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Book Review: Hello, Transcriber – Must Read Debut Suspense

By Hannah Morrissey

Black Harbor is a crime riddled city that people run away from, not to. Hazel Greenlee has moved there with her husband Tommy, because he found a job there. He hunts for their food and seems overly fond of the guns he keeps around the house. Hazel has aspirations to be an author. She finds a job as a transcriber for the local police force, giving her fodder for the book she is writing.

Hazel is an amazing typist, and doesn’t mind working the night shift. When a young boy is killed during her shift, things change drastically for her. She might know who the killer is, but cannot tell anyone. The detective in charge, Nikolai Kole, sends his report to Hazel. With his voice talking in her ear, she transcribes the events, fearing her involvement by withholding evidence, yet intrigued by the sound of Kole’s voice.

Strangely enough, Kole visits her during the long night. This is the beginning of something between them that is more than inappropriate. Hazel fears her attraction will be discovered by her husband. She also fears the repercussions for not sharing her suspicions about the killer with Kole.

This deliciously dark suspense novel is full of twists and turns. The characters are fully developed and most of them have their own agenda that will stop at nothing to attain their goals.

Hello, Transcriber is Hannah Morrissey’s debut novel. Her previous job as a police transcriber and being the wife of a police officer, brings first-hand knowledge to creating her characters. I highly recommend this fast-paced suspense novel. I cannot wait to see what she writes in the 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: Recipe for Disaster – Must Read Middle Grade Fiction – Even If You Are an Adult

Recipe for Disaster
by Aimee Lucido

Twelve-year-old Hannah Malfa-Adler has been cooking with her Grandma Mimi for as long as she can remember. Life is getting more complicated for Hannah now that she is twelve. Her best friend, Shira is studying for her bat mitzvah. While Hannah is excited for her bestie, she is a little bit jealous. Grandma Mimi is Jewish, which makes her mother Jewish – thereby Hannah is as well. But is Hannah really Jewish if she doesn’t practice her religion? In their house the only person that practices Judaism is Grandma.

Everything was going along well, until Shira made a decision at her bat mitzvah party to dance with a boy she liked instead of the “best friend dance” she and Hannah discussed for weeks before the event. Hurt and jealous, Hannah proclaims she will be having the next bat mitzvah to her friends. Which is pretty unlikely because her mother refuses to have any association with her Jewish heritage. Grandma has a plan that may help Hannah, but is a secret until the time is right to tell Hannah’s mom.

Hannah’s teenage angst is portrayed beautifully. She is in turmoil in many aspects of her life. Religion, losing her best friend, finding a new friend that is edgy and the relationship with her parents all factor into her actions and thoughts. Her family isn’t the best support system at this very moment. First of all, her older brother wants to become a chef, much to the disdain of their father. The tension in their home is buffered with Grandma’s wise advice and delicious family recipes (which are included in the book).

This book is teenage reality wrapped in love. Middle school is not easy. Author Aimee Lucido does not sugar coat the situations Hannah finds herself in the middle of. But Lucido leads readers on a path that shows family and friends will disagree, but things will work out. Sometimes with surprising results.

This is the first book I have read by Aimee Lucido. It is the second book she has written, the first being Emmy In The Key of Code. I look forward to reading it as well as others she will write in the future. She just might be the Beverly Cleary of this generation.

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 by Beach Read

Death By Beach Read

by Eva Gates

A Lighthouse Library Mystery

Lucy loves being the librarian in the historic Bodie Island Lighthouse Library. So much so, she used to live in it. That was before she became engaged to Connor, the local mayor. They find a fabulous historic home on the beach that needs a bit – most likely a lot – of work to bring it back to the beautiful beach home it once was. Luckily, Connor and his father are doing most of the work, but living in a construction zone is difficult for the couple as well as Charles the cat. He is actually the library’s cat and was named appropriately for Charles Dickens. He travels with Lucy to and from the library each day.

While Connor was away for business, Lucy was awakened by what sounded like someone walking in their home. Charles was also aware that something or somebody had invaded their space. Lucy didn’t say anything to Charles, thinking she must have been hearing things outside. But soon, it became apparent that someone was trying to scare them – or more sinister – kill them.

Delving into the history of the home, they found interesting facts and folklore including rumors of a resident ghost. Could someone be looking for hidden treasure long forgotten? Could the incidents be personal attacks on Lucy and Connor? Legends and larceny may be teaming up creating a catalyst for disaster.

This is the 9th book in the Lighthouse Library Mystery by Eva Gates. It is the first one in the series I have read, but was not confused by reading it out of order. The characters are interesting and fully developed. Some I loved and some I loved to hate. Like all cozy mysteries, there is a happy ending. It is an interesting and easy read with likable main characters and a persnickety cat that has a realistic attitude. He lends a paw when needed. 

Eva Gates is one of the pen names of Vicki Delany. She resides in Canada and is an award-winning mystery novelist. I highly recommend Death by Beach Read and will be checking out the other books in her 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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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 Santa Suit – A Charming Romance

The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews

Ivy Perkins’ dreams of living in a farmhouse situated in a small town have prompted her to purchase one sight unseen. As she approaches her dream home with her dog Punkin and a box of baby chicks, she realizes there may be some flaws in her new house that the pictures sent by the realtor did not show. That is the first sign that she may have bitten off more than she could chew.

Ezra Wheeler, the realtor, is there to welcome her. After helping her open the front door with a quirky lock, they walk into her new home. It is still full of the previous owner’s furniture, clothing and dishes as well as Christmas decorations. Apparently, her new home was renowned for the annual Christmas decorations. The former owners portrayed Mr. and Mrs. Claus every year. Ivy doesn’t have time for Christmas decorations this year. But when she finds the legendary Santa suit with an old note in it from a youngster, she feels something inside of herself telling her to find the child – now adult – that wrote it.

This is a delightful tale of a woman reborn into the life she always dreamt she wanted. The characters are quirky and fun. Ivy is a dreamer, and is determined to make her life and new farmhouse work out. She has to learn to adjust and fit in all the while staying true to herself. With the help of Ezra, the house is shaping up and he is becoming more attractive to Ivy every day.

Mary Kay Andrews has written 24 New York Times best-selling books. The Christmas Suit is destined to be #25. I have read many of her previous novels, enjoying each and every one. Her plots and characters are relatable and fun to read. I highly recommend this author and her newest novel.

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: 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: 3-D Paper Craft – Personalize Your Space on a Budget

3-D Paper Craft

Create Fun Paper Cutouts from Plain Paper

By Yoko Ganaha & Piggy Tsujioka

Wall art needn’t be expensive. Yoko Ganaha & Piggy Tsujioka will show you how strong and beautiful 3-D Paper Cutting can be. Your designs will add personalized POP to your walls, personalizing your space for pennies.

Several different alphabets, flowers, holiday items such as snowflakes and pumpkins can be created from drawing paper. They suggest using 80# (2gsm) paper. Then copy the page of the pattern you choose, enlarging it as needed. Each pattern has the creases shown for you to copy to the back side of your paper, then fold accordingly.

There are diagrams, pictures and detailed instructions to allow you to succeed in creating fabulous, one-of-a-kind wall art for pennies. Tips and tricks such as when and where to us a tracing wheel, hole punch and ordinary household glue are included in the instructions.

Adults and teens can easily create these fun paper cutouts. But that doesn’t mean your children can’t help pick out a design for you to put on their wall, or make a collage to hang from their ceiling. The smaller designs could be used to decorate a stunning Christmas tree. The possibilities are endless and extremely economical and fun to make.

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: What You Wish For – Can Dreams Come True?

What You Wish For

By Katherine Center

School Librarian Samantha Casey is happy in life, but not in love. She adores her job in the small, private school and the children she teaches. Her co-workers are kind, fun and have accepted her into their fold with open arms. The little community on Galveston Island, Texas is just what she is searching for after fleeing her last job. She loved the school she worked in, but after falling for one of the most amazing men she had ever met, his rebuff was too hard to live with. She moved to a small town and immediately felt at home and loved her new job at Kempner School.

After the devastating death of her boss Max, the principle and founder of Kempner School, everything changes in the small community. His replacement is named, and is none other than Duncan Carpenter, the man Sam fell head over heels for at her previous job. Not only will he be her boss, but the fun-loving crazy dressing man she knew is gone. And the new Duncan is sucking all of the joy out of the new school and town she now calls home. He is threatening to change everything she loves with new rules and joyless tactics based upon keeping all of the children safe in the eventuality of violence that he experienced firsthand.

Max’s widow Babette seems to be allowing all of the changes, but she is willing to hatch a scheme with Sam and a few friends to convince Duncan to enjoy, not fear life. In doing so, Sam will have to spend more time with Duncan, which makes her uncomfortable, but she’ll do almost anything to keep Max’s legacy alive.

What You Wish For is a deep, yet fast and easy to read novel.  It deals with love, loss and the devastation of a school shooting (that is presented as a memory of one of the characters). Ms. Center also writes of love, joy and happiness. The kindness of the characters as well as the love the residents of the town have for each other and the school will remain with you long after the last pages are read.

This is the first book I have read by Katherine Center and I absolutely loved it. I will seek out her previous seven books and add them to my list. The message of hope and love is especially important now, I highly recommend this book.

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 Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop – Another Gem from Fannie Flagg

The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop

By Fannie Flagg

Some of the beloved characters of “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” are back and a new generation has grown up in Fannie Flagg’s latest gem. She tells stories of the past, weaving them with the current happenings in places near and far from the ghost town Whistle Stop has become.

The heart of this book is “Bud” Threadgoode, the adopted son of Idgie, birth son of Ruth, both of whom owned and ran the Whistle Stop Café. Bud is grown now; we get to meet his daughter Ruth in this book and follow his uneven path back to the life he loved.

Flagg takes the reader back in time from the 1930’s to present time, filling in the backstory of all the characters old and new. The short, snappy chapters are like sitting around with your favorite aunt telling you stories about your family’s past. The ease of transition from 1935 to present day is masterfully done and easy to follow.

The richness and difference of personalities shines through. Idgie has a heart of gold, but is not without problems. Ruthie is loved but challenged by the new family she marries into and Bud has lived a long and fulfilling life in spite of having lost an arm in an accident as a child.

I am a huge fan of Fannie Flagg’s books. Her style is easy to read and comforting because the message isn’t one of everything going right for the characters, but how they adapt, adjust and enjoy life no matter what happens, both good and bad.

This is the fifth book I have read by Ms. Flagg. I will never tire of her style, characters and the way she approaches and tells her stories. I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys women’s fiction, general fiction, cozies and southern fiction.

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: Origami Fold-By-Fold

Origami Fold-by-Fold

John Montroll

Novice and seasoned origamists will enjoy learning and practicing the ancient art of Origami with this easy to learn instruction book by John Montroll. He introduces the reader to the craft with designs that range from simple to very complex. The brief history of paper folding provided by Montroll is interesting and teaches us that origami has roots in China, Japan and Germany.

You must begin your journey to becoming proficient by learning the symbols (lines and arrows) and basic folds. The author has written clear instructions that includes step-by-step color illustrations of each fold. He then begins with a simple fish. My favorite easy creation is the scallop. You could use it to make adorable place cards for a summer get-together.

As you go further into the book, the difficulty level increases. There are elephants and other zoo animals, sharks and even a sunken dodecahedron. First of all, I didn’t even know what that was (it is one of several stellated icosahedrons of 60 equilateral triangles). I had to look up stellated icosahedrons – it is a geometric shape. The sunken dodecahedron is as difficult to make (57 steps) as it is to say, but I seriously want to make one now that I know all about them.

Just when I thought I’d seen every kind of origami creation, Montroll taught me I have much more to learn. Both novices and experts will enjoy creating paper art with Origami Fold-by-Fold. If you make a stellated icosahedron, please send me a picture. I’d love to see it.

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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