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Listen Up! Three Light-Hearted UF/PNR Series

Since it’s been a while since I’ve posted, I thought I would play catch-up with a multi-book review. My goal lately has been to listen to audiobooks I’ve already purchased instead of buying something new. I have over a thousand audiobooks in three accounts, after all. I should be able to find SOMETHING entertaining, right? I landed on three light-hearted urban fantasy/paranormal romance series that had good mysteries and fit my mood perfectly.

I’m not going to include the story descriptions in this review to save space, but I’ll include a link to the series’ Goodreads page for descriptions. I highly recommend all three of these series if you’re in the mood for belly laughs, mysteries, relatable problems, gorgeous men, and a touch of romance.

Ordinary Magic series by Devon Monk

I decided to listen to Devon Monk‘s Ordinary Magic series again. I like this series a lot. It’s quirky and fun, and Khristine Hvam, who also voices the Jane Yellowrock and Soulwood series, does a fantastic job. I’ve liked Devon Monk’s writing since her Ally Beckstrom series. Ordinary Magic is lighter-hearted than Ally, but the mystery is good and I’m eager to see where it goes.

While the first three books in this series are published in the unabridged, single-narrator format, Graphic Audio has the first five books available. Graphic Audio produces full-scale dramatizations, though somewhat abridged. I like both types of productions, but I’d like to stay consistent within a series, so I hope the rest of Ordinary Magic gets made with Hvam narrating. Please, Audible? Pretty please?

Betwixt and Between series by Darynda Jones

After Ordinary Magic, I tried several different audiobooks. Either the story or the narrator wasn’t fitting my mood until I landed on Darynda Jones‘s Betwixt, and I realized I was wanting some light-hearted brain candy rather than my typical serious UF. The signature humor from Jones’s Charley Davidson series is all over Betwixt, and I laughed out loud several times, which was exactly what I needed. Traci Odom does a great job as narrator, ensuring the humor lands just right. My only frustration is that the second and third books aren’t out yet in audio! Bewitched releases on March 30 (a week from now) and Beguiled releases on May 5. All three books are available now in eBook, though, so I might have to switch formats to get more of this delightful series.

Madison Fox series by Rebecca Chastain

I wanted to stick with this lighthearted theme, so I decided to listen to Rebecca Chastain‘s Madison Fox series in audio. Before the audio was released, I had previously read and enjoyed this series in ebook format. So I knew I’d like the story. I just hoped the narrator did it justice. And she did! Elise Arsenault does a beautiful job voicing the characters and bringing the story to life. There are a few shorts and novellas in this series not in audio, and I’d love to see an anthology narrated by Arsenault, along with more Madison Fox adventures. In the meantime, however, I get to reread Chastain’s Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles and catch up on her Terra Haven series, which is starting to appear in audio as well. Thank you, Tantor!

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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