The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 5-31-15

Sunday Post

I’ve gone weeks with relatively few blog tours, but next week is chock-full of them. Lucky for me, they are all for books that I am really anxious to read, so it should be a real treat of a week.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Current Giveaways:

One copy of Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland

beyond galaxy's edge by anna hackettBlog Recap:

Memorial Day 2015
A- Review: Beyond Galaxy’s Edge by Anna Hackett
B+ Review: Murder and Mayhem by Rhys Ford
B+ Review: The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy
B Review: Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland + Giveaway
Stacking the Shelves (137)



moonlight on butternut lake by mary mcnearComing Next Week:

The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller (blog tour review)
The Talon of the Hawk by Jeffe Kennedy (blog tour review)
Moonlight on Butternut Lake by Mary McNear (blog tour review)
Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy (blog tour review)
The Clockwork Crown by Beth Cato (blog tour review)

Stacking the Shelves (137)

Stacking the Shelves

I’ll admit that I really love these short stack weeks. But I’m starting to wonder whether its a lack of books, a lack of choices, my own changing tastes or, heaven forbid, the early signs of a reading slump.

Oh noes! Anything but that…

For Review:
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Fable: Blood of Heroes by Jim C. Hines
Inherit the Stars by Laurie A. Green
Opening Up (Ink and Chrome #1) by Lauren Dane
A Sword for His Lady (Courtly Love #1) by Mary Wine
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (Song of the Shattered Sands #1) by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Purchased from Amazon:
Negotiation (Twelve Kingdoms #0.5) by Jeffe Kennedy

Review: Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland + Giveaway

love and miss communication by elyssa friedlandFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available:
Genre: chick lit, women’s fiction
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Date Released: May 12, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

This unforgettable debut novel asks us to look up from our screens and out at the world…and to imagine what life would be like with no searches, no status updates, no texts, no Tweets, no pins, and no posts

Evie Rosen has had enough. She’s tired of the partners at her law firm e-mailing her at all hours of the night. The thought of another online date makes her break out in a cold sweat. She’s over the clever hashtags and the endless selfies. So when her career hits a surprising roadblock and her heart is crushed by Facebook, Evie decides it’s time to put down her smartphone for good. (Beats stowing it in her underwear–she’s done that too!)

And that’s when she discovers a fresh start for real conversations, fewer distractions, and living in the moment, even if the moments are heartbreakingly difficult. Babies are born; marriages teeter; friendships are tested. Evie just may find love and a new direction when she least expects it, but she also learns that just because you unplug your phone doesn’t mean you can unplug from life.

My Review:

Love and Miss Communication is an adorable fluffy, downy chick of a chick lit story, mixed with some multi-generational women’s fiction backbone and a loving but slightly stereotypical dose of Jewish grandmother guilt complex.

There’s also some interesting commentary on the fulfillment, or lack thereof, in our 24/7 always connected, always available technologically driven lives in the 21st century.

Evie Rosen starts out the story addicted to the internet, and it is not making her happy or fulfilled. Instead, it makes her discontented and consistently lowers her self-esteem at every turn.

It also gets her fired.

We all forget that our employers have the right to monitor anything we do on company computers and/or company equipment. Like Evie, for many of us, our jobs are who we are.

Evie is a senior associate attorney at a “white shoe” law firm in New York. She expects to make partner. She’s earned it, devoting all of her waking hours to her job and neglecting her friends, her family and herself in the process.

Instead, she is fired. She’s a great attorney, but she is also the company’s single biggest user of the company internet for personal business. She constantly checks Facebook to find out who is doing better than she is, and she Googles everyone she meets.

She’s obsessive. She’s so obsessive that when she Googles her famous chef ex-boyfriend to find out what he’s up to now, she discovers that the man who said he didn’t believe in marriage has, in fact, gotten married.

Barfing all over her laptop is the last straw. Google-induced vomiting destroys her computer. And after a few hours searching New York for a safe place to log on, Evie finally decides that enough is enough. It’s time to stop living vicariously through her computer and start living in real time. With real places and real people.

Of course, she goes a bit too far the other way, but that’s Evie – obsessive and compulsive about it.

While her friends and family are busily exchanging emails and evites and unthinkingly leaving her out, Evie has to deal with a family crisis. Her beloved grandmother Bette, who has equally obsessively been pushing Evie to find a husband and get married, is diagnosed with breast cancer. Evie is forced to deal with the fact that her time with her grandmother is finite, and possibly ending even sooner than she hoped.

Little does Evie know that her grandmother is using her very real and very scary diagnosis to make one last effort to get Evie’s head out of her own ass and recognize that there is someone out there for her – if only she can be herself long enough to make a real connection – without the false expectations raised by technology to steer her wrong.

Escape Rating B: I liked Evie a lot. It’s easy to sympathize with her desire to disconnect. Technology is ubiquitous and its ability to create and foster tiny niches is separating us from each other. And it is SO easy to get obsessed chasing every connection and driving ourselves crazy that everyone else seems to be doing so much better than we are.

And Evie’s “aha” moment over the keyboard was epically tragicomic.

However, one of the cornerstones of the story is Evie’s relationship with her grandmother Bette, or more obviously, Evie’s relationship with Bette’s desire to see her married, and if possible to a “nice Jewish boy”, albeit a grown up one. Evie is 34 at the beginning of the book, a boy would be a bit young.

But the cultural markers that define Bette, her use of Yiddish in an attempt to weed out the goyim, the extreme way that she wields guilt, all seem as if they belong to an earlier generation. Bette acts and sounds like someone from my own grandmother’s generation, but I’m more contemporary with Evie’s mother.

The guilt-tripping Jewish mother/grandmother is a stereotype that while funny and even endearing for those of us who had one, seems a bit dated. While it is true that in this story, Evie would be happier if she found the right person, the drumbeat that she must at all costs gets a bit wearing.

What was more interesting was Evie’s internal conflict, that she always wants what she can’t have, to the point where it almost costs her what she really wants. Again, she has an “aha” moment that is slightly tragic and slightly funny, and also nearly results in more vomit.

Evie is person who lost someone important to her, her father, at a relatively young age, and is afraid to let herself love again out of fear that she will lose again. So she keeps fixing herself on the unattainable, in the impossible hope that she won’t get hurt again. Except that she does, and she hurts herself most of all.

When she finally gets it all together, it’s cathartic both for Evie and for the reader. But after Evie’s life balancing and society rejecting year of eschewing technology for real connections, I wish that her happiness had embraced some elements that weren’t totally traditional.

Which does not mean that I didn’t enjoy following Evie’s journey to her authentic happiness. Because I certainly did.


The publisher is graciously providing one copy of Love and Miss Communication to one lucky winner. To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy

mapmakers children by sarah mccoyFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genre: historical fiction, literary fiction, women’s fiction
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Crown
Date Released: May 5, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.

Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.

Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way.

My Review:

The lives of two women, 150 years apart, tied together by a doll’s head. And a little bit of mystery.

The two women at the center of this intertwined story wouldn’t seem to have much in common. And they don’t except for an accident of place and a misfortune of circumstance – both Sarah Brown and Eden Anderson are childless, and not by choice.

They are both caught in the position of making a fulfilling life for themselves that does not fit the standard pattern, and both find themselves mothering children not theirs by birth. They also both occupy the same house, at very different points in time.

Sarah Brown was the daughter of revolutionary abolitionist John Brown. History remembers him for his famous (or infamous) raid on the Federal Armory at Harper’s Ferry (West) Virginia in the fall of 1859. The raid was an attempt to start a slave uprising and help the slaves to free themselves. Brown was either ahead of history or a catalyst for it, and was hanged when his raid failed ignominiously. His sons and most of the others who participated were either killed in the raid or hanged afterwards.

Sarah Brown, along with her mother and sisters, were left behind when Brown died. Sarah, too, was an abolitionist, and was also an artist who drew maps on anything handy in order to assist runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad.

Some of those “handy things” were dolls’ faces, and it is one of Sarah’s doll heads that Eden Anderson finds in the root cellar under her new home in New Charlestown, West Virginia in 2010. The search for the history of that poor little head, and the house surrounding it, become the catalyst for Eden’s healing after the final ending of her hopes for a baby.

At the beginning of Eden’s story, it also seems possible that the house will witness the end of her marriage, as strained and cracked as it is after many years of failed attempts, failed hopes, failed dreams, and fertility hormone-induced moodiness and finally depression.

Her husband Adam brings her a dog. The dog brings a little girl to take care of him, and most importantly, a reason to get out of the house and to let other people in. And Cricket brings his loving self and his need for a forever home, no matter how brief his forever might turn out to be.

Escape Rating B+: I really enjoyed this story, but I can’t point to a specific reason. I just did. The two parts don’t gel until the very end, and the switches between Sarah’s story in the past and Eden’s in the present sometimes felt abrupt. At the same time, I liked and felt for both women, and no matter which story I was in, I always wanted to know how the other one was doing.

Both women are in the middle of lives that need rebuilding. In Sarah’s case, that rebuilding is frequent and often, due to circumstances outside her control. From the moment her father leaves to conduct his famous raid, until the Fisher children arrive at her home in California, Sarah keeps dealing with blows that strike her from all sides.

At the same time, she takes a licking and keeps on ticking right up until the very end, making a new life each and every time she is struck down. Much of her life in this story moves in the direction it does (and did in history) because in fiction, at least, she was declared to be unable to bear children after a near-fatal attack of dysentery.

In history, she did not marry or have children, but the reasons are lost to us.

Sarah really did paint maps for the Underground Railroad, but whether she used doll’s heads for her maps is not certain. In this story one doll’s head provides a much-needed link to Eden in our present.

While Sarah seems like a heroic figure, Eden starts out her story as a self-absorbed and self-centered depressed wreck. All of her attempts to conceive a child have failed, and her IVF clinic has told her that it’s over. After 7 years of fertility treatments and failed hopes, she has given up everything that she was in pursuit of something that will never be, and she feels like she has nothing left.

The dog her husband brings home, Cricket, slowly brings her back to life, an irony that is not apparent until the very end. Because Cricket needs care, and her husband, out of a desire to help her and keep her from reaching past her current constricted boundaries, has given her not just a dog but a person to care for the dog.

Eleven-year-old Cleo needs just as much care as Cricket, but is much, much less willing to admit it. But Cleo is an incredible little girl who stirs up everything in her wake, and in that stirring, Eden comes back to life. She begins to reach out to the life she now has, instead of reaching back to the one she gave up or the child she will never have. And in that reaching out, she finds the world again.

It’s not so much Eden’s reawakening that brings the joy, as Cleo’s fascinating ability to make it happen. It all starts with Cleo’s amateur investigation into the mysterious doll’s head that Cricket finds in the root cellar, a search that ties Eden back to the town, and ties her house and its history all the way back to Sarah Brown. And all the way forward into the life of a place that Eden has come to love.

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Murder and Mayhem by Rhys Ford

murder and mayhem by rhys fordFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: M/M Romantic Suspense
Series: Murder and Mayhem #1
Length: 236 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date Released: June 5, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Dead women tell no tales.

Former cat burglar Rook Stevens stole many a priceless thing in the past, but he’s never been accused of taking a life—until now. It was one thing to find a former associate inside Potter’s Field, his pop culture memorabilia shop, but quite another to stumble across her dead body.

Detective Dante Montoya thought he’d never see Rook Stevens again—not after his former partner’d falsified evidence to entrap the jewelry thief and Stevens walked off scot-free. So when he tackled a fleeing murder suspect, Dante was shocked to discover the blood-covered man was none other than the thief he’d fought to put in prison and who still made his blood sing.

Rook is determined to shake loose the murder charge against him, even if it means putting distance between him and the rugged Cuban-Mexican detective who brought him down. If one dead con artist wasn’t bad enough, others soon follow, and as the bodies pile up around Rook’s feet, he’s forced to reach out to the last man he’d expect to believe in his innocence—and the only man who’s ever gotten under Rook’s skin.

My Review:

So I’m a little early with this review. Sue me. I absolutely love both Rhys’ Cole McGinnis and Hellsinger series, so when she offered me a review copy of Murder and Mayhem, it was off to the races and on my schedule.

While this is the first book in a new series, I can’t help wondering if it doesn’t tie into Cole McGinnis’ life just a bit. One of the cops refers to his former partner as Dawson, and if that doesn’t turn out to be Bobby Dawson, I’ll eat my non-existent hat.

The concept for this story combines a couple of classic ideas. One is the story of a former thief turned legit. It’s not that Rook Martin has forgotten any of his old skills, or his old friends, but that he has finally decided to put down roots and make a real life for himself where he doesn’t have to hide in the shadows.

He’s still working on convincing himself that everything he has earned on the legally straight and narrow adds up to a life that he deserves. Partly because he’s been a thief and a carny for so long, and partly because while he may be legally straight, sexually he’s anything but.

The author has also mixed in a cop and crook romance, even though Rook is now a former crook. Dante Montoya and his late partner lost their way trying to pin the last of Rook’s second-story jobs on him. While Rook did the crimes, he was always very good at sliding out from under the legal consequences.

Dante’s partner went very much to the dark side in order to plant evidence and get Rook convicted. Instead, the late Vince got all the charges thrown out and ended his career dishonorably. The worst part was that he nearly took Dante’s career out with his own.

Actually, that turns out to be the second worst part.

So Dante has been a homicide cop with a shadow over his career and a secret that jumps up to bite him. Literally.

Dante is gay. That’s no secret. The secret is that he nearly had an almost anonymous club encounter with one thief. Dante has a yen for Rook Martin that he has never been able to get out of his system.

And very much vice versa.

When the dead body of one of his late enemies turns up at Rook’s collectibles shop, sliced to bits and covered in blood, Rook finds himself in the middle of a shootout, as the cops mistake a Wookie in the window for an armed assailant. When the former thief runs for his life, he finds himself taken down by the cop he’s never lost a taste for.

Unfortunately for Rook, someone is trying to frame him for murder, and those hits just keep on coming. Fortunately for Rook, he begins to trust Dante enough to keep his abused body and eventually his equally abused heart safe from someone who obviously intends to wipe Rook from the face of the earth in any way that they can.

As Rook and Dante trace the strands of Rook’s former life to figure out who hates him so much that they don’t just want to kill him, but seemingly want to absolutely obliterate him and anyone close to him, they get the chance to explore the chemistry between them.

For the first time, they are both more-or-less on the same side of the law. The question is whether they can both stay there, and alive, long enough to reach for each other for keeps. And if Rook even has a chance at “for keeps”.

Escape Rating B+: It took a little while for this story to get going, in spite of starting in the middle of what felt like the gunfight at the not-so-OK Corral. We don’t know why Rook is running, or even initially who he’s running from.

And we need a little background to figure out why Rook is so shy of the cops, and why the cops are so ready to shoot him first and ask him questions later. Or never.

The tension between Dante and Rook steams off the page from the first moment that Dante finds Rook under him in the street, as he’s putting on the handcuffs. That tension never lets up, and it helps the story take flight.

As Rook nearly does on more than one occasion.

There is a lot of tension of all kinds in this story. There’s the obvious sexual tension between Dante and Rook. They both desperately want to explore their chemistry and know that any exploration is a really bad idea. Dante is, after all, a cop, and a cop who has a history of investigating Rook for a crime that Rook really did commit. Now Dante is investigating Rook again, but this time for a crime that screams set up from the very beginning. Once Rook is cleared, a relationship between them is still a bad idea, just less bad.

Rook doesn’t believe that he’s worth having a relationship with anyone, but all the people in his life conspire to make him finally consider that he is worth loving. Not just Dante, but Rook’s very old and extremely wealthy grandfather has recently discovered that Rook exists, and even better, that he is a chip off the old block.

Rook’s other relatives are furious, and his grandfather is furiously funny about the whole thing. But it also throws into the mix Rook’s desire not to get tied down or held back, and his grandfather’s attempt to control Rook, which is mostly born out of a desire to keep Rook safe. They butt heads repeatedly, and there are times when peace between them seems far away. But they need each other, and have a terrible time expressing it.

On the other side, Dante has been rejected by his Catholic Hispanic/Latino family, and has made his peace with that. He’s also taking care of his uncle Manny, who is also gay and has also been rejected by their family. They’ve made their own family and are pretty happy with their choices. Manny just wants to adopt Rook right alongside Dante. The family relationship that Manny and Rook eventually develop is heartwarming, sweet and often hilarious.

Then there’s the case. Although some readers figured out whodunnit before the end, I’ll confess to not being one of them. As we meet more and more of Rook’s former associates, we (and Dante) get a clear picture that Rook truly has gone legit, and even more, that he’s doing his best to pay back everyone who helped him and anyone who sincerely needs a hand getting out of the life. He’s become a good man, but he’s clinging to one last stash from his old life that someone feels entitled to a piece of. Or all of. And is willing to leave a trail of bodies in their wake in order to get it.

While I didn’t totally buy that person’s motivations, the way that they went about their road to riches and revenge gave me chills and had me flipping pages fast to discover whether or not everyone escaped mostly intact.

I am definitely looking forward to more in this series. Ex-thief and righteous cop make a fantastic detective duo.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Beyond Galaxy’s Edge by Anna Hackett

beyond galaxy's edge by anna hackettFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: Phoenix Adventures #5
Length: 213 pages
Publisher: Anna Hackett
Date Released: December 13, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

A sexy smuggler + a spit-and-polish Patrol captain = a fast-paced, adventure-filled sci fi romance

Ambitious Patrol Captain Nissa Sander has spent three years at the galaxy’s edge keeping the law and order, and chasing scoundrel smuggler, Justyn Phoenix. But the charming rogue has always outwitted her and she’s had a hard time ignoring his hard body and handsome face. But when one of the galaxy’s most important documents—the US Constitution—is stolen, Nissa finds herself working with the very man she’s been trying to throw in her brig.

Justyn Phoenix embraces life and offers everyone a wink and a smile. He’s also in love with a spit-and-polish Patrol captain. Yep, crazy in love, and he knows she’ll never love him back. But when the opportunity arises to work alongside Nissa on a wild and crazy mission to recover the US Constitution, he can’t resist.

But nothing on this treasure hunt is as it seems. The trail leads them to fake documents, rival treasure hunters, and a millennia old mystery. As the hunt takes them beyond the galaxy’s edge, Justyn and Nissa will face the firestorm of their desire, and soon learn if they can survive long enough to save the galaxy.

My Review:

If you want a rollicking good time of an SFR series, you absolutely can’t go wrong with Anna Hackett’s Phoenix Adventures. I love this entire series – it’s a terrific blend of sci-fi adventure with hot and heart-stopping romance.

The Phoenixes of the Phoenix Adventures are two sets of good looking rogues who are the opposite sides of one galaxy-spanning family. Brothers Dathan, Zayn and Niklas Phoenix operate a successful relic hunting company on the slightly more settled side of the galaxy, and their cousins Dare, Rynan and Justyn (also brothers) operate an equally successful but slightly less famous convoy-leading company (and smuggling business) out on the galaxy’s edge.

This is Justyn’s story, and it is quite a wild ride. Because Justyn the smuggler finds himself on a dangerous treasure hunt. And it’s all a very elaborate ploy. Justyn isn’t nearly as interested in the artifact he’s chasing as he is in the Galactic Security Services Captain who is chasing it.

Justyn has spent years putting himself in the way of Captain Nissa Sander. She never manages to find his contraband cargo, no matter how many times she stops and searches his ship. She’s completely unwilling to admit to herself that her encounters with Justyn are the high point of her job. She keeps fooling herself that a stellar career in Galactic Security Services is all she wants. And she’s damn good at it. But it isn’t what she wants for herself. It’s what she tells herself she wants in order to please her demanding father, a career GSS officer who never quite made it to the big leagues.

Justyn keeps letting Nissa catch him. He just makes sure she never catches him with anything he shouldn’t have. His ship has way more hidey-holes than Nissa will ever find. So he lets her keep finding him over and over, just so that he can see her. And tease her a bit. He knows that he’s not what she wants or deserves, but he can’t resist arranging those few minutes in her company.

They both believe that they will always be on opposite sides of a very high fence of legalities. Until someone breaks into a museum and steals one of the founding documents of interstellar law and democracy – the U.S. Constitution from old (meaning our) Earth.

The treasure hunt gets even more complicated when they chase down the thief – only to find out that the document he stole was a forgery – created almost a thousand years ago. Does the real Constitution even survive?

Nissa is tasked by her commanding officer to find the real constitution, if it exists, and deliver it to the admiral personally, and at any or all costs. The Phoenix brothers (both sets) enlist the aid of any family and friends they have to track the course of the ship originally carrying the Constitution, and trace it beyond the galaxy edge, outside the confines of civilized space.

Nissa has no jurisdiction beyond the edge, only a powerful motivation to protect her career and especially her father’s pension from the admiral’s machinations. But just as they get close, Nissa discovers that the superiors she has always relied on cannot be trusted. The only people she can count on are the Phoenix brothers who are out there with her. And especially Justyn.

When all hell breaks loose, and Justyn and Nissa finally find themselves on the same side. For once. And possibly forever.

at stars end by anna hackettEscape Rating A-: This was a terrific adventure. It had all the elements that made At Star’s End so much fun. Nissa is working for the forces of law and order, just as Eos planned to turn the relics she was hunting over to the Galactic Institute. Both Nissa and Eos were betrayed by the people who should have been on their side. And most importantly, neither Dathan nor Justyn were anywhere near as bad as their reputations were cracked up to be.

Not that Justyn isn’t a smuggler, because he is. But he seems to do it either mostly for sport, and teasing Nissa, or because he’s turning most of the profits over to an array of charities he supports on various convoy-stopover planets. He’s a little bit Robin Hood. He also mostly just carries small luxury items, like cigars or fancy booze. Nothing big, nothing worth killing over.

And he really likes to torment Nissa with the possibility of catching him.

Except for his unwillingness to admit that he’s been in love with Nissa for years, Justyn knows exactly what he’s doing.

Nissa, on the other hand, is kind of a mess. She’s a great GSS officer, but her heart isn’t in it. Her father cuts her to ribbons every single time they talk, and he’s always pressuring her about something. Basically, daddy is re-living his own career through Nissa, and her opinions generally don’t matter. She should be old enough to know better, but she seems to be conditioned to obedience, which really bites her in the ass when the admiral both bribes and blackmails her at the same time.

It was fairly obvious to this reader who the really evil person is in this mess. Nissa should have figured it out a hell of a lot sooner – it would have saved everyone a world of hurt. Of course, if she had, this story wouldn’t contain nearly as much edge-of-the-seat excitement, and our hero and heroine wouldn’t have been forced into close proximity so often that they were forced to acknowledge their mutual feelings.

Those two had enough frustrated chemistry to light the rocket boosters all by themselves. When they finally get close, its explosive.

sci fi romance quarterlyOriginally published at Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Memorial Day 2015

street crosses duluth memorial day

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It is officially celebrated the last Monday in May, and is a federal holiday to honor and remember the people who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The holiday, originally known as Decoration Day, began as a way of remembering those killed in the Civil War. And the custom was to decorate cemeteries where those who had fallen in that war were buried.

Today, the holiday commemorates all those who have died in uniform, whenever, wherever and however they served.

The picture above is from Duluth, Georgia, where I currently live. Every year, the week before Memorial Day, the town lines all the major roads with crosses, commemorating the sons and daughters of the town who served and fell.

As you can see from the picture, that service spans all the wars since the town of Duluth received its charter in 1876. This picture is the first time I’ve seen one of the crosses for someone who served in Iraq, but I wasn’t surprised to find one. I’m pretty sure that I have seen crosses for those who served in the Spanish-American War in 1898. I have also found crosses for female soldiers. Not many, but they are there.

What continues to surprise me is that I have seen only crosses. No Stars of David. No Star and Crescents. No symbols to represent Hinduism or Buddhism. And I can’t help but wonder, were all the people who served from this community Christian? Did no one of any other faith, or none, come from this place to serve their country? And if not, why not?

Or has their service been forgotten?

Memorial Day is the day that we remember ALL of those who gave their lives for this country, no matter who they prayed to, or if they prayed at all, before they fell.

memorial day flags and crosses duluth

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 5-24-15

Sunday Post

In the U.S. this is the Memorial Day weekend. A lot of people, including us, are visiting friends or relatives or just plain taking advantage of the three-day weekend.

But there was a last week on the blog, and there will be a next week, so there is still a need for a Sunday recap. The world will, after all, return to normal on Tuesday, whether we like it or not.

Current Giveaways:

$25 Gift Card + an ebook copy of The Case of the Invisible Dog by Diane Stingley
3 copies of The Curse of Anne Boleyn by C.C. Humphreys

Blog Recap:

lowcountry boneyard by susan m boyerA- Review: Lowcountry Boneyard by Susan M. Boyer
B+ Review: The Curse of Anne Boleyn by C.C. Humphreys + Giveaway
B- Review: The Case of the Invisible Dog by Diane Stingley + Giveaway
B Review: The Way of the Warrior by Suzanne Brockmann and others
B+ Review: Echo 8 by Sharon Lynn Fisher
Stacking the Shelves (136)



murder and mayhem by rhys fordComing Next Week:

Memorial Day 2015
Beyond Galaxy’s Edge by Anna Hackett (review)
Murder and Mayhem by Rhys Ford (review)
The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy (blog tour review)
Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland (blog tour review)

Stacking the Shelves (136)

Stacking the Shelves

As the days get longer, the stacks seem to get shorter. I wonder why?

Even though I don’t have a lot this week, I do have one book that I’ve been looking forward to since last year: The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny. Her Inspector Gamache series is one of my all-time favorites. When I read last year’s book, The Long Way Home, I could see where she might be ending the series at that point. Gamache was retired, he wouldn’t necessarily have more cases to solve. But I am so, so grateful that he does.

If you love a good, deep, character driven mystery, this series is a treat from beginning to end, starting with Still Life and hopefully not ending for a long time to come.

For Review:
Gabe (Hell Squad #3) by Anna Hackett
Mad About the Major (Bachelor Chronicles #8.5) by Elizabeth Boyle
The Nature of the Beast (Chief Inspector Gamache #11) by Louise Penny
Protecting Her Heart (Jorda #3) by Nicole Murphy
Solar Express by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Ten Billion Tomorrows by Brian Clegg

Purchased from Amazon:
Geoducks are for Lovers (Modern Love Story #1) by Daisy Prescott

Review: Echo 8 by Sharon Lynn Fisher

echo 8 by sharon lynn fisherFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: science fiction romance
Length: 288 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Date Released: February 3, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Three lives. Two worlds. One chance to save them all.

As a parapsychologist working for Seattle Psi, Tess has devoted her life to studying psychic phenomena. But when doppelgangers begin appearing from a parallel world that’s been struck by an asteroid, nothing in her training will help her survive what’s to come.

After dislocating to Seattle Psi from the other Earth, Jake is confined by a special task force for study. But when he drains life energy from Tess, almost killing her, it causes a ripple effect across two worlds — and creates a bond neither of them expected.

Ross is an FBI agent ordered to protect Tess while she studies Jake. His assignment is not random — he and Tess have a history, and a connection the Bureau hopes to use to its own advantage. By the time Ross realizes his mission could be compromised, it’s already too late — he’ll have to choose between his love for Tess and his duty to protect the people of his own Earth.

My Review:

Echo 8 takes place in multiple alternate versions of Seattle, some of them better off than our own, and some much, much worse. But all close analogs. If you have read anything about the parallel universes theory, even fictional versions thereof, you’ll understand exactly what I mean.

The story takes place in a very near future: it’s only 2018 in this world. Which means that it is also an alternate to our own, because the Seattle Center Tower (AKA The Space Needle) has fallen in theirs, and here, it’s still up and very much a landmark of the city. (It’s on everything. I’ve even seen Chocolate Towers)

naam at nightBut the former Colman School is a former school in all the ‘verses. In ours, it’s now the Northwest African American Museum. In theirs, it’s the home of the Seattle Psi Institute. And the SPI (cool initialism) is studying a phenomenon called “Echoes”. Echoes are people from a parallel universe who wind up in ours by accident. Part of that accident is that their version of the Earth suffered a huge asteroid strike, and they died. Instead of going wherever it is the dead normally go, they come here. And then they die anyway, cut off from their home universe’s source of energy.

I’m not sure which is scarier – that when they arrive here they are energy vampires, or that no one has tried to talk to one of them to figure out what the hell is going on. But then, the various government security forces are treating these people, the Echoes (also called fades because well, they eventually do) as enemies and security threats. There is a lot of “shoot first and ask questions later” going on. With the added fun factor that sometimes the Echoes are too faded to shoot – the bullets go right through.

Also a bit of “torture first and let them die” going on. The security services are not treating the Echoes as displaced persons – they are just a threat. Admittedly the trail of sucked dry dead bodies they leave in their wake does urge caution.

Only the scientists want to find out the whys and wherefores of the Echoes. They see (sometimes they don’t exactly see) people. Admittedly, people they want to experiment on a bit, but still people.

Tess Caulfield is a psychologist and parapsychologist at the Seattle Psi Institute. And the FBI has brought her an Echo to talk to. The FBI calls him “Echo 8”, because he’s the eighth Echo they have captured. Tess finds out his name is Jake.

Tess and Jake find a way to communicate. He needs energy to survive in our world. She needs answers. And poor Jake, stuck between universes, finally finds someone he can love. But never touch. In her world, he sucks the energy from her every time they are in close proximity. In his world, the shoe is on the other foot and Tess can’t touch him.

But theirs is not the love story that weaves around this book. That is the relationship between Tess and the FBI agent who is assigned as her bodyguard (and minder). Ross McGinnis has talents of his own, talents that he has suppressed. Ross is disillusioned when he discovers that the FBI’s plan is to use him, Tess and the Echoes for missions that Congress would not approve of, missions that will tear the soul out of anyone who performs them.

Tess and Jake go on the run, with disastrous results. Ross sucks it up and does his job, until he
discovers that his career in the FBI is not worth his life, his sanity, or especially his love for Tess. And that the force he signed up with is not the one he is now working for. But before everything can be straightened out, he will have to take a trip to the dark side, of his job, of his soul, and to the other Earth that has been ripped in two.

Whether he can make it back from all that is a big risk – with a big reward if he can figure out his demons. And if Tess can let go of hers.

Escape Rating B+: There was a point about 2/3s of the way through where I almost stopped reading – the story got very dark and it looked like no one was going to get a happy ending out of this one. Or even an ending where someone doesn’t turn completely to the dark side of the Force. (Don’t worry, things do get brighter). I felt for the characters so much that I didn’t want to see anything terrible (or at least terribly permanent) happen to them.

Although Echo 8 is being talked about as a love triangle, it really isn’t. Jake may be what Tess would have chosen if her world hadn’t gone completely off the rails, but it did and he isn’t. And he does seem to be mistaking a bit of his gratitude for love, but Tess is the first person who has cared about him at all in a long time.

Ross is much more of a puzzle. Tess and Ross have a lot of chemistry that both of them are trying to ignore. He distrusts her work – because he’s always had a niggling feeling that his excellent hunches might be more than just hunches. And he doesn’t want to know, because it will change his view of the world.

Ross is very obvious about his skepticism, and Tess is definitely hostile with him. He denigrates her profession at every turn. No one would want to put up with that. She also resents having a bodyguard, and she is sure (correctly) that the FBI’s agenda is not hers, and she doesn’t like the idea of someone she can’t trust watching her every move.

The story surrounds Tess, Ross and Jake, and their collective attempt to find a way not just to communicate with the Echoes, but to work together for the collective good. Jake is initially just selfish, and Ross has very divided loyalties, but they all have to find a way to figure things out. There are a lot more Echoes around our world than anyone guesses, and the count of mysterious dead bodies is climbing everywhere. The security services have kept things under wraps until now, but that can’t last.

We all know of people who seem to suck our energy out of us, but how do you find common ground with someone who literally can – and will die if they don’t? It makes things more interesting (and darker) that one character is a soul sucker of one kind or another whichever world he’s on.

Echo 8 is mostly of the laboratory-type of SF. Tess is a researcher, and the story turns on the number of ways that her research can be subverted, and how badly.

As a former Seattleite, it was also fun to get the science-fictional tour of different versions of the city. I loved the twisted sense of deja vu.


sci fi romance quarterlyOriginally published at Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.