Book Review: Every Trick in the Rook (A Birds of a Feather Mystery)

every-trick-in-the-rookEvery Trick in the Rook

A Birds of a Feather Mystery

By Marty Wingate

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley in return for my review. Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

Julia Lanchester is juggling work and her personal life just like many of us do. She is excited to get away from the tourist bureau for a weekend with her boyfriend Michael. Things have been busy for her, planning events in and around the Fotheringill estate, the most popular place to visit in the village.

She and Michael head out and disconnect from everything for a wonderful few days. They spot unusual birds and enjoy each other until the hotel notifies her of an urgent phone call

The news opens the cage on crazy – turning a relaxing weekend into an abrupt return to reality. Julia’s ex-husband has been found murdered. Even worse, he was on the Fotheringill property. Why has he returned to a place he didn’t like from the isolated island he retreated to when they divorced?

The local constable has questions for Michael and Julia, surely they are not suspects! They are questioned and released, but Julia is warned to keep her nose out of the investigation. She has good intentions, but just can’t seem to let the questions about her ex-husband’s arrival and murder go. Will this put her in the crosshairs of the killer?

Wingate spins a great cozy mystery. It has all the elements that keep loyal cozy readers interested and turning pages. This series is exceedingly interesting to nature and bird lovers. One of my favorite characters is avian – a super smart rook named Alfie. He flies in and out of the plot at the most interesting times. The little girl he lives with is also very interesting. Her name, Tennyson, is as complex and fascinating as the child. I hope both of them show up in later books.

This is the third book in The Birds of a Feather Mystery series. It works perfectly well as a stand-alone mystery as I have not read the previous two books in the series. I did read one of Wingate’s Potting Shed Mysteries and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you are a fan of cozy mysteries or mysteries in general, I highly recommend checking out one or both of Marty Wingate’s series. I am willing to bet you will come back for more.

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Book Review: Right Behind You – Superb Suspense!

right-behind-youRight Behind You

Lisa Gardner

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley in return for my review. Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

Lisa Gardner’s beloved characters, Rainie and Quincy are back in action. This time it is personal. Of all the unlikely couples in the world to adopt a troubled girl, it is them. They fostered her after she bounced from home to home. She didn’t seem to fit anywhere, most likely due to her past. Now she could be targeted by a killer.

Sharlah has had a rough start in life. Daughter of alcoholic/drug addict parents, she was raised by her brother. He was only a few years older than she was when he had to take charge of her wellbeing. He fed her; made sure she got to school on time and protected her. Even when he had to use deadly force, he did what he had to do to keep her safe.

It has been years since they have seen each other. Sharlah doesn’t let anyone get close to her since the night her parents died which was the last day she saw her beloved brother. The only breathing thing she has let herself get close to is Luka. A year after arriving at Rainie and Quincy’s as a foster child, he brought the retired police dog home to Sharlah. She and Luka are inseparable and the love they have for each other is evident. Sharlah loves her foster (soon to be adoptive parents) but has a much harder time showing them the affection that comes easy for her with Luka.

Then the fragile world they have created begins to cave in. Sharlah’s brother Telly Ray Nash could be in trouble. Serious trouble. Trouble so serious that the local authorities have called in Quincy to help find Telly even though he is a retired FBI profiler.

Rainie and Quincy are both concerned for the safety of the community and even more concerned for Sharlah. They can only hope he isn’t coming for Sharlah next.

Right Behind You is action packed with twists and turns that surprised me until the very end. Just when I thought I had this fast-paced novel figured out, a new wrinkle in the plot would take me down a different path. It was a fabulous read for any suspense lover.

Her characters are so real I expect to see some of them on the street. The setting was familiar due to my travels in the Northwest, I especially loved the reference to the cheese factory as I’ve been there several times just like the tourists in the story.

Lisa Gardner never fails to deliver, and this book is no exception. It is obvious to see that she has earned the crown as the #1 best-selling New York Times author of suspense. This is the eighth novel in her FBI Profiler Series. I have read a few of them, as well as several of her other books. Her books intrigue and entertain, if you haven’t read her novels, Right Behind You will make you an instant fan.

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Book Review: Unexpected Prisoner – Memoir of a Vietnam POW

unexpected-prisonerUnexpected Prisoner – Memoir of a Vietnam POW

By Robert Wideman & Cara Lopez Lee

What were you doing when you were twenty-three? Were you in college? Working a full time job? Robert Wideman (Bob) was flying a Navy bomber over Vietnam.

Then his plane was hit. He did what he was trained to do, trying to gain control, then eject to safety. More accurately, he was alive, but not exactly safe. Bob was immediately captured, and began what would turn into six long years in North Vietnam as a POW.

His experiences were often difficult to read, his fear of the unknown at first, and then the fear of the known. Each time he was pulled from his cell to go to be interrogated he might be tortured or asked to do something to turn on other prisoners. Some of the guards treated the prisoners better than others, but there was always the chance of being told to kneel on the concrete floors for hours or far worse.

Many of the prisoners had injuries from their plane crashing in the jungle or from overzealous questioning by some of the harsher prison commanders. But the prisoners banded together to help each other in most incidents. But, like any group of people that don’t necessarily choose to live together, some of the prisoners didn’t get along with other prisoners. Personalities clashed sometimes to the point of fights.

What I found very interesting was Bob’s take on fear. He said a person cannot live in a constant state of fear – so eventually you can sleep through bombings nearby and drive out thoughts of what might happen until it actually does. I believe this was what helped him and some of his other comrades through the long years of captivity when others did not fare as well.

I am not suggesting his time as a POW did not affect him, but maybe not as much as other prisoners that lived in constant fear.. He left Vietnam in March 1973, a very different man than the one that was shot from the sky in 1967. In many ways he was not the man he would have been if he had done his tour during the war and gone home to his wife. But no one can say how experiences, good and bad, affect the rest of their life. Certainly these experiences season our judgment and reaction to situations, but our attitude also plays a big part.

In the afterword to his book, Bob tells the readers his opinions on war in general. He doesn’t appear to be a bitter man as many would have living through his experience. He felt he was treated more humanely than some of the other prisoners, but doesn’t minimize the experience of other POWs that had much worse treatment while imprisoned.

Copyright © 2017 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: The Girl Before – Fabulous Thriller – Would You Give Up Everything?

girl-beforeThe Girl Before

By J Delaney

 

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley in return for my review. Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

Two women. Two traumas. One home. One outrageous contract. One or two possible murders.

The book begins with a house search. Jane has had something horrible happen to her and she needs to get out of her current flat to feel safe. The agent takes her to a home that is stark, sterile and has been empty for quite a while.

She falls in love with the security so on a whim fills out the questionnaire the builder requires before she is considered a candidate for occupancy. At first she is unnerved by it, but soon realizes she can put up with the crazy rules and requirements if she is chosen.

Surprisingly she is, giving up almost all of her possessions, she begins a journey that others have not lived through. Will she?

The Girl Before was fascinating. I cannot imagine living without color, pictures of loved ones, or having to answer questions before the computer running my home will allow the shower to start. When things get sinister, Jane feels as though she needs to find out what happen to Emma, but this may prove to be fatal.

Delaney’s book is creepy, engaging and thought provoking. I love the way in which it is written. Going back and forth from Emma to Jane the reader sees history almost repeat itself. Was it the choices both women made? Was it the home itself?

You can tell when the characters start to live minimally and begin to lose themselves in the process. The author shows this by removing all of the dialog quotation marks. Oddly enough, I didn’t miss them for several chapters – quite possibly the same way these women didn’t miss their identity until it was gone.

This is a fascinating thriller is full of surprises, twists and turns. I absolutely did not see the end coming, but was exceedingly satisfied as a reader when I finish.

Just a note to those that may object, there is violence and sex in The Girl Before but I believe it is essential to the story.

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Book Review: The Whole Town’s Talking Fannie Flagg

the-whole-towns-talkingThe Whole Town’s Talking

Fannie Flagg

 

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley in return for my review. Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

The Whole Town’s Talking is a condensed saga of generations of families in a tiny town in Missouri. Established by Swedish immigrant Lordor Nordstrom, the story of the town and its inhabitants spans from 1889 to 2016 in just over 400 pages.

Lorder was a kind, gentle, intelligent man. He grew the town with craftsmen and merchants after more settlers arrive. He did the olden day version of online dating to find a wife when no suitable women were available. He communicated via letters and luckily ended up with a wonderful girl that took to life on his dairy farm like she had been born in the Midwest.

Life was not always easy, but it went on. Many years past, babies were born and people died. But strange goings on began after they were laid to rest up on the hill. Maybe it was just this little town, or maybe this happens everywhere and we just don’t know about it until we pass away.

Award winning author Fannie Flagg brings her signature voice and love of small southern towns to this novel. She writes with a deep love of the American south and it is evident in all of her writings. I am very fond of this style; it takes me back to the hot summers I spent down south visiting family. To me reading this novel was like sipping sweet tea on a hot summer afternoon. There might be a gnat or two bugging me, but I was enjoying it far more than I was not.

The gnat that irritated me about this book was the number of characters I had to keep track of. In the beginning there were the core characters and a few supporting. By the end, the years quickly went by and I had to keep back tracking to see who was who. It ruined the flow of the story at times for me.

The main characters were multidimensional, interesting and made me want to go have a slice of pie and a chat with them in their kitchens. A few of them made me want to run the other way – no town is perfect.

This was different that most of Ms. Flagg’s other books as they did not span so much time, nor did they take a ride someplace out of the ordinary. That does not mean I didn’t like it, nor does it mean all of her books need to be cookie cutter copies of the previous ones. The timespan I am not sure about, but the place she took us was a surprising twist that I quite enjoyed.

I would suggest this as a nice summer read, but hate for avid readers to wait that long. It was entertaining and different. Grab a glass of tea and head on out to the porch or your favorite armchair and enjoy.

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Book Review: A Fatal Twist – Yoga, Puppies, Babies and a Murder!

Karma's a Killer

Kate Davidson is a multi-tasking maven. She juggles owning and teaching classes at her yoga studio with her busy personal life. She has a beloved dog Bella, who isn’t really too fond of other dogs, some people, has separation anxiety and to top it off lacks an essential enzyme which makes mealtime dicey at best. Kate also has a live-in boyfriend, Michael who is pretty understanding considering Kate has stumbled upon more than one dead body. He is less happy about her urge to jump in and help solve the crime.

You might be thinking that you are as busy as Kate (minus the dead bodies of course) but she stepped up her game in this book. She is dealing with a young woman that she really doesn’t like, but has agreed to let her work at the studio to pay off a debt. Again, what could really go wrong?

Kate’s best friend Rene is expecting twins. So, Kate agrees to be her Doula (a non-medical person that gives moral support during and after the birth of her child, or in this case children). And the cherry on the top of Kate’s crazy triple scoop sundae of her life – Michael brings home a pair of adorable abandoned puppies. They wiggle their way into Michael and Kate’s hearts, but unfortunately also wiggle their way out of an escape proof crate and proceed to leave a path of destruction in their wake.

As if this wasn’t enough to wear out our favorite Yoga instructor, during the open house for the brand new birthing center where Rene will have her babies, a dead body shows up. Then someone Kate knows is arrested, but she knows her friend is innocent and sets out to prove it with an unlikely accomplice. Michael has warned her against sticking her nose in where it shouldn’t be, but Kate can’t help herself. Will this be the time she steps over the line?

Tracy Weber’s Downward Dog Mystery series is entertaining and fun. She also treats readers to a solid mystery. By the end of the book, before the crazy climax of finding out who the killer is there are no less than eight plausible suspects. And we aren’t talking way out, red herring, reader groaning connections. LOTS of people wanted to kill this guy and they all had good reason. But it was only one of them. It took until the very end to figure it out. The clues were laid out perfectly, as a mystery buff, it is satisfying to realize I could have figured it out, but didn’t.

Weber’s characters are people you would meet every day at work or in your social life. I didn’t necessarily want to spend time with some of them, but others seem like they’d be really fun to invite to a party. Each book adds more layers to the main characters, but you could honestly read these as stand-alone cozy mysteries. This is the fourth book in Weber’s series, so you may want to start at the beginning, but you really don’t have.

If I haven’t convinced you to give this series a try, I only have one more thing to say – babies and puppies. Both adorably cute, frustratingly funny if they aren’t yours. I highly recommend this fast paced cozy mystery.

Copyright © 2017 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: Joe Peas – Delightful Character Driven Novel

joe-peasThe little boy, nothing but skin and bones with scorched hair and tattered clothes, was discovered by the American soldiers in 1944. He didn’t know much English, but could say Joe (as in G.I. Joe) so that is what he called himself. The when pressed for his last name, he looked around the mess hall and saw his favorite food – black-eyed peas and responded “Peas”. As a child, he lived through war and re-invented himself.

Fast forward many years. Joe Peas finds himself in a small American town extolling the pleasure of correctly painting houses. He schools the patrons of a local diner with his method of treating a house right to bring it back to a thing of beauty.

That morning, one of the locals enjoying Joe’s antics was Dr. James King. He is a doctor in this small town of King’s Mill. He is as dedicated to healing and helping his town as Joe is dedicated to beautifying it one house at a time.

Both men go on with their lives, Joe painting houses, Dr. King taking care of his family, the staff at his clinic and his patients. He runs a rehabilitation clinic that is barely making ends meet, but he loves what he is doing even though he is living life on the edge financially. Then there is the HOA in the community he lives in. The tyrant that heads the association delights in making sure the grass isn’t too long, the shutters are all painted the same color and the kids in the neighborhood don’t leave anything that resembles a toy within his sight. He “enforces” the rules by levying fines on the residents that have the audacity to not toe the line. His main focus seems to be on Dr. King – whom he assumes has deep pockets.

Fate steps in to push Joe and the doctor together again. Joe lands in the rehab center just when Dr. King is about at his lowest point with both personal and professional difficulties. The man that grew from that tiny ragged child had seen and done many things in his life, and was determined to help his new friend and doctor. The problem is, Joe has secrets that he wants to keep and helping may expose things in his life he wants to keep hidden secret.

Sam Newsome’s second novel, Joe Peas is a delightful tale of friendship, determination and the celebration of individuality. It was a light and quick book to read, but the characters had depth and emotions that pulled me in and kept me turning the pages.  The bit of mystery surrounding the years between Joe’s childhood and when he showed up in the second chapter as a man of “advanced age” with “animated speech and gestures suggested he was very active” kept me guessing. The end was exceedingly satisfying.

Joe Peas is the first book I’ve read by this award winning author. Newsome’s first book, Jackie won the Garcia Memorial Book Award in 2015. I expect many more awards and hope for many more books by this talented new voice.

 

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