July Book Reviews, Part One @rijanjks @Wendy_Walker @riley_sager

It’s been hot. Extremely hot. We’ve had heat indexes topping 110. A few days ago the standard temperature was 99. My pool (at night) was 91.5. How warped is that?

As a result, I didn’t get to float on a raft and devour novels as much as I would have liked because the sun was blistering. I did, however, get to read several great tales before the sun turned toxic (see below). Click the Amazon link for the blurbs and  learn more about each title.

The first three are novellas, perfect for reading on coffee or lunch breaks. All selections are 5-star reads, so dig in!


Book cover for Voodoo or Destiny by Jan Sikes shows homemade voodoo doll with button eyes, stuck with pinsVoodoo or Destiny, You Decide
by Jan Sikes

Claire and her friend, Jade (who is descended from a New Orleans voodoo queen) are having a girls night with several bottles of wine. Jade is there to cheer up her friend who was recently dumped by her husband, Daniel, for a younger woman. Fueled by too much alcohol, the two friends decide to even the playing field by causing Daniel heartache. Jade suggests a voodoo doll ceremony and Claire hops on board. But the next morning, while dealing with a hangover, Clair receives shocking and unexpected news.

An entertaining short story that allows the reader to draw their own conclusion.

Amazon Link
Genre:  Occult Fiction > Occult Fiction > Short Reads


Look cover for Jewel by Jan Sikes shows attractive young woman in evening gown in front of dilapidated old shackJewel
by Jan Sikes

I loved this story. Jewel is an innocent young girl just shy of 18 who has spent her entire life living in poverty. When her mother, struggling to raise Jewel and Jewel’s younger sister, Sara Sue on her own, becomes terminally ill, she makes arrangements for both girls to have a shot at a better life. For Jewel that includes an education in the ways of the world, men, and love.

If you like Cinderella stories, tales of love and sacrifice, this short story will warm your heart. Beautifully rendered and told, the HEA ending is a sweet wrap.

Amazon Link
Genre: Contemporary Short Stories > Women’s Short Stories


book cover for A Soldier's Children by Jan Sikes shows close up of one side of a young girl's faceA Soldier’s Children
by Jan Sikes

A lovely story that takes the reader from hardship to a well deserved HEA.

Fourteen year-old Jennifer is doing her best to care for her younger sister, hold down a part time job, and attend school—all because their mother deserted them, running off with a man she recently met. Their father has been MIA in Afghanistan for a number of years, leaving Jennifer no choice but to take on the role of provider if she wants to keep her and her sister out of “the system.”

The story starts off with a bang. Jennifer’s sister, Emily has gone missing at the amusement park where Jennifer works part time. The resolution to that scare is both sweet and heart wrenching, setting up a string of dominos that put the sisters closer and closer to being discovered. How long can Jennifer get away saying her mother is out of town, or home sick in bed? Although this is a short read, the ending is guaranteed to leave you with a smile and plenty of warm fuzzies. Most enjoyable!

Amazon Link
Genre: Short Stories > Fiction Short Stories


Book cover for The Night Before by Wendy Walker shows close up of woman's face, one half natural, the other half overlaid by murky blue tintThe Night Before
by Wendy Walker

Laura and her sister, Rosie, along with Joe and Gabe, all grew up in the same neighborhood, tight friends from early childhood. Rosie and Joe are now married with a toddler, and Gabe has married. After her most recent relationship ends badly, Laura moves into her sister’s home to recover. It isn’t long before she connects with “Jonathan,” a man from an online site and agrees to a date. When she doesn’t return home the next morning, Rosie fears the worst.

What sets this slick page turner apart from others in a similar vein is that Rosie’s concern isn’t only for her sister. If the date went bad, she’s also terrified what Laura might have done to Jonathan. That unexpected curveball sold me on the book, and I was not disappointed.

When she was a teen, Laura’s boyfriend, Mitch, was bludgeoned to death during a party. The events of the night have always been murky, though a homeless man with a mental disability was eventually convicted of the crime. Even so, suspicion has hung over Laura given she was found standing beside Mitch’s body, a baseball bat in her hand, blood on her clothing. Combined with a rough-and-tumble childhood and her own doubts about what she did that night, she has been trapped in a downward spiral ever since.

The story alternates between Laura’s first person POV during her date with Jonathan, Rosie’s third person POV as she, Joe, and Gabe frantically search for Laura, and transcripts of Laura’s sessions with her psychologist. There are plenty of false leads to make the reader think they’ve figured things out, several jaw-dropping moments, and enough plot twists to make this work as both a psychological thriller and a twisty whodunit. It’s hard to say more without giving away spoilers, but suffice to say I was riveted from page one and devoured this book in a single night. Highly recommended!

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Thrillers > Domestic Thrillers


Book cover for Lock Every Door by Riley Sager shows old fashioned door open to room, silhouette of woman fleeing in backgroundLock Every Door
by Riley Sager

Riley Sager is one of my auto-buy authors. He’s mesmerized me before, but he hit it out of the ballpark with his latest release.

Jules has had a string of bad luck, starting with getting laid off from her job, followed by discovering her live-in boyfriend banging another woman. She ends up near penniless, sleeping on her BFF’s sofa until she finds a classified ad for an apartment sitter. $12,000 to occupy a luxury apartment in the Bartholomew—a New York high society landmark—for three months. It sounds too good to be true, especially given the building is the fairy-tale setting of a novel that bound Jules and her sister as teens.

The rules are bizarre. Among other things, no visitors and no sharing any information about the residents who live in the Bartholomew, but Jules is too desparate to give them a second thought. Not long after she’s in the apartment, more luxurious than she could have imagined, she realizes something is not quite right. Previous “apartment sitters” have gone missing, one of the current sitters hints all is not as it seems, and the woman who wrote the novel she and her sister loved as teens is—surprise!—a resident.

The “big reveal” is a blind-side from left field, nothing I would have ever seen coming. Sager uses history, both fake and real to weave a tale that feels urgent and present-day as well as dusty with the footprints of a faded yesteryear. An intoxicating tapestry every bit as formidable as the bizarre wallpaper in Jules apartment in the Bartholomew. Extra points for the atmospheric use of the building’s gargoyles. Superb!

Amazon Link
Genre: Women’s Crime Thrillers > Ghost Thrillers


This week is supposed to be mildly cooler so perhaps I will be reading poolside again. Either way, I’ll have a second round of reviews shortly. In the meantime, I hope you found something to pique your interest. Happy reading!

June Book Reviews, Part Two

I’m back again with the second half of my reviews for June. If you missed part one, you can find it here. Summer is a huge reading time for me, with pool season the perfect opportunity to float on a raft with a paperback or my Kindle (have to be extra careful it doesn’t fall in the drink). These are the books that rounded out the second half of the month for me. To read the official blurbs and learn more about each, just click the Amazon link below each review.

book cover for Primal Waters by Steve Allen shows diver in scuba gear about to be swallowed in the open mouth of a mammoth sharkMeg: Primal Waters
By Steve Alten

Book three in the Meg series launches with an intriguing premise. It has been eighteen years since Jonas Taylor last crossed paths with a colossal Carcharodon megalodon, a.k.a. “Jurassic shark.” At sixty-four, he’s the father of a soon-to-be eighteen-year-old daughter and a slightly younger son. Along with his wife, Terry, he’s juggling family and mounting bills, when he gets an offer he can’t refuse—doing commentary on a reality TV survival show called Daredevils.Taking the job means going to sea for six weeks, his daughter in tow, along with a film crew and an adrenalin-fueled cast of thrill seekers. But all is not on the level, and there is more than one Meg haunting the Pacific, presenting separate challenges for each member of the Taylor family.

Once again Alten knows how to ramp up the excitement. The book starts off with a slow burn, the reader knowing there is more behind the Daredevils offer than meets the eye.

There are also plenty of opportunities for various Megs to answer the dinner bell. The Daredevil characters—good and bad—are all well drawn, and the reality TV angle adds a great edge. I particularly loved when Jonas intentionally flubs the name of the show’s airhead host after she repeatedly goofs his. Small things like this add flavor to the book, especially given the high-octane action scenes. I do wish Jonas and Terry weren’t always fighting off unwanted sexual advances (a theme in the last two books), but those small distractions aside, this is summer popcorn reading at its best. More than one Meg invades the Pacific. Give those sharks 5 stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Suspense Action Fiction > Sea Adventures Fiction > Fantasy Adventure Fiction


Book cover for Red Eyes in the Darkness bu D.L.Finn shows a wash of black and grays with tree branchesRed Eyes in the Darkness
By D.L. Finn

This is another entry in the author’s evildwel series, which addresses the balance of good and evil across mortal and supernatural realms.  Retirees Will and Cass, along with their two dogs have a comfortable life—until murder hits close to home, and they suddenly find themselves the prime suspects.

Finn does a great job building tension with “It” watching and stalking them, their own daughters falling into the mindset of suspicion “It” has orchestrated.

This is a short story rife with tension that steadily builds as Cass, then Will, come to realize the evil which has infiltrated their lives. I didn’t expect the twist at the end. On a side note, I love how the author always includes pets in her stories, crafting yet another aspect that makes her characters feel like neighbors. 5 stars

Amazon Link
Genre: Paranormal and Urban Fantasy > Short Stories


Book cover for The Sheriff Meets His Match by Jacquie Biggar shows man huge red stiletto high heeled shoe with man in jeans and untucked shirt leaning against heel, with arms crossedThe Sheriff Meets His Match
By Jacquie Biggar

After reading Summer Lovin’, part of Biggar’s Wounded Heart series set in the fictional town of Tidal Falls, I immediately wanted to read The Sheriff Meets His Match which tells the story of Jack and Laurel, hinted about in Summer Lovin’. Laurel is a transplant from the sunshine state of Florida who takes the job of secretary to Tidal Falls hunky sheriff. Their attraction is quick and flirty, but complications arrive in the form of Laurel’s charismatic Uncle Max, and her cousin’s lowlife ex-husband.

As guaranteed in any Biggar novel there is plenty of heartwarming moments, including Laurel bounding with Jack’s teenage daughter, and the introduction of a cuddly lost kitten. Every time I read one of these novels, I am amazed by how effortlessly Biggar brings her characters to life with spot-on POV, snappy dialogue, and fleshed out descriptions. This is an author who knows how to set a stage for maximum effect. Each and every book screams “Hallmark movie.” 5 stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Holiday Romance > Short Stories


Book cover for To Hunt a Sub by Jacqui Murray shows submarine breaking water with focus on large conning towerTo Hunt a Sub
By Jacqui Murray

Wow! This book delivers a complex mix of academia, covert ops, terrorist plots, and artificial intelligence. Once started, I couldn’t stop reading. Murray populates her espionage tale with a roster of characters that include an ex-Navy SEAL–now college professor–two brilliant grad students, an eccentric mathematician, and a Middle Eastern terrorist with deep pockets to name just a few of the highly diverse cast.

Kali Delamagente has invented an AI to track the evolution of prehistoric man. But “Otto” is capable of much more. In the wrong hands, Kali’s cutting-edge technology can decimate U.S. submarines. She attracts the attention of a mysterious unseen donor who funds her research, as well the FBI. Enter Dr. Zeke Rowe, ex-SEAL and Navy Intel officer who pursued a career in academia after a failed mission left him with permanent injuries.

Working together, Delamagente and Rowe struggle to remain one step ahead of a terrorist network that has infiltrated most every aspect of Kali’s life. Friends and colleagues are not always who they seem. As the stakes grow higher, Kali’s lab is broken into, her dog vanishes, a new friend is abducted, and her son is kidnapped. The book rockets to an explosive end, but the journey there is alternately a slow burn and a roller coaster of twists and turns.

The research that obviously went into the book—from the origins of prehistoric man, to the workings of submarines, intelligence agencies, and military protocol—is mind-boggling. I’ve already purchased book two of the Delamagente/Rowe espionage thrillers and look forward to three when it is released. 5 Whopping big stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Technothrillers > Action Thrillers


And that rounds out my June reading. I hope something I’ve shared intrigues you. I’ve already got my nose buried in July books and look forward to discovering more titles. I love when I find new authors to add to my auto-buy list and discover fresh gems from authors I love. Here’s hoping your reading is every bit as inspired and satisfying!

 

June Book Reviews, Part One

Happy July! It’s a new month and that means new book reviews! I should have broken this post into a mid-June post, followed by one the latter half of the month. But I didn’t do a lot of reading the first half of June, expecting to come up short at the end—then my reading unexpectedly exploded. Throughout the month I managed to devour a host of awesome books. I’ll be sharing part two of my reviews tomorrow. In the meantime, I hope some of the titles below intrigue you.

To read the blurb and learn more about each book reviewed below, just click the Amazon Link. Here’s hoping something strikes your reading fancy.

Book cover for The Trench by Steve Alten shows a shari's dorsal fin cutting through waterThe Trench
By Steve Alten

An excellent follow-up to The Meg, this book is an equal dose of deep-sea adventure and personal drama. Jonas Taylor and Terry (from book one) are now married, but Jonas’ obsession with Angel, the pure white albino “Jurassic shark” contained in a Sea World type establishment has taken a toll on their marriage. Not to mention Jonas’ reoccurring dreams of being trapped in the Mariana Trench with Terry on the cusp of death and Angel bearing down on them like an avenging…well, Angel.

I thought I’d run out of boo-hisses for bad guys in book one, but the villains in The Trench (male and female) put a whole new spin on obnoxious. While I didn’t like Terry and Jonas being separated for the bulk of the book and found Terry’s predicament with a gazillionaire psychopath and a Russian hoodlum at times tedious—not to mention a blonde piranha after Jonas—the underlying theme of shark vs. man kept me flipping pages.

Some of the diversions—a wedding party on a tall sailing ship, and kayakers hoping to catch migrating whale pods on camera—had me biting my nails when Angel threw a dangerous wrench into their plans. As for the end—OMG!!!—the last quarter of the book had me on the edge of my seat. Did the story deliver? Big time! Talk about an explosive pay-off. A little of down time here and there, but Alten knows how to deliver adventure, especially when creating mayhem with a colossal-sized shark. 4.5 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Sea Adventure Fiction > U.S. Horror Fiction


Book cover for Mixing It Up With Mortals by Judi Lynn shows young attractive woman in black robe with hands held openMixing It Up With Mortals
By Judi Lynn

I am addicted to this series! Take a cozy murder mystery and cast all of your characters as supernatural beings—a demon enforcer, a powerful witch, shifters, vampires, Fae, druids, even voodoo priestesses, and you’ve got the intoxicating mix that is Muddy River. The people who populate Lynn’s vividly imagined town feel like buds you could sit down and have a beer with. Each is unique, with their own special gifts. They often gather at the local tavern to rehash the day’s events or put their heads together while trying to solve the latest “big bad” to infect their town.

In this book, it’s an incubus, a particularly nasty demon who’s been sucking the life from mortals outside of Muddy River. Matters get even more interesting when it’s discovered each of the victims is a “whistle blower” of some sort, and a mortal may be involved in ordering their deaths.

Sexy demon enforcer, Raven, and his partner, the powerful witch Hester, team with Meda, another member of Hester’s coven, and the half-human shifter, Brown—who happens to be a sheriff on the mortal side of things. The plot is twisty with a number of supernatural battles and vendettas—old and recent—plus everyday problems. Meda is attracted to Brown, but he seems clueless. This is a secondary plot, but it’s delightful, offsetting the more intense moments of the story. Like the big supernatural battle at the end. And if the reader thinks Raven and Hester are going to get a break, think again. Lynn sets up the closing with yet another mystery to lead into book three. All I can say is “bring it on!” If you love urban fantasy, supernatural elements and cleverly-plotted cozies, this series is gold! 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Cozy Mystery > Werewolf and Shifter Mysteries > Witch and Wizard Mysteries


Book cover for Girls Night Out shows light shining into dark waterGirls Night Out
By Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Natalie, Ashley, and Lauren have been friends for twenty years, but ugly fissures have taken a toll on the foundation that once glued them together. Ashley and Lauren haven’t spoken for a year after a tragedy drove a knife between them, and Natalie and Ashley are on opposite ends of a major decision. The two friends are also business partners, their once start-up company now mainstream with a buyout offer from Revlon. Natalie wants to sell, Ashley is opposed. Each has hidden personal reasons for their stance.

In an effort to repair their friendship, Ashley invites Natalie and Lauren on a vacation to Mexico—sun, beaches, margaritas, and good times. But once they arrive it becomes apparent how far apart they’ve drifted. Toss in an enigmatic stranger who takes a shine to Ashley and offers to act as a personal tour guide and the three friends find the minimal glue holding them together quickly deteriorating.

The book starts with Natalie waking up on the beach, after a night of partying, her clothing soaked, with no memory of what happened the night before. One thing is apparent, however—Ashley is missing. Told from multiple viewpoints and moving back and forth between the present and the nights leading up to Ashley’s disappearance, the reader becomes privy to how this vacation—meant to heal relationships—went very wrong.

I was hooked on the dynamics of the three women, their backstories, and their efforts (and non-efforts) involved in salvaging their friendships. The book lost me a bit when it delved into Mayan beliefs and made a major player out of Marco, the mysterious local who beguiles Ashley. This is one of those books where everyone is flawed, capable of doing despicable things. Most of the book holds up well, keeping the mystery intriguing, although the ending fizzles a bit. Could have been better, but still entertaining, and an easy read. I can see the movie in my head. 4 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre:  Psychological Fiction > Women’s Psychological Fiction


Book cover for Lizardville: the Ghosty Story by Steve Altier shows old factory with smoke pumping from smoke stacksLizardville, the Ghost Story
By Steve Altier

During a thunderstorm when the power goes out, John Malone entertains his two young sons by telling them a story from his childhood. When he was a kid of 13 or 14, John and his five friends spend a summer night camping out in the woods, fishing, and telling ghost stories.

One of those tales is an old legend about a triple murder/suicide and a woman whose restless spirit refuses to embrace the grave.

This is a great book for tweens or anyone who wants to immerse themselves in childhood memories of riding bikes, collecting soda bottles, and shooting rapids on the local creek. It brings back memories of camping out, chasing fireflies, and toasting marshmallows around a campfire. But there is also a dark side that involves a secret puzzle box, a malevolent spirit, and a friend taken by the darkness. Some of the formatting is a little rough and there are a few grammatical issues, but the story is entertaining, and the characters well developed. I loved the reference to Middleswarth chips! 3.5 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Children’s Scary Stories > Children’s Spine-Tingling Horror


Book cover for Summer Lovin' shows three tier wedding cake, bride on top tier with groom jumping from tier, two red dice belowSummer Lovin’
By Jacquie Biggar

This is a positively enchanting story about second-chance romance. Five years ago, Rebecca Sorenson and Mitch Taylor said “I do” in Vegas after partying in a night club. They’ve been separated ever since and now Rebecca is one step shy of signing divorce papers. Does she love Mitch? Of course—if she’d only wise up and admit her feelings. Does he love her? He never stopped, but she walked out of his life.

Part of the fun of this book is watching this made-for-each-other couple go through a tug of war of feelings. But there’s far more to Summer Lovin’ than an HEA romance. Biggar layers her book with a subplot involving two young boys remanded to the custody of their alcoholic and abusive uncle. When Rebecca’s life becomes entwined with the boys, danger follows close behind.

One thing you can always count on from this author is a heartwarming story that leaves you with a warm glow long after you’ve finished the story. She knows how to tug heartstrings and create characters who feel like friends and family. Male and female characters are handled with equal ease and the writing is breezy and polished. I had to re-read several passages just for the enjoyment of the author’s clever turn of phrase. This book is part of a series but is also perfect as a stand-alone. A thoroughly entertaining read. 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Romantic Suspense > Short Stories


That’s it for today. I hope you found something to entice you. Come back tomorrow when I share the remaining books that helped round out my June reading list.You can never have too many titles on your TBR!

That’s My Plan and I’m Sticking to It #Publishing

No one is wild about change, and it usually happens when you least expect it. Several weeks ago, my publisher informed me they would no longer be considering new material from me. I wasn’t entirely shocked, given Cusp of Night and End of Day have not followed in the path of my previous releases. A Thousand Yesteryears, A Cold Tomorrow, A Desolate Hour, and Myth and Magic did very well for Lyrical Underground/Kensington Publishing, and they expected the new series to perform in the same vein. Sadly, those numbers have been lacking. To top it off, the senior editor who liked my work, and requested new material from me, took a position with Marvel shortly after contracting Cusp of Night. I believe he would have taken another series given my past numbers, but the new editor is not inclined.

So now what?

Directional arrows pointing different ways

If nothing had changed, I would have been happy to continue submitting books to Kensington, but their decision has made me re-evaluate what I want to do moving ahead. As I see it, I have three options:

Seek out an online publisher
Indie publish
Try to gain an agent and go after the Big 5 publishers

Each has its own value. I’m not sure I want to go with a small press, although there are several with excellent reputations. I’m more likely to go Indie or seek an agent. I spent one night thoroughly bummed over Kensington’s decision, but can’t say I was shocked. The same thing happened to two friends last year. I have no idea why my Hode’s Hill series has not performed like my previous books, especially given I dumped more paid promo and online promotion into Cusp than previous works. Maybe the type of books just didn’t resonate with readers like the others did. It’s puzzling.

A woman with confused expression, thinking, question mark above her head

I won’t miss the deadlines (the last one nearly did me in), though I will miss the promo Kensington did for my books, especially Book Bub. I am, however, a strong believer in fate, and that everything happens for a reason. I have to trust that this is part of God’s plan for my life.

With that in mind, I hope to seek an agent while releasing a few indie works. My current WIP, The Keeping Place, is mainstream mystery with just a twinge of folklore. No monsters, creatures, or ghouls, just the hint of an old legend from the 1900s. It’s a different direction for me, so perhaps the timing is good. I have a lot of faith in this book, and feel it will end up the strongest of anything I’ve written. Once finished, I hope to approach an agent for representation—although I dread the research involved.

In the meantime, Eventide, book three of my Hode’s Hill series, will release the end of December through Kensington. I’ll be jabbering more about that as the time nears.

I have a book of short stories I originally planned to indie publish the end of summer or early fall. I’ve now decided to hold that until April of 2020, as I’d like to continue to strive for two releases a year. That also gives me plenty of time to play with cover design. I’m still not settled on the title, but this book will include a story I hope to spin into an ongoing series of novellas. Remember the name “McDoogal.” 🙂

I also have plans for a string of novellas featuring a character from my Point Pleasant series. If that isn’t enough to keep me busy, I’m going to have to re-release my older works as the rights release back to me. And I thought I was juggling too much with a full time job before. Oy, vey!

I’ve got a lot to wrap my head around, but it won’t stop me from writing. I’ve dilly-dallied long enough not trying for the Big 5. This is the push I needed. It’s time I buckle down and search for an agent. And in the meantime, I can stay active with smaller indie publications.

So, that’s my plan, and I’m sticking to it!

The Detective, An Excerpt from Unclear Purposes by Joan Hall #RomanticSuspense #Mystery

Exciting times! I’m  thrilled to have my friend, Joan Hall, as my guest today. She’s brought along a fabulous excerpt from her new release, Unclear Purposes. I’m particularly fond of this excerpt because of the featured character. Joan handled him extremely well throughout the book, setting a stage for growth that I found fascinating—just one of the excellent elements in her superb novel. You can find my five start review of Unclear Purposes on Book Bub. And now here’s Joan with her latest release . . .

Mae, it’s an honor to be on your site today and to share about my latest release, Unclear Purposes¸the third and final in the Driscoll Lake Series.

To give your readers a bit of background, there’s a killer on the loose. Driscoll Lake’s new detective, Jason Montgomery, is tasked with solving the crime. But Jason is young, inexperienced, and a bit arrogant. He hasn’t gotten off to a good start with the police chief, Matt Bradford. Let’s get to know Jason a little better and hear his thoughts about the crime.

Book cover for Unclear Purposes by Joan Hall on banner ad /graphic with text from the novel

Jason Montgomery rubbed his forehead as he looked through the file on his desk. Three weeks had passed since the murder of Jenny Allen, and he still wasn’t close to finding her killer. Chief Bradford wanted to meet with him this afternoon to discuss the case, and he wasn’t looking forward to it. If he had even one new piece of evidence, he might feel differently.

Jenny Allen was an enigma. Nothing about her past gave him any clues as to who murdered her. He’d spoken to people who knew Jenny in Taos, Santa Fe, and San Antonio. No one had been able to provide anything that would point him to her killer.

Everyone he’d spoken with said Jenny was quiet and kept to herself. Wasn’t one to make enemies. Jason was beginning to believe the killing had been a random act. Same as the murder in Brewster. He’d kept in close contact with detective Somers.

So far, Brewster police hadn’t come up with a suspect. That was a good thing. If these murders were the work of a serial killer, which was yet to be determined, Jason wanted to be the one to solve the crime. What better way to get in Matt’s good graces and secure his position on the force? And that was only the stepping stone to bigger and better things.

As he looked at the file, another issue came to mind. How was Jenny’s killer able to escape unnoticed? No one who had been jogging that evening reported seeing anything suspicious. Vince Green and Christine Lawrence approached the crime scene from opposite directions. Neither of them saw anyone along the path.

The coroner estimated the victim had only been dead a short time before they found the body. There were no footsteps in the soft earth alongside the path, which meant the murderer had either walked or run at least a short distance along the paved trail.

Christine or Vince might have seen something or someone and had blotted it from their memory. Jason knew of instances where it had happened. The shock of witnessing a brutal crime or being the first on the scene was overwhelming for some people.

If that were the case, he’d be willing to bet Christine was the one who had forgotten. Vince Green was a former law enforcement officer. Trained to be observant. He would notice things most people would overlook.

It was time to have another talk with Ms. Lawrence.

Book cover for Unclear uses shows setting sun reflecting off lake, dark tree line in background, ghost outline of woman's head and shoulders in foreground

Blurb:

Some people take secrets to the grave…

Three years after her husband’s murder, Christine Lawrence still struggles for balance. She has a rewarding career and a close circle of friends but feels oddly unfulfilled. Worse, the close relationship she once had with her teenage daughter has grown increasingly strained.

Former FBI agent, Vince Green, is battling demons of his own—painful secrets that drove him from Driscoll Lake. Newly resettled in the small town, he makes his living as a private investigator.

When Vince and Christine cross paths, stumbling over the body of a murder victim, he’s forced to confront memories he thought long buried. The circumstances surrounding the killing are eerily similar to a victim from his past.

As the body count continues to rise, Christine finds herself drawn to Vince. With a murderer stalking the streets of Driscoll Lake, neither is aware the killer has targeted her as the next victim—or that Vince’s past is key to unmasking a disturbed and deadly killer.

Universal Purchase Link

Bio box for author Joan Hall

Website and Social Media Links:

Website   |  Goodreads  | Twitter   |  Facebook   |   Pinterest   | Instagram   |   BookBub

 

May Book Reviews, Part 2

I’m excited that June is finally here, and pool season has arrived! I spend a lot of time during the summer pool season reading and plotting my WIPs, and am looking forward to my warm weather routine. But first, I’d like to share the books I read in May. You can find part one of my reviews HERE. And now for the books I read during the last half of the month. Click the Amazon Link below each review for blurbs and additional information. Perhaps something will strike your fancy!

Book cover for Global WeirdnessGlobal Weirdness
By Climate Central

If you’re interested in climate change, this is a good place to start. Greenhouse gases, severe weather, global warming, extinction events—it’s all here. The chapters are short and the material presented in such a way that it’s easy to understand and follow. A few chapters seem repetitive in places, but overall the flow from one to the next follows in smooth succession. The book addresses more than just greenhouse gases, also looking at ocean evaporation, sunlight reflection, cloud cover, threatened species and predictions for the future. This is an older book (I think was written in 2012) but I still found it informative and interesting. 3.5 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Weather > Environmental Science


Book cover for The HousemateThe Housemate
By C. L. Pattison

Chloe and Megan have been best friends for twelve years. When they find the perfect home for lease, they need a third roommate to swing the rent. They meet Sammi who seems a perfect fit, but after she moves in things start to go haywire. Sammi is secretive about her past and doesn’t appear to have friends or family. Items go missing, Chloe suffers a setback at her job that appears to be the result of sabotage, and a special dress belonging to Megan is irreparably damaged—just a few of the oddities that arise after Sammi enters their lives.

This book reads very quickly (I finished it in two nights), and it is definitely a page turner. Chloe and Megan alternate POVs, along with a third mystery narrator who isn’t revealed until the end. Although I guessed the identity of that narrator halfway through the book, there were plenty of twists that took me by surprise, and when the ending was said and done, I admired how the author let the story play out.

There are a few places where you need to go with the flow and not analyze too closely (i.e, nope, that wouldn’t happen in the real world) but if you’re looking for an entertaining read that would translate well into a cable channel movie, this book is gold. 4 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Thrillers


Book cover for Fever DreamFever Dream
By Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

I recently hooked yet another friend on this series and decided to reread this book (for the third time) while she was reading it. Although I have devoured all of the Pendergast books, several stand out as my personal favorites and this is at the top of the list.

Aloysius X. L. Pendergast is a Special Agent with the FBI, a man who holds two doctorate degrees, and comes from a very rich and very old southern family. To say he is eccentric is equivalent to calling the ocean a lake. Pendergast does things his way, has little if no regard for authority, favors immaculate black suits, and drives a Rolls Royce Silver Wraith. He is a near-albino with extremely pale whitish hair, silver eyes and pale skin. He’s also damn good at solving crimes, even when they have a bizarre or potentially supernatural slant.

In Fever Dream, the crime becomes personal when he suddenly discovers the wife he lost twelve years earlier was likely murdered—and wasn’t exactly who he thought her to be. This book revealed a side of Pendergast readers hadn’t seen before which is one of the reasons I love it so much. That, and a scene involving boats, rednecks and a rundown bar that SCREAMS to be filmed. The audience would be on its feet cheering. 5 whopping big stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Thriller > Suspense


Book cover for To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird
By Harper Lee

I can’t believe I never read this book before! It’s truly a classic in every sense of the word. I picked up a paperback copy a year ago to read on a flight but never got around to it. My loss. I recently came across my copy and devoured it in two days, riveted from the opening page. I’m almost intimidated to write a review. No wonder this book was voted Novel of the Century in a 1999 poll by Library Journal.

A beautiful coming of age story set in a small town at a time when racial prejudice was rampant, this book positively brims over with heart, wisdom, and wit. The characters are simply outstanding. I fell in love with Atticus Finch, Scout, Gem, Dill, Boo Radly, Calpurnia, and so many more. As for the meaning of the title and the way it ties into the story, I had goose bumps.

Brilliant ending, brilliant characters, brilliant story. Star ratings don’t do it justice. A masterpiece of literature!

Amazon Link
Genre:  Literature > Classic Literature and Fiction


Book cover for The Meg shows a behemoth shark under water, many small boats aboveThe Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror
By Steve Alten

I first read this book back in the late 90s when it was originally released. Given I’m a fan of creatures and monsters, I was eager to dive into the story all over again. Happily, I was not disappointed.

Discovered in the Mariana Trench, a “Jurassic shark” (a prehistoric megalodon) manages to reach surface waters, where it goes on a rampage in the modern world. The characters are great—people you can cheer for, others you boo with relish.

Dr. Jonas Taylor, ex-Navy deep sea submersible pilot is especially excellent in the lead role. There are good guys, bad guys, a cheating wife/pushy reporter, billionaire playboy (who happens to be Jonas’s best friend) and a brilliant, beautiful scientist. I recently discovered the author wrote a number of books that piggyback on this one, hence my desire to re-read The Meg. The story has also been made into a movie—which I’m sure (when I finally see it) will have me breaking out the popcorn. I can’t wait to follow up reading the other books in this series of shark adventures—maybe just not at the beach!  5 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Action Thriller > Suspense Action > Sea Adventure Fiction


Book cover for Unclear uses shows setting sun reflecting off lake, dark tree line in background, ghost outline of woman's head and shoulders in foregroundUnclear Purposes (Driscoll Lake 3)
By Joan Hall

I’ve followed the Driscoll Lake series from book one. Each novel is excellent, but the final is in a league of its own. The author clearly owns her small-town setting and the people who populate it.

When a woman is found murdered in Driscoll Lake, and two women die by similar means in a neighboring town, ex-FBI agent, Vince Green (now a private investigator) finds himself center stage trying to solve the murder. He and Christine Lawrence are the ones who found the victim in Driscoll Lake—a victim with a secretive past who has ties to multiple people in the town, including Christine’s ex mother-in-law. Toss in an old, unsolved crime, an arrogant police detective, art gallery clues, and the blossoming attraction between Christine and Vince, and you have book that will keep you entertained from page one.

Hall doles out her clues a little at a time, dropping them like breadcrumbs into a forest of divergent paths. Just when you think you’re starting to fit the pieces together, a new twist sends you down the wrong trail. The strong ensemble cast is handled with dexterity, each character awarded moments in the spotlight. Several of the secondary players are particularly notable. Equal parts mystery and romantic suspense, this intriguing novel presents a fabulous close to an excellent series. Each Driscoll Lake novel can be read as a standalone, including Unclear Purposes. Highly recommended! 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Mystery > Romantic Suspense > Crime Suspense


Thanks for checking out this month’s reviews. I’ll be back in June with 1-2 more review posts (depending on how much I read). I hope you found something to add to your TBR and I wish you happy reading!

 

A Top 10 Honor and A Visit #Hode’sHillSeries #SupernaturalThriller

I’ll be releasing the final book of my Hode’s Hill Series, Eventide, this December. Look for more about this book leading up to the release. My goal is to have some fun posts planned with a cover reveal and an introduction to several new characters (and returning favorites) who take center stage.

In the meantime, you can catch up on the series with End of Day (book 2) and Cusp of Night (Book 1). I hear they’re not bad reading 😉

Advertisement for Hode's Hill Series chosen as a Top 10 Paranormal Mystery Series by Wiki.EzvidEspecially since this series was recently named a Top 10 Paranormal Mystery Series as chosen by Wiki.ezvid.com. You can see the full list HERE. Pretty cool, huh? I was shocked, honored, and jazzed to have my work included! 🙂

I’m also pleased to be a guest at the blog of Denise D. Young today, talking about—what else?—Cusp of Night! Denise was a recent guest on From the Pen of Mae Clair, while gearing up for her debut release.

Why not hop over, check out her blog and say hello to both of us while you’re there? Just follow this link…

Our 5* Review for A Thousand Yesteryears by Mae Clair #ParanormalSuspense @MaeClair1

It’s been a while since I’ve stumbled upon a new review for A Thousand Yesteryears, the first book in my Point Pleasant series. Anita Dawes and Jaye Marie made my day with this fabulous review. The Mothman and I are delighted!

anita dawes and jaye marie

“Masterful, bone-chilling fiction…one intense thriller. A Thousand Yesteryears will keep you guessing, gasping and turning the pages for more.” —New York Times bestselling author Kevin O’Brien

Behind a legend lays the truth…

As a child, Eve Parrish lost her father and her best friend, Maggie Flynn, in a tragic bridge collapse. Fifteen years later, she returns to Point Pleasant to settle her deceased aunt’s estate. Though much has changed about the once thriving river community, the ghost of tragedy still weighs heavily on the town, as do rumors and sightings of the Mothman, a local legend. When Eve uncovers startling information about her aunt’s death, that legend is in danger of becoming all too real . . .

Caden Flynn is one of the few lucky survivors of the bridge collapse but blames himself for coercing his younger sister out that night. He’s carried that guilt for fifteen years, unaware of…

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An Interview, Creatures, and Cats

I am so excited to be interviewed by fabulous book reviewer, writer, and musician, Kevin Cooper. And let’s not forget he loves cats!

Even though Kev’s on the other side of the pond, Raven and I are always keen to know what he’s up to—including sending kitty hugs to his gorgeous felines, Aragorn and Ricco.

Although cats don’t come up in Kev’s interview with me, he had plenty of interesting questions—as only Kev can deliver. I hope you’ll get a moment to pop over and see what we’re discussing (hint: creatures are involved).

You can find the interview HERE. Hope to see you there. Raven even stirred from a mid day nap to see what all the fuss is about. 🙂

Beautiful black cat curled up on a bed with pillows

May Book Reviews, Part 1

Hello, and welcome to another round of book reviews. I’m splitting them up this month, sharing half now and the remainder in another post at the end of the month. As always, click on the Amazon link for the book blurb or to learn more about the individual title. First up is a book I read in April but forgot to post. Oops!

Book over for Esther by Angela HuntEsther
By Angela Hunt

I love stories based on those who populate the Old Testament and found this an enjoyable read. It moved a bit slowly in some spots, but overall the story kept me riveted and flipping pages.

King Xerxes of Persia orders all young women who are comely in appearance to be brought to his court to serve as concubines. One will be chosen as his new queen. Esther, a Jewish girl is abducted and taken to the palace. Although she eventually wins the pagan king’s heart and becomes his queen, she must hide her faith for fear of reprisal. But when a man who gains the King’s ear wants to exterminate all Jews, Esther must boldly take a stand—for herself, her people, and her God.

Esther doesn’t get much coverage in the Bible, but the author did an excellent job of staying true to her story. Anything that was fictionalized fell logically into place and the historical and religious elements were brought vividly to life. I fully intend to look for more books by this author. 4 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Ancient World Historical Romance


Book cover for the Moses Chronicles: Exodus by H. B. MooreaThe Moses Chronicles #3: Exodus
By H.B. Moore

This is the final book in a trilogy about Moses. Books one and two take the reader from his birth to his time as an honored son in the Egyptian court, his exile, marriage, and discovery of the burning bush on Mount Horeb. In book three, Moses returns to Egypt to confront Pharaoh with God’s order to set His people free.

I didn’t read the first two books, which could be why the story slowed for me in some places. There are references to previous events and relationships between the characters. That was all interesting to a degree, but what I was most interested in was the test of wills between Ramses and Moses, and—most especially—the many plagues the Lord sent to Egypt. When the author concentrated on those, the book soared.

Told in third-person POV, the chapters shift between the perspectives of Moses, Aaron, Miriam, and Moses’ Egyptian mother, Bithiah. I found the chapters from Moses’ POV and Bithiah’s the most riveting. And, yes, the author handled the parting of the Red Sea. This made me want to watch my DVD of The Ten Commandments again!  4.5 stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction > Religious Historical Fiction


Book cover for The Invited by Jennifer McMahonThe Invited
By Jennifer McMahon

Jennifer McMahon is one of my auto-buy authors, and I get excited whenever I see a new release from her. The Invited is a ghost story with threads of witchcraft and spiritualism that serves up a generous dollop of greed, tragedy, and twisted genealogy. This book creeps along—a bit slow at the beginning—as characters are introduced and an old legend gradually unfolds.

Like a ticking time bomb, the book builds to an explosive conclusion, sucking the reader deeper and deeper with each successive chapter into the grim history of a small New England town. This isn’t a hide-under-the-covers type of book, but one that delivers shivers and goose bumps, while examining the darker side of human nature.

In the early 1900s, Hattie Breckenridge was hung as a witch, her body discarded in the bog where she made her home. Enter Helen and Nate, a married couple who purchase the land where Hattie lived. In a desire to escape the bustle of suburbia, they begin constructing a home, hoping for a quiet life.

It isn’t long before odd occurrences start. Things go missing, the sound of screaming rises from the bog at night, Nate sees a mysterious white doe. As he becomes fixated on the doe, Helen delves into Hattie’s family tree, learning Hattie wasn’t the only one who met a terrible fate. With the help of an odd young girl named Olive, and a new friend, Helen is soon immersed in digging deeper into Hattie’s past, trying to discover what became of her descendants. Helen grows certain Hattie is trying to communicate with her, warning her of an ugly tragedy to come.

If you like atmospheric reads, small town settings, and things that-go-bump in the night, you’re certain to love this spooky novel. It’s all here—broken families, spirit circles, small town gossip, haunted objects—there’s even whispers of buried treasure. Brilliantly packaged and delivered as only McMahon can do, she once again proves her skill as a gifted storyteller. Now, how long until her next book? 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre:  Ghost Fiction > Witch and Wizard Mysteries


Book cover for The Gate by D. L. CrossThe Gate
by D. L. Cross

In this fast-paced story, author D.L. Cross creates a melting pot of conspiracies, government coverups, and ancient civilizations. Professor Landon Thorne is an expert on alien theories. Unfortunately, most of his speculations have left him labeled a crackpot—until alien spacecraft are detected hurtling toward Earth.

Suddenly, Thorne is the man everyone needs—from secret government operatives to mercenaries for hire. Worse, the woman Thorne thought he loved turns out to be an operative who was assigned as his handler. In the matter of a single day his world goes from routine college campus to hidden government facility, to the wilds of Peru.

Cross sets a breathless pace, juggling a diverse cast of characters, most with their own agendas. There are alliances, crosses and double-crosses, betrayals and perceived betrayals. Tension is kept high with the impending arrival of potentially hostile aliens.

A good deal of research clearly went into this novel, as the author addresses the Roswell Incident, Incas, the Serpent Mound, and a web of other threads that leaves the reader constantly guessing where the next curveball is coming from. Cross throws plenty of them and sets her chapters for hooks that makes it impossible not to keep swiping pages. The writing is tight, the dialogue exchanges, rapid-fire. I found the Roswell thread particularly intriguing. This is the first book in what promises to be a riveting series. If you’re a fan of ancient alien theories mixed with fast-paced intrigue, and characters who command the pages, you don’t want to miss this one! 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre:  Alien Invasion Science Fiction > Colonization Science Fiction


book cover for Whatever it Takes by S. BurkeWhatever It Takes
By S. Burke

I was sucked into this story from the get-go. The idea of a celebrity character and a Hollywood setting brought unique appeal to the story. Toss a serial killer into the mix and I knew I was in for a good read. The author crafted a complex plot with realistic characters. Kudos for a strong female lead who didn’t come off over-the-top, something I trip over frequently in popular fiction. Andi O’Connor is competent and convincing while harboring emotions and flaws that make her believable. Her relationship with James grows through the story—at a realistic pace—as the investigation draws them together.

This is a well-crafted mystery that takes an up close look at investigative work. I felt like I was putting pieces of the puzzle together along with Andi even as the danger level ramped higher. The procedural aspects of the book are exceptionally well done, the characters thoroughly developed. One of the secondary characters in particular was a surprise, sadly flawed and utterly human.

The plot ensures the reader is sent through twisted paths before delivering a satisfying conclusion. I could see this book unfolding as a movie. It has a dark underbelly, seasoned with gritty aspects of life. From the glitz of James’s Hollywood career, to the killer’s cold and abhorrent deeds, it examines two sides of life. I would love to see the character of Andi O’Connor return in a sequel. She definitely has the strength and appeal to carry a series. 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre:  Suspense > Suspense Thrillers


Look for more reviews from me the end of the month. In the meantime, hopefully something I’ve shared appeals to your reader radar. There’s always room on the TBR for a few more! 🙂