Taking a Blogging Break

Hello, friends. I know I haven’t been all that visible lately, and I apologize for not being able to keep up with your blog posts. We all deal with the intrusion of real life issues now and then. I guess it’s my turn.

My husband and I lost his mother in May after a difficult time of hospital stays and hospice. The remainder of the month was a blur for various reasons. Early in June, we took a much needed vacation to Cape Cod. It was a beautiful relaxing time, but I haven’t been able to stay on top of things since returning. Thankfully, we have another vacation coming up in early July, but then I go into another whirlwind of situations that will demand the bulk of my time. I plan to hop online now and then. I’ll keep up with my Story Empire commitments, and also visit blogs as time permits, but for the most part you likely won’t see me until August.

Until then, happy summer—I’ll be back before it’s over! In closing, below are a few shots from the beach front cottage we enjoyed in Cape Cod. I did zero writing, but I read 3.5 books (didn’t make it through the fourth) while sunning on that gorgeous deck)!

Comments are closed, but I promise to get back to regular rounds soon! 🤗 ❤️

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware, The Midnight Man by Caroline Mitchell #suspense #mysteries

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

Today’s reviews are for books that had been on my reading radar for some time. I’d read Ruth Ware before, but for some reason hesitated on snatching up In a Dark, Dark Wood. I eventually grabbed it through Libby.

The Midnight Man intrigued me the moment it was released, but I had so many other books on my reading plate, I kept putting it off. Then BookBub sent me notice of a .99c deal, and I had to snatch it up. Apparently, it’s the first book in a new crime series, and if this one is any indication of what lies ahead, I can’t wait for the next!


bookcover with black and white illustration of tree branches, white branches on black background

IN A DARK, DARK WOOD
BY RUTH WARE

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

This book wasn’t exactly what I expected. Leonora agrees to attend a hen party for an old friend—one she hasn’t seen or spoken to in ten years. Because of last minute cancellations, the group ends up being very small, just six people, including the intended bride. The setting is a large contemporary home tucked deep in the woods.

I loved the descriptions of the house which features walls and walls of glass windows. Because the author drives those images home in scene after scene, I was really hoping for those towering windows to have more impact in the story. The atmosphere of both home and woods really pervades the first half of the book, which held me enthralled. There are squabbles during the hen party, old wounds reopened, even a few moments with a Ouija board.

The second half of the book deals with Leonora waking up in the hospital, trying to recall the events that led to someone being killed. That half is a bit plodding and I found myself wishing things would move at a faster pace.

The author does a good job of making each person a suspect in the killing, so I really had no idea who the culprit was prior to the reveal. Kudos for that. Kudos too, for placing the answer in plain sight but nestling it so cleverly I never picked up on the obvious. When the revelation comes it’s an “ahhh!” moment. So… great first half with a fantastic setting, clever close, but some plodding to get there. Also, I feel like the Ouija board incident was left hanging. Overall, 3.5 stars rounded to 4 for review purposes.

AMAZON LINK


THE MIDNIGHT MAN
Slayton Thrillers #1
BY CAROLINE MITCHELL

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Oh, the creep factor! Give me a spooky abandoned old house with a name like Blackhall Manor, an infamous history involving a grisly murder/suicide and an urban legend twined with a game played on Halloween, and you’ve hooked me as a reader. That’s exactly what Caroline Mitchell did with The Midnight Man, a crime thriller with a supernatural twist. From the first chapter—suspense on steroids—to the mind-boggling and thoroughly satisfying conclusion, I was riveted.

Detective Sarah Noble has returned to the force after a long absence and a ruined marriage that negatively impacted her job. She struggles with the censure of her peers while trying to adapt to a lesser role in the department.

On Halloween, fifteen years after the murders in Blackhall Manor, five girls receive an anonymous invitation to play a game in the old house which will summon the Midnight Man (think ghostly games, like Bloody Mary). Only four of the girls make it home.

Despite trying to keep a low profile, Sarah has ties to the old house she’s managed to keep secret from most everyone. As the danger ramps up, she’s caught up in a net that tangles her past with the game the girls played and Blackhall Manor itself. In addition, her friend, Maggie, has a seven-year-old son who has the gift of sight. Elliott sees visions he doesn’t understand, dark and macabre images that terrify him. With Elliott’s help, Sarah must piece together the mystery and put an end to the darkness of Blackhall before it claims more victims.

This is a creepy, atmospheric story that oozes suspense with every scene. There’s a full roster of suspects to keep you guessing about culprits. Everyone’s life overlaps in various ways for a plethora of knots in what makes a twisty little thriller. The reveals at the end come like a stack of dominos, one toppling upon the other for a staggering conclusion. I read this book in two days, irritated when real life intervened and pulled me away from the story. The best news—although this is a complete tale, it’s also the first in a new series by the author. I eagerly look forward to the next!

AMAZON LINK

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Pour it On by Staci Troilo, Jagged Feathers by Jan Sikes @stacitroilo @jansikes3 #romance

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

Happy post Hump Day! To off set your mid-week winter blahs (for those of you in the northern hemisphere), I have two romantic reads sure to perk you up. If you’re in the southern hemisphere, enjoying sunshine and warmth, these are perfect companions to take to the beach or pool. Both are new releases and both were penned by Story Empire colleagues. How cool is that? Naturally, I am super excited to share!

cover for Pour it On, by Staci Troilo shows silhouette of couple in foreground, wine glass in back ground

POUR IT ON
Keystone Couples #2
by Staci Troilo


One of my favorite types of stories are those built around misunderstandings, especially when it involves mistaken identity. Staci Troilo has penned a gem that dishes up—an appropriate pun for a tale centered in a restaurant—generous servings of humor and romance.

Restaurant owner, Romy Chandler, has lost her sommelier right before a huge meet-and-greet, and I do mean RIGHT before. Plus, Valentine’s Day is lingering around the corner. Rick Santucci is a vintner who needs to get his wine into the right establishments to grow his winery. Do you sense the stars aligning?

That’s all well and good, but Troilo, who has a deft touch with couples’ romance, isn’t about to let things proceed smoothly. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but let’s just say this short tale will warm your heart while tickling your funny bone. The dialogue is fast and flirty, the scenes stacking like dominos that tumble into a brilliant HEA ending.

Grab a glass of your favorite pinot or merlot, settle into a comfy seat, then Pour it On with this enchanting story that will leave you laughing on the sidelines and rooting for the characters. Troilo is a master of her craft who always delivers a polished tale. I can’t wait for the next Keystone Couples novella!

AMAZON LINK


JAGGED FEATHERS
The White Rune Series #2
By Jan Sikes

Book cover for Jagged Feathers by Jan Sikes shows a dream catcher with feathers, two large blue feathers in the center

Vann Noble is an ex-solider, suffering from PTSD, living off the grid in an isolated cabin. His companion is a stray dog nearly as damaged as he is, but with the same stalwart and loyal heart as Vann’s.

When Vann crosses paths with Nakina Bird—a woman clearly fleeing a dangerous situation—he’s determined to help her. Soon both are on the run, fleeing gunmen bent on retrieving a mysterious package Nakina was given by her former boss.

What stands out in this slick romance most is the time the author invested in her characters. It’s wonderful seeing how Vann and Nakina, both damaged in their own way, find themselves drawing closer together. Nakina also has a psychic gift and is tuned into the metaphysical. Symbols and signs are deftly woven into the plot, including a white rune stone that appeared in Ghostly Interference, book one in this series.

I liked seeing familiar characters return and meeting new ones. Champion, Vann’s dog, stole my heart with his devotion to Nakina. Most of all, the message of love over adversity and the commitment of two souls joining together shines through. The HEA is well-deserved and left me with a warm smile. I’m already looking forward to Colt’s story in the final book of the series. If you love romance woven with suspense and characters who will have you cheering, Jagged Feathers is an ideal read. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention I love how the author wove the title into the story. A thoroughly enjoyable and romantic read.

AMAZON LINK

Wreck of the Lanternfish by C.S. Boyack #newrelease #pirateadventure #fantasy #seastories @Virgilante

Hi, everyone! I’m super excited to welcome long-time friend and Story Empire colleague, Craig Boyack to my blog today. Craig’s here to share news of his latest release Wreck of the Lanternfish, the conclusion of his pirate adventure Lanternfish series. 

I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first two novels and am looking forward to seeing how Craig wraps everything up in book three. Lanternfish is set in a highly imaginative world, populated with intriguing creatures and characters, but as Craig explains in his post below, even when writing fantasy, you have to dive deep in research. Take it away, Craig!


Thanks for the invite to talk about ‘Wreck of the Lanternfish.’ I try to keep each post unique, and research is always a popular topic. The series is a trilogy, so there’s been a lot of research over the years. Add in the supporting story, ‘Serang,’ and it stacks up.

I started with basic data about tall ships. Rigging, number of guns, just the basics of what to call certain parts of the ship. I had to learn the difference between iron cannon and bronze, port vs starboard, and more.

There was a lot of research into Asian culture and beliefs. One story of how a Koi fish evolved into a dragon led me to create the Child of the Dragon in Serang. I spent time figuring out how to forge weapons and how various cultures included meteors in their steel.

Another one involved a Japanese belief in how old and revered objects can develop their own soul. This led me deep into various haunted items, and caused me to create Mule’s haunted knife which the pirates call the black spot.

In the new story, I needed some land based military tactics along with some river based movements. I researched singing stones and trench warfare. I relied on previous research to include data about travelling via beast of burden. Animals need time to eat and drink. They aren’t the same as automobiles, and aren’t as fast.

Quite a bit of research went into the Lanternfish books. As the final volume crosses your e-reader, it might be fun to spot some of these things. I hope readers will enjoy it.

Wreck of the Lanternfish purchase link

Trilogy link

Cover Blurb:
James Cuttler created a peaceful spot for he and his wife to settle down. Far from the war that ravages their homeland, far from the reputation he earned as the notorious pirate Captain Bloodwater, and far from responsibility.

A royal Prelonian houseguest is a constant reminder of what’s at stake half a world away, of the friends he put ashore to fight the war. He lives in a dream world that’s temporary, at best. It’s only a matter of time before his guest is identified and the black assassins come for her.

He mortgages his precious vineyard to pay for repairs to his ship. If nothing else, Lanternfish will be one of the most powerful ships in the war, if he’s not already too late.

James will have to merge the skills of commander and con man into something new to make this work. He’ll need to avoid those on his own side who would hang him for piracy.

Serang is half a world away, leading her army of mercenary swordsmen toward the Fulminites. Mistrusted by both sides of the war, she appears as a third combatant on the battlefield. She may eliminate the mysterious order, only to succumb to the demons of her own tragic past.

Strap on your swords and hoist the colors one more time as the thrilling Lanternfish Trilogy comes to an end.

bio box for author, C.S. Boyack

Connect with Craig at the following haunts:
Blog | My Novel | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook | Pinterest | BookBub


As an author, I always enjoy doing research, and if it involves delving into something unusual, so much the better. I appreciated learning how some of the oddities in Lanternfish developed. If you like high seas adventure, imaginative worlds, intriguing characters and colorful creatures, hop onboard and set sail with Lanterfish! I know I’m looking forward to the journey!

Welcome to Day 5 of The HYPE Blog Tour @YvetteMCalleiro #Hype #NewRelease #BookPromo #YAFiction

Today, it’s my pleasure to host Yvette M. Calleiro with her new release, HYPE. She’s brought along a compelling guest post and is offering a giveaway. See below, and please welcome Yvette!

Tour banner with QR code for HYPE by Yvette M. Calleiro

GIVEAWAY:  3 e-book copies of HYPE!
Leave a comment below for your chance to win! 

School Counseling

It’s hard for anyone outside of the school system to understand how vital school counselors are for our youth. Students cannot leave their problems at home. They carry them everywhere they go, including school. When a child is struggling emotionally or physically, they cannot focus on learning. Teachers are the first level of comfort for many students, but there are certain areas that need more in-depth help, and that is where our counselors come in.

At my middle school, we have two regular counselors, a TRUST counselor, and a mental health counselor. A TRUST counselor is a special counselor that focuses on being a beacon of help for our students. Our TRUST counselor is amazing. I could spend pages trying to explain all the ways she helps our students, but I’m going to focus on the one that applies to my novel, HYPE. She listens with no judgment and helps keep the student physically, mentally, and emotionally safe. I cannot tell you how many lives she has improved (and has saved) because of the work she does with our students.

In HYPE, Cici is referred to the TRUST counselor by her best friend when Cici’s behavior changes. Here is an excerpt from the story:

Mr. Cooper comes from around his desk to shake my hand. The first thing I notice is his happy eyes. They seem to smile all on their own. Curly, brown hair curves around the sides of his head, leaving the top bald. His bushy mustache almost completely covers his mouth; it’s good his eyes smile for him. I want to relax around him. He has this positive energy about him, but I keep my guard up.

“Come in. Come in. You must be Cecilia.” He shakes my hand and points to a chair in front of his desk. Instead of going to sit in his chair, he closes his door and sits in the chair next to me. “I’m Mr. Cooper, the school’s TRUST counselor. A friend of yours is worried about you and asked me to meet with you.”

Dee. It has to be.

“I’m not sure if you know who I am or what I do.”

I shake my head, although I have a pretty good idea what he’s about to say.

He smiles. “I am not a regular counselor. I don’t handle schedules and high school credits. I deal with more sensitive issues. Students come to me when they want to speak privately about issues such as homosexuality, relationship problems, anorexia, bulimia, suicidal thoughts, physical or emotional abuse, rape, problems with friends, etc… You can talk to me about anything. You and your thoughts and words are safe here.”

I like Mr. Cooper, despite what his job is, and I really want to let it all spill out of my mouth. “And everything I say is confidential?”

“Yes, everything is kept private between us. However, there are three details I cannot keep private for your own safety. One is if you want to harm yourself. Another is if you want to harm someone else. And the last one is if you are being abused or have been abused in any way. Your safety is the most important thing to me, and to keep you safe, I cannot keep those details confidential. I would have to get additional help, but I would be with you through every step.”

I shut down.

“Cecilia-”

“Cici,” I correct him.

The smile again. “Cici, I work with plenty of troubled teens. The teenage years can be the most difficult in anyone’s life. I can help you get through whatever seems to be troubling you. Each person’s problems always seem bigger than they are. Sometimes, sharing them with a stranger who will not judge you and will hold what you say in confidence can help you work through it.”

I say nothing and stare at him. What I want to share is something he could not hold in confidence, so I stay quiet.

It isn’t easy for a student to open up to a complete stranger, but TRUST counselors know how to create those safe spaces to allow students to have a place where they can share their struggles. I know this from my own experiences in high school.

During my junior year, I became very depressed. I stopped eating and had difficulty sleeping. My parents tried to take me to a psychologist, but my stubborn self refused to talk to him. A teacher referred me to the TRUST counselor. At first, I was hesitant about speaking with him, but he slowly showed me that he was there to listen to me. I felt seen and heard, without judgment or expectations, for the first time in a long time. It was a turning point for me, as it is for many students.

The dramas of my yesteryears still exist, but today’s teens have so many more issues to deal with: school shootings, COVID, social media bullying, and so many more. Counselors are needed more than ever in the schools, and I hope this story shines a little light on them and their vast importance to our youth.

book cover for TYPE by Yvette Calleiro, two teen girls in front of pen and ink drawing of a girl's face, masking tape in form of X across her lips

BLURB:
Cici’s junior year in high school is going to be the best year ever. Popular co-captain of the varsity cheerleading team, she’s dating the starting quarterback. Even her jealous co-captain’s attempts to steal her boyfriend can’t curb her enthusiasm.

When her mom moves in with her fiancé, a handsome, wealthy man, only one small detail threatens Cici’s perfect life. The school’s social pariah is about to become her stepsister, and Cici wants nothing to do with her.

Everything changes when someone Cici cares about throws her life into a tailspin, and the one person Cici couldn’t stand becomes her only ally.

Warning: This story contains scenes of sexual assault.

Available on Amazon and Smashwords

AUTHOR BIO

author, Yvette M. Calleiro

Yvette M. Calleiro is a heavily addicted reader of both young adult and adult novels. She spends most of her time pseudo-living in paranormal worlds with her fictional friends (and boyfriends). When she’s living among real people, Yvette M. Calleiro is a middle school Reading and Language Arts teacher. She’s been sharing her love of literature with her students for over twenty years. Besides writing about the various characters that whisper (and sometimes scream) in her head, she enjoys traveling, watching movies, spending quality time with family and friends, and enjoying the beauty of the ocean.

Yvette lives in Miami, Florida, with her incredible son who has embraced her love for paranormal and adventurous stories. She also shares her space with an assortment of crazy saltwater animals in her 300-gallon tank.

Social Media Links:

Author Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Visit Yvette’s AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE for a complete list of all her novels

PURCHASE HYPE

To follow along with the rest of this tour,
please visit Yvette M Calleiro’s tour page. 

Thanks so much for visiting in celebration of HYPE. Teen years are especially difficult, but I can’t imagine what it must be like today with the added pressure of social media and 24/7 scrutiny. I thought Yvette wrote an excellent post about the importance of TRUST counselors. To participate in the giveaway, don’t forget to drop her a comment, then help spread the word about HYPE with the sharing buttons! 🙂

Book Tour Day 4: Things Old and Forgotten by Mae Clair #speculativefiction #magicalrealism #fantasy #newrelease

book Things Old and Forgotten by Mae Clair on leaf covered brick walk, blurred image of autumn trees in background

A new week, and a new round of visits for Things Old and Forgotten. Today, I’m visiting Story two wonderful friends. Story Empire colleague, Gwen Plano, and my “PenderPal,” Marcia Meara.

Gwen is one of the kindest people you’ll meet online, an all around generous and giving person who is also a talented author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. I first encountered Gwen’s optimism and resilience through reading her memoir Letting Go Into Perfect Love. She has an amazing life story.

Her versatility as an author really comes through in her Contract series. I found the most recent release The Culmination particularly strong, but highly recommend them all. The entire series can be found on her Amazon Author Page.

While visiting Gwen, I’ll be sharing an excerpt from my short story, Resurrecting Merlin. If you have a moment, hop over and JOIN US. 🙂



Marcia Meara is a sweetheart with the best sense of humor I know! She is highly supportive of other authors, and has regular features to promote them on her blog The Write Stuff. We both share love of the fictional character Aloysius X. L. Pendergast (hence PenderPals) and Harry Dresden (which makes us Dresdenphiles).

I’ve devoured everything Marcia has written. Her Riverbend Series is highly engrossing, and her Wake-Robin Ridge Series features a character named Rabbit who is guaranteed to steal your heart. You can find both series as well as novellas and more on her Amazon Author Page.

Because Marcia has such a fun sense of humor, I’m sharing an excerpt from my short story Miss Lily Makes A Wish (the singular comedic tale in the collection) while visiting her today. HOP OVER to see what it’s all about!


And an update:
The wonderful and uber-supportive Sally Cronin is featuring Things Old and Forgotten along with an early 5-star review of the book on the Smorgasboard Cafe and Bookstore. If you’re not familiar with Sally, you’re missing out connecting with one of the sweetest, friendliest, kindest, and as I said—uber-supportive—bloggers you’ll find online. Sally is also a talented writer with a vast collection of books you can find HERE. I wish you happy reading!



Guest Author Thursday: Sue Rovens with Rage #suspense #crimethriller

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

Welcome to another Guest Author Thursday. Today, I’m delighted to feature Sue Rovens, who has brought along her latest release, Rage, in addition to an intriguing post about her characters and plots. Personally, I’m a huge fan of character-driven fiction. Check out Sue’s post then drop her some thoughts in the comments.

Take it away, Sue!


Thank you so much, Mae, for having me as a guest. The opportunity is most appreciated!

Anyone who prefers suspense over hardcore horror/gore should find my books to their liking. My characters are people who have faults, problems, and at times, heavy baggage. I don’t shy away from polarizing issues and taboo topics. However, at the same time, I don’t glorify these facets. The people in my stories are as “real” as those we meet everyday (or read about in the papers). The various situations I put them in is what drives the narrative.

Rage, my newest novel, follows two main characters – Wilbur Weston and Lyndsay Yager. Wilbur is a depressed and bitter man who hates the world almost as much as himself. Lyndsay is his therapist who is a train wreck of an alcoholic on the brink of divorce.

While Rage casts a dark shadow over itself, the reader will discover the characters’ reasoning for the choices they make – both good and bad. It’s a suspenseful tale full of hurt and desperate people who see themselves as doing what they must – righting their wrongs.

Rage comes in at 232 pages and is available in paperback and in Kindle format from Amazon.

BOOK BLURB:

Weston Cross is a bullied and abused man who wants nothing more than to escape from his agonizing mental anguish and excruciating misery. After a harrowing brush with death, he discovers a better way to twist his depression and self-despair into something different…something sinister.

Lindsay Yager, the therapist assigned to help Weston with his internal battles, is fighting her own demons. On the verge of a nasty divorce, she finds solace at the bottom of a bottle. Her anger and vitriol take no prisoners, even when lives are at stake – including her own.

Depression sets the stage, but RAGE will have the final say.

AUTHOR BIO:

Sue Rovens is an indie suspense/horror author who hails from Normal, Illinois. She has written four novels and two books of short horror stories.

Track 9, her second novel, snagged a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly (May 2018), her short story, “Coming Over”, from her book, In a Corner, Darkly (Volume 1) was turned into a screenplay and short student indie film by the theater department of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and another short story, “When the Earth Bled”, won 2nd place in the Support Indie Authors short story contest earlier this year. Her two most recent books (Buried and Rage) are under Plump Toad Press.

Sue owns a blog (suerovens.com) which includes interviews with authors, musicians, podcasters, and artists. She is an Executive Producer for an indie (short) horror film which is currently in production called “Let’s Do Things that Make Us Happy”. Sue is also a co-host and story writer for the new horror podcast, Ye Olde Terror Inn.

Sue is a member of The Chicago Writers Association and the Alliance for Independent Authors (ALLi).

Blog: https://suerovens.com | Email: srovens@yahoo.com

I also want to let your readers know that I interview authors (and artists and musicians) of ALL genres and professional levels. Currently, I have 179 author interviews, as well as a handful of music folks and artistic people.

Everything is done through email and on YOUR schedule/timeframe. If you are interested in being a part of the Meet & Greet (author interviews), Spotlight (artists), and/or Flipside (music folks), please send me a quick email. ALL are welcome on my blog. Thanks!


What a nice invitation. Not only has Sue brought her latest release to share, but also an opportunity for all creative sorts out there. I hope you’ll reach out to her—and don’t forget to hop over to AMAZON to pick up your copy of Rage!

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins #psychologicalthriller #murderthriller

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

Happy Wednesday! It’s Hump Day and the perfect time to trot out a five star read. I’ve had a couple of clunkers lately, including a near DNF (in retrospect, I wish I’d followed through), so I’m happy to share a book I can recommend. Thanks to Kim of By Hook or by Book for bringing this one to my attention!

BOOK BLURB:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Wife Upstairs comes Reckless Girls, a deliciously wicked gothic suspense, set on an isolated Pacific island with a dark history, for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.

When Lux McAllister and her boyfriend, Nico, are hired to sail two women to a remote island in the South Pacific, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. Stuck in a dead-end job in Hawaii, and longing to travel the world after a family tragedy, Lux is eager to climb on board The Susannah and set out on an adventure. She’s also quick to bond with their passengers, college best friends Brittany and Amma. The two women say they want to travel off the beaten path. But like Lux, they may have other reasons to be seeking an escape.

Shimmering on the horizon after days at sea, Meroe Island is every bit the paradise the foursome expects, despite a mysterious history of shipwrecks, cannibalism, and even rumors of murder. But what they don’t expect is to discover another boat already anchored off Meroe’s sandy beaches. The owners of the Azure Sky, Jake and Eliza, are a true golden couple: gorgeous, laidback, and if their sleek catamaran and well-stocked bar are any indication, rich. Now a party of six, the new friends settle in to experience life on an exotic island, and the serenity of being completely off the grid. Lux hasn’t felt like she truly belonged anywhere in years, yet here on Meroe, with these fellow free spirits, she finally has a sense of peace.

But with the arrival of a skeevy stranger sailing alone in pursuit of a darker kind of good time, the balance of the group is disrupted. Soon, cracks begin to emerge: it seems that Brittany and Amma haven’t been completely honest with Lux about their pasts––and perhaps not even with each other. And though Jake and Eliza seem like the perfect pair, the rocky history of their relationship begins to resurface, and their reasons for sailing to Meroe might not be as innocent as they first appeared.

When it becomes clear that the group is even more cut off from civilization than they initially thought, it starts to feel like the island itself is closing in on them. And when one person goes missing, and another turns up dead, Lux begins to wonder if any of them are going to make it off the island alive.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for my ARC!

Lux and her boyfriend, Nico, are hired to charter Brittany and Amma, two college friends to Mereo, a deserted island for a two-week excursion. When the four arrive, they’re shocked to find a couple, Jake and Eliza, already there with a luxury catamaran.

Despite the oddity of finding others on the island, the two groups become friendly, enjoying parties on the beach, days of sunning, swimming, and exploring the surrounding jungle. Later, the arrival of another man causes cracks to form in the new and tenuous friendships. It’s obvious from the start there’s something “off” with Brittany and Amma, but as the story progresses it’s clear they’re not the only ones keeping secrets.

Timelines shift between past and present, slowly unraveling the backstories of Lux, Eliza, Brittany and Amma. The island becomes a character, at times beautiful and lush, others creepy and claustrophobic. A virtual Eden, it has a sinister past involving marooned soldiers and rumors of cannibalism. The author does an exceptional job with setting, making everything from the hot sun and warm salt water to cool jungle shadows come alive. It’s the chapters on the island that kept me the most enthralled.

I did waffle on how I felt about several of the characters due to their chameleon like personalities. And while I was able to ferret out part of the ending twist before the big reveal, I still enjoyed seeing myself proved right.

This is an entertaining read, quick and easy, perfect for beach or poolside. The ending is highly satisfying yet at the same time may leave you torn. It’s hard to say more without leading into spoiler territory, but the author definitely delivered a movie-worthy conclusion. 4.5 stars rounded up to 5 for review purposes.

RELEASE DATE IS JAN 4, 2022

PRE-ORDER FROM AMAZON

Book Review Tuesday: The House Guest by Mark Edwards, Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena

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

Happy Tuesday! I have two books today, both from authors I depend on for awesome stories. Sadly, both fell short of what I’ve come to expect from them, based on knockouts they’ve written in the past. As always, my reviews are opinions only, and others might rate these five stars. I consider each a three star read, or an average diversion, just not something I’ll shout about from the rooftops, or read again. That said, both of these authors will remain auto buys for me.

I’m not including blurbs for brevity, but feel free to follow the Amazon link to check those out in detail.

MY REVIEW:

This is a quick mystery read with a few twists along the way. I’ve always enjoyed Mark Edwards, and while this book kept me interested, I wasn’t fully enamored, especially of the last half. The story wasn’t on par with what I’ve come to expect from this author.

A lot of that is personal preference. I’m not a fan of the central plot thread (no spoilers). By the time I realized where the story was headed I was too invested to back out.

Adam, an aspiring writer, and his girlfriend, Ruth, an up and coming actress, are house sitting for a couple they met on a cruise, when a stranger (Eden) shows up at their door, claiming to be friends of the couple. In short order she inserts herself into Adam and Ruth’s life. After a night of heavy drinking, Adam wakes up to find Ruth and Eden have disappeared. 

As Adam tries to discover what has happened to Ruth and who Eden really is, he’s met with obstacles at every turn. Many of his actions frustrated me, especially when he was interacting with the detective investigating the case. There were times I had to grit my teeth.

The ending has a clever wrap, but even then I’m not certain how I feel about the final resolution, especially as related to Eden. Many fans of mystery and suspense will certainly gobble this up. It reads quickly and has more high notes than low, but having read Edwards before, this one didn’t quite deliver on the scale I expected.

MY REVIEW:

This is a good murder mystery with plenty of subjects. Fred and Shelia Merton invite their three children, along with their spouses (or in the case of the youngest, a boyfriend) to Easter dinner. The next morning both Fred and Shelia are found dead, Fred’s murder particularly gruesome. Because the Mertons were extremely wealthy the case is thrust into the spotlight, along with the surviving children, each of whom (along with others) has motive to want their parents dead.

The premise is great, and the pace is swift but be prepared the characters are highly unlikable, especially the parents. Unlikable characters aren’t always a problem for me when I read a book, but the more this one progressed, the more frustrated I grew with the behaviors of each.

If you enjoy a soap-opera type book with greedy, money-hungry siblings (and others), this is for you. The title speaks volumes about the family and the resulting relationships. There was really no “oomph” when the murderer is unmasked, but that revelation is followed by a quasi-clever twist which makes the ending a bit more satisfying. I will continue to read anything Shari Lapena writes, but this particular book didn’t resonate with me.

Book Review Tuesday: Falling by T.J. Newman #thriller #suspense @T_J_Newman

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

Hoo-boy, hoo-boy! I just finished a book that has to be the BEACH READ OF THE SUMMER! It has “blockbuster movie” written all over it, and I have no doubt Hollywood is already knocking at the author’s door. Falling is definitely one of my top reads of 2021. The hard copy was just a few dollars more than the Kindle version, and with a cover like this, I couldn’t resist indulging. I’m pleased to say the story lives up to the amazing cover and the hype. I’ve been seeing this one all over the place and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. What a thrill ride!

BOOK BLURB:

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER

“T. J. Newman has written the perfect thriller! A must-read.” —Gillian Flynn
“Stunning and relentless. This is Jaws at 35,000 feet.” —Don Winslow
Falling is the best kind of thriller…Nonstop, totally authentic suspense.” —James Patterson
“Amazing…Intense suspense, shocks, and scares…Chilling.” —Lee Child

You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Beach Read of the summer!

I’m already anticipating the blockbuster movie. This is a story that keeps you enthralled from page one, but continually ups the stakes with each successive chapter. During the last half, I couldn’t flip pages fast enough, annoyed by the slightest distraction that threatened to pull me from the book.

Captain Bill Hoffman has taken a last minute flight from LA to NY, much to the chagrin of his wife, Carrie. She was counting on his presence at their son’s Little League game but Bill’s decision quickly spirals into a nightmare for both of them–and countless others.

Targeted by terrorists, Carrie frantically tries to keep her family alive on the ground while Bill faces impossible decisions in the air, every choice impacting the lives of the passengers aboard his flight.

This is an adrenaline-fueled, emotional roller coaster. Be prepared to gnaw your fingernails and teeter on a seesaw of right vs. wrong. Many lives comes into play–not just Bill, Carrie, and their children, but Bill’s flight crew, FBI personnel, and those on board. I especially loved senior flight attendant, Jo and her courage in the face of impossible circumstances.

Some reviewers have called a few specific scenes corny, but I loved them. I saw them playing out on the “big screen” complete with gasps and cheers from a movie-going audience, myself included.

The author said she had forty-one rejections before finding an agent to take a chance on her manuscript. His vision is our gain. Newman, a former flight attendant, wrote this book on red-eye flights over a ten year period. I’m thankful she stuck with the manuscript. The finished novel ranks among those books I consider my top reads of the year. I can’t say enough about the frantic pace in which the last half plays out. I have no doubt that Hollywood will scoop this one up quickly.