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Book Review: Fake – Mystery Ripped From Today’s Headlines

Fake

By John DeDakis

White House Correspondent Lark Chadwick has seen more than her fair share of dead bodies. But when Rose Gannon, the First Lady of the United States drops dead during an interview with Lark, it is beyond horrific. It was just bad luck that Lark was present at the time of Mrs. Gannon’s collapse, but she didn’t have to snap a picture of the President trying to revive his wife to no avail. Once the picture hit the papers, Lark’s life became more complicated than even she could have imagined.

Soon she again finds herself on the front pages, this time not as a reporter, but as the subject of a national controversy. She is accused of having an affair with President Gannon. Becoming a victim of the fake news stories her former colleagues post in the papers and on social media about her, losing her job in the story’s aftermath. Lark is determined to find out who leaked personal information which became the basis of the fake news story.

Much like the headlines of today, the stories bring strong feelings about Lark from friends, strangers and colleagues. Many feel as if they know the story and Lark without getting the facts. Becoming the judge, jury and jailer, some of the general public hates Lark without ever meeting her. Will someone take matters into their own hands?

Lark’s story could be taken from today’s headlines. She is merely doing her job to the best of her ability. Getting caught up in the court of public opinion to the point of being in danger is the last thing she imagined for her life.

DeDakis brilliantly combines the current trend of the general population’s personal feelings about public figures as well as the personal side from the accused point of view. The real consequences to the lies that have been published change lives.

The characters in Fake are brought to life in the realistic setting DeDakis creates. From the insider look into the lives of the White House press contingency to the appointments with a grief counselor, the characters are interesting and quickly become real to the reader. He touches on many hot topics in addition to the fake news thread that runs throughout. Sex abuse, the ethical decisions journalists make and the personal effects half-truths have on the characters are all brought to the reader to think about long after the last pages are read.

I love a book that is current and relevant in addition to telling an interesting story. Fake makes the reader think about the nightly news in a different, more personal way. The mystery of who leaked personal information was an additional layer of interest. Hopefully we will see more of Lark Chadwick in the 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 © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Entangled Forest and Tranquility Adult Coloring Books

Entangled Forest Coloring Book

By: Angela Porter

And

Tranquility Coloring Book

By: Diane Pearl

Entangled Forest brings you thirty-one pages of designs centered in nature and the forest will relax you and help you unwind by coloring the flowers, birds, trees and animals like you have never seen before. By using crayons, colored pencils, paint or markers each page will come to life with your unique spin and style.

Tranquility has been created for the “sophisticated colorist”. Featuring thirty-one perforated designs that are a little less detailed than Entangled Forest, but complex enough to become individual works of art on every page. They allow your creativity to shine, all the while giving you time to relax and recharge.

I looked up adult coloring on the internet and list upon list of links were available. Clicking on several, both news sites such as Huffpost and private sites like Bebrainfit.com are all touting the benefits of stress relief and relaxation. If you have children or grandchildren, you might be coloring with them in kid’s coloring books. It is fun and the perfect way to have some quiet time with them, but I highly recommend adult coloring books due to the complexity of the design for you to try. These two books are perfect examples of books that appeal to adult level creativity.

Both of these books have a place in your life. I suspect your children have several different coloring books and choose the one they feel like coloring any particular day. Adults also have days they want to color smaller designs and days larger, quicker designs are best. I also suggest giving them for gifts to stressed out friends and relatives. But don’t let that limit you – I also gift coloring books for Christmas and birthdays with a colorful collection of pens and pencils just for fun.

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: The Book Charmer – Sweet as Southern Tea Infused With Magic

The Book Charmer

By Karen Hawkins

Dove Pond, North Carolina is a dying town. Businesses have moved out taking many of the residents with them. Sarah, a member of one of the founding families is desperate to save her town. When she finds out a new family is moving into a house on her block, she is absolutely certain that Grace, one of the newcomers, is going to be Dove Pond’s salvation. She doesn’t know how or why, but Sarah is certain and is willing to do anything to help.

Sarah and her sisters are known for their ability to see, hear and feel things other people cannot. As the librarian in town, Sarah hears books. They quietly let her know who in town needs to read them. Not everyone believes her, but even after arguing that they don’t want or need the book, they always end up reading and benefiting from the knowledge or help they receive. Grace will be no exception.

Grace has moved to the town because her beloved foster mother, Mama G is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and her doctor felt going back to the town she grew up in would help slow down the progression of the disease. Giving up a great paying job, she packs up Mama G and her niece Daisy and moves into a rental home in the tiny town. Grace is determined to stay one year, and then go back to her old life. The problem is, Grace’s sister, recently died, leaving her daughter in Grace’s care – so now she is the mother of an angry child instead of a doting aunt.

Working for the mayor, Grace is expected to be in charge of a huge festival that the cash strapped Dove Pond does not have the resources to pull off. Can she actually save a town she doesn’t plan to stay in longer than a year? Grace needs the support of the longtime residents, and be able to work with them, especially Sarah. Grace is overloaded to say the least, and totally unsure of herself. She is a caregiver, an aunt turned parent and working for a mayor who cares more about fishing than his city. To add to her troubles, she is uncomfortably attracted to her new neighbor, Travis. Grace has way too much on her plate, and to top it off, Mama G has made several mysterious predictions about ghosts and Grace’s future.

 The Book Charmer is tale as sweet as southern tea and infused with a sprinkling of magic. The serious thread of Mama G battling Alzheimer’s is very true to life. The advice from the kindly town doctor and Travis, who even while fighting his own demons, takes time to be kind and help Mama G is heartwarming. This is a beautiful work of women’s fiction that brought tears to my eyes more than once.

Karen Hawkins is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author. She has published several books before The Book Charmer, but this is the first one I have read. I am delighted to find out it is the second one in the series, and can’t wait to read the first novel as well as anxiously anticipate the next one in the series.

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

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Book Review: Jordan by Victoria Landis – Fast Paced Engaging Novel

Jordan

By Victoria Landis

Out of the blue, a woman appears in the park across from Petra Simmons’ chocolate shop. She seems to be in distress, so Petra and her brother Andy rush to her, only to discover she doesn’t have a clue to her own identity. Luckily, Petra’s boyfriend Ben is a Sheriff’s Deputy. When she calls him in to help the mysterious woman that is now in her apartment, he quickly finds out her identity. She is Jordan Crissman, a very wealthy young woman that disappeared without a trace three years ago.

Jordan’s family wants to bring the media into the situation, but she is not willing to cooperate. She leaves the attention grabbing family to go stay with Petra. Her family doesn’t really care that she is gone, and they still are searching for their five minutes of fame, with or without her.

Unfortunately, Jordan unwittingly becomes the object of every media outlet around when it appears she has healed a little girl who could not walk. With the ever present press hounding her, people swarm to see her to be cured from whatever ails them. But on the darker side, a contingent of religious zealots and civil instigators begin to protest. The three groups gather outside the apartment building that houses Jordan and Petra demanding healing, interviews and most disturbing, Jordan’s presence to “find the truth”.

The only thing Jordan wants to do is help people, but now that violence has come to their front door, the four of them have gone into hiding. Could they be running away from danger or into the lion’s den?

Landis’ characters leap from the pages into the reader’s heart. Jordan is sweet, but strong in the abilities and conviction that she is doing the right thing by helping others no matter what. Petra is strong, but still mourning the death of her parents several years ago. Andy is her little brother, but doesn’t need her mothering him anymore. They are close and will always be a big part of each other’s lives. Lastly, Ben agrees to put his life on hold to help Jordan and Petra.

Jordan is a fast paced, engaging novel. I needed to know what happened next. The story is deep, yet easily read and extremely interesting. While Jordan is a standalone novel, I feel as though the last chapter gave the author room for a sequel. I, for one, will be first in line if and when one is written.

Ms. Landis writes, edits and is an artist. Jordan is her third novel, following Blink It Away and Alias: Mitzi & Mack. She also writes a humor column entitled A Little Bit Sideways. This is the first book I’ve read by Landis, but definitely will not be the last.

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: No Fences in Alaska – Finding Redemption in Alaska

No Fences in Alaska

By Glen Sobey

Harper is a troubled sixteen-year-old. She is going down a path that her parents never thought a daughter of theirs would travel. Deeply religious, her father is the head of a Christian School. Harper has been expelled from the school and is dabbling in sex and drugs. Searching for herself in the cocoon of religious righteousness has not been easy. She feels as though her family has chosen religion over the love for her they once had.

When Harper finds herself over her head and can’t see a way out of the trouble she is in, she turns to the grandfather she hasn’t seen in years. He lives in Alaska, far away from the family that turned their backs on him many years ago. Her grandpa, Cooper, welcomes her without judgement or conditions. Little does Harper know that he is hiding a secret that will soon affect all of their lives.

Even though Harper knows what she wants to do, she so soon realizes that even the best laid plans are subject to change. As she grows closer to Cooper and the lifestyle in Alaska, she begins to change. Cooper encourages her to focus on her love of music again. Her outlook on life changes drastically, but will it be too late to repair the relationship with her father? Is he willing to give her the chance she needs to become herself instead of the perfect person he has tried to create?

Cooper and Harper are the perfect pair. The characters are both deeply flawed, much like most human beings. It is not the flaws that we should judge by, it is how obstacles are overcome and challenges are met. Sobey does a magnificent job of bringing real issues to the forefront and meeting them head on. That is not to say the characters always choose the best or easiest options, but realistically, who does?

Classified as a YA Novel, adults will also find that No Fences in Alaska is a heartwarming tale of redemption, love and change. The setting of Alaska is perfect. Bears, moose and the cold all play roles in the book. The beauty and serenity of the Alaskan wilderness allows more introspect than any state in the lower 48 could possibly offer.

This is the first book I’ve read by Glen Sobey. His previous book, The War Blog was also set in Alaska. Both of his novels are standalone, but both seem to have the same common thread of love, coming of age and the sharp truths some teens have to live with.

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

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Book Review: V.E.N.O.M. – Explosively Excellent Thriller

V.E.N.O.M

By Ty Mitchell

The mysterious death of an older Chinese couple in the Catskills has multiple law enforcement agencies scrambling for answers. By all accounts the two had several children living with them that are now missing. The reference to a group calling themselves V.E.N.O.M. comes into play.

New York City detective Jake Penney is called to work the case. He was a great cop at one time. The death of his family and subsequent spiral into alcohol and drug abuse has all but robbed him of his job. Hanging on by a thread, his CO decides that investigating the murders away from NYC may be the change of scenery he needs. The outcome of the case could determine the path his life will take, either with or without the NYPD.

As soon as Jake arrives he butts heads with the locals. Enter Special Agent Ethan Parker, an investigator that is pulled into the case from parts unknown. Parker recognizes the skill and knowledge Jake possesses and latches on to him. Parker uses tactics that are barely above the law to get information from suspects, which makes Jake more than uncomfortable. Parker is willing to go to any length to find the golden grail – a Catalogue containing details of deals and debts, assassinations and assassins spanning the globe. He explains to Jake that V.E.N.O.M. stands for The Veiled and Exclusive Nation of Organized Mercenaries – for a price the best assassins in the world will do your bidding.

Meanwhile, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Zasha Avery gets wind of the events in New York. Living and working in Miami will not stop her from following the case in the Catskills. She smells a story and is determined to be the one to investigate and write another award winning series before anyone else. She hones in on Jake and Parker, realizing that they are the ticket to the ride she wants to take no matter the consequences.

V.E.N.O.M. is a fast paced action novel with no shortage of character development. Jake, Parker and Zasha, the trio of main characters, are complex and flawed, often exploding on the pages for the reader’s enjoyment.

The fast-paced plot is twisted in the perfect way to keep readers breathless as the tension builds. By the last pages all has been revealed – or has it? The last pages tie up all loose ends.  Lucky for the reader, this appears to be the first in a series and I for one cannot wait for the second book in the series.

If you are a fan of Marvel characters and movies, you will love this fast-paced thriller. I see great things in Mitchell’s future, be sure to be along for this ride.

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

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Book Review: We Were Killers Once – A Haunting Thriller

We Were Killers Once

By Becky Masterman

Truman Capote is famous for his “fictional novel” In Cold Blood. Becky Masterman will soon be known for her novel, We Were Killers Once. Capote writes of two men that worked together slaughtering two families for no discernible reason. Masterman tells of a third man that could have been the instigator and true killer during robberies gone bad.

First of all, Masterman acknowledges We Were Killers Once is a work of fiction. But, she has also done copious research of the murders of the Clutter family and the Walker family in 1959. There is mention of an unnamed boy in the records of the two famous murders. This boy, Jackson Beaufort, is the focus of Masterman’s novel.

Bridget Quinn, former FBI Agent is obsessed with the murders of the Clutter and Walker families. She is only six-years-old when she first hears about the deaths and time has only increased her obsession. Her husband Carlo also has a tenuous link to Hickock and Smith from when he was a priest working in the prison system. Little do they know  their lives may be in danger from the very man that had a part in these brutal murders.

Jeremiah Randolph Beaufort is getting out of jail. He has been incarcerated on and off since he was twelve and shot his little brother. He claimed the killing was an accident, but no one believed him. After reform school his parents would not let him come home, so he lived with his grandfather before striking out on his own and hooking up with two men, Richard Eugene Hickock and Perry Smith when he is barely in his teens.

After his time with Hickock and Smith, he becomes a drug dealer/thief until the “three strikes “ law puts him behind bars for life. His good behavior set him free as an old man. On a mission to make sure the new DNA tests don’t put him back behind bars or on death row, Beaufort needs to find documents that Hickock and Smith may have left behind that could tie him to the 1959 murders.

Beaufort, Bridget and Carlo will intersect and then collide with one another as the story heats up. This page turning thriller will keep you up at night both reading and wondering about the true story behind the fiction.

Be sure to read the Author’s Note at the end of the book. Masterman explains the parts of her story that are based on facts and what is pure entertaining fiction. She has researched documents from the crimes and shares what she has learned. She also recommends further reading because We Were Killers Once will undoubtedly spark your interest about the events in 1959. I read In Cold Blood in the 1960’s but am going to listen to it again on audible. There are several other books, films and even a crime series that was aired in 2018 about these murders. I find myself thinking about this book wanting to know more – you will too. It is a puzzle unlikely to be solved, but you can draw your own conclusions after diving into these books.

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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