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

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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Book Review: Quick Walk to Murder – Fast Paced Cozy


quick-walk-to-murderQuick Walk to Murder

The Second Jessie Murphy Mystery

By: JD Daniels

Tomas is dead! Jessie’s friend Zen is beside herself. Supporting Zen while she is mourning her friend changes Jessie’s mind about returning home from her stay on Pine Island as planned. But before she had time to make a firm plan, she is given a mysterious package from the dead college student. This development makes his death look very suspicious. Jessie might have a murder to solve before leaving for home. She would rather paint than be an amateur gumshoe, but Zen is brokenhearted after the death of Tomas and the police aren’t buying the murder theory. Someone has to find out what happened to the promising college student whose life ended too soon.

The clues are confusing. Tomas was working for his family’s fishing business, but seemed afraid of someone or something the last night he was alive.

Enter Tomas’ girlfriend – a very rich girl with a very snooty family. They met at college, but something drew them together despite the opposition from their families as well as their social and economic differences. Could this have been a factor in his death?

Then there is his college roommate, who seems to be hiding something. The professors aren’t as forthcoming as Jessie hoped. Is there a reason they aren’t cooperating?

Some of the fishermen Tomas worked with have shady pasts. Have they changed or should Jessie put them at the top of her suspect list? Or maybe they are just crusty, grumpy characters who don’t want a young gal nosing around their business.

Unfortunately, Jessie’s quest for answers only creates more questions. Will she find the answers before someone else dies? Will it be her or someone she loves?

Daniel’s keeps the action moving while ratcheting up the tension to keep the reader in suspense. Quick Walk to Murder is Daniel’s second Jessie Murphy Mystery. All the perfect elements are present – a reluctant untrained investigator, police that are not investigating, an unlikely victim and a list of possible suspects as long as your arm.

This is the first book I’ve read in the series and I didn’t feel as though I was lost or missing something I needed to know from the first novel to enjoy this one.

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: Love From Boy – Roald Dahl’s Letters to his Mother

Love from BoyLove From Boy

Roald Dahl’s Letters to His Mother

Edited by Donald Sturrock

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Penguin First to Read in return for my fair and honest review. Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

This is a fascinating collection of letters Roald sent to his mother from 1925 to 1965. He begins writing to his mother from St. Peter’s School, followed by Repton School in Derby. He then traveled to Nova Scotia, Norway, Canada, Tanganyika, Kenya, Iraq, Egypt, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Texas, and New York and back to Buckinghamshire. From these posts the reader gets an inside look at historical events and Roald’s opinions of what he sees and experiences.

Before I read this book I pictured him as a writer, toiling away at his desk on some of my favorite books. He actually was a story teller in the letters to his mother, painting pictures with his words about the places where he lived and worked.

We also see his compassion. He was worried about his mother finding out how horrid the conditions were at the boarding school. Disease was rampant and the teachers were, in many cases abusive. He wanted to spare her from concern so sugar-coated many of the events when mailing her weekly letters home.

He was also concerned for his family’s welfare. Roald repeatedly implored his mother to move to the countryside so she and his siblings would be out of harm’s way once the inevitable bombings of the war began. She never left her home, but thankfully was okay. He had access to items that were unavailable in England due to the war and frequently wrote asking her and his sisters for lists of things they needed him to send to them.

He experienced sadness and loss in his personal life. One of his children died at a very young age from an illness and another was in an accident, leading him to become a co-inventor of a shunt for children with brain injuries.

If you haven’t read any of his books that aren’t for children, you may be surprised by the salty language in his letters. But if you have read My Uncle Oswald, you might not be. It is a very funny, and quite bawdy.

I truly cannot pick out one or two of my favorite letters, there are just too many. He met dignitaries and presidents. And he dined with movie stars and the owner of the famed Hope Diamond – who wore it to dinner which Roald found a bit too much. He worked with Walt Disney!

If I haven’t convinced you yet, Roald was a gifted photographer and many of his photos as well as some of his drawings are included in this book. It is an amazing compilation of newsy letters that were saved by his mother, enabling the reader to glimpse into life as Roald experienced it. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in history, Roald Dahl, WWII or Hollywood.


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Book Review: Knitted Toys – Must Have for Knitters

knitted toys.peg
Jody Long’s first knitting book is a grand-slam! This book is everything a knitter wants in a book of patterns. There are 20 different patterns included. Each of them have clear, easy to read and understand instructions. The amount of yarn, other supplies and gauge are included to help new and experienced knitters succeed.

There are smaller, easier projects like Squishy Beach Balls and Sebastian the Starfish. Some patterns have color work, which I personally love to do. The instructions are easy to follow even for a beginner. This could be the perfect time to try intarsia if you haven’t before.

At the beginning of the book there are several pages of information and definitions. Be sure to read them. A needle conversion is included, UK and US needles are both listed. The amounts of yarn (with suggestions as to the type to use if you aren’t using the exact yarn as the author) are listed in yards and meters as well as ounces and grams depending upon what country you are knitting in or more comfortable with.

Most knitting books have one or two patterns that are cute. Every single one of these 20 knitted toys are adorable. It is hard for me to highlight a few favorites, but here goes – and this does not by any stretch of imagination mean I don’t like the others.

The first one I plan on knitting is Mrs. Hopper the Rabbit. She is absolutely charming, wearing a sweater and holding a basket with carrots inside. She is 11 inches tall and will make a perfect gift for Easter.

Primrose the Nighttime Teddy has a nightcap and nightgown and Rusty the Puppy looks so squishy and cute I can just see a toddler cuddling up with these two for a nap.

Most knitters have yarn in their stashes with would more than complete one or more of these terrific toys. The patterns would make perfect take-a-long projects because each piece can easily be stashed in a purse or backpack. I like to knit during my lunch hour at work and will definitely be carrying these projects with me .

I highly recommend this book.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from NetGalley 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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