Friday, April 6, 2012

Review: How to be Death

How to be Death (Calliope Reaper-Jones - Book 4) by Amber Benson

Publication Date: February 28, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: Paperback, 292pp
ISBN-13: 978-1937007287
ISBN: 1937007286

(Received for an honest review from Ace Urban Fantasy)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound

Amber Benson on the WEB: website, blog, facebook, twitter

Books in the Series: Death's Daughter (2009), Cat's Claw (2010), Serpent's Storm (2011), How to be Death (2012)

CoverArt: Click the picture for a larger, clearer image of the covers in this series.

Excerpt from How to be Death


My name is Calliope Reaper-Jones (Callie to my friends). All I ever wanted out of life was a fabulous job in New York City and a really hot boyfriend. What I never wanted was to get involved in the family business. But here I am - the brand-new President of Death, Inc. And I am Death's Daughter, I have absolutely no idea how to run a multi-national corporation.

With the Board of Death breathing down my neck, I haven't had even a single second to crack open my dad's cop of How to be Death: A Fully Annotated Guide. But at least my first official outing as the Grim Reaper is a formal dinner - easy-peasy for this fashion guru.

Except that also attending is my ex, Daniel, with an actual Goddess as his date. Tension! And then my fully annotated guidebook is stolen. Tension plus!! Now I've got to figure out how to be the boss - and quickly, before the powers held within the book get out and destroy humanity forever...


Death's Daughter, Calliope has finally taken over the family business in the fourth book in the Calliope Reaper-Jones series, How to be Death. Author Amber Benson continues her Urban Fantasy series which portrays Grim Reaping as any other job. Fans of the series will love the sarcastic, quirky characters and irreverent humor. New readers won't feel like they've missed anything as Benson gives just enough of a recap to let the reader know where the story stands. With a combination of Urban Fantasy and mystery, this is a book that will appeal to many different kinds of readers. 

The fourth book in the Calliope Reaper-Jones series is somewhat of a departure from previous books in the series. How to be Death is a lot more mystery based than the other books. It reminded me of one of those mystery theatre dinners, where those attending become part of the mystery and have to try to figure it all out before the end of the night or before they end up dead. 

Calliope's mystery centers around her first official function as the head of Death Inc. It's a masquerade type setting, where all of death's cohorts actually become human for the duration of the dinner. Bodies quickly start dropping and it's up to Calliope to figure out what's going on. It was an interesting idea, that had a lot of potential, but didn't quite get off the ground. It was a bit too over-the-top and came across as kind of cheesy.

One of the things that kind of sticks out with this series is the fact that the heroine Calliope, is pretty much the same from the first book to the last. There isn't a lot of growth in her character even over a four book span. She is still reluctant to take on her roll as Death's Daughter, she is still dragging her feet about making important decisions and just comes across as a bit simpering and put upon. I think Benson intended to write this character that way in the beginning, but somehow didn't allow her any maturity throughout. 

The series is somewhat quirky and unexpected. There are parts of it I liked and parts that I didn't. In this latest book, How to be Death, a lot of emphasis is put on the fact that Calliope has lost the annotated guide to being Death. This guide provides pivotal information to her success as well as some very dangerous information which should not fall into the wrong hands. The ideas were there. The potential is tremendous with this kind of plot, but it just didn't go anywhere. I like Benson's style. It's kind of irreverent and snarky, but it wasn't enough to carry the other problems with the book. 

I am not going to say that I wouldn't recommend it. Because I still would recommend it to certain readers. Especially those who have followed the series from the beginning and want to see where their favorite characters are going. I think of this book as more of a transition book. If the author continues to follow the mystery route, I can see the series improving dramatically, but there has to be some reason to continue following the heroine, some growth in her character would go a long way toward making this an overall good series. 

I want readers to be aware of the good and bad points of the books they are considering reading. The potential is there with Benson's series and with her characters. Take it with a grain of salt. It might be just what you are looking for. I liked the idea of mixing Urban Fantasy with mystery. I liked some of the characters and I like the direction the series is going. I plan to read the next book in the series and see how things progress from there. There may be room to improve, but it's definitely worth your time to read.

How to be Death is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 3 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

Amber Benson cocreated, cowrote, and directed the animated supernatural Web series Ghosts of Albion with Christopher Golden, which they followed with a series of novels, including Witchery and Accursed, and the novella Astray. Benson and Golden also coauthored the novella The Seven Whistlers. As an actress, she has appeared in dozens of roles in feature films, TV movies, and television series, including fan-favorite role of Tara Maclay on three seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Benson wrote, produced, and directed the feature films Chance and Lovers, Liars, and Lunatics. 

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