Review: Ceremony in Death

Review: Ceremony in DeathCeremony In Death (In Death, #5) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #5
Published by Berkley on April 11th 2007
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 336
Goodreads
four-stars

“Murder had come into her life before and would again. But someone would pay for bringing it into her home.”

FINAL DECISION: Not as tight or interesting as the prior books in the series, I enjoyed this one more for the relationship side of the story than the mystery itself which seemed a bit unreal and less grounded than others in the series.  Still a good book.

THE STORY: Eve is tasked with investigating the death of a police officer. There is some suspicion that Feeney might have been involved in a coverup of drug abuse by the officer, so Eve not only has to do an investigation, but also hide it from her mentor and substitute father. Eve’s investigation takes her into a group of Satanists.

OPINION: Personally I was only marginally interested in the mystery in this book, but I really loved how the book pushes forward the relationship of Eve and Feeney. He is her mentor and her father in many ways, but here she is ordered to engage in an investigation keeping him in the dark (as he is a possible target). This causes Eve to have to acknowledge the importance of their relationship. For me, the scenes with Feeney are the highlight of the book.

The underlying theme in this book is family and the book raises issues that Eve and Rourke have to confront time and time again.

Wiccans make several appearances in Robb’s romance books and therefore it is not surprising that Robb makes a point of separating the practicing witches from the Satanist cult members who are involved in the murders.

The feeling of this book slides more magical. At times it threatens to disrupt the grounded and realistic tone of the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: The introduction of the character of Jamie.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CEREMONY IN DEATH is the fifth book in the In Death series. While each book is a standalone in terms of the mystery involved, there are continuing character stories throughout the series.  I believe the books are better read in order, but this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Dark in Death

Review: Dark in DeathDark in Death (In Death, #46) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #46
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 30th 2018
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 384
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: This is on the lower end of the series’ books for me. The book felt more self-indulgent (since it too is about a series of mystery books) and the pace was really slow. A decent entry, but not among the best.

THE STORY: A woman is murdered during a showing of Psycho in a way that recalls the murder in a detective series. When it turns out that it is not the first murder replicated from the series, Eve must figure out who is obsessed with the thriller series and who is the next target.

OPINION: I wanted to like this book, but it took forever for me to get into the story even though the concept sounded great in the blurb. I still think the more recent books suffer because of the movement away from the personal journey of Eve to more a standard mystery format.

I just started re-reading the series and having just read the first couple books in the series, it is quite obvious that this book lacks something compelling pushing it forward. For that reason, I was able to continually walk away from this book and it took me several days to read when I usually finish the book in a day.

I’m not sure what exactly struck me wrong about this book. I think there really didn’t feel like an urgency to the story even though there were the possibilities for continuing murders. Also because the mystery series is made up, there is no way to feel connected with the possible murders coming up. There is also a distance between Eve and the killer which means that the crime is a bit more intellectual.

I did really like several elements of the story. Eve and Rourke are alone as Summerset takes his vacation and the two have a different vibe when it is just the two of them living in that big house. Their relationship has grown and deepened and I appreciate that the author allows her characters to grow and change as their relationship deepens.

I also thought that the last few chapters really were a good resolution to the story and I’m glad that I persevered through the book.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are also some wonderful moments with Eve and the secondary characters especially Feeney. I keep hoping that we will get some stories with the secondary characters which might increase the personal interest in the stories.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DARK IN DEATH is the forty-sixth book in the In Death series. As the series has continued, there has been movement away from the overarching storylines so this book can pretty much be read as a standalone although it doesn’t really introduce the characters if you haven’t read about them before.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Rapture in Death

Review: Rapture in DeathRapture in Death (In Death, #4) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #4
Published by Berkley on March 3rd 2007
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 417
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: An enjoyable combination of relationship and crime mystery, RAPTURE IN DEATH deals with the early days of Eve and Roarke’s marriage along with a series of “suicides” among people who seem to have no reason to want to die.

THE STORY: A series of suicides where each person dies with a mocking smile on his or her face doesn’t sit well with Eve. She seems to find some brain abnormalities but no one can find a cause or whether or not someone is orchestrating these deaths. Just back from her honeymoon, Eve and Roarke settle down into their marriage while Eve (with Roarke’s help) tries to figure out who is targeting high profile New Yorkers.

OPINION: This is one of the early books in the series that made this a superlative series. I believe that the best books in the series (and this is one of them) have a great balance between the personal issues of Eve (here she is adjusting to her new marriage) and a rousing crime that Eve solves (and the best books have her working directly with Roarke as much as possible).

This book still feels fresh after I’ve read it at least a dozen times over the years. Eve and Roarke are vibrant characters and the crime had a double twisty resolution. There are a lot of things going on, plenty of significant appearances by the secondary characters and just a great centering on Eve and Roarke.

I don’t read these books as crime dramas or mysteries because I think that overall they are only just above average on those aspects because there is no real way to solve these mysteries on the clues given.  I read them as character driven stories about Eve and her life. This book does a great job of expanding on the characters in the series and thus is one of the better books in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Hubba Hubba!

CONNECTED BOOKS: RAPTURE IN DEATH is the fourth book in the In Death series. While the mystery in the book is self-contained, there are continuing relationship and personal journey stories that span the series and thus I recommend reading the books in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Immortal in Death

Review: Immortal in DeathImmortal in Death (In Death, #3) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #3
Published by Berkley Books on July 1st 1996
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 320
Goodreads
five-stars

“Getting married was murder.”

FINAL DECISION: The book is one of the best blend between the personal as Eve tries to exonerate her friend from suspicion of murder and Eve battling her own personal demons. Twisty and personal.

THE STORY: Eve is racing against time as the woman who is her best friend (gosh, that sounds juvenile) is accused of the murder of the ex of her current lover. Eve must find out who killed the famous model.

OPINION: First, to get the mystery out of the way.  This story is compelling because of Eve being driver to solve the crime to save her friend. This is a good one. Plenty of suspects and the ultimate solution worked very well — especially upon re-reading where the clues are obvious. Good pacing and good set up makes this one of the mysteries that I really enjoyed in the series.

But for me, the value of this book is the leap that the relationship between Eve and Roarke takes. As part of Eve’s past is revealed, I loved seeing not only how Eve deals with it, but also the effect it has on Roarke.

“She was, he thought, capable, strong, and resilient. Whatever wounds she had, she would live with. She didn’t need him to heal, but to accept.”

For me, this is what makes this series so effective. Eve is strong and Roarke only helps her be even stronger and more centered. But she is independent and strong on her own. This works so well in the series. This book really begins to delve more deeply into their connection which grows beyond the cop and (former) criminal rich guy trope.

One of the essential books in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: Eve and Roarke are planning their wedding and some of Eve’s hidden past is revealed.

CONNECTED BOOKS: IMMORTAL IN DEATH is the third book in the In Death series. While the mystery in this book is completely self-contained, I think the overarching storyline dealing with Eve and Roarke makes these books so I recommend reading the series in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Glory in Death

Review: Glory in DeathGlory in Death (In Death, #2) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #2
Published by Berkley on December 28th 1995
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 296
Goodreads
five-stars

“Their fates had intertwined, personally, professionally. It was murder that had brought them together, and murder that would continue to poke fingers into their lives. The woman beside him defended the dead.”

FINAL DECISION: Wonderful followup to the amazing NAKED IN DEATH. In this book, Eve has another murder to solve that becomes connected to her personally as her relationship with the mysterious Roarke deepens.

THE STORY: Months after the events of NAKED IN DEATH, Eve has become more visible as a murder cop. When a well-known prosecutor is murdered by having her throat slashed, Eve is asked by her commander to take the case. When the next murder of a high profile woman occurs, Eve can’t find a connection between these two highly visible women — except that both has a connection to her lover Roarke. While Eve doesn’t believe that Roarke is involved, she is feeling stress because their relationship is getting too intense and close and this case only puts more pressure on Eve.

OPINION: I loved this book and even knowing the answer to the mystery, I can read it again and again with enjoyment. The combination of a mystery that matter to Eve along with the drama of the developing relationship between Eve and Roarke makes this a book worth reading.

In this series, the best books have three elements (1) a mystery that is personal to Eve in some manner; (2) Eve’s personal demons; and (3) some wonderful relationship moments with Eve and Roarke.

This book is one of the templates of that formula that works for dozens of these books. Eve is investigating the murder of someone she knows and whose murder touches on those around Eve. Even more, there is some parallel with Eve herself as she is feeling out her relationship with Roarke in the murder victim’s relationship with her lover. In this book, Eve’s personal demons are beginning to reveal themselves in stronger and more serious ways. Finally, this book sets up a conflict between Roarke and Eve as she has to deal with how serious the relationship has become and whether she is willing to take that next step of vulnerability.

While the first book in the series is a classic, this one feels more like the others in the series. Eve’s character is more defined and her relationship with Roarke is more important.

This one also has a good mystery that actually has some possibility of being figured out rather than the solution just being sprung on the reader. Enjoyable the whole way through.

WORTH MENTIONING: The introduction of Peabody.

CONNECTED BOOKS: GLORY IN DEATH is the second book in the In Death series. While the mysteries in each book are standalones, there are continuing and overarching storylines (these early book are mostly about Eve’s background and her relationship with Roarke) that continue book to book. I recommend reading the series in order although it is not strictly necessary.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Secrets in Death

Review: Secrets in DeathSecrets in Death (In Death, #45) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #45
Published by Piatkus Books on September 5th 2017
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: In a series that balances the story of Eve and the mystery of the day, this one is better for me on the Eve side. It fills in some gaps from previous books and focuses on relationships.

THE STORY:  Eve is present at a murder when one of New York’s biggest gossip reporters walks into the hot nightspot where Eve is having a meeting and dies. Annoyed that someone has committed a murder right under her nose, Eve begins her investigation and discovers that the victim was doing more than gathering gossip for her show and that she had secrets of her own. Eve’s investigation also uncovers secrets that those around her have been keeping — including Eve herself.

OPINION: I prefer the In Death books that focus on Eve and her relationship with Roake and her friends. To me the mystery is secondary. For me, this book was a success.  In a book about a gossip reporter who uses the secrets of others, this book goes about uncovering the secrets that those around Eve are keeping.  Are they huge secrets? Not really, but it does allow some loose ends and questions about the series to be answered.

For fans of the series, this book ticks all the boxes that you might expect. I place it in the middle of the series books. Not part of the superlative books, but certainly fun and satisfying.

I’ve said this before, that I really enjoy seeing Eve discover herself. She is changing and her relationships are changing and for someone who has followed this series since the beginning, I enjoy seeing that she is finding some happiness.

WORTH MENTIONING: Still waiting for find out the identity of the candy thief.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  SECRETS IN DEATH is the forty-fifth book in the In Death series. This is a standalone mystery, but there are continuing character arcs that go throughout the series. At this point, I don’t know how a person could read these books without knowing the overarching storyline, but then again, I read the books for those arcs rather than the mystery element.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Echoes in Death

Review: Echoes in DeathEchoes in Death (In Death, #44) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #44
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 7th 2017
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  A good mystery story, this book has some nice twists.  I miss the intensity and drama of Eve’s personal life.  She’s so settled now that it is a nice respite, but there is no doubt that the earlier books in the series were more compelling.

THE STORY:  NY Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas is driving home with her billionaire husband Roarke when a naked, disoriented and abused woman runs out.  Daphne Strazza has been held hostage in her home, abused and raped.  When Eve goes to investigate, she finds that Daphne’s husband has been murdered.  As Eve and her family and friends investigate, they find that someone is targeting couples.

OPINION: I first want to explain that I have been reading this series since the beginning — over 20 years.  I early await every new installment of the series.  I will also confess that I prefer the earlier books in the series where there was more conflict in Eve’s life.  That being said, after 40 plus books, I don’t expect the characters or their situation to remain the same.  Now Eve is more balanced, more centered and more peaceful.  As a result, there is less personal drama in the recent books in this series.

Without the personal drama, the story rests far more on the actual mystery/crime being solved.  This one is pretty good on that account.  Eve is investigating a serial rapist who always involves a couple. I thought the way the story evolved and revealed itself created a sense of tension and drama.  Longtime readers will know that sex crimes take a toll on Eve because of her past and her handling of this one demonstrates how strong and open she has become.  There is definite pleasure in seeing that development while readers who haven’t followed the entire journey can enjoy the mystery.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Usually I don’t find the mysteries in these books compelling (with a few exceptions).  This time I thought the mystery was well constructed and worth trying to figure out.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  ECHOES IN DEATH is the forty-fourth book in the In Death (Eve Dallas) series.  The book has a self contained mystery and there is not much continuing storyline although a new reader would have to pick up on the world and the characters without much explanation.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Ruled

Review: RuledRuled (Outlaws, #3) by Elle Kennedy
Series: Outlaws #3
Published by Berkley on November 1st 2016
Genres: Futuristic
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Life was so much easier when there was nobody around you to give a damn about.”

FINAL DECISION:  I think this might be the best menage book I’ve read.  There is a relationship between all three characters and I truly felt that these three had a real relationship by the end of the book.

THE STORY:  Rylan has done everything he can think of to attract Reese, the leader of a group of outlaws.  Despite an outlaw society that has no problem with meaningless sex, Reese won’t have anything to do with Rylan.  Rylan realizes that the key to Reese might be her second in command, Sloan.  Reese won’t give into her attraction to Rylan because she wants him too much and doesn’t trust her instincts with him.  Reese knows from experience the dangers of an attractive magnetic man.  She prefers to concentrate on her people and get her sex from meaningless encounters.  Sloan has stood by Reese’s side for years.  Although he has always wanted her, he knows that any hint of sex between them would destroy their relationship.  As Rylan, Reese and Sloan work to defeat the Enforcers that threaten the lives of the Outlaws, they are also drawn into a relationship that might destroy all that already exists between them.

OPINION:  Boy, this book is hot!  And even better, this book has a great emotional connection with all three of the menage partners.  Unlike the previous menages in the Outlaws series, this is not merely an extra sexual partner.  No, indeed, these three characters have an emotional connection to one another that leads to a true relationship between all three of them.

Reese was my favorite character.  She is a strong and dominant leader but her strength comes from her caring nature.  Reese is the matriarch of her people.  Reese puts her people above her own needs, which is one reason she has refused Rylan for so long.  Part of Reese’s journey is this book is finding out that she can be a whole person with relationships without it threatening her leadership.  In reality, her being whole can enhance her leadership.

Rylan initially seems like a happy-go-lucky fellow.  But he, as is true with all the Outlaws, has a darkness in his past.  Rylan is important in the story as the catalyst who changes the relationship between Reese and Sloan.  He is funny and sexy and the most outwardly emotional of the trio.  While he starts out wanting some good times, Sloan and Reese bring some needed stability and purpose to Rylan’s life. He’s a man who has hidden his caring under his devil may care attitude.

Sloan is the quiet rock of the trio.  He has stood by Reese being her right hand man while desperately wanting her.  He knows that any hint of sex between then would destroy their relationship. Sloan is not willing to risk what he has.  He is self-sacrificing, willing to do anything to help Reese even if that means denying what he wants most.

This book does a great job of balancing all the relationships.  Most menage books I have read focus on one couple or the woman’s relationship with each of the men.   This book is a perfectly balanced triangle.  Rylan’s introduction into the group allows the relationship between Reese and Sloan to develop even as Rylan creates his own relationship with Reese and Sloan.  The emotional and sexual relationship develops between all three of these characters — there is no emphasis on one part of the trio.  I got the real sense that these three need all of them in order to work.

The hotness of this book just keeps on:  Reese with Rylan (Hot!), Reese with Sloan (Hot!), Rylan with Sloan (even hotter!), Reese and Rylan and Sloan (blistering hot!).  What I liked best was that all the hot sex was really grounded in the emotions that developed between these characters.  All three of these characters have experienced pain and loss but in their relationship, they find happiness and completeness.

I loved this book and can’t wait for more Outlaws books.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is a true menage relationship with both an emotional and sexual relationship between all three of the participants.  This book has MFM, MM and MF.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  RULED is the third book in the Outlaws series.  The book can be read as a standalone but there is an overarching story that is richer if you have read the other books in the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book in order to provide a review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: Apprentice in Death

Review: Apprentice in DeathApprentice in Death by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #43
Published by Berkley on September 6th 2016
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 375
Goodreads
four-stars

“It would be the first kill.”

FINAL DECISION:  Eve Dallas and her band of friends and investigators take on a sniper killing in New York.  This book fits the pattern of the most recent books which focuses more on a crime.  Eve is more balanced and well adjusted and as such there is not much drama there.  An interesting story although there is not much drama in the whodunnit rather it is a “how do we capture the killer” book.

THE STORY: In January 2061, four people are shot at an ice rink in Central Park.  Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas is called to the scene.  She quickly realizes that the murders were committed by a sniper and fears that this is just the beginning.  With the help of her fellow officers and her billionaire husband Roarke, Eve must find the motive and the murderer and stop any further killings.

OPINION:  This is a fast paced mystery story.  The action in the book takes place over only a few days and as a result, the book constantly feels in motion.  I prefer the slower paced, whodunnit type stories, but this one is a quick paced suspense story.

On the positive side, I like the reappearance and reliance upon relationships.  Eve has changed tremendously over this series and this book shows how her development actually aids her ability to do her job.  She is clearly a more effective detective and a more well balanced person now.  While the angst has been reduced, the humor has been retained.

This book allows us to return to the wacky and brilliant way that Eve’s mind works as she solves the crime.  I especially enjoy how Eve is able to place herself in the varying positions of criminal and victim.  She understands and that is her talent.  What has changed in these books is that Eve is able to have a space for her own life.

I don’t want to give anything away, but the mastermind of this case is frightening to consider.  The story is creepy in its own way and fascinating.

If you like the In Death books, this one follows much of the pattern of the recent books and so if you liked them, you should like this one as well.  For a new reader, I still recommend that you start with the first book in the series NAKED IN DEATH which is simply fabulous.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Bella’s first birthday party and redecorating.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  APPRENTICE IN DEATH is the forty-third book in the In Death series.  While the mystery in the book is a complete standalone, there are relationships and overarching stories for the series.  While these do not prevent a new reader from starting here, new readers must recognize that there is a history behind this book.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Illuminae

Review: IlluminaeIlluminae (The Illuminae Files, #1) by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20th 2015
Genres: Futuristic, Young Adult
Pages: 599
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Observations on a Unique Young Adult Futuristic/Sci-Fi/Romance Book

07:33

I don’t read many physical books anymore preferring the convenience and instant gratification associated with ebooks (plus I don’t have to find a way to store all those books).  ILLUMINAE cries out to be read in its physical form, however.

Consisting of texts and emails, official reports, observations and recorded dialogue, ILLUMINAE tells the story of Kady Grant, a teenager who lives on tiny planet in the year 2575.  On the day where the worst thing that should be happening is that Kady breaks up with her boyfriend of a year Ezra Mason, her planet is savagely attacked.  Kady and Ezra end up fleeing the planet with other refugees and end up a part of small group of space craft fleeing for their lives.  Tracing the story of what happened and what is happening and the complicated relationship between Kady and Ezra.

The odd format where the story is not told in a linear fashion will not be every reader’s cup of tea. The disjointed nature of the narrative demands that readers engage intellectually with the material rather than just sliding into the story’s narrative.  As is true when relying only on written documents, there remains much that is hidden from the reader as the narrative is constrained by documents themselves which allows much to be hidden from readers.  That literary device works beautifully allowing the story to build to an exciting and surprising conclusion. This is not a book to read the ending of too soon because the puzzle of the book is part of its appeal.

The first half of ILLUMINAE is an intellectual struggle — not because the book is poorly written (it is not) but because this book demands active reading and puzzling from its reader.  Once a base of knowledge is achieved, however, the pages of the book begin to quickly slide by.  I am a big fan of disjointed narrative books.  Whether it be Faulkner or Morrison or the postcards and letters of the Griffin & Sabine books by Nick Bantock, I enjoy the intellectual and then emotional connection that these books bring.  That being said, these books are not for everyone.  If you enjoy reading primary documents, historical letters or just want a mental challenge, give this book a chance.

What especially appealed to me was that while I began this book as an observer, the format eventually became one where the characters felt more real, less filtered.  When the characters face pain and desperation, I felt it keenly.  What began as an intellectual challenge became a deeply emotional connection with the characters.  Even the romance worked for me although it is non-traditional.

Why, you might ask, don’t I speak more about the plot?  I feel that the more a reader knows about the story going in, the less enjoyable this book will be.  The book’s format and how the narrative unwinds is an essential part of building the emotional conclusion to this book.

When I finished this book, I immediately began flipping back through the pages discovering what I had missed in the narrative. The secrets that are revealed are so neatly woven into the documents provided that this book almost feels like a good murder mystery. Only on reflection and review do the clues become obvious.

ILLUMINAE is the first of a trilogy of books which tell three different stories about the same event.  The next book will focus on other characters.

four-half-stars