Book Review Tuesday: The Marriage Secret by Carey Baldwin, Hues of Hope: Selected Poetry by Balroop Singh #PsychologicalFiction #Women’sFiction #poetry @CareyBaldwin @BalroopShado

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 April! Welcome to my first book review feature for the month. Today, I have two very different titles to share, both splendid. A shout-out to Harmony Kent for alerting me to The Marriage Secret with her own fabulous review. For my second book today, I can always count on this author to deliver when it comes to poetry. Let’s get started!


Book cover shows double bed made with white sheets and pillows, bouquet of red roses on bed with several loose petals

THE MARRIAGE SECRET
By Carey Baldwin

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I became an instant fan of Carey Baldwin when I read Her First Mistake. With The Marriage Secret, Baldwin has scored again with the twisty story of a woman trapped in a wretched marriage. Holly thought she had it all when she married Zach, a respected doctor. For a time, her life was perfect—even after Holly shared a horrid secret from her past on their marriage day. Still, Zach lavished her with attention and gifts, promising to love her forever. But on the day their baby, Jolene, is born, Zach reveals a side of himself that is only the beginning of a dark and downward spiral for Holly. Her once perfect husband becomes manipulative and controlling, orchestrating events to make her question her sanity.

Zach is a character who made my skin crawl from the moment he showed his true colors in chapter one.

The book starts with a hook and keeps the tension building as Holly struggles to extradite herself from her wreck of a marriage and possessive husband. Because the book is told in first person POV, it’s easy to connect with Holly. Uncertain of her footing at first, she gains strength as the story progresses, willing to do what is necessary to protect Jolene.

This is a book of mind games, not physical abuse. Zach and Holly dance around each other in a clever game of cat and mouse. Especially when Holly gets wind of a secret from Zach’s past and gains leverage to use against him. Then two of the med students he mentored are found dead and matters go from simmer to boil. When the end comes, it corkscrews in a series of impossible twists. I was thrilled to have a “lightbulb moment” before the author delivered the final reveal, but even so—wow!

This is a fantastic domestic thriller and one I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a slick and crafty read.

AMAZON LINK


HUES OF HOPE: SELECTED POETRY
by Balroop Singh

Book cover is an open window on night sky with crescent moon and dark sky above, fiery sunset sky below with small trees in silhouette, old vanished lantern in front of window

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I think of Balroop Singh’s poetry as immersive poetry because you’re able to sink so deeply into the words, the images they evoke, and the emotions they inspire. In this collection of poetry, themed around hope, you’ll find verses that celebrate nature, explore love, loss and death, as well as examine joy and resilience—all paving a path to the hope that inspires and raises us above circumstances.

Contents are broken into sections led by verse: Beyond the chaotic world; When each moment shimmers; Beams of Love; Clutching bizarre hope, and Reflections that retort. Each of these features its own gems where you’ll experience feelings inspired by the powerful brushstroke of the author’s words.

I’m a fan of nature poetry, so I was particularly drawn to those. Watch the Magic, which speaks to the changing seasons, is one of my favorites. You can see the magic unfold in verses such as

Deep shadows dance around me
Wind and breeze compete to win.
Far away, at the horizon, gray scrambles
To steal some golden kisses.

I thoroughly enjoyed all the poems in this collection, but of particular note, I was moved by Transient Waterfall, A Touch, Buried Dreams, My Muse, and Ode to Poetry. Topping the list, my very favorite is Do you Remember—a beautiful testament to memories and looking back on life with a loved one. I’ll share the opening verse here:

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.

This poem alone, I can read over and over, and find new glimmers of meaning and memory each time. Grab the book, experience Do You Remember, and all the jewels in this lovely collection!

AMAZON LINK

International Day of Awesomeness: Celebrating Sally Cronin @sgc58

A big company of colorful cats with top hats and flowers standing on the beautiful light green background
.

Today is the International Day of Awesomeness! Who wouldn’t want to celebrate something so spectacular? I can think of plenty of things I consider awesome, and plenty of people. When you hang around in the blogosphere for any length of time, you get to know others.

One of the most generous and thoroughly supportive people I’ve “met” is Sally Cronin.

Author, Sally Cronin

My Story Empire colleagues and I thought today would be the perfect opportunity to shine a well-deserved spotlight on Sally. She is an amazing individual who gives of her time selflessly, constantly sharing promo pieces which showcase others.

Her blog, Smorgasboard Blog Magazine, is filled with author spotlights, book reviews, weekly roundups, profiles and more—all in support of her fellow authors and bloggers. I seriously don’t know how she does it, but I’m thankful to have been touched by her generous spirit.

For the Story Empire group, today is all about Sally! It isn’t just the International Day of Awesomeness—it’s Sally Cronin Day! To celebrate, I’m sharing a trio of my reviews for Sally’s books. She has plenty more in her catalog, covering everything from fiction and non-fiction to short stories, and poetry. I’ve found her work to run the gamut from heartfelt to humorous, introspective to slice-of-life. Be sure to check out Sally’s work on her AMAZON PAGE, and find the book or books that speak to you.


Book cover for Flights of Fancy by Sally Cronin shows colorful butterfly winging over landscape

FLIGHTS OF FANCY
by Sally Cronin

This is an entertaining collection of short stories and one novella. It takes a strong look at relationships, some flavored with reminiscing, others firmly rooted in the here and now. Each tale offers polished writing, unique characters, and engaging plot lines.

I enjoyed the cleverness of Getting Away with Murder and Psychic Parrot, and the emotional tug of The Other Side of Heaven and Curtains. Henry’s Story was a particular favorite of mine, having met Henry and Sam in one of the author’s other works. There’s nothing like a world-wise cat to share his story.

The title tale, Flights of Fancy is deftly executed and delivers a wonderful punch. The story of a woman (now much changed) encountering two people she knew during high school, left me grinning ear to ear.

Finally, closing out the book, The Sewing Circle, is a brilliant gem. In this novella, a group of senior ladies takes it upon themselves to right a horrible wrong. You can’t help cheering for these feisty women as they use grit, determination, and a few surprises to ensure justice is meted out. A great read all around!

AMAZON LINK


SAM, A SHAGGY DOG STORY
by Sally Cronin

Seriously. Who could resist that face?

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 Henry, 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!

AMAZON LINK


LIFE IS LIKE A BOWL OF CHERRIES: SOMETIMES BITTER, SOMETIMES SWEET
by Sally Cronin

a bowl of cherries on cream background with single cherry setting outside of bowl

This is an entertaining collection of short stories with several poems scattered throughout. The book is grouped into topics such as Technology, Animal Magic, and Connections (to name a few) with stories and poems related to their header topics appearing underneath. It’s cleverly presented and cleverly written. All of the stories are winners but there were some that really stood out for me, including The Weekly Shopping, The Nanny, The Scratch Card, and The Night Shift.

In The Weekly Shopping we get a taste of what ordering groceries might be like with when we come to rely too much on technology. It’s both hilariously funny and worrisome at the same time. I loved the argument related to the cat!

In The Nanny, a young couple discover who is watching over their baby at night. The Scratch Card left me with a lump in my throat at the generosity of others, and The Night Shift made me appreciate the special love pets have for their owners and the kindness of those who appreciate that bond.

These stories are heartwarming and touching, with scattered poetry further enriching the sections. A lovely collection and a quick read, the stories will lodge in your heart and linger.

AMAZON LINK


Cheers and a cyber toast with a clink of champagne glasses to Sally!
I invite you to connect with her on her

Amazon Page | Blog | Twitter | Goodreads | BookBub

Thanks for joining the Story Empire gang for our
International Day of Awesomeness shout-out to Sally!

Collage of photos of the authors from Story Empire, with blog title in center with the tag line "Exploring the World of Fiction"

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Perfect House by R.P. Bolton, Kittens and Kisses at the Cat Cafe by Kris Bock @RachintheFax @Kris_Bock #fictionreviews #bookish

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

Today I’m sharing two books I read toward the end of 2021 (yes, I’m still catching up). These are on opposite ends of the fiction spectrum, but both deserve a splash in the spotlight for keeping me entertained and flipping pages!


THE PERFECT HOUSE
by R.P. Bolton

Book cover with key on key ring with a house-shaped fob

Ellie and Tom move into what they believe will be the house of their dreams. It’s in a great neighborhood and the price can’t be beat. Sure, the property requires fixing up and the garden is overgrown, but as new parents of a beautiful baby girl, it’s the perfect place for them to raise Trinity and be a family. If only Tom’s job as a police officer weren’t so demanding, often leaving Ellie in isolation with the baby in an empty house. It isn’t long before Ellie learns the property has a history, one that has made it a pariah in the neighborhood.

Ellie starts experiencing strange happenings, hearing things and seeing things, all instances that escape Tom’s notice. Then she begins sleepwalking and begins to question her sanity—especially given she’s never made peace with a tragic incident in her past that left her suffering from PTSD ten years ago.

The book shifts chapters between “Then” and “Now” gradually unfolding the history of the house and the incident from Ellie’s past. If you enjoy a mystery with supernatural elements, this book delivers. It’s easy to read, moves at a fast clip and ties everything together neatly at the end. Ellie and Tom are both good characters and the history of 6 Moss Lane (the house they bought) makes for interesting backstory.

There were times I grew frustrated with Ellie for not speaking up, and some of the “happenings” felt repetitious after a time, but the mystery kept me flipping pages and reading late. An intriguing supernatural mystery.

AMAZON LINK


KITTENS AND KISSES AT THE CAT CAFE
by Kris Bock
#2 Furrever Friends

As someone who has always loved cats and kittens, I was drawn to this book the moment I saw it. Single mother, Marley, is a baker at a cat café—a coffee shop/eatery/bakery that also has a set-up allowing patrons to mingle with cats which are awaiting adoption (real cat cafes exist in a number of cities though I have never had the good fortune to visit one).

One morning, someone leaves a box with five, week-old kittens on the doorstep. Adam, who has carried a flame for Marley since his tween years, when he knew her as the older sister of his best friend, volunteers to take the kittens to the vet. When all is said and done, Adam becomes their caregiver. He recruits Marley, her nine-year-old son, Brian, and other friends to help him in nurturing the kittens. In the process, Adam finds opportunities to reveal his feelings to Marley, and she begins to see him in a new light.

Naturally, there are complications, as the path to true love is never smooth, but the reader knows an HEA awaits at the end. This is a sweet romance in which the kittens have almost as much page time as the characters. There are several secondary threads, involving a restaurant reviewer, a singing contest, and Adam’s passion for writing. The way in which Marley finally reveals her feelings to Adam is flirty and clever, guaranteed to leave the reader with a smile.

This is the second book in a series in which characters cross over, but each story is complete. I had no problem being grounded in this book despite not having read the first book. After finishing it, I immediately bought three more. I could do no less as someone who loves books and cats—a match made in Heaven!

AMAZON LINK

Book Review Tuesday: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia #GothicFiction #HistoricalFantasy

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 imageI only have one review to share today. This is a book that lingered on my reading radar for a long time. Then I reached a point where I HAD to read it. I was in the mood for something spooky and gothic, grabbed it from Amazon, and devoured it in days. Surprisingly, I couldn’t give it five stars.


Set during the 1930s in Mexico, this Gothic novel hits all the right notes—a crumbling old mansion with a family cemetery, a dying patriarch, twisted family history, suicide and murders. Socialite, Noemi, travels to High Place, the home of her recently married cousin after her father receives a strange letter from Catalina that includes references to the walls “talking,” among other oddities.  When Noemi arrives, she finds her once vibrant cousin subdued and sickly, attended by members of her new husband’s family. Noemi is uncertain what to make of the handsome and charismatic, Virgil Doyle, but finds his stern and aloof Aunt Florence—Catalina’s primary caregiver—uncommunicative and regimental. Florence’s son, Francis, is somewhere in the middle, a bit timid, even awkward. These characters drive the plot, but revelations come slowly. Although set in Mexico, nothing really marks this as a Mexican mystery. Except for Noemi and Catalina, all the characters are English. For the most part, I was glued to the pages, especially the descriptions of the moldy, depressing mansion and cemetery. The history of the Doyle family, including their ownership of a once profitable silver mine is intriguing, as are glimpses of several Doyle ancestors and the murders and suicide that bind them. As the main character, Noemi is strong, an excellent protagonist.  I give an A+ for all the above, but the horror elements didn’t work for me. I was hoping for a good ghost story, but the “big bad” is something entirely different. That plot thread got tedious, especially in the middle of the book, although the ending is fast-paced and climatic. C+ for the horror elements/plot thread, so 4 stars overall. I did like how everything turned out, and would certainly read this author again.Mexican Gothic
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Set during the 1930s in Mexico, this Gothic novel hits all the right notes—a crumbling old mansion with a family cemetery, a dying patriarch, twisted family history, suicide and murders.

Socialite, Noemi, travels to High Place, the home of her recently married cousin after her father receives a strange letter from Catalina that includes references to the walls “talking,” among other oddities.

When Noemi arrives, she finds her once vibrant cousin subdued and sickly, attended by members of her new husband’s family. Noemi is uncertain what to make of the handsome and charismatic, Virgil Doyle, but finds his stern and aloof Aunt Florence—Catalina’s primary caregiver—uncommunicative and regimental. Florence’s son, Francis, is somewhere in the middle, a bit timid, even awkward. These characters drive the plot, but revelations come slowly. Although set in Mexico, nothing really marks this as a Mexican mystery. Except for Noemi and Catalina, all the characters are English.

For the most part, I was glued to the pages, especially the descriptions of the moldy, depressing mansion and cemetery. The history of the Doyle family, including their ownership of a once profitable silver mine is intriguing, as are glimpses of several Doyle ancestors and the murders and suicide that bind them. As the main character, Noemi is strong, an excellent protagonist.

I give an A+ for all the above, but the horror elements didn’t work for me. I was hoping for a good ghost story, but the “big bad” is something entirely different. That plot thread got tedious, especially in the middle of the book, although the ending is fast-paced and climatic. C+ for the horror elements/plot thread, so 4 stars overall. I did like how everything turned out, and would certainly read this author again.

4 Stars

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Gothic Fiction > Historical Fantasy


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this book. I was torn on writing the review because so much of the novel was spectacular. Is Mexican Gothic something you’d consider reading?

Book Review Tuesday: Grinders by C. S. Boyack

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 imageHappy St. Patricks Day, everyone! Whether you’re Irish or not, ’tis a day for the wearing’ o’ the green, and a tip o’ the hat to the wee folk. Right now, we could all use a little luck given the state of the world in view of Covid-19. Whatever your corner of the planet, I hope you stay safe and well. If you’re stuck inside, it’s the perfect time to catch up on your reading.

With that in mind, let’s jump into this week’s book review!


Book cover for Grinders, a speculative fiction novel features neon lights and holographic images by C. S. BoyackJimi Cabot, and her partner Lou, are two cops assigned to the “Grinder Squad” in a futuristic San Francisco. Grinders are people who have their bodies altered through illegal surgeries which use computer chips to provide enhanced senses. Despite their department assignment, Jimi and Lou usually find their days eaten up by the drudgery of routine patrol and domestic disturbance calls—until they happen upon a trail that may lead to the most wanted grinder in police databanks.

There is strong parallel storyline involving the grinder they’re after, enabling the reader to see both sides of the situation. Beyond that, however, there is so much more that goes on in this book. I loved the friendship that developed between Jimi and Brandi (a grinder), and I loved Lou’s tie to Sailor, the horse he rode when he was on mounted patrol before the division was disbanded.

Most intriguing of all is the world Boyack has created. One that includes a “grid” for travelling, bots in all shapes and sizes, and a constant bombardment of advertising. “Holobarkers”­—floating globes broadcasting advertisements—roam the streets, swarming around people with their messages. Cars and buses flash moving advertisements and 3D holographic images are found everywhere. There is an “electric forest” (one of my favorite elements), in the process of being torn down because it is already considered old technology. Holographic spiders and jack-o-lanterns bob around on Halloween, and a 3D King Kong climbs a building to promote a movie. The creativity of this world is off the charts. Every page brings some new wonder or futuristic element that is vividly portrayed. Between the story and inventions, I was mesmerized. A highly original work!

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Cypberpunk > Science Fiction


Grinders is quite the gritty and colorful world. I could so see this as a series on Netflix! 🙂

Book Review Tuesday: Tear Me Apart by J. T. Ellison, Vanished by @mbiermanauthor

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 Book Review Tuesday!  Thanks for dropping by to check out what I’ve been reading. As always, I love sharing books, and I have two to chat about today. Check ’em out below…

Book cover for Tear Me Apart by J. T. Ellison shows lighted window in dark house at nightTear Me Apart
by J. T. Ellison
I had expectations going into this book. After reading the blurb, I thought I had a good notion regarding how the bulk of the plot would play out. Um…yeah, that only went so far.
Mindy Wright is a teenage champion downhill skier with a shot at the U.S. Olympic team. She’s got the perfect home life, perfect mom and dad, the world is her oyster. Then a bad crash lands her in the hospital with a broken leg, and in the process, doctors discover she has leukemia and is in need of a stem cell transplant. When her parents are tested for a match, it’s discovered, she’s not their daughter.
You can see where this is headed, right?—wrong. I went into this book with a lot of expectations. But I didn’t plan on Mindy’s aunt working for a government agency, or two characters in the past sharing time and space in a mental hospital. And what about several far too coincidental murders, all of these things spiraling back to Mindy, her perfect parents and her perfect life?
I loved the author’s use of letters to address the past. The story is doled out in bits and pieces, past and present, slowly joining together for an explosive conclusion. The characters are wholly human and horribly flawed, several with agendas that develop as the book progresses. Favorites for me were Juliet, Vivian and Zac, along with Zac’s faithful dog, Kat.
Given the plot, this was a hard book to deliver a satisfying ending, but Elison exceeded expectations. A grand slam home run! If you like stories with complex characters and dark buried secrets with several twists along the way, don’t miss this engrossing book that takes a stark look at human nature. 5 Stars
Genre: Medical Thrillers > Kidnapping Crime Fiction

Book cover for Vanished by Mark Bierman shows a white hand print on a red backgroundVanished
by Mark Bierman

Although this is a work of fiction, it’s tragic to know the book is grounded in reality.  Tyler and John take a mission trip to Haiti. Tyler is grieving the loss of his wife to cancer—who was John’s daughter. Son-in-law and father-in-law have a strong relationship, readily apparent from the start. No sooner do we meet them, however, than a child goes missing, abducted by slave traders. Many of the locals are ready to write the little girl off as lost, as child abductions are commonplace. Tyler takes a different stance, and John is soon in all the way.

What follows is a riveting search to save a life, and a grim look at the ugliness of human trafficking. There were parts of the book that made me squirm, others that brought inspiration and hope. Bierman makes atrocities clear without being graphic, yet the scenes are raw and powerful, the delivery intense. All of the characters are well developed, including secondary roles. The reader becomes enmeshed in the lives of many, the threads that tie various plot points together, expertly handled. Well written and polished, the story moves at a breathless clip and delivers a satisfying ending. Undertaking such a difficult subject is not an easy feat, but Bierman delivered social commentary and an engrossing story in a seamless package.

Amazon Link
Genre: Literature and Fiction


Until next week, I wish you happy reading, and would love to hear your thoughts about the novels above. Let’s chat! 🙂

Book Review Tuesday: The Light: Wake Robin Ridge #4 @MarciaMeara, Earth’s Earliest Ages, George H. Pember, The Whisper Man @writer_north

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 imageWow! It’s a New Year and I’m thoroughly jazzed to start off the week with my first review of 2020! Although I read these book in December, I didn’t want to share them during the hustle-bustle of Christmas for fear they would get overlooked in all the festive merriment.


Book cover for The Light by Marcia Meara shows young boy standing on a rock with hand extended toward a floating orb of lightThe Light: Wake Robin Ridge #4
by Marcia Meara

I have read and enjoyed all of Marcia Meara’s Wake Robin Ridge books, but The Light, is quite possibly my favorite. Rabbit­—a very special eleven-year-old boy who grew up in Appalachia, now the adopted son of Sarah and Mac—takes center stage yet again. Gifted with “the sight” which allows him to see future events as well as “read” others, he is wise beyond his years. An old soul who has a unique way of viewing the world, he has a folksy charm that resonates with every word he utters. Meara’s gift of writing him is exquisite, and despite numerous well-rounded and lovable characters, it’s Rabbit who steals the show.

I adore Mac and Sarah—mostly because of Rabbit’s pure-hearted love for them, and their utter devotion and fierce protective love for him. I’m enamored of several new characters who make their debut in this book—especially Austin—but once you meet Rabbit, you’re eternally smitten. No two ways about it. He’s a character who lingers long after you’ve read the last paragraph.

An added bonus is the inclusion of the Brown Mountain Lights, an unexplained phenomenon that has long fascinated me. Meara does an excellent job of weaving their appearance into a multi-layered plot which covers the gamut from high-brow society to misguided con artists.

If you like family stories with plenty of warmth, ­­­threads of the supernatural and folklore, plus a well-plotted mystery, don’t miss the latest in the Wake Robin Ridge Series. Five big glittery stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Paranormal & Urban Fantasy > Ghost Fiction


Earth’s Earliest Ages
by George H. Pember

Book cover for Earth's Earliest Ages shows alien-looking humanoid in profile, large head, ears and eyes, three pyramids and prehistoric looking bird flying above pyramidsSomeone recommended this book to me, and I found it to be an intriguing read. Originally published in 1884, it is somewhat dense—you won’t breeze through it—but also highly interesting. The author starts at the Beginning. And I do mean THE BEGINNING, as in prior to when God said, “Let there be light.”

Pember takes the reader through the creation of Earth, the Fall, life outside the gates of Eden, the sin of Cain and the rise of Watchers or b’nai ha Elohim (“sons of God”) who mingled with humans, resulting in the birth of the Nephilim, half celestial, half human beings. All from a Biblical perspective.

He offers the belief that Nephilim (as well as Principalities of the Air) were the ancient gods of Babylonia, Egypt and Persia, as well as the gods of Rome and Greece. But there’s much more, including a close look at life leading up to the Great Flood. Later, he addresses how the sorcerers of Ancient Egypt were able to duplicate several of the plagues Moses—through God—inflicted on Pharaoh and the Egyptians.

Earth’s Earliest Ages, was written in a time when Spiritualism was exploding. The first half of the book is devoted to studying Old Testament events and comparing Pember’s day to the days of Noah. The last half of the book takes an in-depth look at Spiritualism, Theosophy, and Buddhism. Although I found the section on Spiritualism interesting (due to the amount of research I did on sham aspects of the religion for a novel), I waded through the chapters on Theosophy and Buddhism. That aside, Pember offers up several interesting theories and backs them from a Biblical perspective. Despite being published over a century ago, the text has been updated through multiple editions, and still resonates with the state of our world today in many ways. 4 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Nonfiction > Biblical Studies


The Whisper Man
by Alex North

Book cover for The Whisper Man by Alex North shows ragged handprint with open butterfly wings serving as palm. Blackimage on white backgroundChalk this up to one of my favorite reads of the year! After his wife dies unexpectedly, Tom Kennedy moves with his young son, Jake, to the tiny village of Featherbank in an effort to start fresh. Jake is a sensitive child, prone to talking to an imaginary friend. At first things appear to be moving in the right direction, then Tom learns that he and his son have moved into the neighborhood “scary house.” Worse, Featherbank is also the site of several child abductions and murders decades in the past. The serial killer responsible was known as the Whisper Man due to a habit of whispering to his victims outside their bedroom windows. Just before Tom and Jake settle into their new house, a young boy goes missing. Then Tom overhears Jake reciting part of a rhyme: “If you leave a door half open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken…”

Where to begin? This is a highly suspenseful, creepy read with intricate layers. Not only do we have Tom and Jake—with Tom struggling on so many levels to be the father Jake needs—but two detective inspectors are also front and center. DI Pete Willis is the man responsible for bringing the Whisper Man to justice decades ago, and DI Amanda Beck is the lead on the current abduction case. A case that bears eerie similarities to the Whisper Man’s crimes.

Twists and turns? Oh, yes! I smugly thought I had part of the story figured out early on, only to have the proverbial rug wrenched from under me. Plus, there are HUGE surprises in store. WOW moments that induce goosebumps. I’m in awe by how expertly the author wove everything together.

Originally, I was a little cat-shy about reading a story that involved child victims, but there is nothing graphic here. The past is only touched on in a sinister, but distant way. What makes this book so unforgettable is the atmosphere North conjures in most every scene—like a storm waiting to break. The creep-factor is subtle, but deliciously wrought, and the ending delivers another jaw-dropper. If you like well-written, tightly plotted, suspenseful reads with a hint of eeriness, don’t pass up The Whisper Man. I highly recommend this one! Five whopping big stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Horror Suspense > Ghost Mysteries > Ghost Thrillers

Last Minute Christmas Shopping? Preorder an ebook!

In many ways, December is a double-edged sword when it comes to book releases. On one hand—prior to Christmas—many are looking to gift books as presents. After Christmas, there is usually a huge pool of readers who have received gift cards for books, and are considering what to purchase.

The downside?

Not a lot of bloggers and readers are online during the week leading into Christmas or the week after. So, what’s an author to do?

If you’re like me, you take a chance, and float a post in the blogosphere anyway.

The last book on my publishing contract with Kensington is being released on December 31st. In one respect, it’s a cool way to close out the year. In another, I fear Eventide may get lost in the shuffle. I’d love if it launched with New Year’s Eve fireworks and a lot of rah-rah-rahs to pave the way. It’s been on pre-order for a while now, and I know many of you have already clicked that button (THANK YOU!). If you haven’t, here are a few snippets from pre-release reviews that I hope may entice you.

Book cover for Eventide, a Hode's Hill novel by Mae Clair shows an old abandoned house in a wash of blue tones

“Mae Clair has an unparalleled voice. Her writing is lyrically beautiful and powerfully evocative. She sets a sinister mood like no other author on the market. She’s on my auto-buy list, and with good reason. Just when I think she can’t possibly top her last work, she does. I’m eagerly awaiting her next title, and it is without reservation I give this novel five well-deserved stars.”
…Author and editor, Staci Troilo

“Once again, Mae Clair makes things that “go bump in the night” come to life with devilishly detailed scenes, a plot that encompasses decades and a mystery that begs to be uncovered . . .Great characters, a touch of the paranormal, and a rollercoaster ride to the end!”
…Tome Tender Book Reviews

“The plot runs both in the past (1800s) and in the present day and gives you plenty of mystery, suspense, and twists in both timelines. While I sussed out that something was up with the historical brothers early on, I completely failed to work out what it was, so kudos to the author for that bit of cunning. A solid five star read.”
…Author and editor, Harmony Kent

“I liked the entertaining and gripping plot that kept me on the edge, the well thought cast of characters and the world building. Even if it’s the last in a series I had no issues with the plot or the characters. I look forward to reading other books by this author as I really liked her style of writing.”
…Anarella, NetGalley Reviewer

“Mae Clair paints her stories with masterful imagery and a host of lovable characters just as imperfect and flawed as the rest of us. That makes walking beside them within the story, all the easier! If you love a great mystery with a touch of the paranormal, you won’t be disappointed in Eventide!”
…Author, Debbie Peterson

These are only snippets from a few of the reviews that have already surfaced on Goodreads. I’ve been really happy with them, and especially from the number of people who commented how easily Eventide read as a stand-alone, despite it being the close to my Hode’s Hill series. That’s always a concern for an author, but apparently, not something I need to be worried about.

So…If you’re looking for a book to gift, or even scouting out a read of your own, it’s the perfect time to pre-order Eventide. It will have the distinction of popping onto your e-reader on the final day of 2019. A close to a series, and a close to the year. Not such a bad match, when you think about it 🙂

Banner ad for Eventide, a mystery novel by Mae Clair, features a dilapidated old house

BLURB:
The darkness is coming . . .

The old house near Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania is a place for Madison Hewitt to start over—to put the trauma of her husband’s murder, and her subsequent breakdown, behind her. She isn’t bothered by a burial plot on the property, or the mysterious, sealed cistern in the basement. Not at first. Even the presence of cold spots and strange odors could be fabrications of her still troubled mind. But how to explain her slashed tires, or the ominous messages that grow ever more threatening?

Convinced the answer lies in the past, Madison delves into the history of the home’s original owners, only to discover the origin of a powerful evil. An entity that may be connected to a series of gruesome attacks that have left police baffled. No matter where she turns—past or present—terror lingers just a step away, spurred on by a twisted obsession that can only be satisfied through death…

UNIVERSAL PRE-ORDER LINK

Book Review Tuesday: Haunted House Ghost @jamescudney4, My Girl @JacqBiggar, Through the Nethergate by Roberta Eaton Cheadle, Moonlight Becomes You by Mary Higgins Clark

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

I’m back with my second and final Book Review Tuesday post for the month of December. As mentioned in last week’s post, I won’t be sharing reviews on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, as I fear many readers won’t be online and I’d like to give the authors of the books I’ve read as much exposure as possible. Today’s variety includes a cozy mystery, a second-chance romance, and young-adult horror.


Book cover for cozy mystery Haunted House Ghost by James J. Cudney shows cartoon sketch of old house on hillside in front of full moon with cartoon ghost aboveHaunted House Ghost
A Kellan Ayrwick Cozy Mystery (Braxton Campus Mysteries Book 5)

by James J. Cudney

This is my first Braxton Campus mystery. It was a delight discovering these characters—and there are many. When you join a series in progress, it’s easy to get lost, but not with the Braxton series. The author did an excellent job of establishing who was who, as well as explaining the relationships that connected all the people in this fabulous fictional setting.

College professor and amateur sleuth, Kellan, moves into an old house only to discover it may be haunted by ghosts of the past. Set during Halloween, this cozy relies on past connections, family histories, plenty of secrets, and a cast of suspects that keeps the reader guessing. Toss in a fifty-year old skeleton, an eccentric psychic, plus Halloween happenings, and you can’t go wrong.

Kellan’s family is a delight—especially Nana D who is fond of calling him “brilliant one.” His developing romance with town sheriff, April, adds a nice hint of romance to the layers of mystery. Grab your scorecard, tally up the suspects, and take your best guess. If you like cozies, you’re sure to enjoy this charmer! 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychic Mysteries > Mystery Series > Ghost Mysteries 


Book cover for My Girl by Jacquie Biggar shows couple sharing a kiss behind a bouquet of flowersMy Girl: Gambling Hearts—Book Three
by Jacquie Biggar

Jacquie Biggar does it again! If you love second chance romances, you’re sure to love this story! Trish is a city girl from a corporate background, Aaron, a Texas rancher. Romantically involved for a time, family conflicts forced them to part. Now Trish, her parents, and her fiancé, are the first guests at the ranch Aaron owns along with his sibling—a place now opening as a dude/guest ranch.

Sparks fly right from the get-go, but there is plenty of trouble in the form of Trish’s slimy fiance (her father forced the arrangement) and her interfering parents. There’s also a surprise or two tucked into the plot, including how some of these characters end up. But one thing you can count on is the HEA at the end. It’s a sweet journey getting there with plenty of ups and downs, but the conclusion will leave you with a fuzzy feeling and a sloppy grin. I love everything Jacquie Biggar writes, but she really hit a home run with this charmer. Of special note: although this is the third book in a series, it easily stands on its own as well. 5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genres: Western Romance > Women’s Romance Fiction


Book cover for Through the Nethergate by Roberta Eaton Cheadle shows young girl standing in open doorway at top of dark staircase descending downThrough the Nethergate
by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Margaret is a girl with a special gift that allows her to see ghosts who are trapped in an overworld between Heaven and Hell. She’s able to help them regain life, then help them move on in the hereafter. When she moves in with her grandfather after the death of her parents, Margaret encounters a number of ghosts, and a particularly nasty black dog that is actually the embodiment of Hugh Bigod, an evil spirit who has held the ghosts trapped for centuries. Hugh has his own ideas how Margaret’s gifts can be used to his benefit.

This is a YA horror novel that will also appeal to adults, especially with the deep research the author layers into the historical aspects of the book. I found those the strongest and was enthralled by how skillfully Cheadle brought the past to life. There are a few POV issues and a good deal of internal thought, the latter which occasionally bogs things down, but for the most part this is a quick and easy read. Margaret’s grandfather is also a strong character, and the background of many of the ghosts adds a fascinating aspect. Most of the spirits are based on historic figures. I don’t usually read books that employ Lucifer as a character, and admit to skimming some of those chapters, but overall, I found this a compelling story on multiple levels. 4 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Young Adult Horror


Book cover for Moonlight Becomes you by Mary Higgins Clark shows full white moon on surrounded by clouds on dark skyMoonlight Becomes You
by Marry Higgins Clark

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book by Mary Higgins Clark. I was anxious to try this one because of a plot thread regarding Victorian burial customs. Maggie Holloway reconnects with her stepmother, Nuala, at a cocktail party. The two women haven’t seen each other since Maggie was a child but their connection is immediate. Shortly afterward, Nuala is murdered by an unknown assailant and Maggie inherits her home.

The plot involves residents of Latham Manor, a luxury living center for seniors, complete with medical staff on the premises. Maggie becomes friendly with one of Nuala’s friends, only to have that woman die unexpectedly. She soon realizes that several residents of Latham Manor have passed away in a short amount of time, and while visiting their graves discovers Victorian burial bells by their tombstones. Although this isn’t the main thread of the story, it adds an interesting twist.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and the book bogs a bit as each are introduced and their connections to the others become apparent. The story starts with a bang then slows down for quite a while before gaining momentum again, but it’s worth sticking with. While I deduced the identity of the killer around the 60% mark, it was entertaining to see the mystery unravel. The suspenseful ending, along with a nice wrap for the various plot threads made for a satisfying read. 4 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Fiction > Psychological Thrillers
(Note: I think this reads more like cozy despite the tags on Amazon)


I’ve seen a few of these books getting a lot of attention in the blogosphere within the last few months, so my guess is that some of you have read them, or have them on your TBRs. Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts about today’s reviews!

Book Review: Finding Hunter by @MarciaMeara #bookreviewtuesday

Hello and welcome to another Book Review Tuesday. If you enjoy character-driven fiction layered with family drama, angst, and romance, boy do I have a book for you! My review follows, but you can click the Amazon link to read the blurb and learn more about this fabulous story.

Book cover for Finding Hunter by Marcia Meara shows open journal with pen, cup of tea in backgroudFinding Hunter
by Marcia Meara

Hunter Painter is the youngest of three brothers. Forrest and Jackson have always been more outgoing, a little rough-and-tumble, and clever with the ladies. By contrast, Hunter is reserved, a bit on shy side, a gentle soul whose feelings run deep. He has been in love with Willow Greene since high school, but far too inhibited to approach her. Years later, when a friend gives him a nudge and he finally does, he discovers Willow has harbored the same feelings for him just as long.

The bliss of discovery is short-lived, however, when their love is put to the test all too soon. Hunter’s mother suffers from dementia, potentially underscored by mental illness. Although Hunter recognizes the downward spiral and the increasing severity of her actions, both his father and his brothers turn a blind eye. When tragedy strikes, Hunter’s world shatters and he is left trying to balance a toxic mix of darkness, brokenness, and suffocating guilt. It doesn’t help both his brothers initially turn on him, too encumbered to admit their own shortcomings.

What follows is a tale of anguish, love, and redemption. Unable to cope, Hunter tries to shut out the world, but he is unable to break the ties that bind him to Willow. Even when they are separated, their hearts are constantly entwined. Willow’s strength is steel, the solace Hunter needs when he returns to her—even if only to say goodbye. Hunter’s healing—which encompasses the second half of the novel—doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a testament to the author’s ability to tug heartstrings that she parcels it out in a manner that leaves a lump in the throat.

Meara tackles heavy duty issues—dementia, mental illness, PTSD, family relations, recovery. But she balances the weightier moments with character growth, plenty of realism, and heart. One thing you can always count on in a Marcia Meara novel is heart. Hallmark could take lessons.

As always, the characters are outstanding, and Hunter and Willow will remain with me for a long time to come. In addition, I was thoroughly smitten by Forrest Painter’s story arc. Reading Finding Hunter is like taking a journey. As someone who loves character-driven fiction, it’s a journey I highly recommend others take. 5 glowing stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Fiction > Romantic Suspense

And, in an odd twist of fate—or maybe just a snazzy coincidence—I’m over at Marcia’s place today sharing a review of my romantic mystery, Eclipse Lake. If you get a moment, I’d love to have you visit me there. Of course, I’m also curious to hear your thoughts about Finding Hunter, and I’m sure Marcia is, too!  🙂