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Book Review: Spent Identity – Solid Mystery with a Side of Romance

3.25.20Spent Identity

By Marlene M. Bell

Annalisse Drury needs the fresh air and open places that her brownstone in Manhattan cannot provide. Luckily, she has the perfect outlet, the family farm she grew up on in Goshen. As a small child her parents died, so she came to live with her beloved Aunt Kate. Unfortunately, when she lived with them, Kate’s now dead husband and two obnoxious children reminded her constantly that she would never be a part of their family, no matter how much Kate cared and loved her.

When she arrives at the farm for the weekend, Annalisse realizes that something is bothering Kate. Annalisse finds a letter from Kate’s son stating he is selling the family farm out from under his mother. Heartbroken and furious, Annalisse vows to stop him. Unfortunately, when a dead body is found in the barn by the hired hand, they all must leave the farm per the sheriff until the investigation is complete. They head over to Annalisse’s boyfriend’s estate, which is fairly close to the farm. Kate disappears right after she and Annalisse arrive. Annalisse and Alec, her boyfriend, are soon on the hunt to find her missing aunt. Luckily, Alec is wealthy. He calls in a private investigator to assist in the search. Annalisse and Alec soon realize they are also in danger. Will they live to find Kate? Who is behind the killing and kidnapping? Are the two crimes related?

This fast-paced mystery combined with the slow burn of romance features a solid plot and interesting characters. Revenge is served up with a side of tension, twists and turns making readers fear for the outcome, all the while trying to figure out what would happen next. Ms. Bell serves up a surprising and satisfying ending that mystery lovers will adore.

Spent Identity is the second book in this series, but the first one I’ve read. In the first few chapters, the author summarizes the background needed to make sense of the relationships between the main characters. It works well as a stand-alone novel, I was not confused or lost. I recommend Spent Identity to everyone that loves mysteries, thrillers and a bit of romance.

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/spent-identity-marlene-bell) in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Knitting Notions – Adult Coloring Book for Knitters

Knitting Notions

Adult Coloring Book

By: Jessica Mazurkiewicz

The fun but stressful season of parties, presents and perpetual motion is over for another year. It is the perfect time to take a deep breath and relax. There is no better way to relax than grabbing some colored pencils, crayons or markers and lose yourself in the Knitting Notions Coloring Book.

 Anyone can use the complexly patterned pages to relax, especially knitters. Each page has yarn and yarn related images. It is the perfect way to play with color before casting on your New Year’s knitting projects. Mixing colors in knitting is part of the joy and individualism of a project. But knitters know there is nothing more frustrating than completing a project that has taken hours to create and find out the colors just don’t work. Experimenting with color on the pages of this coloring book just makes sense. And is really fun.

I highly recommend Knitting Notions Coloring Book. The images are fun I guarantee they will stimulate the colorist inside of you to branch out and try new combinations and color palettes.

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: There is a Fighter in My Room – Perfect Bedtime Picture Book

There is a Fighter in My Room

By Megan Kjarbo

Illustrations by Penny Weber

Matthew is afraid to go to sleep because there is a fighter in his room. First, he asks his big brother to help him, but he cannot help because he says he is too small. Then his father cannot help him because he has to take out the garbage. Hopefully his mother can help him, she is the only one left to come to his rescue.

This is a cute bedtime story. The fear of a “monster” in the bedroom is real for some children. By reading about it, children may be comforted in the fact that someone they love can help them if they are afraid. There is a Fighter in My Room has a surprise ending that younger children will enjoy.

This is definitely “a read to me” story for preschoolers.  Some of the words are too difficult for early readers to read themselves, such as “approached” and “cautiously”. But that being said, it is a great way to introduce words to expand their vocabulary.

The illustrations are delightfully adorable, they bring the words alive for children and the adults that read to them. I recommend this book for young children. Especially those that have trouble going to sleep at night.

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 © 2019 Laura Hartman  https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/there-s-a-fighter-in-my-room-megan-kjarbo

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Book Review: She’s Out – Is a Felon Ever Truly Free?

She’s Out

By Linda La Plante

You can let a person out of jail, but can said person ever truly be free? Dolly Rawlins was a model prisoner that stuck to herself. Imprisoned for murdering her husband, she paid her debt to society and had lofty dreams of opening a home for orphans. She knew it would not be easy, but having worked with young mothers while in prison and watching the system take away their babies, she knew she wanted to turn her life around by giving back to those who needed her the most.

A group of former inmates have a different plan. Dolly is rumored to have a cache of diamonds hidden from a heist that she was suspected of stashing before her arrest and they wanted a piece of that haul. Hiding their motive by generously offering Dolly a place to stay while she gets back on her feet, each of women dreamed of wealth. Dolly is a smart cookie, realizing the women are plotting something. She is cunning enough to know she needs a place to stay under the radar. When one of the women offers to sell her the old Victorian Grange Manor House, Dolly jumps at the chance. On the surface, it seems perfect to spruce up and turn into a home for children. Unfortunately, the authorities are not on board with a house that used to be a brothel used to house children. Coupled with Dolly’s past, they dashed her dreams.

Dolly still has the diamonds, kept safe by an old acquaintance – or so she thinks. When she begins to make inquiries, Dolly finds out she has been double crossed. Then she comes to the realization that society will never forget her past or allow her to move on. A heist of monumental proportions is the only thing that will set her free.

She’s Out is an intriguingly intricate tale of women that each have their own agenda. They agree they don’t necessarily like each other, but need each other. The story pulled me in immediately, and by the end of the novel, the page-turning plot was impossible to put down until the last words were read. Some novels keep popping up in my mind long after the last pages – this is one of them.

The last book in a trilogy, She’s Out reads perfectly as a stand-alone novel. I have not read the previous two books, but did not feel lost or confused at any point in the book. Ms. La Plante is an acclaimed writer, screenwriter, actress and producer. Her books have been adapted to movies as well as television series.  Bibliophiles who love fabulously written fast-paced thrillers and have not read her works should dive into one of her books. If you are already a fan, She’s Out is a must read. I cannot wait to read her new book, Buried, which is coming in March 2020.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Bookish First (https://www.bookishfirst.com/)in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: K-9 Cop – Fast Paced Mystery for Tweens, YA and Adults

K-9 Cop

The Dreck Report Case #1

By Erna Mueller

When K-9 Lieutenant Spencer Watley is killed in the line of duty, he is surprised to learn he can’t get straight into heaven. He knows he hasn’t been the nicest guy in the world, but come on; he’s spent his life as a cop, putting bad guys behind bars. He soon finds out the he will be going back to earth in body of his K-9 dog, with a mission to help Justin Andrews.

Justin is a young man adrift. Since his mother died, the 14-year-old has had trouble dealing with everyday life. His 16-year-old sister is basically parenting him because his dad has thrown himself into is work and is rarely home. Justin is a brilliant kid, so much so, he has skipped two grades. But this leaves him with few friends and an absent father when he needs support the most. To make matters worse, he is in an accident. Now Justin cannot walk without braces, further ostracizing him from his schoolmates.

When his shaggy guardian angel shows up, Justin can’t believe his dad got him a dog. But soon he realizes that this is no ordinary dog. Justin accidentally happens upon a plot to frame his father for a crime, Spencer will be needed to help put the bad guys away and keep Justin and his family safe.

This fast-paced, action packed novel is great for tweens, YA and adults. It is entertaining and amusing. The clues all lead up to the final scenes where the good guys prevail. Honestly, the entire time I read the last chapters I was picturing this as a movie – think Home Alone where the kid outsmarts the bad guys with hilarious antics – all the while getting the jump on the bad guys and making the readers chuckle and outright laugh.

K-9 Cop is the first in what I can only hope is a long series of adventures featuring Spencer and Justin. I highly recommend this book for kids and grownups alike.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the author. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book.  Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: The Body in the Gravel – Sexy Cozy Mystery

The Body in the Gravel

A Jazzi Zanders Mystery

By Judi Lynn

Cousins Jazzi and Jerod, along with Jazzi’s fiancé Ansel are house flippers. They do most of the work themselves. They depend on others for things that are not in their wheelhouse, such as delivery of gravel and concrete as well as furnace replacement. Luckily they have a close friend, Thane that happens to be living with Jazzi’s sister Olivia, who is a whiz when it comes to heating and AC. But when Thane and Darby, the cranky old buzzard that delivers their gravel meet up at the reno house, Ansel and Jazzi discover a long lasting feud between the two men. They didn’t know that Thane’s best friend, Walker is Darby’s son. Walker and his mother fled from the abusive Darby two years ago without a trace. Thane thinks Darby killed them.

When Darby ends up dead in a load of gravel dumped at the house Ansel and Jazzi are working on, Thane is at the top of the list. But soon the list of suspects is broadened to the guys that worked for him, family members and all of his friends – who are more like enemies due to Darby’s volatile nature. When another person connected to Darby is found dead, and a presumed dead person is found alive the case becomes even more complicated.

Jazzie is determined to help Detective Gaff find the murderer. He is more than willing to have her input, as they have worked several cases together in the past. But she has more than a murderer to worry about. She and Ansel are getting married in a few weeks and she doesn’t even have her wedding dress yet!

I love cozy mysteries. Of course they are not War and Peace, but no one wants them to be. They are fun, fast reads with interesting elements. The house flipping factor is fun, especially if you are a fan of HGTV like I am. Another element that I love is the delicious foods Jazzi and Ansel cook and bake. They are a couple of foodies, sharing their love of food with us. As a bonus to the readers, a few of their recipes are included.

The other element that was a bit different from most cozy mysteries is the romance between Jazzi and Ansel. Most cozies have the on again/off again boyfriends that never seem to be resolved. The sexy but never explicit interactions between the main characters was not frustrating or irritating to me like the traditional cozy plot lines of never committing in the relationship. Kudos to Ms. Lynn for having her characters have a happily ever after – with a side of murder.

This is the third book in the Jazzi Zanders cozy mystery series and the first one I have read. It works well as a stand-alone novel. The only time I was confused was the first few chapters as there are several characters that are introduced from the previous novels. But I soon knew who everyone was and the role they played in the plot.

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 – Cut & Assemble Haunted House – Must Have for Halloween

Cut and Assemble Haunted House

By: Matt Bergstrom

Who wants a detailed three story Haunted House for Halloween this year? Matt Bergstrom and Dover have teamed up to create a paper masterpiece for your home. With scissors, glue and a craft knife, adults or teens can create an entire Victorian Mansion complete with furnishings, fences and a dinner table laden with food.

There are ghoulish guests and creepy cooks to add to the fun. Monsters and bats are sprinkled throughout to amuse and entertain everyone that creates it and enjoys the finished product. Be sure to read the detailed instructions to ensure the success of your project. Pay special attention to the “Avoid bloodshed” section – it outlines safety as well as gives tips on how to embellish your Haunted House with spooky extras like spider webs and dead plants.

Even though the thermometer is 90 in the Midwest, all too soon it will be time for sweatshirts, crunching through autumn leaves and trick or treaters. According to www.statista.com/, Americans spent just over 9 billion dollars on Halloween in 2018 and 2.9 billion of those dollars were on decorations. My advice is to pick up your very reasonably priced copy of Cut and Assemble Haunted House now so that you have time to get yours ready in time for the festivities. I can almost hear the oohs and ahhs from all of your friends and trick or treaters now!

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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