About Mae Clair

Hi, I'm Mae Clair, an author who writes tales of mystery and suspense, flavored with folklore. In addition to writing, I'm an avid reader who loves discussing books and anything writing related. I'm also passionate about cryptozoology, legends, and cats!

Book Spotlight: Bottom Feeders @_JerryRoth_ @SunburyPress #horror #supernaturalthriller

An open book with rays and orbs of light shooting from the pages

Hi, friends. Welcome to a new feature you’ll likely see on my blog once or twice a month for the foreseeable future. Sunbury Press is a traditional publishing house located not far from where I live in Central Pennsylvania. Their marketing assistant reached out to me to see if I would be interested in sharing occasional releases on my blog. I’ve asked for those books that may appeal to my followers, mostly mystery/suspense or in the supernatural vein.

Today, I’m sharing the first selection they’ve sent, Bottom Feeders by Jerry Roth. This book is tearing up the charts on Amazon. Take a look and let me know what you think in the comments below.

Image of hands gripping jail cell bars, red eyes glowing in background

Book Blurb:

Would you recognize the Devil if you met him?

A decaying prison hides a dark secret. Robert Deville, the youngest prison warden in the history of the state, never expected to feel a supernatural connection in a prison. After discovering a diary, Robert learns a prisoner, rumored to be the Devil, was hidden away under his feet.

Was this prisoner responsible for a fire that killed hundreds of prisoners? Did he play a part in the murder of a local family years earlier? Robert must learn the prisoner’s true identity and unravel why he hasn’t aged in decades.

Surviving a relationship with an abusive ex-husband, Jenny Deville is dealing with the pain of her past. Noticing a sudden change in her son’s behavior, and his horrifying drawings of murders, no child should ever witness, she must discover the cause.

As local children mysteriously disappear, there is little time to prove who the killer really is.

Book Links:
Sunbury Press | Amazon | Independent Book Review

Author, Jerry RothAuthor Bio:
Jerry Roth is a graduate from The Ohio State University where he studied English Literature. He has written for Ohio newspapers and sports articles for the Disc Golf Pro Tour. His fiction career began as a screenwriter. He lives in Moxahala, Ohio with his wife Tricia and his three children Jesse, Lea, and Nick. After reading The Stand by Stephen King, he became passionate about creating his own work of fiction. Bottom Feeders is his debut novel.

Author website

 

Book Review Tuesday: Ghostly Interference @JanSikes3, Perfectly Imperfect @JacqBiggar, Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries @sgc58, P.S., I Love You More Than Tuna @SarahChauncey

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

Hello! Wherever you are today, I hope the weather is warm(er) and pleasant. We can all use a break from winter weather, especially our friends in Texas. In my portion of Pennsylvania, we had a day and a half of snow which amounted to my office (on the day job), closing one full day and delaying until noon on the second. I squeezed in a lot of reading last week, although the reviews I’m sharing today are of books I read earlier in the month. I’m still playing catch up with my reviews, so let’s get started!
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Ghostly Interference
by Jan Sikes

Book cover for Ghostly Interference shows ghost image of kneeling GI in background, motorcycle and road in foreground

If you like your romantic reads with multiple layers, you’re sure to enjoy Ghostly Interference. Jan Sikes delivers the story of Jag and Rena who at first glance are polar opposites. He comes from a comfortable background and works in the computer industry, while Rena has been through a rough-and-tumble existence that included foster care. They say opposites attract, and in this case, the adage rings true. Both Rena and Jag have multiple hurdles to navigate on their road to a happily-ever-after. Sikes goes well beyond the trope of boy-meets-girl, delivering a plot that involves the spirit of Rena’s deceased brother, a magical rune, complex family dynamics, and the chance for her characters to embrace missed opportunities.

I particularly enjoyed the story line that took Jag from computer geek to musician and the inclusion of Damien. There’s a strong musical influence in this book. Not surprising given the author’s passion for, and inside knowledge of, the music industry. I also loved Rena finding Riley and her initial reaction to Jag digging into her past. The love of these two characters really shines through, especially during the closing climatic chapters.

Sikes delivers a polished read with excellent writing, characters who resonate with heart, and a plot that will leave you satisfied and happy.

5 STARS
AMAZON LINK
Genre: Romance > Ghost Fiction > Fantasy Romance

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Perfectly Imperfect
by Jacquie Biggar

If you enjoy breezy romantic reads, you’ll fall in love with this novella worthy of the Hallmark Channel. Georgina life’s dream revolves around her small start-up company, but financial setbacks force her to partner with CLO for backing. Little does she know CLO’s representative, Rhys Turner, arrives with the intent of selling her company out from under her at the insistence of his father.

From Georgina’s and Rhys first disastrous meeting—she spills coffee over his expensive suit—sparks fly between these two. This is a boy-meets-girl romance with all the squabbling and tug-of-wars you’d expect before the HEA at the end, but as always, what sets Biggar’s books apart is her gift for witty banter, clever POV, deft writing, and spot-on characterizations. Toss in an adorable puppy and some son/father issues between Rhys and his dad, and you’ve got a feel-good story guaranteed to leave you with a smile. A pleasure to read by an author who is a master at her craft!

5 STARS
AMAZON LINK
Genre:
Romance > Romantic Comedy

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Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet
by Sally Cronin

This is an entertaining collection of short stories with several poems scattered throughout. The book is grouped into topics such as Technology, Animal Magic, and Connections (to name a few) with stories and poems related to their header topics appearing underneath. It’s cleverly presented and cleverly written. All of the stories are winners but there were some that really stood out for me, including The Weekly Shopping, The Nanny, The Scratch Card, and The Night Shift.

In The Weekly Shopping we get a taste of what ordering groceries might be like with when we come to rely too much on technology. It’s both hilariously funny and worrisome at the same time. I loved the argument related to the cat!

In The Nanny, a young couple discover who is watching over their baby at night. The Scratch Card left me with a lump in my throat at the generosity of others, and The Night Shift made me appreciate the special love pets have for their owners and the kindness of those who appreciate that bond.

These stories are heartwarming and touching, with scattered poetry further enriching the sections. A lovely collection and a quick read, the stories will lodge in your heart and linger.

5 STARS
AMAZON LINK
Genre: Two-Hour Short Reads > Short Stories and Poetry

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close up illustration of black cat, being held , paw around person's shoulder

P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna
by Sarah Chauncey


Beautifully illustrated and written, this short picture book will touch the heart of any cat lover, but it is geared toward those grieving the loss of a feline companion. I’ve lost several over the years, and thus felt compelled to pick this up even though my current rescue kitty is healthy and well.

P.S., I Love You More Than Tuna clearly depicts how kittens and cats enrich our lives, cover our hearts with paw prints, and never let go. It portrays all the joy, whimsy, and beautiful moments of sharing life with our special companions. I was in tears by the time I reached the final pages.

I am so glad I purchased this book, and can’t recommend it highly enough. I know I will go through the pages over and over again. It makes me cherish my cat, Raven, even more. For anyone who has ever loved and lost a cat, this book is a must!

Note: I bought the hardback copy. The illustrations are a treasure, and I was worried how they’d show on a Kindle. Considering the hardcopy isn’t even a dollar more, the decision was a no-brainer. 🙂

5 STARS
AMAZON LINK
Genre: Pet Loss Grief

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Thanks for joining me for another round of Tuesday Book Reviews. Just another week or two of playing catch-up with my reviews, and I can actually start sharing them as I finish the books.

I hope something today has caught your eye and is a candidate for your TBR. Thanks to all of these excellent authors for keeping me entertained. As always, I wish everyone happy reading!

Today Only: Myth and Magic by Mae Clair $1.99 #romanticsuspense #mystery

Banner ad for Myth and Magic a romantic suspense/mystery novel by Mae Clair shows a Gothic looking home with varied roof peaks behind a hedge, gloomy setting

Happy Friday! I rarely do promotional posts on my catalog of back titles (note to self: do this more often) but I wanted to give a shout out on my romantic suspense / mystery novel, Myth and Magic. My publisher has placed it on sale today for $1.99, so if you’ve been on the fence about this one, now is the perfect time to snatch it up!

You’ve probably figured out by now that I have a “thing” for spooky old houses. In the case of Myth and Magic, the home in question has been converted to a retreat for corporate employees trying to “unplug” from the world. Naturally, it has a sordid and sinister past. Oh, and did I mention the book is set during October with a lavish Halloween party at the end? A Halloween party where something goes very wrong.

BLURB:
AS CHILDREN THEY PLAYED GAMES OF MYTH AND MAGIC…
 
Veronica Kent fell in love with Caith Breckwood when they were children. As a teenager, she was certain he was the man she was destined to marry. But a traumatic event from Caith’s past led him to fear a future together. He left Veronica, hoping to save her from a terrible fate. Twelve years later, Caith, now a P.I., is hired to investigate bizarre incidents at the secluded retreat Veronica manages. Returning to his hometown, Caith is forced to face his nightmares—and his feelings for the woman he’s always loved.
 
THEN ONE DAY THE MONSTERS BECAME REAL.
 
After the callous way Caith broke her heart, Veronica isn’t thrilled to see him again. But strange occurrences have taken a dangerous toll on business at Stone Willow Lodge. Forced to work together, Veronica discovers it isn’t ghostly apparitions that frighten her, but her passion for a man she has never forgotten. Or forgiven. Can two people with a tarnished past unearth a magical future?

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A Few Review Snippets:

This book had mystery, suspense, intrigue, revenge, redemption, heartache, hope, self loathing, even some violence and mayhem. But best of all, there was love, romance, and a well deserved HEA. Was it an easy journey? Heck no! That would be boring anyway. I was taken on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Mae has a way of writing a story that makes you feel as if you are a part of it. 

~ Sassy Beta Reading and Reviews

I found this to be a well developed storyline with complicated characters and a great mystery. Once you think you may have figured it out you encounter a twist or a turn that shoots your theory down. The interactions between the characters is snarky, filled with emotion and several are very heavy. If you like books about second chances and facing up to your past this is a great choice. Its easy to read, keeps your attention right up to the end and is sure to become one of your favorite reads.

Cover of Myth and Magic, a romantic suspense novel by Mae Clair, Includes snippets of reviews in a colorful ad

~ Niki Driscoll, Amazon Reviewer

Myth and Magic by Mae Clair is filled with colorful characters, family drama and an engaging mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. Good character development, plenty of physical action and emotional angst keep you turning the pages to discover what is really taking place at Stone Willow Lodge. Fans of mystery books with second chance romance and psychological twists will definitely want to give this book a try.

~ Maria D., Amazon Reviewer

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This was my first novel to reach bestseller status in the paid store on both Amazon and Barnes and Nobel, so I’m rather fond of it. The novel was also a staff recommendation in the public newsletter published by my local library. I’ve closed comments on this post, but I’d be pleased–okay, giddy–it you decide to pick up Myth and Magic and add it to your TBR. Thanks for your consideration and for giving it a look-see! 🙂

$1.99 TODAY ONLY

UNIVERSAL PURCHASE LINK

Guest Author Brenda Marie Smith Presents Living off the Grid: My Life as Research

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script

Hello! Today I’m excited to welcome Brenda Marie Smith to my blog. It’s her first time visiting, and boy does she have a story to share. I “met” Brenda last year when I read her highly-unique post-apocalyptic novel If Darkness Takes Us. To see what makes this book so different from most stories of this type, see my 5 Star Amazon Review. And then check out where some of the inspiration behind the book came from by reading Brenda’s amazing personal experiences below!

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LIVING OFF THE GRID:
MY LIFE AS RESEARCH

By Brenda Marie Smith

In my novel, If Darkness Takes Us, a solar pulse destroys the U.S. grid and also takes down the cars, phones, and running water. The characters must survive without modern conveniences and learn to farm their urban subdivision.

Readers regularly comment on how much research I must have done to make the details of a powerless world authentic. But the fact is that my life was my research.

In the 1970s when I lived off the grid for several years, I didn’t realize I was also building a treasure trove of experiences that would later fuel my fiction. I was an idealist, part of the Back to the Land movement. We were “getting in touch with Nature” and “finding ourselves,” which often involved living in the backwoods, ingesting psychedelics, growing veggies, and the actual hugging of trees.

The Arkansas Ozark Mountains
The first time I got married I was eighteen. Back then you could survive on odd jobs and cheap rent, but after hitchhiking across the country twice, we weren’t satisfied. When we saw the movie “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” about St. Francis of Assisi shunning worldly goods, we packed up our 1953 Chevy panel truck and headed out to live in the Ozark Mountains of Western Arkansas.

Oh my gosh, it was beautiful there—low mountains that seemed spectacular to us after being flatlanders all our lives—crisp air, uncut National Forests of oak and gum and pine. We drove around several counties where we’d heard that hippies lived, and finally found them in Newton County—one of the poorest counties in the nation.

An old man named Beecher Kilgore had moved to town due to poor health—he lived in a trailer that he called a “Prince Albert can.” He let us live in his mountain cabin for free, as long as we brought him huckleberries from the woods and potatoes from his garden.

Beecher’s place was a tiny tar-paper shack with a tin roof, but he’d built it himself from hand-hewn oak planks. He and his wife raised their kids there—one bedroom, one living area with a woodstove for heat. The biggest room was the kitchen—it had a kerosene refrigerator that we never used and a kerosene cookstove that we fired up when we got tired of cooking atop the wood heater or the hibachi grill. Everything we did, we had to learn from scratch.

Old outhouse in the woods at autumn, trees bare, leaves covering ground
Image from Pixabay

There was an outhouse up the hill in the back—scared me to death to go there at night as there were panthers, but I got used to it. Out the kitchen door, a rock path led to a PVC pipe, where fresh spring water ran continuously to form a small pool and a smaller stream. We stored perishable food like milk and cheese in the pool, though not for more than a day at a time.

The spring water was so clean and clear that we drank it by the gallons—always cool even in hot weather. The spring was up a hill on the side of a house. Chipmunks and other small critters hung out around the spring, and I read Carlos Castaneda up there, trying to commune with the animals.

At the time we thought we didn’t have neighbors for two miles around us, but I now suspect that some people were closer if we’d known how to get to them through the woods and hollers.

We had a few acres of cleared land with two garden spaces that had once been pig pens. Otherwise, we were surrounded by miles of healthy forest. Across the chert road, we could hike a short way to a magnificent creek bed—a deep cut into the mountainside that had a lovely waterfall at the top end and a beaver dam at the bottom.

Our firewood came from fallen tree limbs that we dragged home to chop by hand. Never once did we cut down a living tree. I planted a veggie garden to mixed success, and studied local herbs and plants. I learned to make tea from wild mint or sumac, which was abundant and tasted like hibiscus. Huckleberries were everywhere the first year, but nowhere to be found the second and third. Persimmons grew wild, but we ate them too soon and never ate more.

Because we had no electricity, we used kerosene lamps and lanterns, learning to trim the wicks so they didn’t turn the lamp chimneys black. For bathing, we had a big tin washtub, and we heated water on the woodstove. It took a cooperative effort to keep the bathwater warm and to rinse one another’s hair.

Scary things happened: I rounded the corner of the house one day to find a bobcat staring at me; the brakes went out on our truck as we came down the mountain highway, taking a tight curve in the wrong lane; my visiting brother got lost in the woods for hours in the dark; the truck’s engine block froze and cracked, stranding us at home with almost no food. We had to hike four miles up the mountain in the snow, not knowing if the store would even be open. Luckily it was, and people fed us a meal and hot tea to boot.

Wondrous and beautiful things: The quiet, which unnerved me at first until the peacefulness settled in; dogwood flowers in spring that looked like white butterflies on the bare trees; hiking to the mountaintop to get above the clouds; the spectacular fall foliage; caves with sparkling white stalactites and stalagmites; witchers who found water with a willow stick; old men who played banjo and guitar and invited the hippies to sing along; huckleberry pie at the café where everyone knew us and the waitresses called us “honey.”

And on summer nights, tree frogs would serenade us from a pond in the woods under the magical moonlight.

The people of Newton County had been dirt-poor for generations. They hunted and fished for part of their food (which we never did—we were learning to be vegetarian). They survived by helping each other, and they helped us so much it was humbling. Beecher Kilgore loaned us his house; a mechanic named Smitty gave us a running car and wouldn’t let us pay him; folks gave us fresh honey and garden vegetables galore. I learned to make quilts that I pieced together by hand and gave them as gifts in return.

Putting Life into Fiction
Beecher’s cabin and the mountain creek show up in my first novel, Something Radiates. So does the time I spent in Louisiana and a mountain cave I hitchhiked to near Boulder. For the evil antagonist, I merged the worst aspects of my two exes and ramped them into overdrive.

Book cover for If Darkness Takes Us by Brenda Marie Smith shows high tension utility tower shrouded in darkness

For If Darkness Takes Us and its sequel, If the Light Escapes (coming out August 2021), I drew on my experience as mother and grandmother in a big step-family, plus my skills from life off-grid in the Ozarks. I also used what I learned in off-grid communal living, which I will tell you more about in a future blog post this coming summer.

The lesson to go with the standard advice to “write what you know” is that you can mix pieces of your life with your imagination to create something completely new.
All my thanks to Mae Clair for her kindness and encouragement, and for hosting this story on her blog.
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Author, Brenda Marie SmithBIO:
Winner of the Southern Fried Karma 2018 Novel Contest for IF DARKNESS TAKES US, Brenda Marie Smith studied fiction in the UCLA Writers Program. Born and raised in Oklahoma City, she was part of the back-to-the-land movement, living off the grid in the Ozark Mountains, and then joining The Farm—an off-grid, vegan hippie community in Tennessee where her sons were delivered by midwives.

Brenda has lived in Austin, Texas since 1980, where she managed nonprofits for thirty years. She and her husband own and reside in a grid-connected, solar-powered home. They have five grown sons, two grandkids with a third on the way, and a self-assured kitty cat. Her first novel Something Radiates is a paranormal romantic thriller; If Darkness Takes Us and its sequel, If the Light Escapes, are post-apocalyptic science fiction.

Connect with Brenda at the following haunts:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads | YouTube

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BOOK BLURB:
IF DARKNESS TAKES US

Winner of the 2018 Southern Fried Karma Novel Contest

In suburban Austin, Texas, Bea Crenshaw secretly prepares for apocalypse, but when a solar pulse destroys modern life, she’s left alone with four grandkids whose parents don’t return home. She must teach these kids to survive without power, cars, phones, running water, or doctors in a world fraught with increasing danger.

If Darkness Takes Us is realistic post-apocalyptic fiction with a focus on a family in peril, led by a no-nonsense grandmother who is at once funny, controlling, and heroic in her struggle to hold her family together with civility and heart.

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So are you as blown away as I am? What an incredible life Brenda has led! Now I understand how she was able to make the scenarios in If Darkness Takes Us so realistic.

Brenda will be back again with another amazing post when If the Light Escapes releases in August. In the meantime, this (moi) pampered, where’s-the-pool-bar-and-hotel-lounge girl is in awe. My husband frequently tells me I would have never made it as a settler or living in the Old West. Apparently, I wouldn’t make it in Brenda’s world either, LOL!

Drop her a few thoughts below. And, if you haven’t read If Darkness Takes Us, I highly recommend a quick jaunt to Amazon to one-click!

Book Review Tuesday: The Prince’s Man, The Prince’s Son #epicfantasy #fantasyromance @DeborahJay2

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

Happy Book Review Tuesday. I hope the weather is tolerable in your part of the world. February has been most unkind to the northeast, bringing non-stop snow, snow squalls, and freezing rain and sleet. Needless to say I’ve hunkered down indoors whenever possible–a great time for reading. Today I have two novels in a wonderful fantasy series to share. As the log line for these books say . . . “Think James Bond meets Lord of the Rings.”

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Book cover for The Prince's Man shows image of long-haired handsome young man in cloak on horseback

The Prince’s Man
Five Kingdom’s Book 1
by Deborah Jay

One of the best fantasy novels I have read in ages, The Prince’s Man combines court intrigue, nefarious plots, and dazzling realms. Rustam (Rusty) Chalice is a debonair dance master who lives a double life as a spy in the service of his prince, while also frequenting the beds of highborn ladies.

His life takes a turn when he is forced to team with Dart, the court’s royal assassin—a woman—with the goal of transporting a sickly elf across hostile, mountainous territory. Through the arduous journey, all three characters undergo brutal transformations and evolve as they are tested time and again, forced to rely on one another. At the same time, threats to the throne involve a traitorous noble, an illegitimate heir, and a diabolical torturer. There are layers upon layers of plot, all woven neatly together for a satisfying conclusion in this first book of what promises to be a stellar series.

I was smitten with all three of the lead characters, especially Rustam who undergoes the most compelling transformation of all. You can’t read this book and not be caught up in the lives of Jay’s rakish spy, Risada, Elwaes, and so many others. Even the secondary characters are fleshed out and vibrantly written. We meet so many along the journey, yet each leaves a distinctive mark.

The writing is exquisite, layered with beautifully detailed descriptions of enthralling realms, fantastical creatures, and breathless adventure. Every bit as riveting are the cloak-and-dagger machinations of several royal houses and the cruel manipulations of power-hungry men who seek the throne. From the moment I opened the first pages, I was sucked into the author’s expertly crafted world of intrigue and danger. A truly engaging story. Although book one delivers a wrap to the story as presented, I look forward to continuing for the full scope in books two and three. Highly recommended!

5 Stars

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Epic Fantasy > Fantasy Adventure > Fantasy Romance

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The Prince’s Son
Five Kingdoms Book 2
by Deborah Jay

Book cover for The Prince's Son shows image of long-haired handsome young man in cloak on horseback

The second book in a series, The Prince’s Son picks up where the first book left off. Rustam Chalice is once again in the thick of things as he leads a bridal caravan delivering the older of twins to her intended. Nessa, the younger twin, joins her sister for the journey, along with their maid and friend, Enya. What starts off as a simple journey soon twists into nightmarish proportions, especially for the girls when they are abducted by a vile clan chief.

As in the first novel, I was enthralled by the deftness of the author’s writing, her ability to weave scenes that kept me on pins and needles, and a plot that leaves the reader eagerly flipping the pages.

Whether Jay is writing a beautiful descriptive passage or one rife with danger and raw brutality, her talent places the reader in the heart of the scene. She did an excellent job of wringing emotion from me. I alternately cheered, recoiled, wept, and felt the same broken, joyous, or determined fortitude of the characters. Some are truly abhorrent, and the author didn’t shy from showing that side of them. Others, heroic, complex, resilient.

The relationship between Rustam and Lady Risada will always be the heart of the story for me, but there are layers upon layers of plot threads in this deftly built world. There are several surprises in store, plus a wonderful “comeuppance” for one of the more loathsome characters. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey in book three!

5 Stars

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Epic Fantasy > Fantasy Adventure > Fantasy Romance

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Aren’t the covers for these novels positively gorgeous? I’m thoroughly smitten with Rustam and Lady Risada and look forward to reading more of their story in book three. Rumor has it Deborah has a fourth (and final?) novel in the works for this series. I’ll be grabbing it on pre-order as soon as it’s available. Book three, The Prince’s Protege is already waiting on my Kindle.

Thanks for joining me for another Book Review Tuesday. Wherever you are, stay warm, and happy reading!

Book Review Tuesday: Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam #psychologicalliteraryfiction #suspense

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

Thank you for joining me today for another Book Review Tuesday. Normally, when I finish a book, I write my review the same day, the next at the latest. It’s a habit I keep because I like the story and my impressions to be fresh in my head.

In the case of Leave the World Behind, it took me several days of ruminating to decide how I felt. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that left me waffling so indecisively. This one haunted my subconscious and is still rattling around in my head.This is a novel that will keep book clubs talking, debating, and discussing. ____________________________________________________________________________

Leave the World Behind
by Rumaan Alam

Book cover shows in-ground swimming pool at night

I want to say I loved this book, and in many (most?) ways I did, but there were more than a few moments I found frustrating. It’s a hard book to recommend because readers are likely to either be enthralled by it or hate it. There’s not much room for middle ground with this one.

The plot enticed me—Clay and Amanda, a middle-income white couple with two children rent a rural luxury home on Long Island for vacation. Not long into their stay they lose power, internet, TV—but not before getting a few jumbled hints that something terrible has happened. Something big.

In the middle of the night, G.H. and Ruth, an older, wealthy black couple arrive claiming they are the owners of the home, and that there has been a massive blackout in New York City. How these two couples react to each other, their relationship changing as it becomes more and more apparent something more than a blackout has taken place, is the foundation of the story.

Although I found this book hard to put down, there were moments that amounted to fingernails on my reading blackboard. As an example, near the beginning we get at least two pages listing what Amanda bought at the grocery store. What writer gets away with that? What editor lets it slide past? Then there are the sometimes-crude passages focused on Clay or Amanda thinking about sex. I’m not prudish, but some was just…gross. Thankfully, those passages weren’t long, but I found it weird how the author veered in that direction multiple times.

Honestly, the whole book is weird. Strange. Odd. Curious. Bizarre, and atypical. And yet it’s compelling. Riveting. There is a commanding sense of urgency as well as a building atmosphere of claustrophobia throughout.

The story is told from an omniscient point-of-view, with insight into all the characters, even the two kids, Rose, a thirteen-year-old and Archie, a sixteen-year-old. Every now and then—as the reader is experiencing what a character is feeling at a particular moment—the author inserts something unrelated. A tragic happening to someone the reader doesn’t know, in another part of the country. These “glimpses” which only last a few sentences, are never fully fleshed out, but serve to heighten the need to know exactly what catastrophic event took place. The reader is as much in the dark (no pun intended) as Clay and Amanda, G.H. and Ruth.

Of particular note, there are a few moments that I considered sheer brilliance and which made the hair prickle on the back of my neck—when Rose spies thousands of deer that suddenly appear in the woods. When a huge flock of flamingos land on the in-ground pool (you have to read the book to understand why this is so eerie) and most of all, “the noise.”

Many reviewers felt this book was poorly written. I disagree. There are passages weighted down in telling (Amanda’s grocery list, anyone?), but the passages related to the noise (and there are many) were so vividly and expertly described, I felt as if that horrific happening had reached through my Kindle and echoed in my ears. Pages upon pages of goosebumps!

Finally, we come to the ending.

Or lack of one.

I know that infuriated many readers. I actually swiped back through my Kindle thinking I must have missed a few pages. Then all I could think was “huh?” But the more I dwelled on how the author chose to wrap things up, the more I was okay with it. I really hope this book is optioned for the big screen as I can see it making an excellent movie (although I’m sure many movie-goers would be frustrated by the ending).

So… is it a good book? Yes. Is it a bad book? Yes. Did I like it?

After debating for a few days, I can fully see myself reading Leave the World Behind again when I want something unusual. A curious, sometimes annoying, but fully engrossing story. I started this review with “I want to say I loved this book.” Quibbles and problems aside, I thoroughly loved it. Guaranteed, should you give it a go, you’re bound to have a strong opinion one way or the other.

5 Stars

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Psychological Literary Fiction > Mystery, Thriller, Suspense Fiction

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If anyone out there has read this, I’d love to know what you thought. The book has had a lot of buzz, with readers mostly split on their feelings. If you haven’t read it, what do you think? Something you’d pick up or not? Let’s chat in the comments!


Book Review Tuesday: The Forgotten by D.L. Cross, The Culmination by Gwen Plano @stacitroilo @gmplano

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

Thank you for joining me for another Book Review Tuesday. Today, I am featuring titles from two of my Story Empire colleagues–Staci Troilo (D.L.Cross) and Gwen Plano.

From aliens to military coverups and political intrigue, these novels will keep you flipping the pages and scrambling to reach their exciting conclusions!

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The Forgotten
by D. L. Cross

Book cover for The Forgotten shows large space ship on angry sky hovering over Grecian-inspired building

If you’re unfamiliar with the Astral Conspiracy series, The Forgotten is a great introduction. If you’re already a fan of Astral, this story is a treat—icing on the cake, so to speak. As with the series itself, the action is fast paced, an adrenaline rush of danger and intrigue. Cross delivers excellent characters in Colonel Jack Morley and CORE director Victor Cannon.

A clever prequel, The Forgotten delivers all the elements that makes Astral so mind-blowing—Titans, Reptars, Reclaimants and Separated to name a few. Whether you’re new to the series or not, there are several surprises in store. Of special note, I have to mention the plot thread involving Cannon and Tiny. It kept me glued to the pages! The Forgotten is another great entry in a spectacular series, but it reads as either introduction or standalone. I positively loved the ending!

5 Stars

AMAZON LINK NOTE: This novel is FREE, so scarf it up!
Genre: Alien Invasion Science Fiction > Colonization Science Fiction

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Book cover of The Culmination shows silhouette of couple holding hands with young girl in pigtails, war tanks in background

The Culmination
by Gwen Plano


Book three in a series, The Culmination reads easily as a standalone novel. A political thriller, that addresses denuclearization, tensions in the Middle East, and the fate of refugees, much of the story echoes current headlines. The plot is complex involving multiple heads of state, along with the strategical give and take of political maneuvering on a global level. The author clearly put an extensive amount of research into this book, and it shows. Adrenalin-fueled scenes alter with more cerebral moments, and even a few romantic interludes.

I especially loved the evolution of the relationship between the two central characters, Margaret Adler, VP of the United States and Ivan Smirnov, acting President of Russia. During the course of the novel those titles change, and we learn more about each, including richly developed backgrounds. I was thoroughly invested in the difficulties Margaret and Ivan faced, both on personal and political levels. Their scenes together were among my favorites of the book. There’s also a young refugee child who factors into the story and who stole my heart.

5 STARS

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Military Thriller > War Fiction

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I want to send a huge round of applause to Staci and Gwen for keeping me entertained with such adrenaline and emotion filled reads. These are definitely two books you want to add to your TBR!

Guest Author Thursday: Emily Fortney with The Dark Ruler #newrelease #fantasy #youngadult

red quill pen on a piece of old parchment paper, with an ink well with words Welcome Guest in script

Hello, and please welcome Emily Fortney back to my blog. Emily and I originally met in a local writing group, and I’m delighted to help her with the launch of her newest release The Dark Ruler. Isn’t the cover gorgeous? She also has a special offer for you at the end of the post.

Here’s Emily to give you some background on The Dark Ruler and her Camilla Crim series!

cover of The Dark Ruler shows young girl on horseback, sword strapped over shoulder, castle in background

It is great to be back on Mae’s blog and talking to all of you! When I was here last summer, I was sharing about my young adult fantasy book, The Sacrifice of One. I was re-launching that book at that time. Yes, you read that right, it was a RE-launch. After years of sitting on this book and just focusing on my writing, I decided to rebrand it and widen the distribution. All during the re-launch, I was also working on a brand new book in that series called The Dark Ruler. Well, I’m back again to announce that The Dark Ruler officially released this week! 

This is book #3 in my Camilla Crim series. It’s actually been almost three years since I released a new book, so this is a big deal for me and I’m really excited to tell you about it. 

Let me introduce you to my leading lady, Camilla. How shall I describe Camilla? She’s stubborn and talks without thinking, but she’s also fiery and passionate. In The Dark Ruler she’s on a mission to kill the Supreme Ruler, Quinten Warwick, and free the people of Elmyra from slavery. Unsurprisingly, a slew of mysteries lie between the walls of the capital city where the Supreme Ruler resides.

Things are little more complicated than that straight forward goal. Because Camilla has a mother with suspect intentions. After abandoning Camilla when she was just a toddler, Portia weasels her way back into Camilla’s world and has taken to meddling with her life. Although a very powerful witch, Portia is intent on drawing little ol’ Camilla to her side. The problem is, Camilla doesn’t know why her mother is suddenly interested in her, and frankly, she doesn’t care. She wants nothing to do with her mother.

For those of you who’ve never read any of the books in this series, let’s back up. Before Camilla had problems with her mom and found herself taking on the role of a Supreme Ruler assassin, she worked at the national farm, being treated as little more than a slave. Camilla even bears the brand of Quinten Warwick on her arm. She’s a peasant, a nothing. 

Everything changes when she finds out that her brother is being hunted down for a murder she knows he didn’t commit, or at least she’s pretty sure… All of that plays out in The Sacrifice of One. (Stick around until the end of this post for a special offer on this book!)

Book cover for The Sacrifice of One by Emily Fortney, a young adult fantasy novel, showacs attractive young woman with long hair

First, I’d like to draw the veil and take you behind the scenes of The Dark Ruler and the process I took to write this book. Like all of you, last year was different for me. Here in America, COVID struck in early March. Literally the week that everything shut down was the same week that I left my 9-5 job of nearly 10 years to write part time. Leaving my job was pre-planned and had nothing to do with COVID. It was a weird time of transition for me. 

The point is, I wrote The Dark Ruler during the pandemic. The lack of social gatherings really cut down on my commitments and I was able to spend a lot of time at my laptop clacking away. For me, this book is a positive part of 2020. It helped me survive it in a way and I’m not sure I could have written it as quickly as I did without quarantine. 

As an author I often get asked what inspired me to write my books. That question is hard to answer. A million things have inspired me. In the case of The Dark Ruler, I had been thinking over this plot for years. The skeleton of this installment was in my head even while I was writing the earlier Camilla books. But I will let you in on one major inspiration. It’s a little bit of a spoiler, so let’s keep it hush hush

In 2019 I married my best friend. The development of our relationship and our actual wedding event inspired certain parts of The Dark Ruler. There is of course a romance element to the Camilla books and much of that storyline in this book, is inspired by my own experiences of falling in love. I’ll stop before I get too gushy on you!

The Dark Ruler is available NOW! Make sure you go grab your copy. New to the series? You can read book #1, The Sacrifice of One, for FREE by CLICKING HERE and signing up on my email newsletter. If you love The Sacrifice of One, there are 3 more books in the series you can binge on!

One more thing. As a special gift to Mae’s readers, if you sign up for my email newsletter, not only will you get a FREE eBook copy of The Sacrifice of One, but I will send a bookish sticker pack to the first 50 people that sign up. 😊 Just shoot me an email at emily@emilyfortney.com and let me know that you signed up and came from Mae’s blog. Put your address in the email, and I’ll mail you a sticker pack! Sign up HERE

It’s been a blast to chat with you all today. Thanks again to Mae for letting me post and tell you about my new release. You can read the full blurb of The Dark Ruler below and connect with me on all the social medias.

Happy reading!

~Emily


BLURB:
A wicked man sits on the throne in Elmyra’s capital city, and Camilla is determined to end his reign by any means necessary. Blinded by her determination, Camilla will abandon her life in Bear Gap and join forces with Reed, a man she doesn’t know as well as she thought. Their plan? To kill The Supreme Ruler of Elmyra.

The plot to assassinate Quinten Warwick will lead them through treacherous terrain and down the infamous Thief Road to the capital city of LilyAye. Once there, they must join with the LilyAye rebels and find a way to put an end to the country’s dark ruler.


Photo of author, Emily FortneyAuthor Bio:
Emily has come a long way from building forts in the woods behind her childhood home. She’s the author of the The Sacrifice of One, the first book in a thrilling, young adult fantasy series. Born and raised in central Pennsylvania, Emily currently resides with her husband and shelter cat, and is vigilant about keeping her house well stocked with dark chocolate.

Connect with Emily at the following haunts:
Website | Email Newsletter | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Wattpad

PURCHASE THE DARK RULER:
AMAZON
APPLE BOOKS | BARNES & NOBLE | KOBO

Thanks for joining Emily and me today for the launch of her book. I hope you enjoyed her post as much as I did. Camilla certainly sounds like an interesting heroine. Don’t forget to take Emily up on her offer for The Sacrifice of One, then hop over to Amazon grab the latest in this series. Please help Emily spread the word by using the sharing buttons below. Drop her a line and say hello! 🙂

 

Book Review Tuesday: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia #GothicFiction #HistoricalFantasy

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over imageI only have one review to share today. This is a book that lingered on my reading radar for a long time. Then I reached a point where I HAD to read it. I was in the mood for something spooky and gothic, grabbed it from Amazon, and devoured it in days. Surprisingly, I couldn’t give it five stars.


Set during the 1930s in Mexico, this Gothic novel hits all the right notes—a crumbling old mansion with a family cemetery, a dying patriarch, twisted family history, suicide and murders. Socialite, Noemi, travels to High Place, the home of her recently married cousin after her father receives a strange letter from Catalina that includes references to the walls “talking,” among other oddities.  When Noemi arrives, she finds her once vibrant cousin subdued and sickly, attended by members of her new husband’s family. Noemi is uncertain what to make of the handsome and charismatic, Virgil Doyle, but finds his stern and aloof Aunt Florence—Catalina’s primary caregiver—uncommunicative and regimental. Florence’s son, Francis, is somewhere in the middle, a bit timid, even awkward. These characters drive the plot, but revelations come slowly. Although set in Mexico, nothing really marks this as a Mexican mystery. Except for Noemi and Catalina, all the characters are English. For the most part, I was glued to the pages, especially the descriptions of the moldy, depressing mansion and cemetery. The history of the Doyle family, including their ownership of a once profitable silver mine is intriguing, as are glimpses of several Doyle ancestors and the murders and suicide that bind them. As the main character, Noemi is strong, an excellent protagonist.  I give an A+ for all the above, but the horror elements didn’t work for me. I was hoping for a good ghost story, but the “big bad” is something entirely different. That plot thread got tedious, especially in the middle of the book, although the ending is fast-paced and climatic. C+ for the horror elements/plot thread, so 4 stars overall. I did like how everything turned out, and would certainly read this author again.Mexican Gothic
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Set during the 1930s in Mexico, this Gothic novel hits all the right notes—a crumbling old mansion with a family cemetery, a dying patriarch, twisted family history, suicide and murders.

Socialite, Noemi, travels to High Place, the home of her recently married cousin after her father receives a strange letter from Catalina that includes references to the walls “talking,” among other oddities.

When Noemi arrives, she finds her once vibrant cousin subdued and sickly, attended by members of her new husband’s family. Noemi is uncertain what to make of the handsome and charismatic, Virgil Doyle, but finds his stern and aloof Aunt Florence—Catalina’s primary caregiver—uncommunicative and regimental. Florence’s son, Francis, is somewhere in the middle, a bit timid, even awkward. These characters drive the plot, but revelations come slowly. Although set in Mexico, nothing really marks this as a Mexican mystery. Except for Noemi and Catalina, all the characters are English.

For the most part, I was glued to the pages, especially the descriptions of the moldy, depressing mansion and cemetery. The history of the Doyle family, including their ownership of a once profitable silver mine is intriguing, as are glimpses of several Doyle ancestors and the murders and suicide that bind them. As the main character, Noemi is strong, an excellent protagonist.

I give an A+ for all the above, but the horror elements didn’t work for me. I was hoping for a good ghost story, but the “big bad” is something entirely different. That plot thread got tedious, especially in the middle of the book, although the ending is fast-paced and climatic. C+ for the horror elements/plot thread, so 4 stars overall. I did like how everything turned out, and would certainly read this author again.

4 Stars

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Gothic Fiction > Historical Fantasy


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this book. I was torn on writing the review because so much of the novel was spectacular. Is Mexican Gothic something you’d consider reading?

Book Review Tuesday: Liars and Thieves, Allies and Spies, Lord of Chaos #UnravelingtheVeil @Dwallacepeach

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over imageToday, I have the pleasure of reviewing an entire series, written by a stellar author.
D. Wallace Peach is a gifted story-teller. She not only delivers riveting fiction time after time, but does so using beautiful prose, vivid imagery, and complex world-building. It’s my pleasure to share my five star reviews for all three novels in her Unraveling the Veil series.


Book cover for Liars and Thieves gives appearance of old medieval tome Liars and Thieves
by D. Wallace Peach

In any D. Wallace Peach novel, you can count on a diverse cast of characters and an exceptionally detailed fantasy world. With Liars and Thieves, Peach delivers both, mesmerizing the reader from the first chapter. Goblins, elves, and changelings maintain tenuous relationships, one step away from erupting into war. At the center are Savan crystals, mined by the goblins, but necessary for the survival of all three races.

The trio of main characters—a temperamental elfin solider, a sly and cunning changeling, and a half-breed goblin—are inexplicably thrown together among a backdrop of political machinations and festering hostilities. All three have reasons to distrust, even loathe the others. As a reader, it takes a while to warm up to Alue, Talin and Naj, as none come off as the typically crafted fantasy characters, but all are equally compelling. Glimpses into their backstories are doled out morsels at a time, deftly reeling in the reader.

I can’t applaud the author enough for her brilliant use of description, gift for imagery, and—most especially—her complex worldbuilding, all of which held me spellbound. If you enjoy flawed characters, a plot that moves like a chess game with moves and countermoves, plus exquisite writing, don’t miss Liars and Thieves. I am ready and eager to dive into book two!

5 Stars

Amazon Link
Genre: Dark Fantasy Horror > Sword and Sorcery Fantasy


Book cover for Allies and Spies gives appearance of old medieval tomeAllies and Spies
by D. Wallace Peach

The danger ramps up in the second installment of this series. Alue, Naj, and Talin, tenuous allies forced to work together at the end of book one, now find themselves dependent on one another as the mysterious earthquakes and disappearances responsible for bringing them together increase in frequency. The richly detailed world Peach crafted in the first novel of this engaging trilogy is more closely examined as the reader learns more about the three races at its core—elves, goblins, and changelings. The power of shifting is key to how things play out. Peril is constant, scenes hurtling into each other as Alue, Naj, and Talin are thrust from one dangerous situation into the next.

But it isn’t just the constant menace that elevates this book in its genre. Character development is given equal attention. I loved seeing the roller coaster range of emotions in the three main characters as they shuffle through various degrees of skepticism, mistrust, forced reliance, and slowly-gained but often questionable loyalty. There are several surprises, including one mind-blowing revelation regarding one of the three leads that left me slack-jawed and stunned.

Descriptions are engrossing, immersing the reader in Peach’s vividly imagined world. The writing is polished and professional, making this middle book a pleasure to read, as it sets the stage for what I’m sure will be an exceptional conclusion. Now, thoroughly invested in the lives of the three leads, and the squabbling races that comprise this world, I’m poised to launch into book three. When you want epic fantasy at its best, you can always count on D. Wallace Peach to deliver!

5 Stars

Amazon Link
Genre: Dark Fantasy Horror > Sword and Sorcery Fantasy


Book cover for Lord of Chaos gives appearance of old medieval tomeLord of Chaos
by D. Wallace Peach

In the concluding novel of this outstanding trilogy, the alliance between the three lead characters¬—Alue, Talin, and Naj—fray, even as tenuous relationships between their respective races—elf, changeling, and goblin—completely break down. War looms and battles erupt. With changelings able to assume the guise of others, including those in positions of authority, deception abounds. The action is constant, barely giving the reader a moment to catch their breath. There are also multiple scenes, especially those that take place in the Authority, that had me squirming as I awaited the outcome.

As in the other books, the plot threads are tightly woven and complex, with surprises along the way. The writing is polished and professional, scenes intensively vivid. This is one writer who knows how to craft a riveting tale while delivering a subtle message. A superb conclusion to a phenomenal series. I will miss these characters.

5 Stars

Amazon Link
Genre: Dark Fantasy Horror > Sword and Sorcery Fantasy


I recommend this series to anyone who enjoys high fantasy or books with complex and exquisite world building. If fantasy is not your normal genre of reading, I expect you will be enthralled regardless, given this author’s superb talent. Happy reading!