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Lipstick Voodoo by Kristi Charish

Kincaid Strange is back.  She’s made a deal with the devil (or is he?) and her best friend is a zombie.  How could things get any “Stranger?”

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

Title:  Lipstick Voodoo
Author:  Kristi Charish
Series:  Kincaid Strange #2
Publish Date:  January 8, 2019, by Penguin Random House
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
NarratorSusannah Jones
Source:  Author provided ARC/audiobook purchased

Publisher’s Description: Kincaid Strange, not your average voodoo practitioner, is back in the freshly imagined and hugely entertaining second installment of Kristi Charish’s urban fantasy series.

Kincaid Strange cannot catch a break. After dealing with a spate of paranormal murders, there’s barely time to recuperate—let alone sleep in—before there’s a new problem in Kincaid’s world of paranormal activity. When her roommate, Nathan Cade—the ghost of a grunge-rocker with a pathological lack of self-control—comes home bound to a dead body, it’s up to Kincaid to figure out how to free him, ideally before her new mentor, Gideon, a powerful sorcerer’s ghost, discovers that Nate is trapped in the body he’d coveted for himself.

When Aaron, a Seattle cop on the afterlife beat—and Kincaid’s ex—calls her in to help out with a cold case, she takes the chance to mend fences with the police department. The problem: they want to interview Nate’s ghost, which she can’t produce. Then people from Nate’s past start showing up dead, and what’s killing them doesn’t seem to be human. And the way it’s killing them is especially brutal.

Nate’s hiding something, but he’s Kincaid’s friend and she wants to help him. But she also wants to stay alive…

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


Nervous Nellie says…

The reason I butted heads with most women?  There is only so much I’m able to feed into the circle of bullshit. I think it is disruptive, not for Sarah and Lee—I figure they’re more like me in that regard—but for the ones who rely on group validation. Those kinds of friendships require an awful lot of bullshit, and people don’t like other people pointing out their bullshit, especially when that person ends up being me.

This is a book with zombies, ghosts, and a whole lot of Otherside. There is no graphic gore, no sex, and a conclusion to the book that is satisfying. It was a good ending—not “happy,” but a good, satisfying ending.

I love Kristi Charish’s writing. She first caught me with Kincaid Strange and then encouraged me with Adventures of Owl series. Now, I’m back into Kincaid’s world. I am not hard to please as a reader. If I’m entertained and the writing took me on a ride, then I’m happy. I’m over the moon with this book. I forgot how much I missed Kincaid and Nathan.

What a mess they have found themselves. Nathan is bound in a body making him an accidental zombie. The body was supposed to go to a centuries-old sorcerer’s ghost so he could make himself a zombie. Crap. Tick off a sorcerer and Kincaid might as well write off her right to life.

That’s just the beginning. Yes, that’s right. Just the beginning. Kincaid is out of work because of the police captain’s penchant for non-believing. He is making it his personal goal to wreak havoc on Kincaid’s life because he believes she is fake.

So, lets count it off. 1. Kincaid is in debt with a seriously deranged and evil sorcerer’s ghost. 2. Said ghost is gonna want his debt paid whether it be by her life or whatever he deems. 3. She hasn’t told said ghost that her best friend “accidentally” inhabits the body that was supposed to go to said ghost, which may or may not cause him a gigantic psychopathic break which could result in everybody getting dead. 4. Kincaid has to pay the bills, so she takes on a cold case on the possible promise of a job in the future. 5. The cold case is really quite hot. Oh crap. Kincaid has a LOT on her plate.

I loved this book. It kept me in suspense with no guessing how things would turn out. The situation Kincaid was in just kept getting messier and messier until all of a sudden it became clear. Charish’s narration from Kincaid’s point of view was great. I felt like I was sitting right there with Kincaid as she went through the ups and downs. The race was a close one. Too close to call but this book was a blockbuster for sure. 5 stars all day and all night. Good book – you won’t be disappointed.

Oh, and head’s up:  Voodoo Shanghai, Kincaid Strange #3, will be out next year, same time, same station.  Can’t wait!!

Invested Ivana says…

Lipstick Voodo is as much of an enjoyably wild ride as it’s predecessor! The mystery is so well-crafted in both of the books, and the characters are relatable and likable. The sorcerer’s character defied expectations by being more rational and likable than I expected after the first book–which makes me wonder if he’s putting on an act. I guess we’ll see in future books.

The first scene in the book, which depicts an ordinary job for zombie-whisperer Kincaid Strange, is very well written and touching. It gives the reader a good sense of Kincaid’s relationship with the dead as well as what her typical work is like. This contrasts wildly with the extraordinary experiences that serve as the main plot of the book.

The Kincaid Strange series is an excellent example of urban fantasy at its finest, and I can’t wait to see what further adventures await.

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

…you might try The Adventures of Owl by Kristi Charish or Eric Carter series by Stephen Blackmoore.

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

 

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An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris

This new series by Charlaine Harris imagines an alternative history for the United States that evokes a dystopian Wild West feel.

Title: An Easy Death
Author: Charlaine Harris
Series: Gunnie Rose, Book 01
Publish Date: October 2, 2018, by Saga Press
Genre: Urban fantasy, western fantasy
NarratorEva Kaminsky
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionSet in a fractured United States, in the southwestern country now known as Texoma. A world where magic is acknowledged but mistrusted, especially by a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose. Battered by a run across the border to Mexico Lizbeth Rose takes a job offer from a pair of Russian wizards to be their local guide and gunnie. For the wizards, Gunnie Rose has already acquired a fearsome reputation and they’re at a desperate crossroad, even if they won’t admit it. They’re searching through the small border towns near Mexico, trying to locate a low-level magic practitioner, Oleg Karkarov. The wizards believe Oleg is a direct descendant of Grigori Rasputin, and that Oleg’s blood can save the young tsar’s life.

As the trio journey through an altered America, shattered into several countries by the assassination of Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression, they’re set on by enemies. It’s clear that a powerful force does not want them to succeed in their mission. Lizbeth Rose is a gunnie who has never failed a client, but her oath will test all of her skills and resolve to get them all out alive.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

I’m never quite sure how I will react to the first book in a new series. Sometimes I adore it, sometimes I feel more cautious. It all depends on how invested I feel in the new world and characters.

With An Easy Death, I feel reserved, though I enjoyed it quite a lot. I was quite invested at the start of the book, where Harris shows us Lisbeth’s day-to-day life. Then that life is taken away from her, introducing the conflict in the story. Maybe that made me a bit gun-shy.

Eli and Pauline, the other two primary characters, aren’t ones I feel easy with. I’m not supposed to, as the reader, as Lisbeth isn’t herself. She’s never sure of their trustworthiness and intentions. But she has to work with them anyway to fulfill her contract and protect herself.

Since the book is told from Lisbeth’s perspective, perhaps I feel reserved because we know very little about Eli’s world, even though it has the potential to affect Lisbeth greatly. It will be interesting to see if future books let Lisbeth explore the world of the Russian wizards, or if she’ll have more adventures in the former southern US.

Though I feel reserved about the start of this series, I am looking forward to seeing where it goes. 4 Stars.

Other recommendations…

The Shadow series by Lila Bowen, The Devil’s West series by Laura Anne Gilman, or the Dark Alchemy/Wildlands series by Laura Bickle.

Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire

After twelve books, or sooner, many series start losing steam or going off in bizarre directions that make readers lose interest. But while reading the latest October Daye tale, I kept thinking that, even though the major plot event was superficially the same as in a previous book, McGuire has a way of building tale upon tale so that every installment is new, fresh, exciting, and leaves me sad the next book is a year away.

Title: Night and Silence
Author: Seanan McGuire
Series: October Daye
Publish Date: September 4th, 2018, by DAW
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionThings are not okay.

In the aftermath of Amandine’s latest betrayal, October “Toby” Daye’s fragile self-made family is on the verge of coming apart at the seams. Jazz can’t sleep, Sylvester doesn’t want to see her, and worst of all, Tybalt has withdrawn from her entirely, retreating into the Court of Cats as he tries to recover from his abduction. Toby is floundering, unable to help the people she loves most heal. She needs a distraction. She needs a quest.

What she doesn’t need is the abduction of her estranged human daughter, Gillian. What she doesn’t need is to be accused of kidnapping her own child by her ex-boyfriend and his new wife, who seems to be harboring secrets of her own. There’s no question of whether she’ll take the case. The only question is whether she’s emotionally prepared to survive it.

Signs of Faerie’s involvement are everywhere, and it’s going to take all Toby’s nerve and all her allies to get her through this web of old secrets, older hatreds, and new deceits. If she can’t find Gillian before time runs out, her own child will pay the price. One question remains:

Who in Faerie remembered Gillian existed? And what do they stand to gain? No matter how this ends, Toby’s life will never be the same.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

The best series in book, television, movie, or game form are more than just a string of individual adventures. Each installment builds on the previous one, expanding the world, deepening our understanding of and investment in it, and dealing with the consequences of our characters’ previous actions.

The October Day series is one of the best examples of this type of series. Each book brings us new characters (without ignoring the characters we already know and love), reveals more history, and uncovers more secrets. It’s like the “fog of war” in a video game, but instead of revealing the map, it’s revealing history—history that is connected to actions, characters, and events in previous books.

I kept returning to that thought as I read Night and Silence—at how amazing it is that McGuire keeps calling on what we know of the history of October’s world and experience to inform what happens in each book. And how it never feels old or stale to me. It feels like a natural progression.

Occasionally, a seemingly-random piece of new information is introduced, such as Gillian’s step-mother’s history. But it fits so well into the world that you wonder just how random it is, or if the author planned for it all along. Those are the big surprises that can throw the plot into completely new directions and open up a whole new “can of worms” and the potential for new stories.

I’m very excited by the potential future stories made possible by the end of Night and Silence. We’ll get to see a whole new side of October and invest in a completely new character. I also feel like we’re witnessing the emergence of a “new generation” (in a manner of speaking) of influential persons in Faerie that might be leading toward major societal changes.

Or I could be projecting my own hopes for our world onto October’s.

In any case, Night and Silence is yet another fabulous installment in the October Daye series that pulls on history and consequence to keep me interested and invested. 5 stars.

Other recommendations…

The October Daye series is certainly in the top tier of urban fantasy, along with the Dresden Files, the Iron Druid Chronicles, the Mercy Thompson series, the Otherworld series, the Hollows series, and the Novels of the Others. If you haven’t read any of these series, I’d suggest you do so at the first opportunity.

Playing Catch-Up: Fifteen-Second Reviews by Ivana

I have been a BAD book reader and reviewer for the last couple of years, but now I’m trying to catch up! I’ve listened to a lot of audiobooks that I haven’t reviewed yet. I MEANT to review them, but… life, ya know? Anyway, in an effort to get caught up, I’m going to do some fifteen-second reviews – just a quick note about some of the books I’ve read and whether I liked them or not. I’ll do longer reviews when I reread some of them, which I’m sure I will.

The Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan – purchased from Audible. FABULOUS!! I thoroughly enjoyed all five books plus the short story. I loved the perspective of a Victorian naturalist, and I appreciated the issues of being a woman working a field traditionally male and having less sentiment and more ambition than other females.

Conspiracy of Ravens by Lila Bowen – purchased from Audible. Great follow-up to Wake of Vultures. This western paranormal/urban fantasy is intriguing, both because of the gender identity issues it addresses and the Old West setting. Robin Miles is fantastic as the narrator of this series. I’m eagerly awaiting book 3, Malice of Crows, in audio (the audio is two books behind; what’s up with that?).

The Trouble with Fate by Leigh Evans – purchased from GraphicAudio.net. I liked this urban fantasy story, but GraphicAudio does have to abridge books because of their unique format, and I felt this one suffered a bit from it; the romantic relationship between the main protagonists seems to progress too fast. I want to pick up the Kindle version and read in unabridged format sometime soon.

The Magician by Raymond E. Feist – purchased from Audible. I am so excited that the original Riftwar tales finally came out for Kindle and audio. I last read Magician (Apprentice and Master) in high school or college, and there was a lot to the story I didn’t remember, so it was almost like experiencing it for the first time.

Midnight Texas series by Charlaine Harris – purchased from Audible. The first time I read Midnight Crossroads, the first book in this series, I thought it was slow and uneventful. But I later listened to all three books all in a row, and really loved them. It’s a quieter story than Sookie, but no less interesting once you get invested in the characters.

I Can’t Make This Up by Kevin Hart – purchased from Audible. Listening to Kevin Hart narrate his own book is hysterical. The story of his struggles to succeed and to deal with his growing fame are interesting and contain some good lessons. I particularly love it when he goes off script or starts laughing at himself. I’m so glad those parts aren’t edited out; they really enhance the listening experience.

Terminal Alliance by Jim C. Hines – purchased from GraphicAudio.net. Terminal Alliance is the first in a sci-fi series called The Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse. With a name like that, I expected a full-on, Douglas Adams-esque comedy. While it has it’s funny moments, Terminal Alliance was more serious than I expected and a very good story. GraphicAudio’s radio-play style, with individual character voices and sound effects, really enhanced the story. I can’t wait for the next book.

Believe Me by Eddie Izzard – purchased from Audible. Izzard gets very introspective in this memoir, identifying what has shaped him since childhood and how those things have contributed to the person he has become. He goes off-script a lot, which is just delightful for the listener. I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir.

A Wrinkle in Time & A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle – purchased from Audible. I was pretty excited when the newest movie version of A Wrinkle in Time came out. But it seems no version can live up to my childhood memory. So I thought I’d go back to the original trilogy. My first observation is that NO movie is going to do these books justice because so much of the story is internal to the characters, rather than external and observable. My second observation is that the religious overtones (which some sources say were not originally part of the story, but were forced upon it by the publisher) were annoying. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish the third installment. I will always have nostalgia for these books, but they didn’t hold up well for me as an adult. That made me a little sad.

Indexing & Reflections by Seannan McGuire – purchased from Audible. McGuire never fails to build an awesome world. In this series, a team of investigators track down and stop instances of “memetic incursion: where fairy tale narratives become reality, often with disastrous results.” These books were part of the Kindle Serials program, which is now defunct along with this series, but I really wish it wasn’t. The premise of these books is incredibly clever, and the writing is excellent. I really want to read more.

The Adventures of Tom Stranger, Intergalactic Insurance Agent by Larry Correia – purchased from Audible. This is a hilarious, absurd, weird, and totally entertaining sci-fi comedy in the vein of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Plus, listening to Adam Baldwin narrate is a hoot! It’s a shortie at just over two hours, so perfect for a car trip.

Menagerie and Spectacle by Rachel Vincent – purchased from Audible. These books are totally amazing! Incredibly good and incredibly depressing at the same time. Vincent builds a richly diverse world and then fashions the humans who exploit that diversity for personal gain. But I have to say that my revenge fantasies are well-sated by the nature of the protagonist, and that book 3, Fury, promises even more bloody justice. I’ll be rereading these two books, with reviews, soon because Fury just came out, and I’m super excited to read it.

I’m getting back into the groove, so watch for more fifteen-second and full reviews coming soon!

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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