Etched in Bone (The Others, #5)

Etched in BoneEtched in Bone
by Anne Bishop
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780451474490
Series: The Others #5
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Pages: 397
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: ROC Hardcover

 

Every book in this series have been marathon reads for me, and Etched in Bone was no exception.  I picked it up yesterday morning and pretty much did absolutely nothing else until I read the last page about midnight last night (although I did stop, in the name of marital harmony, to shovel some dinner down; luckily, there was a footy game on last night, so the shovelling went largely unnoticed).

I have loved every moment of this series; been sucked into this world so thoroughly that interruptions leave me hazy about reality and I have been as attached to these characters as much as, or more, than any others.  Possibly more than real people I know.

But… this one; this final book concerning Meg and Simon, was not as great as the first 4.  Because this book deviated from the rules the author created for The Others.  In any of the other books, Jimmy would have been a stain on the sidewalk before chapter 3.  I get what she was trying to do here, I get what she wanted to explore, but it was not done as gracefully, and the effect felt forced; its execution more heavy handed.  In short, Jimmy got on my nerves; I stopped being horrified and started getting irritated and mumbling ‘why isn’t this man dead yet???’.

Still, I’d recommend this to anyone who likes urban fantasy and/or parables.  Because this whole series is one giant parable about the human race: our capacity for grace, our capacity for vice, and our wholesale destruction of everything in our path as long as we remain unchecked.  As horrifying as The Others are, I can’t look around at what’s going on today and not sort of wish our Earth had Naimid’s teeth and claws to protect her.

I’m attached so thoroughly to these characters in the Courtyard, I’m not sure I’ll read the next book; which is apparently in the same universe but with a different setting and characters.  I want more Tess!  But I’ll definitely be re-reading these.

Marked in Flesh (The Others, #4)

Marked in FleshMarked in Flesh
by Anne Bishop
Rating: ★★★★½
Series: The Others #4
Publication Date: March 1, 2016
Pages: 416
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: ROC Hardcover

 

Well, obviously I loved this one. I almost went the whole 5 stars, but I was able to put it down when I finished and not just start re-reading it, so I figured it must be lacking something.  Let’s call it ‘not enough Tess’.

But honestly, I had some fears over this one because surely the author couldn’t keep on writing books this consistently good; surely there had to be a weakling among the litter?  If there is, it hasn’t yet been written.  Once I started it, I didn’t want to put it down.

That’s all I’m going to say, because I don’t want to spoil it for those that haven’t read it yet.  But yes, it is well worth the read.

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.]

Agnes and the Hitman

Agnes and the HitmanAgnes and the Hitman
by Jennifer Crusie
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9780312363048
Publication Date: August 21, 2007
Pages: 368
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

 

I used this yesterday as my ‘guilty pleasure’ read for the ukbookaday event and since I had finished and reviewed all my currently reading books yesterday as well, it felt like I had earned a guilty pleasure re-read.  Plus, I figured this would be a great book to christen BL’s new re-read feature with, but it turns out I never recorded any read dates for this before, so that was a bust.

Remember those old-ish Goldie Hawn movies, like Bird on a Wire?  If you’ve seen those movies, you’ll have some idea of what Agnes and the HItman is like.  (Maybe a bit of Analyze This mixed in.) I think this book is MUCH better than Bird on a Wire was, but it’s as close as I can come to describing the tone.

Agnes is having a very bad week.  She’s bought the house of her dreams from her best friends mother, Brenda, with the stipulation that Brenda’s granddaughter (and Agnes’ goddaughter) be married on the grounds with Agnes planning and hosting the whole thing.  Easy!

Except suddenly someone is trying to dognap her dog, at gunpoint.  Seems a bit excessive for an ugly old hound.  Agnes defends herself with her frying pan and in the course of self-defence, the would be dognapper falls through a wall into an unknown basement and dies, letting loose all sorts of family secrets Brenda would have preferred stayed buried.  Agnes’ old friend Joey, a retired and reformed mobster, thinks there’s something up with a dognapping at gunpoint and sends his nephew, Shane, to protect Agnes.  Shane’s in the middle of a job, trying to take out an assassin, but Joey is the man who raised him – sort of – and he’s never asked for anything from Shane in 25 years.

What follows from here is just pure hilarity.  This is not a deep story; don’t look for the characters to be meaningful or even realistic.  There is zero navel-gazing and it’s pretty much non-stop action from first to last.  If liberal use of course language is going to bother you – avoid this book.  If talk about sex bothers you – avoid this book.  The sex isn’t graphic, but discussion about it abounds.

If you’re looking for a light, funny, comedic romp – find this book!  I upgraded mine to hardcover several years ago because I was wearing out my paperback.

Murder of Crows (A Novel of the Others, #2)

Murder of CrowsMurder of Crows
by Anne Bishop
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9780451465269
Series: The Others #2
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Pages: 354
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: ROC Hardcover

 

Thank god that’s over!  Let me explain:

This weekend in Melbourne we had an Indian Summer.  (For those of you not familiar with the American term:  Indian Summer: a period of unusually dry, warm weather occurring in late autumn.)  I know this only in the vaguest sense because honestly, I couldn’t freaking put the book down long enough to look outside.  Laundry didn’t get done.  DH was resoundingly ignored.  Luckily he cooks or we’d have both gone without eating.  I’m not exactly sure what I did eat, come to think of it – he put a plate in front of me and I ate whatever was on it.  I do remember chewing…  I’m sure it was delicious…

Thankfully books like this only come around a couple of times a year.  The compulsive need to keep reading is, I think, something that’s best enjoyed in small doses.

Murder of Crows was just as good as Written in Red.  Tess and the Elementals are still my favourites, and I still enjoyed the swift and devastating justice that is consistently delivered by the Others.  That sounds blood-thirsty doesn’t it?  But the world Ms. Bishop has created is a very black and white world in terms of morality.  The Others control all the land, all the resources, and where humans are allowed to live and how much of any resource can be used.  Clear cut rules exist for other/human interaction, (although the Others prefer no interaction at all).  Following the rules brings peace, or at least detente.  Breaking the rules means death.  No warnings, just death.

Meg is what happens when you introduce gray to this black and white world.  Human, but not prey, she doesn’t judge and treats everyone, Other or Human, with kindness.  This book starts to explore just what kind of changes are possible when one person/other, and then another, and another choose shades of gray.

The immediate plot of Murder of Crows is the continuation and resolution of one started in Written in Red as well as The Controller’s ongoing campaign to bring Meg back to his facility.  Instead of a slow build up leading to a final climax, this book is a series of smaller climaxes each bringing the story closer to an end.  While I’d rather not wait for the third book, at least the story ended with at least as much satisfaction as anticipation.

Written in Red (Book of the Others, #1)

Written in RedWritten in Red
by Anne Bishop
Rating: ★★★★★
Series: The Others #1
Publication Date: May 3, 2013
Pages: 448
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: NAL Hardcover

 

The minute I read the last line of this book I shut it and said to DH, ‘Yeah, I have to read the second book right now.’

When I came here to mark the book as read, I commented again to DH, ‘I just don’t even know what I’m going to write…’ and he suggested that I write (and he was laughing when he said this, understand), ‘sorry everyone, but f*ck off, I’m sitting down to read the second book, and I’ll update this review when I have time.’

Tempting only because I absolutely have to go crack open the second book.  I wasn’t ready for this one to end and I need more.  But if I actually say that, I’ll end up mixing up what happened in which book, and possibly lose a couple of BL friends in the process. 😉  So I’m going to write this as quickly as I can, probably not proofread it right away as I always do, and get back to the Others.

I’m only going to say what most everyone else is saying about this book.  It’s excellent.  There wasn’t a thing I didn’t thoroughly enjoy about it.  The writing is crisp, clear, descriptively vivid – the only thing I had a hard time seeing clearly was the Liaison office.  Everything else was perfectly laid out.

I liked Meg, and that the author gave us enough information without dumping, and at a pace that mimicked getting to know a new friend.  I liked all the Others too, although my favorites were the Elementals, Tess and Henry.  I know someone who reminds me of Henry.  I was very unhappy about Hurricane.

There isn’t just one plot running through the book.  The one meant to wrap up in this book did so spectacularly and heaven help me I really liked the Others sense of justice (in a fictional world where all the bad guys are clearly bad guys).  I really enjoyed the bursts of humour sprinkled throughout the book too – I found myself laughing out loud more than a couple of times.

Now my need to go read ‘Murder of Crows’ is overcoming my desire to write a coherent review.   I’ll come back and edit this later; but as Meg must cut, I must read.