One Cat, Three Trees #pets

Hi, friends! I need to talk about cats today. And trees. Not the leafy outdoor kind, or even the decorative indoor ones strung with fairy lights. No, the trees I want to discuss are specifically made for cats.

DH and I adopted our rescue cat, Raven, from a no-kill shelter when she was just three months old. We purchased her first tree before we even brought her home. Below is her “gray tree” which used to be in front of our bow window. You’ll understand the past tense in a minute.

Three-tiered cat tree with sisal/scratching posts. Small black cat sitting on tree middle tree platform

Later, when we remodeled our kitchen, we had room to add a second tree. Given how much she loves to look outside, we purchased Raven’s “brown tree” to place in front of the French doors leading to our deck. Again, with the innocent look (although I had to move the fronds from the back, because she considered them playthings for her amusement).

Black cat sitting on a large cat tree in front of a French door

You wouldn’t think an animal this delicate-looking could be destructive, but cats have a lethal weapon—CLAWS! If you’ve ever owned a cat, you know the damage they can do. As evidence, I present:

The gray tree is so far gone, we disassembled it. What you see above are the remains waiting to be carted outside for trash pick-up. The brown tree has been moved into the living room. Raven still has a ways to go before it’s no longer worthy of scratching.

In the meantime, we brought this behemoth home.

Five-tiered cat tree with large sisal columns in front of French doors. Black cat sitting on center platform of tree

It’s going to be a long while before she manages to claw her way through these sisal posts. But don’t let that innocent face fool you. She’s already started sharpening her claws on the rope. I should be grateful, because she leaves my furniture alone.

I know pet owners can relate to spoiling their animals. It doesn’t matter if you have a cat, dog, guinea pig, parrot, or some other critter. They all hold a special place in our hearts.

After today, I am headed for Maine, and will be incommunicado until early October. I’ll be looking forward to chatting with everyone when I return. In the meantime, let me know what you think of Raven’s new tree. If you have cats, is clawing something you have to manage? If you have dogs, can they be equally destructive? Are your pets pampered silly? Let’s chat!

 

Book Review Tuesday: That Darkest Place by @MarciaMeara #bookishtuesday

Welcome to Book Review Tuesday. Today, I’m thrilled to share another five star read. I’d like to clarify that I never publicly review a book unless I’m able to provide a minimum of three stars—which I consider an average read. That’s why you mostly see four and five star reviews on my blog with the occasional three star. Today’s book definitely earns five sparkly stars.

Book cover for Taht Darkest Place by Marcia Meara shows image of man with head bowed in his hand, shattered glass superimposed in backgroundThat Darkest Place
by Marcia Meara

The third book of the Riverbend series focuses primarily on Painter brothers, Jackson and Forrest, though youngest brother Hunter, is still a strong presence in his unique and quiet way. I fell in love with his character in book two.

At the end of Finding Hunter, Jackson was behaving horribly—lashing out at those around him, physically and verbally abusive. He ended up in a car accident believed to be the result of drunk driving. In That Darkest Place, the truth of what really took place and why is quickly revealed. Once brought to light, Jackson’s long road to recovery begins.

Once again, Meara tackles some weighty issues, but the most powerful theme is the unshakable bond of family, specifically brothers. Forrest and Hunter are not about to let Jackson muddle through on his own. Presenting a united front, they eventually have Jackson back to functioning almost normally again. Along the way there are physical and emotional hurdles to overcome, but there are also heartwarming and humorous moments to offset the weightier scenes.

In addition, both Forrest and Jackson meet women who impact their lives. It’s especially fun seeing Forrest—the former ladies’ man of Riverbend—thrown off-kilter in his first serious relationship. If that isn’t enough, Meara tosses in an unidentified stalker who holds a grudge against Jackson and isn’t afraid to act on that bitterness. The thread adds a nice mystery element to the book which culminates in a heart-pounding ending.

As always, the writing is polished with a pace to keep you flipping pages. If you like fiction that engages your heart and is flavored with strong family bonds, romance, mystery, and characters who remain with you long after you turn the final page, don’t miss That Darkest Place. It’s filled with light and love.

Amazon link
Genre:  Psychological Fiction > Romantic Suspense

 

Book Launch: The Quest for Home by Jacqui Murray #NewRelease #PrehistoricFiction

Hi, friends. I have a first time guest on my blog today, and I’m super excited about that! Please welcome Jacqui Murray with her most recent release,The Quest for Home, Book 2 in the Crossroads series, and part of the Man vs. Nature saga.

Banner ad for The Quest for Home by author, Jacqui Murray, shows prehistoric woman with long dark hair holding spear, wolf by her side

This entire series is on my reading radar. I’ve already devoured book 1 of Jacqui’s Rowe-Delamagente thrillers,To Hunt a Sub, and book two is loaded on my Kindle. I can’t wait to see what she does writing prehistoric fiction with The Quest for Home and the Crossroads series.

Book cover for The Quest for Home by author, Jacqui Murray, shows prehistoric woman with long dark hair holding spear, wolf by her sideGenre: Prehistoric fiction

First up, Jacqui shares some background about the book…

How do you know these People are as smart as they seem?
Just to be clear, because these predecessors to man lived long before recorded history, scientists have no definitive evidence of their intelligence. We do get hints of its excellence, though, from their toolmaking. The complex thought required to create their stone tools (called Acheulean), the variety of tool types (cutters, choppers, handaxes, cleavers, flakes, scrapers, and more), and their aesthetically pleasing and functional forms make many paleoanthropologists believe Homo erectus was cerebrally smart. A 2017 study mapped the brains of students as they recreated these same tools and it showed that the work required higher-level motor skills and the ability to ‘hold in mind’ information—much as you do to plan and complete complex tasks (the study compared it to playing Chopin on the piano but I have no idea about that).

Their speech is too sophisticated.
As a species, Homo erectus lasted far longer than any other Homo species—and there is a reason for that: They were not only highly intelligent for the day but possessed rich communication skills. Their sophisticated tools, especially the symmetry of the hand-axe, suggests to many scientists that they possessed the ability to use language. Since most paleoanthropologists (scientists who study prehistoric man) believe the ‘speech’ part of their brain—the part that allowed them to speak—wasn’t evolved enough for verbal words, I present communication often through body language.

A more convincing argument of why early man didn’t want to talk is that voices are noisy and unnatural. That attracts unwanted attention. For these primordial humans, far from the alpha in the food chain, being noticed wasn’t good.

Short Summary:
Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving behind her African homeland to search for an unknown future. She leads her People on a grueling journey through unknown and dangerous lands. As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger, tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that her most dangerous enemy isn’t the one she expected. It may be one she trusts with her life.

The story is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except one: future man, a smarter version of himself destined to obliterate any who came before.

Based on a true story, this is the unforgettable saga of hardship and determination, conflict and passion as early man makes his way across Eurasia, fleeing those who would kill him. He must be bigger-than-life, prepared time and again to do the impossible because nothing less than the future of mankind is at stake.

Purchase From:
Kindle US | Kindle UK | Kindle CA | Kindle AU

Author, Jacqui MurraryAuthor bio:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for  NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, In the Footsteps of Giants, Winter 2020, the final chapter in the Crossroads Trilogy.

Social Media contacts:
Amazon Author Page |  Blog | Instagram | LinkedIn | Pinterest | Twitter

Website       

What a unique and challenging novel! I’ve heard only exceptional reviews for book one in this series, and am certain The Quest for Home, is going to be equally outstanding. Jacqui knows how to weave engaging fiction with impeccably researched history for an epic story.

Please make use of the sharing buttons below to help spread the word about The Quest for Home. Intrigued? By all means, one-click the kindle selection of your choice!

Kindle US | Kindle UK | Kindle CA | Kindle AU

More News: Blogging Schedule

Hi, friends! Last week I told you about my new website. Today, I’m sharing plans for a new I blogging schedule. Beginning soonish. Probably Octoberish.

I’m on a roll! But first. . .vacation.

DH and I are headed to Maine the end of next week, through the end of September. Please excuse my lack of comments on your blog posts while I’m gone. I’ll look forward to chatting with you when I return in October.

An open tablet, pen, and a pair of glassesAt that time, Book Review Tuesdays will continue, but I’ve also decided to add another regular weekly post. Those of you who have been longtime followers of my blog may remember Mythical Mondays. It’s a theme I kept up for years, eventually abandoning for lack of time. No, Mondays are not coming back, but something sorta/kinda/quasi-similar­—Wednesday Weirdness.

Like my Mythical Monday posts, you’re apt to find myth, legends, and folklore, but I’m also planning to share anything I come across that’s too “weird” for explanation. That opens the door to mysteries, strange coincidences, unexplained happenings, and even a few personal experiences. I’ll also be chatting about the “oddness” that inspired each of the books I’ve written. I’ve missed sharing that aspect of my writing and look forward to trotting it out again.

You may see other random posts from me here and there, and as always, I’m happy to host friends with new releases and other news you’d like to share. Give me a shout and we’ll get something scheduled!

So, why am I telling you this now? It’s been said that if you publicly state an intention, you’re more apt to follow through. Who wants to promise something, then fail to deliver? With that said, picture me nervously gnawing my fingernails (my nail tech is not going to be happy).

I know I’m going to be insane when I return from Maine. There will be a ton of catch-up on my day job, October is NaNoWriMo prep time, and the Story Empire Something Wicked Blog Tour will kick off toward the end of the month. But there’s always something to delay plans, right? I’m going to ignore all of the potential hurdles and go for it. I have Staci Troilo and Joan Hall, to thank for inspiring me with their own blogging schedules.

And while I’m in Maine, as Craig Boyack told me—“Find some great New England cryptids while you’re there.”

Sounds like good advice to me! 🙂

 

Book Review: Finding Hunter by @MarciaMeara #bookreviewtuesday

Hello and welcome to another Book Review Tuesday. If you enjoy character-driven fiction layered with family drama, angst, and romance, boy do I have a book for you! My review follows, but you can click the Amazon link to read the blurb and learn more about this fabulous story.

Book cover for Finding Hunter by Marcia Meara shows open journal with pen, cup of tea in backgroudFinding Hunter
by Marcia Meara

Hunter Painter is the youngest of three brothers. Forrest and Jackson have always been more outgoing, a little rough-and-tumble, and clever with the ladies. By contrast, Hunter is reserved, a bit on shy side, a gentle soul whose feelings run deep. He has been in love with Willow Greene since high school, but far too inhibited to approach her. Years later, when a friend gives him a nudge and he finally does, he discovers Willow has harbored the same feelings for him just as long.

The bliss of discovery is short-lived, however, when their love is put to the test all too soon. Hunter’s mother suffers from dementia, potentially underscored by mental illness. Although Hunter recognizes the downward spiral and the increasing severity of her actions, both his father and his brothers turn a blind eye. When tragedy strikes, Hunter’s world shatters and he is left trying to balance a toxic mix of darkness, brokenness, and suffocating guilt. It doesn’t help both his brothers initially turn on him, too encumbered to admit their own shortcomings.

What follows is a tale of anguish, love, and redemption. Unable to cope, Hunter tries to shut out the world, but he is unable to break the ties that bind him to Willow. Even when they are separated, their hearts are constantly entwined. Willow’s strength is steel, the solace Hunter needs when he returns to her—even if only to say goodbye. Hunter’s healing—which encompasses the second half of the novel—doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a testament to the author’s ability to tug heartstrings that she parcels it out in a manner that leaves a lump in the throat.

Meara tackles heavy duty issues—dementia, mental illness, PTSD, family relations, recovery. But she balances the weightier moments with character growth, plenty of realism, and heart. One thing you can always count on in a Marcia Meara novel is heart. Hallmark could take lessons.

As always, the characters are outstanding, and Hunter and Willow will remain with me for a long time to come. In addition, I was thoroughly smitten by Forrest Painter’s story arc. Reading Finding Hunter is like taking a journey. As someone who loves character-driven fiction, it’s a journey I highly recommend others take. 5 glowing stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Fiction > Romantic Suspense

And, in an odd twist of fate—or maybe just a snazzy coincidence—I’m over at Marcia’s place today sharing a review of my romantic mystery, Eclipse Lake. If you get a moment, I’d love to have you visit me there. Of course, I’m also curious to hear your thoughts about Finding Hunter, and I’m sure Marcia is, too!  🙂

Saying Goodbye to Summer

Hello, and welcome to September! If you live in the U.S. or Canada, I hope you had a fun-filled Labor Day weekend.

Although summer hasn’t officially rolled up and called it a season (that will happen later this month), once the calendar inches past Labor Day, I consider it over. Maybe it goes back to childhood when returning to school ended afternoons of roaming sun-soaked fields and playing hide-and-seek well past dark. Who can forget the magic of a summer night with friends?

child on swing suspended from a leafy tree, starry sky strewn overhead

When I was in school, we didn’t start the new year until the day after Labor Day. To the child in me, that was the official end of summer. Game over, welcome to a reality check.

The first day of school was one of excitement…getting to see friends I hadn’t since early June, discovering new classes, classmates and teachers. But after the initial gloss wore off, I was more than ready to return to summer’s carefree lifestyle.

Now I see the passage of the season differently, but still mark its demise with a sense of sadness. Don’t get me wrong—I love autumn. I’m constantly telling my husband I couldn’t live anywhere that didn’t include all four seasons. I’d miss the change from one to the next (although I could do with a far shorter winter). He, on the other hand, would gleefully sign up for a zip code that offered tropical temperatures 365 days a year.

As summer fades, I note how the air smells differently, how the evenings grow shorter, and how even a slight breeze will send a kite-tail of leaves fluttering to the ground. The flower beds and decorative pots that once cried for water have sprouted into ungainly bushes, creating vibrant bursts of color in my yard. I have to turn lights on earlier than I used to in the evening, and my Green Mountain coffee selection has morphed from Island Coconut to Pumpkin Spice.

Seasonal change. It’s here.

I’m generally a productive writer, but summer puts a bite into my output. There are more events to distract me—picnics, parties and outdoor gatherings. In that respect, I’m looking forward to an autumn where I can snuggle inside and let my fingertips dance across the keyboard, creating characters and stories that involve all four seasons. Yes, I love summer, but autumn brings a new and different sense of exhilaration.

What about you? Do you have a favorite time of year that coaxes you to write more often than others?

A New Look and Changes

Three parrots are chatting under the header "Did you hear Mae's news?"Hi, friends. I usually reserve Tuesday for book reviews, but today is different for several reasons. As usual, I had my nose buried in a book last week, but it was a beta read for a friend, which means I can’t share my review just yet. Bummer, because I’m super excited about this novel. You’ll have to wait several months for the release, but rest assured, I’ll be dancing around and chanting “rah-rah” as I cheer my friend on!

Secondly, a few weeks ago, I made a change in how I keep up with the blogs I follow (if you’re reading this, that means you! 🙂 ). Because I follow so many blogs, my inbox balloons each day like a mushroom on steroids. A friend suggested I try Reader, something I’d avoided in the past. I have no idea why, because using Reader has made life so much easier. This means I no longer get a notification when you make a new blog post, but by scrolling through Reader I’m able to see it. Sounds good, right?

There is one downside. I have not been able to find a way to organize which blogs appear first in my Reader, which means I have a long list to scroll through. If I’ve missed any of your posts, please excuse my lapse. I’m still on a learning curve but getting better.

Finally, you may have noticed the look of my blog has changed. Also that all of my secondary pages have disappeared, replaced by a single new entry—VISIT MY WEBSITE.

Creating a website is something that has been on my to-do liist far longer than I want to admit. It’s embarrassing. Seriously.

I finally took the time over the long Labor Day weekend to cobble one together (if you’re a regular follower of my blog, you’ve probably noticed I like the word “cobble”).

I’d be seriously jazzed (that’s another favorite word), if you hopped over to MaeClair.com, poked around, then let me know what you think. The website supports everything that was previously on my blog with a link to this site. I’ve learned from others to keep the blog where it’s currently homed. There’s too much history involved to start over.

You’re currently visiting my blog home, which is MaeClair.net. My website is MaeClair.com. Each connects to the other. I hope you’ll use them both.

Next Tuesday, look for a return to book reviews which will continue to be a regular feature. I’m also hoping to introduce a few other regular weekly posts, returning to a habit I haven’t been able to maintain for years due to looming publisher deadlines. With those behind me, I’m excited by new prospects for expanding my blogging schedule.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll visit my new WEBSITE, bookmark it, and let me know what you think. How do you like the look? Does it work for my genre? Did I do a good job?

Book Review: Old Bones by Preston and Child #bookishtuesday

Hi, friends! I only read one book last week, but it’s one I’ve been waiting for. Impatiently.

Being the rabid Preston and Child fan, I am, I preordered Old Bones, and started reading the day it was released. Isn’t the cover fabulous?

Book cover for Old Bones by Preston and Child features rugged hillside with skulls visible in the ground, ragged trees above

This is the first book in a new series which features Nora Kelly, an archeologist who has previously appeared in Preston and Child’s Pendergast novels. Initially, I wondered if she was strong enough to carry a book on her own. Yes, there is room for improvement, but Nora fared fairly well her first time out. P&C gave her a fantastic plot—searching for “the lost camp” of the Donner Party. Yeah, those Donners.

Nora pairs up with a historian who claims to have found a journal belonging to one of the victims of the Donner tragedy. At the same time, rookie FBI agent, Corrie Swanson, is investigating a series of grave robberies and a person who went MIA. There is a connection between all these incidents, but I won’t say more for fear of spoiling the plot.

Highlights for me involved the remote setting, the Donner history, the creepy tale of Samantha Carville, the mounting tension and fear among Nora’s team, and—best of all­—Corrie Swanson.

I’ve been a fan of Corrie since she first appeared in Pendergast #4, Still Life with CrowsAt that time, she was a teenage misfit with dyed purple hair, major attitude, a Goth appearance, and an alcoholic mother. Pendergast hired her to chauffer him around her small midwestern town—after he bailed her out of jail.

In Old Bones, Corrie gets a starring role beside Nora. Her first major investigation with the FBI means she has to navigate the “good old boys” in local law enforcement, prove her theories at the Bureau, bite her tongue when it comes to red tape and orders, plus overcome Nora’s objections when she sticks her nose in (and Nora has plenty of objections).

Most of the novel clips along at a steady pace. It’s an easy read that keeps you turning pages. There is plenty of talk of cannibalism, excavation of bone fragments, and a ghost story or two (told around a campfire) for good measure. Ratchet up the tension as the last few pieces fall into place, and the closing chapters will have you chewing your nails.

The epilogue­—during which Special Agent Pendergast makes a cameo appearance—is a nice wrap, setting the stage for the series. It looks like P&C have plans for Nora and Corrie to work together in the books ahead, and a I couldn’t be happier. Corrie is well developed, but Nora could use a bit more growth. I look forward to reading along as that happens.

5 Stars!

Blurb and Amazon Purchase Link
Genre: Suspense > Suspense Thrillers

What do you think? Intriguing?

 

Book Review: Black Crow Speaks @FrederickAnder2 #shortstories

In my post yesterday, I mentioned having read a third book last week but not having the time to write a proper review. Black Crow Speaks is a book I have been patiently waiting —okay, not so patiently—to release. The author shies away from promotion so I wanted to make certain I gave it the attention it deserves. I know I will be reading many of the stories in this collection over again.

First some background . . .

I started following Frederick Anderson’s blog a few years ago and was immediately enthralled by his gift of storytelling. I’ve been hoping (I even did some pestering) that he would cobble a collection of short stories together for a book. When I realized he had released Black Crow Speaks, I was ecstatic. This intelligent, literary, diverse, often bizarre, but always riveting collection of tales is not to be missed!

Let me explain the crow of the title­—Black Crow shows up at various times throughout the book to discuss everything from neighbors (blackbirds), immigrants (seagulls), family matters, homelife, kids, the wife, temptation, getting old, and social matters. Given Fred is British, I can get away with the expression “bloody brilliant.” Crow has a unique take on life.

book cover for Black Crow Speaks by Frederick Anderson shows a large black crow with book title beneathHere’s a sample from Corvid Values, my favorite crow story. Crow speaks first, followed by Fred.

He fidgets uneasily, preening a troublesome mite from his breast feathers. “S’pose. Yes and no. There’s the immigrants, see?”

He hasn’t lost his capacity to surprise: “Immigrants?”

“Yeah. You must have noticed – fousands of ‘em. Same every winter, innit? They comes flockin’ in just because they reckon there’s free food and everyfin’. They takes all the best bits and we don’t get a look in. Bleedin’ gulls!”

“Oh, the seagulls! The bad weather drives them in from the coast. The westerlys don’t trouble them so much, then? They can fly into the wind, can they?”

“Well, they work harder, don’t they? They work all the bleedin’ time, them!” He fluffs furious feathers. “They don’t even go to roost, most nights. And…and!” He squawks his emphasis; “They eat almost anyfin’. Jus’ anyfin’!”

“Surely there’s enough for all? I haven’t noticed you losing weight over the winter before.”

“Ah. Ah! But I don’t demean meself, me! You won’t catch me turnin’ over house rubbish like a – like a bleedin’ fox, for fox sake!”

“Oh, really? I seem to recall…”

“Never mind what you ‘seems to recall.’ Never mate, never! I’ve got my pride”

I treat him to one of my penetrating inquisitorial looks. “They’ve been raiding the bins at the back of the Pizzeria, haven’t they? That’s one of your favorite haunts, isn’t it?”

The crow hunches his wings and dips his head. I cannot remember seeing him so annoyed. “That place is a place for crows, gettit? Crows! Respec’able birds, mate. I got a right to that place!”


First, let me point out that no one—no one—does accents like Frederick. The ones he spins in this book are spot on. Second, the message of this story hits with a thunderclap at the end. The first time I read it, it stayed with me for days.

But the crow only makes up a few stories in this collection. As the preface says you will meet “a crow with wisdom we call could learn from, an airline pilot who qualified by correspondence course, an enthusiastic accordion player with a portal to the universe under his dining table, tales of fairies and goblins and ghosts within the machine.”

There are plenty of humans too—some who face heartbreak, others who find their lives altered in unexpected ways. Twists and surprise endings abound. Scene setting is off the charts with descriptions that are sometimes lyrical, other times gritty and raw. Every story brings something unique, but I must make special mention of Birdie, A Visitation from Mary, Goblins, Gloves, Reincarnate, Siobhan, and The Newquay Train. Wow. Just…WOW!

If you like smart, witty, and riveting fiction, don’t pass this collection by. I can’t recommend it highly enough. The great thing about short stories is you can read a few at a time or many at once. However, you read them, do read them. 5 Walloping, glittery, gargantuan stars!

PURCHASE FROM:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

You can find Frederick’s blog HERE if you’d like to give a looksee as to what else he gets up to. I’m presently enjoying a novel he has been serializing, but he’s hinted there is short fiction around the bend and Crow will return. You have no idea how happy that makes me!

Thanks for checking out this special review today. Given I’ve been badgering Frederick to publish this book, I am more than happy to help promote such a fabulous collection.