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Book Review: Death Steals a Holy Book – Fast Paced Cozy – Perfect Fall Book!

death-steals-a-holy-bookDeath Steals a Holy Book

By: Rosemary & Larry Mild

Dan and Rivka Sherman are back in Rosemary and Larry Mild’s latest cozy mystery. In their Annapolis, Maryland  bookstore, the Shermans are quite happy visiting with patrons, participating in a writer’s group and spending time with family and friends. Unfortunately, they often find themselves unwittingly involved in investigating murders. What is the couple supposed to do when the police don’t seem to be getting the job done and one of their friends could be mistakenly sent to prison?

Rivka finds an old book. A very, very old book. She feels it could be of major significance, so the couple has it appraised and find they are correct in assuming the it’s value is high. The Menorat ha-maor, The Candlestick of Light is not only worth a lot of money, it has great significance in history.

They take the book to Israel Finestein to have it restored. Unfortunately, he is brutally murdered and the book is missing. To make matters worse, a dear friend of theirs has been arrested for the murder they both knew she would never commit.

The clues wind in and out of the Jewish community, with more suspects than books in The Olde Victorian Bookstore the Sherman’s own. The police don’t seem to be paying attention to the facts, and are content with the original person accused. Hopefully  Dan and Rivka can unravel the mystery of the book that vanished as well as the identity dof the killer before it is too late.

I love this unlikely crime fighting duo. They are wily when on the hunt for clues, but sometimes Dan forgets to feed the bookstore cat. Rivka gets irritated with Dan but never for a minute doubts him or stops caring for him. They are the old couple that have been together through thick and thin and their loving relationship is obvious to the reader. The Mild’s have crafted these rich characters that develop more with each book. I liked them before and love them now like a couple of kooky next door neighbors.

This third book in the series is fast paced and extremely interesting. The Milds have many other books, collections of short stories and a few written by just one of this dynamic duo. I have only read one of the others in this series, but plan to pick up the one I haven’t read Death Goes Postal. My review of Death Takes a Mistress can be seen here https://writeknit.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/book-review-death-takes-a-mistress-delightfully-twisted-tale-of-intrigue/

The extra added bonus of this book is the background as to why it was written. Take time before diving into Death Steals a Holy Book to read the Preface. It is fascinating.

 

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: Love From Boy – Roald Dahl’s Letters to his Mother

Love from BoyLove From Boy

Roald Dahl’s Letters to His Mother

Edited by Donald Sturrock

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Penguin First to Read in return for my fair and honest review. Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

This is a fascinating collection of letters Roald sent to his mother from 1925 to 1965. He begins writing to his mother from St. Peter’s School, followed by Repton School in Derby. He then traveled to Nova Scotia, Norway, Canada, Tanganyika, Kenya, Iraq, Egypt, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Texas, and New York and back to Buckinghamshire. From these posts the reader gets an inside look at historical events and Roald’s opinions of what he sees and experiences.

Before I read this book I pictured him as a writer, toiling away at his desk on some of my favorite books. He actually was a story teller in the letters to his mother, painting pictures with his words about the places where he lived and worked.

We also see his compassion. He was worried about his mother finding out how horrid the conditions were at the boarding school. Disease was rampant and the teachers were, in many cases abusive. He wanted to spare her from concern so sugar-coated many of the events when mailing her weekly letters home.

He was also concerned for his family’s welfare. Roald repeatedly implored his mother to move to the countryside so she and his siblings would be out of harm’s way once the inevitable bombings of the war began. She never left her home, but thankfully was okay. He had access to items that were unavailable in England due to the war and frequently wrote asking her and his sisters for lists of things they needed him to send to them.

He experienced sadness and loss in his personal life. One of his children died at a very young age from an illness and another was in an accident, leading him to become a co-inventor of a shunt for children with brain injuries.

If you haven’t read any of his books that aren’t for children, you may be surprised by the salty language in his letters. But if you have read My Uncle Oswald, you might not be. It is a very funny, and quite bawdy.

I truly cannot pick out one or two of my favorite letters, there are just too many. He met dignitaries and presidents. And he dined with movie stars and the owner of the famed Hope Diamond – who wore it to dinner which Roald found a bit too much. He worked with Walt Disney!

If I haven’t convinced you yet, Roald was a gifted photographer and many of his photos as well as some of his drawings are included in this book. It is an amazing compilation of newsy letters that were saved by his mother, enabling the reader to glimpse into life as Roald experienced it. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in history, Roald Dahl, WWII or Hollywood.

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Book Review: Small Great Things – Another Fabulous Book by Jodi Picoult

Small Great ThingsSmall Great Things

A Novel

by Jodi Picoult

Ruth is the daughter of a housekeeper. When school was out, she and her sister would go with their Mama to the big house. They either stayed quietly in the kitchen while their mother worked or sometimes play with the daughter of the family. On one such day a premature baby shaped the three young girl’s lives. Ruth grew up to become a labor and delivery nurse. But more importantly, it was a moment of perfect harmony between classes and races that Ruth would not see again for many years.

Fast forward from 1976 to current day and we find Ruth still doing what she loves. She helps bring new babies into the world, comforts new parents and even helps ease the unspeakable burden when something goes terribly wrong. Until the fateful day she had to decide between the orders she was given and trying to save a baby’s life. No matter what choice she made it was not going to be right, but she could have never imagined she would have ended up in jail for murder.

Enter Turk. He and his wife are in the hospital for the delivery of their first child. Everything was going great until Ruth came in to check on the newborn and his mother. Turk demanded to see Ruth’s supervisor then insisted Ruth was not to come near his child. For no other reason other than he was a White Supremacist and she is an African American. Did his actions lead to the death of his firstborn.

Kennedy is the public defender that is given the task of sorting the details out to defend Ruth in court. She normally doesn’t take cases of this magnitude, but after the initial court appearance, she is compelled to help Ruth. But can her upper class back ground understand the issues of a black woman and defend her?

Jodi Picoult takes social issues out of the headlines, researches the issues from every side and then researches some more. The facts and interviews are fictionalized, and then put together in a way that leaves each side distinguishable and intact, yet interacting with the other sides. One of my professors in college used to say the United States used to be a melting pot, but was now a tossed salad – with lots of individual parts adding to it each keeping their individuality. Some of the ingredients are sweet, some are sour, and some are unknown until you give them a try. This is how I see Picoult’s characters; they are rich, full and different as day and night but are put together for some reason and have to work it out – much like real life.

I am the first one to say Jodi Picoult is, in my opinion, one of the greatest authors today. I have read almost all of her books. She has made me laugh, cry, or become outraged over the issues her characters faced that often seem so unfair. I can honestly say I have never finished one of her books without talking about it to everyone I know that reads and loaning them out so others will enjoy them also.

On a personal note, I’ve met her at several book signings and book talks. She is as delightful in person as she seems in interviews and online. If you get a chance to go to one of her book talks and signings, please do so.

Small Great Things will be available on October 11, 2016 and you can pre-order it now at your favorite bookstore.

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 © 2016 Laura Hartman

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Book Review – The Conveyance – So Creepy Good You Can’t Put it Down!

The_ConveyanceThe Conveyance

by Brian W. Matthews

Dr. Brad Jordan has a new twelve year old patient, Doug Belle. He has been acting out and his mother isn’t much help – as a matter of fact, she seems to be making Doug’s issues worse instead of better. On the way home after their session, Brad is in a horrific car accident that he amazingly walks away from sore and bruised.

His best friend Frank, a cop, drops him off at home where he finds Toni, his wife upset. They have been trying for months to have a child and she has the evidence of another failure in her hand. The home pregnancy kit was negative again.

Despite his injuries, they decide to go to play cards with Frank and his wife Kerry for the evening to get their minds off of the accident and their inability to have a child. The evening was a disaster. An argument escalated to the point of no return so they head back home. The only bright spot of the visit was the discussion about a cute little tourist town, Emersville, were Kerry purchased a “creepy little doll”.  She felt compelled to buy it, but there was something off about it.

Brad and Toni take a trip to Emersville the next day, picking up a creepy doll of their own. That is when the trouble started. Brad starts having disturbing dreams. Young Doug seems to be having more severe episodes, especially after Brad takes the doll to work (as a psychologist he uses toys, including dolls to get his patients to open up). Then Kerry turns up missing. Emersville has something to do with it, so Frank, Brad and Toni begin to peel back the layers of the town to find out exactly what is going on. Hopefully they will find Kerry and all live to tell the tale.

Matthew’s page turning thriller is a fast and sometimes hair-raising read. I loved the mystery and the intricate web the main characters became tangled in. All of the characters were well-written. I liked them, hated them or was scared of them. I am sure that was the intended reaction. Lucky for me I didn’t have any dolls laying around the house. I might have had to lock them in a closet or throw them away, just in case they got any ideas. It pays to be cautious when reading thrillers late into the night.

If you are a fan of Dean Koontz or Stephen King, you will love this book. This is Matthew’s third book, but the first one I’ve read. His previous novels are Forever Man and Revelation.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Random House Books 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: Brooklyn Secrets: History + Mystery = Superb Story

Brooklyn SecretsBrooklyn Secrets

An Erica Donato Mystery

by Triss Stein

Erica Donato is juggling many things in her life. She works part time, is working on her dissertation and is the single mother of a teenage daughter. Like many thirty something women in her situation she is casually dating a couple of men, but she honestly has too much going on to look for a serious romance.

Her daughter, Chris, is wise and mature beyond her years. She takes school seriously and gives Erica little to worry about. But of course mothers always worry – even when your daughter is almost perfect.

Erica is knee deep in researching Brownsville in the 1930s. She is from Brooklyn herself, so her dissertation research is close to home for her. Criminals ran Brownsville in the 1930s as thugs with and without guns could make people disappear and never be seen again.

She decides to go to the local library to do some field research. The information and connections she made at the library excited her, bringing life to the characters she was reading about in the archives. Erika found the library staff engaging and willing to tell her about Brownsville history as well as Brownsville today.

The discovery that thugs under the new name of gang members still ruled the streets of Brownsville was unsettling. The seriousness hit home with her as she was almost the victim of an attack. One of the young girls in the library was not as lucky. Her encounter landed her in the hospital. Soon another girl is attacked with a much worse outcome.

Erica bonds with the mother of Savanna, the hospitalized young woman. She continues her research, but soon she is looking at pictures, news stories and interviewing people with ties to the past and current crimes. Will the past meet the present? Will she be able to help find a killer? Will she become a target?

The characters were multi-layered and came alive with Stein’s dialog. I liked the fact that Erica didn’t remember to get dinner so she and Chris ate a smorgasbord of leftover takeout to clean out the fridge. Honestly, who hasn’t done that?  Chris also took the upper hand when it came to a bit of facebookish cyber stalking. Again, I could absolutely identify. I suspect anyone over 50 has asked a son, daughter or neighbor kid to help them do something on the internet. Secondary characters like the library workers and the scary people Erica encounters popped to life with mannerisms or comments.

Brooklyn Secrets is a fast-paced novel filled with spine-tingling suspense page after page. Stein states in her afterword, “…is a blend of actual history, possible history and complete fiction”. Like your favorite cup of coffee, it is the perfect blend – deliciously smooth with a kick of caffeine to keep you reading just one more chapter. This is the third in the series, but the first one I’ve read. It worked perfectly well as a stand-alone novel. I will go back and read Brooklyn Bones and Brooklyn Graves because I thoroughly enjoyed Stein’s writing style.

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: Goodbye Ms. Chips – Perfect Cozy British Mystery

Goodbye Ms. ChipsMs Chips
by Dorothy Cannell

Goodbye Ms. Chips, an Ellie Haskell mystery, begins with Ellie going back to school. Not grad school or a university, but the boarding school she attended as a girl. She has mixed emotions about returning. Her schooling was marred by witnessing something she should not have. The event weighs heavy on her mind even though she is an accomplished woman with a loving husband and children.

The reason the headmistress called for Ellie is that there has been a robbery and she needs Ellie’s keen observation skills and her proven ability to solve mysteries to help. The object in question is a missing trophy, the Loverly Cup. The Cup is traditionally passed to the championship lacrosse team each year and has been held by St. Roberta’s Boarding School for ages. Unfortunately they did not win this year and must pass the missing trophy to the new winning school during the dedication of the new gymnasium. It must be found before the event.

Ellie may have had misgivings about going back to a school she had mixed emotions about, but her dear friend Dorcas Critchley is now teaching there and Ellie feels compelled to help. Little did she know there is more afoot than the missing Loverly Cup. Deception abounds with double crossing students and arrogant acquaintances from Ellie’s past throwing monkey wrenches in her investigation at every turn. When an accident occurs, Ellie is suspicious of foul play, but can she prove it?

This is the 12th book in the Ellie Haskell Mystery Series. Ellie is an interior designer who is married to a professional chef and cookbook author. Her partner in solving crime is her housekeeper, Mrs. Malloy who arrives late to this investigation due to family visiting. Cannell’s description of Mrs. Malloy is priceless and instantly gives the reader a mental picture that will pop up when she enters a scene.

There is nothing better than a tightly written cozy mystery with engaging characters and a solid plot. There were so many characters with secrets, I did not figure out the culprit until the last pages. Cannell writes a perfect British cozy with delightful characters, twists, turns and a liberal sprinkling of humor. This is the first one I’ve read in this series and it reads perfectly as a stand-alone novel.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Random House Books 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: Death at a Fixer-Upper – Real Estate to Die For!

Death at a Fixer UpperDeath at a Fixer-Upper
by Sarah T. Hobart

The ink is barely dry on Sam Turner’s new real estate agent license as she heads out to view a vintage home for sale. Unfortunately she has to tour the once grand home with Biddie McCracken, a crabby colleague at Home Sweet Home Realty. The tour is dampened by the state of the once opulent home. It would be a toss-up between renovation and complete demolition and starting over – but that is up to the future buyer.

The century old estate has the lines of the grand dame she used to be, along with secrets held quietly within for many generations. Unfortunately, these secrets may be worth killing for. In fact, they have already.

After the bizarre walk through with Biddie, Sam can’t believe her good fortune. She has three offers within a matter of days for a home that has only been marginally cared for over the last several years by a faithful housekeeper and her young daughter.

Sam is excited at the prospect of selling the old place. Being a single mother in a small town hasn’t been easy. Raising her now teenage son has been a loving challenge but Sam has no regrets. Now that she is doing better financially, she is excited and scared to be purchasing a home of their own now. This sale will really help. Unfortunately for her, buyers start turning up dead.

Determined to make this sale, Sam does a bit of investigating on her own. But soon she finds out the cutthroat real estate market doesn’t hold a candle to real killers. Hopefully she can still get out of this sale alive.

Hobart writes a perfect cozy mystery. It is a fun, fast-paced, interesting book with enough twists and turns to keep mystery lovers turning the pages to see what happens to Sam next. There were enough suspects to keep me guessing until the final chapter, which I absolutely love.

Kudos to Hobart for the great descriptive text in Death at a Fixer-Upper. It flowed naturally, but put you right in that old crumbling estate, the “vintage-… read ancient” VW camper she drives or any other setting in the book.

All of the main characters are well rounded and I felt like I knew them. Sam would be someone I’d go to lunch with, or maybe just stop for some chocolate and caffeine – I totally get where she is coming from.  I’ve worked with snarky people like some of the competing realtors. Sam’s friends, son and family are all cut from the same cloth as people I actually know. This made the book come alive for me.

Death at a Fixer-Upper. is the third book in Sarah T. Hobart’s Home Sweet Home Mystery Series. It is the first one I’ve read and works perfectly as a stand-alone mystery.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Random House Books House Party 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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