Tag Archives: writing

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: 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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Picture Book Idea Month – Sounds Easy Enough – Until You Try IT!

Today begins the first day of PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month). How hard can it be to come up with an idea or two or three a day for a picture book? REALLY, REALLY hard.

Tara Lazar hosts PiBoIdMo on her blog:  http://taralazar.com/author/anonymom/. She has great guest bloggers and lots of information and encouragement to share. I highly recommend going to her blog and at least checking it out. I find great tips all year long in her posts.

This isn’t my first PiBoIdMo. I’ve participated the last 3 years. Out of those two month’s I’ve probably had 5 solid ideas. Not bad – until you try and tell the story in 500-600 words. AND making sure no one has used the idea or theme before. I can not imagine how difficult it would be to get far enough to have someone to publish your book once it is complete.

But still I write. It is fun to get “inside tips” from published picture book writers. They’ve been in the trenches, lived through the pain of cutting words and characters that just aren’t working no matter how much they love them.

A writer has to love to write. PiBoIdMo gives ideas and inspiration to make it easier to cook up great stories, but in the end you are the one stirring that pot hoping it doesn’t end up stinky and in the garbage. But if it does, a writer begins to write again.

Today’s inspiration came from Joan Holub whose list of books is enviable. But those books didn’t just appear in bookstores. Joan wrote & wrote and rewrote even more. Check out today’s post and if you are so inclined, sign up – you have until Nov 5th.

If I can come up with 30 ideas – so can you!

piboidmo2015participant

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Book Review: Lost in the Garden by Philip Beard – I love this author!!!

Lost in the Gardenlost in the garden

By Philip Beard

230 pages

Lost in the Garden is a fictional biography written by Michael Benedict, self-proclaimed under achiever. Born into a wealthy family, he goes to law school then works the least possible billable hours to maintain his place in a law firm.

He is married with two daughters, both of whom he adores. Michael and his wife lost a third child and neither of them seem to be coping with the loss, but have settled into a comfortable routine as a family. The girls are in school, leaving more free time for Michael and his wife Kelly to rekindle the romance of their younger days.

Unfortunately, Michael decided he wants to become a pro golfer. Kelly scoffs at the idea because he just isn’t that great of a golfer despite spending most, if not all of his free time at the expensive country club he has grown up in. When Kelly tells him she is pregnant – an absolute surprise to both of them – the couple drifts further apart instead of becoming closer.

I wanted to slap Michael, tell him to put on his big boy boxers and stop whining. Beard is a master of making his characters, both lovable and downright annoying, come alive on the page. It takes a brave or crazy writer to make his main character unlikable. Most could not pull it off. That is not the case with Lost in the Garden. The fact that Michael made awful choices then rationalized them really worked in this book. Maybe men would be able to identify more with him as he hits his mid-life crisis, but women will still like this book. I loved it.

The subplots with his minor characters are just as compelling as the main story, sometimes taking it over for a chapter. The smooth transition back and forth between story lines makes Beard a master storyteller. He gets into the heads of all of his characters, no matter how big or small of a part they play overall. No one is glossed over, which ads a layer of depth not often found in a book that is so readable. I often thought about parts after I’d read them with “ah ha!” moments connecting why one character or the other acted the way they did.

Beard is one of my favorite new authors. He has written three stand alone novels, Dear Zoe is his first, Lost in the Garden is his second and Swing is his latest. They are all different subjects and characters, but all of them are deeply complicated, yet read like the latest best seller. I defy you to put one of his books aside without it calling you back to see what is going to happen next. I am honestly shocked that everyone who reads doesn’t have at least one of his books on their shelf. The only reason I don’t right now is I’ve loaned my copies out to friends, who then have loaned them out to friends….if you love a book or an author, share them!

In case you can’t decide which one to read first, here are the links to my reviews of his other novels:

https://writeknit.wordpress.com/2015/05/02/book-review-dear-zoe-by-philip-beard-heart-breaking-but-beautiful-novel/

https://writeknit.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/book-review-swing-by-phillip-beard-a-grand-slam-must-read/

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: Bye, Bye Love by K.J. Larsen – Perfectly Plotted Fun

Bye, Bye Love

By K.J. LarsenBye-Bye-Love-cover

218 pages

PI Cat DeLuca has a habit of annoying the police while in pursuit of cheating spouses. She owns the Pants On Fire Detective Agency that is known for catching lying, cheating spouses. Cat seems to stumble into trouble and over dead bodies routinely. Lucky for her she has a long family history of Chicago cops to help her even when she doesn’t think she needs it.

After a particularly hairy stakeout situation, Cat decides to unwind with a run. Even though it is late, she feels safe running in the park with her partner Inga – who happens to be a beagle. Cat literally lands face first on a dead body. The only problem is the bad guy is still around and zaps her before she can get her tazer out. By the time she is able to call the police the body is missing.

Even though her father is an ex-cop, her brother is a current cop and her uncle is quite probably a dirty cop, Captain Bob of the Chicago police department doesn’t believe Cat.  He makes the big mistake of letting Cat know how little he thinks of her detective skills. She vows to find the killer herself and hopefully the body that went missing and made her the laughing stock of the Ninth Precinct. Lucky – or unlucky for her – she saw the guy she thinks is the killer. But of course that means he saw her also. Now she is hunting for the killer, looking for the corpse and trying not to get killed herself.

Zany circumstances force her into predicaments that include going to a biker bar, being ambushed by a mobster and into dead people’s homes to search for clues. Her assistant Cleo tends to make things worse, but her heart is in the right place even though she often ends up in the wrong place.

While all of this is going on, her pushy mother keeps trying to guilt her into marriage and starting a family. To complicate matters more, her boyfriend’s parents are coming in to meet her parents. It is planned to be one happy family dinner. The question is how will ex-hippy vegetarians get along with meat loving Italians? Cat can see the impending train wreck and tries everything she can think of to not be on board when it happens, but nothing works. She is going to have to have dinner and hopefully make it through the evening without losing her boyfriend in the process.

This is K.J. Larsen’s forth book in the Cat DeLuca Mystery series. It read great as a stand-alone novel, just enough background info to let people new to the series get up-to-date, but not so much as to become repetitious to readers of the series. This witty read kept me laughing with one-liners and outlandish situations that could actually happen if a PI had bad luck and crazy friends, foes and family. Here are the other three, because I know you are going to want the series. I do!

Liar, LiarSome like it hotSticks and stones
K.J. is actually three sisters, Kari, Julianne and Kristen Larsen. This award winning trio writes under one name and if you didn’t know it was more than one person, you could not guess by the writing. The sisters brilliantly combine their efforts to create a fun series with quirky characters both human and animal.

If you are a fan of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum Mysteries, you will love K.J.’s Cat DeLuca. There is a perfectly plotted mystery among the poker games and car chases. The twist at the end was masterful; I totally did not see it coming.

Bye, Bye Love is a fast paced, fun book. I especially liked all of the Chicago references since I live in the burbs and have seen many of them myself.

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 © 2015 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Death Takes a Mistress: Delightfully Twisted Tale of Intrigue

Death Takes A Mistress, A Dan & Rivka Sherman Mystery Death Takes a Mistress

By Rosemary and Larry Mild

240 pages

Death Takes A Mistress begins in Bath, England, 1982. A young, single mother is brutally murdered in her apartment, presumably by her married lover. Luckily her infant daughter Ivy was with a neighbor at the time. The case soon grew cold, everyone except Ivy let the memory of that awful day slip away.

Fast forward to 2005.Ivy Cohen was raised by the neighbor that her mother left her with many years ago. Happy and loved, Ivy is a well-adjusted college graduate with a mission. She is determined to find her father – the man who murdered her mother.

The only clues she has to go by are old police reports, her mother’s journal and a box from an Annapolis store that was left at the crime scene. Ivy heads for Virginia with more courage and determination than money. She quickly finds a job as a clerk at The Olde Victorian Bookstore working for Dan and Rivka Sherman.

The job is a perfect fit. She quickly finds the Sherman’s intrigued with her story and quest to find her father. They have a connection to Scotland Yard and the couple quickly agrees to help Ivy obtain a copy of her mother’s diary.

Once it arrives, Ivy discovers that her father probably belongs to one of four families. Impatiently, she stirs the hornet’s nest of possible relatives by announcing her plans to find the person that murdered her mother. Her plan works. Someone attacks her to get to the diary, and that is just the beginning of the events leading towards the end of her quest – or maybe even her life.

This is the second in the Mild’s Dan & Rivka Sherman Mystery Series. It reads fine as a stand-alone novel, with just enough references to the first book in the series (Death Goes Postal) to pique my interest but not give away the plot.

Death Takes A Mistress is a delightfully twisted tale of intrigue. Every time I thought I knew who the killer was, a plot twist would make me second-guess my conclusion. I didn’t know for sure until the final chapters, which makes the mystery lover in me very happy.

The characters were fun and believable. Even secondary characters like the woman who rents Ivy a room have personalities that made me connect with them. The bad boys that weren’t all bad and the good boys who are actually bad are exceedingly well done and true-to-life. I am looking forward to reading more books by the Mild’s.

Copyright © 2014 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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Book Review: The Richebourg Affair

The Richebourg Affair R.M. Cartmel’s novel, The Richebourg Affair is a solid, satisfying mystery set in the tiny village of Nuits-Saint-Georges, France. Commandant Truchaud, a decorated member of the Paris police department receives a call that his brother has died, and he must return home to Nuits-Saint-Georges immediately. His commanding officer insists Truchaud take at least a month off to go home to his family’s Domaine where he can properly attend to the burial of his brother. He also needs to make sure the rest of the family as well as their wine business is on steady footing before he returns to his post in Paris.

He arrives home to find his father in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, the family business possibly involved in underhanded dealings and ghosts of his past rearing their heads at the most inopportune times. Truchaud finds a murder victim from an adjoining Domaine soon after his arrival home. Could his brother’s death have been murder instead of the suspected heart attack?

Helping the local police, Truchaud is knee deep in the investigation when he finds himself in more danger than he thought possible in his quiet hometown known for much sought after wines. Rich Burgundy, not blood is supposed to be flowing, but treachery and lies have fermented along with wine for years and the corks are about to pop.

The Richebourg Affair took me a little bit longer to read than a run of the mill mystery due to the different names for the various characters’ roles. Thanks to Cartmel’s handy listing (starting on page 305) of each character’s name and the role in which they play, it made it easier for me to identify each of them. The village is added to my list of main characters, because without this famous wine-producing village, there would not be a story.

I loved this book. So much so, that I researched the cost of the famous Richebourg wine that is discussed by the wine experts throughout the story. I will only be able to dream about the heady bouquet and flavors dancing on my tongue as $1800.00 USD would blow a hole in my budget the size of a Parisian vacation. However, there are more budget friendly options from Nuits-Saint-Georges, which I just might have to purchase for a special occasion.richebourg-2963-1-3

Much to my surprise, this is R.M. Cartmel’s first novel. It is layered with well-developed characters and a solid mystery in addition to the murder(s) set in a most interesting place. It teaches readers about wine growing and producing without a drop of boring lecture. All of the information is skillfully tucked into the story fitting perfectly as a backdrop, but always present. The reader has all of the answers needed to tie up loose ends when Truchaud hosts a dinner with all of the officers on the case as well as those affected by the happenings in the village. After the perfect end to a great story, I am looking forward to many more adventures of Commander Truchaud.

Copyright © 2014 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 Image of a classic Richebourg label from wine-researcher.com (http://sr3.wine-searcher.net/images/region/richebourg-2963-1-3.jpg). Also note that this review was also published on my blog: lauramhartman.wordpress.com

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