Monthly Archives: February 2020

Book Review: Murder of a Needled Knitter – Honeymoon and Homicide!

Murder of a Needled Knitter

By Denise Swanson

Newly married Skye Denison Boyd and Wally, her brand-new husband have set sail on a romantic honeymoon cruise. The two of them are happy little love birds until they realize that there are a group of knitters on the cruise with them. Knitting doesn’t bother either of them, but they didn’t realize that Skye’s overbearing mother May is part of the knitting group and her father Jed has joined her. When they also see Skye’s friend Trixie and her husband aboard ship, the newlyweds realize they are sailing into different seas than they imagined.

When an obnoxious knitting instructor is found dying by Skye and Trixie, they realize a murderer is also aboard the ship. The bad news is, May is the lead suspect. The good news is Wally is a member of the police force back home and this isn’t the first dead body Skye and Trixie have stumbled upon. The three of them team up with a little help from Skye’s parents and Trixie’s husband to find the real killer before they reach the end of the cruise so May can go home instead of being remanded to FBI custody.

I love cozies, and Swanson is a master of this genre. Murder of a Needled Knitter has all of the elements cozy readers love. Amateur sleuths, hot hubbies and boyfriends, just enough bloodshed, but not too much and a solid plot that wraps up splendidly in the end. Swanson’s books are fun to read and beautifully written. The descriptions of the food on the cruise ship made me hungry and phrases like, “Rumors were spread like suntan lotion at the pool—thickly and with little regard for the slippery consequences.” made me chuckle.

This is not the first book I have read in the Scumble River Mystery Series. Denise Swanson is one of my favorite cozy writers. Since I live close to where the series is set, it is fun to read about places the characters go that I have been to myself. But you certainly don’t have to live near Chicago to relate to this fabulous cozy series. I highly recommend any and all of Denise Swanson’s books to readers who love a well-written cozy with interestingly engaging characters.

Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Red Lotus – New York Times Best Selling Author’s Latest Gem

The Red Lotus

By Chris Bohjalian

A bicycle trip takes Alexis, an ER doctor and her medical researcher boyfriend Austin to Vietnam. While both of them enjoy biking and the scenery, the trip is personal for Austin. His father was wounded and his uncle died in the very jungle they would bike through within the safety of the group.

Due to weather, things change a bit and Austin decides to go off on his own to complete the pilgrimage and closure he came for. When he doesn’t return, the local police are called in. His body is found, apparently the victim of a hit and run accident. But was it? Alexis has a feeling it was murder, but how can a doctor back in the states investigate a possible murder in a faraway country?

Soon she finds evidence that Austin has been lying to her. Even though their entire relationship was built upon these newfound lies, she is determined to find the truth and his murderer. Digging where someone doesn’t want you to find anything can be deadly, but Alexis and a PI she retains won’t stop until the answers they seek are revealed.

From the opening pages of this novel to the last, Bohjalian skillfully keeps the readers breathless with fear and the expectation of evil just around the corner for Alexis. She has her own demons to deal with as well as roadblocks by officials and Austin’s family throughout the book.

The reader is swept into the beauty of Vietnam’s jungles and the grittiness of the ER. The author paints us the picture of both with his words, juxtaposing the good and bad of both places throughout the novel.

I found this fast-paced mystery absorbingly interesting and was immediately hooked on the plot and characters. This is the first book I’ve read by New York Times Best Selling Author Chris Bohjalian, but not the last. Looking over his list of best-sellers it will be difficult to choose which one to read next.

 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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Shake Down – 5th Book in an Entertaining Cozy Series

Shake Down

The Elliott Lisbon Mystery Series #5

By Kendel Lynn

Daphne is missing. She never arrived at her best friend and roommate Juliette’s wedding shower and she is the maid of honor. Everyone is worried that something bad has happened to Daphne, but she has previously disappeared for a few days when she wanted clear her head. As the hours turn to days, the worry machine ramps up.

Enter Elliott Lisbon, PI-in-training and the director of the Ballantyne Big House. In addition to the private quarters, the Ballantyne is known for the charitable events it hosts. Now Elliot – known to her friends as Elli, has a huge event to orchestrate, Juliette’s wedding the following day and a new case – she has to find the missing maid of honor.

There is an interesting twist in the case involving Juliette, Daphne and Tucker, the groom-to-be. They are former contestants on a reality show, Down the Isle. That is where the trio met and Juliette “won” when Tucker chose her from all of the eligible young ladies on the show to marry. What are the odds of a TV reality show creating a happily ever after for two people who didn’t know each other before filming starts? Some of the relationships may work out, but others could turn deadly.

Sea Pine Island, South Carolina is the perfect setting for this cozy mystery. The small island feel as well as the nod to the preservation of sea turtle nests added depth to this cozy mystery. The twists and turns in the case were neatly wrapped up by the end of the book, which I really like even when it is part of a series.

As the fifth one in The Elliott series, the plot was easily a read-alone mystery. I was confused in the first few chapters because I couldn’t figure out if Elliott was a man or a woman. And her best friend Sid also confused me gender wise until I came upon the pronouns identifying them both as female. I can only assume other avid readers get a picture in their heads of the characters which is not easily done if you don’t know if they are men or women.

I am a true fan of cozy mysteries and Shake Down ticks all the boxes. The characters, setting and plot are engaging and interesting. I didn’t see the twist at the very end, so kudos to Ms. Lynn for her plotting expertise; delivering an “aha!” moment for her readers. This is the first book in the series and the first book written by Ms. Lynn that I have read.

 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. https://www.edelweiss.plus/#sku=1635115876&g=4400&page=1

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Fortunate Son – Memoir That Reads Like a Novel

Fortunate Son

The story of baby boy Francis

By Brooks Eason

Pregnant girls were hidden in the 1950’s, most of them giving up their children at birth or shortly thereafter. This is the story of one such child. Paul Brooks Eason was born in New Orleans to a college student, and came to live with his adoptive parents and sister (also adopted).

Fast forward to 2004, Tupelo, Mississippi. Brooks’ father, now 82, receives a phone call from a lawyer in New Orleans who is looking for a man named Paul Eason, age 46. Apparently, there has been a nationwide search for the man that was adopted because he is potentially the heir to a fortune.

So begins Brooks’ journey to find out about his birth mother, and the wealthy family he was born into. He dropped his first name and is known by Brooks to friends, family and the clients who retain his services as a lawyer. He has done quite well for himself and is happy with his life both as a child in a loving family and as a grown man with a family of his own. He is intrigued by his newfound connection with his birth family.

Life has a way of repeating itself, and this family is no different. But the way they react is absolutely opposite from the way Ann Lowrey (Eason’s birth mother) and his daughter Ann Lowrey’s pregnancy was approached. His mother honestly had no choice but to give up her child. His daughter, made the choice to continue going to school, bring her daughter into the world and raise her as a single mother with the full support and love of her family.

The author takes us through a first hand account of history through the eyes of his adoptive family as well as the family he was born into. It is fascinating to hear details from 1886 to the present through the filter of someone who lived them and passed family stories down to each generation that follows. Honestly, it is like sitting down to dinner with my dad, listening about his childhood. Adding a human touch and warmth to experiences we’ve read about in history books is exactly what Eason has done to pull the reader in and hold you until the last pages of Fortunate Son.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from publicist Maryglenn McCombs in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Bookreview: Please See Us – Must Read Debut Novel

Please See Us

By Caitlin Mullen

Women are dead and hidden in plain sight, but no one sees them. Atlantic City isn’t the bustling place it used to be. Casinos have closed and shops are boarded up. The darkened streets breed vermin that walk on four legs and two. Women walk the streets turning tricks and dreaming of a different life, like the dead women once did – who will be next?

Teenage Clara dreams of leaving the life of stealing and scamming and finding her mother who she hasn’t seen in years. Living with her aunt, she reads palms and Tarot cards for the tourists and locals. She isn’t a total scam. Visions come to her about people, mostly unbidden, but it helps reel them in for a reading.

Lily returns home to Atlantic City after heartbreak in New York. She needs to get away from her cheating boyfriend but that comes with a price. Her rising career as a Soho gallery girl comes to a screeching halt and she finds an awful job at a drowning spa. When her path intersects with Clara they begin an unusual partnership that leans toward an awkward friendship. They may be the only two people concerned enough about the missing women.

Please See Us is a brilliantly layered thriller. The indifference and absence of the police throughout the novel works extremely well. Most crime novels have a huge police presence, but Mullen skillfully keeps them in the wings throughout most of the story. Lily is running away from her life, yet a part of her wants to go back and forgive and forget. Clara can’t escape, yet longs for it with all of her being. Luis, a young deaf mute whose life intertwines with Lily and Clara, also weaves his story into the fabric of the novel in unexpected ways.

This is Caitlin Mullen’s debut novel. Her attention to detail creates a setting and characters that come alive on the pages. The characters are complex and interesting and relatable even though most readers hopefully have not experienced the traumas they have endured. She wowed me with the depth of the plot that moved so quickly I found myself reading it late into the night to see what happened next.

I highly recommend Please See Us to anyone who likes psychological thrillers, mysteries and novels featuring strong, unforgettable characters. If you like Gillian Flynn or Paula Hawkins Girl on a Train, you will love Please See Us.

 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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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