Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Hay Bale, Sam, a Shaggy Dog Story, The Thing About Kevin @PriscillaBettis @sgc58 @BeemWeeks

Striped kitten lying on open book, eyeglasses resting on pages. Book and kitten on white blanket

Happy Groundhog Day! In Pennsylvania, where renowned weather forecaster, Punxsutawney Phil resides, temperatures have been frigid and winter has overstayed its welcome. I know those to the north of us (recently clobbered by Winter Storm Kenan, a nasty nor’easter) must be especially sick of the chilly/snowy/windy/icy season.

I just saw Phil has seen his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter. May I just say: “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”


On the plus side, if you are stuck inside due to winter’s wrath (or even if you’re not), I have three short reads certain to keep you entertained. My reviews are below, but be sure to click the Amazon links to read the blurbs. Eventually, when I catch up on reviews, I’ll start sharing blurbs again. In the meantime, may I recommend . . .

Book cover for The Hay Bale by Priscilla Bettis shows close up of hay bale in farm field

by Priscilla Bettis

Although this is a short read, it packs a punch. Compelling, descriptive, and unusual, it sucks the reader in from page one and doesn’t let go until the unsettling and unexpected climax. Microbiologist Claire is suffering after failing to qualify as an adoptive parent, and the desertion of her husband, when she takes a sabbatical to a backwoods rural town. She moves into an old manor home called “Smallclaw” (cue eerie music) and soon finds herself drawn into a bizarre agriculture celebration with the local community.

This is not a work of gory horror, but rather a story that creeps and slithers like a snake, eliciting goose bumps and building suspense with each scene. The author makes excellent use of imagery to convey broader ideas throughout, and the conclusion is one that sticks with the reader. Creepy and visual, I loved every moment of this peculiar gem.


Book cover for Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story by Sally Cronin shows close up of adorable collie

by Sally Cronin

Just look at that face! Seriously, who could resist?

This is a fun, heart-warming book that tells the story of Sam—the author’s collie—from the time he is a puppy through adult life. What makes the tale especially unique is the delivery. The book is told entirely from Sam’s POV. We learn about his early life after adoption, including his friendship with Henri, a feral cat who becomes a precious friend ultimately responsible for teaching Sam to speak “cat.” Sam also has two young kittens who become special friends during their short life span (that part broke my heart).

Sam shares how he learns to “speak” a few human words, about his favorite treats, trips to the vet, adventures on walks and even relocating to a different country. For anyone who loves animals, this is an enchanting story that leaves the reader with a feel-good glow. The author clearly loves her canine companion, an attachment that shines through in each page of this winning story. Photographs of Sam from puppy to adult collie are sprinkled throughout. He is such a beautiful dog!


Book cover for The Thing About Kevin by Beem Weeks shows three old photograph snapshots of family members on wooded background

by Beem Weeks

What an amazing read!

It takes talent to pack fully fleshed out characters, tight backstory, and a masterful plot into a short tale. Beem Weeks has done just that in The Thing About Kevin, the story of Jacob, a man reconnecting with his past and his family when he returns home for his father’s funeral. His older brother Kevin is missing from the gathering, but Kevin has been estranged from the family for years. There’s as much mystery and speculation wrapped up in Kevin as there is about Jacob’s father and his rumored mob connections.

I’ve read Beem Weeks before, so I knew going into this book it would offer polished writing, a compelling plot, and believable dialogue. What I didn’t expect was to be picking my jaw up off the floor at the ending. This is a story that builds at a comfortable pace, meandering through Jacob’s reminiscing, and his connections to the people from his past, then drops a bomb that leaves you feeling like you’ve been shoved from a cliff. Trust me—that’s a good thing. A brilliant gem that deserves a standing ovation. Don’t miss out on this amazing read!


That’s it from me for today, but I hope some of my reviews have sparked your interest. Thanks to all three of these authors for keeping me entertained during the cold, brisk days of winter. There’s nothing like a good story to hold the chill at bay!

124 thoughts on “Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Hay Bale, Sam, a Shaggy Dog Story, The Thing About Kevin @PriscillaBettis @sgc58 @BeemWeeks

  1. Wonderful reviews, Mae. Congratulations to each of the writers! I’ve read The Thing About Kevin and The Hay Bale and thoroughly enjoyed both. The Shaggy Dog is on my TBR.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Mae, happy February – say I, looking at a foot of snow! Hope it’s better where you are. I’ve read Beem’s piece and loved it! You are right, it is a gem! The others sound wonderful. I love a story with a bit of creepiness, and I’m a total pushover for a dog. Thanks for these great recommendations!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Great reviews, Mae. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these stories! Off to add more stuff to my Kindle. Again. 😉 (That’s the beauty of having one, right? Being able to tuck 500 books in my purse, so I can read everywhere I go?)

    BTW, I’ve been planning to add a Review Page to The Write Stuff for a long time, and you’ve helped convince me I need to do so soon! Maybe I can even … gasp! … get caught up on all the reviews I’m behind on. Or at least some of them! Crazy talk, I know, but I’d really like to make some progress with that. Thanks for the inspiration! 😊❤

    Liked by 3 people

      • Thanks for those kind words, Sally. It makes me very happy to be a part of the super supportive online writing community, and I’m always pleased when I can contribute, too. I’m actually even beginning to hope that I can get back to my own writing soon, if the last three days have been any indication of the direction my health is going. (Hint: possibly improving more and more). I’m working on that! 😀 ❤

        Liked by 2 people

    • So glad to be adding to your already bulging Kindle, Marcia. I think I heard they hold up to 3000 titles, so I’ll have to work on more recommendations for you, LOL.

      A review page sounds very cool. Time consuming to go back and build, but not so hard if started with current reviews as you post them. I know a lot of book bloggers do that.

      I’m just glad to see you back in the blogosphere and out and about. Take care of yourself, and don’t rush to over-do! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m still taking things at a slow pace, since my energy level remains much reduced. But I’ve felt better the last few days, and I want to get back to doing the things that make me happiest, like writing, nature talks, and (ALWAYS) more and more reading! had over 1,000 titles on my old Kindle, so I know they’ll hold a lot, but I realized no point in filling them quite that full, since I can always find my older downloads on my Amazon Content & Devices page. So I’m trying to stay below a reasonable number for now. We’ll see how well I do.

        And yep, I’ll probably alternate between posting an older review and a new one, once I get the page up and going. We’ll see what feels/works best then. I have a LOT of older reviews on my inactive Bookin’ It blog, and can copy from there to get me going, perhaps.

        It’s good to be out visiting a few blogs today, for sure. Not up to my usual frantic pace yet, but definitely doing more than I have been. We’ll see how it goes! Have a great day, my Penderpal! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • I should probably really clean up my own Kindle. I have so many books buried on there I’ve forgotten about them.

        There’s nothing wrong with a slow pace, especially as you decide which projects to focus your energy on. I know you have a lot of things you want to concentrate on. Just take your time as you work through them and remember to take breaks when you need them! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Your reviews are excellent, Mae. I’m enticed by all of them, but Sally’s Sam–I’ve read that. Wish I could read it again. It’s way at the top of my list of great dog books. Sally even sent me his picture for the sidebar of my blog.

    Be patient, Sam. I’ll see you soon…

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Wonderful reviews, Mae! You know how much I enjoyed Priscilla’s book, and I love the idea of Sally’s book being told from Sam’s perspective. This isn’t the first good review I’ve seen of Beem’s book, either.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on these, Mae! I have Priscilla’s book coming up soon for me (maybe tonight) and I loved “The Thing About Kevin.” I haven’t read Sam yet, but your review makes me want to grab it. Congrats to these authors!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Mae, SQUEEEE! Thanks for reading and reviewing The Hay Bale! I’m thrilled you like it!

    It’s so interesting that Sally’s book is from the dog’s point of view. I’m intrigued. And Beem’s story sounds like a well written, emotional read. Great reviews for both of them, Mae! Just added both to my TBR!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi, Priscilla. I’ trilled to share my review of your brilliant, twisted gem. What a story! Thanks for keeping me entertained and flipping pages on my Kindle.

      So glad to hear I’ve increased your too, LOL. I wish you happy reading with both books!

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Excellent reviews, Mae. I confess to shying away from Sally’s book because of the sad passages, though I have no doubt it’s a beautiful story. I read and loved Priscilla’s and Beem’s. So nice to see all three celebrated here.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. All three sound amazing, Mae. I’ve been wanting to read Sally’s for a while. It’s sitting on my Kindle. Thanks for the reminder to push it to the top. Adding the other two to my TBR! Takes a lot to creep me out, but I trust your recommendations. Thanks, Mae! And yes, we are SO sick of snow around here.

    A few years ago, Phil bit the mayor when he lifted him out of his carrier. Did you see it?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know you love animals, Sue, so I know you’ll enjoy Sam’s story. He’s a charmer! 🙂
      And The Hay Bale is nice and slowly creepy, while The Thing About Kevin really packs a punch. Happy reading with all of them!

      This winter has been the absolute pits. We haven’t had the amount of snow we normally get (I know you’ve been hammered up north), but the cold has been dreadful. And it’s been so long since I’ve seen the sun. Ugh!

      I think I remember when that incident happened with Phil and the mayor, although I didn’t see it live. Probably in a replay. Phil gets a lot of screen time around here, LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Weekly – #Interview Janice Spina – Darlene Foster, #Copyright Hugh Roberts – Deborah Jay, #Reviews Mae Clair, #Antigua Carol Taylor, #Focus Gwen Plano | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

I love comments, so please scribble a thought or two!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.