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Book Reviews: Chronicles of a Radical Hag – How Well Do We Really Know Anyone?

Chronicles of a Radical Hag

by  Lorna Ladvik

Haze Evans, columnist for the Granite Creek Gazette suffers a massive stroke at the beginning of Chronicles of a Radical Hag but the book is filled with her words and opinions on life. Haze has been writing columns for as long as anyone can remember. Sometimes her columns are lighthearted in nature, but most often with her strong opinions about social issues of the day. She takes on topics that others might shy away from, and gives her own personal take on everything from abortion to assassinations while making each topic even more personal by sharing her life stories bits and pieces at a time.

Susan, the editor of the paper decides to run Haze’s columns while her favorite columnist is hospitalized. Susan’s high school age son Sam is enlisted to work for his mom by reading through Haze’s columns to see which ones would be appropriate to run as well as the responses Haze received on the topics. He is an introverted teen with a lot on his mind, mainly the recent affair his father has had which lead to his parents separation.

Sam soon becomes engrossed in Haze’s columns, advice and the people who love and hate her opinions. The Gazette readers are finding a new side of their favorite columnist by reading Haze’s opinions from years ago. This interest has encouraged the local high school kids to really discuss issues in their English class instead of the usual disinterest in the meaning of text. Some of the kids have even begun writing – pen to paper – writing down their opinions and thoughts.

While Haze seems to have opened her life to her readers, Sam uncovers some things that she has never shared. The further he digs he realizes that one of the secrets could have an impact on his family. But honestly, we cannot know everything about a person, each of us has something we don’t share with others that might surprise even the best of friends.

Ms. Ladvik creates a town of engaging characters, old and young. As the reader gets to know each of them, it is easy to see why they behave like they do. Watching them grow and learn is a gift to the reader. It gives us hope for the change that true dialog with others whether written or conversing can initiate.

This is the first book that I have read by Ms. Ladvik, but not the first she has written. When I popped over to her website, I found that this is her 15th book. How I could have missed her engaging writing style reminiscent of Fanny Flagg is beyond me. I will be adding the other 14 to my reading list.

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 Mystery of Ruby’s Mistletoe – Delightful Historical Cozy Mystery

The Mystery of Ruby’s Mistletoe

By Rose Donovan

Spending the holidays with the aunt that disowned her after her father’s death was definitely not on Fina’s list of things to do. But when the constable showed up at Oxford looking for her best friend Ruby, the girls need to get away from the college before one or both of them spend the holidays in jail even though neither of them has committed a crime.

Fina used to love her Aunt Millicent, known to most as Lady Shillington. But after Fina’s brother was wrongfully hanged for the murder of Fina’s father. Lady Shillington cut all ties with Fina and her mum after the trial, so it came as a surprise that she would invite Fina for the holidays.

Because Fina knows her brother was innocent, she and Ruby decide to find the real killer when visiting the village for the holiday. Unbeknownst to them, Lady Shillington has invited all of the people involved with the untimely deaths to celebrate the holidays at her home.

Fina, Ruby and their friend Pixley are locked in a snowbound mansion with the person or persons that are undoubtedly the murderer or murderers. Will someone else die before Christmas dinner is served? Fina and her friends must find the killer but who can they trust to help trap the guilty person or persons?

This historical cozy mystery set in the 1930s it is full of red herrings, twists and turns. Like all cozies, the murder is not graphic and the gumshoes are college students not police inspectors. But do not discount the detailed hunt for the killer using the only tools available to solve crime in the early 1900s, which pretty much amounts to good old brain power.

Reading Ms. Donovan’s book is reminiscent to one of my favorite authors, Dame Agatha Christie. Setting up the suspects in a snowbound house, asking them to meet in the drawing room and the cleverly satisfying conclusion was extremely satisfying. I can picture Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot nodding at Ms. Donovan saying “Well done!”

This is the sixth book in the Ruby Dove Mystery Series. It is the first one I have read. It works fine as a standalone novel, but there were some references to previous cases that escaped me. That is okay, because the reader in me will seek out the five previous books so that I can be privy to the inside jokes between Ruby and Fina as well as learn about their previous cases that were referenced in The Mystery of Ruby’s Mistletoe.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received an Advanced Review Copy (or ARC) on Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Plotting for Murder – Book #1 in New Cozy Series

Plotting for Murder

By Tamra Baumann

Moving back to Sunset Cove was never part of Sawyer Davis’ plan. She is a chef, not a bookstore owner. Unfortunately, the death of her mother brought her back home, at least until she can figure out how to access the monies from her mom’s trust fund that are tightly held by her conniving uncle. The only thing her mother’s brother wants is the other half of the family’s money instead of  just the half he deserves. Her mom left some clues as to how Sawyer can use her inheritance to buy her own restaurant, but will she ever be happy in the small town she escaped from when her fiancé left her at the alter?

She is overwhelmed with the trust fund restrictions, the crumbling home she now lives in, running the bookstore that was her mother’s passion. Oh, and trying to figure out just where her life is going. Her mother has been lovingly meddling from the grave. She leaves a riddle for Sawyer to solve that promises funding for the restaurant she longs to open. Her mom has arranged for a puppy to be delivered, and to top it off, she has arranged for two men to become necessary in Sawyer’s life, one new and one from Sawyer’s past.

Gage, the lawyer in town assigned to help her is handsome, kind and doesn’t hide his attraction to Sawyer. To make matters worse, the sheriff is Dylan, the gorgeous guy who got cold feet and ran out on her. Sparks begin to fly but Sawyer does not have time for romance with either of them. Unfortunately, her life and livelihood depends upon working with these two men. And just when she thought life could not get more complicated, someone is murdered during book club at her store. Sawyer isn’t about to hide in a corner waiting for something to happen. She begins her own investigation much to Dylan’s chagrin. Lucky for her, there are plenty of locals that love to gossip, so she enlists her book club buddies to help catch the killer. Who can she trust? Will the killer strike again and will Sawyer be the target?

Plotting for Murder has all the essential elements of a great cozy. The setting is interesting, small town America is a treasure trove of small shops full of quirky characters and adorable men vying for her attention, Sawyer is surrounded by a rich cast. It is fun to meet them and see the connections they have to Sawyer’s past.  I am looking forward to seeing how they will grow and evolve during the series. One of my personal favorites is Cooper, the puppy. He is a gift from Sawyer’s mom from beyond the grave and hopefully will play a part in solving the mysteries to come.

This is the first in the Cozy Mystery Bookshop Series by award winning author Tamra Baumann. It is also the first book of Ms. Baumann’s I have read. It is no secret that I love cozy mysteries and to find a new series is like Christmas morning for this bibliophile. I’ll be watching for the next one in this series as well as checking out the other cozy series written by Ms. Baumann.

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

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Liar’s Child – Fast Paced Psychological Thriller

The Liar’s Child

By Carla Buckley

Living in a small town can be rough. Everyone knows your business. And when your business includes your wife leaving your young son in the back of the car on a sweltering day almost killing him small towns can be brutal.

Ever since that day, people averted their eyes whenever Whit and Diane walked down the street. As if making a horrible mistake was contagious. Diane didn’t help her cause by being confrontational, moody and actually acting a bit unstable. This was not the first time she did something questionable. She often takes off either with or without the kids, oftentimes calling Whit to rescue her from whatever crazy plan she started but could not complete. But this time she has been gone for too long without any communication with her family at all.

Since she left, Whit has been trying to work and take care of Cassie and Boon. After being released from the hospital, Boon is physically fine, but has emotional issues due to the trauma and now his mother abandons them, making him even more anxious. Cassie is out of control. She is only 12, but hanging with a much older crowd. Drinking, sex and Goth make-up accompanies a surly attitude beyond her years.

When Sara, a new neighbor that is in the witness protection program moves into the apartment next to the family, their lives will become hopelessly entangled. None of them want this, but circumstances warrant a strange alliance between Sara and the children. Secrets and lies swirl around them like bees waiting to sting the first one to make a wrong move.

Ms. Buckley’s fast paced plot has deliciously unexpected twists and turns. Just when I thought I knew what was going to happen, I was wrong. I love novels that can surprise me and give me that “ah” moment when I realize all the info was clearly there but I didn’t realize where the plot was headed.

The characters are interestingly flawed, making them real from the first pages. I loved Boon, he is a gentle little soul who only wants to get his mom back even though she is like a landmine waiting to go off at the slightest touch. Cassie is tough on the outside, but so vulnerable underneath I hoped she would find the right path. Sara has an agenda; Whit is just trying to make it through the day without another disaster. All of them are brilliantly portrayed.

This is the fifth book by Ms. Buckley. It is the first one I have read, but I will be searching out her previous books, because I really enjoyed this fast paced, well-written novel. All five of her novels are psychological suspense novels promising hours of page turning pleasure for her readers.

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: Milk Soaps – Make Your Own Luscious Soaps

Milk Soaps

By Ann-Marie Faiola

Soap making has been around for years. My grandma used to make it out of lye and ashes and dad always complained it did the job but it wasn’t necessarily easy on your hands. Store bought soap used to be a luxury. Now we purchase soaps in many different colors, shapes and scents from stores, but I prefer handmade soaps. Local artists create wonderful soaps, many of them unique with colors and ingredients that smell fabulous. They are often pricy and there is a reason for this. There is a lot of work that goes into making your own soap, but if you read Milk Soaps, you will have step by step instructions to help you succeed if you would like to give it a try.

A balance of a high-pH substance such as lye or sodium hydroxide and oil will make soap. But the process is not quite that easy. A “carrier liquid” is needed, most of the time water is used, but true to the book’s title, the recipes in this book will use milk. You can use any kind of milk. I loved the chapter on the different types. Most memorable are camel and make your own nut, grain and seed milks. There are special techniques for working with milks in soap, one of them outlines how to use frozen milk.

Why does the author use milk instead of water? It is all about the lather. With milk soap, the lather is creamier and the foam is finer and silkier. Milk is a natural moisturizer to soothe and soften your skin.

Ms. Faiola includes 35 skin-nourishing recipes. She gives the reader detailed lists of items needed as well as how to safely use lye. It is an extremely caustic substance and should always be used with the proper safety equipment and attire. Dressing like a lab scientist not only looks cool, but keeps you safe from getting lye on your skin or in your eyes.

Making soap is complicated. Milk Soaps gives you all of the written instructions, tips and tricks to create your own fabulous soap. It is interesting to read even if you don’t want to make your own soap, it will give you information that you can use to choose the perfect soap from your local artisan or farmer’s market. If you do choose to make your own soap, you may find it is fun and all of your friends and relatives will love helping you try out new scents and color combinations.

After reading this book and seeing the work soap making entails, I understand the reason for the price of handmade soap, and appreciate the work that the soap maker has put into each bar of soap. Soapmaking is truly an art.

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 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: Beginner’s Guide to Colorwork Knitting – Fun for Experienced and New Knitters

Beginner’s Guide to Colorwork Knitting

By Ella Austin

New and seasoned knitters will enjoy the patterns and techniques in Beginner’s Guide to Colorwork Knitting. Basic patterns are included for items such as a scarf, socks, hat and reversible cowl. The key to this informative book is how to work with color and master new techniques to create beautiful knit items.

My favorite part of this book is the depth in which the author goes to ensure success with colors. If you have ever knitted with two colors that are both beautiful, yet find the finished product not pleasing to your eye, Ms. Austin gives you the tools to create the color combos you are searching for. To start, look for things in nature, art, food or honestly anything that catches your eye. I don’t know anyone that likes to swatch, but swatch the colors together and see if they are pleasing to your eye.

Easy to read info regarding hue, value, saturation will make you look at your yarn in a different light. Tidbits of information will help you create the knitted fabric you are picturing. My favorite is to take a black and white photo of your two colors to see if the combination has enough contrast to make the pattern pop. It is easy to do with your smart phone. Most of them have the option of turning your photo to black and white. On my Samsung, I just take a picture, go to edit, and then click on the icon on the bottom that shows three connected circles. It will then change the colors of the picture across the bottom of the screen and one of them is black and white. If your colors bleed into each other making it all look the same, you may want to try another swatch.

All of the patterns are written out and charted so no matter which you prefer to use, the author has you covered. The tutorials on what could be confusing instructions in other publications are perfectly clear and easy to follow. Pictures are included as well as step by step instructions to ensure your success. It is always beneficial for me to see an actual picture instead of a drawing when learning a new technique or in the tricky part of a pattern. The patterns are great, but the star of this book is colorwork and the color techniques you will learn.

Adding the new dimension of color to your knitting will make it pop in ways you may not have imagined. A simple or difficult pattern will transform with the colors you use. Armed with the information in Beginner’s Guide to Colorwork Knitting you will be creating works of art with your needles and yarn.

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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