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.

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 just started this book yesterday, and the reviews look good. All I needed to know was that it included dragons.

Dani and Eden Rivera were both born to kill dragons, but the sisters couldn’t be more different. For Dani, dragon slaying takes a back seat to normal high school life, while Eden prioritizes training above everything else. Yet they both agree on one thing: it’s kill or be killed where dragons are concerned.

Until Dani comes face-to-face with one and forges a rare and magical bond with him. As she gets to know Nox, she realizes that everything she thought she knew about dragons is wrong. With Dani lost to the dragons, Eden turns to the mysterious and alluring sorcerers to help save her sister. Now on opposite sides of the conflict, the sisters will do whatever it takes to save the other. But the two are playing with magic that is more dangerous than they know, and there is another, more powerful enemy waiting for them both in the shadows.

I just finished Cazadora over the weekend, and what a powerful followup to the first book in the series! So many timely topics – I can’t recommend this series enough.

In Cazadora, Romina Garber weaves together Argentine folklore and what it means to be illegal in a timely, intimate, and emotionally powerful narrative.

Werewolves. Witches. Romance. Resistance.

Enter a world straight out of Argentine folklore…

Following the events of Lobizona, Manu and her friends cross the mystical border into Kerana—a cursed realm in Argentina—searching for allies and a hiding place. As they chase down leads about the Coven—a mythical resistance manada that might not even exist—the Cazadores chase down leads about Manu, setting up traps to capture and arrest her.

Just as it seems the Cazadores have Manu and her friends cornered, the Coven answers their call for help. As Manu catches her breath among these non-conforming Septimus, she discovers they need a revolution as much as she does.

But is she the right one to lead them? After all, hybrids aren’t just outlawed. They’re feared and reviled. What happens when the Coven learns of Manu’s dual heritage? Will they still protect her? Or will they betray her?

And after running this far, for this long—how much farther can Manu go before her feet get tired, and she stops to take a stand?

Blood Like Magic is this author’s debut, but she had me at rich, dark urban fantasy. The MC being a witch sealed the deal.

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. 

Curse of the Specter Queen by Jenny Elder Moke #bookreview #YA #mystery #historicalfiction #TuesdayBookBlog

MAY THE HAZEL BRING YOU WISDOM AND THE ASPEN GUIDE AND PROTECT YOU…

Samantha Knox put away her childish fantasies of archaeological adventure the day her father didn’t return home from the Great War, retreating to the safety of the antique bookshop where she works. But when a mysterious package arrives with a damaged diary inside, Sam’s peaceful life is obliterated. Ruthless men intent on reclaiming the diary are after Sam, setting her and her best friend, along with her childhood crush, on a high-stakes adventure that lands them in the green hills outside Dublin, Ireland. Here they discover an ancient order with a dark purpose – to perform an occult ritual that will raise the Specter Queen, the Celtic goddess of vengeance and death, to bring about a war unlike any the world has ever seen. To stop them, Sam must solve a deviously complex cipher – one that will lead her on a treasure hunt to discover the ancient relic at the heart of the ritual: a bowl carved from the tree of life. Will she find the bowl and stop the curse of the Specter Queen, or will the ancient order bring about the end of the world?

Indiana Jones gets a refresh with this female-driven mystery adventure, set in the 1920s, full of ciphers, ancient relics, and heart-stopping action – the first in a brand-new series! 

As an Indiana Jones fan, I was all in after reading this description. A 1920s setting, ciphers, ancient relics, and lots of action? Sold.

Sam Knox is my kind of people – she treasures books. In the bookstore where she’s employed, she repairs and catalogues them and speaks to them as if they’re people. She has an insatiable curiosity about the world she lives in and dreams of traveling beyond the small town where she resides. And she doesn’t have to wait long. One mysterious diary, a life-threatening bookshop fire, and a frantic rush to Chicago later, she soon finds herself on a ship to Ireland.

Intelligent, determined, loyal, and selfless, Sam is a relatable main character. Seeing her step outside the comfort zone of the bookshop was thrilling, and I enjoyed learning how her mind works while solving the puzzles and following clues. She’s certainly not afraid to take risks. Bennett shares her love of archeology, and the hints of romance between them are sweet – they’re like a double dose of cinnamon rolls. Jo adds some lighter moments to the story – she’s one crafty, resourceful girl and a force to be reckoned with. She also challenges her brother Bennett at every turn.

This is an enthralling mystery with high stakes and surprising turns that takes you on an action-packed adventure overseas on an ocean liner and across the rolling hills of Ireland With shades of Indiana Jones, The Mummy, and National Treasure, this is a novel I’d recommend to readers who enjoy puzzles and piecing together clues. I’m hoping the author has plans to make this into a series.

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