Tag Archives: debut novel

Book Review: The Rising Place – Emotionally Charged Debut Novel

The Rising Place

By David Armstrong

David, a young lawyer in Hamilton, Mississippi met Emily Hodge when she was 75. He did not know much about Miss Emily, but wondered why someone born and bred in Hamilton was not surrounded by family and friends from the long life she led when her days become numbered. She shared a picture of her late teenage years with David and he was startled to see she was beautiful and full of life.

After her funeral, he gathered up the picture and some letters he found in the drawer next to her bed. Therein lies the history and heartache of Miss Emily. Never married, she fell in love with a man that was one quarter African American. Harry is a pilot and took her flying in his plane. They were intimate just once, right before he left for the war. As fate would have it, she was pregnant. So began the ostracizing of Miss Emily. The 1940’s in Mississippi were intolerant of mixed marriages and no compassion was given to unwed mothers.

Heartbroken and lonely, she began writing Harry about her love for him, the progress of her pregnancy and the racial tensions in Hamilton. Headstrong and defiant, Miss Emily refused to stop seeing her best friend Wilma who is an African American. This is just not done in Mississippi in the 1940s.

The Rising Place is an interesting, emotionally charged glimpse at life in the 1940s south. While it is a work of fiction, there are many parallels to the events that actually occurred during that timeframe. The war, racial tension and the societal rules for women are clearly outlined, yet challenged by Miss Emily no matter the high cost of spending most of her adult life alone.

This fast and fascinating book is David Armstrong’s debut novel. Previously made into a film, The Rising Place is available on DVD. As always, I suggest reading the book first – it is always better, even if the film is fabulous. He has previously published collections of his short works and screenplays.

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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Between a Rock and a Deadly Place – Debut Cozy Series a Must Read

Between a Rock and a Deadly Place

Cedar Fish Campground Series: Book One

By Zoey Chase

Thea Pagoni’s decision to leave her law practice and take over her grandparent’s campground surprised the locals and maybe even Thea herself. She needs a change after the ugly divorce from her husband. So, after the death of her beloved grandmother, the fond memories of Cedar Fish Campground from her childhood brought her back for that fresh start. What she didn’t count on was the poor condition of the campground, the lack of competent help and the murder that happened within days of her arrival.

The police don’t seem to care about finding the murderer. The locals are full of gossip about the dead woman, which leads to bad publicity for Cedar Fish Campground. Thea and Hennie, who seems to be a fixture at the campground, decide to do a bit of investigating on their own. Lucky for them, Nolan Cade. the newly hired handyman/security guard is a former cop as well as former military. The fact that he is drop dead gorgeous was not missed by either of the women.

The plot thickens when Thea receives a threat to stop sticking her nose in where it doesn’t belong. She is close to finding the murderer, and is determined to find him or her. She has to do this in order to carry on her family’s legacy, but will she live to bring the campground to its former glory?

Between a Rock and a Deadly Place is a fast-paced cozy mystery with a cast of interesting characters. There are secrets in Thea’s past that haunt her, but she is doing her best to work through them. Hennie is a hoot – she has many surprising characteristics that amused me as I got to know her. Nolan, like Thea, has a history he is trying to get past. Don’t overlook his brilliant mind because beneath the good looks is a smart, caring man.

There is humor laced throughout the book. Small towns are often known for their quirkiness and Outer Branson is no exception. Ricky, the baby racoon, is adorably naughty adding to the comedic side of the solid story.

his is Zoey Chase’s first book. I assumed she was a seasoned cozy author with dozens of books  penned because Between a Rock and a Deadly Place is the perfect mix of mystery, romance, quirky characters and an interesting setting. I can’t wait for the next book in her series as well as many more to follow.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery (https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/between-a-rock-and-a-deadly-place-zoey-chase) in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Bookrevie: Blood and Wisdom – Must Read Debut Thriller

Blood and Wisdom

By Verlin Darrow

Aria Piper and Karl Gatlin go way back. They were both interns at a counseling center over ten years ago. Karl decided he was better at being a private investigator than a counselor. Aria has a private psychotherapy practice and runs a spiritual center. Some have called it a cult, others have called it a religion but those who are adrift in their lives see it as salvation.

Someone starts threatening Aria, so she calls on her old friend Karl to check it out. When a headless dead body shows up on her property, Karl jumps into an investigation that involves much more than he expects.

Bodyguards and global gangsters bump heads and draw guns. Everyone Karl encounters seems to have secrets in their past and deadly problems now. He has to dig deep, using all of his PI and psychotherapy training to find out who the bad guys really are before anyone else dies.

Karl’s part time sidekick is Larry. He is a shared custody dog, and both Karl and his ex-wife love and want him. I wanted Larry. At times I would almost forget he was a dog because he acts just like a human, except most humans don’t bite others to help defend those they love.

Blood and Wisdom is a fast paced thriller with as many twists and turns as Lombard Street. The plot is intriguing. Wrapped around the mystery are the intricate workings of the spiritual center. There are very interesting practices and beliefs that are touched upon. I love learning new things, and this book taught me new things that I wanted to learn more about.

All of the above makes Blood and Wisdom a fantastic read, but wait there is more! Darrow writes spot on descriptions and conversations. He drops in gems such as “If my mind was a magic eight ball, hers was a tilt-a-whirl”. Twelve words tell the reader exactly where these two characters are coming from.

If you are a fan of Tim Dorsey, you will like Verlin Darrow. His humor is very reminiscent of Dorsey, not quite as outlandish, but very amusing. I love the one liners tucked into the story. This is the first book he has written, so snatch it up now so you can say you were one of the first to discover this fabulous new author.

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 © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Last Looks – Amazing Debut Novel

Last Looks

By Howard Michael Gould

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.

Charlie Waldo has as many layers as an onion. Most of those layers put people off, but he really doesn’t seem to mind. He lives as a minimalist in the woods away from society. But when the outside world comes crashing into his peace and serenity, he grudgingly decides he has to rejoin the human race (which he mostly despises) for a few days.

Waldo is asked to help clear an obnoxious, over-inflated actor of murdering his wife. He really isn’t a PI, but somehow the lawyer for the actor thought Waldo could and would take the case. When Waldo left the LAPD he was on the top of his game, but that game included a scandal within the ranks that Waldo could not live with, so he took them down just like any other criminal. To say he burned his bridges would be an understatement.

Finding himself back in LA on the set of a movie was not how he envisioned his life. But here he was, somehow too intrigued to go back to the life he chose until he finds the person who he thinks really killed the victim. This choice does not come easily. He is mentally and physically challenged by the reception he more or less expected from his former brothers in blue. As a matter of fact, they hate him, refuse to cooperate when he asks for information and harass him at every encounter.

Stoically, he just can’t shake the feeling that there is a bigger picture than the police and prosecutor are painting, and like a dog with a bone, he just can’t let go until he uncovers the truth – if he lives that long.

Waldo’s world is intriguing. As a minimalist, he only allows himself 100 Things. If he adds a Thing, such as a comb, a pair of socks or a gun, he has to give away one Thing to never have more than 100. This in and of itself makes him interesting, but he is so much more. One of his Things is a MacBook. He is not out of touch with the world or technology. He is quite current on events in the world and is very well read.

He has acquaintances, but not really friends anymore. Donations to charity are part of his monthly routine and he plays chess online daily. The only two people that don’t hate him are the sharp-witted six-year-old daughter of the accused murderer and her kindergarten teacher.

Last Looks is an interestingly multi-layered novel of murder and mystery wrapped in the Waldo’s cloak of minimalism and self-imposed exile from society. Love, lust and revenge are woven into the plot. There is a love scene that is quite possibly the best one I have ever read. It is sensual without being graphic, but not Victorian by any stretch of the imagination.

I loved this book. It has every element to keep a reader grabbing it to read a few pages, then chapters. Soon you realize you have spent hours with the characters and story that it is still impossible to put down.

This stunningly clever, often funny book is the first novel published by Gould. It is an interesting, amazing read – run, don’t walk to your computer to order it today!

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Social Creature – Compelling Debut Thriller

Social Creature

By Tara Isabella Burton

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

Lavinia is rich, wild and daring. Louise is living life on the edge in other ways. She works three jobs just to make the rent on her dinky apartment. When this unlikely duo collide with each other, Louise begins to lose all sense of self as Lavinia becomes a drug and alcohol Auntie Mame, encouraging Louise to live more and more on the edge until she becomes a permanent accessory of her mentor.

Soon Louise is going to all the “in” places and seeing all the chic people. Selfies are a must as well as extravagant food, drink and over the top and sometimes illegal activities. The more involved she becomes, the less she is herself. Both figuratively and literally.

When the sand castle friendship seems to be dissolving, how far will Louise go to keep up the charade of existence Lavinia has created for her? Do we really know who Louise is?

Burton has written a fabulous book of deception and debauchery. Are these two girls Thelma and Louise, just on a joyride through life until the end goes tragically wrong? Are they both cold and calculating – or is one of them manipulating the other to keep from living a lonely existence? The twists, turns and emotions of this novel make it a true page turner.

Like Louise it is fun to step into a world that most of us just read about on the internet or in tabloids. Most of us would not like to participate, but what if we had someone encouraging and paying for all of the craziness? Maybe we would give it a try. What if we got in too deep? My suggestion is to live this craziness through the pages of Burton’s engrossing novel.

Tara Isabella Burton brings her debut novel to life skillfully. With understated realities, the plot can take the reader places he will hopefully never go in real life. Her writing style creates a reality that is so alluring, we are drawn into the characters and story from the first page and held there until the last word is read.

I hope to hear much more from this author. Social Creature is a gem.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Casey’s Last Chance – Fast Paced Noir Mystery

Casey's Last ChanceCasey’s Last Chance

By Joseph B. Atkins

Casey Eubanks has a job to do. It is distasteful, but this could be his last chance at getting a new start in life. If anyone needed a break, it was Casey, but if history holds, he will need nothing short of a miracle.

His only way out is to break the union organizers at a factory in Memphis. Easier said than done in 1960, wages are low and the factories are holding all the cards. Men and women work way too many hours a day with little or no breaks. Sweatshops are the norm, not the exception and the women in this particular shop are treated poorly no matter their age. Even pregnant women are expected to work long and painful hours or there are others in line waiting to take their place.

Casey sets up on a hill overlooking the rally, setting his rifle scope on the beautiful dame in charge. Ah, there is always a dame in a good noir, and Casey’s Last Chance is no exception. Ana Gadomska gave Casey every opportunity to kill her. Unbeknownst to her, she was the perfect target standing stock still in the crosshairs of his scope, but for reasons only known to him he did not pull the trigger.

That is when things go from bad to worse for the hitman. The local police were going to take him out, but lucky for him his is a better shot. When Gadomska and her bodyguard find out about the scheme and go after Casey, he ends up jumping from the frying pan into the fire by kidnapping her.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now Casey is back to where he started before he took the deal. But he has doubled is trouble. Not only does he have the original people after him but now he has the cops and the wealthy owner of the factory putting a bounty on his head.

Casey’s Last Chance is a perfect noir mystery. It is gritty, has rough characters and the main character is no angel. The writing style takes me back to the old Alfred Hitchcock Magazines I read as a very young girl. Even though his wings are tarnished, I was fond of Casey and pulled for him even in spite of his shortcomings as a person.

Atkins is currently teaching journalism at the University of Mississippi. He is a US Army Vietnam Veteran, a noted journalist and former congressional correspondent. He has written previously published short works of fiction and a non-fiction book entitled Covering for the Bosses: Labor and the Southern Press.

I highly recommend this book for fans of noir mysteries. It is complex, fast paced and true to the genre. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Atkin’s work.

 

Copyright © 2016 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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