Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

ink and boneThe Hollows seems to be a place where the supernatural and inexplicable collide. Eloise appears to be the anchor in this place. A way to keep the balance.

This case is Finley’s initiation in a way. It is time for her step up and also time for her grandmother to step down.

Finley’s talent or gift manifests itself in a variety of ways. Sometimes she can hear sounds, other times she can see images and now she even finds herself inhabiting the bodies of other people. Her gift is developing and growing stronger. The more Eloise lets go, the deeper Finley gets drawn in.

She is asked to look into the disappearance of a little girl.The parents are at loggerheads, because one wants to resign himself to the fact she has gone and the other believes she is still alive. The father has his own motivation for moving on, and plenty of pent up guilt, because he wasn’t able to help his child.

Unger describes the desperation of the mother very well. The need for closure, the need to know what happened, regardless of whether her child is alive or not. Not knowing is often worse than knowing.

Unger has a created an Urban Fantasy setting with a sliver of light horror flowing through it. It has the potential to be a compelling series. If that’s the case we might get to see Finley learn to control her gift a little better.

Buy Ink and Bone at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

hexIt starts off fairly innocently, funny even. The town seems to treat their very own personal witch a bit like the oddball auntie you want to hide when the new in-laws in spe come to visit.

Then Heuvelt slowly takes the atmosphere from funny to peculiar and then it starts to get creepy. From that point onwards everything is just downhill from a ‘I was expecting a more pleasant experience’ perspective.

The horror aspect takes over in such an insidious way that it seems to slither from the pages into your fingers. I felt like having a shower afterwards to wash off the scent and the touch of the witch.

For me it was the whispering, I swear it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Then on top of that the imagery of the sewn up eyes and mouth. Yeh, that’s one way to keep people awake at night.

I liked the parallels between the hysteria of the witch trials and the reactions of the modern day townspeople. All in the name of the Good Lord and everything goes to hell in handbasket in a matter of days. Educated, sensible and lenient people turn into scavengers braying for blood.

They want their fair share of the supposed justice. Forget about the fact none of them are living in medieval times, and they seem to have become a small country unto themselves. Governed by myths, hearsay, fear and a council full of backwards thinking individuals.

At the very beginning the Delarosa’s make a valid point. The cursed town could try a little harder to keep new people out. Nobody wants to be stuck in the same place forever, subject to the whims of an ancient witch and always on the cusp of death.

Hex seems like your standard horror/supernatural, but Heuvelt doesn’t believe in standard or in happy endings for that matter.

Buy Hex at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

It’s a Wonderful Death by Sarah J. Schmitt

its a wonderfulPoor RJ is in the wrong place at the wrong time and ends up in the middle of a Grim Reaper and gypsy, who isn’t ready to depart from this world. Oops you’re dead.

Instead of being shocked, dismayed or upset RJ is angry and indignant. How dare the Reaper make a mistake and interrupt her busy teenage schedule.

She insists on being sent back pronto.

Essentially this story is about having the chance to rectify mistakes, to take the right path instead of the wrong one and being given a second chance.

Each interaction we have with another human being moves a cog in life. Depending on which direction it moves it sets different things in motion. So it goes without saying that changing one movement or direction in one cog can change a life.

The powers that be, and there are quite a few in the Heaven/Hell/In-between station, finally decide RJ at least deserves a try at being a better person. So she gets placed back into certain situations in the hope that she will make better choices for herself and for her fellow human beings.

Schmitt lays at lot of emphasis on bullying, peer pressure and taking responsibility for your actions. The underlying message being; how each of us and our decisions can impact others.

If our interactions with others are negative then perhaps we are leaving a trail of destruction behind us. Instead of ignoring the bullied kid in the corner maybe you should talk to them. If being with the popular kids means you have to be mean to others then maybe you need to find new friends. Do you ignore it when others are being picked on? Stand up and speak out.

A strong message to young people, but wrapped within a story, which is both witty and serious at the same time.

Thank you to Edelweiss for my copy of It’s a Wonderful Death.
Buy It’s a Wonderful Death at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Ghost House by Helen Phifer

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Annie is inextricably linked to the manor house. It is as if Alice is reaching out from beyond the grave to connect with Annie.Trying to warn her from the death threatening to surround her. Warning her of the evil spirit that still wants to feel the joy of death by his hands or in this case death via surrogate.

Annie has to deal with the recent assault she had to endure at the hands of her own husband. This makes her vulnerable, frightened and perhaps more susceptible to believing in paranormal activities.

She quickly gets swept up in the horrors of the past and now the recent disappearances of young girls, who have fallen prey to a monster.

I have to admit I wasn’t enthralled by the writing style or the story. The male characters suffer from sexist attitudes and the women are portrayed as helpless individuals.

There are holes in the plot and the main character makes completely nonsensical decisions, which don’t ring true when you consider the fact she is supposed to be an experienced police officer.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of Harlequin UK and Harlequin CARINA.

Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman

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Two worlds exist simultaneously, mirror images with one difference. The world inhabited by mere mortals is called the Mundane and the second, the Nether, is occupied by the Fae. The Nether is much like stepping into Victorian England. It is a world full of antiquated views and backward thinking. The women are deemed to be second class citizens with no voice and are expected to obey and never question male authority.
No wonder that one of them decided to slip through the tight restrictive net of her family and her society, to try to build a new life in the Mundane. A life she is allowed to control. Where she say what she wants, do whatever she pleases and live in the manner that she wishes.
Unfortunately the Fae do not allow for flighty freedom seeking Fae, especially female ones, and she is captured by one of the head honchos. He has a connection and interest in her that is not only creepy but also dangerous.
The other storyline, which connects to Cathy and her family a little later in the book, is about Max. Max is an Arbiter for the Fae in the Mundane. A combination of police/enforcer of the Fae in the human world. What they do exactly isn’t entirely clear and could do with a little more depth. The two stories merge but not very well and it often seems as if two different books are being presented.
Towards the end of the story Cathy discovers something about the hierarchy of the Fae and how the servants come to be in that position. I think that sub-plot is fodder for the next book.
Overall the idea is a good one, especially in regards to the abuse and oppression of females in the Fae community. I think given more depth and attention to plot purely from the perspective of the potential reader this could be a nifty little series.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier

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Neumeier has pack behaviour down to a fine art, which is something other Urban Fantasy authors often get wrong or don’t think they have to adhere to in a story. Personally I think getting the strict rules of behaviour, dominance, submission, gender and status in the supernatural world of pack animals just right is imperative to the story, especially a good one.
There was one thing about the story that really bugged me though. I am not sure why Neumeier chose to change this into YA book and indeed it doesn’t matter because it is a good one that would have survived both YA and adult market. I assume that in making it into a YA story the ages of certain characters were possibly changed so younger readers would be more likely to relate to them.
So here is my issue, Nativida is a 15yr old girl and one of the major sub-plots is her being made available or becoming of mateable age at 16. At that time she becomes a free for all for the males around her. I found that hard to digest. Even if the age of consent is 16 I am not sure I would want my child thinking at 15 that she counts as female mature enough to be matched with a marital partner at the age of 16. Under 18 they are still children, even if they don’t look like it. Now you can say the boundaries of fantasy allow for this bending of rules when it comes to pack law, which she isn’t because she is a so-called Pure, but I think it is more about the message that is being sent out to readers. It would have been the same solid story if Natividad had been 17 going on 18.
Aside from that tiny issue this was a fantastic fast paced plot driven story with solid characters and the potential for further books. The black dog angle in relation to myths created by vampires was an interesting venture.
The romantic interludes were minimal and that made the anticipation of possible later interactions to come much more enticing.
I will be looking forward to the next in the series.
I received a copy of this book via Netgalley.

Called (Southern Watch 1) by Robert J. Crane

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Might want to think twice about summoning a demon in a field full of cows…just sayin’…

This is something completely different for Crane.
A walk on the darker, more gruesome border of the worlds of Urban Fantasy.
I am not sure how I feel about this one. It lacked the distinctive style and Craneness I have come to enjoy about his books and yet it had a certain je ne sais quoi.
We have a trio of main characters, Hollywood the gentleman demon with the morals of an alley cat, Hendricks the nonchalant demon-hunter and Arch the cop with a conscience. Three strong men who couldn’t be more different and yet each one interwoven into the hidden world of the supernatural.
The story seemed to overwhelm the characters though, which meant they left less of an overall imprint than they could and should have done.
The sense of evil is ripe and the feeling that worse is yet to come lingers like a overpowering sense of foreboding throughout the tale. Simultaneously Crane has managed to stamp his own special brand of wit on the story. The end-product is a mad mix of limb-chomping (literally) horror, quirky humour meets Urban Fantasy.
One thing I have to mention is the accent and general feeling of the setting. I swear whilst I read it I could hear a southern drawl throughout.
This book is part of Sinners & Sorcerers a box-set of four Urban Fantasy stories.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author.

Flaming Dove by Daniel Arenson

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If all the Fallen Angels are brothers then doesn’t that make the daughters and sons of said angels relatives of all the other angels. So technically that makes Beelzebub an uncle to the half-sisters Bet-al and Laila. That makes all the seducing of very young girls just ever so slightly incestuous and Beelzebub a little less of a charming seducer.
The concept was quite interesting but the story suffered a little from repetitive phrases and the superb battle between the evil and good forces was overshadowed by the romantic overtures of the overeager Lord of Hell.
With Beelzebub being such a lech with a penchant for young virgins it might be easy to overlook another dilemma I found intriguing.
There is a grey area in between the evil demons and the good angels. Laila is both, which means she is neither completely demon nor angel. Then there is the issue of Bat-al changing her affiliations. So that must mean that angels and demons can be good and/or evil and perhaps a combo of the two. The murky waters that follow this conclusion are bound to ruffle some feathers and bat wings.
This book is part of  a four book box-set of Urban Fantasy stories called the Sinners and Sorcerers.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author.

Witch Hunt by S.M.Reine

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Sort of sucks big time when the tables get turned on you, especially when you’re the one usually dishing out the judgment and punishment. Poor old Cèsar just can’t seem to catch a break when he wakes up to find himself in the midst of a crime scene and he is the only viable suspect. Unfortunately he can’t remember who, when, what or how and that may have something to do with the 50 Shades of Alcohol from the night before. So what does a member of the supernatural law enforcement do when caught in such a predicament?
Yes, that’s right, he makes a run for it like any sensible law-abiding chap would.
After being thrust into the world of ‘you’re on your own and we don’t care if you hang’ attitude of both his employer and to some extent his partner Suzy, he takes matters into his own hands. They only way to get answers is to ask the only other person there that night.
But…you mean the dead person? Yes, right again. Cèsar has concocted a foolproof plan to prove his innocence, which would be fine if he was 100% sure he didn’t do it, there is just this teeny weeny Tequila worm of doubt wriggling in his memory.
This book is part of a box-set of enjoyable and entertaining supernatural reads. I highly recommend both this and the other books in Sinners & Sorcerers: Four Urban Fantasy Thrillers.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author.