Monthly Archives: April 2016

Book Review – The Magic Laundry – Slices of Life via Short Stories

The Magic LaundryThe Magic Laundry –  A Collection of Stories

By Jacob M. Appel

129 pages

Jacob M. Appel’s collection of short stories is interesting and thought provoking. His bio page tells the reader that this collection is based upon his “work as a psychiatrist in New York City”, which intrigued me immediately. Fiction culled from real life experiences has a gripping realism that brings the reader into the story immediately. This instrumental to the success of a short story and Appel does it masterfully.

My reviews of short stories have historically been a brief comment about each one as well as my thoughts. I see no reason to change so below are my musings about a book I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Magic Laundry

Natural Selection: Descendants of Darwin (yes, THAT Darwin) are harboring a missing monkey. Will the free spirit of a 20-year-old be crushed by the reality of life? Her father is torn between helping her and getting that ape out if his house before the authorities or neighbors find out he is harboring a fugitive.

Enoch Arend’s One Night Stands: Over two years have passed since Alex’s wife died. It was time for him to move on, but how and where was he going? He began with a bereavement group and ended up working his way back to himself. Was the end of the journey the important part? You decide – I have and was satisfied with my conclusion.

The Ataturk of the Outer Boroughs: Omar the locksmith took to local politics like a duck to water. His transformation from shopkeeper to activist was born from the attention of a beautiful woman. Will Omar sink or swim when the issue is laid to rest?

I loved this short story. Appel’s ability to write literary prose without pretention is evident throughout this book, but especially in this story. The pictures painted with his words pulled me into the Turkish locksmith shop and took me on the journey with Omar.

Exposure: An odd man – pharmacist most days, flasher on his days off is the star of this tale. He is quirky and a little bit funny. The women he flashes are hand-picked from his past and I absolutely snickered more than once when he visits Mrs. Sproul.

This story wins my vote for the funniest of the bunch. This does not take away the cleverness of the story or minimalize the quality of Appel’s writing.

The Magic Laundry: Can washing your clothes in a specific machine in a laundromat cure illnesses, mend relationships or ruin someone’s life? Read this and find out. You may just want to purchase your own machine instead of ending up here.

The House Call: Miriam played different roles her entire life. On the stage, as a patient in simulated training for doctors and nurses and even in her “real” life, she lived in the world as a chameleon. Will she ever be Miriam? Does she want to be Miriam? Does she know how to be Miriam?

The Empress of Charcoal: After 40 years, Morton attempts to find the woman that modeled for a class he attended in college. Can he step back in time with the woman he finds?

Animal Control: Most calls to animal control are routine bordering on boring. Until the day a tiger snatches a baby. Reluctantly, Mr. Dipple rides to the rescue. His priorities might be in the right place, the reader can only hope he is an accidental hero.

This story was the perfect end of a great collection of short stories. A bit of a headshake on my part, and a yup, I could just see this story on the evening news with a Barney Fife type of animal control guy shuffling nervously from foot to foot during the interview. Kudos to Appel for his realism and fabulous collection of prose.

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


Filed under Book Review, books, Short Story Collection

Book Review: Karma’s a Killer – Cozy Mystery Full of Critters and Karma


Karma's a KillerKarma’s A Killer
By Tracy Weber
277 pages

Yoga teacher Kate Davidson has her plate full. She owns and teaches classes Serenity Yoga and even though she is successful, owning a business is not a walk in the park. That is why she wonders why she is standing in Seattle’s Green Lake Park getting ready to teach a “Doga” class, which is basically yoga for dogs. It is against her better judgement, but she is willing to look silly to help raise funds for Dogma a local no-kill animal shelter. And her boyfriend Michael organized the event so naturally Kate wants to help make the event fun and profitable.

Right away her Zen is challenged by a group that is protesting the idea of a shelter, especially one with animals other than dogs and cats. An altercation soon has the potential to turn dangerous when the protesters become reckless. During all the mayhem that ensues, someone dies.

Kate finds out the woman arrested is claiming to be her estranged mother, Dharma. She is conflicted over helping the woman that abandoned her, but Kate cannot let an innocent person go to prison for a murder she didn’t commit.

Once again, Kate knows better, but has to jump into an investigation to find the real killer. She enlists the help of Michael, who is a reluctant participant. She assures him all will be well, especially with her protective German Shepherd Bella on the job. But when someone messes with Bella, Kate throws caution out the window to find the perp before someone else is hurt.

This is a perfect cozy mystery. Kate is an entertaining amateur sleuth. She is funny, flawed and loveable. Her past isn’t really pretty, but she doesn’t dwell on it. Her relationship with Michael isn’t always a romp in the park, but true to life. Then there is her pogonophobia, which leads to humorous situations. I love the rest of the characters. A particular favorite of mine is Dale Evans, the goat farming lawyer. He is a hoot and even bakes Bella goat cheese treats.

Karma’s a Killer is the third book in the Downward Dog Mystery Series. I have not read any of the other books in the series, but was not confused or “lost” at any point. I highly suggest this book if you are a fan of cozies, animals and/or are into yoga.

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.




Filed under 5K races, Book Review, cozy mystery, Critters, dogs, Karma, Yoga

Book Review: Mug Shot – Fast, Fun Cozy Mystery

Mug ShotMug Shot (A Java Jive Mystery)
by Caroline Fardig

Juliet Langley is back in Caroline Fardig’s newest addition to her Java Jive Mystery Series.  Mug Shot opens with Juliet and her best friend and boss Pete Bennett at a funeral repast. Neither of them particularly wants to be there, but both are dating the grandchildren and heirs of the deceased socialite. Oddly enough, neither of these best friends approve of the snooty rich family members the other is dating.

Pete is seeing Cecilia, who has no use for Juliet. The feeling is mutual. Juliet admires Cecelia’s philanthropy, but not her condescending attitude. Stan, Cecilia’s brother, has been shunned by his family in the past, and seems like an unlikely partner for Juliet, but opposites seem to attract, so they are an item.

Before the friends can get away the snobby crowd at the funeral, there is an accident. Or did someone push the third sibling Abigail down the stairs? Luckily she has minor injuries. When the paramedics arrive, Juliet is on the floor helping her. The policeman accompanying the paramedics and happens to be Juliet’s sexy ex-boyfriend, Ryder.

Things go from bad to worse for the grieving family. Within days one of the heirs is murdered. Unfortunately for Pete, he was the last one seen with Cecilia before she was killed and he is arrested and charged with murder.

Juliet knows Pete did not murder his girlfriend and tries to convince the police otherwise. There are enough suspects to fill a table at a fancy fundraiser, and Juliet is determined to find the real killer and get Pete out of jail. She is warned by the lead detective and Ryder not to poke her nose into police business, but that has never stopped her before and it isn’t going to stop her now.

Mug Shot is a perfect cozy mystery. Juliet is smart, sassy and doesn’t know when to keep her nose out of trouble. She is a singer/songwriter, a great cook and manages the coffee shop owned by her best friend Pete. She might even be a little in love with Pete and the feeling is obviously mutual.

Ryder on the other hand makes her furious. But she can’t really stay away from him. He is hot in the bedroom and sweet and caring with her when he isn’t making her crazy. They are like magnets with a love/hate relationship.

The solid mystery plot has twists and unexpected turns. I didn’t peg the killer until the very end, which I love. An interesting story with lots of plausible suspects makes for an exciting, intriguing story for mystery buffs. Mug Shot is a fast, fun read with quirky characters and a plucky plot.

This is the first book I’ve read by Fardig. Even though this is not the first of the series, I could easily read it as a stand-alone novel. If you are a fan of Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum Mysteries, you will absolutely love this series. I thing Ryder and Ranger might be long, lost sexy brothers.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy free from House Party 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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Filed under Book Review, books, cozy mystery, Mystery, Penguin Random House

Book Review: When Bunnies Go Bad – Pru is Back Solving Murders

When bunnies go badWhen Bunnies Go Bad (A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir)

By Clea Simon

255 pages

 Pru Marlowe is back in Cea Simon’s latest adventure When Bunnies Go Bad. Living in a winter wonderland can take its toll on the locals. But when an overbearing tourist arrives with his hot girlfriend things go from cabin fever to murder faster than a skier down the mountain.

After an altercation in the town’s hotspot over his meal, Teddy berates the staff and his date. The couple leaves in a flurry to go back to the condo they are renting for their get-away. When Teddy winds up dead, it appears that he is not only obnoxious, but may be dabbling in business that was more dangerous than cheating on his wife.

Enter Pru’s boyfriend and local cop Jim Creighton. He is afraid a  local mobster may have something to do with the murder. As the case progresses, things become more dangerous and Creighton heedlessly warns Pru to stay out of police business. But of course she is knee deep in the case and not about to climb out now.

In her own defense, she had to help with the dead man’s dog because his girlfriend can’t handle the cute little spaniel with a stupid name. Pru is aching to help the little dog as well as talk to him to find out if he knows about the murder. It helps having the ability to hear what animals are saying when you are an amateur sleuth. Even if it gets you in trouble with your cop boyfriend.

Simon spins a great mystery full of humor to temper the murder. The twists and turns keep readers guessing until the final pages.

I love the characters she has created. The humans are great, Pru is funny, sharp witted and can be sarcastic and abrupt. Her moods and personality make her come alive on the pages. I feel the real stars of the book are the animals that interact with Pru. From the birds, squirrels and mice to the dogs, cats and the illegal pet bunny’ Simon creates fabulously entertaining dialog in Pru’s head that is shared with the reader. If you have ever wondered what your pets are thinking, you need to read this series. It will hopefully prevent anyone from naming a pet something that the animal cringes at each time he is called.

I highly suggest this fun cozy mystery series. When Bunnies Go Bad is the sixth book in the Pru Marlow Pet Noir series, but easily reads as a stand-alone novel if you want to read it first.


Copyright © 2014 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.


Filed under Book Review, books, cozy mystery, dogs, Mystery, wildlife