Tag Archives: family

Book Review: Murder from Scratch – Delicious Culinary Cozy

Murder from Scratch

By Leslie Karst

Restaurant owner, chef and part-time amateur sleuth Sally Solari is back and things are heating up both in and out of the kitchen. First of all, one of her cooks has an attitude. Brian has been on edge, and it is affecting his co-workers in a less than desirable way. Maybe he is worried about Sally going into joint ownership of Gauguin, the restaurant she inherited from her aunt, with Javier her head chef. And secondly, her father calls with an unusual request. Apparently a relative by marriage has been found dead by her twenty-year-old blind daughter Evelyn. Italian family ties are strong, even if you have not seen a relative in years, you still help them. So Sally’s dad brought Evelyn to his house because she has nowhere else to go. She is more than welcome, but her service dog has made Sally’s dad’s allergies kick into high gear. Of course Sally welcomes Evelyn and her dog into her home. She is looking forward to getting to know her better.

When Evelyn begins to tell Sally about her mother’s death ruled a suicide, the girls soon realize foul play is most likely what happened. Apparently Evelyn’s mom was a gifted chef and had recently struck out on her own, leaving a disgruntled boss behind.  Then there are the suspicious co-workers that might be hiding something. Before long the suspect list becomes longer than the specials menu at Gauguin and Sally is determined to prove her aunt’s death was not an accident or suicide, but a well-planned murder.

Detective Vargas warns Sally to stay away from her list of suspects, knowing it is futile. He just wants her out of harm’s way. When he asks her to call him by his first name, Sally wonders if he may want to have a more personal relationship. Speaking of personal relationships, her ex-boyfriend Max is apparently seeing someone. She has mixed feelings about the whole thing. They are just friends, right? Then why is she upset about him seeing another woman?

This is the fourth book in this series, but the third I have read. Somehow I missed the first one, but have added it to my reading list. There are references to the previous books, but reads fine as a stand-alone novel if you have not read the previous books.

If you read my reviews, you know by now I am a fan of cozy mysteries. I know they are not War and Peace, but no one ever intended them to be. Karst delivers an intriguing plot with lots of suspects, characters that come to life in the pages and a satisfying end to the story. It is all a reader can ask for and more. I learned many things in Murder from Scratch about how blind people navigate through their lives as well as what it is like to work in and run a restaurant. And as a bonus, there are recipes at the end of the book for some of the dishes discussed in the novel.

I highly recommend this series if you are a mystery lover, crazy for cozies or just love a good plot without the blood and gore. You will not be disappointed.

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 Reviews: Chronicles of a Radical Hag – How Well Do We Really Know Anyone?

Chronicles of a Radical Hag

by  Lorna Ladvik

Haze Evans, columnist for the Granite Creek Gazette suffers a massive stroke at the beginning of Chronicles of a Radical Hag but the book is filled with her words and opinions on life. Haze has been writing columns for as long as anyone can remember. Sometimes her columns are lighthearted in nature, but most often with her strong opinions about social issues of the day. She takes on topics that others might shy away from, and gives her own personal take on everything from abortion to assassinations while making each topic even more personal by sharing her life stories bits and pieces at a time.

Susan, the editor of the paper decides to run Haze’s columns while her favorite columnist is hospitalized. Susan’s high school age son Sam is enlisted to work for his mom by reading through Haze’s columns to see which ones would be appropriate to run as well as the responses Haze received on the topics. He is an introverted teen with a lot on his mind, mainly the recent affair his father has had which lead to his parents separation.

Sam soon becomes engrossed in Haze’s columns, advice and the people who love and hate her opinions. The Gazette readers are finding a new side of their favorite columnist by reading Haze’s opinions from years ago. This interest has encouraged the local high school kids to really discuss issues in their English class instead of the usual disinterest in the meaning of text. Some of the kids have even begun writing – pen to paper – writing down their opinions and thoughts.

While Haze seems to have opened her life to her readers, Sam uncovers some things that she has never shared. The further he digs he realizes that one of the secrets could have an impact on his family. But honestly, we cannot know everything about a person, each of us has something we don’t share with others that might surprise even the best of friends.

Ms. Ladvik creates a town of engaging characters, old and young. As the reader gets to know each of them, it is easy to see why they behave like they do. Watching them grow and learn is a gift to the reader. It gives us hope for the change that true dialog with others whether written or conversing can initiate.

This is the first book that I have read by Ms. Ladvik, but not the first she has written. When I popped over to her website, I found that this is her 15th book. How I could have missed her engaging writing style reminiscent of Fanny Flagg is beyond me. I will be adding the other 14 to my reading list.

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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Book Review: The Drowned Girl – Thought Provoking Mystery

The Drowned Girl (previously published as Only One Life)

By Sara Blaedel

Officer Louise Rick travels an hour out of Copenhagen to a small town to help the Unit One Mobile Task Force investigate the horrific murder of a young girl. She was found submerged in the bay by a local fisherman. Suicide is out of the question as she was tethered to a concrete block. Was this an act of random violence? Was she killed by someone she knew? Or was this an honor killing?

The dead teen is Muslim. Her parents live by the rules of their religion, which makes the investigation much more difficult due to their lack of cooperation due to fear and tradition. Unfortunately, information comes to light that may point to a private side of the young victim. Her parents may have found out about her secret which could have brought dishonor to their family.

Enter crime reporter Camilla, close friend of Louise. She jumps into the story and latches onto the honor killing theory. Her editor wants more of this angle, but the deeper Camilla dives into the lives of the Muslim families, the more she wants to help them by finding the truth. But her articles are stirring up a hornet’s nest of preconceived notions that will result in a bigger divide between Danish and Muslims. Will this lead to more violence?

Not only is this a solid mystery, but the thread of prejudice that affects the different groups of people is woven throughout the plot. This multilayered story makes the reader pause to think about listening more and learning more about others they may fear or dislike without foundation.

Some books that are translated from a different language are difficult to read. The Drowned Girl is not one of those books. The flow and read was perfect. Even though this is the first novel I’ve read by Blaedel, it is not the first mystery featuring Louise Rick, but I never felt as though I didn’t know enough about the characters to fully understand the story. Actually, it was quite the opposite. Not only were the main characters shown doing their jobs, but personal lives, hopes and dreams are woven throughout to bring them to life and enrich the story.

This intriguing mystery is entertaining and thought provoking. The plot kept me guessing until the last chapters. Just when I thought I knew who the killer was, my theory would be debunked in the next chapter. This is a perfect multilayered book. If you like depth of characters and the tough topics in Jodi Picoult books, you will love Blaedel’s writing style.

Sara Blaedel is a prolific Danish author, who now resides in New York. She is the recipient of several awards including the Golden Laurel, Denmark’s most prestigious literary award.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher/author in connection with Killer Nashville in return for my review. Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Art of Hiding – Fab Find!

Art of HidingThe Art of Hiding

By Amanda Prowse

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

Nina lives a charmed life. Her husband owns an extremely successful construction company, she has two sons she adores and spends her days as a housewife and mom. Gone are the difficult days of her childhood. She was so young when her mother died that she only remembers a few things about her. Her dad tried his best, but work was scarce so Nina and her older sister Tiggy were raised by their grandmother. She wasn’t the kindest woman. Undoubtedly she was trying, but there was never enough space or food during those years.

Life changed the moment Nina fell for Finn. He swept her off her feet and promised to give her the world. He followed through on that promise. When they moved into their home, The Tynings, they filled it with high end furniture, lovingly picked out together. Nina no longer worried about money; Finn took care of paying all of the bills and making sure their family had everything they needed and wanted.

Nina was at her son’s high school the day her world began to collapse. She receive a call from the hospital, Finn had been in an accident. She was devastated. Her sons, Conner and Declan were shocked by the news and Nina was determined to keep everything together for them. They only had a few days left until a break from the private school they attended, so both boys returned to their routine to keep things as normal as possible.

Then, to make matters worse, the shattering news that Finn had been hiding something slammed into Nina like a runaway train. The results would change the lives of Nina and her sons forever.

This is an amazing novel. The depth of Nina’s pain is profoundly sad, yet hopeful. She loved and trusted her husband, but now his memory is forever tainted with his deeds. Her life has become a struggle again and she doesn’t know how she will be able to go on. If it weren’t for her two sons she might give up.

The growth and change of the characters is one of the best story lines I have read in a long time. Prowse pulls the reader in and takes you with Nina through the good and bad. It makes the reader think about the most important things in life. You can decide if you think money can buy happiness. I also love the way family and friends play a big part in this novel. Can the love of family transcend years of estrangement and hurtful slights that have piled up over years?

The Art of Hiding is the first book I’ve read by Amanda Prowse, but I guarantee it will not be the last. I cannot express how much I loved this book. The characters, the plot, and the emotions it inspires are a roller coaster ride in reading bliss. I cried when Connor gave his speech at the sports award night, I laughed at the sister’s demolition of an offending wall. The end of the book was realistic and satisfying. I suggest getting this book as soon as possible and carving out time to enjoy Prowse’s expert storytelling.

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Book Review: Bookshop at Water’s End – Great Summer Read

The Bookshop at Water’s End

By Patti Callahan Henry

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from  Net Galley and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Lainey and Bonnie have been best friends since they were children. Bonnie’s parents owned a summer vacation home on a tidal river that surrounds a small town. Lainey’s family spent vacations with Bonnie’s family at the River House . As youngsters, they fancied themselves as a pair of modern day Nancy Drews. During their explorations around the tiny town they made notes in a notebook of unsolved mysteries and clues as to what and why things happened. The thing they never could fully explain was why Lainey’s mother had disappeared one night at the River House, never to return.

Fast forward to adulthood – Bonnie has become a renowned doctor and Lainey is a celebrated artist. They live on opposite sides of the country, but keep in touch. They rarely see one another. When Bonnie’s world comes crashing down around her ears, threatening everything she values, she calls Lainey to join her at the River House.

Lainey, fighting the demons from her past, agrees to come. She is bringing her small children with her. Bonnie is bringing her reluctant daughter Piper along to help her restore the River House for sale. Home from her first year of college Piper does not want to go, or babysit Lainey’s kids, but Bonnie has promised her services.

Ghosts from the past are stirring. They seem to arrive with the tides. When the past collides with the present, will Lainey and Bonnie survive? Will the answers they have searched for since childhood finally become clear?

The bookshop owner Mimi has an integral role in The Bookshop at Water’s End. She supplies the background narrative in many places to add depth and important facts about the past. Expertly spun together, the past and present emerge as one like the tributaries of the tidal river that flows around the town.

The realistic characters had flaws. Not just a little added issue, but real, glaring flaws. That brought them to life. Just like real people that have secrets, bad relationships and make mistakes – big mistakes that could be life changing. I loved that about them, all humans make bad decisions that seemed like a good idea at the time.

The story is deep and rich, without being heavy. It is a perfect summer (or anytime) read. The mystery isn’t the focus of the plot, but is always popping up as it colors the thoughts and actions of the main characters. This is not a cozy, but more of a women’s fiction with a vein of mystery running throughout.

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times bestselling author. This is the first book I’ve read of Ms. Henry’s but it will not be the last.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Small Great Things – Another Fabulous Book by Jodi Picoult

Small Great ThingsSmall Great Things

A Novel

by Jodi Picoult

Ruth is the daughter of a housekeeper. When school was out, she and her sister would go with their Mama to the big house. They either stayed quietly in the kitchen while their mother worked or sometimes play with the daughter of the family. On one such day a premature baby shaped the three young girl’s lives. Ruth grew up to become a labor and delivery nurse. But more importantly, it was a moment of perfect harmony between classes and races that Ruth would not see again for many years.

Fast forward from 1976 to current day and we find Ruth still doing what she loves. She helps bring new babies into the world, comforts new parents and even helps ease the unspeakable burden when something goes terribly wrong. Until the fateful day she had to decide between the orders she was given and trying to save a baby’s life. No matter what choice she made it was not going to be right, but she could have never imagined she would have ended up in jail for murder.

Enter Turk. He and his wife are in the hospital for the delivery of their first child. Everything was going great until Ruth came in to check on the newborn and his mother. Turk demanded to see Ruth’s supervisor then insisted Ruth was not to come near his child. For no other reason other than he was a White Supremacist and she is an African American. Did his actions lead to the death of his firstborn.

Kennedy is the public defender that is given the task of sorting the details out to defend Ruth in court. She normally doesn’t take cases of this magnitude, but after the initial court appearance, she is compelled to help Ruth. But can her upper class back ground understand the issues of a black woman and defend her?

Jodi Picoult takes social issues out of the headlines, researches the issues from every side and then researches some more. The facts and interviews are fictionalized, and then put together in a way that leaves each side distinguishable and intact, yet interacting with the other sides. One of my professors in college used to say the United States used to be a melting pot, but was now a tossed salad – with lots of individual parts adding to it each keeping their individuality. Some of the ingredients are sweet, some are sour, and some are unknown until you give them a try. This is how I see Picoult’s characters; they are rich, full and different as day and night but are put together for some reason and have to work it out – much like real life.

I am the first one to say Jodi Picoult is, in my opinion, one of the greatest authors today. I have read almost all of her books. She has made me laugh, cry, or become outraged over the issues her characters faced that often seem so unfair. I can honestly say I have never finished one of her books without talking about it to everyone I know that reads and loaning them out so others will enjoy them also.

On a personal note, I’ve met her at several book signings and book talks. She is as delightful in person as she seems in interviews and online. If you get a chance to go to one of her book talks and signings, please do so.

Small Great Things will be available on October 11, 2016 and you can pre-order it now at your favorite bookstore.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley in return for my review. Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Trish’s Team – A Great New Tween Book

Trish's TeamTrish’s Team

Part of the Lady Tigers Series

By Dawn Brotherton

Trish loves softball. She is a twelve-year-old dynamo on the field and a pretty great kid off the field. She is serious about the game, but not obsessed with winning. Overall, she is mature for her age, but when she makes one bad decision it affects all aspects of her life.

In order to join the Lady Tigers Softball team she has to give up her violin lessons. Giving up her involvement in the orchestra that has been a part of her life for several years would be a hard thing for Trish to do. She loves playing the violin, and her parents have invested a lot of money in lessons and her instrument.

Her parents are very busy. They are too busy to be around on the weekends and evenings due to meetings, golf games and exhaustion from their demanding lives. Most of the time this has worked out ok, but unfortunately Trish takes advantage of their inattentiveness to deceive them.

She feels guilty and conflicted after making this choice, and soon it becomes a house of cards, threatening to crumble. Will she be able to make amends before it is too late?

This is the first book in Brotherton’s Lady Tigers Series. It is a solid story with interesting and engaging characters. The interaction of  Trish with her friends and parents is refreshingly honest and reads like She shows empathy and feels guilty when she does something wrong. When her lies start to catch up with her she becomes physically sick.

It is written for young readers, deftly showing how one decision can affect many other things and people without being “preachy”. It also demonstrates how conflicted tweens are; mature and childlike while struggling to find their way to adulthood. This is not a heavy book, but it addresses many social issues in interesting ways. For example, the kindness of Trish and her friends to a new girl that someone else is not being nice to is understated but very important.

At the end of the book there is a glossary of softball terms in case the reader isn’t familiar with the game. The descriptions of the games add excitement and action to keep the pace quick and interesting

This is the first book in Award Winning Dawn Brotherton’s Lady Tigers Series. She also writes the Jackie Austin Mystery Series. She is currently serving as a colonel in the United States Air Force Reserve and is married with two daughters.

I am looking forward to the next Lady Tigers book, and highly recommend it to tweens. I am also adding the Jackie Austin Mystery Series to my list of books I want to read. I can’t wait to read more of Brotherton’s books.

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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