Tag Archives: Netgalley

Book Review: Other People’s Houses – The Perfect Summer Read

Other People’s Houses

By Abbi Waxman

 

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.

Neighbors can be ignored, acquaintances or befriended on levels from chit chats over fences to confidants. In Frances’s neighborhood, she has some of each of the above. As a stay home mom, she is the designated car pool to school kind of neighbor, so she knows anyone with small children pretty well. At least she thought so.

The day started out like any other day. Frances picks up her charges and heads to school with them. Kids are dropped off, piling out of the minivan like a clown car. That is until six-year-old Katie realizes she forgot her toilet paper rolls for her project. The last thing Frances wants to do is to drive back to Katie’s house, get the missing TP rolls and drive back to school again. But looking at Katie’s desperate little face she knows she will have to go back for them.

Getting back to the child’s house, Frances knocked, but when there was no answer, she figured Anne, Kate’s mom, had gone back to bed or was busy and didn’t hear the knock. She opened the door and saw the bag of toilet paper rolls right inside so she grabbed it and turned to make her return trip to school. That is when she saw Anne laying on the floor.

Frances immediately turned to her asking if she was okay, but suddenly it dawned on her Anne was not alone. And the person she was with was not her husband. Frances isn’t the type of person to blab all over the neighborhood. But even if she doesn’t tell anyone about Anne’s indiscretion, the wheels are in motion to change the dynamics of the neighborhood and their relationships with their families and each other.

Behind closed doors relationships thrive or wither, life changing decisions are made or sometimes made for you. As we learn about all of the neighbors no one may truly be the person they seem to be to the neighbors, even those close to each other. But when two of the children go missing, they will all have to rally together to find them.

Other People’s Houses is a very interesting, often funny book about people who would not necessarily be connected in any way other than buying a house in the same neighborhood. Abbi Waxman gives the reader little gems of character studies throughout the story. Her insight to human nature brings the neighbors to life on her pages. One of my favorites is when one of the kids was thinking about his mom, “His mom never seemed to worry, she was the trellis his little vines twined around.”

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and spend some time with Frances, her family and neighbors. This is the perfect summer read.

This is the first book I have read by Abbi Waxman. It is a gem, so I can’t wait to read her first book, Garden of Small Beginnings next!

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Jar of Hearts – Nail Biting Page Turning Thriller – Read the First 3 Chapters Now

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

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.

What would you do for love? Teenagers often think they have the world by the tail and are invincible. Unfortunately, due to lack of world experience they may choose the wrong crowd to hang out with, the wrong boyfriend or get themselves into a situation that will most likely have dire repercussions on the rest of their lives. But most of them don’t end up dead or in prison like Geo.

Jar of Hearts begins with the trial of a woman who seemed to have it all. A fabulous job and a huge diamond on her finger from a wealthy man. Unfortunately she also has a past with a connection to a serial killer that will take everything away she has worked so hard to get. Georgina Shaw sits listening to the horrific events of her best friend’s death fourteen years ago with her head down. Her ex-boyfriend, now commonly known as the Sweetbay Strangler, is on trial for the murder of her best friend Angela Wong and Georgina (Geo) is just as guilty. She’ll take a plea, go to prison and send Calvin James, the Sweetbay Strangler, to jail with her testimony.

But what really happened that night? Was Geo so involved with James she would have been a party to murdering the girl that had been her best friend? Why did she cover it up all of these years? What kind of monster kills her best friend and goes about her business day after day knowing where the body is buried while the entire community searches for years? When did she cross the line – or did she?

When she is released from prison, Geo harbors many secrets. Someone may kill her to keep those secrets buried in the past. Her other bestie from high school has become a cop. He seems to be around more than necessary, seemingly ready to pounce at the slightest infraction. To add to Geo’s stress and isolation, the Sweetbay Strangler has escaped from prison – will Geo be his next target?

Hillier’s latest psychological thriller is a tightly woven story of love and betrayal, the hunted and hunters. By covering up a horrific murder, the characters would seem to be contemptable, but all of them are not. They are masterfully created as someone you would have coffee with, sit in meetings at work with and invite over for dinner. That is what makes Jar of Hearts such a superb story. Evil lurks closer than you can imagine in everyday life. We can only hope it only touches us via engrossing psychological thrillers like this.

The publishers have graciously sent this link for you to read the first three chapters of Jar of Hearts now. I suspect you will be hooked by the first chapter and immediately need to finish – I was. Follow the link below:

https://read.macmillan.com/lp/jar-of-hearts/

 

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

 

 

 

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Book Review: Twenty-one Days – Stellar Work of Historical History

Twenty-one Days – A Daniel Pitt Novel

By Anne Perry

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.

Set in 1910, Twenty-one Days opens with young barrister Daniel Pitt defending a wealthy man of dubious reputation. Murder is the charge and Pitt’s father is associated with the former police officer standing trial. While the young lawyer is smart and clever, he is worried that he is in over his head. To make matters worse, there is another man on trial for killing his wife in a most brutal way and Pitt is needed the next day to take the place of an injured co-worker so he must wrap up the trial the next morning or the accused will then have to start over with a new defense attorney. Good or bad, Pitt had to finish and be in court at the Old Bailey – the most famous court in the British Empire.

He makes it to court, albeit late.  Kitterage is the lawyer in charge; Pitt will be doing as told. Unfortunately things go south in a hurry. The distasteful accused claimed innocence but it seemed unlikely anyone else could have brutally murdered his wife. Not only was she murdered, but horribly disfigured by burning her face and upper torso after death. This trial does not go the way Kitterage and Pitt planned. Their client was quickly found guilty and set to hang in twenty-one days. He was not a pleasant man, as a matter of fact he was most distasteful. But he was entitled to every effort of his two attorneys to win an appeal to keep him from the hangman’s noose.

To further complicate Kitterage and Pitt’s job even further, the accused has countless enemies due to a controversial manuscript he intends to publish. At best it includes damning information of several highly recognizable and influential citizens. Unfortunately, it borders on treason at the highest level, which is alienating him from the men hired to keep him from hanging. Pitt finds himself working day and night to help the man that just might “rip the masks off of people we regard as heroes” – twenty-one days to do the impossible.

This is the first book in award winning author Anne Perry’s new series starring Daniel Pitt, but it is the 33rd book in the Pitt series. It is the first one I’ve read, but I did not feel confused or that I was missing something in the story for not having started with the entire Pitt series. It is easy to see why Perry is an internationally renowned historical novelist. Her intriguing plot, engaging prose and multidimensional characters are skillfully woven into a page turning book that will delight mystery lovers worldwide.  Ms. Perry is second to none when writing historical fiction.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Social Creature – Compelling Debut Thriller

Social Creature

By Tara Isabella Burton

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

Lavinia is rich, wild and daring. Louise is living life on the edge in other ways. She works three jobs just to make the rent on her dinky apartment. When this unlikely duo collide with each other, Louise begins to lose all sense of self as Lavinia becomes a drug and alcohol Auntie Mame, encouraging Louise to live more and more on the edge until she becomes a permanent accessory of her mentor.

Soon Louise is going to all the “in” places and seeing all the chic people. Selfies are a must as well as extravagant food, drink and over the top and sometimes illegal activities. The more involved she becomes, the less she is herself. Both figuratively and literally.

When the sand castle friendship seems to be dissolving, how far will Louise go to keep up the charade of existence Lavinia has created for her? Do we really know who Louise is?

Burton has written a fabulous book of deception and debauchery. Are these two girls Thelma and Louise, just on a joyride through life until the end goes tragically wrong? Are they both cold and calculating – or is one of them manipulating the other to keep from living a lonely existence? The twists, turns and emotions of this novel make it a true page turner.

Like Louise it is fun to step into a world that most of us just read about on the internet or in tabloids. Most of us would not like to participate, but what if we had someone encouraging and paying for all of the craziness? Maybe we would give it a try. What if we got in too deep? My suggestion is to live this craziness through the pages of Burton’s engrossing novel.

Tara Isabella Burton brings her debut novel to life skillfully. With understated realities, the plot can take the reader places he will hopefully never go in real life. Her writing style creates a reality that is so alluring, we are drawn into the characters and story from the first page and held there until the last word is read.

I hope to hear much more from this author. Social Creature is a gem.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Boy from Tomorrow – Outstanding Middle Grade Fiction

The Boy from Tomorrow

By Camille DeAngelis

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

Josie Clifford didn’t really have any friends. It was hard being the daughter of a mother who did “readings” for a living. Believers came to their house so that Mrs. Clifford could talk to their dead relatives. All of the children in town were either afraid of Josie and her younger sister Cassie or made fun of them because of their mother.

Alec Frost had to find some new friends. His parents divorced and now he and his mother moved to a very old house in a new town to start a new beginning. Unlike Josie, Alec did find a few friends and he also found a “talking board” secreted away in his new home. Similar to Ouija Boards, it was used in the early 1900’s to communicate with the dead.

When Alec and his friends started playing around with the board, they found it was more than a game. Somehow it was allowing them to communicate with Josie and Cass, residents of Alec’s new house a century ago. Alec now slept in the bedroom once occupied by the girls and their beloved Nanny and teacher, Emily.

When Mrs. Clifford found out what her daughters were doing she was furious. Unfortunately, the cruel and conniving Mrs. Clifford found a way to use her children and Alec for her own gain by having him tell her about events in the future. When life became more and more dangerous for the girls, could Alec figure out a way to save them even though they exist 100 years apart?

This fast paced children’s book is sure to become a classic. The intricate story draws the reader in making it impossible to put down. It is written for middle grade children but as an adult I quite enjoyed it.

The artful switching from the girls’ point of view to the present time point of view of Alec and his friends pulls the reader into the thoughts and feelings of the characters. I have to admit that I sniffled more than once. It is impossible not to get emotionally attached to Alec, Josie and Cassie.

The ending of this book was magnificent. It tied up all of the loose ends. It is important to not leave things hanging in books such as these, and The Boy from Tomorrow did not disappoint.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Last Chance Matinee – Compelling Women’s Fiction

The Last Chance Matinee

By Mariah Stewart

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

Cara is devastated to hear her father has passed away. She is shocked  and confused that her father’s close friend and attorney has followed her father’s odd, yet explicit wishes. Her father traveled often, and unbeknownst to her was diagnosed with terminal cancer, succumbed to the disease and then cremated without her knowledge.

She understands that her father’s attorney, known to her as Uncle Pete, was only doing her father’s bidding. Still reeling from her mother’s death, Cara feels utterly alone and honestly a bit confused. She is given instructions to come to meet with Uncle Pete regarding her father’s will.

When she arrives, she meets Allie and Des. Apparently her father has an entirely different life than the one he shared with Cara – these two strangers are her sisters.He simply had two wives, one on the east coast and one on the west coast that he managed to keep separate until his death.

The only way any of them will inherit his sizeable estate is to follow his directions explicitly. It specifies all of them must live and work together in his hometown in Pennsylvania to restore the theater that has been in their family for generations. Each of them is harboring secrets from the others but they all could really use the money – one far more than the others. So they begin the rocky road to restoration on the aging building as well as themselves.

I love the diversity of the characters and settings in this novel. The women are so different from one another, the two sisters raised together don’t even really like each other. It is easy to empathize with them for the odd situation they are thrust into.

Stewart wisely highlights her characters that bring her story to life making it a page turning gem. Every chapter had me reading “just one more” deep into the night. There is only one complaint I have. The loose ends are not tied up. This is the first book in a planned trilogy so I am anxiously awaiting the second and third books, and I don’t mind a cliff hanger or two, but none of my questions were answered by the end of the book. I need more closure to be satisfied with the ending of a book I adored.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Girl Who Talked to Ghosts – YA Novel for Fans of Harry Potter

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The Girl Who Saved Ghosts (The Unbelievables Book 2)

By K.C. Tansley

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

Kat Langley is exhausted. Ghosts are visiting her day and night for her to assist with their reckoning. Kat can help them leave the earth and be at peace, but physically and mentally it is taking a toll on her.

It might seem like a tough job for a high school girl, but not as tough as time traveling and fighting evil last year. Unfortunately, this year will bring more challenges than ever before, not the least of which is traveling to Dumbarton, her father’s ancestral home, to learn more about her powers. But more importantly to Kat, returning to the home of her father’s family she may meet the man she has longed for all of her life. She needs to know why he left her as an infant. Finding out more about becoming the Langley heir in the process, just might help Kat figure out why she is the chosen one.

Unbeknownst to Kat, she will be called upon to save not only her family, but the future of the three other families that the Langleys have been intertwined with for centuries. Forces that are stronger than Kat will require more magic than she can summon alone, but she must try or they will all perish.

Tansley conjures up a fabulous tale of good and evil mixed with magic and danger. Her characters both dead and alive are compelling and interesting. Jumping into a different century adds a complexity that is often missing in YA novels. The main plot as well as the subplots of romance and family issues rounds out the novel in a satisfying way.

This is the first novel I’ve read in the series, and it did take a chapter or two for me to get up to speed on the back story. I would suggest reading the first in the series, The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts to avoid any confusion. That being said, I enjoyed it.

I highly recommend this series to anyone who loved Harry Potter. It is a captivating story for both YA and adults.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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