Eighth Grave After Dark (Charley Davidson, #8)

Eighth Grave After DarkEighth Grave After Dark
by Darynda Jones
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9781250045652
Series: Charlie Davidson #8
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Pages: 293
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Charley Davidson has enough going on without having to worry about twelve hellhounds hot on her trail. She is, after all, incredibly pregnant and feeling like she could pop at any moment. But, just her luck, twelve deadly beasts from hell have chosen this time to escape onto our plane, and they've made Charley their target. And so she takes refuge at the only place she thinks they can't get to her: the grounds of an abandoned convent. Of course, if hellhounds aren't enough, Charley also has a new case to hold her attention: the decades-old murder of a newly-vowed nun she keeps seeing in the shadows of the convent.

Add to that the still unsolved murder of her father, the strange behavior of her husband, and Charley's tendency to attract the, shall we say, undead, and she has her hands full...but also tied.


I knew (sort of) how this one ended and had put off starting it until the release of the ninth book was closer, but actually it’s not quite as cliff-hanging an ending as I was expecting.

I love this series; I love the humour, the snark, and the inclusion of a lot of old Christian mythology.  I like the way the author conveys the horror of bad things happening without making the reader wallow in it.

Eighth Grave After Dark is both the culmination and the deepening of the overall story arc.  We have the ultimate family reunion in addition to the cold and hot cases Charley is trying to solve.  Reyes becomes a bit more human too, if you’ll excuse the expression.  The author’s depiction of hell brought to mind scenes from Constantine and were incredibly effective.

The ending is … ok.  It’s a neat and tidy way of getting around what might have proven problematic in future plots, but it works for me.  I’m very much looking forward to the ninth book.

The Haunting of Maddy Clarie

The Haunting of Maddy ClareThe Haunting of Maddy Clare
by Simone St. James
Rating: ★★★★★
isbn: 9780451235688
Publication Date: March 6, 2012
Pages: 330
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Publisher: NAL / New American Library

Wow.

I put this book on my ‘maybe’ list well over a year ago and then promptly overlooked it for ages.  I even gave up and removed it from my lists altogether because I figured if I hadn’t bought it yet, I wasn’t really interested.

A recent review here on BL highly rating it brought it back to my attention at the same time I received a coupon from my favorite online bookseller so I just ordered it.

Jeez am I glad I did.  I loved this book.  This book hit all the right buttons for me: it was scary without being terrifying; it had great sexual tension (I am not going to call it ‘romance’ because there wasn’t any romancing going on, but it was intense); it had a great plot and interesting characters and it was well-written.  The writing style reminded me of authors of the past, particularly Phyllis Whitney.

My only complaint is now I’m suffering from a book hangover – right before I leave for a long weekend at the beach.

A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell, #1)

A Curious BeginningA Curious Beginning
by Deanna Raybourn
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780451476012
Series: Veronica Speedwell Mystery #1
Publication Date: September 1, 2015
Pages: 339
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: NAL / New American Library

What can I say?  I really liked this one, it’s an excellent start to what I hope will be many equally interesting adventures.  Ms. Raybourn nailed the characters, imo: Ms. Speedwell is my personal historical heroine; I love her history and the way she owns her choices, and Stoker is Sebastian Gage, v2.0.  He’s still fiery, vitriolic, dark, mysterious – but he’s not a disrespectful jackass.

As a few of my friends have said before me, I could have done without the traveling circus and not missed it; I get that the author needed a setting, a motivation, an excuse to give Stoker and Speedwell the chance to learn more about each other and some of their secretive pasts, but the circus thing just doesn’t interest me and that’s the only reason this book ‘only’ got 4 stars instead of 4.5.

The ending was bold.  Really bold.  Ms. Raybourn truly made Veronica the most dangerous person to the UK in a subtle, glorious and inspired way.  I’m a little disappointed that it seems we’re going to be subjected to an over-arcing villain in the series, but I suppose I can’t have everything.  I can’t wait until book 2 comes out to see what happens next.

NB: I’d have taken the money.  😉

The Dark Enquiry (Lady Julia, #5)

I finished this on Sunday, but sort of forgot to follow up with a review; I’ve since read another book and I’m in the middle of one, neither of which are historical and the details from The Dark Enquiry have all gone a little fuzzy.

I liked it; better than The Dark Road to Darjeeling, but it wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped it would be.  From the synopsis I rather figured the paranormal aspect would be more central to the plot and it wasn’t central at all.  Brisbane is still keeping secrets from Julia, but at least Julia has more or less stopped running around trying to solve mysteries behind his back; they reach a state of mutual respect for each other that was sorely lacking in the last book.

The plot was weird and the murderer came out of nowhere – at no time was the reader given the information needed to identify the culprit, until the denouement scene with Julia. It made for an exciting ending though.

A Study in Death (Lady Darby Mystery, #4)

A Study in DeathA Study in Death
by Anna Lee Huber
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780425277522
Series: A Lady Darby Mystery #4
Publication Date: July 7, 2015
Pages: 323
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

I started off confused; for some reason I had it in my head that this book was going to take place in London and centre around Lord Gage (Kiera’s soon to be father-in-law), so when the story opens in Edinburgh and Lord Gage was nowhere to be found it felt like I picked up the wrong book.

Once I got past that and settled into the story, I enjoyed it, although I had concerns the author was writing herself into a corner: Lord Gage does appear about a third of the way through and boy is he an ass.  Certifiable, no redeeming qualities ass and he doesn’t like Kiera at all.  This set-up felt like a trite attempt at creating a crise de cœur between Kiera and Gage at best, and at worst, a totally unrealistic set-up for Kiera to ‘win-over’ and redeem her future father-in-law.  Either of these scenarios was going to disappoint me after the quality of the story-telling in the first three books.

I should have had more faith; Ms. Huber takes neither of these paths and instead makes the hero more heroic and Kiera’s future more realistic, if less HEA.  Sometimes, you have to take the ass to get the prince.

As to the actual mystery – I liked it a lot!  The author presented several viable suspects and an ingenious method of poison delivery, as well as quite a few red-herrings that didn’t look like red-herrings.  I didn’t sort it out until just before Kiera did and it was someone I never gave a thought to suspecting.  I love it when that happens!

I love this series and of the four published so far there hasn’t been a bad one yet.  It’ll be a long year of waiting to see what happens next.

Silent on the Moor (Lady Julia Grey, #3)

Silent on the MoorSilent on the Moor
by Deanna Raybourn
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780778326144
Series: Lady Julia Grey #3
Publication Date: January 1, 2009
Pages: 492
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: Mira

Not as good as the first two, but only marginally less so, and really only because it took awhile before any of the plot really got moving.  This made the book feel LONG.

Saying that, I don’t know if I’d actually go so far as to claim it would improve with heavy editing.  Perhaps.  But the bulk of the first half of the book does do a very good job of setting the atmosphere, which is bleak and oppressive (does anything cheerful EVER take place on the moors?) and something-is-definitely-not-right-here.

And boy howdy is something not right at Grimsgrave.  Once the story got moving, so did my pulse rate.  The conclusion of the plot left me feeling like I might never be clean again; the author manages to vividly convey a diabolical depravity without celebrating it or wallowing in it, making it possible for people like myself (with a low threshold for such things) to read it without screaming.

Less humor in this one, although the dry wit is still to be found.  Lady Julia is really rather putting it all on the line in this book, and when Brisbane isn’t acting like an arrogant ass, he’s actually acting quite a bit more human, albeit oftentimes I wanted to tell him to get over himself.  His ‘gift’ continues to be a burden that is avoided at all costs and never used; given the times and the cost, this actually makes sense.  Julia’s sister Portia is here too and her life changes rather dramatically during the course of the book.  Brother Valerius reappears but is mostly background.

The ending is all wrapped up rather neatly with a HEA for almost everyone.  I enjoyed it thoroughly and I look forward to starting the next one (although I am taking a break from the series to avoid burnout).

Silent in the Sanctuary (Lady Julia Grey, #2)

Silent in the SanctuarySilent in the Sanctuary
by Deanna Raybourn
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780778324928
Series: Lady Julia Grey #2
Publication Date: December 26, 2007
Pages: 552
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: Mira

After the longest, driest reading month of my life it was wonderful to fall into this book and lose myself in the story.  I had read Silent in the Grave before leaving for holiday back in May and enjoyed it so much I searched out and ordered the rest of the books in the series, but none of them arrived before I left, leaving me with a feeling of unmet anticipation. Luckily, the sense of anticipation prevailed upon my return.  More fortunately, the story held up and didn’t disappoint.

Lady Julia, after recovering from events in the first book by spending 6 months in Italy with her brothers, is summoned home for Christmas by her father; ostensibly because one of those brothers married without permission.  Of course that had nothing to do with why they were all summoned home, but it does get the story moving.

I loved Julia’s eccentric, dry-witted family from the moment I met them in Silent in the Grave, so I was thrilled this one took place in the bosom of the family asylum, so to speak.  Almost all the key players from book 1 are here, including Brisbane of course, dragging behind him his own contribution to the story’s drama.  The humor in these books is never central to the writing, but it’s subtly woven through the dialogue and often sneaks up on me.  Lady Julia feels (to me, so take this with a grain of salt) appropriate to the time period while being just a little bit shocking, too.  Brisbane is often an ass, but Julia get’s his goat often enough that I don’t hate him.

More than a couple of plots in this one, most of which don’t get sorted out until 2/3 of the way through and I think each was rather competently done – the murder itself included quite a twist that delightfully surprised me.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one and immediately started reading the 3rd book, Silent on the Moor.

Silent in the Grave (Lady Julia Grey, #1)

Silent in the GraveSilent in the Grave
by Deanna Raybourn
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780778324102
Series: Lady Julia Grey #1
Publication Date: March 1, 2007
Pages: 511
Publisher: Mira

I bought this book because I was quite enjoying Tasha Alexander’s historical mystery series and I’d heard from several corners that this series was even better.  When I received my copy, I was rather taken aback by its size: 500+ pages presented a brick of a mystery and admittedly, it intimidated me enough that it had worked its way towards the bottom of my TBR.

Then, a couple of nights ago the book I was reading wasn’t working for me, and this book started shouting ‘read me!’ so loudly I could hear it down the hallway (not really) and I’m happy to say not only was it monumentally better and more interesting that the one I had been reading, but that the 500 pages fairly flew by.

I’m a little bit in love with the March family; they all sound mad as hatters.  Perhaps that’s a strong way to put it, but they are all decidedly eccentric.  Lady Julia’s subtle, dry humour had me smiling throughout and chuckling outright whenever she talked about The Ghoul (I’m not going to explain The Ghoul – I’ll just say it’s not supernatural – because explaining would ruin it, I think).

But parallel to this delicious humour is a much more confronting murder mystery that starts off very slowly (not boring) and gains momentum as the ending nears.  Readers who are choosing historical mysteries because they tend to stick with sanitised world views are going to be really disappointed; this book delves into the less conventional and seedier sides of Victorian society.

I’ve already indicated my affection for Lady Julia and her family.  The only other real main character is Nicholas Brisbane and I’m not quite sure what to think of him.  He makes a good hero of the alpha sort, I suppose, and he’s certainly a ‘still-waters-run-deep’ character, but while I didn’t dislike him, the author never really showed me anything particularly likeable about him either.  Tragic, yes, attractive, yes. Warmth and humour….notsomuch.  Still, intriguing potential.

The murder mystery was good, although I had guessed the villain long before the denouement.  The author did get me to flip suspects for a few brief pages, but ultimately I went back to my first guess.  I don’t know if it was because of this, but the actual climatic scene felt oddly anti-climatic.  Maybe rushed?  I suspect there might have been a nuance or two I missed and a couple of small unanswered questions kept that scene from working for me.

 

Am I supposed to think that he was always psychopathic and just hid it really well, or that his behaviour at the last was a result of the syphilis?  Did he start out good or was he always bad?

INSERT SPOILER TAG HERE

Made no real matter though; the story was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish and I’m looking forward to acquiring the next books.  Another new series!

Vision in Silver (The Others, #3)

Vision in SilverVision in Silver
by Anne Bishop
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780451465276
Series: The Others #3
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Pages: 400
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: NAL Hardcover

 

This book wasn’t quite as engrossing as the first two, which is both bad and good.  There’s nothing like getting sucked into a book so thoroughly you lose all sense of time and place as it pertains to reality.  But books like that can be exhausting, and I wasn’t disappointed that I was able to put Vision in Silver down long enough to eat and sleep.  That’s not to stay my husband didn’t get an ‘I will hurt you’ glare whenever he attempted to interrupt my reading.

In each of the first two books, the stories each centered on one big, mounting crisis that resulted in a showdown towards the end between humans and others.  This book felt more like a bridge used to setup a much larger conflict that will carry through into future books.  We get a lot of information (sometimes repetitively – a first for this series), a lot of background and learn more about how the hierarchy of the others works.  We find out what the HFL’s larger purpose is, although I don’t understand how any human with a brain in their heads thought they would accomplish it.  We’re also given reason to think that perhaps not all the cassandra sangue are doomed to a life of cutting.

I frankly missed seeing the Elementals bring down their wrath, although Fire was impressive as a character.  The final conflict in this book sneaks up on you; there’s not really any build up to it at all, and the results of that conflict are rather anticlimactic compared to the first two books, but the result of the others finding out what humans have been doing to each other in order to defeat the others leaves a curious tension for future books:  no pressure on the Lakeside community or anything.  Nope, no pressure at all.

Anybody hear anything about the fourth one yet?  😉

[PopSugar 2015 Challenge: A Book with a color in the title.]

A Grave Matter (Lady Darby Mystery #3)

A Grave MatterA Grave Matter
by Anna Lee Huber
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9780425253694
Series: A Lady Darby Mystery #3
Publication Date: July 1, 2014
Pages: 421
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

Well rats.

It’s over.  I wasn’t ready for it to be over.

A Grave Matter is a mystery first, but almost equally it’s a romance as things come to a head between Lady Darby and Sebastian Gage.  Ms. Huber will always hold a special place in my heart for not dragging this out past the point of painful into inanity.  There’s plenty of conflict between these two but it avoids most of the overused tropes and these two are actually gasp honest and communicative!

I thought the setting fabulously descriptive, although ironically, Edinburgh was the hardest of the locations for me to picture.  The border villages and the Abbey were crystal clear and I could hear the frost crackling under their feet as they transversed the graveyards looking for evidence.  I found myself reading aloud to MT about the first-footers and I was thrilled at the end of the story to read the author’s note about the authenticity of this tradition.  I’m wondering if I can get away with introducing it at our NYE festivities this year.

The plot is delightfully macabre; not scary or graphic and completely fitting with Lady Darby’s background and baggage.  I’ll admit I nabbed the bad guy early on, but I can’t say what gave it away.  Nevertheless, I was never absolutely certain.  I wouldn’t have been surprised had I been wrong.

There might have been some anachronistic narrative; I can’t say for certain, and I think it was almost all in the internal dialogue.  While women for millennia have probably wished at one time or another to throw things at men, it feels too modern when Lady Darby ‘contemplated throwing a shoe at his head.’  I don’t care about this, but others might find it jarring.

But the scene at the end between Lady Darby and Gage made even this pragmatic non-romantic feel a bit mushy.  Considering the chasteness of the period, Ms. Huber is very good at conveying romantic tension.  (To be fair, there’s a LOT of kissing going on; I’m betting more than considered acceptable for the time period.  Go Lady Darbry!)

There are a lot of things I could blather on about that I enjoyed; a GR friend is just now starting The Anatomist’s Wife and I’m more than a little jealous – I wish I had 2 and a bit of these books still ahead of me.  As it is, I’ll be waiting a very long year to catch up with Lady Darby and Gage.