Book Review Tuesday: Shari Lapena, @BalroopShado

Hello, and welcome to another day of book reviews. As always, you can find the blurb for each by clicking the Amazon link at the end of the review.

I hate it when I can’t recommend a book on BookBub, and unfortunately, that happened with one of my favorite auto-buy authors last week. I was thankful my remaining reads for the week counterbalanced the first.


Book cover for Someone We Know by Shari Lapena shows silhouette of someone crossing a leafy neighborhood street at nightI’ve read everything Shari Lapena has written. Her novels The Couple Next Door and An Unwanted Guest remain two of my favorite books, but Someone We Know fell short for me. The premise—a teenager secretly hacking into his neighbors’ computers and discovering secrets—sounded like an awesome plot, unfortunately that’s not the main focus of the novel.

The book opens with a brutal murder and “whodunit” quickly takes center stage. No problem, I like a good murder mystery—except the murderer is pretty easy to peg from the start. Along the way, the reader is treated to the tangle of lives that make up the small neighborhood where the victim lived. There are illicit affairs on top of illicit affairs, each tied (in some manner) to the woman who was murdered. Lapena sets up several false trails and paints several characters with a gloss of suspicion. There is an unexpected “bonus” twist at the end I didn’t see coming. Had the author left it at that, I probably would have given this book 4 stars (it was slow getting started).

What I found problematic was the second murder. I couldn’t swallow the motive behind it or the fact the killer would even commit the crime. Toss in a plot thread that is hinted at throughout the book, but left wide open at the end, and I was disappointed overall—especially after reading Lapena’s earlier work. She remains a talented author who I will continue to follow. I just hope her next book is a step above this one. 3 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Domestic Thrillers


Book cover for Moments We Love, Poetry by Balroop Singh shows flower petals and heart, all in pastelsMoments We Love
by 
Balroop Singh

I find reading poetry extremely relaxing. It’s not something I read frequently, but when I do, I enjoy the moods verse conjures. Balroop Singh weaves words like a tapestry, In Moments We Love she touches on multiple aspects of love, the people we love, and events which shape our lives. Divided into three sections: Moments of Love, Moments of Harmony, and Moments that Make Life, each segment is supported by poems matching the theme.

Each reader will find verses that resonate with them. Plenty stood out for me but my two favorites have to be Do You Remember? and Spring Memories.

From Do You Remember:

Do you remember the days?
When we played with clouds,
Rolled in colors,
Wore them around
Drenched and smiled
When we splayed colors at each other.

The imagery throughout easily transports the reader to the setting or moment in time the author conjures. Some are filled with whimsy and wonder, others with melancholy, but all are beautifully rendered. 5 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Poetry


I also managed one other book during the week—one I have been waiting on the release for a very long time. I didn’t have time to write an adequate review but hope you will join me tomorrow when I’ll be sharing my thoughts on Black Crow Speaks. Until then, I wish you happy reading and hope you found my reviews helpful!

July Book Reviews, Part Two @bakeandwrite @meg82159 @harmony_kent @MarciaMeara @BetteAStevens #BookishTuesday

Hello, and welcome to the second half of my book reviews for the month of July. If you missed, part one, you can find it here. Summer heat was nearly unbearable for several days this month, but I did manage to devour a number of novels and novellas poolside. To read the blurbs for each, click the Amazon link. My thoughts on each are below . . .

Book cover for Death Among Us a murder mystery anthology shows a limp hand turned palm up on solid surface in wash of gray shadowDeath Among Us: An Anthology of Murder Mystery Short Stories
by multiple authors including Stephen Bentley, Greg Alldredge, Robbie Cheadle, and seven others

I’m a mystery/suspense fan so these stories hit all the right notes for me. The collection is varied with several authors contributing multiple tales to the collection. Read one or two at a time or gobble several back to back. The authors are great at transporting you into twisted worlds of murder most foul. You’re bound to find your personal favorites, but there are several that really stood out for me.

I was mesmerized by the historic angle Robbie Cheadle used in her all of her tales that address such unusual characters as chimney sweeps in Victorian England and monks, among others. She did an exceptional job of dropping her readers into the grimy period of the Industrial Revolution and other equally intriguing settings. Red Solo Cup by by Kelly Artieri has two couples undertaking a day boating. A twisty little tale with a cool title and an unexpected ending. She also does a great job with That’s What Best Friends Do which has a kick-butt ending, The slightly horror jive of Monitaur by Michael Spinelli kept me enthralled, and he hit a home run with No Man’s Land involving a dangerous fugitive. The dialogue is spot on.

All the authors are to be commended for such a great collection. Enjoy! 5 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Mystery Anthologies > Mashup Fiction


Book cover for Meg: Hell's Aquarium by Steve Alten shows small child standing in front of aquarium with colossal sharkMeg: Hell’s Aquarium
by Steve Alten

Book number four of the Meg saga has left me with mixed feelings. In some aspects, this is my favorite of all the novels. Angel, the albino Megladon shark, has birthed a litter of five pups. Three are “runts”—Angelica, Mary Kate, and Ashley (yes, after the Olsen twins—there was an internet contest to name them). The other two are “juveniles”—Lizzy (after the infamous Countess Elizabeth Bathroy) and Bela (the Dark Queen). Jonas Taylor is now 66. His son, David, is a twenty-year-old college student working toward a marine biology degree and trying to step out of his father’s shadow. To do that, David agrees to train a roster of potential pilots in an extreme depth submersible for an Arabian Prince who is offering mega $$$. Naturally, said prince is not on the up-and-up about what he’s really after—possible prehistoric creatures that live in depths few men have breached.

The first half of this book blew me away. Lizzy and Bela (the “sisters”) have a symbiotic relationship that makes them mesmerizing from the moment they’re introduced. Angel has held her own for several books, but these two deserve the crown. Entrahlling is putting it lightly.

In the past, the Meg books have always had a kick butt last quarter, but that’s where I was disappointed. The focus shifted away from the Megs to the prehistoric fish and David’s time trapped in the submersible. While there were plenty of heart-pumping moments in the deep, those scenes went on way too long, and I disliked the shift from the Megs. Fortunately, Alten brought his three most powerful sharks back for the conclusion—Angel, Lizzy, and Bela—and set up an intriguing opening for the next (final?) book. I can’t wait to see more of the sisters! 4 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Thriller and Suspense Action Fiction > Sea Adventure Fiction


Book cover for Fallout by Harmony KentFallout 
by Harmony Kent

Note: I received an ARC of this novel. The scheduled release date is August 25th, but FALLOUT is available for pre-order through the link below.

Fallout by Harmony Kent is a dark, gritty, twisted apocalyptic story guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. Exxon 1 has been devastated by a virus, the planet an inhospitable environment where no one can be trusted, especially the planet’s president who is responsible for the outbreak. While people succumb to the virus and others struggle to resist, a vial containing a potential cure becomes the focus of ruthless individuals.

Pryia, a young woman who finds out just how savage her devastated planet can be, becomes entangled in getting the vial into the right hands. But who can be trusted? In the world Kent has created, her multi-layered characters are far from black and white. No one is who they seem, each driven by dark histories and darker goals, each a study in duplicity. There are crosses and double crosses, noble characters who sink to corruption and corrupt characters who discover a sliver of conscience when the clock is ticking to zero hour.

The world building is exceptional, the plot complex but fast paced. This isn’t simply a book about rebuilding a decimated planet, but a story that takes a raw look at human nature. Finally, I loved the full circle arc of the opening scenes gelling so perfectly with the close. A wholly satisfying and riveting read. Highly recommended! 5 Big Glittery Stars!

Amazon Pre-Order Link
Genre: Dystopian Fiction > Post Apocalyptic Science Fiction


Book cover for My Maine by Bette A. Steven'sMy Main: Haiku Through the Seasons
by  Bette S. Stevens

This collection of seasonal haikus is a treat for the senses. Journey through spring, summer, autumn, and winter in the gorgeous state of Maine. The author’s passion for her home state is evident in every word, as she brings nature alive in resplendent images. These haikus are ones to relish. No matter what season you may be experiencing in the “now,” Stevenson skillfully transports you to her Maine, where she evokes nature’s changing face with ease. Photographs and facts about Maine round out the collection. Although this is a short read, it’s one to draw out again and again to savor the images, escaping into the tranquility of the Pine Tree State. 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Haiku and Japanese Poetry > American Poetry


Book cover for Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine shows single person in a row boat, oars extended out to each side, at night on foggy akeStillhouse Lake
by Rachel Caine

Gina Royal, mother of two, living a quiet suburban life, suddenly has to reinvent herself when her husband is revealed to be a sadistic serial killer. Gina creates a new identity for herself and her children in a remote wooded area near Stilhouse Lake. It’s not the first time she’s had to run or change identities because of haters and stalkers. Not long after she moves in, a body turns up in the lake, mutilated in the same horrific manner as her husband’s victims.

Stillhouse Lake starts off with a gut punch­—Gina discovering her husband’s secret life as a murderer, but then bogs down for a bit. I wasn’t invested until about the 35% mark. There’s a lot of Gina/Gwen thinking/explaining her life before “the event” (as she refers to the discovery) and how she and her kids have managed since. I’m glad I stuck with the novel. It does take off once it gets going, and Gina/Gwen is a force to be reckoned with.

Good story telling, but for me there were some plot issues­—namely Gina not going into her husband’s garage/killing den the entire time she’s married, the kids never curious about what their dad is doing in there. The author would have been far better to set Melvin’s torture chamber somewhere way from the house, not in the attached garage!

The book itself is pretty grim, and although the plot of the novel is resolved, the overall arc doesn’t finish. I will probably skip the next in the series, my stomach for serial killer novels not as strong as it used to be. And although I pegged the killer early on, the ending delivered a nail-biting conclusion with an unexpected twist. All things considered, 3.5 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Serial Killer Thrillers > Women’s Crime Fiction > Women’s Psychological Fiction


Book cover for Summer Magic by Marcia Meal shows tree at night, backlit by starry skySummer Magic: Poems of Life and Love
by Marica Meara

I loved this collection of poetry that effortlessly transported me back to the magic of childhood summers. Meara divides her collection into two parts. The first is a glimpse of camping out through the eyes of a character from her popular Wake Robin Ridge Series when he is a ten-year-old boy, the second half a view of love, life, seasons and dreams.

The words and scenarios she weaves throughout are spell binding—camping under the stars, soaring through the air from a swing suspended above a creek, splashing through rain puddles, watching a meteor shower, delivering a final wish to a soul mate—all sheer magic. Read this wonderful book any time of year for a journey to summers filled with love, curiosity, and wonder. 5 stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: American Poetry > 90 Minute Literature and Short Fiction Reads


As always, I hope you found something to intrigue you among my collection of titles. I’ve already got several titles on my radar for August. Happy reading!

Visiting for #ShareAReview

I’m traveling in the blogosphere today. If you get a moment, pop over to Marcia Meara’s blog where I’m sharing one of my all time favorite reviews from a past title—which is currently on sale for .99c.

Marcia has kindly designated Tuesdays as #ShareAReviewDay on her blog and has opened the doors to everyone. While you’re there be sure to check out the info on how you can share your own review with Marcia’s many followers.

In the meantime, aren’t you curious which book I’ve chosen to highlight? Which review? I know the suspense is monumental, but there’s no need to gnaw your fingernails trying to figure it out. Just click here to be whisked away for answers. 😉

I’ve closed comments at this end.

March Book Reviews, Part 2

I’m back with part two of my reviews for books I read in March. If you missed part one, you can find it here. To read the blurbs and learn about each title below, click the Amazon link after my review. I hope you discover something to add to your TBR!


Book cover for True Places by Sonja YoergTrue Places
By Sonja Yoerg
Iris grew up sheltered from modern society, living in a cabin in the woods with her parents and brother. When circumstances force her into the world, she stumbles into the life of Suzanne Blakemore and her family. Suzanne lives a picture-perfect life in a pristine house with a successful husband, a teenage daughter and college-age son. She spends her life running from one errand to the next, making certain everyone is taken care of, never slowing down to truly see or feel. And that’s what this book is about—becoming blind to routines and existing on surface emotions. For looking deeper would expose cracks in the foundation of a life and family existing on artifical gloss.

When Suzanne brings Iris into her home, the fragile balance the Blakemores have maintained is shattered. Iris, naïve and confounded by the world, struggles to fit in. Suzanne’s teenage daughter Brynn grow fangs the moment Iris is in the door, but the up-and-down, give-and-take between the two girls plays well throughout the book. There were times I despised Brynn, other times I felt sorry for her. The author handles teenage mistakes and angst well. But Brynn, Iris, and Suzanne’s son, Reid, aren’t the only ones who foul up. When Suzanne’s husband Walt chooses to overlook something of importance, that decision has far flung consequences for everyone in the book.

A little slow getting started, True Places really takes off around the 50% mark. The descriptions of the mountains and woods—down to the sights, sounds and smells—are captivating. There is a hint of When the Crawdads Sing in this book, and like Crawdads, the exquisitely detailed settings evoke such a strong sense of place, it’s easy to imagine yourself in Iris’s rustic cabin or slipping through dusky woods when the wind chases whispers through the trees. A beautiful read!

Amazon Link
Genre: Literary Fiction > Women’s Fiction


Book cover for Black Magic Can Backfire by Judi LynnMuddy River One: Black Magic Can Backfire
By Judi Lynn
This book has a vividly imagined premise. A small town (Muddy River) populated by supernatural citizens—witches, vampires, shifters, fae—is rocked when a new coven of witches are found dead and murder is suspected. Hester Wand, a powerful witch with a coven of her own, and Raven Black, a fire demon who is also the town’s “enforcer” team up to find the killer. As a fire demon, Raven is not someone to cross, and Hester is every bit as powerful.  Even so, unmasking the killer is not an easy task.

The head of the new coven was not well liked, making suspects and motives plentiful. There are feuding families, powerful families, buried prejudices, and simmering animosities. Hester and Raven question a multitude of suspects, a thread that adds an intriguing investigative vibe to the book. I kept trying to figure out who was responsible but the revelation came as a surprise. There is a romantic thread but it meshes well with the story and the romance is not drawn out which I liked. In closing, special mention has to go to Claws, Hester’s ocelot familiar. Not only does he have an awesome name, he gets into the action, too. As this is the first book in a new series, Muddy River is a town I look forward to visiting again.

Amazon Link
Genre: Mystery Romance > Urban Fantasy > Supernatural


Book cover for Murder in Plane Sight by Julie HolmesMurder in Plane Sight
By Julie Holmes
In this strong debut novel, Julie Holmes introduces us to Sierra Bauer, an airline mechanic who uncovers the body of the woman she blames for her brother’s death. The author is clearly knowledgeable of the airline industry, and also knows how to twist a good mystery into an intricately-layered plot.

There are multiple characters, multiple motives, a shady stalker, and a dedicated cop who finds himself falling for Sierra while protecting her. Both Quinn and Sierra are excellent characters and their romance serves to further enhance the mystery.
Sierra is particularly strong, having to overcome obstacles in a field dominated by men. She is focused and determined, but she also harbors shadows in her past, that resurface to haunt her. Holmes does a fabulous job of tying up all the loose ends when the conclusion rolls around, while weaving in several surprises along the way. An excellent start to a new series.

Amazon Link
Genre: Amateur sleuths > cozy mystery


Book cover for Just Her Poetry by D.L.FinnJust Her Poetry Seasons of a Soul
By D. L. Finn
This is a beautiful collection of poetry with vivid glimpses into the natural world and the many myriad nuances of emotion. The reader is even treated to “musings from the back of a Harley” as the author shares visions penned while riding with her husband on their bike. I was especially enthralled by the nature poetry which is broken into sections for Spring and Summer as well as Fall and Winter.

Sights, sounds and senses come alive in poems like A Day at the River, Thunk, Crisp, and Spring Gone. As a cat lover I also really enjoyed The Huntress which was rendered in such attention to detail it was equivalent to viewing a live-action video. The prose is beautiful and vivid. Some of my favorite lines include:

From Spring Day
The gentle tapping of the woodpecker
Reminding me of a blessing in Morse code.

From Mist
It is a time of in-between.
Between the sun baking the earth
Or the forest being covered in ice.

From The October Sun
The October sun bleeds through the trees
Clotting up before it reaches me.

There are so many gems in this book, you’re certain to find your own favorites. Escape  to a peaceful setting, and let this exquisite collection of poetry soothe your soul.

Amazon Link
Genre: Poetry > Nature Poetry > Contemporary Poetry


Book Cover for Girls on the Hill by Alison GreyThe Girls on the Hill
By Alison Clair Grey
I was so excited to get this book after reading the author’s first release, Can’t Let Go. Girls on the Hill was every bit as engrossing.

It’s reunion time for several college friends, but not everyone is looking forward to the event. Especially given the reunion is being held at a hotel where one classmate died on graduation night, plunging to her death from an upper balcony. What took place on that balcony and what led to the tragedy is the basis for this gripping mystery which incorporates plenty of twists and shocks along the way.

As usual, Grey does an excellent job of tapping into human emotions, examining the best and worst in people. There is a strong focus on friendships–both good and bad–and what some are willing to do to succeed regardless of who they hurt. As a reader Grey made me feel anger and frustration but also grudging sympathy for one of the key players. There is a diverse cast of characters and they all shine in their own way, but the standouts for me were Amanda and Hollis.

The writing is slick, and the chapters short, switching between POV characters, which makes this an easy read. The POV is done in first person which occasionally made me stop and flip back to the chapter title to see whose head I was in, but I didn’t find that overly distracting. Most definitely a hard to put down book!  I’m already looking forward to Grey’s next release. She’s now on my auto-buy list.

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Fiction > Psychological Thriller


Thanks for checking out the reviews. March was another great reading month for me (probably because I was working on edits and not doing as much writing). I wish you all Happy Reading!

 

February Book Reviews, Part 2

Hey, gang! Thanks for joining me today as I trot out the final half of my book reviews for February. If you missed part one, and would like to check out what other books consumed my reading time during winter’s coldest and snowiest month, you can find it here.

For the books below, click the Amazon link for blurbs and additional details. I’m only sharing my impressions of each to keep the post from becoming too long.


Book cover for The Hunting Party, a novel by Lucy FoleyThe Hunting Party
by Lucy Foley
A snowbound setting, a killing, and multiple suspects—as soon as I read the premises for this book I was all in. A group of old friends, together since college, reunite every year to catch-up with one another—this time over the New Year’s holiday at an isolated resort in the Scottish Highlands.

This is a privileged group of characters, used to fine dining, the best in champagne and party locations. Some are stuck in the mindset of their college days when responsibility only lingered on a distant horizon, while others have moved onto the reality of demanding careers or starting a family. At first glance, most are superficial, pretty on the surface with a darker underbelly. There are stress fractures in the friendships, fissures that have been building over time, only to rupture with the glittery festivity of New Year.

Most of the characters are flawed in one way or another and very few are above reproach, but the complexity of their entanglements makes for riveting reading. There is no black or white in their actions but nuanced layers of manipulation, one-upmanship, old grudges, and petty jealousies. If that sounds like people you don’t want to get to know, it’s worth taking the time with these characters. They’re skillfully painted by the author, brushstroke by brushstroke. It’s only in the closing chapters that the surface gloss of each is stripped away, and we see them for who they truly are.

My only complaint is that it does take a while to settle into the book. There are four female POVs and one male. Multiple POVs do not bother me, but all the female narration is done in first person (the male in present third). As a result, it took several chapters before I was able to get a grasp on who was narrating. I had to keep flipping back to the title headers until I adjusted to the voices and who was who. If not for the so many narrators (in first person), this would be a five star read for me. It requires a bit of work at the beginning to adjust, but if you enjoy a murder mystery with complex suspects and multiple motives, this is a delicious tale in which to lose yourself for a few days. Extra kudos to the author for catching me by surprise with the murderer and motive.

Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Amazon Link


Book cover for Evil Lurks, a Horror Anthology by various authorsEvil Lurks
(Multiple Authors)
This is a hard book to rate, because of the diversity of stories. All are geared toward the paranormal and horror. I’m sure each reader will have stories that resonate with them more than others. There were a few gems that really stood out for me including The Revelation, Spirit of Lonely Places, Life in There, Onryo, and A Break In. I also enjoyed the first story, Cat Food, which may make you look at your felines a bit differently. Collections of stories are nice because you needn’t read them all at once, but can enjoy a tale over a lunch or coffee break—in this case, along with goosebumps and shivers!

Genre:  Horror Anthology
Amazon Link


Book cover for End of Day, mystery/suspense novel by Mae Clair shows old dilapidated church with bell tower and a cemetery in the background overgrown with weedsEnd of Day
by Mae Clair

Yes, I read my own book—cover to cover without an eye for editing. Having just submitted the third and final book of this series to my editor, I wanted to make sure there was good flow from book two to book three. Obviously I’m not going to review End of Day, but if you’d like to see what other readers think of my second venture into the fictional town of Hode’s Hill, follow the link below.

Genre:  Supernatural Mystery/Suspense
Amazon Link

 


I’ve already got my nose in the the first of March’s books, and am making a dent in the BEHEMOTH I call my TBR.

Sometimes I think of it like The Blob. Remember that old movie with Steve McQueen? There was even a remake in the 80s with Kevin Dillion. Of course I watched them both. And, of course I’ll keep reading, because—it’s an addiction, you know? 😉

February Book Reviews, Part 1

Despite having two DNFs on my reading list this month, I still managed to discover some good books. The DNFs were authors I didn’t know and had not read before. Both titles sounded promising, but after six chapters each, neither could get off the ground. Needless to say I was disappointed, but I did enjoy some great books I want to share. Because I read six in February, and one of the later reviews is rather long, I’m splitting this post into two parts.  Look for part two on Wednesday.

Once again, because I don’t want to make the post too long, click on the Amazon link if you’d like to read the blurb and learn more details about the book selections.


book cover for Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia OwensWhere the Crawdads Sing
by Delia Owens
I expected this book to be great, given all the buzz it’s had. The story is engaging and holds the reader’s interest. I was especially taken with the vivid descriptions of the marsh and small-town life in the 1960s. I was halfway through the story thinking how good it was, but kept waiting for that extra something to make it “great.”

And then it happened…

The last third of this book is what elevates it beyond good story-telling to exceptional story-telling. Where the Crawdads Sing deserves all of the accolades it’s received and more. The characters are ones that will linger in my mind for a long time to come, especially the conclusion of their story. As for the marsh—it became a character in itself. This is a book I can easily see myself going back and reading again. A wonderful coming of age tale with added layers of mystery.

Genre:  Literature and Fiction > Coming of Age
Amazon Link


book cover for The Lost Man by Jane HarperThe Lost Man
by Jane Harper
This is the second book I’ve read by Jane Harper, and I have a third on my Kindle. She always spins a good murder mystery plot, along with a compelling Australian setting. This time around, the reader is treated to the remote solitude of the Outback, whose grit, dust and dry heat seem to permeate every scene.

Brothers Nathan and Bub Bright meet up at a legendary gravestone dividing their properties, only to find their third brother, Cameron—in charge of the family homestead—dead. Harper takes her time introducing the reader to an array of characters as well as family background issues that become key later on. I thought the beginning moved a bit slowly, but the mystery eventually took off. At that point, I couldn’t flip pages fast enough.

There was a continued reference to a particular item (no spoilers) that I thought much too heavy-handed (I get it, already!), but other than that this was a good read. I waffled back and forth on the identity of the killer and was proven right at the end, but not for the reasons I suspected. Jane Harper is on my auto buy list, and although I didn’t care for this book as much as The Dry, it delivered a solid tale with an awesome ending.

Genre:  Mystery and Crime
Amazon Link


book cover for Can't Let Go by Alison GreyCan’t Let Go
by Alison Grey
This is a quick easy read, built around old secrets, friendships, betrayals and lies.  The main character, Larkin, marries into one of the most privileged families of Charleston high society. Larkin comes from a poor background and doesn’t fit in–until she’s befriended by Caroline Beaufain, the queen bee of the social scene. Although the book doesn’t really take off until the middle, the beginning is far from draggy. The author has a way of introducing characters and setting scenes that kept me flipping pages, even as I  was waiting for the hammer to fall.

This is a psychological thriller, so don’t expect explosive action. It’s more about figuring out what each character has to gain and what they’re willing to do to achieve their goals. When the impact does hit, the fallout is quick and jaw-dropping. I won’t say I’ve never seen this plot done before, but the way Grey handles it is riveting and fresh. I will definitely be looking for more books by this author and have already pre-ordered her next release!

Genre:  Psychological Thriller > Suspense
Amazon Link


So what do you think? Do any of these appeal to you? Have you read any?  What’s next on your reading list?  Drop me a line below and let’s talk books!

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?