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review 2018-10-24 07:34
Time's Convert (World of All Souls)
Time's Convert - Deborah Harkness

I am an unrepentant fan of A Discovery of Witches and the rest of the All Souls Trilogy, but this one didn't hit that same sweet spot for me, although in some ways it was better than I'd hoped for. 

 

Set in the same world as the All Souls books, with all the same characters, this book focuses on Matthew's vampire son, Marcus, and his soon-to-be-mate Phoebe, as she goes through the process of becoming a vampire.  This is the excuse/framework Harkness uses to delve into Marcus' story, one rich in American Revolution history and personal tragedy.

 

Told in 3 alternating points of view, Phoebe's present day (3rd person) narrative of her transformation was the part of the book I liked least.  It involved a lot of vampiric tropes that felt a bit tired, and there was a cat introduced that damn near ended the book.  The cat is not harmed, but I'm not at all satisfied with the role it plays in Phoebe's new life; it felt like Harkness was purposefully screwing with readers and the unwritten rule of 'don't harm pets'.  Either way, I just wasn't that invested in Phoebe - though I did like Freyja.

 

The second point of view was Marcus' flash-backs into his life before and after becoming a vampire.  This was, if not a more enjoyable tale, one that was a hell of a lot more interesting.  Rich in historical backdrops and characters, these sections were vivid and heartbreaking.  The occasional small gaps in story flow were almost invisible, overwhelmed by the rich storytelling.  It also helped that these were the parts that involved Gallowglass, my personal favorite character in the books.

 

The final point of view was, for me, the best, because it was told in first person present day by Diana and involved almost all the old characters I know and love from the trilogy.  Here are Diana, Matthew, Marcus, Sarah, Ysabeau and the rest, spending the summer in the south of France, listening to Marcus tell his tale while Phoebe is in Paris learning to be a vampire and not properly appreciating her pets.  Diana and Matthew's kids provide some scope for funny antics, and the overall relaxed plot of this book means it's easier for Harkness to indulge in scenes involving the kind of family dynamics everyone thinks are hilarious in other people's families.  I enjoyed the humor woven through these sections almost more than I did any other part of the book.  

 

The story is complete, but there are subtle hints that more books about the other characters may be forthcoming.  Baldwin seems the most obvious choice, though I'm holding out for Gallowglass to get his 15 minutes.  A girl can hope, anyway.

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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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