Book Review · General · reading

Book Review: Unbound Darkness by Keri Arthur

From Keri Arthur’s website:

Risa Jones is as extraordinary as her heritage. Born from a lab-enhanced clone mother and an Aedh father, she can not only talk to the souls of the dying and the dead, but she can see the reapers and walk the gray fields that divide this world from the next.

They are skill she rarely uses, however, preferring to concentrate on the business she shares with her two best friends. But when her mother asks her to help the parents of a little girl locked in a coma, she reluctantly agrees. What she discovers scares the hell out of her. Because the little girl’s soul no longer resides in her body, and it wasn’t death and the reapers that took her.

Someone had ripped her soul from her flesh.

As it turns out, a creature consuming the souls of the innocent–and not so innocent–is the least of her problems.

Because someone wants to rip open the gates that divided hell from earth, and Risa is a key component in their plans.

And the only person standing between her and disaster is a reaper who isn’t exactly on her side.

I loved Unbound Darkness! It’s clear and fast-moving.

The plot is complex, but the author presents everything so clearly, you over look that. But truthfully, only 2 of maybe 4 or 5 plot points get resolved by the end – the whole ripping soul the summary above talks about.

The summary also talks about ripping open the gates of hell. I expect the series plot arc will come from this. Unbound Darkness introduces the idea – and that’s all this book does. It’s complex and involves a lot of players. Half of them have been hinted at, but not introduced yet. I don’t even know who the villain is yet, if you can believe that. I suspect the author left out so much because it would be too much for a single book. I foresee quite a lot of books in this series. 😀

I expect (I hope!) it will be related to the smaller single-book-size plot of someone stealing souls. Maybe. I want it to, but this minor villain might not related to the bigger series plot.

I remember Risa as a little girl from the Riley Jenson stories. But in this book there is no doubt Risa is all grown up.  Even though she can’t change into a wolf, she’s still a half-wolf and perfectly comfortable in the wolf clubs. That’s not surprising. But I think I expected her to go grow up and be a psychic for a living, just like her mother. Instead she owns a restaurant. Go figure.

But the most surprising – the most astonishing part! – is that Risa makes a deal with the devil herself: Madeline Hunter, leader of the vampire council.

I don’t think she had to make that deal. Personally, I hope Madeline Hunter ends up dead by the end of this series.

fantasy · flash friday · Short Story

Friday Flash: Loose Characters

This piece was inspired from Character Dheela. Translated, that means Loose Character. The video is at the bottom, plus one other with English subtitles and a link to a site that translated the lyrics into English. It’s one of this year’s item numbers.

I am not quite happy with this flash, but I can’t figure out what’s wrong with it. Something’s missing.  I wish I knew what.

I eyed the peepal tree in my sister’s yard. It was all gnarled trunk and large, spreading branches.  Its big leathery-green leaves waved gently in the non-existent wind. How many ghosts had sister captured?

“Sheela,” said Raja, my brother-in-law. He rose from the dining table and hugged me. Slender shoulders, black eyes gentler than sister deserved, he looked frail. Poor man. She wouldn’t take his soul for years yet, but she would take everything else. “So glad you could come. Munni says you’re volunteering at the orphanage.”

Oh, she had, had she? “Once a week.” It was a good way to find souls to add to my own peepal tree. I had to finish mine before she managed to summon a demon. “Let me see if I can help sister in the kitchen.”

Sister’s kitchen was a modern affair, stainless steel appliances and marble counters. She was beautiful in a tightly fitted pink salwar suit. Its neckline was low enough to bare half of her upper back. But she used her looks to lure the men whose souls she tied to her tree.

When she turned around, large cold eyes dominated her face. “Sheela. You’re a pediatrician; you make enough to afford a decent tailor.”

I shrugged. My store-bought salwar was loose, but comfortable. “I like it, sister. What can I do to help?”

“Carry the food outside. It’s cool enough we can eat in the garden. ”

It was 33 degrees outside. She just wanted to show off her peepal. I smiled sweetly and agreed.

The trunk of the peepal tree was shadowed, more than the setting sun could explain.

The table was set under the branches. I put down the rose-tinted glass tray. No bugs. How had she gotten rid of them? The things paid no attention to magic.

I studied the canopy of leaves overhead. For all their pretty color, there were a lot of brown sets. No, not brown spots. Faces. So many malicious, male faces.

Only one was clear:  scruffy beard, slanted eyes, iron-shaped scar on his left check. Sometimes he came to the orphanage. He was on the news this morning; the police found his chopped up body in a mall garbage can. He dealt in girls.

Choosing souls of criminals was a mistake. They were harder to control. Even if the tree loved them, they didn’t offer much nourishment to demons.

I shivered and wondered if I dared inspect the trunk closely. If she had almost enough souls to get a demon . . . But I only needed two more myself.

“Are you getting sick, Sheela?” Raja came outside, carrying a tray of rice.

The tree shivered and I thought I saw the thin upper branches reaching toward him.

“Sometimes this wind makes me ill. Just look at how this wind makes the branches move,” he added.

This breeze wasn’t enough to stir a single hair. I needed to move faster.

The orphanage was quiet. I moved directly to the room with the sick girls. Ten year old Mala had sores all over her body and a broken arm, too. Poor thing. I lifted her and she stirred, blinking open large doe eyes.

“I am taking you somewhere where you can get well. Go back to sleep.”

My home was only a kilometer from sister’s. I got it because sister was already married. Papa lived only until sister had no use for him. Just one of the things she hadn’t paid for yet.

My yard was bigger than sister’s. Papa’s wicker furniture looked good under the tree limbs and the tall stone wall around the property was in excellent shape.

Even though Papa had planted the peepal tree years ago, it was smaller and denser than sisters’. But a child’s soul had more power than an adult one. I didn’t need as many souls as sister.

I set the girl down under the tree.

“Sheela Auntie?” she said. “Mummy always said to keep away from the peepal tree at night.”

“Mummy was wrong.” I picked up the box of sweets I’d left on the table and gave it to her. “Munch on this.”

The girl fell asleep in moments. I took the box from her sticky fingers and got my keys for the door.

But as I slipped the key into the lock, the door jerked open and sister stood in front of me. She was dressed for the night in tight jeans and a low-cut, embroidered top.

How had she gotten inside? Even as I thought the question, I knew it didn’t matter. She’d probably made a copy of the key sometime.

She looked past me to the girl beneath my peepal tree. “A girl, Sheela? A hurt child? I never imagined you could be so shameless. Raja!”

Poor Raja appeared at sister’s elbow. “What’s wrong, Munni?”

“Bring her inside.” Sister pointed at the girl sleeping under the peepal tree.

“Sister, you can’t -”

She whirled on me. “Pimps, rapists and murderers are perfect for this, Sheela, they don’t deserve to live. But children – shameless bitch, you’re responsible for their health! Just like papa. He must be so proud of you.”

Raja brushed past me carrying the girl.

I ground my teeth. There was no difference between us; she had no room to cast stones.

Furious, I stormed to my room. Papa would be proud of me!

Joy bubbled in my blood, just like before every ceremony. I would have the girl and sister, too.

I grabbed the big knife from my tool box, found sister bending over the girl in the living room and slashed at her throat.

Pain exploded in my chest. The knife dropped from my nerveless fingers, inches from sister’s neck. I looked down to see my meat knife protruding from my breast.

“I am sorry, Sheela, but you need to stop.”

Raj gathered me in his arms. His eyes were still gentle, still calm.

I misjudged him.

“We’ll give her to the tree and then burn it down.”

Sister’s voice was distant, as if she was far away.

With english subtitles:

Text of the song here.

fantasy · Writing

Made of Awesome Contest

Shelley Watters is hosting a Made of Awesome Contest where people post title, genre, word count and the first 250 words or complete first page on their blog for a review and maybe, just maybe, get read by an agent.

So here it goes.

Title: My Ancestors, My Blood. (Sadly, this is only a working title)

Genre: Urban Fantasy. ghosts, witches, wizards, mages.

Word Count: 70,500 (Yes, I have not updated my novel in progress counter in the sidebar. I very bad.)

My first page (yes, the whole first page, not just the first 250 words. But they are bolded.) Got two versions of this now. Silly me.

The wind was icy and a gust blew the exhaust of a passing bus into my mouth. I coughed into my hand. We probably wouldn’t net many people in the raid; eleven pm on a bitterly cold Monday night wasn’t the time to catch many people. But I’d gotten enough evidence to raid Carmine Stars only yesterday. It had taken all day to put together and organize the team.

The Lieutenant herself insisted on taking control. She couldn’t leave me behind because she wasn’t a Shadow Scout, and everything inter-race required the presence of a Shadow Scout. The new rules required more for leecher raids. A Shadow Scout needed to get solid evidence leecher activity was going on at least an hour before the raid took place.

It was stupid. If I had my way, I would shove all the leechers down a deep hole where –

I cut off that line of thought. This was my first real job in months. If I was going to finish it right, my head needed to be in the right place. I fingered the little mirror shard in my pocket before stepping forward.

The club’s outside was plain plaster and dark windows. Carmine Stars was outlined in orange neon above the front door. A pair of stylized dancers and the words “A Magical Night” decorated the windows. The music pouring from the open doors pulsed through my bones, and if I was here for any other reason, I would have been tempted to dance.

I paid the cover charge and went in. The doorman was a witch; I could tell from his green aura. It hovered above his dark hair like a green halo. Not a particularly strong one, either, because the green wasn’t dark enough for strength. Most male witches weren’t strong. But I allowed him to tie a thin green ribbon around my wrist as proof of payment. “Keep it on,” he told me. “You will regret it if you don’t.”

No doubt. The ribbon was warm against my skin and soft as a flower petal. The charm had probably started out as a plant. It glowed against my skin, a green ribbon of light, obvious to anyone with a smidgen of magic. A symbol that I was a normal human being, just in case anyone failed to recognize that I didn’t leak magic. Just as well. Considering the effort I had put into my shields and glamour, it would be humiliating if anyone saw through them.

Or this other version. Sadly, I realized this was mostly telling about ten minutes after I posted. Decided to go with it, but is this a better first 250 (265 really!) words?

I paid the cover charge. The doorman’s aura hovered above his dark hair like a green halo. The green wasn’t dark enough for strength, but male witches weren’t strong. I allowed him to tie a thin green ribbon around my wrist as proof of payment. “Keep it on,” he told me. “You will regret it if you don’t.”

The ribbon was warm and soft as a flower petal. The charm had probably started out as a plant. It glowed against my skin, obvious to anyone with a smidgen of magic. A symbol that I was a normal human being, just in case anyone failed to recognize I didn’t leak magic. Just as well. Considering the effort I had put into my glamour, it would be humiliating if anyone saw through it.

It was dim inside. I spotted Mags at the bar, giving his lady a drink.

No female witches to supervise. Not for the first time, I wondered where Mags found so many males witches willing to work outside the coven. Odd.

“What’ll you have?” the bartender asked. His aura was strong for a male witch, a speckled forest-green. It waved back and forth over his head like a demented bird. Typical leecher aura, but not proof anyone would accept.

“Surprise me.”

He drew me a cold mug of beer. Green pinpricks of a leeching spell lay across the top like sprinkles on ice cream. Not enough to affect me, but enough to affect someone with very weak magic.

All the proof I needed to call in a raid.

Go crazy people! Tell me what you think. Don’t worry, I got a thick skin.

reading · Teaser Tuesdays

Readerly Teaser Tuesday: Managing Death

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
  • I think this the first time I’ve had only two sentences, the meme says. Usually I have three. It’s from the page I was reading last night.

    In a little over a week the Orcus, the thirteen Regional Managers that make up Mortmax Industries, will be meeting in Brisbane for the biannual Death Moot. With just two months on the job, I’m expected to organize what my predecessor Mr. D once described as a meeting of the most bloodthirsty, devious and backstabbing bunch of bastards on the planet.

    – Managing Death (Death Works 02) by Trent Jamieson

Book Review

Book Review: Grave Witch by Kalayna Price

Grave Witch was good enough to pull me out of the doldrums.  I wanted to read something, but nothing appealed. I tried rereading, but nothing appealed there either, not even the stories that usually manage to pull me out of any reading slump. The synopsis was part of what did it for me:

Grave witch Alex Craft can speak to the dead, but that doesn’t mean she likes what they have to say . . .

As a private investigator and consultant for the police, Alex Craft has seen a lot of dark magic. But even though she’s on good terms with Death himself—who happens to look fantastic in a pair of jeans—nothing has prepared her for her latest case. Alex is investigating a high profile murder when she’s attacked by the ‘shade’ she’s raising, which should be impossible. To top off her day, someone makes a serious attempt on her life, but Death saves her. Guess he likes having her around . . .

To solve this case Alex will have to team up with tough homicide detective Falin Andrews. Falin seems to be hiding something—though it’s certainly not his dislike of Alex—but Alex knows she needs his help to navigate the tangled webs of mortal and paranormal politics, and to track down a killer wielding a magic so malevolent, it may cost Alex her life . . . and her soul.

But mostly, the story itself drew me in. The first chapter is here. The first paragraph pulls you in and makes you want more. Before you know it, you have the book (yah for kindle instant downloads!!!!), it is two in the morning – and you wish you could stay up another hour to finish.

The action is fast and non-stop. Like many other urban fantasies, Alex Craft has a couple of suitors, but neither one makes a move until later in the book. One of them barely makes a move at all. The author will probably string that out for a while (hopefully not too long!).

It is hard to pinpoint just why I like Grave Witch so much. I liked her magic – the way she can feel the dead and how her night sight is almost gone because of it. I liked Alex Craft, too, with her attitude. Also, her money and family troubles. I liked how death has a physical manifestation. I really, really liked that. It reminded me of Dead Like Me (which show ended too soon!!). In the end, I liked pretty much everything, the way the characters and mystery come together. It was refreshing somehow.