Book Review: The Subway Girls – Things Have Changed – Or Have They?

The Subway Girls

By Susie Orman Schnall

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Charlotte is clever, bright and educated. She longs to work in Marketing. Even though she is about to graduate from college, she can’t get a job at any of the firms she has applied to. It isn’t that she wants to start at the top; as a matter of fact she is willing to start in the typing pool and work her way up. This is a long shot for a young woman in 1949. To add more misery to her world, her father’s hardware store isn’t doing well, so he wants her to work for him instead of getting a job that actually pays so he can fire his last employee.

Her age is another deterrent. No one wants to hire someone as old as twenty-one. It is almost a certainty that she is just waiting to get engaged, married and immediately after resign to take care of her husband, home and however many children they have in quick succession. Charlotte wants more from life, including a career at a marketing firm.

Olivia lives in a world where women can hold almost any job that a man can. They may not get equal pay, but in 2018 women are much more likely to be taken seriously. It appears to be true, but when Olivia’s job becomes a contest between the other manager at her marketing firm and her, only one of them will still be employed when all is said and done. It doesn’t seem to matter that she has brilliant ideas; the “good old boy” network is alive and well. Unfortunately, her competition will do anything to have the best campaign for the New York Subway system. To boost their ridership, the NY Subway needs something new with a twist of retro and even though Olivia comes up with great ideas, will she be heard?

Meantime, back in 1949, Charlotte has personal and professional issues. She wins a contest to be a Subway Girl that she entered on a whim. They are New York gals that are smart and pretty. Charlotte cleverly thinks if she can mention her father’s store during the campaign it will be on all of the subway cars, therefore free marketing so she won’t have to work in the family business and can further pursue her dream.

Olivia reads about the Subway Girls and feels it is a great idea that would stand up today. It will be retro with a new spin, landing right where the client wants it to be. After doing her research, she even locates a few of the gals who posed for the Subway Girl posters fifty years ago.

Susie Orman Schnall does a marvelous job melding 1949 with 2018. So much is different, and yet, so much is the same. She cleverly alternates chapters between Charlotte and Olivia, taking the reader seamlessly from one story to the other until they blend beautifully in the last few chapters. The struggles each girl experiences in her personal and professional life are universal through time.

The Subway Girls is a fast paced, interesting novel. The characters are well developed and the plot line is interesting and complex. Often times women’s fiction has too much romance and whining involved for me, which is definitely not the case with this fantastic book. There was a subplot of romance, but not to the extent of overtaking the story. This novel is just the right amount of everything. I loved it.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder on Union Square – A Gaslight Mystery

Murder on Union Square

By Victoria Thompson

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Penguin First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Frank Malloy and his wife Sarah are looking for a killer in the latest Gaslight Mystery by award winning author Victoria Thompson. When Malloy is found with bloody hands over the body of a dead man, the local police figure they have an open and shut case. Malloy, former cop turned PI is not a favorite of the precinct which just adds more fuel to the fire. And if that isn’t enough to get him in hot water, the dead man needed to sign custody papers so that Sarah and Malloy could adopt the victim’s daughter, which according to the police, gives Malloy the perfect motive.

Sarah quickly bails Malloy out and rounds up Gino (Malloy’s partner) and Maeve (Sarah’s right-hand gal) to start investigating the murder to clear her husband’s name. The problem is there is an unreliable witness that claims Malloy is the killer. It doesn’t help that it happened in a theater full of actors, all of which seemed to have an ax to grind with the victim and his girlfriend. Everyone seems to be lying or hiding something from each other and the investigators, who must pull out all stops to find the truth, clear Malloy’s name and put the real killer behind bars.

This is the twenty-first book in Thompson’s Gaslight Mystery Series. It is the first one that I have read, and it works as a stand-alone novel. There were a few times I was fuzzy on who a specific character was for a page or two but Thompson skillfully gave enough information to put them in context before the end of the chapter. It is no surprise that she is a #1 Best Selling New York Times author as well as Edgar and Agatha nominee.

Murder on Union Square is tantalizingly engaging. I love the depth of characters as well as the twists and turns of the storyline. There is something cozy and comforting about historical novels that draw me in immediately. While I am thankful for cell phones and modern forensics, it is refreshing to have mysteries that are solved with shoe leather and wit.

Somehow I’ve missed out on Thompson’s series before now, but cannot wait to put the other twenty on my wish list. Anyone who is a fan of captivating historical mysteries and realistic characters should do that same.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Twenty-one Days – Stellar Work of Historical History

Twenty-one Days – A Daniel Pitt Novel

By Anne Perry

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Set in 1910, Twenty-one Days opens with young barrister Daniel Pitt defending a wealthy man of dubious reputation. Murder is the charge and Pitt’s father is associated with the former police officer standing trial. While the young lawyer is smart and clever, he is worried that he is in over his head. To make matters worse, there is another man on trial for killing his wife in a most brutal way and Pitt is needed the next day to take the place of an injured co-worker so he must wrap up the trial the next morning or the accused will then have to start over with a new defense attorney. Good or bad, Pitt had to finish and be in court at the Old Bailey – the most famous court in the British Empire.

He makes it to court, albeit late.  Kitterage is the lawyer in charge; Pitt will be doing as told. Unfortunately things go south in a hurry. The distasteful accused claimed innocence but it seemed unlikely anyone else could have brutally murdered his wife. Not only was she murdered, but horribly disfigured by burning her face and upper torso after death. This trial does not go the way Kitterage and Pitt planned. Their client was quickly found guilty and set to hang in twenty-one days. He was not a pleasant man, as a matter of fact he was most distasteful. But he was entitled to every effort of his two attorneys to win an appeal to keep him from the hangman’s noose.

To further complicate Kitterage and Pitt’s job even further, the accused has countless enemies due to a controversial manuscript he intends to publish. At best it includes damning information of several highly recognizable and influential citizens. Unfortunately, it borders on treason at the highest level, which is alienating him from the men hired to keep him from hanging. Pitt finds himself working day and night to help the man that just might “rip the masks off of people we regard as heroes” – twenty-one days to do the impossible.

This is the first book in award winning author Anne Perry’s new series starring Daniel Pitt, but it is the 33rd book in the Pitt series. It is the first one I’ve read, but I did not feel confused or that I was missing something in the story for not having started with the entire Pitt series. It is easy to see why Perry is an internationally renowned historical novelist. Her intriguing plot, engaging prose and multidimensional characters are skillfully woven into a page turning book that will delight mystery lovers worldwide.  Ms. Perry is second to none when writing historical fiction.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Undead Girl Gang – Much More than Undead Teen Angst

Undead Girl Gang

By Lily Anderson

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Penguin First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Sixteen year old Camila Flores (Mila) and her best friend Riley are excluded by most of the social groups at school. They are the kids that no one really gets to know, or hang out with, so the girls make a conscious choice to be different. Really different. The snarl instead of smile, mumble instead of talk and the decision to become Wiccan sets them apart from the other kids even more. Wicca is a religion that scares the bejesus out of the people surrounding the girls. They all assume that the girls believe they are witches and run around casting spells on everyone. No matter if the spells work, or if Mila and Riley are even really casting spells, the other kids keep their distance.

When Riley is found dead, Mila is beside herself. How can she cope with any friends? High school is bad enough with an ally, but being on her own makes school and life almost unbearable. And to make matters worse, she thinks that Riley’s death is murder not an accident or suicide.  When two more classmates take their own lives without any logical explanation, Mila is more than determined to find out what happened. Deciding to bring her BFF back from the dead was the only viable solution to finding out who killed her and the other two girls.

Unfortunately for Mila, the spell actually works, and Riley isn’t the only undead girl Mila has to deal with. The other two dead teens are also undead and complaining about it. Drama queens in life make for snarky undead girls. The three of them can’t remember much to tell Mila, but as the days go on, they start to remember what happened before their deaths. This could put the very much alive Mila in danger of joining her dead classmates. The spell only lasts for seven days, so they only have one week to find enough evidence to stop the killer before it is too late.

Undead Girl Gang is smart, funny, sad, emotional and engrossing. I literally read it in just under 48 hours (one has to stop for food and sleep at some point). Anderson has captured the grittiness of high school; magnified by learning the popular girls are no less tortured than the outcasts. The emotion and depth she adds to the characters brings it to a much higher level than merely teenage angst. The life or death outcome and growth of characters both dead and living will stay with the reader long after the last words are read.

This is the first of Anderson’s Teen/Young Adult books I have read. It is a stand-alone novel, following two others she has written:  Not Now, Not Ever and The Only Thing Worse than Me is You. Fans of YA will delight in finding this new author and fans of Lily Anderson are no doubt excited to see another fabulous read from a gifted YA author.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Social Creature – Compelling Debut Thriller

Social Creature

By Tara Isabella Burton

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Penguin First to Read and Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Lavinia is rich, wild and daring. Louise is living life on the edge in other ways. She works three jobs just to make the rent on her dinky apartment. When this unlikely duo collide with each other, Louise begins to lose all sense of self as Lavinia becomes a drug and alcohol Auntie Mame, encouraging Louise to live more and more on the edge until she becomes a permanent accessory of her mentor.

Soon Louise is going to all the “in” places and seeing all the chic people. Selfies are a must as well as extravagant food, drink and over the top and sometimes illegal activities. The more involved she becomes, the less she is herself. Both figuratively and literally.

When the sand castle friendship seems to be dissolving, how far will Louise go to keep up the charade of existence Lavinia has created for her? Do we really know who Louise is?

Burton has written a fabulous book of deception and debauchery. Are these two girls Thelma and Louise, just on a joyride through life until the end goes tragically wrong? Are they both cold and calculating – or is one of them manipulating the other to keep from living a lonely existence? The twists, turns and emotions of this novel make it a true page turner.

Like Louise it is fun to step into a world that most of us just read about on the internet or in tabloids. Most of us would not like to participate, but what if we had someone encouraging and paying for all of the craziness? Maybe we would give it a try. What if we got in too deep? My suggestion is to live this craziness through the pages of Burton’s engrossing novel.

Tara Isabella Burton brings her debut novel to life skillfully. With understated realities, the plot can take the reader places he will hopefully never go in real life. Her writing style creates a reality that is so alluring, we are drawn into the characters and story from the first page and held there until the last word is read.

I hope to hear much more from this author. Social Creature is a gem.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: A Place to Start a Family – Kidlit Poems – Cute, Creative and Informative!

A Place to Start a Family

Creatures that Build

By David L. Harrison

Illustrated by Giles Laroche

David L. Harrison has created beautiful poems to entertain and enlighten children and adults about animals, insects and birds and where they live. From the black-tailed prairie dog to the European paper wasp, each creature was spotlighted with their own poem describing their habitat and habits.

It is fun to read and informative.  Tucked next to beautiful illustrations, which make the creatures come to life, are nuggets of knowledge that I find fascinating. Did you know baby yellow garden spiders are the size of dust?  Or that King Cobras are the only serpents that makes a nest of leaves?

At the end of the book is a section of more information on each of the creatures featured in the book. There is a page for underground, land, water and air creatures as well as places to learn more about your favorites.

Harrison has published over ninety books for children. He has even had an elementary school named after him! You can find more of his work on his website: www.davidlharrison.com

If you are a fan of children’s books, writing and illustrating, you need to go to visit Kathy Temean’s blog or website. There are so many tips from this fabulous illustrator as well as frequent book give-aways you will learn something every day.  I want to thank Kathy Temean for all the the information she has shared and because I won this book from entering on her website  http://www.kathytemean.com/

If it wasn’t for Kathy I would never have known about this fabulous author and book. Now I cannot wait to read more of his treasures.

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Contest Winner! Four More Book Giveaways Coming Soon!!

Congratulations Justice Swan! You have won a copy of Dover’s Creative Haven’s Fanciful Sea Life!

 

Please email me your home address so that I can mail your copy to you. 

Thanks to everyone that entered!

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