Book Review: Netherworld by Lisa Morton

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Lisa Morton

Published by JournalStone


282 pages

Reviewed by Laura Hartman

Genre: Historical Thriller

Netherworld by award-winning novelist Lisa Morton is the first book in the Chronicles of Diana Furnaval series. Diana and her husband William are locked in the classic battle of good vs. evil throughout this novel. The story begins in England October 31, 1879. Diana is an extraordinary woman, risking her life to save mankind from demons, evil spirits and specters that are entering the world through gateways from the Netherworld.

It was the Furnavals’ mission in life to close all of the gateways in the world. Using incantations from “The Book of Gateways, Conjurations and Banishments”, as well as various herbs, knives, and human blood, she and William fought evil without regard for themselves. William traveled to Transylvania to close a gateway, but returned to England in a coffin. Distraught, Diana searches for answers but finds herself questioning William’s apparent death.

She travels, in an era where women did not venture out alone, to dangerous parts of the world. Her husband’s fortune and her steely determination take her to Europe, China, the United States and back to England, closing gateways. All the while, she is looking for her husband. If William is indeed caught in an evil place between earth and the Netherworld she is willing to do anything to save him.

Morton is a masterful storyteller. I loved the way she wove history into this novel. Customs and traditions accompany the page-turning, heart-stopping terror Diana finds herself facing at every turn. The story is rich in culture and creatures, a mix that works well to keep you reading well into the night.

The second book in the Chronicles of Diana Furnaval is scheduled for release in 2015, the third in 2017 per her website . It is no surprise to find out Ms. Morton is a Halloween expert. All Hollow’s Eve plays a big part in Netherworld and in her world. I am really looking forward to reading the rest of this series.

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.

Book Review: The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch

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Wendy Welch The Little Bookstore of Big Stone GapThe Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap

Wendy Welch

St. Martin’s Press


291 pages

Genre: Memoir

 Wendy and her Scottish husband Jack jump blindly into their dream of owning and operating a used bookstore. With high expectations and little understanding of the pitfalls of opening a business in a tiny Virginia town, they begin living their dream hoping it doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

Challenges surrounded them. They do not have enough capital to stock the store with books, were clueless when it came to appraising collectible books and were considered outsiders by the locals. Luckily, their dream, desire to succeed and determination helped them through the difficult times.

This is so much more than a memoir about starting up a small business and following your bliss even when times are tough. It is a love story between Wendy, Jack, the locals and books.

Several times while reading this treasure, I smiled to myself thinking Wendy is profound and eloquent. Her stories brought the bookstore visitors to life. The descriptions and stories about the books she loves and sells gave me too many additions to my “to read” list.

One of my favorite quotes in this book is credited to Alan Bennett’s The History of Boys, “The best moments in reading are when you come across something—a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things—that you thought special, particular to you. And there it is, set down  by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out and taken yours.” Every reader has felt this at least once, and I hope often. Thanks to Bennett for expressing what we feel and to Welch for sharing.

My fabulous Aunt Cindy gave me this book for Christmas. When I told her how much I loved it (after staying up way too late finishing just one more chapter the day I started it) she said she worried because I read so much and it looked different from the usual type of books. She was right that it was different, and should not have worried. This is a book for bibliophiles and tentative readers alike.

In the spirit of the Little Book Store, I will share this book with family and friends. I can’t wait to take the list of books culled from the pages to my local used bookstore, Culture Stock, to see if I can pick up a few of them. I encourage you to do the same.


Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

Book Review: Leave Tomorrow Behind by Judy Clemens

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Leave Tomorrow BehindLeave Tomorrow Behind

Judy Clemens

Poisoned Pen Press


279 pages

Genre: Cozy Mystery

Stella Crown, a hardworking, jeans and t-shirt kind of gal is caught up in nothing but trouble through no fault of her own. She owns a dairy farm that is bleeding her bank accounts dry.  The bank is not going to invest any more capital in what they see is a sinking ship. She loves her farm and her life, and just needs enough cash to pay the insurance premium.

She reluctantly asks her fiancé, Nick for some cash to keep things going until the farm becomes more solvent. He quickly agrees, much to the chagrin of his bossy sister Miranda.

Miranda is sure Stella is out for Nick’s money. Why else would she want to marry a man – albeit a gorgeous hunk of a man – who has MS? Simple, Stella loves him and he loves her.

Miranda is dead-set on planning a huge wedding for Nick and Stella. Nick just wants the two women in his life to quit fighting. Stella has dug in the heels of her barn weary boots, refusing to plan an extravagant wedding when she just wants a quiet, simple wedding.

Between sparing with her future sister-in-law, Stella has to spend time at the Fair. Zack, a young friend, has one of Stella’s calves in the 4H show. Things are heating up at the fair. First, one of the entries is the calf of a daughter of a local music producer. They purchase an expensive calf, have someone else raise it and then enter it as a shoe-in to win the top prize away from much more deserving 4H members. Someone attempts to stop the family from winning. How far will they go?

Just when Stella thinks the fair can’t get any worse, she stumbles upon the dead body of a young singer who performed at the fair just hours before. Did her death have something to do with the calves? Was it wrapped up in the craziness of the Lovely Miss Pennsylvania Pageant, which the singer was supposed to judge the next day at the fair? Stella is knee-deep in more than manure but is determined to find out what happened. With a bit of luck she might help find the killer before someone else dies.

Leave Tomorrow Behind is Clemens’ sixth in her Stella Crown Mystery series. She explains enough background to get a new reader up to speed, but not too much. Her wit is evident with the sharp quips and comments that come to the page via Stella. By weaving several interesting storylines together including pageant moms, poisoned animals, planning a wedding she creates a homegrown quilt of quirky elements that work.

No spoilers, but I loved the end.


Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

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