Tag Archives: fiction

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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Book Review: Michael Recycle Meets Borat the Space Cat – Early Reader with a Powerful Message

Michael Recycle Meets Borat the Space Cat

By Ellie Patterson

Illustrated by: Alexandra Colombo

Michael Recycle Meets Borat the Space Cat is the fifth book in the Michael Recycle series. Recommended for 6 to 8-year-old children, the characters champion recycling and eco-friendly practices for children and adults.

Borat, the Space Cat, arrives on earth to tell the woes of his planet, Splearth, that is doomed due to global warming and overuse of natural resources. Now there is a countdown clock telling readers about the eminent demise of planet earth if things don’t change.

Children need to know about these serious issues, and Patterson writes a fun adventure with a serious undertone. The characters working hard to save planet earth is admirable. Kids love a page-turning adventure.

I liked the characters and loved the colorful illustrations. The rhyming felt forced to me, the story would have been fine without it. The target age group, if mature enough to hear about the very serious subject of global warming is most likely past rhyming text found in books for younger children.

This is the first book in the series that I have read. I recommend reading it with your child in case he or she has questions or fears about the heavy subject matter.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Edelweiss 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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Book Review: Too Close To Home – Intriguing Mystery Series

Too Close To Home

By Andrew Grant

Working at the New York County Courthouse as a janitor, Paul McGrath is invisible to almost everyone he encounters. That is how he likes it. While doing his job, he is also on a personal mission. Formerly Military Intelligence, he is looking for justice for his father and along the way he cannot help but step in where he sees injustice, all the while focusing on his goal. Alex Pardew is walking the streets a free man. A file of key information went missing during his trial so Pardew, the man responsible for his father’s untimely death, has been released. Righting this wrong will allow McGrath to move on.

Hooking up with a former MI veteran John Robson was a good decision. They live together in the huge old brownstone left to McGrath by his father. This allows them to work the case day and night until they find the missing evidence that will provide them with the truth in his father’s case as well as a few others. But these cases are not simple. There is an underlying conspiracy that will have to be shattered before justice will prevail.

McGrath is a complex character. At first, I thought he was a vigilante, but he is so much more then the surface look provides. He and Robson get things done in unusual ways, oftentimes with a wink and a nod to laws. These modern-day Robin Hoods stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves and get the job done.

Too Close to Home is a fast-paced page turner. The mystery of McGrath’s father’s death is only one surprise for the reader. The plot is intriguing and is laced with beautiful bits of description, such as: “…we paused at the cross streets and then were pulled back into motion as if by the city’s own heartbeat”. Along with enjoying this solid story, take time to savor the words Grant has written.

This is the second book in the Paul McGrath series, but the first one I have read. It works perfectly as a stand-alone novel, as a matter of fact, I didn’t even know it was a series until I looked it up. Fans of Michael Connelly will love 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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