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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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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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Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter

In the third installment of the Soulwood series, Nell Ingram continues to build a life outside of God’s Cloud of Glory church, master her powers with the Earth, and expand her role as a PsyLED agent.

Title: Flame in the Dark
Author: Faith Hunter
Series: Soulwood, Book 03
Publish Date: December 5, 2017, Audible Studios
Genre: Urban fantasy
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionSet in the same world as Faith Hunter’s New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock novels, the third, thrilling Soulwood novel stars Nell Ingram, who draws her powers from deep within the earth.

Nell Ingram has always known she was different. Since she was a child, she’s been able to feel and channel ancient powers from deep within the earth. When she met Jane Yellowrock, her entire life changed, and she was recruited into PsyLED—the Homeland Security division that polices paranormals. But now her newly formed unit is about to take on its toughest case yet.

A powerful senator barely survives an assassination attempt that leaves many others dead—and the house he was visiting burns to the ground. Invisible to security cameras, the assassin literally disappears, and Nell’s team is called in. As they track a killer they know is more—or less—than human, they unravel a web of dark intrigue and malevolent motives that tests them to their limits and beyond.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Invested Ivana says…

Like all the Faith Hunter books I’ve read, I enjoyed Flame in the Dark very much. I like seeing the characters develop and learning more about the magic and creatures in their world. Khristine Hvam does a wonderful job of voicing the characters.

Flame introduces us to a new magical creature thought long extinct, sheds a little more light on the history of creatures like Soul, and furthers Nell’s relationships with the team and with her sister, Mud. I’m really looking forward to Mud becoming a bigger part of the story. She is a pistol!

Before listening to Flame, I listened to the whole series again, including “Off The Grid,” the Jane Yellowrock short story that introduces Nell. This is a series I’ll come back to often. 5 stars.

Nervous Nellie says…

I cannot praise Faith Hunter enough.  First, she got me hooked on Jane Yellowrock, and then, as Jane’s world expanded, Faith brought in Nell Ingram.  This is an action-packed adventure with plenty of story and character advancement.  There is no sex, no swear words, a little graphic violence, and best of all, no cliffhanger.  I thought there would be, but Faith Hunter saved me from wallowing in cliffhanger self-pity.

The story was great.  I don’t mean on the low side of 5 great. I mean as high on the high side of 5 as the meter will go.  There were monsters.  You think there maybe aren’t monsters at first, but you know better since PsyLED is involved.  These are monsters that give me that feeling like the movie Jaws did to the ocean.  If you listen closely, you can figure out where the monsters are coming from, but the “why” that is answered in the end is just plain dark!  It was GREAT!!!

The other part of the book was fun too.  Not just a little bit, but a lot!  I got to ride around with Nell and live her day.  I liked how she got home and had to put logs into the stove to make heat for the house.  I found her life interesting in an everyday kind of way.  I enjoyed how she used her “church speak” to her advantage.  I loved how Nell put her own father in his place when no one else could.  Not even the Mamas. Go Nell!!  I loved how Nell’s love life changed and she had to do a lot of soul searching to figure out what to do. The “will they/won’t they” between Occam and Nell was palpable.  I could nearly feel the tense vibes that Occam was sending.  Why tense? Well, there is a new man on the scene. If you are on team Occam, you’d better dive in and see what it’s about.

You think that’s all? Um, no.  There is still the whole Brother Ephram thing, the vampire tree thing, and the Mindy “Mud” thing.  There is a whole lot happening in this book.  I was riveted, and the conclusion was very satisfying.

Now, I read a blog that claims this is the end of the series.  Oh, boy.  I hope not.  I still want to be a part of Nell’s life.  I want to ride with her on her journey of life.  In some ways, she is wiser than a woman twice her age, and in other ways, she’s as wise as a girl half her age.  It’s a interesting and engrossing kind of story.

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

Faith Hunter’s other series—Rogue Mage and Jane Yellowrock. Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series. Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series.

Tarnished Journey by Ann Gimpel

This is the final book in the Soul Dance Series. Shifters, Romani, and Celtic gods do battle with demons and vampires who have signed on with Hitler in order to save Earth.

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

tarnished-journey.jpgTitle: Tarnished Journey
Author: Ann Gimpel
Series: Soul Dance 04
Publish Date: July 18, 2017, Ann Gimpel Books, LLC
Genre: Historical Paranormal Romance
Source: Provided by Publisher

Publisher’s DescriptionLong before Germany rounded up Romani and sent them to prison camps, the Netherlands declared them undesirables. Yara’s caravan disbanded when she was fifteen to avoid being driven out of the country. Ten years have passed, and she’s been alone for most of that time hiding in caves and abandoned buildings. It’s been a lonely life, but at least she still has one.

Stewart conceals his true identity for the best of reasons. He’s not actually Romani, even though he’s been a caravan leader for many years. In a bold and desperate move, he joins a small band of shifters and Rom to fight the Reich’s chokehold on Europe. When they’re crossing the border into the Netherlands, vampires attack.

Yara senses Romani near her cave. The stench of vampire comes through loud and clear too, along with shifters. While not nearly as bad as vampires, her people have always steered clear of them. Another type of magic plucks at her. She can’t identify it, but it draws her from her hiding place. That decision tilts her world on its axis when she comes face to face with Stewart’s raw masculinity and savage presence. She could still turn tail and run. If she stays, it doesn’t require magical ability to recognize her life will change forever.


Luna Lovebooks says…Luna_Lovebooks_100

I am almost sad that this series is ending. I was not sure at first, but it became one I greatly enjoyed. For Tarnished Journey we leave behind the vampires and Nazis (for the most part) and get into another mythos, that of the Celts. I enjoyed that aspect a little more than I did the previous novels.

I love that the author features strong women in her stories. Yara is no exception. She has had to be tough and independent since her caravan disbanded and she has been alone since she was fifteen. Meeting Stewart changes everything for her. He introduces her to a new life and reveals many secrets that have been kept from her such as where her power really comes from. I really enjoyed the romance between them. Stewart is very honest with her and genuine in expressing his love. Even though Yara fights him at first, their love had me rooting for them.

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There is a lot of action in the story and many twists. Readers never know what to expect next as the characters encounter all kinds of danger. Not only do they face vampires demons and the Nazis but now god and goddesses are thrown into the mix.Every chapter the characters face a new and exciting danger.

I liked this story better than the previous installments. I give it 4 talismans!

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

Check out the Dragon Lore series by Ann Gimpel, The Hathaways series by LisaKleypas, Gypsy Lord by Kat Martin

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

Dragon’s First Rule by Silver Milan

The little warning about this book sums it up perfectly! This book contains explicit love scenes and is intended for mature readers who like their paranormal romance on the steamier side. Inside you’ll find sexy dragons, strong women, and kick-ass magic.

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

Dragons first ruleTitle: Dragon’s First Rule
Author: Silver Milan
Series: Dragons of Midnight 01
Publish Date: October 1, 2017
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Source: Provided by Publisher

Publisher’s Description: Ariel, a newly turned lion shifter, stumbles into the subterranean City of Midnight, home of the dragon shifters. Alone and vulnerable, she catches the eye of the dangerously attractive dragon king. Jett. He charms her and promises help, but can she trust him? After all, he is the King of the Dragons. Why would such a powerful man come to the aid of a common girl?

When Jett realizes Ariel has no one, he vows to protect her, as the girl has been turned against her will in dragon territory. He plans not only to shield her, but to hunt down the very outlaw who hurt her.

But Jett soon finds himself growing attached to his quirky yet beautiful lion shifter. He begins a dangerous game with her, skirting the razor’s edge of passion. He must take care because if he surrenders to his desire, he will forfeit not only his throne, but perhaps both of their lives.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Luna Lovebooks says…Luna_Lovebooks_100

I must admit, I have read Shifter romances before but none of them involved dragons. I was pleasantly surprised by what I discovered. Often times with these types of romance novels we get the domineering alpha male – literally! But Jett is refreshing in that he wants Ariel to be herself. Sure he has his moments where you don’t touch “his” woman, but honestly, what man doesn’t have those feelings every once in awhile? I love that Ariel is a bad ass in her own right. She kicks butt and takes names and even brings down the man who forced the Shifter life on her.

The plot is fast paced and has a few twists that I did not see coming. The sex scenes were steamy and the action scenes towards the end were exciting. It is a quick little read so there isn’t much room for things to be slow. On the other hand, there were parts that I wish could have been expanded on. I wish we had more time to see the love develop between Ariel and Jett. At times they act like they have known each other for years badge4v5instead of a few days. The magic system is still a little confusing to me but it doesn’t play a big part in this novel so it is OK.

If you like Shifter romances you should give this book a try! I give it four gems for its steamy romance scenes and kick ass females!

 Other recommendations…

Try these other great Shifter reads: The Society series by Mason Sabre, The Demonica series by Larissa Ione, Leopard People series by Christine Feehan

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

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