halloween Square - Paint it Black.


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review 2018-09-22 00:17
The World of All Souls: The Complete Guide to The All Souls Trilogy
The World of All Souls: The Complete Guide to A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, and The Book of Life - Claire Baldwin,Colleen Madden,Deborah Harkness,Lisa Halttunen,Jill Hough

There are some here who know I'm an unapologetic fan of this series, but fan or not, I'm generally not the type to buy the "guides" the more popular series put out because in all truth, they feel like something that's been thrown together to squeeze just that much more money out of everyone; especially completists.  


But the cover of this one sucked me in at the Barnes and Noble and BN was the first bookshop stop on my Holiday of Book Buying Madness, so I caved.  


Yay to caving!  It ended up being really interesting, as evidenced by the fact that it took me three weeks to read the damn thing.  Harkness et al manage to weave an awful lot of historical facts into a book about books that are about vampires, witches and demons.  This is the place where Harkness gets to share all her historical knowledge, research and education that went into giving Matthew and Diana's adventures verisimilitude, as well as brilliantly weaving the lives of the vampires (and Diana to a lesser extent) into history.


She's really clever about this too; using real documents that have gone missing, or paintings done during the correct period that are of unknown subjects or known to have been destroyed over time, she's able to plausibly weave fact and fiction together without an abundance of anachronisms.  Little asides throughout the book in her own voice shares with the reader her inspirations for locations, homes, castles, even tea shops.


I had no problem seeing the delineation between the factual and the fictional, but in the section where the characters are outlined, a symbol is next to each name that does exist in the historical records, a touch I appreciated since Elizabethan history is something I'm hazy about, at best.


There are beautiful illustrations throughout, a couple of out-takes from two of the books, and a few full color illustrations from - I think - alchemical texts.  This was, in fact, my only complaint about the book - the full color inserts were not captioned - an odd oversight where everything else is clearly foot-noted and cited or explained within the narrative.  At one point Harkness' own historical research was used as a citation, leading me to believe the authors' were determined to be as clear and accurate as possible.  Perhaps this means the color inserts were the work of the illustrator for the book, and not historical, but it would be nice to know either way.


A fun and very informative read for those that enjoyed the trilogy; not sure how well it would work for those that didn't read it as it might be annoying to have fictional characters you know nothing about, or care nothing for, interwoven through all the historical goodies.


I read this for the New Release square of Halloween Bingo 2018.


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