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Book Review: Covid Seasons – politics, the pandemic and relationships

by Rick Goeld

Since 2014, two Arizona couples have met every Thursday morning to talk about the world and life in general. They have expanded the group to six, all neighbors in a small gated community in Scottsdale. They discuss and argue points and opinions while enjoying coffee at a local eatery. But this is late January 2020, and Covid is about to raise its ugly head, changing the world and the neighbor’s lives forever.

The group includes Mark, a lawyer who has lost his job, and his wife Julie, who is a cop. Scott and Emjay are realtors that own their own business and John is retired and mostly spends his days irritating his wife Sherri with his nasty smelling cigars. Each of them has opinions about what is happening in the world and they are not opposed to arguing with the others in the group. That being said, they look forward to the weekly get-togethers, especially with the lockdown.

Covid Seasons addresses politics and Covid, but more importantly, it brings to light the struggles and strengths of some relationships during what we hope to be the worst part of the virus. As time trudges on, emotions run high and relationships become strained. The fabric of society as well as families has changed like never before in modern times, bringing out the best and worst of individuals. Some can adapt, others cannot. 

This fast-paced novel is interesting, funny and, at times, painfully honest. The characters are fiction, but the virus, the Presidential election and division of our nation was all too real. Clothed in the opinions of the characters, the issues seemed much less jarring than watching on the nightly news. Secrets that may or may not have been a byproduct of the lockdown are exposed. Some rifts can and will be mended, others will not.

This is the first book I have read by Rick Goeld. He is the author of Searching for Steely Dan and Sex, Lies, and Soybeans as well as People of Windsor Mountain, a work of non-fiction. If you are a fan of Tim Dorsey’s writing, you will enjoy Covid Seasons. This book contains explicit behavior as well as adult language,

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 © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Accidental Detective Loved It – Anxiously Awaiting a Sequel!

The Accidental Detective
A Hannah Tree Novel by D M Macdonald

It is true that opposites attract. The unlikely pair of Gloria, a transsexual drag queen and trouble making Hannah meet and become allies in a psych ward. Gloria was there for help; Hannah was there because it was the preferred alternative to jail after her latest misbehavior. Abused as a child by someone close to her, Hannah makes one bad choice after another trying to escape her past.

Hannah isn’t as hardened as she would like to be. When her roommate’s husband tries to intimidate his wife, Hannah and Gloria have a plan to stop him from ruining his wife’s life. So begins an unusual friendship between a former lawyer turned drag queen and a girl just trying to forget her past. Seeking revenge from the man that abused her is her ultimate goal.

When the plan to save her roommate works, albeit with a couple of hitches, Hannah feels as though she might be able to help others who are intimidated and abused. She has trust issues but grudgingly accepts Gloria’s help. Hence, she becomes a detective without a license because of her previous illegal activities. She stumbles upon a ring of high-ranking officials that are abusing adults and children in a private club. It is so close to home she will move hell or high water to try and save them and bring the perpetrators to justice. But will she survive the wrath of the powerful people in charge?

The Accidental Detective is a fabulous marriage of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Hannah has trust issues, making her vulnerable, but is fearless in her quest for justice. Gloria is also a strong character with an underlying sadness. The two of them explode from the pages, making a well plotted novel a page-turner.

This is the first book I have read by D M MacDonald, but will not be the last. She has written seven crime fiction novels, each of which I am adding to the top of my list. Her background includes acting as well as careers as a psychiatric nurse and a sculptor, bringing realism to her characters and plots.

I loved this book and highly recommend it to mystery/crime drama fans. Hopefully Hannah and Gloria will be back in a sequel or better yet, a series. I cannot get enough of them and need to know who they are taking down next. This book contains sensitive situations which may be

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 © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Perfect Bind – A Perfect Cozy Mystery

A Perfect Bind                      

by Dorothy St. James

Assistant librarian Trudell Becket is frustrated. Her beloved library in the tiny town of Cypress has changed – and not for the better. All. Of. The. Books. Are. Gone. They have all been replaced with electronics. Tablets, computers, e-readers and crazy enough, a café and yoga classes now fill the rooms instead of actual books. While there is a time and place for new technology, Tru feels the loss of books is blasphemy and has taken secret steps to keep readers in touch with a secret library. Housed in the basement beneath the library, a chosen few have access to real books and research materials. If Mrs. Farnsworth, the head librarian, finds out about the hidden library, surely Tru will lose the job that she loves.

Keeping it secret is vital, but someone has discovered the library. Tearing down shelves and ripping books and papers, an unknown vandal has been striking at night when the library is closed. It saddens and puzzles Tru. Who is getting in, why are they destroying books and most of all how are they gaining access? Tru loves mysteries – one of her mottos is “What Would Miss Marple Do?” so she begins poking around in places that might get her in trouble. Or possibly killed!

When a body is found behind the library, Tru’s old flame from high school starts poking around. Jace once was a detective in NY, but has returned to the Cypress police department. He flusters Tru in more ways than one. As her secret crush in high school, she has always held a torch for him. He has feelings for her, but she is afraid to take their friendship to a different level. With him on the case, it is more than difficult to keep the secret library under wraps. When the case heats up, Tru and her band of amateur detectives may have bit off more than they can chew, hopefully it will not get anyone killed.

A Perfect Bind is a delightful cozy mystery. The plot is very well written, and the killer was not who I expected. The red herrings were perfectly placed to throw readers off the trail. Quirky, small town characters perfectly accompany the plot, and are fun and interesting. The bit of humor is also a welcome element. If you have read any of my reviews, you’ll know without me saying I am a huge fan of cozies, and this one hits all the marks to make it very enjoyable.  

This is the first book I have read by Dorothy St. James, but Ms. St. James has written several cozies. A Perfect Bind is the second book in the Beloved Bookroom Series, the first is A Broken Spine. I plan to read it, as well as her other cozies in the near future.

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: Striking Range – Page Turning Mystery

Striking Range

A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery

By Margaret Mizushima

Deputy Mattie Cobb is finally going to get answers from the man in prison that is responsible for the death of her father. Upon arrival at Colorado state prison, the closure she needs is ripped from underneath her as the killer is found dead in his cell. The only clue she has is a map that is discovered in the dead man’s sparce belongings. Hopefully the answers she seeks will be brought to light.

With the help of her canine partner, Robo, she will be part of the search team looking for evidence in the long-ago crime. The weather is against them but even worse, something sinister awaits them on Redstone Ridge. When Cole, the local veterinarian who is Mattie’s boyfriend goes missing in a storm, Mattie is determined to find him at any cost. Unfortunately, that means putting herself and her beloved dog in grave danger.

Striking Range is the sixth book in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series. I have been fortunate enough to read every book in the series and I have loved each and every one of them. The characters are fully developed and the plots are solid. It is interesting to learn about K-9 dogs, how they train and work. The added storyline of Cole’s vet practice also adds depth to the novel. This particularly comes to light in the latest book because Robo becomes a father.

I highly recommend Striking Range as well as the rest of this series. The plots are solid, the characters interesting and the action is page-turning. Each of the books in this series is written as a stand-along novel, so you can read them in any order. I enjoyed each of them, especially the ending of Striking Range – but I’m not telling you what happens – that is for you to discover when you read it.

Margaret Mizushima is an award-winning author – she was awarded the 2019-2020 Writer of the Year by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers of America. Her award-winning Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries are internationally published, which is no surprise to her fans. The realism in her writing comes from her own experiences. She is married to a veterinarian and was raised on cattle ranches in Colorado and Texas.

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 © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Interesting Whodunit

Surreal Absurdity

By Jim Lively

Jamie Simon attempted to kill Charles Pierce with an overdose of stolen ketamine. The whole affair disconcerted Pierce, but he wanted to put it behind him, so he never reported her to the police. Unfortunately, Ms. Simon decided to confess to police. Thus, the investigation and trial began, pulling Pierce into court and into the news. Unfortunately, this ultimately changed his life – and not in a good way.

Having retired from practicing law, Charles now spent his days painting. He was surprisingly good, so when he rented a space to paint from an art gallery, he quickly became a part of the art scene. Again, bad luck follows him. Random attacks on the gallery seem to be targeting him and as if that isn’t bad enough, he is implicated in a murder.

He quickly realizes he is in grave danger, and so begins his quest to find out just who is behind the attacks. But the police don’t believe him, in fact, they suspect he is the one who is on a murderous spree. Hopefully he can convince them otherwise and they will apprehend the real killer before it is too late.

For me there was too much dialog, not enough descriptions in this book. At times there were pages of dialog, just back and forth without setting information to give me a full picture of who, what, where and when. I am not saying the dialog was bad. For me, I needed something to see, hear or smell along the conversation. I enjoyed the information imparted regarding the wine tastings, the art and the gallery, I just needed more to get deeper into this novel. On the plus side, it is a super-fast read because of the pages of dialog.

This fast-paced mystery was interesting. The clues were all there and yet I didn’t realize who the killer was until the last pages. I liked this book but did not love it. The end especially disappointed me. It seemed as though there was more information readers needed to know. It ended abruptly, seemingly the end of a chapter, not a book. Perhaps there will be another novel in this series of two, but it leaves the readers hanging in the meantime.

This is the first book I have read by this author. Like his main character, Mr. Lively was a lawyer and is now a contemporary visual artist as well as a filmmaker. His second novel won the 2016 Merrimack Media Outstanding Writer Award. Surreal Absurdity is a sequel to Aberrant Behavior, which I have not read.

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 © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Audio Book Review: The Guilt Trip – Fabulous New Suspense Novel by NYT Best Selling Author

The Guilt Trip

by Sandie Jones

Narrated by Clare Corbett

The thought of a destination wedding to Portugal sounds fabulous but quickly becomes complicated. Everyone has secrets that they are determined to keep hidden from the people closest to them.

The bride and groom, Will and Ali, are excited to begin their new lives as husband and wife, but Ali may not be telling the entire truth to her new husband. Meanwhile, Will’s brother Jack and his wife Rachel are at odds with each other when suspicion of cheating comes to light. Noah and his wife Paige, who are best friends with Jack and Rachel, are having marital problems. Could it be that the relationship between Noah and Rachel has reverted back to their college days when they were more than friends?

Deceit and betrayal, lies and suspicion swirls around six main characters, coming to a boiling point the day of the wedding. The answers to all of the questions will not be revealed until the wedding is over – but will it be too late for any of them to survive? The Guilt Trip is full of twists and turns that keeps readers guessing until the final chapters. Who, if anyone, is lying?

This fast-paced suspense filled novel is perfectly plotted to keep the reader engaged from the first pages to the last. The characters are interesting and fully developed. It was fun to try and figure out who was lying and who was cheating – and who wasn’t. I loved to hate some of the characters and felt sorry for others. The last chapter let me know if I was a good judge of character or completely mistaken. I loved it.

Clare Corbett did a marvelous job narrating this audiobook. She speaks clearly, making the book come to life for listeners. Audiobooks are perfect for busy people. There is nothing better than listening to an interesting book like The Guilt Trip while cleaning house, knitting or just relaxing.

I’ve read several books by Sandi Jones, and have enjoyed all of them. She is a New York Times bestselling author and deservedly so. I highly recommend all of her books, especially her latest, The Guilt Trip.

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: Grumpy Old Man – Modern Day Satire

Grumpy Old Man

By Tom J. Lyons

The death of multi-millionaire Ramsay Marshall is not a huge surprise. He was only seventy-five, but the heart attacks he previously suffered made him look and act like a much older man. When he is found dead, it is assumed to be a fatal heart attack, but his daughter, Sophia, thinks it is murder. She hires ex-military sergeant Palmer Doyle’s investigations company to find the truth. Doyle International begins to look into Marshall’s death and will hopefully sort out the huge inheritance of Sophia and her slimy step-brother, Brad.

Palmer and Sophia have a past. She helped nurse him back to health after he was injured in the war. It was a brief encounter, but she made a big impression. Palmer wonders if they can become close once again as his team begins to investigate the case. Each of the eclectic investigators he has assembled brings something of value to the company. Dakota is a tattooed, pierced, purple haired computer whiz. John, nicknamed Sharkie due to his oddly pointed teeth, has snapping turtles for pets and has a serious problem with hemorrhoids and is perfect for gathering information. Then there is Meghan the secretary – she keeps this ragtag group on task and holds a secret torch for Palmer.

 This fast-paced satire is entertaining, interesting and has an unexpected ending. The quirky characters and solid plot are woven together to create a fantastic novel. If you are a fan of Tim Dorsey, you will love Grumpy Old Man. Full disclosure – this novel does contain sexual situations.

Tom J. Lyons is the author of several books. This is the first book I have read by this author and sincerely hope there will be a sequel or an entire series. I cannot get enough of these characters.

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 © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Picture Book Review: Under the Moon and the Stars

Written by: Laura Kosann

Illustrated by Danielle Kosann

This modern-day fairytale is about a little girl who questions who she is and what she can become. As she sleeps under the stars, she dreams of a fairy that reminds her she has had the power all along to make her dreams come true. The bumblebees confirm that she only has to believe to become a queen if she desires. This boosts the little girl’s confidence to help her believe in herself.

This colorful picture book is written for children ages four to seven. I am a fan of teaching children new words, but “contemplated” and concept of “seize the day” may be a bit of a stretch for many in this age group. The second page has a fairy telling the little girl, “You’ve had the power all along..” Then the little girl thinks her classmates “had been wrong all along”.  I would have liked a bit more information. Was she teased because she was small? Did she have friends?

The illustrations are colorful. They appear dreamlike such as queens wearing crowns with only one eye. The animals and flowers are drawn in beautiful eye-catching colors that children will love. I struggled with this book because the illustrations are for younger children, but the vocabulary and storyline are for children possibly older than the targeted age group.

This is the first picture book by Laura and Danielle Kosann. They are the authors of Great Tastes, a “Cooking and Eating from Morning to Midnight, A Cookbook”.

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 #UndertheSunMoonandStars #NetGalley

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Book Review: Ghosts – Who Has Ghosted You?

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

We encounter many ghosts in a lifetime. Not the ghosts like Casper or those that Ghostbusters zapped into submission. This is about people ghost who ghost others, like the friends and relatives that seeming drop off the planet. No phone calls, no text messages and certainly no face-to-face communication. These are the type of ghosts that haunt Nina George Dean in Dolly Alderton’s debut novel.

Nina is a single woman fairly satisfied with her life. At 32, she owns her flat and loves her job. She is a published author of a cookbook and has an advance for the second. Her love of writing and cooking have blended into the perfect career. The only thing missing in her life is someone special. So begins her quest to find someone to share her life with via an online dating service.

To her surprise, she meets a man that she can see herself spending her life with. Up until the moment he ghosts her. Shattered, she attempts to spend time with her best friend. Unfortunately, her friend is now married and a mother. Nina isn’t really sure of how to proceed with this friendship because their lives have nothing in common except their past. As if being ghosted by her lover as well as her best friend isn’t enough, Nina is slowly losing her father to dementia. Her mother is in denial, leaving Nina to contend with the ghost that used to be her father.

Ghosts is a work of fiction that is easy to read, yet reaches into your thoughts. The characters and storyline will keep you thinking about it long after the last pages are read. Everyone has been ghosted by someone that they have cared about. The truths wrapped in this novel are haunting – much like the ghosts in our pasts. I highly recommend it.

Dolly Alderton is a journalist, author and podcaster. Ghosts is her debut novel. She is a Sunday Times best-selling author with her memoir, Everything I know About Love. The memoir has garnered several awards, including a National Book Award, a British Book Award and has been translated into 25 languages. Additionally, it was nominated for the Waterstones Book of the Year Award. Ms. Alderton is one to watch, I can’t wait to read her next novel. If you like Jennifer Weiner’s novels, you will love Ghosts.

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: Death of a Red-Hot Rancher – Intriging New Cozy Mystery

Brody Pierce is a sight to behold. Every female in the small town of Tinker’s Creek, Ohio takes notice of this tall piece of eye-candy when he comes to town. He made his fame and fortune in Hollywood as the hunky, rough and tumble actor in a truck commercial. This allowed him to purchase a ranch in Tinker’s Creek where he raises bison.

Lizzie Hale, the owner of the most successful romance bookstore in the Midwest, is not immune to Pierce’s rugged good looks, but tries to remain calm when he enters her store. All of her female customers, including her aunt, Charmaine, practically swooned at his feet. Yes, everyone loved and admired him – with the exception of at least one person. The one that killed him.

Unfortunately, Lizzie is the one that finds his body. She is obviously upset, but it is evident this is a murder and now she is in the thick of it. Quietly tallying up the clues she has observed, Lizzie begins to do a bit of sleuthing. Unfortunately, the clues start to point at one of the people in town she knows and cares for.

The setting of this small town and the bookstore Lizzie owns enhances the depth of characters and plot. It was quite enjoyable picturing the rooms in the bookstore as well as the bison ranch. The extra touch of Lizzie taking care of Brody’s orphan dog was heartwarming. Even though he left dog hair every place they traveled together. The requisite touch of romance is present in this cozy and I am looking forward to see how the characters develop in future books in this series.

This fast-paced cozy mystery is full of twists and turns. Usually, the killer is easy to spot, but there are so many people that had it out for Pierce, it was impossible to figure out who the killer was until the final chapters.

Mimi Granger aka Connie Laux is a new author to me as this is the first book of hers that I have read. She is an established mystery writer, and Death of a Red-Hot Rancher is the first book she has written as Mimi Granger, one of her many pen names. This is the first cozy mystery she has written, previously focused on romance novels. If you love cozies, you will love this book. I’m looking forward to more books in this series.

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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