Audiobook Giveaway & Review: Speakeasy Dead by Vicky Loebel

LoebelSpeakeasyDeadScroll to the bottom for the GIVEAWAY!

Narrators: Emily Beresford & Nick Podehl

Publisher: Pentachronistic Press (2013)

Length: 12 hours 49 minutes

Series: Book 0.5 Demonic Intervention

Author’s Page

Note: This book and it’s loosely tied-in sequel, Keys to the Coven, can each work just fine as stand alones.

Set in Falstaff, Arizona in the 1920s during Prohibition, the Woodsens run a speakeasy bar and also sell some of their surplus alcohol to others. Now a Chicago-based mob is trying to move in and run the alcohol trade. They will be surprised at how little pushing it takes to upset a witch. Meanwhile, the youngest of the Woodsen cousins, teen Clara, is desperate to save her beloved movie star Beau Beauregard. She’s willing to break some rules in the name of true love (or her first crush). Her older cousin, Bernard (Bernie) Benjamin, is just the guy to help her out, even if he has to be lured to the basement and tied to the center of a pentagram. Demons and zombies have never had so much fun as they will during the dance competition!

Once again, Vicky Loebel has given me something original and very funny. There’s a bit of sexy (though it’s pretty PG-13 for this book) as well. Clara is a driven character who’s young enough to not know to look at the bigger picture when it comes to love, yet old enough to have just enough responsibility and autonomy to get into big trouble. She’s dead set on saving her ‘beloved’ Beau even if he has no idea she exists (and that’s because they’ve never met). She’s even willing to become a warlock by summoning a demon and striking a bargain with it. Hans is the handsome demon that appears and somehow he talks things around so that his demon familiar, Ruth, will enter a dance contest. The pit just gets deeper from there on out.

With the Chicago mob, Bernie and his personal schemes, Gladys the Golem, Beau’s resentment over the whole mess, zombies, stolen booze, and an older Woodsen sibling arriving soonish, Clara really does have her hands full. It was so funny! There’s plenty of clever lines and each person really has their own agenda in mind. Clara wants love from Beau, and to not get caught. Bernie doesn’t want to die a horrible death (which is surely what will happen when Clara’s older witch sisters find out about this whole mess). The mob want their booze, the money, and control (and they seem constantly surprised when that doesn’t happen easily). Beau is quite angry with his situation and Clara is totally surprised by what he truly wants. Gladys just wants to get back to housekeeping.

I really enjoyed the various magical elements. There’s the demon Hans and his familiar Ruth which have their intricate little dos and don’ts. Then Gladys who is a Golem and rather protective of young Bernie. One of Clara’s best friends is a ghost whisperer and she has a ghost familiar (Gaspar, complete with Spanish accent). Loebel manages to pull each one into the storyline seamlessly. Moreover, she gives each one rules to work with and she keeps them within those rules. With a comedy, it would be easy to have these various magical folk breaking rules, so I appreciated that once the author laid down a law of this is how this type of magic works, she kept her characters in line.

I did quite enjoy all the flirty, sexy behavior that popped up here and there. Demons love to trade on sex because it builds up their karma, which is basically spiritual coinage. Clara knows all this from her older witch sisters and her book on demons. Yet when the offers are made to her, she’s tempted. Bernie isn’t as naive but he’s not as well-schooled as he likes to pretend either. Ruth, being a large hunting cat most of the time, has a sexy confidence all the time, even when she’s totally mangling her dance partner’s foot during practice. There’s plenty of wit and humor with the sexy bits, making them just as fun as the rest of the book.

Having listened to both audiobook set in this urban fantasy world, I really hope Loebel gives us more. The humor is a bit unique and I love the mix of serious situations, magic, and laughter. Not everyone makes it out of this story unscathed. In many ways, Clara comes of age in this tale. Loved it and looking forward to more of it!

I received a free copy of this book.

Narration: Emily Beresford and Nick Podehl once again did a great job on this book. Even though they voiced totally different characters for Keys to the Coven, I read them far enough apart that I didn’t have character echos in my head, as can sometimes happen when you listen to books set in the same universe that have different characters yet the same narrators. These two are great with all the emotions and also delivering straight lines so the humor is left hanging there for the reader/listener to catch even as the story moves onward.

What I Liked: Arizona!; the Prohibition era; silly mobsters being all tough and hard to take a hint; Clara’s first real crush; Beau’s reaction to that crush; Bernie’s role in all this mess; Gladys is probably the most dangerous one in the mix but knows when to hold back; Ruth is a sexy beast; Gaspar and his Zorro sword; how it all ends with a Charleston.

What I Disliked: Nothing – so darn funny!

GIVEAWAY!

Vicky is generously offering up 3 audiobook copies of her book Speakeasy Dead! The audiobook is available through both Audible.com and Audible.UK. To enter the giveaway, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: 1)  Do you have either an Audible.com or an Audible.UK account?  2) What attracts you most to this book? Zombies? Prohibition? Demons? Dance Contests? 3) Leave a way to contact you if you win. Giveaway ends April 4th, midnight, 2017.

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Halfway Hunted by Terry Maggert

MaggertHalfwayHuntedCheck out the tour page for more reviews, interviews, and more. 

Narrator: Erin Spencer

Publisher: Terry Maggert (2016)

Length: 6 hours 56 minutes

Series: Book 3 Halfway Witchy

Author’s Page

Note: This book can work as a stand alone though you would get more out of it if you had read the previous two books just because of the relationship between Carlie and Wulfric.

Set nearly 1 year after the ending of Book 2, Halfway Bitten, Carlie is still fretting over Wulfric’s fate after he sacrificed his humanity to defeat the Big Baddie from Book 2. But she’s also still working at the diner and playing servant to her 35 pound cat Gus. Then her librarian friend gives her a new puzzle to work on – a stranger has turned up in town and he looks like he needs be brought up to speed. Exit Wainwright is a miner and mineralogist who recently woke up 100 years after he was cursed into a forced sleep.

Immediately, Gran and Carlie are on the case. It takes a bit of powerful magic to put someone into a suspended sleep for so long. Exit’s first concern is to find out what happened to his wife. He’s a practical man and he expects that she is dead but he wants to find her grave and perhaps learn how the rest of her life played out. Gran and Carlie immediately take him under their wings.

Early on, Carlie is able to use a spell to try to locate the remains of Mrs. Wainwright. However, what they find only deepens the mystery and also saddens Exit. Carlie then brings her shape-shifter friend, Alex, and his sister Anna (who Carlie isn’t a fan of) up to speed on the unfolding mystery. Alex is really growing on me. Anna is still mostly in the shadows in this book, despite her tie to Wulfric (they have a child together) and Carlie’s dislike of her.

It turns out there is a hunter in Halfway and Gran and Carlie disagree with his methods and his choice of prey. This book surprised me because they solve one problem only to have another layer revealed and yet another foe or obstacle to be tackled. Meanwhile, Carlie has been working for the past year on a spell to help Wulfric, whose vampire half has taken over. Carlie is in danger from more than one front! I wasn’t sure how things would turn out in the end and I was kept guessing until the last chapter.

Gran continues to surprise me. I am growing really attached to her character. In this book, Carlie makes a tough but perhaps a dangerous choice. Gran shows her what happened to a relative of hers in the past and that bit of family history really sobers Carlie.

As a final note, I really enjoyed the mail delivery lady in this story. She was introduced in the previous book, but she gets a bigger role in this story. Her wholesome sexuality is also a welcome addition to the tale. Plus, she rather practical and capable – two things that I always appreciate.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Erin Spencer continues to do this series justice. She makes a really good Carlie and I love her Gran voice as well. Her light accent for Wulfric remains charming. I also like her big bear of a man voice for Exit.

What I Liked: Carlie walks a narrow path between good and evil in her spell for helping Wulfric; Gran continues to be a font of wisdom; Exit is a fun new addition; Alex is turning into a good friend; great narration. 

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a fun read!

About the Author Terry Maggert

AuthorTerryMaggertLeft-handed. Father of an apparent nudist. Husband to a half-Norwegian. Herder of cats and dogs. Lover of pie. I write books. I’ve had an unhealthy fascination with dragons since the age of– well, for a while. Native Floridian. Current Tennessean. Location subject to change based on insurrection, upheaval, or availability of coffee. Nine books and counting, with no end in sight. You’ve been warned.

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads

About the Narrator Erin Spencer

ErinSpencerNarratorErin loves audiobooks!  As an actress, they have allowed her to creatively stretch by playing all kinds of characters, all kinds of ages and all kinds of accents!  She voiced roles in the Audie award winning title, Illuminae and was also nominated for a Voice Arts Award in the romance category.  She has narrated over 100 titles and as an audiobook director has worked on at least 100 more.  She has worked for most of the major publishers and also enjoys working with indie writers who are some of the most talented writers out there! Follow her on Twitter @ErinSpencerLA or find her on Facebook, Erin Spencer Actress.

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads

Book Blurb for Halfway Hunted

MaggertHalfwayHuntedWelcome to Halfway; where the waffles are golden, the moon is silver, and magic is just around every corner.
A century old curse is broken, releasing Exit Wainwright, an innocent man trapped alone in time.
Lost and in danger, he enlists Carlie, Gran, and their magic to find the warlock who sentenced him to a hundred years of darkness. The hunter becomes the hunted when Carlie’s spells awaken a cold-blooded killer intent on adding another pelt to their gruesome collection: hers.
But the killer has never been to Halfway before, where there are three unbreakable rules:
1. Don’t complain about the diner’s waffles.
2. Don’t break the laws of magic.
3. Never threaten a witch on her home turf.
Can Carlie solve an ancient crime, defeat a ruthless killer and save the love of her life from a vampire’s curse without burning the waffles?
Come hunt with Carlie, and answer the call of the wild.

Audible ~ Amazon

Halfway Bitten by Terry Maggert

MaggertHalfwayBittenCheck out the tour page for more reviews, interviews, and more. 

Narrator: Erin Spencer

Publisher: Terry Maggert (2016)

Length: 7 hours 19 minutes

Series: Book 2 Halfway Witchy

Author’s Page

Note: This book works fine as a stand alone though I think you would enjoy some of the characters more if you read Book 1, Halfway Dead first.

Set in the picturesque, touristy New York town of Halfway, Carlie is still making waffles at the local diner. Wulfric is enjoying his new-found freedom, and Carlie’s company. Gus still appreciates having human slaves to open his tuna and provide a warm bed. But something is afoot, and it’s more than just the circus in town and the clowns cluttering up the diner. As more bodies pile up, Carlie and Gran must put their witchy powers to use. Vampires are crossing their territory and not all are behaving nicely.

This was another fun addition to the series. Carlie is a little older, a little wiser, but also completely smitten by her half-vampire Viking lover. I think her love life had her a little distracted throughout the book, but I can forgive her. It’s her first love and she’s fallen hard. Plus, Wulfric is an interesting character in his own right. Things are complicated a little by his previous girlfriend, a shape-shifter named Anna. They have a child together and so it’s unlikely that Anna will ever truly be out the picture, much to the irritation of Carlie.

The librarian was also a favorite character, even though I don’t recall his name. He’s a little awkward, totally geeky, and definitely a worthy ally. He helps Carlie dig up info on the first body and he doesn’t lose it when he actually sees the body. I also enjoyed the mail delivery lady. She has a wholesome sexuality that everyone enjoys. I am glad the author put this character in the story because she serves as counterpoint to Anna. Carlie goes off a few times about Anna’s promiscuity and it really borders on slut shaming, but then we have the mail delivery lady who Carlie likes. I’d like to point out we never actually see Anna behaving badly, we just hear about it from Carlie. Jealousy? Perhaps.

I really enjoyed Gran sharing one of her secret information sources, a certain ghost. That scene has stuck with me and still has me chuckling. I love that Gran is not only an important person in Carlie’s life but also a worthy mentor.

Eventually the mystery starts to unfold as more than one vampire attempts to cross the lands protected by the McEwan witches. And, of course, the clowns play into it as well. How could they not? If you find clowns a little creepy, then this story will raise your gooseflesh. I really liked the underlying mystery and Gran and Carlie have to go to battle with their witchy spells. I’m on the fence about whether or not I liked Wulfric’s role in the final battle.

Overall, this was a solid story and I got quite a bit of enjoyment out it. However, I did enjoy Book 1 more. Still, I look forward to the next book in the series.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Erin Spencer does another good job with this installment in the series. She really sounds like a 20ish woman. I also like her accent for Wulfric and some of the clowns had accents as well. Her Gran is also growing on me quite a bit.

What I Liked: Carlie’s determined to protect her territory; vampires; ghosts; Wulfric the viking vampire; great narration.

What I Disliked: Slut shaming? Perhaps; still on the fence about Wulfric’s role in the final battle.

About the Author Terry Maggert

AuthorTerryMaggertLeft-handed. Father of an apparent nudist. Husband to a half-Norwegian. Herder of cats and dogs. Lover of pie. I write books. I’ve had an unhealthy fascination with dragons since the age of– well, for a while. Native Floridian. Current Tennessean. Location subject to change based on insurrection, upheaval, or availability of coffee. Nine books and counting, with no end in sight. You’ve been warned.

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads

About the Narrator Erin Spencer

ErinSpencerNarratorErin loves audiobooks!  As an actress, they have allowed her to creatively stretch by playing all kinds of characters, all kinds of ages and all kinds of accents!  She voiced roles in the Audie award winning title, Illuminae and was also nominated for a Voice Arts Award in the romance category.  She has narrated over 100 titles and as an audiobook director has worked on at least 100 more.  She has worked for most of the major publishers and also enjoys working with indie writers who are some of the most talented writers out there! Follow her on Twitter @ErinSpencerLA or find her on Facebook, Erin Spencer Actress.

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads

Book Blurb for Halfway Bitten

MaggertHalfwayBittenThe circus came to Halfway, and they brought the weird. When clowns, vampires, and corpses start piling up in town, Carlie has to break away from her boyfriend, Wulfric, to bring her witchy skills to the table- or grill, as the case may be. When the body of a young woman washes up in the lake, it unleashes a spiral of mystery that will bring Carlie, Gran, and Wulfric into a storm of magical warfare. Spells will fly. Curses will rain. Amidst it all, Carlie will make waffles, protect her town, and find out if a man from the distant past can join her in happy ever after. With love and honor at stake, Carlie has no peer.

Audible ~ Amazon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

BarnhillTheGirlWhoDrankTheMoonHeldigClaudieNarrator: Christina Moore

Publisher: Recorded Books (2016)

Length: 9 hours 37 minutes

Author’s Page

In this beautifully magical book, the witch Xan adopts a sacrificial baby from the Protectorate into her heart, having accidentally fed her the moonlight. As baby Luna grows, so does her magic yet she is unable to control it. Soon she unknowingly becomes a hazard to her adoptive family, turning Glerk into a fuzzy mammal. Xan fears tiny dragon Fyrian may be next, so she bottles up Luna’s magic until she is older and can control it. Meanwhile, sorrow hangs heavy over the Protectorate as the Tower and the Elders demand the yearly sacrifice to the ‘witch’ to keep their town safe. Meanwhile, young Antain has grown into a young man and over the course of the book he becomes determined to stop the ‘witch’ from stealing any more of their children.

Wow! Just, simply, wow! I fell in love hard with this book. I do enjoy a fun kid’s book here and there but this hit all the right buttons for me. It has this wonderful mix of magic, sorrow, adventure, loss, love, discovery, humor, and goodbyes. Barnhill has magnificently caught the sorrow of losing a child and also a child’s longing to know their biological parents in this intense fairy tale. Those two things give what would otherwise be a light, fun read a certain keen edge that makes all the beautiful parts that much more intense.

The Protectorate is surrounded by a bog and a forest and few of the residents know of any life outside the area. It is ruled by two powers – the Council and Elders (a group of ‘wise’ old men) and the Tower (which is filled with armed, armored, and well-educated women). Right away, we are privy to a yearly scene where a child is taken from its family and walked to edge of the town and left for the evil ‘witch’ to retrieve. The townsfolk are told this is to keep the entire town from being decimated by the witch, but the Elders all know there is no witch. The ritual keeps them in power and comfort. Young Antain, who is being groomed to become an Elder, sees first hand the horrible result of this as the baby’s mother goes insane with grief and is locked in the Tower for safekeeping.

Xan has known for years that the Protectorate gives up a child on the same day every year so she has been visiting them in secret and taking the babies off to other cities to be adopted into willing families. Yet this time it is different. Xan calls down the starlight to feed the baby, but she is extra hungry, and before Xan knows it, she has accidentally fed the babe moonlight, enmagicing her. Xan decides to adopt her, names her Luna, and becomes her Grandmother. Glerk, an ancient, friendly bog monster, and Fyrian, a tiny baby dragon, round out the family.

Xan is the real star of this book. She gives so much and becomes a bit of a willing sacrifice herself. Her decisions drive much of the plot. Plus I just enjoy her character. She’s got a bit of a hidden history that becomes clearer towards the end of the book. Luna is fun but she doesn’t have much of a personality until the last quarter of the book. I was also quite taken with Antain. His story arc is the most dynamic, starting off as a young lad, being groomed as an Elder, studying in the Tower, suffering a scarring accident, and eventually resolving to put an end to the yearly sacrifices. I think Antain deserves a story of his own. Fyrian and Glerk provide the comedic relief much of the time but add so much love and happiness to the tale I would be shallow to dismiss them. Glerk, being as ancient as he is, knows the importance of family and the ties of love and friendship. Fyrian is not as young as he thinks he is but he’ll grow into it.

There is a hidden villain in the story and I didn’t figure out their identity until the last third of the book. I loved that I was totally not expecting it and therefore, I didn’t really know where this tale would take me. I loved that I couldn’t easily predict how things would turn out. The story has just enough hard edges, just enough evil and sorrow, that the author had me wondering if this fairy tale would indeed have a happy ending. Luna’s mom really captures the heart of this novel. Her immense love for her lost baby has driven her into a deep sorrow and that sorrow has pushed her into a touch of insanity and that touch has opened the door of magic just a crack. All these elements are connected in one person here and the bigger story shows how those elements connect all the people in this tale to one another. It’s really quite clever. Like up there with Neil Gaiman kind of clever.

In short, I can’t recommend this book enough. I was captured from the opening scene and didn’t want to put it down. I was never quite sure how things would end and this kept me thoroughly invested in the story and characters.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Christian Moore did a great job with this book. I loved her voice for Xan, Glerk, and Fyrian. She also managed quite well in portraying not only a young Antain but also the man he grew into over the course of the book. Her voice for the true villain could be quite spooky indeed! She was excellent at imbuing scenes with the correct, and sometimes subtle, emotions. 

What I Liked: Beauty and sorrow mixed together; and intense fairy tale; enchanting characters; clever villain; ties of family, friendship, and love; Antain’s quest; Luna’s coming of age; Xan’s sacrifice; Glerk and Fyrian; excellent narration; beautiful cover art. 

What I Disliked: Nothing! A completely enchanting tale.

What Others Think:

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Giveaway & Review: Burning Bright by E. J. Stevens

StevensBurningBrightWhere I Got It: Review copy.

Publisher: Sacred Oaks Press (2015)

Narrators: Melanie A. Mason, David Wilson Brown

Length: 7 hours 32 minutes

Series: Book 3 Ivy Granger

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 3 in the series, I think it works fine as a stand alone.

Ivy Granger returns for a third installment in the series. Her best friend Jinx is in dire straights – and Ivy is the only one who can save her, but at a cost. Someone may just have to die. Additionally, there’s a hoard of fire imps running lose, creating havoc in the city of Harborsmouth.

Previously, Ivy made a deal or two with the Green Lady (aka the glaistig) in a chaotic moment. Basically, Ivy owes her a favor, or two. And the Green Lady has called in her debt. It’s a doozy and Ivy is none too happy about it. But the fae have strict rules about deals and if Ivy doesn’t make good, then she may well become an assassin’s target. Yeah, this book was fun and I enjoyed it the most of the first three books in the series.

The plot has Ivy running all over the place trying to figure out how to get herself out of this jam while also saving her friend and not killing any other friends. It’s tough. Oh, and the vampires call in their mark, requiring Ivy to stop the fire imps. So, she’s got all sort s of pressures and she holds up well. The pacing and action are all great. There’s some small fight scenes but also several intense, dangerous situations that don’t necessarily end in violence. Some of these had me holding my breath as I didn’t know if Ivy would end up with some interesting scars or not.

Once again, this urban fantasy is steep in mythology, which I love. There’s various types of demons, water lords, a witch, and Ivy herself as a half-Wisp. Ivy has to use what she knows (or learns) about these folk to out wit them or to make reasonable bargains with them. Indeed, I think Ivy is coming into her own in this book. She’s not insecure or hesitant and instead acts with decision, which is needed in many of the cases. Frankly, she has become that bad ass we were all hoping for.

The side characters are all interesting in their own ways, but they are rather static. They have pretty much stayed the same since they stepped on the page. The one exception may be the demon Forneus, but we don’t get much of him overall. The characters do provide a good backdrop for Ivy to bounce off of and let her grow.

I quite enjoyed this installment in the series and I really look forward to seeing where the author takes the series next.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the author in exchange for an honest review (thanks!).

Narration: Melanie Mason was a good voice for Ivy. It did take me perhaps 30 minutes to get use to her voice for the story after recently listening to Book 1 & 2, which are narrated by Traci Odom. Nevertheless, she did a very nice job. of course, her inflections for Jinx and Kaye are different, but consistent throughout the book. David Wilson Brown stepped in and did all the male voices, which were each distinct. I especially liked his voice for Humphrey the gargoyle. They included a few sound effects, such as making a voice sound like it was on a phone and trying to do creepy  vampire laughter (which came off more amusing than creepy). Still, I appreciated these little touches and for the most part they worked.

What I Liked:  Great pacing with lots of action; Ivy grows as a character; Ivy is in a real pickle; plenty of interesting side characters; Ivy becomes the bad ass we have all wanted; nice ending. 

What I Disliked: The side characters are all pretty static.

What Others Think:

Gizmo’s Book Reviews

Earth’s Book Nook

Rabid Reads

Author Info

E.J. Stevens is the author of fourteen works of speculative fiction, including the Spirit Guide young adult paranormal romance series, the Hunters’ Guild urban fantasy series, and the award-winning Ivy Granger urban fantasy series. She is known for filling pages with quirky characters, bloodsucking vampires, psychotic faeries, and snarky, kick-butt heroines.

When E.J. isn’t at her writing desk, she enjoys teaching writing workshops, dancing along seaside cliffs, singing in graveyards, and sleeping in faerie circles. E.J. currently resides in a magical forest on the coast of Maine where she finds daily inspiration for her writing.

Connect with E.J. on Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon, Pinterest, and on her Blog.

Giveaway Info

Winner will receive a signed BURNING BRIGHT postcard, BURNING BRIGHT audiobook download from Audible.com, and custom E.J. Stevens earbuds.  Giveaway begins November 10th and ends November 24th.  This giveaway is open to mailing addresses in US/CA/UK.  Giveaway winners will be chosen by Rafflecopter.  Giveaway ends November 24, 2015.

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Ghost Light by E. J. Stevens

StevensGhostLightWhere I Got It: Review copy.

Publisher: Sacred Oaks Press (20134)

Narrator: Traci Odom

Length: 8 hours 15 minutes

Series: Book 2 Ivy Granger

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, I think it works fine as a stand alone.

Ivy Granger, psychic detective, and her best friend Jinx must solve a most disturbing mystery: someone has snatched over 30 fae children and their parents are clamoring at Ivy’s door for assistance. As Ivy digs further into the mystery, she has a run in with Melasine, a deranged lamia and former wife to Ceffyr, Ivy’s current beau.

I  enjoyed this book a little more than Book 1, Shadow Sight, as the plot was tighter and we spent more time on it as the main characters are already established. Ivy continues to grow as a character through the search for knowledge of her father and her growing relationship with the kelpie king Ceffyr. The rest of the characters remain pretty static, if interesting, and allow Ivy to bounce off of them. The romance with Ceffyr is a nice touch as it is all new to Ivy. The author does a good job of showing how important the relationship is to Ivy without boring the reader with mushiness.

Jinx continues to be the opposite to Ivy with her love of fancy shoes and flirtatious behavior. However, she does get to use a crossbow (yay!) and that makes her cute and deadly. Torn, a cat sidhe, is added to the mix. He’s mysterious and not entirely trusted by Ivy and her friends, yet he has info. Ivy used her psychometric abilities to gain a few visions of the missing kids and now she has a puddle of questions. She thinks the Wisps may be involved but she doesn’t know how or why. Being half Wisp herself, she feels a deep need to figure this out.

Once again, Ivy pulls in assistance from an assortment of folks – the resident Harborsmouth vampires, the witch Kaye, Father Michael, the Green Lady (a glastic who runs a local carnival), and others. The end to the mystery was full of action and danger. And then we have roughly two hours left in the book.

Yeah. Two hours. That’s kind of a long wrap up. Now, important and even interesting stuff happened during these two hours. Ivy learns a bit more about her father, king of the Wisps, and potentially why he left her and her mother. She also spends some time recovering from the big fight and getting to know Ceffyr better. However, I found that this section dragged a little for me. We already had the big action scene, the answer to the big mystery, and the resolution with the big baddie. It was awesome. The story arc for this book was complete. I was ready for a short epilogue and perhaps the next book. So I think it would have been better to have all the interesting bits of the last two hours sprinkled throughout the book instead of all lumped together at the end. Other than that little complaint, this was a most entertaining book.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the author in exchange for an honest review (thanks!).

Narration: Traci Odom once again had an excellent voice for Ivy Granger. I like her no-nonsense, weapon carrying voice. She had distinct voices for all the other characters, along with believable male voices. I especially liked her rapid, well pronounced Latin bits during the big fight scene.

What I Liked:  Good pacing for the most part; lots of action; a disturbing mystery; plenty of mythological characters in play; the light romance doesn’t detract from the plot; the mystery over Ivy’s dad thickens. 

What I Disliked: We had the big fight scene and the wrap up to the mystery and then we still had another 2 hours left – such a change of pace made those last 2 hours drag a bit.

What Others Think:

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Shadow Sight by E. J. Stevens

StevensShadowSightWhere I Got It: Review copy.

Publisher: E. J. Stevens (2013)

Narrator: Traci Odom

Length: 7 hours 34 minutes

Series: Book 1 Ivy Granger

Author’s Page

Set in a northeastern port city, Harborsmouth, Ivy Granger, psychic detective, tackles the supernatural. Ivy has this little twitch – she can’t touch anything or anyone without having a vision, which entails reliving the strongest memories imprinted on that item or person. Along with her best friend Jinx, they set up a private eye business sometime ago. Now, the two are hired by a demon, Forneus, to solve the mystery of the many human livers found floating around the harbor.

This was a fast-paced and fun urban fantasy steeped in mythology. Ivy is in her mid-20s and has worked hard to do the best with what she has. She can see the fae in their numerous forms due to her fairy sight and she can use her psychometry to relive past events when she touches items or people (though she doesn’t really enjoy doing this). In fact, one of my few quibbles with the book is that it is beaten into the reader for perhaps half the book that Ivy does not like to touch people or things and we’re told why again and again. I was quite glad once the repetition on this point was over. Other than that, Ivy is a fun character to follow around on this adventure.

The plot itself involves tons of beings from myth, which is way cool. We have a Red Cap, a kitchen brownie, a witch or two, some trolls, vampires, several water folk (like the Kelpies), and plenty more. In this particular story, one set of baddies are the each uisge, which I had never heard of. So, there was entertainment and education going on, which is never a bad combination.

While Ivy and Jinx are figuring out the mystery, and then the solution to the mystery, Ivy keeps bumping into little hints about her past and her own nature. Now, here is my second tiny quibble – Ivy was so dense about these hints concerning herself that I kind of wanted to give her a little shake and spell it out on a big white board for her. While I can appreciate she was distracted with the big bad mystery, there were also decent periods of quiet and reflection and she didn’t connect the dots. I thought this was a little out of place for her personality, one that is skeptical and always questioning.

We have a lot of great characters populating the story. Marvin is a young troll that took a beating sometime in the past and Ivy makes sure he has a safe place to sleep. He also does some work for Kaye O’Shaye, a witch and Hunter that Ivy spends time with. I especially liked Hob, the witch’s kitchen brownie. He has a thing for shiny objects. Jinx, Ivy’s best friend and chief side kick, was OK. I think I need more time to bond with her. She is into shoes and hairstyles and flirting, which aren’t my things, but she makes an interesting counterpoint to Ivy.

The last hour of the book was pretty darn intense. The mystery started off with a missing Kelpie king (Ceffyr) and that comes full circle at the end. Ivy has to face some fears and do some trusting. Lots of different types of folks come together to face the main threat and many of them have different reasons to do so. It was a neatly woven web there at the end.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the author in exchange for an honest review (thanks!).

Narration: Traci Odom once again was a good voice for Ivy. She sounds like a woman who hides knives and fights for troll rights while staring down vampires. I like her girly voice for Jinx (I can picture the makeup and curls whenever she uses Jinx’s voice). She also has distinct and believable voices for all the male characters. I especially liked her supremely distressed voice for Ceffyr. She did mispronounce the word ‘chitin’ and its derivatives a handful of times, though I won’t hold this against her.

What I Liked:  Plenty of action; a worthy mystery; worthy foes; lots of mythological creatures; Ivy’s practicality; a very well written ending that had me on the edge of my seat. 

What I Disliked: Ivy’s dislike of touching things/people is bashed into the reader repeatedly; Ivy is dense when it comes to her own nature and all the hints the people around her are throwing at her.

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Chosen by Mark E. Cooper

CooperChosenWhere I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Publisher: Impulse Books UK (2014)

Narrator: Mikael Naramore

Length: 9 hours 6 minutes

Series: Book 2 Rune Gate Cycle

Author’s Page

Book 1, Rune Gate, left us with a bit of a cliff hanger, wondering who was forced through (or chose to go through) the rune gate, a gate between our Earth and the world of Othala. Our heroine, Alex Yorke, is one of those who was forced through the gate. Douglas, who is from Othala, manages to get through, along with some of the folks from the Silver Mist coven. We also have a few bad guys who make it through too. Now, the Earthlings have to learn the rules of Othala, as well as the language. There’s plenty of hidden trouble for them to get into.

I really, really enjoyed Book 1. It had this great mix of the paranormal and detective work. In Book 2, we totally lose the detective work. At first, I was a bit sad to see this gone, as Alex is trained in police work, so we no longer have that aspect to her character. My second issue with this book was that women were second class citizens. This made me sad. All the ladies who came through the gate aren’t taken seriously in Othala, by the Othala men nor by the Earth men who came through the gate. They get to cook, constantly need protecting, are given little belt daggers that are for show. Douglas (and later other men) give the Earth men lessons in sword fighting. Yet no lessons in any kind of self defense are given to the ladies. And they are all OK with that – the Othala men, the ladies, and the Earth men! Ugh!

This bothered me for two reasons: 1) It’s inherently ridiculous for women, who generally make up half the population, to not be armed and trained. This is fiction, so the rules of gender equality can be bent any way the author sees fit. 2) The Earthlings are fighters, even the ladies. So it really seemed to be against their personalities to accept this change in status without a roll of the eyes or a huff over crossed arms on breasts. 3) And why wouldn’t the Earth men speak up and insist the ladies get some training in? Again, another break in character.

As the story unfolds, there are more instances of gender inequality. Men can fight and do magic, but women are stuck with laundry and magic. Squared off, one on one, a male magic user will always be stronger than a female magic user. Sigh…..You get the picture.

So, how was the rest of the book? It was OK. There’s some politics going on that Douglas was entwined in before he left, and he gets re-entwined in upon his return. I found these interesting. Douglas also has to figure out how he feels about Alex and what he will do about her. Meanwhile, Thomas the sheriff from back home and Alex’s past lover is trying to find his niche in this new world. He is use to being in charge. Now he isn’t and he’s a novice with the sword. I really enjoyed his character arc.

And there’s betrayal and redemption (hopefully)! This was the most engaging plot line for me. It was unexpected to have one of Alex’s party commit betrayal. But this individual quickly decides an error was made and works towards redemption. This character’s growth was excellent to watch.

Alex herself does some growing as a character. First, in Othala there are folks who can teach her about her powers. Second, her powers are strong here. In this world, magic users are sometimes gifted by the Goddess with a companion that helps to keep them grounded, their Chosen. By the cover art, I am sure you can guess what form Alex’s Chosen takes. I really enjoyed the dynamic between these two and the surly remarks often made by the Chosen.

So, over all the plot and individual characters were entertaining and engaging. However, the Earth characters’ lack of comment or action concerning the gender inequality on Othala felt like a huge break in character for most of them. I really wanted them to comment or, for the more opinionated characters (Alex, Thomas), to rail against the social norms of Othala. Yet they didn’t and this seemed to go against their characters. Also, do we need yet one more fantasy novel that places women in ‘traditional’ roles? It made some of the plot and some of the choices faced by our heroes predictable. On the other hand, the ending was very well done and satisfying.

Narration: Mikael Naramore gave another good performance. Some of his bad guy voices were a little over done. Other than that, he had a lovely voice for Alex, and a wonderful accent for Douglas. I liked his big surly cat voice too.

What I Liked:  Some characters have very engaging story arcs; betrayal!; the cover art; a satisfying ending.

What I Disliked: None of the Earhers blink an eye at the Othala social norms (gender inequality); there was no detective work.

Rune Gate by Mark E. Cooper

CooperRuneGateWhere I Got It: Review copy from the author (thanks!).

Publisher: Impulse Books UK (2014)

Narrator: Mikael Narammore

Length: 7 hours 12 minutes

Series: Book 1 Rune Gate Cycle

Author’s Page

Alex Yorke is a Witch and also a police consultant. She recently returned from Los Angeles to her grandparents’ farm to give her psyche a rest. Assisting police track down murderers has taken it’s toll. She would like to simply turn off her clairvoyant abilities for a while, but, alas, that is not to be. The local police department is already knocking on her door to help track down a sadistic killer.  The reader (or listener) is in for a hell of a ride!

This story is a fun mix of urban fantasy and police procedural. On one side we have the local police. Thomas is the guy in charge, and a former lover of Alex’s. Jen is his deputy, and a friend to Alex. On the other side, we have the Wiccans and witches. Douglas is a mysterious man that Alex literally ran in to. He is one of a very few that can shield his thoughts from Alex. Michael is the head of a Wiccan coven, Silver Mist, and he and his fellow believers lend Alex a hand. As you can see, Alex is right smack in the middle of everyone. The mix of the fantastical with grounded detective techniques was very satisfying.

Alex herself was an interesting mix. She walks into the story fully formed. She has a past – past lovers, past college, past jobs, past residence. The reader learns bits and pieces of her past as we move through the story. She’s trained as a cop, studied to be a scientist, and yet has this clairvoyant ability. Unfortunately, she has had no one to train her and has never learned how to shut off overhearing other’s thoughts. And it becomes incredibly worse if a person touches her. So, no snuggles for her.

I put Alex in her mid to late 20s. Perhaps 60-70% of the book, she acts her age. However, throughout the narrative she loses her cool, gnashes her teeth, lashes out at folks, screeches, etc. It’s all rather dramatic. She cries and occasionally screams or has some melt down. Much of these instances can be explained by her lack of control of her abilities and the incredible stress of tracking down a killer. But I did tire of it. Quickly. Really, this is my only complaint about the book – the punctuated drama surrounding Alex and her witchy abilities. The opening scene, where Alex taps into the last memories of the now deceased and mutilated murder victim, made it pretty clear how horrible the experience is for Alex. But she continues to have various anger management problems throughout the story. It was right on that cusp of too much. Oh, and Alex is a babe and we get to know that right up front. Apparently, she is hot enough to be a super model. And this is important to the plot and her worth as a character…..in some nebulous way.

Now, setting that aside, I quite enjoyed the other characters. Douglas doesn’t show up until nearly half way through the tale. He’s got a lovely accent and has some antiquated ideas. Yep. Didn’t see that twist coming. However, he is a calming force to Alex, helping balance out the story.

The plot line was full of hunts and losses, more bodies keep turning up. The police are mystified by certain aspects of the murders. Plus there is some jurisdictional issues between county and city cops. I liked the mix of action, grumpy pissing matches, and certain characters building friendships. Now the ending! So intense! And it is a cliff hanger, so you need to be ready to jump into Book 2, Chosen, right away. And I plan to do just that!

Narration: Mikael Naramore was a good choice for this book. He does a very believable angry Alex. He also gives Douglas his lovely accent. For Thomas he has a gruff, older cop voice. I especially liked his voices for the evil bad guys.

What I Liked:  Great mix of police procedural and urban fantasy; Douglas is a good, calming influence on Alex; Douglas’s origins were an unforeseen twist; intense ending; ready to jump into Book 2. 

What I Disliked: Alex is a borderline drama queen; Alex’s looks seem to be really important.

I Shall Wear Midnight Read Along Part III

PratchettIShallWearMidnightTis the end. Am I the only one sad to say goodbye to Tiffany (at least until I reread the books again in a few years)? Lisa from Over the Effing Rainbow is our host this week, so make sure to visit her site for entertaining chitchat. Let me just give her an applause for cohosting with me. This has been a wonderful read along and I thank everyone for participating and making this so fun!

This week, we covered Chapters 11-End, so spoilers run amok, kilted and all natural underneath.

1) Well, now. It seems Letitia is much more than just a snivelly ‘princess in the tower’… What do you think of the way she handles the ghosts at Keepsake Hall?

I was impressed, just as Tiffany was too. She seemed very compassionate, providing a fake head (pumpkin) and teddy bear to some of the ghosties. It was interesting to see this other side of her, as she didn’t really show Tiffany compassion by carving an effigy of her, albeit a poor one, and burying head first in a bucket of sand and wishing Tiffany a shitty life. Still, she likes books, and studying, and doesn’t freak over ghosts. So, now that she has made amends for slighting Tiffany, I think I could civilly have tea with her.

2) “We do right, we don’t do nice…” Miss Smith turns up again – in another unusual way – and she’s got some eye-opening words for Tiffany here… Do you agree that Tiffany’s got to grow up a little more still, or should she just ask for help with the Cunning Man?

I wonder why Terry Pratchett wrote the story line this way – I mean making it impossible for Tiffany to ask for help. I would think that the lesson would be: When great things ride on whether or not you ask for help, ask for help! But Pratchett seems to have gone the other way. I think Tiffany grasped that Weatherwax and the other witches would do right, even if that wasn’t nice – such as killing Tiffany if she was possessed by the Cunning Man. So, yes, Tiff did grow up a bit with this latest challenge.

3) Preston earns even more trust from Tiffany, and she makes an interesting point about whether or not the Cunning Man will be dangerous to him… Do you think the two of them can take him on?

The storyline seemed to be setting Tiffany up to do a one-on-one with the Cunning Man, so I didn’t expect Preston to be in on the final show down. And when the Cunning Man took on a body, and a big, muscled one at that, I was concerned that Preston would get punched or kicked around a bit. I didn’t want his brains scrambled because Tiffany seems quite taken with them and if his brains no longer worked, who would Tiffany have to banter with?

4) Speaking of taking on the Cunning Man, he’s getting closer – and in a very alarming way. This is certainly different, and it’s keeping Mrs. Proust involved. Do you think she might be the exception to the “kindly assistance” rule among witches?

Mrs. Proust did provide a warning to Tiffany, which was very considerate. I loved that she also brought company – a witch who is allergic to tides, and an incontinent blind older witch. Quite the flying party the 3 of are! But no, I never expected Mrs. Proust to be of assistance to Tiff in the final showdown.

Ha! And when Tiff introduced her to Mistress Weatherwax, and then nothing snippy, or violent, or explosive happened, I thought that was quite amusing. And Tiffany’s second thoughts were kind enough to point out that these 2 older witches are still cleverer than herself.

5) O-ho, so the Duchess has a secret of her own… Are you surprised?

Haha! Her dancing hall days certainly explains why she was so high-handed, loud, and generally obnoxious – she was playing a role, a role she felt she had to in order to ensure her daughter caught the eye of a noble young man. I am glad that Mrs. Proust called her on it, and that Tiffany, the local witch, knows about it. This means that whenever the Duchess gets too high handed, someone can remind her or her own lowly roots.

6) Tiffany defeats the Cunning Man! What did you make of this scene?

I liked the fire, the running hare, the impromptu wedding ceremony. However, I thought the actual defeating of the Cunning Man was a bit simplistic. I mean, he was intrusive, and stinky, without a body, so why does burning the body of the ‘escaped’ killer send the Cunning Man away for years or centuries? I wasn’t sure. Anyhoo, I am willing to look the other way as, over all, I love the Tiffany Aching series. Not all the books have to be perfect.

Other Tidbits:

I thought it was great of Tiffany to ask Letitia to tell Roland the whole story. The silence that followed was very telling.

While Pratchett lets us know that the ‘escaped’ killer is a very bad man, we also get to see that the Cunning Man killed his canary. That was great – we know the prisoner is a wretched man who deserves death, and yet the death of his canary, a pet he cared for, is moving.

Oh I felt Tiffany’s embarrassment when that bit about marrying Roland slipped out. Ouch!

Ah, the Feegles. They warm my heart and make me laugh so! They listened in on Tiff’s little marital chat with Letitia, and then they had questions. Haha! And later, they helped out with a bit of kilt flapping to fan some flames. Too hilarious!