Monthly Archives: February 2018

Black Spark by Al K. Line

Black Spark introduces us to Faz Pound—called “Spark” since he is the Black Spark—an enforcer for the Dark Council, an interspecies group that ensures practitioners and magic beings follow the rules, particularly the one about not letting the Regulars know that magic exists. Faz has just broken that rule, killing a Regular in public. Bystanders filmed it, and YouTubers are eating it up. But Faz wasn’t exactly himself when he murdered the Regular with magic. Now he has twenty-four hours to erase the incident from the collective memory and figure out why he made such a horrible, horrible mistake.

Title: Black Spark
Author: Al K. Line
Series: Dark Magic Enforcer, Book 01
Publish Date: February 7, 2017 by Tantor Media
Genre: Urban fantasy
Narrator: Gildart Jackson
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: I watched in horror as dark magic sprang from my hand faster than an imp after your socks. I didn’t know my name, let alone that I had such power. The man was dead. I panicked. I ran.

How was I to know I was a dark magic enforcer, tasked with keeping magic hidden from the world? Yeah, total noob move, I know.

But my memory is returning, and the Hidden have given me twenty-four hours to make amends. Cover it up. Finish the job I was given, or else. Failure isn’t an option. Well, it is, but I like me, and I like being alive.

Time is running out as I battle to make things right and exact revenge on those that took so much from me. Easier said than done as I deal with angry mages, bitey zombies, oversexed imps, creepy necromancers, and grumpy trolls—and those are just my friends!—all while trying to stop myself falling in love with my best friend, Kate, who just so happens to be a hot vampire.

I’m Faz Pound, a.k.a. Black Spark, Dark Magic Enforcer, and time is running out.

At least I have my looks. For now.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

“The rain had stopped, making the new paving gleam like a polished crystal ball as the sun made a risky move. It dared to shine for a few brief moments, before a concerted attack by the Welsh cloud gang took back their territory. The victorious clouds celebrated with a downpour so sudden and fierce the street emptied in seconds.”

Black Spark delivers a fun urban fantasy adventure, interesting world-building that turns some of the normal tropes on their heads, a thoughtful system of magic, and some fun and lovable characters. Kate, Grandma, and the imp Intus, are probably my favorites. There are some jewels of writing, such as the “Welsh cloud gang” quote above, that really tickled my fancy. And I love that Gildart Jackson is the narrator. Jackson is also the narrator of the Alex Verus series by Benedict Jacka, of which I am very fond. He does an excellent job.

The book is written as if Faz is talking directly to the reader. So the fourth wall gets broken a lot; the narrative switches between past and present tense, depending on whether Faz is describing something that Is (in his imaginary present state) or Was part of the story he’s telling; and the character’s voice is much closer to the informal way someone would talk rather than the more formal way someone would write. These appear to be deliberate choices by the author that make the book feel very chatty and fun, appropriate for an urban fantasy.

However, there are some less-polished aspects of the writing that I noticed, being a fiction editor myself. It often feels as if Faz is rambling. His sentences can get very long and go off in a multitude of directions. At times, the narrative tense changes from past to present when it probably shouldn’t. There are also parts of the narrative that feel a bit repetitive. None of these things really impacted my enjoyment of the story; I just happened to notice them.

I do have to say, though, that I’m very glad I chose to listen to the audio version. I happened to open the Kindle version, thinking I could get some reading done at a time when I couldn’t listen to the audio. Attempting to actually read the book was a very different experience because of a noticeable lack of editing or proofreading. I’m sure I’m more sensitive to issues of grammar and punctuation because of my job as a line editor, so not all readers may be as affected as I was by this lack. But I’m not sure I could have finished the book had I tried to read it. I have to give Gildart Jackson triple kudos for translating that raw text into a great performance.

That being said, I am not reviewing the text version of this book, but the audio. I give the audiobook four stars. I liked the characters and world-building, and I enjoyed the story. I’m sure I will pick up more audios in the series and check out Line’s other series as well. I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that, since Black Spark was published in 2016, Line has discovered the benefits of a good editor.

Other recommendations…

Gildart Jackson also narrates the Alex Verus series, which I adore. You might also check out James Hunter’s Yancy Lazarus series and anything by J.A. Cipriano.

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The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille

From the legendary #1 New York Times bestselling author of Plum Island and Night Fall, Nelson DeMille’s blistering new novel features an exciting new character—US Army combat veteran Daniel “Mac” MacCormick, now a charter boat captain, who is about to set sail on his most dangerous cruise.

Title: The Cuban Affair
Author: Nelson DeMille
Series: Mac MacCormick, 01
Publish Date: September 19, 2019 by Simon & Schuster
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Source: Library

Publisher’s DescriptionDaniel Graham MacCormick—Mac for short—seems to have a pretty good life. At age thirty-five, he’s living in Key West, owner of a forty-two-foot charter fishing boat, The Maine. Mac served five years in the Army as an infantry officer with two tours in Afghanistan. He returned with the Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, scars that don’t tan, and a boat with a big bank loan. Truth be told, Mac’s finances are more than a little shaky.

One day, Mac is sitting in the famous Green Parrot Bar in Key West, contemplating his life, and waiting for Carlos, a hotshot Miami lawyer heavily involved with anti-Castro groups. Carlos wants to hire Mac and The Maine for a ten-day fishing tournament to Cuba at the standard rate, but Mac suspects there is more to this and turns it down. The price then goes up to two million dollars, and Mac agrees to hear the deal, and meet Carlos’s clients—a beautiful Cuban-American woman named Sara Ortega, and a mysterious older Cuban exile, Eduardo Valazquez.

What Mac learns is that there is sixty million American dollars hidden in Cuba by Sara’s grandfather when he fled Castro’s revolution. With the “Cuban Thaw” underway between Havana and Washington, Carlos, Eduardo, and Sara know it’s only a matter of time before someone finds the stash—by accident or on purpose. And Mac knows if he accepts this job, he’ll walk away rich…or not at all.

Brilliantly written, with his signature humor, fascinating authenticity from his research trip to Cuba, and heart-pounding pace, Nelson DeMille is a true master of the genre.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Agent Annie says…

With the introduction of “Mac” (DeMille’s new main character), I am looking forward to reading more about him. Mac’s personality, which includes the gallows humor of many military veterans, made me laugh out loud, particularly the things he didn’t say, but just thought. I enjoyed the caper that he and Jack, his first mate, went on. DeMille has done a wonderful job introducing the lackadaisical life of a tourist boat captain in Key West, but also the more serious life of the citizens of Cuba. It’s obvious DeMille has done his research, and I am not inclined to sign up for a “goodwill” trip anytime soon.

I also thought the character, Mr. Neville, was particularly tongue-in-cheek and spoke to DeMille’s own ability to poke fun at himself and authors in general. You will enjoy reading about Mr. Neville, a fellow tourist to Cuba, who is researching for a book he is writing. I had to grin though, because there was still a “hot” wife for the fictional, oafish author.

I give this book 4 stars and it will be a great beach read this summer or for a lazy afternoon by the fire this winter.

Other recommendations…

If you liked this book, you might enjoy anything by Carl Hiassen. My favorites have been Double Whammy, Skin Tight, and Native Tongue.

How to Date Your Dragon by Molly Harper

Research scientist Jillian Ramsey is very good at research but has never been to the field.  Her first assignment could very well be her last assignment if she doesn’t follow the rules and avoid a supernatural killer.

Title: How to Date Your Dragon
Author:  Molly Harper
Series: Mystic Bayou #1
Publish Date: January 23, 2018
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Narrated by: Amanda Ronconi, Jonathan Davis 
Source: Purchased by reviewer
Publisher’s Description:  Anthropologist Jillian Ramsay’s career has taken a turn south.

Concerned that technology is about to chase mythological creatures out into the open (how long can Sasquatch stay hidden from Google maps?), the League for Interspecies Cooperation is sending Jillian to Louisiana on a fact-finding mission. While the League hopes to hold on to secrecy for a little bit longer, they’re preparing for the worst in terms of human reactions. They need a plan, so they look to Mystic Bayou, a tiny town hidden in the swamp where humans and supernatural residents have been living in harmony for generations. Mermaids and gator shifters swim in the bayou. Spirit bottles light the front porches after twilight. Dragons light the fires under crayfish pots.

Jillian’s first assignment for the League could be her last. Mystic Bayou is wary of outsiders, and she has difficulty getting locals to talk to her. And she can’t get the gruff town sheriff, Bael Boone, off of her back or out of her mind. Bael is the finest male specimen she’s seen in a long time, even though he might not be human. Soon their flirtation is hotter than a dragon’s breath, which Bael just might turn out to be….


Nervous Nellie’s nervousness necessitates knowledge of the novel. In some cases…spoilers. *BEWARE*


Nervous Nellie says…

This is a typical romance.  Not graphic sex, but there is a pretty steamy scene.  A little swearing.  A tiny little graphic description of a kill scene and lots and lots of fun people.

I had such a good time with this book.  It’s a good book to relax to and the narrators paint the picture that is Mystic Bayou.  Jillian is a supernatural scientist that is creating a “How To” research paper on how Mystic Bayou makes their town work with such a diversified bunch of creatures.  She’s a hard worker and the chemistry between Bael and Jillian start churning right off.  Mostly a dislike/avoid kind of chemistry.  Bael is the Sheriff and not especially inclined to like Jillian poking around, talking to folks.

Jillian is welcomed by the townsfolk and after she proves she’s of no harm to them, they welcome her with open arms.  They give interviews and she takes copious amounts of notes.  Then the murders start.  Blatant murders.  The first murders in Mystic Bayou for years and years.  On top of babysitting Jillian, Bael has to solve these homicides.  Jillian with her natural curiousity keeps digging.  Then she discovers the towns secret.  A secret that Bael wanted to keep from her.  A secret worth killing for.

Slowly, Bael lets his guard down and realizes his reaction to Jillian is not dislike/avoid it’s protective/territorial.  His dragon is claiming Jillian and Jillian doesn’t even know it.

Things happen.  Feelings grow. Danger encroaches.  Who is behind all of this conspiracy? Why? Will Bael solve the mystery before something befalls Jillian?  He can’t allow that to happen so he needs to figure it out.

This story starts out fluffy and is fluffy for quite a large part of the book.  It’s really not until the last half or so that the action and drama of a mystery start to unfold.

I loved the dual narration.  That was the first time I’ve ever listened to a book that was narrated by both protagonists by every other chapter.  It was fun!

Other recommendations…

…you might try

 

 

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Nell’s Gossip and Book Hunt 2/25/18

Welcome to my Sunday book hunt and author gossip.  Keep coming back for updates on book releases and news from favorite authors.

 

Hi everybody! I’ve been busy searching out news for you and without any more delay, lets get at it.

  • Myth Manifestation by Lisa Shearin went live on January 16, 2018.  I have my review done and I’ll be posting it very soon.  Just a preview:  I loved it.  I love Mac and the whole team.  Even Ms. Sagadraco – even though she’s scary!Oh – get to the point.  Ok. Well, the audio version of Myth Manifestation is available.  If you don’t have time to read, but love to listen and work at the same time – here you go.

Title: The Myth Manifestation
by: Lisa Shearin
Narrated by: Johanna Parker
Series: SPI Files, Book 5
Length: 7 hrs and 54 mins
Unabridged
Release date: 02-13-18
Language: English
Publisher: Audible Studios

Publisher’s Description:  The agents of Supernatural Protection & Investigations (SPI) protect people from predatory supernaturals. This time, we’re the ones who need protection.

New York is one of the most popular convention destinations in the world – for humans and supernaturals. Every hundred years, rulers of the world’s supernatural races come together to negotiate and renew a peace treaty. Meeting in the same hotel are the governors of our world’s goblin and elf colonies. SPI is saddled with the security nightmare of keeping the living delegates alive and the undead delegates from becoming permanently deceased. We’ve got our work cut out for us.

I’m Makenna Fraser, seer for SPI. Our security nightmare becomes real when monsters from the delegates’ mythologies begin mysteriously appearing in the flesh to hunt delegates from every side of the debate. And when the hotel gets sucked into another dimension, there’s no escape. We discover that we’re all pieces in an elaborate and deadly game. A game about to spill out into
the real world. Failing to escape is game over and not an option. We have to save the world – but first, we have to save ourselves. 

  • You saw the announcement from Brad Magnarella’s new series, right?  Well, he’s got it out on audio now too!!Blue Curse
    Blue Wolf, Book 1
    By: Brad Magnarella
    Narrated by: James Patrick Cronin
    Length: 7 hrs and 49 mins
    Unabridged
    Release date: 01-31-18
    Language: English
    Publisher: Brad MagnarellaAND he’s working on #2 in the series of Blue Wolf.  The book will be called Blue Shadow.  It’s scheduled to be released on March 5, 2018.  I am listening to Blue Curse right now, so my review is coming.

  • Now we are talking about Gary Jonas.  I read the first book in the Jonathan Shade series, Modern Sorcery, and here is my review.  I really liked it and I’m ready to charge into the next book.  While scoping out book #2 in the Jonathan Shade series, I happened upon a novella that Mr. Jonas wrote that features Esther, the ghost who helps Jonathan Shade.Title:  Dying to Live
    Series: Jonathan Shade series #10.5
    Publisher’s Description:  On a dark highway, a creature from the Void confronts a lonely ghost, ready to feed on her memories.The ghost is Esther Carmichael, and she’s been through so much anguish since she died. She’s ready to bid farewell to her existence until the creature awakens something inside her.

    Now she’s dying to live.

    Esther is a beloved character from the Jonathan Shade urban fantasy series, and while this short story takes place soon after the events of the novel Timeless Gods, you don’t need to have read the books to enjoy the ride. However, if you have read the Shade books, you definitely don’t want to miss this one.

    And then I found other books that Mr. Jonas writes.  They all look so good, I don’t know which to choose first but, seriously, how could I resist a book called The Half-Assed Wizard.  The title in itself sounds like it’s a good time! Then we have book 2 in the series:  The Big-Ass Witch and #3 – The Dumbass Demon.  I swear, with titles like this they are just beggin’ to be read.

Title:  The Half-Assed Wizard
Series: The Half-Assed Wizard, book 1
Released: June 4, 2017
Publisher’s Description:  A couple of jerks wake me up at the crack of noon. Seems my klepto uncle stole an ancient deck of Tarot cards from a high-powered wizard, and too many losers want to ruin my day to get them back.

The cards are cool, so I check them out, but my magic-happy cousin, Sabrina, tells me I’m not supposed to touch them. Oops. Too late. Now the damn cards are tuned to me, and if someone else wants to use them, I have to die. Why couldn’t she have led with that information?

Magic was never my scene, but my dad is one of the most powerful wizards in the world, so I’ve got unrealized potential if I ever bother to apply myself. I’d rather power nap, but with wizards, gunslingers, and cannibalistic shark dudes coming at me, that’s not gonna happen.

They say I’m a half-assed wizard, but if I don’t play my cards right, I’m gonna get my whole ass killed.

The other series that I’ve got on my TBR pile is also written by Gary Jonas.  It’s the Kelly Chan series.  This character makes an appearance in Modern Sorcery.  She is really a no nonsense powerhouse.  Here’s the deets on book #1:

Title: Vampire Midnight
Series: Kelly Chan, #1
Released: February 17, 2016
Publisher’s Description:  Kelly Chan, the magically engineered assassin you know from the Jonathan Shade series in her first solo adventure!

Picking up a package for a friend should be easy, but when the package is at Tally’s, a shop that caters to things that go bump in the night, and that package is a woman, things can go south fast.

Of course, if the person picking up the package is Kelly Chan, when things go south, bad guys die.

But what happens when the bad guys are already dead? Or more specifically, undead.

Kelly finds herself face-to-face with an actual vampire who has the power to issue commands Kelly has no choice but to follow.

So how do you kill something when you’ve been commanded to protect it?

 

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War of the Staffs by Steve Stephenson and K.M. Tedrick

High fantasy mixed with vampires and adventure? What’s not to love?

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

War of staffsTitle: War of the Staffs
Author: Steve Stephenson, K.M. Tedrick
Series: War of the Staffs #1
Publish Date: July 6th 2016, Black Rose Writing
Genre: High Fantasy
Source: Provided by Publisher

Publisher’s DescriptionThe goddess Adois brings a powerful vampire warlock named Taza through the void to turn Muiria into a planet of evil using her powerful staff. Needing an army, he turns a race of dark elves into vampires, but Prince Tarquin is born to fulfill a prophecy to stop Taza.

The prince cannot do it alone. The Wizard Celedant sends him to the Borderers, an elite group of dwarves to learn how to fight, while the wizard begins his search for the Staff of Adaman, the only thing capable of thwarting Taza and Adois’ Staff.

War of the Staffs is the search for two pieces of the ancient Staff of Adaman to counter Adois’ plans. The darkness is rising and using the black power of the Staff of Adois and his army of dark elves, giants, and orcs, Taza will begin a reign of terror the planet will not soon forget.


Luna Lovebooks says…Luna_Lovebooks_100

While most of the book was centered on classic fantasy elements such as wizards, elves, heroes, prophecies, and good versus evil, there are a few elements that make it original. I don’t think of vampires as a fantasy element but they play a central role in this novel. So does the alternate planes of existence and other planets. These elements put a unique spin on this novel.

I really enjoyed the young Prince Tarquin’s storyline. I like that he must prove himself in the Dwarven army and gains their respect. Along with Tarquin is the Wizard Celedant who must thwart attack after attack from the Warlock Taza and get Tarquin where he needs to be. Although the vicious attacks can get a little repetitive.

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There were parts in this novel that were easy to read and I could make it through. However, there were parts that were slow and I struggled to get through. I had to set it aside a couple of times and come back to it. For this reason, I give this novel 3 dark elves. I am not sure if I am up for reading the second installment, but if it sounds like something up your alley then go for it!

Other recommendations…

Check out these other great fantasy reads!  The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh, Markswoman by Rati Mehrotra

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

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