Tag Archives: Romance

Book Review: Still Crazy – Debut Fiction

By Judy Prescott Marshall

By Judy Prescott Marshall

Julie Holliday is certain her husband Dan is cheating on her. Again. She is still in love with him, and prays that he will stop his philandering, but time and time again she finds evidence that he is involved with other women. She begins to plan her escape. Heartbroken, she sells her beloved bakery and slowly liquidates her rental properties.

Leaving the man she has loved since they were young is not easy, but she cuts all ties with friends and family so that he cannot find her. Driving without a destination, she comes upon a small town in Rhode Island and soon makes it her home. Using her savings to purchase a large home, she finds a local handyman to help her renovate it. He is like a father to her. The transformation to an inn makes Julie happy, but never brings her peace. She is still in love with the man she left behind.

Still Crazy is a book of hope and rejuvenation. The characters grow and mature throughout the novel. The setting is ideal. The serenity of a small New England town is the perfect backdrop for healing a heartache and building a new life.

This is the first novel by Judy Prescott Marshall. She is the sauthor of a sef-help non-fiction book: Be Strong Enough. Still Crazy is the first book in a series, the second, The Inn in Rhode Island, will be at your local bookstores soon. I recommend Still Crazy to fans of Hallmark movies and books as well as onyone who enjoys a strong woman’s story of survival.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received an ARC for free from Bookish and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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It Cannoli Be Murder – A Delicious Cozy Mystery

It Cannoli Be Murder

An Italian Chef Mystery

By Catherine Bruns

 

Tess is on the verge of something big – opening her very own Italian restaurant – a dream she has had forever. It is bittersweet because her husband died six months ago. He shared her life and her vision for the future, but Tess is slowly moving on from his loss.

Her cousin Gabby, who is more like a sister is there for her, supporting and encouraging the opening of Anything’s Pastable . When Gabby schedules an author event at her bookstore, Tess jumps in to help with the refreshments even though she is crazy busy with the final prep for her restaurant.

The author talk was a disaster. He is obnoxious and his assistant, Daphne, is an old high school nemesis of the cousins. When Tess finds her dead late that night in the bookstore, both Gabby and Tess are at the top of the list of suspects. They are not going to stand for being accused of murder, nor are they going to let the murder close the bookstore and forestall the opening of the restaurant. They begin investigating and soon find several people who wanted Daphne out of the picture. Unfortunately for the girls, someone will go to any lengths to keep the amateur sleuths from finding the true killer.

This is the first book I have read by Catherine Bruns. It is the second book in the Italian Chef Mystery Series. I was not confused or lost at anytime in the book, it works very well as a standalone novel. I’m a huge fan of cozy mysteries. It Cannoli Be Murder is a fun, interesting read with so many viable suspects I didn’t know who the murderer was until the last pages. I really enjoyed the plot and characters and highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a fun and interesting cozy mystery.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Spent Identity – Solid Mystery with a Side of Romance

3.25.20Spent Identity

By Marlene M. Bell

Annalisse Drury needs the fresh air and open places that her brownstone in Manhattan cannot provide. Luckily, she has the perfect outlet, the family farm she grew up on in Goshen. As a small child her parents died, so she came to live with her beloved Aunt Kate. Unfortunately, when she lived with them, Kate’s now dead husband and two obnoxious children reminded her constantly that she would never be a part of their family, no matter how much Kate cared and loved her.

When she arrives at the farm for the weekend, Annalisse realizes that something is bothering Kate. Annalisse finds a letter from Kate’s son stating he is selling the family farm out from under his mother. Heartbroken and furious, Annalisse vows to stop him. Unfortunately, when a dead body is found in the barn by the hired hand, they all must leave the farm per the sheriff until the investigation is complete. They head over to Annalisse’s boyfriend’s estate, which is fairly close to the farm. Kate disappears right after she and Annalisse arrive. Annalisse and Alec, her boyfriend, are soon on the hunt to find her missing aunt. Luckily, Alec is wealthy. He calls in a private investigator to assist in the search. Annalisse and Alec soon realize they are also in danger. Will they live to find Kate? Who is behind the killing and kidnapping? Are the two crimes related?

This fast-paced mystery combined with the slow burn of romance features a solid plot and interesting characters. Revenge is served up with a side of tension, twists and turns making readers fear for the outcome, all the while trying to figure out what would happen next. Ms. Bell serves up a surprising and satisfying ending that mystery lovers will adore.

Spent Identity is the second book in this series, but the first one I’ve read. In the first few chapters, the author summarizes the background needed to make sense of the relationships between the main characters. It works well as a stand-alone novel, I was not confused or lost. I recommend Spent Identity to everyone that loves mysteries, thrillers and a bit of romance.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery (https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/spent-identity-marlene-bell) in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 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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Book Review: Sweet Girl Undone – Engaging New Series By NY Times Best-Selling Author

Sweet Girl Undone

By Denise Swanson

Lucy Wheeler loves her life as a special education teacher in Cedar Vale, Illinois. Sure the town is small and not many eligible bachelors are ripe for the picking, but she has her bestie to hang out with and her family close by.

Known as “the nice girl” Lucy rarely makes waves. Normally she is excited about the new school year starting, but after receiving the principal’s memo outlining all of the assignments for the year she realizes that he is taking advantage of her good nature again. Her frustration is calling for a quick trip for ice cream with her best friend and fellow teacher Delaney. The sweet treat ends with a serious discussion about the state of Lucy’s love life.

Lucy needs to start dating. She is in a rut that is comfortable but lonely. Ever since the college breakup via text with the love of her life she has been drifting in the love department. She doesn’t want to admit, even to herself, that she still cares about him. Making matters worse, Curt, her ex, is now the Pastor at the church she attends. In her eyes no one can measure up to him even though he broke her heart. If she opens up to him, will he respond or make her even more miserable by rejecting her again?

New York Times best-selling author Denise Swanson is well represented on my bookshelf with her Scumble River Mystery cozy series. I love her books and even though I am not usually a fan of romance novels, I enjoyed the characters and settings in this prequel novella of this new series. I can’t wait to read more about Lucy, Delaney and the rest of the gang. It is always fun for me to read about the places in Swanson’s books as I am from the Chicago area and recognize the local landmarks.

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

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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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Book Review: Karma’s a Killer – Cozy Mystery Full of Critters and Karma

 

Karma's a KillerKarma’s A Killer
By Tracy Weber
277 pages

Yoga teacher Kate Davidson has her plate full. She owns and teaches classes Serenity Yoga and even though she is successful, owning a business is not a walk in the park. That is why she wonders why she is standing in Seattle’s Green Lake Park getting ready to teach a “Doga” class, which is basically yoga for dogs. It is against her better judgement, but she is willing to look silly to help raise funds for Dogma a local no-kill animal shelter. And her boyfriend Michael organized the event so naturally Kate wants to help make the event fun and profitable.

Right away her Zen is challenged by a group that is protesting the idea of a shelter, especially one with animals other than dogs and cats. An altercation soon has the potential to turn dangerous when the protesters become reckless. During all the mayhem that ensues, someone dies.

Kate finds out the woman arrested is claiming to be her estranged mother, Dharma. She is conflicted over helping the woman that abandoned her, but Kate cannot let an innocent person go to prison for a murder she didn’t commit.

Once again, Kate knows better, but has to jump into an investigation to find the real killer. She enlists the help of Michael, who is a reluctant participant. She assures him all will be well, especially with her protective German Shepherd Bella on the job. But when someone messes with Bella, Kate throws caution out the window to find the perp before someone else is hurt.

This is a perfect cozy mystery. Kate is an entertaining amateur sleuth. She is funny, flawed and loveable. Her past isn’t really pretty, but she doesn’t dwell on it. Her relationship with Michael isn’t always a romp in the park, but true to life. Then there is her pogonophobia, which leads to humorous situations. I love the rest of the characters. A particular favorite of mine is Dale Evans, the goat farming lawyer. He is a hoot and even bakes Bella goat cheese treats.

Karma’s a Killer is the third book in the Downward Dog Mystery Series. I have not read any of the other books in the series, but was not confused or “lost” at any point. I highly suggest this book if you are a fan of cozies, animals and/or are into yoga.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman
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.


 

 

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