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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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Book Review: The Mystery of Ruby’s Mistletoe – Delightful Historical Cozy Mystery

The Mystery of Ruby’s Mistletoe

By Rose Donovan

Spending the holidays with the aunt that disowned her after her father’s death was definitely not on Fina’s list of things to do. But when the constable showed up at Oxford looking for her best friend Ruby, the girls need to get away from the college before one or both of them spend the holidays in jail even though neither of them has committed a crime.

Fina used to love her Aunt Millicent, known to most as Lady Shillington. But after Fina’s brother was wrongfully hanged for the murder of Fina’s father. Lady Shillington cut all ties with Fina and her mum after the trial, so it came as a surprise that she would invite Fina for the holidays.

Because Fina knows her brother was innocent, she and Ruby decide to find the real killer when visiting the village for the holiday. Unbeknownst to them, Lady Shillington has invited all of the people involved with the untimely deaths to celebrate the holidays at her home.

Fina, Ruby and their friend Pixley are locked in a snowbound mansion with the person or persons that are undoubtedly the murderer or murderers. Will someone else die before Christmas dinner is served? Fina and her friends must find the killer but who can they trust to help trap the guilty person or persons?

This historical cozy mystery set in the 1930s it is full of red herrings, twists and turns. Like all cozies, the murder is not graphic and the gumshoes are college students not police inspectors. But do not discount the detailed hunt for the killer using the only tools available to solve crime in the early 1900s, which pretty much amounts to good old brain power.

Reading Ms. Donovan’s book is reminiscent to one of my favorite authors, Dame Agatha Christie. Setting up the suspects in a snowbound house, asking them to meet in the drawing room and the cleverly satisfying conclusion was extremely satisfying. I can picture Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot nodding at Ms. Donovan saying “Well done!”

This is the sixth book in the Ruby Dove Mystery Series. It is the first one I have read. It works fine as a standalone novel, but there were some references to previous cases that escaped me. That is okay, because the reader in me will seek out the five previous books so that I can be privy to the inside jokes between Ruby and Fina as well as learn about their previous cases that were referenced in The Mystery of Ruby’s Mistletoe.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received an Advanced Review Copy (or ARC) on Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Little Darlings – Haunting Psychological Thriller

Little Darlings

By Melanie Golding

Lauren Tranter is in the maternity ward giving birth to her twin sons. No one told her it would be this difficult; in fact, things went so badly the doctor literally has to pull them from her body with forceps. Both boys are declared healthy. If wanting to be fed constantly and crying insistently is perfectly normal for babies, than Morgan and Riley were, by all accounts normal.

Lauren is exhausted and her husband Patrick is not much help. Due to the difficult birth, she needs to stay longer than other mothers. Sharing a room with several other new moms, she could hear the other mothers bonding with their newborns. All she felt was tired. No sleep and constant feedings has exhausted her. Night time was the worst. One night Lauren hears a woman singing behind the curtain that hides the bed next to her. She also hears what sounds like two babies. Thinking the woman had twins just like her. Lauren got up and was shocked to see a filthy woman with two bedraggled babies in a basket on the floor. The woman tries to make a deal with Lauren to trade one of her babies for one of the woman’s. Hysterical, Lauren locks herself in the bathroom and calls the police.

Everyone, including her husband, thinks Lauren is having mental issues. No one has seen or heard the woman except her. She tries to keep the boys near her and safe, but one slip begins her worst nightmare. Morgan and Riley have been replaced with the old woman’s twins and no one else can see that the two boys are not hers. She will do anything to get them back, but what will it cost her? Her only ally may be DS Joanna Harper, who just can’t leave the case alone, even though her supervisor tells her to stop pursuing the ramblings of a woman who is clearly gone off the deep end.

This is the best psychological thriller I have read in ages. Ms. Golding knows how to keep readers up late at night reading just one more chapter until the wee hours. The depth of characters makes you feel like you know them. Is poor Lauren really delusional or is she right and something evil found her and won’t let go?

Little Darlings is Melanie Golding’s first novel. The perfect plot with interestingly true to life characters makes this a novel you won’t soon forget. If you are a fan of Dean Koontz, you will love this book.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Bookish and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

 

 

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Book Review: The Red Address Book – Best Book I’ve Read This Year

The Red Address Book

By Sofia Lundberg

As the book opens, Doris is a Swedish woman in the twilight of her life. She has a nursing service come in to help her once a day, but the caregiver is simply getting the job done without caring about the person she is paid to help. Doris is kind, but doesn’t bother to interact. The caregiver doesn’t notice. Doris’ body is betraying her with weakness, but her mind is still sharp and her memories clear.

There are two things Doris does interact with. One is the computer phone call to her niece in the States, which happens every day. Both of the women delight in seeing the other from around the globe and sharing their lives. The other is the red address book that her father gave her for her tenth birthday in 1928. Just by opening the pages and scrolling through, she can walk through her past and relive the good and the bad of all the years.

At this stage of her life, Doris’ red address book holds many names of the dead. As each friend or family member passes away, she draws a line through their name and writes in one word. DEAD. She has lived a full and interesting life and has accepted the fact that her life is soon to be over. Her niece realizes that her beloved aunt is failing fast, and makes the journey to see her one last time. Her bittersweet journey will open her eyes to the woman Doris once was and still is until her last breath.

Lundberg skillfully takes us from past to present by using the entries in Doris’ red address book to tell us of the people she has encountered and events that have happened in her long and interestingly colorful life. Not all of the experiences have been good – but each of them has shaped Doris into the strong woman she remains to be today.

Oftentimes as people get older they are not seen as the young, vibrant person they were before age slowed them down. I have been fortunate to have close older family members tell me about their lives, just like Lundberg does for Doris. By the end of the book, I had laughed and cried with her as if she was an Aunt I was truly fond of.

This is the first book Sofia Lundberg has written and I am excited to see what this promising author does next. The former journalist that resides in Sweden is an author to put on your radar. I have read hundreds of books this year. Some of them fantastic, some mediocre, some made me want to chuck them across the room for various reasons I won’t mention. But hands down, The Red Address Book is the best book I have read this year. Do yourself a favor and get it now. Share it with your friends and read it for your book club. Tell me what you think!

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 © 2018 Laura Hartman

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