Our Weekend – Good, Bad, and Ugly #blessed

What a fun weekend we had! Our son’s Canadian girlfriend received her second vaccine a couple weeks ago and flew to KY to visit. They hadn’t seen each other since Christmas. Hubby and I were also invited to visit them for the weekend, and we jumped at the chance. You know what big fans we are of escape rooms, and our son booked one for Saturday. After lunch, we went to a new game the facility was featuring based on the classic boardgame Clue. Colonel Mustard, Mr. Green, Ms. Scarlet, etc. – they were all suspects. We had to name the killer, weapon, and room the murder takes place in. We traveled through four rooms – the hall, kitchen, conservatory, and study – to find clues and solve puzzles and finished the game with about thirteen minutes to spare. We all said it was one of the most enjoyable escape rooms we’d done – and we’ve done several. If you have the opportunity to try this one out, you’ll spend an enjoyable and nostalgic hour – or less if you escape sooner.

That was the best part of the weekend. On our way home yesterday, just five minutes from our house, someone ran a red light and T-boned our car. We’re both fine, just bruised and banged up. I was driving, hubby was in the passenger seat. My side air bag deployed, but I was unable to open my car door and had to climb over the console to get out. Some very kind Good Samaritans who witnessed the accident (it was at a large intersection) stayed with us to give their statements to the officers. We feel so fortunate and blessed to walk away from this with minor injuries. We’re pretty sure the car is totaled.

I’m thinking I’ll have a big announcement next Monday, so make sure to drop by. Have a great week!

The Girl in the Headlines by Hannah Jayne #bookreview #YA #mystery #thriller

The headlines say she killed her family. The truth? She doesn’t remember.

Andrea McNulty goes to sleep on her eighteenth birthday with a near-perfect life: she’s a high school field hockey star, a doted-upon big sister, the beloved daughter of two happy parents. But when she wakes up in a motel room the next morning, unable to remember what happened the previous night and covered in blood, Andi is a fugitive.

According to the news, Andi’s parents were brutally attacked in the middle of the night. Her father is dead, her mother is in a coma, her little brother Josh is missing–and Andi is the prime suspect. Terrified and on the run from the police, Andi teams up with Nate, the sympathetic boy working the motel’s front desk, to find the real murderer. But while the police are getting further from the killer, the killer is getting closer to Andi–closer than she could ever have imagined.

Waking up in a motel room covered in blood with no memory of what happened? I needed to know this girl’s story.

The hook for this novel is compelling and a perfect setup for an intense, thrilling novel. I felt Andi’s confusion, grief, and strong need to find her little brother. Seeing her home with police tape around it on television and hearing she’s a suspect in the investigation is surreal. I was as outraged and frustrated as she was over the media’s assumption that she’s guilty. Luckily for her she comes across street smart Nate working at the front desk of the motel, because she wouldn’t have survived a day without him. He’s a voice of reason and prevents her from making some (a couple at least) questionable decisions. I found it difficult to believe an eighteen-year-old girl could be this naive about the world around her.

A quick read, the story moves at a brisk pace. There’s plenty of action as Andi and Nate gradually piece together what happened that night, and it’s pretty clear from almost the beginning who’s involved. With such a breakneck pace wrapping up the plot, I was surprised when it ended abruptly and left many questions unanswered.

While this book begins with an intriguing mystery, puts the MC in a harrowing situation, and introduces a strong, very likeable supporting character, I was left scratching my head over the ending. I honestly expected an epilogue to wrap up the loose ends.

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

Never Change by Shari Sakurai #bookreview #shortstory #vampires #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

Thane’s arms curved around his back and he felt the younger vampire trembling as he rested his head on Taku’s shoulder. So easily broken, Taku often forgot what it had been like in the beginning. For him things had been different, he reminded himself. He had already known what it felt like to take a life.

With Nagasaki in the grip of a bitter winter, two vampires struggle to hunt in the challenging conditions. When an opportunity to feed from a dying man presents itself, Taku insists that they take advantage of it. Yet his newly turned lover is left feeling devastated by their actions. Seeing Thane so distraught is more than Taku can bear and so he makes a decision to shield Thane as much as he can from the darker side to their existence. However his desire to protect Thane might one day cost him everything.

Never Change is a short story set in the Demon’s Blood universe.

I “met” this author through hosting Bad Moon Rising a few years ago. Although I haven’t read this series, no prior knowledge is required to read this short story.

I’m always a vampire fan – have been since watching the original Fright Night. Even when they were out of fashion for a while in the book world, I had faith they’d come back. I’ve never been one to bow to fashion anyway. It’s a bitter, cold winter in Nagasaki – not that the temperature affects Taku and Thane. But plenty of snow makes it difficult to hunt and limits their food sources. Not very many warm bodies are out and about. Being a fairly new vampire, Thane still struggles with their darker side. With years (centuries?) of experience, Taku is more practical about what they should do when coming across a dying man.

Don’t think the whole story deals with heavy themes. There’s a fun, light-hearted snowball fight between the two, and even a snowman. It’s a sweet novella, and I can tell I’d enjoy this series based on meeting these wonderful characters.

A Fun Holiday Weekend!

Hope everyone had a fantastic holiday weekend! This is a quick post thrown together this morning because I was too tired to write it when we got home last night. Hubby and I spent a couple of nights in Nashville. The weather was breezy and temps perfect in the low 80s. This picture was taken from a rooftop bar in the downtown area on Friday night. You can see the bridge lights were festive. I took some others, but when I checked my phone later, they weren’t there. Have no idea why.

Hubby golfed on Saturday. I’m not a golfer, but it was a gorgeous day to ride in the cart with him. I read and enjoy the scenery while he plays – and also laugh over some of his shots. I finished The Dead and the Dark that I featured on my WWW Wednesday post last week and it gets a big stamp of approval from me. I barely watched golf because I couldn’t look away from the book.

We came home yesterday morning (Nashville is only an hour away) and spent the day with friends hanging out by their pool and eating more food than we should. Fireworks were all over our neighborhood last night, and surprisingly Bond didn’t spend the evening hiding under the bed. Last year he didn’t emerge until they were over. Today will be spent catching up on book reviews and writing, writing, and more writing. I got my deadline from my publisher on the sequel to Subject A36, and I’ve got plenty of work to do.

Enjoy today if you’re still off from work, and have a great week!

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy #mythology #LGBT

Darkness blooms in bestselling author Kalynn Bayron’s new contemporary fantasy about a girl with a unique and deadly power.

Briseis has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch.

When Briseis’s aunt dies and wills her a dilapidated estate in rural New York, Bri and her parents decide to leave Brooklyn behind for the summer. Hopefully there, surrounded by plants and flowers, Bri will finally learn to control her gift. But their new home is sinister in ways they could never have imagined–it comes with a specific set of instructions, an old-school apothecary, and a walled garden filled with the deadliest botanicals in the world that can only be entered by those who share Bri’s unique family lineage.

When strangers begin to arrive on their doorstep, asking for tinctures and elixirs, Bri learns she has a surprising talent for creating them. One of the visitors is Marie, a mysterious young woman who Bri befriends, only to find that Marie is keeping dark secrets about the history of the estate and its surrounding community. There is more to Bri’s sudden inheritance than she could have imagined, and she is determined to uncover it . . . until a nefarious group comes after her in search of a rare and dangerous immortality elixir. Up against a centuries-old curse and the deadliest plant on earth, Bri must harness her gift to protect herself and her family.

From the bestselling author of Cinderella Is Dead comes another inspiring and deeply compelling story about a young woman with the power to conquer the dark forces descending around her.

There are so many stunning covers out there these days, and this is one of them. Between that and the Poison Ivy (an antiheroine from the Batman universe for all you non-nerds out there) vibes I was getting from the description, this book called to me.

All of the Greek mythology references in this story were unexpected, but being a mythology fan, it was a very welcome surprise. The MC’s name comes from a character in The Iliad. Since I read it decades ago, I didn’t make the connection until I Googled how to pronounce her name. I also loved learning about all the botanicals. It’s clear the author performed extensive research, and some of them are unique and fascinating, but also kind of scary.

One of my favorite things about this novel is Briseis’s family. Her two moms are perfect examples of loving, supportive parents – and they’re also a great comedy team. I laughed so many times over their conversations and comments and unlike many YA novels, these parents play a bigger role in the story. Friends have never been plentiful in Briseis’s life, and she’s hoping to make a fresh start after inheriting the estate and moving to a new town. From almost the moment they arrive, strangers begin showing up and asking for tinctures and elixirs and soon Briseis feels as if she’s found her niche in running an apothecary where she can help people. But she didn’t just inherit the house – it comes along with dark secrets, curses, and shocking surprises. I plowed through this book in two days – that should tell you how difficult it was to put down.

The ending comes with a huge cliffhanger, and you can bet I’ll be anxiously waiting for the next book in the series. If you’re a fan of urban fantasy with a splash of mystery and a dose of Greek mythology, you can’t go wrong with This Poison Heart.

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

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?

The Book of Accidents is my first Chuck Wendig book. Why I’ve deprived myself this long I have no idea. Love his writing, the characters, the way he stages a scene – I’m about 70% in, and I’m still not sure what’s going to happen. If you’re a horror fan, add this one to your TBR. It releases in July.

A family returns to their hometown—and to the dark past that haunts them still—in this masterpiece of literary horror by the New York Times bestselling author of Wanderers

Long ago, Nathan lived in a house in the country with his abusive father—and has never told his family what happened there.

Long ago, Maddie was a little girl making dolls in her bedroom when she saw something she shouldn’t have—and is trying to remember that lost trauma by making haunting sculptures.

Long ago, something sinister, something hungry, walked in the tunnels and the mountains and the coal mines of their hometown in rural Pennsylvania.

Now, Nate and Maddie Graves are married, and they have moved back to their hometown with their son, Oliver.

And now what happened long ago is happening again . . . and it is happening to Oliver. He meets a strange boy who becomes his best friend, a boy with secrets of his own and a taste for dark magic.

This dark magic puts them at the heart of a battle of good versus evil and a fight for the soul of the family—and perhaps for all of the world. But the Graves family has a secret weapon in this battle: their love for one another.

I finished The Final Girl Support Group last week. Several of you were interested when I mentioned it on my last WWW post. If you’re a fan of the 70s and 80s slasher movies, you’re the audience for this novel. Like those movies, it’s kind of campy, a little over the top, and the characters lack sound judgement most of the time.

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.

I seem to be on a horror/thriller binge lately. All I needed to see was ghost hunters in the description of The Dead and the Dark and I was smitten.

Courtney Gould’s thrilling debut The Dead and the Dark is about the things that lurk in dark corners, the parts of you that can’t remain hidden, and about finding home in places―and people―you didn’t expect.

The Dark has been waiting for far too long, and it won’t stay hidden any longer.

Something is wrong in Snakebite, Oregon. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and all fingers seem to point to TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have just returned to town. Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV’s ParaSpectors, has never been to Snakebite before, but the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there’s more secrets buried here than they originally let on.

Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, and she’s felt his presence ever since. But now that the Ortiz-Woodleys are in town, his ghost is following her and the only person Ashley can trust is the mysterious Logan. When Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who—or what—is haunting Snakebite, their investigation reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that neither of them are ready for. As the danger intensifies, they realize that their growing feelings for each other could be a light in the darkness. 

HMS Lanternfish by C.S. Boyack #bookreview #fantasy #pirates #TuesdayBookBlog

The Lanternfish crew completed their original mission, but got exposed to a more global problem. An entire continent is at war, headed up by a head-strong young king with dreams of power, and pushed from behind by a mysterious religious order known as the Fulminites.

Rather than let their country fall under the iron boot of conquest, James and his crew set sail once more to see what kind of muscle Lanternfish can lend to the war effort. Acting precariously under an unofficial charter as a privateer, even his allies aren’t always his friends.

HMS Lanternfish explores new worlds on its way to war, and drifts considerably off course. It features an international crew of characters, and for fans of the first book, the root monsters are back, too. Tall ships, a few con games, martial arts, and everything you loved about the original book is all returning.

Hoist the colors and wheel out the guns. Lanternfish is taking to the high seas once more.

My favorite root monsters are back! I think there were some other characters in this story also?

I was anxious to get back on the high seas with this crew of characters – I’m just sorry it took me so long to read the book. James is called out of retirement and into the privateer business. That may not be a bad thing, because it seems he has no talent for wine making – he makes a much better pirate.

Boyack never fails to deliver a wildly imaginative story, and with this second book in the Lanternfish series, his record remains intact. James and his crew encounter new characters, epic battles, and exciting adventures. Serang remains a strong character, and I was happy to see her return to the crew after being rescued from a very precarious situation.

The comedic root monsters still remain my favorites, and if the author ever decides to offer merch featuring them, I’ll be his first customer. Those critters work hard, but they also party hard.

With one more book to come in this series, I’ll be excited for its release.

Pride Month Book Recs and #AmWatching

I’m a little late recommending books for Pride Month, but I’ve come across some amazing ones in the past few weeks. You may have seen Blood Like Magic and This Poison Heart on my WWW Wednesday posts, and I reviewed Blood Like Magic last week HERE. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe came highly recommended by friends in my book club, and when I received an ARC of its sequel, I had to backtrack and finally get around to listening to the first. I had to mention The House in the Cerulean Sea again. I can’t say enough about this book. I’d love to find time for a reread.

I can’t believe I forgot to mention I saw A Quiet Place 2 in an actual movie theater a few weeks ago! Hubby had no interest in seeing it, but I have no problem seeing movies by myself. I actually enjoy it. I get there early for a good seat, then read my Kindle until the previews start. It was just as tense and compelling as the first and, being a Cillian Murphy fan, I was anxious to see what his character brought to the story. I was also excited to eat theater popcorn again – with butter, of course. Never even thought about not being able to taste or smell it, so it was kind of a letdown. I’ve noted a slight improvement in my sense of smell lately, so I’m hopeful it’s making a gradual comeback. Then I’ll get more popcorn.

Have a great week!

Thistledown – Midsummer Bedlam by Teagan Riordain Geneviene #bookreview #folktales #myths

Thistledown ― Midsummer Bedlam is a wildly whimsical tale of faeries. It was originally written for a grownup audience, but it is suitable for children ages eight and over.

Thistledown is a world of color and light. It has faeries, hummingbirds, and ancient books of magic. Bedlam Thunder is a misfit faery who is afraid of heights. She is also a seer who has terrible visions of a parallel world devoid of color and brightness. The hate and darkness of that colorless world is seeping into Thistledown. Will Bedlam and her friends be able to save their home?
Thistledown ― Midsummer Bedlam, with its radiant creatures and faeries will lift your imagination to new heights. 

I first read Thistledown when it was a weekly serial on the author’s blog, but it was nice to have all the installments together in one book.

I’ve commented more than once about this author’s wildly creative imagination, and this adventure is no different. She’s created an enchanting, colorful world full of magic that’s home to numerous faeries with kaleidoscopic names. And also the coolest hummingbird I’ve come across, Bob (someone has to have a “normal” name). When Bedlam has disturbing visions of a parallel, colorless world filled with hate and darkness, it’s up to her and her friends to band together and save their home from the same fate. Their quest takes the reader through a mind-bending world filled with wondrous creations (hallucinating bats!). You may find yourself holding your breath when all seems lost and wonder how these faeries and Bob will manage to save Thistledown.

This is a delightful tale that will appeal to both children and adults. As a warning, it’s also likely to cause dreams of visiting Thistledown. I know I’d love to meet Bob!

Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury #bookreview #YA #urbanfantasy #scifi #TuesdayBookBlog

A rich, dark urban fantasy debut following a teen witch who is given a horrifying task: sacrificing her first love to save her family’s magic. The problem is, she’s never been in love—she’ll have to find the perfect guy before she can kill him.

After years of waiting for her Calling—a trial every witch must pass in order to come into their powers—the one thing Voya Thomas didn’t expect was to fail. When Voya’s ancestor gives her an unprecedented second chance to complete her Calling, she agrees—and then is horrified when her task is to kill her first love. And this time, failure means every Thomas witch will be stripped of their magic.

Voya is determined to save her family’s magic no matter the cost. The problem is, Voya has never been in love, so for her to succeed, she’ll first have to find the perfect guy—and fast. Fortunately, a genetic matchmaking program has just hit the market. Her plan is to join the program, fall in love, and complete her task before the deadline. What she doesn’t count on is being paired with the infuriating Luc—how can she fall in love with a guy who seemingly wants nothing to do with her?

With mounting pressure from her family, Voya is caught between her morality and her duty to her bloodline. If she wants to save their heritage and Luc, she’ll have to find something her ancestor wants more than blood. And in witchcraft, blood is everything.

The main reason I requested this book, other than that beautiful cover, is the high stakes/high pressure situation Voya is put in and the mention of witches and genetics.

I didn’t realize this was a futuristic Toronto setting (why aren’t more books set in Canada?), but that made me like it even more. I’m pretty sure I’ve never read about futuristic witches. The mixture of urban fantasy and sci-fi was also surprising, and now I’m wondering why there aren’t more novels with this blend of genres.

The first several pages are an introduction to Voya’s family – and it’s a large one. Honestly, a family tree might have helped with this dysfunctional bunch. They argue, insult, and mess with one another, but it’s clear the love runs deeply, and family is a priority. In Voya’s case, she puts everyone ahead of her own interests and desires and suffers from a severe case of low self esteem. She’s been anxious for her Calling, but fears she’ll be the first of her family in decades not to come into her powers. Flawed and full of self-doubt, you can’t help rooting for her. Voya is also a talented cook, using some of her own original recipes as well as her ancestors’ (yes, I totally drooled – but maybe not over the goat dishes), and I enjoyed learning about the Trinidadian culture.

Luc (thrilled he’s a trans character) is a tough nut to crack. He initially comes across as an arrogant genius, but with Voya’s prodding his walls gradually disintegrate. As a complex character I still think there are several layers left undiscovered, and I’m not sure how I felt about him at the end of the novel. It’s an ending I couldn’t have predicted.

Voya’s Calling is a seemingly impossible task with terrible consequences no matter which decision she makes. I had no idea how this would play out and almost dreaded seeing what she’d do. The magic system is well thought out and, although complicated, is explained well. One of my favorite things about this world is how accepting it is of all genders, identities, and sexualities, and the characters are diverse. At nearly five hundred pages, this is a long one for YA, but it’s the first of a series and contains the initial world-building.

Impossible stakes, magic, a dysfunctional, loving family, first love, and killings, Blood Like Magic contains a multi-layered plot and a MC asked to make an impossible choice. I’m axious to see where this series goes next.

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