Monthly Archives: March 2018

Book Review: A Sister in My House – Contemplative Women’s Fiction

A Sister in My House

By Linda Olsson

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

A Sister in My House on the surface is the story of three sisters. But layer after layer it is actually a study of women’s emotions toward each other and those they encounter. One lost by death, the other two making their way through life in the wake of this event. Separated in age and experiences, the remaining two sisters have grown further apart in their adult years. Surprisingly, Maria invited Emma to come and stay for a visit while the two of them were together for their mother’s funeral.

Two years later Emma calls to take Maria up on the invitation that both of them know was not sincere or necessarily well intended. The resulting week of togetherness forces the sisters to acknowledge their past and think more clearly about their future. Maria has wrapped herself so tightly in her grief and losses that she cannot allow herself to enjoy life. Emma’s husband and children are no longer available for her as they once were. Resigning herself to the fact that those she loves will leave her, just as her beloved sister did early in her life, Emma risks falling into depression as she has done before.

A week is not a long time. Will it be long enough to make headway on the road to discovery for both of them?

Olsson’s literary fiction is powerful in words but not actions. It is the type of book you read, and then think about for a long time after. Small steps in the sister’s lives become giant leaps in their growth. One of my favorite quotes is: “Life intrudes from different directions. And I am no longer resisting I think.”  To me, this shows the growth of the characters and the fact that they still have more healing to complete. Like real life, things cannot be resolved quickly, but any progress is a step in the right direction.

This is the first book I have read by Linda Olsson. This prolific, award-winning author should be on your watch list for literary fiction.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Boy from Tomorrow – Outstanding Middle Grade Fiction

The Boy from Tomorrow

By Camille DeAngelis

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

Josie Clifford didn’t really have any friends. It was hard being the daughter of a mother who did “readings” for a living. Believers came to their house so that Mrs. Clifford could talk to their dead relatives. All of the children in town were either afraid of Josie and her younger sister Cassie or made fun of them because of their mother.

Alec Frost had to find some new friends. His parents divorced and now he and his mother moved to a very old house in a new town to start a new beginning. Unlike Josie, Alec did find a few friends and he also found a “talking board” secreted away in his new home. Similar to Ouija Boards, it was used in the early 1900’s to communicate with the dead.

When Alec and his friends started playing around with the board, they found it was more than a game. Somehow it was allowing them to communicate with Josie and Cass, residents of Alec’s new house a century ago. Alec now slept in the bedroom once occupied by the girls and their beloved Nanny and teacher, Emily.

When Mrs. Clifford found out what her daughters were doing she was furious. Unfortunately, the cruel and conniving Mrs. Clifford found a way to use her children and Alec for her own gain by having him tell her about events in the future. When life became more and more dangerous for the girls, could Alec figure out a way to save them even though they exist 100 years apart?

This fast paced children’s book is sure to become a classic. The intricate story draws the reader in making it impossible to put down. It is written for middle grade children but as an adult I quite enjoyed it.

The artful switching from the girls’ point of view to the present time point of view of Alec and his friends pulls the reader into the thoughts and feelings of the characters. I have to admit that I sniffled more than once. It is impossible not to get emotionally attached to Alec, Josie and Cassie.

The ending of this book was magnificent. It tied up all of the loose ends. It is important to not leave things hanging in books such as these, and The Boy from Tomorrow did not disappoint.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Last Chance Matinee – Compelling Women’s Fiction

The Last Chance Matinee

By Mariah Stewart

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

Cara is devastated to hear her father has passed away. She is shocked  and confused that her father’s close friend and attorney has followed her father’s odd, yet explicit wishes. Her father traveled often, and unbeknownst to her was diagnosed with terminal cancer, succumbed to the disease and then cremated without her knowledge.

She understands that her father’s attorney, known to her as Uncle Pete, was only doing her father’s bidding. Still reeling from her mother’s death, Cara feels utterly alone and honestly a bit confused. She is given instructions to come to meet with Uncle Pete regarding her father’s will.

When she arrives, she meets Allie and Des. Apparently her father has an entirely different life than the one he shared with Cara – these two strangers are her sisters.He simply had two wives, one on the east coast and one on the west coast that he managed to keep separate until his death.

The only way any of them will inherit his sizeable estate is to follow his directions explicitly. It specifies all of them must live and work together in his hometown in Pennsylvania to restore the theater that has been in their family for generations. Each of them is harboring secrets from the others but they all could really use the money – one far more than the others. So they begin the rocky road to restoration on the aging building as well as themselves.

I love the diversity of the characters and settings in this novel. The women are so different from one another, the two sisters raised together don’t even really like each other. It is easy to empathize with them for the odd situation they are thrust into.

Stewart wisely highlights her characters that bring her story to life making it a page turning gem. Every chapter had me reading “just one more” deep into the night. There is only one complaint I have. The loose ends are not tied up. This is the first book in a planned trilogy so I am anxiously awaiting the second and third books, and I don’t mind a cliff hanger or two, but none of my questions were answered by the end of the book. I need more closure to be satisfied with the ending of a book I adored.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Watch Me – Must Read Psychological Thriller!

Watch Me

by Jody Gehrman

Professor Kate Youngblood is afraid she was a flash in the pan author. Her debut book was a rousing success that took her places she could have only dreamt about. But after a lackluster follow-up she doubts her ability to ever get that magic back.

The most she can hope for is to keep plugging away on her recent manuscript while teaching uninterested students how to master the craft of writing that she once owned. None of them really show much promise until Sam Grist comes along.

In him, Kate envisions a diamond in the rough that she can help polish to a brilliance that will reflect on her. She needs this to boost her self-esteem as well as give her job security. Without the worry of keeping her job, she can free her mind to recapture the magic she once had as a best-selling author with a dazzling new manuscript.

Sam’s writing is gritting and often violent. He plots more than novels, and if his story turns out the way he envisions it, Kate will play a starring role. Unbeknownst to her, he has been obsessed with her since he read her first novel. How far will he go to make his dreams come true?

Gehrman’s novel is written in alternating first person between Kate and Sam. This brilliant novel allows the reader to step instead each of the characters to experience their thoughts, needs and desires. It is easy to see how Kate becomes entangled with Sam as the lines between teacher and student blur. When Sam steps over the line, will Kate go with him willingly? Will she have a choice?

Watch Me is the most intense, complex, unforgettable psychological thriller I have read in ages. Gehrman expertly draws the reader in like a moth to the flame with the complexity of characters and page turning suspense. I literally read this book in less than 48 hours because I could not put it down.

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 © 2018 Laura Hartman

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