Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Bubble Reputation by Alex Craigie, Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson #Women’sPsychologicalFiction

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

Happy Monday and Happy February! It feels good to be able to share a few book reviews—a trend I hope I can continue in the coming weeks. Sometimes, depending on my days, I may close comments. That’s the case with this post. Obviously, I am way-way-way behind in posting reviews, but if I wait for free time when I can answer comments, well…. who knows when I’ll get around to posting again, LOL.

In any case, these are two books I just had to share!

By Alex Craigie

A novella that takes a talon-sharp swipe at fame, social commentary, and public opinion, The Bubble Reputation sets itself forth like a train wreck—a totally revolting scenario, but one from which you can’t look away.

Emmie Hobson is the IT Girl of her generation—a popular children’s author and TV personality. She’s at the top of her game, the darling of the press, the public, and A List Celebrities. When she wins a coveted award, a tabloid makes her the target of a smear campaign by creating fake news using an altered photograph and lies generated by a jealous co-worker. Like the proverbial train wreck, Emmie’s perfect world starts to unravel, slowly at first, then speeding headfirst into disaster.

As horrendous as it is to watch what happens—and to cringe with the knowledge that social media, overzealous press, and undocumented “source” accounts make the entire scenario plausible—it’s impossible not to become immersed (and inwardly enraged) by the way this clever social commentary plays out.

I was by turns appalled, devastated, heartbroken, and enraged by the biting turns in the story. Most of all, however, the character of Emmie, her partner Luke, and her parents shine through. No matter how much mud is slung, the core of some people remain steadfast in the face of adversity. Bravo to the author for wringing so many emotions from me, painting a believably bleak picture, then making me believe in the good of humanity.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

By Joshilyn Jackson

I’m torn on how to rate this book. It started off with a bang. Amy is a dive instructor and a suburban mom living the good life when a new woman in her neighborhood shows up unexpectedly at book club night. From there, things spiral into a drunken game of “never have I ever” with long reaching consequences.

Both Amy and Roux (the interloper) have nasty secrets buried in their past. When Roux turns to blackmailer, Amy is forced to go to extremes if she wants to keep her happy life. The cat and mouse and one-upmanship between these two is exceptional, with twists and turns bouncing off the walls. Midway through the book there is a major bombshell that had me struggling to pick my jaw off the floor.

The narrative moves at a brisk pace and the plot is well-crafted. When all is revealed at the end, the subject matter left me a little….erm, less enamored of the story, but it was all so well-executed that it comes down to a matter of personal taste.

I’m going to go with 4 stars because of my personal feelings on the big reveal, but my guess is that most will rate this a 5-star read. I would definitely read this author again.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thanks for checking out the reviews today. I hope you found a book that appeals to you. I recommend them both. Hopefully, when I return with more reviews next week, I’ll have the time to participate in comments! Wishing you an awesome day!

Book Review Tuesday: Means to Deceive by Alex Craigie, Between the Vines by Staci Troilo #bookish #bookreviews @stacitroilo

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

Hello, and Happy Tuesday! I’ve got two wonderful books to share today, both of which kept me flipping pages. One is a twisty slow-build suspense novel, the other a snappy, breezy romance novella with a villain you’ll love to hate. You can’t go wrong with either!

book cover for Means to Deceive shows a white daisy with part of the petals torn away


Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is an intricately plotted mystery/suspense book that builds from simmer to a slow boil. Gwen Meredith moves home to care for her elderly grandmother who suffers from dementia. Gwen has always viewed their relationship as strained, mostly due to a tragedy in Gwen’s past for which she harbors crushing guilt. The reader sees bits and pieces of that tragedy unfold a little at a time as Gwen periodically recalls the event, allowing layers to become exposed as though she is peeling a metaphorical onion. It is this past event, an episode that has shaped her life, that factors so brilliantly into the plot, particularly the ending.

Complicating matters, Gwen has crossed paths with two men who hold a grudge against her, each for different and alarming reasons. Her home life is disrupted when she becomes a target for harassment. The attacks grow in frequency and become frighteningly malicious. While the police are involved the culprit is never pinned down. Fortunately, Gwen has the benefit of an attentive older brother who moves in temporarily, and a new neighbor with whom she begins a tentative relationship. Gwen is a strong character, constantly standing up for herself to the chagrin of both brother and suitor, yet at the same time the past has burdened her with inner fragility she doesn’t allow to show.

Characters are realistically portrayed, reflecting all the ups and downs, doubts, and sacrifices that play out between them. Gwen’s relationship with her grandmother is thorny but a delight to read. I couldn’t help developing a soft spot in my heart for Granny. I also appreciated how Gwen’s relationship with Ben developed over time with plenty of hiccups along the way.

Red herrings and curve balls lead to a lot of second-guessing when it comes to the culprit. Although I did finger that person correctly (after waffling more than once) the motive left me dumbfounded. The ending was brilliant and wholly satisfying. A polished, well-written tale for fans of intelligent mysteries and slow-build suspense.


Book cover of Between the Vines shows silhouette of couple embracing, large bunch of grapes with leaves and vine in the background

Keystone Couples #3

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Elena is a wedding planner who doesn’t believe in love thanks to the jerks who have been sniffing around her door since high school. Aaron is her cousin Rick’s longtime friend, a cop who’s recently been dumped by his fiancée, Heather.

Heather is now engaged to Jarod, a one-time friend of Rick, until he tried to take advantage of Elena. Sound like a romantic merry-go-round? Oh, just wait until the complications/fun begins!

From the start, the underlying attraction between Elena and Aaron is clear, but several obstacles stand in their way—foremost, Heather, who decides she was hasty in leaving Aaron once she sees him take down a robbery suspect. This woman is the pinnacle of self-centered and shallow. Troilo writes her in such a way that the moment she appears in a scene, you cringe. Heather is a character you love to hate.

But all Troilo’s characters are well developed. Elena is a walking bundle of doubt buried under a core of outer strength. Aaron seesaws between exasperation and attentiveness. Poor guy has his work cut out for him, but bring out the pom-poms because you’ll be cheering for him and Elena from their very first spark of chemistry.

This is a fun novella with snappy dialogue, perfectly paced scenes, and breezy writing. It leaves you with a warm feeling and a happily-ever-after smile. All three Keystone Couples stories are superb, but I think this clever gem might just be my favorite.