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Series Spotlight: Esther Diamond (audio) by Laura Resnick

Laura Resnick (author) and GraphicAudio have teamed up to create the Esther Diamond series audios, and it’s a fantastic pairing! If you like full-production audiobooks, you don’t want to miss this series!

I am so excited about the Esther Diamond series’ audiobooks being produced by GraphicAudio! They are fantastic. Try it out for yourself with this sample.

I’m gonna break this Series Spotlight down into two sections: one to talk about the series and one to talk about the audio production because they both deserve their own spotlight.

Series

Esther Diamond is a struggling New York actress. While working on an off-broadway play as a chorus nymph and understudy to the female lead, the lead actress disappears.

Enter Maximillian Zadok, a 350-year-old wizard, stationed in New York by the Magnum Collegium to fight mystical evil. Max implores Esther not to take up her understudy duties for fear she will go missing, too. Once Max convinces Esther that there is mystical evil afoot, Esther rushes to help Max find and stop the culprit before she becomes the next victim.

Meanwhile, the lead actress’s disappearance is also being investigated by Detective Connor Lopez, a sexy Latino with blue Irish eyes. Lopez finds Esther intriguing and would like to get to know her better. Unfortunately, Lopez doesn’t believe in mystical evil, even though Esther’s tried to tell him that it exists. While he is strongly drawn to Esther, he fears she’s unstable, dangerous, and possibly felonious. Their involvement complicates his life and jeopardizes his job, but he has trouble staying away.

During their adventures, Esther, Max, and a number of their friends encounter evil sorcerers, demons, voodoo loa, zombies, vampires, spirits, cursed objects, missing corpses, mob hit men, death omens, drag queens, entitled young adults, harried production assistants, and narcissistic actors. The mysteries are intriguing and well written, but I think it’s the main characters that really shine in the series. They are complex and layered, unique and intriguing, each with their own secrets that are slowly revealed over time.

This series has magic, mystery, and adventure, but it also has humor, friendship, and relationship tension (not everything is rosy in this romance) that builds with each book. It’s more glossy than gritty, on the lighter side of urban fantasy, but the protagonists have depth, and it’s easy to care about them. I highly recommend the series for a fun urban fantasy read.

If you’re not an audiobook fan, you can find the Esther Diamond series in digital and print formats at your favorite online retailer.

Audio Production

I’ve mentioned on this blog before how awesome I think GraphicAudio is. They make audiobooks into full-production masterpieces. They’re essentially radio-plays, for those of us who are old enough to have heard of those. There is a full cast of characters, so the voices are all different and the “he said” and “she said” of regular audiobooks aren’t needed. There’s music and sound effects in all the right places, which enhance the story greatly. As a big fan of audiobooks, I absolutely adore these productions. They are just so much fun!

Graphic Audio did a FANTASTIC job with the Esther Diamond series. I cannot imagine a better casting of voices, especially Colleen Delany as Esther Diamond, Thomas Keegan as Detective Connor Lopez, Bob Payne as Maximillian Zadok, and Tim Carlin as Lucky Battistuzzi. The voice  acting is fantastic and really conveys the character personalities and emotional content of the story. The GraphicAudio actors bring each character completely to life in a way that only the very best voice actors can in regular audiobooks.

The background music and sound effects add such depth and dimension to the story that you really do feel as if you are listening to a movie. It’s that much easier to feel the tension of being stalked when you can hear the footsteps behind you, or to visualize a street fight when you can hear the impact of fists, the grunts of the combatants, and the splash of blood on pavement.

I don’t think I’m capable of expressing just how emotionally involved I feel when listening to GraphicAudio productions. It is an amazing medium for some genres, and I really encourage authors, particularly indie sci-fi and fantasy authors, to consider GraphicAudio for their books before any other audiobook company. Your listeners will experience a much richer version of your creation than I think you’ll find elsewhere.

A rich creation is exactly how I’d describe the Esther Diamond series on GraphicAudio. Five stars for this superb production.

You might also like:

GraphicAudio boasts a number of sci-fi and fantasy series by well-known authors such as Piers Anthony, Stephen Blackmoore, Peter David, Alan Dean Foster, Simon R. Green, Charlaine Harris, Jim C. Hines, Cherie Priest, Stephen Lawhead, Kelly McCullough, Ari Marmell, Elizabeth Moon, Michael Moorcock, Lilith Saintcrow, R.A. Salvatore, Brandon Sanderson, Michael J. Sullivan, Brent Weeks, and Eileen Wilks. They also have a number of audio adaptations of both Marvel and DC comics.

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Raised in Fire by K.F. Breene

Got a steady job.  Got a housekeeper, a fallen angel for a dad, an understanding boss, and even a righteous sword.  Who needs more?  Reagen Sommerset, that’s who.  Less talk and a lot more action is what she’s all about.

Title:  Raised in Fire
Author: K.F. Breene
Series: Fire and Ice Triolgy #2
Publish Date: September 22, 2017
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Narrator: Nicole Poole
Source: Purchased from Audible

Publisher’s DescriptionIt is a common truth in my life that when it rains, it pours.

The killings that once plagued New Orleans are cropping up again in Seattle. The local office is stumped. I’m called out to lend a fresh set of eyes, and my unique magical touch.

It’s only when I get there that I realize the Seattle office isn’t stumped at all.

They’re being silenced by the Mages’ Guild, a corrupt magical institution that doesn’t want word to get out of what is plaguing the city. Worse, news of my magic might’ve slipped down to the underworld, hitting the ears of some extremely powerful demons.

What I thought was a routine murder investigation turns into a fight for my life. With the help of Darius, my stalker elder vampire, and my dual-mage side kicks, I somehow have to dodge the Guild in order to stop one of the most powerful demons I’ve ever encountered. If I don’t? It’ll escape back down below with proof of what I really am.

My life hangs in the balance, and this time, I can’t see a way out.

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


Nervous Nellie says…

This book rocked! This is #2 in the 3 book run of Fire and Ice series.  There is swearing.  There is death.  There are monsters.  There is tricks and conspiracies.  All those things, but mostly just the last 4 will give you a hint there are vampires as well.  There isn’t a cliffhanger, but a lead in to the next book.  There is some graphic stuff but not horror graphic.

 

 

I can’t say enough good about this series so far except I will be sad when I get through the last book.  Reagan is someone I’d like to hang with and see what trouble she land in next.  Her dad is Lucifer.  She’s supposed to reign in hell.  She doesn’t want to.  She’s great at the bounty hunter job she has in the brink and she doesn’t want to be noticed by the demons bent on bringing her into her daddy’s inner circle.  Well, they could also use her to their own ends too.  I mean, they are demons, you know.

And then there is the vampire stalker.  Oh, he doesn’t think he’s a stalker.  For some reason, even unknown to the elder vampire himself, he is pulled to Reagan like a magnet.  Darius doesn’t like the feelings she’s stirring up in him.  He’s a vampire for goodness sake.  He’s not supposed to have feelings, but Reagan is pulling him back to his humanity.  It’s really a fun journey.  Reagan and Darius work so well together, it would be a shame to split them.

This story is exactly as the description claims and it was an adventure full of discovery and death.

Other recommendations…

…you might try  Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock, Brad Magnarella’s Prof Croft series, and Jenn Stark’s amazing Immortal Vegas series…

 

Lake Silence by Anne Bishop

While Meg Corbin and the residents of Lakeside Courtyard work toward tolerance between the Others and humans after the purge, elsewhere in the Northeast Region, Vicki DeVine and the residents of Sproing have the opportunity to do the same.

Title: Lake Silence
Author: Anne Bishop
Series: A Novel of the Others, #6
Publish Date: March 6, 2018, by Ace
Genre: Contemporary fantasy, urban fantasy
Narrator: Alexandra Harris
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionIn this thrilling and suspenseful fantasy, set in the world of the New York Times bestselling Others series, Vicki DeVine and her lodger, the shapeshifter Aggie Crowe, stumble onto a dead body . . . and find themselves enmeshed in danger and dark secrets.

Human laws do not apply in the territory controlled by the Others–vampires, shapeshifters, and paranormal beings even more deadly. And this is a fact that humans should never, ever forget…

After her divorce, Vicki DeVine took over a rustic resort near Lake Silence, in a human town that is not human controlled. Towns like Vicki’s have no distance from the Others, the dominant predators that rule most of the land and all of the water throughout the world. And when a place has no boundaries, you never really know what’s out there watching you.

Vicki was hoping to find a new career and a new life. But when her lodger, Aggie Crowe–one of the shapeshifting Others–discovers a dead body, Vicki finds trouble instead. The detectives want to pin the man’s death on her, despite the evidence that nothing human could have killed the victim. As Vicki and her friends search for answers, things get dangerous–and it’ll take everything they have to stay alive.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

Shortly before Lake Silence came out, I re-listened to Meg Corbin’s story. I was looking for a “comfort read”—something I was familiar with and loved. As I mentioned on Anne Bishop’s Courtyard, the Facebook group for fans of the series, my post-Trump experience of the books was a little different than before. It felt even darker, more ominous and immediate. The pervasive greed and entitlement of many of the humans in the series felt more real and less fantastic this time around, and the dread I felt, even knowing what was coming in a series I had heard several times, felt sharper.

Lake Silence takes place after the Others have purged many of the humans from Thasia (North America). It demonstrates that not all the right people were purged and that greed and entitlement will always express itself, even in the face of drastic consequences.

This is not a story about Meg and the Lakeside Courtyard, though they are referenced. This is the story of Vicki DeVine and the residents of Sproing and the Jumble, a human settlement on terra indigene-controlled land. Vicki has finally escaped an abusive marriage—though not unscathed—and has set about creating a new life for herself in Sproing as the owner of The Jumble, a place she believes to be a rustic lakeside resort. She soon learns that the Jumble has another purpose—to serve as a point of connection between humans and the others.

Vicki acquired the rights to the Jumble in the divorce settlement with her ex-husband. He and his cronies, however, have other plans for the resort. They want to scare Vicki off the land and turn it into something more lucrative than rustic, even though doing so would violate the terms of the agreement between the tenants and the Others. Their greed, arrogance, and entitlement, and the security of their “good ol’ boys’ club,” lead them to believe they are unstoppable. For this reader, it’s a bit cathartic to know they are not.

Happy-faced quokka

Happy-faced quokka

Though this sounds like a heady, depressing story, Ms. Bishop has a way of bringing a lightness and innocence to her world as well. The town of Sproing is so named because of the sproingers that populate the area—creatures that made me think of quokkas who can understand human speech and communicate with happy faces or sad faces. They seem to be agents of the Others, but it is never expressly said whether they are terra indigene themselves. I choose to believe they are.

Another thing I found interesting was the way the Others play the game Clue, called Murder in the series. The Others play by creating a game board of their actual environment—in this case, the Jumble and surrounding land—rather than using a generic mansion and its rooms. Arts and crafts plus a game to double the fun!

Books are always a big deal in Anne Bishop’s stories, which I love. Vicki becomes the Reader for the Jumble—someone who reads out loud from books, articles, journals, or anything else the terra indigene might find useful or entertaining. That way, even those terra indigene who haven’t learned to read can enjoy the stories. I love this nod to oral tradition and to the value of stories in our world.

I don’t know whether Vicki’s story is the start of a new series or just one installment in a series of stories about human and terra indigene learning to live with each other in Thasia. Lake Silence seemed to be wrapped up nicely at the end. At the very least, I hope there will be more stories set in Thasia and read by Alexandra Harris, who does an amazing job as narrator. She brings the perfect mix of innocence and gravity to the characters that makes my enjoyment of the series even greater. As always, 5 Stars.

Our reviews in this series…

The Myth Manifestation by Lisa Shearin

Lord Rake Danescu has his hands full.  Mythological creatures are attacking.  His hotel is hijacked.  People are dying. His magic is… not as it should be.  He does, however, have Mac and Ian and the whole SPI commando contingency working with him to figure out what in the fresh hell is going on.

Title: The Myth Manifestation
Author: Lisa Shearin
Series: SPI FIles #5
Publish Date: January 16, 2018
Genre: Science Fiction/Urban Fantasy
Narrator: Johanna Parker
Source: Purchased by reviewers

Publisher’s DescriptionThe 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.

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


Nervous Nellie says…

This book has no sex, no graphic blood and gore, no swearing since Mac edits it out of her ongoing dialog.  This has got a tiny little bit of romance that includes one very rich and charming goblin courting our protagonist.  SPI is made of a team of agents that will do their share of kicking asses and taking names while protecting the mundanes from learning about the supernatural.  There is a tiny cliffhanger, but it’s the overarching relationship stuff – not the story itself.  It’s easy to handle.  Don’t worry.

I love Mac and the gang.  I also love Mac and Rake’s relationship.  He’s under Mac’s skin and Mac has got Rake swooning.  Okay, maybe the other way around.  Anyway, there is a supernatural summit taking place and anywhere there are a bunch of supernaturals trapped together you know there will be trouble.

Goblins and Elves do NOT have a harmonious vibe going on.  All other attendees also have problems intermingling, so security for this event is beyond difficult.  It’s not enough that it’s all races and creeds of creatures attending this summit, it’s their political leaders that take the spotlight and create a ton of drama.  SPI is on high alert but all the special drills they could go through would never cover this problem.

This is a good old “Clue” episode.  Who did it in the ballroom or the bedroom or the beer keg with a big ol’ knife? Yeah, I said beer keg. You caught that, huh?  That’s what’s fun about the supernatural culture differences in this book.  There are so many variations between cultures that anything goes but one wrong step or a simple action or comment could be construed as offensive and then watch out!  With the caliber of individuals attending this convention, we have political fallout first and foremost to worry about. After that, then we could have not only an international incident but an interdimensional incident that could very well incite a war.  Tread carefully and walk on eggshells. But we still gotta figure out who’s killing whom and why.

You want details on the story?  Well, ok… I can give you this.  Rake’s impossibly above high class, ten-star hotel has been hijacked.  Yes, that’s right.  Hijacked.  At first, it looks like a security issue, but then it evolves.  Boy, does it evolve. It involves mythological creatures materializing out of nowhere.  And Rake has no answers.  Can you imagine? He’s got no “clue” as to what’s going on.

I can also give you a small detail on the romance between Mac and Rake.  It’s moving very, very slow. I like that Lisa Shearin is making their relationship a gradual thing.  It builds anticipation.  I love that a nice southern seer girl can capture the attention of a suave, sexy, interdimensional uber rich playboy.  Makenna is all sassy common sense if not skill. She is not Rake’s type, per se.  You’d expect him to be with fussy, glossy, supermodel bombshells in tight dresses with 4-inch heels and coifed hair.  Except… he’s choosing Mac.  She has her own style, no-nonsense woman that knows her limits and tries very hard to be an asset to the SPI crew.  She loves her job and I love her unique personality.

Johanna Parker is the narrator for this book as well as all the other SPI novels.  She gives the story that much more depth and complexity.  Another 5 star hit if you ask me.

Invested Ivana says…

Toward the end of negotiations for a massive treaty among outworld species and Earth, the delegates come together for a summit to celebrate and sign the treaty. Someone isn’t happy, though, and traps the delegates in their hotel with monsters … and a killer. Maybe more than one.

Though the Myth Manifestation has plenty of monsters — one of the signatures of this series — it’s primarily a political drama. Though the focus wasn’t on the monsters, this story was as much fun as any of the others in the series. Readers get to see old friends, such as the Vlad the vampire and the Norweigan SPI agents. And we learn a little more about other species, like dwarves, giants, and a race that makes love with their fingers, making waving and handshakes MUCH more exciting!

Fans of the Raine Benares series will see some familiar names and maybe faces. I did wonder if, had I been reading the Raine Benares series, I would have followed the politics between the elves and goblins a bit better. There is some massive political upheaval on their homeworld that, I’m guessing, is forefront in Raine’s series.

Regardless, I followed the story fine and really enjoyed it. As always, Johanna Parker does a fabulous job narrating. This is one of those series I much prefer to hear than read. She really brings Mac and all the other characters to life. 5 stars.

Our reviews in this series…

Switchback by Melissa F. Olson

The Chicago pod of the Bureau of Preternatural Investigations faces its next big challenge. But will all the members make it out unscathed?

Title: Switchback
Author: Melissa F. Olson
Series: Nightshades, Book 02
Publish Date: Dec 1, 2017 by Brilliance Audio
Genre: Paranormal thriller, urban fantasy
Narrator: Luke Daniels
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionThe Bureau of Preternatural Investigations returns in the sequel to Melissa F. Olson’s Nightshades.

Three weeks after the events of Nightshades, things are finally beginning to settle for the Chicago branch of the BPI, but the brief respite from the horror of the previous few weeks was never destined to last.

The team gets a call from Switch Creek, WI, where a young man has been arrested on suspicion of being a shade. The suspect is held overnight, pending DNA testing, but seemingly escapes in a terrifying and bloody massacre. But is there more to the jailbreak than a simple quest for freedom?

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

Switchback is the second installment in the Nightshades series. I wasn’t aware the second book had come out and was pleasantly surprised to stumble across it on Audible, and to discover it is narrated by Luke Daniels, who is utterly brilliant! So I listened to Nightshades again before diving into Switchback.

The newly formed Chicago pod of the BPA is having its challenges, to say the least. The Special Agent in Charge is just returning from an extended time away, recovering from a disfiguring knife wound to the face and special hearings in Washington, when another major case hits their desk. The entire staff of a police station in a small Illinois town has been slaughtered, apparently by shades. The pod has to figure out what happened and why in order to stop the killers.

Fair warning to those who care—while the ending is not necessarily a cliffhanger, it made me sit up wide-eyed, cursing and loving Olson at the same time. It sure makes May 2018, the expected publication date of the next novel in the series, seem a LONG way away!

Switchback is another wonderfully entertaining story from Olson, whose previous series I have really enjoyed. Five stars.

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

Olson’s previous series feel more straight-up urban fantasy than the Nightshade series but are definitely worth checking out if you like UF. They all take place in the same Old World universe. If you’d rather read more paranormal thrillers, check out the Harmony Black series by Craig Schaefer, the Nathaniel Cade series by Christopher Farnsworth, or the Order of the Sanguines series by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell.

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