Weekend in Chicago!

The reason I’m behind on visiting everyone’s blogs is because Hubby and I traveled to Chicago on Thursday and returned yesterday. It was my first time there, but he’d been once before on business. With beautiful weather, we crammed in a lot over a few days with a food tour, an architecture boat tour on the river, Navy Pier, Chicago Gangsters and Ghost Tour, Willis Tower, Millenium Park, and several good restaurants. According to Hubby’s FitBit, we walked a little over thirty miles. Once I heard that, it lessened the guilt I felt over that huge scoop of peanut butter chocolate ice cream at Kilwins.

The first picture is the ferris wheel at Navy Pier. Plenty to do there with restaurants, rides, and shopping, with lots of lunch, dinner, and tour cruises leaving from the docks. The River Walk there is full of people biking, walking, or just enjoying the views. We stayed at The Palmer House, originally built in 1871, burned to the ground in the Great Chicago Fire two weeks after opening, then rebuilt from 1923-1925. It’s a beautiful hotel – the middle picture is the lobby, and that’s hubby with his back turned – and ideally located. We were only a block from Millenium Park, home of The Bean (also known as Cloud Gate). It was full of energy with kids running through fountains and live concerts.

The first picture in the bottom row was taken right before our food tour. Interesting fact – the tour guide dated a guy in college with Hubby’s same name, and she wondered if it would be him when we showed up. Weird.

The last two pics are from the top of Willis Tower. I’m a huge fan of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, so I loved seeing that sign and standing where Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane did during the movie. So here’s my tragic story. Hubby and I waited in line to stand in the clear observation boxes at the top of the building – like a window all the way around and beneath your feet where you can see from the 108th floor down to the ground. He later admitted he’d worried the night before about whether he’d be able to do it, and his legs trembled in the elevator to the top at the thought of stepping inside the box. Me? My claustrophobic self was worried about being packed in an elevator with so many people. While standing in line, we were entertained by other visitors posing in the four boxes and a few who wouldn’t get inside. Kids were jumping around without a second thought. Our turn came and we walked to our assigned box and watched the family ahead of us finishing up their pictures (the time limit was a minute). They left, Hubby stepped in with little hesitation – and to my horror, I couldn’t.

Failing to step into that observation box never occurred to me. I stood inside the window panes in the other sections on that floor overlooking the city with no problem at all. I’ve been to the top of the Empire State Building, bungee jumped, and I ride roller coasters. Heights have never really been an issue for me. During our minute time limit, I tried several times to make myself step in and couldn’t. And I was so disappointed. Part of my personal philosophy is to always have a backup plan, and if I’d had any indication I’d needed one, I would have just closed my eyes and stepped inside. Needless to say, part of my soul is crushed. We plan to visit Chicago again, and I will get in that observation window for the whole time limit one way or another!

To all my American friends, Happy Fourth of July!

Summer’s Edge by Dana Mele #bookreview #YA #supernatural #thriller

I Know What You Did Last Summer meets The Haunting of Hill House  in this atmospheric, eerie teen thriller following an estranged group of friends being haunted by their friend who died last summer.

Emily Joiner was once part of an inseparable group—she was a sister, a best friend, a lover, and a rival. Summers without Emily were unthinkable. Until the fire burned the lake house to ashes with her inside.

A year later, it’s in Emily’s honor that Chelsea and her four friends decide to return. The house awaits them, meticulously rebuilt. Only, Chelsea is haunted by ghostly visions. Loner Ryan stirs up old hurts and forces golden boy Chase to play peacemaker. Which has perfect hostess Kennedy on edge as eerie events culminate in a stunning accusation: Emily’s death wasn’t an accident. And all the clues needed to find the person responsible are right here.

As old betrayals rise to the surface, Chelsea and her friends have one night to unravel a mystery spanning three summers before a killer among them exacts their revenge.

Honestly, it was the mention of The Haunting of Hill House that caught my eye, and this sounded like a perfect creepy summer read that just might cause goosebumps.

Long-time friends with a tradition of spending a summer weekend at a lake house, an abundance of secrets, several betrayals, and eerie happenings inside the house. I read this in two days over Memorial Day weekend and couldn’t put it down.

The story begins with the friends meeting at the lake house one year after Emily’s death. It hasn’t been an easy year for any of them, and they’re all in various stages of grief. Some are still looking for a person to blame. I had a love/hate relationship with these characters – sometimes I felt sympathy for them and all they were experiencing, and other times I was so annoyed with their narcissistic tendencies and manipulations I wanted to reach into the pages and knock some sense into them.

With a few different POVs, I began to notice inconsistencies in the story that frustrated me. Was this a mistake (I had an ARC)? Was the character an unreliable narrator? Exactly what were we dealing with? Close to the end things clicked, and I figured out what was going on. The twist, although not original, is clever and something I didn’t suspect in early chapters.

A perfect summer setting, tarot cards, heated accusations, ghosts, complicated relationships, and revenge add up to a compelling beach/lake read. Grab a chair, some sunscreen, and a drink and settle in with this YA supernatural thriller.

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

I’m traveling today, so I may be slow to get to comments. Bear with me.

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?

Lots of variety this week – a town filled with mediums, a locked room mystery set at a college, and a retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher.

The Promise of Lost Things is a companion novel to Prelude of Lost Souls, a book I read a couple years ago. It includes many of the same characters and same setting, but can be read as a standalone. A town where most residents speak to the dead – why wouldn’t you want to read this?

Three characters with their own agendas converge in a town filled with mediums, where most residents make their living speaking to the dead…and there’s no such thing as resting in peace.

Russ Griffin has always wanted to be a fantastic medium. Growing up in the town of St. Hilaire, where most residents make their living by speaking to the dead, means there’s a lot of competition, and he’s always held his own. But Russ knows the town he loves is corrupt, and he’s determined to save it before the sinister ruling body, The Guild, ruins all he’s ever wanted.

Willow Rodgers is St. Hilaire royalty. An orphan, raised by The Guild, she’s powerful and mysterious. But she has secrets that might change everyone’s fate. She’s done with St. Hilaire, done with helping desperate customers who think mediums work for them. She wants to end the cycle for good and rid the town of ghosts, even if that means destroying the only home she’s ever known.

Asher Mullen lost his sister, and his parents can’t get over her death. They sought answers in St. Hilaire and were left brokenhearted. Now they want to expose St. Hilaire as a fraud. Asher is tasked with infiltrating the town, and he does that by getting to know Russ. The only problem is, he might be falling for him, which will make betraying Russ that much harder.

Russ, Willow, and Asher all have their own agendas for St. Hilaire, but one thing’s for certain, no one will be resting in peace.

The Finalists only took me a couple days to read. Six students competing for a dream scholarship – and not all of them make it. Every character in this novel has motive, and I honestly wasn’t sure until the end who was responsible.

The competitive selection process for a prized college scholarship turns deadly in the latest thriller from USA Today bestselling author David Bell.
On a beautiful spring day, six college students with nothing in common besides a desperate inability to pay for school gather to compete for the prestigious Hyde Fellowship.


Milo–The front-runner.
Natalia–The brain.
James–The rule follower.
Sydney–The athlete.
Duffy–The cowboy.
Emily–The social justice warrior.


The six of them must surrender their devices when they enter Hyde House, an aging Victorian structure that sits in a secluded part of campus.

Once inside, the doors lock behind them. The students are not allowed to leave until they spend eight hours with a college administrator who will do almost anything to keep the school afloat and Nicholas Hyde, the privileged and notoriously irresponsible heir to the Hyde family fortune. If the students leave before time is up, they’ll be immediately disqualified.

But when one of the six finalists drops dead, the other students fear they’re being picked off one by one. With a violent protest raging outside and no way to escape, the survivors viciously turn on each other.

The Finalists is a chilling and profound look at the lengths both students and colleges will go to survive in a resource-starved academic world.

This will be my first experience with T. Kingfisher, and I’ve seen so many fabulous reviews of her books. Just look at that crazy gruesome cover.

From the award-winning author of The Twisted Ones comes a gripping and atmospheric retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania.

What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves.

Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all. 

Together We Burn by Isabel Ibañez #bookreview #YA #fantasy #mystery #TuesdayBookBlog

Eighteen-year-old Zarela Zalvidar is a talented flamenco dancer and daughter of the most famous Dragonador in Hispalia. People come for miles to see her father fight in their arena, which will one day be hers.

But disaster strikes during their five hundredth anniversary show, and in the carnage, Zarela’s father is horribly injured. Facing punishment from the Dragon Guild, Zarela must keep the arena—her ancestral home and inheritance —safe from their greedy hands. She has no choice but to take her father’s place as the next Dragonador. When the infuriatingly handsome dragon hunter, Arturo Díaz de Montserrat, withholds his help, she refuses to take no for an answer.

But even if he agrees, there’s someone out to ruin the Zalvidar family, and Zarela will have to do whatever it takes in order to prevent the Dragon Guild from taking away her birthright.

An ancient city plagued by dragons. A flamenco dancer determined to save her ancestral home. A dragon hunter refusing to teach her his ways. They don’t want each other, but they need each other, and without him her world will burn.

A fantasy inspired by medieval Spain with Dragonadors and dragons? I was ready to armchair travel and be swept away.

The setting is one of my favorite aspects of the story. The vivid descriptions of the sights, clothing, traditions, dances, and food (seriously, I was hungry every time food was mentioned) made it easy to immerse myself in this world. Magic (simple to complicated spells) is a part of the culture, but doesn’t play a huge part in the plot. Spanish language is interspersed with English and gives the dialogue more of an authentic feel.

I have mixed feelings about Zarela. After her father is injured during a dragon attack, Zarela immediately jumps into action and is determined to save her home and preserve the family name and honor. I admired that. But some of the ways she goes about this didn’t sit well with me. Arturo is brooding, snarly (did I just make up a word?), and stubborn, but with his love of dragons he grows on you and is easily my favorite character. He and feisty, determined Zarela clash from the moment they meet, but it’s no secret this is an enemies to lovers romance, and there are some pretty steamy moments between them that will make romance fans cheer.

It was easy to guess who’s working against the Zalvidar family, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this adventurous, fiery (literally) tale. I know it’s a standalone, but if the author chooses to revisit this world, I’d go back in a heartbeat.

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

Mole Hunter and #AmWatching

For the past couple summers, moles have overtaken our yard. Hubby has tried a few things, but we can hear them mocking his feeble attempts. Those critters have made tunnels and holes everywhere. We figure it’s a matter of time before the whole yard collapses. Meet our intrepid hunter, Bond. He’s an indoor cat, but when we sit on the patio we leash him so he can hang outdoors with us. Due to his valiant efforts and incessant stalking of this tree when outside, he’s caught four moles so far this summer. We ballpark there’s somewhere around eighty-two more to go. When he caught one last week, hubby was outside grilling and came in to tell me about it. Said Bond had requested that a good china plate be sent out. He may be an overly spoiled cat indoors, but he’s still a killer at heart outdoors, I guess. I’m just glad he doesn’t eat them or try to bring his victims inside. The second pic is a hard-working killer resting after checking another one off the list.

I had every intention of starting the new season of The Boys last week, but discovered a new season of The Umbrella Academy had dropped (woohoo!), so plans changed. This season has some interesting developments with the timeline shift, and I’m especially loving Klaus (totally my favorite) learning more about his powers. I think I’ve got one episode left, then I swear I’m starting The Boys. I’m excited to see what Jensen Ackles adds to the show.

Have a great week!

All Signs Point To Yes, A YA #Anthology #romance #bookreview

A literal star-studded anthology that delivers a love story for every star sign straight from the hearts of thirteen multicultural YA authors.

A haunted Aquarius finds love behind the veil. An ambitious Aries will do anything to stay in the spotlight. A foodie Taurus discovers the best eats in town (with a side of romance). A witchy Cancer stumbles into a curious meet-cute.

Whether it’s romantic, platonic, familial, or something else you can’t quite define, love is the thing that connects us. All Signs Point to Yes will take you on a journey from your own backyard to the world beyond the living as it settles us among the stars for thirteen stories of love and life.

These stories will touch your heart, speak to your soul, and have you reaching for your horoscope forevermore.

Contributors:

g. haron davis (Aries)
Adrianne White (Aquarius)
Cam Montgomery (Ophiuchus)
Tehlor Kay Mejia (Gemini)
Mark Oshiro (Libra)
Eric Smith (Scorpio)
Emery Lee (Pisces)
Byron Graves (Virgo)
Karuna Riazi (Cancer)
Roselle Lim (Taurus)
Alexandra Villasante (Capricorn)
Lily Anderson (Sagittarius)
Kiana Nguyen (Leo)

In middle school, my best friend and I discovered astrology and immediately became obsessed. We spent hours studying how our signs related to others – especially those of guys we had crushes on. When I saw this anthology featured zodiac signs, it made me want to revisit the past.

With such a variety of stories – magical realism, contemporary, supernatural, etc., – there are offerings for every reader. The beginning of each chapter gives a description of a zodiac sign (even the thirteenth sign, Ophiuchus is included), and it was fun to see how accurately they described me, my family, and friends (hubby said it nailed mine). I was overjoyed with the diversity of characters, cultures, and types of love (meet cutes, romantic, aromantic, and familial) featured and can’t say I’ve come across another anthology quite like this.

I’d like to give a shoutout to my favorites:

Taurus – The Taste of a Kiss by Roselle Lim – Loved the MC’s voice, and the food descriptions made me want to hunt down a food truck that sells Korean fried chicken. A sweet friends to lovers story.

Scorpio – The South Street Challenge by Eric Smith – I’m a fan of this author’s books, so I had high expectations for this story. I wasn’t disappointed. A bittersweet last night spent with friends before moving across country for college that comes with a welcome surprise.

Pisces – The Cure For Heartbreak by Emery Lee – A guy looking for a cure to heartbreak in a magic store discovers maybe it’s the person behind the counter and not a spell that’s the solution.

Virgo – Sometimes in September by Byron Graves – With a little bit of insta-love, these two characters in a rehab facility immediately connect. The ending is perfect and hopeful.

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

From Below by Darcy Coates #bookreview #horror #thriller

No light. No air. No escape.
Hundreds of feet beneath the ocean’s surface, a graveyard waits…


Years ago, the SS Arcadia vanished without a trace during a routine voyage. Though a strange, garbled emergency message was broadcast, neither the ship nor any of its crew could be found. Sixty years later, its wreck has finally been discovered more than three hundred miles from its intended course…a silent graveyard deep beneath the ocean’s surface, eagerly waiting for the first sign of life.

Cove and her dive team have been granted permission to explore the Arcadia’s rusting hull. Their purpose is straightforward: examine the wreck, film everything, and, if possible, uncover how and why the supposedly unsinkable ship vanished.

But the Arcadia has not yet had its fill of death, and something dark and hungry watches from below. With limited oxygen and the ship slowly closing in around them, Cove and her team will have to fight their way free of the unspeakable horror now desperate to claim them.

Because once they’re trapped beneath the ocean’s waves, there’s no going back. 

Looking for the perfect summer horror beach read? Here it is. If scuba diving is on your agenda, this novel might make you rethink your plans.

After the Arcadia is located three hundred plus feet underwater sixty years after vanishing without a trace, Cove and her dive team are anxious to begin exploring and filming it for a documentary. Things go wrong from the start with equipment malfunctions both above and below the water. And those are the least scary occurrences in this novel. I’m claustrophobic, so the thought of being beneath all that water with a mask covering my face, diving inside a shipwreck, and knowing I have a limited amount of oxygen terrifies me. And yet I’ll pick up books like this every time and find myself holding my breath while reading them.

The novel alternates between the timelines of sixty years prior with the events leading up to the sinking of the Arcadia and present day with the dive team. POV also shifts between the characters on the team, whose dive experience varies from expert to the guy who sucks up most of his oxygen but doesn’t want to admit it to anyone. Soon after entering the ship wreckage they make some freakish discoveries – unusual messages written on the walls, movements seen in empty rooms, walls boarded up. Even more eerie discoveries are made after they surface and review film footage.

Even though I felt the need to gasp for breath in some parts, I read this book over a couple of days. The author provides incredible details about the hazards of diving, including decompression sickness, nitrogen narcosis, the bends, etc. So not only did the divers have to deal with this, they also faced whatever was in the Arcadia. The descriptions of a ship that long at the bottom of the ocean reminded me of pictures I’ve seen of the Titanic, so you can imagine how atmospheric they are. With equipment malfunctioning – comms out, headlights and flashlights aren’t working – the terror the characters experience (and maybe the reader just thinking about it) in total darkness is almost palpable.

The character development weighs in a little light, but it certainly didn’t detract from my reading experience – I enjoyed the heck out of this book. The horror isn’t gory, so this novel would also appeal to thriller fans, and I highly recommend it to readers of both genres.

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

A Cruel and Fated Light (The Hollow Star Saga #2) by Ashley Shuttleworth #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

Half-fae Arlo becomes entangled in the courtly intrigue at the Seelie Summer palace as danger for ironborns mounts in this gripping sequel to A Dark and Hollow Star that’s The Cruel Prince meets City of Bones.

After thwarting the man behind the gruesome ironborn murders—and breaking several fae laws to do so—all Arlo wants is a quiet summer. As the deity of luck’s Hollow Star, capable of bringing about endless possibilities, this shouldn’t be too much to ask, right?

But someone is still trying to summon the mythical Seven Deadly Sins. All signs point to immortal meddling, and if this is the gods’ attempt at returning to the Mortal Realm, it’s Arlo they’re going to use to do it.

When Queen Riadne offers to host Arlo at the Seelie Summer palace, she jumps at the chance. She’ll get to see more of Vehan and Aurelian and perhaps even work out her complicated feelings for the gorgeous ex-Fury, Nausicaä. But no one trusts the infamous Queen of Light, even as Arlo wonders if she’s just been greatly misunderstood.

With the Summer Solstice quickly approaching, everyone expects Riadne to finally challenge the High King for his crown. And as Arlo struggles to get control of her powers and take charge of her destiny, she’ll soon be faced with a choice that won’t only change the fate of the Mortal Realm forever but could condemn it to a cruelty the likes of which the Courts have never known.

The first book in this series was one of my favorite reads last year – it’s not often you come across an urban fantasy set in Canada – and I couldn’t wait to catch up with these characters again.

Where do I even begin? So much going on. So many secrets revealed. When Queen Riadne tosses out an invite to host Arlo at the Seelie Summer palace, you just know it’s not out of the goodness of her black heart. Riadne never does anything without it benefiting her, and being iron born and all but ignored by her extended family, Arlo is thrilled at the opportunity to finally be accepted for who she is. High Prince Celadon, her cousin and best friend, insists on accompanying her both for protection and to find out what scheming Riadne is up to. Let the games begin.

These characters stole my heart in the first book, but Nausicaa (such lovable snark) and Celadon (smarter than most in the room) continue to be my favorites. Such a diverse cast is cause for celebration with this series, as is the intricately mapped plot. This book weighs in at a hefty 640 pages, but with political machinations, alchemy, immortals, questionable motivations, a challenge for the crown, dark secrets, and sweet romances, the pages flew by for me.

The ending gutted me and leaves fates hanging in the balance, along with a body count – no spoilers here. It looks like there are two more books coming in this series, and I’ve already added both on my Goodreads list. Highly recommend for urban fantasy fans!

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

Father’s Day and #AmWatching

A belated Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers out there! We’re not much for restaurant crowds and prefer to have a quiet day at home and grill out. Hubby did some yard work and then he and Son #2 smoked cigars on the patio later in the evening. Although I was afraid we’d be watching some Hallmark movie (he’s a big fan and threatened to choose You’re Bacon Me Crazy), Hubby chose John Wick #2. I think it was actually more of Son #2’s choice, but I was fully on board with it. We also finally opened the good bottle of wine Hubby bought for our anniversary a year and a half ago. We’d been waiting for my taste and smell to come back so I could actually appreciate it, and over the past month both senses made big leaps and are mostly back to normal – finally!

Has anyone watched First Kill on Netflix? It’s based on a short story written by one of my favorite authors, Victoria Schwab, and I’ve always been a vamp fan. I’ve only got one episode left, and things are seriously heating up – loads of tension and conflict. Somehow I never got to the theater to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but I was excited to see that it will be streaming on Disney+ June 22 – so you know what I’ll be watching soon.

Have a great week!

Announcing “Dead of Winter: Journey 14, The Veil — the conclusion

This series has received stellar reviews, and I can’t wait to get started. Congratulations to Teagan on the release of the final Dead of Winter book!

Teagan's Books

Reblogs of this post are encouraged.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022 
 
The Journeys of “Dead of Winter” have reached the conclusion.

All the Journeys 

Blurb

From the very beginning, a prophecy from a creepy voice threaded throughout this story.  “Winter is coming!” it warned.  As the Journeys progressed, we became aware of additional related prophesies like one of the “lost white brother” and “the frozen sands.”  Both of those are touched on in this concluding novella.

White wolf mountains Andrea Bohl PixabayAndrea Bohl, Pixabay

Other threads from the previous thirteen Journeys also come together in this volume, which concludes Dead of Winter.

I see this conclusion as a two-part ending.  Without giving spoilers, the first brings the action to a head and resolves that aspect.

The second is much more than an epilogue.  It resolves the issue of the destroyed Veil which separated the Realm of the Living from the Realm of the…

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