Book Review: The Gail Force by Robert Lane – Smart, Sassy, Satisfying Suspense

gail-forceThe Gail Force

by Robert Lane

Jake Travis is back, and knee deep in trouble due to a woman. She showed up at his place, the little slice of paradise on the water, disrupting his world with her tears and anger over the murder of her husband. She wants revenge; Jake wants to keep her alive.

Her husband accidentally ran across information that could have made him rich. Instead he decided to take the high road and went to the authorities. They put him and his wife in protective custody, but that ended up deadly for more than one person involved.

Unable to walk away from the puzzle, Jake goes undercover to help the Feds frame the man they think is responsible for the killings. That is when the lines between the good guys, bad guys and double-crossers blur. The job is becoming more deadly each day, as it draws Jake deeper down the rabbit hole.

As he becomes more embedded he finds another damsel in destress. She is either very dangerous or in more trouble than the original client. Jake enjoys champagne, fishing, his best friend Morgan and loves his girlfriend Kathleen. Is he willing to give any of the things he cares about away to save someone that may not need or want saving?

I love Robert Lane’s style. He is a smart, savvy writer that entertains and surprises me every time. The plot lines are solid; he gives the readers all the information without the need for red herrings but with enough twists and turns to keep us guessing. The characters are well developed and multi-layered, making them come alive on the pages.

Lane has given Jake a sense of humor laced with sarcasm that helps break the tension of the plot. This is done masterfully, allowing the reader to take a breath, chuckle and consider the possibilities of the situation. Some of the comments and one-liners are in the middle of deadly situations. Like when Jake thinks to himself, “When did green carpet come back in style? Why?”.

This is the fourth book in the “stand-alone” Jake Travis series. While all of the books feature Jake and his friends, it is still appropriate to call them stand-alone novels as it doesn’t really matter if you have read the previous books to thoroughly enjoy this one. I have read three of the four, and none of them build on previous plots to the point of confusion. Characters have become more developed, and if you choose to read this one first, you will love it.

But if you choose to start at the beginning, add them to your Christmas list. Reading these four books would be the great way to start the New Year. If you can wait that long.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

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.

 

 

 

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Book Review: Creepy Crawly Crochet – Perfection!

creepy-crawler-crochetCreepy Crawly Crochet

by Megan Kreiner

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

As an experienced crocheter (I’ve been crocheting for over 50 years) I feel confident in stating Creepy Crawly Crochet is the perfect instruction book with really cool, creepy but cute patterns.

It begins with fiber and hook suggestions as well as where to find black fiber fill (around Halloween they sell it under the name “Halloween Hay” – who knew?!). This is important for creepy figures that are done in dark colors, because no matter how tight your stitches are, the crocheted fabric will allow white fiber fill to be seen. From felt to project bags there are suggestions and guidance regarding the best type of each item to turn out perfectly.

Kreiner gives step-by-step instructions for crocheting from the beginning slip knot to binding off. She then follows with each stitched used in the following patterns, including “Finishing Touches” like whip stitching your project together and embroidery stitches that will add details to your project.

Tips and Tricks is the next section that helps with the little things that will make your Creepy Crawlies perfect.

The patterns themselves are clear, concise and detailed. There are images to enhance and clarify the directions. Each pattern has a color picture to allow you to see exactly how the project will look when finished.

All of the Creepy Crawlies are cute – in a creepy way. It is hard to pick out one or two that are my favorites over the others, but I have a soft spot for Frankie. He is on the top of my list to make for my grandson. My other favorite is Poe the Raven – he would look very cool sitting on my desk at work next Halloween.

If you aren’t that into creepy, you can still love this book. For instance, Jack and the Headless Horseman is a great pattern for a horse stuffed animal. You could make Jack with a head, and it is just a guy on a horse that all kids would love.

After the patterns, Kreiner has templates for the felt pieces used to finish off the characters. She also gives the abbreviations for the pattern instructions, crochet hook conversion charts, yarn weights and resources.

It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, if you crochet toys or dolls, this is the book for you. I can’t wait to make my favorites.

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Book Review: Die For You – Fabulously Complex YA Novel

die-for-youDie For You

By Amy Fellner Dominy

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

Teenagers fall in and out of love daily. But the love Dillon and Emma have is more than puppy love. They have a real connection, bound together with deep emotion and a short, but encompassing past.

Emma met Dillon when she moved in with her father after her parents split. It was her choice to leave her friends, high school just before senior year and start over in a new place. It was rough for her and meeting Dillon helped fill the emptiness she felt after making one of the hardest choices of her young life.

Emma helped Dillon fight some demons he was struggling with. This made her feel needed and loved. They planned a future together after senior year. Both had been accepted to the same college and were planning to spend the next four years and the rest of their lives together. They knew their young love would withstand the test of time and both of them wanted to be together forever.

But when Emma unexpectedly receives the most unbelievable opportunity for an internship in Rome for the next year, she knew she had to try for it. Her life dream of becoming an archeologist like her father made studying in the ancient city a dream come true. She felt sure that Dillon would support her dream, after all, it was only a year apart and they could phone, skype and text to keep in touch almost as if they were together.

But Dillon had other ideas. At what lengths would he go to make sure Emma stayed with him forever? She was about to find out.

I loved this YA book. It was a love story, a coming of age story that had elements of suspense, mystery and family issues. The complexity of the characters and story evolution made Die For You a great book for YA audiences as well as adults. It was well written, with realistic conversations and situations. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down.

Per her website, Amy Fellner Dominy is “…a former advertising copywriter, MFA playwright and hula-hoop champion.”  You have to love an author with a hula-hoop championship under her belt! She is an award winning YA and youth writer, with a picture book coming out soon. Die For You is her fifth novel, I am looking forward to reading the previous four as well as her picture book.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Captcha Thief – YA Novel Mystery Full of Action, Twists and Turns

captcha-thiefCaptcha Thief

By: Rosie Claverton

 

When “The Blue Lady” was brutally sliced from her frame in the National Museum of Wales, Paul, the night museum guard, is distraught. Who would do such a thing to the painting he and countless others adore? But he doesn’t have much time to think about this abomination because the thief or thieves are still in the gallery and make sure that Paul doesn’t live to tell anyone what he knows.

The local police are on the case. But so is the National Crime Agency. They both secure the museum and begin looking for the art thieves turned murderers that have stolen the painting that is worth millions and snuffed out the life of the young guard.

The Agency sends agent Frieda Haas to deal with the crimes and the local police. The locals have a consultant in their pocket that could have the skills they need to crack the case, but she has problems of her own. Amy Lane can find anything on the internet. She is the best hacker around and has consulted for the police before. The only hiccup in the plan is she is agoraphobic and has too much anxiety to leave her apartment. The pull between the departments as they jockey for pole position is about to get ugly.

Normally, she functions pretty well, using her side kick Jason Carr as her eyes and ears in the outside world. She is attracted to him, and doesn’t mind that he is an ex-con. He brings stability to her world and sometimes she feels close to normal when he is with her.

As the case progresses, the animosity between the two police agencies and Amy’s consulting comes to a boiling point. Are all of them looking in the wrong direction? Have they been trying to sabotage each other to the detriment of the case? No one is happy and the criminals are still on the loose. The good guys are going to have to stop fighting and look outside of the box to catch the thieves.

This YA novel is interesting and action packed. The twists and turns keep the reader guessing. There is a bit of romance going on between Amy and Jason but I’m not sure where that is going. Enter Frieda who is making moves like she would enjoy spending more time with Jason – outside of work.

I like the characters. I could feel Amy’s anxiety and picture Jason’s sexiness. There were interesting interactions of the main players, giving the readers a glimpse inside their heads.

This is the third book in the Amy Lane Mystery Series. It worked ok for a stand-alone novel. I was not necessarily confused, but felt there was background that I didn’t know about that would have made things clearer sooner. But don’t take that as a negative point, it is like meeting someone in high school instead of grade school. You learn their history in bits and pieces and that is ok.

Captcha Thief is a satisfying read for YA and adult readers. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a great whodunit with cyber twist.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

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.

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Book Review: Irena’s Children, Young Readers Edition – True Story of Courage

irenas-childrenIrena’s Children

Young Readers Edition

By Tilar J. Mazzeo

Adapted by Mary Cronk Farrell

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

Tilar J. Mazzeo tells the true story of Irena Sendler. A woman who risked everything to save Jewish children she didn’t even know from the brutality of the Nazi’s in Poland during WWII. The things she saw happening around her frightened her, but she also became angry. She joined others in secret meetings that grew into a network of brave people that helped save hundreds of infants and children from certain death.

The brutalities and atrocities of the Nazi invasion of Poland have been widely documented. This book takes the reader into the burning buildings, the disease infested ghettos and in the brutal prisons of Poland. Irena and her group of brave, everyday heroes suffered greatly for their acts. Some lost their lives, some were arrested and tortured and others lost everything they had, but all of them worked tirelessly to save just one more child every moment of every day.

Through it all, Irena encouraged, helped and understood when others didn’t have the energy to go on. She kept lists of the children so that one day they could possibly be reunited with their families. If that wasn’t possible at least they would know their names and Jewish heritage and the love and sacrifice of the families that hid them and raised them as their own.

Irena lived through all of the danger, uncertainty and brutality she suffered to be reunited with some of “her children” in the 1980’s. She died peacefully in 2008 at the age of 98. Countless survived because of Irena and the network of others devoted to Irena’s children no matter what the cost.

This book was an amazing story of triumph over one of the worst things that happened in world history. It is told in story form with information from archives, historical sources, Tilar Mazzeo’s personal knowledge, personal interviews, historical photos (many included), maps, books and Mazzeo’s original book.

I absolutely enjoyed this book from the standpoint of history, WWII and the courage of people bringing hope to the youngest members of a nation in situations that seemed hopeless. It is not easy to read about the torture, pain and death of the group of innocent people. But not reading about it doesn’t make it go away. It is a painful part of history that needs never to be forgotten.

This is the young reader edition, based upon Mazzeo’s original book, and has been adapted by Mary Cronk Farrell. There is no way to “tone down” the events discussed in the book. The language may be an easier form for young readers, but it is still about a time a group of people were singled out and methodically murdered, maimed and tortured just because they were Jewish. It was a scary and difficult time for adults and children alike.

If they are interested in history, I would highly recommend Irena’s Children. They may have questions that would require further discussion. Adults should read this also. While it is the story of undeniable horrors, it is the story of hope and the triumph of human spirit that encourages all of us to help one another and to make the world a better place no matter who we are or where we live. Everyone can help in his or her way.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Death Steals a Holy Book – Fast Paced Cozy – Perfect Fall Book!

death-steals-a-holy-bookDeath Steals a Holy Book

By: Rosemary & Larry Mild

Dan and Rivka Sherman are back in Rosemary and Larry Mild’s latest cozy mystery. In their Annapolis, Maryland  bookstore, the Shermans are quite happy visiting with patrons, participating in a writer’s group and spending time with family and friends. Unfortunately, they often find themselves unwittingly involved in investigating murders. What is the couple supposed to do when the police don’t seem to be getting the job done and one of their friends could be mistakenly sent to prison?

Rivka finds an old book. A very, very old book. She feels it could be of major significance, so the couple has it appraised and find they are correct in assuming the it’s value is high. The Menorat ha-maor, The Candlestick of Light is not only worth a lot of money, it has great significance in history.

They take the book to Israel Finestein to have it restored. Unfortunately, he is brutally murdered and the book is missing. To make matters worse, a dear friend of theirs has been arrested for the murder they both knew she would never commit.

The clues wind in and out of the Jewish community, with more suspects than books in The Olde Victorian Bookstore the Sherman’s own. The police don’t seem to be paying attention to the facts, and are content with the original person accused. Hopefully  Dan and Rivka can unravel the mystery of the book that vanished as well as the identity dof the killer before it is too late.

I love this unlikely crime fighting duo. They are wily when on the hunt for clues, but sometimes Dan forgets to feed the bookstore cat. Rivka gets irritated with Dan but never for a minute doubts him or stops caring for him. They are the old couple that have been together through thick and thin and their loving relationship is obvious to the reader. The Mild’s have crafted these rich characters that develop more with each book. I liked them before and love them now like a couple of kooky next door neighbors.

This third book in the series is fast paced and extremely interesting. The Milds have many other books, collections of short stories and a few written by just one of this dynamic duo. I have only read one of the others in this series, but plan to pick up the one I haven’t read Death Goes Postal. My review of Death Takes a Mistress can be seen here https://writeknit.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/book-review-death-takes-a-mistress-delightfully-twisted-tale-of-intrigue/

The extra added bonus of this book is the background as to why it was written. Take time before diving into Death Steals a Holy Book to read the Preface. It is fascinating.

 

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

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.

 

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Book Review: Everything We Keep – I just found my new favorite author!!!

lonsdale-everythingwekeep-final-150-360x570Everything We Keep

By Kerry Lonsdale

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

Aimee is living her worst nightmare. What should have been her wedding day was now the day all of her loved ones and friends gathered to say goodbye to James, her fiancé. On a routine business trip something went horribly wrong and he became the victim of a boating accident.

As the days drag on, Aimee feels as though she is just going through the motions of living without any emotion. Then a mysterious stranger tells her James is not dead. Of course the woman is crazy; her fiancé was buried after his body was brought back from Mexico. But Aimee can’t shake the feeling something is off. It is keeping her from moving on.

James is still all around her, at least in spirit. His paintings cover her walls, his clothes are in her closet and every happy memory Aimee has is filled with her life with him. He was her best friend, and then became her fiancé.

Now she had to make some tough decisions. What was she going to do with her life? Somehow the dream she and James had for her future, opening an upscale coffee shop didn’t seem like it would ever happen now that he was gone.

Enter Ian, a fabulous photographer that is smart, funny and wants to get to know Aimee after meeting her in at a gallery event. She feels it is too soon to have another man in her life. They become friends, but will he stand by and let her go off on a wild goose chase to get answers that may upend her world turning her reconstructed life into chaos.

The fast paced story and unexpected twists and turns made me fly through this book to see what happened next. The unexpected twist at the end is one of the best endings I have ever read. It was amazing and I am still talking about this book to my book loving friends.

Everything We Keep is Ms. Lonsdale’s first book. It is a stunning debut novel, with richly developed characters. I cannot wait for her next book All the Breaking Waves which will be out in December 2016 per her website.  Finding a new favorite author to add to my list is one of life’s small pleasures.

 

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

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