Garden Spells ~ Sarah Addison Allen

  • Title: Garden Spells
  • Author: Sarah Addison Allen
  • Genre: Magical Realism
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Own
  • Reviewed by: Olga
  • Rating: 5 out of 5

Description:  In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it.…
The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.
A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants—from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys—except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.
When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down—along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy—if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom—or with each other.
Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own.

Review: 
I loved it. This is magic realism at its best: luminous prose, enchanting heroines, and a quiet, unassuming tale. At first glance, the plot is simple: it’s a story of two magically-gifted sisters and their reconciliation in the old house. But so many interweaving undercurrents run beneath the surface: of being different, of taking charge of your life, of female courage, childhood beliefs, and adulthood conviction. And of course, it’s a story of love in all its incarnation.

Claire Waverly operates a catering business and flavors her dishes with herbs and flowers from her magical garden. The Waverly flowers are unusual; they influence all who eat them. Those flowers can clarify or baffle, spark memories or encourage forgetfulness.

Claire has long ago embraced her abilities, and the entire town accepted it too, but Claire has never learned to trust. Although she is an extraordinary cook and a smart businesswoman, deep inside she is still a frightened, lonely child, unsure of her welcome but wanting to belong.

It was how her grandmother always acted at the thought of doing something purely social, as if she wanted to curl up like a cutworm until the threat passed. Work was fine. Claire didn’t socialize when she worked—she communicated. She said what needed to be said or she didn’t say anything at all. Unfortunately, this didn’t translate well into a social setting. It made her seem rude and standoffish, when it was only a sincere and desperate effort not to do or say anything foolish.

It takes the extraordinary events of the novel to teach Claire that love could be trusted: a sisterly love and a man’s love.

Unlike Claire, her younger sister Sidney was a bright, popular girl in high school, but she left her hometown ten years ago for adventures in the wide world. Now, on the run from her abusive husband, she returns with her five-year-old daughter Bay. The old Waverly home is the only place that could shelter Sidney and her daughter, the only place she feels safe … if only Claire would let her in: both in the house and in her heart.

Overcoming the painful memories of their unfriendly childhood and a separation of ten years, the sisters tread carefully around each other, learning to love and trust.

The novel throbs with emotions, both overt and hushed. As I read, I felt myself transported there. I emphasized with Claire, skittish and scared in the face of love. I commiserated with her lovelorn beau Tyler, who radiated purple sparks of unfulfilled desire every night, because Claire wouldn’t return his affection. My heart squeezed with fear, when Sidney recalled that her enraged husband might be looking for her. I smiled at Bay’s garden-inspired daydreams. And I rejoiced every time Evanelle, a distant cousin of the Waverly sisters, appears on the scene.

This secondary character, an old widow with a quirk, adds an ironic, heart-warming nuance to the story. Out of the entire population of the town, she is my favorite. Evanelle gives people things. She doesn’t know why, but she knows they will need those things soon. I wish I had such a distant cousin in my family tree.

A delightful novel.

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Ready Player One ~ Ernest Cline

  • Title:  Ready Player One
  • Author:  Ernest Cline
  • Genre:  Science Fiction, Dystopian
  • Format:  Unabridged Audio Book
  • Source:  Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Sonja
  • Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Description:  It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. 

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. 

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune–and remarkable power–to whoever can unlock them. 

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved–that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig. 

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. 

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt–among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life–and love–in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape. 

A world at stake. 

A quest for the ultimate prize. 

Are you ready?

Review:  Ok. So. I found this book in my audible collection one night during a power outage. I needed something to listen to as I attempted to go to sleep. (Utter silence except for battery backups beeping disturbs my ability to sleep!) This book has been on my TBR pile for a while, so I tried to listen. I really did. I kept zoning out – which was a bit of the purpose – but I didn’t zone out to sleep – I zoned out thinking about all those things I didn’t want to think about which is why I was listening to a book to begin with. A few days later I asked my son, who had already listened to it,  how he felt about it, and he said it was pretty good. I rolled my eyes at him.

Fast forward a few weeks (months?) later. My hubby and I were driving cross country – thought it would be nice to listen to a book. He likes sci-fi, most of the audible books are fantasy. So, I thought I would give this another go. Yep. first part dry as all get out. I dozed intermittently throughout the first few chapters. Hubby was driving – he couldn’t. Poor guy. Then, Wade finds the first clue. At that point, the story picks up dramatically and becomes unstoppable. I will say, however, that I do not think the first few chapters are skippable – they really do set up the world and the sense of urgency in which Wade lives.

Full disclosure: Had I been reading this, such was my obsession to discover if Wade wins, I would have flipped to the last few pages or chapter and read so that I could actually enjoy the novel. Since I was listening, this was impossible. So, I texted my son. He informed me that I would just have to wait til the end. Little snot.

Once Wade discovers the first clue (which is mentioned in the synopsis, so no spoiler there), the friendships and relationships and purposes of the other things mentioned in the first few (really slow) chapters all kind of come together and make sense. I’m a gamer. And, a result of the 80s. I enjoyed all the references to the old games, movies, and fiction I still love that have led to the evolution of gaming and movies of today. It is a fun fantasy to feel that this love and obsession could actually make a positive difference in the lives of others.

One absolutely magnificent aspect of this audio book: Wil Wheaton’s narration. It is magnificent. Splendiferous. It is almost like a dramatization. It is so awesome that I asked my son (who listens to far more audio books that do I) if anyone does it better. His answer: No. I actually searched audible for other books narrated by Mr. Wheaton. Oh, Wesley Crusher, who woulda known that you would achieve such a station in adulthood. I did, however, feel the need to speed up the narration. That was a very nice feature in audible and the first time I have ever used it.

What does terrify me is the persistent fictionalization of big money and big power taking over with the separation of the rich and the poor becoming even greater and more debilitating that it currently is. I see it over and over in science fiction and it is, I think, my greatest fear. I also think it is the reason I am moving more and more away from science fiction and toward fantasy: Sci-fi is becoming all too real to me. Even if that means vampires and werewolves. Ugh. Can’t I just have mages and wizards? Pretty please?

My husband and I arrived home about 2 hours shy of finishing it. Such was the intensity of the climactic portion, that we almost wished for traffic to delay our homecoming. Alas, it was not to happen. (This was probably a good thing . . .) As soon as I finished dinner, and shooed everyone off to bed, I turned the book back on and listened through to the end with rapt attention. I didn’t doze. I didn’t zone out. I listened.

So, does Wade win? You will have to get to the end to find out.

I gave this book 4.5 stars. It loses a point for the slowness of the beginning (surely there must have been some way of revealing the necessary information in a more exciting way) but it gains a point for the oh so awesome narration. I rounded down to 4 just because.

A Shire Romance (Part Eleven)

A classic romance with a Hobbit twist!

When Tamsyn left for Somerset that morning, little did she realise that she’d end the day somewhere she didn’t even realise existed. Nor did Perry know when he set out for a stroll that day that his life would be utterly changed. Thrown together by chance and torn apart by their responsibilities, their future lies in Tamsyn’s hands.

Note to Readers:  This is the first full-length novel I ever wrote. It’s a few years old, and I know it’s far from perfect. That was never the intention either, since it isn’t something I can publish traditionally due to copyright issues. I like the story, however, so I hope people reading this will enjoy it on those terms. Please be aware it contains explicit language and scenes.

PART ELEVEN – A CHAT WITH FARAMIR

“What party were you talking about?” Tamsyn asked as they strolled back to Great Smials, holding hands.

“It’s old Alderick Bolger’s one hundredth birthday this Highday,” Perry replied. “He’s throwing a big party to celebrate, you’ll enjoy it.”

If I’m still here, Tamsyn thought, but she didn’t voice it. Instead she said, “You’ll have to teach me the days of the week, before I get caught out by someone.”

“Sterday, Sunday, Monday, Trewsday, Hevensday, Mersday, Highday,” Perry rattled off.

“Not so fast! Again, more slowly please.”

Perry patiently repeated the list several times until Tamsyn thought she could remember it without difficulty, then she asked, “So what day is it today?”

“Hevensday.”

“Okay, so the party is… the day after tomorrow, right?”

Perry nodded, and Tamsyn spent the rest of the trip home repeating the list of days under her breath.

When they got to Great Smials, Perry halted her just outside the circle of light spilling from the kitchen window, and lifted her chin with a finger. “One more kiss, before I can’t touch you again,” he murmured, and Tamsyn gladly moved into his arms.

They kept a modest foot of distance between them when they finally walked inside, and Esme looked up and smiled at them. “Hello my dears, did you enjoy yourself today? What did you do?”

Tamsyn gave a general reply of assent to the first question, and Perry a non-committal response to the second. Then Tamsyn asked, “Anything I can help you with today, Esme? Sorry we weren’t back sooner.”

“Oh, that’s no problem, dear,” Esme said, waving her spoon in a magnanimous gesture. “Dinner won’t be long now, so just go and enjoy yourself a little longer. Why don’t you go sit outside? It’s still quite warm at the moment, and there’s a lovely sunset tonight.”

“There’s a bench a little over to the right,” Perry said. “Go ahead, Tam, I just realised there’s something I forgot to do.”

She nodded and left the house, wrapping her shawl close. For all that it was warm, the darkening day was starting to chill, and she was no longer running to keep warm, nor was she sharing her body warmth with Perry. The sunset was indeed lovely, blazing across the sky in pink, gold and red, and she sat down on the bench to watch it, drawing up her legs and hugging her knees.

For a while she was lost in thought, and she startled when someone ambled past her. At first she thought it was Perry, but when he stopped next to her she realised it was his father.

“Good evening, my dear,” he said. “Mind if I join you?”

“Not at all, sir,” Tamsyn replied, scooting over to give him more room.

He waved a hand at her dismissively. “None of that ‘sir’ malarkey please. My name is Faramir.” He sat down and produced his long-stemmed pipe, which he lit before he spoke again. “So, I understand that you arrived here with old Radagast?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Has he woken up yet?”

“He hadn’t this morning. I’m… I’m beginning to get a little worried,” Tamsyn admitted, biting her lip.

Faramir gave another dismissive wave with his pipe. “Don’t you worry, my dear, I’m sure he’ll be fine. He’s a wizard; they’re a lot tougher than they look. And in the  meantime we’re blessed with your delightful company. I do hope you’re enjoying yourself with us?”

“I am, Faramir, very much,” she replied. Privately she was still astonished at just how much she felt at home here. The smoke of Faramir’s pipe drifted past, and that too contributed to the sense of homeliness, even though back in England she had always detested smokers. But then, hobbit pipeweed smelled nothing like cigarette smoke, and she was growing to love the scent of it.

“So, you have spent today in the company of my son?” Faramir interrupted her musings.

“I have.”

“Tell me, Tamsyn, what do you think of him?”

She didn’t reply immediately, trying to take stock of her feelings. She was by now pretty sure that she was in love with Perry, but she didn’t feel that it was something she could admit to his father, certainly not when she was afraid to admit it to Perry. Yet when she tried to think of other ways to describe him, she found it very hard not to use words of love or attraction.

In the quiet, Faramir chuckled ruefully. “Ah, it’s like that, is it?”

“No, not at all,” she hastened to say. “I’m just having difficulty in finding the right words to describe him.”

He chuckled again. “Use as many as you feel necessary, my dear.”

“Okay… Intriguing. Strong. Funny. Clever. Capable, pleasant, unusual,” she listed, waiting a second before adding, “he is… unique.”

“Handsome?”

“Certainly,” she replied without even a moment’s hesitation. “He takes after you.”

“Ah, you flatter an old man.”

She smiled at him and shook her head. “Not at all, Faramir. He has your features, your nose. His mother’s eyes, though.”

“My, you’ve been studying him, haven’t you?” Tamsyn blushed, but his voice had been warm and approving, and after a few moments he added, “Ahh, but it’s good to see that there is at least one girl who my son is unable to scare off.”

“I’m not so easily scared,” she assured him with a smile.

“Good, good. Well, it’s been a pleasure talking to you, Tamsyn.” Without further warning he stood up and disappeared, leaving her no time to say anything else, but with a feeling that she had somehow just passed a test.

Barely two seconds later another shape materialised out of the dusk, and this time it was Perry. She wondered whether Faramir had heard him coming, and had deliberately left so they could be alone.

Perry plunged down into the space his father had vacated, though he sat much closer to her, and Tamsyn leaned against him.

“Did I hear you talk to my father there?” he asked, trying – and failing – to sound casual.

“You did.”

“What did you talk about?”

“He wanted to know what I think of you.”

“Oh.” He was quiet for a second, and Tamsyn fought the urge to chuckle. “And?”

“I told him.”

“Told him what?”

“What I think of you.”

He sighed, and Tamsyn could no longer hold in her laughter. She could almost feel his reproachful look in the dark, but then he too started to snigger. “Are you always this insufferable?”

“Only to those who are fishing for compliments.”

“Ah-hah! So you’ve complimented me then?”

“I didn’t say that, I said you were fishing for them.” Then she relented. “Perry, I’ve not told him anything bad, if that’s what you’re worried about. I wouldn’t get you into trouble with your parents.” She sniggered and added, “Let’s face it, you hardly need my help with that anyway.”

“Oi,” he said, tugging at one of her braids. She could see that he was about to wrap his arm around her, but then the kitchen door opened and he hastily pulled it back.

“Dinner’s ready,” Donna said, and they went back inside.

 o–o-o–o

 After dinner Perry and Tamsyn went to check on Radagast again, and this time, finally, the old wizard opened his eyes when they entered his room.

“Ah, I was hoping I might see you before I fall asleep again,” he said, his voice even reedier than the first time Tamsyn had heard it.

“How are you feeling?” Perry asked.

“Tired… So, so tired,” he replied, closing his eyes.

Tamsyn picked up the bowl of cold porridge that they had left for him. “Here, you should eat something. Do you want me to warm it for you?”

Radagast shook his head. “Strange though it may sound, I am still too tired to eat. Some water would help, though.”

She held the glass while he drank, with Perry propping him up, and this time too she got the feeling that he was stronger for having drunk some. “Can you explain what’s going on yet?” she asked.

“Not tonight, Tamsyn… Come and see me tomorrow morning. You too, Peregrin, for I see you are bound to her already.”

Perry and Tamsyn looked at each other in confusion, but Radagast closed his eyes again, and before Perry had even lowered him back down he was already asleep.

“What did he mean?” Tamsyn asked. “And how did he know it’s nighttime?”

Perry gave an eloquent shrug. “He’s a wizard.”

“Well, hopefully we’ll find out more tomorrow,” Tamsyn said, then yawned. “I think I’m about ready for bed.” She turned to Perry and took his face in her hands, kissing him lightly on the mouth. “I had a wonderful day today, Perry. Thank you.”

“So did I, Tam. The best day of my life so far,” he replied, and his green eyes were so full of feeling that she could have drowned in them.

She walked to her bedroom, her heart as light as a feather, and found that someone had lit her bedside candle already. By its light she saw that the rose that Perry had given her the day before now rested in a small clay vase. She smiled to herself and turned to her bed, and her breath caught, for on her pillow was another red rose, from the same fragrant bush as the first one. She picked it up and sniffed it deeply, then placed it in the vase with the first one.

She fell asleep with a smile on her face and Perry in her dreams.

o–o-o–o

What will happen on Tamsyn’s third day in the Shire? Find out in the next installment of  A Shire Romance! The story will be a weekly release until completion.  

A Shire Romance is written by Erica Dakin. You can find out more about Contrary Erica on the Guest Reviewers page and check out her website to find out more information about her work.

Andrea at the Center ~ JP Kansas

  • Title: Andrea at the Center
  • Author: J.P. Kansas
  • Genre: Erotica
  • Format: e-book
  • Source: Author
  • Reviewed by: Erica, Guest Reviewer
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  “You’re going to here at the Center for a few months. It’s going to be the most enlightening experience of your life. When it’s over, you’ll be returned to where you taken from—a different woman.”

Young and beautiful Andrea is, without warning, whisked away to a secret location, where a mysterious group devotes itself to the pursuit of sexual enlightenment through the use of many sensual techniques. Gradually, she’s introduced to the ways of the Center by the people that gladly occupy it. Her sense of self and her understanding of sexuality are profoundly challenged, leading her to a new understanding of herself and the deepest sexual satisfaction.

Andrea at the Center, previously published by Masquerade in the 90’s, has been fully revised with titillating updates for our Pink Flamingo readers! J.P. Kansas will thrill you with his stunning tale of straight, lesbian and gay sex, bondage, exhibitionism and all sorts of sex toys and dolls! The excitement does not stop there, however. Andrea’s experiences are sure to arouse every fetish; from spanking and collars to threesomes and voyeurism. Andrea at the Center has everything you want in an erotic novel and more!

Review: As erotica goes, the ‘plot’ of this book is about as believable and well thought-out as a porn film. Our protagonist, Andrea, is snatched off the streets by a couple of random men, drugged and taken to the Center, which is some sort of all-encompassing sex commune. Once there she is told that she has been taken in order to ‘become what you are’, or something like that. Her family and fiancé have all received a notice from her that she was overcome by a sudden desire to spend a few months in Tibet, and that’s it.

Cue endless ventures into all kinds of erotic pastimes, some more believable than others, and some more agreeable than others. The book’s biggest strength is that pretty much anything you can think of is represented, short of bestiality. Unfortunately I’d say that is also its biggest weakness, because there are certain avenues in sex which I personally do not want to contemplate, never mind read about, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. There’s also a bit too much F/F for my taste, but again that’s personal.

Apart from that the very fact that Andrea has been kidnapped and is given little to no choice about participating in all this stuff makes me feel just a tad uncomfortable. There is some attempt to lessen the impact of it by making her enjoy most of what she’s doing, but still.

The language used is very clinical. Penis and vagina are virtually the only words used, except when people are talking, when they might say cock instead. I found it a rather strange contrast with the various goings-on, since I’m used to language in erotica being a bit more direct.

All in all I would call this a very middle-of-the-road effort, which scrapes through at three stars only because it was a pretty easy read overall.


 

Magic Bleeds ~ Ilona Andrews

  • Title: Magic Bleeds
  • Author: Ilona Andrews
  • Series: Kate Daniels #4
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: Olga
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description:  Kate Daniels keeps the peace in Atlanta for the Order, humans caught between the vampire controlling People led by her biological father and best kept secret, Roland, and the shape-shifter Pack, led by her mate-to-be Curran, the Lord of the Beasts. But her look-alike aunt Erra, Babylon’s god of chaos and terror, has come to town controlling seven naked warriors: Deluge (flood water), Tremor (earth quake), Gale (hurricane wind), Torch (fire inferno), Venom (disease poison), Beast (animal monster), and Darkness (overpowering dread).

Review:  I tried this series several years ago, when the first novel, Magic Bites, came out, and I didn’t like it much. I know that many of my friends adore this series and its protagonist, Kate Daniels, so I decided to try it again when I came upon this book on my library shelf. I still don’t like it much, although I have to give the authors their due: the plot construction is masterful, the world-building superb, the action fast and furious, and the tension almost unbearably high from the first page on. Danger, blood, and pain, personified in multiple internal and external clashes, crowd the heroine on all sides. No breather is allowed, and she is injured for most of the story. And that is my first objection: the tale is too dark and gritty for me.    

Kate starts the novel as an agent of a peace-maintaining agency, the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid, in Atlanta. The world she lives in is repeatedly hit by waves of magic, so technology is unreliable, and most of the infrastructure of our civilization has collapsed years ago. Into that world comes a mysterious villain of mythical proportions, ‘a tall man in a cloak’, to wreak death and chaos, and Kate is called on the scene in her official capacity: to investigate the bad guy. From this moment, the action rolls forward with the speed and inevitability of an armored train. No stopping the monster, except with a nuke… or a fictional equivalent of one – Kate.

Adding to this Kate’s conundrum in the heart department – her intermittent love-him-hate-him with her paramour, Curran, the leader of the local shape-shifters – plus her dispute-riddled relationships with other local non-humans, and we have a recipe for a potent brew of a story, studded with conflict and punctuated with sword and magic battles. Most lovers of urban fantasy must love it. As I’m not a big fan of the subgenre, it leaves me torn.      

My second objection is a personal one: I dislike Kate. She is too confrontational and too sure that most problems can be solved with a punch or a sword. In a word, she is too kick-ass, and I disagree with this quality in anyone, male or female. I admire people who think before (or instead of) swinging a blade or driving a fist into your teeth. I like intellectuals, smart guys and girls who can understand and negotiate, and Kate is as far from them as the moon is from earth.   

Deep inside, she seems kind and compassionate, but on the surface, she is rough and relentless: a highly-trained female thug with a proverbial heart of gold. I don’t believe it. In my experience, after a while being a thug, thugs become inured to the others’ suffering; they don’t notice it anymore, and their compassion turns academic, in theory only. That’s what I see in Kate: her kick-ass personality dominating her life, personally and professionally, while her ability to think and compromise and persuade is almost atrophied.

Although I’ve never wanted to deal with such a person, especially with such a woman, in life, I understand the attraction my friends feel to her in fiction. Kate is simple, a black-and-white persona. For her, the universe is divided to friends and else, and she is firmly on the side of her friends. And I want to be in her camp too. I don’t ever want to be her enemy. I guess this powerful novel affected me emotionally after all, despite my intellectual drive to reject it. I cared for Kate while I read. I might try the next novel, although I don’t think I will read this series back to the beginning.

Night Train to Rigel ~ Timothy Zahn

  • Title:  Night Train to Rigel
  • Author:  Timothy Zahn
  • Series: Quadrail #1
  • Genre:  Science Fiction
  • Format: eBook
  • Source: Own copy
  • Reviewed by:  Snarktastic Sonja
  • Rating: 4 out of 5

Description: HUMANITY’S LAST HOPE

It begins when a man delivers a message for former government agent Frank Compton–only to fall dead at his feet. The message is a summons from the Spiders, the exotic and mysterious creatures who run the Quadrail, an incredible transportation system connecting civilizations across the galaxy. The Spiders believe that someone or something is preparing to attack their entire network and the worlds it serves, by smuggling battleships through the Quadrail–something that should be impossible to do. Compton, with the aid of a beautiful but enigmatic agent of the Spiders, is their last hope.

Because nobody else has been able to find the elusive enemy who seeks to enslave the entire galaxy…and Earth is its next target.

Review:  I just re-read this book in preparation for reading the final book in the series. I have a very hard time writing a book review on a re-read as I think having had the anticipation removed hinders (at least to some degree) the enjoyment of a novel. And, based on my set criteria, I rarely cannot put a book down when I know how it ends. That being said, I originally read this book when it first came out and enjoyed it enough to read each succeeding book. The final book in the series came out late enough that I wanted to remember the entire series more vividly before I finished it. (Is that enough qualifiers?)

I really like Timothy Zahn, though I refuse to read the Star Wars books. I really liked this book. And, I still liked it – even on re-read. I remember the first *gotcha* upon reading the very first clue. I totally forgot the 2nd gotcha – which is, I assume, where the next book goes. I have read it as well, but I do not remember it. (A short memory is a blessing when reading books . . . makes re-reads more interesting!) I am reading this series in a buddy read into which I dragged others along for the ride, so I am not continuing until March.

And let it be said . . the first book was published in 2006 – not so very long ago – and LOOK! 6 years later (and 5 books) the series is complete. It CAN be done. Even on a re-read, I give this one 4 stars.