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Book Review: Christmas Ever After – Delightful Holiday Romance

Christmas Ever After by Karen Schaler

Author Riley Reynolds hasn’t celebrated Christmas since the year her father and sister died, even though she was only a child when it happened. This year she is dubbed Miss Christmas by her publicist in a last-ditch effort to save her romance writing career. Once a best-selling author, her last novel bombed. She has to get back on track with her Christmas romance novel or she will no longer have a contract to do what she loves best.

In desperation she agrees to host a Christmas Camp at Christmas Lake Lodge. Since the owner died and his wife retired to Florida, their son Luke has tried to keep it afloat. Competition from a new resort that is close by has taken its toll on the quaint lodge. Christmas Camp will be the last event held in it before Luke is forced to sell the family business.

The Scrooge Riley has become will soon be surprised when some of her ghosts of Christmas past turn up when she is least expecting them. Three ex-boyfriends have arrived at Christmas Camp, each of them convinced she still loves and has been pining for them. Now she has to decide if indeed one them is the man that will write the happily ever after ending to her story. But then there is Luke…could one of these four men ignite the spark she is looking for in her life and in her writing? It will take a Christmas miracle to find out.

This charming Christmas romance has everything readers love. Handsome men, a delightful setting and a dog that steels the show make Christmas Ever After the perfect holiday book. The characters are interesting and all have different thoughts and memories surrounding the holidays. They share the common goal of spreading the Christmas spirit with charity, kindness, family and friends – helping Riley rekindle her love for Christmas.

It is heartwarming to read a book that has a happily ever after ending. It is the first book I’ve read by this award-winning author, but won’t be the last. I have watched and loved her Christmas movies that can be seen on Netflix, Hallmark and Lifetime.  Be sure to check out the recipes and Christmas activities that are included at the end of the book. I can’t wait to add Christmas Lake Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls to our Christmas celebration.

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Book Review: The Nesting: Page- Turning Thriller

The Nesting

By C. J. Cooke

In desperation, Lexi tried to end her life. Even though a friend found her in time, Lexi’s life will never be the same. She lost her job, her eight-year relationship as well as her home when her boyfriend kicked her out of their apartment. Despondent and destitute, she overhears a conversation on a train regarding a job. One of girls in the seat in front of her has been called for an interview to be a nanny in Norway, but is going to turn it down. Before she can talk herself out of it, Lexi snaps a picture of the application and the woman’s resume.

Much to her surprise Lexi, now known as Sophie, lands the job and has made her way to Norway to join her new employer and his children. She is now working for Tom Faraday, looking after and his two daughters. Coco is only nine-months old and her sister Gaia is six. They are in Norway with their father while he builds a vacation home for them to escape London when the weather is inclement and the crowds overwhelming.

Sophie finds out Tom’s wife, the children’s mother, died recently. She is saddened by the family’s loss, but thrilled to be in Norway. She quickly settles down to the daily routine. Soon she begins to see and hear things that are strange. Gaia confirms sightings of what can only be described as supernatural beings that Sophie has encountered. Maybe the children’s mother, Aurelia, did not kill herself. Perhaps, as folklore predicts, the land and animals are getting even with those who disturb them and the death of Aurelia was just the beginning.

The characters are interestingly flawed, yet endearing at times. The plot twists and turns, taking the reader back to before Aurelia dies to present day. Ms. Cooke grabs readers, taking us along Sophie/Lexi’s journey from the first pages to the last. The Nesting is a page-turning thriller that keeps you guessing until the satisfying end.

This is the first book I have read by C.J. (Carolyn Jess) Cooke. A novelist and poet, she hails from Belfast Northern Ireland and has published several other books. This is the first one I have read, but will not be the last. I loved it.

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: Jingle All The Way – Delightful Holiday Tale

By Debbie Newcomber

Everly Lancaster has created the life she has always wanted from the time she changed her given name, Daisy, to something more sophisticated and worldly: Everly. A workaholic, she co-owns a top selling Chicago real estate company with Jack Campbell, a long-time friend and colleague. Everly shoulders the late nights, firings and problems that Jack finds distasteful. But when his niece, Annette is hired as Everly’s assistant with Jack’s recommendation, things go south fast.

Lazy, spoiled and incompetent, Annette bungles a very important event, so Everly insists on her termination. Jack balks, finding it distasteful to fire his niece. He insists Everly needs a vacation and demands she takes off the entire month of December. A contrite Annette books a cruise for Everly, who agrees she might need some time to unwind on a nice relaxing vacation. Unfortunately, the cruise is anything but relaxing. No internet, no telephone, no amenities and no way to leave the ship. But the good news is there is a naturalist onboard, Asher Adams, who is very handsome and very interesting. Maybe the trip won’t be as bad as it seems – or it might just be worse than she ever imagined.

From the first chapters, the interesting characters and unusual situations pulled me in and didn’t let go. Jingle All The Way is not your typical Christmas novel, which makes it interesting and charming with a satisfying end. It is the perfect holiday story that will make you chuckle; make you sniffle and make you want to read just one more chapter to see what is happening next. I highly recommend it.

Debbie Newcomber is a familiar name because she is a best-selling author with thirteen novels reaching #1 on the NYT bestseller lists. Five of her Christmas novels are now beloved movies that can be seen on the Hallmark Channel. Ms. Newcomber pulls readers into her books, with her heartwarming characters and stories.

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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Bookreview: Hanging Falls – Fast-Paced K-9 Mystery

Hanging Falls

By Margaret Mizushima

Deputy Mattie Cobb and her canine partner Robo are about to meet Mattie’s long-lost sister and grandmother. Taken as a child, Mattie and her family did not know how to find each other until she registered her DNA on an ancestry website. As luck would have it, her sister also registered on the site, linking them at last. She is anxious, but excited to reconnect.

The day before Mattie plans to fly out to see them, she has the misfortune of finding a body while on a hike at Hanging Falls. As always, her instincts and training kick in. Mattie and Robo are needed to track the possible killer. One body leads to another in this complicated case. Are they related or is this just a coincidence? She is torn between her past and the present. Thankfully her family decides to drive to see her so that she can reacquaint herself with them while she and Robo continue to work the case.

The deeper she delves into the murders, the more she needs the help of her colleagues as well as her boyfriend, the local veterinarian, Cole Walker. Soon they become suspicious of an oddly strict religious group, but evidence also points to others in the community. Now Mattie divides her attention between solving the murders and learning about her past from the only people who know what really happened to her and her family when she was a child.

This fast-paced mystery will have you reading “just one more chapter” because it cannot be put down. The lives of the characters are interesting and realistic. There are several suspects in the crime that will keep you guessing until the final chapters.

Reading a new book in a beloved series is like catching up with old friends. Ms. Mizushima does a fantastic job pulling in information from the previous books in the series so that readers that have not read them are not lost. While I feel Hanging Falls works well as a standalone novel, I encourage readers to check out the previous books in the series. You will love all of them – I certainly do!

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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Book Review: Woodson Falls: 16 Lakeview Terrace – Stunning Debut Novel

Woodson Falls: 16 Lakeview Terrace A Gaby Quinn Mystery

by Andrea O’Connor

Gabriella Quinn is living the quiet life of a small-town lawyer. Life has delt her a hand she never thought she would have to play. Not so very long ago she lived in New York City with her beloved husband. Her world came crashing down the night he was murdered and she was seriously injured by an unknown assailant in the city they both loved. Moving to Woodson Falls and her adored dog Kat are the two things helping her cope with the residual pain and fear from the attack.

When she is called upon to settle the estate of Pieter Jorgenson, a Woodson Falls resident, she happily takes the case. Unfortunately, this case will be anything but ordinary. He was an odd man. He was feuding with his neighbors, and yet he was a kind and compassionate crossing guard for the elementary school children. A loner skilled in woodworking, he seems to have ties in New York City as he was found there, dead in his truck.

As Gaby begins collecting information to settle the estate, she contacts his only known relative, an uncle who paints a picture of Jorgenson as a bullied young boy that grew up to be a loner. One evening after gathering papers from the dead man’s home, Gaby is rammed by a vehicle on the way home. She is shaken, but not hurt. Luckily Officer Matt Thomas was patrolling the area and helped Gaby get a tow truck for her car and got her home safely.

As luck would have it, Matt has ties to New York, and helps grease the wheels for her with the NYPD when she has to go looking for information on Jorgenson’s death. The deeper she digs, the more secrets she finds. Jorgenson apparently was not the man many people thought he was – but who and what exactly was he?

I loved this fast-paced mystery. The characters, especially Gaby and Jorgenson, have many layers that are interesting to peel back and discover. The solid plot that ties up all loose ends in the final chapters is perfect for mystery lovers as well as legal thriller fans. Readers will latch on to this and not let go until the final pages.

This is the first book I have read by Andrea O’Connor but will not be my last. She has previously published several non-fiction books. Woodson Falls: 16 Lakeview Terrace is her first venture into fiction. I absolutely loved her writing style as well as the plot and characters. I’m adding her to my favorites list so that I can snatch up her next book as soon as it hits the shelves. I highly recommend you check out this fabulous debut fiction author.

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/book/woodson-falls-16-lakeview-terrace-andrea-o-connor#review Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: A Christmas Resolution

Fast Paced Christmas Mystery

The Reverend Arthur Roberson has known loss in his life, particularly his beloved wife. That is why he has a soft heart for her brother Seth Marlow. Marlow is brash and has been rumored to have done harm to his wife in the past before her disappearance. Now he is being blackmailed by an unknown person regarding his missing wife and daughter.

Celia is a kind woman that has always sought the truth in her life. Involved previously in a police matter she did not tell the truth, but the lie was because an innocent person would have gone to jail. This has followed her like a shadow, always with her. When her best friend Clementine agrees to marry Marlow, he warns Celia to stay away from Clementine. Known for his violence, he may not stop by merely threatening Celia. Frightened for her, Celia’s husband, Police Officer John Hopper, begins to investigate the disappearance of Marlow’s wife and daughter. Disregarding her own safety, Celia stands up for herself as well as Clementine much to the ire of Marlow. Will he make good on his threats to harm her if she doesn’t stay out of his business?

This fast-paced Christmas mystery has an interesting twist. While the story is set at Christmas, the main storyline is the investigation of the disappearance of Marlow’s family. If you like a solidly plotted mystery with a side of holiday traditions, I recommend this book. The fast-paced story is interesting and entertaining.

This Victorian Christmas Novel is written by best-selling author Anne Perry. A prolific writer since the late 1970’s, she is best known for her Victorian detective novels.

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: The Book of Two Ways – Another Masterpiece from Jodi Picoult

The Book of Two Ways

By Jodi Picoult

Dawn Edelstein is content with her life. She loves her husband, Brian, and their teenage daughter. Dawn is a death doula, helping others move from life to death with care and respect. A part of her misses the life she had in Egypt before her mother died. As she goes about her life, a part of her heart is still amid the ancient burial sites and Wyatt, the man she left behind.

Everything changes in a split second when Dawn survives a deadly plane crash. She is given the choice to fly anyplace in the world. Will she go home to her family, or go back to Egypt to find the life and man she loved so deeply. Dawn does not know if Wyatt is still in Egypt, but she feels the pull of her earlier life. Conversely, her daughter is everything to her so she cannot imagine life without her. Either way she must make a choice that will hurt someone she loves.

The ancient Book of Two Ways is estimated to be 400,000 years old. Per the Smithsonian website, archaeologists found the illustrated stories in Egypt on a fairly recently unearthed sarcophagus dating back to 2010 BC. It illustrates two ways for the dead to make their way to the afterlife by land or by sea. Life is full of choices; we make them every day. Much like the ancient Egyptians, Dawn must choose a path that may or may not be the life she wants in the end. Life holds no guarantees.

I loved this book. The relationships of the characters and situations they find themselves in are multilayered and interesting. Each chapter pulls the reader further into the lives of Dawn, Brian, Wyatt and the choices all of them make. As with all of Jodi Picoult books, the end was not what I expected, but was perfect and satisfying.

Picoult is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, and for good reason. This prolific author creates characters and stories like no other I have read. The depth and diverse topics she tackles are informative and often spark my interest to find out more about the subject matter discussed.

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: Cat in My Pocket Embroidery

Cat in My Pocket Embroidery

Ten Purrfect Projects

By Hiroko Kubota

Born from need, continued with love, Kubota creates hand embroidered cats. With her newly published book, Cat in My Pocket Embroidery, she shares her knowledge and artistry, allowing us to recreate her fun felines.

From choosing the proper threads to use (single strands of size 25 embroidery floss) to the proper fabric (plain weave, nonstretch and smooth such as linen or cotton) is thoroughly discussed. Other items needed to complete your project are needles, an embroidery hoop, transfer paper, pins and a seam ripper. The author gives readers recommendations for each of the tools needed. Also included are ten cat templates to trace or photocopy to ensure your success.

Stitching techniques, starting and finishing have step-by-step instructions as well as photos and illustrations to ensure a successful outcome to your project. Kubota recommends starting one of the first three projects before branching out to the remaining seven. Each of the first three have between forty-six to forty-eight steps. The remaining seven projects have fewer steps, because you have already learned the proper way to introduce color and texture with your stitches.

I recommend this book to experienced embroiderers. But if you are a novice stitcher and feel compelled to embellish a shirt, purse or tote with one of these adorable cats, do not let me dissuade you. The instructions, images and illustrations are clear and concise. If followed, anyone with a little practice are destine to be successful.

As most crafters acknowledge, it is as much the enjoyment of the creative journey as it is the appreciation of the finished product. Kubota states, “I am pleased to say I am not the only person who appreciates the warmth, personality, and individuality of handcrafted products…”. I could not have said it better.

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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Tin Badges – Fast Paced Page Turner

Tin Badges

By Lorenzo Carcaterra

New York City detectives Tank Rizzo and Pearl Monroe carried a gold badge up until the fateful day when both of them lost their jobs. But Pearl lost so much more. Now both of them hold a tin badge, one that has few privileges of their former life, but it does open some doors. The duo works cold cases that the NYPD doesn’t have time to investigate thanks to the Chief of Police that has a soft spot for both of them.

When the case involving a couple of young women, who are beaten and sexually abused is tossed their way, it is so cold they might need gloves to hold it. No one has worked it for a while because the ladies are most likely hookers and no one really seems to care. Tank and Pearl dig into the case with the help of their brilliant, yet ragtag group. They discover the assault is just the tip of the iceberg. One that is full of drugs, murders and gangs that the two with tin badges are determined to bring to justice.

As if Tank doesn’t have enough on his plate, the brother that he hasn’t spoken with in years dies in an icy car accident along with his wife. This leaves his now orphaned teenage nephew, Chris, living with him in his NY brownstone. Chris is smart, mad at the world and crushed that his parents are gone; leaving him with the only family he has but doesn’t know. Tank loved his brother and willingly takes in Chris. Now he has to keep his nephew safe while working the case, which isn’t going to be easy. Chris is a crime buff and wants to be part of the team that takes the bad guys down and the good news/bad news is he is an expert at finding information that Tank and his team needs.

This fasted paced novel has page-turning action and is filled with the passion the characters have for their jobs, families and friends. Tank is the perfect leading man in the group of brilliant but ragtag crime solvers. His connections to the NYPD and old mobsters create a cast that entertains readers from the first page to the last. His love of NY City is evident as the story unfolds and the secret he holds close to his heart kept me guessing throughout the story.

Carcaterra is a Native New Yorker. A writer for over twenty years, he is a NY Times number one bestselling author. The prolific author has written several books, one of which, Sleepers, was adapted as a film in 1996 of the same name. I can’t wait to read some of his other books. Hopefully there will be a sequel to Tin Badges or better yet, a series with these interesting, complex characters. If you are a fan of Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme or Patterson’s Alex Cross, you will love Tin Badges.

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 Reviews: Game On! Fun Word Games for Kids

3.12.19Game On! More Awesome Activities for Clever Kids

By: Patrick Merrell

Over 100 pages of learning fun awaits the children that grab a pencil and open this book. Game On! Is a compilation of all types of wordy games and puzzles to challenge and delight the young people in your lives. It includes crossword puzzles, mazes, brainteasers, hidden puzzles and much, much more.

Colorful illustrations and the variety of activities encourage kids to see which type of puzzles they choose first. This type of book lends itself to be browsed through and completed in any order. Maybe your child is the type to want to do the pages in order, maybe not. Either way it is his or her choice.

This would not be appropriate for children that are too young to read and spell. But it is absolutely perfect for the 8 to 10 year-old age group. I suggest taking this on a road trip. You only need a pencil and eraser and your child will have hours of entertainment that doesn’t require headphones or a battery.

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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