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Book Review: The Scorpion’s Tail

By Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Rookie FBI Special Agent Corrie Swanson is assigned a case involving someone trying to dig up relics from a ghost town in a remote region of New Mexico. She is dispatched to meet up with the local sheriff, Homer Watts, who has been wounded in a shootout with the looter. The biggest concern is the dead body that was dug up along with the relics – one of them is extraordinary.

Corrie calls in Nora Kelly, a senior curator at the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute to help sort out the relics associated with the body, which just may have been a long-ago murder. Before long, Corrie and Nora discover more than they have bargained for. More than a few people will go to any length to keep anyone from discovering the secrets held by the corpse.

This fast-paced thriller kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. The characters are interesting, each of them brings his or her own special knowledge to the table. Corrie is growing as an FBI agent, but not without making mistakes along the way. It was fun to have a guest appearance from one of Preston and Child’s other series pop up unexpectedly.

I am a huge fan of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s writing. The fast-paced, intriguing thrillers are their specialty, and this series is one to follow and enjoy. The Scorpion’s Tail is the second book in the Nora Kelly & Corrie Swanson Series. I suggest reading the first book in the series (Old Bones), which was excellent as well, but it isn’t absolutely necessary as The Scorpion’s Tail reads as a standalone novel. I enjoyed both of them immensely.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman.

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Book Review: Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin

Spence and Pru live a quiet life. He is an accomplished Shakespeare professor at Columbia in New York. She once aspired to become a lawyer, but after meeting Spence, she forfeited that life for becoming the professor’s wife and the mother of his daughter. Pru was also an orthodox Jew, that lapsed when she left home.

Spence has a son, Arlo, from a previous relationship. Arlo visited a few times each year, but never lived with them longer than a week or two. Living a nomadic life with his mother, he had recently been living in a commune in Delaware. His mother’s greatest aspiration was to poop in every state. At fifteen, Arlo chose to live with his father and Pru. Life was different from the nomadic life he lived with his mother, most notably schooling, or lack thereof. That was about to change, even if Arlo had learning disabilities – it did not matter if he liked it or not.

As time goes on, Pru realizes Spence is becoming forgetful. The Alzheimer’s diagnosis is not unexpected. It is devastating nonetheless. Everyone’s life changed along with Spence as he deteriorated. The question is, will Pru and this children, Sarah and Arlo be able to hold on to the fragile family structure they have built or will it collapse?

Morningside Heights is interesting and true to life. Having had members of my family stricken with Alzheimer’s Disease, I understand the tumultuous path the characters must travel. The characters are interesting and I love the way Henkin allows Arlo to grow and change over the course of the book.

This is the first book I have read by Joshua Henkin. He is the author of multiple short stories as well as several novels. One of which, The World Without You, is the 2012 winner of the Edward Lewis Wallant Award for American Jewish Fiction.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Buzz Books 2021: Spring/Summer

By Publisher’s Lunch

Buzz Books 2021 Spring/Summer gives the reader an inside look at the “buzziest books” of spring and summer 2021. The first few chapters are a tantalizing taste of what is to come in buzz worthy books soon available at your library and bookstores.

This literary preview has sections with the reader in mind. First and foremost is fiction, which is broken down to these categories: The Notables, Highly Anticipated, Emerging Voices, Debut and Commercial Fiction. Then we move on to Nonfiction, categorized as follows: Biography & Memoir, Business, Politics, and Current Events, Essays, Criticism & More, History and Crime, Science & Technology and finishes with Social Issues. As you can see there is something for everyone.

Each book has a few chapters available to read. It is like having a bookstore and/or a library with all of the latest books just waiting for you to crack the spine and dive in. Like most bibliophiles, I began reading immediately, keeping a careful list of the books I want to read. My list is lengthy, and full of authors both bestselling and novices.

A few on my list include:

A Perfect Ruin by Shanora Williams – publish date 6/29/21

Eternal by Lisa Scottoline – publish date 3/23/21

The Letter Keeper by Charles Martin – publish date 6/8/21

Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin – publish date 6/15/21

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz – publish date 5/4/21

Finding Freedom – by Erin French – publish date 4/6/21

Last Call by Elon Green publish date 3/9/11

The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim – publish date 5/4/21

I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves to read. There is something from everyone’s favorite genre all packaged up neatly together. This smorgasbord of delights is a must read.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Crime of the Ancient Marinara

By Stephanie Cole

American Nell Valenti is hired to develop a world-class cooking school requiring a move to Cortona, Italy. She is now living and working in a villa owned by renowned Chef Claudio Orlandini. His Cornell-educated son, Pete, as well as a cast of female family members also reside at the villa.

Nell has her work cut out for her. The Orlandini family is quirky and set in their ways. Trying to organize them is like herding turtles, one or more of them frequently wander off to do his or her own thing creating chaos instead of the organization Nell is striving to achieve.

The first class of students in the cooking school is a group of Americans that have arrived excited to learn the recipe for Chef Orlandini’s famous marinara. It is to be the highlight of the final day. Unfortunately, an unruly chef and the murder of one of the Americans waylays any plans that Nell made.

Unsatisfied with the suspect the police have in custody, Nell begins her own investigation with a man she thinks is a private detective – but is he really? Between the lies, secrets and a language barrier Nell is ready to throw in the towel – but can she ever forgive herself if someone gets away with murder?

Quirky characters fill the pages of this mystery. The chef is over the top Italian and his son is a sexy olive pressing hunk. The Orlandini women range from nuns to a talented sous chef. The Americans add an interesting mix along with the elements of surprise. Almost all of the book is set at the villa. I would have liked more adventures away from the villa, to give me more of the taste of Italy. Other than the problems in communication between characters speaking Italian and others speaking English, the setting could have been anywhere. I wanted descriptions of the town, really bringing the reader into the beautiful country of Italy.

Crime of the Ancient Marinara is the second book in this cozy mystery series. I did not read the first book and was a bit lost in the first few chapters as to the relationships between the characters. Overall, this was an enjoyable cozy mystery.

Author Stephanie Cole is also known as Shelley Costa. She has been nominated for both an Edgar and an Agatha Award as Shelley Costa. This is the first book I have read by Ms. Cole or Ms. Costa.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Newcomer

by Mary Kay Andrews

Letty and her sister were basically on their own as kids. Letty was determined to make her way in the world by working hard and taking care of her younger sister Tonya. Unfortunately, Tonya makes bad choices in love and life. The best thing to happen to her is the birth of her daughter, Maya. The four-year-old has even brought the sisters together again after their lives took different paths. Even though Evan, the man Letty previously dated, is the father of Maya, Tonya tries her best to keep her daughter away from him. Both sisters are happy to be together again.

Their reunion is short lived. Tonya is found dead, murdered in the luxury apartment bought by Evan before she can get out of the city with her daughter. Letty is the prime suspect and she is on the run with Maya. Her sister’s mistakes and lies have cast doubt about many things in her life, but not her need to leave New York to keep her ex-boyfriend away from his daughter. Letty leaves with her niece, taking the go bag her sister wisely had stashed in her closet and little else.

In the bag was the name of a small resort in Florida, Murmuring Surf, so Letty heads there. Finding a safe haven, she begins working for the owner to earn her keep. Always wary of Evan finding her and Maya, she shies away from almost everyone. Especially Joe, the owner’s son who is also a cop. Surely, he has seen the APB sent to all law enforcement agencies when a suspected killer and kidnapper is on the loose. Safe for now, Letty adjusts to life in Florida, but will she have to run again soon? Will Evan, with all of his resources find her and Maya? Letty fears for the worst.

The Newcomber is an interesting, well plotted novel. Finding out who the killer is in the last few chapters is well played. The characters are diverse and real. Ms. Andrews not only created realistic, well rounded main characters, but the bit players are fun to meet. Especially the residents of the Murmuring Surf. They are quirky, cranky and could be people you have encountered. Picture some grumpy old men fighting over parking spots.

I really enjoyed this book. It is not part of a series. Ms. Andrews is a prolific writer. She has written several best-selling books under the pen name Mary Kay Andrews since 2002 as well as being nominated for many literary awards. I have read several of her books, including The High Tide Club and Blue Christmas. She is the master of telling a great story with a side of romance.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: No More Words

By Kerry Lonsdale

Olivia’s life is a hot mess. She just broke up with her boyfriend and Josh, her fourteen-year-old nephew that she has never met, just turned up at her door. Her sister Lily, Josh’s mom, left home when she was sixteen and pregnant and hasn’t had any contact with her family since that day. Josh cannot tell Olivia where his mother is due to a head injury that robbed him of his speech. The only thing he can tell her is that Lily is gone.

So begins Olivia’s journey into the past to find out what really happened the day Lily left and more importantly find out where she is now.  First, she has to find out who her sister has become, the name she is going by and where she and Josh have been living. Is she injured or heaven forbid dead? Olivia must face the demons of her family’s past in order to reconcile the future and find Lily. Each member of her family has secrets and some of them are willing to do whatever it takes to keep them hidden.

This multilayered novel is easy to read yet surprisingly intricate. The plot is fast-paced and depth of the characters, even those on the periphery, came to life in the story. I literally read late into the night because I had to know what was going to happen. Ms. Lonsdale takes the reader into the character’s childhood years and then skillfully brings the story back to present day, rounding out each one so that the reader knows them intimately. It is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I highly recommend it.

This is the third book by Ms. Lonsdale that I have read. Each of them has been different, but all of them are written with the same depth of plot and painstakingly realistic characters that readers love. If you are a fan of Jodi Picoult, you will love all of Kerry Lonsdale’s books. No More Words has left me speechless – other than to say it has to be added to your reading list.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman #NoMoreWords #TeamNoMore

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Express Yourself – Joyful Journaling for Kids

By Christine Boucher

Design by Suzanne Good Hazard

Express Yourself! is a wonderful way for children to journal. The intro explains that you can start on any page, make it your own and even encourages your child to cross out things that don’t relate to them and replace those items with things that do. Your child is also encouraged to ask an adult or a good friend to explain things they do not understand. The list of things besides your child’s imagination and thoughts that they will need are most likely in your child’s room right now. They include something to write with (crayons, makers, etc.), stickers, photos and/or pictures from magazines, ticket stubs, awards and any other things that will inspire or remind them of memories.

The chapters are fun and interesting. Starting with “Joyful Jots” – one positive word answers to words like playgrounds, fall, art class and homework. Each chapter is color coded and has at least one inspirational quote. A few of my favorites are: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. – Albert Einstein and “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.”-Willie Nelson.

I highly recommend this book for children old enough to read and write. It is a springboard for discussion with his or her parents when sharing thoughts and asking questions that may arise.

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 © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Undercover Kitty: A Second Chance Cat Mystery – A Purr-fect Cozy Mystery

by Sofie Ryan

Something is fishy at the American Cat Fancier (AFA) shows and it isn’t the sardine crackers the contestants love to munch. Enter an eclectic detective agency named Charlotte’s Angels – just Angels for short – to sort out what is going on. The detectives are a mix of senior citizens, Sarah who owns a delightful resale shop and a troubled teen who lives with one of the members. And of course, Elvis, Sarah’s rescue cat. Yes, he is named after the Rock and Roll icon, but is also legend in the Angel’s as well as his own opinion.

Rose, the head of the Angels convinces Sarah to enter Elvis in the AFA Show as an undercover agent. They need to find out who is behind the sabotage that has turned up lately at the shows. Unfortunately, things have escalated. When one of the owners is found dead, everyone assumes it is a horrible accident. But the Angels soon realize it is murder. Will they find the person that is responsible before another feline or human is hurt or killed? The Angels are determined to crack the case.

Undercover Kitty is the purr-fect cozy mystery. Elvis is adorably aloof yet loveable and smart. The group of amateur sleuths are fun to meet and determined to solve the case. There is a bit of romance for a few of the characters as well as a strong bond of friendship within the group of friends and felines.

Cozy and cat lovers will really enjoy this fast-paced mystery. Sofie Ryan is a well-deserved New York Times Bestselling Author. Undercover Kitty is the eighth book in her Second Chance Cat Mystery. She is also the bestselling author of the Magical Cats series – also cozy mysteries.

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 © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder is a Must – I love this author!!

By Marty Wingate

Hayley Burke is beyond excited when she lands a job as the curator of the First Edition Society in Bath. Little did she know that dealing with the longtime secretary, Mrs. Woolgar would be the easiest hurtle to jump because murder will soon to follow.

As curator, Hayley has big ideas as to how she is going to spread the word and create interest in women authors of the Golden Age of Mystery. In particular, Lady Georgiana Fowling whose home and collection she is there to promote and protect. It is the location of the First Edition library, the envy of all Golden Age Mystery lovers. But the piece de resistance is a first edition book signed by members of the of the Detection Club in 1933, including Lady Fowling, Agatha Christie and G. K. Chesterton that was hidden years ago and never found. Making a modern-day mystery that intrigues Hayley and the members of the Society.

Hayley has the clues Lady Fowling left to find the book, but they are cryptic at best. And she has other things on her mind. She must garner more interest for the First Edition Society which includes salons as well as an exhibition. Everyone is excited about the exhibition, but has doubts about it actually coming to fruition. Haley thinks she can pull it off, but that is before the person in charge of the exhibition is found dead. Apparently, someone will stop at nothing to get his or her hands on that hidden book.

Wingate is one of my favorite writers. She brings the reader into the setting and story in the first few pages and keeps you there until the final pages. The characters are fully developed and you’ll love or hate them accordingly. As a mystery lover, it is satisfying to be kept guessing until the last pages of the book to find out who the killer is. I highly recommend Murder is a Must. It is a gem.

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: A Side of Murder – An Engaging Debut Cozy Mystery

By Amy Pershing

Samantha Barnes thought she escaped Cape Cod for good when she moved to New York to follow her dream as a big city chef. After graduating from the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) she landed a job as a chef and got married. When her now ex-husband’s temper flew out of control an incident occurred that was unfortunately filmed and uploaded to YouTube by a passerby. That ended her coveted job. So, when her aunt passed away, Samantha came home to Cape Cod to lick her wounds and regroup to get her life back on track. Little did she know this was going to involve solving a murder.

Taking a temp job with the Cape Cod Clarian as a food critic seems like a logical next step. It is fun to have old friends come along to the restaurants until she stumbles over the dead body of a woman she once worked with. It might be an accidental death, but Samantha doesn’t believe it. When the harbormaster arrives to investigate and she realizes he is her high school crush, Jason.

It is hard to believe she is living in Cape Cod, poking her nose into a murder investigation and is still attracted to Jason. To add icing to these unlikely events, she has inherited her aunt’s dog – Diogi. Life can be funny that way but Samantha doesn’t see the humor in it. Neither does the murderer who will do anything to keep her quiet.

This fast-paced cozy mystery had me reading late into the night to finish “just one more chapter”. The characters are fun and quirky, including Diogi. The list of suspects kept me guessing until the final pages.

This is Pershing’s debut non-fiction book. A Side of Murder is the first book in the Cape Cod Foodie Mystery Series. I am anxiously awaiting book #2. I highly recommend this book to everyone who loves cozy mysteries.

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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