Tag Archives: Maryglenn McCombs

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: A Shadowed Fate – Intriguing Historical Mystery Series

A Shadowed Fate

A Lord Byron Mystery

By Marty Ambrose

In this second book of the Lord Byron Mystery trilogy, Claire Clairmont has grown old but not elderly. She has lived through the loss of Lord Byron, the man she loved even after he left her for another woman. Many years ago, she bore his daughter but realized she could not raise her alone. It was not acceptable in 1816. She sent her child, Allegra, to live with Lord Byron. For reasons unclear to Claire, he sent Allegra to live in a convent where the child succumbed to illness and died. But recent revelations have hinted that Claire’s daughter lives. She is determined to find her daughter before she dies. So begins her quest for the truth.

Claire lives with her niece and grandniece in genteel poverty. She has personal letters from Lord Byron that would fetch a more than generous price, but cannot let go of the writings of a man she loved so deeply. When Trelawny, a man she and Byron once knew, brings her a valuable sketch that Byron wanted her to have, she sees relief in their money situation. But Trelawny also brings her hope that her daughter has not died, but had been hidden away by Byron because she was in grave danger.

Danger has touched Claire and her family before, bringing death and sorrow into their home. Now, amidst the hope of finding Allegra, Claire and her loved ones are robbed of the sketch that would have eased their money problems. More disconcerting is the fact that Claire and those she loved may now be in mortal danger. Getting closer to discovering the secrets of the past could prove fatal for one or all of them.

A Shadowed Fate is a continuation of Claire’s Secret. While I do not think anyone would be confused by reading it without reading the first book in the series, I still recommend reading them in order. The fascinating way Ms. Ambrose weaves the real-life drama of Claire, Lord Byron and Mary Shelly (author of Frankenstein and Claire’s step-sister) into the plot takes the readers to a different level than most mysteries. But do not discount the solid plot lines and twist in the mystery of Allegra’s fate and the person or persons that are willing to do anything to obtain items associated with Lord Byron.

By opening both Claire’s Secret and A Shadowed Fate the reader must slow down a bit to appreciate the style in which Ms. Ambrose writes. It is literary, yet contemporary and easy to read. The prose takes readers to a different place than most current novels. Each chapter has quotes from The Prophecy of Dante written by Lord Bryon in 1819, published in 1821, setting the scene for the reader to settle back and enjoy. I highly recommending you do just that.

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 ©2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Fortunate Son – Memoir That Reads Like a Novel

Fortunate Son

The story of baby boy Francis

By Brooks Eason

Pregnant girls were hidden in the 1950’s, most of them giving up their children at birth or shortly thereafter. This is the story of one such child. Paul Brooks Eason was born in New Orleans to a college student, and came to live with his adoptive parents and sister (also adopted).

Fast forward to 2004, Tupelo, Mississippi. Brooks’ father, now 82, receives a phone call from a lawyer in New Orleans who is looking for a man named Paul Eason, age 46. Apparently, there has been a nationwide search for the man that was adopted because he is potentially the heir to a fortune.

So begins Brooks’ journey to find out about his birth mother, and the wealthy family he was born into. He dropped his first name and is known by Brooks to friends, family and the clients who retain his services as a lawyer. He has done quite well for himself and is happy with his life both as a child in a loving family and as a grown man with a family of his own. He is intrigued by his newfound connection with his birth family.

Life has a way of repeating itself, and this family is no different. But the way they react is absolutely opposite from the way Ann Lowrey (Eason’s birth mother) and his daughter Ann Lowrey’s pregnancy was approached. His mother honestly had no choice but to give up her child. His daughter, made the choice to continue going to school, bring her daughter into the world and raise her as a single mother with the full support and love of her family.

The author takes us through a first hand account of history through the eyes of his adoptive family as well as the family he was born into. It is fascinating to hear details from 1886 to the present through the filter of someone who lived them and passed family stories down to each generation that follows. Honestly, it is like sitting down to dinner with my dad, listening about his childhood. Adding a human touch and warmth to experiences we’ve read about in history books is exactly what Eason has done to pull the reader in and hold you until the last pages of Fortunate Son.

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: Murder Off the Page: A Full Serving of Who Done it with a Side of Cozy Mystery

Murder Off the Page

By Con Lehane

Raymond Ambler and his close friend Adele have solved a few murders before. This time the amateur sleuths are taking it personally. One of their close friends, bartender Brian McNulty, is wanted for murder and is on the lam. They are certain McNulty is innocent, but Mike Cosgrove, the officer in charge of the case, thinks differently. To complicate matters, Cosgrove, Ambler and Adele are more than acquaintances, they have “worked” other cases together, much to Cosgrove’s displeasure.

McNulty contacts Amber, asking him to look in on his elderly father and gives him little to no information other than he is innocent. As more bodies pile up, it is beginning to look worse for McNulty by the day. The dead woman at the center of all this has led a secret life in the open confusing police and McNulty’s friends. Her husband claims to know of her infidelities and looks the other way. Suspects are piling up like cord wood and the deeper Cosgrove and Ambler dig, the more disturbing the victim’s life becomes. Unfortunately, McNulty isn’t off the hook. He refuses to turn himself in and is on a personal mission to find the real killer himself.

Murder Off the Page is the third book in the 42nd Street Library Mystery Series. Both Adele and Ambler work in the Library and the plot winds in and out of the Special Collections reading room, painting the picture of a place I want to visit. Even though it only exists in Lehane’s pages, the Library is another character I adore.

Ambler and Adele are cantankerous and charming respectively. They have a close friendship and at times are on the verge of a deeper relationship. Miscues and misunderstandings have left them as close friends for the time being. I love the way that their interactions adds to the plot. Murder Off the Page is a full serving of who done it with a side of cozy mystery.

This is the second Lehane book I have read. Previously I read and thoroughly enjoyed Murder in the Manuscript Room which is the second book in the series. Both of the books read well as standalone novels, but I am sure you will enjoy reading this entire series, and like me, search out his other works, a trio of mysteries featuring bartender Brian McNulty that were written before the 42nd Library Mystery Series.

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: Tracking Game – Latest in the Timber Creek K-9 Series

Tracking Game

A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery

By Margaret Mizushima

Deputy Mattie Cobb is called away from a community dance and the arms of Cole, the man she has fallen in love with, to investigate a suspicious fire. Upon reaching the scene, Mattie and her K9 partner, Robo, find something far more sinister. One of the locals is found dead next to his burning vehicle and another respected member of the community has a head injury after being hit with shrapnel from the explosive fire. To make matters worse, they soon discover this was no accident.

So begins the trail of lies and deceit that Mattie and Robo have to follow to bring the criminals to justice. Other crimes are revealed which leads to the Timber Creek sheriff’s department bringing Glenna Dalton, the new wildlife manager in their area, into the picture. It will take all of them working against the clock to prevent another killing, not to mention apprehending the person or persons responsible for all of these crimes.

Meantime, Mattie and Cole’s relationship has heated up. Not wanting to push her, Cole is patient but open about his love for her. Mattie knows she loves Cole, but cannot say the words he so longs to hear. Her family history has built a wall around her heart. She truly loves Cole and must learn to move beyond her past to take steps towards their future.

Tracking Game is a fast-paced mystery. The plot unfolds beautifully throughout the story, urging the reader to read just one more chapter late into the night.  I love mysteries with several viable suspects and this book delivers. Mizushima gives us suspicious locals and outsiders of the community. Any one of them could be the killer, but you will have to wait until the last chapters for the bad guys to be satisfyingly revealed.

This is the second book I’ve read in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series. Previously I read Burning Ridge, the first book in the series. Somehow, I missed the other books, but I did not feel confused by not having read the entire series in order. Tracking Game reads fine as a stand-alone. But if you love the plot and characters as much as I do, you will undoubtedly want to read all of the books 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 © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: False Flag in Autumn

False Flag in Autumn

By Michael Bowen

Josie Robideaux Kendall, Louisiana born and bred, has had aspirations for years to work in the White House. She has jumped into everything surrounding politics in Washington DC with both feet in the meantime. She is a “hard-nosed political apparatchik* who can make things happen”. She knows who to call and what to do to make things happen or not happen – depending upon who she is working for. But her usual job of getting someone elected has taken a turn.

There is some convincing evidence that a heavy hitting politician used a spin on a murder that he most likely committed himself to get elected. Rafe, Josie’s husband, encounters the revelation from one if his cronies in DC so she knows it is credible. Now what will she do with the information?

So begins the heart-pounding twists of events that takes Josie from coast to coast. Not only is she working to get the probable murderer out of office, Josie steps into a bigger situation that will have global impact. Not only is the President of the United States a target, but she is now on the assassin’s radar. Putting herself in mortal danger isn’t what she bargained for, but she has never shirked her duty or compromised her convictions.

False Flag in Autumn is an interesting romp in politics. It gives outsiders like me a fascinating glimpse inside a world that I will never be a part of but find interesting. The action heats up as Josie pulls out all the stops, no matter what the personal price, to save the President.

Michael Bowen, recently retired from a lengthy career as a trial lawyer. He is a prolific and critically acclaimed author of 19 books. They range from thrillers such as False Flag in Autumn to political satire. This is the first book I have read by Bowen and thoroughly enjoyed it.

*Yes dear readers I had no idea what a political apparatchik meant so – per Google: “An apparatchik is someone who works for a government or a political party and who always obeys orders” – now we both know (unless you already did) if so, kudos!

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: Copper and Goldie – Cozy Collection of Hawaiian Short Stories

Copper and Goldie

13 Tails of Mystery and Suspense in Hawaii

By Rosemary and Larry Mild

The dynamic duo of Hawaiian cozies is back with thirteen short stories featuring ex-cop Sam Naho. The detective sergeant gets injured in the first of these stories. This turns his life upside down. He no longer has the job he loved or the woman he still loves. But Sam makes the best of his bad situation. Sam’s wife and child still mean the world to him and thankfully they are still in his life.

He becomes a cab driver along with his sidekick, Goldie. She is a beautiful, bright golden retriever that becomes his partner in solving the crimes that seemingly find the two of them. Becoming a Private Investigator is the next logical step for the Copper and Goldie.

These short stories are a progression of Sam’s life. The first is about his injury, the second is about his life as a new cabbie. While cohesive, as well as moving forward similar to a novel, they are definitely short stories. These snippets of life and crimes are quick and easy to read.

Like cozy mysteries, there is a small amount of blood shed and a little bit of violence that isn’t graphic. The mysteries are fun to try and solve before the end of the stories. And for the romantics there is the eternal hope that Sam and his family will someday be reunited.

Each of these short stories can be read quickly and easily. I recommend taking it along with you while waiting for your kids to get out of school or other activities, while waiting for appointments or a quick read before bed. Or you can be like me and read “just one more story” until you find you have finished the book in 24 hours. Either way, the characters, including the adorable Goldie, will capture your heart as fast as Sam catches the bad guys in each short story.

This is the third book I’ve read by Rosemary and Larry Mild. Of their many published books I’ve read Honolulu Heat and Death Steals a Holy Book. Both are delightful cozy mysteries that fans of the genre will love. Grab Copper and Goldie and cozy up with characters you will adore and enjoy your trip to the Hawaiian Islands via these two entertaining authors.

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

 

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Book Review: Fake – Mystery Ripped From Today’s Headlines

Fake

By John DeDakis

White House Correspondent Lark Chadwick has seen more than her fair share of dead bodies. But when Rose Gannon, the First Lady of the United States drops dead during an interview with Lark, it is beyond horrific. It was just bad luck that Lark was present at the time of Mrs. Gannon’s collapse, but she didn’t have to snap a picture of the President trying to revive his wife to no avail. Once the picture hit the papers, Lark’s life became more complicated than even she could have imagined.

Soon she again finds herself on the front pages, this time not as a reporter, but as the subject of a national controversy. She is accused of having an affair with President Gannon. Becoming a victim of the fake news stories her former colleagues post in the papers and on social media about her, losing her job in the story’s aftermath. Lark is determined to find out who leaked personal information which became the basis of the fake news story.

Much like the headlines of today, the stories bring strong feelings about Lark from friends, strangers and colleagues. Many feel as if they know the story and Lark without getting the facts. Becoming the judge, jury and jailer, some of the general public hates Lark without ever meeting her. Will someone take matters into their own hands?

Lark’s story could be taken from today’s headlines. She is merely doing her job to the best of her ability. Getting caught up in the court of public opinion to the point of being in danger is the last thing she imagined for her life.

DeDakis brilliantly combines the current trend of the general population’s personal feelings about public figures as well as the personal side from the accused point of view. The real consequences to the lies that have been published change lives.

The characters in Fake are brought to life in the realistic setting DeDakis creates. From the insider look into the lives of the White House press contingency to the appointments with a grief counselor, the characters are interesting and quickly become real to the reader. He touches on many hot topics in addition to the fake news thread that runs throughout. Sex abuse, the ethical decisions journalists make and the personal effects half-truths have on the characters are all brought to the reader to think about long after the last pages are read.

I love a book that is current and relevant in addition to telling an interesting story. Fake makes the reader think about the nightly news in a different, more personal way. The mystery of who leaked personal information was an additional layer of interest. Hopefully we will see more of Lark Chadwick in the future.

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: Jordan by Victoria Landis – Fast Paced Engaging Novel

Jordan

By Victoria Landis

Out of the blue, a woman appears in the park across from Petra Simmons’ chocolate shop. She seems to be in distress, so Petra and her brother Andy rush to her, only to discover she doesn’t have a clue to her own identity. Luckily, Petra’s boyfriend Ben is a Sheriff’s Deputy. When she calls him in to help the mysterious woman that is now in her apartment, he quickly finds out her identity. She is Jordan Crissman, a very wealthy young woman that disappeared without a trace three years ago.

Jordan’s family wants to bring the media into the situation, but she is not willing to cooperate. She leaves the attention grabbing family to go stay with Petra. Her family doesn’t really care that she is gone, and they still are searching for their five minutes of fame, with or without her.

Unfortunately, Jordan unwittingly becomes the object of every media outlet around when it appears she has healed a little girl who could not walk. With the ever present press hounding her, people swarm to see her to be cured from whatever ails them. But on the darker side, a contingent of religious zealots and civil instigators begin to protest. The three groups gather outside the apartment building that houses Jordan and Petra demanding healing, interviews and most disturbing, Jordan’s presence to “find the truth”.

The only thing Jordan wants to do is help people, but now that violence has come to their front door, the four of them have gone into hiding. Could they be running away from danger or into the lion’s den?

Landis’ characters leap from the pages into the reader’s heart. Jordan is sweet, but strong in the abilities and conviction that she is doing the right thing by helping others no matter what. Petra is strong, but still mourning the death of her parents several years ago. Andy is her little brother, but doesn’t need her mothering him anymore. They are close and will always be a big part of each other’s lives. Lastly, Ben agrees to put his life on hold to help Jordan and Petra.

Jordan is a fast paced, engaging novel. I needed to know what happened next. The story is deep, yet easily read and extremely interesting. While Jordan is a standalone novel, I feel as though the last chapter gave the author room for a sequel. I, for one, will be first in line if and when one is written.

Ms. Landis writes, edits and is an artist. Jordan is her third novel, following Blink It Away and Alias: Mitzi & Mack. She also writes a humor column entitled A Little Bit Sideways. This is the first book I’ve read by Landis, but definitely will not be the last.

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: Blood on the Chesapeake – Page Turning Mystery

Blood on the Chesapeake

By Randy Overbeck

Darrell Henshaw is new to the Chesapeake Bay area. He needs a new start from the ghosts of his past as well as distance from his former fiancé that apparently thought monogamy was an option, not a requirement of their relationship. Much to his delight, he is hired at the local high school as a history teacher and the football coach. He is settling in just fine until he starts getting the familiar prickling in the hairs on the back of his neck. There are spirits in the school that are not at rest searching him out. He tries to ignore the feelings and strange happenings, but the restless ghost needs Darrell’s help and isn’t going away any time soon.

Meantime, he is really enjoying connecting with the kids in his history class. It isn’t easy, the diverse group doesn’t really like the newcomer and most of them dislike history in general. But Darrell brings a spark of life to the classroom they cannot ignore. By assigning a report that will delve into the local area’s past the students begin to engage, but strangely enough the community and school leaders seem reluctant to participate. Could they be hiding something? Darrell may be flying too close to the flame to notice he might ignite something that cannot be extinguished. And he might die trying.

But Darrell is far from all work and no play. He has found a new friend to hang out with, Al. Also a teacher at the school, Al lightens up the mood by telling bad jokes that make you groan and chuckle. Most of them are rated G so you can tell them to your kids. And then there is Erin. Darrell is not looking for love again, but she has caught his eye and just might be the one to thaw his heart.

Overbeck’s characters are interesting and engaging. Darrell has a bit of OCD going on, reminding me of the Monk series by Lee Goldberg. It is endearing and a bit comical, but the reader will quickly know that Darrell has to wash his hands twice and dry them on precisely three paper towels. His newfound girlfriend Erin, is much more carefree. She is the perfect balance to the baggage Darrell brings into the relationship but she is ready for the challenge. The other character that stands out for me is the medium/lady of the evening, Natalia – I hope to see more of her in the next book in the series.

I loved this paranormal mystery by new author Randy Overback. True to his main character, the events taught to the class about the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are factual, but the places and dates are not per the Author’s note at the beginning of the book. So technically it is a paranormal historical mystery – but whatever box you want to check about this book, be sure to include it on the must read list.

A prolific writer of trade journals and professional texts, Overback’s first novel, Leave No Child Behind is the 2011 Silver Award for Thriller of the Year winner. It would not surprise me one bit to see Blood on the Chesapeake winning awards in the near future also. The title page of Blood on the Chesapeake, adds “The Haunted Shores Mysteries”. Because this is Mr. Overbeck’s first novel in the series, we can assume there will be more to hear from Darrell and Erin in the future. The Chesapeake area is rich in history, therefore, must be rich in ghosts that need their help. I am excited to add this new series to my list of must reads, and recommend picking up your copy today.

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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