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review 2019-09-10 02:50
Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe
Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe - Heather Webber

I've always enjoyed Heather Webber's cozy mysteries; they're fun, well-written and usually have better-than-average plots.  So when this was announced I was eager to see what she'd come up with when there was no murder.


She didn't disappoint, though the overall tone of the book was a tiny bit too heavy handed for my tastes.  The power of love is a wonderful thing indeed, but my nature is not one that is comfortable with being immersed in heart tugging storylines. 


The book centers on two main characters: one coming to the small town of Wicklow for the first time, to see to the affairs of her grandmother's estate, and at the same time is confronted with her heritage and connection to a town she's never been to.  The second MC is the emotionally neglected daughter of the town's social maven, who has come back to town a widow with toddler in tow.  But the true main character of the book is the town itself and its curious connection to loved ones who have crossed over.


It was a good read, though I sensed the author was struggling to bring balance to the heavier emotions; hints of humour came from most of the characters, but never quite took hold.  If it had, I'd have probably enjoyed the book even more.  Still, I'll happily keep an eye out for more of Webber's work.


I read this book for Halloween Bingo's Magical Realism square.

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review 2019-09-05 08:51
Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy #4)
Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy #4) - Ilona Andrews

Straight up, I thoroughly enjoyed this book; for fans of the series it's absolutely worth every minute and every page.


BUT, it doesn't quite meet the high bar the Andrews team has set for itself.  Couple that with my own inability to shift my perceptions, and the book, for me, doesn't match the quality of the first three, or anything in the Kate Daniels or Innkeeper series.


The first stumbling block is all mine:  I had a hard time seeing Catalina, the MC of this book, as an adult.  Even though Andrews has this story taking place 3 years after the events of book #3, she remained a teenager in my head, no matter how hard I tried to let her grow up.  That failure on my part made any romantic tension between Catalina and Alessandro fizzle; it lacked the edginess I expect from Andrews and I found Alessandro's god-like perfection unbelievable.  I like him, and I like Catalina, and I like the idea of them together, but it's all too fairy-tale princess for me in this story.


The second stumbling block was the predictability of more than a couple parts of the story.  Typically Andrews is anything but predictable, so it's disappointing to see an old, worn out trope or two being bandied about here.  Catalina's self-sacrifice is hard to admire as it and its future consequences are just too obvious.


Less of an issue, as it's a not infrequent theme in all her books, was the over-blown fight scene on the freeway.  The Andrews team really does like unleashing ridiculous over-the-top monsters into the middle of Houston interstate traffic.  I always feel like these scenes go too far and tip into silliness, but eh - they're a few pages and who hasn't fantasied about picking up an 18 wheeler and swinging through 5 lanes of traffic?


As I said at the start, it's a good story and well worth the read; it's just not a great story, and I actually enjoyed Sweep of the Blade more - and it takes place in space.  Even so, I'm really pissed I have to wait for who knows how long until the next book comes out.  I want to find out what happens next.


I read this because I've been waiting for it for months, but I'm also using it for Halloween Bingo, for my Spellbound square.

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review 2019-09-04 03:56
Sweep of the Blade (Innkeeper Chronicles, #4)
Sweep of the Blade - Ilona Andrews

Only Ilona Andrews could make me like a book in spite of the science fiction setting.  Of course, she lured me in with a story that started as a traditional-ish paranormal tale involving magic and werewolves, and it all took place on good old Earth; it wasn't until this book that the series becomes firmly entrenched out in the universe with spaceships and aliens and nary a werewolf in site.  Sure, there are vampires but they really aren't very vampiric - token fangs and an obsession with rules and protocols, but all the other tropes are tossed out.


Yet in spite of all the deadly-dull-to-me intergalactic elements (and yes, my eyes glazed and glossed over all the space stuff), the tale has stuck with me in that way that Daesyn (I think that was the name of the planet) feels like a very specific place in my imagination, with it's own feel; extremely detailed as to layout and atmosphere.  It's a place I very much enjoyed obviously, since I catch myself looking forward to going back, only to remember I finished the book and now have to wait who-knows- how-long until the Andrews team published the next one.


I've always like Arland and was disappointed he didn't end up with the Innkeeper (whose name I can't remember - she doesn't play a role in this book), so I thoroughly enjoyed having this story centre on him and Maud.  The secondary characters, mostly Arland's family, contributed to the world building, and weren't merely paper constructs, though the antagonists of the story lost something with their lack of subtlety.  


All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this story in spite of all the things I dislike on the surface and I actually find myself hoping the next one comes out sooner rather than later.



I read this one for a Halloween Bingo square - tentatively the Supernatural one.  I may swap things around in the future, but for now it's the best fit, as there are no shifters in this story. 

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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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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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