Tag Archives: Literary Fiction

Book Review: Shirtless Men Drink Free – Hidden Agendas Are Ugly Bedfellows

Shirtless Men Drink Free

By Dwaine Rieves

Jackson Beekman is a rising star in his home state of Georgia. Currently the attorney general, his sights are set on the Governor’s office. But nothing is free in this world, least of all politics. Jackson needs to hedge his bets, so he begins building his campaign team.

Dr. Jane Beekman, Jackson’s sister-in-law, is one of the handpicked circle he chooses for his team.  She brings a personal agenda to the table. Politics are known for quid pro quo, and Jane is no exception. Her mother recently died a painful death due to her lifelong addiction to tobacco. She agrees to work for Jackson, and he agrees to push her agenda of raising the tax on tobacco as soon as he gets in office.

Jackson, like any human, has baggage. The problem with his is it is deep seated and hidden from almost everyone. His brother Price shares the sorrows and secrets of Jackson’s past. Price will keep the family secrets, but unbeknownst to the candidate, someone else from their past may come back to haunt Jackson.

The emotional roller coaster that the main characters ride is lightning fast. Jackson, Price and Jane are complex and complicated, their individual personalities jump from the pages and into the reader’s head.

The depth of this novel is coupled with an easy style that flows beautifully for the reader. It is hard to put this book in a box. It is fiction laced with facts, politics, social issues and human fallibility. The closest I can come to placing a label on Shirtless Men Drink Free is contemporary literary fiction. Contemporary due to the recurring theme of tobacco legislations and known health problems associated with it as well as social issues of today. I add the label “Literary” because Rieves’ beautiful use of the English language is evident throughout the book, but never pretentious.

If you only read one book this year that is not in your usual genre, I highly recommend this brilliant debut novel by Dwaine Rieves, Shirtless Men Drink Free. Read it for the human side of volatile issues that are hot topics in today’s headlines.

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: Claire’s Last Secret – Intriguing Historical Mystery

Claire’s Last Secret

By Marty Ambrose

Based upon the true story of the conception and infamous writing weekend of Mary Shelly’s famous Gothic ghost story, Frankenstein, this historical mystery intertwines delicious bits of true history with a tantalizing tale of lost love and murder.

Set in 1873, the stepsister of Mary Shelley, Claire Cairmont is the only survivor of that fateful summer in 1816. Now Claire is forced to remember those days – as if she could ever forget.

As a young woman, in love with a married man and expecting his child, her future was uncertain. Claire was and is a free spirit, living life as she chose, not as was expected of her. She was on holiday with Mary, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (Mary’s husband) and Lord Byron. It was during this holiday that Frankenstein was born and Claire’s life changed forever.

Claire now lives with her beloved niece and grandniece, but they are hardly living in luxury. Their basic needs are barely met, but it is doubtful they will be able to make it much longer without some income. Surprisingly, a man contacts them requesting an audience with Claire. He wants to purchase personal letters and memorabilia from the time spent in 1816 with Byron and Shelley. By selling them, she and her niece would be able to live comfortably, but does this benefactor bring salvation or death to her door?

The tangled relationships of 1816 have come back to haunt Claire as she is in the twilight of her life. Must she live through the agony of losing Lord Byron and the fateful events surrounding the best and worst time of her life.

Ambrose’s work of literary historical fiction is interesting and intriguing. She alternates the story between 1816 and 1873, filling in interesting background and events that led up to the mystery man and his reason for entering her life.

Claire’s Secret is the first book of a planned trilogy. Ms. Ambrose is a gifted writer, with several books to her credit. The most popular is her modern day Mango Bay Mystery series starring Mallie Monroe. Claire’s Secret is the first book I’ve read by this author, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The literary prose in an easy to read format was refreshing and entertaining. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series.

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 © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Immortalists – Add to your Must Read List 2018

The Immortalists

By Chloe Benjamin

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

How would you live your life if, as a young child, you were given the day on which you would die? That is the struggle thirteen-year-old Varay and three siblings face in the pages of Benjamin’s powerful novel.

Children of Jewish immigrants, they are taught to work hard, obey their parents and follow the ways of their ancestors. Amidst the traditions and expectations of the family, each of the children has talents and desires of their own. The oldest son, Daniel, is expected to take over his father’s dressmaking business, but he is determined to become a physician. Varay wants to go to University instead of staying home to raise children and the youngest two siblings have far grander dreams of how they will live out the days the fortune teller allotted them that steamy July day in 1969.

Benjamin’s magnificent work of literary fiction is magical and down to earth, heartbreaking and inspiring all at once. Within a few moments the lives of four siblings changed forever or were their paths set in stone? Benjamin gives the reader all of the information, but the interpretation is up to the individual reader.

I literally walked around with my Kindle, sneaking stolen glances at the pages while doing other things because I could not put this story down. Reading late into the night, I cried for the fate of Simon – or was it the path he had chosen? Either way, the characters came alive for me in the first few pages and I wanted them to all live forever if only on the pages. But true to life, love and loss go hand in hand.

This is the first book I’ve read by award winning author Chloe Benjamin. Her first novel, The Anatomy of Dreams, won the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award. I cannot wait to read it and following novels by this talented writer.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Reincarnation Blues – Perfection is Elusive … I Loved This Book!

Reincarnation Blues

By Michael Poore

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

Milo only has a few more chances to get it right. He should be good at this living thing, since he has had almost 10,000 tries to live a life worthy of not having to come back and try it again. Unfortunately, he seems to mess it up one way or another every single time, leaving him to be reincarnated to try again. The problem is, his advisors in death tell him they won’t know what will happen to his soul if he doesn’t get it right by the 10,000 try – no one has taken this many lives to get to the perfection it takes to cross into the golden light.

He learns things in each life he lives, but unfortunately, he has not lived up to the standards required to cross over. So he is born again and again and again. Each time Milo dies, he wakes up in water, and death is there to greet him. Death is not one entity, he or she in Milo’s case – is many deferent beings. Milo’s death person is Suzie, he gave her the name several thousand lives ago since her real name is too hard to pronounce. Therein lies another problem. Milo and Suzie have fallen in love with each other. Maybe a part of Milo doesn’t want to become perfect because how could life – or death as it were – be perfection without the woman he loves?

This is the most interesting, quirky, funny book I have read in a long time. The lives of Milo are vastly different and read like short stories in the middle of the story that is part of the whole story. The beauty of it is, Poore’s masterful prose links all of the events so perfectly together, it reads like the novel that it is at the same time and isn’t confusing at all. Milo transcends time and space to live in the future, past and present. Sometimes he is rich, then he will be poor, then he has to be a bug or a slug or a fish if he does something really stupid or bad in a previous life. Each life and death is so entertaining I could not put this book down.

Milo is one of the most complex characters I have ever encountered. Because he is many people: old, young, brave, scared, cranky – you name it Milo has done it. One of his lives brought out almost any emotion or reaction a human could have, but all of them were distinctly Milo. His essence was always inside and managed to peek out when I least expected it. He is kind, smart and helpful even if sometimes he resents having to try and live up to the perfection level that seemed so elusive. He is often endearing like the grumpy old man that has a soft heart for the neighbor kids.

This is Michael Poore’s second novel. It is the first novel or short story of his that I have read. If you are a Christopher Moore fan, you will love Michael Poore’s writing. I love the wit and wisdom that Poore brings to life through his characters and the complexity of Reincarnation Blues. He packs a lot of punch into this novel, but it is packaged into an easy to read page turner. I loved Poore’s style and have ordered his first book, Up Jumps the Devil and cannot wait for it to arrive.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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