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review 2018-03-10 17:03
The Never-Open Desert Diner
The Never-Open Desert Diner: A Novel - James Anderson
I’m reading this series out of order and it’s working for me. Right now, I feel that I will be missing Ben until James gets to work and writes another novel. I have gotten to know Ben and I feel a deep connection to him. Ben is a hard man. I feel the isolation of sitting in a truck all day, interacting only when he feels the need to or when he is required to, has helped shaped Ben into the man he is today. He’s a man who spends his days traveling down quiet roads earning his paycheck, trying to keep his head above water. He’s a caring individual but he tries to keep that hidden and, in this novel, that irritated me a bit. That one little part, that one little issue in this novel, annoyed me and I couldn’t shake it from my head.
I loved traveling beside Ben as he drove down State 117 in the Utah desert. He’d been driving his rig down these roads for the past 20 years and he knows just about every nook and cranny that this part of the world contains. One of his favorite stops is Walt’s Diner. I could see why Ben enjoys Walt and his venue as James described this locale. As Ben is leaving Walt’s one day, he notices a road that he has never seen before. Curiosity got the best of him as he turns off onto that road. After he stops, he feels that he saw a face, a face that he cannot forget. I wish I could say that the results of Ben seeing this face is fantastic but that is only partly true. The face does have a positive impact on his life but it also brings complications too. Ben’s reaction in the end was the part that irritated me, I feel that Ben is a hard man and I understand his reaction but a part of me, thought his response would be something else. I guess I was hoping (wishing) for something else. My mistake.
I enjoyed the twists and the turns this novel took me through. I learned a bit more about Ben and the cast of characters were fantastic. I got to see a new side of Ben and I learned more about Walt. I’m ready for book #3 James and please, don’t stop writing. Ben’s view from his window sure is fascinating!


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review 2018-02-18 22:06
Lullaby Road
Lullaby Road - James Anderson
I enjoyed this novel more than I had anticipated. As Ben traveled along the desert highway in his big rig, I met some of the interesting individuals he regularly encounters as he makes his deliveries. Ben has been driving the desert for around twenty years, and although the scenery hardly ever changes the individuals, the weather, and the drama that makes up are hardly ever the same.
As Ben fills up his truck to begin his day, he finds that someone has left something for him at the pump. It turns out that this something is a someone, a boy who looks to be about 6 years-old. Pinned to his shirt is a note asking Ben to take care of him for the day, from a man Ben hardly knows. Confused and now stuck with company, Ben takes the boy who is now accompanied with a dog, into his rig and gets ready for a long day on the road. He’s stopped again by a close friend who shoves a baby bag and an infant in his rig. I started to wonder what type of person Ben was, a pushover or a person with a big heart who helps people out all the time? With a full rig, Ben now has to decide whether to call off this full day of deliveries or does he take everyone with him as he makes his deliveries with the winter weather outside becoming nastier by the minute.
I got to know Ben as his mind wanders over the highway, his thoughts taking in the years he has traveled this countryside. The individuals he has met, the relationships that have been maintained, the ones that have been forgotten, and the ones that he has lost. As he makes his regular deliveries he looks out for his customers, some more carefully than others. There are rules of the road and I liked how not everyone respected one another yet there was this bond that put everyone on the same page.
I thought Ben tried to keep to himself, yet he was there to make sure no one took advantage of others who had no voice. I think Ben tried to think he was a loner but he had friends, he had others who thought highly of him and would come to his aid if he needed it. He had a big heart but I don’t think he wanted others to know it. I really enjoyed this novel. I liked the drama on the road, I liked the countryside and the characters. I will continue reading this series but I need to go back and read the first novel in the series to see what I have missed.
I received a physical copy of this novel from a Goodreads Giveaway, thank you!
I also received a copy of this novel from Crown Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!


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review 2018-02-09 19:45
Lullaby Road
Lullaby Road - James Anderson

From the synopsis, Lullaby Road sounded like a suspenseful thriller that I could sink my teeth into. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to that expectation. While I appreciate a good description for setting a scene, I found this book to be so overly wordy that it became tedious and so focused on those details that it left little room for the actual story. The only suspense for me lay in when the thriller part of this novel would start. As Ben travels up and down Highway 117 in Utah, we meet a rather odd mix of characters, but other than Ben’s interactions with them, they don’t seem to have much in common or any link to a mystery. On top of that, Ben is traveling with not one, but two children that belong to other people. That, in itself, had me scratching my head from the beginning. Who leaves their child to ride up and down treacherous roads with an acquaintance? There was also a number of rather ambiguous references to what turned out to be a first book that I assume leads into this sequel. Sadly, there is no reference to this in Lullaby Road’s information. I did muddle through out of sheer determination to finish this one and a hope that the story would improve. Had I read the first book in Ben’s story, or had there been a bit of explanation about those references to it, I may have been more invested in this one, but in the end, what I had was a tedious, long-winded story and a conclusion that was convoluted at best. There were also some unanswered questions that were possibly left for a future book, and I realize I'm in the minority here, but considering my experience with this one, I think I’ll skip it.

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review 2018-01-30 21:47
Lullaby Road
Lullaby Road - James Anderson

Title: Lullaby Road: A Novel
Author: James Anderson
Publisher: Crown
Series: Ben Jones # 2
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: Four

"Lullaby Road" by James Anderson

My Thoughts...

Now, this was quite a interesting read about Ben Jones who runs a tractor trailer delivery service [truck driver] that traveled on Highway 117 that was a desolate Utah desert making deliveries to people in isolated areas. Ben was known to deliver packages to 'desert rats, hardscrabble ranchers and other assorted exiles who chose to live off 117." Now, this route that Ben took I found it interesting to know that Fed Ex and UPS would not drive on this snow-blinding road.

What Ben finds while on his journeys will definitely keep your interest as it seems he kept getting himself involved in bad situations like finding a note that leads him to take charge of a small child [mute] and a large protective dog and also ending up when a friend and neighbor who leaves their young [bawling] infant with him so she could go to work. Now, I really found this rather strange when Ben piles them all in his truck and takes off to work going his normal route however, he ends up in a snow storm.

This story will continue on as this author gives the readers one intriguing and entertaining story ...from hit & run, bad weather [snow drifts], interactions with gun toting customers, abandoned child, child smuggling ring, preacher who carries a cross along the highway, accidents, three witches, Mexican women with food truck, and even some murders that happen along route 117. As every truck stop was made this author gives us a complete unfolded story with there being a lots going on with there being just a small group of people that are involved.To fully understand this entire story you will have to pick up "Lullaby Road" to see just how this author brings it out to the reader.

Be ready for a story will some laughable, scary and sad twist and turn parts of the read that will definitely keep you turning the pages to see what was coming next in this good read where in the end you will also find it 'engrossing, heartwarming and heartbreaking.'

I received a copy of Lullaby Road from the publisher through Blogging for Books.

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review 2016-05-29 16:29
The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson
The Never-Open Desert Diner: A Novel - James Anderson

"The place was a kind of odd shrine. Over the years the diner had become a regular rest stop for me as well as a source of fascination and idle speculation. It was always my first stop, even when I had nothing to deliver to Walt. Sometimes it was my last stop, too."


 Anderson's debut novel is written with a dry sense of humor. I definitely consider the plot original and the characters between the pages are as colorful as the Utah sunset. I struggled with a rating. I started with four stars but then pulled back to three. However, I want desperately to rate this correctly. Did it entertain me? Yes! Did the protagonist move me? He did. Thank you, Ben Jones! The supporting cast was an original blend of mismatched, misplaced wanderers, all looking to escape a past that is unlikely to catch up to them on lonely Route 117. With the exception of the Lacey brothers, and because of Walt Butterfield, I thought each eccentric character an asset to this mystery. For those reasons, I returned to four stars. So, why did I flip-flop between ratings? Well, here's why this desert mystery left me feeling a bit parched; some portions weren't explained to me. At one pivotal turning point in the storyline, I had to go back a couple of pages to see if I missed something. I do appreciate Anderson's trust in me as a savvy reader to figure out things for myself, and let the story lead me without having to explain every tiny detail like some authors feel it necessary to do. That being said, this story and noir mystery had the potential to blow me away. While I totally get the plot, I only wish Anderson would've taken a bit more time to iron out a few of those mysterious details. However, he did get me in the end. I did gasp in disbelief and I was pretty satisfied with the ending. I'd be willing to travel Route 117 again with James Anderson, only next time, I want to be wowed. Anderson is an excellent storyteller and I know he can knock it out the park...or perhaps, the Utah desert. 



James Anderson's short fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared in many magazines and he previously served as publisher and editor in chief of Breitenbush Books.  For more book info visit James @ jamesandersonauthor.com. 


Book link:






**I received an ARC from Blogging for Books in exchange for review. Many thanks! 


~ Eighth book completed in May Clean Sweep ARC Challenge. ~

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