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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

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Melanie's Week in Review - May 20, 2018


Melanie's Week in Review - May 20, 2018


Hello! I am writing this while watching highlights of the royal wedding. I am not really a royalist and but I decided to tune in anyway. Partly it was a good excuse to eat orange scones....which I have to say are delicious. It also meant I could use the antique tea set that I barely have an opportunity to take out of my china cabinet. Did you watch?

This wasn't one of my more prolific weeks reading. It was Wednesday when I realised I wasn't even halfway through a single book. In my defense it was the release of the season finale of both Lucifer and of Dynasty so I had to watch those.  So what did I read?


Melanie's Week in Review - May 20, 2018
I read The Master, the 3rd Gameshouse Novella, by Claire North. I had reviewed the two previous books months ago and loved them. The final instalment does not disappoint. Silver decides to make a stand and challenge the Gamesmaster to the ultimate game - for control of the Gameshouse. The Gameshouse has sustained him for centuries along with the other elite players but he has decided he has had enough.  This is the ultimate game. The largest and most deadly game of chess ever played where not just the pawns are sacrificed.

This is a fantastic novella. Your head will be positively spin at the number of locations that Silver finds himself. North has a real gift of describing her characters and their environment without a lot of prose which means that she is able to send Silver on a manic journey from one country to the next and next and next in just novella. In this series North creates characters who you can't help but like even though they are pretty uncaring and rather evil. I was really cheering on Silver from the sidelines and I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out. If you want a great series of novellas that are both standalone but interconnected then look no further! These are must reads.


Melanie's Week in Review - May 20, 2018
I was determined to finish The World Awakening by Dan Koboldt so that I could tell you all about it. So now I have a confession. I just couldn't finish it. I had planned to cheat as I got over halfway through and was going to skip to the end but I just couldn't. I discussed my inability to finish this book with the hubinator. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was that meant I couldn't face reading it. As I mentioned book two was pretty dull and not much happened whereas in book 3 it was almost non stop action. The closest reason that the hubs and I could agree on was that it was just too juvenile and the hero wasn't very heroic. Its a shame as I really liked the first book. Sorry!


Well that is it for me for this week. I am planning to have more to tell you about next week. Promise! Until next week Happy Reading!





The Master
Gameshouse Novella 3
Redhook, November 3rd 2015
eBook, 100 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - May 20, 2018
The Gameshouse is an unusual institution.

Many know it as the place where fortunes can be made and lost though games of chess, backgammon – every game under the sun.

But a select few, who are picked to compete in the higher league, know that some games are played for higher stakes – those of politics and empires, of economics and kings . . .

And now, the ultimate player is about to step forward.





The World Awakening
Gateways to Alissia 3
Harper Voyager Impulse, February 13, 2018
   eBook, 448 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, April 3, 2018
   Mass Market Paperback, 448 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - May 20, 2018
"The World Awakening is a great conclusion to what is a very readable and highly enjoyable series. Characters that are more than the sum of their parts, a world that has so much to offer, and a story that races along apace – the Gateways to Alissia books have it all." -- SFFworld

Quinn Bradley has learned to use the magic of another world. And that world is in danger.

Having decided to betray CASE Global, he can finally reveal his origins to the Enclave and warn them about the company’s imminent invasion. Even if it means alienating Jillaine…and allying with someone he’s always considered his adversary.

But war makes for strange bedfellows, and uniting Alissians against such a powerful enemy will require ancient enmities—as well as more recent antagonisms—to be set aside. The future of their pristine world depends on it.

As Quinn searches for a way to turn the tide, his former CASE Global squad-mates face difficult decisions of their own. For some, it’s a matter of what they’re willing to do to get home. For others, it’s deciding whether they want to go home at all.

Continuing the exciting adventures from The Rogue Retrieval and The Island Deception, The World Awakening is the spellbinding conclusion to the Gateways to Alissia fantasy series from Dan Koboldt.

Melanie's Week in Review - May 6, 2018


Melanie's Week in Review - May 6, 2018


Hello! Have you missed me? I realise I haven't been around for a couple of weeks.  I was on holiday in Seville, Spain in mid April. It was a fantastic holiday. We were there during a big festival called the Feria. Every woman was dressed in full flamenco clothes and men in traditional Spanish suits while riding horses. It was great with some book reading but not much. I then over-estimated what I could finish when I got back so alas no WIR last week but I'm back now. What did I read?


Melanie's Week in Review - May 6, 2018
So I have a confession to make. I had fully intended to tell you all about books 2 and 3 of Dan Koboldt's Gateways to Alissia series however I only managed to finish 1 of them. All will be revealed soon.

In book 2 - The Island of Deception the magician Quinn Bradley is about to make the big time. A big show in Vegas and his name in lights. His life is finally on the right track until his former colleagues at Case Global Enterprises call him back to Alissia. Bradley is asked to return to the alternate universe of Alissia to try to stop the former head of Case Global, Richard Holt from taking control.

The story is told from multiple POVs including Quinn, Logan, Mendez and Kiara who we met in the previous installment but mostly from Quinn's. The POVs give us a modicum of character development as the story is told from that character's voice. I have to say that I didn't enjoy book 2. Second books are always challenging when the first book of a series is really good as they don't always live up to expectations. This is definitely the case for the Gateways of Alissia series. This book was too much of a filler for me without a lot of substance and I really struggled to finish it. I would love to tell you, in detail what happened, but basically Quinn arrives, he travels around and Richard Holt is still in charge at the end.

I really tried to finish book 3, The World Awakening to tell you about this week but it was too much of a struggle. I got just over halfway through and it was either skip a bunch of chapters or try again next week. It came down to 'try again'. I will endeavor to finish it next week!


Melanie's Week in Review - May 6, 2018
While I was trying to finish The World Awakening I looked for something else I could read and discovered that book 4, Gaslight, of Dannika Dark's Crossbreed series was out. It was pretty inexpensive and I knew the previous books were quick reads. As I was pretty desperate for a quick read (it was Thursday by this point!) I decided to buy it.

After the events of book 3, Deathtrap, Raven is determined to search out and punish those who have been trafficking humans to vampires while her colleagues in Keystone have their own troubles and challenges to face. When Raven goes missing and is in the hands of her former tormentor allegiances are forged and torn apart. Christian and Raven's budding relationship is put to the test and no one is sure who will survive.

The first half of the story is pretty straight forward with Raven and Christian and what happens when Raven goes missing. Had that been constructed properly that could have been the whole plot of book but Dark decided to make it more complex and a lot more confusing. The main plot was resolved halfway through and then Dark decided to add in gratuitous sex, sentiment and some minor character development. Overall it was too disjointed with POV chapters that went nowhere or didn't contribute to the overall plot. If I compare this to the other books of the series I would have to say it was a bit of hot mess.


That is it for me this week. I know it sounds like a bit of a disappointing week and my fingers are  crossed for a winner for my next Week in Review. Stay tuned to find out if I find a perfect read. Until then Happy Reading!





The Island Deception
Gateways to Alissia 2
Harper Voyager Impulse, April 11, 2017
    eBook, 352 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, May 30, 2017
    Mass Market Paperback, 496 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - May 6, 2018
Continuing the exciting adventures from The Rogue Retrieval, The Island Deception blends fun and mystery into a brilliant new portal fantasy from Dan Koboldt.

What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas. But what happens after you step through a portal to another world, well…

For stage magician Quinn Bradley, he thought his time in Alissia was over. He’d done his job for the mysterious company CASE Global Enterprises, and now his name is finally on the marquee of one of the biggest Vegas casinos. And yet, for all the accolades, he definitely feels something is missing. He can create the most amazing illusions on Earth, but he’s also tasted true power. Real magic.

He misses it.

Luckily—or not—CASE Global is not done with him, and they want him to go back. The first time, he was tasked with finding a missing researcher. Now, though, he has another task:

Help take Richard Holt down.

It’s impossible to be in Vegas and not be a gambler. And while Quinn might not like his odds—a wyvern nearly ate him the last time he was in Alissia—if he plays his cards right, he might be able to aid his friends.

He also might learn how to use real magic himself.





Gaslight
Crossbreed 4
Dannika Dark, February 16, 2018
Trade Paperback and eBook, 373 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - May 6, 2018
Raven Black returns in another heart-pounding installment of the USA Today bestselling Crossbreed series.

Vampire trafficking is a sinister business, and nobody knows that better than Keystone. After Raven discovers hidden clues in a cold case, the group sets a trap in hopes of catching an elusive criminal. But when the plan backfires, Raven’s world is thrown into chaos, and Christian’s loyalty is put to the ultimate test.

Buried secrets come to light, and the only thing keeping Raven grounded is her insatiable thirst for vengeance. The stakes are high as they travel to a place where the landscapes are as treacherous as the immortals who live there. This time, there’s no room for mistakes.

Will Raven have the courage to tame the violence in her heart before it swallows her whole?

Guest Blog by Dan Koboldt - The Portal Fantasy Is Not Dead


Please welcome Dan Koboldt to The Qwillery.  The Island Deception, Gateways to Alissia 2, will be published on April 11th by Harper Voyager Impulse.



Guest Blog by Dan Koboldt - The Portal Fantasy Is Not Dead




The Portal Fantasy Is Not Dead

Have you ever wished you could enter another world through a magic wardrobe, or take a stargate to a parallel dimension? If so, my friend, you’re a fan of the portal fantasy. This is a loose term for science fiction and fantasy stories that connect one world – often Earth, but not always – to another time, place, or dimension. The portal that does the connecting might be of magical, technological, or natural origin. No matter the type, the concept of a portal fantasy is easily defined: someone goes through a thing and ends up somewhere else.

If this concept sounds familiar, that’s because portal fantasy has pervaded literature for decades. Robert Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky (1955) offers a classic take on the idea. The main character, Rod Walker, is a high school student who dreams of becoming a professional colonist. The final test of his advanced survival course is a brutal challenge: to stay alive for several days on a hostile planet. Students reach the planet by way of a “Ramsbotham portal” – a man-made teleportation device that promptly malfunctions, stranding Rod and the other students on an uninhabited world.

Not all portal stories take the reader to hostile worlds, however. In C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, the children depart wartime England for a fantastical world where the beavers can talk and they get to rule as monarchs (the children, not the beavers). Having sold more than 100 million copies in 47 languages, Narnia is probably the work that most readers think of when they hear portal fantasy.

In the last few years, however, some in the publishing world have grumbled that the portal fantasy fad might be over. Done with. Absolutely cannot sell. Some have gone so far as to proclaim that the portal fantasy is dead.

This is a falsehood. Portal fantasy is alive and well in the publishing world. To prove this, I went to Twitter and asked people to share their favorite portal fantasies published in the last couple of years. The responses overwhelmed my feed, and demonstrated just how diverse and vibrant the portal fantasy subgenre has become. Take a look at these recent examples, and you’ll see that we’re well beyond wardrobes, now.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
In this series, there are four parallel versions of London: Red London, where magic is revered, White London, where people fight to control magic and monarchy both, Grey London, where no magic exists at all, and Black London, the forbidden realm no one speaks of. The main character is a rare breed of magician who travels between them as a sort of diplomat, until he unwittingly stumbles upon a dangerous artifact from Black London that must be returned there.

Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan
Ellis Rogers is just a regular guy who, upon learning that he has a terminal illness, decides to try out the time machine he’s built in his garage. If it works, he might find more than just a cure for his illness: he might find paradise. But first, he’ll have to survive the Hollow World that lies between.

Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake
Don’t you hate it when you finally work up the nerve to talk to that hot guy in the library, only to have him disappear? That’s what happened to Gia Kearns. When she examines the strange book about world libraries that he abandoned, it transports her to a library in Paris. And summons a demonic hound that pursues them until the hit guy and his friends – who are actually magical knights charged with protecting humanity – show up to rescue them. And that’s just the beginning of this adventure.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
I love the synopsis to this book: “Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.”

Nancy tumbled through such a gateway once, but now she’s back. It changed her, but the other children under Miss West’s care understand. They’ve had similar experiences, and each of them searches for a way back to their own fantasy world.

An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows
Saffron Coulter’s dreads going to school every day, where a boy harasses her without mercy. When a stranger shows her a moment of kindness, Saffron follows her and stumbles through a hole in reality. She finds herself trapped in a magical realm on the brink of civil war. She falls in with the wrong faction and must flee to the dubious safety of another country, and it’s still better than a day at high school.

Gateway to Fourline by Pam Brondos
College student Natalie Barns takes a job at a costume shop because she needs tuition money, and in spite of her reservations about a weirdo co-worker. When she stumbles through the strange door in the back of the shop, she finds (of course) a magical world on the other side. But unlike the children in Narnia, she’s not granted royalty status or special abilities. All she knows how to do is run. In a world filled with deadly magic and decaying monsters, she’ll be doing quite a lot of that.

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
In the world of this book, magic is governed by the rise and fall of celestial bodies. At their peak, certain forms of magic are strong enough to create a portal to other realms (none of them Earth). Whether it’s frozen tundra where very little can survive, or a tropical clime where semi-sentient plants can kill, each realm is uniquely complex. Now, a dark chaotic star’s rise will bring all of these worlds together, and only one can survive.





The Island Deception
Gateways to Alissia 2
Harper Voyager Impulse, April 11, 2017
eBook, 352 pages

Guest Blog by Dan Koboldt - The Portal Fantasy Is Not Dead
Continuing the exciting adventures from The Rogue Retrieval, The Island Deception blends fun and mystery into a brilliant new portal fantasy from Dan Koboldt.

What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas. But what happens after you step through a portal to another world, well…

For stage magician Quinn Bradley, he thought his time in Alissia was over. He’d done his job for the mysterious company CASE Global Enterprises, and now his name is finally on the marquee of one of the biggest Vegas casinos. And yet, for all the accolades, he definitely feels something is missing. He can create the most amazing illusions on Earth, but he’s also tasted true power. Real magic.

He misses it.

Luckily—or not—CASE Global is not done with him, and they want him to go back. The first time, he was tasked with finding a missing researcher. Now, though, he has another task:

Help take Richard Holt down.

It’s impossible to be in Vegas and not be a gambler. And while Quinn might not like his odds—a wyvern nearly ate him the last time he was in Alissia—if he plays his cards right, he might be able to aid his friends.

He also might learn how to use real magic himself.




Previously

The Rogue Retrieval
Gateways to Alissia 1
Harper Voyager Impulse, January 19, 2016
     eBook, 384 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, March 1, 2016
     Mass Market Paperback, 416 pages

Guest Blog by Dan Koboldt - The Portal Fantasy Is Not Dead
In the tradition of Terry Brooks' Landover series, Piers Anthony Xanth books, and Terry Pratchett's Discword novels, scientist and blogger Dan Koboldt weaves wonder, humor, and heart into his debut novel, The Rogue Retrieval.

Sleight of hand…in another land

Stage magician Quinn Bradley has one dream: to headline his own show on the Vegas Strip. And with talent scouts in the audience wowed by his latest performance, he knows he’s about to make the big-time.

What he doesn’t expect is an offer to go on a quest to a place where magic is all too real.

That's how he finds himself in Alissia, a world connected to ours by a secret portal owned by a powerful corporation. He’s after an employee who has gone rogue, and that’s the least of his problems. Alissia has true magicians…and the penalty for impersonating one is death. In a world where even a twelve-year-old could beat Quinn in a swordfight, it's only a matter of time until the tricks up his sleeves run out.





About Dan

Guest Blog by Dan Koboldt - The Portal Fantasy Is Not Dead
Dan Koboldt is a genetics researcher and sci-fi/fantasy author from the Midwest. His novel The Rogue Retrieval – about a Vegas magician who infiltrates a medieval world – was published by Harper Voyager in 2016. You can find him on Twitter (@DanKoboldt) and on his website at dankoboldt.com.












Melanie's Week in Review - May 20, 2018Melanie's Week in Review - May 6, 2018Guest Blog by Dan Koboldt - The Portal Fantasy Is Not Dead

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