Monthly Archives: October 2019

Book Review: She’s Out – Is a Felon Ever Truly Free?

She’s Out

By Linda La Plante

You can let a person out of jail, but can said person ever truly be free? Dolly Rawlins was a model prisoner that stuck to herself. Imprisoned for murdering her husband, she paid her debt to society and had lofty dreams of opening a home for orphans. She knew it would not be easy, but having worked with young mothers while in prison and watching the system take away their babies, she knew she wanted to turn her life around by giving back to those who needed her the most.

A group of former inmates have a different plan. Dolly is rumored to have a cache of diamonds hidden from a heist that she was suspected of stashing before her arrest and they wanted a piece of that haul. Hiding their motive by generously offering Dolly a place to stay while she gets back on her feet, each of women dreamed of wealth. Dolly is a smart cookie, realizing the women are plotting something. She is cunning enough to know she needs a place to stay under the radar. When one of the women offers to sell her the old Victorian Grange Manor House, Dolly jumps at the chance. On the surface, it seems perfect to spruce up and turn into a home for children. Unfortunately, the authorities are not on board with a house that used to be a brothel used to house children. Coupled with Dolly’s past, they dashed her dreams.

Dolly still has the diamonds, kept safe by an old acquaintance – or so she thinks. When she begins to make inquiries, Dolly finds out she has been double crossed. Then she comes to the realization that society will never forget her past or allow her to move on. A heist of monumental proportions is the only thing that will set her free.

She’s Out is an intriguingly intricate tale of women that each have their own agenda. They agree they don’t necessarily like each other, but need each other. The story pulled me in immediately, and by the end of the novel, the page-turning plot was impossible to put down until the last words were read. Some novels keep popping up in my mind long after the last pages – this is one of them.

The last book in a trilogy, She’s Out reads perfectly as a stand-alone novel. I have not read the previous two books, but did not feel lost or confused at any point in the book. Ms. La Plante is an acclaimed writer, screenwriter, actress and producer. Her books have been adapted to movies as well as television series.  Bibliophiles who love fabulously written fast-paced thrillers and have not read her works should dive into one of her books. If you are already a fan, She’s Out is a must read. I cannot wait to read her new book, Buried, which is coming in March 2020.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Bookish First (https://www.bookishfirst.com/)in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: My Fair Latte – Fabulous First in a New Cozy Series

My Fair Latte (The Café Cinema Mystery Series #1)

By Vickie Fee

Halley Greer’s Great-Uncle Leon bequeathed the Star Movie Palace to her. Far past it’s prime, the theater is a faded princess that time has not been kind to. But there is something about the small town of Utopia Springs and the hopes of reviving the theater that makes Halley want to stay. She has dreams of playing old classic movies and serving wine and coffees in the lobby. She is a great barista and wants to use her talents to support herself doing something she loves.

After a rocky start, she begins making friends and connections in the tourist laden town. When someone vandalizes her newly renovated theater, she begins to wonder if her dreams will be dashed, but she perseveres.  Having high hopes for opening night, Halley was elated when locals and tourists filled the theater. Unfortunately, during the intermission, one of the patrons was found dead in his seat.

When the police department focuses on her as their main suspect, Halley and her new friends begin a bit of sleuthing. Will she become the next victim by getting too close to the truth?

Ms. Fee drew me into the story immediately. The characters are quirky, funny and realistic. I was amused by the hotel owner who pretends to be British. And who doesn’t like a cat with the name Eartha Kitty? Like all cozies, there is a bit of romance flirting at the edge of the mystery. There is also a great historical twist featuring the infamous outlaw Jesse James that is totally plausible.

The small-town setting is perfect for a new cozy series. It is vintage but not old fashioned. There is entertainment for tourists and locals alike as well as eateries and shops. The nostalgic nod to the past with classic movies is interesting and fun. It reminded me of more than one classic film I would love to see again on the big screen.

Vicki Fee is the author of the A Liv and Di in Dixie Mystery Series. My Fair Latte is the first book in the Café Cinema Mystery Series and the first one I have read from this author. Her sharp wit, interesting story and fun characters are perfectly balanced and I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: Drop Dead Lola – Fifth in the Lola Cruz Mystery Series

10.17.19Drop Dead Lola

By Melissa Bourbon

PI Delores (Lola) Cruz is juggling her personal and professional life with aplomb and a bit of craziness. She has just landed a job investigating a suicide that is very questionable. The mother of the deceased is positive her son did not take his own life. Lola and the rest of the PI agency she works for agree that something is mighty fishy. When the victim’s mother is found barely alive in a garage filled with carbon monoxide Lola is sure there is a murderer in their midst and she is determined to find him or her before someone else winds up dead.

Meanwhile, her cousin Leti is getting married and Lola is one of the bridesmaids. In addition to the tacky dress she has to wear, Lola is supposed to be helping with the bridal shower. Luckily, she can count on her close-knit family to pick up the slack so that she can pursue the case. But that same family can be a bit overwhelming. Especially her mother. It doesn’t help living in the apartment above her parents.  Personal space and privacy is virtually non-existent. The overnight visits by her boyfriend do not go unnoticed.

Drop Dead Lola is a fun romp with Lola, her extended family, friends and co-workers. Lola’s co-workers are interesting and have secrets of their own. One of them is her best friend and partner in solving crime even though she is the administrative assistant. Lola’s Hispanic family is large and loving and her boyfriend, Jack, is adorable. Like all cozy mystery series, their relationship appears to have been on and off.

Mixing murder and zany fun is the essence of a cozy mystery. Ms. Bourbon expertly intertwines a solid “who done it” plot with the craziness of the wedding and family interactions. I love reading a book that seamlessly adds in pole dancing and a boudoir photo shoot seamlessly amid a murder investigation.

This is the fifth book in the Lola Cruz Mystery Series, but the first one I have read. It was easy to read as a one-off novel; I did not feel confused at all. I am going to go back and read the other books in the series. If you are a fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, you will love this series.

My only criticism is the many phrases in Spanish used in the dialog. I could figure some of them out but it really interrupted the reading flow for me. I was feeling “stuck” trying to figure out what exactly the characters had said. I would have loved to see the translation at the end of the page like a footnote or even a glossary at the end of the book. My mind kept going back trying to see what phrase/word it may have been, distracting me from the excellent plot.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: My Life with John Steinbeck – An Intriguing Look Into An American Icon’s Life

My Life with John Steinbeck

By Gwyn Steinbeck

Famous American author John Steinbeck was brilliant but troubled. It is well documented that he was a hard-drinking man. My Life With John Steinbeck gives readers an inside look into the man behind the legend. His second wife, Gwyn Steinbeck, professes her lifetime love of John, yet doesn’t pull any punches about his infidelities, drunken rages and controlling behavior. She knew him intimately, but freely admits her book is “but a fragment of John’s life”.

Gwyn was introduced to him in 1938. One of her longtime friends asked her to bring chicken soup to an ailing friend, who ended up being John. Becoming infatuated with Gwyn, he walked into the club she was singing in a few days later. Their life became intertwined over cigarettes and booze, growing into love, marriage and ultimately divorce.

Life with John wasn’t easy. Traveling to Mexico or Paris on a whim was not uncommon. It didn’t matter if Gwyn was pregnant or sick, if John wanted to take a road trip, they got in the car with their Old English Sheepdog and hit the road. Gwen rarely stood up to John. By her writings, he could not tolerate any sickness or disruptions in his life that others might bring. He was not the best father, in fact, Gwyn states more than once how he basically ignored his second son. She tolerated John’s moods and quirks until 1948 when she told him she would always love him but wanted a divorce.

Gwyn gives us a peek behind the scenes of one of the most famous American authors, living or dead. The little-known facts, such as which films made from his books that he loved and which ones he hated. His friends included many A-List stars and authors. It was intriguing to read about his war correspondent years as well as his writing process. I have not read all of his books, but Grapes of Wrath will always be one of my all-time favorite books.

My Life with John Steinbeck is a very interesting biography that reads like a novel. Of course, it is written from one person’s perspective, but the intimacy of Gwyn and John’s life brings depth to the story like no one else could. It is entertaining and enlightening. It has inspired me to read more of his books and perhaps catch one or two is his movies.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review. https://reedsy.com/discovery/ Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: The Fog Ladies – Getting Old Can be Murder

The Fog Ladies

By Susan McCormick

Sarah James is doing her medical residency at a San Francisco hospital. She is given an apartment in the same building as the group of women dubbed the Fog Ladies and grows fonder of them with every passing day. They are old and quirky, outspoken and most of them kind. But lately there have been accidents among the group. And a few deaths – are they just at the age where falls can be fatal or is someone methodically murdering these old ladies?

Getting old isn’t easy. The Fog Ladies expected sore joints, dimming vision and dicey digestion but none of them bargained for murder. Maybe it is just a coincidence that some of the gals are dying from accidents in their homes, but something just doesn’t add up. These San Francisco gals have lived in the same building for years, with the exception of Sarah the medical intern, and there have been more accidents than can be explained in the last few months.

As exhausted as Sarah is, she is determined to help her newfound friends. Will she be able to find out who is targeting them before another one dies? There are suspects in and around the building. Is she just imagining it or has someone been in her apartment also? What could they possibly have against her since she is new to the building?

The characters drive this cozy. Each of the building residents are unique, some are kind, others painfully honest no matter whose feelings are hurt. There is a biting little dog, a cat who likes cookies and ice cream and an infant mixed in with the cast of Fog Ladies. Each of them adds depth to the story as well as comedy at times. One of them becomes overly fond of Starbuck’s coffees – so much so she will do just about anything to get her daily fix.

The mystery of who is killing the Fog Ladies has many twists and turns. There are several likely suspects, and just when I thought I knew who the killer was there would be a new clue that blew my theory out of the water. To mix things up, there are a few men that live the building. Maybe Sarah has time for something other than work and hunting a murderer – unless one of them is trying to kill her. Overall, this is the perfect cozy mystery with characters that will travel well into the next book of the series as well as the beautiful setting of San Francisco.

This is the first book I have read by Susan McCormick. She has also written a children’s picture book entitled Granny Can’t Remember Me. It helps children cope with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. I am looking forward to the next adventures of the Fog Ladies.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: Takes One To Know One – Nail Biting Thriller

Takes One to Know One

By Susan Isaacs

Corie Geller never imagined the turn her life would take. As an FBI Special Agent, she has done things most people believe only happens in spy novels and blockbuster movies. Now her life revolves around her husband, Federal Judge Josh Geller and her young step-daughter, Eliza. Corie, fluent in Arabic, is now a freelancer for several publishers. She reads Arabic novels and makes recommendations as to which would translate and sell in English. She does the occasional job for the FBI, but keeps that life separate from her personal life as much as possible to keep her husband and step-daughter safe.

On a whim, she joins a group of suburban self-employed people that meet once a week for lunch. Thinking it would be stimulating, Corie soon learns that she does not really fit in well, but can’t really figure out how to leave the group. Then she starts noticing one of the members, Pete Delaney acting extremely strange. He is nondescript, but there is something about him that Corie senses is off. Is he an agent like her? Or is there something illegal going on?

She begins taking more notice of him. After finding out from another in the group that he has been seen acting oddly aggressive outside of the group, she quietly begins investigating him. She shares her thoughts with her father, a retired NYPD detective who agrees there is something going on.

Is he a drug runner? Is he an illegal arms dealer? Perhaps a kidnapper or killer – or just a boring guy who has anger issues? Corie is bound and determined to find out.

Acclaimed author Susan Isaacs has done it again. This page turner has mystery, intrigue and believable characters. The heart pounding action will not allow you to put it down. I particularly like the fact that the final confrontation was not the end of the book. Oftentimes books end with only a page or two of closure, but Isaacs gives readers a thorough ending that ties up loose ends. I really like that I am not left wondering what happened.

I highly recommend Takes One to Know One to all mystery and thriller lovers. Isaac’s never disappoints, she once again has written a fabulously intriguing book and with interesting characters.

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. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review