Dragon Gate

dragon gate

(Jonathan Shade #3)

By: Gary Jonas

Narrated by: Joe Hempel

Series: Jonathan Shade

Goodreads Summary: Stephen Noble, a board member of Dragon Gate Industries (DGI), is decapitated. DGI, a front company for wizards, decides to provide executive protection services for Noble’s son, Graham, and daughter, Rayna. But Graham doesn’t trust wizards and refuses their offer, so DGI hires Jonathan Shade and his team to keep the Noble family safe.


The Nobles are from the other side of the Dragon Gate, and in that dimension, they committed crimes against the Marshall Clan. And now the Clan has come through the Gate to exact their revenge. While Graham and Rayna were too young to have been a part of the death and mayhem in the other land, honor dictates that they must pay for the crimes of their family.


How can Jonathan protect clients who are willing to kneel and accept death at any moment? How can he and his team handle thirteen deadly warriors willing to die to accomplish their goal? And how can Jonathan defeat the deadly creatures the Marshall Clan has brought with them to our world? Creatures that will destroy anything in their path as they hunt their prey.

(I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.)

Noticeably missing from this story is Jonathan’s almost non-stop smart-ass remarks and continuous pop culture references. Yes, they are there. But…if you’ve made it this far through the devastating climax of the second Jonathan Shade novel, you’ll understand that he hasn’t just bounced back.

Even his friends have noticed.

Even the new girl in his life notices.

This, the third in the series is also different in that it jumps perspectives. Now this can be a tricky thing, and apparently turned off a tiny bit of reviewers.

Personally, I thought Mr. Jonas did a rather good job, adding the depth to Kelly I’d looked forward to.

Reviewers are still comparing this series to Dresden. Yet, while most Dresden reviewers agree that the series doesn’t get teeth until the third book, I think Mr. Jonas gave Shade teeth in the last one and this one shows us how a character deals with a world-rocking aftermath in a very smooth manner. Plus, Jonathan still carries on with a slightly harder edge.

And how can you complain about the third book that hasn’t lost its momentum, still drags you kicking and screaming until the very end wondering where the hell the day went, and leaves you begging for more.

Plus, all fangirl aside, I think that Mr. Hempel has found his character. With each installment of Jonathan Shade, he gets better and better adding more and more depth to the MC while still managing to add flair to every other character in the series.

I have so much enjoyed listening that even though I really want to know what happens next, I will stubbornly wait for Anubis Nights to be available in an audio format.

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Acheron Highway

acheron highway

(Jonathan Shade #2)

By: Gary Jonas

Narrated by: Joe Hempel

Series: Jonathan Shade

Goodreads Summary:

“He stole my heart, Mr. Shade. I want you to find him and steal it back.”

The dead won’t stay buried in Denver, so Jonathan Shade isn’t too surprised when a deceased woman shows up wanting to hire him. A necromancer stalker has stolen her heart–literally–and she needs it if she’s going to live.

But Shade’s jobs are never simple. The dead won’t leave him alone. They work for a lovesick goddess who wants Shade to turn over her former lover. Chased by zombies, and then by an army of skeletons, Shade and his magically-engineered partner, Kelly Chan, fight to stay alive.

Keep your hands and feet in the vehicle at all times, and hang on, because there are no safe exits from Acheron Highway…

Sequels suck. Everyone knows that. Even reading a series, people tend to find faults and bury themselves in those faults saying the third book will be better. Sequels tend to suck.

This one did not suck.

I am old enough to be jaded. I am old enough and have studied and read enough to see the formula as I read/listen. Nine times out of ten, I can see the end even before the middle and my entertainment is the path that gets me there.

Then there’s the tenth time. The time when I didn’t see it coming. This is that time.

I knew what would happen after the climax. But I did NOT see the end of that battle. And I had to pause, to take a minute and work out a few things in my head.

For an author to hook me with the ewwww factor at the beginning, drag me along for the ride and into THAT battle…. For an author to keep me entertained so much that sentence construction and “you expect me to believe that” never distracts me from the story….

Reviewers always talk about books “gripping them and never letting go.” Except for a few exceptions, I haven’t been “gripped” in a very long time. This is one of those exceptions.

When I say, pick up this book and read it. I mean carve out a bit of your time and let go. Let this freakin’ thing take you to hell and back. This path is fun.

As always, I skimmed through the reviews after listening. Wanna know something interesting? On three sites, THREE sites, there are very few reviews with less than FOUR stars.

That includes Audible where there were definitive opinions about Mr. Hempel’s narrative ability and the choice to even have him narrate.

I don’t see any complaints here.

While I’ve come to certain conclusions about Mr. Hempel being one of my favs and I know that most people will/should take it with a grain of salt that I’ll probably say something nice about his narrative talents, I am unashamed. Mr. Hempel did a fantastic job. Somehow, he manages to enunciate consistently and still emote a sense of intensity, where I, personally, would have blubbered and mumbled if I’d had to read this aloud.

Even though I truly enjoyed this rollercoaster, the best part is the ability to recommend this to my middle kid who I usually have to cajole into reading. While I’m telling him about Jonathan Shade, he’s nodding, saying, “Sure, some kids at school are reading/listening to the same thing. You like it? Yup, I’ll give it a go.” And after I’ve told him about it, I notice he’s watching the first season of Bones, something I’ve been trying to get him into since the beginning. So when the mention of Kathy Reichs happens as I’m listening, I have to pause and share with the kid. He loved it. “So do I have a copy, Mom?”

“Well, duh, little one, if I have it, so do you.”

Click here to go to Amazon

Modern Sorcery

modern sorcery

By: Gary Jonas

Narrated by: Joe Hempel

Series: Jonathan Shade

GoodReads Summary:


A husband armed with a sword hacks apart his wife in a Denver grocery store. There are dozens of witnesses, and the crime is captured on the security cameras. To the police, it’s an open-and-shut case.

To Naomi, the daughter of the couple, it’s evidence of dark magic. She hires her ex-lover, a private investigator named Jonathan Shade to prove her father is innocent.

Shade specializes in paranormal cases, but he isn’t buying it. Still, he takes the case, hoping to rekindle their relationship. Instead, Shade finds himself mixed up in supernatural intrigue with wizards, magically engineered assassins, and an ancient sorcerer returned to life who’s willing to kill anyone who stands in his way.

Too bad Shade doesn’t have any magic.

(I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.)

Recently, I’ve discovered something. I no longer jump into reviewing books willy nilly. I still don’t look at the existing reviews. I want to form my own opinion. I just browse through the description and sometimes run through to find out the average star rating. I look at authors and avoid those I just don’t like (who wants a bad review based on the fact that the reviewer doesn’t like what you write or how you write it before they even give the new book a chance?).

Since I listen to a lot of books just because my life doesn’t accept me sitting down for long periods of time pouring over the words like I use to, I also pay attention to narrators.

I have touched on this before, but it bears repeating if you’ve not browsed the archives. I am peculiar. I think female voices are meant for daytime listening because some of them inadvertently pierce my brain during character changes or emotional story moments. I do not want to wake up to that in the middle of the night. Female narrators keep me on point during the day. I’m more productive listening to them. (Weird, huh?)

I know that many people cannot listen to stories at night because it frustrates them when they fall asleep. I have a system. A male voice works in that system. Yes, it takes me longer to listen to a book, but it adds to my enjoyment, so that’s really all that counts.

So daytime = female voices and nighttime = male voices.

Here’s the thing. There are some exceptions.  (Mainly full productions, but that is a whole other topic. Twilight zone for sleeping. Gaiman for long drives.)

One exception is Mr. Joe Hempel. His voice doesn’t have the deep timbre of Mr. James Marsters. His voice is not high enough or whiny enough to wake me in the middle of the night. It’s like his voice is just right for either waking/working/productive day or calm/relaxing/sleeping night.

This led to another epiphany. I have a lot of Joe Hempel narrated books. And I’ve liked every freakin’ one of them. So what did I do? Something I never do. I reached out and told him so. What did he do? Sent me another book. (A tiny bit of jumping and yeahing.)

Less than 16 hours later, I’m finished. (Had to do that thing we need to stay alive, you know, sleep).

Another fabulous choice in books, I would never have found otherwise.

And, after listening, I had to go check out what others were thinking.

So, yes, this idea is similar to the Dresden Files, in that the MC is a PI in a world full of magic. I can even see either character slipping easily into either world to give the other a hard time. That would be something to see.

However, you can’t expect it to stay so similar. Jonathan is not Harry. I see Harry as the old noir PI (of course, he wears a trench coat and opens doors for ladies). I see Jonathon as a guy I might have grown up with. One of those guys you’d rather shoot a round of pool with instead of just sitting at the bar knocking back shots. You enjoy being around both of them, but one is a bit mellower and more cynical than the other.

Other reviewers have mentioned that Mr. Hempel doesn’t fit the character. I (am surprised by this) disagree. I don’t want Jonathan to sound like Eric Meyers reading The Maltese Falcon.

Dresden is for a night of chilling and bitching about work. Jonathan is for getting worked up and going out to find trouble just to blow off some energy. This is why you don’t want a deeper timbre for the MC. You don’t want him to seem exactly like every other old noir PI out there.

Jonathan is different. That’s what makes Modern Sorcery so different.

(What made me really happy is the nod to James Marsters hidden in the pages. I’m not going to tell you where, you just have to find it.)

Being a Dresden fan, and being that this is so similar, I did look for knock-off clues. The wizards are a closed society of asses, yes. But it feels as if we’re seeing a different side of them. Not a good one, but another one.

I may have enjoyed this one enough that I’ve overlooked some critical thinking. But, ya know what? That’s a good thing. It is rare that I don’t pick apart every little thing even in my head.

I wasn’t blasted out of my fun by grammatical gaffs. I wasn’t slipping down the passivity slide with an overabundance of passive voice. Every sentence felt like a bit of action, pulling me to the end.

I do agree with some that character development was light. I understand that this was more of a journey for Jonathan than manure to feed his personal growth, but he hasn’t gotten there yet. This is not the epic emotional voyage.

This is the beginning of a series. Compare it to prime time police procedurals like Law & Order (any of them). For the first season, it’s case driven. We don’t get into personal lives until at least the second. This first book in a series could probably equate to the first half of the first season.

The other characters were fun for me. I loved Esther’s turn of phrase, inconsistent though it might be. I mean, she’s been dead for how long and she doesn’t draw heavily from contemporary speech, but the villain, dead for three hundred years, barely back for a week and he references the finger in the throat for nausea? Hmmmm. What makes Esther different?

I liked Kelly, too. I didn’t think I would, because characters like her tend to soften halfway through until you don’t recognize them anymore. She remains consistent. She’s a construct. She doesn’t feel physical pain. She has attachments and objectivity.

Crazy as it may seem, I really enjoyed this beginning and cannot wait to see what happens next.

Click here to go to Amazon