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Book Review: Other People’s Houses – The Perfect Summer Read

Other People’s Houses

By Abbi Waxman

 

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.

Neighbors can be ignored, acquaintances or befriended on levels from chit chats over fences to confidants. In Frances’s neighborhood, she has some of each of the above. As a stay home mom, she is the designated car pool to school kind of neighbor, so she knows anyone with small children pretty well. At least she thought so.

The day started out like any other day. Frances picks up her charges and heads to school with them. Kids are dropped off, piling out of the minivan like a clown car. That is until six-year-old Katie realizes she forgot her toilet paper rolls for her project. The last thing Frances wants to do is to drive back to Katie’s house, get the missing TP rolls and drive back to school again. But looking at Katie’s desperate little face she knows she will have to go back for them.

Getting back to the child’s house, Frances knocked, but when there was no answer, she figured Anne, Kate’s mom, had gone back to bed or was busy and didn’t hear the knock. She opened the door and saw the bag of toilet paper rolls right inside so she grabbed it and turned to make her return trip to school. That is when she saw Anne laying on the floor.

Frances immediately turned to her asking if she was okay, but suddenly it dawned on her Anne was not alone. And the person she was with was not her husband. Frances isn’t the type of person to blab all over the neighborhood. But even if she doesn’t tell anyone about Anne’s indiscretion, the wheels are in motion to change the dynamics of the neighborhood and their relationships with their families and each other.

Behind closed doors relationships thrive or wither, life changing decisions are made or sometimes made for you. As we learn about all of the neighbors no one may truly be the person they seem to be to the neighbors, even those close to each other. But when two of the children go missing, they will all have to rally together to find them.

Other People’s Houses is a very interesting, often funny book about people who would not necessarily be connected in any way other than buying a house in the same neighborhood. Abbi Waxman gives the reader little gems of character studies throughout the story. Her insight to human nature brings the neighbors to life on her pages. One of my favorites is when one of the kids was thinking about his mom, “His mom never seemed to worry, she was the trellis his little vines twined around.”

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and spend some time with Frances, her family and neighbors. This is the perfect summer read.

This is the first book I have read by Abbi Waxman. It is a gem, so I can’t wait to read her first book, Garden of Small Beginnings next!

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Twenty-one Days – Stellar Work of Historical History

Twenty-one Days – A Daniel Pitt Novel

By Anne Perry

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.

Set in 1910, Twenty-one Days opens with young barrister Daniel Pitt defending a wealthy man of dubious reputation. Murder is the charge and Pitt’s father is associated with the former police officer standing trial. While the young lawyer is smart and clever, he is worried that he is in over his head. To make matters worse, there is another man on trial for killing his wife in a most brutal way and Pitt is needed the next day to take the place of an injured co-worker so he must wrap up the trial the next morning or the accused will then have to start over with a new defense attorney. Good or bad, Pitt had to finish and be in court at the Old Bailey – the most famous court in the British Empire.

He makes it to court, albeit late.  Kitterage is the lawyer in charge; Pitt will be doing as told. Unfortunately things go south in a hurry. The distasteful accused claimed innocence but it seemed unlikely anyone else could have brutally murdered his wife. Not only was she murdered, but horribly disfigured by burning her face and upper torso after death. This trial does not go the way Kitterage and Pitt planned. Their client was quickly found guilty and set to hang in twenty-one days. He was not a pleasant man, as a matter of fact he was most distasteful. But he was entitled to every effort of his two attorneys to win an appeal to keep him from the hangman’s noose.

To further complicate Kitterage and Pitt’s job even further, the accused has countless enemies due to a controversial manuscript he intends to publish. At best it includes damning information of several highly recognizable and influential citizens. Unfortunately, it borders on treason at the highest level, which is alienating him from the men hired to keep him from hanging. Pitt finds himself working day and night to help the man that just might “rip the masks off of people we regard as heroes” – twenty-one days to do the impossible.

This is the first book in award winning author Anne Perry’s new series starring Daniel Pitt, but it is the 33rd book in the Pitt series. It is the first one I’ve read, but I did not feel confused or that I was missing something in the story for not having started with the entire Pitt series. It is easy to see why Perry is an internationally renowned historical novelist. Her intriguing plot, engaging prose and multidimensional characters are skillfully woven into a page turning book that will delight mystery lovers worldwide.  Ms. Perry is second to none when writing historical fiction.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Watch Me – Must Read Psychological Thriller!

Watch Me

by Jody Gehrman

Professor Kate Youngblood is afraid she was a flash in the pan author. Her debut book was a rousing success that took her places she could have only dreamt about. But after a lackluster follow-up she doubts her ability to ever get that magic back.

The most she can hope for is to keep plugging away on her recent manuscript while teaching uninterested students how to master the craft of writing that she once owned. None of them really show much promise until Sam Grist comes along.

In him, Kate envisions a diamond in the rough that she can help polish to a brilliance that will reflect on her. She needs this to boost her self-esteem as well as give her job security. Without the worry of keeping her job, she can free her mind to recapture the magic she once had as a best-selling author with a dazzling new manuscript.

Sam’s writing is gritting and often violent. He plots more than novels, and if his story turns out the way he envisions it, Kate will play a starring role. Unbeknownst to her, he has been obsessed with her since he read her first novel. How far will he go to make his dreams come true?

Gehrman’s novel is written in alternating first person between Kate and Sam. This brilliant novel allows the reader to step instead each of the characters to experience their thoughts, needs and desires. It is easy to see how Kate becomes entangled with Sam as the lines between teacher and student blur. When Sam steps over the line, will Kate go with him willingly? Will she have a choice?

Watch Me is the most intense, complex, unforgettable psychological thriller I have read in ages. Gehrman expertly draws the reader in like a moth to the flame with the complexity of characters and page turning suspense. I literally read this book in less than 48 hours because I could not put it down.

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. Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Girl Who Talked to Ghosts – YA Novel for Fans of Harry Potter

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The Girl Who Saved Ghosts (The Unbelievables Book 2)

By K.C. Tansley

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

Kat Langley is exhausted. Ghosts are visiting her day and night for her to assist with their reckoning. Kat can help them leave the earth and be at peace, but physically and mentally it is taking a toll on her.

It might seem like a tough job for a high school girl, but not as tough as time traveling and fighting evil last year. Unfortunately, this year will bring more challenges than ever before, not the least of which is traveling to Dumbarton, her father’s ancestral home, to learn more about her powers. But more importantly to Kat, returning to the home of her father’s family she may meet the man she has longed for all of her life. She needs to know why he left her as an infant. Finding out more about becoming the Langley heir in the process, just might help Kat figure out why she is the chosen one.

Unbeknownst to Kat, she will be called upon to save not only her family, but the future of the three other families that the Langleys have been intertwined with for centuries. Forces that are stronger than Kat will require more magic than she can summon alone, but she must try or they will all perish.

Tansley conjures up a fabulous tale of good and evil mixed with magic and danger. Her characters both dead and alive are compelling and interesting. Jumping into a different century adds a complexity that is often missing in YA novels. The main plot as well as the subplots of romance and family issues rounds out the novel in a satisfying way.

This is the first novel I’ve read in the series, and it did take a chapter or two for me to get up to speed on the back story. I would suggest reading the first in the series, The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts to avoid any confusion. That being said, I enjoyed it.

I highly recommend this series to anyone who loved Harry Potter. It is a captivating story for both YA and adults.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: A Deadly Eclair: A Delicious Cozy Mystery

A Deadly Éclair (A French Bistro Mystery)

By Daryl Wood Gerber

Mimi Rousseau is living her dream – until the nightmare of murder darkens her door. Her life has known sorrow before; namely the unexpected death of her husband that revealed they were broke and deep in debt. Coming home to Napa Valley isn’t easy, but when she is introduced to Bryan Baker she dares to think her dreams of owning a successful restaurant might come true. Baker is willing to finance the bistro as well as the attached inn because he believes in Mimi.

With her every step of the way, he encourages and supports Mimi both financially and emotionally. Like a big brother, he is always there for her – until he is found brutally murdered the night before the first wedding planned at Bistro Rousseau.

Mimi is devastated by the loss of her mentor and is determined to find out who could possibly do such a thing. Unfortunately, there is a smorgasbord of suspects staying at the inn for the wedding that was preempted by Baker’s death. That doesn’t stop Mimi’s investigation, much to the local law enforcement’s chagrin. She is hoping to serve up justice with a side of incarceration to the person responsible. The killer isn’t about to take her meddling laying down – will she be the next victim?

This delightful cozy mystery has more ingredients than a French pastry and is just as delicious. The main characters are quirky, fun and likable. Of course there are a few that I wouldn’t want to eat lunch with, slimy characters that are absolutely necessary for a great cozy mystery.

Another great addition to this delightful mystery is the recipes the author has included at the end of the book. It is always fun to have the recipes discussed in the book available to enjoy. Seriously, who doesn’t crave a delicious éclair or creamy, crunchy topped Crème Brulee after reading about the characters enjoying these decadent treats?

I really enjoyed A Deadly Éclair. It is the first book in the French Bistro Mystery Series, and the first book I’ve read by award winning author Daryl Wood Gerber. She writes two other series, the Cookbook Nook Mysteries and the Cheese Shop Mysteries (writing as Avery Aames). I plan to check out both of these series in the near future.

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. Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: there is no f*cking secret: letters from a badass bitch – I loved this book!


there is no f*cking secret

letters from a badass bitch

by Kelly Osbourne

Anyone who has seen Kelly Osbourne on the Osbournes when it was a smash it television reality series has preconceived notions and thoughts about her. If you watched her on Fashion Police or E! Live from the Red Carpet you more than likely have preconceived opinions of her.

Personally, I thought she was a strong woman who loved her family, wasn’t afraid to buck the system with fashion and her opinions. Kelly says what she feels in no uncertain language to whoever is around to hear it. Those thoughts were mostly accurate, but Kelly Osbourne is so much more than my perception of her, which is, I am sure, of most celebrities.

Kelly wrote her book in a series of letters. Each one is either to a person, such as her mom, dad and brother Jack, all of which she is crazy about and would do anything for them if they needed her. Other people she wrote to include celebrities like Joan Rivers whom she knew since she was six and body parts such as her vagina, lavender hair and mouth.

She also addresses deeply personal issues (yes, I know probably I should have put her vagina here, but seriously, it IS just another body part) such as her battle with drugs and rehab, social media, Ozzfest, London, dating, bullying and the brushes with death of both her mother and father.

All of these letters revealed more than an opinionated young celebrity who was raised in a rock and roll world that most of us can only imagine. She is bright, funny, a loyal friend and loving daughter, sister and aunt. Would she get on your nerves? Maybe. Would she have your back? No doubt about it.

In addition to all of the feelings and relationships Kelly talks about, there are fun facts we learn about her life and the world as she perceives it. It was fun reading about life on the tour bus. She and Jack had some crazy childhood memories of the summers of Ozzfest on the bus that you better not be late boarding after the last set was played. If so, you held up everyone for hours getting stuck in the traffic leaving the venue.

I also loved the little tidbits of word trivia sprinkled throughout the book. Kelly was born and raised in England then returned there from the states when she turned 19. Anyone who has heard her knows she has a British accent that I hope she never loses. She adds little side bars explaining some of the slang she uses that is common in Great Britain, but means something totally different here. Here are a few of my favorites:

Gearbox: Vagina

Trump: Fart

Mullered: Wasted

Sunday Roast: A big family dinner that we do every Sunday

All in all, my notions of Kelly have changed. I would be honored to have her as a friend. She is a bright, funny, crazy young woman who is deeply loyal to those she loves. She has had personal problems, and honestly who hasn’t? Hers have just been made public by social media and fame.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a frank, truthful and brutally honest behind the scene look at what is is growing up as a celebrity. Of course every celebrity child’s life is shaped differently, but the constant scrutiny is always there unless their parents have found a way to keep them hidden from the paparazzi. Kelly Osbourne has opened up her life for all the world to see in there is no f*cking secret

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Whispering Room – Nail Biting Thriller

The Whispering Room

By Dean Koontz

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

The Whispering Room is the second novel featuring Jane Hawk, ex FBI agent who is now the most wanted woman in the United States. She is wanted for murder and various other charges that seem to pop up every day. Jane has been wrongly accused of most of the crimes and only kills someone if it is necessary.

The force she is fighting is more than one person. A group called Techno Arcadians wants to make the world a perfect place by creating peace through mind control. They have created a technology that will enable an elite group of people absolute power over anyone that has been injected with a nano-machine implant that will live in their brains. If the person is told to kill someone, they will do it. If they are told to kill themselves they will do it. There are unimaginable horrors that can and will take place if the few in power are not stopped. Jane is the unrelenting force that is pursuing them.

She has lost the people she loves one by death and another by separation due to the Archadians.

Tough as nails and willing to die if she has to, Jane uses all of her skills, those she was born with and those taught to her by the United States government when she worked for them, to complete her self-imposed mission. She has made many friends and made alliances during her career. She will call in those chits as needed through her ordeal as well as create a few unlikely alliances. But will it be enough?

There is a reason Dean Koontz is a best-selling author. The story is full of plot twists and surprises. He paints the scenes so vividly with his words the reader is drawn in immediately and stays with Jane for the duration of her ordeal. There are so many beautiful bits of description and subtle humor Koontz books are a joy to read. One of the best in this book in this book is when one of the characters loves his truck a little less than his wife, but more than his cat. I know a few men that feel the same way.

The supporting characters have a depth that pleases readers without even realizing the richness it adds to the novel. It appears effortless, but I am sure it cannot be. Therefore we can only attribute it to the talented Mr. Koontz. A couple of my favorites were Jolie, a very strong, smart young woman, Dr. Walkins one of the kindest characters in the book as well as Bernie Riggowitz. I hope I see more of all of them in the next book. And a brief personal note: thank you Mr. Koontz for not killing Dixie.

I have read many of Dean Koontz books and he has never disappointed me. I thoroughly enjoyed The Whispering Room. It is smart, well-written and entertaining. It is the first book in the Jane Hawk series that I’ve read, but I plan to pick up the first book, The Silent Corner.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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