Sunset Specters by Gary Jonas

JonasSunsetSpectersNarrator: Joe Hempel

Publisher: Denton & White (2016)

Length: 4 hours 48 minutes

Series: Book 5 Jonathan Shade

Author’s Page

Note: This is Book 5 in the series and I recommend reading the previous books as there are major things that happened in previous stories that affect characters’s decisions in this book.

Book 4, Anubis Nights, left us with quite the cliff hanger, so I was very glad I didn’t have to wait too long for this book to come out on audio. Jonathan Shade and his crew are still hunting Henry Winslow through time. Jonathan, Kelly Chan, and Ankhesenamun were yanked from ancient Egypt into 1877 at the end of the previous book. At the beginning of this book, Jonathan & Kelly are reunited with Brand and Esther, and they all have the opportunity to bring the confused Ankhesenamun up to speed.

And that’s the perfect set up for things to go very, very wrong. First, they finish traveling to San Francisco, hoping to catch up to the sorcerous Henry Winslow before he expects it and well before he can complete the next stage of his immortality ritual. Meanwhile, Douglas Freeman, a former slave, has suffered a great loss. He’s made a list of men who must die. Vengeful, angry ghosts accompany him as he tracks his quarry to San Francisco.

San Francisco is a mixing pot of cultures but it’s far from any kind of equality in 1877. Might still makes right and being any skin tone other than white leaves you with plenty of extra hurdles. Very few establishments outside of China town will serve Kelly Chan and nearly everyone assumes she is Jonathan’s slave. This provides plenty of opportunities for Kelly to set people right, much to my amusement. I’m really glad that the author didn’t ignore these facets of historical San Francisco as it made the story very interesting; Jonathan and crew can’t help but apply their 21st century standards to whatever time period they happen to be in.

The bad guy is very bad indeed! Henry Winslow is a very formidable foe as we saw in Book 4. That continues on in this book, though his powers have grown a bit. Still, Jonathan and crew think they can take him if they can just get the right combo of might, luck, and surprise going. At the very least, they can mess up this stage of his immortality ritual. For the most part, Winslow ignores them (or tosses them over houses) until they become a true nuisance. Then, there is hell to pay. There is this one scene that was a little bit of a tear jerker. Jonathan, in the first trilogy, managed to undo a few deaths with a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. However, I don’t know if that will be possible this time around. This book’s description doesn’t lie about not everyone getting out alive.

In the previous book, I felt it was a bit silly that all 3 main female characters were in love with Jonathan. That theme was carried forth in this book, but now things are more complicated. Kelly and Jonathan had this romantic relationship in ancient Egypt and they continue that in 1877, but now they have Brand (Kelly’s ex-boyfriend) and Esther (a ghost who’s had a crush on Jonathan for years) to pay witness to it. This makes for some uncomfortable moments for these friends. However, I am better with the idea of Jonathan being the center of so much female attention now that I’ve read this book, especially in light of how this one ends.

OK, leaving all this mushy romance stuff to the side, Jonathan has more than one bad guy to deal with in this book. He and Douglas Freeman eventually cross paths and a deal is struck to assist each other, as they have one bad guy in common. This eventually brings plenty of pain and a few broken bones to Jonathan as he fights a man who is near indestructible. I quite enjoyed how he resolved that issue.

In the end, this is one of my favorite books of the series. There’s a lot going on in San Francisco in 1877 and a lot going on with Jonathan and his crew. The books ends on a bittersweet note with a bit of suspense for what will come next. So looking forward to Book 6!

I received a free copy of this audiobook.

The Narration: Yet again, Joe Hempel continues to be the perfect Jonathan Shade. As per his usual performance, he does an excellent light Chinese accent for Kelly Chan and a Southern drawl for Esther. I liked the little bit of high-and-mighty he put into Ankhesenamun’s voice. There were some pretty emotional scenes in this book and Hempel did a great job getting those emotions across to the listener. Indeed, I believe he must be attached to these characters by now and that really shows in his narration.  

What I Liked: 1877 San Francisco was a very interesting place; Kelly has plenty of opportunities to kick ass; Henry Winslow is such a powerful foe that I do wonder if Jonathan will be able to defeat him; not everyone gets out of this book alive (sniffle); Jonathan’s convoluted love life makes more sense now; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this is a solidly good story.

Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

McGuireRosemaryAndRueWhere I Got It: Own it.

Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal

Publisher: Brilliance Audio (2010)

Length: 11 hours 20 minutes

Series: Book 1 October Daye

Author’s Page

Set in the modern-day San Francisco Bay area, October ‘Toby’ Daye is a PI who investigates the normal, but also the supernatural. Being half-fae herself, she has quite a few tricks up her sleeves when it comes to detecting the truth. Toby Daye is also a mother and a fiancé. But then a case goes tits up and Toby is turned into a fish in Lily’s garden for the next 12 or 14 years. Afterward, she doesn’t want to live a fae life and she’s doing her best to cut all her fae connections away. The death of a friend pulls her back into the world with a binding curse.

Toby is awesome, for a lot of reasons. She has this whole backstory that we only get pieces of in this book and that past definitely affects the choices she makes. She isn’t perfect and sometimes she willingly lies to herself in an attempt to capture a few moments of happiness. She’s flawed and interesting, courageous and humble, clever and distrusting. All this makes her a great lead character.

When Countess Evening Winterose is murdered, a curse is set upon Toby to find her killer. She also has to keep an unusual and powerful item safe. In attempting to do both these things without being killed herself, she has to reconnect with her old fae life. She once swore fealty to the Duke of Shadowed Hills, who has tried to welcome her back since her fishy experience ended, only to be politely rebuffed by Toby. Then there is her old flame Devin of Home, who has a variety of unwanted half fae kids hanging around running odd jobs for him. Tybalt of the Court of Cats has stayed in her life, whether she likes it our not. Lily only has sway in her garden but has made it clear Toby is always welcome there. With this curse upon her, Toby must reconnect with all these fae characters and more to solve the case.

Toby isn’t the only one with an interesting past. The Duke’s wife and daughter also underwent an ordeal about the same time Toby was gone. It obviously changed them but we only find out enough to entice us to learn more. I loved Luna’s rose garden because it’s beautiful and a bit eerie. I love the amount of mythology pulled into the tale. It’s a great mix of the San Francisco that exists today and these bits of mythology. The story has a solid murder mystery feel to it also, taking itself seriously. There is definitely a price to be paid to find the answers Toby seeks.  The story has a great mix of fae magic and detective seriousness. I’m looking forward to reading Book 2.

 

The Narration: Mary Robinette Kowal did a pretty good job, and was spot on for Toby herself. She had distinct voices for all the characters, though her Spanish accent was a bit forced. It became smoother as the story went on. I loved her gruff voice for the taxi driver and Tybalt’s pissed off voice.

What I Liked: A serious urban fantasy; San Francisco setting;  bits of mythology; Toby has this past that we only get glimpses of; she’s struck with a personal tragedy early on; a curse pushes her out of her comfort zone; actions have consequences.

What I Disliked: Nothing – an excellent addition to the urban fantasy genre!

What Others Think:

The Book Smugglers

Fangs for the Fantasy

Vampire Book Club

Bunbury in the Stacks

Fantasy Cafe

 

Pacific Burn by Barry Lancet

LancetPacificBurnWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Scott Brick

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (2016)

Length: 9 hours 47 minutes

Series: Book 3 Jim Brodie

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 3 in the series, it works fine as a stand along novel.

Jim Brodie’s passion is art and he loves his life as an art dealer. However, he inherited another life from his father, one that is inextricably tangled in his deceased father’s security firm. The son of his good friend Ken Nobuki is dead and a week later an attempt is made on Ken himself. Local San Francisco politicians put pressure on Jim and the local police department to solve the two cases quickly. But this mystery will take Jim across the nation to DC and then on to Japan and back. All his skills will be needed to catch the killer.

Jim Brodie is a fascinating character. At first he comes off as a kind of bookish man with his love of art and as a widower taking care of his young daughter. Then we learn that he’s fluent in Japanese when the local PD ask him to act as interpreter. His surprisingly quick reflexes from years of martial arts training are put into use when an attempt is made on Ken Nobuki’s life. Then he calls in members of his security firm to guard Ken in the hospital while he travels to DC and then Japan to secure the Nobuki family and hopefully track down the killer. It’s a very interesting skill set and all sorts of seedy characters are pulled into the story via both the art world and the security work.

The plot was awesome. Naomi Nobuki, Ken’s daughter, is a journalist and anti-nuclear power activist. Of course, Jim is immediately worried that her activist activities may be the reason behind the targets on the Nobuki family. Jim races to Japan to wrap the Nobuki family up tight in security and there he hears his first tale of the legendary Steam Walker. I won’t spoil it for you because it is pretty freaking awesome. Just know that Jim and his friends have met a worthy opponent.

There’s a touch of romance in the story. On a previous trip to Japan, Jim met Rie Hoshino, a Tokyo cop. So far, their personal relationship has been kept under wraps. They have some lovely moments together that may one day lead to something more. She’s a martial artist herself and handles herself in conversations but, alas, the author never shows us her other skills. In fact, she has to be medically assisted once and rescued at one point. I hope the author chooses to do more with her character instead of giving her these cliched moments during the action scenes.

I was kept guessing throughout the tale. There’s plenty of Japanese culture wound throughout the story and it is done well. I never felt that the author had fallen into teacher mode and was giving a lecture. Even once our main characters have a solid idea of who their killer is, there is quite the chase to catch him. And this killer has yet more surprises for our heroes. I really appreciated the final note from the author noting what elements of the story were fictional and which are real. It speaks volumes to the research done by the author.

 

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

The Narration:  I think this is one of Scott Brick’s better works. I have listened to many of his SFF narrations but it has been a while since I picked up a book narrated by him. His female voices were quite believable and each distinct. He did a great job with all the Japanese sprinkled throughout the story. 

What I Liked: Great plot!; the myth of the Steam Walker; the activist angle; Jim’s unusual skill set; Oribe pottery; volcanic activity; realistic trauma from weapons; a very worthy opponent.

What I Disliked: Very minor – I would have liked to see the ladies do what they do instead of simply being told what they do.

What Others Think:

Science Thrillers

Bea’s Book Nook

K. L. Romo

Suncoast’s Book Reviews