Silent In the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

Silent in the Grave
Deanna Raybourn

This book has been on my radar for a while now. It was on a lot of best of 2008 lists and had positive reviews from bloggers who have tastes similiar to mine, and then Angie of Angieville has been pimping it left, right, and center. When I noticed that the ebook was offered for free (FREE!!) at everyone’s reading I downloaded it immediately. The direct link to the downloads by the way are here — epub, mobipocket.

The Premise: This is the first book in a series set in the Victorian era.  The story starts with a party hosted by Lady Julia Grey and her husband Edward, which goes south when Edward collapses on the floor. When Edward dies, it’s not really a shock because of his known family history of heart problems, but Julia’s vision of the world is turned askew by Mr. Nicolas Brisbane, who informs her that he was hired by her husband to investigate threats he was receiving. Mr. Brisbane also tells Julia that Edward was probably murdered. I also have to point out the cracking first line, which every other reviewer has commented on. It just draws you in – read it here in the excerpt.

My Thoughts: This is set in the Victorian era, but it has a modern edge. The story is told from the first person viewpoint of Julia, who comes from an open minded and eccentric family – the Marches.  Julia starts off as a bit of a disappointment to her colorful family – all she wants to be is normal, but after her husband’s death, she takes stock of her life and begins to come out of her shell. This is one book where there’s marked growth and change in the main character. The author takes a few liberties with Julia’s character because of her freewheeling family, but it worked for me.

I also liked that around Julia’s investigations, we see a lot of day-to-day interactions between Julia and her staff and between Julia and her family. We catch glimpses into how a household was run in those times, and the ‘rules’ that the nobility abides by, and it’s all very normal and familiar to these characters but for me, it was excellent world building and lovely to read.

I’m not sure you should read this so much for the mystery than for the characters. There are several well rounded side characters such as Julia’s servants (her butler and ladies maid in particular), and members of her family (especially her sister Portia), and then there’s Julia and Nicolas Brisbane.  While this has romantic elements and great sexual tension between Julia and Mr. Brisbane, the romance is not at the forefront of the book, and this is one of those series where the relationship evolves slowly over the course of several books.  Julia is funny for her nosiness about Brisbane and her adventures in amateur sleuthing.  Brisbane, while he is a dark and broody type, has great interactions with Julia, especially when she surprises him. A couple of times, I was laughing out loud at the things Julia did, and Brisbane’s agog response. I was reading this while on vacation and I was in the living room just laughing like a fool while my mother-in-law stared at me like I was crazy.

As for the mystery itself – there are only so many people who it could be, there are not that many characters to choose from, so an early guess is likely to be right, but why they did it and how was more mysterious and ultimately more surprising to me than who did it. There’s also the side mystery of Brisbane himself, which are hinted at when Julia visits him – a strange sudden illness when he’s a healthy man, and his odd interactions with Julia’s laundress.

Overall: I loved this one. It hit me in all the right places and I went on my best of 2009 list. I even made my mom read it (her report – almost done but she peeked at the ending! – tsk. But she asked if I had book 2, muhahaha).

Buy (this book was just reissued in trade PB):
Amazon | Powells

Other reviews:

Angieville – A very positive review
The Thrillionth Page – “lovely”
Miss Picky’s column — 3 out of 5
Aneca’s World – 3.5 out of 5
Rosario’s Reading Journal – gave it a B-
Reading Adventures –  “highly recommended”
The Book Smugglers – Thea gave it an 8, leaning towards 9
Tempting Persephone – positive review

Silent Pretties — Angie points out the gorgeous UK covers for the Julia Grey mysteries. I want them too!
Silent in the Grave website


Beastly movie trailer / Cheap kindle books

Beast form

I found out today through scifiwire that Alex Flinn’s book Beastly is coming out in movie form in July 2010. Looks like it could be a bit cheesy, but I may watch it on DVD. I like the Beauty and Beast retellings.. From

Kyle Kingson (Alex Pettyfer) has it all – looks, intelligence, wealth and opportunity – and a wicked cruel streak. Prone to mocking and humiliating “aggressively unattractive” classmates, he zeroes in on Goth classmate Kendra, inviting her to the school’s extravagant environmental bash.  Kendra accepts, and, true to form, Kyle blows her off in a particularly savage fashion.  She retaliates by casting a spell that physically transforms him into everything he despises. Enraged by his horrible and unrecognizable appearance he confronts Kendra and learns that the only solution to the curse is to find someone that will love him as he is – a task he considers impossible.

Repulsed by his appearance, Kyle’s callous father banishes him to Brooklyn with a sympathetic housekeeper and blind tutor. As Kyle ponders how to overcome the curse and get his old life back, he chances upon a drug addict in the act of killing a threatening dealer.  Seizing the opportunity, Kyle promises the addict freedom and safety for his daughter, Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens) if she will consent to live in Kyle’s Brooklyn home.  Thus begins Kyle’s journey to discover true love in this hyper-modern retelling of the classic “Beauty and the Beast” story.

Vanessa Hudgens and Alex Pettyfer star in “Beastly” Daniel Barnz (“Phoebe In Wonderland”) directs for CBS Films, the film division within CBS Corporation (NYSE: CBS.A and CBS).  The project commenced principal photography in Montreal on June 13, 2009. Susan Cartsonis (“No Reservations,” “What Women Want”) is producing through her company, Storefront Pictures.  Roz Weisberg is co-producing.  In addition to his role as director, Barnz wrote the screenplay, which is based on the Alex Flinn novel of the same name.


In other news, Dear Author has posted about cheap kindle deals and how to search for them on Amazon. If you don’t have a kindle, don’t despair, because Amazon now has a Kindle for PC beta up. I downloaded it, and although it sometimes seems like they don’t have all the kinks out yet (like it made me come back later to register my Amazon account, and it’s having problems synching right now), it seems to do the job.

Some free books right now:
1)  The Wild’s Call by Jeri Smith-Ready (distant prequel to the Aspect of Crow trilogy)
The Angel Experiment (Maximum Ride, Book 1) by James Patterson
My Soul to Lose by Rachel Vincent
4)  The Demon Awakens by R.A. Salvatore
Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon
6)  A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton
7)  Starfist: First to Fight by David Sherman
Plus I see all the free harlequins from their 60th anniversary celebration.

Everyone’s Reading (free reads from Mills and Boon)

I love twitter. I found out about everyone’s reading there from eagle-eyed @Lou_bookpushers a couple of days ago. I’ve been meaning to try out Deanna Raybourn for a while now, so the first book from her series being out there for free is great. Also amusing: 7 out of the 10 books here have a baby/pregnancy in them!!! (By the way you can download these no matter where you are. I had no problems downloading from the U.S. and Lou is in the U.K I think).

The Price of Passion by Susan Napier

Hohoho, I read another one of the 16 Harlequin free books this weekend, this time the Presents line (according to Amazon, this one belongs to the subset Pregnant Mistresses!!). This one is the line I think of where the hero does those punishing kisses. Harlequin says the heroes are "ruthless, dark and powerful". Indeed.

The setup: Katherine (Kate) is a researcher for a publishing house, who is pregnant with the baby of Drake Daniels, a wildly famous author whose "speciality was constructing tough, gritty, anti-heroes who were rude, crude and lethal to know". He often disappears for months, no one knows where, to write his novels, but Kate has figured out that he has a house in Oyster Beach, New Zealand. She follows him there to try to break the baby news. Kate and Drake and he have a "no strings" relationship, and Kate believes the only reason she's lasted two years with him was because she never sleeps the night and never disturbs his work. Both are the product of tough childhoods, she has an ambitious, cold mother who had no time for a kid, and his father walked out on his mother, who was so grief-striken, she eventually committed suicide, leaving Drake to take care of himself.

Overall: The best Harlequin I've read so far. I'd recommend this one. If I graded, I'd say B+?

What I liked:

  • I loved that this wasn't set in the U.S. The writing has a New Zealand slant, and uses non-American words for certain things. Quite a refreshing change.   
  • The banter was fabulous, both of them using lines from classics and old movies on each other. It flowed well and was fun to read. You really feel a connection between the characters and the romance felt believable because of it.
  • Kate I liked for keeping in character most of the time by exuding a calm exterior even when she's nervous, she may be thinking about something that will reveal her secret, but she doesn't do anything TSTL. Basically, she was good at recovering and I liked that she had spine.
  • Drake is very manly and whatnot. Do people like this exist? He came off extremely gruff at first but then warms to a "hard shell, soft center" kind of guy. Drake had one really big jerk moment in the book, but he did grovel afterwards and admitted his communication issues so he was decently likeable overall. He is also dyslexic which made him a bit more human.
  • They both had childhoods that reasonably explained their actions; like Kate learning from her mother never to bother someone when they are busy with their career or life, which is why she thinks Drake doesn't want her bothering him.
  • Cute pets. A three-legged dog (!!) and a kitten who squeaks. And they move the plot along, not just there to be cute.
  • My favorite lines in this book:

"'I'm not good with words -"

Her eyes widened. 'Drake, you're a writer.'"

I guess my only nits would be that a couple of things were a little cliched. Maybe Drake sometimes. And the description of him on the first page made me roll my eyes. She too is drop dead gorgeous of course, with almost silver eyes. Mmm hmm.  And something about the ending that was a bit too pat.

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Happy Holidays and something about eReaders

Happy Hannukah for those celebrating that holiday. And Happy Birthday to my sister who doesn't read my blog, but I have to say it anyway (27 today! wow).

I hope this is a relaxing week for everyone, but the bad weather in the US and people travelling during the holidays to family get-togethers (not to mention the shopping) can be stressful. Calming thoughts your way. I know I already booked the wrong flight to Phoenix for my sister but at least it goes to the right place, just at the wrong time. What airline has a flight 4431 and 4413 leaving one hour from each other from the same airport to the same destination? Oh well, it isn't a huge gaffe so we're not changing the ticket. I'm really looking forward to seeing the family. Eventually they drive me crazy but I still like them.

I have a couple of reviews I have to post that are coming later (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Racheal Cohen and David Levithan and Ariel by Steven Boyett). These will be coming when I feel less lazy.

Dear Author posted last week that they just partnered up with Sony so that the Dear Author reviewers could get a Sony eReader to use to review ebooks. They say that in early January there will be a contest so that 3 Dear Author readers can have a chance to win their very own Sony eReader in Sangria Red too. Man, I would love to win one. I know someone who owns one, and they are really pretty and come in a protective cover that flips open like a book. Words look crisp and they use e-ink technology.  The problem is, the cost is almost 300 dollars, and I know how many books I can get with 300 dollars. If I could justify that eventually I could save that money through using an ereader I would get one, but I have a hard time with that. Plus I'm one of those people – I will stare and stare and think about it and decide maybe 6 months later to buy something like this. It took me a year to buy my digital camera.

Also I am a bit worried about running into problems if it breaks, do I lose all my books? That sort of thing that I wouldn't worry about with a real book, but then I realized you can download books to your computer and then put that into the ereader, so I guess the computer can be the backup. I am still unsure about this though. How about a double backup?  About once a year my laptop crashes, so let's say I've had experience with losing data and I know that backups are very important. The other thing is that you can only import books to the reader that have the DRM from the Sony ebook store. What happens to other books I got on my computer I bought elsewhere and may want to put on my reader? That worries me. If I bought something I want to be able to read it where I want. Another thing I don't have to think about with a real book.

Anyone have an eReader? Do you like it? What are it's advantages and disadvantages?


Meanwhile - I noticed this at the Sony eBookstore. Looks like the free book changes weekly. Right now they're offering Dancing with Werewolves by Carole Nelson Douglas till the end of day today. You have to download the Sony eBook Library Software to read it though. That didn't take me long.

They are also giving away 9 eBooks from Random House

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Magic Strikes / Other Ilona Andrews goodies

For Ilona Andrews fans looking forward to the third book in the Kate Daniels series (the authors' website says 4 books are contracted so far), Ilona Andrews blog had an excerpt of Chapter 1:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

It looks good! Cannot wait till this book comes out. Very much pre-ordering!

Meanwhile – a visit to the Ilona Andrews website shows some updates since I've been there last including some information about the next series they are working on – the Borderland series. There is an excerpt of Border Rose here.

And in the Free Fiction section I saw a new to me short story there "Days of Swine and Roses".

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Random stuff

Ack, been in a class for work all week and too pooped at the end of the day to blog. So it's near the end of the Book Blogger Appreciation week that I mention – yeah it's BBAW at My Friend Amy! Lots and lots of givaways going on, check that out here and here. I have to say I had lots of fun doing the puzzle for the logic puzzle ebook giveaway. I can't walk away from a logic puzzle – quite a sickness. Lots and lots of giveaways there, I haven't even looked at more than what seems like 5%…

The cover for Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews got revealed today. My reaction is a mental "Eee!!". This one comes out April 2009.


  • Did anyone get the Any Given Doomsday book by Lori Handeland I posted about? I got mine today, but no one emailed me that I was going to get it, so if you signed up at Shelfari, chances are good.
  • Lesley's Book Nook is giving away a copy of Cry Wolf – just need to comment on her review here by 6pm GMT friday (that's soon…)
  • Via Dear Author – Tor is giving away free ebook copies of Emma Bulls' War for the Oaks – really recommend this book, so if you haven't read it, it's worth a download.

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Short stories and the Journal of Mystic Arts

Via things mean a lot – I found out that there is a free online short story in Holly Black's Tithe/ Valiant/ Ironside universe called "Going Ironside". It's very short and bittersweet, from the point of view of an exiled faerie, hitting hard times in the city. I didn't know about it so thought I would link to it here.

The website the short story is on is the Journal of Mystic Arts (aka JoMA) which is an online magazine having it's final issue after many years:

JoMA is sponsored by the Endicott Studio, a nonprofit organization dedicated to literary, visual, and performance arts inspired by myth, folklore, fairy tales, and the oral storytelling tradition.

Endicott & JoMA have been online since 1997. JoMA's last issue is the Summer '08 issue, but our extensive archives of 10+ years of mythic arts material will remain online as an on-going source of mythic arts information & resources.

Founded in 1987, the Endicott Studio is directed by Terri Windling & Midori Snyder.

Other stories by familiar (to me) authors I wanted to point out:

"Silver and Gold" by Emma Bull

The Tale of the Mountain King and His Sky Bride” by O. R. Melling


Some Poems:

"Bone Mother" by Holly Black

"The Step-sister's Story" by Emma Bull

"Boys and Girls Together" by Neil Gaiman

"Instructions" by Neil Gaiman

Ok there is so much more by Neil Gaiman and Jane Yolen and Charles de Lint and Terri Windling and Delia Sherman and others. Worth spending some time there if you haven't been.

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Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

Fire Study (Study, Book 3)
Maria V. Snyder

Fire Study is the final book in the Study trilogy which follows Yelena Zaltana, a prisoner turned food-taster in Ixia, then magic student and ambassador in Sitia.

I reviewed Magic Study (the second book) last month here – vox | livejournal . Poison Study is the first book.

When I read Magic Study I was comparing it to Poison Study (which I loved), and noticing the differences in the books. They felt like very different reads despite being in the same series. Besides a different "feel" they are also not set in the same location and we see an almost completely new cast of characters.  Magic Study moves away from the people Yelena knew in Ixia. Instead we start to learn about Yelena's family and Sitia and about Yelena's problems with coming back home where she isn't exactly welcomed or trusted.

In comparison, Fire Study fits very well with Magic Study. The plot of Magic Study seems written with Fire Study in mind, so there are strings left in Magic Study that directly relate to much of what goes on in Fire Study. These two books have the same feel – mostly set in Sita, with a lot of Yelena's rushing into things and hoping things will work out. Her modus operandi. We have the same villians in Fire Study as with Magic Study, and the her brother Leif along for the ride in both books. The story continues where Magic Study left off with Yelena trying to pursue the villians, and she travels throughout Sitia to do so. In the meantime she is also trying to understand her magic and what it means because she's discovered that she's a Soulfinder – which isn't taken well by some people.

The main thing in Fire Study is Yelena finally finding her place in the world. I think that's probably why this time we see more Ixians – the Commander makes a couple of appearances, Valek is around a bit more, and so are Ari and Janco. The point seems to be so the reader sees Yelena someone who bridges both Sitia and Ixia. Before I read this I saw reviews that it was worth the read also to see what it meant for Yelena to be a Soulfinder - her real role gets revealed. This is true, though I sort of figured out the point a long time ago and was a bit surprised that it wasn't obvious to many people. Maybe I've just seen a lot of shinigami anime. Anyway, here too Yelena finds her place.

Good bits and nits:


  • I liked all the parts where Valek was around. I think the chemistry between the two is well written, and you feel that despite the long-distance relationship, they still feel strongly about each other.
  • As I said above, It did feel more cohesive with Magic Study.
  • I've commented on this in other reviews: usually Synder's villian's aren't black and white, we see why they are motivated to do what they do and they kind of make sense in a twisted way.


  • There was a complete wild goose chase in half of this book. It seemed like a lot of effort was put into getting Yelena to go off somewhere running around in Sitia, but why? I wasn't completely sure. Maybe it was the villians' diabolical plan, muhahahaha? but still rather… well, it's strange and I'm confused about it.
  • I didn't buy into the parts of the book where everyone was angry at Yelena. The reasons were silly, and then I just saw that everyone is annoyed at her, but I didn't see her as being particularly worthy of all the snits everyone was in. The only argument I bought was the one with Valek. And when these issues got resolved it was really quickly without much discussion.
  • So many villians. Making things too complicated – as in I"'m not sure I believe that there could be so many villians all up in here! Why, another one! Where'd you come from!".  I think because of this, the villians started becoming more caricature-ish than in past books.

Overall: worth reading to finish the series. I'd say a decent read and nice to see how the people in Poison Study turned out. However Poison Study remains my favorite book in the series by far. Loved that book when I first read it, probably should reread it.

Did you know there is a Study livejournal community? I did not until today.

Also cool thing – Maria Snyder has short stories online to read:  Assassin Study (starring Valek), and Power Study (with Janco and Ari).

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I got this in the inbox this afternoon – Lilith Saintcrow is putting up a serialized book for free online. For now the prologue and the first chapter are available. New chapters will be posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

"Selene" is the story of Selene and Nicholai, which continues the short story "Brother's Keeper" which was in the Hotter than Hell anthology I just read. The review for that one is here – vox | livejournal. These are characters that show up briefly in the Dante Valentine series. Here is the teaser from the website:


"Life isn’t easy for a sexwitch. Even your own body betrays you. It’s bad enough that Selene is part slave to Nikolai, the Prime Power of Saint City, but she’s got her brother Danny and she’s got her job at the college. In the postwar wreckage of an uncertain world, it’s pretty much all she’s ever allowed herself to want.

Then Danny ends up murdered, and Selene finds herself a pawn in a dangerous game. Indentured to a bloodsucking Nichtvren and helpless, told to stop trying to uncover the identity of her brother’s killer, Selene has nowhere to turn. If she’s a good girl, Nikolai will leave her a little bit of freedom. He’ll take care of her, and she’ll be safe–if she obeys.

But Selene hasn’t survived this long by being obedient to her cursed powers, or to the men who buy her time. Her brother was all she had, and now she’s ready to borrow, beg, lie, steal or kill–whatever it takes to avenge him.

And if Nikolai gets in the way, Selene will use every tool in her arsenal to make him regret it…"


And here is something cool from Shelfari. I also found out about this through an email this afternoon. Lori Handeland is an author I've read before (my reviews here – vox | livejournal), and through Shelfari, they are offering 1000 (yup, one thousand!!) Advanced Reader Copies of her new book Any Given Doomsday.

Looks interesting. The email says: The book follows “Elizabeth Phoenix, a former cop with extraordinary psychic powers, who is hot on the trail of a ruthless murderer — and her life is about to change forever.”

Here is where to go to sign up for the free book.

And here is the link to sign up for a free copy of "In the Beginning" , a prequel to the Phoenix Chronicles.


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