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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.

Born in Fire by K.F. Breene

Working with vampires is never a good idea, but when broke, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Title:  Born in Fire
Author: K.F. Breene
Series: Fire and Ice Triolgy #1
Publish Date: May 1, 2017
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Narrator: Nicole Poole
Source: Purchased from Audible

Publisher’s DescriptionSupernatural Bounty Hunter isn’t the sort of thing you see on LinkedIn. But with a rare type of magic like mine, I don’t have many options.

Dangerous or not, the job is mine. And it was going fine, until an old as sin vampire stole my mark, and with it, my pay day. Knowing I’m poor and desperate, he has offered me a job. I’ll have to work by his side to help solve a top secret case. Everyone knows not to trust vampires. Especially a hot elder vampire. But without any other jobs coming up, I’m stuck. As I uncover a web of lies and treachery, revealing an enemy I didn’t know existed, the truth of my identity is threatened. I might make it out alive, only to end up in a gilded cage.

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


Nervous Nellie says…

This was a fun an engrossing book. There is no sex-alluding to the deed, yes.  Following through, no.  There is one spot of nudity, plenty of killing of witches and mages…and zombies but no graphic description of violence that leans into the horror category. The four letter “f” word was used a little bit, but it had to be done to make the character a dimensional and believable character. There was also no cliffhanger.

Can I just say that I was not expecting this kind of story? I was kind of expecting a heroine that’s clingy and wishy washy attitude that amplifies to the damsel in distress when she falls into a vapid romance with a vampire that’s going to save her.  That’s what I could get when I do no research, read no sample chapters and listen to no snippets from the narrator.  Basically, I put my money down blindly.  That’s totally unusual for me. But I did it anyway.  Me.  Taking a chance.  Write it in the history books.

What I got in this book, were characters that practically walked out of my earbuds to sit in the room with me.  I gotta say, Reagan’s contacts, clients, co-workers and neighbors are incredibly interesting folk.

When I grow up, I want to be just like Reagan Sommerset.  She’s not afraid of anything.  She’s confident, knows exactly what to do and can figure out a smart ass comeback in a blink of an eye.  She’s such a stand out character that I loved her every minute. Even in the most difficult and awkward of situations, she always has something sassy to say.

As I said, the writing was great – but the narrator….the narrator NAILED it. Her voice range was amazing. This book did not sound like it was being read-no, it sounded like it was being lived!  Poole’s inflection on frustrated, tired, sassy, bossy, hardass Reagan was golden.  Then came the other characters that stood out.  I could picture Reagan’s neighbors and the mage duo like I’d known them forever.  I don’t know how Nicole Poole does it, but she can go from one character speech to another totally different character with a different accent and timbre at the drop of a hat.  I was so impressed with this book, I had no other choice but to give it 5 stars.  It was that good.

Other recommendations…

…you might try  Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock, Brad Magnarella’s Prof Croft series, and Jenn Stark’s amazing Immortal Vegas series…

 

Raw Power by Ambrose Isben

If you were dying, and you were asked if you wanted a risky experimental surgery to save your life, would you do it?  What if the surgery involved a demon’s heart?

Raw PowerTitleRaw Power
Author: Ambrose Isben
Series: Demon Hearted #1
Publish Date: June 6, 2016 by Audible Studios
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Narrator: James Foster
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description:  I’m one of those disgruntled millennials you’ve heard about on the evening news. I’ve got a master’s degree in Art History, a mountain of student loan debt and no job to show for it.

Wait, scratch that. I track down stolen pieces of art for wealthy clients and then beat whoever stole them to within an inch of their life. Say what you will, but it puts bread on the table.

Something went wrong with this last job of mine, though. I walked in on something I wasn’t supposed to see and got murdered by witches. Yeah, real, legit witches. Never saw that one coming, did you? Neither did I, and the only reason I’m writing this is because some doctor working for an ancient secret society decided it would be a good idea to use me as a science experiment.

See, he implanted a new heart in me and saved my life, but it wasn’t just any old heart. It was a demon’s heart. Nifty, eh?

Anyhow, I’m back and better than ever, except that, now and then, the demon takes over completely and I do awful things. Lose control. But enough about that. This is a story about how I (mostly) rein in the demon’s impulsive personality and seek revenge against the coven of witches that tried to kill me. Along the way, I learn a thing or two about this secret society I’m apparently now a member of and find out that there’s a lot of shit out there that goes “bump” in the night.

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


Nervous Nellie says…

Wow. This was a great book.  I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I started this Nervous_Nellie_100book, but it was non-stop action until the end.  This story did not have any sex. There was plenty of violence but nothing too graphic. There was no cliffhanger.

Lucian is kind of a jerk.  I won’t lie and say he’s super cool because he’s not.  He’s basically a thug that “repossesses” items for the uber rich.  He’s just looking for a fast buck and really doesn’t care much about the whys or wherefores. He just wants the payday.

Then the demon heart happened.

The next thing Lucian knew, he was thrown into an A-Team situation where he had the temperament of a spoiled prom queen and the power of… well… a demon.

Not sure that’s a good idea, but the witch coven that is super evil is sacrificing children to work their magic.  It’s up to Lucian and his Scorpion-like team to stop their end game.

By the end of the book, I got to liking Lucian a little better.  That’s good writing right there.  The author took a character from slug to hero in two hundred pages. I am looking forward to the next book, Roaring Blood, as it is waiting for me in my TBR pile.

badge4v5

Quickly, I’d like to address the narrator.  Sometimes you get really crappy narrators that can’t fit their character no matter what.  Not this guy.  His spin on Lucian Colt was awesome.  He captured Lucian’s whiny, spoiled attitude and then helped him along his way to self-realization and becoming a better guy.  Super narrator.  I’ll listen to him again, no questions asked!

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