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Book Review: Complicit – Riveting Thriller

Complicit: by Amy Rivers

Forensic psychologist Kate Medina quit her job with the correctional department, fleeing from the job and life she loved after a brutal attack. Settling back in her hometown, Kate finds a job as the psychologist in the high school she and her sister attended. Helping teens has helped her, but the past is never far from her mind.

When one of the girls she is counseling disappears, Kate is determined to help the students deal with the trauma of the event as well as helping the police with the investigation. But digging into the life of the missing girl unwittingly puts her in danger. The lead detective on the case, coincidentally her ex-boyfriend, Roman Aguilar, contacts Kate to see if her counselling sessions hold any clues about the missing student. Kate is compelled to help, but her unresolved feelings for Roman keep getting the way.

As the investigation unfolds, it is evident that the missing student is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a sinister group behind the missing girl’s disappearance that involves sex trafficking, kidnapping and murder. Will Kate and Roman find those responsible before one or both of them die? And, as if she didn’t have enough on her plate, her father is diagnosed with a terminal illness. This results in a visit from her long absent sister, who grudgingly appears at the family home when she hears he is sick.

Complicit is a fast-paced thriller and full of twists and turns that exposes the underbelly of human trafficking that is happening in the United States today. I literally could not put it down. The realistic characters and realization that these events could be pulled from today’s headlines is chilling. I loved the plot and characters, each of them fully developed and their transition thorough the pages was realistic and believable.

I highly recommend Complicit. Ms. Rivers, in addition to being an outstanding author, is the Director for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) and has worked with law inforcement on cases much like this work of fiction. By bringing the issue of human trafficking to light, she is helping others speak up and hopefully get the help they need. 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 from publicist Maryglenn McCombs in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Eternal – Must Read Historical Fiction

By Lisa Scottoline

Marco, Sandro and Elisabetta’s carefree lives as teenagers is about to change. Still in high school, one dreams of becoming a writer, one dreams of becoming a scholar and the other dreams of becoming more than the cyclist his father wants him to become. The love triangle between the three creates a bit of tension and a lot of playful flirting. But it is 1937, and unbeknownst to them, Italy is on the verge of war. This will dash their dreams and take away everything, even loved ones, in a tragic turn of fate.  

Survival is paramount. It is growing harder to find essentials as the war begins. While Marco and Elizabetta are struggling, things are exponentially harder for Sandro. He and his family are Jewish. When the Nazis arrive, many in their community will lose their jobs, homes and lives. The three friends are thrust apart by the war and by the choices they have made. At the beginning of the novel, the reader knows that at least one of them has survived. But what about the other two? You must read it to find out.

The plot is an engaging mix of true history and fiction. It reads like a novel, fast-paced and very interesting. But the underlying chill of the war, death and devastation is very real both in life and on the page. It is very sobering.

The characters are interesting and not always likeable, but I feel that is the author’s intent. Life doesn’t always have a happily ever after, but the characters growth and changes during the course of the war are realistic. The ending is very satisfying, staying with the reader long after the last pages are read.

Ms. Scottoline has skillfully taken us back into these dark times in Italy. She has carefully researched, bringing the reader into the events that happen with her realistic characters. Be sure to read her author’s note at the end of the book. There she differentiates between fiction and fact in the novel. Most of the characters are fiction. She states: “But much of what transpires in these pages is true to the past”. It is heart wrenching to read about Jewish families being rounded up and sent to Auschwitz like cattle, especially knowing that this is history, not fiction. But it is also a story that must be told so it is never forgotten or repeated.

I am a huge fan of Lisa Scottoline, having read many of her books. She is the best-selling, award winning author of over 30 books, and is known for her fabulous legal thrillers. There is a reason she is the beloved of many. Eternal is different than her other books, but is not to be missed; I highly recommend it.

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 © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Something In The Water Book One: Drowning by Dean Comyn

The newly formed task force, MCU2 (Major Crime Unit), is in charge of keeping a visiting Health Ministry virologist, Dr. Nicholas Veda, and his date safe while they are in the UK. Now they are both missing. Did they slip away or is this a kidnapping? Dr. Veda and his date disappeared from the Opera House in London without a trace, leaving Chief Inspector John C. Wayne of the MCU2 in a bad situation. Wayne and his team have to find Veda before his disappearance becomes an international incident. Not to mention could easily blow up all hopes of anyone in authority taking MCU2 seriously.

Wayne has assembled his squad carefully, recently adding Canadian Charles Burns to his roster. Even though Burns is a Training Specialist in his previous job, he is told to watch and listen, but not to involve himself in discussions or missions other than just observing. His resolve lasts a New York minute when Burns could not help but insert himself into the mission. Soon bullets are flying, the CIA becomes involved and Burns is playing a huge role in attempting to find Veda.

If you are a fan of James Bond, you will love Charles Burns. He doesn’t have the luck Bond has with ladies, nor the gadgets, but does have the quick thinking, fast action of Ian Fleming’s beloved secret agent.

This fast-paced thriller is full of page-turning action. The twists and turns take the reader on a breathtaking ride. I read it in a few days, because putting it down during the action was impossible. I highly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys thrillers, action and plot twists. It is exciting to know this is the first book in a series, so readers will see Burns and Wayne again.

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. You can find it here: Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Crime of the Ancient Marinara

By Stephanie Cole

American Nell Valenti is hired to develop a world-class cooking school requiring a move to Cortona, Italy. She is now living and working in a villa owned by renowned Chef Claudio Orlandini. His Cornell-educated son, Pete, as well as a cast of female family members also reside at the villa.

Nell has her work cut out for her. The Orlandini family is quirky and set in their ways. Trying to organize them is like herding turtles, one or more of them frequently wander off to do his or her own thing creating chaos instead of the organization Nell is striving to achieve.

The first class of students in the cooking school is a group of Americans that have arrived excited to learn the recipe for Chef Orlandini’s famous marinara. It is to be the highlight of the final day. Unfortunately, an unruly chef and the murder of one of the Americans waylays any plans that Nell made.

Unsatisfied with the suspect the police have in custody, Nell begins her own investigation with a man she thinks is a private detective – but is he really? Between the lies, secrets and a language barrier Nell is ready to throw in the towel – but can she ever forgive herself if someone gets away with murder?

Quirky characters fill the pages of this mystery. The chef is over the top Italian and his son is a sexy olive pressing hunk. The Orlandini women range from nuns to a talented sous chef. The Americans add an interesting mix along with the elements of surprise. Almost all of the book is set at the villa. I would have liked more adventures away from the villa, to give me more of the taste of Italy. Other than the problems in communication between characters speaking Italian and others speaking English, the setting could have been anywhere. I wanted descriptions of the town, really bringing the reader into the beautiful country of Italy.

Crime of the Ancient Marinara is the second book in this cozy mystery series. I did not read the first book and was a bit lost in the first few chapters as to the relationships between the characters. Overall, this was an enjoyable cozy mystery.

Author Stephanie Cole is also known as Shelley Costa. She has been nominated for both an Edgar and an Agatha Award as Shelley Costa. This is the first book I have read by Ms. Cole or Ms. Costa.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The 9 Ghosts of Samen’s Bane – Fast Paced Fright

The 9 Ghosts of Samen’s Bane

By D. A. Schneider

Mild mannered Adrian Dillard decides to join a venture to revitalize passenger train travel at the suggestion of a good friend and entrepreneur. Everything seems to be going well until a tragically fateful night leaves over a hundred people dead and Adrian becomes a vessel for 9 young ghosts. The dead kids have a mission to complete, but need the help of a person who is still alive to carry it out. Adrian is hesitant and afraid, but he is more afraid of what the spirits that inhabit his body will do to his pregnant wife and young son if he does not do what they ask.

They come to him in dreams at first, but soon they manifest themselves to explain how they need Adrian to vanquish their evil enemy – Samen. Appalled at the thought that he has to play a part in an epic battle of good and evil, Adrian resists. He defends his reluctance by reminding the 9 that he is a mere mortal, unequipped for a showdown with the devil. They quickly assure him that they each have supernatural powers that they can teach him use to vanquish their enemy. Even though he is scared silly, he has to try. So begins his transformation from dad to demon hunter.

This is not your classic story of good and evil. First of all, kids are in charge of the plan to eliminate Samen. Granted they have super powers, but they are still unruly children at times. Adrian is the perfect choice to go from zero to hero because he has a lot at stake. Unfortunately, his reluctance and gentle nature make him an unlikely savior. The deeper he gets involved with the 9, the more questions he has. His intuition is telling him that they are hiding something from him. Little things begin to not add up, especially when he does a little investigating on his own. Will this get him killed? He doesn’t know, but what will happen to the world if he doesn’t at least try?

The 9 Ghosts of Samen’s Bane is fast-paced, unpredictable and an absolute hoot to read. Of course, there are dead people milling about, and there is a force that is trying to end mankind.  There is also humor in the juxtaposition of Adrian battling with dead people during the night and going Christmas shopping at the mall with his family.

If you are a fan of Christopher Moore, you will love this book. This is the first book I have read by Schneider, but will not be the last. Luckily, he is a prolific writer, so he has a list of books just waiting for me – and you – to discover.

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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Christmas Ornaments to Crochet – Create Beautiful Christmas Decor

Christmas Ornaments to Crochet

By Barbara Christopher

Deck your halls by creating these lacy, delicate ornaments for your Christmas tree. You can use them instead of bows on packages or hang them just about anywhere throughout your home to brighten up the season for pennies. You will be able to make a flurry of snowflakes in an afternoon or while you are watching your favorite Christmas movie.

There are step-by-step instructions for each of the patterns. From snowflakes to tiny stockings, each ornament works up quickly. By changing the size of thread you use, the size of the ornament can be adjusted without changing the pattern. The author suggests that the designs look best if they are crocheted tightly, so you may have to go down a size needle to make sure your stitches are tight enough.

Once the ornaments are finished, you will need to starch them to make them stiff enough to use them for decorating. Ms. Christopher explains how to make your own sugar starch, but recommends commercial boilable starch. Don’t let this necessary step deter you from creating these delicate designs. My grandmother made doilies much the same as these ornaments. Having watched her starch and block them in my childhood is a warm and comforting memory, so I honestly cannot wait to crochet and starch some for Christmas this year.

I recommend this book for experienced crocheters only because of the size of the project. If you are a novice, I would suggest that you make a scarf or hat with yarn and a larger hook before using thread and small metal hooks. But don’t let me rain on your parade if you want to jump in with both feet and create some of these beautiful ornaments no matter where your skill level.

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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

 

 

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Book Review: Making Christmas Bright With Papercrafts : Inexpensive and Adorable

Making Christmas Bright with Papercrafts

More than 40 Festive Projects

By Alice Hornecke /Dominik Meibner/Sabine Seyffert

Bring Christmas cheer to your home with these beautiful papercrafts. From decorating your home to entertaining guests and gifts for loved ones, Making Christmas Bright with Papercrafts. A little bit origami and a little bit of stencil work along with craft paper, scissors and glue you will be ready to dive in to create over 40 craft projects.

The designs are different levels. You can fold an adorable Christmas tree from plain green napkins for your holiday table for pennies. Maybe you would like to create pretty packages to hold yummy Christmas cookies out of craft or corrugated paper.

Christmas on a budget is easily achieved by creating decorations, gifts and advent calendars. Make your own Christmas cards, bows for gifts and wreaths. Because there are over 40 projects, there is something for everyone at every skill level. Many of the projects can be completed by children with help from an adult or older child.

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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Book of Two Ways – Another Masterpiece from Jodi Picoult

The Book of Two Ways

By Jodi Picoult

Dawn Edelstein is content with her life. She loves her husband, Brian, and their teenage daughter. Dawn is a death doula, helping others move from life to death with care and respect. A part of her misses the life she had in Egypt before her mother died. As she goes about her life, a part of her heart is still amid the ancient burial sites and Wyatt, the man she left behind.

Everything changes in a split second when Dawn survives a deadly plane crash. She is given the choice to fly anyplace in the world. Will she go home to her family, or go back to Egypt to find the life and man she loved so deeply. Dawn does not know if Wyatt is still in Egypt, but she feels the pull of her earlier life. Conversely, her daughter is everything to her so she cannot imagine life without her. Either way she must make a choice that will hurt someone she loves.

The ancient Book of Two Ways is estimated to be 400,000 years old. Per the Smithsonian website, archaeologists found the illustrated stories in Egypt on a fairly recently unearthed sarcophagus dating back to 2010 BC. It illustrates two ways for the dead to make their way to the afterlife by land or by sea. Life is full of choices; we make them every day. Much like the ancient Egyptians, Dawn must choose a path that may or may not be the life she wants in the end. Life holds no guarantees.

I loved this book. The relationships of the characters and situations they find themselves in are multilayered and interesting. Each chapter pulls the reader further into the lives of Dawn, Brian, Wyatt and the choices all of them make. As with all of Jodi Picoult books, the end was not what I expected, but was perfect and satisfying.

Picoult is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, and for good reason. This prolific author creates characters and stories like no other I have read. The depth and diverse topics she tackles are informative and often spark my interest to find out more about the subject matter discussed.

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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Clay Play! Animal Favorites – Creative Fun For All Ages

Clay Play! Animal Favorites

By Terry Taylor

You can create a zoo full of cute clay animals with Terry Taylor’s Clay Play! Animal Favorites. Using Polymer clay and simple tools like dowels, paper clips and pipe cleaners, you can create a menagerie of real and mythical creatures.

Taylor begins with the basics of Polymer clay. She provides detailed instructions with colorful pictures as well as diagrams. My favorite beginner tip is to rub a bit of hand cream on your hands before you begin to keep the colors clean and the clay from sticking to your hands.

Each individual animal has two pages of instructions. There is a material list, written directions and a page of pictures showing each stage of completion from beginning to end. Polymer clay is then baked, so adult supervision is needed if your child wants to create with you.

Of the 29 adorable projects, it is hard to pick a favorite. They are all cute and colorful. The lion, penguin and sloth are super cute, as well as the panda and frog. The personality shines through for each animal with the adorable expressions on their faces.

I highly recommend this book of adorable critters. The instructions are so well written it guarantees your success. If you don’t want to use Polymer clay, you could use regular clay or Playdoh with your children. The animals will not last like the baked Polymer, but you and your children will have hours of fun making and remaking the land and sea creatures in this 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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Adorable Fruits and Vegetables to Crochet – Over Twenty Patterns

Adorable Fruits & Vegetables to Crochet

By: Marie Clesse

Beautiful color pictures of luscious looking veggies and fruit fill the pages of this pattern book. Lemons to leeks, peas in a pod, pumpkins and more are included in the colorful pages of Adorable Fruits & Veggies.

Step by step, easy to read instructions for over twenty colorful fruits and veggies are included for beginners and seasoned crafters to create. Cotton yarn is suggested, but other yarns can be used. There is a handy paragraph with substitutions and adjustments to the size crochet hook needed. You will also need stuffing and other basic craft materials such as scissors and pins.

If you have never crocheted or uncertain about some of the techniques, there are simple, step by step instructions with illustrations to get you started. These include single, half-double, double and triple crochet and how to work in the round or crochet in rows.

Proficient crafters will find the instructions simple and straightforward. The author also adds the approximate amount of time it takes to complete each project. The front cover of the book recommends using these fun fruits and veggies as “Delicious Decorations for Your Table”. As soon as I saw them, I thought immediately of making them for some of the young children in my life. Kids love to play make believe with plastic fruits and vegetables, why not make them out of yarn that can easily be popped in the washer and dryer instead? You may have to make several of each because they will love playing with them.

I recommend this book to all crochet lovers from beginners to seasoned veterans. The size of each project is perfect to take along with you to work on and is fast and easy. Most crafters have bits of yarn in their stash that can be used to create fun, soft, washable fruits and veggies with the instructions in Adorable Fruits and Veggies.

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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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