Book Review: Sim 299 (I Am Sleepless #1) by Johan Twiss

  • Title: Sim 299
  • Series: I Am Sleepless #1
  • Author: Johan Twiss
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Would I recommend: Reminiscent of Ender’s Game and Ready Player One, yet not the same. An excellent sci-fi read, even if you don’t think you like sci-fi.

From Goodreads:

While the others slept, Aidan spent hours each night running sim after sim. Although he was only a twelve-year cadet, he had completed more simulations than any prime— ever.

“You are setting history,” General Estrago told him. “No one has ever made it to the current simulation you are attempting. The other Masters and I are eager to see what comes next.”

So was Aidan.

The planet Ethos is at war with a mysterious enemy known as the Splicers. Their only successful defense is the Prime Initiative. All newborns with the compatible genetic code are taken from their families and injected with the Prime Stimulus. Each child that survives the stimulus develops an extraordinary ability and is conscripted into the military for training.

After turning twelve, Aidan is moved to the upper-class at the Mount Fegorio training complex. His special gifts allow him unprecedented success in the virtual training simulations, advancing him further than any prime cadet in history. No one knows what lies after sim 299, not even Director Tuskin, the ruthless and reclusive ruler of their planet. But something, or someone, has been guiding Aidan there. If he can pass the final tests, he may discover the key to ending the Splicer War.

My review:

My first introduction to the writing of Johan Twiss came with 4 Years Trapped in My Mind Palace (see my Goodreads review here). That was an amazing book, and when I saw the opportunity to review Sim 299 on BookSirens, I jumped on it.

Johan Twiss has created a fascinating and slightly disturbing world, where we see infants on the planet Ethos tested to see if they’re suitable for the Prime injection. The injection gives them special abilities that can benefit the planet in its battle against the Splicers, but with those abilities also come debilitating defects. Aidan is unique in that he has not one, but two Prime abilities. His abilities also don’t seem to come with the usual defects.

Also, he doesn’t sleep. Hence the title. During the hours when everyone else sleeps, Aidan runs battle simulations. He’s gotten farther than any other Prime has. But now he’s stuck on Simulation 299. Can he get past it? And if he does, what happens then?

This is solid sci-fi, but it isn’t sci-fi to the point that people who aren’t readers of the genre would feel overwhelmed by it. The world is built out pretty well, and the Prime abilities were explained clearly enough that most readers should get the gist of them. The book is very readable, and the characters are fleshed out nicely for the most part. They’re preteens/teenagers, and they act accordingly.

The Primes are grouped by age rather than ability, and I love that Twiss has them forming their own kind of family. These are children who’ve never known the love of a mother or father, but they love each other and are deeply concerned for each other.

The animals were one of my favorite little tidbits in the book. There are some fantastical animals on Ethos, creatures like the cobramoth and the burning battlant, the hippophant and the kangadog. We don’t know exactly how they came to be – genetic experiments? some freakish accident? – but the drawings are just wonderful.

I Am Sleepless reminded me a bit of Ender’s Game, a bit of Ready Player One. But it was very much its own work. Twiss has created characters and an environment that I want to know more about. The book did end on a bit of a cliffhanger, but that only makes me want to hurry up and read the next in the series!

Thanks to BookSirens for an advance reader copy of the book. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

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Book Review and Giveaway: Infinity’s Gateway by James Parker | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Published by: Morgan James Publishing
Series: The Infinity’s Gateway Trilogy
Pages: 361 Pages
Pub Date: January 26th, 2021
Categories: Science Fiction / Adventure / Action
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Every year, all across the planet, people simply vanish, completely disappear and are never seen again. Some areas of the world are well known for this phenomenon. Infinity’s Gateway opens with a very famous incident that took place just after the end of World War II with the United States Navy. The story then jumps to the present day with an unexplainable event that occurs off the coast of Florida, an event that cannot be ignored by the military.
The Navy ship Eclipse and its crew are sent to investigate, but after several days come up empty. Two days before returning to port, the event reoccurs, and the Eclipse is caught up in something it cannot escape. The Eclipse and its crew suddenly find themselves completely isolated, all communication lost, surrounded by a terribly hostile environment where each day is a struggle to survive. Infinity’s Gateway is an intense, action packed story of survival, self-reliance, and discovery.


Infinity’s Gateway is an engaging science fiction thriller with tones of Michael Crichton Tom Clancy. To fans of the science fiction genre it will feel like an old friend with a surprising, and exciting new makeover.” —Joseph Mauceri, Executive Editor,


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I was a kid in the 70s. The Bermuda Triangle got a lot of airtime back them. There was even a movie made about it. It was this big mystery – what happened to the ships and people and things that went into that area and were never heard from or seen again?
In Infinity’s Gateway, James S. Parker does a fabulous job of envisioning what might have happened. The action starts right off the bat, in the WWII era. During a training exercise, several Navy planes go missing. They’re there and then, they aren’t. No one can explain it.
Fast forward to the present day. An anomaly of some kind is sighted out in the ocean. The Navy sends the Eclipse, a top-of-the-line research vessel, and personnel both military and civilian to investigate. The Eclipse carries Argos, the biggest, baddest, smartest, indeed, most self-aware computer ever created. Surely with Argos online, they can figure out what this thing is.
From there, the mystery and adventure just deepens. I’m not going to tell you what happens. Parker does a bang-up job of that. Let’s just say there’s a lot of action, some  unexpected twists and turns, suspense, intrigue, and some pretty out-of-this world stuff. It is a fascinating imagining of how the Bermuda Triangle might operate.
It didn’t take me too long to get engrossed in this book, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next in the series. Parker is working on a screenplay request, and I for one think it will make a great movie or series. I’d even pay full movie ticket prices to go see it (and I don’t do that often).
If you like whopping good sci-fi stories with a bit of history to them, well researched and well written, pick up Infinity’s Gateway. Five super stars from me.
Scroll on down and enter the giveaway, too! Somebody’s gotta win. Might as well be you!

Every now and then author James S. Parker has a vision. And, when he does, he sees people and places off in the misty distance. Sometimes these visions are futuristic and filled with danger. Most often they are mystical, with good and evil and a cast of characters who beautifully represent both.

In his high school years James experienced a spine-tingling brush with the supernatural. That single event – complete with the sound of heavy footsteps and an invisible visitor – etched forever in his mind the idea that life is much more mysterious than we oftentimes admit — that the spiritual world is all around us, and that its impact on us cannot be denied.

Though he sees through a glass darkly, he writes as though he has been granted a glimpse into the unknown, one that has informed his novels and their powerful stories of good and evil and the struggles we all face every day to assure that good wins.

Infinity’s Gateway, the first book in a fascinating sci-fi adventure trilogy, is his latest work. James lives in San Antonio, Texas with his wife Margaret. He is available for in-person and online book club visits.

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Book Review: A Deception at Thornecrest (An Amory Ames Mystery #7) by Ashley Weaver

  • Title: A Deception at Thornecrest
  • Series: An Amory Ames Mystery #7
  • Author: Ashley Weaver
  • Genre: Cozy Mystery
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Would I recommend: A delightful work of historical fiction set in Britain, with a mystery to boot. Worth the read!

From Goodreads:

Amory Ames is alone at her country house Thornecrest, enjoying her last few weeks of peace and quiet as she prepares for the imminent arrival of her baby. Her husband, Milo, is in London on business, and Amory is content to catch up on her correspondence, organize the nursery, and avoid the well-meaning if rather overbearing company of the ladies in the village as they prepare for the Springtide Festival. But then a woman appears on her doorstep, also claiming to be Mrs. Ames, Milo’s wife.

Amory’s marriage has had its ups and downs in the past, but her faith in her husband has been restored, and Milo has been nothing but thrilled about becoming a father. Though the supposed second Mrs. Ames seems earnest, Amory is convinced she must be mistaken, a belief that Milo confirms upon his homecoming. However, when a second unexpected visitor arrives at Thornecrest, secret identities and whirlwind romances appear to be becoming par for the course.

It’s not until the day of the festival, when Milo’s stable hand Bertie is found dead, that the strange characters appearing in town begin to seem more sinister, and Amory is determined to uncover the killer in the crowd. 

My review:

I seem to start a lot of series somewhere other than the start, and this is one of them. A Deception at Thornecrest is the seventh in the Amory Ames Mystery series, and I understand from reading other reviews that it’s probably preferable to start at the beginning. I was still able to follow along and enjoy the story, though, even though I jumped in at the most current installment.

Here, we find Amory and Milo Ames back home – Milo’s family home in Allingcross, a small English village. They’ve worked through some challenges in their relationship, and they’re preparing for the birth of their first child. What they aren’t prepared for is a young woman showing up, also claiming to be Mrs. Ames. After all Amory and Milo have been through, is he really a bigamist?

That mystery is quickly unraveled when Milo’s half-brother Darien comes knocking. A half-brother that Milo had no idea he had. Darien has left the young Ms. Prescott (Mrs. Ames the second) behind, and he’s soon involved in a dalliance with a local village girl, Marena. He’s a trifler when it comes to women, but he never expected that to lead to him being the prime suspect in a murder. Marena’s former sweetheart Bertie turns up dead during the Springtide Festival, and Darien is first on the inspector’s list of who might be the guilty party.

This was a delightful read! Amory is a wonderful heroine. She’s inquisitive and not inclined to slow down on her investigating simply because she’s just days away from giving birth. Her relationship with Milo is pretty realistic – they may not agree on everything, and they may not always communicate perfectly and clearly, but you can tell they do love each other.

The other characters in the book are interesting as well. Lady Alma Bedford, daughter of an earl, whose horses are the primary objects of her affection. Jane Hodges, Marena’s mother, a rather harsh and unfeeling woman, or so it seems. Mrs. Busby, the vicar’s wife – her daughter died in an accident and now Marena is something of a second daughter to her. Darien, the previously unknown half-brother who Milo may or may not want to allow into his life. All were written in sufficient detail to let you feel like you knew a little bit about them.

This is also a very clean read, like it was written during the 1930s in which it’s set. Not a lot of swearing or graphic details. I appreciate that.

A female protagonist I couldn’t help but like, an engaging mystery, a lovely village setting – A Deception at Thornecrest gets four solid stars from me. I’ll go back and read the rest of the series now.

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Book Review and Blog Tour: Hush Little Girl (Detective Josie Quinn #11) by Lisa Regan

From Goodreads:

Dressed in pajamas covered with stars, the little girl’s body is perfectly still, her arms folded neatly over her chest. The wildflowers decorating her hair scatter across the grass in the sharp breeze. Her lips are parted slightly, as if to whisper goodnight for the very last time…

When twelve-year-old Holly Mitchell’s fragile little body is found on the steps of a mountainside church in the small town of Denton, a doll made from pine cones clasped tightly to her chest, Detective Josie Quinn rushes to attend the scene. She knows this little girl’s angelic face, her mother had offered Josie help when she’d needed it most.

Searching the girl’s house, Josie is devastated to find that Holly’s mother is dead too, and her little sister is missing. But why has this family home been stripped of all sharp objects? Re-tracing her steps, Josie finally finds a secret hiding place with Holly’s sister inside, terrified, but alive. Moments later, another doll made of twigs turns up.

Certain the killer is close by, Josie holds the little girl tight and tries to coax answers from her, but it’s clear the pile of burnt photographs and letters found in the greenhouse is her only lead. No one is safe until Josie can figure out the dangerous secret that has escaped this remote family home.

Just when Josie is finally closing in on the killer, the unthinkable happens, a tragedy that shakes her to her very core. And on the windshield of her car: a third wooden doll. Could stopping this twisted monster from taking more innocent lives come at the ultimate price for Josie?

An absolutely gripping rollercoaster ride of a crime thriller from an Amazon, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. Perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Robert Dugoni and Rachel Caine.

My review:

You may have read my review of my introduction to the world of Josie Quinn, Breathe Your Last (affiliate link). (If not, go take a look!) I was absolutely blown away by Lisa Regan’s ability to craft an engrossing story that delivered a big punch with the reveal. I had high hopes for this, her newest book.

It delivers.

Josie and Noah are getting married. A joyous occasion! But before it even gets started, the celebration comes to a screeching halt when the body of a young girl, a girl Josie knows, is found on the steps of the chapel.

Josie is compelled to investigate. She knows this girl. Her mother helped Josie in a time of need, and Josie can’t just go on with her wedding and let her team handle it. That isn’t how she rolls. And when she learns that the girl’s mother is dead and her younger sister is missing, things really kick into high gear.

Josie is quite possibly one of the best protagonists I’ve read in a long time. She is driven, not by the desire to be in the spotlight, but by a need to solve the case. She cares deeply about justice for those who are killed on her watch. And as much as she knows that getting emotionally invested in her cases can lead to trouble, sometimes she does it anyway.

And once again, I had a hard time putting this book down. I did only because I had to sleep. The action grabs you and sucks you in, and you just cannot bear to stop reading because you gotta know what comes next. I found myself emotionally invested in Holly and Emily and their family, and I will own up to tearing up in places.

Ms. Regan also did a good job with her treatment of mental health issues. She writes her characters and explains their struggles sympathetically and realistically. I just wanted to reach into the book and hug them at times.

To sum up, if you’re looking for an action-packed, edge-of-your-seat, gotta-know-what-happens-next read that will keep you guessing until the end, you cannot go wrong with Josie Quinn. Five white-knuckle stars from me.

Author Bio:

Lisa Regan is a USA TodayWall Street Journal bestselling author and Amazon bestselling crime novelist.  She has a bachelor’s degree in English and Master of Education Degree from Bloomsburg University.  She is a member of Sisters In Crime, Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. Find out more at her website:

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Cover Reveal: Only Time Will Tell (Charles & Company Romance, #2) by Amy Matayo

If y’all have been reading along, you’ve seen my review of the first in Amy Matayo’s Charles & Company Romance series, Before Time Runs Out (affiliate link). Well, guess what?! She’s got the second in the series coming out in June, and today I’m sharing the cover!

I tell you what, I’d pick up these books just for the elegant covers, even if I didn’t know what an phenomenal author Ms. Matayo is. I’m not a romance reader, and yet here I am, reading romance and loving it.


For newly published author Eliza Sterling, having her first book launch party at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a dream come true. When your book is a modern-day retelling of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and the Met is hosting a display of rarely seen Dickens’ artifacts at the same time, she chalks it up to a case of good timing.

For publicly disgraced, former best-selling author Lew McDonnell, seeing a debut author having her first book launch party at the Met brings up all sorts of resentments. Especially when the book this lady is promoting just happens to be one of his old manuscripts that she’s clearly plagiarized and claimed for herself. 

When heated words are exchanged in front of a display case containing an original copy of Great Expectations, both Lew and Eliza are prepared for a fight. But they aren’t prepared for the room to shake, for the display case to shatter, or for the old book to send them both careening toward a new existence entirely.

When Lew wakes up on the floor of the Charles Dickens museum in London to see Eliza working there as a tour guide, he knows something has gone horribly wrong. It’s the same day and time, but suddenly he’s the best-selling author headlining his own book launch again, and Eliza is serving him drinks and working all hours to make ends meet. And the weirdest thing of all? 

Lew is the only one who remembers their former lives.  

Only Time Will Tell releases on June 3, and you can preorder here (affiliate link). What are you waiting for? Click that link and preorder!

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Book Blitz: The Takeaway Men by Meryl Ain | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

By Meryl Ain
Publisher: SparkPress
Pub Date: August 4th, 2020
Pages: 265 pages
Categories: Historical / Jewish Literature / Sibling Fiction / Holocaust

With the cloud of the Holocaust still looming over them, twin sisters Bronka and Johanna Lubinski and their parents arrive in the US from a Displaced Persons Camp. In the years after World War II, they experience the difficulties of adjusting to American culture as well as the burgeoning fear of the Cold War.

Years later, the discovery of a former Nazi hiding in their community brings the Holocaust out of the shadows. As the girls get older, they start to wonder about their parents’ pasts, and they begin to demand answers. But it soon becomes clear that those memories will be more difficult and painful to uncover than they could have anticipated.

Poignant and haunting, The Takeaway Men explores the impact of immigration, identity, prejudice, secrets, and lies on parents and children in mid-twentieth-century America.


“At a time when the darkness of the Holocaust is being whitewashed, Meryl Ain’s remarkable debut novel illuminates the postwar Jewish American landscape like a truth-seeking torch. An emotionally rich and lovingly told saga of survivors, with great sensitivity to what was lost, buried, and resurrected.” — Thane Rosenbaum, author of The Golems of Gotham, Second Hand Smoke, and Elijah Visible.

“The author’s tale is sensitively composed, a thoughtful exploration into the perennially thorny issues of religious identity, assimilation, and the legacy of suffering.” — Kirkus

Purchase Links: 

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Meryl Ain’s articles and essays have appeared in Huffington Post, The New York Jewish Week, The New York Times, Newsday, and other publications. In 2014, she co-authored the award-winning book, The Living Memories Project: Legacies That Last, and in 2016, wrote a companion workbook, My Living Memories Project Journal.  She is a sought-after speaker and has been interviewed on television, radio, and podcasts. She is a career educator and is proud to be both a teacher and student of history. She has also worked as a school administrator.

The Takeaway Men is the result of her life-long quest to learn more about the Holocaust, a thirst that was first triggered by reading The Diary of Anne Frank in the sixth grade. While teaching high school history, she introduced her students to the study of the Holocaust. At the same time, she also developed an enduring fascination with teaching about and researching the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case. An interview with Robert Meeropol, the younger son of the Rosenbergs, is featured in her book, The Living Memories Project. The book also includes an interview with Holocaust survivor, Boris Chartan, the founder of the Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, New York.

Meryl holds a BA from Queens College, an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University, and an Ed.D. from Hofstra University. She is a lifetime member of Hadassah and an active supporter of UJA-Federation of New York.  She lives in New York with her husband, Stewart. They have three married sons and six grandchildren. This is her first novel.

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Book Blitz and Review: Stiff Lizard (A Spy Shop Mystery #3) by Lisa Haneberg | Lone Star Book Blog Tours


Series: A Spy Shop Mystery
Publisher: Written Pursuits Press
Pages: 364 pages
Pub Date: March 13th, 2021
Categories: Women Sleuths / Cozy Mystery / Private Investigator / Humor

Rodent Roger, a popular Galveston Island exterminator, goes missing the day after he tells private investigator and spy shop owner Xena Cali about a concerning uptick in green iguana sightings on the island. They’re crapping in people’s boats and falling from trees. Are the lizards swimming over from Florida to escape the pythons, or is it something more nefarious? Can Xena help untangle the mess before the raucous reptiles take over Galveston?

Ultima Penelope Roger is a best-selling writer of romance novels. The Lizard Liquidators have set up shop on Galveston Island. Herpetologist Quintana Flores, PhD, works on a bizarre cruise ship that sails out of the Port of Galveston. Sasha Barlow is a driven junior reporter who’ll do anything to get the story. Ned “The Pelican Man” Quinn writes a column about bird necropsies. Captain Ethan Slaughter is the head of the Major Crimes team at the Galveston Police Department. Xena and her team will have to partner with and/or battle this cast of characters and others to solve what becomes a disturbing murder investigation.

Stiff Lizard is the third full-length book in the Spy Shop Mystery series. If you like fast-paced crime novels, clever satire, and gritty beach towns, then you’ll love Lisa Haneberg’s humorous and contemporary cozy caper.



“Lisa Haneberg has a wicked sense of humor. She can also write a fast-moving, totally original mystery.” — Alan Rinzler

Lisa Haneberg’s newest entry in the Spy Shop Mystery Series lives up to its predecessors. A good number of laughs, lots of intrigue, a bit of titillation, lots of interesting information, and lots of mystery make for a good read.” – Verified
purchaser from Amazon 

 Purchase Links
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When a book starts off with the main character letting herself be tased to help train older folks in self-defense, you know it’s going to be quite a ride. Stiff Lizard didn’t disappoint. I absolutely loved it! Xena Cali is a private investigator and spy shop owner. Rodent Roger (yes, his actual name) is the island’s top exterminator, and he’s concerned about a sudden rash of green iguanas, especially when he’s seeing flyers for Lizard Liquidators. Is someone moving in on Rodent’s territory, or is there a more sinister motive? Before Xena can answer that question, Rodent goes missing. His wife, Ultima Penelope Roger, hires Xena to find him.
There’s a fun secondary story line that has Dora, one of Xena’s employees, going way undercover to investigate a cruise singer. The cruise is most definitely NOT your typical Carnival Cruise, and Dora’s reports are absolutely hilarious. I think she’s my favorite character. I’m probably pretty close to her in age and mindset, and I expect my insights on an “adventurous” cruise would be similar to hers. I’d read more of the series just for Dora.
Stiff Lizard has something for everyone: a strong female protagonist who does some crazy parkour and who’s really trying to figure out how to people better (I can relate, Xena – to the peopling, not the parkour); a fascinating cast of characters; a good mystery; and lots and lots of offbeat humor. It’s the third in a series. I didn’t have any problem following the storyline, but now I have to read the first two.
Stiff Lizard may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it sure was my shot of whiskey! Five stars for Ms. Haneberg, and Xena Cali is now on my must-read list.

Lisa Haneberg loves to explore Galveston Island’s gritty back streets, stellar seafood joints, magnificent natural areas, and all points in between. In addition to the Spy Shop Mysteries, she’s a blogger and has authored over a dozen nonfiction books. She earned an MFA degree from Goddard College and a BS in Behavioral Sciences from the University of Maryland.

Before writing crime fiction, she was a seasoned human resources professional with a strange attraction to gnarly internal investigations. She lives with her husband and dog in Lexington, Kentucky. Lisa once owned a home on Galveston Island and is a frequent visitor.


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Can’t-Wait Wednesday: Under the Cover of Murder by Lauren Elliott

Y’all, I just about fell off the planet the last couple of weeks! I was working on a proofreading project that took up all my spare time. Plus, we’re trying to pack and move. We’re moving on Easter weekend. It is chaos and madness up in here. I am tired.

But today, I am back for another round of Can’t-Wait Wednesday! Huzzah! Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme that highlights books soon to be released, the ones we’re excited about but haven’t read yet. It’s hosted by Wishful Endings, and was formerly hosted by Breaking the Spine. Y’all can check out all of this week’s Can’t-Wait Wednesday posts here.

Title: Under the Cover of Murder

Series: Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery #6

Author: Lauren Elliott

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Publication Date: March 30, 2021

Publisher: Kensington


Bookshop owner and maid of honor Addie Greyborne vows to catch the killer who crashed her best friend’s wedding…

It promises to be Greyborne Harbor’s wedding of the year. The impending nuptials of Serena Chandler and Zach Ludlow will take place aboard his family’s luxurious super-yacht, currently moored in the harbor and the talk of the town. But on the day of the wedding, a man’s body washes up on the beach with no ID, only a torn page from a book in his pocket. As owner of Beyond the Page Books and Curios, bibliophile Addie is called in to identify the book, but she cannot.

The morning following the extravagant ceremony, a second body washes ashore and Addie has a sinking feeling that the two deaths are connected. While the guests are held on the yacht as the police investigate, at least Addie can peruse Zach’s father’s rare books library on board. A copy of Agatha Christie’s first Hercule Poirot novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, provides a clue that the killer may still be on the ship—but narrowing down the suspects without becoming the next victim may prove a truly Herculean task… 

My thoughts:

I love Lauren Elliott’s Beyond the Page Bookstore Mysteries! Addie is a likeable heroine, and any mystery set in a bookstore is tops in my opinion. These are always a treat to read, and I’m sure this one will be no exception. It comes out March 30 – just around the corner!

If you’re looking for a good cozy mystery, you can preorder Under the Cover of Murder here (affiliate link).

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Book Review and Giveaway: All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone by John Jacobson | Lone Star Book Blog Tours


Pages: 352
Pub Date: February 23, 2021
Categories: Historical Fiction / Action Adventure / Western
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All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone is the rollicking adventure story of Lincoln Smith, a young Texan living at the beginning of the twentieth century, who thinks of himself as the last true cowboy. He longs for the days of the Old West, when men like his father, a famous Texas Ranger, lived by the chivalric code. Lincoln finds himself hopelessly out of time and place in the fast-changing United States of the new century. When he gets his heart broken by a sweetheart who doesn’t appreciate his anachronistic tendencies, he does what any sensible young romantic would do: he joins the French Foreign Legion. 
On his way to an ancient and exotic country at the edge of the Sahara, Lincoln encounters a number of curious characters and strange adventures, from a desert hermit who can slow up time to a battle with a crocodile cult that worships the god of death. He meets them all with his own charming brand of courage and resourcefulness.
Hang onto your hats when you open the cover of All the Cowboys Ain’t Gone, because you are in for one heck of a ride! Lincoln Smith is living in the wrong time. He longs for the days of the Wild West, when his now-missing father was one of the best Texas Rangers out there, when there were wide-open spaces, when the cowboy was king. His mother makes sure he gets a proper education, but he longs for a life of adventure, far from the clutter and noise of modern machinery. After his heart is broken, he aims to head off and join the French Foreign Legion, as any adventurous young man would.
I’ve always been a fan of the Indiana Jones movies, and Lincoln has a touch of Indy about him, with a little Clint Eastwood for good measure. He gets into some crazy scrapes, and the story includes hidden passages, a hermit in the desert with a message for him, a crocodile-worshiping cult, and of course, some good ol’ fisticuffs. It might seem like Lincoln has better luck than is reasonably possible, but that’s part of this book’s charm! You just suspend your disbelief, jump into the story, and enjoy.
The good guys are good, the bad guys are clearly bad – no question about who you want to be cheering for. There’s a little sparkle of romance with a strong-willed ambassador’s daughter. After all, it wouldn’t do to have our hero’s heart broken for good. The latter part of the book brings a twist that I DID NOT see coming, and it was glorious. I might have actually teared up a bit when I read it.
And I think a story like this might be just what we need right now. In a world that’s gone mad over the past year or so, a rootin’ tootin’ gun-slingin’ cowboy with a zest for life and a thirst for the epic is a bright spot whose antics we can laugh and cheer and gasp over, simply because it’s fun.
Five shining Texas-sized stars from me!

Though John J. Jacobson didn’t join the French Foreign Legion after being jilted by a girlfriend, or over his displeasure of missing the last great cattle drive, he has, borrowing Churchill’s phrase, lived a rather variegated life. He was born in Nevada, grew up in the West, surfed big waves in Hawaii, circled the world thrice, survived the sixties and seventies, corporate America, and grad school. Among other degrees he has an MA in Renaissance literature from Claremont Graduate University.

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Book Review: Before Time Runs Out by Amy Matayo

  • Title: Before Time Runs Out
  • Series: Charles & Company Romance #1
  • Author: Amy Matayo
  • Genre: Time Travel Romance
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Would I recommend: Time travel? Romance? Classic literature? What are you waiting for?! Order this now!

From Goodreads:

Graduate student Bree Sanders is failing the one class she needs to get her degree. So when her professor gives her an ultimatum—ace her dissertation or risk having to repeat her final semester—she knows she has to pull out all the stops. After scrambling for an idea, she decides to create her own Ghost Club, a club that blames ghosts for unsolved crimes, the same type of club originally founded two centuries ago by Charles Dickens.

What she doesn’t expect is to find an original copy of one of Dickens’ early works, or to be transplanted into Dickens’s actual ghost club meeting, circa 1870, the instant she picks it up.

When Bree shows up in nineteenth-century England wearing cut-offs and an old t-shirt, her only option is to hide. The Cambridge of 1870 won’t look kindly on a woman dressed like her. So, when Theodore Keyes finds her tucked behind a bookcase at the Trinity College library and immediately demands to know where she came from, she knows he doesn’t belong here either. Turns out she’s right; the same book caused him to time-travel from 1947 almost three months ago and he’s been stuck in England since.

Together, the two vow to work side-by-side in their search for the lost book that will take them home. But as their feelings for one another deepen, Theo and Bree are caught between a desire to return to the lives they each left behind, and the knowledge that if they find the book, they won’t be able to leave together.

In the end, they each must decide which sacrifice is worth making—the one that will cost them their hearts, or the one that could cost them their very existence.

My review:

I love a good time travel story, and Amy Matayo delivers. This isn’t her normal genre, but she has done a bang-up job of writing a story with characters that you’ll cheer for and a plot that just sucks you right in.

Bree and Theo’s initial meeting, and their interactions as they try to figure out how to relate to the past and to each other, are just how you’d imagine they’d be if you found yourself whisked back into another century. Even though they aren’t from the same time period, Theo and Bree learn pretty quickly that they’ll need to work together, both to get back home and to survive the nineteenth century!

I could really relate to Bree. She’s a modern female, pretty outspoken, not inclined to be patted on the head (figuratively speaking) and told to mind her place and keep quiet. I wouldn’t do real well with that, either. But here she is, in a time period where that’s basically what women are told to do.

And I’m not an avid reader of romance, but I will always make an exception to that general rule for Amy Matayo. The romance isn’t forced, it isn’t insta-romance. It develops organically as the story unfolds. Much better that way in my opinion.

If you like time travel, strong female characters, plot twists that leave your head spinning, and classic literature references, you need to read Before Time Runs Out. Five stars to a well-written and enjoyable read.

Thanks to the author and publisher for an advance review copy. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

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