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.

Night Broken (Mercy Thompson, #8)

Night BrokenNight Broken
by Patricia Briggs
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780425256749
Series: Mercy Thompson #8
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Pages: 341
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

When her mate’s ex-wife storms back into their lives, Mercy knows something isn’t right. Christy has the furthest thing from good intentions—she wants Adam back, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get him, including turning the pack against Mercy.

Mercy isn’t about to step down without a fight, but there’s a more dangerous threat circling. As the bodies start piling up, she must put her personal troubles aside to face a creature with the power to tear her whole world apart.

2021 Update: On re-reading, I still think that first scene is way over the top – even more so than River Marked.  I actually dinged it another .5 star on my second read because of this.  The rest of my original review is absolutely spot on.

Original review: I’ve been avoiding my computer all day, because I knew I’d have to write this review (well, ok, I don’t have to, but I’m willingly committed to saying something about each book I read).  And I don’t really know what to say – I liked the book, but I’m a bit conflicted.

I would definitely count myself a fan of the Mercy Thompson series and Patrica Briggs’ writing in general, and, make no mistake, I devoured this book and enjoyed it.  I’d tell anyone who has read her books that this one is a worthy entry.  If asked about it, I guess this is about what I would say:

A really good read.  This book felt like it had a bit more humour that most of the others in the series; one-liners or dialogue that are funny but not comedic.  We get to see Mercy struggle with being the better woman when Adam’s ex-wife comes to town.  We find out more information (although not much) about Coyote and another walker is introduced.

But two things I’d mention about the story.  The first one is a bordering-on-eye-rolling thing.  The first scene where we meet Christie’s stalker reminded me a bit of the over-the-topness from some of the final scenes of River Marked.  I really love how Ms. Briggs weaves different myths and cultures into the Mercy universe and this one is no different.  She had me going to Wikipedia to learn more.  I just felt like that first scene was overdone.  The final scene was fantastic though; really, really well written.

The second struggle I have is an on-going one with the whole series.  It is a testament to Ms. Briggs excellent writing and subtle (most of the time) handling of difficult or dark issues that keeps me coming back, book after book.  But I can’t stand reading about anyone hurting animals.  Hate, hate, hate it and normally I just close the book and get rid of it when I stumble across one that includes animal cruelty/sacrifice/anything-that-isn’t snuggly.  But the Mercy books (and at least one Alpha & Omega) include animal death.  It isn’t dwelt on, or detailed (much) and it’s usually after the fact, but it’s still really difficult for me to get through and it diminishes my enjoyment of the books.

If Ms. Briggs granted me one wish, it would be that future story lines wouldn’t include bad things happening to good animals and a solemn oath that nothing will ever happen to Medea.  Because I have serious angst about that sweet cat and her continued safety.

But Ms. Briggs doesn’t know me or have any reason to grant me wishes, so I’ll keep on reading, keeping my fingers crossed for the critters, and focussing on all the great things that make this series worth reading.

Mortal Arts (Lady Darby Mystery #2)

Mortal ArtsMortal Arts
by Anna Lee Huber
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9780425253786
Series: A Lady Darby Mystery #2
Publication Date: March 9, 2013
Pages: 384
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: Berkley

No sophomore slump here.  An excellent tale of murder and the evils that men do, that takes place in early 19th century Scotland.

After the events that transpired in The Anatomist’s Wife, Lady Kiera Darby is pulling herself together.  She’s no longer trying to disappear amongst the furniture.  She’s stronger, more willing to stand up for herself and others.

Sebastian Gage is unchanged, although in this book we see more of his true feelings come out – eventually.  He’s starting to open up, but more like a box whose lid hinges have rusted shut and must be worked open, bit by bit, as opposed to a jammed lid that springs open and starts gushing the box’s contents.

That was a horrible metaphor.  I hated creative writing in school, and now it’s clear why.  It’s also clear to me that we’re in for the long haul if we want to see Kiera and Gage together; this is not going to be some combustible romance, but a love that is going to build up over time, tears, and insults, as well as mutual respect and trust that is earned.  With a few kisses thrown in to keep the pulse rate up.

There’s a mystery and a story in this book – at 370 pages there’s room enough for both.  Lady Darby and her family are en route to Edinburg when they are asked to make a stop on the way, to the home of an old friend from Keira and Alana’s childhood (who also happens to be a uni mate of Alana’s husband).  Upon arriving they discover the Lord of the manor, William, missing and presumed dead for the last decade, has been found and rescued from an insane asylum his father secretly committed him to.  William was, at one time, Keira’s art tutor as well as childhood chum; a war hero she had secretly worshipped.  She is invested in doing whatever she can to see him mended.

The book’s mystery, in my opinion, takes a bit of a back seat to the larger story here.  Mortal Arts is also a narrative about the horrors of war, the damage it does to the men fighting it, and the further damage that can happen when the people who are supposed to love them misunderstand the effects on those returning home.  Battle fatigue, shell-shock, PTS, PTSD – whatever name it’s given by whatever generation suffers it, it’s all the same.  We get a front seat view of the damage both the war and the asylum have done to William.  Unless you read a lot of horror, or other graphic fiction, I dare say the scene when Kiera sees William again for the first time is one that will leave an impression, if not raise the hair on your arms.  Ghastly and horrific.  But not really graphic in it’s details – the author allows the reader’s imagination to add the colour and detail (or not) to many of the descriptions.

The mystery surrounds the disappearance of a girl in the village – could William, who’s still suffering ‘episodes’ stemming from the horrors of his incarceration, have been responsible?  Kiera refuses to believe it’s possible for William to hurt any female, but evidence comes to light that he may have murdered a young woman while at the asylum – a fellow ‘resident’ of the facility.  Kiera and Gage agree to investigate the missing woman and find out what really happened before deciding William’s fate.  It’s a good mystery, but not a great one, since I think it’s a rather narrow field of suspects and little doubt as to where the true perpetrator lies.  It’s more about establishing for a fact, William’s innocence and finding evidence that can stand up in legal proceedings.  Because there’s so much else going on, the mystery itself also loses a bit of urgency, but I didn’t mind, as caught up as I was in the other dramas.

The ending was heart-wrenching; no tears, (thank god, I hate crying over books!) but definitely a bit of melancholy when I closed the book.  I found Lady Darby’s reaction to the aftermath felt authentic; I think I would have reacted in much the same manner had I found myself having to suffer similarly.

The last page ends with portents of future investigations and strong use of foreshadowing, which I normally hate, but since I know the third book’s publication date is coming up, I’m not as irritated as I might be.  It’s already on my list of books to buy for July and I’m relieved to see there will be at least two books beyond that; colour me hooked on this series.

Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson #7)

Frost BurnedFrost Burned
by Patricia Briggs
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780441020010
Series: Mercy Thompson #7
Publication Date: March 4, 2013
Pages: 342
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

After a traffic accident in bumper-to-bumper traffic, Mercy and Jesse can’t reach Adam—or anyone else in the pack. They’ve all been abducted. Mercy fears Adam’s disappearance may be related to the political battle the werewolves have been fighting to gain acceptance from the public—and that he and the pack are in serious danger. Outmatched and on her own, Mercy may be forced to seek assistance from any ally she can get, no matter how unlikely.

I was late to the Mercy-love, and was only convinced to try this series a few months ago.  I LOVE it when that happens, as it means that there are lots of delicious stories just waiting for me to gorge myself on.  And even though the series is darker than I usually like in my books, a bit more gory, a bit more creepy and violent, gorge is exactly what I did.  I totally fell for all the characters:  Mercy is someone I’d choose to be friends with – she’s neither butch, nor victim, nor susie-mary-sunshine.  Adam, while not my personal type (Samuel comes closer) is a good mate for Mercy.  Stephan and his Scooby Van?  Priceless!

I held off ordering Frost Burned hoping that I could string out the reading to get me closer to the March release of the new book, but when push came to shove, I couldn’t leave it any longer on the TBR pile.

I can’t believe anyone interested in UF hasn’t already read this book, but in the interests of thoroughness, Frost Burned starts with Mercy and her step daughter Jesse are in a car accident during a midnight shopping spree on Black Friday.  Calling for assistance, Mercy finds that everyone in the pack is missing: no one is answering their phones and a cryptic message from the Marrok indicates that phones are not safe to use.  Mercy needs to find her mate, find her pack and figure out who’s behind the mass kidnapping and what they hope to accomplish.

It’s obvious from my rating that I thoroughly enjoyed this book, so when I say that I found the structure of the story to be a bit different, that’s a good thing.  As many books as I read, I sometimes find myself a bit bored by the tried and true path most fiction takes: introduction, conflict revelation, build up of tension as the conflict is worked through, climax, and the wrap up.  It’s a cross-genre structure and it works, but it adds a bit of predictability to any book, no matter the plot line.

So, when the book starts off with the pack’s abduction, my first thought was ‘ok, I’m now going to read 20 chapters of Mercy searching for her mate and pack, fighting off random attacks from bad guys, going down blind alleys and chasing down false clues until she finally finds the pack and engages in a final battle to free them’.  Hah!  Frost Burned surprised me – Ms. Briggs tweaked the formula; this is a book that has at least two sets of conflict/buildup/climax arcs, offering a story that is quick to action.  It felt like the book and plot were off and running well before I expected it to be, and what I thought was the major plot point was resolved almost immediately, which means I was thoroughly sucked in because I wanted to know what was going on?!  It also means this was a very intricate, complex plot that left me in a completely different place at the end from where I expected to find myself.


Also, KUDOS! to Ms. Briggs for having Mercy contact the police and tell the truth about what was happening!  I love that she did not make the plot more convoluted or complicated than it had to be.  Bringing the goals of the kidnappers out in the open and publicly announcing them to the press is exactly what a very smart, very clever strategist would do and I just ate it all up like a custard donut!


Why not 5 star?  That last star was lost because as Machiavellian as the villain was in this book, I felt like a few things that were front and centre at the beginning of the book were lost at the end.  The plot was just a bit too twisty without a more thorough explanation of a few points at the end; I was left wanting at the wrap up stage.


There was a very, very big deal made for the first half of the book about the plotted assassination of the senator.  By the end it’s completely dropped but I was left wondering:  what was Frost’s purpose with the assassination?  Did he hope to accomplish something?  Was it all for show?  Was the assassination plot even real?  He was trying to take over all the vampires in the country the way the Marrok ran the weres, but how did kidnapping Adam and his pack further that aim?  Did it? or was it more smoke and mirrors and if so, why?  If all he wanted to do was leave Marsilla vulnerable, I have to say, it was all a bit overkill.


I’ll wrap up by mentioning that Frost Burned picks up after Fair Game in the Alpha & Omega series, so if you’re picking up Frost Burned but don’t read A&O or aren’t current, there are events mentioned and repercussions to live with, that won’t be familiar to you.  It’s not a show stopper, but I can see how it might leave people confused at the beginning.  If you haven’t read the A&O series, it’s a good read; not as good as Mercy IMO, but well worth it’s place in the TBR pile.

The Anatomist’s Wife (A Lady Darby Mystery #1)

The Anatomist's WifeThe Anatomist's Wife
by Anna Lee Huber
Rating: ★★★★
Series: A Lady Darby Mystery #1
Publication Date: February 1, 2016
Pages: 357
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Publisher: Berkley

I read about this book recently here on BookLikes and the combination of the review and the title grabbed my attention enough that I went right out and ordered the book.  I received it this week, and it became my Friday-after-Thanksgiving-and-I’m-not-moving read.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book – at least, I enjoyed it as much as I could considering the murder (this murder isn’t for the feint of heart or those that like their murders cozy – this was gruesome).  This is an example of the type of historical mysteries that hook me; I can get behind these characters and care deeply about what happens to them.

The main character is Kiera, Lady Darby.  She’s the widow with a scandalous, somewhat tragic past.  But not in the typical, clichéd way; I like what the author has done to create this character and to me, it’s very unique.  There’s a bit of wounded bird to her personality, justifiably so, but there are moments where she gives as good as she gets and those moments are gold.  Her sister Alana is fantastically likeable and it’s a breath of fresh air to read a book about sisters who like each other;  I’ve rather been on a run of books with nasty-shrew sisters recently.

Gage, the inquiry agent is perfect for a series worth of fun sexual tension and witty banter. Blond/blue eyed, gorgeous, intelligent and a rogue.  The scenes with Gage and Keira are sometimes fun, oftentimes sweet and always leaving me wanting to read more.  I love that Keira is a widow, we get to skip all that innocent-lamb-must-be-chaperoned stuff that comes with women who’ve not yet been married.

The rest of the characters are all vividly written and easy to distinguish, although I’ll admit at first to being worried about keeping all the Lords, Marquis, and Earl’s straight.  Luckily, in such a large house party, only a handful were serious suspects and it became much easier to keep them all straight.

As to the murder plot, I never had any idea who it was.  It wasn’t just a matter of who wanted the victim dead, but who would go to such lengths?  This wasn’t a run-of-the-mill murder.  I didn’t start to put it all together until Keira did, and that’s always fun when it happens.  I don’t mind guessing early if the characters are worth reading about, but not figuring it out until I’m supposed to?  Well that’s just the best possible outcome for a murder mystery.

My only beef with the plot:

View Spoiler »

Overall, this was a great book and I’ve already ordered the second in the series.  I couldn’t put it down even though I was exhausted from holiday revelry the day before, so I still stayed up too late last night because I had to know how it ended.  I can’t wait for the next one to arrive.

How did Gage, Phillip and the rest of the rescue party know that Lord Stratford took the three women out into the loch?  I don’t see how Gage had time to find Keira’s note, trace her movements, figure out about the boat, run back and organise another boat and a rescue party, all in time to make that final showdown scene work.  It fails the logic test.


Overall, this was a great book and I’ve already ordered the second in the series.  I couldn’t put it down even though I was exhausted from holiday revelry the day before, so I still stayed up too late last night because I had to know how it ended.  I can’t wait for the next one to arrive.

River Marked (Mercy Thompson, Book 6)

River MarkedRiver Marked
by Patricia Briggs
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780441020003
Series: Mercy Thompson #6
Publication Date: January 31, 2012
Pages: 291
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

Being a different breed of shapeshifter—a walker—Mercy can see ghosts, but the spirit of her long-gone father has never visited her. Until now. An evil is stirring in the depths of the Columbia River—and innocent people are dying. As other walkers make their presence known to Mercy, she must reconnect with her heritage to exorcise the world of the legend known as the river devil.

2021 Update: I was certainly succinct in my original review.  Having re-read it, I still love the Native American theme of the plot, I still think the river devil was over the top in terms of size, though the rest of the devil’s backstory works beautifully, and I will add that I got a little misty-eyed over the wedding scene.  I’m not normally the sentimental type, but Briggs really outdid herself, setting up both Mercy and the reader perfectly.

Original Review: Great read. As usual, the humour and wit shown in these books offsets the sometimes dark themes the plot lines incorporate. I loved the American Native Indian focus to this story; learning about Mercy’s heritage, and the introduction of Coyote. I hope he’ll be a recurring character in the remaining books. The River Devil was over the top towards the end, but the whole story was enjoyable, nevertheless.

Fifth Grave Past the Light (Charley Davidson #5)

Fifth Grave Past the LightFifth Grave Past the Light
by Darynda Jones
Rating: ★★★★★
isbn: 9781250014405
Series: Charlie Davidson #5
Publication Date: July 4, 2013
Pages: 339
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Love love love this book. Love this whole series. Ms. Jones has a unique ability (IMO) to take a very dark subject matter (or matters) and make it bearable to get through it. Charlie has had every bad thing thrown at her in this series, and they are all written graphically, and without holding back. Normally, this would cause me to run rapidly in the opposite direction, but she also writes with such compassion, humour, and scathing wit. I find the latter helps me get through the former.

The mythology(?) of Charlie’s world comes together in this book and I was totally sucked in – and relieved that what she’d been led to believe about the future was inaccurate. Questions are answered in this book, in between solving murders and other mysteries. I can’t wait to see what happens with all of these people coming together: Cookie, Uncle Bob, Garret, Quentin, Reyes, Sister Mary Elizabeth. Charlie is getting herself a gang. As for Reyes and Charlie, well damn. Hot damn. Literally. Just taking these two and their relationship into consideration, this is by far the best book of the series so far.

Thank you Ms. Jones, for writing a story/series I can lose myself in, and come out of, grinning like a fool.

Silver Borne (Mercy Thompson, Book 5)

Silver BorneSilver Borne
by Patricia Briggs
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780441018192
Series: Mercy Thompson #5
Publication Date: April 4, 2010
Pages: 342
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

Mercy is smart enough to realize that when it comes to the magical Fae, the less you know, the better. But you can’t always get what you want. When she attempts to return a powerful Fae book she’d previously borrowed in an act of desperation, she finds the bookstore locked up and closed down.

It seems the book contains secret knowledge—and the Fae will do just about anything to keep it out of the wrong hands. And if that doesn’t take enough of Mercy’s attention, her friend Samuel is struggling with his wolf side—leaving Mercy to cover for him, lest his own father declare Sam’s life forfeit.

All in all, Mercy has had better days. And if she isn’t careful, she might not have many more to live…

This was my favorite book of the series until the last fifth or so the time spent in Elphame and that only because fae is my least favorite of the supernatural, I think. Still, this was an excellent read and I loved it. I really enjoyed the time spent on developing Mercy and Adam’s relationship, the pack, and definitely on Samuel. This book felt a lot less high-intensity than the ones before it in many ways, and I appreciated the break.

I can’t say a whole lot about the plot beyond what’s written on the back cover without going spoilerish. As I mentioned above, not a fan of the typical fae mythology – although I really like Zee and the way the author weaves the truth behind the fairy tales into this series. I just prefer them more when they aren’t taking center stage and this book – at least the last half, they are definitely center stage.

I have the next one on it’s way to me now and I can’t wait to read it.

Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson Series #4)

Bone CrossedBone Crossed
by Patricia Briggs
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780441016761
Series: Mercy Thompson #4
Publication Date: January 26, 2010
Pages: 309
Genre: Urban Fantasy

As a shape-shifter with some unusual talents, Mercy’s found herself maintaining a tenuous harmony between the human and the not-so-human on more than one occasion. This time she may get more than she bargained for.

Marsilia, the local vampire queen, has learned that Mercy crossed her by slaying a member of her clan—and she’s out for blood. But since Mercy is protected from direct reprisal by the werewolf pack (and her close relationship with its sexy Alpha), it won’t be Mercy’s blood Marsilia is after.

It’ll be her friends’.

I was prepared to dislike this book, as the synopsis didn’t sound all that interesting to me, but the author did an excellent job defying my expectations.  I was dreading the whole aftermath of the last book, but found myself admiring the way she handled Mercy’s recovery. I also dreaded the whole vampire-revenge storyline, but the plot-twist was excellent! I genuinely enjoyed the first 80% of the book. The part I liked the least was the end, which, I suppose, wasn’t written to be liked. Ms. Briggs does evil well. However, she gets points for not dragging the ending out so very long and I liked the way everything wrapped up quickly and satisfyingly. I’m looking forward to reading more of this series.