Monthly Archives: April 2019

Book Review: The East End – Suspenseful, Complex, Page Turning Masterpiece

The East End

By Jason Allen

 The Hamptons are known as the playground of the rich and famous. Little thought is given to those who cook and serve the elite, keep the gardens blooming and basically are called upon to clean up the messes created by the upper crust of society. East End pulls back the curtain and allows the reader to delve into the life of Corey Halpern and his family. They can barely make ends meet and are plagued by violence, drug and alcohol abuse.  Living lives mostly invisible to the rich people inhabiting the homes they take care of, Corey and his family are barely holding on.

Corey secretly began “pranking” the people of the Hamptons by breaking into their homes and not taking anything. He moves objects and puts salt in the milk. He does just enough to mess with them but does not do any real harm. While sneaking into the home of Leo Sheffield, his employer, he is surprised to see Tiffany Sheffield and Angelique. They are two of the girls he goes to school with, who have arrived unexpectedly. Because he has had a crush on Angelique he stays to watch the girls. Not in an actually creepy way, but just to be near her. Then things go decidedly south. Mr. Sheffield arrives with someone other than his wife. Angelique has put her friend Tiffany to bed after too much wine, but unfortunately sees something that will change her life forever. Corey is also a witness and vows to protect Angelique from one of the most powerful men in the Hamptons.

Allen masterfully intertwines the lives of the very rich with the lives of the people that take care of them. Most of the time money can get the rich out of whatever problems they encounter, but not this time. The danger that touches Corey’s family bleeds into the Sheffield family by the end of the book in the most surprising way.

The East End will be available on May 7, 2019 at your favorite bookseller. I loved this fast-paced story. It is full of twists, turns, danger and deceit. The story pulls you in and doesn’t let go until the final pages. Jason Allen is an author that delivers exactly what a reader wants: a solid story about flawed people bound together by circumstances beyond their control. Kudos!

If you would like to connect with Jason Allen, visit his website:  Author Website

or contact him via social media with the links below:

Twitter: @EathanJason

Facebook: @jasonallenauthor

Goodreads

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Netgalley, Justine Sha, Publicist and Park Row Books in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Blood on the Chesapeake – Page Turning Mystery

Blood on the Chesapeake

By Randy Overbeck

Darrell Henshaw is new to the Chesapeake Bay area. He needs a new start from the ghosts of his past as well as distance from his former fiancé that apparently thought monogamy was an option, not a requirement of their relationship. Much to his delight, he is hired at the local high school as a history teacher and the football coach. He is settling in just fine until he starts getting the familiar prickling in the hairs on the back of his neck. There are spirits in the school that are not at rest searching him out. He tries to ignore the feelings and strange happenings, but the restless ghost needs Darrell’s help and isn’t going away any time soon.

Meantime, he is really enjoying connecting with the kids in his history class. It isn’t easy, the diverse group doesn’t really like the newcomer and most of them dislike history in general. But Darrell brings a spark of life to the classroom they cannot ignore. By assigning a report that will delve into the local area’s past the students begin to engage, but strangely enough the community and school leaders seem reluctant to participate. Could they be hiding something? Darrell may be flying too close to the flame to notice he might ignite something that cannot be extinguished. And he might die trying.

But Darrell is far from all work and no play. He has found a new friend to hang out with, Al. Also a teacher at the school, Al lightens up the mood by telling bad jokes that make you groan and chuckle. Most of them are rated G so you can tell them to your kids. And then there is Erin. Darrell is not looking for love again, but she has caught his eye and just might be the one to thaw his heart.

Overbeck’s characters are interesting and engaging. Darrell has a bit of OCD going on, reminding me of the Monk series by Lee Goldberg. It is endearing and a bit comical, but the reader will quickly know that Darrell has to wash his hands twice and dry them on precisely three paper towels. His newfound girlfriend Erin, is much more carefree. She is the perfect balance to the baggage Darrell brings into the relationship but she is ready for the challenge. The other character that stands out for me is the medium/lady of the evening, Natalia – I hope to see more of her in the next book in the series.

I loved this paranormal mystery by new author Randy Overback. True to his main character, the events taught to the class about the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are factual, but the places and dates are not per the Author’s note at the beginning of the book. So technically it is a paranormal historical mystery – but whatever box you want to check about this book, be sure to include it on the must read list.

A prolific writer of trade journals and professional texts, Overback’s first novel, Leave No Child Behind is the 2011 Silver Award for Thriller of the Year winner. It would not surprise me one bit to see Blood on the Chesapeake winning awards in the near future also. The title page of Blood on the Chesapeake, adds “The Haunted Shores Mysteries”. Because this is Mr. Overbeck’s first novel in the series, we can assume there will be more to hear from Darrell and Erin in the future. The Chesapeake area is rich in history, therefore, must be rich in ghosts that need their help. I am excited to add this new series to my list of must reads, and recommend picking up your copy today.

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 © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek – Fiction Based on Facts

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

By Kim Michele Richardson

Troublesome Creek, Kentucky is rightly named. There are few jobs, too little food other than what can be coaxed out of the stubborn soil and a deep prejudice back in the 1930s. If you are colored you don’t have the same rights as white folks and if you are a blue you are considered to be almost less than human. Children stare and almost everyone refrains from touching a blue.

Cussy Mary Carter is a blue. She lives with her Pa and is proud to have a job delivering books with the Pack Horse Library Project. Pa works in the coal mines and along with the small amount of pay he also collects a large amount of coal dust that resides in his lungs and is slowly leaching the life out of him. Before he dies he wants to marry off Cussy so that she won’t be alone. Cussy on the other hand, does not want a suitor much less a husband. Married women cannot be Book Women and she loves bringing books to people in the Kentucky mountains. They cannot afford books and there isn’t a library to go to in Troublesome Creek.

Known to many as Bluet, Cussy cares for the people on her book route. They depend on her. She grows closer to some than others, but always knows just which books and magazines to bring to each on her route. She goes without food to help feed starving children and brings coveted medicines to sick or injured along with the books in her pack.

The town doc wants to do medical testing on Cussy, but she firmly refuses. Unfortunately she and her Pa need his help and the only way to get it is to allow him to run the tests he has asked for. She will take her first ride in a motor car and go to the city where they take some of her blood and examine her against her will. Surprisingly, there is a cure for her blue skin. The Doc has figured out her ailment and can treat it. She can be white – but at what cost?

The harshness of the hills in the 1930’s is not sugarcoated in this novel. This is where people die from starvation, books and newspapers are hard to come by and blue people suffering from Fugates’ Congenital methemoglobinemia really exist. Ms. Richardson pulls the reader into the hard scrabble life of the Kentucky mountain people. Both the beauty of her prose and the stark realities, she pulls the reader along the rough road Cussy travels as well as the bits of beauty, charm and love she encounters. Ms. Richardson doesn’t just tell the story; you become immersed by the language and descriptions. A couple of my favorites are when Cussy first sees the city. “..the unusual buzz, the city’s open hymnal..”  and also when she first sees the city hospital, “…a concrete tree with branches of polished corridors…”.

Be sure to read the afterward that explains about methemoglobinemia, the history of the disease as well as pictures of those afflicted. The Pack Horse Library Project, established in 1935 as part of President Roosevelt’s WPA program is also detailed. By reading the afterward, it is evident Ms. Richardson weaves the facts masterfully into her work of fiction. An advocate for prevention of child abuse and domestic violence (which is also touched on in the book), Ms Richardson has written several novels as well as a best-selling memoir, The Unbreakable Child.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Bookish and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Reviews: The First Mistake – Nothing is Perfect and Nothing is as it Seems

The First Mistake

By Sandie Jones

On the surface, Alice lives a perfect life. She has two daughters, a wonderful husband and runs a very successful business. But underneath the guise of perfection lies the truth. She still longs for her first husband, the father of her oldest daughter, Sophia. He died while on a ski trip leaving her to mourn him while raising their daughter alone. She spiraled into darkness and with the help of pills shut herself off to the world.

Alice has found love again with her new husband Nathan. Together they have Olivia, their daughter and he loves Sophia as if she was is his own child. Nathan partners with Alice at the design company she started with her first husband, helping to grow the business. He does all the traveling because Alice has a phobia about leaving since her first husband died on a trip, so they are the perfect couple.

Things begin to unravel when she finds what seems like evidence that her husband is cheating on her. She cannot believe it, but things just don’t add up. The only person she can talk to is her best friend Beth, who was in a relationship that ended disastrously while she was pregnant with a daughter that is the same age as Sophia, and coincidentally is Sophia’s bestie. Beth does not trust men and rightfully so. She convinces Alice to follow up on her suspicions of Nathan’s adultery. This might just cause the carefully balanced life Alice has created to collapse. Can she survive another loss since the last one almost killed her?

Ms. Jones has done it again. I loved her first book, The Other Woman. It is a deservedly a New York Times Best-Selling novel, and The First Mistake is sure to be at the top of that list also. The story pulls the reader in within the first few pages and holds you breathlessly until the very last sentence. It is the perfect woman’s fiction with a touch of mystery that keeps readers turning pages for just one more chapter late into the night.

The First Mistake has many twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the last pages. I was absolutely surprised at the ending, yet all the information had been givin to me throughout the book to figure it out. I love when an author ends with a fantastic finale. It is the perfect beach read, but honestly I would not wait for warm weather to read this fantastic novel.

I have read both of Ms. Jones’ novels and am waiting breathlessly for her to pen another masterpiece like the previous two.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Bookish and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

 

 

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Book Review: For Sissy – Fast as Lightning and Just as Brilliant

For Sissy

By A. H. Gilbert

Emerson is paying for the sins of his father. In hindsight, he made the mistake of his life by leaving his research work on invasive insects and coming to work for his father at the resort he was building. It seemed like the logical choice after his grant ran out and he discovered he is the father of six year old Courtney whom he met recently. Her mother was killed by a hit and run driver so now he has custody. But the worse turn of events was finding out his father used shoddy building materials, might have murdered someone and bilked others without Emerson’s knowledge. Since his father is gone, Emerson is now facing charges that may put him away for a long time even though he had no knowledge of his father’s crimes.

Just when Emerson assumes life cannot get any more complicated, the police have started questioning him in the recent attacks on young women. They seem to be connected to him so he is the logical suspect in their eyes. But there is a serial killer on the loose and he is hunting for Courtney, Emerson’s daughter. Courtney doesn’t fit his profile, but she is the only one that can identify him as the man she has had nightmares about since her mother’s death. Can Emerson stay out of jail long enough to keep her safe? Will the police listen to him when he thinks he has a stalker?

For Sissy is paced as fast as lightning and just as brilliant. The story picks up momentum like and approaching storm rumbling in the distance and doesn’t stop until it unleashes its fury. The page turning tension makes this a must read for all psychological thriller buffs. The story is solid, dropping clues like breadcrumbs for the reader to follow, ending with a shocking surprise at the end that I did not see coming.

I love everything about this book. The characters are multi-dimensional and believable, from the chilling calculations of the killer to the little girl. The bit players such as Emerson’s girlfriend and the police officers add richness and depth to the story. It kept me up late reading one more chapter to see what was going to happen next.

The is the first book I’ve read by A. H. Gilbert, but the second one he has written. I have already put his previous book, The Crandall Haunting at the top of my list of must read books.

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.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Making of a Milliner – Hats off to a Great Book

The Making of a Milliner

Hat-Making Projects

By: Jenny Pfanenstiel

The Making of a Milliner is a book that gives detailed instructions to make beautiful hats, but it is so much more. It begins with explaining exactly what a Milliner is and the history behind the art of creating hats. Originating in the sixteenth century and hailing from Milan, Italy the English called the hat merchants Milaner – which evolved to “milliner” as it still is today.

Not so many years ago, women of all ages and socioeconomic levels would have never left the house without a hat. Then hats slipped to holidays and special occasions. Now, unless you are attending a formal even, are a member of the British Royalty or going to the Kentucky Derby, you most likely don’t even think about wearing a hat. But a quote from a woman on the very first page resonated with me, because my very active eighty-something aunt always says people no longer see her anymore. Ms. Pfanenstiel shares Julie’s quote, “ …That hat was like magic.” and “…at least 20 men and women tell me they loved my hat.” Maybe it is time for women of all ages to embrace hats again.

A Milliner’s world is full of skill, color and beauty. Full color photos beautifully pull the reader into the past then on to the present. The art and skills involve wool, hat blocks, feathers, beads and almost any other kind of adornment you can imagine. I am fascinated with the different types of hat blocks that are shown and the uses for each are detailed. I love the Puzzle Block. It would look so cool on a bookshelf and would surely become a conversation starter with or without a hat on it.

The materials a Milliner uses are pictured with paragraphs next to them detailing the use, availability and pros and cons of each. For example, horse hair, also known as crinoline, cannot be blocked, but can be used to create effects, can be frayed, or used on a brim or as a veil. I love learning new and unexpected facts. I would have never guessed the old crinoline slip of my mother’s was made of horse hair!

The instructions to make your own hats are accompanied by a list of materials and where to purchase them, as well as detailed instructions of the techniques. As in the previous sections, the color photographs help show exactly what the instructions outline.

Another thing that pulls me into the story of hat making is the fun facts that are listed along with each hat. Did you know Coco Chanel created the first cloche hat? Or that the term “mad as a hatter” relates to the effects of the exposure to mercury vapors milliners experienced while working with the wet wool?

I loved reading the history and art of Millinery. While I don’t think I am up to making a hat of my own, I am going to pay more attention to hats in the future, and cannot wait to pick one out for a special occasion. If you are wondering why someone would even consider wearing a hat, muh less making a hat in these casual times we live in, read this book. Hats are elegant, charming and reflect the wearer’s taste and personality. Even though I am more likely to smack a baseball cap on my head, I love trying on posh hats and have been known to purchase a few to keep the hot summer sun off of my face. Think of Julie’s quote – she felt beautiful wearing her hat and you should too.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Dover Publications in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Knitted Toys 20 cut and colorful projects – Worth a Second Look!

Knitted Toys

20 cute and colorful projects

By: Jody Long

You might recognize this title from last year when I reviewed Knitted Toys for Netgalley. When I received a copy from Dover Publications this week, I sat down and read through it again and felt it warranted another shout out because it is an informative book with adorable patterns.

Like any good knitting pattern book, it begins with the list of supplies that are needed as well as helpful tips such as how to stuff your toy creations properly so that the toy will not lose shape or be lumpy through lots of hours of loving as well as surviving the washing machine. It was particularly interesting to find the suggestion of using plastic straws for shaping. They don’t break, are not sharp and can be washed and dried without breaking.

The patterns are colorful and varied. The airplane and firetruck are great for little boys and girls; it is nice to see something different from the usual animals even though all of them are adorable. Samuel the Snake will be easy for little hands to hold and the Squishy Beach Balls are great for indoor play.

My favorite pattern is still Primrose the Nighttime Teddy. She has a nightcap and nightgown and will be the perfect buddy for a child to take to bed at night. My other favorite is Rusty the Puppy. He looks so squishy and cute I can just see a toddler cuddling up with him for a nap and dragging along on their daily adventures.

I hesitate but need to note that beginning knitters may need a bit of practice before creating these cute animals. All of the patterns are clear and should be a snap for experienced knitters. There are small paragraphs of instruction for the basic stitches in the introductory pages. They are easily understood if you have knitted previously, but a new knitter may need a bit more info. But who am I to rain on someone’s parade? There are YouTube videos for everything including some wonderful detailed knitting instructions so novice knitters, go for it!

Most knitters have yarn in their stashes that would more than complete one or more of these terrific toys. The patterns would make perfect take-a-long projects because each piece can easily be stashed in a purse or backpack.

As I wrote before; I highly recommend this book.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Dover Publications in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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