Second Grave from the Left ~ Darynda Jones

  • Title: Second Grave from the Left
  • Author: Darynda Jones
  • Series: Charley Davidson #2
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Format: Audiobook
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: Valerie
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  Charley Davidson, Grim Reaper Extraordinaire, is back in this sexy, suspenseful novel of supernatural shenanigans

When Charley is rudely awakened in the middle of the night by her best friend who tells her to get dressed quickly and tosses clothes out of the closet at her, she can’t help but wonder what Cookie’s up to. Leather scrunch boots with a floral miniskirt? Together? Seriously? Cookie explains that a friend of hers named Mimi disappeared five days earlier and that she just got a text from her setting up a meet at a coffee shop downtown. They show up at the coffee shop, but no Mimi. But Charley finds a message on the bathroom wall. Mimi left a clue, a woman’s name. Mimi’s husband explains that his wife had been acting strange since she found out an old friend of hers from high school had been found murdered a couple weeks prior. The same woman Mimi had named in her message.

Meanwhile, Reyes Alexander Farrow (otherwise known as the Son of Satan. Yes. Literally) has left his corporeal body and is haunting Charley. He’s left his body because he’s being tortured by demons who want to lure Charley closer. But Reyes can’t let that happen. Because if the demons get to Charley, they’ll have a portal to heaven. And if they have a portal to heaven…well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be pretty. Can Charley handle hot nights with Reyes and even hotter days tracking down a missing woman? Will Cookie ever get a true fashion sense? And is there enough coffee and chocolate in the world to fuel them as they do?

Here is your signpost for the most hilarious read of the summer: Second Grave On The Left.


Review:  I immediately fell in love with sassy and snarky Charley Davidson in First Grave on the Right. Having just finished book 2 in the series, Second Grave from the left, the love fest continues. The series follows Charley, you average everyday girl, who just happens to be THE Grim REAPER.

This book offers a heaping helping of kick ass urban fantasy and it is served up with a tall glass of humor to wash it down. I found myself laughing out loud so much that my significant other kept asking me just what was so funny.

Darynda Jones did a great job of layering the mysteries throughout the book. The primary plot revolves around Charley helping her best friend, Cookie, find a missing school mate. As she tries to unravel that mystery, she is also in a race against time to try to save Reyes by finding his corporeal body. The result is a book full of twisty, windy plots that will keep you guessing until the end.

In this book, Jones adds some layers of complexity to Charley, especially concerning her family dynamics. I love to see character development, and the family drama subplot was a great avenue for this. We also saw the intensity increase between Charley and Reyes, her interactions with his spirit practically burnt up the pages when she wasn’t frustrated at his attempt to let his body die to protect her.

This is one of those cases where it is ok to judge a book by its cover. I absolutely love the cover theme for this series. In this case, the signature color is black and it features the torso of a female in a stance with attitude, a cleverly displayed rhinestone skull belt buckle (the perfect fashion statement for a sassy grim reaper), and of course, a scythe (what reaper would leave home without it?). I like that the covers show personality, but NOT the features of the model, leaving Charley’s face open to reader interpretation.

These books are smart, sexy, and full of adventure. It is definitely made the list of my favorite series.

Silent in the Grave ~ Deanna Raybourn

  • Title:  Silent in the Grave
  • Author:  Deanna Raybourn
  • Series:  Lady Juila #1
  • Genre:  Mystery, Historical, Fantasy
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  Library
  • Reviewed by: Val
  • Rating:  4 out of 5

Description:  These ominous words, slashed from the pages of a book of Psalms, are the last threat that the darling of London society, Sir Edward Grey, receives from his killer. Before he can show them to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry agent he has retained for his protection, Sir Edward collapses and dies at his London home, in the presence of his wife, Julia, and a roomful of dinner guests.

Prepared to accept that Edward’s death was due to a long-standing physical infirmity, Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits and suggests that Sir Edward has been murdered. It is a reaction she comes to regret when she discovers the damning paper for herself, and realizes the truth.

Determined to bring her husband’s murderer to justice, Julia engages the enigmatic Brisbane to help her investigate Edward’s demise. Dismissing his warnings that the investigation will be difficult, if not impossible, Julia presses forward, following a trail of clues that lead her to even more unpleasant truths, and ever closer to a killer who waits expectantly for her arrival.

Review:  There were so many things that I enjoyed about this book. I liked this book as much for what it wasn’t, as I did for what it was.

For example, despite the chemistry and tension between Julia and Brisbane, the author did not give into the temptation to turn this book into a romance. Instead she focused herself firmly on the mystery and suspense, and she did a great job of building the intrigue throughout the plot.

Her approach to the mystery, itself, was well done. She anticipated readers such as me who were able to figure out the “whodunit” from the beginning. Yet, I got the feeling the Ms. Raybourn actually meant for the mystery to lie not in the WHO, such much as the HOW and WHY. Clever girl.

The book was a light read, reminding me of urban fantasy, but it was really more of a historical fiction with the smallest touch of fantasy. It was just the right balance.

The book was really well-written, especially the characters. The author set the story up just right to allow for some excellent character development, and she did not disappoint. In fact, between Julia’s crisis of personality and Brisbane’s tortured hero, Raybourn has left plenty of room for further development throughout the series.

The pacing of the story was a bit slow at times, but it was in keeping with the tone of the story, so I found it forgivable. I am definitely looking forward to continuing this series.

Cover note: This is a great cover. The pose is simple and captures the character of Lady Julia very well. The layout is well-balanced and eye-catching and the fonts fit the tone of the story without trying too hard. Finally, the shadow just above her shoulder creates a great visual element of mystery.

 

Moon Dance ~ J.R. Rain

  • Title: Moon Dance
  • Author: J.R. Rain
  • Series: Vampire for Hire #1
  • Genre: UF, PNR
  • Format: eBook
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Valerie
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  Mother, wife, private investigator…vampire. Six years ago federal agent Samantha Moon was the perfect wife and mother, your typical soccer mom with the minivan and suburban home. Then the unthinkable happens, an attack that changes her life forever. And forever is a very long time for a vampire.

Now the world at large thinks Samantha has developed a rare skin disease, a disease which forces her to quit her day job and stay out of the light of the sun. Now working the night shift as a private investigator, Samantha is hired by Kingsley Fulcrum to investigate the murder attempt on his life, a horrific scene captured on TV and seen around the country. But as the case unfolds, Samantha discovers Kingsley isn’t exactly what he appears to be; after all, there is a reason why he survived five shots to the head.

*Potential Spoilers*

Review:  One of the things I liked best about this book is that while it deals with the paranormal, the author did not feel the need to get caught up in the creation of a fantasy world. I thought it was a bit refreshing in the UF genre.

Rain’s heroine is a typical woman with typical problems; kids, a marriage on the rocks, a career, and, oh yeah, the fact that she has been turned into a vampire.

I found myself drawn the main character who struggles with common insecurities despite the power of her vampire abilities. She was a likeable character and I was sympathetic to her plight. However, she did seem to have an overactive libido. Maybe being attracted almost every male character in the book is related to her vampirism and the author has just not filled us in yet?

Do not judge this book by its historical romance style cover. I was thrilled that the story focused on solving a mystery and the self discovery of the heroine. There IS a bit of romance involved, but an appropriate amount that did not overwhelm the plot line.

Finally, thank goodness for an author who can provide a complete book even though in a series. (Some of the romantic loose ends were less tidy, but since I am not a romantic it did not bother me).

I am eager to read the next book in the series.

Touch of a Demon ~ Diana Rowland

  • Title: Touch of a Demon 
  • Author: Diana Rowland
  • Series: Kara Gillian #5
  • Genre: UF, PNR
  • Format: eBook
  • Source: Own Copy
  • Reviewer: Soo
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  Kara Gillian is in some seriously deep trouble.

She’s used to summoning supernatural creatures from the demon realm to our world, but now the tables have been turned and she’s the one who’s been summoned. Kara is the prisoner of yet another demonic lord, but she quickly discovers that she’s far more than a mere hostage. Yet waiting for rescue has never been her style, and Kara has no intention of being a pawn in someone else’s game.

There’s intrigue to spare as she digs into the origin of the demonic lords and discovers the machinations of humans and demons alike. Kara is shocked to discover that she has her own history in the demon realm, and that the ties between her and the demonic lords Rhyzkahl and Szerain go back farther than she could have ever imagined. But treachery runs rampant among all the lords, and she’s going to have to stay sharp in order to keep from being used to further their own agendas. The lords have a secret that dates back to earth’s ancient history, and it could have devastating repercussions for both worlds.

Yet more than anything else, Kara’s abilities as a homicide detective will be put to the test—because this time the murder she has to solve is her own.

*Potential Spoilers*

Review:  Of the books in the Kara Gillian series, this one is by far the best. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the story as I went along but the ending clarified my feelings.

Kara Gillian is a summoner of demons. We’re not talking about the kind of demons that steal souls and take innocents into the bowels of hell. These demons are beings that live in another world like Earth but magic is a part of life rather than an mystery shrouded in fables. In the past year, since Kara made her first successful summoning of a high level demon, life has been thrown into a whirlwind of danger, bursts of joy, twinges of uncertainty and wild passionate ride with a demonic lord. Just when she didn’t think it could get worse, Kara’s is yanked into the demon’s world and bound by more than a magic nullifying collar. With each answer rises more questions and everything Kara knows is pushed beyond all limits, shattering everything she is and far beyond anything she knows.

Kara.

Here.

Now I’m going to ramble my thoughts that I had here and there as I read the series to date. My impressions, thoughts and else that have been met by the story or left to wallow in sandpit misery. Power play is a strong element in the story and I’m not sure how I feel about it. There are elements of master, slave, punishment, glory and more that come across cleanly in parts and muddled in others.

Kara Gillian. Pah! I love strong characters. It doesn’t matter if it’s female, male, animal, alien, demon, fairies or whatever! I totally love strong characters that strive ardently in their endeavors. A lot of my friends that have read this series love Kara and think of her as an excellent, strong character. Ehh. To me, Kara is a passive character that reacts to situations and her environs rather than being proactive and aggressive. She’s a lead who isn’t very special except for two things:

1. Her strength as a summoner is unknown and greater than any expected.
2. An element of Elinor is meshed in her “essence” or soul.

She’s a cop with decent instincts and a desire to help victims and put away the bad guys. However, she can’t fight or shoot well, she’s not a techie, her social skills aren’t mentionable, she’s out of shape, she’s not information savvy or knowledgeable, does not read people well, fairly naive with a cynic’s twist and absolutely loves to run away from anything that involves feelings. I don’t care that she has sex with whoever. I can go with the low self-image and a lot of other things. Yet, there are elements I want clearer answers for. Ok. She’s been sexually abused as a child during foster care and that helped to fuck her up enough to become closed in and rebellious. It left her open to taking any affection offered. Awkward social skills but a kind heart makes her friends but she doesn’t realize when people like her and respect her as a person. Thrown on top of that is a crazy sexual relationship she has with Rhyzkahl, falling in love with bound Szerain, attracted to any male that’s good looking and diving head first into an intimate “I’m not in love with you but this is more than love” relationship with Mzatal.

Okay, steamy sex is steamy sex and who doesn’t like a good looking person? However, it is mind boggling that Kara experiences all these things but doesn’t really try to figure out why other than to accept it as something right. Forgive me if I think it’s damned weird for her to have a beyond love sexual relationship with Mzatal. That’s messed up! There’s not enough for Kara to fall in love with Szerain either but she is. If she’s learned anything, I would say she should have learned that being phenomenally attracted is not the same as love or safety. It would be nice if that comes across a little clearer.

The ending of this book saved Kara as a character for me. She FINALLY started to think and make decisions. Although, they are done based on feelings that she doesn’t have a whole lot to base anything on. I would have been okay with her dying at the end of the three blades but it’s better that she didn’t. I’m glad she had a quick run home to see all of her loved ones before going back to become strong enough to stand against those who seek to harm her or her family.

There’s not enough clues or reasons to show why Rhyzkahl is acting the way he is or the choices that he’s making. The glimpses into his mind are few and utterly vague beyond belief. I hope that gets cleared up.

I was okay with whatever would happen to Kara relationship wise. I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt somewhat betrayed when Rhyzkahl throws Kara beneath his knife. Although it wasn’t totally unexpected as a twist for me but that doesn’t mean I had to like it! I used to not care if Ryan/Szerain ends up as her love of loves, but now I don’t want it. I’d rather she finds strength in herself and choose to be alone or fall in love with someone else. Kara is not Elinor. Elinor’s ghost shouldn’t be a part of what happens to Kara or who she ends up with.

Giovanni! Need more on that guy and how he ended up dying. It sure does look like he was the one Elinor was in love with even if she lost her virginity with Rhyzkahl and also had sex with Szerain. What’s up with that? With the time period Elinor came from, it’s highly unlikely for a maiden to spread her legs for every dude.

Idris is Tessa’s kid! Woo! I figured that one out. Yay me. I hope I’m right.

Oh, Kara being a super conductor with little to no control makes me want to gag in classic eye rolling, “Really?!” Glad she’s going to study her flabby butt off and become more of a magic welding warrior princess.

I still hate the fact that her accent and style of speech is inconsistent! Every character has a voice that’s pretty clear. Like the way Zack sounds when he’s being his FED persona vs his real demonic formal speech. Jill and Tessa always talk like themselves. Everyone in the book has a style of speech be it mental or vocal. Why can’t Kara’s be consistent too?!?! It was the most consistent in book three.

It would also be nice if Kara didn’t cuss quite so much but she’s always cussing when she’s emotional and there are not that many moments when she’s not emotional.

I like the twists and interlocking webs of actions, deceits and more. First impressions don’t count high on the list of believability and the Lords’ honor system is more wacked than a sororities. Above all, my favorite characters are the other demons that make the world work. The silly games that come out in spontaneous spurts. The phase where Kara is taken away from Mzatal to heal was a really great sequence of events.

There’s a ton of potential for this world and characters. I hope it lives to be much more than my hopes! Can’t wait for the publication date for the next book to be released.