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review 2018-10-07 09:10
The Dancing Floor
The Dancing Floor - Barbara Michaels

I'm beginning to realise how far Barbara Michaels' later work departs from her earlier, more simplistic, romantic suspense novels.  Once again, The Dancing Floor is not at all what I expected it to be given my earlier experiences with Ammie, Come Home and Sons of the Wolf.  Though having said that, this isn't much different in some ways, just a more sophisticated version.

 

The MC, Heather, is following the English garden tour itinerary her late father had meticulously planned with her before his untimely death.  The trip culminates in a visit to a private estate with one of the few original, unaltered gardens in existence.  When she's rebuffed at the gate, she sneaks in the back, scaring herself stupid and getting caught in the process.  The owner is an eccentric old man who decides fate has brought her there and convinces her to stay on to help him restore the gardens.   This is all set in an English village related to the Pendle Witch trials, so there's a lot of superstitions and possible paranormal activity going on, and then a boy goes missing.

 

It's a good story, and I always enjoy the banter between Michaels' characters, but there are a lot of unanswered questions too.  Heather's obviously got a lot of mother issues, but they're never explained.  Neither are her nightmares.  And the title of the book does not play into the plot at all.  The Dancing Floor is mentioned 3 or 4 times in the book as another mystical location, but that's it.

 

Michaels decides to put the suspense in the romance in this book; she's got so many men making passes at Heather (a 'husky' MC whose love of eating is a constant source of one-liners - in a good natured way - throughout the story) and it's not until the very end that anyone is declared the love interest.  And I do mean the end, as in the last 3 pages.

 

Not one of her greatest, but a fun book nonetheless.

 

I read this as my final wild card selection in Halloween Bingo.  I'm using it for the Fear the Drowning Deep square.

 

   

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review 2018-10-04 07:25
Magic Triumphs (Kate Daniels, #10)
Magic Triumphs - Ilona Andrews

Kate's last hurrah.  There's really not much I can say about it that wouldn't spoil some aspect of the story.  It was an outstanding story, and I'm sitting here trying to come up with something, anything to pick apart, and all I've got is a microscopic disappointment

 

about Erra.  I liked her better dead, although I can see she's going to be a catalyst in Julie's story.

(spoiler show)

 

I found the Kate's ultimate solution clever; perhaps I should have seen it coming, but I'm glad I didn't.  Clever not only in the fictional sense; Kate and Curren's story has been neatly and happily ended, but the Andrews' left themselves a back door.  Just in case.  I sort of hope they never use it.  As much as I adore this series - and I will miss it - the story arc was perfectly crafted and perfectly ended.  Resurrecting it would risk feeling exploitative.  

 

Not much of a review, really, but while I could talk for some time about this book, the events, the characters, it could only ruin a great story for those that haven't yet read it.  For Kate fans, all I can say is: it's excellent.

 

I read this for the Spellbound square in Halloween Bingo.

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review 2018-10-02 08:49
The Haunting of Fox Mill
The Haunting of Fox Mill - Phyl Cooke

I bought this at a book sale because I thought a good old vintage ghost story would be fun.

 

It's a pretty terrible book.  The writing is clumsy, the female MC stupid, childish and immature, and the plotting resembled a car crash.  The romance was unbelievable even by mid-century standards.  The ghost story part was not even a little bit scary; frankly the possibility that rabies might be to blame for the strange occurrences was the scarier part.

 

Oh well, no chance I'll have to sleep with the light on, at least.

 

I read this for the Ghost Stories square in Halloween Bingo.

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review 2018-09-27 05:01
Prince of Darkness
Prince of Darkness - Barbara Michaels

The below is not a spoiler, just not pertinent to anyone who is looking strictly for a review of the book:

 

Tuesday night, I started in on a buddy read I'm doing with Moonlight Reader and Linda Hilton and got a chapter or two in before falling asleep, believing I was on the backside of this awful head cold.  I woke up yesterday so sick; I can't remember the last time a cold has laid me out so completely flat.  When I was finally able to hold my head up for more than 15 minutes at a time yesterday afternoon, I honestly couldn't hold up my hardcover edition of Houses of Stone.  So, instead, needing something for my Classic Horror square and having decided to use a Wild Card, I picked up Prince of Darkness, a nice mass market paperback I picked up on holiday that has been so well used by its previous owner that I wouldn't feel bad if I passed out with it in bed with me.

(spoiler show)

 

Boy, is this completely different from any of the Barbara Michaels books I've read so far.  Structured differently, and written with a tad more sophistication than a lot of her other romantic suspense books.  Just a tad, though at first I thought I was in for something more on a level with Whitney's works.  I'm sort of glad it wasn't, really, because otherwise this book would have scared the hell out of me.  Instead, it was just fun, with a bit of non-visceral horror at the end.  It feels like Michaels might have been taking a popular trope at the time and turning it on its side, showing it from a different perspective.

 

The book is structured in three parts, meant to mimic metaphorically, a traditional Fox Hunt.  The Meet, The Huntsman, and The Quarry.  Of course, the reader is supposed to suspect the Huntsman at every turn and bemoan the weakness of The Quarry.  All I'll say about any of it is that, while I definitely suspected one facet, there were many that were unexpected on their revelation.  

 

Michaels ratchets up the suspense from page one, to the point that it feels the pages themselves might snap from the tension; it's only when things come to a crisis that the book fails, just a little bit, to deliver what could have been a more explosive resolution.  Mind you, it was still a good ending, and I don't know how such explosiveness might have been achieved, only that for the amount of tension built up, the release of it was slow and measured.  Horrifying in its way, but not detrimental to anyone's pulse.

 

I read this for Halloween Bingo, using it as my official Wild Card for the Classic Horror Square.  It's not a classic, but the horror bit was closer to the mark than I expected.

 

  

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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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