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

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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.

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 Review Tuesday: Out of the Shadows by Emily Midorikawa @EmilyMidorikawa @CounterpointLLC #spiritualism #nonfiction #biographies

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Today, I’m sharing another NetGalley read, although this book was released shortly after I reviewed it, and is now available for purchase. Ever since researching the spiritualism movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s for my novel Cusp of Night, I’ve been fascinated by the subject. When I saw Out of the Shadows offered on NetGalley, of course I had to request it!

BLURB:

Queen Victoria’s reign was an era of breathtaking social change, but it did little to create a platform for women to express themselves. But not so within the social sphere of the séance–a mysterious, lamp-lit world on both sides of the Atlantic, in which women who craved a public voice could hold their own.

Out of the Shadows tells the stories of the enterprising women whose supposedly clairvoyant gifts granted them fame, fortune, and most important, influence as they crossed rigid boundaries of gender and class as easily as they passed between the realms of the living and the dead. The Fox sisters inspired some of the era’s best-known political activists and set off a transatlantic séance craze. While in the throes of a trance, Emma Hardinge Britten delivered powerful speeches to crowds of thousands. Victoria Woodhull claimed guidance from the spirit world as she took on the millionaires of Wall Street before becoming America’s first female presidential candidate. And Georgina Weldon narrowly escaped the asylum before becoming a celebrity campaigner against archaic lunacy laws. Drawing on diaries, letters, and rarely seen memoirs and texts, Emily Midorikawa illuminates a radical history of female influence that has been confined to the dark until now.

MY REVIEW:

Thank you to Counterpoint Press and NetGalley for this wonderful ARC. The moment I saw it, I knew I wanted to read it, and I was not disappointed.

I developed a fascination with the workings of spirit mediums of the nineteenth century while conducting research for a series of novels some years back. Since that time, I continue to read anything I can find related to the Spiritualist movement of the Victorian age. I’m fascinated by how these mediums commanded fervent followings and packed lecture halls. Many were gifted theatrical performers able to communicate through spirit rapping, table tilting, channeled writing, and conjuring. Some were escape artists. When Spiritualism was at its peak during the Victorian age, it clashed with medicine and science, fields dominated by men.

The author of Out of the Shadows, doesn’t set out to judge one way of another if the women in her book were fraudulent swindlers preying on a gullible public, true believers of their cause, or a little of both. She examines their lives from family background through the rise of their fame—for each of these ladies certainly obtained it—and, in two cases, to their ultimate downfall. Throughout, we see the mark these women made on society during a time when females were relegated to existing in the shadow of men. Or, as Midorikawa says in the book—in the attitude of the day, men were the “lofty pine,” women viewed as the “clinging vine.”

Anyone familiar with the Spiritualist movement knows it began with the Fox sisters in Hydesville, New York. Two young teenage girl—Maggie and Kate—who began communicating with spirits through rapping sounds. Thus it’s only fitting Midorikawa starts her research there, fleshing out how both girls went from obscurity to fame under the guidance of their older sister, Leah (who would eventually join their act when the sisters packed lecture halls for their performances). We see the growth of the movement as other mediums follow, not only in America but across the Atlantic in Britain, too.

As the author shows us, Spiritualism gave voice to women who were able to combine the supernatural with more pressing concerns of their day. We meet Emma Hardinge Britton who addressed the need for equality between men and women along with her talks on spiritualism. Georgina Weldon championed the Lunacy Laws of Britain, after almost being unjustly incarcerated in an asylum herself (anyone associated with spiritualism could easily be seen as demented). Georgina’s relentless pursuit of those who sought to have her committed would ultimately help bring reform.

Each woman’s life is meticulously detailed, yet shared in a manner that keeps the reader flipping pages. This is a fascinating and in-depth look, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in the development of spirit mediums, or even the morals and attitudes of the Victorian era.


Book Review Tuesday: The House Keeper by Natalie Barelli, Possession by Katie Lowe #psychologicalthriller #psychologicalfiction #bookreviews

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Happy Tuesday! Once again, I have two books to share today. One held me riveted the other was…eh.

I have mixed emotions about the second book because it had plenty of good points. I’ll let you judge from today’s reviews. I will mention that Natalie Barelli is an author I discovered last year, and she immediately went on my auto buy list. I’ve scooped up several of her back issues as well. If you enjoy psychological suspense, she always delivers a good tale. Sometimes the circumstances require a suspension of belief, but for sheer entertainment value, they always deliver.

BLURB:
She’s a liar. She’s a stalker. She’s in your house.

When Claire sees Hannah Wilson at an exclusive Manhattan hair salon, it’s like a knife slicing through barely healed scars. It may have been ten years since Claire last saw Hannah, but she has thought of her every day, and not in a good way. So Claire does what anyone would do in her position—she stalks her.

Hannah is now Mrs. Carter, living the charmed life that should have been Claire’s. It’s the life Claire used to have, before Hannah came along and took it all away from her.

Back then, Claire was a happy teenager with porcelain skin and long, wavy blond hair. Now she’s an overweight, lazy drunk with hair the color of compost and skin to match. Which is why when Hannah advertises for a housekeeper, Claire is confident she can apply and not be recognized. And since she has time on her hands, revenge on her mind, and a talent for acting…

Because what better way to seek retribution—and redress—than from within the beautiful Mrs. Hannah Carter’s own home?

Except that it’s not just Claire who has secrets. Everyone in that house seems to have something to hide.

And now, there’s no way out.

MY REVIEW:
This is a quick read and an easy one, but highly entertaining. Despite how messed up the main character is, you get sucked into her life. Claire had it all when she was young. A happy home life, rich parents, tennis lessons, pony rides. Then Hannah waltzed into her world as a nanny for her younger brother and her life took a nosedive. I’d say more about why, but that’s part of the story, and I don’t want to spoil anything.

Fast forward ten years and Hannah is now married to a wealthy doctor, living the high life in a beautiful house. She’s in need of a housekeeper who will also help care for her infant daughter from time to time. Through a series of pretty “out there” circumstances, Claire changes her appearance, assumes another identity, and lands the job. She’s there to upend Hannah’s life and exact revenge.

This is a juicy read which alternates for the reader between disliking Claire and cheering for her. Written in first person POV, there is plenty of snarky asides sprinkled throughout, as well as a steady build of suspense and tension. There aren’t many characters to keep track of, but all play an integral part in the story, and the ending is well worth the ride. This is my second book by Natalie Barelli, but I like her work so much, I’ve already picked up another two for my Kindle.

5 STARS

BLURB:
Ten years ago, Hannah’s husband was knifed in their bed. Hannah was questioned but was unable to recall anything about the night of Graham’s death. Someone else was charged with his murder and sentenced to life in prison. Now, ten years later, Hannah is living with her boyfriend, Dan, and her teenage daughter, Evie. A true crime podcast with a reputation for overturning wrongful convictions begins to pick Hannah’s story apart, determined to get to the bottom of what really happened ten years ago.

MY REVIEW:
Talk about a compelling plot! The premise of this book immediately intrigued me. Hannah’s life begins to unravel when she’s judged in the court of public opinion, one sensationalized podcast episode at a time. This is a slow-burn suspense read with several elements that play exceptionally well, including Hannah’s spotty memory. Did she or didn’t she? Even she doesn’t know if she’s a killer. That keeps the reader wondering, too—right up until the end.

Another thread involves the ruins of a Gothic insane asylum where Hannah’s grandmother was incarcerated for killing her husband and daughter. Hannah is drawn there when she learns someone is interested in renovating the property. The scenes in the shell of the old building are some of my favorite, played heavily for atmosphere.

There are numerous snaking plot lines that weave together at the end. Kudos to the author for juggling so many intricate puzzle pieces. I thought the ending was brilliant.

What I didn’t like, and found implausible, is that Hannah—a professional psychiatrist—would be such a doormat for her husband and her ex-boss. Her behavior, especially in the past, didn’t ring true. Though most of the book takes place in the present, there are numerous scenes where the reader is treated to Hannah’s married life with Graham. The more I was exposed to her past, the more annoyed I became. In the present, some of the actions of the police left me scratching my head. I had some other issues as well, but it’s hard to say more without giving away spoilers.

The overall tone of the book is dark. I honestly found it depressing. This is one novel that will come down to a matter of personal taste. If you like dark, twisty reads, this is well-written and well-plotted though it does moves slowly. For me, it didn’t quite work.

3 STARS


I can’t believe it’s the last Tuesday of April already, and somehow I’m still not caught up on sharing my book reviews. I’d love to hear your thoughts on The House Keeper and Possession. Intrigued or pass? As always, happy reading!

Book Review Tuesday: The Body in the Beauty Parlor by Judi Lynn #cozymystery, Vampire on the Orient Express by Shane Carrow #vampirehorror

It’s Tuesday, and that means it’s time for more book reviews. I’ve followed the Jazzi Zanders series from book one, and have loved seeing the growth of the characters plus the creative plots Judi Lynn weaves for her heroine. There’s always a murder to solve when Jazzi and her hunky husband Ansel (her “norseman” or “viking”) are around. If you enjoy cozy mysteries, I highly recommend this series.

BLURB:
In their hair salon, Jazzi’s sister Olivia and mother are savvy businesswomen whose creativity brings fashion and flair to the folks of Rivers Bluff, Indiana. So when their newest hairstylist Misty is caught scamming clients’ debit cards and selling beauty products during off hours to pocket the profits, Olivia fires her. But Misty retaliates by hitting back with a defamation lawsuit—which she is more than happy to drop if Olivia pays her ten grand.
 
But neither blackmail nor courtroom fees are accrued after Misty’s body is discovered in the salon with Olivia’s scissors stuck in her chest. Olivia may be the number one suspect, but her murdered employee had a reputation for making enemies.
 
Then Jazzi’s ex Chad appears, asking for help with his marital strife. This already awkward situation worsens when Chad’s wife vanishes and the police investigate him. Now, it’s up to Jazzi to clear both her sister’s and ex’s names while the killer—or killers—could be a mere hair breadth’s away . . .

MY REVIEW:
I thoroughly enjoyed this sixth outing for Jazzi, her husband, Ansel, their extended family, and group of friends. As always, Jazzi and Ansel are at the heart of the book with Jazzi playing amateur sleuth. In this case, there are two mysteries, both which hit close to home. Her sister, Olivia’s, newest employee is found dead in Olivia’s hair salon, and Jazzi’s ex-fiancé’s wife disappears under highly questionable circumstances. Of course, Jazzi, Ansel, and Jazzi’s cousin, Jerod, also have a house to remodel and flip. Add in a large family, a looming Easter celebration, and Jazzi has her hands full.

As with all the Jazzi mysteries, this is a pleasurable read. The action is split behind sleuthing and Jazzi’s family life. Lynn’s writing style is breezy and easy to read. Characters feel like old friends and the two mysteries are deftly handled. Even Jazzi and Ansel’s pets—Geroge the pug, and cats, Inky and Marmalade—get moments to shine. If you enjoy cozies, this is one series and group of characters who will win your heart. Satisfying from start to finish!

5 STARS

________________________________________________________________________________

And, now in a completely different vein:

BLURB:
Paris, 1914. American adventurer Sam Carter boards the Orient Express, departing France in style after an impulsive decision to desert the Foreign Legion. British diplomat Lucas Avery is already nursing a drink in the smoking car, resenting his assignment to the distant Ottoman Empire. Neither man expects anything more from the next three days and three thousand miles than rich food, expensive champagne and fine cigars.

But something dangerous is lurking aboard the train, hiding in plain sight among French aristocrats and German businessmen. Through fire and darkness, through blood and ice, the Orient Express is bearing an ancient evil across the continent – and not all its passengers will live to see Constantinople…

MY REVIEW:
The cover and the setting of this book sucked me in as soon as I saw it. Murder mystery, the Orient Express, and vampires all couched in the year 1914. What a combination! The author didn’t disappoint and delivered an intriguing plot. The main characters—Sam Carter, an American ex-Foreign Legion soldier, and Lucas Avery, a British diplomat—are set up to be polar opposites. Descriptions are good and the secondary characters provide excellent support for the two MCs. My only quibble is that I would have liked more character development for the leads. I couldn’t really connect with them, but I seem to be in the minority on that.

Given this the first book of a series, I expect the author will provide additional character growth over time. In many ways the tale reminded me of an early horror film, offering an old-fashioned vampire story wrapped in superstition, folklore, and slowly creeping chills.

The story does have a complete wrap at the end but sets the stage for Carter and Avery to continue working together.

4 STARS

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From cozy mystery to vampire horror, I had several days of diverse reading. I love how books can transport us anywhere–from house renovation and murder in a small town, to a lavish train barreling through Europe in the early days of the twentieth century. As always, I wish you happy reading!

Book Review Tuesday: Confesions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger @lisaunger #domesticthriller

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Happy Tuesday! I’m finally getting caught up with my book reviews, so I’m changing up the format a bit. I normally don’t provide the blurb when I review, but since I’m planning on doing only one book per week, I thought I’d start adding in the blurbs. I still have several back burner reviews, but I may not end up sharing them all. For today, here’s a fabulous domestic thriller.

BLURB:
Selena Murphy is commuting home on the train when she strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat. The woman introduces herself as Martha and soon confesses that she’s been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena’s station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.

Then the nanny disappears.

As Selena is pulled into the mystery of what happened, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, she begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she’ll discover…

________________________________________________________________________________

MY REVIEW:
The plot of this novel sucked me as soon as I read it. Selena, a mother of two, is coming home on the train after a day at her office when the woman beside her strikes up a conversation. Martha confesses to sleeping with her boss, and in a moment of uncharacteristic openness, Selena confesses she believes her husband is sleeping with her nanny, Geneva. When the train reaches its destination, the two part ways. Not long afterward, Geneva goes missing.

As the police launch an investigation, Selena’s marriage and her whole world implodes. Who was the woman on the train, and why is Selena suddenly receiving text messages from her?

I found this book a bit slow getting off the ground, especially when a third character outside of the main thread (Pearl) was introduced. Although I liked Pearl—a lot—there were a few hiccups in following what was happening and when. By the middle of the book, however, I was hooked and couldn’t read fast enough to see how everything played out.

The twists and turns, much like left and right jabs, kept flying out of nowhere. A few elements stretch the imagination, but for sheer entertainment value, this is a delicious psychological thriller with a superbly satisfying ending. Another book I would love to see made into a movie. I will definitely seek out more by this author.

5 STARS

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I’m glad I stuck with this one despite the slow start. The payoff was entirely worth it and I made another dent in the TBR!

As always, whatever tale you’re presently enjoying, I wish you happy reading!

Book Review Tuesday: The Shadows by Alex North, The Girls Weekend by Jody German #HorrorSuspense #SupernaturalMystery #WomenSleuths

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 imageHello, friends, and welcome to my first Book Review Tuesday of the New Year. Although I was offline for November and December, I did manage to read several books—not nearly as many as I hoped. I even failed in my Goodreads Challenge this year, only managing 65 of the 70 books I’d hoped to read. That aside, the next few Tuesdays will be devoted to books I devoured at the end of 2020. Let’s get started!


Book cover shows white hand on black background, silhouettes if four people at knuckles of fingers, their shadows stretching to form gaps between the fingersThe Shadows
by Alex North

I became a fan of Alex North after reading his first book. The Whisper Man. When I read about North’s inspiration for The Shadows—the horrid but true-life Slender Man case—I was immediately intrigued. It’s difficult to imagine how the assailants in the Slender Man case could have been motivated to such an atrocious act by an internet forum. North takes that idea and puts his own spin on it, changing the killers from teen girls to teen boys.

The book is told in first person and third person with two timelines, past and present. As a teen, the main character, Paul Adams, was involved with a group of four, led by Charlie Crabtree, an anti-social obsessed with lucid dreaming. Paul breaks ties with the others when Charlie’s behavior becomes fanatical. When a good friend is killed and the death is attributed to Charlie (after which he disappears) Paul is saddled with grief, guilt, and anger. He leaves town at eighteen, hoping to put the tragedy behind him.

Twenty-five years later, another teen is killed, the murder eerily reminiscent of the tragedy in Paul’s past. At the same time, he returns home, needing to deal with his mother’s dementia. The past returns in the form of internet forums devoted to Cratbtree, the old killing, and a sinister cult-like figure known as Red Hands.

North is a good storyteller and he spins a complex tale. I was surprised by the major twists at the end and the tale held my interest. Paul’s POV is delivered in first person in both past and present, while a detective in the present is relayed in third person POV.

I am a fan of books that switch between past and present, and although I enjoyed this book, there were moments that frustrated me. The gaps between past and present often stretched too long. When there was a huge hook ending on a chapter in the past, the stretch to return took too long because of the need for two POVs in the present. By that time, I had forgotten or lost the momentum from the past. Add in lucid dreaming sections, and scenes occasionally became muddled for me.

There was also a storyline that I felt was plodding, but at the end becomes a key element. Brilliant, really. Overall this is a slow burn, and the reader needs to stick with the story. Not as riveting as The Whisper Man, but still an intricately spun tale. I think it may have been better sticking solely with the main plot thread. I generally love complex novels with multiple threads, but in this case, it bogged things down a bit too much.

3.5 Stars rounded up to 4 for review ratings

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Horror Suspense > Supernatural Mystery > Supernatural Thriller


Book cover has lake at night with house in distance, windows blazing with lightThe Girls Weekend
by Jody Gehrman

Several former college friends, now in their thirties, reunite for a weekend at a sprawling estate owned by the most successful of the group. Sadie MacTavish has achieved J.K. Rowling like fame through a series of middle grade novels that were optioned for the big screen. Life with her handsome Scottish husband, and beautiful teen daughter appears idyllic and perfect.

By contrast, June Moody’s boyfriend has just dumped her via text, and she hasn’t become the great American novelist she once envisioned. The last thing she wants to do is spend a weekend with her former frenemy/rival, Sadie, and Sadie’s husband, Ethan, who once proposed marriage to June. But mutual friend, Amy, is expecting a baby, and Sadie is the one throwing the shower.

June joins Sadie and Amy, along with their remaining friends from college–Em and Kimiko. It’s obvious from the get-go Sadie is a control freak who manipulates everyone and everything in her orbit. When she turns up missing after the first night, blood splatter and a broken statue point to foul play.

There are plenty of undercurrents and baggage among the characters. Amy has suffered mental problems most of her life, Kimiko has a fondness for drink and drugs, Em wants to keep something hidden, and Ethan isn’t as devoted as Sadie has led everyone to believe. A landscaper who lives on the property was overheard arguing with Sadie, and her daughter’s boyfriend isn’t well received by mom.

Suspects, much?

This book kept me flipping pages as the relationships between the characters become more detailed, many overlapping as the chapters progress. Watching all the pieces fall into place is a bit like a slo-mo train wreck. I’m usually able to figure out “whodunit” before the end of most mysteries, but my initial guess proved wrong.

As the narrator, June is a relatable character, one it’s easy to get behind, especially when she finds herself the prime suspect due to her previous relationship with Ethan.

Overall, I found the story suspenseful, but at the same time breezy and fast-paced. The writing is exquisite, with many turns of phrase and descriptions that made me stop to soak them in. Highly enjoyable and atmospheric!

5 Stars

Amazon Link
Genre: Amateur Sleuths > Women Sleuths


Thanks for visiting with me today. It’s great to be back sharing reviews again. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! 🙂

Guest Author, Jan Sikes and Auras #GhostlyInterference #NewRelease

Hello, everyone! After two months away from blogging—November for NaNoWriMo, and December for a business move—I’m happy to be back at the keyboard again and back in the blogosphere. Even better, I’m kicking off my first post of 2021 with the delightful Jan Sikes, friend and talented author. She’s here to share her newest release and also an intriguing post about auras. Take it away, Jan!

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

Thank you, Mae, for allowing me to take over your blog today and talk about my new book release! I deeply appreciate your generosity!

In Ghostly Interference, Charlotte Peters, Jag’s mother, has the ability to read and see auras around people. It’s something she’s done since Jag can remember. That ability makes it difficult for him to hide his true feelings from his mother. 


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

Here’s a short excerpt from “Ghostly Interference.” 

Fifteen minutes later, he perched on a stool at the kitchen counter while Charlotte Peters put the finishing touches to a vegetarian lasagna. She hummed a classic rock song from the sixties.

Jag never ceased to be amazed at how his mother held her beauty even in her mid-forties, with slender frame and long blonde hair she kept tied back in a pony-tail or in a braid. And, although he didn’t mention it, he often wondered why she hadn’t remarried after his dad died.

She slid the lasagna into the oven and handed him a chilled Perrier. “You look like you’ve had a day. Wanna talk about it?”

Jag waved away the bottle. “Can I have a glass of wine instead?” 

She nodded and turned to retrieve a bottle of Cabernet and two glasses. 

“How do you do it, Mom?”

She raised her eyebrows. “Do what?”

“Always know when things are out of sync with me.”

A smile spread across her face. “You forget I can read your aura, dear. You normally have a lot of yellow and pink around you but today there is red and orange. It’s really quite simple.”

Jag sighed. “Of course.” He’d grown up knowing his mother had special gifts. But, it seemed to him that she’d only allowed herself to be more open about them in the past few years.

Here’s what I’ve learned about auras and reading them. 


Anything that has an atomic structure will have an aura, an energy field that surrounds it. Simply put, the aura is the energy field immediately surrounding a person or thing. I have seen auras around inanimate objects as well as living entities. Children are very good at seeing auras, and often depict them in crude drawings by placing a ring of some color around a person’s head. 

To see an aura around a person or even an object, you must look a little off center and continue to stare. If you blink, the aura disappears and you start over. Sometimes you can see it right away and other times it takes a few minutes. I very often can see auras around heads in an oval shape. The color of auras tell what the person is experiencing at that time on a physical and emotional, even spiritual level. It helps if the background behind the person is either black or white with natural light.

Here are a couple of Aura photos I had taken through the years.

The first was in 2012 in Denver, Colorado and the second taken in Sedona, Arizona two years ago. The colors are completely different. 

What some colors signify:

1. Deep Red – Hardworking, physical, action, power, survival, realistic, vital, grounded, strength, stamina or physical explorer.

2. Red – Excitement, Physical, energetic, competitive, leader, winner, achiever, courage, will-power, sexual, entrepreneur, or promoter.

3. Orange – Pleasure, enjoyment, challenge, thrill, positive, action-oriented, creative expression, adventurer or business.

4. Yellow – Playful, sunny, creative, fun, learning, light, movement, entertainer, radiates optimism, warmth, charming, or easy-going.

5. Green – Social, nature, content, harmony, teacher, loves to communicate and share with others, perfect host or hostess.

6. Blue – Caring, sensitive, loving, helpful, loyal, helper, compasison, peaceful, desire to be of service and to help support others.

7. Indigo – Clarity, calm, deep inner feelings, love, seeker, introverted, inner knowing, authenticity, high sense of inner values, or artistic.

8. Lavender – Imagination, mystical, daydreamer, fantasy, artistic, soft, creative, fragile, sensitive, often appear spacey, unrealistic or etheric.

9. White – Transcendent, transformation, spiritual, healing, quiet, enlightened, sensitive, or live in higher dimensions.

10. Black – Black is probably the most negative colour to appear in one’s aura. It is associated with mental illness, stress, depression, hatred and negative feelings. It can also indicate the person’s habit of acting miserly.

Of course, there are many more colors, but these are a few of the basics. 

I’d love to hear from you. If you’ve had any experience with auras, please share them! 

Banner ad for Ghostly Interference shows book in paperback, kindle and phone versions

BOOK BLURB:

Jag Peters has one goal in his quiet comfortable life—to keep his karma slate wiped clean. A near-miss crash with a candy apple red Harley threatens to upend his safe world. He tracks down the rider to apologize properly. Slipping into a seedy biker bar, he discovers the rider isn’t a “he”, it’s a “she”, a dark-haired beauty.

Rena Jett is a troubled soul, who lives in a rough world. She wants no part of Jag’s apology, but even while she pushes him away, she is attracted to him. When he claims to see a ghost—her brother—can she trust him? And could her brother’s final gift, a magical rune stone with the symbol for “happily ever after” have the power to heal her wounds and allow opposites to find common ground—perhaps even love?

BOOK TRAILER LINK

BOOK PURCHASE LINKS: 
AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | KOBO | iTUNES | GOOGLE PLAY

Connect with Jan Sikes at the following haunts:
Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon Author Page


I hope you enjoyed Jan’s post and are looking forward to meeting Jag and Rena in Ghostly Interference. I’ve already got my copy loaded on my Kindle, waiting on my TBR. Please kick off the New Year by taking a moment to drop Jan a comment and share the news about her release by using the buttons below.

Happy Halloween and a Break for NaNoWriMo

Illuminated home garden path patio lights with halloween pumpkin lanterns

Happy Halloween! Wishing you plenty of treats and no tricks!

As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m going to take a break from blogging for the month of November. I’m focusing on NaNoWriMo and attempting to finish a WIP that has been languishing far too long (wish me luck!).

I’ll be popping in at Story Empire from time to time, and hopefully, can make a few rounds of the blogosphere as well–especially if I get stuck. Although I’m hoping that won’t happen…er, the getting stuck part. Please pardon my absence.

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Halloween. Regardless if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, or working at your own pace, I hope your muse is extra generous. See you in a month. 🙂

Returning Soon

Cute tabby cat peeking over a rim

Hi, friends. Just peeking in to drop a quick note asking that you pardon my absence these last few days. I had a chance to grab several unexpected vacation days and jumped on the opportunity. I’ve been off work for most of the past week. As I already had guests scheduled, I’ve made an effort to keep up with those posts but have been lax in my visits. I should be back to normal by Monday, but in the meantime am still enjoying lazy fall days and plenty of shopping (my favorite sport). Looking forward to catching up with all of you soon!