Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: Other People’s Houses – The Perfect Summer Read

Other People’s Houses

By Abbi Waxman

 

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.

Neighbors can be ignored, acquaintances or befriended on levels from chit chats over fences to confidants. In Frances’s neighborhood, she has some of each of the above. As a stay home mom, she is the designated car pool to school kind of neighbor, so she knows anyone with small children pretty well. At least she thought so.

The day started out like any other day. Frances picks up her charges and heads to school with them. Kids are dropped off, piling out of the minivan like a clown car. That is until six-year-old Katie realizes she forgot her toilet paper rolls for her project. The last thing Frances wants to do is to drive back to Katie’s house, get the missing TP rolls and drive back to school again. But looking at Katie’s desperate little face she knows she will have to go back for them.

Getting back to the child’s house, Frances knocked, but when there was no answer, she figured Anne, Kate’s mom, had gone back to bed or was busy and didn’t hear the knock. She opened the door and saw the bag of toilet paper rolls right inside so she grabbed it and turned to make her return trip to school. That is when she saw Anne laying on the floor.

Frances immediately turned to her asking if she was okay, but suddenly it dawned on her Anne was not alone. And the person she was with was not her husband. Frances isn’t the type of person to blab all over the neighborhood. But even if she doesn’t tell anyone about Anne’s indiscretion, the wheels are in motion to change the dynamics of the neighborhood and their relationships with their families and each other.

Behind closed doors relationships thrive or wither, life changing decisions are made or sometimes made for you. As we learn about all of the neighbors no one may truly be the person they seem to be to the neighbors, even those close to each other. But when two of the children go missing, they will all have to rally together to find them.

Other People’s Houses is a very interesting, often funny book about people who would not necessarily be connected in any way other than buying a house in the same neighborhood. Abbi Waxman gives the reader little gems of character studies throughout the story. Her insight to human nature brings the neighbors to life on her pages. One of my favorites is when one of the kids was thinking about his mom, “His mom never seemed to worry, she was the trellis his little vines twined around.”

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and spend some time with Frances, her family and neighbors. This is the perfect summer read.

This is the first book I have read by Abbi Waxman. It is a gem, so I can’t wait to read her first book, Garden of Small Beginnings next!

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Last Looks – Amazing Debut Novel

Last Looks

By Howard Michael Gould

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

Charlie Waldo has as many layers as an onion. Most of those layers put people off, but he really doesn’t seem to mind. He lives as a minimalist in the woods away from society. But when the outside world comes crashing into his peace and serenity, he grudgingly decides he has to rejoin the human race (which he mostly despises) for a few days.

Waldo is asked to help clear an obnoxious, over-inflated actor of murdering his wife. He really isn’t a PI, but somehow the lawyer for the actor thought Waldo could and would take the case. When Waldo left the LAPD he was on the top of his game, but that game included a scandal within the ranks that Waldo could not live with, so he took them down just like any other criminal. To say he burned his bridges would be an understatement.

Finding himself back in LA on the set of a movie was not how he envisioned his life. But here he was, somehow too intrigued to go back to the life he chose until he finds the person who he thinks really killed the victim. This choice does not come easily. He is mentally and physically challenged by the reception he more or less expected from his former brothers in blue. As a matter of fact, they hate him, refuse to cooperate when he asks for information and harass him at every encounter.

Stoically, he just can’t shake the feeling that there is a bigger picture than the police and prosecutor are painting, and like a dog with a bone, he just can’t let go until he uncovers the truth – if he lives that long.

Waldo’s world is intriguing. As a minimalist, he only allows himself 100 Things. If he adds a Thing, such as a comb, a pair of socks or a gun, he has to give away one Thing to never have more than 100. This in and of itself makes him interesting, but he is so much more. One of his Things is a MacBook. He is not out of touch with the world or technology. He is quite current on events in the world and is very well read.

He has acquaintances, but not really friends anymore. Donations to charity are part of his monthly routine and he plays chess online daily. The only two people that don’t hate him are the sharp-witted six-year-old daughter of the accused murderer and her kindergarten teacher.

Last Looks is an interestingly multi-layered novel of murder and mystery wrapped in the Waldo’s cloak of minimalism and self-imposed exile from society. Love, lust and revenge are woven into the plot. There is a love scene that is quite possibly the best one I have ever read. It is sensual without being graphic, but not Victorian by any stretch of the imagination.

I loved this book. It has every element to keep a reader grabbing it to read a few pages, then chapters. Soon you realize you have spent hours with the characters and story that it is still impossible to put down.

This stunningly clever, often funny book is the first novel published by Gould. It is an interesting, amazing read – run, don’t walk to your computer to order it today!

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Jar of Hearts – Nail Biting Page Turning Thriller – Read the First 3 Chapters Now

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

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.

What would you do for love? Teenagers often think they have the world by the tail and are invincible. Unfortunately, due to lack of world experience they may choose the wrong crowd to hang out with, the wrong boyfriend or get themselves into a situation that will most likely have dire repercussions on the rest of their lives. But most of them don’t end up dead or in prison like Geo.

Jar of Hearts begins with the trial of a woman who seemed to have it all. A fabulous job and a huge diamond on her finger from a wealthy man. Unfortunately she also has a past with a connection to a serial killer that will take everything away she has worked so hard to get. Georgina Shaw sits listening to the horrific events of her best friend’s death fourteen years ago with her head down. Her ex-boyfriend, now commonly known as the Sweetbay Strangler, is on trial for the murder of her best friend Angela Wong and Georgina (Geo) is just as guilty. She’ll take a plea, go to prison and send Calvin James, the Sweetbay Strangler, to jail with her testimony.

But what really happened that night? Was Geo so involved with James she would have been a party to murdering the girl that had been her best friend? Why did she cover it up all of these years? What kind of monster kills her best friend and goes about her business day after day knowing where the body is buried while the entire community searches for years? When did she cross the line – or did she?

When she is released from prison, Geo harbors many secrets. Someone may kill her to keep those secrets buried in the past. Her other bestie from high school has become a cop. He seems to be around more than necessary, seemingly ready to pounce at the slightest infraction. To add to Geo’s stress and isolation, the Sweetbay Strangler has escaped from prison – will Geo be his next target?

Hillier’s latest psychological thriller is a tightly woven story of love and betrayal, the hunted and hunters. By covering up a horrific murder, the characters would seem to be contemptable, but all of them are not. They are masterfully created as someone you would have coffee with, sit in meetings at work with and invite over for dinner. That is what makes Jar of Hearts such a superb story. Evil lurks closer than you can imagine in everyday life. We can only hope it only touches us via engrossing psychological thrillers like this.

The publishers have graciously sent this link for you to read the first three chapters of Jar of Hearts now. I suspect you will be hooked by the first chapter and immediately need to finish – I was. Follow the link below:

https://read.macmillan.com/lp/jar-of-hearts/

 

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

 

 

 

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Book Review: Celtic Knotwork and Stone Painting – Double Giveaway

Thanks to Dover Books, I have two fabulous craft books to give away to two lucky winners!

 

The first, Creating Celtic Knotwork, A Fresh Approach to Traditional Design by Cari Buziak, allows novice artists to create professional results with beautiful Celtic designs. With beautiful graphics and easy, step by step instructions, the author walks you through basic designs that can be used as beautiful boarders on cards then, by the end of the book, you will be learning to create amazing works of art.

I cannot draw a convincing stick figure, but found this fabulous book allowing  to stretch my artistic wings and if not fly quite yet,  with the easy, set by step instructions allowing me to create what I could never have done before. The materials needed are inexpensive and easily found, most of you probably have them in a drawer someplace at home. If you ever wanted to become an artist, but need a bit more structure than freehand art,  you will love the designs Buziak helps you create.

The second book in the Dover giveaway, is Stone Painting for Kids, Designs to Spark Your Creativity by F. Sehnaz Bac. What kid doesn’t like rocks and paint? This is a match made in heaven. And what parent or caregiver finds themselves listening to “I’m bored, I don’t have anything to do” as summer rolls around? This wonderful book of ideas can be your answer!

First, rock collecting is fun. Go to the park, take a walk, look in your backyard. Let’s face it, rocks are everywhere and kids love to collect them. Okay, you can cheat and buy some rocks, but in my house, collecting them would have been at least half of the fun. Then your youngsters get to wash the rocks. I know, a bucket of water and soap is a bit messy, but on a hot summer day, put the kids in their swimming suits and let them wash the rocks they’ve collected. Now, give them a frozen treat while the rocks dry in the sun for a whole day. Unless it is really hot and sunny out, then a few hours should do it.

Now you are ready for paints. You can paint anything on your rocks. Make butterflies, people, animals, numbers…the ideas are endless. If you need inspiration, there are many designs in Stone Painting for Kids that you and your kids can easily recreate.

 

 

It is hard to choose because there are so many great ideas in this book, you can tell by looking at the table of contents!

 

 

Here are are few of my favorites:

Create two of each and you can make a memory game with your kids – they will love playing a game they created themselves. If you have several children, they can each make two or three matching rock paintings and you will have enough for the game.

 

If you collected sea shells on vacation this year, your kids will love to create fish colorful fish!

 

 

 

I could go on all day about these two great books, but I bet you would like to know how to win one of them! To have a chance in the random drawing to be held on June 29, 2018 you just need to like this post on FB, Twitter or Goodreads. You will get an additional 5 entries if you leave a comment on the post on my blog, writeknit.wordpress.com. When the winner is drawn, I will send both winners my email address so that you can privately send your mailing address. (The prizes are limited to the U.S. only). Good Luck!!

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Book Review: Buried in Books – 12th Bibliophile Mystery Must Read for Cozy Lovers

Buried in Books

By Kate Carlisle

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

Rare book restoration expert Brooklyn Wainwright has it all together. She is a renowned bookbinder/restorer and has a wonderful fiancé, security expert Derek Stone, whom she is set to marry in a few days. She is so confident that all of the wedding plans are on track, she agrees to not only attend the annual book conference, but will be teaching a group how to create a book as well as give a tour of literary highlights for charity.

Things start to go a bit strange when she realizes some of the booklovers that have signed up for her class and tour are dying to hear about the dead bodies she has stumbled upon in the past. They seem to be encouraged by comments made by her well-meaning mother and future mother-in-law. Brooklyn loves these two ladies, and tries to discourage the conversation, but her attempts to bring things back to books seem futile with this group.

The two moms have another surprise up their sleeves. Brooklyn is shanghaied into attending a surprise wedding shower. But the bigger surprise is seeing her two former best friends Sara and Heather. The trio split company after Sara stole Heather’s boyfriend. The feud has not ended, but both are somehow there in the same room. And both brought beautiful copies of rare books for gifts. But one of the books could be a fake and one of the women will not survive the night.

Brooklyn didn’t plan to solve a murder hours before her wedding, but she cannot ignore the fact that one of her besties from college is dead and the clue to finding out who did it may be in her possession.

This cozy mystery brings the best of the genre to light. Engaging characters, a quirky murder and a solid plot that teaches the reader a thing or two about book restoration are all wrapped up in a page-turning story. It was fun and had a nice twist at the end. Every element of this book works so well together it is not surprising that readers love this series.

Buried in Books is the twelfth Bibliophile Mystery written by award winning author Kate Carlisle. She is a NY Times best-selling author for good reason. In addition to this book series, she is the author of the Fixer Upper Mystery Series also. The latter series has moved to television and is now part of the Hallmark Mysteries Movies.

This is the first book I have read by Carlisle, but it works well as a stand-alone. I was not confused or lost at any point. I will go back and check out more of her books because her writing style is easy and informative, not to mention fun to read.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Safe Houses – Page-turning Thriller!


Safe Houses

By Dan Fesperman

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

Berlin 1979:  a city full of spies and counterspies. Espionage was dangerous and involved many ordinary people. Helen was one of them. Even though her job was not one of the highest risk, she knew secrets that could come back to haunt her at any time. Today she would be called a feminist, but in 1979 she was removed from her assignment and dismissed from the agency. She thought being sent back to the states was the worst thing that could happen to her, but she was wrong.

August 2014: fast forward to a tiny town in rural Maryland. Willard Shoat shoots and kills his parents as they slept causing uproar in the close knit community. Willard is slow by any man’s definition, but he has never been violent or mean. Sadly, he doesn’t even realize his mother and father are dead or why he is sitting in a jail cell. Anna, his sister, arrives in town to bury her parents and tend to her brother, but is perplexed as to how someone that just wants her to bring his Star War toy to prison could kill their parents in cold blood. She fears he will be lost in the prison system and calls upon a stranger in town to help her find answers.

Anna enlists the new guy in town, Henry Mattick, to help her find out the truth. It is rumored he is a PI, which may or may not be exactly true. That being said, he is already on an undercover job and doesn’t really want to become involved with a local fiasco. But something about Anna makes him more than curious about her family. They become an unlikely duo fighting for a small guy in a huge mess. Secrets from the past are revealed, shedding light upon some very dangerous characters that operate outside of the law with the protection of the government. Mr. and Mrs. Shoat may not be the only casualties by the time this fast-paced novel ends.

Safe Houses is a heart pounding, breath holding thriller wrapped in intrigue and intelligence. Fesperman’s masterfully blends two stories together to make a powerful book that kept me turning pages late into the night. This is the first book by Dan Fesperman I have read, I don’t know how he was not on my radar because Safe House is his eleventh novel. I am putting the other ten on my Christmas list.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Lady Be Good – Fantastic Fiction

Lady Be Good

By Amber Brock

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

The year is 1953, the place is New York. Kitty Tessler is rich, carefree and conniving. Kitty has everything except what she really wants – to be accepted into the fold of the social elite of the day. By her calculations, she is snubbed because her family is part of the new money generation. She longs to marry into an old money family so she can claim her spot in the social circles that talk about her behind her back.

But time is running out for her plan. Her father owns posh hotels and has given her an ultimatum. If she doesn’t stop partying and settle down, he will cut off her funds and insist she start working for the hotel. As if that isn’t bad enough, she will start at the bottom. Becoming a maid will boot her out of the edge of society she is clinging to, so something has to be done, and soon. To make matters even worse, her father has come up with a prospective groom that will thwart her plan to marry into a well-heeled family.

This is when Kitty begins to hatch an elaborate plan. She has to work quickly and carefully manipulating, planning and lying to those closest to her. What she doesn’t bargain on is falling for the wrong guy and losing someone she dearly loves.

Lady Be Good is light enough to be a beach read, but has an underlying current of a much deeper novel. The plot is interesting, and the real beauty of the story lies in the characters. The main characters are flawed, much like any and every one you may know. No one is perfect, especially Kitty. She is not always likeable, often abrasive and occasionally schemes and plots at other’s expense. The beauty of her and the other characters is the growth they experience as the novel progresses. One of my favorite quotes is, “Sometimes a part of you must die to begin living again.”  This resonates with me as an integral part of emotional growth on many levels.

This is the first novel I have read by Amber Brock. Her critically acclaimed debut book, A Fine Imitation is also available.  Both books are historical novels. Brock brilliantly takes readers back in time with relevant historical facts woven into her fictional character’s lives. I recommend stepping back in time with Kitty and enjoy the ride in vintage style.

  Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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