Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Hay Bale, Sam, a Shaggy Dog Story, The Thing About Kevin @PriscillaBettis @sgc58 @BeemWeeks

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

Happy Groundhog Day! In Pennsylvania, where renowned weather forecaster, Punxsutawney Phil resides, temperatures have been frigid and winter has overstayed its welcome. I know those to the north of us (recently clobbered by Winter Storm Kenan, a nasty nor’easter) must be especially sick of the chilly/snowy/windy/icy season.

I just saw Phil has seen his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter. May I just say: “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”


On the plus side, if you are stuck inside due to winter’s wrath (or even if you’re not), I have three short reads certain to keep you entertained. My reviews are below, but be sure to click the Amazon links to read the blurbs. Eventually, when I catch up on reviews, I’ll start sharing blurbs again. In the meantime, may I recommend . . .

Book cover for The Hay Bale by Priscilla Bettis shows close up of hay bale in farm field

by Priscilla Bettis

Although this is a short read, it packs a punch. Compelling, descriptive, and unusual, it sucks the reader in from page one and doesn’t let go until the unsettling and unexpected climax. Microbiologist Claire is suffering after failing to qualify as an adoptive parent, and the desertion of her husband, when she takes a sabbatical to a backwoods rural town. She moves into an old manor home called “Smallclaw” (cue eerie music) and soon finds herself drawn into a bizarre agriculture celebration with the local community.

This is not a work of gory horror, but rather a story that creeps and slithers like a snake, eliciting goose bumps and building suspense with each scene. The author makes excellent use of imagery to convey broader ideas throughout, and the conclusion is one that sticks with the reader. Creepy and visual, I loved every moment of this peculiar gem.


Book cover for Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story by Sally Cronin shows close up of adorable collie

by Sally Cronin

Just look at that face! Seriously, who could resist?

This is a fun, heart-warming book that tells the story of Sam—the author’s collie—from the time he is a puppy through adult life. What makes the tale especially unique is the delivery. The book is told entirely from Sam’s POV. We learn about his early life after adoption, including his friendship with Henri, a feral cat who becomes a precious friend ultimately responsible for teaching Sam to speak “cat.” Sam also has two young kittens who become special friends during their short life span (that part broke my heart).

Sam shares how he learns to “speak” a few human words, about his favorite treats, trips to the vet, adventures on walks and even relocating to a different country. For anyone who loves animals, this is an enchanting story that leaves the reader with a feel-good glow. The author clearly loves her canine companion, an attachment that shines through in each page of this winning story. Photographs of Sam from puppy to adult collie are sprinkled throughout. He is such a beautiful dog!


Book cover for The Thing About Kevin by Beem Weeks shows three old photograph snapshots of family members on wooded background

by Beem Weeks

What an amazing read!

It takes talent to pack fully fleshed out characters, tight backstory, and a masterful plot into a short tale. Beem Weeks has done just that in The Thing About Kevin, the story of Jacob, a man reconnecting with his past and his family when he returns home for his father’s funeral. His older brother Kevin is missing from the gathering, but Kevin has been estranged from the family for years. There’s as much mystery and speculation wrapped up in Kevin as there is about Jacob’s father and his rumored mob connections.

I’ve read Beem Weeks before, so I knew going into this book it would offer polished writing, a compelling plot, and believable dialogue. What I didn’t expect was to be picking my jaw up off the floor at the ending. This is a story that builds at a comfortable pace, meandering through Jacob’s reminiscing, and his connections to the people from his past, then drops a bomb that leaves you feeling like you’ve been shoved from a cliff. Trust me—that’s a good thing. A brilliant gem that deserves a standing ovation. Don’t miss out on this amazing read!


That’s it from me for today, but I hope some of my reviews have sparked your interest. Thanks to all three of these authors for keeping me entertained during the cold, brisk days of winter. There’s nothing like a good story to hold the chill at bay!