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Book Review: Charles Manson and the Killing of Shorty Shea

Charles Manson and the Killing of Shorty Shea

By Edwin Colin

with Deb Silva

As an eight-year-old, Edwin Colin, the author of this book, knew Shorty. It was 1953 when Colin’s father wars hired to be a full-time foreman at Corriganville, a Movie Ranch in nearby Simi Valley. Corriganville was owned by the famous stunt rider, Crash Corrigan, who was also and friend of Shorty Shea. So begins Colin’s fascination with the man who will be killed by Charles Manson and his followers right before the infamous  Tate and LaBianca murders.

Charles “Shorty” Shea was many things in his life. He was a horse wrangler, stuntman, husband, a U. S. Military Veteran and a victim of Charles Manson and his Family. Shorty wanted to be an actor in Westerns, but he seemed to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time. By the time he made enough connections in the business, Westerns were not getting the funding to be produced as audiences no longer flocked to them.

He spent his last years working on the Spahn Ranch. He took care of the livestock, did some Wild West shows for dwindling crowds and had the unfortunate fate of meeting Charles Manson. Manson and his Family basically moved into Spahn Ranch and took it over. The owner, George Spahn was getting older and was nearly blind by the time Manson and his followers descended upon his property. For whatever reason, he let them stay.

Some say that Shorty’s death was a direct result of not ignoring Charles Manson. Not one to ever back down from confrontation, he did not like Manson and everyone knew it. Sadly, his stubbornness was most likely the reason Charles Manson, Tex Watson, Bruce Davis and Steve Grogan murdered him in cold blood on August 26, 1969.

Colin weaves a sordid insider look at the murder of Shorty Shea and subsequent deaths of Sharon Tate and the LaBiancas. With Deb Silva, the duo uncovered death certificates, autopsy results and firsthand accounts of the horrific crimes committed by the Manson Family. The small facts that surrounded the Spahn Ranch and those that lived there are fascinating to me. There are connections to famous actors, TV shows and events that most have heard of, but from a different, closer perspective. For example, one of men that participated in Shea’s death is now out of prison and another one is up for parole this year – but has dementia.

Charles Manson and the Killing of Shorty Shea is an entertaining work of non-fiction. The book is fascinating, but at times disjointed. There was a bit of repetition, as the author seemed to give the facts ahead of the timeline, then repeated with more detail later. Overall, it was an interesting insider look into the lives of the Manson Family as well as Shorty Shea and all of the people they encountered during this brief period of history.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from  Reedsy Discovery (https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/charles-manson-and-the-killing-of-shorty-shea-edwin-colin) in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Whisper Man – Haunting Thriller

The Whisper Man

By Alex North

Neil Spencer has a less than ideal life. The six-year-old has two alcoholic parents and he is left on his own devices all too often. When his father decides to let him walk back to his mother’s house alone, it is the last time he was seen. He is not the first missing child Detective Inspector Pete Willis has searched for and won’t be his last.

The small town had a serial killer targeting children years ago, but Frank Carter, aka The Whisper Man, had been caught and was in prison. But Neil’s disappearance was eerily similar to the Whisper Man cases. Some of the children’s bodies have not been found and continue to haunt DI Willis. He is determined to find Neil before he became another unsolved mystery.

Meanwhile, another family in this small town is troubled. Tom lives with his young son, Jake, in the home in which Tom’s wife/Jake’s mother tragically died. Jake is understandably troubled. He has an imaginary friend that he talked to all the time. The small family decides to find a new home so that they can move on. After the move, he tells his father that a man is whispering to him telling him to unlock the door of the new house and let him in.

Understandably Tom was distraught. He contacts the local police, who at first don’t really believe anything is amiss, especially because Jake is known to have imaginary friends. Once DI Willis hears about the whispers, he immediately knows it has to be The Whispering Man’s accomplice. Would he be able to keep young Jake safe? Would they finally locate the other missing boys’ remains?

The Whisper Man is a haunting thriller that skillfully pulls the reader into the story from the first pages. At times I couldn’t stop reading, and was holding my breath as the plot unfolded. North created characters that came alive on the pages. When I read lines such as “…grief is a stew with a thousand ingredients, and not all of them are palatable…” they stick in my mind long after the last page. This was so much more than a mystery, reminiscent of Dean Koontz, thought provoking descriptions and beautiful turns of phrase keep readers slowing down to enjoy the journey of the fast paced plot.

If you are a fan of mysteries, thrillers and heart stopping plot twists, this is the book for you. Alex North is a pen name, so I’m not sure if I’ve ever read anything else that was written by him. If anything else he’s written is as intensely engaging as The Whisper Man, I will be the first to get a copy.

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 Review: Girls of Pearl Harbor – Page Turning Historical Fiction

The Girls of Pearl Harbor

By Soraya M. Lane

 

Sisters April and Grace, along with their best friend Poppy are on an adventure. At least for now that is what it feels like. The girls have been close for years, and when April decided to follow her dream to become a nurse in the military, Poppy and Grace went along. They were far from dedicated in the beginning; Grace couldn’t even stand the sight of blood. But all of them made it through nursing school and enlisted. Their assignment was in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It was 1941 and they seemed to spend more time on the beach than nursing, which was working out fine for Grace.

Then tragedy struck. Pearl Harbor was attacked. Life as they had grown accustom to was forever changed. People very close to them died that day and the wounded needed the nurse’s care more than ever before.

After the initial tragic days, it was evident the girls might not be staying in Pearl Harbor because they needed to be closer to the action to help our wounded soldiers. When April decided to go to Africa, her sister insisted on going also. They were needed there, but the living conditions were poor and the injuries were much worse than they encountered in Hawaii.

Their personal lives were in turmoil as well. Grace trying to be her own person and April always trying to mother her didn’t help. The girls love and depend upon each other, but even sisters have secrets they don’t want to share.

The Girls of Pearl Harbor allows the reader to enter an historical event from an angle different than most. All Americans as well as most of the world have heard about the attack that brought the United States into the war, but the characters bringing the reality to readers from each of their different perspectives was very interesting.

I also liked that choice of the girls going to Africa instead of the South Pacific as was expected. I didn’t realize that much fighting during the war was based there, as well as the brave nurses and other medical personnel that were needed to care for the wounded.

The characters were interesting and multidimensional. The growth in the nurses, as well as the way each of them handled their job as well as their personal losses, was an integral part of the plot and well done. The only thing that didn’t ring true was the amount of time they spent holding each other’s hands, grasping hands, clutching hands…it seemed as though they could not walk anywhere without all of them holding hands like toddlers. I even asked my aunt who lived on the base at Pearl Harbor while her husband was stationed there in the late 1940s if women held hands all the time. She answered no, they did not. I understand once in a while when someone is upset, but it got to be too frequent for me, taking away from the story.

Overall, The Girls of Pearl Harbor was very interesting and the characters likeable. I recommend it to fans of historical fiction and women’s 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 © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The East End – Suspenseful, Complex, Page Turning Masterpiece

The East End

By Jason Allen

 The Hamptons are known as the playground of the rich and famous. Little thought is given to those who cook and serve the elite, keep the gardens blooming and basically are called upon to clean up the messes created by the upper crust of society. East End pulls back the curtain and allows the reader to delve into the life of Corey Halpern and his family. They can barely make ends meet and are plagued by violence, drug and alcohol abuse.  Living lives mostly invisible to the rich people inhabiting the homes they take care of, Corey and his family are barely holding on.

Corey secretly began “pranking” the people of the Hamptons by breaking into their homes and not taking anything. He moves objects and puts salt in the milk. He does just enough to mess with them but does not do any real harm. While sneaking into the home of Leo Sheffield, his employer, he is surprised to see Tiffany Sheffield and Angelique. They are two of the girls he goes to school with, who have arrived unexpectedly. Because he has had a crush on Angelique he stays to watch the girls. Not in an actually creepy way, but just to be near her. Then things go decidedly south. Mr. Sheffield arrives with someone other than his wife. Angelique has put her friend Tiffany to bed after too much wine, but unfortunately sees something that will change her life forever. Corey is also a witness and vows to protect Angelique from one of the most powerful men in the Hamptons.

Allen masterfully intertwines the lives of the very rich with the lives of the people that take care of them. Most of the time money can get the rich out of whatever problems they encounter, but not this time. The danger that touches Corey’s family bleeds into the Sheffield family by the end of the book in the most surprising way.

The East End will be available on May 7, 2019 at your favorite bookseller. I loved this fast-paced story. It is full of twists, turns, danger and deceit. The story pulls you in and doesn’t let go until the final pages. Jason Allen is an author that delivers exactly what a reader wants: a solid story about flawed people bound together by circumstances beyond their control. Kudos!

If you would like to connect with Jason Allen, visit his website:  Author Website

or contact him via social media with the links below:

Twitter: @EathanJason

Facebook: @jasonallenauthor

Goodreads

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Netgalley, Justine Sha, Publicist and Park Row Books in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: An Introduction to Hand Lettering – Crafter’s Essential Guide

An Introduction to Hand Lettering with Decorative Elements

By: Annika Sauerborn

Have you ever looked at a hand lettered card, decorative sign or wall plaque and thought you would love to be able to do something like that? Ms. Sauerborn has written the book that will give you the instructions and the inspiration to master hand lettering with a little practice.

An Introduction to Hand Lettering is divided into several helpful sections. Most importantly is the Materials section. You have to use the correct tools to eliminate frustration and elevate success. You probably have most, if not all of the materials needed to begin. Pens, pencils, rulers, and sketching paper are a few examples.

Following the layout of the book, you will start with borders, frames and lines, and then work your way up to images as well as various alphabets. If you feel unsure about drawing freehand, be sure to have some tracing paper on hand to practice.

There are countless uses for Ms. Sauerborn’s Decorative Elements. Handmade birthday and holiday cards will wow your friends and cost a fraction of the price you would pay for a greeting card these days. The section entitled “Seasonal Illustrations and Occasions” is my favorite. Making your own gift tags for Christmas is cost effective and will add a sweet personal touch to every gift this holiday season. Making personalized signs for the holidays is also fun. You could hang one at the front door to greet visitors. They just might want you to make one for them!

This book is designed for teens and adults because younger children would most likely become frustrated if they tried this on their own. I say this because there are no set designs, but you are given all of the elements to create hand lettered items that are only limited by your imagination. Even if you aren’t a “crafty” person, you can trace the images and letters to create whatever you envision. If you are artistic, you will be delighted by the inspiration and ideas you find inside these pages.

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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Book Review: Cats in Origami – Cute and Clever

Cats in Origami

By: Nick Robinson

In the intro to Cats in Origami, the author explains that he chose cats for this book because he wanted to capture that fluid motion of these beautiful creatures. He states that in the origami world, “…cats are rather rare and were usually flat, quite lifeless designs.” His designs are full of life and motion, bringing the featured felines to life.

With full color pictures as well as the obligatory pages if instructions, you will be able to create 20 amazing projects. If you are a novice, I suggest you grab some practice paper after reading the type of paper you need to be successful and then turn to the pages detailing folds and techniques. There are only four pages of these and just like any other new craft or art, it is probably best to practice to ensure success.

All of the designs are cute and much to my delight some of them can be very useful. For example, the Cat Envelope design paired with the Cat Card will be perfect for your cat loving friend’s birthday card. There are two different cat boxes, Cat in a Box and Cat Box. I can picture both of them done with holiday paper holding a tiny treasure for someone special.

My favorite design is the Neko Bookmark. In Japanese, “Neko” means cat. These adorable bookmarks will help you save the place while reading and can easily be slipped in a cookbook or diary to hold your place. If you are giving a book as a gift, make it more personal by creating a Neko Bookmark to accompany it.

While many origami books are for all ages, the detail of most of these designs may be difficult for a younger child. That being said, adults and teens should have no trouble following the explicit directions given by Mr. Robinson as well as the other contributors to Cats in Origami. Be sure to check out the Credits and Biographies sections to see which designer created your favorite cats as well as their history in origami.

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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Book Review: Sweet Girl Undone – Engaging New Series By NY Times Best-Selling Author

Sweet Girl Undone

By Denise Swanson

Lucy Wheeler loves her life as a special education teacher in Cedar Vale, Illinois. Sure the town is small and not many eligible bachelors are ripe for the picking, but she has her bestie to hang out with and her family close by.

Known as “the nice girl” Lucy rarely makes waves. Normally she is excited about the new school year starting, but after receiving the principal’s memo outlining all of the assignments for the year she realizes that he is taking advantage of her good nature again. Her frustration is calling for a quick trip for ice cream with her best friend and fellow teacher Delaney. The sweet treat ends with a serious discussion about the state of Lucy’s love life.

Lucy needs to start dating. She is in a rut that is comfortable but lonely. Ever since the college breakup via text with the love of her life she has been drifting in the love department. She doesn’t want to admit, even to herself, that she still cares about him. Making matters worse, Curt, her ex, is now the Pastor at the church she attends. In her eyes no one can measure up to him even though he broke her heart. If she opens up to him, will he respond or make her even more miserable by rejecting her again?

New York Times best-selling author Denise Swanson is well represented on my bookshelf with her Scumble River Mystery cozy series. I love her books and even though I am not usually a fan of romance novels, I enjoyed the characters and settings in this prequel novella of this new series. I can’t wait to read more about Lucy, Delaney and the rest of the gang. It is always fun for me to read about the places in Swanson’s books as I am from the Chicago area and recognize the local landmarks.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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