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?

Because we were traveling, I missed doing this post last week. Just couldn’t get it together before we left.

I’m about 25% into Six Crimson Cranes and big things are starting to happen. And there seems to be an evil stepmother – go figure. I’ve read one other book by this author and had mixed feelings about it when the romance seemed to overshadow a lot of the other plot elements, and I’m hoping this doesn’t head in that same direction. The reviews have been wonderful.

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no I jmatter what it costs her. 

I just finished What We Devour last night, and I’m still not sure what I think. I loved that it was a dark fantasy and featured morally gray characters, but a large piece of the story was confusing. I’m still processing.

From the author of Mask of Shadows comes a dark and intricate story of a girl who must tether herself to a violent ruler to save her crumbling world.

Lorena Adler has a secret—she holds the power of the banished gods, the Noble and the Vile, inside her. She has spent her entire life hiding from the world and her past. She’s content to spend her days as an undertaker in a small town, marry her best friend, Julian, and live an unfulfilling life so long as no one uncovers her true nature.

But when the notoriously bloodthirsty and equally Vile crown prince comes to arrest Julian’s father, he immediately recognizes Lorena for what she is. So she makes a deal—a fair trial for her betrothed’s father in exchange for her service to the crown.

The prince is desperate for her help. He’s spent years trying to repair the weakening Door that holds back the Vile…and he’s losing the battle. As Lorena learns more about the Door and the horrifying price it takes to keep it closed, she’ll have to embrace both parts of herself to survive.

I’ve read a couple things by Grady Hendrix and he’s never disappointed. I still have The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires waiting on my Kindle. Judging by that title, you know it has to be a good one. And how can you resist this title – The Final Girl Support Group. I have high expectations.

A fast-paced, thrilling horror novel that follows a group of heroines to die for, from the brilliant New York Times bestselling author of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.

In horror movies, the final girl is the one who’s left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?

Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For more than a decade she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized–someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.

The Ballad of Mrs. Molony (The Hat #3) by C.S. Boyack #bookreview #vampires #paranormal #TuesdayBookBlog

Lizzie and the hat are back, and this time they’re chasing vampires across a subculture of America. A pair of rodeo cowboys are holding a woman captive to use like a milk cow since they joined the undead.

The person who put them onto the trail is also a vampire, but he has to be the worst vampire in history. Is he really that pitiful, or is he setting a trap for our heroes? Does the woman even exist? Can Lizzie and the hat find her before she also takes up blood sucking?

Follow Lizzie and the hat as they use their cover band to stalk vamps across the country music scene. 

I’m a real fan of this series and, also being a vamp fan, was super excited to go on this hunting/staking adventure with Lizzie and the hat.

Working several part time jobs and playing in a band keep Lizzie busy enough, but she and the hat also have a duty to fight crime. Luckily, they can still make some money playing gigs at the same time. When Kevin asks Lizzie and the hat to help rescue his sister from a group of vampires, Lizzie wants to volunteer, but the hat is suspicious. Kevin is also a vampire, but not the dark, mysterious, sexy type – trust me on this. He doesn’t feed on humans, and he certainly doesn’t sparkle, but the hat wants to stake him anyway, nice guy or not. Having no choice but to give in, the hat loses this battle.

The banter between Lizzie and the hat is always a favorite for me in this series. Sometimes it’s like listening to an old married couple. Since discovering the internet (especially Amazon), the hat has discovered the joys of online shopping. Lizzie has to occasionally veto purchasing requests (I didn’t think the fog machine was an entirely bad idea) due to budget constraints. At least it keeps him busy (he doesn’t sleep) and out of Lizzie’s hair for a while.

I’m not a country music fan, so I was amused by the band’s attempts to slide some other non-country artists into the playlist by introducing them as cowboys. I also snorted out loud several times at the hat’s attempts to remember (more like poke fun at) Kevin’s sister’s name, Ida Rose.

At less than two hundred pages, this is a quick read. With humor, vampires (one that’s very memorable), banter, and music, this is another adventurous romp with the ever patient Lizzie and shopaholic hat. The fourth book in the series dropped recently, and I can’t wait to get started.

Moving, Bats, and Gratitude

Last week we were in Austin, TX for several days helping the youngest son relocate to his new city and apartment. Austin is a hip, artsy place that has a lot to offer. But I didn’t stop sweating from the time we landed until the time we left – I’m a super warm-blooded person. I was looking forward to cooler temps in KY, but it was 96 degrees here. Anyhoo, our son and his two roommates have a wonderful apartment – loads of storage and space – and it’s in a great location. He starts a new job today so I’m anxious to hear how his first day goes.

One thing I wanted to do while we were in Austin was watch the bats emerge from beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge and fly over Lady Bird Lake. Loads of people gather nightly, and our hotel was only a block away. We were among the crowd who lined the bridge waiting for them on a beautiful Friday evening anticipating a glorious show from these winged mammals. And they stood us up. Not one bat showed. The crowd began to disperse, so we walked back to the hotel feeling totally rejected I’ll be visiting Austin again, and I’m expecting an exquisite display from them to make up for it. If you’re interested in learning more about them click HERE.

While I was in Austin, I published a post from the WP app not once, but twice, and I still think something’s wonky with it judging by the number of views and comments. I reviewed Buried by Sue Rovens who I met through Bad Moon Rising. I think she’s participated nearly every year. If you get a chance click HERE to read the review. I’m sure Sue would appreciate some shares!

Speaking of sharing, thanks to all of you who helped spread the work about my Bookbub promotion last Monday! I reached #2 and #3 in my categories, and I consider it a good day when my book is ahead of The Hunger Games series in rankings – definitely a dream come true no matter how fleeting the moment. After all the moving hubbub, I’ve got tons to get caught up on. Here’s to a productive week!

Buried by Sue Rovens #bookreview #horror #thriller

I published this yesterday from the WP app, but something went wonky with it. Imagine that – something going wonky with WP. Anyhoo, I’m posting it again today. We’re in the midst of moving my son, so I may not be able to get to comments right away.

Hoarding is about to take a sharp left turn into the macabre.

Priscilla Wyatt is a nursing assistant who lives behind the Sommerville Funeral Home. When her dachshund, Weenie, returns home with a ghastly find, Pris’s life spirals out of control. What was once a troublesome disorder soon dissolves into a hellish nightmare from which she attempts to escape.

Gerald Zenith, proprietor of Sommerville, is too busy running scams and keeping tabs on his necrophiliac subordinate to notice what is really happening during the wee hours of the morning in the cemetery. While he was certain his ghoulish past would never catch up with him, he never realized the dead could actually return.

Some secrets are too big to stay buried.

Trust me when I say there are some strange and highly disturbed folks in this small town. A therapist could make a killing with this many patients.

Sommerville Funeral Home is busy all hours of the day and night, but not all the activities are legal. Two sets of books are kept – one that shows a respectable business and the other contains the real financial transactions. The owner is scamming the public, putting multiple bodies in graves as one example, but the most unsettling occurrence is what happens to some of the customers’ deceased family members. One of the employees is a necrophiliac – see what I mean about disturbed?

Another resident of this town, Pris, is a hoarder – and I’m not talking about just piles of magazines, clothes, etc. Her dog brings home body parts he digs up from the cemetery next door. Can you guess the types of things she begins hoarding? When her friend offers to help Pris clean her house, she makes several discoveries that indicate Pris needs professional help – and it’s not just a cleaning service. Warning: You probably shouldn’t be eating while reading about these discoveries.

It’s apparent the author did thorough research for this novel – I can only imagine what someone would think if they saw her Google searches. Surprisingly, it also contains some humorous moments, and I found myself laughing over some passages. Another reviewer stated this story has a Fargo feel, and I have to agree – dark, quirky and bizarre. It’s an unsettling, grisly tale you can’t look away from and is sure to delight horror and suspense fans.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune #bookreview #fantasy #LGBT #TuesdayBookBlog

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

I’d seen so much hype about this book and really hoped I wouldn’t be let down when I read it. I wasn’t. It’s utter perfection. I’d give it one hundred stars if I could and doubt I can do it justice in this review.

Linus Baker leads a fairly uneventful, solitary life, residing with a cat with an attitude who basically adopted him and listening to the rants of his nosy neighbor. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth (DICOMA), he’s grossly underappreciated, but kept busy making sure the children in orphanages are being properly cared for. It’s a job he takes very seriously, and he places the welfare of the children above all else. When he’s given a highly classified assignment, he’s ill-prepared for what awaits him on Marsyas Island. Little does he know it will be a profound, life-changing experience.

I fell in love with Linus, Arthur, and all of the children – they grabbed my heart and didn’t let go. Many of Linus’s interactions with Lucy (short for Lucifer, the Antichist) had me laughing out loud and were some of my favorite scenes. This is a beautifully told story about acceptance, found families, and opening yourself up to possibilities. I’ve already recommended it to several people and honestly feel like it should be required reading. Upon reaching the end, I wanted to start all over again and spend more time with these characters in their world. It’s heartwarming, endearing, delightful – I guarantee you’ll experience all the feels with this novel. It will always be one of my favorites.

Rabbits by Terry Miles #bookreview #scifi #technothriller

Conspiracies abound in this surreal and yet all-too-real technothriller in which a deadly underground alternate reality game might just be altering reality itself, set in the same world as the popular Rabbits podcast.

It’s an average work day. You’ve been wrapped up in a task, and you check the clock when you come up for air–4:44 pm. You go to check your email, and 44 unread messages have built up. With a shock, you realize it is April 4th–4/4. And when you get in your car to drive home, your odometer reads 44,444. Coincidence? Or have you just seen the edge of a rabbit hole?

Rabbits is a mysterious alternate reality game so vast it uses our global reality as its canvas. Since the game first started in 1959, ten iterations have appeared and nine winners have been declared. Their identities are unknown. So is their reward, which is whispered to be NSA or CIA recruitment, vast wealth, immortality, or perhaps even the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe itself. But the deeper you get, the more deadly the game becomes. Players have died in the past–and the body count is rising.

And now the eleventh round is about to begin. Enter K–a Rabbits obsessive who has been trying to find a way into the game for years. That path opens when K is approached by billionaire Alan Scarpio, the alleged winner of the sixth iteration. Scarpio says that something has gone wrong with the game and that K needs to fix it before Eleven starts or the whole world will pay the price.

Five days later, Scarpio is declared missing. Two weeks after that, K blows the deadline and Eleven begins. And suddenly, the fate of the entire universe is at stake.

I couldn’t resist this description of an alternate reality game – and it turned out to be a mindbender of a book.

I wasn’t familiar with the Rabbits podcast created by this author, but after checking it out it seems to be pretty popular. The website states it’s a documentary/docudrama, and the show’s producers won’t admit it isn’t real. That little niggle at the back of my brain wondering if this could really happen made this story even more appealing for me. The game of Rabbits is kind of like Fight Club – you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist, and you tell no one you’re playing. Rumors about its purpose have surrounded the game for years, and the identities of the winners are unknown. It involves finding patterns, inconsistencies, and following clues in our everyday world, and the players seem to be pretty tech savvy and geniuses at detecting subtle irregularities.

After K is contacted by Scarpio (a former winner – maybe?) who tells him something has gone wrong with the game, things take a dark turn. Players go missing and/or turn up dead. K has had some issues in his past and at times is unsure of what’s real and what’s not – along with the reader. He loses time, encounters shadow figures, and remembers movies that don’t exist. My jaw dropped more than once at unanticipated twists, and I formed all sorts of theories.

At times, you’ll feel like you’re literally going down a rabbit hole with the characters, then look up at the clock and see you’ve also lost time because you need to know what’s happening. With quantum physics, alternate realities, false memory syndrome, and more, Rabbits is a trippy and often baffling novel I’d recommend to avid sci-fi fans. Now I’ll be looking for patterns and inconsistencies everywhere.

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

Simulated (Calculated #2) by Nova McBee #bookreview #YA #thriller #TuesdayBookBlog

From Young-Adult author Nova McBee comes the second book in the gritty, action-filled Calculated series.

Jo Rivers, safely back in Seattle, asks the same question daily—how does a math genius go from taking down international criminals and saving the world economy to living a normal teenage life? The only answer she can come up with is—she doesn’t.

With an overprotective father on her back and Kai on the other side of the world, Jo accepts an offer from Prodigy Stealth Solutions (PSS), who may have found a way to get her gift back. Using a newly developed technology, PSS tries a simulation process on Jo to restore her abilities, but during the attempt, PSS is hacked and a blacklist file containing some of PSS’s most sensitive secrets is stolen. Meanwhile, a mysterious caller who seems to know more than he should delivers a warning to Jo about Kai, who then goes missing.

Despite her father’s concerns, Jo sets off on a risky trip to Tunisia with a PSS team of teen prodigies to find an urgently needed solution for PSS and locate Kai. All the while, Jo has to trust the mysterious informant who, frighteningly, is like no one she has ever met before.

I just finished the first book in this series, Calculated, in November so I was thrilled to see the sequel available so soon on NetGalley.

The second book starts with a slower pace of life for Jo back in Seattle. In the first book, she relied on her gift, the ability to see numbers everywhere and in everything, to make mathematical-based decisions. While Calculated is intricately plotted and full of action, Simulated has a bit of a different feel. At the end of Calculated Jo had lost her gift and is now like a fish out of water struggling to live without it. With the help of PSS and their simulations, she’s fighting to awaken it, but things aren’t going so well. Without the numbers to back her up, Jo is unsure of herself and her decisions, but then a mysterious hacker appears in her sims and guarantees he can help her regain her gift. I feel like most readers will figure out the identity of this hacker early on. Wickedly intelligent and good-hearted, he brings an addional layer of mystery and intrigue to the story. Jo wants to trust him, but her team and boss aren’t as convinced, and she finds herself at a crossroads in her life.

Jo is soon on a plane headed for a mission in Tunisia, but also with a secret agenda of locating Kai. As with the Shanghai setting in the first book, this novel immerses the reader in the country and culture of Tunisia (I especially enjoyed the food!). There’s no sophomore slump here. This heart-pounding sequel offers just as many dangerous and harrowing moments – especially since Jo can’t rely on the numbers and doesn’t hesitate to take risks. Several new characters are introduced, and I enjoyed meeting the other prods (prodigies) on her team.

I wasn’t sure if this was a duology or trilogy, but upon reaching the end I was thrilled to learn there’s a third book in the works. The epilogue offers a surprise that gives a hint where the next story may be headed. If you enjoy intelligent thrillers with spies, covert missions, and surprising twists (and math that’s faaaar out of your lane), add this series to your TBR.

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

Bourbon and Horses

Hubby and I went to Louisville, KY with friends over the weekend and watched horse races at Churchill Downs. And no, I didn’t wear any big hats. It was a cloudy day with temps in the low fifties (just a few days from June – never would have predicted that!), but we had a fantastic time. As my friend said, the weather was cold, but the bourbon was warm. Below are a few pics taken over the weekend.

On Friday night, hubby and I had dinner out then stopped at The Brown Hotel for a night cap. It’s a gorgeous place inside – the architecture is stunning. With things opening up in KY, lots of folks were out and spirits were high. The other photo is of a statue sitting on the bar of another establishment. I just thought he looked kind of cool sitting there. I tried to lighten the picture, but it’s still pretty dark.

Saturday afternoon was spent at the races where plenty of bets were placed, but let’s just say no one is retiring anytime soon. One of hubby’s horses crossed the finish line so far behind the others he swears it must have stopped off for a smoke break.

Happy Memorial Day – have a great week!

Ember of Night by Molly E. Lee #bookreview #YA #paranormal

I am a weed.

Unloved by my abusive, alcoholic dad. Unwanted by my classmates. Unnoticed by everyone else.

But I’d suffer anything to give my kid sister a better life—the minute I turn eighteen, I’m getting us the hell out of here. And some hot stranger telling me I am the key to stopping a war between Heaven and Hell isn’t going to change that.

Let the world crumble and burn, for all I care.

Draven is relentless, though. And very much a liar. Every time his sexy lips are moving, I can see it—in the dip of his head, the grit of his jaw—even if my heart begs me to ignore the signs.

So what does he want?

I need to figure it out fast, because now everyone is gunning for me. And damn if I don’t want to show them what happens when you let weeds thrive in the cracks of the pavement…

We can grow powerful enough to shatter the whole foundation.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a paranormal novel, and I liked main character Harley’s voice in the description – determined, stubborn, and protective of her sister.

The way Harley has been treated throughout most of her life – physically and verbally abused by her father – would be enough to shut down almost anyone. But she has her little sister to protect and a plan to get both of them away from him when Harley turns eighteen. She works for Nathan at his restaurant, and he’s a bright spot both in this novel and in the girls’ lives, offering them food, love, and a safe place to stay when needed. The sister bond between Harley and Ray is also a strong point of the story and the driving force behind most everything Harley does. She’s a survivor.

I’ve never been a fan of insta-love, but that generally comes with the territory in YA paranormal books, and it happens here from nearly the first page. The on-again, off-again, you-should-stay-away-from-me-I’m-dangerous push and pull between Harley and Draven will no doubt delight many readers, but it was the world-building that interested me. Throughout the story it’s evident Harley is something other than human and is only beginning to come into her powers. I liked watching her learn about the fantasy world she’s suddenly a part of – she can roll with the punches both figuratively and literally because there are also several exciting fight scenes that are done well.

The ending brings a pretty shocking cliffhanger and lays groundwork for book two. Ember of Night deals with some disturbing topics, and the author gives trigger warnings at the beginning which readers should absolutely take into account before deciding to proceed. Although tropey, this is an engaging read I’d recommend to devoted paranormal fans.

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