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!
I don’t know of many series whose fourteenth book is still as good as the first. But the October Daye series is certainly one of them.
Title: A Killing Frost
Author: Seanan McGuire
Series: October Daye, Book 14
Publish Date: September 15, 2020
Genre: Urban fantasy
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher’s Description: When October is informed that Simon Torquill—legally her father, due to Faerie’s archaic marriage traditions—must be invited to her wedding or risk the ceremony throwing the Kingdom in the Mists into political turmoil, she finds herself setting out on a quest she was not yet prepared to undertake for the sake of her future…. and the man who represents her family’s past.
Invested Ivana says…
There hasn’t been an October Daye book yet that I don’t find fabulous. Between McGuire’s writing and Kowal’s performance, I am constantly surprised at the emotional response each book can provoke in me. A major theme in A Killing Frost is forgiveness, which is a theme guaranteed to spark emotions.
If you are enjoying this series, don’t miss out on this book. Each one really does build on the last, and I have a feeling there will be some big revelations coming in Book 15!
I’ve been so excited about this return to the world of the Iron Druid! And I’m very grateful that Luke Daniels continues to be the narrator.
Title: Ink & Sigil
Author: Kevin Hearne
Series: Ink & Sigil, Book 1
Publish Date: August 25, 2020
Genre: Urban fantasy
Narrator: Luke Daniels
Publisher’s Description: Al MacBharrais is both blessed and cursed. He is blessed with an extraordinary white mustache, an appreciation for craft cocktails, and a most unique magical talent. He can cast spells with magically enchanted ink and he uses his gifts to protect our world from rogue minions of various pantheons, especially the Fae.
But he is also cursed. Anyone who hears his voice will begin to feel an inexplicable hatred for Al, so he can only communicate through the written word or speech apps. And his apprentices keep dying in peculiar freak accidents. As his personal life crumbles around him, he devotes his life to his work, all the while trying to crack the secret of his curse.
But when his latest apprentice, Gordie, turns up dead in his Glasgow flat, Al discovers evidence that Gordie was living a secret life of crime. Now Al is forced to play detective–while avoiding actual detectives who are wondering why death seems to always follow Al. Investigating his apprentice’s death will take him through Scotland’s magical underworld, and he’ll need the help of a mischievous hobgoblin if he’s to survive.
Invested Ivana says…
What a delight! Ink & Sigil is a fun adventure with great characters and the excellent writing you’d expect from Hearne.
Luke Daniels did a great job, as always, bringing the characters to life with his vocal talents. I will admit that I initially struggled a bit listening to Al’s Glaswegian accent, much like I did with Owen Kennedy’s from the Iron Druid. It was a little rough on my ears until I got used to it (I say that with no nationality bias and with the full knowledge of how American English sounds to many across the world). But after listening to it for a half-hour or so, I didn’t even think about it anymore.
Whether you’ve read the Iron Druid Chronicles or not, if you enjoy really good urban fantasy, this is a book to check out. Hearne really is one of the best writers of the genre.
Everything you’ve read about Sherlock Holmes is a lie. The tale of Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows reveals the real story of Watson and Holmes and the work they undertook to keep this world safe from the old gods.
Title: Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows
Author: James Lovegrove
Series: The Cthulhu Casebooks, Book 1
Publish Date: November 19, 2019, Blackstone
Genre: Urban fantasy
Narrator: Dennis Kleinman
Source: Audible Plus Catalog
Publisher’s Description: It is the autumn of 1880, and Dr. John Watson has just returned from Afghanistan. Badly injured and desperate to forget a nightmarish expedition that left him doubting his sanity, Watson is close to destitution when he meets the extraordinary Sherlock Holmes, who is investigating a series of deaths in the Shadwell district of London. Several bodies have been found, the victims appearing to have starved to death over the course of several weeks, and yet they were reported alive and well mere days before. Moreover, there are disturbing reports of creeping shadows that inspire dread in any who stray too close.
Holmes deduces a connection between the deaths and a sinister drug lord who is seeking to expand his criminal empire. Yet both he and Watson are soon forced to accept that there are forces at work far more powerful than they could ever have imagined. Forces that can be summoned, if one is brave – or mad – enough to dare …
Invested Ivana says…
I’m not exactly sure how to classify this Sherlock Holmes/Cthulhu mash-up, but urban fantasy seems as good a description as any. There is an investigation that takes place in Victorian London, and there are elements of the paranormal, so I guess it qualifies.
The premise of this book is interesting and I like the narrator’s voice. However, I don’t feel very invested in the story or the characters.
The book can get overly wordy, which isn’t surprising for a Victorian-era story. I’m usually okay with exposition, but even I got a bit tired of it.
In this story, Watson has only known Holmes for a week or so, and yet he behaves as if they’ve been devoted friends for a lifetime. I suppose the trauma they are experiencing could be bonding them more quickly than expected.
Somehow, Holmes figures out how to use magic. That seems a little forced, convenient, and out of place.
I enjoyed Dennis Kleinman as the narrator quite a bit. He creates several easily-distinguishable voices throughout the book. There could have been a greater difference between Holmes’s and Watson’s voices. They were different, but the differences were subtle to my ear.
It’s just little things like these that kept me from truly investing in the story. It wasn’t a bad story by any means, but it didn’t draw me in enough to pursue the remaining two books in the series. If you are a particular fan of Holmesian or Lovecraftian fiction, it might be worth checking out, though.
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.