Eternal Road: The Final Stop by John W. Howell #bookreview #supernatural #historical #TuesdayBookBlog

James Wainwright picks up a hitchhiker and discovers two things 1. The woman he picks up is his childhood sweetheart, only Seventeen years older. 2. He is no longer of this world.

James began a road trip alone in his 1956 Oldsmobile. He stops for a hitchhiker only to discover she is his childhood sweetheart, Sam, who disappeared seventeen years before. James learns from Sam falling asleep miles back caused him to perish in a one-car accident. He also comes to understand that Sam was taken and murdered all those years ago, and now she has come back to help him find his eternal home.

The pair visit a number of times and places and are witness to a number of historical events. The rules dictate that they do no harm to the time continuum. Trying to be careful, they inadvertently come to the attention of Lucifer who would love to have their souls as his subjects. They also find a threat to human survival and desperately need to put in place the fix necessary to save mankind.

The question becomes, will James find his eternal home in grace or lose the battle with Satan for his immortal soul and the future of human life with it? If you like time-travel, adventure, mystery, justice, and the supernatural, this story is for you.

Never have I come across such a blend of genres in a book – supernatural, paranormal, theological, mystery, sci-fi, historical. I would have told you it couldn’t be done. But this author pulls it off with style.

The overall premise is a bit sad with MCs James and Sam both being deceased and leaving this world behind. Sam’s life came to a tragic end at the age of seven, but she’s come back years later to escort childhood friend James to his final resting place. That’s where their adventure begins. Time-traveling in a snazzy 1956 Oldsmobile, they visit some historical sites and meet a few well-known characters along the way. But they don’t just venture into the past, their travels take them several centuries into the future as well. Lucifer himself even shows up in the Sin City of Las Vegas – where else would he be?

I enjoyed the “rules” of the plane between Earth and the afterlife, and they caused some humorous and awkward moments between Sam and James. Both characters are delightful, and I was particularly happy to see something resolved in Sam’s life. This story evokes many emotions and, as a mom, I nearly needed a tissue a couple times. The ending is beautiful and wraps things up nicely – but I can also see the potential for another book in the series, which I would immediately grab. A unique and fascinating take on the afterlife.

#AmWriting, #Cooking, and Escape Rooms

I’ve mentioned how I write out of sequence then put the chapters in order and fill in the holes. For the past month, I’ve been focused on getting the first several chapters to my beta reader. On Saturday, I looked at the other files I haven’t touched in months and did a double take. I’ve written a lot more than I thought! Considering I feel like I’ve been working on this sequel to Subject A36 since the dawn of time, I felt like doing a Snoopy dance. I don’t know how much I’ll keep or change until I dig into the files, but at least I’ve made more progress than I thought. Yay me!

Saturday night cooking continues. Hubby makes fantastic steak, whether on the grill or using a grill pan. I’m a chef’s worst nightmare – I prefer mine closer to the well side of medium well. After experimenting with different techniques, hubby perfected my steak a few years ago, and I honestly prefer his to most I’ve had in restaurants. Steak was the main course for Saturday’s dinner, and he wanted a mushroom sauce to go with his filet. I tried a new recipe with mushrooms, garlic, olive oil, and gorgonzola, but it wasn’t a flavorful as he’d hoped (I still can’t taste much of anything). Maybe we’ll try to tweak the recipe if we give it another chance.

I’m a fan of escape rooms and have done several with my family. They can either make you feel like your IQ is genius level or you’re the dumbest person alive. My oldest son and his girlfriend shift into beast mode before entering an escape room, and I haven’t seen anything stump them yet. With her in Canada and him in KY, they haven’t been able to see each other much over the past year (stupid pandemic!), but they found an escape room company online. I had no idea it was possible to do them virtually, but they gave it a try. If you’re into game nights with family or friends from a distance, maybe you’d want to give it a try HERE.

Stay safe and healthy and have a great week!

Vanished by Mark Bierman #bookreview #thriller

Tragedy . . . heartache . . . how much more can Tyler Montgomery and John Webster take? This missions trip, the “healing” one, has only added fresh layers of pain. Construction of an orphanage in Haiti’s northwest . . . yes. But a doomed rescue operation, human traffickers, human anomalies, extreme personal danger . . . risk of death? They hadn’t signed up for any of those.

Turning their backs on the crisis, however, is unthinkable, it’s just not who they are.

I have a difficult time reading about cruelty of any kind toward children or animals, so I knew going in parts of this book would be a challenge for me. It’s a horrific reality that human trafficking exists in this day and age and is actually quite common in some areas. So common that when a young girl is abducted by slave traders in Haiti, very little effort goes into trying to find her. Tyler, grieving the death of his wife, and his father-in-law, John, are shocked at the lack of response and vow to find the girl and return her to her mother no matter what. With two Americans in an unfamiliar country taking on such an incredibly dangerous task it won’t be an easy quest. Who can they trust? Where do they even start?

I’d be lying if I said this is an easy read – it’s absolutely not. Tyler’s and John’s journey is filled with obstacles and dead ends, harsh truths, unsavory characters, and violence. Even when their own lives are in danger, neither is willing to abandon their search for this child. The subplots are just as compelling and tragic. Although it portrays very real atrocities that occur far too often, this story is also full of hope and inspiration. There is still good in the world and people who are willing to go to battle against evil.

The author does a wonderful job dealing with such a tragic topic, and it’s clear the novel was thoroughly researched. Vanished is incredibly thought-provoking and will leave a lasting impression.

WWW Wednesday: What Am I Reading? #amreading

WWW Wednesday is a meme from Sam at Taking On A World Of Words

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m literally just starting this book today, so I really can’t say anything about it. You guys know what a science geek I am, so at the mention of genetic engineering I was immediately hooked. I’m excited to see where this book goes.

Sixteen-year-old Nate is a GEM—Genetically Engineered Medi-tissue created by the scientists of Gathos City as a cure for the elite from the fatal lung rot ravaging the population. As a child, he was smuggled out of the laboratory where he was held captive and into the Withers—a quarantined, lawless region. Nate manages to survive by using his engineering skills to become a Tinker, fixing broken tech in exchange for food or a safe place to sleep. When he meets Reed, a kind and fiercely protective boy that makes his heart race, and his misfit gang of scavengers, Nate finds the family he’s always longed for—even if he can’t risk telling them what he is.

But Gathos created a genetic failsafe in their GEMs—a flaw that causes their health to rapidly deteriorate as they age unless they are regularly dosed with medication controlled by Gathos City. As Nate’s health declines, his hard-won freedom is put in jeopardy. Violence erupts across the Withers, his illegal supply of medicine is cut off, and a vicious attack on Reed threatens to expose his secret. With time running out, Nate is left with only two options: work for a shadowy terrorist organization that has the means to keep him alive, or stay — and die — with the boy he loves. 

I’ve been listening to Harbinger, the third book in the Wake-Robin Ridge series. If you’ve read these books, you’ve no doubt fallen in love with Rabbit. This young boy has a quite a reputation for stealing hearts.

Continuing in the tradition of Wake-Robin Ridge and A Boy Named Rabbit, Marcia Meara’s North Carolina mountain series takes a shivery turn with the Appalachian Legend of Ol’ Shuck, the Harbinger of Death.

“. . . he felt the wet slide of the dog’s burning hot tongue on his face, and the scrape of its razor sharp teeth against the top of his head. A white-hot agony of crushing pain followed, as the jaws began to close.”

The wine-red trillium that carpets the forests of the North Carolina Mountains is considered a welcome harbinger of spring—but not all such omens are happy ones. An Appalachian legend claims the Black Dog, or Ol’ Shuck, as he’s often called, is a harbinger of death. If you see him, you or someone you know is going to die.

But what happens when Ol’ Shuck starts coming for you in your dreams? Nightmares of epic proportions haunt the deacon of the Light of Grace Baptist Church, and bring terror into the lives of everyone around him. Even MacKenzie Cole and his adopted son, Rabbit, find themselves pulled into danger.

When Sheriff Raleigh Wardell asks Mac and Rabbit to help him solve a twenty-year-old cold case, Rabbit’s visions of a little girl lost set them on a path that soon collides with that of a desperate man being slowly driven mad by guilt.

As Rabbit’s gift of the Sight grows ever more powerful, his commitment to those who seek justice grows as well, even when their pleas come from beyond the grave.

I just finished Namesake last night, and what a conclusion it was. The last book in this duology didn’t disappoint.

Trader. Fighter. Survivor.

With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems.

As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception she learns that her mother was keeping secrets, and those secrets are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.

Filled with action, emotion, and lyrical writing, New York Times bestselling author Adrienne Young returns with Namesake, the final book in the captivating Fable duology. 

Next up is a postapocalyptic novel. I read another book by this author that just wasn’t for me, but the comp titles and description for Dustborn intrigued me. I recently read another postapocalyptic Western mashup by Jessica Bakkers that made me a fan of this unusual genre.

Delta of Dead River sets out to rescue her family from a ruthless dictator rising to power in the Wastes and discovers a secret that will reshape her world in this postapocalyptic Western mashup for fans of Mad Max and Gunslinger Girl.

Delta of Dead River has always been told to hide her back, where a map is branded on her skin to a rumored paradise called the Verdant. In a wasteland plagued by dust squalls, geomagnetic storms, and solar flares, many would kill for it—even if no one can read it. So when raiders sent by a man known as the General attack her village, Delta suspects he is searching for her. 

Delta sets out to rescue her family but quickly learns that in the Wastes no one can be trusted—perhaps not even her childhood friend, Asher, who has been missing for nearly a decade. If Delta can trust Asher, she just might decode the map and trade evidence of the Verdant to the General for her family. What Delta doesn’t count on is what waits at the Verdant: a long-forgotten secret that will shake the foundation of her entire world.

Blood Sworn (Ashlords #2) by Scott Reintgen #bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog #YA #fantasy

Three cultures clash in all out war–against each other and against the gods–in the second book of this fantasy duology that’s sure to capture fans of The Hunger Games and An Ember in the Ashes.

The Races are over. War has begun.

Ashlord and Longhand armies battle for control of the Empire as Dividian rebels do their best to survive the crossfire. This is no longer a game. It’s life or death.

Adrian, Pippa, and Imelda each came out of the Races with questions about their role in the ongoing feud. The deeper they dig, the clearer it is that the hatred between their peoples has an origin point: the gods.

Their secrets are long-buried, but one disgruntled deity is ready to unveil the truth. Every whisper leads back to the underworld. What are the gods hiding there? As the sands of the Empire shift, these heroes will do everything they can to aim their people at the true enemy. But is it already too late?

The first book in this series bowled me over with its inventive world-building, Hunger Games-ish race, and three characters that were so easy to root for, so requesting an ARC of the second book in this duology was a no-brainer.

In Ashlords, war, rebellion, and unrest were stirring, and this sequel is set several months later after the war has started. Where Ashlords primarily focused on the race, Bloodsworn is all about the battle and delves deeply into the seven gods and how they’ve affected society. The three main characters are now back with their own people and on opposite sides of the feud. Pacing is a bit slow at the beginning, but it gave me time to regain my footing in this world and catch up with Adrian, Pippa, and Imelda and learn the new roles they now played in the war. As with the first book, it’s impossible for me to choose a favorite among them. Adrian and Pippa were both used as pawns in different ways, but are now strong enough to forge their own path. Imelda, once considered an underdog, proves it’s a mistake to underestimate her. They all show tremendous growth over the span of the series, and their arcs do justice to these engaging characters.

With the three MCs having separate storylines, I wondered how and when they’d intertwine. A couple of game-changing plot twists soon answered my question, but the author also holds back some suprises until nearly the end. Tense, fast-paced battle scenes kept me glued to the pages, and the slivers of romance among all the fighting are actually kind of sweet and don’t overshadow the main plot.

This is an exciting, complex, original series sure to engage both YA and adult readers. Although the story was complete and the ending satisfying, I’d have loved another book. Just a hint to the author!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

#Cooking, Snout Therapy, and an Interview

Hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day weekend! Hubby and I stayed in and tried another new recipe – actually a couple of them. The main course was Boubon-Glazed Salmon – recipe HERE. I didn’t have fresh ginger (although it would have been better), so I used ground ginger instead, and we didn’t add onions. I don’t like onions of any kind, so I usually omit them in most recipes. Instead of tossing the marinade, we saved half of it to pour over thie salmon before serving. I still have no sense of taste (more on that below), but hubby gave this one a big thumbs up. It was an easy recipe to put together and had tons of flavor, but we used a grill pan instead of broiling the salmon and even though it was nonstick, cleanup took some scrubbing. For the side dish, we tried hasselback potatoes. It was a simple recipe of olive oil, minced garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper brushed over the potatoes, but neither of us cared for it. No flavor at all for me, and hubby said it needed something, so I’m not even listing the link.

Last week, after a commenter mentioned articles about physical therapy for the nose for folks who still haven’t regained their sense of smell after COVID (thanks, Tessa!), I did some research and bought essential oils. A few articles suggested buying four different types and smelling them twice per day. A lot of people must be trying the same thing for their snouts because the two stores I went to had pretty slim pickings. I could only find peppermint, orange, and lavender, and so I added in a bottle of cinnamon spice for the fourth. While walking through the parking lot back to my car after leaving one of the stores I wrinkled my nose because someone was smoking – then realized I could actually smell the cigarette smoke. Not my first choice of aromas, but at least it’s progress.

A little bit of self promotion! Darlene Foster, author of the delightful children’s series, Amanda Travels, interviewed me on her blog Saturday. Click HERE to read. After visiting Canada last year, I read Amanda in Alberta and enjoyed learning more about some of the places we visited while there.

Have a safe and healthy week!

The Girl From Shadow Springs by Ellie Cypher #bookreview #YA #fantasy

The Revenant meets True Grit with a magical twist in this thrilling and atmospheric debut fantasy about two teens who must brave a frozen wasteland and the foes within it to save their loved ones and uncover a deadly secret.

Everyone in Shadow Springs knows that no one survives crossing the Flats. But the threat of a frozen death has never deterred the steady stream of treasure hunters searching for a legendary prize hidden somewhere in the vast expanse of ice. Jorie thinks they’re all fools, which makes scavenging their possessions easier. It’s how she and her sister, Brenna, survive.

Then Jorie scavenges off the wrong body. When the dead man’s enemy believes Jorie took something valuable from the body, he kidnaps Brenna as collateral. He tells Jorie that if she wants her sister back, she’ll have to trade her for the item he thinks she stole. But how can Jorie make a trade when she doesn’t even know what she’s looking for?

Her only source of information is Cody, the dead man’s nephew and a scholar from the South who’s never been hardened by the harsh conditions of the North. Though Jorie’s reluctant to bring a city boy out onto the Flats with her, she’ll do whatever it takes to save her sister. But anything can happen out on the ice, and soon Jorie and Cody find they need one another more than they ever imagined—and they’ll have to trust each other to survive threats beyond their darkest nightmares. 

I really enjoyed The Revenant and that combined with a western vibe and frozen wasteland made me curious about this book.

Talk about your high stakes. After Jorie’s sister, her only remaining family, is kidnapped, Jorie is determined to hunt down the person who took her and bring her home. It’s not a simple task. Not only does she have to trade an unknown item for her sister, she has to survive a journey of several days and nights in frozen tundra with minimal supplies, along with an inexperienced and unwelcome city boy companion just to get to her. The setting is a character in itself and has a big impact on this story. Trust me when I say you may need a blanket and a mug of hot chocolate while reading.

Jorie is a plucky MC and a survivor who’s suffered many losses in her young life. Other than the strong bond with her sister, she’s hardened herself to outsiders and has resolved not to let anyone in. Cody finds himself alone in the world after the death of his uncle and wants to avenge his death, although he’s far from equipped to do so. Watching him worm his way into Jorie’s cold heart was amusing, and found families are a favorite theme of mine.

Cody is a scholar and has studied tales of maps, treasures, beasts of snow and ice, and witches. Jorie heard these same stories during childhood and believes they’re only made up, but they come to figure prominently in the plot. Although hints about where the plot is leading are sprinkled throughout the book, something didn’t click for me. I felt like a piece of the puzzle that would tie everything together was missing. I don’t want to give away spoilers, and judging by other reviews I’m in the minority on this.

The pacing lags a bit in the beginning, but then takes off as Jorie and Cody embark on their harrowing journey filled with life-threatening obstacles. It’s an unusual blend of genres that I haven’t come across in YA, and a novel I enjoyed. I wouldn’t hesitate to read other books in the future by this debut author.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Calculated by Nova McBee #bookreview #YA #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

Set in Shanghai and Seattle, Calculated is a gritty, modern day blend of The Count of Monte Cristo and Mission Impossible.

She has many names – Octavia, Double 8, Phoenix, Josephine. She’s a math prodigy, a calculating genius and everyone wants her.

In seventeen-year-old Jo River’s complicated world of numbers, there’s no such thing as coincidence. When she is betrayed by someone she loves, kidnapped by the world’s most wanted smuggler, and forced to use her talent to shore up a criminal empire, Jo deems her gift a curse—until she meets Red.

Fellow captive and unlikely sage, Red teaches Jo to harness her true potential, so she can do more than just escape. Before he dies, Red reveals a secret about her enemies and makes her vow to right his wrongs. But Jo has a vow of her own. With help from Chan, a bitter billionaire, and Kai, his off-limits son, Jo rises into a new role, ready to take down those who ruined her life. Until a mathematical error comes back to haunt her with a threat much more dangerous than the criminals on the loose.

To beat the odds, Jo must decide who she really is and if risking everything is worth it.

After all, history is not made—it’s calculated.

With themes of revenge and forgiveness, loss and identity, brainpower versus brutality, and the triumph of right over might, it will resonate with readers everywhere.

I haven’t read The Count of Monte Cristo, but I sure loved the movie. When I saw it was a comp title for this book, I couldn’t pass it up.

The first several chapters alternate between past and present. Jo in the past is portrayed as an excited prodigy eager to begin her first job in China. Present Jo is a jaded, bitter young woman who is imprisoned, forced to use her gift for illegal activities, and was betrayed by her family. I couldn’t wait to see what she’d experienced to alter her life so completely. It soon becomes obvious she’s not only incredibly intelligent and determined, but is also a survivor.

Because of her gift, Jo bases everything on numbers – they don’t lie and they make sense to her. But she soon learns there’s more to life than numbers and ideas that aren’t as concrete such as forgiveness, love, and finding your purpose. How perhaps there are no coincidences and fate puts you exactly where you’re needed and can make a difference in the world. Revenge isn’t everything.

With the setting in Shanghai, I felt as if I got to experience a bit of the city and Chinese culture while reading this book. I also appreciated how the author didn’t try to dumb-down any of the complex financial and mathematical details even though I might not have understood them. The plot is incredibly intricate, full of action, and well-paced. The last several chapters are like watching perfectly placed dominoes topple one after the other. Some plot points may have fallen into place a bit too easily, but I still enjoyed this book and was pleasantly surprised to learn there will be a sequel. I’ll absolutely be adding it to my list.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Cooking and #AmWatching

Cooking isn’t really in my skill set – I’m the first to admit it. It’s a miracle hubby and I didn’t starve the first year we were married. Since then, my skills have improved, and I’ve learned enough to keep us fed. Still, unless it’s something very basic – spaghetti (jar sauce), chili, tacos, etc. – I have to use a recipe. I’m not one of those people who instinctively knows what a dish needs, although my youngest son is. From an early age, he’s been interested in food and cooking – and he surely didn’t get it from me. My oldest son considers food an energy source and doesn’t venture much out of his comfort zone. I do enjoy subscribing to a couple of cooking magazines and trying new recipes. Some are winners (a peanut butter pie recipe I got from a magazine ad) and others completely inedible (a tragic waste of prime rib). Hubby is kind of a foodie, so we decided to try something new. Every weekend, we’ll take turns choosing a new recipe to try and work on it together. This past weekend, we tried Spaghetti alla Carbonara. We turned on Pandora, opened some wine, and split up the cooking duties. Although the recipe had fantastic reviews, we weren’t that thrilled with it – probably three stars. Since I still can’t taste much or smell at all (two months now – thanks, COVID), I had to rely on hubby’s opinions. If you’re interested in trying it yourself, here’s the LINK We plan to continue this every weekend (unless we’re out of town), so this could become a regular update on Mondays.

I’m a fan of the TV show Supernatural. I haven’t watched all the seasons yet, but I’m working my way through them on Netflix. When I saw Jared Padalecki was starring in a remake of Walker, Texas Ranger, I decided to check it out. Not that I ever watched the original, but I like the actor and figured it’s something hubby and I could watch together (it’s like an act of God to get him interested in anything). While the show’s not going to win any awards, after three episodes, we’ve decided to stick with it. It’s already been renewed for a second season, so it might be around for a while.

Hope you have a great week – stay safe and healthy!

The Future Is Yours by Dan Frey #bookreview #scifi

Two best friends create a computer that can predict the future. But what they can’t predict is how it will tear their friendship—and society—apart.

If you had the chance to look one year into the future, would you?

For Ben Boyce and Adhi Chaudry, the answer is unequivocally yes. And they’re betting everything that you’ll say yes, too. Welcome to The Future: a computer that connects to the internet one year from now, so you can see who you’ll be dating, where you’ll be working, even whether or not you’ll be alive in the year to come. By forming a startup to deliver this revolutionary technology to the world, Ben and Adhi have made their wildest, most impossible dream a reality. Once Silicon Valley outsiders, they’re now its hottest commodity.

The device can predict everything perfectly—from stock market spikes and sports scores to political scandals and corporate takeovers—allowing them to chase down success and fame while staying one step ahead of the competition. But the future their device foretells is not the bright one they imagined.

Ambition. Greed. Jealousy. And, perhaps, an apocalypse. The question is . . . can they stop it?

Told through emails, texts, transcripts, and blog posts, this bleeding-edge tech thriller chronicles the costs of innovation and asks how far you’d go to protect the ones you love—even from themselves. 

I didn’t need to read the complete description before I requested this book. Creating a computer that connects to the internet one year in the future? Then marketing it to the public? My mind was spinning with ideas before I even read the first page.

The way this story is told – through emails, texts, transcripts, and blog posts – may put off some readers, but I’ve read other books with similar formats, and it’s a style I enjoy. I think it works particularly well with this novel. You may have to read between the lines in a couple of places, but it’s not difficult to figure out. The characters’ distinct personalities come through loud and clear.

Ben and Adhi seem like a perfect team – Ben with his business expertise and Adhi with his genius brain. I enjoyed seeing how they got this business off the ground, but I enjoyed reading about the science behind it even more. Yes, disbelief must be suspended, but this science nerd was doing a happy dance. Imagine having a console in your home that allows you to see one year into the future. You’ll know who wins the Super Bowl, find out which companies to invest in, see the state of the world. You may also discover obituaries of loved ones or even yourself or come across pictures of your spouse/significant other with someone else. What can go wrong with this concept? Think about it. Then consider how free will may or may not be connected to what you learn.

At its base level, this story is also about friendship – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and the lengths people will go to hang onto it. The ending is everything and left my head spinning. It’s perfect.

The Future Is Yours is easily one of the best sci-fi books I’ve read this year (2020). You’ll be thinking about it long after finishing the last page.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.