Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review and Give-away for Restless in the Grave by Dana Stabenow

Review and Give-away! Happy Valentine's Day! I know, it might seem sort of weird to have a give-away for a murder mystery on Valentine's Day, but I am in LOVE with Liam Campbell. I am also in love with Dana Stabenow's newest book, Restless in the Grave. So actually, this is the perfect give-away from Penelope! Just leave a comment after the review, and you'll be entered. Give-away is open for a week, and the winner can choose either ebook or print book!

And away we go......

Review for Restless in the Grave by Dana Stabenow

First up, let me just say that Stabenow must be sweating bullets. Folks have been chomping at the bit for this book for a long, long time. Which means expectations are up. Which means, as an author, that you're worried about not living up to those expectations. As we all know, readers are a tough bunch. This book takes two of her larger-than-life characters, Alaskan state trooper Liam (from the Liam Campbell Series) and private investigator Kate (from the Kate Shugak Series) and puts them into one extraordinary book. Not only did this book meet my expectations, it surpassed them. In grand fashion. This book has the perfect balance of setting, characters, suspense, wit, gravity, and I-didn't-see-that-one-coming surprises. Plural. Because Stabenow heaps on the surprises at the end of this tale. Some are tragic, if not inevitable. And some are intriguing. And some catapult Kate into 007, Ms. Bad-Ass Heroine territory.

I love cozy mysteries...they're quick, light, and easy to digest. Some romantic suspense and straight up mysteries are too disturbing for me to read. And often, I find that the authors focus too much on the storyline, and not enough on the characters. The characters make the book. Period. No matter how clever the mystery is, if the characters don't have enough meat on their bones, the book is flat.

Stabenow's books are pure magic. Not only are her storylines clever, complex and chock full of cool tidbits (ranging from the Alaskan fishing industry, historical and cultural details, background about flying and airplanes, etc), but she makes the Alaskan setting come to life. And she should. She lives there. Everything about it is crystal clear....the funky people, the difficult economy, the brutal weather, the spectacular wildlife. Stabenow is in love with Alaska, and every word of her stories brings this fact to life. But the best part of her books, for me, showcases her talent with inventing real, gritty, complex characters. Kate is a ballsy bad-ass, but she is still a conflicted woman struggling with day-to-day problems. Liam is the most swoon-ilicious Alaskan state trooper ever....hot, hunky, sexy, loyal to his family. But also finely nuanced with many shades of gray. Stabenow is a master at creating real characters. And this is what propels her books to the top o' the mystery heap for me.

I was curious about how successful she would be mixing Kate and Liam together into one book. Would I be satisfied? Honestly, I could read 4,000 books about Liam and it wouldn't be enough, but I thought she did a pretty damned good job incorporating both Kate and Liam into this story. I would have liked a bit more Liam, of course....it's been too long since we had a Liam story, and I was ravenous. But, this was enough to satisfy my appetite. And watching Moses bully Kate into her yoga poses was brilliant. Seeing a character from Liam's world butt his way into Kate's world was spine-tingling cool. Even as Stabenow put this book on a path toward tragedy.

The ending of this book is the best ending I've read, probably ever. When I thought the book was over, she added on one more surprise. Then, another. Then, another. One was shocking and tragic. One was paranormal and intriguing. And one had the promise for a future romance. Honest to God, I couldn't stop smiling after I finished this book.

My expectations were high. And Restless in the Grave blew them right out of the water. Out of the frigid, icy Alaskan waters.

Grade: A

Planning my trip to Alaska and hoping to meet some beardy state troopers,

Don't forget to leave a comment and enter the give-away! Happy Valentine's Day, chickies! :^)

ETA: Don't forget to include a link or email address if you want to enter the contest!