Tag Archives: fiction

Book Review: Somebody Else’s Troubles – Must Read Literary Fiction

Somebody Else’s Troubles

By J. A. English

 

Travers Landeman is not a happy man. He has always done what is right, often at the expense of his own peace of mind and happiness. On the day he decides to disappear he doesn’t hesitate or have regrets about leaving. He does have regrets for some of the choices he made in life. Guilt can be overwhelming and is one of the demons that haunts him. Becoming a man of action instead of reaction was not an easy journey, but he is willing to take the first step. While most of the people in his former life don’t really care that he is gone, there is one man that is determined to find him. If he succeeds, this could ruin the new life that Travers has created.

On the tiny island of Mabuhay, he meets Marguerite. She spent time in the United States going to school and learning how cruel life can be. She does not talk about what happened, but does not trust white men.

Somebody Else’s Troubles is interesting and complicated. Amidst self-loathing and regret, peace is found by forgiveness and love. It is easy to read but hard to forget. J. A. English brings his characters into controversial situations, then shows the consequences of how they deal with them. He makes the reader think about situations they may have encountered or will encounter; he brings a realism into the story that will resonate with readers on a deep level. This is the best work of literary fiction I have read in years, I loved it.

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: Quiet Screams to the Quiet Healer – Fascinating Debut Novel

Quiet Screams to the Quiet Healer

By Nilanjana Haldar

This is the story of Sanjana, told from her point of view. She grows from a frightened school girl listening to her father abuse her mother to a confident young woman. Now a doctor, she becomes part of a secret society formed to heal and help others being abused, as well as those with mental health problems, bolstering them by sharing her strength and experiences.

Her journey begins like many others living with daily abuse, but brings a bright ray of hope that life can and will change if you take steps to do so. She discovers there is forgiveness in cleansing, which changes her life as well as many others.

Her life intertwines with a mysterious man that seems to be available to help whenever she is in need, but disappears from her life as soon as she is safe. Other connections and some mystical events by seemingly ordinary people will intrigue the reader until the very last pages when all is explained.

The novel is set in India and it has a different cadence than most books written in English. But that being said, it is not difficult to read, nor is it confusing. I liken it to speaking to someone who knows English perfectly as a second language and often adds bits of their native tongue into the dialog. I have a dear friend from Pakistan whose voice I heard in my head when some of the characters spoke. I was thoroughly engaged with the plot and characters from start to finish.

Ms. Haldar is a doctor and motivational speaker as well as an author and poet. This is her debut book. The pain both physically and mentally was gripping and unnervingly real for the characters and reader. The underlying story of strength, courage and transformation of the characters to strong, healthy individuals is heartwarming and uplifting. This novel  contains graphic incidences of abuse.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: What You Wish For – Can Dreams Come True?

What You Wish For

By Katherine Center

School Librarian Samantha Casey is happy in life, but not in love. She adores her job in the small, private school and the children she teaches. Her co-workers are kind, fun and have accepted her into their fold with open arms. The little community on Galveston Island, Texas is just what she is searching for after fleeing her last job. She loved the school she worked in, but after falling for one of the most amazing men she had ever met, his rebuff was too hard to live with. She moved to a small town and immediately felt at home and loved her new job at Kempner School.

After the devastating death of her boss Max, the principle and founder of Kempner School, everything changes in the small community. His replacement is named, and is none other than Duncan Carpenter, the man Sam fell head over heels for at her previous job. Not only will he be her boss, but the fun-loving crazy dressing man she knew is gone. And the new Duncan is sucking all of the joy out of the new school and town she now calls home. He is threatening to change everything she loves with new rules and joyless tactics based upon keeping all of the children safe in the eventuality of violence that he experienced firsthand.

Max’s widow Babette seems to be allowing all of the changes, but she is willing to hatch a scheme with Sam and a few friends to convince Duncan to enjoy, not fear life. In doing so, Sam will have to spend more time with Duncan, which makes her uncomfortable, but she’ll do almost anything to keep Max’s legacy alive.

What You Wish For is a deep, yet fast and easy to read novel.  It deals with love, loss and the devastation of a school shooting (that is presented as a memory of one of the characters). Ms. Center also writes of love, joy and happiness. The kindness of the characters as well as the love the residents of the town have for each other and the school will remain with you long after the last pages are read.

This is the first book I have read by Katherine Center and I absolutely loved it. I will seek out her previous seven books and add them to my list. The message of hope and love is especially important now, I highly recommend this book.

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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Side Trip – Join Joy and Dylan On A Trip You Will Never Forget

Side Trip

By Kerry Lonsdale

Guilt drives Joy to live her sister’s best life instead of her own. All of her choices in life hinge on this question: “What would Judy do, say or wear”. That is how she finds herself on a road trip, marking off the Route 66 Bucket List her dead sister created several years ago.

What Joy or Judy didn’t plan on is a stranger accompanying her on the trip. Against her better judgement, Joy picks up a man in Ludlow, California. Dylan is a musician, desperate for a ride after his car breaks down at a tiny roadside diner. Joy feels sorry for him and agrees to take him to his next stop. Their mutual love of music allows Joy to lower her defenses and agree to take Dylan to the rest of his gigs on Route 66 and drop him off at the airport before meeting her fiancé in New York. The only caveat is he has to accompany her on the side trips along the way that will allow Joy to complete the Bucket List. He agrees and so begins an adventure like no other for both of them.

Both Dylan and Joy have secrets and baggage. They have lives outside of the VW Bug that transports them through the heartland of the United States. As the miles roll by, they become closer. If only Dylan didn’t live his life in California and Joy didn’t have a fiancé, they might act upon their growing attraction. Road trips cannot last forever. Theirs is quickly coming to an end.

Ms. Lonsdale takes the reader along for the ride with her characters. We hear the music in the Bug as well as in the seedy bars Dylan sings in at night. She makes us long for the warm rains that are made for dancing with abandon that the travelers encounter one afternoon.

The strong characters are engaging, interesting and could be someone you know. The road trip itself is much more than a setting, coming alive on the pages as we travel along on Route 66. The plot has some twists and turns I did not expect, but absolutely loved.

This is the second book I have read by Kerry Lonsdale, and so far, my favorite. I really enjoyed her previous book, Last Summer, but I could not put Side Trip down, I loved the entire ride of reading this book; the characters, setting and plot. It has a hint of romance, a bit of mystery and ticks all the boxes for woman’s fiction and it is the perfect summer read. I highly recommend Side Trip; you won’t want to miss it. If you are a fan of Jodi Picoult, you will love Kerry Lonsdale’s books.

In addition to Side Trip, Ms. Lonsdale is an Amazon, Wallstreet Journal, and Washington Post bestselling author of the Everything series (Everything We Keep, Everything We left Behind and Everything We Give) as well as her standalone novels Last Summer and All the Breaking Waves.

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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Second Home – Page Turning Beach Read

The Second Home

By Christina Clancy

Wellfleet on the shore of Cape Cod houses the heart and second home of the Gordon family. It also is the place of the explosive event that rips the family apart. Based upon lies, pain and heartache, it seems as though the rift is insurmountable. Eventually the grown children, Poppy, Ann and Michael must confront the past in order to see the possibilities of the future.

Ann is the oldest, most logical and on the path she has walked since she was a child. She is a good student with lots of friends and activities to keep her busy and happy. Poppy lives in Ann’s shadow, but she adores her. Things begin to unravel for her during her teens as she finds a new group of friends that are into drugs and the carefree lives of the surf scene. Michael came to the family when he was in high school. He is a close friend of Ann’s, and when his mother dies, Ann’s family adopts him. Bright and ambitious, it is just the leg up he needs to go to college. Until that fated day in Wellfleet when his world began to crumble.

Brilliantly written in first person, alternating between Ann, Poppy and Michael, the reader is pulled into the thoughts and actions of the characters. Misunderstandings and lack of communication between the main characters creates tension and conflict but they must come together after tragedy hits the family.

I love this fast-paced novel. The plot is intricate, yet easy to read. The characters are fully developed and interesting. The setting in Wellfleet makes me long to visit the shore.

It is hard to believe that The Second Home is Christina Clancy’s debut novel. The richness of the text and the depth of the story will have readers clamoring for more. Hopefully she will favor us with another novel in the near future.

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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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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: Logging Off – Hilarious Digital Detoxing

Logging Off

By Nick Spalding

Andy Bellows is so addicted to his electronic devices he has become physically ill. His physician diagnoses his symptoms and recommends a complete detoxification of any and all electronic devices for two months. Andy doesn’t think he can do it, but is grudgingly willing to give it a go.

Fergus, Andy’s best friend, is a columnist for the local newspaper. He jumps on the story, persuading Andy to let him chronical the detox for his readers. Thinking it may be a good way to stay on track, Andy agrees, but soon regrets his decision as he quickly becomes a local icon and reluctant hero for logging off all electronics except using his computer for work.

Almost immediately, Andy realizes he cannot navigate with a paper map, cannot order dinner and must learn to cook and shop at an actual store to survive. Not to mention he has to become part of society again by interacting with people via phone and in person. All of this causes anxiety and worry for him, but he is sleeping better, has actually started to talk to real, live people again and his work has improved because he has logged off. But in the end, he discovers that electronics aren’t all bad, perhaps moderation is the key– but is that possible?

This fast-paced funny romp with Bellows and his detox troubles hit close to home for many readers. His reliance on his cell phone is the norm these days. Who doesn’t use GPS, look up restaurants, shop and play a bit of solitaire or not to mention social media like Facebook and Twitter? The detox recommended is extreme, but most of us could easily stop glancing at our phones every two minutes and panicking when we’ve left it at home while out on a walk.

I loved this book and the laugh out loud humor Spalding delivers. It is the first book I’ve read by him, but certainly not the first he has written. This bestselling author has fifteen novels, two novellas and not one, but two memoirs. You can be sure I’m going to add Nick Spalding’s other work to the top of 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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Bad Love Strikes – Time Travel and History Perfectly Paired

Bad Love Strikes

By: Kevin L. Schewe MD.FACRO

The summer of 1974 opens with an eclectic group of teens calling themselves Bad Love doing what kids do. Driving motorbikes, hanging out and fooling around. But when they happen upon a secret in the desert their lives will change in an instant. Two of the members, Kevin “Bubble Butt” Schafer and Nathan “Bowmar” stumble upon the remnants of a top-secret project from the 1930’s that involved the unlikely pairing of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Albert Einstein. Named the White Hole Project, Einstein and FDR created and possibly used time travel, but kept it a secret from the world.

While doing research about time travel, Bubble Butt and Bowmar read about a mysterious event in World War II. The Phantom Fortress, a plane that landed with no one on board, intrigued them. Had the occupants of the plane time traveled just as the plane landed? The Bad Love gang soon find themselves planning to time travel to 1944 in order to find out what happened to soldiers in the plane and hopefully save a group of Jewish people and gypsies from the clutches of the remnants of the Nazi regime. They can only hope to make it back to 1974 alive, but are determined to complete the mission they have taken on no matter the outcome.

Criss crossing through time, Bad Love Strikes is full of page turning action with interesting bits of history in every chapter. The growth of the characters from carefree teens evolving to time traveling lifesaving warriors is fascinating.

Much like Guardians of The Galaxy, Bad Love Strikes has a playlist. The beginning of the book gives the readers a song to play while reading each chapter.  Songs from the 60’s and 70’s run through the reader’s head as the characters sing the words to the familiar tunes. This added a fun element that really connects readers to the characters and settings. By peppering the pages with quotes from Einstein and FDR, Schewe skillfully brings bits of history to his novel in an interesting way.

Schewe, is a board-certified cancer specialist as well as an author. Bad Love Strikes is the first book in The Bad Love Series and the first work of fiction for this author. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes their history with a bit of adventure and humor. It is appropriate for teens, young adults and adults.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Scott Lorenz in conjunction with Westwind Book Marketing in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Riley – Relationships are Complicated

Riley

By Paul Martin Midden

Author Riley Cotswald is tired of her marriage. Cameron, her soon to be ex-husband, is married to his job and in the last few years they have slowly drifted apart. Even though they have separated, life doesn’t seem that much different, other than opening up new possibilities for different relationships with others.

 When she makes a snap decision to sleep with a man she barely knows, Riley’s life becomes a nightmare. Her one-time lover believes they are going to have a relationship. When she turns him down, he wants to make her pay for what she has done to him. He fantasizes about being with her again as well as getting even with her for hurting him.

Her best friend Jennifer is there for her, suggesting Riley might want to contact a local women’s shelter to see what steps she can take to stop the man she thinks is stalking her. Mildred, the director of the shelter, immediately bonds with Riley and offers to help her. She recommends a private investigator, surprising both girls, but they soon realize it is a necessary step in moving on.

Riley is an easy to read, yet complicated book about these new and old relationships and how these interactions touch and change both Riley and all of the other characters. Like most people, all of their relationships are complicated.

As an author, Riley spends much of her day inside her own head. She takes the reader along for the ride, adding even more depth to the novel by creating a fascinating story within the story. This gives the reader two books in one. The complexity of the story and characters for Riley as well as the book Riley is writing is a double treat for readers.

This is the first book I have read by Paul Martin Midden and I loved it. I cannot wait to read his previous books. I highly recommend it.

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: We Came Here to Shine – Historical Fiction Takes Readers to the 1939 World’s Fair

We Came Here to Shine

By Susie Orman Schnall

Vivi Holden and Maxine (Max) Roth are two different women on very different paths in life. Little did they know that they would become best friends amidst the awe and wonder of the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City.

Max is a fledgling writer trying to make her way in a man’s world. The summer internship she covets is working for the New York Times. Her reality is being assigned to write the daily newspaper for the World’s Fair by her professor at NYU. Unfortunately, she is not the only one assigned to the Fair. Charlie, a fellow classmate will be working along side of Max. Charlie is assigned all of the coveted articles only because the boss feels women are better at organizing rather than actually being good writers.

Vivi is an actress that has been sent to NY from LA to become the lead swimmer in the Aquacade production. With an impossibly short time to learn the routine and the fact that she has not been in a pool since high school, she is up a creek without a paddle. To make matters worse, the person assigned to teaching her the difficult routines has been filling the role Vivi is taking. The only reason she has agreed to the part is because her manager has promised her the lead in a film as soon as the Fair closes.

Max and Vivi meet after listening to feminist Elizabeth Dorchester’s speech at the Democracity exhibit at the Fair. They quickly bond as both are inspired by the message of equality for women. Soon they are sharing their hopes, dreams and frustrations with each other. Vivi’s manager holds her life and career in his hands and Max’s editor holds her fate as a serious reporter in his. Both women will need to struggle and claim the path in life they want and need to take. Unfortunately, most women in 1939 are at the mercy of the men that employ them. Unbeknownst to them, both girls will become part of the movement to change the mindset of men and women alike as they fight for their personal rights to be heard.

We Came Here to Shine is like stepping into the past on a guided tour with friends. The characters are realistic and interesting. I enjoy the depth of each of the girls. They are dealing with not only equality issues, but deep personal issues as well. The World’s Fair looms bigger than life for the characters as well as the readers. The innovations that are detailed in this fascinating book are fun to experience with the characters. What is now outdated or taken for granted is all brand new for Vivi and Max as well as those who attend the 1939 World’s Fair.

This is the second book I’ve read by Susie Orman Schnall. I love the nod to the other book I read, The Subway Girls, that Ms. Orman Schnall weaves seamlessly into We Come Here to Shine. Her knowledge and research paint a beautiful background for her characters in both novels. I highly recommend both of these books. Both of them have solid, interesting plots that take

the reader back in time. Actual events in history are combined with interesting fictional people creating two of the best historical fiction novels I have ever read. I highly recommend them.

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 ©2020 Laura Hartman

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