Third Grave Dead Ahead (Charley Davidson #3) - Darynda Jones 3.5 stars

The thing about book series that I always have to remind myself about is this: Given enough time, all of the characters will eventually lose their bananas. Third Grave Dead Ahead, incidentally, has very high levels of potassium. VERY high. On the bright side, Charley manages to both hold onto her bananas and gain a ton of insight. It's about time.

SUMMARY:
Third Grave Dead Ahead picks up a couple weeks after the last book left off. Reyes is still throwing a temper tantrum because Charley bound him to his corporeal form. The only time he can become incorporeal is when Charley summons him, which she somehow manages to do every time she falls asleep, at which point they can't help but have lots of hot dream / ghost sex. So instead of -oh, I don't know - talking when she summons him and figuring out a way to take a nap, neither of them get any sleep. So this entire book centers around a sleep-deprived grim reaper solving mysteries and putting herself in a crapload of danger. When Reyes breaks out of prison to find his maybe-not-so-dead dad (not Satan but the psychopath who kidnapped him as a baby), Charley has to juggle his issues along with her new case searching for a missing wife. Aided by the always dependable Cookie, Uncle Bob, her unwelcome tail Garrett Swopes, and copious amounts of coffee, Charley has a massive amount of shenanigans on her plate in this installment. Who will make it out alive?

Here be spoilers! Do not keep reading if you don't want to be spoiled!

THE GOOD:
Charley Finally Grows a Pair
I was starting to worry about our heroine at the start of this book. She lets Reyes get away with just about anything. He bullies her for binding him but never actually tells her why it's so important to unbind him. Hey, Reyes! It's called talking. Try it sometime. He holds her at knifepoint, carjacks her, and knocks her out in a seedy hotel room to perform his master plan of hunting down Earl Walker. At no point does he explain what's up or offer an encouraging word or sentiment. And Charley, a decent human being for the most part, helps him with nary a fight. And he still doesn't trust her.

So finally, at the very end of the book, Charley realizes that she's been used and mistrusted and put in grave danger by the man she loves. Instead of letting him off easy, Charley shuts him out the same way he did in the last book and starts to assert her own power. It was a long time coming and had to be done, even if Reyes is the smexiest thing since smexy became a thing. And speaking of Mr. Smexy Son of Satan ...


GIFSoup

I always picture Reyes as Henry Cavill even if the hair isn't right.

Reyes Eats Some Humble Pie
Well, it's about freaking time, you naughty man! It takes Charley getting filleted by his evil not-a-father for Reyes to understand that maybe talking to the woman he supposedly loves would be a nice move. Fortunately, Charley isn't me and doesn't instantly forgive him the way I wanted to forgive him. More importantly, Reyes pushes Charley to recognize her own power. He knows how to push her buttons and finally uses them for good instead of manipulation. Reyes can only get better from here. I hope his punishment is long and smexy.

The Supporting Characters
Cookie's the best. I love how Jones gave Charley a best friend who's smart and helpful. Charley would be seriously lost with Cookie. Their open friendship is very refreshing. Charley doesn't keep any secrets from Cookie, allowing Cookie to be a source of stability in her crazy life. Uncle Bob made me smile as usual. He's a better father figure to Charley than her own father. Also: Garrett freaking Swopes. OMG, I love him. The way he calls Charley Charles, the way he always shows up at the right (or wrong) time, his stupid list of things you shouldn't say to a grim reaper.

THE BAD:
I'll put this in list form to save space.
- Charley's inability to take anything seriously. Yes, I understand that she's quirky and sleep-deprived, but this book deals with some serious issues. Sometimes jokes can be really tacky, and Charley doesn't seem to understand that.
- Charley's reluctance to embrace her supernatural responsibilities. When Reyes tells her she has to knock it off with the human stuff, he kind of has a point. Some bad stuff is after Charley, and she spends a great amount of time avoiding it. I think she might want to figure out her powers sooner rather than later. Denial does not suit a grim reaper, especially when it will put the good people in her life in danger.
- The random addition of Donovan as a shallow love interest. Um, yeah. Even Garrett thinks it's weird. Plus, Charley and Reyes have enough issues without playing the jealousy game. I like Donovan and his men, though. I just don't think it's fair of Charley to toy with Donovan because she's mad.
- Mistress Marigold was a bit of a letdown. All she really does is inform Charley that she'll get a guardian. The nun has to have more insight than that. I need some answers, and so does Charley.

THE UGLY:
- Charley's dad is so totally dead to me. Whether he wants to protect her or not, what he does is unforgivable. Now he's as horrid as Charley's wicked step-mother.
- A dog?!?! Of all the things that could have been Charley's guardian, we get stuck with a dog? I have nothing against dogs, but still.
- The only upside to Garrett's untimely demise was that I thought he'd become Charley's guardian. But no. Instead, he chats her up for a while and then comes back to life? I do not understand these things that confuse me.
- The jokes get really annoying in this one. I was annoyed during the last book, but my tolerance seems to be dwindling. Don't get me wrong, I like to laugh, but it has to be about something funny.

Despite the flaws in Third Grave, I'm still excited to read the next installment. I'm already suffering from Reyes withdrawal. The bastard has a cruel grip on my fragile resistance to him. Also, it's high time Charley embraces her inner badass to show us what she can do.