Tag Archives: fiction

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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Book Review: Coming Home for Christmas – Heartwarming Story of Love and Redemption

Coming Home for Christmas

By RaeAnne Thayne

Luke Hamilton is going to jail unless he can prove he did not murder his missing wife. Ironically, he has recently found her. The good news is she is alive and well so he cannot be arrested. The bad news is the woman he has loved for years chose to leave him and her two young children behind seven years ago without a word. A private investigator confirmed that Elizabeth is alive and Luke was going to leave her alone until he realized he had to bring her home long enough to prove she is not dead and he is not a murderer.

Elizabeth understands, but is terrified. Many things have changed in her life since she walked out on her family. She has another life, but has secretly caught glimpses of her family during the last few years. She would love nothing more than spending time with her children, but understands Luke’s protectiveness because of the pain she has caused by leaving them.

Luke is determined to get the entire situation taken care of in a few days. Unfortunately, Christmas is just around the corner and the feelings that he has for his wife have never really changed. Yes, he is angry, but he loves her. It will take a Christmas miracle to bring this broken family back together after all they have been through.

Coming Home for Christmas is a heartwarming story of love and redemption. The holiday setting enhances the sense of magic in the air. The underlying mystery of where and why Elizabeth has been for the last seven years is woven throughout the pages until the reader finally gets the last pieces of the puzzle in the final chapters. The mystery of her disappearance adds another layer to an already interesting plot that I thoroughly enjoyed.

This is the first book I’ve read by Ms. Thayne, who is a prolific romance writer. She has written several different romance series, including the Haven Point series, of which Coming Home for Christmas is #10. Even though I had not read the previous books in the series, I was never confused or lost. It works well as a stand-alone novel. I really enjoyed this Christmas romance with a bit of mystery. If you are a fan of Debbie Macomber, you will love this book and author.

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: Drop Dead Lola – Fifth in the Lola Cruz Mystery Series

10.17.19Drop Dead Lola

By Melissa Bourbon

PI Delores (Lola) Cruz is juggling her personal and professional life with aplomb and a bit of craziness. She has just landed a job investigating a suicide that is very questionable. The mother of the deceased is positive her son did not take his own life. Lola and the rest of the PI agency she works for agree that something is mighty fishy. When the victim’s mother is found barely alive in a garage filled with carbon monoxide Lola is sure there is a murderer in their midst and she is determined to find him or her before someone else winds up dead.

Meanwhile, her cousin Leti is getting married and Lola is one of the bridesmaids. In addition to the tacky dress she has to wear, Lola is supposed to be helping with the bridal shower. Luckily, she can count on her close-knit family to pick up the slack so that she can pursue the case. But that same family can be a bit overwhelming. Especially her mother. It doesn’t help living in the apartment above her parents.  Personal space and privacy is virtually non-existent. The overnight visits by her boyfriend do not go unnoticed.

Drop Dead Lola is a fun romp with Lola, her extended family, friends and co-workers. Lola’s co-workers are interesting and have secrets of their own. One of them is her best friend and partner in solving crime even though she is the administrative assistant. Lola’s Hispanic family is large and loving and her boyfriend, Jack, is adorable. Like all cozy mystery series, their relationship appears to have been on and off.

Mixing murder and zany fun is the essence of a cozy mystery. Ms. Bourbon expertly intertwines a solid “who done it” plot with the craziness of the wedding and family interactions. I love reading a book that seamlessly adds in pole dancing and a boudoir photo shoot seamlessly amid a murder investigation.

This is the fifth book in the Lola Cruz Mystery Series, but the first one I have read. It was easy to read as a one-off novel; I did not feel confused at all. I am going to go back and read the other books in the series. If you are a fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, you will love this series.

My only criticism is the many phrases in Spanish used in the dialog. I could figure some of them out but it really interrupted the reading flow for me. I was feeling “stuck” trying to figure out what exactly the characters had said. I would have loved to see the translation at the end of the page like a footnote or even a glossary at the end of the book. My mind kept going back trying to see what phrase/word it may have been, distracting me from the excellent plot.

 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 © 2019 Laura Hartman

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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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