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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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Audio Book Review: The Guilt Trip – Fabulous New Suspense Novel by NYT Best Selling Author

The Guilt Trip

by Sandie Jones

Narrated by Clare Corbett

The thought of a destination wedding to Portugal sounds fabulous but quickly becomes complicated. Everyone has secrets that they are determined to keep hidden from the people closest to them.

The bride and groom, Will and Ali, are excited to begin their new lives as husband and wife, but Ali may not be telling the entire truth to her new husband. Meanwhile, Will’s brother Jack and his wife Rachel are at odds with each other when suspicion of cheating comes to light. Noah and his wife Paige, who are best friends with Jack and Rachel, are having marital problems. Could it be that the relationship between Noah and Rachel has reverted back to their college days when they were more than friends?

Deceit and betrayal, lies and suspicion swirls around six main characters, coming to a boiling point the day of the wedding. The answers to all of the questions will not be revealed until the wedding is over – but will it be too late for any of them to survive? The Guilt Trip is full of twists and turns that keeps readers guessing until the final chapters. Who, if anyone, is lying?

This fast-paced suspense filled novel is perfectly plotted to keep the reader engaged from the first pages to the last. The characters are interesting and fully developed. It was fun to try and figure out who was lying and who was cheating – and who wasn’t. I loved to hate some of the characters and felt sorry for others. The last chapter let me know if I was a good judge of character or completely mistaken. I loved it.

Clare Corbett did a marvelous job narrating this audiobook. She speaks clearly, making the book come to life for listeners. Audiobooks are perfect for busy people. There is nothing better than listening to an interesting book like The Guilt Trip while cleaning house, knitting or just relaxing.

I’ve read several books by Sandi Jones, and have enjoyed all of them. She is a New York Times bestselling author and deservedly so. I highly recommend all of her books, especially her latest, The Guilt Trip.

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: Ghosts – Who Has Ghosted You?

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

We encounter many ghosts in a lifetime. Not the ghosts like Casper or those that Ghostbusters zapped into submission. This is about people ghost who ghost others, like the friends and relatives that seeming drop off the planet. No phone calls, no text messages and certainly no face-to-face communication. These are the type of ghosts that haunt Nina George Dean in Dolly Alderton’s debut novel.

Nina is a single woman fairly satisfied with her life. At 32, she owns her flat and loves her job. She is a published author of a cookbook and has an advance for the second. Her love of writing and cooking have blended into the perfect career. The only thing missing in her life is someone special. So begins her quest to find someone to share her life with via an online dating service.

To her surprise, she meets a man that she can see herself spending her life with. Up until the moment he ghosts her. Shattered, she attempts to spend time with her best friend. Unfortunately, her friend is now married and a mother. Nina isn’t really sure of how to proceed with this friendship because their lives have nothing in common except their past. As if being ghosted by her lover as well as her best friend isn’t enough, Nina is slowly losing her father to dementia. Her mother is in denial, leaving Nina to contend with the ghost that used to be her father.

Ghosts is a work of fiction that is easy to read, yet reaches into your thoughts. The characters and storyline will keep you thinking about it long after the last pages are read. Everyone has been ghosted by someone that they have cared about. The truths wrapped in this novel are haunting – much like the ghosts in our pasts. I highly recommend it.

Dolly Alderton is a journalist, author and podcaster. Ghosts is her debut novel. She is a Sunday Times best-selling author with her memoir, Everything I know About Love. The memoir has garnered several awards, including a National Book Award, a British Book Award and has been translated into 25 languages. Additionally, it was nominated for the Waterstones Book of the Year Award. Ms. Alderton is one to watch, I can’t wait to read her next novel. If you like Jennifer Weiner’s novels, you will love Ghosts.

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 of a Red-Hot Rancher – Intriging New Cozy Mystery

Brody Pierce is a sight to behold. Every female in the small town of Tinker’s Creek, Ohio takes notice of this tall piece of eye-candy when he comes to town. He made his fame and fortune in Hollywood as the hunky, rough and tumble actor in a truck commercial. This allowed him to purchase a ranch in Tinker’s Creek where he raises bison.

Lizzie Hale, the owner of the most successful romance bookstore in the Midwest, is not immune to Pierce’s rugged good looks, but tries to remain calm when he enters her store. All of her female customers, including her aunt, Charmaine, practically swooned at his feet. Yes, everyone loved and admired him – with the exception of at least one person. The one that killed him.

Unfortunately, Lizzie is the one that finds his body. She is obviously upset, but it is evident this is a murder and now she is in the thick of it. Quietly tallying up the clues she has observed, Lizzie begins to do a bit of sleuthing. Unfortunately, the clues start to point at one of the people in town she knows and cares for.

The setting of this small town and the bookstore Lizzie owns enhances the depth of characters and plot. It was quite enjoyable picturing the rooms in the bookstore as well as the bison ranch. The extra touch of Lizzie taking care of Brody’s orphan dog was heartwarming. Even though he left dog hair every place they traveled together. The requisite touch of romance is present in this cozy and I am looking forward to see how the characters develop in future books in this series.

This fast-paced cozy mystery is full of twists and turns. Usually, the killer is easy to spot, but there are so many people that had it out for Pierce, it was impossible to figure out who the killer was until the final chapters.

Mimi Granger aka Connie Laux is a new author to me as this is the first book of hers that I have read. She is an established mystery writer, and Death of a Red-Hot Rancher is the first book she has written as Mimi Granger, one of her many pen names. This is the first cozy mystery she has written, previously focused on romance novels. If you love cozies, you will love this book. I’m looking forward to more books in this 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: The Santa Suit – A Charming Romance

The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews

Ivy Perkins’ dreams of living in a farmhouse situated in a small town have prompted her to purchase one sight unseen. As she approaches her dream home with her dog Punkin and a box of baby chicks, she realizes there may be some flaws in her new house that the pictures sent by the realtor did not show. That is the first sign that she may have bitten off more than she could chew.

Ezra Wheeler, the realtor, is there to welcome her. After helping her open the front door with a quirky lock, they walk into her new home. It is still full of the previous owner’s furniture, clothing and dishes as well as Christmas decorations. Apparently, her new home was renowned for the annual Christmas decorations. The former owners portrayed Mr. and Mrs. Claus every year. Ivy doesn’t have time for Christmas decorations this year. But when she finds the legendary Santa suit with an old note in it from a youngster, she feels something inside of herself telling her to find the child – now adult – that wrote it.

This is a delightful tale of a woman reborn into the life she always dreamt she wanted. The characters are quirky and fun. Ivy is a dreamer, and is determined to make her life and new farmhouse work out. She has to learn to adjust and fit in all the while staying true to herself. With the help of Ezra, the house is shaping up and he is becoming more attractive to Ivy every day.

Mary Kay Andrews has written 24 New York Times best-selling books. The Christmas Suit is destined to be #25. I have read many of her previous novels, enjoying each and every one. Her plots and characters are relatable and fun to read. I highly recommend this author and her newest novel.

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: You Can Run – Fabulous Fast Paced Thriller

by Karen Cleveland

You Can Run is a fast-paced thriller that will leave you breathless. Jill Baily was a CIA operative before she had her son, Owen. While still working for the organization, she now sits at a desk vetting new sources. Much different, and safer, she no longer puts herself or her family in danger. Or so she thinks.

Every day during her lunchbreak, she watches the live cam of her son at daycare. But today she is horrified to see he isn’t there. When her cell phone rings and she hears “We have your son” her world collapses. She must do as they say if she ever wants to see Owen again. She is instructed to verify a source without vetting him within three minutes. It is against all of her training, but she will do anything to get her baby back – even though she is compromising the country she vowed to protect.

So begins her life on the run. Terrified to even tell her husband, she insists they move to another state. Her husband goes along with the move, and quietly Jill scrubs her identity. All is well, she has another child and the past is gone but not forgotten. Until the day she sees someone following her and the children. Her world comes crashing down again, but this time she is going to fight for her family with every fiber of her being.

The chilling theme of someone holding an infant hostage ramps up You Can Run to a whole different level. The characters are interesting, scary, intriguing and realistic. Even though Jill is a CIA agent, she is a wife and mother, so she is relatable on many levels. The last few chapters will leave you breathless and unable to stop reading until the end. I loved it.

Karen Cleveland is a former CIA counterterrorism analyst, which brings a scary realism to her novels. She has written two previous books, Need to Know and Keep You Close, both of which are New York Times bestsellers. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed Need to Know. Thriller fans will love You Can Run as well as the other books she has written.

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 Art of Betrayal – Tantalizing Twist of History and Mystery

The Art of Betrayal

A Kate Hamilton Mystery

By Connie Berry

The Art of Betrayal is a tantalizing twist of history and mystery. It begins on a beautiful spring day in the small village of Long Barston, in Suffolk, England. Kate Hamilton is minding The Cabinet of Curiosities, the antique shop that she has worked in since arriving from the U.S. An odd customer ventures in with a rare ancient Chinese funerary jar that she wants to sell at auction. Kate’s acceptance of the jar is the catalyst that begins in theft and ends in deception and murder.

While the village is holding an annual fair based upon a folktale, the jar is stolen from the shop in a break-in. Simultaneously the woman who brought it to Kate is murdered during the pageant, uttering one word before collapsing and dying. Leading the theft and murder investigation is Tom, who happens to be the local cop and Kate’s love interest. Because she is an expert in antiquities, she is called upon by the police to catalog the remainder of the treasures in the home of the murdered woman. The arrival of the eccentric dead dowager’s long-lost daughter brings more questions than answers. Something just isn’t adding up, even with Kate and Tom teaming together to solve the case. Will someone else die before they figure it out?

This is the third book in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series. It is the first one I have read. It works well as a standalone novel, I was never confused or “lost” for not having read the previous two in the series. I love the characters. They are interestingly quirky as you might expect in a quaint English town. It is a solid, interesting mystery that had me guessing

who the killer was until the last pages. The history of the antiquities Kate encounters along the way adds another level of interest to the story. I can’t wait to read the previous two books in this series and will be watching for the fourth to debut soon.

Connie Berry’s debut novel, A Dream of Death, was the first Kate Hamilton Mystery, winning the IPPY Gold Medal for Mystery award for it. It was also a finalist for the Silver Falchion and Agatha awards. Ms. Berry lives in the U.S. and studied in Germany and the UK. Her love and knowledge of antiques stems from her parents. She says she was “raised by charmingly eccentric high-end antiques dealers who instilled in her a passion for history, fine art, and travel”.

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 – A Marvelous Mystery! – Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche

By Nancy Springer

Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister Enola was born when he was leaving home to pursue his studies. They do not cross paths until July of 1888 when she is left motherless and on her own at the tender age of 14. Upon the disappearance of their mother, Enola sends word to her two brothers, Sherlock and Mycroft. They arrive unsure of what to do with a young girl, but soon realize that their mother has taught Enola how to take care of herself in any situation.

Soon after their reunion, Enola receives a letter from Dr. Watson, stating Sherlock was in a state deep depression.  She immediately goes to his apartment to see what she can do to help him. Whilst there, a young woman, Miss Letitia Glover, arrives in search of Sherlock’s help. Her twin sister has been reported as dead. The widowed husband states she died and there was no funeral or burial. Due to the state Sherlock is in, Enola immediately steps in to find the missing woman. Meanwhile, Sherlock is intrigued by the case and rouses to help his sister. Together they work tirelessly to find the answers Miss Glover needs to hear.

This fast-paced mystery is a delight to read. Sherlock is a character most of us know and love, Enola is just who you would imagine his sister would be. Both of them are masters of disguise, highly intelligent and resourceful. Set in the late 1800s Enola has to work under the constraints of the time, which makes her job more difficult, but she is up for the challenge.

This is book 7 in the Enola Holmes series by author Nancy Springer. It works very well as a stand-alone novel, but if you are like me, you will want to read the previous six books in the series as soon as you finish this one.

Ms. Springer is an award-winning prolific writer of many other books and series. While the Enola Holmes series is classified as a teen/young adult mystery series, it was a fun, interesting and fast read. I have watched the series on my local PBS station and have enjoyed it immensely – but the book is always better and that holds true with the Enola Holmes series as well.

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: The Glitter End – Fast and Fun Cozy Mystery

The Glitter End by Vivian Conroy

Delta Douglas has an idea to bring more people into the stationery shop that she owns with her close friend Hazel. She has agreed to have Tilly Tay, a famous miniature artist, bring one of her works to the shop. It is a tiny world showcasing the small town’s gold rush history, featuring tiny replications of actual structures from the Old West days.

Unfortunately, Tilly is an eccentric character that quickly irritates the town folks. Shortly after arriving she is arrested for murder. Delta thinks Tilly is quirky, but doesn’t believe she is a killer. Ray Taylor, a man that Delta would love to be more than friends with, agrees with her. He is a retired football player with ties to law enforcement so they quietly begin to investigate the case running under the radar of the cops. Hopefully no one will get hurt if and when the killer catches on to their plan.

This cozy mystery is a fast and fun read. The setting is beautifully brought to life and the characters are interesting. Like most cozy mysteries there is a hint of romance, however difficult it is for the main characters to connect and share their feelings.

Ms. Conroy is a prolific cozy mystery writer, having written several series in addition to this series, the Stationery Shop Mysteries. This is the first book I have read by her and thoroughly enjoyed it. This is the second book in the series but reads well as a standalone cozy. I can’t wait to check out her other series.

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

Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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