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

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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.


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.


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 ( 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: | Email:

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!


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.


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.



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

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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.


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.


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

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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!



“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.


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

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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


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.




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.”


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!


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.


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.

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.

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.


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.

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.


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.

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 . . .

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!



And, now in a completely different vein:

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…

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.



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

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’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.

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…


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.



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!