Monday, November 15, 2010

Review: Dead, Undead, or Somewhere in Between

J.A. Saare
Urban Fantasy
244 pages
Eternal Press
Available Now

Rhiannon Murphy is a necromancer, disturbed on a daily basis by ghosts still bearing the gruesome markings of their violent deaths when they occasionally pop into her line of vision as she goes about her daily routine. Aside from her unique ability, her life is pretty simple. Her job as a bartender isn't much, but she's in control of it and every other aspect of her existence. She'll never let someone else be in control again.

Unfortunately, her life doesn't seem to want to remain simple, and she is doggedly hounded at work by Disco, a vampire who seeks her assistance. Several of his brethren have gone missing in the span of a few weeks and it seems Rhiannon's necromancy is even more rare than she imagined: she not only sees the dead, but the twice-dead as well, able to contact vampires that have died the permanent death.

Though reluctant to clutter her life with complicated entanglements, she agrees to help Disco figure out what's happened to members of his vampire family, teaming up with a fellow necromancer to combine their gifts and find an undead murderer. As if hunting down a serial killer isn't enough of a distraction, Rhiannon also finds herself uncomfortably attracted to Disco, his subtle charm wreaking havoc on her defenses and chipping away at the death grip she maintains on her sense of control. Control is vital to Rhiannon, and as much as she fears that which is destroying the vampires, she finds Disco may perhaps be both a bigger threat than the killer and also a chance at a happiness that has evaded her her entire life.

Dead, Undead, or Somewhere in Between is a delicious surprise full of multifaceted characters who refuse to be anything less than their true selves, and a story pulsing with action but not so complex as to be difficult to follow. Reading this story is like attending opening night at a performance that has garnered positive reviews, but yet we don't entirely know what to expect until the curtain rises, or in this case the first page is turned, and we find ourselves pleasantly shocked and absolutely engrossed by the richness of the experience. While the vampirism and necromancy are nothing groundbreaking, we are granted access to characters who are damaged but mending admirably, with histories that would render lesser people useless, their minds shattered and broken by an unfathomable cruelty. We are instantly involved and irrevocably bound to the protagonists from the start, a relationship forming in the blink of an eye and deepening with every turn of the page.

Rhiannon is blunt, crude, and has the mouth of the most well-versed of sailors, and though her language and demeanor might be off-putting to those around her (as intended at times), we have little choice but to find her refreshing, coming to appreciate her no-nonsense attitude and tough-girl exterior. Her foul language and thick skin protect her from those who might try to breach her defenses and exert any sort of control over her, whether physical or emotional. She has a brutal past, one all the more disturbing due to her refusal to speak or think of it, allowing our own minds to fill in the gaps with images more, or perhaps less, horrifying than her truth. Though she's strong, she's not so overwhelming in her brashness as to push us away as easily as she does those around her. Little glimpses of vulnerability peek through every now and again, giving us enough of a connection to feel protective of her as we both admire her fortitude and long for one or two of her walls to crumble so Disco may take up permanent residence behind her carefully constructed facade.

Disco, for all the flamboyance of his moniker, is blissfully unassuming; a vampire that doesn't throw off testosterone in blanketing waves or seek to assert his alpha male dominance through presumption or possession, instead displaying an understated nature that is certainly no less masculine for it's reserved quality. He's not the type to be cool and calculating, merely biding his time until the object of his affection succumbs to his roguish charms, approaching Rhiannon instead with patience and control, and treating her with a reverence more effective in winning both her heart and ours than a persistent, undaunted pursuit could ever be. He doesn't want mere capitulation, he wants a trust he's earned, and he's content to maintain a comfortable distance until she's ready to give it. Their chemistry is undeniable, the quiet build up of it resulting in a more cataclysmic romantic pairing, one that burns bright enough to singe away the remnants of a nightmarish past, and hot enough to fuse together open wounds with an unmatched tenderness and mutual affection.

The story moves forward at a perfect pace, slow in parts that bear explanation and lightening-quick when the pursuit of our villain becomes vitally important. We are left with an ending that forces us to adopt a few choice words from Rhiannon's extensive vocabulary as a piece of Disco's own history makes an inopportune appearance, and I cannot wait for the next installment to see how this last-minute development will play out.

Rating: 4.5/5


  1. This one sounds great! I am glad that even though she is tough, you are still able to connect with her. That seems to be a problem for me with a lot of the new Urban Fantasy. Also, Disco sounds like fun. I am glad he isn't on a power trip - I am getting sick of that in all the males in Urban Fantasy books :)

    Great Review Jenny!
    P.S... I see that girl on the cover everywhere.. lol She is on that, she is on.. a blog somewhere, I think it is All Things Urban Fantasy and she is on Elle Jasper's website :)

  2. Great review! I skimmed through some of it cause I have yet to read this one =) Im really looking forward to it though!

  3. Great review:) This book look like fun. I have been reading a lot of urban fantasy just for kicks. This is definitely another genre I find myself slowing leaning into.

  4. I am in awe of you Jenny! This is one of the best reviews that i have ever read. You really hit the nail on the head describing this book and your feelings for it. Great job!

  5. Jenny ~

    Thank you for such a thoughtful, well written, and flooring review. I am humbled, speechless, and you've just made my week.

    The Renfield Syndrome is done. I'm editing it up and then it's off to submission. I hope to have it to you all soon. :)

  6. I've so never heard of this one, and I adore the premise! Awesome review, Jenny! I love how thought-out your reviews are :)

  7. Fab review. I adored this book. Rhiannon and Disco were the perfect match. The ending left me with a few choice words myself. lol

  8. Sarah - You're right about the girl on the cover, I never noticed that before!

    Larissa - I think you'll like it, Disco's pretty attractive:)

    Savy - I love Urban Fantasy, it gives me a nice break from YA every now and then. This would definitely be a good one to get you more addicted to the genre:)

    Bells - Thank you so much, your comment has made my day:)

    J.A. - You're very welcome, this book deserves every bit of the praise it's earned, it was fabulous.

    Melissa - Thank you! I know you're not a big vampire reader, but I think you'd like this story:)

    Tori - Thanks much, I did as well. I might have sworn aloud when I read the last page. Scared my dogs.

  9. Ooh I like the sound of this one AND it has a great title, thanks for the recommendation

  10. Hi Jen,
    Great review as always :-) I particularly like that you mentioned the characterization, which is something that doesn't always get as much props as it should ;-) This book does sound interesting, especially from the description of the kind of agonies the characters suffer, and I've added it to my growing TBR pile :-)


  11. Yay, another Rhiannon fan. Major girl crush :D

  12. Petty - You're welcome, hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

    Darkeva - Glad you've added it to your pile, I don't think you'll be disappointed:)

    Jessica - Huge fan:)

  13. I love the sounds of this. Great review :)

  14. I like the sound of the relationship between Rhiannon and Disco - I'm really getting sick of the I smell you - your mine
    Great review.

  15. I've heard a lot of great things about this one. I've had it on my TBR list for awhile, but review books keep getting in the way. I'm glad you enjoyed it though! I'm sure I'll get around to reading it eventually...

  16. this sounds like its right up my alley! great review.

  17. Jenny: WOW! I am blown away by your wonderful review. I have already read the book and your review makes me want to re-read the book NOW! You have an amazing gift for review writing. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Miss Cindy - Thank you!

    Karen - Yes, Disco was quite refreshing in his lack of instant possessiveness:)

    Natalie - I hope you like it as much as I did when you get to it!

    Faye - Thank you, hope you give it a try:)

    Jen - Thank you so much! I could definitely re-read this one as well, I don't think I'll ever tire of Disco:)

  19. Sounds very interesting. What exactly is necromancy? I've never figured it out.
    I'm not generally a fan of people who swear like sailors but I like when it fits with their character, as it sounds like it does here, rather than just being used for what seems like no point.
    And it's nice to see a relationship with a quiet buildup.

  20. Another amazingly written review. This sounds awesome. I'm putting it on my wishlist.

  21. Alison - Necromancy is the ability to summon and speak with the dead, so Rhiannon sees all sorts of ghosts:) She does have a mouth, but it didn't bother me at all, she didn't swear just to swear.

    Midnyte - Thank you! It's a fabulous read, I hope you enjoy it:)

  22. Ok, I am utterly, utterly sold on this novel. How did I not hear about this one? See, besides your fabulous reviews, your blog is a gem of undiscovered book treasures I can feast my gluttonous book eyes upon :) I love the "One bad corpse can ruin your whole day" tag line on the cover - it makes me want to read this book even more!

  23. Funny. I just heard about this book a couple of days ago when one blog posted a discussion about cliff-hangers. In the comments section, I believe this book was mentioned. Loathing cliffhangers as I do, I remember thinking I was glad I hadn't read it, but now I'm not so sure.

    Not knowing anything about the book at first, I suddenly feel a shift and my interest is definitely perked. Especially because I just finished reading a contemporary romance in which the lead female is very foul mouthed, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed her character.

    Hmmm... I'm gonna have to research to see when the next book comes out. If the wait is not too bad then maybe I could build up the courage to read this one. Regardless, I'll add it to my TBR list because books that inspire discussion are usually worth it.

  24. I read another review of this one recently, on goodreads I think, that mentioned something along the lines of bloody semen....ithat kinda turned me off. I've seen a lot of good reviews for this one but I'm on the fence.

  25. This sounds really good!

    Again, I love reading your reviews, they're really detailed, and interesting!

  26. Disco, for all the flamboyance of his moniker, is blissfully unassuming

    Love that line :)

    And LOVE this book!

  27. I didn't except to love this book as much as I did, but it was just wonderful. It's one of those ebooks that I wish I had a paper copy of.

  28. ammy - I really think you'll like Disco, and it's got a great story:)

    Missie - It has a hell of a cliffhanger, so if that type of things bother you, you might want to wait until the next book is coming out. I think maybe sometime next summer is what the author said.

    Mollie - Don't let that comment throw you, yes Disco's, um, fluids are blood, but it's only mentioned for one sentence and then never again. Definitely less bothersome than the Butch/Marissa licking away the virginity thing in BDB;)

    Alisa - Thank you!

    Mandi - Me too, I was surprised how much I loved it.

    Colette - Same here! It's harder to go back and read certain scenes on the Kindle:(