Tag Archives: fiction

Book Review: The Night Window – Heart Pounding Thriller

The Night Window

By Dean Koontz

Wainwright Hollister is a man who always gets what he wants by whatever means he has to employ. Now he is the ringmaster of sorts for the adjusted people rightly named the Techno Arcadians. After an injection that alters their brains, Hollister can control their actions. They are puppets playing to his grand plan of taking over the United States – then most likely the world.

Jane Hawk has been on his trail since the senseless suicide of her husband at Hollister’s hand. But the stakes are high. She no longer works within the law enforcement community. She had to go rogue since Arcadians have infiltrated all forms of government from local cops to the highest political offices. She is relentlessly searching for a way to stop them before they ruin the country and closer to home, the rest of her family. Jane will do anything to save her son.

In this fifth book of the Jane Hawk series, she teams up with an unlikely ally, computer geek Vikram Rangnekar. She doesn’t ask for or want his help, but she needs him. Rangnekar has been working in the background for some time unbeknownst to Jane setting up what could be the only way to infiltrate Hollister’s army from within. With grave reservations, she puts her trust in Rangnekar and the two of them begin what will either be the end of the Techno Arcadians or the end of Jane and possibly the world as we know it.

The Night Window is the fifth book in the Jane Hawk series. I have read two of the previous books, and have always felt I knew enough of the background provided in each of them to understand exactly what was going on. Koontz is one of my favorite authors, his characters and plots have a depth that most authors only aspire to. But that being said, his books read like the page-turning thrillers that they are. Sometimes I need to slow myself down to appreciate his beautiful analogies and turns of phrase. He is the Michelangelo of prose, painting masterpieces with his words. For example, here is how he creates the vision of snow in the reader’s mind: “Snow raveled now in countless skeins through the loom of the day and formed a pristine fabric”. So be sure to take your time, even though the pace is fast, enjoy the sheer beauty of the writing.

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: Foiled – Kid’s Action and Adventure Book Not to be Missed

Foiled

By Carey Fessler

Best friends cannot keep secrets from each other. That is why Billy has to show Kate, his next door neighbor and bestie what his dad brought him home from work. Kate is interested, but she is in trouble for not doing her chores and has to wait until later to see it. When she finally gets to see the pieces of foil Billy has, she is amazed that it flattens out by itself when either of them crumple it up. Billy’s dad is in the military, and swears Billy to secrecy because he wasn’t supposed to bring the foil home with him.

Little did they know those tiny pieces of foil would lead them on a wild adventure. They have to escape capture from an agent with the CIA, drive cars and fly an airplane. Will they ever be reunited with their families? Will the CIA agent catch them and take away the magic foil? Are there aliens involved?  There are so many questions, and all of them are answered in due time in this action filled story that will have kids and grownups cheering for the good guys and happy with the ending.

Foiled is set in the late 1940’s near Roswell, New Mexico. It is based on facts and spiced up with fiction. As a kid, I remember them talking about Roswell, the UFO and the aliens that everyone speculated had landed in the 40’s. It was still a mystery when I was a kid in the 1960’s. Today, it is still a mystery of sorts and the author explains the true facts she includes in her story and the things that are fiction at the end of the book.

I am far past 9 years old, but thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was interesting and fun to read. The throwback to party line phones, 4 digit phone numbers (yes, I remember my 4 digit number from those days) makes you realize you have traveled back in history. The lack of computers, cell phones, tracking devices and all other things that ruin good action novels these days are not included because they did not exist.

Per Ms. Fessler’s website, her books are action adventure books for children 9 and older. It is fabulous that she puts an approximate age range as a guide for parents and others who love and buy books for the young people in their lives. It makes it so much easier to choose a great book that the kids will enjoy.

This is Carey Fessler’s fourth book, but the first that I’ve read. I highly recommend it for the youngsters in your lives (be sure to borrow it after they are done).  Just imagine the great conversations you can have about history and what the world was like when you were growing up after you have both read it.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman.

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Book Review: Going Home – First Book in a New Series

Going Home

By Judith Keim

Violet (“Lettie”) has been in the foster system her entire life. She has had the necessities of life, but living with very strict, religious foster parents, she longs to live a life of her own. So the minute she is old enough, she sets out on her own for San Francisco. The 1970’s are full of free love and drugs, neither of which she is really a part of. A few months later she is hungry and out of cash, but her fortune changes when she meets a Kenton Chandler, who offers her food and a job if she will go with him to Oregon. She hesitates but decides it just might be her salvation.

Kenton is full of surprises. His father owns a fledgling vineyard and he is going home to work in the family business. As soon as Lettie arrives there with him, she feels as though she is home. She has finally found a place that she loves and embraces the land and the people she meets. Times will not always be easy for her, but knowing she is surrounded by everything and everyone she loves she knows she will spend the rest of her life there.

It is easy to jump into the interesting world of wine making, and the surrounding vistas are vividly brought to life in this novel. I would have liked some more information about the winemaking process.

I enjoyed the characters, they are believable and multidimensional. The only problem I had with this book was the timespan. It begin in the 1970s and progresses through three generations in a 256 page book. Sometimes I wanted more details. Major events were mere paragraphs. In order to pull me into the story and characters, I would have loved more details. It seemed at times the plot was getting in the way of the story.

Going Home is the first book in the Chandler Hill Series. This is the fifth series for prolific fiction series 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: The Girls at 17 Swann Street – Heartbreakingly Hopeful

The Girls at 17 Swann Street

By Yara Zgheib

Anna is dying. She is a slip of a girl, married to a fabulous husband that she really loves. She used to be a ballerina, she used to like roller coasters and ice cream and she used to eat. All those things are in her past. Now she spends her days exercising and not eating. She has dropped dairy, meat, bread and almost everything else from her diet with the exception of apples and popcorn. She will die if she continues to deprive her body of the nutrients it needs. No matter what her family and husband say or do, they cannot convince her to eat.

Her last chance to begin living again is moving to 17 Swann Street with the rules and the meals and the other skeletal girls. These women there are mothers, daughters and dying from lack of food in a country where food is abundant. Each of the women has their own stories and reasons.  Some have had traumatic events in their past, others have been pressured by society and careers that they need to be thinner until food becomes the enemy. But when the enemy lurks within it is invisible but continues to whisper in your head over every morsel of food.

Almost everyone has heard of anorexia nervosa and bulimia. They are illnesses  like any other. While hard for some to understand, there are many underlying psychological factors that come into play when someone decides to starve themselves into skeletal bodies and deprive their organs of much needed nutrition to survive.

Zgheib pulls the reader into 17 Swann Street. We are there for the triumphs when Anna begins to slowly eat meals again. We are there when one of the girls is taken to the hospital and does not return. It is easy to feel the pain that food causes them, but that makes their triumphs all the sweeter.

The Girls at 17 Swann Street is written in a style that does not use extra words. That being said the story is full of depth and meaning. The conversations are in italics to differentiate but even without them it would be easy to know when the characters are speaking. It is appropriate to write in this style to tell the story of Anna and her friends. They have cut out all things involving food that they deem unnecessary in their lives, just as Zgheib cuts out the words that would not have helped tell their story.

This is the first book written by Yara Zgheib. I sincerely hope it is not her last. Her powerful prose kept me reading late into the night and often brought me to tears when I felt Anna was giving up hope. This book is powerful and insightful. It would be perfect for your book club as the seriousness of these diseases calls for more discussion. Even though it is fiction, Zgheib has opened the door into the hidden world of anorexia and bulimia, allowing you to step through that door with Anna and hear her story.

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

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Book Review: We Hope for Better Things – History Wrapped In Mystery

We Hope for Better Things

By Erin Bartels

We Hope for Better Things is a remarkably memorable story that winds through the lives of a family from the civil war to today. Focusing on three women that are more alike than different, the story alternates between them giving the reader characters and a story that spans 150 years. Each of these women are vastly different, but still curiously alike.

Mary is a young woman who has to take care of the family farm while her husband is fighting in the civil war. Without thinking of the consequences, he sends a freed slave to Mary and asks her to help keep him from harm. Her husband doesn’t stop there; she soon has a house full of men, women and children who are recently emancipated or on the run from their former owners. The backlash in the community is only one of the problems she has to contend with. Mary soon cares deeply for one of the men sent to her home.

Nora falls in love in the turbulent 1960’s. Her life was forever changed when she meets a young, talented photographer. Will she be willing to give up her family, her wealth and her comfortable life to be with a man who loves her, but society does not approve of?

Lastly there is Nora. She works as a successful journalist but is abruptly fired after standing her ground about a story she is passionate about. Randomly, a man contacts her about her Great-Aunt Nora. Since she is adrift in her professional life, she travels to see her aunt. There she unwittingly begins to dig into her family’s past. She has no intention of staying in the house that has been inhabited by Mary and Nora, but the deeper she digs the closer she feels to them and the ghosts of our nation’s past. Her investigative nature will not let her stop digging until she solves the mystery of the past she encounters

The characters are interesting and full. They come to life on the pages, pulling the reader into each of their lives and stories. As the author masterfully alternates the lives of the three women, I read long into the night to find out what was happening in the different decades. The farm house each of them lived in further links the women together as it whispers of the past and adds hope for the future.

Erin Bartels gives her readers a gift wrapped in history, shrouded in the past and present race relations in the United States. Her beautiful prose pulls readers into the story and lives of the characters. This is her first novel, and I am anxiously awaiting her second novel that will be published in fall of 2019.

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

 

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Book Review: The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter – Fascinating Novel and Author

The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter

By Linda Lo Scuro

Recently retired, Maria has extra time on her hands. While her husband Humphrey spends his days working as an investment banker, she now has to find other things to occupy her time. Her daughters are grown and out on their own, so when Maria’s cousin calls and asks her to check in on her aunt, she reluctantly agrees. For years Maria has kept her distance from her family. There are some shady dealings dating back several generations connecting them to the Mafia. All Maria knows for sure is that one of her aunts and mother despised her and abused her as a child leaving her bitter and a bit afraid of them.

When visiting the aunt that was kind to her as a child, Maria finds herself falling into the family business. Just on the fringe shouldn’t hurt anything. Besides she has a few scores to settle and her aunt has offered help. As she spends more time with her aunt, Maria begins to slide into the habits of the previous generations. She can solve problems that others are having with the help of family. She tries to keep her extended family away from her husband and children; there is no need for them to know the history she has always hidden. But when one of her immediate family makes an irreversible decision, help from the Mafia may be the only way to right the wrong. Or at least cover it up.

I loved this book. The transformation of Maria was remarkable to read. Ms. Lo Scuro does a fantastic job filling in the sordid past of Maria’s family and blending it in with the present day characters. Will visiting her Sicilian family turn this upper-middle class Brit into the person she has always feared she may become? Perhaps it was inevitable.

Linda Lo Scuro is as mysterious as Maria. Because this was the first book I’ve read by this author, I Googled her name to find out more about her. What I found out about Linda Lo Scuro is exactly what she wants us to know. This is not her real name and she will not be giving interviews. You can follow her on social media under her pseudonym, but her real persona will not be revealed. I admire her decision as well as her determination to stay anonymous amid the clamor of writing a truly remarkable and memorable novel. I think she is as interesting as her novel, which makes this a double win in my reading world.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Red Address Book – Best Book I’ve Read This Year

The Red Address Book

By Sofia Lundberg

As the book opens, Doris is a Swedish woman in the twilight of her life. She has a nursing service come in to help her once a day, but the caregiver is simply getting the job done without caring about the person she is paid to help. Doris is kind, but doesn’t bother to interact. The caregiver doesn’t notice. Doris’ body is betraying her with weakness, but her mind is still sharp and her memories clear.

There are two things Doris does interact with. One is the computer phone call to her niece in the States, which happens every day. Both of the women delight in seeing the other from around the globe and sharing their lives. The other is the red address book that her father gave her for her tenth birthday in 1928. Just by opening the pages and scrolling through, she can walk through her past and relive the good and the bad of all the years.

At this stage of her life, Doris’ red address book holds many names of the dead. As each friend or family member passes away, she draws a line through their name and writes in one word. DEAD. She has lived a full and interesting life and has accepted the fact that her life is soon to be over. Her niece realizes that her beloved aunt is failing fast, and makes the journey to see her one last time. Her bittersweet journey will open her eyes to the woman Doris once was and still is until her last breath.

Lundberg skillfully takes us from past to present by using the entries in Doris’ red address book to tell us of the people she has encountered and events that have happened in her long and interestingly colorful life. Not all of the experiences have been good – but each of them has shaped Doris into the strong woman she remains to be today.

Oftentimes as people get older they are not seen as the young, vibrant person they were before age slowed them down. I have been fortunate to have close older family members tell me about their lives, just like Lundberg does for Doris. By the end of the book, I had laughed and cried with her as if she was an Aunt I was truly fond of.

This is the first book Sofia Lundberg has written and I am excited to see what this promising author does next. The former journalist that resides in Sweden is an author to put on your radar. I have read hundreds of books this year. Some of them fantastic, some mediocre, some made me want to chuck them across the room for various reasons I won’t mention. But hands down, The Red Address Book is the best book I have read this year. Do yourself a favor and get it now. Share it with your friends and read it for your book club. Tell me what you think!

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 © 2018 Laura Hartman

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