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Ghosts of Gotham by Craig Schaefer

Ghosts of Gotham is a thrilling supernatural suspense novel. Fans of supernatural and mystery both should enjoy this one immensely.

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Title: Ghosts of Gotham
Author: Craig Schaefer
Series: The Ghosts of Gotham Saga, Book 01
Publish Date: April 9, 2019
Genre: Paranormal thriller
Narrator: Susannah Jones
Source
: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionIrresistibly drawn to mysteries, if only to debunk them, reporter Lionel Page exposes supernatural frauds, swindlers, and charlatans. His latest case is an obsession—at least for an ancient and wealthy heiress: verify the authenticity of a lost Edgar Allan Poe manuscript circulating through New York City’s literary underworld. But the shrewd Regina Dunkle offers more than money. It’s a pact. Fulfill her request, and Lionel’s own notorious buried past, one he’s been running from since he was a child, will remain hidden.

As Lionel’s quest begins, so do the warnings. And where rare books go, murder follows. It’s only when Lionel meets enigmatic stranger Madison Hannah, his personal usher into the city’s secret history, that he realizes he’s being guided by a force more powerful than logic…and that he isn’t just following a story. He is the story.

Now that the true purpose of his mission is revealing itself in the most terrifying ways, it may finally be time for Lionel to believe in the unbelievable.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Nervous Nellie says…

Hats off to Craig Schaefer…AGAIN.  He never disappoints with a story.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began this book, but it wasn’t but a couple of “pages” (I was listening to the audiobook), and I was throughly hooked.  I, like the main character, knew better than to get hooked up with an eccentric, wealthy, older woman who has the connections she has but yet needs someone to investigate something for her.  However, the curiosity practically killed me, so that’s why Lionel couldn’t resist.  The characters that he meets and the story that unfolds is riveting.

The narrator was fantastic.  I can say this because I barely noticed.  Once I get wrapped up in a story, the narrator becomes the characters.  It’s then that I can see the movie in my head and feel like I’m side by side with the main character.  I love narrators that give dimension to a story, and this narrator definitely did that.

It behooves me to give this book a 5 star because of the ride it gave me.  Around each corner, I never knew what to expect.  It was fantastic!

Talk bubble for Ivana

Invested Ivana says…

This was Nell’s pick for a joint review, and it was an excellent one. Ghosts of Gotham is a thrill ride of mystery and magic. The first chapter is really compelling and hooked me immediately. I also love the relationships Lionel has with both Maddie and Brionna.

If I have one nitpick, it’s that in a story with a literal goddess and several female witches who may be thousands of years old, the NEOPHYTE MALE has to be the one to save the day. But I like this world Schaefer is building, and I like the characters, so I’m not going to get too picky about that. 🙂

I recognize the narrator, Susannah Jones, from the Kincade Strange novels by Kristi Charish. She’s an excellent narrator with a lovely voice and good character differentiation. I see she narrates a number of Schaefer’s other novels as well, so I’m looking forward to hearing more of them.

The second book in the series, A Time For Witches, came out in October of 2020. It’s available in Kindle version, but not yet in audio. I hope it does come out in audio soon, as I’m looking forward to hearing what Lionel and his coven take on next. 4.5.

Morrigan’s Bite by Laura Bickle

Title:  Morrigan’s Bite
Author:  Laura Bickle
Series:  Crow’s Curse #2
Publish Date: October 23, 2020
Source: purchased by reviewer 
Pu
blisher’s Description:Becoming a vampire was the worst thing to ever happen to Garnet Conners. But does she have to become a monster, too?

Garnet had a beautiful life…and it was stolen from her when she was turned into a vampire against her will. Once a successful trauma surgeon with good friends, she now finds herself hiding out in the basement of a coven house governed by hostile witches. Struggling with her vampiric urges, she despairs of ever returning to her former life.

Garnet’s discovered that she’s an incarnation of the legendary Morrigan. She dreams in blood, of the Morrigan’s other bloodthirsty incarnations over the centuries. Garnet’s dreams reveal her previous existence as Erzebet Bathory, and Garnet fears becoming that monster once again.

With the help of the witches, she attempts to learn to use her magical powers to control her vampiric nature…an experiment that ends in disaster. When her sister and friend go missing, Garnet knows she’s being hunted by vampires who will stop at nothing to bring her back into their fold.

Merrel, the vampire who turned her, offers her a bargain. He will return the abducted women, but Garnet must agree to spend three nights with him, training as a vampire. Garnet reluctantly accepts, but she fears giving in to her vampire nature and becoming the killer of the previous lifetime she’s reliving in her dreams.

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


Nervous Nellie says…

What can I say?  Middle books of trilogies are always full of action. There is so much going on and the characters all have to stay alive until the last story is told.  Garnet is not happy.  She did not want to be a vampire.  Now that she is a vampire, she want’s to get rid of the whole schtick.  She wants to go back to being the best surgeon she can be and to live her live with her brown hair and no fangs or cravings for blood.

Since she’s unable to go back to the way things were before, she has to figure out what to do.  The vampires and witches are fighting a war.  They used to be allies, but the turbulence of the past centuries have done series damage.  Throughout this book, Garnet has to try and figure out who she is and what she is.  She has no help from Merrell or Sorin.  One is with the vampires and one is with the witches.  Both want Garnet for the power she wields.  Maybe they want more, but from where I’m sitting at this point, they want the power.

The Morrigan is a powerful goddess and she is the only one that can stop the war.  How she’s going to do that, is what I’m looking forward to in the last book of the trilogy.

There isn’t really any cliffhangers on the books, just lead ins to the next in the series.  There is blood (lots) and even gore (I didn’t flinch when the vampires are ripping on humans, but I couldn’t read the parts when the vampires feed on animals.)  So, just a heads up, there is one part in this book that is explicit with an animal.  Just skip a few lines, it’ll be ok.  There is no sex but there is violence.  Mostly, this book is about Garnet trying to find the world she belongs in.  I give it 5 stars.

Our reviews in this series…

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Listen Up! Dark Divide, Badlands Witch, and Immortal Conquistador by Carrie Vaughn

I’m super excited to be going back into the world of Kitty Norville for these stories about Kitty’s friends — bounty hunter, Cormac, and his witch partner Amelia, and the vampire Rick, Conquistador de la Noche and Master of Denver.

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Dark DivideTitleDark Divide and Badlands Witch
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Series: set in the world of Kitty Norville
Publish Date: January 28, 2020, Tantor Media
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Narrator: Neil Hellegers
Source
: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: In brand-new stories spun off from the New York Times Bestselling Kitty Norville series, dark mysteries push the bounds of sanity. Cormac Bennett, ex-con and former bounty hunter, is a paranormal investigator with an edge: his partner is the disembodied spirit of a Victorian wizard, Amelia Parker. Together, they solve problems no one else can.

In Dark Divide, they’re asked to investigate a mysterious death in the Sierra Nevadas: a man died of hunger —in a cabin that was fully stocked with provisions. The kicker? The cabin is located near Donner Pass, the site of the gruesomely ill-fated Donner Party, where forty men, women, and children died of exposure and starvation. The event was made famous by reports of cannibalism among the survivors. Is the Donner site haunted? Is some evil force rising again after a hundred fifty years to wreak destruction? Can Cormac and Amelia learn the truth without being caught in the web? Well, they can try…

In Badlands Witch, Cormac and Amelia travel to South Dakota, where an archeologist has hired them to examine an artifact for possible magical qualities. Cormac is skeptical, Amelia is intrigued. And it turns out – the whole thing is a trap. Cormac used to make his living killing monsters, and he made more than a few enemies back in the day. Who from his past is out for revenge, and can he and Amelia survive?

These stories are published separately as Kindle novellas but together in audio.

Immortal ConqistadorTitle: Immortal Conquistador
Author: Carrie Vaughn
Series: set in the world of Kitty Norville
Publish Date: April 28, 2020, Tantor Media
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Narrator: Neil Hellegers
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: From Carrie Vaughn, author of the beloved Kitty Norville werewolf talk-show host series, comes the vampire origin story of Kitty’s famed ally, Rick-and his sudden turn to darkness in the seventeenth century.

More than 500 years before his friendship with Kitty, noble Ricardo de Avila’s life met a fate-changing twist, and his morally-complex, blood-soaked existence as an immortal began. Before being turned, Ricardo de Avila would have followed Coronado to the ends of the earth. Instead he found the end of his mortal life-and a new one, as a renegade vampire. For over five hundred years as an immortal, Ricardo has followed his own moral code, upsetting the established order in the demon world. He has protected his found family from marauding evil, joined up with a legendary gunslinger, tended bar, appointed himself the Master of Denver, and discovered a church buried under the Vatican. The life of a vampire is frequently long, but for Rick, it is never easy.

DEFINITE spoilers beyond this point.


Talk bubble for IvanaInvested Ivana says…

Story: In Dark Divide and Badlands Witch, we get to know more about Ben’s cousin, Cormac, and Cormac’s partner, the 19th-century witch, Amelia, who hitched a ride in his head while he was in prison. Since Cormac can no longer pursue his career as a bounty hunter, he and Amelia start investigating paranormal events and, of course, find lots of trouble.

I enjoy their adventures very much. The contrast in their voices and perspectives is interesting, and seeing the incredibly closed-off Cormac from inside his own head is enlightening. He’s a tough nut to crack in Kitty’s stories, and though he’s a beloved character, readers don’t really get to know him. Seeing him open up in these stories, even if it’s because he doesn’t have a choice to do otherwise, is a cool bit of character development.

I couldn’t help myself, though. Everyone once in a while as I was reading, I had to whisper to myself, “back in bowl” the way Richard Libertini says it in All of Me (1984). Yeah, I know. I’m old and that’s an old reference. But oh, so appropriate.

The Immortal Conquistador is both a flashback novel and forward character development for Rick, the reluctant vampire. He’s another interesting character in Kitty’s world—which, in all honesty, is filled with interesting characters. Readers get to follow Rick through periods in history as he contemplates his origins and how they made him the perfect agent for a secret papal army fighting the supernatural baddies of the world.

I really enjoyed this novel, but it also left me with more questions. This novel didn’t tell us how Rick came to be a part of the Denver group of vampires after he refused to do so several times over (though it’s been a while since I read the Kitty series, and if it’s told there, I forget). Also, will we see more of Rick in his new role as a Vatican-sanctioned vampire? Perhaps pursuing the new information we learned about Dux Bellorum? I’d read that for sure. Maybe the upcoming October release, Kitty’s Mix Tape, will touch on some of these.

And as long as I’m asking, how about a novel about Odessus Grant, the magician Kitty meets in Vegas with the magic box behind which I like to imagine the Old Gods lurks? I am super curious about his character and would love to learn more about him.

Narration: I am pleasantly surprised by the narration by Neil Hellegers, not having heard him before. I wasn’t sure at first if Hellegers sounded like Cormac to me, but as with any new narrator, it just took me time to align the character and the voice in my head. I see Hellegers narrates the Black Magic Outlaw series by Domino Finn, which is in my TBR list, and J.P. Sloan’s Dark Choir series, which I’ve read and reviewed but not heard, so I’ll have to pull those out soon.

badge5v5Overall: I think I would read any story set in Kitty’s world, whether it was about Kitty or her many interesting acquaintances. Vaughn has created a rich world full of magic and mayhem that could support thousands of stories. Sign me up for all of them!

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…

 

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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