A Stroke of Brilliance (Arcane Hearts #2) by Nazri Noor (audiobook) – Narrated by Zachary Johnson

a stroke of brilliance

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

The fragrance of chaos. The flavor of terror. The color of madness.

Jackson Pryde and Xander Wright are loving a life of hunting and harvesting rare reagents wherever the Black Market travels. But a routine trip to visit Japanese tree spirits turns up something sinister: Two crystal shards, embedded in the bodies of wild animals. They’re familiar, glimmering, violet…like splinters of amethyst.

But that’s not all. Two rival guilds are in strife, Jack and Xander caught in a crossfire of spells and slander. SEER and its hundred eyes are still watching their every move. And then there’s the matter of meeting Xander’s parents, perhaps Jackson’s deadliest challenge to date.

The Chrysanthemyst’s return is the least of their problems.

Rating: Narration – A-; Content – B+

Nazri Noor’s Arcane Hearts series of snarky, sexy, action-packed urban fantasy novels continues with A Stroke of Brilliance, which picks up shortly after A Touch of Fever ends. In that book, the author did a great job of setting up and introducing listeners to the fascinating and imaginative universe of the Black Market – a dimension that travels from place to place, enabling its inhabitants to go through portals into ‘our’ world – of creating a couple of complex, likeable leads and of setting up an intriguing overarching plotline for the series.

Note: There are spoilers for AToF in this review.

The series’ PoV character is Jackson Pryde, a smart-talking artificer whose parents were killed in an explosion that also destroyed the entirety of the Artificer’s Guild. Artificers are born without much magical ability but with the talent for creating devices that amplify the little magic they have, and Jackson, who still feels his loss keenly but mostly covers it up with layers of wise-assery, is now working on something he hopes will restore his fortunes as well as a more widespread respect for the craft. For years, Jackson has been at loggerheads with his former best friend, Xander Wright, a mage destined for incandescence (a state achieved only by the most powerful); but after teaming up to solve several murders, Jackson and Xander rediscovered their friendship and finally admitted and acted on the frustrated attraction which had been simmering between them for so long.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

A Touch of Fever (Arcane Hearts #1) by Nazri Noor (audiobook) – Narrated by Zachary Johnson

a touch of fever

This title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Jackson Pryde was never great at wielding magic. Instead, he works as an artificer, crafting enchanted devices in the Black Market, a shadowy bazaar of wonders. But Xander Wright, the mouthy, pretentious mage next door, hates all the hammering in Jackson’s workshop.

When a chance assignment forces them to team up, they discover a terrifying predicament. Something is driving members of the magical community into murderous rages. Jackson and Xander must combine might and magic to find the source of the Fever and stop it. Can they put aside their differences long enough to end the Fever, or will they succumb to its bloodthirsty curse?

Rating: Narration – B+; Content – B

Nazri Noor has penned a number of urban fantasy series, but this is the first book of his to appear on my radar. I confess though, that the main draw was Zachary Johnson’s name listed as the narrator; I’ve only listened to him once before (in Emma Scott’s Someday, Someday, which he co-narrated with Greg Tremblay) but liked his work enough to want to listen to him again, and when this title was offered for review, I grabbed the opportunity.

A Touch of Fever is a fun romp through an interesting fantastical world inhabited by (among others) imps, merfolk, enchanters, dragons, sylphs, fae and a scene-stealing gryphon, combined with a murder mystery and a childhood friends-to-enemies-to-lovers romance between (says the blurb) a fast-talking artificer and a snarky sorcerer. Arcane Hearts is an ongoing series (book four is due for release at the end of January) and this story ends on a firm HFN; this is so far the only one of the set available in audio, but I hope the others will follow.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.

Someday, Someday by Emma Scott (audiobook) – Narrated by Greg Tremblay and Zachary Johnson

someday, somedayThis title may be downloaded from Audible via Amazon

Max Kaufman was kicked out of his home as a teen, and his life has been an uphill battle ever since. From addiction and living on the streets, to recovery and putting himself through nursing school, he’s spent the last 10 years rebuilding his shattered sense of self. Now he’s taken a job as a private caretaker to Edward Marsh III, the president and CEO of one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Max soon learns Marsh’s multibillion-dollar empire is a gold- and diamond-encrusted web of secrets and lies.

The longer Max works and lives with the Marsh family, the tighter the secrets tangle around him. And his heart – which he’s worked so hard to protect – falls straight into the hands of the distant, cold, and beautiful son of a dynasty….

Silas Marsh is set to inherit the family fortune, but his father is determined his heir be the “perfect” son. Before Silas can take over the company and end its shady business practices, he must prove himself worthy…and deny his true nature.

Silas must choose: stand up to his father by being true to himself and his undeniable feelings for Max or pretend to be someone he is not in order to inherit everything. Even if it means sacrificing a chance at happiness and real love.

Rating: Narration: A/B+; Content – B+

Emma Scott’s Someday, Someday is an angsty yet heartfelt romance about two damaged men who’ve been to hell, clawed their way back and are still fighting to reclaim the things they’ve lost. Max Kaufman was a major secondary character in Forever Right Now (he was the best friend and sponsor of the heroine, Darlene Montgomery) but you don’t have to have read or listened to that book to enjoy this one. I remember thinking, when I listened to Forever Right Now, that I’d love to know Max’s story, and was delighted when I saw Someday, Someday pop up at Amazon last year; and after that I was hoping for audio and for Greg Tremblay to return to narrate. I got my wish on both counts, and Mr. Tremblay is joined by new-to-me narrator Zachary Johnson. I confess I was a bit wary – dual narrations can be a real let-down if one narrator isn’t as good as the other – but I’m pleased to report that Mr. Johnson holds his own.

After he was thrown out of his home at sixteen for being gay, Max Kaufman lived on the streets, became addicted to cocaine and, for a short time at least, sold himself to pay for his habit. Thanks to the kindness of a stranger – an ex-cop – Max got clean, put himself through nursing school and now volunteers as a sponsor for NA (Narcotics Anonymous). Seven years after his family turned their backs on him, Max has got his life back on track; he likes what he does, he knows who he is and he’s comfortable in his own skin. There’s only one thing missing. He wants his family back – or to at least try to see if there’s any way they can be part of one another’s lives again, so he’s moved back home to Seattle to try to reconnect with them. He about to start a new job as part of a small nursing team for a wealthy private patient, but continues to volunteer for NA, and it’s at one of those meetings that he first sets eyes on ‘Scott’, who sits at the back, wearing a black hoodie and sunglasses, remaining aloof and saying nothing. Intrigued – and more than a little attracted – Max observes him quietly, but he leaves without speaking. A few days later, he turns up again, and this time talks briefly about his addiction and how he pulled himself back from it – and surprisingly, offers to drive Max home. Max accepts the lift, but after ‘Scott’ drops him home, he doesn’t expect to ever see him again.

You can read the rest of this review at AudioGals.