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review 2018-12-14 16:09
12 Days at Bleakley Manor / Michelle Griep
12 Days at Bleakly Manor: Book 1 in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas - Michelle Griep

When CLARA CHAPMAN receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of one thousand pounds. That’s enough money to bring her brother back from America and reinstate their stolen family fortune. But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancé, BENJAMIN LANE.

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar.

Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they've been striving for isn't what ultimately matters. What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love.

 

A sweet Christmas story, easily read in one evening. It’s a combination of historical fantasy, Gothic romance, and mystery story, set in a big ole English edifice, Bleakly Manor. Me thinks it owes a bit to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, as a number of people are anonymously invited to the Manor for the 12 Days of Christmas with promises of rewards should they stay the full 12 days. Their host is not in evidence and the rules quickly change: only one guest will get the reward, the person who makes it to the 12th day. Things quickly begin to happen, eliminating guests by choice & by happenstance.

The Gothic romance aspect involves the two main characters, Clara Chapman and her former fiancé Benjamin Lane. Clara considers herself abandoned at the altar and left penniless. Ben has to be rescued from prison, where he has been merely surviving, wondering why Clara hasn’t come looking for him. The mystery includes deducing who has done this to them and why. Clara is your classic Gothic heroine, orphaned, poor, and separated from her love by a grave problem.

There are interesting details involving the Victorian celebration of Christmas and a seasonally appropriate message about caring for others and the nature of love.

If you’re looking for a cozy Christmas mystery, you could do much worse that 12 Days at Bleakly Manor.

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review 2018-12-13 16:29
The Girl in the Green Silk Gown / Seanan McGuire
The Girl in the Green Silk Gown - Seanan McGuire

For Rose Marshall, death has long since become the only life she really knows. She's been sweet sixteen for more than sixty years, hitchhiking her way along the highways and byways of America, sometimes seen as an avenging angel, sometimes seen as a killer in her own right, but always Rose, the Phantom Prom Date, the Girl in the Green Silk Gown.

The man who killed her is still out there, thanks to a crossroads bargain that won't let him die, and he's looking for the one who got away. When Bobby Cross comes back into the picture, there's going to be hell to pay--possibly literally.

Rose has worked for decades to make a place for herself in the twilight. Can she defend it, when Bobby Cross comes to take her down? Can she find a way to navigate the worlds of the living and the dead, and make it home before her hitchhiker's luck runs out?

 

A big step up from Sparrow Hill Road, the first book which was basically a series of short stories. Not that that’s a bad thing, just not what I had been expecting. This is a true novel, with one intense story line. I was “supposed” to read other books before picking this one up, but I couldn’t resist its siren song. And I read it in two evenings, desperately wanting to know if ghostly Rose Marshall could get where she wanted to be.

This was the confrontation Rose had been dreading, pitting her will against that of her murderer, Bobby Cross. She does it with style, smarts and bravery plus a generous dollop of help from her friends. Even her frenemies get involved. I was on the edge of my seat throughout, wondering how each twist and turn would pan out.

I was interested to see McGuire reference the Price family again (a connection with her InCryptid series) as a potential haven for Rose. Mary, the crossroads ghost, featured in Tricks for Free, #7 of InCryptid, so we now have no doubt that these two series take place in the same universe. McGuire also introduces a bean sidhe as one of Rose’s friends, perhaps a connection to McGuire’s October Daye series. Wouldn’t it be fun to see all three story lines intersect at some point in the future?

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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 2018-12-11 09:35
The Ebony Swan
The Ebony Swan - Phyllis A. Whitney

If reviews came with musical accompaniment, you'd be hearing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah as you read this.  I've finally finished this book.

 

There's a combination of factors involved in the blame for my incredibly slow progress: I'm in a slump, and therefore easily distracted by anything right now - it doesn't even have to be shiny; life has been busy and when I did sit down to read, interruptions abounded; this is not Whitney's best work.  By a long shot.

 

Susan's father took her away from her grandmother's home and cut off all contact, after the death of her mother under mysterious circumstances.  Susan was the only witness and at 5, suppressed the memories.  Now her father's dead, she's an adult, and she's returning to her grandmother's home in Virginia to get to know her and figure out why she can't remember her own mother.  But grandma has a trunk-load of secrets she's less than enthusiastic about sharing, and nobody else seems to want Susan to come back at all. 

 

This is one of Whitney's later books, written in the 80's, and she's still got her magic touch when it comes to atmosphere, setting, and characters.  But the story dragged... the pacing was continental drift slow, and there was so much time spent in the heads of the characters, it was a challenge to keep myself engaged.  And when everything came together with a solution/ending that was twisted in that way in which Whitney excelled (this is an author who really understood long-simmering anger and epic grudges), I was so ...exhausted by the slow pacing that I just couldn't feel the punch I should have. 

 

It's good, it's even a bit haunting, but you have to really be patient with it, and in the midst of a slump, patience is thin on the ground.

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review 2018-12-05 01:04
The Copenhagen Connection
The Copenhagen Connection - Elizabeth Peters

I'm not at all sure what to say about this book.  It's ... not great.  Definitely not one of Peters' best by a long shot, but it's oddly readable.  

 

The MC, Elizabeth, is on the plane, on her way to Denmark for a long awaited vacation, when she spots her literary idol on the plane too.  In an effort to meet her, Elizabeth contrives to make an idiot of herself (sorry, I don't understand fandom), but she does get to meet her.  Upon dis-embarking the flight, the author's secretary suffers an 'accident' that breaks her arm, and Elizabeth is there to offer her temporary services.  Did I mention the author's son is traveling with her?  The tall, good-looking, yet taciturn son?

 

This whole setup is the most improbable part of the story.  From here it devolves into the author going missing - did she leave on her own or was she kidnapped? - being spotted in various disguises around Copenhagen, threatening notes, ransom demands, kidnapping and, of course, romance.  With the tall, taciturn, jackass of a son.  What Elizabeth sees in him I haven't a clue, because even when he's saving her (just the once, and not really), he's a pompous braggart.  This one definitely falls into the 'ludicrous' category of romantic adventure.

 

Still, Peters' has a way about her writing, so that even when it's bad, it's not DNF bad.  In this particular example I can't guess what that way is, because really, the characters weren't that great, and got knows the plot was ... dumb.  Yet I kept reading it, and I wasn't yelling at it, or even complaining.  Smirking ... there was an above average amount of smirking.  Think of it as an entertaining read in the way old 'B' movies are entertaining. No value, but not the worst way you could waste a few hours.

 

 

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