Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Diablo Mesa by Preston & Child, The Club by Ellery Lloyd

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Welcome to my book reviews for the week. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may have noticed I cut book reviews back from two days a week to one day with the launch of 2022. As a result, most times I’ll be featuring more than one book with each post. For that reason, I’ll be skipping blurbs, but you can always find them by following the Amazon links.

Today, I have two books to share—both mysteries, but with very different slants. Let’s get started!


Book cover for Diablo Mesa features watermark of skull over desert background, silhouette of woman in the "O" in "Diablo"

DIABLO MESA
BY PRESTON AND CHILD

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book started a little slow, but kicked in around the 30% mark and just kept getting better and better. Combining the Roswell Incident, the H-bomb, Cold War spies, UAPs, and a secret military organization, it’s a riveting adventure full of pulse-pounding moments and far-flung conspiracies.

Although this is the third Nora Kelly/Corrie Swanson adventure, you don’t need to be familiar with the previous books. Archaeologist Nora is recruited by an eccentric billionaire to excavate a dig at Roswell. When two bodies are unearthed, Corrie is called in from the FBI. This is when the train really starts rolling.

I loved the introduction of new character, adventurer/billionaire Lucas Tappan, and it was great to see the return of fast-draw sheriff, Homer Watts. Nora’s brother, Skip, gets several moments to shine, and who can resist having Mitty, the dog, tag along?

There’s plenty of danger, dollops of sci-fi, intrigue, duplicity, bad guys to “boo,” and two clever heroines to cheer for. I love the fact that neither Nora nor Corrie are written as “kick-butt” characters, but rather as smart, professional women willing to take risks.

Break out the popcorn and enjoy the ride. I can’t wait to see where this series heads next!

AMAZON LINK


Book cover for The Club shows part of pool underlit from below at night, silhouette of trees in background against dusky sky, book title in neon pink letters

THE CLUB
BY ELLERY LLOYD

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper for an ARC of this book.

This is an unusual story with a bizarre assortment of characters which is what makes it so entertaining. Island Home is an exclusive resort for celebrities and A-Listers. Ultra-posh where every whim is catered to and overseen by head honcho Ned, his brother Adam, Ned’s PA, Nikki, and Annie, who handles memberships. The guests are ridiculously self-centered, pampered, egotistical, all with baggage and hidden secrets and issues. The same goes for those who run the show.

When Ned sets up a blackmail scheme, centered around several of his guests’ worst secrets, the situation implodes in ugly ways. Till all is said and done, there isn’t just one body that turns up, but several.

Told from multiple third person POVs, the book also uses clips from an article about what took place on the island. There is plenty of glitz, and the twists and turns in the plot are nicely executed. It’s a little slow to get off the ground, but worth sticking with, especially when everything starts to slot into place.

If I have one quibble the book is on the wordy side. I’m a reader who loves description, but I often felt like I was wading through passages of lengthy prose, many that seemed repetitious of what came before. That aside, I would recommend The Club to those who like locked room mysteries with an eclectic assortment of characters.

AMAZON LINK


In closing, I know readers are often hesitant to purchase a high-end Kindle book, especially if they’ve never tried the author before. I have certain auto-buy authors (like Preston & Child) I don’t mind shelling out $$$ for, but others will give me pause. In that case, I check LIBBY and will borrow the title from my local library using Amazon to read on my Kindle.

If you’re unfamiliar with Libby (a free service), see my post on Story Empire regarding how it works. You can find it HERE. Happy reading!

Mae Clair’s Top 10 Reads of 2021: Six Through Ten

Soft cuddly tabby cat lying in its owner's lap enjoying and purring while the owner is reading a book

Hello! It’s time to select my Top 10 reads from last year. If you’re someone who loves to devour books, you know how dreadfully hard this is. In my case, the first five were easy, but six through ten were tougher to decide. I was going to list all ten books in a single post, but they’re all so good I decided to spotlight them in two separate posts.

Each book is linked to Amazon where you can read the blurb and explore reviews. I gave every one of these fives stars and have included a few thoughts on each. Before I get to the results, I have a few cool stats to share.

I read 115 books in 2021. My original goal for the Goodreads challenge was 60, so I almost doubled that. Consider me jazzed. Or chuffed (shout-out to Fraggle and Harmony!)

The shortest book was 11 pages, the longest 530, with the average 245 pages.

January and July were my two top reading months with 12 books each. September saw the fewest with six.

Here’s a look, counting down from number six through ten, on my top list!

10. THE PERFECT GUESTS by Emma Rous
A twisty mystery that involves three different time periods, all of which converge for a spectacular finish. The present timeline plays off the board game Clue with guests gathering in an old mansion as test-run for a new business that hosts murder mystery parties.

9. THE GUEST LIST by Lucy Foley
An isolated location, treacherous weather, and a group of characters with plenty of skeletons rattling in proverbial closets. I’m usually pretty good at fingering the culprit, and although I had suspicions that eventually proved correct, the whys and wherefores completely blindsided me.

8. BLOODLESS by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Combining the mystery of D. B. Cooper with a series of odd murders in which the victims are drained of blood? Only Preston & Child could pull off a plot like that, and they do it exceptionally well in this latest outing for FBI Special Agent Aloysius X. L. Pendergast (whose cases always flirt with the supernatural or bizarre). I’m a diehard fan!!

7. SURVIVE THE NIGHT by Riley Sager
Cat-and-mouse suspense combines with well-plotted fiction in this slick, edge-of-your seat thrill ride. The operational word here is TENSION—with a capital T. It wasn’t until the end when everything falls into place that I realized how deftly I’d been played.

6. HOME BEFORE DARK by Riley Sager
A good old-fashioned ghost story. No gore or horror, just plenty of eerie happenings that deliver goose bumps, shivers and chills. Numerous twists and turns near the end had me trying to pick up my jaw from the floor. This is mind-blowing storytelling at its best, especially if you are a fan of ghost stories that twist like a corkscrew and prickle your skin. 


I’d love to hear if you’ve read any of these and what your thoughts are. Tomorrow, I’ll be counting down books five through one, but in the meantime, let’s chat about these titles. Do any of them appeal to you?

Limited Time 99c Sale: A Thousand Yesteryears by Mae Clair #mystery #suspense #thriller #writingcommunity #mothman #pointpleasant #urbanlegends

Hi, friends. I hadn’t planned to blog today, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share news of a limited time sale. My publisher has placed A Thousand Yesteryears, book one of my Point Pleasant series on sale for 99c. You can read this as a stand-alone novel, or as the first of three books comprising the series.

Book cover for A Thousand Yesteryears by Mae Clair, depicting a wooded thicket at night

New York Times best-selling author, Kevin O’Brien called this book “Masterful, bone-chilling fiction…one intense thriller. A Thousand Yesteryears will keep you guessing, gasping and turning the pages for more.”

I honestly don’t know how long the sale will last (it’s likely a 1-2 day flash sale), so if you’d like to sink into a novel where “A woman’s homecoming is met with death threats, a treacherous killer, and a legendary monster” now is your chance.

I’ll be taking a closer look at the urban legend behind this book in 2022, as part of a new series I’m planning called Mae Clair’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

A Thousand Yesteryears is a fictional account of historic events and established folklore, involving the tragic collapse of the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and sightings of the Mothman. I made two weekend trips to the actual town and surrounding areas while writing this series in order to visit areas firsthand and talk to the locals. I’ve been honored to have many book reviewers who live/lived in the area remark on how well I captured the town.

I’ve closed comments, but invite you to meet the Mothman and learn the history of a once thriving river town!

Teaser ad for A Thousand Yesteryears, a novel of suspense by Mae Clair

PURCHASE LINK

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney #domensticthriller

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

This book was on my NetGalley radar, but despite submitting a request, I wasn’t approved for an ARC. The blurb sucked me in the first time I read it, so it was a no brainer to purchase the book when I didn’t get approved for an ARC. Hey, it happens. Rejection aside, I’m thoroughly jazzed I followed through on this one. Below is my five-star review.

BOOK BLURB:

Things have been wrong with Mr and Mrs Wright for a long time. When Adam and Amelia win a weekend away to Scotland, it might be just what their marriage needs. Self-confessed workaholic and screenwriter Adam Wright has lived with face blindness his whole life. He can’t recognize friends or family, or even his own wife.  

Every anniversary the couple exchange traditional gifts–paper, cotton, pottery, tin–and each year Adam’s wife writes him a letter that she never lets him read. Until now. They both know this weekend will make or break their marriage, but they didn’t randomly win this trip. One of them is lying, and someone doesn’t want them to live happily ever after.

Ten years of marriage. Ten years of secrets. And an anniversary they will never forget.

Rock Paper Scissors is the latest exciting domestic thriller from the queen of the killer twist, New York Times bestselling author Alice Feeney.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

What a twisty, atmospheric, and haunting read! Amelia and Adam are a married couple who take a trip to a converted old chapel in a remote area of Scotland. Right from the start, the reader knows their marriage is in trouble, hanging by a thread. Adam is a workaholic screenwriter who suffers from facial blindness—he can’t see or remember people’s faces, including that of his wife. I won’t reiterate the rest of the blurb but will say this book twists and turns in ways I never saw coming. The chapel is wonderfully eerie with an old supernatural history, locked doors, a creepy wine cellar, unheated rooms, and a crumbling bell tower. The remote location is made even more ominous for its winter setting and raging snowstorm.

Chapters alternate between Amelia and Adam, and another woman, Robin, a recluse in a small cottage nearby. There are also letters that Adam’s wife writes to him every year on their anniversary, and a unique spin on the game of rock, paper, scissors. This is one of those books where it’s difficult to say much without giving away spoilers. I will say that I was mesmerized from start to finish, gobsmacked by the twists, and enamored of the creepy, snowbound setting. I read late into the night to finish it, then found it disturbing, haunting, and utterly satisfying. What a winner!

Book Review Tuesday: The Accident, Wall of Silence, Bad Habits @TracyBuchanan @judypost

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Happy Tuesday, friends!I have a new roundup of books for you. I’m still sharing reviews of books I read during April quarantine, along with a newer title. Lately, I’ve been immersed in a single series (Harry Dresden), but we’ll chat about that in the weeks to come. 🙂

In the meantime, I hope one of these fabulous novels tickles your reading fancy.



Book cover for The Accident by Natalie Barelli shows woman from back walking up stepsThe Accident
by Natalie Barelli

I believe I’ve found a new auto-buy author, if the rest of Natalie Barelli’s work is anything like The Accident. Katherine is a shining star on a fast-track career, plus a single mom with a teenage daughter. She becomes friends with Eve, who worms her way into Katherine’s life and her place of employment. When the two have a girls’ night out, Katherine wants to call an Uber, knowing she’s had too much to drink. Eve talks her into driving, pointing out the roads will be deserted. Halfway home, Katherine strikes a pedestrian on a lonely road. Eve convinces her they need to get back in the car and take off. It’s a decision that will become a nightmare for Katherine as her life spirals out of control. But as each day passes and she wrestles with what happened, she realizes Eve is not at all the person she originally thought.

The book gets very twisty very quickly. I blew through it in two sittings, glued to the pages. It’s fast-paced, does require a stretch of credibility in a few places, but is pure popcorn enjoyment. Part soap-opera, part Lifetime movie, it sucks you in quickly and doesn’t let go until the thoroughly satisfying ending. If you enjoy psychological thrillers, this is an excellent read. I’m already scouting out more books by this author.

5 Stars
Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Fiction > Women’s Psychological Fiction


Book cover for Wall of Silence by Tracy Buchanan shows closeup of trees in forest with title  laid overtop imageWall of Silence
by Tracy Buchanan

Wall of Silence presents an interesting mystery and an interesting concept. Melissa Byatt has an ideal life with three wonderful children and a popular husband who is running for a local office. She lives in an upscale “forest” community, with neighbors who look out for one another. Her childhood was less than ideal, but she’s risen above it and has so much for which she’s grateful.

One day she comes home from a bike ride to find her husband stabbed, her three children clustered around him with the knife. It quickly becomes apparent one of them is responsible, but which one and why? When the police arrive, Melissa decides to protect her children at all cost. With her husband, Patrick, in a coma waffling between life and death, Melissa must unravel what happened to so drastically alter her perfect family.

As the book progresses, the reader gains insight not only to the Melissa’s children, her in-laws, and her childhood, but also the neighbors in the community of Forest Grove. A neighborhood Facebook group is used for back and forth chit-chat (and gossip) to advance the story, which I thought was a brilliant and intriguing move by the author. Slowly, old secrets, suspicions and grudges come to light, and many are not who they seem at first glance.

There were times I was thoroughly aggravated by Melissa’s behavior, and the behavior of her children, much of which contributed to the slow build of the story. This is not a book that moves at a fast clip but a mystery that falls into place bits and pieces at a time. The tension is constant and there is always some new nugget of information to keep the reader flipping pages. I found this an intriguing mystery and would definitely read more by this author in the future.

5 Stars
Amazon Link
Genre: British and Irish Literary Fiction > Psychological Fiction


Book cover for Bad Habits by Judi Lynn shows shows bloody revolver in background, cute redhead in foreground on a laptop, yellow Bentley behind herBad Habits
by Judi Lynn

There is a lot of heart in this story. To be sure, there is mystery too—murder, drugs, a crime to solve—but the characters themselves bring an entirely different dimension. Lux hasn’t had a great upbringing or childhood, but she’s independently wealthy. She finds the loving environment she lacked with her own parents with her best friend Gabbie’s family, including Gabbie’s brothers. She’s especially drawn to Keon, a chef, and soon realizes what she feels surpasses simple fondness.

As Keon and Lux grow closer, they find themselves caught up in a web of trouble revolving around Keon’s brother, Tyson. The cast of characters is large, but there are many standouts, including Pete, a cop who’s attracted to Gabbie. I also liked Ian, who found himself in difficult situations even as he tried to do the right thing, and his sister, Shelly—a fifteen-year-old learning the value of self-worth over game-playing and manipulation.

The mystery ties together neatly at the end, but it is the warmth among the characters that brought me a special smile when I finished the story. I also have to mention that I really loved the addition of Lux’s yellow Bentley as a cute aside. Although this story is complete, the book has all the earmarks of an engaging series. A pleasure to read.

5 Stars
Amazon Link
Genre: Amateur Sleuths > Women Sleuths


Although I did a minimal amount of writing during shelter-in-place months, books were my friend. I still have a few more to share before I catch up to the present. You just can’t go wrong with books. Here’s hoping you’ve had a few entraining tales to distract yourself as well! 🙂

Book Review Tuesday: Dark Hollows @stevefrech

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It’s Book Review Tuesday time! Thanks for joining me today with my latest reviews. I spent a good deal of time formatting In Search of McDoogal, (my upcoming short story) last week, so my reading was minimal.

I had hoped to release McDoogal in February but with my publisher doing a big splash for my Hode’s Hill Series (Cusp of Night FREE from 2/20 through 2/25 and End of Day and  Eventide at .99c all month), I felt it was better to devote time to promotion for the series.

That means McDoogal will be releasing in March.There may even be a cover reveal in store before the month is out 😉

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy today’s review!


Book cover for Dark Hollows by Steve Frech shows a cottage backed by trees on edge of lake at night, all windows in cottage lit with yellow glowDark Hollows
by Steve Frech

I’m not sure if I liked Jacob, the MC in this book. He made horrible decisions when he was younger, causing his past to catch up with him in an unexpected way. What I do know is that I disliked the person who turned on him a helluva lot more—and that made for interesting reading.

Jacob owns a quaint coffee shop called Groundworks in the small town of Dark Hollows. His workers, and the people who populate the town, are wonderful characters although their roles are relatively small (the Halloween costume contest is a fun extra).

In addition to Groundworks, Jacob also rents a cottage behind his home for weekend getaways. When a woman who bears an eerie resemblance to his dead girlfriend, Laura, books a stay, Jacob’s world is thrown into turmoil. It’s hard to say more without giving away spoilers.

What makes Jacob semi-likable and redeemable is his devotion to his dog, Murphy, a lovable golden retriever who likes to play fetch with a red tennis ball. Murphy is a scene stealer, and I adored Jacob’s loyalty to him. Despite the skeletons in his closet, you can’t help cheering for Jacob as he recklessly tracks down the person who upends his world. The extremes he goes to, and the ending confrontation, all make for entertaining reading. Although the ending is rather abrupt, I found it satisfying. 5 Stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Horror/Suspense > Noir Crime
Note: Although this is tagged on Amazon as horror/suspense, I viewed it as  mystery/suspense without horror elements. I’m not sure why that tag is on there!