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Book Review: No Fences in Alaska – Finding Redemption in Alaska

No Fences in Alaska

By Glen Sobey

Harper is a troubled sixteen-year-old. She is going down a path that her parents never thought a daughter of theirs would travel. Deeply religious, her father is the head of a Christian School. Harper has been expelled from the school and is dabbling in sex and drugs. Searching for herself in the cocoon of religious righteousness has not been easy. She feels as though her family has chosen religion over the love for her they once had.

When Harper finds herself over her head and can’t see a way out of the trouble she is in, she turns to the grandfather she hasn’t seen in years. He lives in Alaska, far away from the family that turned their backs on him many years ago. Her grandpa, Cooper, welcomes her without judgement or conditions. Little does Harper know that he is hiding a secret that will soon affect all of their lives.

Even though Harper knows what she wants to do, she so soon realizes that even the best laid plans are subject to change. As she grows closer to Cooper and the lifestyle in Alaska, she begins to change. Cooper encourages her to focus on her love of music again. Her outlook on life changes drastically, but will it be too late to repair the relationship with her father? Is he willing to give her the chance she needs to become herself instead of the perfect person he has tried to create?

Cooper and Harper are the perfect pair. The characters are both deeply flawed, much like most human beings. It is not the flaws that we should judge by, it is how obstacles are overcome and challenges are met. Sobey does a magnificent job of bringing real issues to the forefront and meeting them head on. That is not to say the characters always choose the best or easiest options, but realistically, who does?

Classified as a YA Novel, adults will also find that No Fences in Alaska is a heartwarming tale of redemption, love and change. The setting of Alaska is perfect. Bears, moose and the cold all play roles in the book. The beauty and serenity of the Alaskan wilderness allows more introspect than any state in the lower 48 could possibly offer.

This is the first book I’ve read by Glen Sobey. His previous book, The War Blog was also set in Alaska. Both of his novels are standalone, but both seem to have the same common thread of love, coming of age and the sharp truths some teens have to live with.

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

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: A Measure of Murder – Cute Culinary Cozy

A Measure of Murder

By Leslie Karst

Sally Solari has more on her plate than the delicious meals she is serving at Gauguin, the restaurant she recently inherited. Her schedule is full with the management of Gauguin. She is also helping her father at Solari’s, the restaurant her family has owned for years. Sally is slowly trying to find a replacement for herself so she can focus more on Gauguin, but her father is resisting her efforts. He is sure no one can take his daughter’s place in their family’s Italian restaurant.

Even though Sally loves the restaurant business, she decides to carve out a bit of her precious free time to do something for herself. Deciding she will spend some of the precious few hours of her free time by joining a local chorus that needs members.

Like any social group, the choir has personality conflicts, but overall they are a great bunch of dedicated vocalists that enjoy each other and their craft. The director has found fame with the discovery of some sheet music by a famous composer making the pull to be a part of the choir more desirable. Unfortunately their first rehearsal ends in tragedy. One of the tenors falls to his death. His girlfriend seeks out Sally and asks her to investigate the accident because she is sure it was murder.

The police have closed the case, but Sally agrees to switch her chef’s hat for a deerstalker a la Sherlock Holmes because she doesn’t think the evidence adds up to an accident. That means that one of the members of her choir could be a murderer. Let’s all hope Sally isn’t the next victim.

Karst writes a meaty cozy mystery. Her characters are strong, multi-faceted and interesting. Sally juggles her career and personal life just as most of us. She loves the restaurant business, her family and friends. It is refreshing to read a cozy mystery without the main character being a bit ditzy. Her father and grandmother enforce the family values she believes in as well as adding humor to the story.

The plot is interesting and solid. There are several suspects, all of them likely killers. As Sally quietly works the case in her spare time, the motives are varied and believable I was convinced I knew who the killer was until a new theory was introduced that was as likely as the previous one making me change my mind in an instant.

A Measure of Murder is the second Sally Solari Mystery by Leslie Karst. It is the first one I have read, but it worked well as a stand-alone novel. That being said, I enjoyed it so much I plan to read the first in this series, Dying for a Taste. It was really a sweet treat to get to the end of the book and see that some of the delicious recipes discussed in the novel were in the final pages. All of them look delectable. I can’t wait to try the Grilled Salmon with Papaya and Avocado Pico de Gallo.

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 © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Paramount Theater in Aurora, IL Never Disappoints

Paramount

We went with our best friends to the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas concert at the Paramount Theater in Aurora, IL last Saturday. If you read yesterday’s post I talked a bit about it, but was so focused on the sock incident I decided to wait until today to talk about the actual event.

Let me say first of all that I love Mannheim Steamroller Christmas songs. The band meets orchestra sound is very pleasing to me when it is the carols I know and love. But, when it is music from their “Fresh Aire” albums that is a different story. It isn’t rock, it isn’t big band, it isn’t an orchestra and it just isn’t for me. The crowd loved it and that is great. I am thinking the audience on Saturday would have mostly hated the Foo Fighter concert so I can appreciate different strokes (or music) for different folks makes the world go ’round.

What I did  enjoy was spending time in my favorite theater. The Paramount Theater was built in 1931. The Art Deco style has been beautifully refurbished and an addition was completed in 2006.

Wall art

This is one of the murals on the side walls.

Paramount ceiling

This is one side of the ceiling and part of the balcony.

It always makes me nostalgic to attend events at the Paramount because it is the first theater I remember going to when I was little. My aunt took me to see the new Disney movie “Mary Poppins” there when it was released.

In the early 1980s my middle sons were in a summer theater program and performed “The King and I” before a sold out audience. I worked behind the scenes helping all of the “king’s kids” with make-up, hair and costuming.

So even though the show was not quite what I expected.  the theater was fabulous, the time spent with friends priceless and the evening filled with laughter and song. It was a great way to spend a Saturday night.

 

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Filed under music, Paramount Theater, Wandering Weekends

Rockin’ the Year: Foo Fighters Sonic Highway Tour DC

We don’t go to many live concerts. It isn’t that we don’t like them, in fact we LOVE them, but you know how life can get in the way and before you know it the band or person you wanted to see came to a venue near you and left before you get around to checking on tickets.

But THIS year, became the year we went to more concerts than ever before. It all began with getting tickets for our Daughter-in-law for her birthday for the Foo Fighters tour.

I was not a huge fan, but really got hooked on the Sonic Highway HBO series where Dave Grohl digs deep into the influential music in cities like Seattle, Chicago and Nashville. He is an amazing artist and was even more amazing in concert with the rest of the band, all of whom are talented musicians and showmen.

They were coming to Chicago, but since my son and DIL live in MD, we got tickets for the first show on the U.S. leg of the tour. July 4, 2015 at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C.

Prior to the concert Grohl broke his leg. Not a minor break, but one requiring surgery. He explained all about it during the concert, demoing the crazy chair his road crew built so that he could rock. Here is a Google pic of the chair and Grohl in action.

see original photo here: ( aptopix-foo-fighters-concert-washington.jpg November 5, 2015)
I am getting ahead of myself and the concert. It began at 1 P.M. and lasted until almost 11:00 PM. Bands that were featured on the Sonic Highways Tour started the day off and played non-stop (except during a rain delay) until the Foo Fighters took the stage around 9.
We were rocking to the sounds of Heart, Buddy Guy, Joan Jett, L.L. Cool J an others. It was an amazing mix of music and styles across the years and nation. From blues to rap, there was something for everyone.
The concert goers were young, old and everything in between. Everyone was on their feet when the music ended and they treated us all to a fireworks show.
Here are a couple of pictures we took on cell phones. We sang, clapped and screamed along with the rest of the stadium. For a few hours it was like being the other side of 50 again. I wouldn’t want to live there – but it was a fun place to visit for a few hours. I highly recommend it. 🙂
Waiting for the Foo Fighters to Start
Foo Fighter Concert 7.4.15
Dave Grohl
Jumbotron Dave Grohl

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Filed under Blues, Chicago, music, Washington DC

Writing 101 day 3: What is the soundtrack of your life?

Today we were asked to think about, write about, describe and define the three (seriously, only 3??) songs that are the most important in our lives.

I’ve was thinking about this on and off  while working the day job today. The song that immediately came mind was “Do You Feel Like We Do” by Peter Frampton. It has to be the live version on the “Frampton Comes Alive” album. Yes, album. Released in 1976, this two album set became the soundtrack of my newly married life. We played it on the new stereo in our first apartment. Young, without much money, we could easily afford to stay home and listen to Frampton. Three years later I was still totally into his music. In 1979 I rocked our new son singing Frampton instead of lullabies. “Do You Feel Like We Do” is still one of my all time favorites. Possibly even more so now that we have seen Frampton perform it live. Twice. Wooooooooo!!! 🙂Frampton_his son_Cheap Trick Summer 2014

The next  two songs are not as clear in my mind. I’m a Beatles fan, love the Rolling Stones and listen to Big Band tunes from the 40s when driving on the snowy, ice covered streets of Chicago’s winters. I mentioned yesterday singing the Kookaburra Song to my sons when they were little, it brings the fondest memories of my Grandma, mom and aunts singing to me when I was little.

If I absolutely have to narrow my soundtrack to three, the second would probably be “Still the One” by Orleans. Also a pop song from the early days of dating my husband, it can take me back to the 70’s but also remind me that “…I want you to know, after all these years, you’re still the one I want whisperin’ in my ear…” Corny but true, I can’t imagine life without him even after 40 years. This song makes me happy.

“What a Wonderful World” by no one other than Louis Armstrong will round out my favorite songs. This song is so beautiful it makes me cry most times when I hear it. It is the song I picked for the mother/son dance at my son’s wedding. I chose it because no matter what sadness or sorrow touches your life, there are things of beauty all around us if we just open our eyes to see them.

DSC_0233

 

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Filed under Frampton, music, writing101