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Book Review: Trace of Evil – Must Read Thriller

Trace of Evil

By Alice Blanchard

As the daughter of a police officer as well as the only woman detective in the department, Natalie Lockhart has to prove herself every day. The tiny town of Burning Lake, New York is renowned for killing three young women in 1712, so called witches, that were obviously innocent. Now the town celebrates the tragic deaths every fall by cashing in on everything occult. There are magic notions and potions to purchase at the gift shops and plenty of tourists to snatch them up. But there is a dark side to this tiny town.

Many of the residents, especially teens, dabble in the occult, join covens and practice their spells. Back in her youth, Natalie was once a member of a coven. But she left that far behind. Most of the covens are harmless, but some, just like some people, are pure evil. Oddly enough, in this small town there have been nine seemingly random disappearances over the past few years, and Natalie is given the task to find a common thread among them or at least solve on or two.

After suffering the loss of her sister to a violent crime as a child, Natalie takes working these cold case files seriously. But she is pulled from the cold cases and thrust into a shocking murder scene. As fate would have it, Daisy, another person that Natalie has known all her life, has been murdered. The suspect is in a coma, and things are just not adding up. Secrets held close by Daisy are unearthed. Was the killer someone Daisy knew? Maybe the little town known for burning witches over a century ago has a serial killer with a vendetta on the loose. Either way, Natalie will not stop until he or she is found and brought to justice – but at what cost?

This fast-paced thriller is impossible to put down. Ms. Blanchard’s storytelling pulls you in and doesn’t let you go until the shattering last pages. The characters come to life making you love or hate them, furiously reading so you can see what happens next. Delving into the past to save todays would be victims, Natalie takes you on her journey, feeding us clues and conclusions as they reveal themselves.

This is the first book by award winning author Alice Blanchard that I have read, but will not be the last. Trace of Evil will be available in December 2019, so put it on your Christmas list now. In the meantime, check out her other books, she has several that I can’t wait to add to read.

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

https://www.bookishfirst.com/books/trace-of-evil/reviews/must-read-for-thriller-fans

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Book Review: K-9 Cop – Fast Paced Mystery for Tweens, YA and Adults

K-9 Cop

The Dreck Report Case #1

By Erna Mueller

When K-9 Lieutenant Spencer Watley is killed in the line of duty, he is surprised to learn he can’t get straight into heaven. He knows he hasn’t been the nicest guy in the world, but come on; he’s spent his life as a cop, putting bad guys behind bars. He soon finds out the he will be going back to earth in body of his K-9 dog, with a mission to help Justin Andrews.

Justin is a young man adrift. Since his mother died, the 14-year-old has had trouble dealing with everyday life. His 16-year-old sister is basically parenting him because his dad has thrown himself into is work and is rarely home. Justin is a brilliant kid, so much so, he has skipped two grades. But this leaves him with few friends and an absent father when he needs support the most. To make matters worse, he is in an accident. Now Justin cannot walk without braces, further ostracizing him from his schoolmates.

When his shaggy guardian angel shows up, Justin can’t believe his dad got him a dog. But soon he realizes that this is no ordinary dog. Justin accidentally happens upon a plot to frame his father for a crime, Spencer will be needed to help put the bad guys away and keep Justin and his family safe.

This fast-paced, action packed novel is great for tweens, YA and adults. It is entertaining and amusing. The clues all lead up to the final scenes where the good guys prevail. Honestly, the entire time I read the last chapters I was picturing this as a movie – think Home Alone where the kid outsmarts the bad guys with hilarious antics – all the while getting the jump on the bad guys and making the readers chuckle and outright laugh.

K-9 Cop is the first in what I can only hope is a long series of adventures featuring Spencer and Justin. I highly recommend this book for kids and grownups alike.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the author. I voluntarily read and reviewed this book.  Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Tin Badges – Fast Paced Page Turner

Tin Badges

By Lorenzo Carcaterra

New York City detectives Tank Rizzo and Pearl Monroe carried a gold badge up until the fateful day when both of them lost their jobs. But Pearl lost so much more. Now both of them hold a tin badge, one that has few privileges of their former life, but it does open some doors. The duo works cold cases that the NYPD doesn’t have time to investigate thanks to the Chief of Police that has a soft spot for both of them.

When the case involving a couple of young women, who are beaten and sexually abused is tossed their way, it is so cold they might need gloves to hold it. No one has worked it for a while because the ladies are most likely hookers and no one really seems to care. Tank and Pearl dig into the case with the help of their brilliant, yet ragtag group. They discover the assault is just the tip of the iceberg. One that is full of drugs, murders and gangs that the two with tin badges are determined to bring to justice.

As if Tank doesn’t have enough on his plate, the brother that he hasn’t spoken with in years dies in an icy car accident along with his wife. This leaves his now orphaned teenage nephew, Chris, living with him in his NY brownstone. Chris is smart, mad at the world and crushed that his parents are gone; leaving him with the only family he has but doesn’t know. Tank loved his brother and willingly takes in Chris. Now he has to keep his nephew safe while working the case, which isn’t going to be easy. Chris is a crime buff and wants to be part of the team that takes the bad guys down and the good news/bad news is he is an expert at finding information that Tank and his team needs.

This fasted paced novel has page-turning action and is filled with the passion the characters have for their jobs, families and friends. Tank is the perfect leading man in the group of brilliant but ragtag crime solvers. His connections to the NYPD and old mobsters create a cast that entertains readers from the first page to the last. His love of NY City is evident as the story unfolds and the secret he holds close to his heart kept me guessing throughout the story.

Carcaterra is a Native New Yorker. A writer for over twenty years, he is a NY Times number one bestselling author. The prolific author has written several books, one of which, Sleepers, was adapted as a film in 1996 of the same name. I can’t wait to read some of his other books. Hopefully there will be a sequel to Tin Badges or better yet, a series with these interesting, complex characters. If you are a fan of Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme or Patterson’s Alex Cross, you will love Tin Badges.

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 Arrangement – Desperate Times Call for … Murder?

The Arrangement

By Robyn Harding

Small town girl Natalie is out of her element. It is her choice, but life is harder and more expensive in New York City than she could have imagined. Loving the freedom and following her dream of art school is the best part of her life. Unfortunately money is a big problem. She lives with two roommates but is way behind on her portion of the rent. She loses the job that is barely keeping her head above water and turning the alcohol isn’t helping.

One of her friends at school offers Nat a solution to her situation. Ava has a posh apartment, stylish clothes, makeup and hair. When she reveals to Nat that she is a sugar baby, Ava tells Natalie that she dates men for money. Quickly explaining to Nat that sugar babies can just date older men, no sex has to be involved – unless it is her choice. At first Nat is repelled by the idea of dating men for money, but the amount of cash the sugar daddy pays for a dinner date could catch her up on the money she owes her roommates. After much deliberation, she decides that she will go on a date or two, get the cash and get out. The only problem is she really likes Gabe, her sugar daddy.

Falling for Gabe was easy for Nat; he is gorgeous, smart and rich. She starts to depend on the lifestyle and wants more than dinner and going to the theater. Things quickly begin to unravel. Soon she finds out he has secrets. Just how far will Nat go to have Gabe to herself? She is convinced they love each other and are destined to be together. But his family may not agree.

In the prologue of this fast paced novel, Natalie is calling her estranged father from the police station stating she has killed someone and needs his help. So the reader knows from the beginning that someone dies. It is a delicious bit of information that was always in the back of my mind. Who will die and why? While this isn’t a mystery, the element of the unknown is a fabulous addition to the complex plot.

The Arrangement is the perfect glimpse into a life most of us will never see – or want to ever be a part of. Ms. Harding explains in Acknowledgments the depth of research she did before writing The Arrangement. Doing her homework on the subject is what brought this book alive, and made the characters real. It is the first book I’ve read from this author and I highly recommend it.

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: Girls of Pearl Harbor – Page Turning Historical Fiction

The Girls of Pearl Harbor

By Soraya M. Lane

 

Sisters April and Grace, along with their best friend Poppy are on an adventure. At least for now that is what it feels like. The girls have been close for years, and when April decided to follow her dream to become a nurse in the military, Poppy and Grace went along. They were far from dedicated in the beginning; Grace couldn’t even stand the sight of blood. But all of them made it through nursing school and enlisted. Their assignment was in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It was 1941 and they seemed to spend more time on the beach than nursing, which was working out fine for Grace.

Then tragedy struck. Pearl Harbor was attacked. Life as they had grown accustom to was forever changed. People very close to them died that day and the wounded needed the nurse’s care more than ever before.

After the initial tragic days, it was evident the girls might not be staying in Pearl Harbor because they needed to be closer to the action to help our wounded soldiers. When April decided to go to Africa, her sister insisted on going also. They were needed there, but the living conditions were poor and the injuries were much worse than they encountered in Hawaii.

Their personal lives were in turmoil as well. Grace trying to be her own person and April always trying to mother her didn’t help. The girls love and depend upon each other, but even sisters have secrets they don’t want to share.

The Girls of Pearl Harbor allows the reader to enter an historical event from an angle different than most. All Americans as well as most of the world have heard about the attack that brought the United States into the war, but the characters bringing the reality to readers from each of their different perspectives was very interesting.

I also liked that choice of the girls going to Africa instead of the South Pacific as was expected. I didn’t realize that much fighting during the war was based there, as well as the brave nurses and other medical personnel that were needed to care for the wounded.

The characters were interesting and multidimensional. The growth in the nurses, as well as the way each of them handled their job as well as their personal losses, was an integral part of the plot and well done. The only thing that didn’t ring true was the amount of time they spent holding each other’s hands, grasping hands, clutching hands…it seemed as though they could not walk anywhere without all of them holding hands like toddlers. I even asked my aunt who lived on the base at Pearl Harbor while her husband was stationed there in the late 1940s if women held hands all the time. She answered no, they did not. I understand once in a while when someone is upset, but it got to be too frequent for me, taking away from the story.

Overall, The Girls of Pearl Harbor was very interesting and the characters likeable. I recommend it to fans of historical fiction and women’s fiction.

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: Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe – What Will Your Legacy Be?

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe

By Heather Webber

Anna Kate arrives in her tiny hometown of Wicklow, Alabama for the first time since she was a child. She is there to lay her beloved grandmother, Zee, to rest. She has to stay for a couple of months according to her grandma’s will. Anna Kate has to run her grandma’s Blackbird Café and then sell it before she can begin medical school in the fall.

She hasn’t been back to Wicklow since she was a child. At her grandmother’s knee she learned to make the famous pies for the Blackbird Café. It is rumored that if you ate a piece of the pie, your deceased relatives would send you messages at night. No one could or wanted to explain it, but most everyone in town believed it.

At Zee’s funeral, not only were the townspeople in attendance, the blackbirds were also there, which is unusual since the townspeople know they only come out at midnight, sing for an hour then leave. When word got out about the blackbirds unusual behavior, bird lovers began to flock to Wicklow.

Anna Kate is determined to leave, but every passing day she falls more in love with the town and it’s residents. Her heart is opening up to the people and the blackbirds. What will happen if she leaves now? The only people she wants to get away from are her father’s family. She blames them for pushing her mother out of the town and their lives. They blame her mother for her father’s death.

From the very first pages the characters jump off the pages into the reader’s heart. Anna Kate is torn between her feelings and a promise she made to her dying mother. She has to choose between what her heart says is right and her responsibility. But each passing day she begins to see more clearly what and who the results of her decision will affect. What will her legacy be?

So many of the townspeople are memorable, it is hard to pick one or two to highlight, but I’ll give it my best shot. The head birder is a hoot. The town busybody made me chuckle. Natalie, Anna Kate’s aunt (who she first meets at the café) is a broken woman after her young husband’s death but is determined to be a great mom to her adorable daughter Ollie. Mr. Cat seems to know things no one else does and has a great sense of direction.

Heather Webber (also writes as Heather Blake) is a prolific writer of over twenty-five novels. I have read and enjoyed several of her cozy mysteries. Midnight at the Blackbird Café has an element of mystery about Anna Kate’s parents, but it is an absolutely fabulous work of women’s fiction. I could not put it down and now that I finished it, I keep thinking of the town that has something special for the residents as well as the readers. Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe needs to be on your summer reading list.

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: 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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