#bookreviews THINGS OLD AND FORGOTTEN and THE STOWAWAY #fantasy #thriller

Ciao, amici! I have two reviews for you today, and the offerings couldn’t be more different. Because I have more than one, let me get right to business.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Impossible to Pick a Favorite

Talk about a journey to worlds beyond the borders of imagination. Mae Clair pens a collection of mystical, magical tales that catapult the reader to realms never conceived of, yet they’re intimately familiar. It’s so easy to see yourself walking in these lands and talking with the characters—probably because her writing is so vivid and powerful, you can’t help but be drawn into her work.

Clair possesses a rare ability to craft beautiful sentences without crossing the line to purple prose. Her plots are intricate yet never convoluted or contrived. And her characters are always rich and three dimensional.

This collection of stories boasts several pieces that resonate with me. Some are light-hearted, others are more serious in nature, but all make an impact. Of particular note (to me) are Robin of Sherwood, Desert White, Miss Lily Makes a Wish, and I’ve Got a Plan, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t call attention to Father’s Day, a story that touched my heart and I know I’ll never forget.

I’m certain there’s a story in this collection for any reader, and I hope everyone gives Things Old and Forgotten a chance. It’s an easy five-star recommendation from me.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Mother’s Worst Nightmare

I’ve got a list of fears. Some are rational, others aren’t. The main character in this book lived through a bunch of mine. And while I won’t make you sit through all my anxieties, I’ll tell you where we end up—stuck in the middle of the ocean with no means of escape while a serial killer is after the protagonist’s children.

I can’t think of a worse situation for a mother.

Here’s the thing. The clues drop in the order you expect. Key word: expect. I pretty much saw how this whole thing was going to unfold, including the ending that was supposed to be a big surprise. When the first clue to that surprise was discreetly laid (where most people wouldn’t have noticed it), I thought to myself, “I hope this isn’t what I think it is. Because, no. Just… NO.”

I can’t say more without ruining the surprise for people, and I don’t believe in reviews with spoilers, but I’ve love to talk to the author(s). Because they got something very wrong in character motivation. And I’ll argue that point to my dying breath.

Other than that one point that really bugs me, the book is well-written. It’s definitely plot-driven rather than character-driven. I prefer the latter, but that’s a personal choice, and I wouldn’t take points off for that. 

So, I’m torn how to mark this one. It was an easy read and moves at a decent pace. I found it predictable, though I suspect many people would be surprised by some of the plotting, particularly the end. I reject the motivation, though I don’t know if everyone would. Clearly the authors didn’t. I’m going to give this a four, knowing people will enjoy the story for the pleasure of it. Most readers won’t be agonizing over a rating or character motivation as much as I am.

So, there you have it. Two of the things I’ve read recently. A collection that blew me away for all the right reasons, and a novel that blew my mind for one very bad reason… but it still pulled off a decent story.

I don’t know. What do you do when you’re on the fence about how to review a novel? Have you ever had this problem? How did you handle it?

Have you read either of these? Let’s talk about it. Saluti!

49 thoughts on “#bookreviews THINGS OLD AND FORGOTTEN and THE STOWAWAY #fantasy #thriller

  1. As usual, your reviews capture my attention, even if I decide not to read the book. Mae’s–already on my Kindle, waiting it’s turn. I can’t wait! The other–probably skip it. I don’t like predictable, even if it’s mild. Maybe, if it was character driven, that would work. But it’s not. Thanks for your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great reviews, Staci 🙂 I am reading Things Old and Forgotten right now and enjoying it very much. I’ve had a couple of books where what the character did at one point didn’t make sense as to who they were and there was no reason as to why the sudden change. I notice things like that too. Of course I do have my own way of looking at things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m always writing with character in mind. In the case of this book, the decisions made were plot-based with no thought to character. It made for a great surprise (if you didn’t notice it forecasted), but it didn’t fit the character. At all. I didn’t buy it. That was a problem for me. If you were just following the plot, you’d be fine with it. But if you (like me) follow character, I think you’d be bothered, too.

      I’m glad to know you’re enjoying Mae’s work.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Congrats to Mae on the awesome review. I’m with you on how hard it is to pick a favorite, Staci, though I agree with your honorable mentions so far. I’m about 70% through and expect I’ll finish the book tonight. Another winner. And thanks for the review of The Stowaway, an author I haven’t read yet. Happy Reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I just read the first story in Mae’s collection, and what a great start for the book. I’m hoping to read at least one story a night, so I have lots of good nights to look forward to. I’ve struggled with book reviews because it’s hard to address things that bug me without giving away too much information. And often, when I read other peoples’ reviews, I seem to be the only one who was bothered by a sticking point anyway. I liked knowing there was something in the book you didn’t like, though. And you let us know without any spoilers. That’s hard to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s nearly impossible to address a point of contention without giving any spoilers, but I refuse to ruin anyone’s reading experience. And I’m not willing to give a glowing review of something just to be nice. It’s my reputation as a reviewer on the line, so I have to be honest. (But honest doesn’t mean being cruel. I believe in constructive feedback.) In any case, this one was difficult for me. I hope I was thorough, objective, and fair and still gave the readers something to chew on. I felt like I was talking in circles, which wasn’t my intent.

      I’m glad you’re savoring Mae’s stories. You have several nights of wonder ahead of you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Staci, what a wonderful surprise to find your review of Things Old and Forgotten here today! I’m doing a Snoopy dance over what you wrote. Thank you so much! I also really liked hearing the stories that resonated the most for you. It’s always interesting to see which ones strike a chord with which readers.

    You have me curious about The Stowaway. I like what Priscilla said. I don’t mind figuring out whodunit early on, as long as the how and why deliver. I’m a fan of character driven fiction over plot driven so I’m not 100% sure this one would work for me. I do OFTEN struggle with how to write reviews, especially when there is a sticking point I want to address but can’t for fear of revealing spoilers. I think you did a great job with the review for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. Writing the review for the novel was really difficult for me. Usually it’s easy to critique something, but this one was tough.

      Yours, however, was a no-brainer. The hardest part was saying as many nice things as I wanted and still sounding genuine. You really did a phenomenal job. You should be proud.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. If the plot is predictable, I’ll put the book down. I shut off movies for the same reason. Drives my husband crazy. 😀 If I can see exactly where it’s headed, what’s the point? Life’s too short.

    Huge congrats to Mae!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I usually finish, anyway. I like to see if I’m right. And (TV and movies) my kids seldom see where things are going. Plus, it’s become a game with them. They like to see if I’m right, too. (And they get so mad when I am. It’s kind of fun.)

      Thanks for cheering Mae on.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I agree with you 100% on Mae’s writing and on this book, in particular. I love short stories and anthologies to begin with, but this one is STELLAR! And Mae’s writing is possibly her best, yet. Thanks for the great reviews, Staci! And I know that at least Mae’s was well earned. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Hi, Staci. I am almost finished with Things Old and Forgotten, and I agree with everything you said. So far, I think White Desert is my favorite, but I’d be hard pressed to pick just one out of this collection. Mae is such a talented wordsmith! The other book, I have not read. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and congrats to Mae!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Yeah, I definitely didn’t agonize over character motivation in The Stowaway so I didn’t have your dilemma (and boy, you have me curious). I often rate books, when I do have a situation like yours, based on factors other than my personal enjoyment. And Mae’s book, I have no doubt is excellent on any scale ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think, as an editor, I agonize too much as a reader and reviewer. i wish I could turn off that voice in my head and just enjoy a story. But as I read, I’m always picking things apart. That’s why I’m seldom surprised and (unfortunately) sometimes annoyed. I’m glad you enjoyed the novel.

      And of course I enjoyed Mae’s stories. She’s on my auto-buy list because she never disappoints.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Regarding The Stowaway, if I figure out whodunit early on, then it better be a good howdunit or whydunit in order to hold my attention. And those kind of books are still fun reads. I am reading Mae’s book right now. I’m enjoying the collection and went to bed last night with a touching, sentimental story on my mind.:-)

    Liked by 2 people

    • If you choose to read The Stowaway, I’d love to talk to you about it. I’d be interested in your take afterward. As for Mae’s stories, I’m delighted to know you went to sleep with a warm heart. I’m sure she would be happy to know that, too.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. Great reviews, Staci. I feel your frustration and dilemma with the last one. I’d do what you’ve done, I think. Tough one.
    Your review of Mae’s book has made me even more impatient to bump this up my TBR on my ereader queue. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Reviewing The Stowaway gave me angst. I’d have loved to have talked to the author in the development stage. I feel like that could have solved my dilemma, had he taken my concerns to heart. (Like someone with his clout would listen to little ol’ me.) But I tried to review it fairly. It was tough.

      Mae’s was easy to review. She, as usual, hit it out of the park. Thanks, Harmony.

      Liked by 2 people

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