Tag Archives: Books

Book Review: No More Lies – Fabulous Fiction: I Couldn’t put this book down

By Kerry Lonsdale

Jenna Mason and her teenage son Josh have been on the run since before he was born. Moving frequently and keeping to herself, Jenna was doing what she had to do to keep her son safe and herself out of prison. Until one little slip up that will send her entire life into a tailspin.

Josh was a teenager now. He wants to have roots and friends. This time when his mother realized her past was crashing into her present, Josh demands answers as to their nomadic lifestyle and the urgent need to disappear again under the cover of nightfall. Reluctantly she agrees to stay, but still does not tell him the secret of her past or the identity of his father. This time, Josh was not the only one that had ties to their current life. Jenna is engaged to a wonderful man and has begun to dream about a happy life with him, his daughter and Josh. That was until the two people she fears most began taunting her with pieces of her past. Frantic, she needs to get away with Josh, no matter what promise she made to him. But nothing goes as planned. Will Jenna go to jail for the rest of her life? Will Josh be lost to her forever?

Skillfully using flashbacks, the author shows readers why she is afraid of her past, as well as the reason she felt she had to leave her life and family. The characters become real on the pages, each of them fully developed. The fragile balance of Jenna’s life is beautifully portrayed, as well as her strength and determination against all odds to keep Josh safe. 

This deliciously tangled web of deceit wrapped in the love Jenna has for her son explodes in the pages of No More Lies. It is the second book in a series by award winning author Kerry Lonsdale, but can be read as a standalone novel. I recommend reading No More Words, first which is the first book in this series, as well. Other books that I have read by this author that are not in this series, are Last Summer and Side Trip. I really loved all of them. If you are a fan of Jodi Picoult, you will enjoy Ms. Lonsdale’s books. I highly recommend this book and author.

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

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Book Review: Amicus Knot Investigates a Murder in San Francisco – An Interesting Amateur Sleuth Novel

By Rick Hubbard

When someone steals a jump drive that holds all of the information of the World’s Digital Currency, the authorities are baffled. How did someone get away with it and what is their end game plan?

Enter two unlikely amateur sleuths. The first is Amicus Knot. He refers to himself as a “Systems Scientist and Itinerate Investigator” but should also add “loves cats and cookies”. His unlikely partner is the ex-star of a popular television series, Krys Barr. She also happens to be his best friend. She is gorgeous, which helps open doors that would normal be shut during their investigations.

When the two self-proclaimed investigators witness a murder near their docked sailboats, they jump into the investigation with both feet. Soon it becomes apparent that both crimes, the murder as well as the theft of the jump drive are connected. The authorities are not sold on Amicus and Krys’ theory, but the two amateurs are relentless in pursuit of the thieves. No matter what happens to them, they are determined to retrieve the jump drive that could ruin countless people if used by the person or persons involved.

The international feel to this novel is aided by the variety of foreign players that soon become suspects. The list of suspects also has numerous ties to the U.S. as well. The characters are interesting and multifaceted. My favorite has to be Krys, she is much more than

an actress playing the part – she lives it. A noteworthy bit player is Eldon, a former Sargent, who now finds himself homeless. I want to hear more about him.

The story is solid, giving readers all the clues to solve it by the end (which I didn’t see coming). I did get a bit put off by all of the ruminations of Amicus. He thinks out loud and takes the long – very long – route to the point he is making. Oftentimes it was just too much for me to read a page of his rambling on. Often, I felt there were too many explanations before getting to the point – or waiting until further along in the story. Amicus would dismiss Krys without clarification, by leaping into action. Unfortunately, this also dismisses the readers waiting for the rest of his thoughts about the investigation.

This is the first book I have read by Rick Hubbard. It is labeled as a cozy mystery as well as an amateur sleuth book. I agree with the later, but not the former. In my opinion, cozy mysteries are much easier to read (way less technical) and have a love interest. Neither of them is emphasized in this book. Amateur sleuth is much more appropriate. If you love a solid mystery with quirky characters, this book is for you.

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 © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Daughter – Is Everything in Her Life a Lie?

by Kate McLaughlin

To say Scarlet’s mother is overprotective is an understatement. Even though she is almost 18, her mom wants to know who, what and where she is going every minute of the day. That doesn’t stop Scarlet from doing a bit of drinking and weed with her friends. She kind of gets it. They have no relatives and her mom doesn’t want to talk about her past. Even though she chafes at the boundaries her mom imposes, she really does love her. It has always been the two of them against the world.

That world crumbled the day the FBI came knocking on their door.  Scarlet is not who she always thought she was and her mother certainly isn’t either. Suddenly, her mother’s smothering caution makes sense. With her world crashing down, she is asked to do something a grown person would balk at doing, but realizes it is the only way for her and her mother to be free of the shackles that they have been dealing with for her entire life.

Daughter grabbed me in the first chapter and did not let me go until the final pages. The characters are believable and some of them made me shudder as they are pure evil. McLaughlin skillfully brings the reader along as Scarlet learns the ugly truth that has been hidden from her for years. We see her working through her new reality, struggling to find herself amidst the turmoil. I also really agree with the message sent by the author via Scarlet, that the victims of crime should be the ones we hear about, not the perpetrators.

This is the first book I have read by Kate McLaughlin and highly recommend it. While it is written for young adults, I really enjoyed it as a much older adult. Ms. McLaughlin has a previous book, What Unbreakable Looks Like, which I am adding to my TBR stack.

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: Hello, Transcriber – Must Read Debut Suspense

By Hannah Morrissey

Black Harbor is a crime riddled city that people run away from, not to. Hazel Greenlee has moved there with her husband Tommy, because he found a job there. He hunts for their food and seems overly fond of the guns he keeps around the house. Hazel has aspirations to be an author. She finds a job as a transcriber for the local police force, giving her fodder for the book she is writing.

Hazel is an amazing typist, and doesn’t mind working the night shift. When a young boy is killed during her shift, things change drastically for her. She might know who the killer is, but cannot tell anyone. The detective in charge, Nikolai Kole, sends his report to Hazel. With his voice talking in her ear, she transcribes the events, fearing her involvement by withholding evidence, yet intrigued by the sound of Kole’s voice.

Strangely enough, Kole visits her during the long night. This is the beginning of something between them that is more than inappropriate. Hazel fears her attraction will be discovered by her husband. She also fears the repercussions for not sharing her suspicions about the killer with Kole.

This deliciously dark suspense novel is full of twists and turns. The characters are fully developed and most of them have their own agenda that will stop at nothing to attain their goals.

Hello, Transcriber is Hannah Morrissey’s debut novel. Her previous job as a police transcriber and being the wife of a police officer, brings first-hand knowledge to creating her characters. I highly recommend this fast-paced suspense novel. I cannot wait to see what she writes in the future.

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: Recipe for Disaster – Must Read Middle Grade Fiction – Even If You Are an Adult

Recipe for Disaster
by Aimee Lucido

Twelve-year-old Hannah Malfa-Adler has been cooking with her Grandma Mimi for as long as she can remember. Life is getting more complicated for Hannah now that she is twelve. Her best friend, Shira is studying for her bat mitzvah. While Hannah is excited for her bestie, she is a little bit jealous. Grandma Mimi is Jewish, which makes her mother Jewish – thereby Hannah is as well. But is Hannah really Jewish if she doesn’t practice her religion? In their house the only person that practices Judaism is Grandma.

Everything was going along well, until Shira made a decision at her bat mitzvah party to dance with a boy she liked instead of the “best friend dance” she and Hannah discussed for weeks before the event. Hurt and jealous, Hannah proclaims she will be having the next bat mitzvah to her friends. Which is pretty unlikely because her mother refuses to have any association with her Jewish heritage. Grandma has a plan that may help Hannah, but is a secret until the time is right to tell Hannah’s mom.

Hannah’s teenage angst is portrayed beautifully. She is in turmoil in many aspects of her life. Religion, losing her best friend, finding a new friend that is edgy and the relationship with her parents all factor into her actions and thoughts. Her family isn’t the best support system at this very moment. First of all, her older brother wants to become a chef, much to the disdain of their father. The tension in their home is buffered with Grandma’s wise advice and delicious family recipes (which are included in the book).

This book is teenage reality wrapped in love. Middle school is not easy. Author Aimee Lucido does not sugar coat the situations Hannah finds herself in the middle of. But Lucido leads readers on a path that shows family and friends will disagree, but things will work out. Sometimes with surprising results.

This is the first book I have read by Aimee Lucido. It is the second book she has written, the first being Emmy In The Key of Code. I look forward to reading it as well as others she will write in the future. She just might be the Beverly Cleary of this generation.

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: Death by Beach Read

Death By Beach Read

by Eva Gates

A Lighthouse Library Mystery

Lucy loves being the librarian in the historic Bodie Island Lighthouse Library. So much so, she used to live in it. That was before she became engaged to Connor, the local mayor. They find a fabulous historic home on the beach that needs a bit – most likely a lot – of work to bring it back to the beautiful beach home it once was. Luckily, Connor and his father are doing most of the work, but living in a construction zone is difficult for the couple as well as Charles the cat. He is actually the library’s cat and was named appropriately for Charles Dickens. He travels with Lucy to and from the library each day.

While Connor was away for business, Lucy was awakened by what sounded like someone walking in their home. Charles was also aware that something or somebody had invaded their space. Lucy didn’t say anything to Charles, thinking she must have been hearing things outside. But soon, it became apparent that someone was trying to scare them – or more sinister – kill them.

Delving into the history of the home, they found interesting facts and folklore including rumors of a resident ghost. Could someone be looking for hidden treasure long forgotten? Could the incidents be personal attacks on Lucy and Connor? Legends and larceny may be teaming up creating a catalyst for disaster.

This is the 9th book in the Lighthouse Library Mystery by Eva Gates. It is the first one in the series I have read, but was not confused by reading it out of order. The characters are interesting and fully developed. Some I loved and some I loved to hate. Like all cozy mysteries, there is a happy ending. It is an interesting and easy read with likable main characters and a persnickety cat that has a realistic attitude. He lends a paw when needed. 

Eva Gates is one of the pen names of Vicki Delany. She resides in Canada and is an award-winning mystery novelist. I highly recommend Death by Beach Read and will be checking out the other books in her series.

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: Covid Seasons – politics, the pandemic and relationships

by Rick Goeld

Since 2014, two Arizona couples have met every Thursday morning to talk about the world and life in general. They have expanded the group to six, all neighbors in a small gated community in Scottsdale. They discuss and argue points and opinions while enjoying coffee at a local eatery. But this is late January 2020, and Covid is about to raise its ugly head, changing the world and the neighbor’s lives forever.

The group includes Mark, a lawyer who has lost his job, and his wife Julie, who is a cop. Scott and Emjay are realtors that own their own business and John is retired and mostly spends his days irritating his wife Sherri with his nasty smelling cigars. Each of them has opinions about what is happening in the world and they are not opposed to arguing with the others in the group. That being said, they look forward to the weekly get-togethers, especially with the lockdown.

Covid Seasons addresses politics and Covid, but more importantly, it brings to light the struggles and strengths of some relationships during what we hope to be the worst part of the virus. As time trudges on, emotions run high and relationships become strained. The fabric of society as well as families has changed like never before in modern times, bringing out the best and worst of individuals. Some can adapt, others cannot. 

This fast-paced novel is interesting, funny and, at times, painfully honest. The characters are fiction, but the virus, the Presidential election and division of our nation was all too real. Clothed in the opinions of the characters, the issues seemed much less jarring than watching on the nightly news. Secrets that may or may not have been a byproduct of the lockdown are exposed. Some rifts can and will be mended, others will not.

This is the first book I have read by Rick Goeld. He is the author of Searching for Steely Dan and Sex, Lies, and Soybeans as well as People of Windsor Mountain, a work of non-fiction. If you are a fan of Tim Dorsey’s writing, you will enjoy Covid Seasons. This book contains explicit behavior as well as adult language,

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 © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Perfect Bind – A Perfect Cozy Mystery

A Perfect Bind                      

by Dorothy St. James

Assistant librarian Trudell Becket is frustrated. Her beloved library in the tiny town of Cypress has changed – and not for the better. All. Of. The. Books. Are. Gone. They have all been replaced with electronics. Tablets, computers, e-readers and crazy enough, a café and yoga classes now fill the rooms instead of actual books. While there is a time and place for new technology, Tru feels the loss of books is blasphemy and has taken secret steps to keep readers in touch with a secret library. Housed in the basement beneath the library, a chosen few have access to real books and research materials. If Mrs. Farnsworth, the head librarian, finds out about the hidden library, surely Tru will lose the job that she loves.

Keeping it secret is vital, but someone has discovered the library. Tearing down shelves and ripping books and papers, an unknown vandal has been striking at night when the library is closed. It saddens and puzzles Tru. Who is getting in, why are they destroying books and most of all how are they gaining access? Tru loves mysteries – one of her mottos is “What Would Miss Marple Do?” so she begins poking around in places that might get her in trouble. Or possibly killed!

When a body is found behind the library, Tru’s old flame from high school starts poking around. Jace once was a detective in NY, but has returned to the Cypress police department. He flusters Tru in more ways than one. As her secret crush in high school, she has always held a torch for him. He has feelings for her, but she is afraid to take their friendship to a different level. With him on the case, it is more than difficult to keep the secret library under wraps. When the case heats up, Tru and her band of amateur detectives may have bit off more than they can chew, hopefully it will not get anyone killed.

A Perfect Bind is a delightful cozy mystery. The plot is very well written, and the killer was not who I expected. The red herrings were perfectly placed to throw readers off the trail. Quirky, small town characters perfectly accompany the plot, and are fun and interesting. The bit of humor is also a welcome element. If you have read any of my reviews, you’ll know without me saying I am a huge fan of cozies, and this one hits all the marks to make it very enjoyable.  

This is the first book I have read by Dorothy St. James, but Ms. St. James has written several cozies. A Perfect Bind is the second book in the Beloved Bookroom Series, the first is A Broken Spine. I plan to read it, as well as her other cozies in the near future.

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: Striking Range – Page Turning Mystery

Striking Range

A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery

By Margaret Mizushima

Deputy Mattie Cobb is finally going to get answers from the man in prison that is responsible for the death of her father. Upon arrival at Colorado state prison, the closure she needs is ripped from underneath her as the killer is found dead in his cell. The only clue she has is a map that is discovered in the dead man’s sparce belongings. Hopefully the answers she seeks will be brought to light.

With the help of her canine partner, Robo, she will be part of the search team looking for evidence in the long-ago crime. The weather is against them but even worse, something sinister awaits them on Redstone Ridge. When Cole, the local veterinarian who is Mattie’s boyfriend goes missing in a storm, Mattie is determined to find him at any cost. Unfortunately, that means putting herself and her beloved dog in grave danger.

Striking Range is the sixth book in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series. I have been fortunate enough to read every book in the series and I have loved each and every one of them. The characters are fully developed and the plots are solid. It is interesting to learn about K-9 dogs, how they train and work. The added storyline of Cole’s vet practice also adds depth to the novel. This particularly comes to light in the latest book because Robo becomes a father.

I highly recommend Striking Range as well as the rest of this series. The plots are solid, the characters interesting and the action is page-turning. Each of the books in this series is written as a stand-along novel, so you can read them in any order. I enjoyed each of them, especially the ending of Striking Range – but I’m not telling you what happens – that is for you to discover when you read it.

Margaret Mizushima is an award-winning author – she was awarded the 2019-2020 Writer of the Year by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers of America. Her award-winning Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries are internationally published, which is no surprise to her fans. The realism in her writing comes from her own experiences. She is married to a veterinarian and was raised on cattle ranches in Colorado and Texas.

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: Interesting Whodunit

Surreal Absurdity

By Jim Lively

Jamie Simon attempted to kill Charles Pierce with an overdose of stolen ketamine. The whole affair disconcerted Pierce, but he wanted to put it behind him, so he never reported her to the police. Unfortunately, Ms. Simon decided to confess to police. Thus, the investigation and trial began, pulling Pierce into court and into the news. Unfortunately, this ultimately changed his life – and not in a good way.

Having retired from practicing law, Charles now spent his days painting. He was surprisingly good, so when he rented a space to paint from an art gallery, he quickly became a part of the art scene. Again, bad luck follows him. Random attacks on the gallery seem to be targeting him and as if that isn’t bad enough, he is implicated in a murder.

He quickly realizes he is in grave danger, and so begins his quest to find out just who is behind the attacks. But the police don’t believe him, in fact, they suspect he is the one who is on a murderous spree. Hopefully he can convince them otherwise and they will apprehend the real killer before it is too late.

For me there was too much dialog, not enough descriptions in this book. At times there were pages of dialog, just back and forth without setting information to give me a full picture of who, what, where and when. I am not saying the dialog was bad. For me, I needed something to see, hear or smell along the conversation. I enjoyed the information imparted regarding the wine tastings, the art and the gallery, I just needed more to get deeper into this novel. On the plus side, it is a super-fast read because of the pages of dialog.

This fast-paced mystery was interesting. The clues were all there and yet I didn’t realize who the killer was until the last pages. I liked this book but did not love it. The end especially disappointed me. It seemed as though there was more information readers needed to know. It ended abruptly, seemingly the end of a chapter, not a book. Perhaps there will be another novel in this series of two, but it leaves the readers hanging in the meantime.

This is the first book I have read by this author. Like his main character, Mr. Lively was a lawyer and is now a contemporary visual artist as well as a filmmaker. His second novel won the 2016 Merrimack Media Outstanding Writer Award. Surreal Absurdity is a sequel to Aberrant Behavior, which I have not read.

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 © 2021 Laura Hartman

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