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review 2019-01-04 06:58
Bells, Spells, and Murders (Witch City Mystery, #7)
Bells, Spells, and Murders - Carol J. Perry

The book suffered on two fronts for me:  the story failed to capture my interest as much as previous books in the series, and the editing was so negligent that it fundamentally affected the plotting.

 

There's not really much I can say about the story itself; it was average.  A man who runs a vast charitable organisation in Salem Massachusetts is murdered in his office just before Christmas and Lee discovers his body when she arrives for a scheduled interview.  It wasn't the worst I've read, and it wasn't the best.  There never really was any question as to who was behind the crime, although the reveal at the end did have its own surprising twist.

 

The first indication that the editing was not up to professional standards was the repetition of comments made by the MC:  she tells the reader several times, for example, in almost identical words, that she knew her Corvette was impractical but she just loved it so much. (There was also a lot of brand-name mentions that felt gratuitous that I don't remember from previous books.)  

 

The repetition wasn't so bad, but then the story continuity started breaking indicating, perhaps, major re-writes that didn't get followed up with another thorough proof-reading.  There's a whole scene about Lee writing out her Christmas cards that's specific down to the number of cards: 49 which is followed up by a scene the next day where she stands in line at the post office to mail them, along with her Christmas packages.  Approximately 50 pages later, Lee is telling her Aunt that she hasn't done her Christmas cards yet, and a scene follows where she goes through the whole process again.  

 

Again, annoying but it wasn't until one of the suspects was an electrician, then suddenly he's a plumber, and then he was an electrician and a plumber, and the company names he works for keep getting swapped around.  At that point, I lost any and all faith that the book could recover and just finished it because I was trapped in a salon chair for the last bit of the book. 

 

I might have one more of this series in the pile, and if so, I'll get around to it eventually, but unless it drastically improves on this one, I may take my leave of this series.

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review 2018-12-12 08:40
A Gift of Bones (Sarah Booth Delaney, #19)
A Gift of Bones - Carolyn Haines

My first Christmas mystery of the season, and it's from one of my favorite series.  It was pretty good.

 

My personal observation about long-lasting series is that authors have a tendency to go bigger and bigger with each book.  Usually it's the plots that try to outdo each other, but sometimes, as in this case, it's a certain theme, or themes.  The Sarah Booth Delaney series has a very strong underlying theme centered on the power of love, family and friendship, and these themes have become more ... urgent?  as the series has progressed.

 

I'm not complaining - I love this series - but while I enjoyed the book thoroughly as I was reading it, it felt a tiny bit saccharide afterwards.  

 

Oh, and in this one the plot was definitely out there.  And way too overly labyrinthine.  I'm not sure it really worked, to be honest.

 

But I love the characters whole heartedly, and Zinnia Mississippi comes alive.  It might have been a 3.5 star read, but I've been quietly stewing for years about the Coleman story line, and it's finally come good in this book - that bumped it 1/2 star.  Overall, a solid read, that went by fast.

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review 2018-10-24 07:05
Changeling (A Novel of Magic and Manners, Book 1)
Changeling - Molly Harper

I bought this one night under the influence of sleeping medication, along with a slew of other Molly Harper titles, one of the rare examples of doing something under the influence that you don't regret the next morning.

 

Saying that, I didn't realise it was a YA novel until I started listening to it.  I'd probably still have bought it, because Molly Harper, but there was a radical shift in expectations in the first 30 seconds.

 

This is an alternative England, in a world where people with magic took over the world, suppressing technology because they believed non-magical people would destroy the planet.  Non-magical people, called snipes, are now the serving classes in a society that feels like a dystopian version of feudalism and an oligarchy.  Magic families beget magical offspring, snipes beget ... more servants.  Except Sarah's parents.  She's a snipe and it turns out she has oodles of magic her parents have been trying to suppress so she isn't hauled off.  Of course she's found out and this is the story of what happens after.

 

This is a sweet story, about magic and the power of friendship.  It's also filled with snark, thank goodness, because sweet is generally not my thing.  Reading it as an adult, there are small nit-pics I could make about the story logic, but they aren't generally the kind of thing pre-teens would notice.  At least, pre-teen me wouldn't have.  Pre-teen me would have been more enthralled with this book than adult-me was, and adult-me was sitting in my car on the street in front of my house for 15 minutes after work so I could keep on listening.  That's a rarity for me, but Molly Harper just knows how to create a story book world that's easy for me to get caught up in, whether it's a YA or and Adult one.

 

Amanda Ronconi narrates this, as she does all of Harper's other books, but if I hadn't seen the credit on the cover, I'd not have believed it.  The characters are English (and I think Sarah's/Cassandra's family is Irish?), and while my tin ear cannot say with any accuracy that she nailed the accents, she totally sold it to my ears - she sounded completely different; I only heard hints of anything recognisable when she was delivering the snarky lines.

 

Overall, an enjoyable story and entertaining audio.

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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 2018-07-19 10:16
Strange Fascination (Essex Witch Museum Mystery, #3)
Strange Fascination - Syd Moore

Consider my enthusiasm for this series dampened.  This was a very average effort, with a number of problems I couldn't overlook.

 

The biggest is the MC, Rosie.  I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt and say she probably has a long-range plan for Rosie's personal growth, but if so, she's not executing it well.  The MC has a chip on her shoulder about being from Essex and the stereotypes involved in being an "Essex Girl"; the chip is big enough to sit firmly in soapbox/crusader territory, as she frequently fights the good fight against the idea that an "Essex Girl" is cheap, trashy, and dumb.  And then proceeds to refer to vegetarians as "nut-nuts".  And utterly dismiss someone's conversation about ecology, because ... who cares?  And when people fail to fawn over her best friend for being the "black urban goddess" she is, her knee-jerk reaction is to dismiss them as backward conservatives. (They were polite, mind you, they just didn't fall to their knees in awe.)  Not sure how she can find the time to fight the Essex Girl stereotype when she spends so much time stereotyping everyone else.

 

The author also seems intent on making Rosie a bit of a dim bulb through the use of scenes and dialog that are obvious choices to highlight her ignorance without showing any desire to correct it.  Again, it's hard to square this with Rosie's righteous mandate to stamp out the cliches.

 

She also spends a lot of time drunk.  Absolutely pissed.  Bottles of Prosecco at a time pissed.  Now, I don't care what socio-economic class you are in or are perceived to be in by others - being a drunk is not classy.  I understand some cultures enjoy the plonk more than others, but sorry, drunk is tawdry in any culture and economic class.

 

So.  MC with contradictions.  It happens, and as I say, the author might have a master plan I'm just not seeing.

 

Unfortunately there were some egregious editing issues too.  Poor and odd word choices (she kept referring to the ground as the floor - is this a common interchange in UK English?), and poorly copyedited, this 3rd instalment felt rushed to press.  The pace dragged too, and the plot was all loosey-goosey.  A more severe editor would have done this book more justice.

 

I liked the story though, once I was able to dig through all the extraneous dead-ends.  I enjoy the factual elements of historical record the author uses, tying them and local legends into her modern day murder plots.  If the author dropped the hypocritical chip on the MCs shoulder, matured her up, dried her out, and tightened up her plotting, she'd have a hit series on her hands.  She might yet, but this book won't be a contributing factor.  I'll be taking a close look at the fourth one (if/when it comes out) before I commit to reading further in this series.

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