Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: V.E.N.O.M. – Explosively Excellent Thriller

V.E.N.O.M

By Ty Mitchell

The mysterious death of an older Chinese couple in the Catskills has multiple law enforcement agencies scrambling for answers. By all accounts the two had several children living with them that are now missing. The reference to a group calling themselves V.E.N.O.M. comes into play.

New York City detective Jake Penney is called to work the case. He was a great cop at one time. The death of his family and subsequent spiral into alcohol and drug abuse has all but robbed him of his job. Hanging on by a thread, his CO decides that investigating the murders away from NYC may be the change of scenery he needs. The outcome of the case could determine the path his life will take, either with or without the NYPD.

As soon as Jake arrives he butts heads with the locals. Enter Special Agent Ethan Parker, an investigator that is pulled into the case from parts unknown. Parker recognizes the skill and knowledge Jake possesses and latches on to him. Parker uses tactics that are barely above the law to get information from suspects, which makes Jake more than uncomfortable. Parker is willing to go to any length to find the golden grail – a Catalogue containing details of deals and debts, assassinations and assassins spanning the globe. He explains to Jake that V.E.N.O.M. stands for The Veiled and Exclusive Nation of Organized Mercenaries – for a price the best assassins in the world will do your bidding.

Meanwhile, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Zasha Avery gets wind of the events in New York. Living and working in Miami will not stop her from following the case in the Catskills. She smells a story and is determined to be the one to investigate and write another award winning series before anyone else. She hones in on Jake and Parker, realizing that they are the ticket to the ride she wants to take no matter the consequences.

V.E.N.O.M. is a fast paced action novel with no shortage of character development. Jake, Parker and Zasha, the trio of main characters, are complex and flawed, often exploding on the pages for the reader’s enjoyment.

The fast-paced plot is twisted in the perfect way to keep readers breathless as the tension builds. By the last pages all has been revealed – or has it? The last pages tie up all loose ends.  Lucky for the reader, this appears to be the first in a series and I for one cannot wait for the second book in the series.

If you are a fan of Marvel characters and movies, you will love this fast-paced thriller. I see great things in Mitchell’s future, be sure to be along for this ride.

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.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: We Were Killers Once – A Haunting Thriller

We Were Killers Once

By Becky Masterman

Truman Capote is famous for his “fictional novel” In Cold Blood. Becky Masterman will soon be known for her novel, We Were Killers Once. Capote writes of two men that worked together slaughtering two families for no discernible reason. Masterman tells of a third man that could have been the instigator and true killer during robberies gone bad.

First of all, Masterman acknowledges We Were Killers Once is a work of fiction. But, she has also done copious research of the murders of the Clutter family and the Walker family in 1959. There is mention of an unnamed boy in the records of the two famous murders. This boy, Jackson Beaufort, is the focus of Masterman’s novel.

Bridget Quinn, former FBI Agent is obsessed with the murders of the Clutter and Walker families. She is only six-years-old when she first hears about the deaths and time has only increased her obsession. Her husband Carlo also has a tenuous link to Hickock and Smith from when he was a priest working in the prison system. Little do they know  their lives may be in danger from the very man that had a part in these brutal murders.

Jeremiah Randolph Beaufort is getting out of jail. He has been incarcerated on and off since he was twelve and shot his little brother. He claimed the killing was an accident, but no one believed him. After reform school his parents would not let him come home, so he lived with his grandfather before striking out on his own and hooking up with two men, Richard Eugene Hickock and Perry Smith when he is barely in his teens.

After his time with Hickock and Smith, he becomes a drug dealer/thief until the “three strikes “ law puts him behind bars for life. His good behavior set him free as an old man. On a mission to make sure the new DNA tests don’t put him back behind bars or on death row, Beaufort needs to find documents that Hickock and Smith may have left behind that could tie him to the 1959 murders.

Beaufort, Bridget and Carlo will intersect and then collide with one another as the story heats up. This page turning thriller will keep you up at night both reading and wondering about the true story behind the fiction.

Be sure to read the Author’s Note at the end of the book. Masterman explains the parts of her story that are based on facts and what is pure entertaining fiction. She has researched documents from the crimes and shares what she has learned. She also recommends further reading because We Were Killers Once will undoubtedly spark your interest about the events in 1959. I read In Cold Blood in the 1960’s but am going to listen to it again on audible. There are several other books, films and even a crime series that was aired in 2018 about these murders. I find myself thinking about this book wanting to know more – you will too. It is a puzzle unlikely to be solved, but you can draw your own conclusions after diving into these books.

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

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Book Review: Shirtless Men Drink Free – Hidden Agendas Are Ugly Bedfellows

Shirtless Men Drink Free

By Dwaine Rieves

Jackson Beekman is a rising star in his home state of Georgia. Currently the attorney general, his sights are set on the Governor’s office. But nothing is free in this world, least of all politics. Jackson needs to hedge his bets, so he begins building his campaign team.

Dr. Jane Beekman, Jackson’s sister-in-law, is one of the handpicked circle he chooses for his team.  She brings a personal agenda to the table. Politics are known for quid pro quo, and Jane is no exception. Her mother recently died a painful death due to her lifelong addiction to tobacco. She agrees to work for Jackson, and he agrees to push her agenda of raising the tax on tobacco as soon as he gets in office.

Jackson, like any human, has baggage. The problem with his is it is deep seated and hidden from almost everyone. His brother Price shares the sorrows and secrets of Jackson’s past. Price will keep the family secrets, but unbeknownst to the candidate, someone else from their past may come back to haunt Jackson.

The emotional roller coaster that the main characters ride is lightning fast. Jackson, Price and Jane are complex and complicated, their individual personalities jump from the pages and into the reader’s head.

The depth of this novel is coupled with an easy style that flows beautifully for the reader. It is hard to put this book in a box. It is fiction laced with facts, politics, social issues and human fallibility. The closest I can come to placing a label on Shirtless Men Drink Free is contemporary literary fiction. Contemporary due to the recurring theme of tobacco legislations and known health problems associated with it as well as social issues of today. I add the label “Literary” because Rieves’ beautiful use of the English language is evident throughout the book, but never pretentious.

If you only read one book this year that is not in your usual genre, I highly recommend this brilliant debut novel by Dwaine Rieves, Shirtless Men Drink Free. Read it for the human side of volatile issues that are hot topics in today’s headlines.

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: Dogs in Origami – 20 New Designs

Dogs in Origami

By: Nick Robinson

As I review Robinson’s Dogs in Origami, my beloved mixed breed sits by my side. I am sure many of you have or have had a dog that has touched your heart and possibly taken over your home with tennis balls, squeakless toys and unmatched faithfulness and love. This new book of origami is for you.

There are 20 projects complete with instructions and diagrams to assist novice and seasoned origami folders. As in Robinson’s previous books, the first few pages gives the reader tips and instruction on folding, choosing the correct paper and various techniques that are used in the book.

The projects are cute, but most of them do not especially say “dog” when I look at the pictures. Some of them could be any four legged creature – I felt the busy patterns on the origami paper detracted from the finished product. A couple of them are super “doggish”. My favorites are Woof! Woof! Puppy, Bodo’s Dog and Nodding Dog. The funniest one, and by far my favorite is Perro Liberando. This cute little pup is in action, doing what dogs frequently do – pooping. Yup, poop is funny in any medium, origami is no exception.

This is not a book for younger children due to the detail of these designs. They may be difficult for a younger child, especially one that has never done origami before. That being said, adults and teens should have no trouble following the explicit directions given by Mr. Robinson as well as the other contributors to Dogs in Origami. The Biography section at the end of the book highlights each designer that contributed to the book, so be sure to see which of the contributors is your favorite.

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: Bookies Bookmarks to Crochet – Giveaway from Dover Publications!

5.19.19 lily

Elmer Unicorn

Bookies

Bookmarks to Crochet

By: Jonas Matthies

Throw away those sales receipts, pieces of string or whatever else you are using for bookmarks and replace them with Bookies, cute little bug eyed creatures.  Bookies take only a few hours to make. Each one has a personality that you can create out of inexpensive, washable cotton yarn. Some are crazy, some are funny and all of them are cute. With stuffed heads and flat bodies they look adorable hanging out in your book all the while holding your place.

The directions are written and several pictures are included to assist you. I am a visual learner, so it helps me to see what the finished head, legs, or other body part of the Bookie should look like when it is completed.

There are a total of seventeen Bookie patterns rated from level 1 to level 3. I completed the Elmer the Unicorn as well as Gloria Giraffe for the kids next door. Both are level 2 projects. I let each of the children pick the Bookie they wanted and both of them, as well as me, are happy with the completed project.

5.19.19 giraffe

The basic stitches are given for the crafter, but because of the construction, changes in color and small details, I would recommend these patterns for an experienced knitter. I have made that comment before, and will again tell you that if you are a novice knitter and want to create a bunch of Bookies, don’t let me rain on your parade. Go for it!

Matthies has an intro section in the beginning of the book telling the reader about his interesting journey as a person and a crocheter. Be sure to read it before you dive into creating your own Bookies.

Dover Publications has graciously agreed to mail a copy to one lucky person. To be entered into the random drawing, just like this post, leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook or other social media with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know how you have shared this post by leaving a comment so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

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: Longevity – Would You Extend Your Life No Matter the Cost?

Longevity

By Rolf Margenau

How would you like to live an extra thirty or even 50 years or so beyond your life expectancy? Doctor Lucy Mendoza and her company have developed a pill that can extend lives to well over a hundred years old. On the surface, the pills seem to be rejuvenating the test group, but at what cost? Critics claim it is not the physical aspect of the Longevity project that bothers them. It is the moral and socio-economic ramifications that are destine to cause problems.

Several of these factions are doing their best to thwart the success of the Longevity project. These include some that have covertly infiltrated the company. Others have taken to the airwaves, especially the religious sector. They state that it is against God’s will. Demonstrators picket the front entrance of Dr. Mendoza’s building as well. When all of those actions are unsuccessful, those plotting against the Longevity project decide that nothing short of murder will end the Longevity trial, and they are willing to take matters into their own hands.

Enter Grant Duran, a man from Lucy’s past. He has been hired to work security for her. His resume includes several years in the military as well as special ops. But it also includes the feelings they once had for each other long ago. Can they both get past them? Lucy is willing to hire him because he is the best man for the job and she feels an instant attraction that cannot be denied.

Longevity has an interesting premise and raises all of the ethical and medical questions for the reader to consider. That being said, there are so many characters doing different dirty deeds at the same time, it is difficult to keep them straight.

The plot moves a bit too quickly. I would have liked to see the characters and the scenes to have played out a bit more. Within a few pages someone commits a crime, flies to two countries and dies accidentally. As a reader, I need more flesh on these bones to pull me into the action. It is a short book, under 200 pages, and that is not enough to tell this story with all of the characters involved. To keep my interest, it would have been better to connect with the characters a bit more. I did enjoy the one character that seems to be mild mannered that is kinky and more than a little crazy. My favorite character is Wylie Cypher. He is an older gentleman that is part of the Longevity project test group. I would have loved to see him pop up more often in this book.

This is the first book I have read by Rolf Margenau. He has written several other works of fiction including five novels as well as two photography books. The novels feature Wylie Cypher. I just might check out the first one to see what Wylie is up to in his 20’s.

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

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Girls of Yellow – Haunting New Thriller

Girls of Yellow (Elise D Jong/Sami Ali Book1)

By Orest Stelmach

A Dhimmi is a non-Muslim that lives in a Muslim region. He or she is allowed to retain their own faith, but is constantly persecuted, much like the Jews in Nazi controlled areas during WWII. Police Major Sami Ali lives and works in Budapest, where dhimmis are hated and many are enslaved. It is common practice for young girls to be taken from their homes or sold to people who groom them to become obedient to their masters. Ali has taken a vow to hate all Christians and Jews, so when he has to investigate the murder of a young, blonde dhimmi he is expected to sweep the murder under the carpet. Maybe it is because he has a young daughter at home, or maybe he feels compassion in a dispassionate world, it just seems wrong to ignore her death. Whatever the reason, he begins a real investigation into her death, and finds out she is not the first young, pretty blond dhimmi to be murdered.

Elise De Jong is in Budapest on official business. She works as a translator, but today she is on a mission of her own. Her sister was sold at birth by their drug addicted mother. De Jong has traced her to a religious slave training school, and is desperately trying to contact her to clandestinely take her away from slavery before it is too late.

Ali and De Jong meet in unfortunate circumstances. They are both living lies and each true to themselves no matter the outcome. Their unlikely alliance might be the only chance each of them has to find the answers they both seek.

I have to admit that the first few chapters were slow for me. It is understood that the background of the wars, rules for the Muslim countries and settings has to be established. I am so glad I didn’t give up. When the pace picked up, the characters came alive. By the time I got to the end I could not read fast enough to find out what would happen next. Book 2 of the series will be set in the “land formerly known as the United States”, so I am anxious to read it also.

This is the first book I have read by Mr. Stelmach, but not the first he has written. He writes thrillers and mysteries and is the author of the Nadia Tesla series, which are Kindle #1 bestsellers and have been optioned for film development. We need to read them now! Everyone knows that the book is so much better than the movie.

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

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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