Reviews on January Reads

A while ago I made some noise about posting reviews on my blog. I never did this in the past, but hope to do it monthly as I move ahead. I’m afraid posting reviews and blurbs will make the post too long, so I’m only going to share my reviews. If you’re interested, click the Amazon link under each book for the blurb and more information.

To kick off 2019, these are the books I read in January. Maybe one of them will appeal to you.


book cover for Final Girls, a novel by Riley SagerYou know all those slasher movies where a group of teens are stalked by some crazed killer and when everything drills down to a close, there’s only one person remaining? That’s the idea behind Final Girls.

In this case, Quincy Carpenter is the “final girl” of Pine Cottage. The sole survivor of a grisly night when her friends were butchered in the woods. Ten years later, she has her life almost back on track, when Sam, another final girl shows up on her doorstep. The plot quickly gets twisty. While I thought the book was a little slow in getting started, it’s a page-turner once Quincy and Sam begin interacting. Riley Sager weaves layers of mystery, including plenty of threads that lead the reader astray for several surprises at the end.

Suspenseful, tense and satisfying. A recommended read!

Amazon Link


Book cover for Verses of the Dead by Preston & ChildWow! I’ve been addicted to this series from Book 1, and Verses of the Dead is a home run in so many ways. I had doubts about Pendergast working with a partner, but the addition of Agent Coldmoon was a stroke of genius. Not only is Coldmoon a great character, but it gave readers a chance to see Pendergast–along with all his quirks and unorthodox methods of working–through his eyes. Toss is a new boss for Pendergast, new location (Miami Beach) and a string of bizarre murders and you’ve got a perfect recipe to hold the reader glued to the page.

The authors verge away from anything supernatural this time and stick to crime-solving, something Pendergast does exceptionally well. I love “watching” him work. The murders, the method in which they occur, and the reason behind them unfold in an ever startling trail of clues. Pendergast (and Coldmoon) get to interact with several new, interesting characters. Cab driver Axel was one of my favorites. The high-speed taxi ride through Miami is a blast.

I also have to applaud the authors for creating an unusual killer with an unusual motive. Although I love the supernatural twists in many of the Pendergast novels, I admit to enjoying the intriguing details of crime-solving best. I also believe this is a book you could pick up, having never read a single Pendergast novel before, and thoroughly enjoy without knowing any background from the previous books. The new location, new boss, and addition of a partner all go to “seeing” Pendergast through fresh eyes. Highly recommended!

Amazon Link

NOTE: Aloysius X. L. Pendergast is a book boyfriend. I love this guy! These books are pure addiction for me. Although this is book 18, it’s a great place to start for an introduction to the character if you’re unfamiliar with this series.


Book cover for Voyage of the Lanternfish by author, C. S. Boyack, shows bow of old clipper ship with glowing lanternfish headWhat a rollicking, magical, high-octane, deftly plotted adventure! Remember when Dorothy steps from her black-and-white world into the Land of Oz for the first time? That explosion of color, wonder, and delight is equivalent to what the reader experiences in Voyage of the Lanternfish.

Wow, where to begin? I won’t reiterate the plot (click the link and read the blurb), but I will say you’re in for a treat with this story of pirates, high-sea adventure, a diverse cast of characters and plenty of bizarre creatures. Where else will you encounter root monsters, an anvil bird, Fu dogs, owlcats, and a moving reef? And those are just some of the imaginative beings Boyack introduces with his latest release.

I developed a special fondness for the root monsters with their unwavering loyalty, nightly story-telling sessions, rabid delight in receiving names, and atrocious mangling of language. Of special note: You can’t read this book and not appreciate the cleverness of “I I I I”

Trust me. 🙂

The cast is every bit as colorful as the creatures and extremely diverse in backgrounds. They each have such strong personalities, it’s hard to choose a favorite. Even secondary characters and third level characters get plenty of moments to shine. The battle scenes involving mortars, guns, and claiming ships are perfectly executed. I was dazzled and glued to the pages.

I have read several books by this author but this one is in a league of its own. Hop aboard and set sail. You won’t be disappointed!

Amazon Link

Note: Craig Boyack is one of my Story Empire co-authors. I’m giving an extra shout-out here, because he really nailed it with this book!


book cover for No Exit by Taylor AdamsDid you ever read a book and just KNOW it should be a movie? I’ll be shocked if a filmmaker doesn’t pick this story up. According to my Kindle, I devoured 70% of the novel in one sitting. I would have finished the whole thing if I hadn’t needed to call it a night and get some sleep. The next day I tuned out everything else and dug in, irritated by any distraction that pulled me from the pages. This book held me GLUED!!!

Darby Thorne is a wonderful protagonist, an average college student who likes to take rubbings of gravestones. When a blizzard strands her at a rest area with four strangers, she makes a horrifying discovery. One of them has a young girl caged in a van outside. Seeking help, Darby tips her hand to the wrong person—the kidnapper.

Hooboy! I applaud the author for creating one of the most twisted, psychotic villains I’ve ever encountered in a novel. Even more for giving Darby the inner strength and courage to stand up to this predator. She is clever and strong, but never portrayed as a kick-ass hero. She does what she does out of necessity, full of doubts and weaknesses along the way. Jay (the girl in the cage) is also one tough cookie, as she proves when she and Darby team up.

Throughout the long night, the two play a game of cat and mouse with Jay’s abductor. One that involves intellect, physical strength, endurance, and constantly puts Darby in the crosshairs of impossible situations. Her goal is to survive until morning when snow plows are certain to reach the rest area. In the meantime, she is cut off from the world with a dying cell phone, a young girl depending on her, and a kidnapper determined to silence her. It’s hard to say more about this book without giving away spoilers.

There are numerous twists and surprises along the way with a constant buildup of suspense. Sometimes it creeps, sinister and edgy, other times it explodes. The characters are well developed, and the snowbound setting adds a suffocating feeling of claustrophobia. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If I could give it more than five stars I would. I have no doubt this will become one of my favorite reads of 2019.

Amazon Link


Book cover for Linda McCartney: A Portrait by Danny FiieldsAs a diehard Beatles fan, and most especially a McCartney fan, I’ve always been interested in anything related to Paul or Linda. I’ve read several books about the Beatles and Paul, and was excited to find a book on Linda. I enjoyed reading this, getting a glimpse of Linda’s background, her early years, life as a renowned photographer, years with Paul, and her devotion to vegetarian and animal causes. Some of it was a little plodding, but on the whole it read smoothly and held my interest. I loved getting to know Linda up close and personal. She was an amazing woman who I will always admire!

Amazon Link


Review sharing is new to me. I read most every night as a way to unwind and I look forward to sharing the books I discover. Do any of these books intrigue you? What about the covers? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Let’s Talk Book Clubs by Mae Clair: Rave Reviews Book Club #RRBC

Happy Saint Paddy’s Day!

Grab yourself something green and pull up a virtual seat. I’d like to talk book clubs.

If you’re a writer and/or a reader you’ve probably stumbled across several online book clubs that offer resources and networking. I’ve been doing the publishing game since 2012 and in the process have tried several. Sadly, none were a good fit. A few promised networking but ended up being little more than endless “buy my book” promos. I ditched those immediately. Others offered forums that never really matched what I was looking for, and one or two, while providing handy resources, lacked a sense of community.

*Sigh.*

I’d about given up on finding one that was a good fit, and then a friend (thank you, Craig Boyack) pointed me in the direction of Rave Reviews Book Club (RRBC) run by Nonnie Jules. Um…if there is a fairy Godmother of bookclubs, this is the one. Or perhaps it should be more aptly dubbed the brainchild of Wonder Woman—as I’ve come to realize is a fitting crown for Nonnie.

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor.I’m a little embarrassed to say I’ve only been a member for a few months, yet the flush of excitement I’ve had since joining makes me feel like an Old Timer. It’s a comfortable, welcoming fit. Members rolled out the red carpet with tweets and retweets and immediately made me feel like I was part of the crowd. Not just welcome, but special.

Within my second month of membership, I was invited to be a guest on Rave’s Blog Talk Radio Show, where I was able to share information on two of my novels in a causal, chatty atmosphere. If you’re interested in how hosts John W. Howell and Bill Ward put myself and sister author, Jayne Nichols, immediately at ease, you can catch our interview here.

Tweet support has been phenomenal, with my Twitter following growing and so many great Rave Review authors providing RTs and shout-outs. This group does an unbelievable job at networking. As in… Off. The. Charts!

So, exactly what is the idea behind RRBC?

It comes down to a basic and critical key that can make or break an author—support. Writing and publishing is a rough game. No one should have to navigate those choppy waters alone. Founder and president, Nonnie Jules, has put together a club for indie and small press authors who band together to promote each other through purchasing, reading, and reviewing books—PLUS sounding trumpets, gongs, drums, and everything in between to make a resounding splash on social media. RRBC doesn’t believe in ripples. It makes a RACKET of support! After nearly three months in the club, I’m still discovering all the wonderful things it has to offer.

Here’s the basic concept in a nutshell:

Membership is a mere $25.00 per year. When you join, you make a small commitment: You agree to purchase, read, and review a minimum of four books from the Rave Reviews catalog in a twelve month period. Phff! Seriously, we’re talking twelve months.

The catalog is where members list their titles for other members to peruse by genre. The eclectic mix has something for everyone—mystery and suspense (my favorite) fantasy, science-fiction, romance, horror, speculative, comedy, literature, drama, non-fiction, and more. Take your pick and start reading.

RRBC also has featured Books of the Month.

A beam of light shines out from an open bookEach month, the club picks three reads and highlights them as the featured club reads of the month. These books get extra promo and a plethora of attention from members. Personally, I find the whole concept super exciting. Every month, I anxiously wait to see what the featured books will be, just like a kid waiting to discover the favored treats of the month. It reminds me of when I was a kid in junior high and those shiny scholastic book catalogs were distributed. Remember those? You were able to choose and buy books. I never missed putting in an order for several, and then devoured them as soon as they arrived. Libraries were fun, but those books always had extra magic for some reason.

As part of your RRBC commitment, two of your four annual reads need to be from the Book of the Month selection. How ridiculously simple is that?

Most authors are also avid readers, so it’s a no-brainer. I average between 50-70 titles a year, so belonging to a club that allows me to be an avid reader as well as support other writers and garner their support in return is a win-win situation. I’m still a newbie in this club, but the glow I’ve felt since joining has placed me on a perpetual high. I’ve finally found a club that works, and a network of authors who have made me feel part of something special—from day one. Put in a little effort and it’s returned ten-fold. The more you contribute, the more support is levelled behind you. I have already made lovely friends through this club.

We all need help with promotion. RRBC also offers weekly club updates where members can announce special pricing and newsy bits to members. There are spotlight authors, Member of the Month, Member of the Week, Pay-it-forward-days and Push Tuesday promotions (each Tuesday the entire club gets behind promoting a specific author through tweets, social media shares and links to their books). These are just a few of the extra promos RRBC organizes.

If you’re looking for that extra something, I highly recommend considering Rave Reviews Book Club. For a minimal fee of $25.00 a year and a small reading commitment (something most authors love to do anyway) you’ll be rewarded many times over.  To learn more about the club, visit their website at Rave Reviews by Nonnie Jules. Should you wish to join, you can complete a membership request form here. Please tell them Mae Clair sent you. You won’t be disappointed. If I have any regret, it’s that I didn’t take the plunge sooner.

Do dive in. The water is wonderful! 🙂

The Downside of Goodreads Ratings by Mae Clair

No, I’m not talking about one-star reviews. Thankfully, I’ve been spared that particular blemish, but I’m sure my day is coming. The greater audience you manage to reach, the more opinions in the fold. It goes with the territory.  As writers, I think most of us learned early on you have to have a thick skin.

But I recently discovered a side of Goodreads I didn’t know about.

Close up of woman reading bookAs a reader, I enjoy GR. It helps me track what I’ve read, and what I want to read. It sorts, categorizes, allows me to set challenges for myself, and hang out with like-minded bibliophiles. I’ve gotten great book recommendations through the GR newsletter and other members.  So far, GR is looking pretty golden, right?

Check.

As an author, I appreciate the platform it gives me. I know I don’t use it as effectively as I should, but I do use numerous features available to authors consistently. I’m thrilled by the exposure it allows. As for those features I’m still trying to determine how best to utilize, I need to squirrel away the time to study them in detail.

My bad, which means we’re still golden.

Now we come to ratings. And flexibility. Yeah, notice the last word.

As I reader, I look for those snazzy GR stars (along with reviews) to help me determine what to read next. As an author, I’m able to see how readers view my work. Whether we choose to admit it or not, stars count. So what do you do when a reader ranks a book they haven’t read—that hasn’t even been released?

Did you know about this?

Open book on spine with middle pages curved to form a heartApparently, some GR readers use the star rankings to determine how eager they are to read an upcoming release. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing if that particular ranking system was kept separate from standard review rankings, but Goodreads lumps them all together. Am I the only one who was clueless?

In the past, when I looked at ratings on GR, I assumed the person ranking one of my books had actually read the novel and rated it without giving it a review. Now I wonder if that was even the case.

Worse, I presently have a 3-star ranking on a book that hasn’t been released yet. ARCs aren’t even available. True, three-stars isn’t the end of the world but it can be when other GR members (like me) assume that person must have gotten an ARC and wasn’t all that impressed.

Would I be as bummed if the book had been given 4 or 5-stars?  Probably not.

But seriously–wouldn’t it be easier (not to mention less confusing) to have two rating systems for readers who want to use GR’s stars that way? Goodreads has already given us a “to read” shelf. Why not add a rating system within that shelf instead of muddying the review status?

What’s your opinion? Good or bad?

Do you use GR’s stars to determine what to read, or do you use them solely for review rankings?