Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous #psychologicalfiction Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid #literaryfiction #sagafiction

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

Hello, and Happy Wednesday! I’m sharing two books today, but because the blurb for the second is especially long, I’m skipping blurbs and going straight to my reviews. These are both worthy pool/beach reads. Both also employ alternating timelines, a technique I never tire of reading. I’ve been fortunate to have hit so many engrossing stories lately. If you’re a fan of the board game “Clue,” I think you’ll find the first one especially interesting.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is a twisty mystery that involves three different time periods, all of which converge for a spectacular finish. As a huge fan of the board game Clue, the present timeline immediately drew me.

Sadie is a bit actress looking for a break when she’s offered the chance to play “Miss Lamb” at an old mansion known as Raven Hall. Other guests also assume roles—Professor Owl, Colonel Otter, Miss Mouse, Lady Nightingale, and Mrs. Shrew. Each guest has been given individual cards about their characters’ actions and clothes in a single themed color. As Miss Lamb, Sadie dresses in white. Mrs. Shrew dresses in blue, etc. Sound familiar? I was in “Clue” heaven! The guests have been gathered to solve the murder of Lord Nightingale as a test-run for a new business that hosts murder mystery parties.

In the past, Beth, an orphan, is taken by her aunt to live at Raven Hall as a companion for Nina, the daughter of the owners. Both girls are fourteen. After some initial wariness, they form a close bond, going from friendship to the attachment of sisters.

The scenes in the past are every bit intriguing—if not more so—then those in the present. Beth is a likeable character, who just wants to feel part of a family. She constantly worries if she doesn’t do everything perfectly, she’ll be sent back to the orphanage.

But aside from Markus and Leonora (Nina’s parents) insisting Nina can never leave the property or go into town, Beth’s time at Raven Hall is filled with fun and the closeness she longs for—until she is talked into participating in a strange charade. One that will ultimately have far reaching consequences.

There is also a third timeline, not as in depth as the others. Told from the POV of young woman, it isn’t until the middle of the book that the reader discovers who is narrating those sections.

It may sound like there is a lot going on in this novel (and there is) but it isn’t difficult to follow. The chapters are fairly short, and the pacing is excellent. Mysteries build steadily in both the past and the present. I was impressed by the number of subtle clues the author plants that turn into timebombs at the end. The final chapters deliver staggering revelations, not one but several. Then when I thought there were no surprises left, and I could finally catch my breath, the author dropped a final twisty shock in the closing pages.

If you love a good mystery, this is one you don’t want to miss. A spectacular read and another candidate for my Favorites List this year!

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I have a weakness for stories that use parties as a central theme. Oodles of people thrown together, many faking a surface gloss while harboring resentments or grappling with hidden issues. Secrets pile up like kindling waiting for the match to result in a major conflagration. In this case the fire is real.

Nina Riva is holding a posh, highly anticipated house party in 1983. A model, and the daughter of legendary singer, Mick Riva, she and her three siblings attract attention merely by the association of their last name—despite the fact Mick hasn’t been part of their lives since they were small children.

Nina’s party, attended by actors, agents, models, sports pros, hanger-ons, wannabes, and Malibu’s elite begins on a summer night at 7PM. By 7AM the next morning, the house will be in flames. During the course of that twelve hours, secrets are spilled, relationships are made, others broken, lives altered—all during a night of luxury, drugs, excess, and revelations.

There are a lot of characters in this book but they’re surprisingly easy to keep track of—perhaps because of the author’s use of third person POV. Head hopping happens frequently, but is rarely distracting. That might be because the scenes are handled so skillfully or because the characters are fully fleshed out and unique. In addition to Nina, there is Jay, her brother and a champion surfer, Hud, another brother and professional photographer, and Kit, the youngest sister who is struggling to find her footing in life.

Chapters in the first half alternate between past and present with a look at Mick Riva, his rise from struggling singer to fame, and his relationship with June, the mother of Nina and her siblings.

This is a story of family dynamics. Of how people who love each other pull together, sacrifice for one another, and also sometimes hurt each other. How some obstacles can be overcome, and others are not so easily set aside. I found it intriguing from start to finish, the use of short chapters and the past/present story line well utilized to keep the plot moving forward. There are characters to admire, others to feel sorry for and still others to loathe. When it was all said and done, I thought the ending was perfect.

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Nanny Needed by Georgina Cross @GCrossAuthor #psychological fiction #domesticthriller

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

It’s no surprise I have another psychological suspense novel to share. I tend to gobble these up like candy. A tip of the hat to Kim of By Hook or By Book for steering me toward this perfect beach read with her own review. Break out the popcorn for this one!

BOOK BLURB:

A young woman takes a job as a nanny for an impossibly wealthy family, thinking she’s found her entrée into a better life—only to discover instead she’s walked into a world of deception and dark secrets.

Nanny needed. Discretion is of the utmost importance. Special conditions apply.

When Sarah Larsen finds the notice, posted on creamy card stock in her building’s lobby, one glance at the exclusive address tells her she’s found her ticket out of a dead-end job—and life.

At the interview, the job seems like a dream come true: a glamorous penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side of NYC; a salary that adds several zeroes to her current income; the beautiful, worldly mother of her charge, who feels more like a friend than a potential boss. She’s overjoyed when they offer her the position and signs the NDA without a second thought.

In retrospect, the notice in her lobby was less an engraved invitation than a waving red flag. For there is something very strange about the Bird family. Why does the beautiful Mrs. Bird never leave the apartment alone? And what happened to the nanny before her? It soon becomes clear that the Birds’ odd behaviors are more than the eccentricities of the wealthy.

But by then it’s too late for Sarah to seek help. After all, discretion is of the utmost importance.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thank you NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group/ Ballantine / Bantam for my ARC of Nanny Needed.

What a twisty, clever domestic thriller! Sarah and her fiancé, Jonathan, are struggling to make ends meet when she happens upon a flyer advertising for a nanny. Although she has no experience, the position is too good to ignore—a fat, unbelievable salary and a swank luxury penthouse address as the place she’d be working, watching over Patty, a four-year-old girl. Once she applies, she hits it off with Patty’s mother Colette Bird, and soon finds herself hired.

What happens after that is a topsy-turvy roller coaster of events until the end. Many books promise “unbelievable twists” or “jaw-dropping conclusions” but this one delivers. The ending blew me away and left me rereading passages to soak in the enormity of it all. Some suspension of belief is required, but with this kind of book, you sit back, break out the popcorn, and enjoy.

The story plays out like a glossy soap-opera or a Lifetime movie. I liked that the chapters were short, constantly propelling the reader to flip pages. The writing is wonderfully descriptive yet not bogged down in excess prose. I loved the gilded extravagance that surrounds the Bird family and how Colette is portrayed. I want to say so much more about her, but it’s difficult without giving away spoilers.

If you enjoy domestic thrillers, psychological suspense, and flawed characters, Nanny Needed checks all the right boxes and then some. This is a story I could see myself reading over again for sheer enjoyment. It makes a great beach read or poolside escape!

RELEASE DATE IS 10/05/21 | PRE-ORDER FROM AMAZON

Fiction Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Her First Mistake by Carey Baldwin @CareyBaldwin, The End of Her by Shari Lapena @sharilapena #psychologicalfiction #domesticsuspense

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

Today’s reviews include a new-to-me author (and wow, did she nail it!) and an auto-buy author. If you’re a fan of psychological fiction, you’re going to love these. Extra good news—both are are available now, so no waiting to read them!

BOOK BLURB:

I never meant to hurt anyone. All I want is a normal life with friends to call my own. People rarely notice me. Like a ghost, I’m sometimes tempted to rattle a window to get their attention. But tonight isn’t one of those occasions.

Seated alone in an exclusive restaurant I stick out like a bruise on the tender white throat of a lily. And I cannot believe it when, on my way out, I bump into my colleagues having a great time without me. At the center of it all is Celeste Cooper with her shimmering auburn hair and her billion-watt smile. She’s everything that I am not: fearless, pretty, popular.

When she drops her keys, I can’t stop myself. I scoop them up on impulse and hide them in my purse… and now Celeste is missing.

If only I’d called out to her, returned her keys, as I should have.

Wracked with guilt, I join the search, determined to make up for my mistake. But I feel I’m being watched. Is the secret past I have so desperately tried to hide catching up with me?

I know I have to save Celeste, no matter the cost. But if I keep digging, do I risk being dragged back into the dark forever?


MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I was immediately sucked into this book from page one and couldn’t put it down until I finished it. I devoured it in a single day while reading poolside. If you enjoy psychological fiction this is a winner. 

Mia is a fade-into-the-background type of person who makes a bad judgement call when she childishly steals a pair of discarded keys. Celeste, the owner of the keys is a popular, attractive, social butterfly who hails from a wealthy family. When she doesn’t turn up the next day and is reported missing, Mia realizes she could be at fault for something dreadful happening to Celeste. If only she hadn’t taken her keys, Celeste wouldn’t have needed to walk home, making her a target for potential harm.

To atone for her mistake, Mia throws herself into the search for Celeste. In the process, she digs herself into a hole rife with trouble—including a suspicious detective, a potential stalker, an over-protective aunt, nosy reporters, and an odd and unexpected friendship with members of Celeste’s family. 

As with stories of this kind, there are plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing about what is really going on and who is responsible for the string of circumstances that build like dominoes. As conflicted as Mia is, I enjoyed her character, especially seeing her growth over the course of the book. She discovers steel she didn’t know she had, digging into her own psyche as much as struggling to discover what really happened to Celeste. The unraveling of that final plot thread brings shocking revelations and a satisfying conclusion. 

This is an easy read with quick chapters and a writing style that makes it easy to lose yourself in the pages. This is my first book by Carey Baldwin, but it definitely won’t be my last. A solid 5-stars from me.

BOOK BLURB:

A long-ago accident–and a visitor from out of the blue. . .

Stephanie and Patrick are adjusting to life with their colicky twin girls. The babies are a handful, but even as Stephanie struggles with the disorientation of sleep deprivation, there’s one thing she’s sure of: she has all she ever wanted.

Then Erica, a woman from Patrick’s past, appears and makes a disturbing accusation. Patrick had always said his first wife’s death was an accident, but now Erica claims it was murder.

Patrick insists he’s innocent, that this is nothing but a blackmail attempt. Still, Erica knows things about Patrick–things that make Stephanie begin to question her husband. Stephanie isn’t sure what, or who, to believe. As Stephanie’s trust in Patrick begins to falter, Patrick stands to lose everything. Is Patrick telling the truth–is Erica the persuasive liar Patrick says she is? Or has Stephanie made a terrible mistake?

How will it end?


MY REVIEW:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Stephanie and Patrick are parents of two young colicky babies, a situation that has exhausted them both. Even so, they’re managing, and their marriage is secure—at least until Erica, a woman from Patrick’s past shows up with disturbing allegations regarding the death of Patrick’s first wife.

Shari Lapena is one of my auto-buy authors. I especially loved her novels, An Uninvited Guest and The Couple Next Door. I found this book slow to get off the ground, but the deeper Erica forced her way into Stephanie and Patrick’s lives, the stronger the story became. The second half is especially good.

Throughout, it was easy to sympathize with Stephanie and feel her confusion on whether to put her faith in her husband or a stranger with entirely selfish motivations. As the story develops the reader gets a clearer grasp of Erica’s character and her past. The disruption she causes between Stephanie and Patrick takes multiple twists and turns. Lapena keeps the main mystery wrapped tightly until the final stages of the book which brought an ending I didn’t expect. So…slower at the start than I would expect from Lapena, but worth sticking with.

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

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 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: The Body in the Apartment, The Trophy Wife, Subject A36 #CozyMystery #PsychologicalThriller #YADystopian

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 imageIt’s been ages since I did a book review Tuesday, and I have a LOT of reviews I haven’t shared. I’m going to work in my five star reads as I continue to add new ones. I did read one or two not-the-best of books during my absence, and I’ll skip those. For now, take a gander at these!


Cute pug dog looking into the open door of an apartmentThe Body in the Apartment
by Judi Lynn

House flippers, Jazzi, Ansel, their families and friends are back in the fourth Jazzi Zanders mystery novel. This time around the stakes are higher as Jazzi finds herself immersed in two separate murders.

The book starts with a bang—literally. Ansel’s brother Radley is in River Bluff when their older brother Bain arrives to try to get Radley to return to the family farm. After an argument between Radley and Bain, Radley’s boss is shot and killed. Bain becomes the prime suspect when it’s discovered his gun is missing from his truck. Murder #1, but things are far from over. It isn’t long before another killing occurs.

As Jazzi and her detective friend Gaff begin to fit the pieces together, it becomes apparent the two murders are related. Getting there—unraveling multiple threads, false leads, numerous suspects and motives makes this the most intricate Jazzi mystery to date. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, each with plenty of motive. If you like your cozies complex, while maintaining a wonderfully breezy feel, you’ll love this series and this book.

As with most mystery readers, I always like trying to “finger” the murderer before the reveal, but I love the family and friends element in this series every bit as much. This time around there is a wedding to prepare for, the arrival of a new baby, Easter celebrations, and the flush of new romance for new friends. Twine all of that up with a great mystery, adorable pets, two fabulous lead characters, plus lots of home cooking, and you’ve got the winning combination that makes this series a sheer delight!

5 STARS

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Cozy Culinary Mystery > Amateur Sleuth Mysteries


Book cover for the trophy wife shows blue background with wisps of long blonde hair fanning from left spineThe Trophy Wife
by Sunday Tomassetti

Wow! This book amazed me with its many twists and turns. Cate Cabot works at an exclusive boutique in Palm Shores, Florida. She doesn’t do friends, preferring to keep people at a distance—even the boyfriend who loves her. Then Odessa DuVernay walks into the boutique. From the start, Odessa is different than most of the trophy-wife clientele Cate is accustomed to dealing with. She’s pleasant and friendly and takes a sincere interest in Cate—inviting her to lunch, engaging her in girl talk, going to a movie matinee.

It’s an adjustment for Cate. Then just when she finds herself opening up, Odessa mysteriously disappears. Not long afterward, Cate gets a panicked voicemail from Odessa asking to meet. When Cate arrives at the designated place, Odessa ghosts her. Concerned, Cate begins a search of her new friend, only to hit obstacle after obstacle. It’s like Odessa DuVernay never existed.

This is where things get VERY weird. Not just one unexpected turn, but several surprises that are cleverly unraveled a bit at a time by the author. When the final revelation arrives, it’s a jaw-dropper, and SOOOOO GOOOD! A thread I never expected, but one I love when it is handled deftly and Tomassetti definitely did that. If you enjoy psychological fiction, this is an inventive and highly riveting take on the genre. Superb!

5 STARS

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Women’s Psychological Fiction > Women’s Crime Fiction

NOTE: The ebook seems to have disappeared from Amazon so the link above is for the audio book. I couldn’t even find the ebook on B&N. Very strange.


Book cover for Subject A36 by Teri Polen shows title text over watermark of old building, plus small figure a man in silhouetteSubject A36
by Teri Polen

Set in a dystopian future, Asher and his team live in a world where children with desirable traits (specific hair or eye color, physical strength, agility, etc), are captured and harvested for “gene stripping” so the wealthy can purchase coveted qualities like selecting from an a la carte menu. After seeing the destruction of his family, seventeen-year-old Asher has found a new family with his team, including, Brynn, who he has come to love and Noah, who is like a brother. But doing what they do comes with excessive risk and plenty of danger.

From the start, there is barely time to catch your breath. The reader is given detailed insight into Asher’s character as well as multiple members of his team. Each are unique and fully fleshed out individuals, the good and the bad.

The Colony—which orchestrates gene stripping—is set on finding and capturing Subject A36, a genetically altered individual designed as the perfect killing machine.

This novel is packed with non-stop action, and shocking revelation piled upon revelation. The writing is smooth and snappy, scenes plunging like a roller coaster from one into the next. I devoured this book in two sittings and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys dystopian fiction, great YA characters, and pulse-pounding action.

5 STARS

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Teen and Young Adult Dystopian 


More reviews to come next week. I don’t want to post too many at once, but hopefully I’ve piqued your interest with a few of these titles. Happy reading!

Book Review Tuesday: The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica

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 Tuesday! I have an intriguing book to share, one that I can definitely see generating a lot of book club discussion.The Other Mrs. is also slated for Netflix, and I can’t wait! I have so many thoughts about this story, but I’ll restrict them to my review.

And a bonus today—look for a special announcement at the end of this post! 🙂


Book cover for The Other Mrs. shows lighted window in gale of dark house, a woman's image in backgroundThe Other Mrs.
by Mary Kubica

The Other Mrs. is a psychological thriller with a murder mystery at the core. Dr. Sadie Faust and her husband Will, a professor, relocate to Maine when Will inherits his sister’s home.

Will’s sister Alice, has committed suicide, leaving her old home, and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Imogene, behind. Maine is a huge adjustment, especially given the home is located on an island, the mainland only reachable by ferry. It’s winter and storms are common. Queue claustrophobic atmosphere. I’m not a fan of winter, but I do love reading books set during the season.

And then there is Imogene—bitter and resentful—who does everything in her power to make Sadie feel threatened and unwelcome. Sadie and Will have two other children, Otto, fourteen and awkward, and Tate, grade school age and a bundle of energy. Shortly after the Faust family moves into their new home, a neighbor woman is murdered. Thus, begins the mystery of who killed her and why.

The story unfolds through the viewpoints of three different characters—Sadie, a woman named Camille, and a young girl called Mouse. Chapters alternate between them, some more engrossing than others. There were several chapters mid-point where the story dragged, and I grew weary of Camille and Mouse’s narration (mostly because it’s told rather than shown), but Sadie’s chapters kept me thoroughly engrossed. As suspicion regarding the killer mounts, she pulls a few stunts that had me doing palm/forehead, but they’re forgiven in the overall tension of the book. Once past the middle bubble, I couldn’t read fast enough.

Between the setting with the plague of winter snow, the oppressive weight of Alice’s questionable suicide, and Imogene’s rebellious behavior, there’s a lot going on in this book in addition to a murder mystery.

I did figure out the main plot point early on, but the author peppered the story with enough curve balls to make me second guess myself repeatedly. And I do mean repeatedly. Eventually, my suspicions were proven right, but the connection to the murder and the killer’s motive came as a complete surprise. If you enjoy psychological thrillers that blur lines with domestic thrillers and murder mysteries,The Other Mrs. is well worth the read. 4.5 Stars from me.

AMAZON LINK
Genre: Domestic Thrillers > Murder Thrillers


Now, about that bonus I mentioned…

My Story Empire colleagues and I have big announcement taking place today. We don’t normally post on a Tuesday, but our news couldn’t wait. If you haven’t already visited, I invite you to hop over to the Empire, and see what the Story is all about. 😉

Book Review Tuesday: The Sister Pact @JacqBiggar, The Good Neighbors @kmodglinauthor

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

Welcome to another Tuesday Book Reviews! I have two books to share today, both of which kept me glued to the pages.


Book cover for The Sister Pact by Jacquie Biggar shows pretty blonde woman with sunglasses and headscarf sitting in profile in a convertible, hand on steering wheelThe Sister Pact: Home is Where the Heart is
by Jacquie Biggar

Holly Tremaine returns home when illness forces her to step back from her career as a concert violinist. The holidays are approaching, and home seems the place be—only there are several untidy messes in Holly’s past. Her sister, Susan, married Steven, the man Holly was once in love with, and Holly had a drunken one-night stand with Steven’s brother, Levi.

Sound a bit complicated? It is, in a wonderfully flawed and heart wrenching way. This is a blend of chick lit and romance with neither overshadowing the other. The story is not only about the buried feelings Holly and Levi have carried for each other, but also the emotional scars and bonds between sisters. When Susan’s marriage falters, it’s Holly who rushes in to try to hold it together, and when Holly’s illness gets the better of her, Susan’s eyes are opened to the distance they’ve allowed to grow between them.

This is a beautiful story about family, siblings, sisters, emotional healing, and true loves. Jacquie Biggar writes with perfection and infuses every story with warmth to touch a reader’s heart. The Sister Pact is another perfect gem. 5 Stars

Amazon Link
Genre:  Contemporary Romance > Family Life Fiction 


Book over for The Good Neighbors shows a rural home at night with oppressing cloudy skyThe Good Neighbors
by Kiersten Modglin

Harper and Bryant are a young couple who move from Chicago to a quaint southern town where Bryant has accepted a job as a teacher. Their next-door neighbors are slightly older, extremely wealthy, and model perfect.

The Good
I read this book in one day. I was home with a cold and got sucked in from page one. From the get-go, the reader can’t but help being pulled along in the twisted tale of neighbors Harper and Bryant and Tori and Jason. Like a soap opera, there are a plenty of juicy secrets and over the top encounters.

The Bad
Like a train wreck, it’s hard to look away even when the characters make horrendous decisions, and there were plenty of them in this story. Even so, the writing and story keeps you flipping pages wanting to know what’s going to happen next, despite mounting frustration over the actions of all involved. Harper and Bryant are average, everyday people, where Tori and Jason seem as though they stepped off the screen from a 1980’s prime time soap.

The Ugly
I had a hard time swallowing the ending. Far too many puzzle pieces don’t align­—or at the very least—make sense. I think the author wanted to deliver a bombshell, but rather than feeling shocked, I was left with a sense of incredulity. It’s hard to say more without giving away spoilers, but too many things didn’t add up or were too extreme to swallow.

The Takeaway
I waffled on what rating to give this book given the problems with the plot. But in the end, it kept me glued to the pages and rapidly reading to reach the finish. The entertainment value warrants 5 stars, the plot 3. Therefore, I give The Good Neighbors 4 stars, and note that I would read this author again with that hopes that plot and entertainment meet in a solid middle.

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Thrillers > Psychological Fiction


Until next Tuesday, I hope you enjoyed the reviews, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on them!

Tuesday Book Review: Silent Payback @jaydawes2 #PsychologicalFiction #DetectiveFiction

Hi, everyone, and welcome to my last book review of October. It seems like only yesterday I was lounging by my pool, but in two days I’m going to be handing out trick-or-treat candy. Yet another month has blown by on a whirlwind! Somehow, despite all that fast-forward flash of time, I still manage to slow the hours down long enough to read. Which brings me to today’s review!


book cover for Silent Payback by Jaye Marie shows profiles of two men, one side by side, one with long hair, beard and mustache, other clean cutSilent Payback
by Jaye Marie
This is a polished story that reads easily and moves at a good clip. The author does an excellent job of getting into the minds of her characters and sharing their emotions. Detective David Mallory is tasked with finding a serial killer, but in addition to tracking down the murderer, he must prove himself worthy to his peers while facing the scrutiny of a legendary commander.He’s also struggling with an issue in his personal life, that if exposed, could ruin everything.

The focus on the crime, and the efforts David employs, along with his partner Anna to find the killer before he strikes again, are the strength of the book in this reader’s opinion. I also loved the inclusion of Snow, the commander whose reputation precedes him. He has a quiet strength and dominates every scene he’s in. When the book is focused on crime solving, it’s great.

Somewhere near the halfway point, David’s secret is revealed (although we get hints prior) and the focus shifts to his personal life. His secret is a big one. Clearly, the author intended for it to be a surprise. It’s definitely nothing I would have guessed, but nor is it something I would normally choose to read about. Which could be why that part of the novel doesn’t work for me.

Huge points to the author for deft handling of a delicate situation. At this point it becomes a matter of personal taste, but I found too much of the story focused on the details of David problem. I liked the wrap to the crime. Coupled with the strength of the writing, and the obvious effort the author put into telling this tale, it warrants five glowing stars despite the issues I had.

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Fiction > Murder Fiction


Congratulations to Jaye on her new release! I probably won’t be reading much (or as much) during the month of November due to NaNo, but before the year is out, I hope to have several more reviews to share. In the meantime, I wish you happy reading!

New Release: Silent Payback @jaydawes2 #DetectiveFiction #PsychologicalFiction

Tour banner for Silent Payback by Jaye Marie lists participating blog hosts against a background of a city street/alley with ligjts

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Jaye Marie to my blog. Jaye is awesome at supporting other authors and is a talented writer. She’s dropped by to share her latest release, Silent Payback. If you like mysteries and suspense, this is a book you’re going to want to check out!

book cover for Silet Payback by Jaye Marie shows profiles of two men, one side by side, one with long hair, beard and mustache, other clean cutBLURB:
A city on edge – a detective on shaky ground…

A serial killer roams the streets of Brighton, hunting for his next victim.

When the case lands on detective David Mallory’s desk, will his personal demon prevent him from bringing this vicious monster to justice?

As the body count rises, Mallory finds himself sinking under the weight of his heavy secret – one that could jeopardise his job and his reputation.

With the pressure building, can the troubled detective reconcile his issues and solve the case, before more women die?

About Jaye:
Jaye Marie is affectionately known as the giant redwood, probably because she is very tall, but also because of her love for trees. Most afternoons she can be found repotting or taking care of her bonsai collection, but her love of detective mysteries soon brings her back indoors. She has written three fiction novels in this genre, Nine Lives, Out of Time and Crossfire and is looking forward to publishing Silent Payback, her fourth book.

She spends any free time learning everything she can about self-publishing, and despite all the obstacles, she never gives up on anything and is as stubborn as a mule. She also shares a website http://jenanita01.com with Anita Dawes…

Connect with Jaye at the following haunts:

Email: jayemarie01@btinternet.com
Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon | Pinterest | Instagram | Medium

Sound good? Then you’re going to want to One-Click on AmazonRight now you can grab this engrossing story for only .99c. I know I’ve already got my copy. Happy reading!

Book Review Tuesday: Under the Water by Paul Pen, Under Siege by @ judipost

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 Tuesday! I have two books to share this week. One—despite being a bestseller with polished writing from an author I enjoy—earns three stars. The other is a one-hour read from a series I’ve fallen in love with.


Book cover for Under the Water by Paul Pen shows title on watery background with bubblesPaul Pen is a Spanish author whose work is routinely translated into English. My first experience reading one of his novels was Desert Flowers, a highly unique, haunting, yet disturbing story. It’s one that remains with me to this day despite the fact I read it in early 2018. A book like that sets a high bar for anything that follows. When I saw Under the Water, I couldn’t wait to download it.

The story started off with a bang—a family of four moving from Seattle to Boston, traveling across country in an RV, planning to sightsee along the way. We get the idea they are hoping for a new start after a series of misfortunes. The ten-year old son lost his eye in an accident, the teenage daughter’s two pet ferrets disappeared, the mother’s hair is now healthy again after falling out in clumps. Weird, huh? This is when the book is good, offering sketchy details that are never quite filled in.

Then, while night-driving in a secluded area, the husband clips a woman who leaps onto the road. Here, things start to sour instead of kicking into high gear. My first problem was accepting that a family of four traveling across country wouldn’t pack a single flashlight in their RV. An RV! Instead, they rely on their cell phones for flashlights—and, of course, those end up missing.

After that, the story degenerates into a hot mess, especially when the woman’s reasons for being on the road are revealed. It requires a stretch of the imagination and dedication to stay with the book. Had it been any author other than Paul Pen, I would have probably stopped reading. I wanted mystery. A haunting, disturbing plot like Desert Flowers. Instead I got infidelity and revenge. I’ve read plenty of books with unlikable characters that I found enthralling, but this one fell short. Toss in the fact the opening chapter seems gimmicky and unnecessary after you know the ending, and I can’t give this book more than 3 stars.

Amazon Link
Genre: Psychological Literary Fiction >  Spanish & Portuguese Literature


Book cover for Under Siege by Judi Lynn shows fierce looking woman in skimpy warrior outfit holding long knife as if to attackUnder Siege: A Muddy River One Hour Read
by Judi Lynn

The citizens of Muddy River have seen their share of problems. A town populated by witches, vampires, shifters, fae, and other preternatural beings, it’s also a place where locals pull together when trouble surfaces. Lead by Raven, the town’s enforcer and fire demon, along with his mate Hester, a powerful witch, Muddy River has stood up to several diabolical challenges.

In this short read, evil surfaces in the form of mortals who have targeted the town. As always, Raven, Hester, and their friends rise to the challenge, banding together to defend their community, including newly arrived members.

If you’re not familiar with Muddy River, this is a nice introduction to the many diverse people who populate it. A magical world where shifters, vampires, and witches gather at the local pub to discuss the day’s events, or rally around a kitchen table to plot strategy. If you’re already familiar with Muddy River, it’s a time to reconnect with characters who have become family. If you’re new to the town, it’s an excellent glimpse into what makes this series—part paranormal, part cozy mystery, part suspense—such a winning combination. You can read this tale in under an hour, and like a Halloween treat, you’ll find yourself wanting more.
5 Stars!

Amazon Link
Genre: Paranormal Mysteries > Witch and Wizard Fiction


Judi Lynn always delivers a good story and I hope you’ll check out her Muddy Series if you haven’t already.

I expected more of Paul Pen’s book. I think of three stars as an average read. Nothing spectacular, but nothing dreadful either. This book was well written, but there were flaws I found hard to overlook. My biggest issue—when the gloss of the mystery was stripped away, I didn’t care for the story. That’s personal taste, and it happens to all of us. I’m sure others will love the book.

How do you feel when a favorite author disappoints you? I will certainly read Paul Pen again. Will you stick with an author after they deliver a story you didn’t care for?

Let’s chat about it.