Book Review: The Girl Before – Fabulous Thriller – Would You Give Up Everything?

girl-beforeThe Girl Before

By J Delaney

 

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley in return for my review. Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

Two women. Two traumas. One home. One outrageous contract. One or two possible murders.

The book begins with a house search. Jane has had something horrible happen to her and she needs to get out of her current flat to feel safe. The agent takes her to a home that is stark, sterile and has been empty for quite a while.

She falls in love with the security so on a whim fills out the questionnaire the builder requires before she is considered a candidate for occupancy. At first she is unnerved by it, but soon realizes she can put up with the crazy rules and requirements if she is chosen.

Surprisingly she is, giving up almost all of her possessions, she begins a journey that others have not lived through. Will she?

The Girl Before was fascinating. I cannot imagine living without color, pictures of loved ones, or having to answer questions before the computer running my home will allow the shower to start. When things get sinister, Jane feels as though she needs to find out what happen to Emma, but this may prove to be fatal.

Delaney’s book is creepy, engaging and thought provoking. I love the way in which it is written. Going back and forth from Emma to Jane the reader sees history almost repeat itself. Was it the choices both women made? Was it the home itself?

You can tell when the characters start to live minimally and begin to lose themselves in the process. The author shows this by removing all of the dialog quotation marks. Oddly enough, I didn’t miss them for several chapters – quite possibly the same way these women didn’t miss their identity until it was gone.

This is a fascinating thriller is full of surprises, twists and turns. I absolutely did not see the end coming, but was exceedingly satisfied as a reader when I finish.

Just a note to those that may object, there is violence and sex in The Girl Before but I believe it is essential to the story.

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Book Review: The Whole Town’s Talking Fannie Flagg

the-whole-towns-talkingThe Whole Town’s Talking

Fannie Flagg

 

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley in return for my review. Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

The Whole Town’s Talking is a condensed saga of generations of families in a tiny town in Missouri. Established by Swedish immigrant Lordor Nordstrom, the story of the town and its inhabitants spans from 1889 to 2016 in just over 400 pages.

Lorder was a kind, gentle, intelligent man. He grew the town with craftsmen and merchants after more settlers arrive. He did the olden day version of online dating to find a wife when no suitable women were available. He communicated via letters and luckily ended up with a wonderful girl that took to life on his dairy farm like she had been born in the Midwest.

Life was not always easy, but it went on. Many years past, babies were born and people died. But strange goings on began after they were laid to rest up on the hill. Maybe it was just this little town, or maybe this happens everywhere and we just don’t know about it until we pass away.

Award winning author Fannie Flagg brings her signature voice and love of small southern towns to this novel. She writes with a deep love of the American south and it is evident in all of her writings. I am very fond of this style; it takes me back to the hot summers I spent down south visiting family. To me reading this novel was like sipping sweet tea on a hot summer afternoon. There might be a gnat or two bugging me, but I was enjoying it far more than I was not.

The gnat that irritated me about this book was the number of characters I had to keep track of. In the beginning there were the core characters and a few supporting. By the end, the years quickly went by and I had to keep back tracking to see who was who. It ruined the flow of the story at times for me.

The main characters were multidimensional, interesting and made me want to go have a slice of pie and a chat with them in their kitchens. A few of them made me want to run the other way – no town is perfect.

This was different that most of Ms. Flagg’s other books as they did not span so much time, nor did they take a ride someplace out of the ordinary. That does not mean I didn’t like it, nor does it mean all of her books need to be cookie cutter copies of the previous ones. The timespan I am not sure about, but the place she took us was a surprising twist that I quite enjoyed.

I would suggest this as a nice summer read, but hate for avid readers to wait that long. It was entertaining and different. Grab a glass of tea and head on out to the porch or your favorite armchair and enjoy.

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Book Review: A Fatal Twist – Yoga, Puppies, Babies and a Murder!

Karma's a Killer

Kate Davidson is a multi-tasking maven. She juggles owning and teaching classes at her yoga studio with her busy personal life. She has a beloved dog Bella, who isn’t really too fond of other dogs, some people, has separation anxiety and to top it off lacks an essential enzyme which makes mealtime dicey at best. Kate also has a live-in boyfriend, Michael who is pretty understanding considering Kate has stumbled upon more than one dead body. He is less happy about her urge to jump in and help solve the crime.

You might be thinking that you are as busy as Kate (minus the dead bodies of course) but she stepped up her game in this book. She is dealing with a young woman that she really doesn’t like, but has agreed to let her work at the studio to pay off a debt. Again, what could really go wrong?

Kate’s best friend Rene is expecting twins. So, Kate agrees to be her Doula (a non-medical person that gives moral support during and after the birth of her child, or in this case children). And the cherry on the top of Kate’s crazy triple scoop sundae of her life – Michael brings home a pair of adorable abandoned puppies. They wiggle their way into Michael and Kate’s hearts, but unfortunately also wiggle their way out of an escape proof crate and proceed to leave a path of destruction in their wake.

As if this wasn’t enough to wear out our favorite Yoga instructor, during the open house for the brand new birthing center where Rene will have her babies, a dead body shows up. Then someone Kate knows is arrested, but she knows her friend is innocent and sets out to prove it with an unlikely accomplice. Michael has warned her against sticking her nose in where it shouldn’t be, but Kate can’t help herself. Will this be the time she steps over the line?

Tracy Weber’s Downward Dog Mystery series is entertaining and fun. She also treats readers to a solid mystery. By the end of the book, before the crazy climax of finding out who the killer is there are no less than eight plausible suspects. And we aren’t talking way out, red herring, reader groaning connections. LOTS of people wanted to kill this guy and they all had good reason. But it was only one of them. It took until the very end to figure it out. The clues were laid out perfectly, as a mystery buff, it is satisfying to realize I could have figured it out, but didn’t.

Weber’s characters are people you would meet every day at work or in your social life. I didn’t necessarily want to spend time with some of them, but others seem like they’d be really fun to invite to a party. Each book adds more layers to the main characters, but you could honestly read these as stand-alone cozy mysteries. This is the fourth book in Weber’s series, so you may want to start at the beginning, but you really don’t have.

If I haven’t convinced you to give this series a try, I only have one more thing to say – babies and puppies. Both adorably cute, frustratingly funny if they aren’t yours. I highly recommend this fast paced cozy mystery.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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.

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Book Review: Joe Peas – Delightful Character Driven Novel

joe-peasThe little boy, nothing but skin and bones with scorched hair and tattered clothes, was discovered by the American soldiers in 1944. He didn’t know much English, but could say Joe (as in G.I. Joe) so that is what he called himself. The when pressed for his last name, he looked around the mess hall and saw his favorite food – black-eyed peas and responded “Peas”. As a child, he lived through war and re-invented himself.

Fast forward many years. Joe Peas finds himself in a small American town extolling the pleasure of correctly painting houses. He schools the patrons of a local diner with his method of treating a house right to bring it back to a thing of beauty.

That morning, one of the locals enjoying Joe’s antics was Dr. James King. He is a doctor in this small town of King’s Mill. He is as dedicated to healing and helping his town as Joe is dedicated to beautifying it one house at a time.

Both men go on with their lives, Joe painting houses, Dr. King taking care of his family, the staff at his clinic and his patients. He runs a rehabilitation clinic that is barely making ends meet, but he loves what he is doing even though he is living life on the edge financially. Then there is the HOA in the community he lives in. The tyrant that heads the association delights in making sure the grass isn’t too long, the shutters are all painted the same color and the kids in the neighborhood don’t leave anything that resembles a toy within his sight. He “enforces” the rules by levying fines on the residents that have the audacity to not toe the line. His main focus seems to be on Dr. King – whom he assumes has deep pockets.

Fate steps in to push Joe and the doctor together again. Joe lands in the rehab center just when Dr. King is about at his lowest point with both personal and professional difficulties. The man that grew from that tiny ragged child had seen and done many things in his life, and was determined to help his new friend and doctor. The problem is, Joe has secrets that he wants to keep and helping may expose things in his life he wants to keep hidden secret.

Sam Newsome’s second novel, Joe Peas is a delightful tale of friendship, determination and the celebration of individuality. It was a light and quick book to read, but the characters had depth and emotions that pulled me in and kept me turning the pages.  The bit of mystery surrounding the years between Joe’s childhood and when he showed up in the second chapter as a man of “advanced age” with “animated speech and gestures suggested he was very active” kept me guessing. The end was exceedingly satisfying.

Joe Peas is the first book I’ve read by this award winning author. Newsome’s first book, Jackie won the Garcia Memorial Book Award in 2015. I expect many more awards and hope for many more books by this talented new voice.

 

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Book Review: The Gail Force by Robert Lane – Smart, Sassy, Satisfying Suspense

gail-forceThe Gail Force

by Robert Lane

Jake Travis is back, and knee deep in trouble due to a woman. She showed up at his place, the little slice of paradise on the water, disrupting his world with her tears and anger over the murder of her husband. She wants revenge; Jake wants to keep her alive.

Her husband accidentally ran across information that could have made him rich. Instead he decided to take the high road and went to the authorities. They put him and his wife in protective custody, but that ended up deadly for more than one person involved.

Unable to walk away from the puzzle, Jake goes undercover to help the Feds frame the man they think is responsible for the killings. That is when the lines between the good guys, bad guys and double-crossers blur. The job is becoming more deadly each day, as it draws Jake deeper down the rabbit hole.

As he becomes more embedded he finds another damsel in destress. She is either very dangerous or in more trouble than the original client. Jake enjoys champagne, fishing, his best friend Morgan and loves his girlfriend Kathleen. Is he willing to give any of the things he cares about away to save someone that may not need or want saving?

I love Robert Lane’s style. He is a smart, savvy writer that entertains and surprises me every time. The plot lines are solid; he gives the readers all the information without the need for red herrings but with enough twists and turns to keep us guessing. The characters are well developed and multi-layered, making them come alive on the pages.

Lane has given Jake a sense of humor laced with sarcasm that helps break the tension of the plot. This is done masterfully, allowing the reader to take a breath, chuckle and consider the possibilities of the situation. Some of the comments and one-liners are in the middle of deadly situations. Like when Jake thinks to himself, “When did green carpet come back in style? Why?”.

This is the fourth book in the “stand-alone” Jake Travis series. While all of the books feature Jake and his friends, it is still appropriate to call them stand-alone novels as it doesn’t really matter if you have read the previous books to thoroughly enjoy this one. I have read three of the four, and none of them build on previous plots to the point of confusion. Characters have become more developed, and if you choose to read this one first, you will love it.

But if you choose to start at the beginning, add them to your Christmas list. Reading these four books would be the great way to start the New Year. If you can wait that long.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

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.

 

 

 

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Book Review: Creepy Crawly Crochet – Perfection!

creepy-crawler-crochetCreepy Crawly Crochet

by Megan Kreiner

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

As an experienced crocheter (I’ve been crocheting for over 50 years) I feel confident in stating Creepy Crawly Crochet is the perfect instruction book with really cool, creepy but cute patterns.

It begins with fiber and hook suggestions as well as where to find black fiber fill (around Halloween they sell it under the name “Halloween Hay” – who knew?!). This is important for creepy figures that are done in dark colors, because no matter how tight your stitches are, the crocheted fabric will allow white fiber fill to be seen. From felt to project bags there are suggestions and guidance regarding the best type of each item to turn out perfectly.

Kreiner gives step-by-step instructions for crocheting from the beginning slip knot to binding off. She then follows with each stitched used in the following patterns, including “Finishing Touches” like whip stitching your project together and embroidery stitches that will add details to your project.

Tips and Tricks is the next section that helps with the little things that will make your Creepy Crawlies perfect.

The patterns themselves are clear, concise and detailed. There are images to enhance and clarify the directions. Each pattern has a color picture to allow you to see exactly how the project will look when finished.

All of the Creepy Crawlies are cute – in a creepy way. It is hard to pick out one or two that are my favorites over the others, but I have a soft spot for Frankie. He is on the top of my list to make for my grandson. My other favorite is Poe the Raven – he would look very cool sitting on my desk at work next Halloween.

If you aren’t that into creepy, you can still love this book. For instance, Jack and the Headless Horseman is a great pattern for a horse stuffed animal. You could make Jack with a head, and it is just a guy on a horse that all kids would love.

After the patterns, Kreiner has templates for the felt pieces used to finish off the characters. She also gives the abbreviations for the pattern instructions, crochet hook conversion charts, yarn weights and resources.

It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, if you crochet toys or dolls, this is the book for you. I can’t wait to make my favorites.

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Book Review: Die For You – Fabulously Complex YA Novel

die-for-youDie For You

By Amy Fellner Dominy

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

Teenagers fall in and out of love daily. But the love Dillon and Emma have is more than puppy love. They have a real connection, bound together with deep emotion and a short, but encompassing past.

Emma met Dillon when she moved in with her father after her parents split. It was her choice to leave her friends, high school just before senior year and start over in a new place. It was rough for her and meeting Dillon helped fill the emptiness she felt after making one of the hardest choices of her young life.

Emma helped Dillon fight some demons he was struggling with. This made her feel needed and loved. They planned a future together after senior year. Both had been accepted to the same college and were planning to spend the next four years and the rest of their lives together. They knew their young love would withstand the test of time and both of them wanted to be together forever.

But when Emma unexpectedly receives the most unbelievable opportunity for an internship in Rome for the next year, she knew she had to try for it. Her life dream of becoming an archeologist like her father made studying in the ancient city a dream come true. She felt sure that Dillon would support her dream, after all, it was only a year apart and they could phone, skype and text to keep in touch almost as if they were together.

But Dillon had other ideas. At what lengths would he go to make sure Emma stayed with him forever? She was about to find out.

I loved this YA book. It was a love story, a coming of age story that had elements of suspense, mystery and family issues. The complexity of the characters and story evolution made Die For You a great book for YA audiences as well as adults. It was well written, with realistic conversations and situations. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down.

Per her website, Amy Fellner Dominy is “…a former advertising copywriter, MFA playwright and hula-hoop champion.”  You have to love an author with a hula-hoop championship under her belt! She is an award winning YA and youth writer, with a picture book coming out soon. Die For You is her fifth novel, I am looking forward to reading the previous four as well as her picture book.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

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