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Book Review: Girls of Yellow – Haunting New Thriller

Girls of Yellow (Elise D Jong/Sami Ali Book1)

By Orest Stelmach

A Dhimmi is a non-Muslim that lives in a Muslim region. He or she is allowed to retain their own faith, but is constantly persecuted, much like the Jews in Nazi controlled areas during WWII. Police Major Sami Ali lives and works in Budapest, where dhimmis are hated and many are enslaved. It is common practice for young girls to be taken from their homes or sold to people who groom them to become obedient to their masters. Ali has taken a vow to hate all Christians and Jews, so when he has to investigate the murder of a young, blonde dhimmi he is expected to sweep the murder under the carpet. Maybe it is because he has a young daughter at home, or maybe he feels compassion in a dispassionate world, it just seems wrong to ignore her death. Whatever the reason, he begins a real investigation into her death, and finds out she is not the first young, pretty blond dhimmi to be murdered.

Elise De Jong is in Budapest on official business. She works as a translator, but today she is on a mission of her own. Her sister was sold at birth by their drug addicted mother. De Jong has traced her to a religious slave training school, and is desperately trying to contact her to clandestinely take her away from slavery before it is too late.

Ali and De Jong meet in unfortunate circumstances. They are both living lies and each true to themselves no matter the outcome. Their unlikely alliance might be the only chance each of them has to find the answers they both seek.

I have to admit that the first few chapters were slow for me. It is understood that the background of the wars, rules for the Muslim countries and settings has to be established. I am so glad I didn’t give up. When the pace picked up, the characters came alive. By the time I got to the end I could not read fast enough to find out what would happen next. Book 2 of the series will be set in the “land formerly known as the United States”, so I am anxious to read it also.

This is the first book I have read by Mr. Stelmach, but not the first he has written. He writes thrillers and mysteries and is the author of the Nadia Tesla series, which are Kindle #1 bestsellers and have been optioned for film development. We need to read them now! Everyone knows that the book is so much better than the movie.

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

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Blood on the Chesapeake – Page Turning Mystery

Blood on the Chesapeake

By Randy Overbeck

Darrell Henshaw is new to the Chesapeake Bay area. He needs a new start from the ghosts of his past as well as distance from his former fiancé that apparently thought monogamy was an option, not a requirement of their relationship. Much to his delight, he is hired at the local high school as a history teacher and the football coach. He is settling in just fine until he starts getting the familiar prickling in the hairs on the back of his neck. There are spirits in the school that are not at rest searching him out. He tries to ignore the feelings and strange happenings, but the restless ghost needs Darrell’s help and isn’t going away any time soon.

Meantime, he is really enjoying connecting with the kids in his history class. It isn’t easy, the diverse group doesn’t really like the newcomer and most of them dislike history in general. But Darrell brings a spark of life to the classroom they cannot ignore. By assigning a report that will delve into the local area’s past the students begin to engage, but strangely enough the community and school leaders seem reluctant to participate. Could they be hiding something? Darrell may be flying too close to the flame to notice he might ignite something that cannot be extinguished. And he might die trying.

But Darrell is far from all work and no play. He has found a new friend to hang out with, Al. Also a teacher at the school, Al lightens up the mood by telling bad jokes that make you groan and chuckle. Most of them are rated G so you can tell them to your kids. And then there is Erin. Darrell is not looking for love again, but she has caught his eye and just might be the one to thaw his heart.

Overbeck’s characters are interesting and engaging. Darrell has a bit of OCD going on, reminding me of the Monk series by Lee Goldberg. It is endearing and a bit comical, but the reader will quickly know that Darrell has to wash his hands twice and dry them on precisely three paper towels. His newfound girlfriend Erin, is much more carefree. She is the perfect balance to the baggage Darrell brings into the relationship but she is ready for the challenge. The other character that stands out for me is the medium/lady of the evening, Natalia – I hope to see more of her in the next book in the series.

I loved this paranormal mystery by new author Randy Overback. True to his main character, the events taught to the class about the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are factual, but the places and dates are not per the Author’s note at the beginning of the book. So technically it is a paranormal historical mystery – but whatever box you want to check about this book, be sure to include it on the must read list.

A prolific writer of trade journals and professional texts, Overback’s first novel, Leave No Child Behind is the 2011 Silver Award for Thriller of the Year winner. It would not surprise me one bit to see Blood on the Chesapeake winning awards in the near future also. The title page of Blood on the Chesapeake, adds “The Haunted Shores Mysteries”. Because this is Mr. Overbeck’s first novel in the series, we can assume there will be more to hear from Darrell and Erin in the future. The Chesapeake area is rich in history, therefore, must be rich in ghosts that need their help. I am excited to add this new series to my list of must reads, and recommend picking up your copy today.

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 © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Beautiful Press-Out Butterflies – Taking Paper Airplanes to a New Level

Beautiful Press-Out Flying Butterflies

By: Richard Merrill

Beautiful Press-out Flying Butterflies takes paper airplanes to a whole new level. By following the simple instructions on the first page, you and your child can create a squadron of brightly colored, detailed butterflies. Each of them has information as to where in the world that particular butterfly lives as well as interesting facts.

Not all butterflies eat the same nectar. For example, the Julia butterfly can be found from Brazil to Texas and Florida but in the summer migrates to Nebraska. It usually eats nectar from the Lantana flowers, but also alights on caiman’s heads (relatives of crocodiles) irritates the caiman’s eyes with their proboscis then drinks the tears. That is one brave butterfly!

Each page will teach your child about butterflies. Then with a few simple folds and a coin (to help balance your butterfly when it soars, your child will spend countless hours flying them indoors and outside.

Merrill dedicates his book to his late grandfather, Dr. A. I. Good, who was an avid lepidopterist (butterfly expert). Thanks to Dr. Good’s inspiration, we can all learn about and enjoy butterflies with this enchanting book.

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: A Christmas Revelation – A New Holiday Novella

A Christmas Revelation

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.

London 1868. Nine-year-old Worm knows what hunger and cold feels like. His life has gotten a bit better, he no longer lives on the streets but in a free clinic for women of dubious occupations. Squeaky, the bookkeeper, has a past that will forever haunt him, but for some reason has a soft spot for Worm that he tries hard not to let show. But when Worm comes home and tells him a beautiful girl has been taken by a couple of ruffians, he gets drawn into the mystery and danger that he worked so hard to get away from.

Squeaky tried to dissuade Worm from searching for the taken girl by telling him that Christmas was in a few days. The boy has heard the church bells on Christmas day, but did not know anything else about the celebration. Squeaky pulled out old memories, and successfully convinced Worm that they could pull off a celebration for the staff and current residents of the clinic. The good news was Worm was very excited to help with decorations and the tantalizing descriptions of the Christmas feast made his mouth water. But the bad news for Squeaky is that Worm is still determined to help the girl and cannot let it go.

So begins a journey for the both of them, winding through the worst parts of London in the darkest of winter nights. First they have to find her, which was not an easy thing to do. Against all odds they locate her and even manage to speak with her. She claims she is not being forced to remain with the two men, but Worm does not believe her. In order to free her, the unlikely duo has to pull in favors from unsavory characters, go places no child should ever see and risk their lives.

Perry’s characters come alive on the pages. Victorian Christmas traditions are masterfully woven throughout the mystery of the beautiful woman to lighten up the intensity of the story. Squeaky and Worm, along with the rest of the staff of the clinic decorate, plan the menu and even have time to search out a special gift for the special day.

The story is one of hope and redemption, even in the toughest of times. The characters are scruffy and often thought of as lower class. They may not have money but they do have the important qualities that matter most. They care about each other and strangers, share what they have even if it isn’t much and find happiness within the world they live in.

This is an unusual Christmas story, but one that will become a favorite.  I am a fan of all things Christmas and it was refreshing to read a novel with a new twist on the age old story of love and redemption.

Internationally renowned, award winning author Anne Perry is best known for her Historical novels; most noted are the Monk Series and Pitt Series. She began writing annual Christmas novellas in 2003, and has written one every year since, including The Christmas Revelation available November 9, 2018. This is the first Christmas novella I have read by Perry, but have enjoyed many of her other books. I encourage you to read A Christmas Revelation; it is a quick and thoughtful Christmas tale that will leave you thinking about the story and characters this holiday season.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Create Your Own Crocheted Zoo with Crochet Animal Rugs

Adorable, easy to read patterns will encourage crocheters both new and old to create a beautiful menagerie. All of the patterns are written out in detail, with easy to read instructions. There are color charts along with the written instructions if you prefer them to written directions.

From pandas to dinosaurs you will find just the right animal to make someone happy. While the title spotlights animal rugs, the patterns also include pillows, toy bags, placemats and even security blankets for the youngest of children. My personal favorite is the giraffe security blanket, which is absolutely charming.

There are over twenty pages of instruction and techniques at the end of the book that will ensure success of every project for crocheters of any level.

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Book Review: Claire’s Last Secret – Intriguing Historical Mystery

Claire’s Last Secret

By Marty Ambrose

Based upon the true story of the conception and infamous writing weekend of Mary Shelly’s famous Gothic ghost story, Frankenstein, this historical mystery intertwines delicious bits of true history with a tantalizing tale of lost love and murder.

Set in 1873, the stepsister of Mary Shelley, Claire Cairmont is the only survivor of that fateful summer in 1816. Now Claire is forced to remember those days – as if she could ever forget.

As a young woman, in love with a married man and expecting his child, her future was uncertain. Claire was and is a free spirit, living life as she chose, not as was expected of her. She was on holiday with Mary, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (Mary’s husband) and Lord Byron. It was during this holiday that Frankenstein was born and Claire’s life changed forever.

Claire now lives with her beloved niece and grandniece, but they are hardly living in luxury. Their basic needs are barely met, but it is doubtful they will be able to make it much longer without some income. Surprisingly, a man contacts them requesting an audience with Claire. He wants to purchase personal letters and memorabilia from the time spent in 1816 with Byron and Shelley. By selling them, she and her niece would be able to live comfortably, but does this benefactor bring salvation or death to her door?

The tangled relationships of 1816 have come back to haunt Claire as she is in the twilight of her life. Must she live through the agony of losing Lord Byron and the fateful events surrounding the best and worst time of her life.

Ambrose’s work of literary historical fiction is interesting and intriguing. She alternates the story between 1816 and 1873, filling in interesting background and events that led up to the mystery man and his reason for entering her life.

Claire’s Secret is the first book of a planned trilogy. Ms. Ambrose is a gifted writer, with several books to her credit. The most popular is her modern day Mango Bay Mystery series starring Mallie Monroe. Claire’s Secret is the first book I’ve read by this author, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The literary prose in an easy to read format was refreshing and entertaining. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series.

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: Need to Know – Do You Really Know the Man You Love?

Need to Know

By Karen Cleveland

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.

Viv and Matt live a full life. Viv has a demanding job as a counterintelligence analyst for the CIA. While she is looking for Russian sleeper agents on U.S. soil, Matt takes on most of the duties of child rearing. They have a young daughter that is older than their twin boys. One of the boys has developmental problems requiring frequent visits to specialists that Matt willingly takes care of. Like any couple that has been married for over a decade, they know each other inside out.

Because of the cost of her son’s specialists, Viv had to go back to work sooner than she planned. But she loves and believes in the importance of her job. She is on the cusp of having her hard work to pay off. She has developed a program to identify people involved in these sleeper cells. Pictures start appearing on her monitor, she recognizes one of them. It is Matt.

Has her whole life been a lie? How could he be a Russian spy and did he marry her because she works for the CIA? The old adage of keeping your enemies close just might be the reason Matt met her in the first place. So many things run through Viv’s mind she can barely breathe, but she knows her husband is mixed up in something that has the ability to implode her family.

Once Matt is confronted, Viv realizes that she will have to make impossible decisions involving the country she loves and the safety of her family. She can no longer trust anything Matt says – or can she? Was he trapped in situation that he did not want to be in? Is he lying or telling her the truth? Viv has to make a move that will change the rest of their lives forever.

Debut novelist Karen Cleveland’s psychological thriller will keep you up late into the night. Her characters come to life on the pages and the twist in the last chapter will stay with the reader long after closing the book.

Need to Know could literally be ripped from today’s headlines. Recently I was in Washington D.C. at the Newseum. There is a section on spy cells that infiltrate the U.S. and how they are uncovered. The real life spies acted much like the ones in Cleveland’s novel. The realism of the book became more and more evident with each exhibit.

It is evident that Cleveland, a former CIA agent, is a gifted novelist. Need to Know holds a well-deserved spot on the New York Times Best Seller list. Film rights to the book have been sold – snatch up this book before the movie hits the screen. While I am excited to see the book come to life in the theaters, in my opinion, the book is always better than the movie and this one is outstanding.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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