Monthly Archives: May 2016

Book Review: Death at a Fixer-Upper – Real Estate to Die For!

Death at a Fixer UpperDeath at a Fixer-Upper
by Sarah T. Hobart

The ink is barely dry on Sam Turner’s new real estate agent license as she heads out to view a vintage home for sale. Unfortunately she has to tour the once grand home with Biddie McCracken, a crabby colleague at Home Sweet Home Realty. The tour is dampened by the state of the once opulent home. It would be a toss-up between renovation and complete demolition and starting over – but that is up to the future buyer.

The century old estate has the lines of the grand dame she used to be, along with secrets held quietly within for many generations. Unfortunately, these secrets may be worth killing for. In fact, they have already.

After the bizarre walk through with Biddie, Sam can’t believe her good fortune. She has three offers within a matter of days for a home that has only been marginally cared for over the last several years by a faithful housekeeper and her young daughter.

Sam is excited at the prospect of selling the old place. Being a single mother in a small town hasn’t been easy. Raising her now teenage son has been a loving challenge but Sam has no regrets. Now that she is doing better financially, she is excited and scared to be purchasing a home of their own now. This sale will really help. Unfortunately for her, buyers start turning up dead.

Determined to make this sale, Sam does a bit of investigating on her own. But soon she finds out the cutthroat real estate market doesn’t hold a candle to real killers. Hopefully she can still get out of this sale alive.

Hobart writes a perfect cozy mystery. It is a fun, fast-paced, interesting book with enough twists and turns to keep mystery lovers turning the pages to see what happens to Sam next. There were enough suspects to keep me guessing until the final chapter, which I absolutely love.

Kudos to Hobart for the great descriptive text in Death at a Fixer-Upper. It flowed naturally, but put you right in that old crumbling estate, the “vintage-… read ancient” VW camper she drives or any other setting in the book.

All of the main characters are well rounded and I felt like I knew them. Sam would be someone I’d go to lunch with, or maybe just stop for some chocolate and caffeine – I totally get where she is coming from.  I’ve worked with snarky people like some of the competing realtors. Sam’s friends, son and family are all cut from the same cloth as people I actually know. This made the book come alive for me.

Death at a Fixer-Upper. is the third book in Sarah T. Hobart’s Home Sweet Home Mystery Series. It is the first one I’ve read and works perfectly as a stand-alone mystery.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Random House Books 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.


Filed under Book Review, books, cozy mystery, Mystery, Random House, Random House Publishing - Alibi, Writer & Book Reviewer

Book Review: Dating Death by Randy Rawls – We Get By on a Little Help from our Friends

Dating deathDating Death

By Randy Rawls

309 pages

Beth Bowman, private investigator takes on jobs to help out the Coral Lakes, Florida police department along with her other PI work. But when Chief Elston calls her with a strange request, she hesitates to help him. Worried that the job of guarding a crooked politician under the guise of being his new girlfriend will be more trouble than the pay is worth, she is reluctant to agree. After discussing the plan with her current boyfriend, Dr. David Rasmussen, she decides babysitting the obnoxious man will be worth it in the end because she will also help the Chief investigate the politician to see if they can get enough dirt on him to take him down and stop drug trafficking in their city.

Chief and Beth are attempting to gather information that they believe City Councilman Roger Adamson has that will take down a local drug lord and his operation. At the same time, Adamson may be the target of the bad guys as they try to keep him quiet.

Bowman is competent and beautiful, but this time she might have bitten off more than she can chew. Bullets fly and bodies drop, luckily Bowman isn’t one of them- yet. She needs to leave the job the Chief asked her to do and go into hiding as it becomes clear someone is now after her.

At first she is afraid. Even the most seasoned veterans of the force would be. Then she gets mad. Furious. And decides something has to be done to put a stop to the insanity. With the help of her friends, who happen to be homeless, she jumps from the frying pan into the fire because it is her only option. Will she lose her boyfriend, her friends and possibly her life?

Dating Death is a fast-paced mystery with as many twists and turns as Lombard Street. Rawls masterfully puts the heroine of his story in the thick of things, holding her feet to the flames as the story heats up. I held my breath more than once as I read as fast as I could to see if and how my favorite characters were going to get out of the jam they were in.

I loved the depth of the characters Rawls created. Bowman was multidimensional and interesting, sometimes making crazy choices that turned out bad just like every person has at one time or another. The bad guys were spine-chilling, a few of them made my skin crawl, especially Homer. Ironically later in the plot, I kind of liked the creep – again kudos to Rawls. The residents of the homeless shelter were unique and had enough backstory to make them interesting, but not too much to take away from the movement of the storylines.

This is the first book I’ve read by Randy Rawls, and the second one in his Beth Bowman Private Investigator series. It was easily read as a stand-alone novel. Rawls, a retired career Army officer (thank you for your service!) has written several other books. Most of them are mystery series, and one is a historical novel. I like the way he tells a story and plan to read more of his work soon.

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, Mystery, series

Book Review – Funeral Hotdish – A True Fiction Novel


funeral hotdishFuneral Hotdish

By Jana Bommersbach

240 page

Joya Bonner shook the dust off her boots from her hometown of Northville, North Dakota for a job writing job she loves in Phoenix. Life as a journalist is not the easiest, there are more writers than hot stories and everyone is looking for the big story that will bring them fame, fortune or best case scenario, both. Joya is no different from the rest of them, but she appears to be a bit luckier.

Happenstance puts her in the right place at the right time to see a mob boss that had turned federal witness at a coffee shop. At first she told herself the mobster wannabe couldn’t be the hitman that sent John Gotti to prison, but her instincts let her outside to copy down his license plate number. Her boyfriend, Rob is a cop and just might be interested in the man she saw.

While this is going on, something bad happens in Joya’s hometown. Tragedy strikes the little town in the most inconceivable way. The close knit community cannot shake off the demons of that fateful night leading some of the men to consider taking matters into their own hands if the authorities don’t find the person or persons responsible.

Joya returns home after finding a possible connection with the mob snitch and the life altering events. She finds more questions than answers but knows one thing for sure; life has changes and may never be the same again for her family or the town.

Funeral Hotdish is based upon actual events. Those facts are wrapped in a work of fiction, but it is interesting to read the Endnotes to see which parts of the story are based on real-life people, news articles and places. And of course the recipe for Funeral Hotdish – from St Phillip’s Church in Hankinson, North Dakota is included as well.

If you are not familiar with small town funerals, invariably there is a casserole type dish that is prepared by the ladies of the congregation, referred to as “Funeral Hotdish”. It is comfort food for people beyond comfort at a a time they need it most. If they don’t enjoy the actual food, they feel the love and caring that was put into the preparation.

I enjoyed the plot lines intertwining in a way that seemed unlikely at first, but ended up tied up tidily in the end. The situations and story were true to life in ways that we might not want to admit. Too many people were trying to take the law into their own hands; then didn’t know what to do when the situation became too hot to handle.

This is the first book I’ve read by Bommersbach. Her previous novels include true crime, a historical novel and a children’s book. To say she is diverse is an understatement. Funeral Hotdish is her first true fiction novel.

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.



1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, books, Mobsters, Mystery, True Crime

Book Review: Original Cyn – Great Beach Read

12544074-original-cyn-by-sylvia-dickey-smithOriginal Cyn

By Sylvia Dickey Smith

333 pages

Cynthia Carter is a preacher’s wife. She takes care of him and the parsonage home without questioning his demands. He is a man of God; his flock needs a well-fed, well rested man to make decisions regarding their church business. He needs enough time and energy to tend his flock, so Cynthia understands that he is under pressure and tries to do what he asks. But his demands are getting tiresome. One would think a man of the cloth would be more considerate of his wife. He has gone as far as making Cynthia give up her name “Cyn” because it is unbecoming. She hates being called Cynthia, but bows to the head of her household.

Wilburn demands homemade meals on the table three times a day from his obedient wife. She isn’t allowed to spend money without asking him or have a life of her own. Her only joy in life is her son Justice. Now that he is grown and in college, she can’t even look forward to dinner or daily conversations with him.

Much to Wilburn’s chagrin, Cynthia isn’t involved in much at their church. She faithfully sits in the front row every week as he gives his sermons, but feels out of place in many of the committee meetings. The church has many longtime members with their own opinions about everything and everyone – including Cynthia. She is constantly talked about and compared to the previous preacher’s wife. She is a smart woman and willing to help, but they won’t allow her into their fold. Cynthia has one friend, but doesn’t have much spare time to spend with her with all of the responsibilities she has taking care of Wilburn.

But there are secrets in the congregation. Whispers begin and grow to a roar that cannot be contained. Alliances are broken and betrayals are made. Hatred replaces love as fear threatens to consume the voice of reason, changing lives forever.

Original Cyn is not Sylvia Dickey Smith’s first book, but it is the first one I’ve read. The depth and dimension of her characters pulled me into the story immediately. Coming from a Southern Baptist background, I could see people I’ve known with more than one member of the congregation. I sniffled at more than one part because it was not possible to read this book and not become emotionally invested in the characters and story.

If you are a fan of Barbara Delinsky, you will love Smith’s writing style. I highly recommend this work of fiction that pulls your emotions from anger to sorrow to hope. Smith is a masterful storyteller that writes an easy to read novel that makes the reader think about social issues without being “preachy”. I will be seeking out more of her books.

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, fiction, Religion, women's fiction