Monthly Archives: September 2017

Lisa Gardner’s Right Behind You Now Out in Paperback!!

If you haven’t read this yet, it is a gem. Now out in paperback! Check out my review below if you missed it. 

Right 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: Livin’ by Frankie Hogan – Explore! Travel! Enjoy Life! Follow Your Dreams!

Livin’ – From the Amsterdam Red Light District to the African Bush

By Frankie Hogan

Livin’ is a travel log chronically the adventures of Hollywood screenwriter Frankie Hogan. By spending his free time traveling he is livin’ his dream by going on crazy fun adventures all over the globe. Like most people when it comes to travel, Hogan was so busy with his everyday life he let that get in the way of his travel dreams. Then one day he decided to actually go to the places that he always wanted to see and do things he wanted to do. After researching, he discovered that travel can be affordable and off he went to start livin’ large.

Traveling to amazing exotic destinations can be dangerous. Hogan tells of his desire to go to Egypt back in 2011. Just “days before” pulling the trigger on the trip in 2011 when the country found itself in the middle of a revolution. So he put the trip off for several years. He doesn’t have a death wish, but on the same token he doesn’t want to live his life in fear. So he took the leap of faith that he would be okay traveling to one of the places he had been dreaming of seeing. Lucky for the readers, he takes us along for the crazy ride.

Being a man who likes to explore on his own and find hidden treasures wherever he goes, Hogan is not a man that wanted to book a tour with a group of others. After he found a deal he could not pass up, he discovered group tours could be part of his travel adventures. Hogan always managed to find time to spend on his own when traveling with a group, opting out of some activities to explore local cuisine is one way he used to march to the beat of his own drum.

There are so many interesting stories in Livin‘ it is hard for me to single out a few to highlight, but I will give you a taste of adventures that were my favorites. The safari in Africa is something I have always wanted to do, so the images and experiences he shared took me into that Jeep along with the group of excited travelers. He taught me how to cross the street in Vietnam – no guts, no glory, just do it without zigzagging or stopping. All a person needs is a steady pace and nerves of steel. And because Alaska is on my bucket list, his trip to see the Northern Lights in Alaska really sounded like fun. Until it became harrowing due to an Arctic storm that blew in, threatening even the seasoned tour guide and pushing them all to their limits – I think I’ll skip that part of the adventure when I go.

Hogan’s writing puts the reader on the trains, buses, boats, canoes and rickshaws with him. You are hearing what he hears and seeing the amazing sites of each country he visits. If I was really with him, I would have skipped the bars he enjoyed and avoided the ladies of the evening he encountered.

If you are sensitive about bawdy language, this may not be the book for you. But I seriously feel even if you are, you might be able to overlook some of the salty words and enjoy the beautiful experiences Hogan shares in this book. I was more than concerned about his health at a few points (he tells the reader he put in all of his experiences, both good and bad).

Frankie Hogan isn’t a fearless or reckless man from what I could tell, unless we are talking about the amount of alcohol he was enjoying on some of his trips. He is the first to admit he is afraid of snakes and heights, yet he faced both of those fears because he is not letting them get in the way of the adventures he tells us about and those he plans in the future.

In the epilogue he explains his innermost thoughts and the reasons that previously enabled him to be a dreamer instead of a traveler and why that isn’t going to happen anymore. He ends it with a few sentences that will call to the adventurous souls reading his book including me. “I thought I’d made the excuse of life getting in the way of travel. I hadn’t. I made the excuse of necessity getting in the way of livin’. And I won’t do it again.”

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. Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Deep Freeze by John Sandford – Needs More Than 5 Stars!

Book Review: Deep Freeze

By John Sandford

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

BCA Agent Virgil Flowers is back in the tenth book in the #1 New York Times best-selling series. Flowers would rather be photographing wild life as a freelance photographer instead of solving a murder. But unfortunately his much needed vacation has been cut short by a call asking him to investigate a murder in the tiny town of Trippton, Minnesota.

Not only does this put an abrupt halt to his much needed rest and relaxation, it also pulls him away from his girlfriend and his dog. The prospect of going back to Trippton in the middle of winter isn’t very appealing, even though he has friends there since he previously solved a case there.

After a Class Reunion meeting held at the home of the richest woman in town, she turns up dead. The murder happened minutes after the meeting, so one would assume the killer is one of her classmates. Unfortunately, almost everyone in the small town disliked the victim and more than a few had a solid motive. Virgil knows how catting people can be; especially those with a history.

The townspeople mostly like Virgil, for an outsider that is. He has a few true friends in the snow covered town, Johnson Johnson being at the top of that list.  Johnson is happy to see him and more than willing to help him get information that Virgil may have trouble getting on his own.

Then, as if Virgil needed more irritation, enter Margaret Griffin. She has been sent by a major toy manufacturer to serve cease and desist orders to someone in Trippton because they are making “modified” dolls of an x-rated nature. Someone in high places within the state wants the little homegrown shop closed, so Virgil is also asked to give Griffin a hand. Unfortunately for him, that results in more problems than the murder investigation.

When an attempt is made on Virgil’s life, he isn’t sure if it is the people in the town that depend upon the illicit income from the modified dolls or the murderer feeling the heat.

I loved everything about this book. The humor, the twists and turns, the characters and interestingly entertaining plot add up to another best seller. As a longtime fan of Sandford’s writing, I was not disappointed.

The engaging plot had me reading “just one more chapter” late into the night. Sandford skillfully pulls the reader into the story and holds you there in the bitter cold of Minnesota right there with his characters.

Virgil is an interesting man. He seems laid back, but looks can be deceiving. His mind is always turning and moving towards the goal of finishing up the cases and getting back home. The reader can tell he is smart, savvy and more than a little compassionate for the plight of those who need help, even if they are on the wrong side of the law.

There is a reason Sandford is a best-selling author. His books are interesting, funny and easy to read. Don’t confuse “easy” with simple. Deep Freeze is a complex story told in a laid back manner that keeps readers turning the pages.

I am sorry to say I have not read one of Sandford’s books for several years. Conversely, I am excited to have rediscovered his masterful prose and will be catching up with some of the previous adventures of Virgil I have missed. I highly recommend this book to thriller fans as well as anyone who loves a well written book with a fabulously entertaining plot.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: To Be Where You Are – The Latest Book in the Mitford Series

To Be Where You Are

By Jan Karon

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and Penguin First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Mitford is a small town tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains. The locals know everyone and everything that goes on in the town. Information spreads faster than the cool mountain breeze of autumn when something good or bad happens to any of the inhabitants.

Like any small town, there are interesting stories of citizens that have been there for generations. They are kind to the new residents, whom they welcome with open arms. Karon shares many of them with her readers.

To Be Where You Are chronicles the lives of several of the families and individuals living in Mitford. One of them is an adorable little girl named Grace Murphy. She is writing and illustrating a book. Not an easy thing for a little girl who is six, but almost seven.

The local vet, Dooley Kavanagh and his wife Lace are up to their eyeballs in happiness and troubles. Like most young couples they are devoted to each other and have less money and time to relax than older couples often do. But they are happy, especially now that they are parents. Lace cannot have children of her own, but they are adopting a four year old boy who needs parents more than anything. Jack will be the son they have prayed for and Dooley and Lace are happier than they ever imagined with him in their lives.

There is a grumpy old man, Avis, who owns the local store. He is gruff on the outside but does everything that he can to help the local farmers. He does this quietly and gracefully, most people not knowing of his good deeds.

Karon writes spiritual books, To Be Where You Are does not deviate from the writing path she has chosen. She also writes books about real people, in real situations that most of us can identify with. That is one of the charming aspects of this series. There are no less than three priests in this book. One is retired, one is currently serving the parish and one has just felt the calling from God to become a man of the cloth. My favorite was the retired one, he seemed to do more work than the other two combined. His on the spot marriage counseling was spot on.

There is more than a smattering of animals that play a big part in the cast of characters. How can you not love a huge bull named Choo Choo? Several dogs and a few cats were additional bright spots I enjoyed.

This was an interesting book. It jumps from character to character, so the first few chapters were a bit confusing for me. Just as I was getting to know a character and situation, they would not show up for several chapters. The names were difficult to remember because the character list is so long. While by the end I had them figured out, the middle was muddled because I had to go back to see who was who.

I loved the ending. It wrapped up all of the story lines with satisfying endings. I anticipated the big surprise (which I will not reveal here – you will have to read the book!) it was not unexpected, but made me happy nonetheless.

I recommend this book to anyone that likes spiritual fiction as well as books that have a large cast of characters. It is heartwarming and charming.

Karon is a best-selling author of many books, including the Mitford Series. This is the fourteenth book in series, highlighting the third generation of Kavanaghs. It is the first one I have read, but I didn’t feel as there were any backstories that I didn’t know. It worked well as a standalone book.

 

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Brew or Die – A Java Jive Mystery – Caffeinated Cozy Fun

Brew or Die – A Java Jive Mystery

By Caroline Fardig

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

Juliet Langley is pumped! She has been an amateur sleuth for a while, but now she has worked hard and earned her private investigator license. Pete, her best friend and owner of Java Jive Coffee Shop, is happy for her, but has serious reservations. She has been known to take risks that scare Pete and put her in more hot water than she would like to admit. Besides, they are attracted to each other, but are afraid to jeopardize their friendship by becoming a couple so he is afraid of losing her.

Juliet assures Pete that working for her friend, Maya Huxley, the owner of a private investigation agency, will keep her safe. In fact, she will start out doing the boring part of investigations, like surveillance. The other thing that makes Pete apprehensive is that Julie is the part time manager at Java Jive while he works as an audio engineer for a studio in Nashville. How will she do both jobs without one or the other getting short changed?

The first case seems simple enough. Photographing a cheating husband’s clandestine meeting with his paramour should be a snap. Juliet watches, waits, takes the pictures to prove his infidelity and then abruptly gets mixed up in an attempted murder. Much to her dismay, her boyfriend, cold case Detective John Stafford comes to her rescue. Even worse, her ex-boyfriend Detective Ryder Hamilton finds out about the incident. They had a bad breakup and she has been avoiding him ever since. Now Juliet is back on his radar, and it is making her crazy.

Then Java Jive’s cook has a personal tragedy. His girlfriend is found dead of a suspected overdose, but he is convinced it is murder. Pete begs Juliet to help investigate the case even though the police have ruled it an accidental death, not murder. Juliet agrees, and reluctantly allows Pete to help her. This pulls both of them into a crazy situation full of models, parties and recreational drugs.

Meanwhile, Juliet is assigned to a new case, involving possible money laundering and theft. Again she crosses paths with Hamilton. She is angry and hurt but since it is beneficial to the case, she agrees to work with him as long as he keeps it strictly business. Things are getting tricky in her personal life and new profession. She is on the wrong side of a millionaire and is having trouble keeping her personal feelings out of her investigations. Is she in more danger than she can handle? Which one of the men in her life will help her and which ones will hurt her? The bodies are starting to stack up!

The characters in this series are well developed and interesting. The fact that they have troubles in their personal lives but carry on their jobs makes them easy to relate to and identify with. The relationships between Juliet and the men in her life are amusing and heartbreaking at the same time. She is always getting in too deep, but seems to be able to swim her way out of the situation. Her spunky attitude makes her the perfect star of this cozy mystery series.  I really enjoy reading about Juliet and the men in her life, as well as life in the coffee shop with a side of murder served up sprinkled with a side of romance.

Brew or Die is the fourth book in Carolyn Fardig’s Java Jive Mystery Series. Previously I read and enjoyed the second book in the series, Mug Shot. Both of them are solid cozy mysteries with all the elements cozy readers enjoy. I highly recommend this series as well as the others written by Ms. Fardig.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: A Measure of Murder – Cute Culinary Cozy

A Measure of Murder

By Leslie Karst

Sally Solari has more on her plate than the delicious meals she is serving at Gauguin, the restaurant she recently inherited. Her schedule is full with the management of Gauguin. She is also helping her father at Solari’s, the restaurant her family has owned for years. Sally is slowly trying to find a replacement for herself so she can focus more on Gauguin, but her father is resisting her efforts. He is sure no one can take his daughter’s place in their family’s Italian restaurant.

Even though Sally loves the restaurant business, she decides to carve out a bit of her precious free time to do something for herself. Deciding she will spend some of the precious few hours of her free time by joining a local chorus that needs members.

Like any social group, the choir has personality conflicts, but overall they are a great bunch of dedicated vocalists that enjoy each other and their craft. The director has found fame with the discovery of some sheet music by a famous composer making the pull to be a part of the choir more desirable. Unfortunately their first rehearsal ends in tragedy. One of the tenors falls to his death. His girlfriend seeks out Sally and asks her to investigate the accident because she is sure it was murder.

The police have closed the case, but Sally agrees to switch her chef’s hat for a deerstalker a la Sherlock Holmes because she doesn’t think the evidence adds up to an accident. That means that one of the members of her choir could be a murderer. Let’s all hope Sally isn’t the next victim.

Karst writes a meaty cozy mystery. Her characters are strong, multi-faceted and interesting. Sally juggles her career and personal life just as most of us. She loves the restaurant business, her family and friends. It is refreshing to read a cozy mystery without the main character being a bit ditzy. Her father and grandmother enforce the family values she believes in as well as adding humor to the story.

The plot is interesting and solid. There are several suspects, all of them likely killers. As Sally quietly works the case in her spare time, the motives are varied and believable I was convinced I knew who the killer was until a new theory was introduced that was as likely as the previous one making me change my mind in an instant.

A Measure of Murder is the second Sally Solari Mystery by Leslie Karst. It is the first one I have read, but it worked well as a stand-alone novel. That being said, I enjoyed it so much I plan to read the first in this series, Dying for a Taste. It was really a sweet treat to get to the end of the book and see that some of the delicious recipes discussed in the novel were in the final pages. All of them look delectable. I can’t wait to try the Grilled Salmon with Papaya and Avocado Pico de Gallo.

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. Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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