Acheron Highway by Gary Jonas

JonasAcheronHighwayWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Joe Hempel

Publisher: Sky Warrior Book Publishing LLC (2015)

Length: 5 hours 56 minutes

Series: Book 2 Jonathan Shade

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series, it stands pretty well on it’s own. Of course, Book 1 was pretty freaking awesome, so I recommend checking it out. This book does contain plot spoilers for Book 1, just in case that would bother you if you read them out of order.

PI Jonathan Shade is still hanging out in Denver. He’s approached by Miranda, who literally has no heart. She wants him to find it. Turns out there is a necromancer wreaking havoc in the area and Shade needs to put him down. Yet he is also in hiding from a powerful goddess who demands he helps her find her old lover. The bodies pile up, and then walk around, only to be laid out flat again by Jonathan and his crew. Never a dull moment in this book!

I really enjoyed Book 1, Modern Sorcery, quite a bit and it made my Top 2015 List. So I was quite happy to return to this urban fantasy world again. Acheron Highway does not disappoint! I listened to it in one day. This book has the right combo of mystery, action, character development, and the supernatural. I was never bored and the book doesn’t fall into the trap of battle fatigue either.

Jonathan Shade continues to be an interesting character. He’s got this past that we learn more about and he also has these special abilities that he has to get creative with. In fact, towards the end he does this big trick that I wasn’t expecting. Normally, the plot device used at the end of the book would really turn me off. I like actions and choices to have consequences, and ones that our characters have to live with. But this author pulled it off really, really well. And there are still consequences, and I hope to learn how severe they are in the next book.

Kelly Chan is still my favorite female character. She’s a warrior sekutar, built by wizards to be the ultimate bodyguard. However, she went rogue some time ago and opened a martial arts studio. She’s also a loyal friend to Jonathan. In this book, she takes a pretty hard hit at the studio (riveting scene!) and it’s a game changer.

Meanwhile, Sharon, the librarian from Book 1, is in hiding after the antics she pulled. She’s walking the line of trying to keep her friends safe but also hoping it will all blow over if she just lays low. Things keeps getting bloodier and bloodier and at least part of the responsibility for that lies on Sharon’s shoulders. The friendship between Jonathan and Sharon is forever altered by what goes down in this book. Heavy duty!

This is a great addition to the urban fantasy genre!

I received a copy at no cost from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Joe Hempel did more fine work on this series with this book. Once again, his own enjoyment of the characters and plot comes through in his voice acting. All his characters are distinct and his female voices are believable. I love his drawl for Esther, a ghost from the 1920s, and his Asian accent for Kelly Chan.   

What I Liked: Jonathan has more than 1 worthy opponent this time around; the quagmire Sharon creates by staying in hiding; Kelly’s awesome combat skills; Denver setting;  more great narration; heavy ending with plenty to ponder for Book 3.

What I Disliked: Nothing! I really enjoyed this one!

 

Modern Sorcery by Gary Jonas

JonasModernSorceryWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Joe Hempel

Publisher: Sky Warrior Book Publishing LLC (2015)

Length: 6 hours 13 minutes

Series: Book 1 Jonathan Shade

Author’s Page

 

Set in modern day Denver, private investigator Jonathan Shade is hired by his ex-girlfriend Naomi Miller to look into the murder of her mother Cathy by her own husband David. Plenty of witnesses and the store camera all say there’s no doubt as to how it went down. However, Naomi won’t rest until someone looks into the paranormal side of things. Jonathan doesn’t think there was any magic involved, but he hopes the case will give him a chance at getting back with Naomi. As he digs into it, more and more mysteries pop up, along with enemies willing to kill him and his friends.

This was a very entertaining urban fantasy. I listened to it in two large chunks (had to sleep in between) and am already queuing up Book 2. First, I really enjoyed that all the major characters jump on scene with back histories. That definitely added depth to the story. Jonathan has this old history with Naomi that can’t be ignored due to present circumstances. Kelly Chan, Jonathan’s business partner, also has a a most interesting past, being a kind of supernatural guardian warrior called a sekutar. Then there is Esther, a ghost from the 1920s that is tied to an old typewriter. Later, the librarian Sharon comes into play, but she doesn’t work at a normal library. Each character brings a little something to the table as soon as they walk on the stage.

The book has a really good balance of action, character development, and time for contemplation and problem solving. I was never bored and I never got battle fatigue. As the story moves away from the initial murder, we learn about a long-dead powerful wizard that may some how be involved. Of course, figuring all this out means digging into the secrets of the wizard community, and they are a prickly bunch. Jonathan heads over to Dragon Gate Industries (DGI) to chat with Al, who was at the murder scene. I liked that it was hard to tell where Al stood on all this. I was kept guessing throughout the story if he was a friend or foe. And he wasn’t the only character that had me guessing! Others, such as Anselma (head of DGI) and Cantrell (who has a Western drawl) seemed they could go either way.

Then there is Kelly Chan. Wow! She runs this martial arts dojo and also acts as Jonathan’s personal body guard. Her sekutar powers allow her to take injuries that would completely disable mortals. She has opinions. She’s not afraid to share those opinions. Sometimes her method of sharing means shoving you up against a wall and putting a weapon in your face. No worries. She’s just making sure you’re listening. I really enjoyed her character. She brought a lot of blunt humor and blunt force trauma to the tale.

We have great characters and a great plot. This is where some authors stop. It’s not a bad place to stop, but I definitely appreciate that this author took it to the next level. He gave us a worthy bad guy. This bad guy isn’t easily tricked or trapped or defeated. Nope! Our heroes have to put their heads together and set aside some grudges with part-time enemies in order to stand a chance against this guy. Also, not everyone gets out unscathed. I truly appreciate that last bit because it makes the story poignant. That added weight makes me care for the characters that much more.

Go check out this series. If you’re looking for a new urban fantasy to satisfy your craving, then you won’t be disappointed in this one.

I received a copy at no cost from the narrator in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Joe Hempel did some fine work on this one. I have listened to several of his books by now and I think this is his best work yet. It’s obvious that he enjoyed narrating this novel as much as I enjoyed listening to it. His character voices are all distinct and his female voices are believable. He had to do some accents as well and they were done well. Kelly Chan has a light Asian accent and the ghost Esther has a 1920s vocabulary of sayings and a distinctive accent. Hempel also did a great job of imbuing certain scenes with the right amount of emotion. 

What I Liked: Denver setting; great plot; great characters; love Kelly Chan!; worthy opponent; people are injured and die and that makes it real for the characters; excellent narration; touching ending.

What I Disliked: Nothing! I really enjoyed this one!

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The Shadow of the Sun Read Along Part III

Pico consented to pose with my book.
Pico consented to pose with my book.

Welcome back everyone. Today, as part III of the read along, we are covering Chapters 16-21 of The Shadow of the Sun. Over here is the SCHEDULE if you would like to join us. Barbara Friend Ish is graciously offering a free download of her book for the duration of the read along and you can find that over HERE. Also, there is a GIVEAWAY going on for the duration of April where you could win a signed paper copy of the book or your own choice of ebook from Mercury Retrograde Press.

1) Up to this section, we believed the Basghilae could not cross water, but we learn to the detriment of our heroes that this is not so. What further hidden abilities do you think might crop up from these walking dead?

Bows and arrows? I mean that would pretty much end the Tanaan and any who defended them. Would probably make for a shorter story. Hmm….Maybe the Basghilae can’t see good enough to operate bows appropriately – being dead and all with the soft tissues going first.

2) As the party enters the human lands, they come up with a cover story and request that Letitia remove her torc. She refuses. Do you think her decision was the correct one?

This is pure pride. Letitia even shot a look at Easca, probably gauging how she would take it if she did remove her torc. I get that the torc is a hard won crown. On the other hand, Letitia has already lost a great number of her retinue and if removing the torc would keep them (and consequently her) alive longer, that would be a simple and good thing to do. I am guessing that she is still shook up over the Tuaoh Stone not recognizing her at all. I say it’s just a stone and you can’t expect too much out of it anyway. It has a limited number of ways to express itself and apparently it was saving itself up for a big reaction to Ellion. And let’s face it, Ellion has gotten a big reaction out of everyone he’s come across in the book, from Coran Mourne to Letitia’s papa to Amien to Letitia and her retinue.

3) At one point Ellion lingers over the warding process, specifically warding Letitia, and how a person must be completely nude for wards to be put in place. I’m going to leave this one wide open for comment ;).

Well, that alone should have motivated Ellion to give up his vow of no magic and do the personal wards himself. And why is Letitia the only one warded? Surely the closest of her retinue should also be warded too. Perhaps Amien only has so much magic, or he can only stand warding so many naked Tanaan a day. I wonder if the male Tan would be OK with human males doing personal wards on them? Do they have nudity taboos? And then Amien and Ellion could take some time to ward each other……which might be awkward and I as the reader would be OK with stepping outside for that scene.

4) Ellion makes a tough decision to leave the Tanaan and while he watches them leave he has a huge epiphany about his inner motives. How do you think this will affect his actions and motivations the rest of the book?

I think this is excellent characterization for several reasons. Many folks believe that men by and large have a one tract mind. Ellion certainly demonstrates this – he has this vow of no magic, and he sincerely believes that he is a threat to the party because of the mysteriously appearing/disappearing assassin. He hasn’t really thought outside those tracts and merely goes over them again and again until he makes this decision that he can’t go with the party. And as they float away he sees how selfish that decision is and how he could be an asset to the party, has been an asset, if he allows himself to be open to other possibilities.

Then of course the balloon crashes and the party is reunited. Ellion swears his undying protection for Letitia, which makes everyone uncomfortable, but made me sigh in satisfaction as the reader. And this of course takes us back to the one tract mind. He is now dedicated, completely focused, can’t even consider another path. I want to muss his hair and tell him he chose well.

5) We saw the Tanaan and Ellion in some interesting situations of a more personal nature in these chapters, from the Night Butterflies to cutting in at a dance. What did you make of these instances, what further cultural differences along these lines do you foresee happening, and have you ever been a part of such a situation?

Hehe! Comic relieve built specifically for ME. Yes, I found these situations funny, especially when Ellion had to explain to the Tanaan about purchasing the affections of the night butterflies. Of course, Letitia then has a closer look at her scarf and gives Ellion a look. I would too. I mean, we don’t really know what that scarf was used for…..It might have been subjected to hazards of the night life, right? Perhaps it was used to clean up after the last assignation. I hope it was a newish scarf…but still.

This feeds back into my question about nudity. Do the Tanaan in general have a nudity taboo? Could be interesting to find out.

As for personal faux pas along this line…..Explaining to a male cousin on my man’s side about the use of condoms was unexpected. Oh, and I read that book Bonk by Mary Roach and told my knitting circle all about it. Hmm…and I did use the phrase ‘wild monkey sex’ the other day in a mixed group. You could hear the crickets afterwards.

Once again, we were treated to some fight scenes. What stood out for you about these scenes?

Wow! When Ellion and Amien fought back to back, I could see them whirling and slicing and defending each other like some of the best choreographed sword scenes of Hollywood. How could you, as either one of them, not be addicted to the power and connection to another human that magic like that affords.

Then of course there is the scene with Manannan giving his life for the party. He was on his way out through a slow death anyway and he chose to take a quicker ending doing something to defend many. I felt like I needed a strong drink along with Ellion after that myself.

Other Tidbits:

Amien has been trying to summon aid and so far that aid has not arrived. At the end of Chapter 21, he fell into a elementary trap and now the Bard’s Wizard has his name. All these things do not bode well for the party.

When Ellion’s harp was ruined I was quite sad with him. Well, we don’t know how ruined yet. There may be a chance that it won’t warp. Perhaps, if things settle down and he can baby it.

My question for Barbara for this section: As we get to know Ellion more and more, we definitely are not spared from his private thoughts, including his romantic thoughts. In making your main character the opposite sex of yourself, what came easy and what came hard? How did you overcome obstacles of those nature?

For a nice long and entertaining answer, check out Barbara’s post: The Sex Lives of Male Characters

Here is an additional bit on the subject: Writing About Sex: Love Through Other Eyes

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The Elvenbane Read Along Part III

Tofu waiting on the headboard for some unsuspecting human to fall asleep.
Tofu waiting on the headboard for some unsuspecting human to fall asleep.

Hello Everybody – I hope folks have continued to enjoy this book. This week, SJ from Snobbery provided some rocking discussion questions for Chapters 14-18. Make sure to stop by her place and leave a comment.

Shana is taken in among the other halfblood Wizards as an apprentice.  She’s never lived with two-leggers of any variety before this, but seems to have adjusted rather quickly.  Do you think you’d be able to do the same in this situation?

Heck no! My form of adjusting means sticking my nose in a book and sitting in the corner until someone decides to guide me through this new, pesky, foreign situation. Or I need some essentials – like food or the bathroom. I think Shana did so well because she was always something of an oddity and an outsider with the dragons, so she was brought up in a kind of foreign environment.
While she’s wandering through the Citadel, Shana learns more about the first Wizard War than any of the living Wizards have so far.  Why do you think none of the others have bothered to explore?

My overall impression is that the Wizards are somewhat lazy. Yep. I said it out loud. They get really focused on their little projects, and their apprentices tend to their daily needs (food, cleaning, etc.), and they occasionally venture out to the real world to rescue/kidnap a young wizard in danger. They use their mental powers to filch everything they need from the elven lords – they have no gardens, don’t seem to hunt in the normal way, no need to weave cloth, etc. Yep, lazy. Thank goodness Shana is easily bored, perhaps has a touch of ADD and needs to explore.
We found, along with Shana, hidden rooms that were created by a dragon in halfblood form.  Do you think Kalamadea is a dragon we already know?  If so, any idea of his/her identity?

I read this nearly 2 decades ago and I totally forgot the second half of the book. I probably read it all in one sitting, tucked under the covers with a flashlight. I tend to forget stuff easier if I imbibe it too quickly. Anyhoo, nope. I think Kalamadea is dead, having long since squandered his/her life away in the futile attempt to rescue halfbloods, and perhaps humans.
Alara went to visit Father Dragon to ask for advice on how to handle events that have recently happened in the book.  Father Dragon says he thinks it’s a good thing that “the world at large is about to discover their existence,” because the Kin have grown “complacent and fat.”  Were you surprised to hear this from him?  Is he, personally, about to come out of hiding?  What will the repercussions be if the Kin reveal themselves?

I was a bit surprised. I think this is partly due to the shift in pacing of the book. I feel like the first half of the book had some definite plot that was being tackled, and now we have upped the speed of the story and thrown in some things I thought would be answered by the overall series story arc. So, I really thought we wouldn’t have any dragon support (other than Keman and Alara) for this book. I also think the dragons are divided on coming out – and some will fight it until some other source offers them a bigger problem – like the elven showing up at their doorstep to turn them into pretty clothing, drapes, and tea cozies.
Huzzah for finally meeting an elf that is sympathetic to humans/halfbloods!  And even better that he’s the son of that bastard, Dyran!  Were you surprised to learn about Valyn and Shadow’s relationship?  Do you feel like they’re equals, or does Valyn still think of Shadow as his inferior?

Well, I figured there had to be at least a few elves that were softer, if not sympathetic, to humans some where, but I expected them to be isolated and among the lower elven castes – the ones who have more contact with the humans. I was most definitely surprised that Valyn was sympathetic to the cause and hiding his cousin, the halfblood, right under Dyran’s nose! Definitely risky for both Valyn and Shadow to be in such close proximity to Dyran. Valyn is obviously affectionate towards Mero (Shadow), but I am not convinced yet that he sees him as an equal – and it would be hard for him to do so (his learning, upbringing, culture, and the fact that there are no halfbloods in society).
Shana was able to use her “treasure horde” to scry even further and into the mind of a young elf maiden, Sheyrena an Treves.  She even planted a suggestion in the girl’s mind that maybe her “minor” power could be used to do some very big things.  Will anything come of this?  Either with this particular girl, or with the elven women in general?

This is one of those points where I don’t expect to see anything this book, but maybe later in the series. We already have plenty going on, with new characters introduced for the second half of the book. I felt that this particular scene was minor for the immediate plot line – but hopefully will turn into something for the series story arc. It would be nice to have some more strong female characters.
What is going to happen with these rescued magic-having human children?  And is Keman going to be able to pull off the halfblood thing when they return to the Citadel?  Will Shadow and Valyn be welcomed?  WHEN WILL THEY REALIZE THAT VALYN IS SHANA’S HALF-BROTHER?!  Did anyone else “ewwwww” at that?  EW.

1) Uh….Since they are children, I don’t think they will be turned out. But they will have to do endless chores. No Disneyland experience for them.

2) Things are a little blurry for me on this point because I thought the halfblood Wizards could tell there was a shape shifter among them – but maybe Shana is the only one who can do this? I hate to say this, but does anyone else feel like the initial story rules are getting a bit bent?

3) I am very worried about Shadow and Valyn. Shadow is very devoted to Valyn, so if he is harmed, Shadow could end up harmed or dead in his defense. Still, I am not sure how they would disguise a full elven lord as I think the Wizards have tests/defenses for that.

4) Argh! The whole half-sibling thing with Shana’s infatuation! So not right. I hope there is some conversation that reveals their familial connection and that puts a squash on it before something truly awkward happens!

Other Tidbits:

Shana was a total show off with that large ungulate (deer or elk? i forget.) for her share of the goods for the week. But it was a but inconsiderate to leave it in her Master’s quarters. Large dead animals are heavy and hard to move. Plus they usually loose bowel control. Would have been much better to have it down to the butcher’s right away. The animal can’t simply lie around in private quarters for a few hours – bloat sets in and the meat begins to spoil. tsk, tsk…..

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