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Dirty Magick: New Orleans by Charlie Brown

MelHay, July 25, 2015

This collection is of magic filled mystery stories of who or why set in the magic city where anything magical is possible, New Orleans. There is a vast history to this city that it makes it easy for the variety of stories here to come in all shapes and sizes. There is current mystery settings, historical settings, and historical references.

I enjoyed most of the stories in this anthology as they were my kind of reads with magic and action. There are some copy editing errors in this book, not as many as the first book but there are some. One thing I noticed is these stories are mostly in first person. Not a bad thing as we get to step into the characters shoes. But I also noticed a few of them tell about the characters at the beginning of the story instead of letting their positions unfold as we read, more an introduction of the character.

I know these are short stories and it's hard to do, but it's done and not done here -- Showing us the character and who they are through the story rather than starting the story with telling us who they are and what they do along with about themselves.

All these short stories have a complete end to the story. They stand on their own and you don't need to read other books to be caught up or to find out what happens.

Introduction: Hiding in Myth's Shadows: New Orleans's Complicated Relationship With Truth by Charlie Brown

Knowledge is Power by Rhonda Eudaly
Janna's on vacation. A theurgist on vacation in the most magically known city - New Orleans. She's touring the historical landmarks of museums, libraries, and churches. But in the Cathedral she gets a personal tour from a Priest she worked for when first out of the Academy. He shows her the heavily protected Grimoire. Then, the next day, she's arrested for stealing the powerful book. Janna is now determined to find the grimoire, to prove her innocence and keep people from being hurt.

I really liked this story. Great story to start the collection with. I got all my pertinent information with quick pacing. I was curious as to who took the grimoire and why. Then...why set up Janna?

We take a trip down the magic side of New Orleans into voodoo and also a brief interaction with a man who's a wolf, along with other creatures. The story is a mystery with quick action.

Blood Debt by Terry Mixon
Al Blake is paid handsomely to come to talk to the local mob boss of New Orleans, Sam "Silver Dollar" Carolla. If he takes the assassination job he'll be paid better than he ever imagined and more. Who wanted the dead man dead? And who has killed again?

This story is set in mobster days with a blend of blood mage, magic, and prohibition.

While Al is at the brothel investigating, another murder happens. The murderer is here! All Al has to do, find which person it is. Al is a blood mage and he uses his magic to find the assassin. You'll be surprised by who did it! I was. Al is then left with a choice to make, magic or his promise...

I was taken by this story as it was a turn of events and how All sticks to his word is so cool. It was even touching. Very well done.

Stigmata by Scott Roche
A vision drew Willie to this side of town. Hedge wizard Willie "Sparkles" Evans enters the Church of the Immaculate Conception seeking sanctuary. Someone, or thing, is chasing him. But what he walks into at the church... he's calling his detective sister now.

Oh, I love the history of the Vampire and a specific church connection here. Vampire history in New Orleans with ghouls and magic. All good things in one place, and there is troubles from it.

Another story I enjoyed the action and magic present in with the mystery of who.

Scott Roche even has me curious with Willie and Helen at the end of this story. I hope he does a few more short stories with them. I like what he brings to the table with them and want to see more.

All the Pretty Horses by Michael Ashleigh Finn
Josiah is joined by Baba as he's listening to the fine music of New Orleans. Baba has news that worries him. The Loa are missing. Baba wants Josiah to find his brother, Nibo, as he hasn't seen him in some time.

I find this story interesting with the Loa and Ghede. But...I did become a bit confused when Jo started working. I'm not sure what it was he did or how he "saw". I felt like there were missed moments for me to understand what's happening and why in the story. It could use more details to help us. I did like the idea and the ending though.

I like when Nibo shows up. Nibo is a Ghede and doesn't need a human rider, he can appear looking to be in his own body. Something is preying on the Loa and Ghede.

Everything Has Strings by Claudia T. Smith
Shugah shows up early at Violet's paranormal investigation office, which is unusual because she works the streets at night and sleeping by now. The local night girls are dying. Violet takes the case. When her friend suggests going to a revival that's in town, Violet sees a pattern starting and attends the revival to learn there is more going on than meets the eye.

We start right off with telling us who she is and the case, not letting us learn through events and actions.

What's interesting here is the magic. Violet calls upon Papa Ghede for help, asking of the connection she suspects of the deaths and the salesman, preacher. I like her magic. It's rough but believable because of that, it's not all flare. And the religion the man is preaching...well, it may be more than he thinks.

Last Dance in Storyville by Brent Nichols
George crossed Basin Street into another world, Storyville. George dances with the ladies of the brothel, but he has another mission. One of the beautiful woman here is a Merlin and she's hunting. And so is he.

We get the story of George's heritage and family mission to hunt the murdering witch along with his story here and now. This is very interesting as it's two stories in one that connect. The stories held my attention as I was curious to see how it worked out.

The city of Storyville has a bit of an Old West feel to it. I really enjoyed this adaptation and twist to setting in this book. The story was quick and to the point. Neat!

Normandy by Jeff Leyco
Sam has returned home for his brother's funeral. The casket is a closed casket. A friend, Mischa, said someone cut Shawn's brains out. Retrieving Shawn's items from the police, Sam finds a note in a pocket. But no one's looking into the note, or Shawn's death.

Sam has a whole history with his old home, and why he left. We get that story as well as the mystery as to what happened to his brother Shawn, and others that are dying just as gruesome deaths.

This story had the hints of all the great elements, zombie, wolves, magic, and mystery. We have the back story and set up. However I couldn't get excited about the story. I think it's the broken up scenes as the story moved from scene to scene we need to make this a short story. Some how if felt choppy in the transitions.

Glass Darkly by Paul K. Ellis
Jack reluctantly agrees to visit and help his brother Renny, at the insistence of Grandmama. Renny's chef has been missing for a week and Jack has the know how to find people. Jack finds himself a bit deeper in the magics of the world than he was wanting. And Renny too.

This story starts right in on Jack looking around the chef's bloody apartment. Now this caught my attention! I loved this start. Then the story seemed to slow a bit but when we got to the mirror, oh yeah. That was when it all came together. I liked the touch of magic in that mirror. There were a few details I would have liked a bit more concrete to help explain, but I did enjoyed this short story.

Oh, Grandmama. LOL! This woman is a hoot. She has a strong feel for family, and bad language around her. And she doesn't hold her tongue when she thinks her family should help each other, or watch their mouth. She comes across as the strong grandma that makes others smile while she's scolding her grandchildren.

What, or who, Jack and Renny come across would probably be a kind of fey type feel to them. The way Renny has gotten tangled up with these people, and Jack as well now, is interesting.

Casket Girls by Patrick Scaffido
(note: I think the next story should have come before this story as I would have understood what a casket girl was better for this story.)

Lucy wants her sister. But her sister signed on with a black magic gangster, Valdis Arcade, because she thought Lucy was dangerous to her. She thought Lucy was a zombie. Lucy is determined to get to her casket sister, one way or another. The spirits of the city answer to Lucy's call, because they believe in the worry for others like Lucy is worried. Arcade is a dangerous man, and the spirits know this all to well.

Lucy was neat as she can see memories in the ground. She can also see the ghosts clinging to Arcade's building. Death is her power.

The story was okay. I felt there was something deeper in the meaning here, but I just didn't get it. But it might be me as I didn't know the history of casket girls.

L'or Des Fous (Fool's Gold) by Lisa-Anne Samuels
Robert Livingston, U.S. Minister to France, is to secure the French colonies of La Nouvelle-Orleans as the newest part of the United States. Others don't agree with the President and would do anything to stall or stop the purchase, maybe even the residents of the colonies too. The $3 million to pay for the purchase has gone missing! It's due to the French government in days. Robert is set on the mission to retrieve the money in time.

Livingston meets and is lead by a seer and a wind witch in New Orleans. They are to work together with their magics to guide Livingston to the money. These two know each other and bicker like an old couple. The Wind Witch brings up the worry he, and many residents of the land being purchased, have. They fear they will end up in shackles.

As we travel with the seer and wind witch talking, it felt as though this is a historical story. As if the history was being re-written with magic included. Then Livingston learns a secret of himself and his family. It's magnificent to see the world through his newly opened eyes. There is so much more to the world. A paranormal essence is strong here.

A Gilded Fox by Emily Karnes
A local artist who's barely able to make ends meet is now selling items cast in pure gold. The Council is concerned where the gold is coming from and has sent Kasa with two others to investigate. They are concerned there might be an artifact around.

Kasa is more than she appears. But seeing her float through town on cloud nine and enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of New Orleans is part of the fun of the story. The 'artifact' is interesting to see what it really is. But I was a bit bored with watching Kasa take in the sights of New Orleans and the two men with her. The men had a small purpose, but were not as important to me. It was an okay story.

Blood On The Quarter by Riley James Keith
Alton Bently is woken from his warm bed and drunken haze on New Years Eve/Day morning. It's 12:30 AM. His partner calls with a dead body that needs their attention.

I liked the way this one starts. It caught my interest quick and made me smile. Alton's personality and take on things and the world is a hard look yet it's got a humorous ring to it.

This world definitely has different beings living in it and everyone knows about them. Alton can converse with the dead. However he only gets one word. The magic he can do is accepted and seems other magics are as well.

This was a quick read for me as I enjoyed the story and world created.

Butler's Last Stand by Michell Plested
Rafael and his partner, Jean, investigate a report of gunfire, though no witnesses heard it. When Raf looks around, he finds a head hanging from the roof. A ghostly head that disappears. He keeps seeing the ghost, until he talks to it.

As you guessed it, there is a connection between the ghost and Rafael. And the ghost has a need for Rafael's help. An undead power is trying to raise a spirit army to overtake and rule New Orleans. Rafael uses his detective position to help the ghost, but there is more than meets the eye and he has to take a step closer to trust with the ghost to help his city.

I liked the feel of the story as it felt like I was watching a movie and the main character was also narrating, telling me snippets of his past or relations as the story went. It's neat, the gift Raf is left with in the end.

Prompt Succor by Hugh O'Donnell
Terry O'Byrne's services are required by the Church. The Arch Bishop sent a letter, by way of ghost, for Terry to meet with him and help with a disturbance...

This was a neat set up. I liked the time in the church and the way Terry helps the ghosts. This was a nice story to read.

This story was set in the church and involved the church, but in no way was it preach-y. (We are in New Orleans, after all. Thank you!) This was well done. And one I enjoyed after the introduction of Terry.

The Sacred Marriage of Etienne McCray by Kristen M.Corby
Steve, a cop working the beat in New Orleans, tries to clear a street worker from 'her' corner. In doing so, he steps into a whole new side of New Orleans, learning he's special as well.

Now this is a story to end the book with! This started off with me a bit nervous of how it was going to go, this can be - and is - a good thing. It's a different start and one that had me curious. I loved the story here and the way the other world unfolds for Steve.

Steve sees things now. What happened for Steve to 'open his eyes'? Well, that is a bit... intimate and detailed in the beginning. Go ahead, read it. It's neat to see what Steve sees and takes on here.
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Hathor Legacy: Outcast by Deborah A. Bailey

MelHay, July 25, 2015

*This audiobook was provided by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review courtesy of AudiobookBlast dot com, at my request.

Nadira is roused from her sleep, early, by Brant her Guardian Sentry Leader. There is news of an explosion and theft at a mine on a planet three days travel away. Serving as a Guardian for NovaCorp due to her powerful ability to read thoughts and emotions, Nadira is to be aware the thieves might come to Hathor, and she's to stop them. When Jonathan and his partner arrive at Hathor, Nadira is set to track him, expecting to find his partner and learn what happened at the mine.

Jonathan hears the news of the mines explosion and been robbery. He's worried about his father, CEO of the mining company, who is said to have headed to Hathor the morning the mines fell, yet no one's heard from him or can find him. Jonathan hears a hint on the thieves from a patron of his bar. He'll find his father, and hopefully the thieves too. Jonathan decides to help a friend escape threats from the thieves and look for his father at Hathor. Denying his mothers request to no go, due to him being in danger, he does take her request to tell no one that his mother is from Hathor.

Kristin has quickly become one of my favorite voices in audio books. I love the way she sounds as she's acting the parts and talking to me with such emotion. I feel she's taken on the part of the characters full tilt and draws me into the world the characters live in and the actions happening. She does different voice tones and persona's in the voice for the characters which makes it easy to get a personal feel for the characters and who's who while listening.

Nadira is the strong one here. The story feels as a flip of roles, in sorts. Nadira is the one on the hunt for the bad guys and protecting. Jonathan is kind of a pretty face. lol. I like this flip. Jonathan starts to fall into the dangerous field of the innocent person caught in the middle of the events happening around him. Jonathan does come to prove himself to be more than a pretty boy. I've come to enjoy reading/hearing Jonathan in the story. He grows greatly.

Jonathan is a sleek popular young man among the patrons of his club, and woman. Jonathan thinks he's quite the ladies man. Nadira is caught off guard, for some reason she's not sure of, with Jonathan at first meeting. She does find him physically attracting, even if she doesn't want to admit it. And Jonathan, who does admit it, finds Nadira attractive as well. It seems Nadira is the tough nut to crack in this couple.

Nadira seems to have a secret connection with another Guardian, and her mentor Zena. There is a whole world, or worlds, created here. Mostly we learn of Hathor as that's where the story takes place. Hathor has it's own rules to follow and the Guardians to protect. Stealing is one thing they are extremely strict on here. The mining world and businesses are seen as well. And NovaCorp is the top of the control chain.

There are a few moments in the story that I expected the characters to lie or decline in telling of information. But they don't! I loved that the characters realized they are to trust each other and do. This grows their relationship and shows they are smart in who to trust. You have to trust someone, so pick who's been trying to help you over all.

This is a quick story. But in being so, there is lots of pertinent information given. Each word is important here and has a meaning. What starts as a simple job order becomes so much more for Nadira. The corruption goes deeper than Nadira ever thought.

This book has a romance in it. But the best thing, there is a great deal of story here. This story is not only romance - girl and boy meet, girl and boy find way to hearts, girl and boy go to bed. There is a who story that Nadira and Jonathan work their way through and in doing so the romance blossoms. There is a steamy scene but not as many scenes as I had thought I'd get. Which is right in line for me.

I got a kick out of the first awkward close attraction moment. lol. Jonathan flirts with her something fierce, making innuendos that she understands but resists. Yet she is attracted to him, underneath and not wanting to admit it.

I found I fell for Jonathan and Nadira, their relationship and the search they are on and running to protect Jonathan. Along with the world they are in.
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Bound by Duty by Stormy Smith

MelHay, July 25, 2015

*This audiobook was provided by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review courtesy of AudiobookBlast dot com, at my request.

Amelia has moved to Brighten to escape her crazy father, obsessed with her learning to control herself and her powers, to go to college and try to live a life of her own experiencing things. Her older brother, Cole, lives near and helps her with anything she needs, even to calm her when her powers start to escalate. Trying to live a 'normal' life, before the Queen calls on her to fulfill her betrothal to the Prince, Amelia finds she wants other things in life. And one of them is a young man named Aidan. Amelia has to decide between protecting her mage kind and accepting she could be used for no good by the Queen, of who whispers say she killed off the other Elders, by marrying the Prince. Or do as she wants, putting herself and others in danger.

Kristin is the narrator for this story. She fits right in to Amelia's part and all the emotions the poor girl feels. Amelia's attitude when she's angered, even if unintentional, comes out in Kristin's voice. All the characters become beyond four-dimensional with Kristin as the voice (three dimensional for the character development, fourth for the voice we hear). Kristin even has a different sound for Amelia when she's thinking in her head, a slight echo-y sound of an empty room. I like it as I know when Amelia is talking or thinking with easy differentiating. Kristin also gives each character a different tone or accent, making listening so easy.

We start with a prologue that gives us a taste of Queen Julia and the Hunter. She is looking for something, some information. Then we learn of the prophecy. I like this book starts right off with telling us the prophecy given and how it's come to be seen. We don't have to figure it out or wait for it. We know, now to see the story of how it'll unfold. Or not.

Amelia does her best at staying her path, to keep Aidan at a distance and do as she's to do. To continue waiting for her betrothal to come to pass. Amelia has high hopes that she could use good with her power as married to the Prince. But the more Amelia learns of the history that's not taught or talked of, held deep as a secret of those who know, Amelia is angered at what has happened to her people. The lose of the Elders and other Mages. Also, the more Amelia spends time with Aidan and her powers call to him, the more she falls for him.

Amelia is divided between what to do. Do what she wants, love who she wants? Or do as she's told to do, follow as she's to do as betrothed to the Prince and let them lead her on? she strong enough to stand up to the cruel Queen Julia? And help her people come out of the isolation age they've been living in.

The world of the mages has been torn apart, and the young don't know exactly what was done to their kind. The older are keeping the secrets quiet. What Amelia learns of a Mage that was all but destroyed is heartbreaking to learn what happened to the Elders and Mages by Queen Julia. It's interesting the Mages present in the world and their powers, but how they are all isolated as well.

Between Kristin's acting and the story, I was drawn into the story and wanted the words to go by faster. I would have wanted the same as reading, and I know listening is much faster than my reading. I couldn't wait to get more and more. I will be looking for the next book!
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The City Center by Simone Pond

MelHay, July 19, 2015

*This audiobook was provided by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review courtesy of AudiobookBlast dot com, at my request.

Graduation day is a week away. Ava is the top contender and part of the elite group of ten who will be eighteen and the King and Queen will be selected from, the remaining her Court. She doesn't want it. Ava doesn't see things the rest of the City Center does. She is curious where all others follow. One week before Graduation Day, an outsider enters the city grounds and Ava's not scared as easily as the others. He approaches her and hands her a journal that will open the world in her eyes. Chief Morray has run this city the way he wants for longer than many know. He won't let Ava's curiosity get in the way of his plans with the royal court he has selected. Morray will stop at nothing short of destruction to return his prize possession to his city.

I had the honor of listening to this story. I loved Sarah's tone at the beginning of the story. Ava is not happy with the way life is specifically drawn out for her, from the day of her inception. Sarah's tone sounds as it follows suit with Ava's feelings. She carries attitude, good and bad, very well in her voice. Sarah's voice has become Ava for me. She felt to slip into Ava's character in all of Ava's emotions and story. The fact that someone was reading me the story slipped away as I listened to Ava unfold and her adventure happen.

At the evening event, counting down the week to graduation day, Ava catches the eye of Chief Morray. He notices she's unsympathetic to what is happening around her and isn't paying attention. He wants her watched. With all the emotion enhancements in the mists, she should be reacting... This is the push of half the story. Morray is taken by what he sees in Ava. Then there's what Ava goes through with an Outsider to learn about her precious City Center home. Wow.

The story starts off with a strong first chapter. It builds the world and our main character, Ava, with curiosity on my behalf as a reader. There are small hints dropped of the world, inside the walls and outside, along with Ava possibly being different. This chapter was well done to bring me to want to continue. I had to pay attention closely in the audio as there is a lot of information here along with the feeling of the characters. This already feels like a deeper world and creation. It made me want to continue on even more.

The story then held my attention as it went on. What would happen to Ava next? How will she react, not knowing this side of the world? The world and it's people are so intricately entwined that the story drew the world for us at the same time. Extremely well written with world and character building.

We get the story rotating between different POV's. Ana, a young girl graduating as the Royal Court and a potential Successor for Queen. Chief Morray, who runs the system of the Royal Court and keeps the stability of the classes. Then on occasion another view when needed to share information as the story goes, but the most important and prominent are Ana and Morray.

The world is a combination of life in villages out in the world and technology. This had a scifi feel to the creation of the people, but it's not a complete science fiction story. This story has a dystopian side to it as the background for the creation of City Center. In the way that beauty's perceived in the city even with Chief Morray and the structure of the Inner City, it reminds me of Hunger Games and their preparation and importance. But in no other way does this story reflect the Hunger Games.

I enjoyed where this story went and how it ended. I would love to continue with the stories to come and see how the people fair in times to come, as there is still a danger lurking out there in the main frame...somewhere.
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Chasing the Star Garden: The Airship Racing Chronicles by Melanie Karsak

MelHay, July 13, 2015

*This audiobook was provided by the author, narrator, or publisher at no cost in exchange for an unbiased review courtesy of AudiobookBlast dot com, at my request.

Lily comes in second in the airship race, but losses to the American's, again. She's disappointed. But then a harlequin races through the crowd to her. An assassin? But he grabs her and tells her to go to Venice and puts something down the front of her pants before jumping off the tower they stand on next to the airships, to his death. His body lay below with three points, the same shape that's in the symbol on her stargazer sail.

This story starts right off! The event of the race ends with a leap of faith.

There's drinking, drugs, swearing, and hot steamy moments. Lily has her debts and her loves of drinking, drugs, and hot steamy moments. Oh does she love the men. Since she uses her prize money to pay her debts, one of her lovers, Lord Byron, talks her into going to Venice. He gives her the money to make the trip reasoning she was specifically given the kaleidoscope for a reason.

This is another marvelous selection of voice to go with the story for Melanie Karsak. Libby is perfect for the characters and world. Libby is talented in accents. She has a British accent that fits the characters and thickens when need be for other characters. She even does Italian, Scottish, French and more accents. The way she speaks for each character is as she is the character. She differentiates many with tone, accent, and feeling in their voices. Outstanding job. Libby has intensified the character development through voice.

I love listening to the flight of the airship. Lily and her small crew is talented and the descriptions are of the visuals not the technical of how it's done. But the use of the air and storms is wonderful.

Do be prepared for fowl language, opium dens, and steamy sensual moments with Lily Stargazer. Melanie has taken us into a dark side of the world where drugs numb the senses and where woman are viewed as things. Melanie brings Lily through a dark past to a present that she can live with. But it's a journey that Lily has to make to come to grips with her past and be who she is. She has her friends around her to help. There's her crew for a time but most of all it's Sal, the Italian tinker, that helps her. She also finds a new friend in Celeste who helps guide them to find the statue her family is tied to.

Lily's past comes back, front and center for her. A past that she's long forgotten when she was abandoned at the orphanage. Then, a past that she keeps locked away with opium surfaces and is what draws her to help find the Aphrodite statue that is so treasured by it's strong following.

Yes, Aphrodite. Which also connects Venus and the sensual feeling of the book as a whole. This is an interesting blend of clockworks and steampunk elements with the height of love and steam. This all intersects with Lily and her life.

This story feels like a love story at it's core. A love of ones self and finding that the past does not define who they are now. Then, when they accept themselves they find love with another. Beautiful story and meaning mixed with a surrounding I love, clockworks, airships, adventure and fighting.
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