Author Archives: Invested Ivana
I adore Christina Henry’s Chronicles of Alice, as you can see in my reviews of Alice and Red Queen. Though I enjoy her other fairy tale retellings as well, Alice has always been my favorite. So I was extremely excited to hear that a third book, Looking Glass, was in the works. Looking Glass rounds out the story of Alice and Hatcher completely and gives them the ending they deserve.
Publisher’s Description: IN FOUR NOVELLAS, CHRISTINA HENRY RETURNS TO THE WORLD OF ‘ALICE’ AND ‘RED QUEEN’, WHERE MAGIC RUNS AS FREELY AS SECRETS AND BLOOD.
In the New City lives a girl with a secret: Elizabeth can do magic. But someone knows her secret – someone who has a secret of his own. That secret is a butterfly that was supposed to be gone forever; a butterfly that used to be called the Jabberwock. . .
GIRL IN AMBER
Alice and Hatcher are just looking for a place to rest. Alice has been dreaming of a cottage by a lake and a field of wildflowers, but while walking blind in a snowstorm she stumbles into a house that only seems empty and abandoned. . .
WHEN I FIRST CAME TO TOWN
Hatcher wasn’t always Hatcher. Once, he was a boy called Nicholas, and Nicholas fancied himself the best fighter in the Old City. No matter who fought him he always won. Then his boss tells him he’s going to battle the fearsome Grinder, a man who never leaves his opponents alive. . .
THE MERCY SEAT
There is a place hidden in the mountains, where all the people hate and fear magic and Magicians. It is the Village of the Pure, and though Alice and Hatcher would do anything to avoid it, it lies directly in their path. . .
Invested Ivana says…
Story: There are four novellas in Looking Glass that make for perfect bookends to the Chronicles of Alice.
When I First Came To Town is a flashback story of Hatcher’s past, giving the reader a sense of who was before and how he became to be Hatcher. Lovely Creature gives the reader a sense of what happened to Alice to land her in the hospital where she met Hatcher.
Then Girl in Amber and Mercy Seat wrap up the story of Alice and Hatcher, bringing them to their (what we assume is) a happy ending.
As with Alice and Red Queen, the story is mesmerizingly horrible and beautiful at once. The voice in which Henry paints Alice’s twisted world is, in contrast, sweet and innocent. That contrast is what makes the story feel like a magical, misty fairy tale – lovely and dark at the same time.
Narration: Jenny Sterlin’s performance perfectly captures that sweet, innocent voice that makes this series so fascinating. I don’t believe I’ve listened to any of Sterlin’s other audiobook performances, but I have Sorcerer To The Crown on my TBR list, so I just might listen to that one soon. She is an amazing performer.
Gildart Jackson narrates Hatcher’s story perfectly, bringing to it that same sense of innocence as Alice has along with helping of young male bravado. Jackson already has my devotion as the voice of Alex Verus, of course. He’s a fantastic performer with a huge catalog of audiobooks and does a fantastic job in every one that I’ve heard.
Overall: I’m so glad to have this book as part of the Chronicles of Alice. Seeing both the character’s origins and their story’s ending makes the tale feel complete. Stories told in that beautifully dark way aren’t all that common, so I treasure the ones I find.
I’m super excited to be going back into the world of Kitty Norville for these stories about Kitty’s friends — bounty hunter, Cormac, and his witch partner Amelia, and the vampire Rick, Conquistador de la Noche and Master of Denver.
Title: Dark Divide and Badlands Witch
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Series: set in the world of Kitty Norville
Publish Date: January 28, 2020, Tantor Media
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Narrator: Neil Hellegers
Publisher’s Description: In brand-new stories spun off from the New York Times Bestselling Kitty Norville series, dark mysteries push the bounds of sanity. Cormac Bennett, ex-con and former bounty hunter, is a paranormal investigator with an edge: his partner is the disembodied spirit of a Victorian wizard, Amelia Parker. Together, they solve problems no one else can.
In Dark Divide, they’re asked to investigate a mysterious death in the Sierra Nevadas: a man died of hunger —in a cabin that was fully stocked with provisions. The kicker? The cabin is located near Donner Pass, the site of the gruesomely ill-fated Donner Party, where forty men, women, and children died of exposure and starvation. The event was made famous by reports of cannibalism among the survivors. Is the Donner site haunted? Is some evil force rising again after a hundred fifty years to wreak destruction? Can Cormac and Amelia learn the truth without being caught in the web? Well, they can try…
In Badlands Witch, Cormac and Amelia travel to South Dakota, where an archeologist has hired them to examine an artifact for possible magical qualities. Cormac is skeptical, Amelia is intrigued. And it turns out – the whole thing is a trap. Cormac used to make his living killing monsters, and he made more than a few enemies back in the day. Who from his past is out for revenge, and can he and Amelia survive?
These stories are published separately as Kindle novellas but together in audio.
Title: Immortal Conquistador
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Series: set in the world of Kitty Norville
Publish Date: April 28, 2020, Tantor Media
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Narrator: Neil Hellegers
Publisher’s Description: From Carrie Vaughn, author of the beloved Kitty Norville werewolf talk-show host series, comes the vampire origin story of Kitty’s famed ally, Rick-and his sudden turn to darkness in the seventeenth century.
More than 500 years before his friendship with Kitty, noble Ricardo de Avila’s life met a fate-changing twist, and his morally-complex, blood-soaked existence as an immortal began. Before being turned, Ricardo de Avila would have followed Coronado to the ends of the earth. Instead he found the end of his mortal life-and a new one, as a renegade vampire. For over five hundred years as an immortal, Ricardo has followed his own moral code, upsetting the established order in the demon world. He has protected his found family from marauding evil, joined up with a legendary gunslinger, tended bar, appointed himself the Master of Denver, and discovered a church buried under the Vatican. The life of a vampire is frequently long, but for Rick, it is never easy.
Invested Ivana says…
Story: In Dark Divide and Badlands Witch, we get to know more about Ben’s cousin, Cormac, and Cormac’s partner, the 19th-century witch, Amelia, who hitched a ride in his head while he was in prison. Since Cormac can no longer pursue his career as a bounty hunter, he and Amelia start investigating paranormal events and, of course, find lots of trouble.
I enjoy their adventures very much. The contrast in their voices and perspectives is interesting, and seeing the incredibly closed-off Cormac from inside his own head is enlightening. He’s a tough nut to crack in Kitty’s stories, and though he’s a beloved character, readers don’t really get to know him. Seeing him open up in these stories, even if it’s because he doesn’t have a choice to do otherwise, is a cool bit of character development.
I couldn’t help myself, though. Everyone once in a while as I was reading, I had to whisper to myself, “back in bowl” the way Richard Libertini says it in All of Me (1984). Yeah, I know. I’m old and that’s an old reference. But oh, so appropriate.
The Immortal Conquistador is both a flashback novel and forward character development for Rick, the reluctant vampire. He’s another interesting character in Kitty’s world—which, in all honesty, is filled with interesting characters. Readers get to follow Rick through periods in history as he contemplates his origins and how they made him the perfect agent for a secret papal army fighting the supernatural baddies of the world.
I really enjoyed this novel, but it also left me with more questions. This novel didn’t tell us how Rick came to be a part of the Denver group of vampires after he refused to do so several times over (though it’s been a while since I read the Kitty series, and if it’s told there, I forget). Also, will we see more of Rick in his new role as a Vatican-sanctioned vampire? Perhaps pursuing the new information we learned about Dux Bellorum? I’d read that for sure. Maybe the upcoming October release, Kitty’s Mix Tape, will touch on some of these.
And as long as I’m asking, how about a novel about Odessus Grant, the magician Kitty meets in Vegas with the magic box behind which I like to imagine the Old Gods lurks? I am super curious about his character and would love to learn more about him.
Narration: I am pleasantly surprised by the narration by Neil Hellegers, not having heard him before. I wasn’t sure at first if Hellegers sounded like Cormac to me, but as with any new narrator, it just took me time to align the character and the voice in my head. I see Hellegers narrates the Black Magic Outlaw series by Domino Finn, which is in my TBR list, and J.P. Sloan’s Dark Choir series, which I’ve read and reviewed but not heard, so I’ll have to pull those out soon.
Overall: I think I would read any story set in Kitty’s world, whether it was about Kitty or her many interesting acquaintances. Vaughn has created a rich world full of magic and mayhem that could support thousands of stories. Sign me up for all of them!
So, remember a few weeks ago when I posted the official Jim Butcher schedule for re-reading the Dresden Files novels plus all the short works in preparation for Peace Talks and now Battle Ground this summer and fall? That schedule has us reading one of fifteen novels each week plus all the shorter works that fall in chronological order between them, between January and August.
Yeah… Percy and I finished the entire re-read before March was over. All the novels. All the novellas and shorts. All the graphic novels that are unique stories.
We couldn’t help it! The series is SO good that neither one of us wanted to slow down!
Thanks to Side Jobs and Brief Cases, just about all of the novellas and shorts are in audiobook format, so if I could find a short work in audio, I listened to it. Since this was hardly my first read of any of the works and not the only body of work I know James Marsters from, I’m probably as intimately familiar with Marsters’s voice as I am my husband’s. Fandom is a weird one-way intimate relationship, isn’t it? Marsters does such an excellent job as Harry and all the other characters that when some of the shorts in Brief Cases aren’t read by him, I get cranky. The ones read by others are told from a POV other than Harry’s, so I understand the logic. But Marsters has established the voices for every character so well that I just can’t help feeling a bit of dissonance.
Percy (my husband) and I don’t often read the same books at the same time, so even though he raced ahead of me (he read in ebook), it was quite fun to talk about the story and our observations as we made our way through the series.
So often, our conversations centered on what a thug Harry was being. Far too often, he is exactly the kind of arrogant, dangerous wizard the world thinks all wizards are. He resorts to force or threats before he tries diplomacy, and he thinks he alone must save the world because no one else really cares. And so often, even when you know he should know better, he tries to protect people by keeping them in the dark, which never seems to work out well.
Though it can be easy to argue with his methods, it’s harder to argue with his morals. He does mean well, which the reader knows because we’re inside his head, but his experience and perspective are narrow compared to many of the other wizards he interacts with. The wizards with more life experience are more familiar with “unintended consequences” of rash actions and factor that into their decision making, whereas Harry is more likely to see the morality of the here-and-now and want to do something, anything, to fix it.
Being very familiar with the story by now, we found a couple of places where a character just spits out the answer, or at least a hint, to a question we as readers have been asking for a while. But it seems like a throw-away line because Harry never reacts to it, and as new readers, it’s hard to recognize the significance of it. But as familiar readers, it’s like a lightning bolt of understanding. X-files did something similar; on a rewatch, you realize you got all the answers you needed in the very first episode. So now I’m even more interested to see if and how those answers get to Harry in the upcoming books.
It’s been hard waiting for Peace Talks. We have our pre-orders ready and are chomping at the bit. But I know the wait will be worth it.
Hello! How’s life treating you these days? I hope everyone is HEALTHY first and foremost and will remain that way for the foreseeable future. 🙂
Since we could all use something to look forward to right about now, I thought I’d share the list of upcoming books that I’m looking forward to.
Title: A Contemporary Asshat at the Court of Henry VIII
Author: MaryJanice Davidson
US Pub Date: May 15, 2020
I stumbled upon this title when looking at audiobooks, and it looks fun. I’m a fan of Tudor England history, and MJD’s Queen Betsy series was highly amusing. So this play on An American Yankee in King Arthur’s Court looks to be a fun time.
Title: American Demon (The Hollows #14)
Author: Kim Harrison
US Pub Date: June 16, 2020
Whoop! Rachel Morgan is back! Harrison decided to return to the Hollows for one more tale, and I couldn’t be happier. What will Rachel, now married to her sometime enemy and ally, Trent Kalamack, and raising two daughters, have to deal with next?
Title: The Phoenix Chronicles in Audio
Author: Lori Handeland
US Pub Date: Starting July 7, 2020
The four-book Phoenix Chronicles by Lori Handeland first came out in print in 2008. But the series was left incomplete after being dropped by the publisher. I think the publisher’s rights must have expired because I see Handeland has rereleased the ebooks and now is releasing audios! I’m super excited to see this series coming out again because I enjoyed it. I really hope that means we’ll get an end to the series now.
Title: Peace Talks (Dresden Files #16)
Author: Jim Butcher
US Pub Date: July 14, 2020
Finally! There is so much more to learn about the world of Dresden, and I can’t wait to get started. In preparation, Percy and I did a series reread, which I’ll write about very soon.
Title: Spells for the Dead (Soulwood #5)
Author: Faith Hunter
US Pub Date: July 28, 2020
Soulwood is set in the same world as Jane Yellowrock and follows a character named Nell who isn’t quite sure what kind of supernatural she is, other than she has a strong connection to Nature. It’s a great series, and I’m excited about a new installment.
Title: Ink & Sigil
Author: Kevin Hearne
US Pub Date: August 25, 2020
This is a new series by Kevin Hearn about a character that supposedly showed up in the Iron Druid Chronicles, Al MacBharrais, but whom neither my husband and I can recall, despite having reread the whole series not that long ago. But the description sounds good, and it’s set in a world I love written by an author I love, so I’m sure it will be fantastic.
Title: A Killing Frost (October Daye #14)
Author: Seanan McGuire
US Pub Date: September 1, 2020
Another of my very favorite series. Toby’s story just keeps getting richer and richer, and each story connects to what has happened in the past. There’s no “monster of the week” here.
Title: Battle Ground (Dresden Files #17)
Author: Jim Butcher
US Pub Date: September 29, 2020
I feel like my only comment about this book needs to be, “duh.” What urban fantasy fan ISN’T waiting for this installment? After a long drought without a new Dresden, we’re finally getting the firehose — two books in a row! Huzzah!
Title: Kitty’s Mix Tape
Author: Carrie Vaughn
US Pub Date: October 16, 2020
I love the world of Kitty Norville. In fact, I just finished the Cormac/Amelia book and will be reviewing it soon, and I just picked up the book about Rick. So I can’t wait to see what the Mix Tape has in store.
Title: Rivers of London Vol. 8: The Fey and the Furious
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
US Pub Date: November 10, 2020
I’ve really enjoyed these graphic novels in the world of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London/Peter Grant series. Along with the novels, they help create a rich world, and they bring some fun humor to the stories as well.
Title: Forged (Alex Verus #11)
Author: Benedict Jacka
US Pub Date: November 24, 2020
I have really enjoyed the Alex Verus series. Alex is trying to be a good guy, but circumstances are forcing him to descend into darkness. I’m anxious to see what choices he makes next.
Title: Dirty Deeds
Authors: R.J. Blain, Diana Pharoh Francis, Faith Hunter, Devon Monk
US Pub Date: January 12, 2021
This anthology has a great line-up of authors! And the description promises stories from the worlds of Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock and Monk’s Ordinary Magic. Urban fantasy with humor sounds like a good time to me.
There are a few more titles I’m looking forward to but don’t have links for, such as Diana Gabaldon’s Go Tell The Bees That I Am Gone, the newest Outlander book, and both the next SPI Files and a new series coming from Lisa Shearin. And, of course, I always want The Next Book in any of my favorite series. 🙂
What’s on your upcoming book list that you’re excited about? Drop me a comment on this post. I’d love to see what else we all have to look forward to.
Back in Dec of 2016 and March of 2017, I reviewed two books in a then-new series by Richard Knaak– Black City Saint and Black City Demon. But before I could read Black City Dragon, the third book in the series, I experienced some life and job changes, and my mode of reading went from mainly ebooks to mainly audio. So I was excited to see the two books come out in audio recently. With them, I’m going to launch a new feature called Listen Up! specifically for reviewing audiobooks.
Publisher’s Description: For more than sixteen hundred years, Nick Medea has followed and guarded the Gate that keeps the mortal realm and that of Feirie separate, seeking in vain absolution for the fatal errors he made when he slew the dragon. All that while, he has tried and failed to keep the woman he loves from dying over and over.
Yet in the fifty years since the Night the Dragon Breathed over the city of Chicago, the Gate has not only remained fixed, but open to the trespasses of the Wyld, the darkest of the Feiriefolk. Not only does that mean an evil resurrected from Nick’s own past, but the reincarnation of his lost Cleolinda, a reincarnation destined once more to die.
Nick must turn inward to that which he distrusts the most: the Dragon, the beast he slew when he was still only Saint George. He must turn to the monster residing in him, now a part of him…but ever seeking escape.
The gang war brewing between Prohibition bootleggers may be the least of his concerns. If Nick cannot prevent an old evil from opening the way between realms…then not only might Chicago face a fate worse than the Great Fire, but so will the rest of the mortal realm.
Publisher’s Description: Since he became the guardian of the Gate between our world and Feirie sixteen hundred years ago, Nick Medea, once Saint George, has battled to keep the darkest Feirie–the Wyld–from invading the mortal plane. With the dragon an unwilling part of him, Nick maintains balance between realms, often at great cost to him and those nearest to him.
Nick and his ragtag confederates—including the shape-shifter Fetch and Nick’s reincarnated love, Claryce—have battled the Wyld, but not mortals as sinister as the darkest Feirie. Now, with Prohibition in full swing and bootlegger wars embattling Chicago, a murderous evil born of the mortal world has turned its attention to the power of the Gate… and Nick himself.
Nick must turn again to his most untrustworthy ally: the dragon within. Yet even together they may not be enough to face what was once a man… but is now a creature even dragons may fear.
Invested Ivana says…
Story: The Black City Saint series is set in Prohibition-Era Chicago, so any fan of that era will find plenty to like. It is an urban fantasy that mixes detective noir, a dash of Christian mythology, and a dark, gritty version of Feirie.
The main character, Nick Medea, is ostensibly a ghost breaker, but the reader sees him more often in his guise as Keeper of the Gate between the mortal world and the world of Feirie. He’s centuries old, a loner, grumpy as hell, and a downright ass sometimes. He has a huge backstory and has collected around himself a cast of very interesting human and non-human characters. His job is to keep the mortal world safe from Feirie incursions, which are sometimes small and sometimes huge.
Nick’s personal conflicts come from his own suspicious nature, his inability to forgive his own murderer, and the reincarnating soul of the love of his life, a princess whom he once rescued and who is now determined to rescue him.
The main book plots and the backstories of the characters are very engaging and leave me wanting to know more. The plot, or maybe the action, can feel a bit complex sometimes. I did find myself re-listening to parts of the story to be clear on what was happening. Overall, though, I found it to be a lot of fun.
Narration: Joshua Saxon narrates with a deep, gritty voice that is perfect for the genre and for Nick Medea. He uses several accents, which helps a lot in differentiating the characters. In fact, in the second book, one of the character voices changes a bit, taking on a more cultured accent and voice than in the first book, which is actually helpful for distinguishing the character, so I appreciate the change.
I do wish his female voices were differentiated a bit more. There are really only two female characters in this story, and while it’s clear Saxon is trying to make their voices distinctive, they weren’t really that different than Nick’s voice. It wasn’t too difficult to tell when these two characters were speaking based on their speech patterns alone, but I did find myself wishing for a bit more vocal variation.
I would say this book is narrated rather than performed, but the narration is good, and I’ll be checking out other books narrated by Saxon.
Overall: Overall, I’m very happy with the experience of these audiobooks and would recommend them to fans of the genre. I’m very much looking forward to Black City Dragon coming out in audio.