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Book Review: Escape Velocity – Office Intrigue Can Be Deadly

Escape Velocity

By Susan Wolfe

Escape has been described as being approximately 33 times the speed of sound on earth. That defines the pace of this second novel by Susan Wolfe.

Georgia Griffin is a daddy’s girl. She loved spending time with him at their home in Piney, Arkansas. Taking care of their horses and learning how to read and manipulate people were activities he taught Georgia and her younger sister Katie-Ann. They had his skills, but didn’t use them. But when one if his cons sent him to prison, Georgia knew she had to make some drastic changes to survive. Things went from bad to worse after her mama took up with a real creep. Georgia set a goal and was determined to see it through. Getting a job in Silicon Valley is the first step, and then saving enough money to get her younger sister out of harm’s way is the second. Katie-Ann is only in high school and too much of a temptation for her mom’s latest boyfriend, so Georgia is on a tight timeline to accomplish what may be near impossible with only a paralegal certificate.

Lumina Software could be her big break. She’d interviewed with several companies, but nothing had panned out. But this interview was different. She was so convinced it might be the thrust she needed to begin her escape velocity, she was willing to put just a little of what her daddy taught her into play to give herself an edge. She immediately clicked with her potential boss, and finally got the break she had been looking for; the job was hers.

The pay was great, her boss was even better than she first imagined, but some of the others in the company seemed to have personal agendas. The deeper she became involved; the more Georgia felt she needed to channel her daddy to make sure the company was a success. After all, if the company had problems, she might lose her job, then how would she get her little sister out of the mess of a life she had in Arkansas? She was good at finding things out and using them to her advantage. If she pulled one small con to help the company, how could that be wrong? First she needs to find a vulnerable spot or two in a few obnoxious execs, then play them just like daddy would. But would she find out something that might put her in more danger than the business losing a bit of money? Certainly these boardroom bullies wouldn’t go as far as to kill someone – or are the stakes higher than Georgia imagined?

I loved the mind games the characters played with each other. After working in an office for over twenty years, I could picture a few of my former unsavory co-workers taking things a step further than ever imagined and then over the line. Fortunately in my life that never happened, but the realistic settings, events and character’s in Wolfe’s book brought the schemers and scammers to life. I loved hating the bad guys in this book and kept turning the pages to find out if and how they got what they deserved.

Anyone who likes twists, turns and intrigue will love this book. It was fun trying to figure out just who was bad and who was good until the very end. There is nothing better for a mystery reader than not knowing all of the answers until they are revealed in the final chapter, and then realizing the clues were there all along.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher/author in connection with Killer Nashville in return for my review. Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Little Girl Gone – Fabulous Find!

Little Girl Gone

By Margaret Fenton

Birmingham’s Child Welfare Services are busier than usual, and it is no surprise Claire Conover has a full caseload. As a social worker for the department she has seen her share of kids in bad situations. It appears that today will be no different.

She is assigned the case of a young teen that was found sleeping behind a dumpster. The girl refuses to give Claire any information except that her name is Sandy, which is most likely not her real name. The girl seems too clean and well-fed to be homeless. Claire has no choice but to place her in foster care, which lasts less than 24 hours. By slipping away from one of the best foster homes available, Sandy appears to be on the run from someone or something.

Claire is determined to find out who Sandy really is and who or what she is running away from. An unexpected turn of events surrounding the murder of Sandy’s mother, hands the social worker her true identity. Claire steps up her interviews with friends, teachers and her newly released from prison birth father, in a frantic race to get to the missing girl before someone else does.

The case is getting more complicated then Claire ever imagined. The police are helping as much as possible, but they have limited resources to deal with runaways. Claire teams up with an investigative journalist because he has more sources than she has access to, but that is a double edge sword. She has a boyfriend, whom she admittedly hasn’t had much time for lately with both of their work schedules and Kirk, the journalist has made it clear he would love being more than friends and/or co-workers with Claire.

Little Girl Gone is a fast-paced intriguing novel. The plot is solid and so interesting I literally read this book in less than 48 hours because I could not put it down. I loved the mystery of who Sandy really was, and which one of her friends or relatives she was running away from. And could Claire find her in time to save her from her unknown demons and a very real murderer?

The characters in Little Girl Gone are expertly portrayed. Fenton gives the reader enough information to create full dimensional characters in easy to digest bites. I felt as though I knew each of the main characters well enough to compare them to real life people I have known. Some of them I’d love to have coffee with and chat –

others I would cross the street to avoid. That’s ok, because I am pretty sure that was the author’s intent.

This is the second book featuring Clare Conover; it is the sequel to Little Lamb Lost. I have not read the previous book, but never felt like I was missing information or background by reading Little Girl Lost first. I plan to read the first in this series soon and will be looking for the third in the series that will feature one of the characters introduced in this one.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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.

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Book Review: My Cubs, A Love Story by Scott Simon

My Cubs

A Love Story

By Scott Simon

Lovable losers, cursed ballpark, crazy, loyal fans…this describes one of the most beloved teams in baseball. The fans certainly didn’t stop following them even after not winning a pennant since 1908. Now that they are the top dogs, cream of the crop World Series Winning Cubs they have all kinds of new followers.

My Cubs is a book that might help the newcomers and naysayers understand the history of the Chicago Cubs. I am not sure anyone who hasn’t been a diehard fan can ever really slip into the skin of a true Cub fan, but that is ok, you will still enjoy Scott Simon’s love story about his favorite team.

If you are not a Cub fan, the stories Simon paints with color and caring will bring you into the ballpark anyway. He has intimate knowledge of the team. One of his mother’s best friends was married to Charlie Grimm. He was a former player and the manager for the team when they played the Series in 1945.

Simon gives the reader an inside look at the beginning of the Goat Curse. It has apparently expired since they won the Series in 2016. He tells us about some of the super stars in baseball that played for the Cubs, like Ernie Banks. He confirms what all fans know, Wrigley Field is as much a part of the team as the outfielders that bounce off the famous ivy. The stories and legends he writes about are interesting to Cub fans, baseball fans and anyone who loves to read a slice of history told by a fascinating author.

I attended my first Cub game at Wrigley in the early 1980’s. Fergie Jenkins pitched and they lost. It didn’t matter. I was sitting in Chicago in the warm sunshine watching my favorite team. It would have been great to see them win; we still had a great time. Fast forward to 2016, the last game of the World Series, rain delay…you know the rest of the story.

Scott Simon has won countless awards for his writing and broadcasting. His career has spanned years and continents. His accolades are well deserved and hard earned. Following wars, politics and sports he has seen it all and shared it with the world. Baseball fans and especially Cub fans will undoubtedly agree that this little love story about the Chicago Cubs is one of the most heartfelt inside looks at the team in print.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from  Penguin First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Right Behind You – Superb Suspense!

right-behind-youRight Behind You

Lisa Gardner

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley in return for my review. Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

Lisa Gardner’s beloved characters, Rainie and Quincy are back in action. This time it is personal. Of all the unlikely couples in the world to adopt a troubled girl, it is them. They fostered her after she bounced from home to home. She didn’t seem to fit anywhere, most likely due to her past. Now she could be targeted by a killer.

Sharlah has had a rough start in life. Daughter of alcoholic/drug addict parents, she was raised by her brother. He was only a few years older than she was when he had to take charge of her wellbeing. He fed her; made sure she got to school on time and protected her. Even when he had to use deadly force, he did what he had to do to keep her safe.

It has been years since they have seen each other. Sharlah doesn’t let anyone get close to her since the night her parents died which was the last day she saw her beloved brother. The only breathing thing she has let herself get close to is Luka. A year after arriving at Rainie and Quincy’s as a foster child, he brought the retired police dog home to Sharlah. She and Luka are inseparable and the love they have for each other is evident. Sharlah loves her foster (soon to be adoptive parents) but has a much harder time showing them the affection that comes easy for her with Luka.

Then the fragile world they have created begins to cave in. Sharlah’s brother Telly Ray Nash could be in trouble. Serious trouble. Trouble so serious that the local authorities have called in Quincy to help find Telly even though he is a retired FBI profiler.

Rainie and Quincy are both concerned for the safety of the community and even more concerned for Sharlah. They can only hope he isn’t coming for Sharlah next.

Right Behind You is action packed with twists and turns that surprised me until the very end. Just when I thought I had this fast-paced novel figured out, a new wrinkle in the plot would take me down a different path. It was a fabulous read for any suspense lover.

Her characters are so real I expect to see some of them on the street. The setting was familiar due to my travels in the Northwest, I especially loved the reference to the cheese factory as I’ve been there several times just like the tourists in the story.

Lisa Gardner never fails to deliver, and this book is no exception. It is obvious to see that she has earned the crown as the #1 best-selling New York Times author of suspense. This is the eighth novel in her FBI Profiler Series. I have read a few of them, as well as several of her other books. Her books intrigue and entertain, if you haven’t read her novels, Right Behind You will make you an instant fan.

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Book Review: Unexpected Prisoner – Memoir of a Vietnam POW

unexpected-prisonerUnexpected Prisoner – Memoir of a Vietnam POW

By Robert Wideman & Cara Lopez Lee

What were you doing when you were twenty-three? Were you in college? Working a full time job? Robert Wideman (Bob) was flying a Navy bomber over Vietnam.

Then his plane was hit. He did what he was trained to do, trying to gain control, then eject to safety. More accurately, he was alive, but not exactly safe. Bob was immediately captured, and began what would turn into six long years in North Vietnam as a POW.

His experiences were often difficult to read, his fear of the unknown at first, and then the fear of the known. Each time he was pulled from his cell to go to be interrogated he might be tortured or asked to do something to turn on other prisoners. Some of the guards treated the prisoners better than others, but there was always the chance of being told to kneel on the concrete floors for hours or far worse.

Many of the prisoners had injuries from their plane crashing in the jungle or from overzealous questioning by some of the harsher prison commanders. But the prisoners banded together to help each other in most incidents. But, like any group of people that don’t necessarily choose to live together, some of the prisoners didn’t get along with other prisoners. Personalities clashed sometimes to the point of fights.

What I found very interesting was Bob’s take on fear. He said a person cannot live in a constant state of fear – so eventually you can sleep through bombings nearby and drive out thoughts of what might happen until it actually does. I believe this was what helped him and some of his other comrades through the long years of captivity when others did not fare as well.

I am not suggesting his time as a POW did not affect him, but maybe not as much as other prisoners that lived in constant fear.. He left Vietnam in March 1973, a very different man than the one that was shot from the sky in 1967. In many ways he was not the man he would have been if he had done his tour during the war and gone home to his wife. But no one can say how experiences, good and bad, affect the rest of their life. Certainly these experiences season our judgment and reaction to situations, but our attitude also plays a big part.

In the afterword to his book, Bob tells the readers his opinions on war in general. He doesn’t appear to be a bitter man as many would have living through his experience. He felt he was treated more humanely than some of the other prisoners, but doesn’t minimize the experience of other POWs that had much worse treatment while imprisoned.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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.

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Book Review: The Girl Before – Fabulous Thriller – Would You Give Up Everything?

girl-beforeThe Girl Before

By J Delaney

 

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley in return for my review. Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

Two women. Two traumas. One home. One outrageous contract. One or two possible murders.

The book begins with a house search. Jane has had something horrible happen to her and she needs to get out of her current flat to feel safe. The agent takes her to a home that is stark, sterile and has been empty for quite a while.

She falls in love with the security so on a whim fills out the questionnaire the builder requires before she is considered a candidate for occupancy. At first she is unnerved by it, but soon realizes she can put up with the crazy rules and requirements if she is chosen.

Surprisingly she is, giving up almost all of her possessions, she begins a journey that others have not lived through. Will she?

The Girl Before was fascinating. I cannot imagine living without color, pictures of loved ones, or having to answer questions before the computer running my home will allow the shower to start. When things get sinister, Jane feels as though she needs to find out what happen to Emma, but this may prove to be fatal.

Delaney’s book is creepy, engaging and thought provoking. I love the way in which it is written. Going back and forth from Emma to Jane the reader sees history almost repeat itself. Was it the choices both women made? Was it the home itself?

You can tell when the characters start to live minimally and begin to lose themselves in the process. The author shows this by removing all of the dialog quotation marks. Oddly enough, I didn’t miss them for several chapters – quite possibly the same way these women didn’t miss their identity until it was gone.

This is a fascinating thriller is full of surprises, twists and turns. I absolutely did not see the end coming, but was exceedingly satisfied as a reader when I finish.

Just a note to those that may object, there is violence and sex in The Girl Before but I believe it is essential to the story.

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Book Review: Joe Peas – Delightful Character Driven Novel

joe-peasThe little boy, nothing but skin and bones with scorched hair and tattered clothes, was discovered by the American soldiers in 1944. He didn’t know much English, but could say Joe (as in G.I. Joe) so that is what he called himself. The when pressed for his last name, he looked around the mess hall and saw his favorite food – black-eyed peas and responded “Peas”. As a child, he lived through war and re-invented himself.

Fast forward many years. Joe Peas finds himself in a small American town extolling the pleasure of correctly painting houses. He schools the patrons of a local diner with his method of treating a house right to bring it back to a thing of beauty.

That morning, one of the locals enjoying Joe’s antics was Dr. James King. He is a doctor in this small town of King’s Mill. He is as dedicated to healing and helping his town as Joe is dedicated to beautifying it one house at a time.

Both men go on with their lives, Joe painting houses, Dr. King taking care of his family, the staff at his clinic and his patients. He runs a rehabilitation clinic that is barely making ends meet, but he loves what he is doing even though he is living life on the edge financially. Then there is the HOA in the community he lives in. The tyrant that heads the association delights in making sure the grass isn’t too long, the shutters are all painted the same color and the kids in the neighborhood don’t leave anything that resembles a toy within his sight. He “enforces” the rules by levying fines on the residents that have the audacity to not toe the line. His main focus seems to be on Dr. King – whom he assumes has deep pockets.

Fate steps in to push Joe and the doctor together again. Joe lands in the rehab center just when Dr. King is about at his lowest point with both personal and professional difficulties. The man that grew from that tiny ragged child had seen and done many things in his life, and was determined to help his new friend and doctor. The problem is, Joe has secrets that he wants to keep and helping may expose things in his life he wants to keep hidden secret.

Sam Newsome’s second novel, Joe Peas is a delightful tale of friendship, determination and the celebration of individuality. It was a light and quick book to read, but the characters had depth and emotions that pulled me in and kept me turning the pages.  The bit of mystery surrounding the years between Joe’s childhood and when he showed up in the second chapter as a man of “advanced age” with “animated speech and gestures suggested he was very active” kept me guessing. The end was exceedingly satisfying.

Joe Peas is the first book I’ve read by this award winning author. Newsome’s first book, Jackie won the Garcia Memorial Book Award in 2015. I expect many more awards and hope for many more books by this talented new voice.

 

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