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?


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.]

Seventh Grave and No Body (Charlie Davidson, #7)

Seventh Grave and No BodySeventh Grave and No Body
by Darynda Jones
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9781250045645
Series: Charlie Davidson #7
Publication Date: October 4, 2014
Pages: 322
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Disclaimer:  This review will be biased and unbalanced.  I have love for this series and my objectivity suffers proportionally.  I truly left off 1/2 star just because I’m certain there are probably flaws (all books have them) but my love for Charlie and the gang have blinded me to whatever they might be.

So a couple of days ago I was feeling rather sorry for myself.  I injured my back – nothing serious, truly; just enough to put a hitch in my gitalong and make me feel mopey and old.  My husband came home and put a book package on the coffee table.  After I pointed out the cruelty of putting a new book on a surface that was just out of my reach (can’t bend down, of course), he handed it to me and upon opening it discovered my copy of Seventh Grave and No Body.  Proof that God takes pity on me, because I NEVER get my pre-ordered books on release day; living on the tail end of the world means everything always takes days later to arrive than it does for the U.S./Europe.

Suddenly my back injury was a spend-all-day-reading free card, and boy howdy did I use it.

So in the last book prophesies about Charlie’s existence and her role in the final battle became clearer.  In this one, Charlie starts finding out what she’s truly capable of.  Reyes always told her she was more powerful than any other being, but Charlie always seemed to view it as rhetoric.  Now she finds out it isn’t, but that she can still get her ass handed to her when she leasts expects it.  Circumstances are also forcing her to confront her immaturity too; big changes are coming and she can’t keep living in the shallow end of the maturity pool.  I always loved Charlie – even when her sass and snark were obvious coping mechanisms – but I quite like the (only slightly) more mature version too.  She still hides behind sarcasm and smart-ass banter, but she’s also utterly selfless and has a firm grip on what’s important.

As with all the books, there are several story lines running simultaneously; human mysteries as well as mythical ones.  I like this style – it keeps things moving and avoids that mid-book bogging down that sometimes happens.  My only complaint: one of the story lines (a small one that has no meaning to the overall plot of this book) doesn’t get wrapped up and I wanted to know what happened.  The sub-plot setting reminded me of the X-Files episode ‘Closure’ and I was sorry not to find out how it ends.

I’m not going to say more – although I could babble ad naseum – because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.  Things happen.  Big things.  Suffice it to say that I loved reading it, I’m sorry it’s over, and how many days until book 8?

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.

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3)

The Book of LifeThe Book of Life
by Deborah Harkness
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9780670025596
Series: All Souls #3
Publication Date: July 15, 2014
Pages: 563
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Publisher: Viking Books

I have previously proclaimed my irrational love of the first two books in this series, so it will come as no surprise to anyone that this one gets 5 stars from me.

There are few books out there I find myself truly immersed in; the kind that when I’m interrupted, I’ll look up from my book, but I’m not really there.  My eyes might be a bit glassy and I’ll stare blankly at my own DH as though he’s a stranger.  This is such a book.

I’ll admit I was expecting a war; at the very least, a massive battle.  I prepared myself to hate the author for killing off a character, or characters that I had become attached to.  For a few dozen pages, I was certain it was going to be a specific character.  Luckily, the story was not as predictable as all that.

While reading, I picked up on shades of Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus, as well as more common themes of tolerance, acceptance and fear of that which is not understood.  The twist at the end is only a twist because it is so obvious.  Of all the beliefs  humans cling to throughout history that have proven to be illusory over and over again, the idea that we control anything must surely make the top 5 list.

But what it all boils down to for me is that I just love this whole story: its characters, its plot, its settings – it all just clicks for me.  Some have likened Diana to whatshername in Twilight but I don’t see the Mary Jane – I just saw a character – a very intelligent, strong and independent one – trying to get a grip on a massive amount of change happening in a short amount of time.  I never got the victim vibe from her.  I don’t pretend to understand the all consuming love she and Matthew apparently share, but it’s thankfully not so soppy and mushy I feel the need for insulin.

All the major plot points of the three books are wrapped up at the end of this one, but, vexingly, a lot of characters’ stories are…unfinished.  They aren’t cliff-hangers, and the story could easily end here and Ms. Harkness could disappear back into the history stacks never to be heard from again in fiction.  But she has left a number of openings for a return should she choose to do so.  A lot of secondary characters are left with their stories still ongoing.  At least one of them – Gallowglass – I’d be the first in line to read more about.  I’m more than a little half in love with him.

Whether Ms Harkness every writes another word about these people or not, I’ll at least be able to re-read and ‘see’ them all again.

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.

Sixth Grave on the Edge (Charlie Davidson, #6)

Sixth Grave on the EdgeSixth Grave on the Edge
by Darynda Jones
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781250045638
Series: Charlie Davidson #6
Publication Date: May 4, 2014
Pages: 326
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Most girls might think twice before getting engaged to someone like Reyes Farrow—but Charley Davidson is not most girls. She's a private eye and grim reaper who's known to be a bit of a hell-raiser, especially after a few shots of caffeine. Her beloved Reyes may be the only begotten son of evil, but he's dark and sultry and deeply sexy and everything Charley could hope for. Really. But when the FBI file on Reyes' childhood happens to land into her lap, she can't help herself: She opens it...and then the real fun begins.

First, Charley finds a naked corpse riding shotgun in her car. Then, a man loses his soul in a card game. Throw in a Deaf boy who sees dead people, a woman running from mobsters, and a very suspicious Reyes, and things can't get any worse for Charley. Unless, of course, the Twelve Beasts of Hell are unleashed…

The covers of the Charlie Davidson series always have a quote on the front comparing them to Janet Evanovich’s books.  It’s a particular pet peeve of mine, because it seems every other book with any humour in it at all has a Stephanie Plum comparison quote on it’s cover.  And they are never anything like the Stephanie Plum books.  However, if anyone comes close it’s Charlie Davidson.  But she is oh, so much more.  Don’t get me wrong, I like the Plum novels, they’re a hoot, but I think it’s a bit of a backhanded compliment to compare Charlie to Stephanie.

Charlie is a P.I. and the grim reaper –a portal to heaven.  She’s in love with the son of Satan himself; created and sent to Earth for the sole purpose of destroying her.  Only the son has his own agenda; he’s in love with Charlie and has been for centuries.  She just barely juggles both jobs and in spite of herself, manages to make a difference.

I love these books and I loved Sixth Grave… Ms. Jones hasn’t yet written a bad book, imo.  They are first and foremost entertaining; Charlie’s thoughts and dialogue are written as an almost continuous stream of jokes, but it’s not just about the funny.  There is a lot of pain, a lot of violence, a lot of empathy, a lot of mythology, and some –not a lot– scorching love scenes (pun sort of intended).  The series’ premise is steeped deeply in biblical mythology, and belief and faith are strong themes without bringing religion into it.  I enjoy this part even more than I enjoy the humour.  Sixth Grave just hit all the right buttons for me.

The only negative notes for me, and the reason it’s a 4 star instead of 5 is the repetition of a couple of pieces of information that felt more like someone forgot they’d already been mentioned than just refreshers, and the ending.  The ending, although it feels like the inevitable evolution of the mythology Ms. Jones has created, has me worried.

Worried or not, I can’t wait for Seventh Grave’s release.  Ms. Jones owns me at this point. If you like Urban Fantasy that straddles the PNR line (or crosses it – I could argue either way), can handle some non-gratuitous violence and love wise-cracking, kick-ass heroines who have the power and strength to save the world, you might enjoy these books and I highly recommend checking them out.