Book Review: Long Road to Mercy – Baldacci’s New Series Not to Be Missed

Long Road to Mercy

By David Baldacci

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher/author in connection with Killer Nashville in return for my review. Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

FBI special Agent Atlee Pine is a loner. She specifically requested an assignment in a tiny office in Shattered Rock, just outside of the Grand Canyon. Pine began her life as a team with her twin sister, but no longer works well with others. Just her and her administrative assistant are perfect for her loner lifestyle. She doesn’t mind hard work or long hours. As a matter of fact it suits her well, leaving less time to think about the serial killer that abducted and most likely killed her twin sister Mercy when they were young children.

Pine gets a call that there is a missing person and a dead mule at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. A missing person is not that unusual. Hikers wander off and go missing, but it is extremely unusual to have someone from a group disappear leaving a dead mutilated mule in his wake. As Pine begins investigating she begins to see the disappearance is just the tip of the iceberg in a much bigger plot with huge ramifications.

It sounds like an impossible riddle:  What do the Grand Canyon, a dead mule, the Russian and Korean governments, a possible kidnapping and/or murder and a lone FBI Agent have in common? Baldacci weaves an intricate tale full of action, adventure and intrigue. His characters travel the United States in their quest to find the truth, trying to live long enough for justice to prevail.

I have read many books by Baldacci, and am very excited to find he has begun this new series featuring Atlee Pine. She is a character that has many sides and secrets. Some of them are hers, and some are truths that have been kept from her. I am anxious to find out more.

Baldacci’s latest page-turning thriller lives up to his reader’s expectations and beyond. It is hard pressed to find anyone who has not heard of this award winning, NYT Best Selling author. There is a reason for the accolades; his books are complex yet easy to read. I learned more interesting facts about the Grand Canyon than I’ve heard before, making me want to visit the only one of the Seven Natural Wonders that is located in the United States.

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Book Review: A Christmas Revelation – A New Holiday Novella

A Christmas Revelation

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.

London 1868. Nine-year-old Worm knows what hunger and cold feels like. His life has gotten a bit better, he no longer lives on the streets but in a free clinic for women of dubious occupations. Squeaky, the bookkeeper, has a past that will forever haunt him, but for some reason has a soft spot for Worm that he tries hard not to let show. But when Worm comes home and tells him a beautiful girl has been taken by a couple of ruffians, he gets drawn into the mystery and danger that he worked so hard to get away from.

Squeaky tried to dissuade Worm from searching for the taken girl by telling him that Christmas was in a few days. The boy has heard the church bells on Christmas day, but did not know anything else about the celebration. Squeaky pulled out old memories, and successfully convinced Worm that they could pull off a celebration for the staff and current residents of the clinic. The good news was Worm was very excited to help with decorations and the tantalizing descriptions of the Christmas feast made his mouth water. But the bad news for Squeaky is that Worm is still determined to help the girl and cannot let it go.

So begins a journey for the both of them, winding through the worst parts of London in the darkest of winter nights. First they have to find her, which was not an easy thing to do. Against all odds they locate her and even manage to speak with her. She claims she is not being forced to remain with the two men, but Worm does not believe her. In order to free her, the unlikely duo has to pull in favors from unsavory characters, go places no child should ever see and risk their lives.

Perry’s characters come alive on the pages. Victorian Christmas traditions are masterfully woven throughout the mystery of the beautiful woman to lighten up the intensity of the story. Squeaky and Worm, along with the rest of the staff of the clinic decorate, plan the menu and even have time to search out a special gift for the special day.

The story is one of hope and redemption, even in the toughest of times. The characters are scruffy and often thought of as lower class. They may not have money but they do have the important qualities that matter most. They care about each other and strangers, share what they have even if it isn’t much and find happiness within the world they live in.

This is an unusual Christmas story, but one that will become a favorite.  I am a fan of all things Christmas and it was refreshing to read a novel with a new twist on the age old story of love and redemption.

Internationally renowned, award winning author Anne Perry is best known for her Historical novels; most noted are the Monk Series and Pitt Series. She began writing annual Christmas novellas in 2003, and has written one every year since, including The Christmas Revelation available November 9, 2018. This is the first Christmas novella I have read by Perry, but have enjoyed many of her other books. I encourage you to read A Christmas Revelation; it is a quick and thoughtful Christmas tale that will leave you thinking about the story and characters this holiday season.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Knockout Knit Hats and Hoods – Perfect for a Quick Gift!

Knockout Knit Hats and Hoods

By Diane Serviss

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.

Knitters – grab your needles! Diane Serviss has created a collection of knit hats and hood patterns that will make you race to your stash or local yarn shop. There are patterns for every style, each with explicit, easy to read instructions that novice knitters as well as seasoned veterans of the craft can enjoy.

Her introduction, How to Use This Book is straightforward and easy to comprehend no matter what your level of knitting is. She explains how to make changes in needle size to accommodate different knitter’s gauge as well as the different types of needles available and how each is used differently.  Yarn substitution guides will help when you are using stash yarn – which is the yarn that all knitters have in the house from other projects as well as some perfect yarn we had to buy but haven’t used yet.

The pictures of each of the 30 hats and hoods are featured before the patterns. When you choose a pattern, if there are special stitches involved, detailed instructions are included. For example, the Red Vine Cable Beanie (on my list to make) includes Right twist (RT) with a paragraph of instructions on the stitch if you are unfamiliar with it. Additionally, there is a reference section at the end of the book with pictures and step-by-step instructions from casting on to binding off and everything in between.

I chose to knit the Wildflower Fields Beanie. Using some stash yarn I completed it in less than two days. It was fast, easy and turned out perfect. As a member of the Fox Valley Knitters Guild, I participate in Charity Challenges each month. October we are knitting hats and scarves for the Elgin Community Crisis Center ( www.crisiscenter.org), so I was excited to find this beautiful, quick pattern to knit up and donate. I hope to finish a few more before our next meeting.

Whatever your style is, you will find the perfect pattern in this book. It is available on October 1, 2018, just in time to begin holiday knitting. I know more than one of these beautiful hats will find its way under our Christmas tree this year.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Glitter Bomb – Cute Crafty Cozy Mystery

9-25-18

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.

Carmela is crazy busy at Memory Mine, her scrapbooking and graphic design business. Everything is hopping with all of the Mardi Gras hoopla going on. But she is not all business; in fact, she and her bestie Ava are front and center for the Pluvius parade, known for fabulous floats created by “krewes” that have been together for years. This year’s overall theme is “Spirits of the Sea”.

As the crowd swells, beads are thrown and bands blare. Everyone is having a great time until one of the floats begins to wobble, then rumble, and then explodes spewing an eruption of glitter and krewe members into the crowd, one of whom is Carmela’s ex-husband Shamus. Carmela and Ava have a front row seat, and are first to get to the man most seriously injured. The EMTs arrive, but to no avail. Hughes Wilder is dead.

Was this a tragic accident or murder? Carmela’s sort of fiancé, Detective Edgar Babcock, arrives at the scene to investigate. Carmela’s mind is already churning with a list of likely suspects. Babcock warns her not to get involved, but both of them know it is futile. Carmela can’t resist poking around when someone gets blown up right before her eyes.

Ava is Carmela’s willing accomplice, accompanying Carmela to various social events to help her get the skinny on the suspect list they have compiled. They still don’t know who killed Wilder, but there seem to be plenty of people that hated him enough to kill him. The problem is the murderer is on to them. Things really start heating up when someone targets Carmela and Ava. Babcock insists they stop investigating before one of them gets hurt or worse. But will Carmela listen?

The characters are interesting and easy to like. They do things that anyone might do in New Orleans, with the exception of amateur sleuthing. Carmela, Babcock, Ava and Shamus are the perfect foundation to balance the various supporting characters.

This crafty cozy mystery is full of action, humor and fun in one of America’s most vibrant cities. New Orleans is the perfect backdrop for murder and merriment and this book has both. I stayed in the French Quarter for a fabulous week a few years ago and was delighted to read about the characters visiting familiar places. One of my favorites is Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, so I was delighted to read the chapter that featured this historic last resting place of many New Orleans residents.

Childs adds scrapbook tips and recipes at the end of the book. The tips are handy if you are new to scrap-booking and the recipes (based upon meals in the book) all look delicious.

New York Times Best-Selling author Laura Childs writes several cozy mystery series, including this Scrapbook Mystery Series. Glitter Bomb is the 15th book in the series. It is the first one I’ve read, and it worked perfectly as a stand-alone mystery. But I am adding the rest of the Scrapbook Mystery Series books to my wish list for Christmas.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Forbidden Door – Superb Suspense

The Forbidden Door

By Dean Koontz

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.

Former FBI agent Jane Hawk is back with a vengeance in the fourth installment of Koontz’s bestselling series. With law enforcement and the Techno Arcadians both searching for Jane and her young son, Travis, she has been forced to do things she never imagined doing before. She will do anything to save five-year-old Travis and the world as we know it.

Sure, there are things in this world that need to be changed, but not this way. Hordes of people look “normal” but have actually been altered by an injection of a Nano machine that takes over their brains to help the Arcadians create a perfect, supreme society. Part of their job is culling the herd so to speak, which includes murder and in some cases, suicide.

Jane has a personal stake in this game. Somehow they got to her husband and she will move heaven and earth to keep them away from anyone else she loves. She knew he would have never killed himself, so she started investigating and found out scores of people who were happy and productive also mysteriously committed suicide. As an FBI agent, she had resources available to help look for the reason why this happened, but now that she has become the most wanted person in the United States she has to move in the shadows. Keeping one step ahead of the bad guys both known and unknown is exhausting but Jane is relentless in her mission. Unfortunately, the Arcadians are ramping up at a frenzied pace and becoming more and more reckless causing things to begin going horrifically wrong.

The novel moves from Jane’s point of view to the Arcadians, both getting closer and closer to each other until the final confrontation of the book. As the tension rises, the forces of good and evil clash, determined to fight to the finish no matter what the cost.

Koontz is one of my favorite authors of all time. He delivers solid plots that are so realistic they can terrify you page after page. His descriptive style is absolutely stunning without dropping over the ledge of pretention. Foreshadowing is done artfully, such as …”lightning rips the fabric of the night, and thunder speaks against the window glass.” Seriously beautiful writing page after page without intruding or overpowering the plot is one of his specialties. Much to my delight, The Forbidden Door is no exception.

This is the fourth book in the Jane Hawk series, the fifth and last book, The Night Window, will be available in 2019. This is the second book of the series that I have read. Koontz does a great job of bringing the reader up to speed in an early chapter, so I never felt lost or confused.

I have read many of this award-winning author’s books, my favorite being the Odd Thomas series. The Jane Hawk series comes in a close second. Both series are totally different but are extremely well written and highly entertaining. When looking through the list of Koontz books to see which ones I would choose to be favorites, it was almost impossible. It is much like trying to pick a favorite child – I love them all for different reasons, each of them is amazing in their own way.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: A Hunter Within – Fast-paced Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy

A Hunter Within

By Anna Applegate

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

Jules is leading the life she always imagined. She studies to get top grades to enable her to reach her dream of working for Falcone Industries, the leading pharmaceutical test lab in the world. When her parents died, she made a vow to follow in their footsteps. Becoming an intern at Falcone is the first step towards the rest of her life.

Jules’ world changes the day she encounters a violent man at Falcone. The confrontation with both the man out of control and the gorgeous guy that intervened to save her from harm left her shaken. What kind of testing were they doing? Surely this was an experiment gone wrong, but Jules really wants to find out what is going on.

The hunk that saved Jules mysteriously shows up again at just the right time. She soon learns that his name is Seeley. She is very attracted to him until she discovers he is a vampire. Her friend Henry is worried, and seems to hate Seeley on sight. How could she function when the two men she cares about cannot get along and there is the vampire thing.

Emotions ride high when Jules discovers Falcone might have ulterior motives other than testing new drugs to help humanity. Could Seeley be right? Are they doing experiments on vampires? It was all too much for her to wrap her head around.

As the plot unfolds, Jules realizes she may not be who she thought she was. There has to be some mistake, she is being manipulated from both sides and needs to find out for herself before things spiral totally out of control.

This fast paced paranormal romance/urban fantasy has a great plot and interesting characters. The page-turning action ramps up like a dragster with a great finish at the end. As the first book in a series, most loose ends are wrapped up, but there is a mission left open for book #2. I can’t wait to read it.

If you are a fan of Charlaine Harris, you will love this book. This is the first book I’ve read by Applegate; she has also written the Ariya Adams Trilogy.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Create Your Own Crocheted Zoo with Crochet Animal Rugs

Adorable, easy to read patterns will encourage crocheters both new and old to create a beautiful menagerie. All of the patterns are written out in detail, with easy to read instructions. There are color charts along with the written instructions if you prefer them to written directions.

From pandas to dinosaurs you will find just the right animal to make someone happy. While the title spotlights animal rugs, the patterns also include pillows, toy bags, placemats and even security blankets for the youngest of children. My personal favorite is the giraffe security blanket, which is absolutely charming.

There are over twenty pages of instruction and techniques at the end of the book that will ensure success of every project for crocheters of any level.

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