Monthly Archives: August 2018

Book Review: Lessons From Lucy – This Old Dog Can Teach You New Tricks

Lessons From Lucy

By Dave Barry

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

Dave Barry is a well-known humorist. He has authored many books, both fiction and non-fiction. His accolades are sung throughout the land and rightly so. He has a Pulitzer Prize, is a NYT Best Selling Author, and even had a sitcom based on a couple of his books. As a columnist his funny takes on life and whatever else was in his head at the time have appeared in over 500 newspapers. Suffice it to be said lots and lots of people think he is funny, and I am certainly one of them.

Lessons from Lucy is a self-help book. Normally I look at self-help books as though the pages are laced with arsenic and leave them on the shelves in the bookstores to die a slow and painful death sad and alone. But I have finally found a self-help book full of useful information that should be read by anyone and everyone. Especially if you are in what poets call the “sunset years”, but Lucy and Barry refer to as getting old. Everyone gets old and this book gives us all great insights to navigate old age with a lot more fun than you might think.

Dogs are basically happy creatures. Barry captures the essence of happiness by studying Lucy’s reactions to situations such as meeting new people (or dogs). Lucy has an open mind about it once she sniffs them out. So should people. Not the sniffing part, but new friends and experiences are so much better than sitting around watching reruns all afternoon. So make some new friends and stay in touch with those you have. It will make you happy.

Be present in the moment is another gem of wisdom. Be happy with who you are with and what you are doing and for goodness sakes put down that cell phone and actually have a conversation. See? Lucy is brilliant and she has a happy life because of her willingness to be happy where she is and with whom she is with.

Each lesson is relatable and will stick with you, such as dealing with anger. Lucy gets mad at the garbage man, and then lets it go. People get mad and let it simmer all day, telling everyone about the horrible thing someone else did or did not do. Who doesn’t yell at the guy on his phone in front of you texting at the green light? Does it do any good? Nope, that guy is gonna do what he’s gonna do. Why get your blood pressure to the top of the chart over something you can’t do anything about? Be like Lucy and let it go.

Barry might be a grumpy old man (his assessment, not mine) but he is still one of the funniest writers I have ever read. His take on life will leave you thinking about it long after you have stopped laughing at the hysterical delivery of his message.  As he states, “getting old sucks” but goes on to tell the reader how to make it fun. Really, really fun.

I recommend you grab this book and read it at least once, maybe twice because we all get old and you are going to need this info at some point. I am going to try and not be so grumpy, so opinionated and get out meeting more people and doing more things. I’ll stay connected with my friends and make new ones. Laughing more and living more sounds like the best advice I’ve ever read in a self-help book. I should have known a dog would make me a better human, but it took Dave Barry pointing it out for me to see it.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review – Auschwitz Lullaby – A Haunting Story of a Mother’s Undying Love

Auschwitz Lullaby

By Mario Escobar

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Helene’s husband Johann was a member of the Berlin Philharmonic before the Nazi’s turned the world upside down. Because he is Romaini, or Gypsy he was no longer allowed to work even though he is a violin virtuoso. Helene can still work because she is a purebred German. The family of seven lives in their own apartment. Food is hard to obtain but they have enough to get by.

Their last day of freedom was like any other. Helene readied the older four children for school. Johann and their youngest child slept up until minutes before their world exploded. As Helene and the children left for the day, Nazi soldiers stormed up the stairs. They had finally come for Johann and the children. Helene was free to stay, but she refused to be left behind.

Thus begins the days of physical and mental anguish. The family is taken via cattle car to Auschwitz. They are hungry, thirsty and terrified. Once they arrive at the camp, Johann is separated from the rest of his family. The barracks are cold, dirty and survival is the only thing everyone cares about. Helene’s family loses the precious few pieces of warm clothes they have to thieves before they realize that their world has forever changed.

Because Helene is a nurse, she is immediately of use to her captors. Life becomes incrementally better when she is moved to a different barracks with women she can trust with her children while she works. Her job in the camp brings her in close contact with one of the most horrific men in the Nazi party, Herr Doktor Mengele.

Helene fears for her children, but is strong and stands up for herself. Mengele admires her and puts her in charge of the Zigeunerlager kindergarten in Auschwitz-Birkenau. While it seems wonderful in the beginning, offering more food and things for the children to do, it is probably just a show for the visiting Nazi leaders. And it is the perfect place for Mengele to find twins to try his experiments on. As the war nears the end, what will happen to Helene and her children as well as the rest of the prisoners?

Escobar’s telling of Helene’s story is heartbreakingly beautiful. The strength of the prisoners, the brutality of the Nazis and the bits of love and happiness that were found in one of the most horrific places on earth all play out in on the pages. This book is based upon the true story of Helene Hannemann and her five children. He visited Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II, Holocaust museums and read scores of documents during his research for this poignant book.  The result personalizes the countless atrocities experienced in the camps.

Reading the story of Helene and her family was not always easy. It is evident Escobar put his heart and soul into Auschwitz Lullaby. I would not be surprised to see it becoming as influential as The Diary of A Young Girl (also known as The Diary of Anne Frank) and deservedly so. Escobar’s words will haunt you long after the last page.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Burning Ridge – Nail Biting, Page-Turning K-9 Mystery

Burning Ridge

By Margaret Mizushima

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

Deputy Mattie Cobb loves what she does. Her K-9 partner, Robo, has helped her out of scrapes with criminals and supports her through the residual trauma from her unhappy childhood. They love and depend upon each other both on and off the job.

Cole Walker, the local vet, has grown very fond of Mattie. Mattie cares for him also, but has learned to keep her emotions in check. What if he finds out about her childhood? She can barely live with the things that happened, especially being abandoned by her mother when she was very young, so it is hard for her to allow Cole into her life despite the strong feelings for him.

When the beauty of Colorado’s mountains becomes stained with murder, it hits Mattie close to home. Dead bodies begin surfacing, some old and one painfully new. Physically and emotionally she will be pushed to the limits – will she ever be the same again once her past comes to light? And will she survive to find out?

Mizushima brings the magnificence of the Colorado Redstone Ridge to life in the pages of her book. The insanity of a murderer is played out amidst tall fragrant pines and longhorn sheep innocently grazing the ridge. The juxtaposition of these images in the readers minds magnifies the best of nature and the worst of man, making both memorable in the twisted tale.

The characters are rich and full. Mattie’s past also includes Mama T, her beloved foster mom. Her sidekicks at the sheriff’s department are interesting. I especially like Rainbow and how yoga helped Mattie survive.

Mizushima has written three previous Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries and this is the first one I have read. It worked perfectly as a stand-alone mystery I was not confused and never felt anything was missing from the story. As a matter of fact, when I got to the last 50 pages, I had to keep slowing myself down because the action was so intense I had to know what was going to happen.

I highly recommend Burning Ridge and cannot wait to read the first three books in this series. If you are a fan of Longmire, you will love this book. If you are a great mystery fan, you will love this book. And last, but not least, if you love dogs – this is the book for you!

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Need to Know – Do You Really Know the Man You Love?

Need to Know

By Karen Cleveland

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

Viv and Matt live a full life. Viv has a demanding job as a counterintelligence analyst for the CIA. While she is looking for Russian sleeper agents on U.S. soil, Matt takes on most of the duties of child rearing. They have a young daughter that is older than their twin boys. One of the boys has developmental problems requiring frequent visits to specialists that Matt willingly takes care of. Like any couple that has been married for over a decade, they know each other inside out.

Because of the cost of her son’s specialists, Viv had to go back to work sooner than she planned. But she loves and believes in the importance of her job. She is on the cusp of having her hard work to pay off. She has developed a program to identify people involved in these sleeper cells. Pictures start appearing on her monitor, she recognizes one of them. It is Matt.

Has her whole life been a lie? How could he be a Russian spy and did he marry her because she works for the CIA? The old adage of keeping your enemies close just might be the reason Matt met her in the first place. So many things run through Viv’s mind she can barely breathe, but she knows her husband is mixed up in something that has the ability to implode her family.

Once Matt is confronted, Viv realizes that she will have to make impossible decisions involving the country she loves and the safety of her family. She can no longer trust anything Matt says – or can she? Was he trapped in situation that he did not want to be in? Is he lying or telling her the truth? Viv has to make a move that will change the rest of their lives forever.

Debut novelist Karen Cleveland’s psychological thriller will keep you up late into the night. Her characters come to life on the pages and the twist in the last chapter will stay with the reader long after closing the book.

Need to Know could literally be ripped from today’s headlines. Recently I was in Washington D.C. at the Newseum. There is a section on spy cells that infiltrate the U.S. and how they are uncovered. The real life spies acted much like the ones in Cleveland’s novel. The realism of the book became more and more evident with each exhibit.

It is evident that Cleveland, a former CIA agent, is a gifted novelist. Need to Know holds a well-deserved spot on the New York Times Best Seller list. Film rights to the book have been sold – snatch up this book before the movie hits the screen. While I am excited to see the book come to life in the theaters, in my opinion, the book is always better than the movie and this one is outstanding.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Other Woman – Debut Author Delivers!

The Other Woman

By Sandie Jones

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

Emily was picked up in a bar. She wasn’t looking for a man, but this adorable, well-dressed guy offers to buy her a drink and one thing leads to another. Emily falls fast and hard for Adam. He is a perfect man; smart, handsome, fun and single.

Their relationship begins to move at the speed of light. Dates turned to cohabitation, living together they quickly become engaged and everything in Emily’s world revolves around Adam. The only glitch in the relationship is Adam’s mother. He is truly a momma’s boy and will drop any and everything if she calls. And oddly enough, he has not brought Emily to his mother’s home so they can actually meet.

Once they do meet, Emily is even more confused. His mom seems delightful. That is until she is left alone with her. It is as though her future mother-in-law has two personalities. She is a sweet little old woman that needs 100% of her son’s attention that can turn into a conniving, meddling woman that will do anything to drive a wedge between her precious son and Emily in the blink of an eye. What lengths will this woman take to keep Emily and Adam from being together?

Emily cannot say anything against the other woman in Adam’s life, even when she begins to fear for her life. Something is going on that seems to be escalating into madness and Emily is going to have to get out of the situation before there is no turning back. But will Adam believe her?

This amazingly intricate psychological thriller cannot be put down. Just when you think you have everyone figured out, you realize nothing and no one is what and who they seem to be. Or are they? I literally did not know what was going to happen until the last pages.  In my opinion that is a fabulous psychological thriller.

This is the author Sandie Jones’ debut novel. It is an intriguing tale of mystery, suspense and of course a twisted psychological thriller. Ms. Jones is an author not to be missed; I am looking forward to reading more by this amazing author.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Exes’ Revenge – Fast Paced Psychological Thriller Not to Be Missed

The Exes’ Revenge

By Jo Jakeman

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

Phillip is a jerk. To be completely honest, he WAS a jerk because he is dead now. His ex-wives are at his funeral, as well as his current wife. But technically she isn’t his legal wife because he and his second wife never finalized the divorce. But all in all it doesn’t matter because he cannot hurt any of them, physically or psychologically ever again. Perhaps the three women have crossed the line of good and evil just like Phillip or maybe their survival instincts just kicked in.

The Exes’ Revenge opens with the funeral, so the reader knows up front the man is dead. But the events that lead to this funeral unfurl in the coming chapters like a flag in a sweet summer breeze that turns into a hurricane.

The three wives are unlikely cohorts, but Phillip and fear bind them together in a way that can never be understood by outsiders. He manipulates them against each other until he crosses the line of no return. But will one of them turn on the other two because deep down she cannot live without him?

Ruby, his first wife has always been a mother figure to him. Even though she has been on the receiving end of his bad temper, she has always forgiven him. But how can she possibly forgive him after finding out one of his best kept secrets?

Naomi, his third wife, is young and beautiful. She is the perfect trophy wife for Phillip to drag around to parties showing off his masculinity to his friends and co-workers. He expects her to keep a perfect home. Of course if she doesn’t there are consequences. She dare not call the police – he is a cop.

Imogen, the second (and not quite divorced) wife is the only one Phillip has a child with. Alistair is young and impressionable. He is happy with Imogen and terrified of his father. How could anyone trust a man like Phillip with her child?

The three women don’t really like each other, but are thrown together because of Phillip. They soon realize that the three of them must work together to get him out of their lives forever before one or more of them dies at his hand. The closer they get, they realize he has taken something from each of them that can never be replaced. He seems to have a knack of finding their greatest vulnerabilities and then somehow look innocent when tragedy strikes. As the novel progresses, the three women find out how cruel he is and it might just be a race to kill or be killed.

Jakeman’s psychological thriller is a page tuner you don’t want to miss. The well-developed characters will pull you into their nightmare because you know them like your favorite neighbor. Pay attention to the easy to read plot because many bits and pieces that may seem irrelevant will turn up in the last chapters fully explaining the means and motives of the main characters.

This is the first book I have read by Jo Jakeman. I really enjoyed her fast-paced writing style. She brings full characters to life and puts them in a plot that twists and turns until the end. This is Jo Jakeman’s second novel. The first, Sticks and Stones, is on my list to read. I can’t get enough of this author.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Thinnest Air – Superb Suspenseful Thriller

The Thinnest Air

By Minka Kent

Meredith knows everyone looks at her like she is an airheaded beauty. She makes the perfect trophy wife for her millionaire husband. By all accounts, looking from outside the marriage, she is nothing but another bauble for Andrew Price to show off to his friends and associates. They have grossly underestimated her.

Even Meredith’s sister Greer, who she has always shared everything with, didn’t think it was good to be married to this man. In the beginning things were great. It wasn’t just the exotic vacations, fancy restaurants and posh parties. Andrew couldn’t get enough of her. Mer felt loved and adored.

Then the boredom set in. There are only so many places to shop in the little ski town they lived in. Most of the neighbors and friends of Andrew had relationships with Andrew’s ex-wife, judging every move Mer makes without even caring to get to know her. When she finds a note on her car by a strange man, she is terrified. More incidents occur, each one a bit more unsettling. Surprisingly, her husband brushes them off. The only one that takes her seriously is a Ronan, a young cop determined to keep her safe.

Then Meredith goes missing. Everyone’s secrets suddenly start surfacing. No one is as they seem to be on the surface and even the closest relationships are not what they seem. Will Meredith be found alive?

This is the perfect psychological thriller. The twists and turns don’t stop as the emotions and terror ramp up. Just when I began to trust a character, they would do something making me think they were not the person I thought they were. I seriously did not know who was good and who was terrifying until the last chapters. The Thinnest Air is one of the best books I have read this year. I read it from the Kindle app on my phone, and literally read it while riding in the car, waiting in line at the grocery store, at McDonald’s playground and during the Cub game.

Kent pulls you into the story making the characters real from the very first pages. She tells volumes with descriptive phases and dialog that stays with the reader long after the page has been turned. For example, when Mer thinks: “We’re powerless when it comes to our men. I’m just lucky I found a good one. The wrong one could easily be my undoing.”  The author perfectly lays out the foreshadowing quickly and quietly.  Once Mer goes missing, her sister Greer says to herself; I’m beginning to realize my sister was drowning in an ocean of secrets, and I was inland the entire time, clueless. These are just a few examples of this easy to read, page turning novel that will keep you breathless with every turn of the page.

This is the first novel I have read by Minka Kent. She has previously published two books, The Memory Watcher and The Perfect Roommate. She is a master of psychological thrillers, and I cannot wait to read her previous books and am looking forward to The Stillwater Girls scheduled for publication April 2019.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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