Book Review: Chevy at the Levee

By Lou Gallio

Lou Gallio writes this beautiful memoir of Pat, his late wife. His love for her and the life they lived together is heartwarming and interesting. In the pages of Chevy at the Levee he shares memories of their life together, that ended too soon. Her untimely death haunts the husband she left behind, with bittersweet memories and an emptiness in his heart that will never be filled. His memories are sharp and his willingness to share their life together in the pages of this book allows readers to enjoy Lou and Pat’s story.

Pat was born in Scotland. As a young woman, she finds work at the American Embassy in London as a switchboard operator. Lou meets his future wife while stationed in London in the United States Marine Corp. They soon became friends. Their journey quickly evolves into  becoming a couple and then a happy marriage with two children. It is an interesting journey traversing countries and continents.

Chevy at the Levee starts out strong. The first chapter foreshadows a problem with Pat. It seems she has something wrong, but isn’t willing to share with her husband or grown children. The suspense tugged at my mind while reading the book, knowing that something bad was going on with Pat, urging me to read one more chapter to see what would be revealed regarding her health.

By all accounts, Pat was an interesting, kind and loving person, tragically leaving this earth too soon. Closure is difficult to find when you love someone as deeply as Lou loved Pat. His life goes on, along with his two children, now adults, and the countless relatives they have in the States as well as in Scotland and other countries. But the space that Pat filled in his life will always be empty, with the exception of all of his happy memories he now holds closer to his heart.

I highly recommend this beautiful work of love and loss. Parts of the story are heart wrenching, but many more passages are full of love and laughter. Lou’s love for his wife shines through his words.

Please note that this is the second time I have reviewed this book. Originally I did not like it very much. The author rewrote much of it, turning it into the beautiful story I reviewed today.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review. You can find it here: Copyright © 2022 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Does My Body Offend You?

By Mayra Cuevas and Marie Marquardt

In 2017, amid the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Maria in the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico, more than 135,000 Puerto Ricans left the island, moving to the United States. Many were students, assimilating into a different culture and daily routines and expectations.

Malena, an honor student, is one of those displaced by Maria. She now lives in Miami with her mother, close to other family members that have lived there long before the upheaval in Puerto Rico. Her father stayed on the island, helping with the restoration of basic necessities such as power and water.

Life is different, but Malena is an honor student trying to learn the culture and assimilate as best she can. Things were going pretty well until the day she was so sunburn she could not wear a bra to school. Her mother insisted it would be fine to go braless, but one of the teachers thought differently. She was sent to the principal’s office and the nurse’s office. Eventually she was humiliated by the nurse insisting that she wear panty liners taped to her nipples. She was given detention because they said it was against the dress code to go braless – which eventually is found to be false. When one of the popular girls, Ruby, finds out about what happened to Malena, she begins the rebellion. Standing up for her rights was not what Malena bargained for, yet she ends up being the poster girl for the revolution.

Does My Body Offend You? Is an interesting coming of age novel for teens and adults. There are situations that would not be appropriate for younger readers. That being said, it is beautifully complex. The melding of cultures is interesting and informative. The characters are fully developed and complex. Both authors have created a seamless collaborative novel about difficult situations that will make you think of the characters and situations long after the last pages are read.

Author Myra Cuevas was born in Puerto Rico and is a professional journalist and fiction writer. Does My Body Offend You? is her second novel, the first, Salty Bitter Sweet, is a YA aswell. Award winning author Marie Marquardt is an author of young adult novels, a college professor, and an immigration advocate. Marquardt’s second novel, The Radius of Us is also a novel of Latin American teenagers seeking asylum in the United States.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the Author and Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2022 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: A Dark and Stormy Tea – Grab a Cuppa and This Fabulous Cozy Mystery

Tea Shop Mystery #23

By Laura Childs

Theodosia Browning owns the delightfully successful Indigo Tea Shop in Charleston. Her beloved city is steeped in history and she makes the most of it. Currently chilled by the unseasonably cold weather and what seems like constant rain, Theo takes a shortcut to her tea shop down a hidden path. Suddenly, a hooded figure looms ahead in the fog. She shouts, but no one is within hearing distance. The assailant is armed with a knife but quickly flees. Heart racing, Theodosia sees is a body laying in a puddle of water mixing with blood. To make matters worse, she knows the woman that was killed.

Quickly calling for the police and ambulance, Theodosia realizes she could have easily been brutally attacked or even worse in the darkened alley. Surrounded by flashing lights and fear, she asks the first responders to call her boyfriend, Officer Pete Riley. The first thing that comes to mind is the dangerous killer, Fogheel Jack whose reign of terror seemed to have stopped seven years ago. Could he be back terrorizing Charleston once again?

This fast-paced cozy mystery is delightfully full of red herrings that twist and turn in the stormy nights. Theodosia is told to keep out of the way of the investigation, but she has a vested interest in this case. The young woman that died was the daughter of one of her close friends. Theodosia cannot sit back drinking some of her delightful teas while a killer was on the loose. She is asking questions and poking her nose into secrets that may reveal the murderer. But will she be able to get out of alive?

There is only one thing I like better than a cozy mystery. That would be a cozy mystery with engaging characters, a solid plotline and a surprise killer revealed in the last chapters. A Dark and Stormy Tea meets and exceeds all of my expectations. After reading the last page, be sure to check out the recipes, Laura Child’s Tea Time Tips as well as resources all about tea. I did not know that a plethora of tea is grown right here in the United States.

I have read books by New York Times bestselling author Laura Childs, but none in the Tea Shop Mysteries Series. I can’t wait to read the previous 22 books in the series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the Author and Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2022 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Mad Honey

By Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

Growing up on a small farm, Olivia loves nature and adores her bees. Her colonies are renowned in the area. They are feared by some, but everyone agrees her honey is fabulous. She lives quietly with her teenage son, Asher, and her bees. Her life used to be complicated, married to a prominent doctor whom no one would have believed was (and maybe still is) a violent abuser. Olivia no longer has bruises to hide, or any contact with him. Keeping this secret to herself, she finally feels safe. Asher doesn’t know about the beatings his mother endured, because Olivia keeps him away from his father. Or so she thinks. Teenagers often keep secrets.

One of Asher’s secrets is how close he has become with his girlfriend, Lily. Recently the teens became intimate and both are smitten, sure it is a lasting love. But Lily has a secret that is leaving her torn about telling Asher or just keeping quiet. As the tension builds, she shuts him out of her life, thinking it will be for the best. Sadly, he never hears the secret from her as there is a tragic accident, leaving her dead. Asher is devastated. Soon there are rumors that Lily’s death was not an accident. Perhaps it was murder.

Asher cooperates with the investigation, only wanting to help. Soon he is arrested for the murder of his girlfriend. He and Olivia are numb and in shock. How could this be happening? Olivia calls on her brother, who is a lawyer to defend her son.  Sadly, Asher has to be remanded to jail to await trial. Bail is out of her reach; she may have to turn to someone she hates and fears for help. What lengths will a mother take to save her son from prison for the rest of his life?

The bombshell in this whole situation is the secret Lily was harboring. According to prosecutors, this was the motive for murder. How does the boy who loved a now dead girl prove his innocence? Especially with secrets of his own.

I loved this book. The depth of characters and twists in the plot as more is revealed is a reader’s dream. The subplot on bee keeping is fascinating. If I was a bit braver, I would love to keep bees. At the very least I’ll try some of the recipes that are included at the end of the book.

Jodi Picoult is hands down one of my favorite authors. I read all of her books and am delighted that she, like James Patterson, has begun co-authoring novels. The seamless writing between Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan is perfectly melded into this unique and interesting novel. I have not read any books by best-selling author Boylan, but have added them to my list.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the Author and Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2022 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Fragrance of Death by Leslie Karst

Sally Solari, former lawyer, current chef and part owner of a popular restaurant is having problems. Due to a recent illness, she has lost her sense of taste. Hoping that it would return, she hides it from her co-workers. Unfortunately, it is making her job extremely difficult, a chef needs to taste to ensure the flavors are correct. To make things worse, she has entered an annual Artichoke Cook-Off and will have to tell her helper so that he can be her test taster. Her lack of being able to taste quickly takes a backseat when one of the chefs is found murdered, with an artichoke stuck in his mouth as a final insult. Sally swings into her amateur detective mode, much to the chagrin of her boyfriend, Vargas, who happens to be a detective.

The victim is Neil Lerici, the brother of one of Sally’s former classmates. In this small town, everyone knows everyone but often it is just a casual acquaintance. It doesn’t take long for Sally to wiggle back into Neil’s sister Grace’s life. Without the blessing of her boyfriend, Sally starts investigating. He explicitly tells her to back off from sleuthing. He fears she will be harmed or even worse, but she cannot stop until the killer is found. Unfortunately, she doesn’t really follow the same rules as the police department, adding fuel to the fire of discontent with Vargas. When his predictions come to fruition, Sally may be the one that loses more than she has bargained for.

This meaty cozy mystery is full of suspects, twists and turns. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, another twist sent me in a different direction. I love a mystery that surprises me and this one did.

The characters are fun to get to know, and even though this is the fourth book in the series, I didn’t feel lost or confused at any time. I plan to read the rest of the books in this series because the characters are interesting and fully developed. The plot is multilayered and kept me guessing until the last pages, yet it was an easy, fast read.

Much to my delight, after the final pages are recipes for some of the dishes Sally makes in the book. I am particularly excited to try Sally’s Decadent Blondies – they are the first on my list. The combo of macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips will be the perfect accompaniment for reading one of the other novels in this delightfully interesting series.

 DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Copyright ©2022 Laura Hartman   

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Book Review: Murder is No Picnic

A Cape Cod Foodie Mystery

By Amy Pershing

Murder is No Picnic is the third book in the Cape Cod Foodie Mystery series. It is the first one I have read. The author did a brilliant job of getting me up to speed in the first chapter. Many of the key characters are at a luncheon celebrating a birthday. This gives new readers to the series a glimpse of who is who and their relationship to Samantha Barnes (aka Sam), the main character. She is a multifaceted woman. Aside from being a darn good cook, she is the local paper’s food reporter, a rising YouTube star and still finds time to be an amateur sleuth.

Sam is speechless when she encounters one of her cooking heroes, Clara Foster at the luncheon. She is the founder of a famous restaurant and author of a classic cookbook. Not only does Sam meet her, she is invited to Clara’s house to learn the secrets of the delicious dessert the ladies just swooned over. Overjoyed, Sam agrees.

A couple of days later, Sam and her best friend and videographer Jenny head to Clara’s home. While making the delicious blueberry buckle as promised, Sam and Jenny learn more about their host than they ever imagined. She shared details of her life and home while they baked. And most importantly to Sam, she learns the secret to the perfect blueberry buckle.

Tragically, Sam learns the next day that Clara has perished in a house fire. On the surface it seems like a horrible accident. But Sam soon realizes that this was no accident. She has to find out what happened. And even worse, a relative of Sam’s boyfriend is arrested for the murder. She needs to double down her efforts to solve this crime. Unfortunately, the unknown killer is not happy with Sam’s meddling, could she be the next victim?

Murder is No Picnic is an interesting, engaging cozy mystery. The characters are sometimes quirky, just like many in small towns sprinkled throughout America. The solid mystery is the backbone of the story, yet the side plots of Sam’s sailing skills, her relationship with her boyfriend Jason and the interaction with others in the town makes for a great book.

This is the first book I have read by Amy Pershing, but will not be the last. It read well as a stand-alone novel, but I would like to read the other books in the series. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves great writing and cozy mysteries.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2022 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Come Sunrise – Third Book in an Action Filled Series

Come Sunrise – A Hannah Tree Detective – Book 3

Three Times the Cases, Three Times the Action!

By D M Macdonald

Come Sunrise, book 3 in the Hannah Tree Detective Series has three times the cases and three times the action. Hannah is evolving as a private detective. But more importantly, as a person she is beginning to interact with the people she cares about without putting up quite as many walls. She remains a work in progress, but aren’t we all?

Working a case about a missing son – one that is grown up – is tedious, but it helps Hannah pay the bills. Beryl Edgar has a son that is under the care of a domineering daughter-in-law. With all of her money, Ms. Edgar has not been able to contact her son and is worried about him. In her defense, he is mentally unable to be left to his own devises, and she just wants to verify that he is okay. Little does Hannah know this seemingly simple case of a missing person will end up a twisted tale that no one could have predicted.

While working for Ms. Edgar, Hannah receives a phone call from a young girl stating someone is trying to kill her. Hannah thinks it is a hoax. The girl, who is an actress, turns up at Hannah’s apartment, and confirms the fact that someone killed her mother and is now trying to murder her. Hannah is anything but a softy, but she cannot allow someone to kill this innocent girl. So begins the dark journey into an acting school that is teaching much more than the young people there need to know.

All the while those cases are twisting and turning, Gary, one of the guys working at the club, is being stalked. At first it is just irritating, but when the stalker becomes violent, Hannah ramps up her investigation. It appears that stalker may have auditioned for the club, but was not hired. This hardly seems like motive for violence. But what kind of person attacks not only people but shaves a cat?

All three of these cases intermingle in the most devious way, much to the delight of the readers. The characters come to life in the pages and the storylines twist and turn while keeping up the fast-paced action. I love a novel that surprises me, and this one did more than once. I highly recommend reading this book as well as the others in the series. It works well as a standalone novel, but I like the depth of the characters that comes from reading the story from the first book.

Author D M MacDonald is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, joining the ranks of those writing interestingly twisted tales that are easy to read, yet unforgettable once finished. I cannot wait for the next book in this series.

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

Copyright © 2022 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Forever Past – The Stunning Conclusion of this Trilogy

Forever Past is the third and final book in the Clair Clairmont historical mystery series. This novel is based upon actual literary figures such as Poet Lord Byron and Mary Shelly of Frankenstein fame – who also happens to be Claire’s step-sister. Ms. Ambrose skillfully pens a novel of history, mystery, romance, danger and hope.

It begins with a journey. Both physically and mentally. Clair is still longing to find her long lost daughter, Allegra. Recently, clues pointing towards finally finding out Allegra’s fate have surfaced. Clair believes with all of her heart that her daughter did not die, but was secreted away and hidden from harm by Lord Byron before his death. She is willing to place herself in mortal danger by taking the chance to find the woman she is sure her child has become.

Her dear friend Trelawny along with her niece Paula, grandniece Georgiana and Paula’s gentleman friend Raphael embark upon a dangerous mission to finally find the truth of Allegra’s fate. Their journey is one of dangerous encounters and enlightenment. Attempts to dissuade them from discovering the truth with violence has frightened them, but not stopped their quest. Each step of the way is full of danger but it is a journey that Clair must make.

Forever Past is the third book and last book in the series. It works well as a standalone novel, but I recommend reading the other two books in the series to fully grasp the depth of the characters and the story. The literary style in which Ms. Ambrose writes is refreshingly easy to read. It makes me slow down to appreciate the words and story, much like the writers of bygone eras. I highly recommend reading this book and series. The plot and characters come alive under Ms. Ambrose’s skillful hand.

 DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Copyright ©2022 Laura Hartman   

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Book Review: Murder She Wrote: Killer on the Court – A Perfect Cozy Mystery

By Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farley Moran

Jessica Fletcher, famous author and amateur sleuth is back doing what she does best; solving crime and endearing herself to readers in the latest Murder, She Wrote whodunit. This adventure takes Jessica away from her beloved Cabot Cove. Her cherished nephew, Grady, his wife Donna and son Frank have invited Jessica to spend a few weeks with them on Rockaway Beach in New York. Donna’s boss, Jason Courtland, owns the beach house they will stay in, as well as many others. She was awarded the beach stay for her family for a job well done at his company.

Jessica arrives happy to see all of them and ready to relax. But a murder disrupts her visit. Jason Courtland is brutally murdered by an out-of-control tennis ball machine that is hurling balls at him long after he succumbs to the barrage of lethal blows. Sadly, his siblings are more concerned with who will take over the company instead of mourning loss of their brother. At first his death appeared be a horrible accident, but soon is ruled a homicide.

The local police have several suspects, including Jessica as she found the body along with her niece. Luckily, one of the policemen on the case previously worked with Jessica’s dear friend Mort Metzger. Together in Cabot Cove, Mort and Jessica have worked on more cases than she would like to remember. Once the local police established her petulance for solving murders, they begin consulting with her while working their leads. Neither the police nor Jessica will quit until the killer comes to justice.

The characters are interesting and fully developed. I especially enjoyed the interaction with Jessica and her ten-year-old great nephew Frank. Aside from Jessica, he is my favorite character. I love a youngster that is polite, loves to read, enjoys playing games both inside and outside and is taking art classes while he is at the beach.

I highly recommend this book to cozy mystery fans. Even if you have never seen an episode of Murder, She Wrote you will enjoy this book. I have read many of the books in this series. Each one is different, interesting and has plot twists before the killer is revealed. If you have watched Murder, She Wrote, Angela Lansbury’s voice will be present in your mind during all of the conversations Jessica has with the other characters. It is like listening to an old familiar friend. I absolutely love this book, the characters and the series.  

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2022 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Past Twilight – Outstanding 2nd Novel in the Hannah Tree Detective Series

by D M Macdonald

Detective Hannah Tree is back in the second book of D M Macdonald’s series, Past Twilight. She is still struggling with her past, but is growing more confident in her abilities to help those that are abused and helpless in their situations. Her day job, which is more a night job, is assistant manager in the club full of drag drama queens. The club is owned by her savior, Gloria. She is a transsexual drag queen, lawyer and father of Nick, the man Hannah is in love with but refuses to admit it to herself or anyone else.

When a friend Hannah cares about calls to ask her to check on someone that is in the posh mental health clinic Hannah once found herself in, she is compelled to go. Unfortunately, the clinic is well known to Hannah, but not in a good way. She arrives to find artist Celia Kennedy as the roommate of the person she was sent to check on. It is soon evident that the roommate is in a worse situation than the woman Hannah is sent to see. Celia was once a famous artist, but no longer paints. Her life changed drastically when she lost her unborn child. Curious and concerned, Hannah starts digging into Celia’s life. What she finds is a manipulating, cruel husband. So begins the investigation to save Celia from the man that is most likely trying to kill her.

Once again Macdonald has written an outstanding novel based on interesting characters. Hannah is truly growing as a person but still dealing with the ghosts of her past. Gloria plays a minor role in this book. When appearing in the book, she bursts from the pages making her character interesting and important to the story. Macdonald perfectly enhances the plot with the other characters both good and bad, making readers read “just one more chapter” late into the night.

This is the second book I have read by D M MacDonald. I loved the first book in this series, Long Shadows (previously titled The Accidental Detective). Sometimes the second book is not as good as the first, but not in this case. Past Twilight is just as good, if not better than the first book. Knowing the characters and relationships just adds another layer to an already fabulous series. I highly recommend reading this series, and am waiting anxiously to begin the third book in the series, which will be released soon.

Author D M MacDonald is multifaceted. She has been an actress, sculptor, psychiatric nurse and mother. She has written short fiction, plays and novels in the span of her career. She has also written and illustrated children’s books. Now a grandmother, she is wowing readers with her new series. I sincerely hope she keeps writing about Hannah for many years to come.

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

Copyright © 2022 Laura Hartman

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