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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Review: Echo 8 by Sharon Lynn Fisher

Echo 8
Author:  Sharon Lynn Fisher
Publisher:  Tor Book, February 3, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 288 pages
List Price:  $15.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780765376374 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Echo 8 by Sharon Lynn Fisher
Echo 8: a thrilling new science fiction romance from Sharon Lynn Fisher, the author of Ghost Planet and The Ophelia Prophecy.

Three lives.
Two worlds.
Once chance to save it all.

Tess is a parapsychologist, devoting her life to studying paranormal and psychic phenomenon. But when doppelgangers begin appearing from a parallel world, all her training couldn’t prepare her for what is to come.

Jake appeared from another Earth, shocked and angry, and restrained by government investigators for study. But when he unwittingly steals energy from Tess, it causes a ripple effect across two worlds.

Ross is an FBI agent, ordered to protect Tess as she conducts her research into this dangerous phenomenon. His assignment was not random—he and Tess have a history. And when those feelings resurface, Ross will have to choose between his love for Tess, and his duty to protect his world.

Stacey's Thoughts

Set in the not-too-distant future, this story gives a new spin on ghosts, teleporting, and love triangles. Something strange has been happening in 2018. All over the world, “Echoes” have been appearing. An Echo is a soul from another Earth that aren’t solid humans anymore and are hungry. The Echoes find a person, “feed” and sometimes take too much energy from their donor…so much that the donor dies.

Our heroine, Tess, is a parapsychologist (she studies paranormal and psychic phenomenon) and is now the only living person that has the training and education to help the Echoes before all their energy dissipates and they die a second time. Ross is a FBI Special Agent assigned to protect Tess from any Echoes and most importantly from Tess risking her own life. The Echoes have been documented and tracked...this story opens up with “Echo 8,” known on his world as Jake Parker. Tess is the first person Jake comes in contact with and somehow, he doesn’t kill her. Could it be possible that Echoes don’t have to be exterminated on site anymore?

This book is a fast-paced adventure that I devoured. Fisher’s writing is suspenseful, hypnotic, and action-packed. Tess, Ross, and Jake all have with their own problems, insecurities, and painful moments that resurface due to the interactions with each other. Each character works through their problems in their own flawed and (sometimes) lovable way. The story hops between Tess and Ross’s more modern world to Jake’s post-apocalyptic world and back again. But not only do Tess and Ross have to worry about keeping Jake “fed”, they have to protect him from the FBI and the private business that Tess works for who are interested in using the Echoes as future assassins. Tess wants to fight for their rights and right to choose their own (after)life.

This was an exciting read, full of science, action, and new love. The relationships the characters form throughout the book explore trust and fear, hope and betrayal, justice and safety. The characters were interesting and unpredictable and I loved the idea of another Earth. I also laughed out loud several times, which endears me to the author immensely. I look forward to Fisher’s next novel.

Review: Closer to Home by Mercedes Lackey

Closer to Home
Author:  Mercedes Lackey
Series:   Herald Spy 1, A Novel of Valdemar
Publisher:  DAW, October 7, 2014
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages
List Price:  $25.95 (print)
ISBN:  9780756408992
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Closer to Home by Mercedes Lackey
Mags was once an enslaved orphan living a harsh life in the mines, until the King's Own Herald discovered his talent and trained him as a spy. Now a Herald in his own right, at the newly established Heralds' Collegium, Mags has found a supportive family, including his Companion Dallen.Although normally a Herald in his first year of Whites would be sent off on circuit, Mags is needed close to home for his abilities as a spy and his powerful Mindspeech gift. There is a secret, treacherous plot within the royal court to destroy the Heralds. The situation becomes dire after the life of Mags' mentor, King's Own Nikolas, is imperiled. His daughter Amily is chosen as the new King's Own, a complicated and dangerous job that is made more so by this perilous time. Can Mags and Amily save the court, the Heralds, and the Collegium itself?

Stacey's Thoughts

This was my first experience with Valdemar and Mercedes Lackey and it was not a disappointment. The characters are very well-established and have their own histories from previous adventures the author alludes to in this story. They were very accessible and as a first time reader, I did not feel that I had to do research on the Valdemar world to read this book. Newbies will get the gist of Gifts, Companions, and Chosen easily enough and seasoned Valdemar readers won’t be bored. Lackey truly owns Valdemar and it shows in her writing.

The story begins when Mags and Amily return from their previous adventure. They return as adults and are assigned adult responsibilities. All they really want is to be together, but they must go straight to work. Mags returns to the streets as a spy and is also given a persona as a nobleman to spy in higher circles. Amily is given a new job then a promotion but has plenty of people to help her. All the noble families are coming to the royal city to make marriage matches for their offspring at the Midwinter Festival. When trouble breaks out, it will take more than luck to save the kingdom from a bloodfeud.

You can feel Lackey's passion for her characters. I found that the writing is funny and entertaining and I enjoyed the different characters' perspectives. Mags and Amily are so different from each other and are working as a team, but in very different ways with different components. I never knew what would happen next. I was sold on the book when one of our heroes takes in orphans and doubly sold when the other gives a heartbroken girl books.

Another interesting thing about Closer to Home is that it tells a well-known story in a different way. I don’t want to spill the beans about exactly what story that is, but I think it is extremely well done and shows all the signs of a good writer. Lackey took this story and made it fit into her world and made it her own.

Review: Summer Moon by Jan DeLima

Summer Moon
Author:  Jan DeLima
Series:  Celtic Wolves 2
Publisher:  Ace, September 30, 2014
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425266212
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Summer Moon by Jan DeLima
She won’t be ruled again…

Rosa Alban has been obedient her entire life. But when her alpha husband dies, she seizes the opportunity to flee the oppressive Guardians—the rulers of the secret shapeshifter world. Her flight instantly brands her as a pack traitor, and she has no choice but to seek protection from a neighboring tribe by marrying one of their sons.

Known as the Beast of Merin, Luc Black loyally plays the part of unwanted son and devoted brother. He realizes marrying Rosa will strengthen his tribe’s territory, but he has no intention of loving ever again. Still, he’s unprepared for the intense physical need the wild she-wolf awakens in him.

When the Guardians hone in on Rosa, Luc must fight to protect his new bride. And as war descends, the unlikely allies discover their destinies are irrevocably entwined…

Stacey's Thoughts

This is a great book! I’m so glad that this series has continued because I feel it has a lot of potential to be a huge series. Summer Moon is so different from the first installment of the series, Celtic Moon. First off, it’s not told by Sophie (Rats. I totally love Sophie and wanted to know more about her.) but after I got over my initial hissy fit, I recognized that Rosa is totally awesome in her own right. This book picks up right where Celtic Moon leaves off. Things are changing…the Guardians will be challenged and Rosa is right in the middle of it all. DeLima writes beautifully about every subject in this book: the nature, the wolves, the history, and the passion. It was a delight to read, especially because the characters are so original and unpredictable. The story starts off with an unpredictable event at Castell Avon and you’ll be kept guessing the whole story.

The Welsh Celtic gods and goddesses play a bigger role in this novel than in Celtic Moon, especially Taliesin (whom they call “Sin” for short.) Dylan’s brother Luc also plays a bigger role and we learn more about him and his (deceased) human wife, Koko. This story starts with alliances but grows into trust and love. Each narrator has been hurt throughout their long lives in different ways and they are all caught between nursing old wounds and growing into something new. I loved reading about their doubts, fears, and anger as they went through these changes. It makes them beautifully imperfect. At the end of the story, you can see how they are not who they were and how (most of them) have changed for the better. I can’t wait for the next installment of the Celtic Wolves Novels. You go Jan DeLima!

Review: Touch of Evil by C. T. Adams and Cathy Clamp

Touch of Evil
Authors:  C. T. Adams and Cathy Clamp
Series:  Thrall 1
Publisher:  Tor Books, October 14, 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 352 pages
List Price:  $14.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780765377821 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: Touch of Evil by C. T. Adams and Cathy Clamp
The USA Today bestselling first volume in the Thrall series, for the first time in trade paperback

The alien vampires known as the Thrall classify most humans as Prey, save for a few who survive the bite of the parasite. People like Kate Reilly, whose latent psychic powers were activated by the vampire's venom when she was attacked a few years ago. Kate is Not Prey, and safe.

Or is she? The Thrall Queen intends to make Kate her successor, despite Kate's hatred of the vampires.

All is not bleak in Kate’s world. Her downstairs neighbor, Tom, is a hunky firefighter who arouses her senses…including the ones that tell her he's not human. Tom’s a werewolf—and his pack knows how to protect Kate from the Thrall Queen. The problem? The last time Kate trusted a man she loved, he betrayed her to the Thrall and nearly got her killed.

Action, adventure, romance, and thrills—everything readers want from the USA Today bestselling authors who are also Cat Adams, creator of the Blood Singer series—are all on display in Touch of Evil.

Stacey's Thoughts

This is a great series! It has everything I love: a kick-ass woman, a complex world, and complex history. Adams and Clamp have reimagined what a vampire is: a parasite with a hive mind. So cool! I love when authors take something familiar and turn it on its head! (They’ve also reimagined werewolves too!) Kate Reilly, a former pro volleyball player turned landlord and air courier is the best new fiction character out there! She is strong, capable, and not afraid to get her hands dirty. Kate’s status is officially Not Prey. This means a few things: the Thrall cannot lie to her and must treat her as an equal, she cannot fight with a gun only, and cannot hide or run from a challenge. If she does not abide by these rules she will lose her Not Prey status.

Kate’s new tenant, named Tom is a werewolf. The two are attracted to each other but it’s not just that…they respect and admire each other too. Tom is an awesome character and is the perfect foil for Kate. He doesn’t rush in and try to rearrange her life, doesn’t try to save her from her problems. He just loves her. As Kate and Tom’s relationship deepens, we learn the dynamics of these unique werewolves. Not only does Kate have Tom calling her, but her ex is also calling her, wanting her to find his niece. (The ex that Kate tried to save from the previous Thrall Queen. This ex, Dylan, is now a Thrall Host.) Kate accepts the job, and that’s when all hell breaks loose.

There isn’t a dull moment in this book and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series. Hats off to Adams and Clamp! They've produced a totally unique story. I can’t wait to see what happens to Kate in Touch of Madness!

Reviews: Alchemystic, Stonecast and Incarnate (The Spellmason Chronicles 1 -3 ) by Anton Strout

Reviews: Alchemystic, Stonecast and Incarnate (The Spellmason Chronicles 1 -3 ) by  Anton Strout

Series:  The Spellmason Chronicles 1
Publisher:  Ace, September 25, 2012
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN9781937007799 (print)

Reviews: Alchemystic, Stonecast and Incarnate (The Spellmason Chronicles 1 -3 ) by  Anton Strout

Alexandra Belarus is a struggling artist living in New York City, even though her family is rich in real estate, including a towering Gothic Gramercy Park building built by her great-great-grandfather. But the truth of her bloodline is revealed when she is attacked on the street and saved by an inhumanly powerful winged figure. A figure who knows the Belarus name…

Lexi’s great-great-grandfather was a Spellmason—an artisan who could work magic on stone. But in his day, dark forces conspired against him and his, so he left a spell of protection on his family. Now that Lexi is in danger, the spell has awoken her ancestor’s most trusted and fearsome creation: a gargoyle named Stanis.

Lexi and Stanis are equally surprised to find themselves bound to each other. But as they learn to work together, they realize that only united can they save the city they both love…

Stacey's Thoughts

This is a great book! It is original, funny, and full of action. Lexi Belarus has lived in New York City her whole life. Her family has lived there for many generations and has a successful real estate business there. Lexi’s great-great-grandfather, Alexander Belarus, left quite a legacy for his family, but not in real estate…in art. Alexander was a great stone sculptor but he also knew magic. He was a spellmason. He could bring the stones to life. Before his death, he left a protector for the family behind him: Stanis…who happens to be a gargoyle. (Don’t worry…he’s a handsome gargoyle!)

Lexi’s older brother has just been killed in an accident and now it’s up to her to take up the family business of real estate. Sadly, it rips her away from her true passion: art. Up in the study that belonged to Alexander she learns about the true family legacy and how to work spellmasonry. When Lexi is attacked, questions arise. Was her brother’s death really an accident? Who could have wanted to hurt the Belarus family? With Lexi’s friends Rory and Marshall (who delightfully remind me of Clary and Simon from The Mortal Instruments Series) Lexi finds out things she did not want to know about her brother and her great-great-grandfather’s past before he came to America.

Stanis, the stone flying man (who prefers to be called a grotesque…like that somehow is better than gargoyle!), is a pretty awesome character and quickly learns about the fragile humans in his care, emotions, and Lexi. He feels a strong bond with “his maker’s kin” and always knows when she is going to be in trouble. Don’t worry, this book was not about a helpless damsel in distress with a strong man to save her. Lexi and Rory kick some ass themselves but gladly use Stanis as backup. Even though it is dangerous, Lexi makes it her mission to restore four pieces of his soul that were removed, placed in stones, and hidden around New York City.

The ending of this book was totally unexpected…I’m going to start the second one tonight. I’m already chomping at the bit for the third installment. I love it!

Series:  The Spellmason Chronicles 2
Publisher:  Ace, September 24, 2013
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:   9780425256404 (print)

Reviews: Alchemystic, Stonecast and Incarnate (The Spellmason Chronicles 1 -3 ) by  Anton Strout

Alexandra Belarus was an artist stuck working in her New York family’s business…until she discovered her true legacy—a deep and ancient magic. Lexi became the last practicing Spellmason, with the power to breathe life into stone. And as her powers awoke, so did her family’s most faithful protector: a gargoyle named Stanis. But when a centuries-old evil threatened her family and her city, Stanis sacrificed himself to save everything Lexi held dear.

With Stanis gone, Lexi’s efforts to master Spellmasonry—even with the help of her dedicated friends—are faltering. Hidden forces both watch her and threaten her, and she finds herself suddenly under the mysterious wing of a secret religious society determined to keep magic hidden from the world.

But the question of Stanis’s fate haunts her—and as the storm around her grows, so does the fear that she won’t be able to save him in her turn.

Stacey's Thoughts

The story opens up about six months after Alchemystic wraps up. During this time, Lexi has been studying the spellmason ways, but sadly, without Stanis. We still get Stanis’s point of view in this story, which I think is a really great feature. It really shows off the author’s skills to switch characters like that, especially because they are so different! In Stonecast, a new character is introduced. Is he a friend or foe? Whose side is he on? Can he be trusted? 

Rory and Marshall are still best buds with Lexi, along with the cool little creation, Bricksley. Awww. I love that little guy. With Lexi experimenting in animating stone, especially more life-sized creations, life gets a little dangerous for the fragile humans…including Lexi. A creepy secret society presents itself and demands Lexi help them, which understandably leaves everyone on edge. To make matters worse, the Servants of Ruthenia are still causing trouble and Devon with them! But the biggest problem: the magical binding agent to bring stone to life, called Kimiya is running out. Without that, there can be no more spellmasonry…ever! Despite all of her great-great-grandfather’s works, books, and puzzle boxes, there doesn’t seem to be a recipe for it anywhere. Is this going to be the end of the Lexi’s spellmasonry, even though it just started?

This series makes me smile. I love the witty comebacks, the nerdy references, and the mystery of the grotesques. I’ll have you know that Mr. Strout writes one hell of a woman! I was about halfway through with the first book (Alchemystic) when I flipped to the back of the book and discovered the author was a he! His writing only gets better in Stonecast.

Series:  The Spellmason Chronicles 3
Publisher:  Ace, September 30, 2014
Format:  Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
List Price:  $7.99 (print)
ISBN:  9780425273555 (print)

Reviews: Alchemystic, Stonecast and Incarnate (The Spellmason Chronicles 1 -3 ) by  Anton Strout

When Alexandra Belarus discovered her family’s secret ability to breathe life into stone, she uncovered an entire world of magic hidden within New York City—a world she has accidentally thrown into chaos. A spell gone awry has set thousands of gargoyles loose upon Manhattan, and it’s up to Lexi and her faithful protector, Stanis, to put things right.

But the stress of saving the city is casting a pall over Lexi and Stanis’s relationship, driving them to work separately to solve the problem. As Stanis struggles to unite the gargoyle population, Lexi forges unlikely alliances with witches, alchemists and New York’s Finest to quell an unsettling uprising led by an ancient and deadly foe long thought vanquished.

To save her city, Lexi must wield more power than ever before with the added hope of recovering a mysterious artifact that could change her world—and bring her closer to Stanis than she ever thought possible…

Stacey's Thoughts

And the bad guys just keep on coming! Alexandra, Rory, Marshall, and Stanis have been trying to gather the new grotesques that have been flying around NYC, and it’s no easy task. The gang is glad to do it since the spell that made the grotesques did save their butts six months ago. Spirits who did not pass on are now inhabiting Alexandra’s great-great-grandfather’s work and not all of them are friendly! A murderer’s spirit is now in a heavenly and nearly indestructible form and he’s picked up right where he left off when he was alive.

Can’t everything just be like it was? Oh, how I long for the good old days! Everyone has messy, busy, crazy lives right now: Alexandra is with Caleb now but once Alexandra finds out about an interesting conversation Caleb and Stanis had, is he even worth it? Marshall is now a budding alchemist with his own tricks but has he been hanging out with the right crowd? Stanis and Emily. Are they meant to be?

I’m very sad that this will be the last we hear from the gang. I will miss them a lot! The bickering, gaming and nerd references, and yes, even the fighting. I sincerely hope Strout will consider continuing this world, even if is just with ebook shorts. Until then, I’m making up my own sequels. Thank you Anton Strout for a wonderful series!

Review: Echo 8 by Sharon Lynn FisherReview: Closer to Home by Mercedes LackeyReview: Summer Moon by Jan DeLimaReview: Touch of Evil by C. T. Adams and Cathy ClampReviews: Alchemystic, Stonecast and Incarnate (The Spellmason Chronicles 1 -3 ) by  Anton StroutReview: The Penguin Book of Witches edited by Katherine Howe and Giveaway!Review and Giveaway:  The Bloodbound by Erin LindseyReview: Spells at the Crossroads by Barbara Ashford

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