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 Reviews by Mae Clair: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager #ghostficton #ghostsuspense @riley_Sager

Last week I reviewed Riley Sager’s Survive the Night, which released yesterday. Home Before Dark has been on my Kindle for some time, buried among the books I keep buying. When I realized I hadn’t read it yet, I set out to correct the oversight immediately. This one is another “Wow! Just Wow!”

BOOK BLURB:

In the latest thriller from New York Times bestseller Riley Sager, a woman returns to the house made famous by her father’s bestselling horror memoir. Is the place really haunted by evil forces, as her father claimed? Or are there more earthbound—and dangerous—secrets hidden within its walls?

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks toMaggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve come to realize the great thing about a Riley Sager book is that they’re all so different. This time around, he delivers a good old-fashioned ghost story. No gore or horror, just plenty of eerie happenings that deliver goose bumps, shivers and chills.

Maggie Holt has inherited Baneberry Hall, a house she and her parents fled in terror in the middle of the night when Maggie was five years old. She has no memory of the supernatural events that occurred in the house, but thanks to a best-selling nonfiction book her father wrote (think Amityville Horror) the whole world knows what took place during the twenty days her family lived there. Her life has been defined by “the Book” as she has come to think of it. Neither parent will talk about that time. Now, with the passing of her father, Baneberry Hall comes to her. The house has been uninhabited since the night her family fled, leaving all of their belongings behind. 

Maggie plans to renovate the house and sell it, but in the process, she is determined to discover what really happened during those twenty days and nights depicted in the Book. 

The story alternates chapters between Maggie’s POV in the present and chapters from the Book. The latter are told in her father’s POV and cover the supernatural happenings at Baneberry Hall.

Once again, Sager delivers a twisty page-turner. It’s difficult to say much about this one without giving away spoilers. I will mention that I loved the creepy ringing of room bells, the chandelier in the Indigo Room, and the session with the Ouija board. The ghosts—Mister Shadow and Miss Pennyface—are the definition of eerie, and the history of the families that occupied the house previously is played for massive goose bumps.

Numerous twists and turns near the end had me trying to pick up my jaw from the floor. As soon as I thought I was on firm footing, Sager yanked the proverbial rug out from under me again. This is mind-blowing storytelling at its best, especially if you are a fan of ghost stories that twist like a corkscrew and prickle your skin. Another stand out read from a stand out author!

Book Review Tuesday: The Ferryman and the Sea Witch by D. Wallace Peach #seaadventure #nauticalfantasy @dwallacepeach

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Welcome to another Book Review Tuesday. I’m delighted to share my review of D. Wallace Peach’s latest release, a gem of a novel that combines seafaring adventure with superb world-building and engaging characters. I love this author’s way with words, her prose both lyrical and gritty.

BOOK BLURB:

The merrow rule the sea. Slender creatures, fair of face, with silver scales and the graceful tails of angelfish. Caught in a Brid Clarion net, the daughter of the sea witch perishes in the sunlit air. Her fingers dangle above the swells.

The queen of the sea bares her sharp teeth and, in a fury of wind and waves, cleanses the brine of ships and men. But she spares a boy for his single act of kindness. Callum becomes the Ferryman, and until Brid Clarion pays its debt with royal blood, only his sails may cross the Deep.

Two warring nations, separated by the merrow’s trench, trade infant hostages in a commitment to peace. Now, the time has come for the heirs to return home. The Ferryman alone can undertake the exchange.

Yet, animosities are far from assuaged. While Brid Clarion’s islands bask in prosperity, Haf Killick, a floating city of derelict ships, rots and rusts and sinks into the reefs. Its ruler has other designs.

And the sea witch crafts dark bargains with all sides.

Callum is caught in the breach, with a long-held bargain of his own which, once discovered, will shatter this life.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Yes, this novel is classified as fantasy, but it reads like a nautical adventure wrapped in folklore and myth. Merrows control the sea between Brid Clarion and Haf Killick. After losing her daughter to the nets of Brid Clarion, the Sea Witch, queen of the Merrows, allows none but the ferryman to cross the water between the two kingdoms—one prosperous, the other sinking into ruin. Even then, such crossings of the deep require payment in blood by human sacrifice.

While Callum’s life is tied to the merrows and both kingdoms, the rulers of Brid Clarion and Haf Killick are wary of each other. This sets the stage for political intrigue, plotting and counter-plotting that grows ever more intricate as the story progress. The twists and turns are as slippery as nets cast into the sea. Just when I thought the course steady (and I could catch my breath), another plot thread veered in a direction I didn’t expect.

Characters are skillfully drawn, so that even while despising the actions of the villains, I understood the motives. As with any book by this author, the world is visually and exquisitely depicted. I felt as though I was on the open sea, could taste the salty brine of the deep and feel the roll of Callum’s ship. The writing is both lyrical and gritty—not an easy combination to pull off—bringing every scene to vibrant life.

I was especially fascinated by the merrows. From the Panmar, the Sea Witch, to her fickle, playful, and cunning subjects who craft bargains with men, these are creatures beautiful and deadly. Once again, the author pens descriptions like liquid silver. There were passages I paused to read over for the sheer beauty of the words (sometimes darkly picturesque, sometimes resplendent and dazzling).

Callum’s character and those closest to him each stole my heart (even one that had me waffling on if I should like him or despise him). And when everything came together in the concluding pages, I couldn’t ask for a better ending. Once again, D. Wallace Peach proves her mastery with conflicted characters and fantastical realms. Highly recommended!

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Survive the Night by Riley Sager @riley_sager #thriller #suspense

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You know when you read a book that blows you away, and you can’t stop thinking about it, talking about it, rehashing all the twisty bits in your mind? You loved it so much, you have to refrain from going back and reading it again? Well, I thoroughly plan to read Survive the Night again, just not right away. I’m still digesting the first go-round.

If you’re not familiar with Riley Sager, I recommend correcting the oversight pronto. He’s another of my auto-buy authors. I’ve read all of his releases with the exception of one, currently waiting on my Kindle. I’ll stop with the fan girl stuff now, and get to the book and my review so you can see why I’m over-the-top jazzed about this one. 🙂

BOOK BLURB:

One of New York Times Book Review‘s “summer reads guaranteed to make your heart thump and your skin crawl”; An Amazon Best of the Month Pick; Named a must-read summer book by The Washington PostVultureBuzzFeedForbesEntertainment Weekly, CNN, New York PostGood HousekeepingE!PopSugarCrimeReadsThrillist, and BookRiot

It’s November 1991. Nirvana’s in the tape deck, George H. W. Bush is in the White House, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.

Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the shocking murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father—or so he says. 

The longer she sits in the passenger seat, the more Charlie notices there’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t want her to see inside the trunk. As they travel an empty, twisty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly anxious Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s jittery mistrust merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

One thing is certain—Charlie has nowhere to run and no way to call for help. Trapped in a terrifying game of cat and mouse played out on pitch-black roads and in neon-lit parking lots, Charlie knows the only way to win is to survive the night.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thank you Penguin Group, Dutton Books, and NetGalley for my ARC.

Wow. Just wow! I devour books by Riley Sager, so it was a no-brainer to request Survive the Night from NetGalley. I never know what to expect when I’m reading a Sager book. Each is so different, yet all are gripping and engrossing. Strangely, I had reservations about Survive the Night. I’m not a big fan of serial killer fiction, but, hey—it was Sager, one of my auto-buy authors—so I was more than willing to take a chance. I should have known he’d knock it into the stratosphere.

Charlie needs a ride from college to her hometown. She’s desperate to put the past behind her after her best friend becomes the third victim of a serial murderer known as the Campus Killer. She meets Josh, also headed to her home state of Ohio, and agrees to ride with him, sharing expenses along the way. But during the long, dark night over deserted back roads, Charlie begins to suspect Josh isn’t who he claims to be. Too much of what he says doesn’t add up, each successive hiccup making her think she may be sharing the car with the Campus Killer, a man who has reason to want her dead. She caught a glimpse of him in the shadows before he killed her friend.

Although this is a book about a serial killer, there is nothing gory or graphic about it. The operational word here is TENSION—with a freaking capital T!!

The story plays out over the course of several nail-biting hours during which the author had me second-guessing myself multiple times. I waffled between frustration, fear, and irritation over Charlie’s actions. Sometimes I was cheering for her, other times I wanted to shake sense into her. It wasn’t until the end when everything falls into place that I realized how deftly I’d been played.

I also loved the use of old movies in the story (Charlie is a film student) and Charlie’s penchant of separating from reality for brief spans for “movies in her mind.” I did spot one of the “reveals” before the last act, but by then, I believe it was expected. And it was so deliciously perfect, those pieces dropping into place were wholly satisfying.

Survive the Night reinforces why I devour books by Sager. He’s a master of suspense who crosses T’s and dots I’s with such subtlety the reader doesn’t even realize how skillfully he orchestrats threads in the background—until they explode in your face.

Definitely among my favorite reads of the year. If you enjoy cat-and-mouse suspense and well-plotted fiction, don’t miss this slick, edge-of-your seat thrill ride!

RELEASE DATE IS JUNE 29 | PRE-ORDER FROM AMAZON

Book Review Tuesday: A Mother for His Twins by Jill Weatherholt, Saving Parker by Dan Walsh @JillWeatherholt #christianromance #smalltownfiction

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Happy Tuesday! I have two books to share today, both in a similar heart-warming vein. Both of these authors were new to me, but you can bet I’ll be reading their work again. I’ve already snatched up more books from both. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I devour psychological suspense and thrillers, but every now and then, I want to lose myself in the pages of small town life with a fat HEA at the end. Both of these did the trick and then some!

BOOK BLURB:

She’d given up on having a family…until he made her feel right at home.

First-grade teacher Joy Kelliher has two new students—twin boys who belong to her high school sweetheart. If teaching Nick Capello’s sons wasn’t difficult enough, the widower’s also her neighbor…and competing for the principal job she wants. Now with little matchmakers drawing Joy and Nick together, can they overcome a painful past to build the family Joy’s always wanted?

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A heartwarming story about second chance romance, A Mother for His Twins ticks all the right boxes for anyone looking for a feel-good novel with a lovely HEA. Joy and Nick grew up together, falling in love in their teen years. They always knew they would be together until Nick’s family moved abruptly and Joy was cut out of his life.

Fast forward years later. Nick returns to his hometown, a widower with twin boys. The boys join Jill’s grade school class, quickly stealing her heart (and the heart of the reader). Meanwhile, Jill is vying for the position of principal at the school where she works, the only other applicant, Nick.

I don’t read a lot of romance, but I don’t really consider this story romance at the heart, so much as a tale of people finding their way back to each other. That journey is helped along by Nick’s boys, Joy’s sister and her niece, and the guiding touch of God. The story has a light Christian theme, twined with Hallmark-esque moments that will melt your heart. The characters suffer ups and downs, which make the eventual HEA all the sweeter. Both Nick and Joy have burdens in their past, secrets that present hurdles they need to overcome if they’re to recapture the love they once had. Factor in they’re both applicants for the same job, and the stakes rachet higher.

The writing is polished, the characters (even the secondary ones), beautifully defined. I breezed through the pages, enchanted by the author’s casual flair with handling the day-to-day challenges of her MCs. This is book 3 in a series, but it reads fine as a standalone. I enjoyed it so much, I immediately bought another after finishing. I’m smitten!

BOOK BLURB:

After years of abuse and neglect, Parker is found chained in a junk-filled backyard after a drug bust. The little guy’s terrified of people. Officer Ned Barringer brings him to a nearby shelter for medical care. When Ned learns how hard it is for dogs like Parker to get adopted, he must do more. He’s also instantly taken with Kim Harper, one of the shelter managers. She offers to train Parker for free. Ned instantly accepts. That same day, he meets his next-door neighbor, a ten-year-old boy named Russell. Russell is hiding a black-eye, compliments of two bullies at school. This angers Ned. He suffered the same fate as a child. It’s the main reason he became a cop. But what can he do? When a near-death tragedy occurs, what role might Parker play in bringing these three lives together?

Dan Walsh is known for page-turning, character driven novels. Fans of Dan’s other novels, as well as dog-lovers everywhere will especially enjoy Saving Parker (and if they do, 3 more books are available in the Forever Home series, including Book 4, Keeping Bailey, the sequel to Saving Parker).

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This is a heartwarming story built around Parker, a dog who gets a second chance at a forever home. Abused by his former owner, a drug dealer, Parker is rescued by Ned, a police officer. If you’re worried about animal abuse, don’t be. The neglect Parker endures happens before the story starts, which makes this about his learning to trust people again, and his journey to recovery.

Ned is a great character, strong, and l likeable. He decides to take a chance on fostering/adopting Parker, and through that decision connects with Kim, who works at an animal shelter. He also has new neighbors—a single mom and her sixth-grade son, Russell, who becomes a target for bullies at school.

The story shifts between Parker’s recuperation, Ned and Kim juggling emerging romantic feelings, and Ned helping Russell find a way to stand up to the bullies. There is nothing earth-shattering in the plot, just clean, wholesome feel-good entertainment. Think Hallmark with a light Christian theme. Although this is the third book in a series, it reads fine as a standalone. I got the impression some of the characters cross over from book to book, but I had zero difficulty following the story. If I hadn’t been aware beforehand, I wouldn’t even realize Saving Parker is book three in a series.

I enjoyed the humbleness and simplicity of the tale, to the extent that I plan to seek out other titles in this series. If you enjoy reading books about dogs, and a story that leaves you with a warm, fuzzy feeling, you’ll find Saving Parker enchanting.

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Garden Party by Grace Dane Mazur #literarysatirefiction

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

Recently, a new book store opened up in my area—always a cause for celebration. They’re a discount seller, so they don’t have a huge selection per genre, but what they do have is very affordably priced and they have a nice variety. On my first visit, I picked up several novels in hardback, including The Garden Party. I seem to be hitting on a lot of unusual reads this year, and this one certainly qualifies!

BOOK BLURB:

A rehearsal dinner brings together two disparate families in a sparkling social satire set over the course of a single day.

This enchanting novel takes place in Brookline, Massachusetts, where dinner in the garden is bringing together two families on the night before the wedding that should unite them. The families are not unfriendly but they are shy and leery of each other. The Barlows are a Wall Street Journal-reading family of lawyers steeped in trusts and copyrights, corporations and war crimes, golf and tennis. The Cohens are wildly impractical intellectuals, including a biologist who has studied why scorpions glow in the dark; a social activist who always needs rescuing; and a historian of the cooking of ancient Babylonian who is trying, while hosting the dinner party, to figure out whether Time is really shaped like baklava.

The novel begins with the Cohens brewing morning coffee and considering the work they will have to do to prepare their house and gardens for the dinner, and it ends, late that very night, after a complicated series of fiascoes and miracles. Over the course of the day, it becomes clear that neither family is more eccentric than the other.

Featuring an ensemble cast of exceptionally vivid characters ranging in age from three to the early nineties, Grace Dane Mazur’s wonderfully lyrical novel is an irresistible portrayal of miscommunication, secrets, and the power of love.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I initially picked up this book because I was drawn by the gorgeous cover. Once I read the blurb, I was hooked and ready to crack the cover. I loved the idea of the story playing out over a summer evening with so many differing characters as players. Therein lies the charm and the problem. There are twenty-four people at the garden party, plus a cook and a butler. The author manages to juggle all of these personalities with skill. But although we get glimpses beneath the surface of each, the reader never experiences a deeper connection. Some appear as nothing more than sketches. Each, however—including the children—have a quirk or two that makes for a gathering of eccentrics.

Written in omniscient point-of-view, the book is divided into sections (Arrivals, Drinks, Dinner in the Garden, etc), rather than chapters. I was halfway through the second part before taking note of the structure as the story sucked me under from page one. It’s not a long book, just over 200 pages. Most of the scenes move rapidly but others are dense. I found much of the writing exquisite, appreciating the lyricism of descriptions and unique turns of phrase. Note this example:

Pindar had always felt that there was something fleeting about his daughter, even at twenty-four, as though she were a delicate contraption made of feathers and rubber bands and sails.

And this:

The stairs in the front hall creak as oaken floorboards talk to nails. Walls shift as the day’s warmth rushes out and coolness from the garden flows in to take its place. Couches exhale. In the attic, objects made of suede and velvet stir.

I finished the book in two days, finding myself reluctant to set it aside when other matters called. Were it not for the closing section/chapter this would be a five-star read for me. But all the build-up, all the shuffling of players and personalities, lives knitted together, and others undone toppled into “WTH?” in the final section. I’m not sure why the author chose to end the book as she did. Without a doubt this is a novel to generate book club discussions. I’m not sorry I spent time with the story, only sorry the ending fell flat.

Book Review Tuesday: Hairpin Bridge by Taylor Adams #psychologicalthriller

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I’m back! Hubby and I spent a long weekend in Virginia for a family wedding—a wonderful event that left us with many great memories. I’m so happy for my niece and her new husband, who are now enjoying a long, leisurely honeymoon.

For myself, I’m settling back into my regular routine which includes blog posts and visits. To start, I’m kicking off the week with a NetGalley review on a book that releases today. Taylor Adams blew me away with No Exit, his debut novel. To this day it remains one of my favorite reads, and a book I easily see myself devouring again. Requesting an ARC of Hairpin Bridge, his latest was a no-brainer. Surprisingly, I found this one difficult to review. You’ll see why below.

BLURB:

From the author of the “full-throttle thriller” (A. J. Finn) No Exit—a riveting new psychological page-turner featuring a fierce and unforgettable heroine.

Three months ago, Lena Nguyen’s estranged twin sister, Cambry, drove to a remote bridge sixty miles outside of Missoula, Montana, and jumped two hundred feet to her death. At least, that is the official police version. 

But Lena isn’t buying it.

Now she’s come to that very bridge, driving her dead twin’s car and armed with a cassette recorder, determined to find out what really happened by interviewing the highway patrolman who allegedly discovered her sister’s body.

Corporal Raymond Raycevic has agreed to meet Lena at the scene. He is sympathetic, forthright, and professional. But his story doesn’t seem to add up. For one thing, he stopped Cambry for speeding a full hour before she supposedly leapt to her death. Then there are the sixteen attempted 911 calls from her cell phone, made in what was unfortunately a dead zone.

But perhaps most troubling of all, the state trooper is referred to by name in Cambry’s final enigmatic text to her sister: Please Forgive Me. I couldn’t live with it. Hopefully you can, Officer Raycevic.

Lena will do anything to uncover the truth. But as her twin’s final hours come into focus, Lena’s search turns into a harrowing, tooth-and-nail fight for her own survival—one that will test everything she thought she knew about her sister and herself…

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I loved Taylor Adam’s No Exit and counted it among one of my favorite reads when it was released, so it was a no brainer to request an ARC of Hairpin Bridge. Thank you NetGalley and Joffe Books for my ARC. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to devour it. Unfortunately, unlike No Exit, this wasn’t a homerun. 

Lena Nguyen’s estranged twin sister, Cambry, has committed suicide by jumping from Hairpin Bridge, an old suspension bridge located on a remote section of highway in Montana. Unconvinced her sister truly killed herself, Lena asks the cop who found her body—Ray Raycevic—to meet her and answer questions. The two eventually end up on the bridge where the bulk of the story takes place. 

The narrative alternates between the present, flashback sequences from Cambry, and blog entries and thoughts about Cambry from Lena. Had the story stuck with flashbacks and action in the present, it wouldn’t have floundered. I found the blog entries and Lena’s thoughts about her sister draggy and, at times, confusing. 

The book takes a while to get off the ground. There’s a lot of talking back and forth between Lena and Raycevic with nothing happening. And the near-constant use of first names between two people who had never met grated on my nerves. There was even a point I found myself skimming. 

And then . . .

The Taylor Adams novel I expected kicked in. From the moment a third party is introduced into the story, it’s a freight-train ride until the end. The second half is an anxiety-fueled rollercoaster brimming with twists, turns, and nail-biting action. I encountered things that repulsed me and things that had me on the edge of my seat. Part cat-and-mouse, part explosive confrontation, the conflict kept me glued.

As with No Exit, this book would make an exceptional movie (fingers crossed and hoping). The ending was stellar, tying up multiple threads along with a surprise I didn’t expect. Were it not for the slow start and the intrusive blog entries I’d give Hairpin Bridge 5 stars. As it stands, I’m going with 3.5 rounded up to 4 for review purposes. 

To read or not to read: READ!!! The last half makes the whole thing worthwhile. 

Release Date is Today | Purchase from Amazon

Guest Author Thursday: D. L. Finn with Tree Fairies and Their Short Stories @dlfinnauthor #newrelease #children’sfantasy #children’sliterature

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

Hello, friends! It’s time for another Guest Author Thursday. Today, I am delighted to host my friend and Story Empire colleague, D.L. Finn. Denise is sharing her latest release, a positively delightful sounding children’s book that should appeal to readers of all ages who love whimsy and magic. Take it away, Denise!


Thank you, Mae, for having me here today to share my latest children’s release, “Tree Fairies and Their Short Stories!”

The first story in this collection, Tree Fairies, is told from Daniel’s perspective, both as a boy and father. The storyline follows Daniel’s life and why the fairies came to him. Then the fairies, Roselle and Goldie wanted to reveal their perspective— or the last two short stories that I added in later. 

This is the final children’s book that I have planned, and it might be the one that lives within me the deepest. I believe a part of us wants that magic that fairies offer, and the ancient wisdom from the trees. Although the stories touch on poachers, polluting, and greed, they don’t criticize legal hunters or take away from the reality of how expensive and difficult hazard waste disposal can be. 

Sometimes we miss what is right in front of us, which is why this story insisted on being written. We should never forget the magic that lives inside and around us.

Fun Finn Facts
I believe fairies and angels reside around me
Nature is my happy place

BOOK BLURB:

When reality and magic meet in the forest

It’s 1969, and twelve-year-old Daniel Burns is camping in the redwood forest with his family. Danny wants to listen to his music and read, but his family has other plans. S’mores around the campfire and stories end their first day. The family is sleeping soundly in their secluded tent when Danny wakes up and finds his sister, Colette, is missing. Assuming she went to use the outhouse, he goes after her. When he finds his sister, they discover there is a thin veil between reality and fantasy. 

Two bonus short stories offer a glimpse into the magical world that finds Danny and Colette. These hidden beings not only share our world but have a role in protecting their forest.

EXCERPT:

GOLDIE

2005

The full moon filtered down through the giant trees, bathing the forest in a glow that made it easy for the fairies to see. A woodpecker had done its job clearing out the insects it found in the old redwood. As the tree grew, so did an opening that became an animal den. A fisher—a member of the weasel family—nestled there with her four babies. Her long, fluffy tail, half the length of her sleek body, was protectively curled around her brood.

Goldie and her little brother, Oren, quietly watched them sleep. It had become Goldie’s habit to check the animal dens to make sure they were safe. The fishers, who were no bigger than the cats humans kept as pets, held a special place in her heart. They were adorable, with their big, bearlike ears, pointed faces, and huge eyes. Their dark brown fur was so soft it was hard not to pet them. They didn’t trust tree fairies, and she didn’t blame them. The fairies would zap animals, birds, or insects that developed too much curiosity or mistook them for food.

Oren spoke in a voice Goldie strained to hear. “I’m watching for owls.”

Not wanting to wake the fishers, Goldie responded in a softer tone. “Thanks. They are pests.”

Oren nodded solemnly and looked behind him. They’d seen a brown-and-gray horned owl hunting earlier in the evening. Its yellow eyes had widened in hunger as it dove at them. A quick jolt was all the discouragement it needed to stop bothering them. Would those birds ever learn fairies weren’t on their menu?

Oren had settled in a holding pattern, looking over Goldie’s head into the den. They made eye contact, and she jerked her head in a motion to leave. Their silver wings glowed at night, making the fairies easy targets if they weren’t careful. They rested briefly on a lower branch of the redwood.

Oren smiled as he swung his bare feet, making the branch sway. “Thanks for bringing me along this time, Sis.”

PURCHASE FROM:
AMAZON
SMASHWORDS 

Author Bio:

D. L. Finn is an independent California local who encourages everyone to embrace their inner child. She was born and raised in the foggy Bay Area, but in 1990 she relocated with her husband, kids, dogs, and cats to Nevada City, in the Sierra foothills. She immersed herself in reading all types of books but especially loved romance, horror, and fantasy. She always treasured creating her own reality on paper. Finally, surrounded by towering pines, oaks, and cedars, her creativity was nurtured until it bloomed. Her creations include adult fiction, poetry, a unique autobiography, and children’s books. She continues on her adventure with an open invitation to all readers to join her.

Connect with D.L. Finn at the following Haunts
Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | D.L. Finn blog

bio box for author D.L. Finn

Isn’t that book cover gorgeous? And I thought the excerpt was positively enchanting! We all need a little magic in our lives along with a big dollop of whimsy. Please help Denise spread the word of her lovely new release by using the sharing buttons below then drop her some cheer in the comments!

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Edge of Fear by Maura Beth Brennan #domesticthriller @maurabeth2014

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

It’s pool weather, which means I’ve been doing a lot of reading. It won’t happen often, but, yes this is my third book review post this week. My husband and I are traveling this weekend, leaving Friday to attend a family wedding. I won’t be visible after tomorrow until some time next week, so decided to share this today.

I always love when I discover the work of an author I haven’t read before and it resonates strongly with me. Today, I have the pleasure of sharing my review for The Edge of Fear by Maura Beth Brennan. Not only is this a fabulous story, but the character relationships alone kept me flipping pages!

BOOK BLURB:

When you have everything you always wanted, you have everything to lose. 

After years of struggling to overcome her tragic childhood, Hattie has the life of her dreams—a husband, a baby daughter, a beautiful home, and more money than she ever dreamed possible. But lately, a feeling nags at her, a sense of something not-quite-right. Is this just her imagination? Hattie’s family, and her best friend, Celine, keep telling her that it is. 

Meanwhile, Frank, Hattie’s ex-husband, has not fared so well himself. He wants everything, but feels he ended up with nothing. A thought has taken hold in his mind—something that could involve Hattie. How can he make her good fortune pay off for himself? He comes up with a plan—one that will shatter Hattie’s life and bring about her worst nightmare. When the unthinkable happens, Hattie does everything the police advise her to do. But as time passes and her life crumbles around her, it seems everyone fails her—law enforcement, a private detective, even her husband. So Hattie decides to take matters into her own hands. Desperate but determined, and aided by her best friend, Celine, she sets out to take back what is hers.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Hattie is happily married to Eli with a beautiful three-year-old daughter, Lily. But fifteen years ago, she was the wife of Frank, an abusive thug with ties to the mob. Hattie has since fallen into a sizeable inheritance that makes her—and Lily—a target for Frank who needs a payday for a quick escape after crossing a lethal mob boss. Frank abducts Lily from her home in Maine hoping for a million-dollar pay out for her safe return, but circumstances take a turn that has him on the run with Lily, and a co-conspirator, Sharon.

Months past with police investigations going nowhere. Hattie undertakes to devise a plan to get her daughter back safely. With her friend, Celine, she sets out on Frank’s trail, determined to rescue her daughter.

Wow! This is the second book in a series, but it stands fine as a standalone. I didn’t read the first novel, but had no problem following the character relationships and the edge-of-the-seat plot in this one. Hattie is such a relatable character. Her love for Lily shines through in every risky move she undertakes. I also loved her friendship with Celine, and the willingness of both ladies to always be there for each other no matter the circumstance.

The first half of the book is set-up for Lily’s abduction, the second half a nail-biting race with Hattie, Celine, and others tracing Frank’s path with Lily. That course involves a cross-state manhunt, a venture into a remote New Jersey area which the Jersey Devil is said to haunt and underworld figures possibly tied to illegal adoptions or sex trafficking.

This is a clean but high suspense mystery with characters to cheer for. The danger, adventure, and the way puzzle pieces fall into place keep you flipping pages. Even secondary characters get moments to shine. I especially loved Sharon’s stepmother, Rhonda. The ending delivers everything I would hope for, and the writing is polished with an easy flow. Thank you to the author who provided me with a gift copy for an honest review. An easy five stars!

Book Review Tuesday: Cold Dark Night by Joan Hall #mystery #suspense @JoanHallWrites

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

Welcome to another Book Review Tuesday. Cold Dark Night is the first novel in Joan Hall’s Legend of Madeira series. It follows her recent novella prequel, House of Sorrow, but you needn’t have read that to enjoy her latest release. Cold Dark Night serves perfectly as a stand alone. For those who read House of Sorrow, you’ll be richly rewarded by how everything fits together in this enjoyable mystery that weaves past and present with author finesse.

BOOK BLURB:

New husband, new house, new town… and a new mystery to solve.

Tami Montgomery thought her police chief husband was going to be the only investigator in the family when she gave up her journalism career and moved with him to Madeira, New Mexico.

But after the historical society asks her to write stories for a book celebrating the town’s one-hundred fiftieth year, she becomes embroiled in a new mystery. If she can’t solve this one, she could lose everything. Her research uncovers a spate of untimely deaths of local law enforcement officials. Further digging reveals a common link—they all lived in the house she and Jason now share.

Tami isn’t a superstitious person, but the circumstances are too similar for coincidence. Then she unearths an even more disturbing pattern. And if history repeats itself, Jason will be the next to die.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Tami Montgomery and her husband, Jason, have just moved to Madeira, New Mexico where Jason has accepted the job as Madeira’s new police chief. They settle into an old Victorian home, which Tami soon learns has an interesting, disturbing history. Several of Madeira’s former police chiefs lived in the house and met with untimely deaths, more than one of them murdered.

As Tami delves deeper into trying to uncover the link between the deaths and her home, Jason has his hands full dealing with a rebellious officer, a string of burglaries, an officer-involved shooting, and the mayor’s interfering wife. There’s also the unexpected arrival of Jason’s estranged father, and the frightening dream visions of danger from Tami’s new friend, Abbey.

I loved the small-town setting of this novel. Hall does a great job of bringing Madeira vividly to life, not only in the present but the past as well. There are several chapters that give readers glimpses into characters from the 1800s, and how their lives will eventually impact what takes place in the present. The author weaves a tale of more than one unsolved murder, doling out clues like breadcrumbs. Another plot thread incorporates lunar folklore and how it may or may not factor into the murders. I especially enjoyed how Hall incorporated those threads into the story, tying everything together for a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.

Bottom line: Cold Dark Night is an intriguing mystery that includes all the elements that make for a page-turning read—wonderful characters, a multi-layered plot, historical elements, and folklore. And easy five stars!

Fiction Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Her First Mistake by Carey Baldwin @CareyBaldwin, The End of Her by Shari Lapena @sharilapena #psychologicalfiction #domesticsuspense

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

Today’s reviews include a new-to-me author (and wow, did she nail it!) and an auto-buy author. If you’re a fan of psychological fiction, you’re going to love these. Extra good news—both are are available now, so no waiting to read them!

BOOK BLURB:

I never meant to hurt anyone. All I want is a normal life with friends to call my own. People rarely notice me. Like a ghost, I’m sometimes tempted to rattle a window to get their attention. But tonight isn’t one of those occasions.

Seated alone in an exclusive restaurant I stick out like a bruise on the tender white throat of a lily. And I cannot believe it when, on my way out, I bump into my colleagues having a great time without me. At the center of it all is Celeste Cooper with her shimmering auburn hair and her billion-watt smile. She’s everything that I am not: fearless, pretty, popular.

When she drops her keys, I can’t stop myself. I scoop them up on impulse and hide them in my purse… and now Celeste is missing.

If only I’d called out to her, returned her keys, as I should have.

Wracked with guilt, I join the search, determined to make up for my mistake. But I feel I’m being watched. Is the secret past I have so desperately tried to hide catching up with me?

I know I have to save Celeste, no matter the cost. But if I keep digging, do I risk being dragged back into the dark forever?


MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I was immediately sucked into this book from page one and couldn’t put it down until I finished it. I devoured it in a single day while reading poolside. If you enjoy psychological fiction this is a winner. 

Mia is a fade-into-the-background type of person who makes a bad judgement call when she childishly steals a pair of discarded keys. Celeste, the owner of the keys is a popular, attractive, social butterfly who hails from a wealthy family. When she doesn’t turn up the next day and is reported missing, Mia realizes she could be at fault for something dreadful happening to Celeste. If only she hadn’t taken her keys, Celeste wouldn’t have needed to walk home, making her a target for potential harm.

To atone for her mistake, Mia throws herself into the search for Celeste. In the process, she digs herself into a hole rife with trouble—including a suspicious detective, a potential stalker, an over-protective aunt, nosy reporters, and an odd and unexpected friendship with members of Celeste’s family. 

As with stories of this kind, there are plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing about what is really going on and who is responsible for the string of circumstances that build like dominoes. As conflicted as Mia is, I enjoyed her character, especially seeing her growth over the course of the book. She discovers steel she didn’t know she had, digging into her own psyche as much as struggling to discover what really happened to Celeste. The unraveling of that final plot thread brings shocking revelations and a satisfying conclusion. 

This is an easy read with quick chapters and a writing style that makes it easy to lose yourself in the pages. This is my first book by Carey Baldwin, but it definitely won’t be my last. A solid 5-stars from me.

BOOK BLURB:

A long-ago accident–and a visitor from out of the blue. . .

Stephanie and Patrick are adjusting to life with their colicky twin girls. The babies are a handful, but even as Stephanie struggles with the disorientation of sleep deprivation, there’s one thing she’s sure of: she has all she ever wanted.

Then Erica, a woman from Patrick’s past, appears and makes a disturbing accusation. Patrick had always said his first wife’s death was an accident, but now Erica claims it was murder.

Patrick insists he’s innocent, that this is nothing but a blackmail attempt. Still, Erica knows things about Patrick–things that make Stephanie begin to question her husband. Stephanie isn’t sure what, or who, to believe. As Stephanie’s trust in Patrick begins to falter, Patrick stands to lose everything. Is Patrick telling the truth–is Erica the persuasive liar Patrick says she is? Or has Stephanie made a terrible mistake?

How will it end?


MY REVIEW:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Stephanie and Patrick are parents of two young colicky babies, a situation that has exhausted them both. Even so, they’re managing, and their marriage is secure—at least until Erica, a woman from Patrick’s past shows up with disturbing allegations regarding the death of Patrick’s first wife.

Shari Lapena is one of my auto-buy authors. I especially loved her novels, An Uninvited Guest and The Couple Next Door. I found this book slow to get off the ground, but the deeper Erica forced her way into Stephanie and Patrick’s lives, the stronger the story became. The second half is especially good.

Throughout, it was easy to sympathize with Stephanie and feel her confusion on whether to put her faith in her husband or a stranger with entirely selfish motivations. As the story develops the reader gets a clearer grasp of Erica’s character and her past. The disruption she causes between Stephanie and Patrick takes multiple twists and turns. Lapena keeps the main mystery wrapped tightly until the final stages of the book which brought an ending I didn’t expect. So…slower at the start than I would expect from Lapena, but worth sticking with.