Tag Archives: fiction

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: 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: 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: Wish You Were Here- Fabulous New Novel By Jodi Picoult

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Diana always wanted to be an artist like her father, and has created a definite plan for her life, both personal and professional. After school she became an associate specialist at Sotheby’s in New York. She is on the fast track to success. She and Finn, her boyfriend, are currently living together and she is sure they will be married soon. Finn is a surgical resident and has the same drive and ambition as Diana.

The couple’s plan to go to the Galapagos is the one of the boxes they plan to check off this year. Soon in fact. Even though the trip is expensive, they have decided it is worth it. Of course, that is before a virus begins to plague New York and the rest of the world. Plans begin to disintegrate both personally and globally for the couple. Finn is working double shifts and is afraid to come home and expose Diana. He insists that she needs to go to the Galapagos and he will meet her there once the virus is contained. Reluctantly she decides to go alone.

Once Diana gets to the island, she realizes she cannot leave. Nor can Finn – or anyone else join her. Restaurants and hotels are not open and her luggage has been lost. So begins her journey she never planned to be a part of, but is now required to continue.

From the first pages I was hooked on Jodi Picoult’s story and characters. She is an expert at drawing readers into the story with true to life fiction that grabs you in the first few pages and doesn’t let go until the last words. There is a fabulous twist in the end of Wish You Were Here that will shock and surprise readers. I highly recommend this book to men and women alike – all readers love a masterpiece of fiction and Wish You Were Here is truly one of the best.

Ms. Picoult is one of my favorite authors. She has total mastery of the words and stories she writes that keeps readers anxiously waiting for her next book. She always delivers books that readers will think about long after the last pages are finished. I have met her at book signings, attended book talks and chatted with her at a book fair – and it won’t come as a surprise to most of you – she is charming and quite nice. It is not surprising to hear she has had twelve books that have debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Five of her novels have been made into movies (read the book first – the movies are good but the book is exponentially better).

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 Essence of Nathan Biddle – Must Read Debut Novel

By J. William Lewis

The Essence of Nathan Biddle is a literary coming of age novel that is destine to be a best seller. It begins with Nathan mourning the death of his cousin on the first anniversary of the event. Seemingly inconceivable to everyone, especially Nathan, that the boy he’d grown up with has been slain. So begins Nathan’s journey through the last of his teenage years, trying to make sense of this senseless act as well as how to move on from the stigma that shrouds his family because of it.

Life goes on no matter what personal problems Nathan is dealing with. He has fallen in love with a girl that once reciprocated his affections, but now she is moving on. He is obsessed with her which begins to color every decision he makes, both good and bad. Once a scholar, his junior year of high school was a disaster. If he doesn’t start working to his potential, college will be questionable at best. He was a track star until he stopped going to practices, prompting the coach to threaten to cut him from the team if he doesn’t get his head straight soon. When tragedy strikes again, Nathan will have to sink or swim in the life he has instead of the life he wants.

It is hard to believe that The Essence of Nathan Biddle is J. William Lewis’ debut novel. It is a beautiful work of fiction with characters that come alive on the pages. From the first pages, the reader is invested in the characters and enthralled with the plot. This is one of those books that keeps you thinking of it long after the last pages are read. I highly recommend it and cannot wait to read the next book written by this author.

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: Murder She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond – Iconic Cozy Mystery Series

By Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farey Moran

Jessica Fletcher is excited to visit her dear friend Dolores in South Carolina. What she didn’t bargain for is stumbling upon the body of Dolores’ new husband, Willis, dead in the Koi Pond. Sheriff Halvorson is quick to target Dolores as the killer, which Jessica isn’t having any part of. She begins to investigate, immediately discovering a long list of people that hated the victim. In order to clear her friend from suspicion, Jessica sets out to find the real killer.

Willis held many secrets, and used them to get what he wanted from his friends and business associates. Jessica and Dolores begin looking through his business and personal files, peeling back the layers to find a motive for his murder. Unfortunately, the list of suspects keeps growing, and the stakes of finding the killer are getting higher every day.

This cozy mystery series is as delightful as the popular television series of the same name. It is true to form for the cozy mystery genre. The murder is done “off stage” and found by Jessica Fletcher. She begins sleuthing when her friend is in trouble. There are several suspects, and the end is always tied up neatly.

It is fun to read as well as trying to figure out the identity of the killer and his or her motive before the reveal in the final chapters. If you are a fan of the television series, like me, you may just hear Angela Lansbury’s voice in your head when reading Jessica’s conversations.

Killing in a Koi Pond is not Shakespeare, nor are is intended to be. It is a perfect cozy, containing one of the most iconic amateur sleuths ever immortalized in print. The solid plot and engaging characters are satisfying and entertaining. 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 © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: By the Way – Eclectic Short Story Compilation – Loved it!

By: Caperton Tissot

Caperton Tissot gives readers an interestingly eclectic mix of topics in her latest book of short stories. Each one is unique, fun to read and often shows us glimpses of real people we have encountered or perhaps we are related to.

There are seventeen stories just waiting to be read. It is hard to pick a favorite because I enjoyed them all. I will pick a few of them that really stand out and give you a quick, one line review of each.

“Pea Soup”: This story has a quirky end that made me laugh – I enjoy dark humor.

“Rose Hall”: Set in 1935, the author reminds us that the good old days may not have been so good.

“Beauty and the Frog”: Some people never learn.

“Out of Bounds”: A little excitement can cause a lot of trouble.

“Slip Sliding Away”: It reminds us that there are precious things in life that often are overlooked in the frenzy. This is my favorite story in the book, I really loved it.

I personally love to read books of short stories. Life is busy for many, and to be able to read a long book is often difficult due to everyday interruptions. By the Way is perfect little snippets of life that you can read while waiting in a car pool lane or during the baby’s nap. My favorite escape is reading during lunch either at work or home. Finishing a complete story is satisfying and relaxing and gives you something to think and talk about the rest of the day.

This is the first book I have read by Ms. Tissot. She has written several others that I am interested in reading as well. Her other books include essays, history, poetry and fiction.

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 Good Sister – One of the Best Books I’ve Read this Year

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

Fern and Rose are twins. But they are as different as night and day. Rose is plump, married and has a job that demands a large portion of her life. Fern on the other hand, is tall, slender and has sensory issues, bordering on autism. She lives on her own, but depends on Rose when life becomes too overwhelming to handle or when she forgets to close the front door when she leaves the house. Fern works at the local library, loving the routine that is essential to her well-being. She meets an interesting man whom she instantly calls Wally due to his hat that resembles the one that is worn by a character in a children’s book. They soon begin a relationship of sorts.

The reader learns from the journal Rose keeps that the girls have a dark past. She writes of the way her substance abusing mother treated the girls. The trauma of the mother who changed moods like her shoes and mistreatment of Fern and Rose is well outlined. She can no longer hurt them, but what’s done is done and it has deeply changed both of the girls forever. But Rose is determined to keep Fern out of trouble by taking charge as if Fern is her daughter, not her twin.

Watching one sister thrive and the other spiraling downward is interestingly portrayed by the author. The characters ebb and flow with and against each other throughout the pages. The anguish is palpable and further deepens an already complex plot. Conversely, the story is easy to read. It is perfection. There is a twist at the end that I did not anticipate, elevating this book to another level. As someone who reads many books, this one will stand out in my mind for a long time.

This is the first book I’ve read by Ms. Hepworth, but will not be the last. Based in Melbourne, Australia, she has written four previous books. The Secrets of Midwives, in 2015 is her best-selling novel. I daresay The Good Sister is destined to become a best-seller as well.

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

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Book Review: Still Crazy – Debut Fiction

By Judy Prescott Marshall

By Judy Prescott Marshall

Julie Holliday is certain her husband Dan is cheating on her. Again. She is still in love with him, and prays that he will stop his philandering, but time and time again she finds evidence that he is involved with other women. She begins to plan her escape. Heartbroken, she sells her beloved bakery and slowly liquidates her rental properties.

Leaving the man she has loved since they were young is not easy, but she cuts all ties with friends and family so that he cannot find her. Driving without a destination, she comes upon a small town in Rhode Island and soon makes it her home. Using her savings to purchase a large home, she finds a local handyman to help her renovate it. He is like a father to her. The transformation to an inn makes Julie happy, but never brings her peace. She is still in love with the man she left behind.

Still Crazy is a book of hope and rejuvenation. The characters grow and mature throughout the novel. The setting is ideal. The serenity of a small New England town is the perfect backdrop for healing a heartache and building a new life.

This is the first novel by Judy Prescott Marshall. She is the sauthor of a sef-help non-fiction book: Be Strong Enough. Still Crazy is the first book in a series, the second, The Inn in Rhode Island, will be at your local bookstores soon. I recommend Still Crazy to fans of Hallmark movies and books as well as onyone who enjoys a strong woman’s story of survival.

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

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