Book Reviews – My Opinion

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I have been reviewing books since 2011. Most of them are sent to me, so for a reader, being paid in books is basically skipping the step between paycheck and going to the bookstore. Win/win in my estimation.

As a writer, I know how difficult it is to put words on paper. Especially words that someone else will read and love as passionately as I do. Enough to have them want to tell other people to read it. That means more than the writer’s family  and friends read whatever it is that is being written. It can be is a  short story, a book or an article.

Reviewers have the task of reading a book and sharing his or her thoughts with as many people as possible. I do not take this task lightly. But always keep in mind – it is only my opinion, I book I love could be a book you hate.

First and foremost, I read every book I am given or request from an author from sites such as Goodreads. I give it as much attention as I would the latest Stephen King or Jodi Picoult novel. Then I usually wait a day or two to think about the subtle aspects as well as my overall opinions.

I look at plot, characterization and overall fit to the genre it is written in. It is unfair to judge a perfectly written cozy novel against a highly literary novel. That is like comparing a lion to a giraffe. I like both of them yet the lion can’t imagine to eat leaves from the top of the tree while standing on the ground, it just isn’t made that way.

Most of the places I post my reviews, with the exception of my two blogs (this one and writeknit.wordpress.com – I know I should combine them, but need to be more blog smart), use a star rating system. So here is how I decide how many stars a review gets:

5 star

5 Star – I can’t put this book down. When I am doing something else it is calling to me. I have to chat about it to people at work and my long-suffering family. This is a great book in my world. I LOVE this book and want everyone to read it.

4 star

4 Star – This is a really good book. I like it a lot. But I can go a day without reading it if I have something else that has to be written/read. It is interesting and I’ve enjoyed it. Then only thing keeping this from the 5 star is I only like it or love it like a distant relative, not my kids. (I don’t LOVE it – see above).

3 star

3 Star – Just an ok book. Not necessarily a bad book, just not outstanding. There might be plot holes. For example, one I read didn’t follow through with a character, she was in it only when it helped the main character without explanation as to where she had been during other critical times when a child could not have been left alone.

There could be crazy, impossible twists that make a reader feel cheated because you could never have known or seen the end coming. Give me a fighting chance to figure it out!

Poor grammar and sentence structure make me nuts. Even if the story and characters are good and I have to read a sentence over and over to figure out what the author is trying to tell me, it is too frustrating as a reader to slog through page after page of this. I am not talking to literary – that is not as fast a read, but it is a beautiful read. BIG difference in my opinion.

bored

1 & 2 Star  – I have only given one of these in the last 6 years. It was a horrid book with characters that were impossible to connect with and I absolutely hated them in the end. It was poorly written with misspellings and strange attempts at American “sayings” obviously written by someone not clear on the language. I could not give it less than 1 Star – so that is what it got from me.

So if you see any of my reviews on Goodreads, Barnes and Nobel, Amazon & Amazon UK you will have an idea about what I was thinking when I gave the book the number of stars that I did. All of these reviews are under “Laura Hartman”.

Other places where I do not give a “star rating” but have links to my blogs are Instagram (lmh172) & Pinterest (writeknit).

Writing is hard work. I have nothing but the utmost respect for authors and books. My goal is to share good books with as many people as I can. Hopefully one of the readers of my reviews will find a new author they haven’t heard of before or try and new genre they we’re sure they would like. If that happens, I am happy and feel I have done my job as a reviewer.

(all images in this post were found on Google images)

Book Review: Deeper Than The Grave

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Excellent Mystery – had to post on both my blogs!

writeknit

Deeper Than The Grave (A Tai Randolph Mystery)

By Tina Whittle

294 PagesDeeper Than The Grave

Tai Randolph is the owner of a gun shop in Atlanta that specializes in Civil War re-enactment relics along with run-of-the-mill firearms and ammo. Formerly owned by her Uncle Dexter, Tai has organized the inventory and has settled in, making the business profitable in the process.

Her boyfriend, Trey Seaver, has beefed up security for the shop. As a corporate security agent, and former FBI agent, he is obsessed with keeping Tai safe. She finds his security measures equally aggravating and endearing, but thinks he has crossed the line due to problems he has had in the past, including an accident, that has left him with a brain injury.

Tai admits the security is good to have around the shop as there have been several times her system has detected attempted breaches. She suspects the neighboring business…

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Book Review:The Richebourg Affair

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The Richebourg Affair

By R.M. CartmelThe Richebourg Affair

309 pages

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)

Review: The Good Know Nothing – Not Quite Hardboiled, But Tasty

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The Good Know Nothing

By Ken Kuhlkenhttp://www.poisonedpenpress.com/the-good-know-nothing/

277 pages

Detective Tom Hickey worked for a police department that not only enforced the law, but also often became judge and jury. It was 1936. Prohibition didn’t prevent drinking, it was hidden in plain sight and readily available. Hickey’s boss and most of the department were dirty. Turning guns on whiskey runners that didn’t pay them off, the law became lawless.

The Police Chief called Hickey in, gave him a rifle, and told him to kill a man. He left without argument or the intension of following orders. Hickey has troubles and he doesn’t want to add murder to the list. At the top of the list was the discontent of his wife, Madeline. The former records clerk was now a mother and a sweet singer that got a taste of show biz, savoring every morsel. Hickey is sensing an increasing distance in their relationship. Their young daughter Elizabeth is the joy of his life.

The other woman in his life is Florence, his younger sister. He was her protector and guardian when his father left them with their abusive mother. Once a wild thing, Florence has settled down and has a good life. The siblings are thrust into the past with the arrival of a book that was most likely written by their father. Hickey becomes obsessed with the mystery surrounding his father; every door that opens pulls him in deeper. Will he cross the line, losing everything dear to him just to find the long hidden secrets of the father that abandoned them?

This is the sixth and last Tom Hickey novel. It is the first I have read, and absolutely works as a stand-alone story.  The only thing that confused me at times was the number of characters. I can assume that some of them were developed in previous books. At times, I had to go back several pages to get a better understanding of some of the roles the characters played.

Hickey and his immediate family were well-defined and developed. Kuhlken made me fall in love with the precocious Elizabeth. Strong willed Florence has a wonderful soft spot. She works with young girls and her interactions with her niece showcases their close and loving relationship.

At times, this novel appeared to be noir. It was almost, but not quite dark enough. I found the story being bogged down with the telling of it at times. It was kind of struggle of to be or not to be hardboiled, but only at times.

I liked the short chapters. When things got rolling the story pops to life with page turning action. The ending was unexpected and satisfying.

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: Hell With The Lid Blown Off

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Hell With The Lid Blown Off Temp CoverHell With The Lid Blown Off

By Donis Casey

219 pages

Twisters pop up fast and furious in the flatlands of Oklahoma. In the summer of 1916, tornados weren’t the only thing tearing people apart and leaving a path of destruction in the wake.

Like any other town, Boyton had solid citizens, good for nothing citizens and secrets. The worst of the bunch was Jubal Beldon. He ran with a group of other troublemakers of whom he was the ringleader. He was mean and seemed to hold secrets of more than one of the townsfolk. When he ended up dead, it didn’t surprise many, but has the wrong person been blamed for his death?

Alafair Tucker was the polar opposite of Jubal. Mother of ten nearly grown children, she never hesitated when some child needed to come and live with her family for a while. She and her husband Shaw were good people that gave everyone the benefit of the doubt and turned the other cheek. Alafair also has a flair for solving mysteries, and she cannot stand to see someone wrongfully accused of murder even if they are confessing to the crime.

As the residents of Boyton pick up the pieces of their lives after the devastation of the twister, the search for the murderer and motive puts more strain on the overburdened town. Tensions rise as it appears that secrets may be revealed.

Hell With The Lid Blown Off starts a bit slow.  But like a twister, it gathers speed, snatching the reader up and swirling you right into the chaos. It is a different twist on a cozy mystery. Who could imagine a mother and grandmother in the early 1900s solving a mystery as handily as she bakes homemade biscuits or fries up some green tomatoes? Donis Casey keeps the reader’s interest while taking you on a journey back in time.

This is the seventh book in Casey’s Alafair Tucker series, but works well as a stand-alone read. I really enjoyed the voice of the characters. Having grandparents from the south, I can hear their voices in the dialog, it rings true to the era. An extra bonus were the recipes for some of the mouthwatering home cooked food at the end of the book. After the vivid descriptions, that make a reader hungry, you can make them to enjoy while reading one of the earlier books in the 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.

History wrapped in mystery draped in SciFi: Book Review Dragonfly

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DragonFly (Missions of the DragonFly Squadron #1)

Written by Charles A. Cornell 

Reviewed by Laura Hartman

Dragonfly starts off with a bang – the train carrying Pilot Officer Veronica (Ronnie) Somerset to her newly assigned post is attacked by Nazi planes. She makes it to the station, then on to the Royal Naval Station Enysfarne, a castle high above the Cornish coastline.

After establishing she is indeed a pilot, not a cook, Ronnie learns she will be testing the latest British plane, the Dragonfly.  It is the furthest thing from ordinary. Able to travel on land or under the sea, it boasts the ability to refuel either in the sea or during a rainstorm because runs on ordinary water.  Nigel Pennbridge, the resident scientist/inventor introduces Ronnie to the “War Office’s Department of Experimental War Technology”.  It is used to create powerful shells and bombs to use against the impending Nazi invasion of Britain.

Hitler also depends upon the occult to advise him in battle. The cards warn him of the women that will get in his way. He is not concerned, because the Nazi’s have secret weapons of their own.  Imagine robots created out of human prisoners of war that can no longer think for themselves then enhanced with robotic parts. The Blutskreiger are all that and horrifyingly more.

Cornell’s battle scenes remind me of Clive Cussler’s style. Just when your heart stops thumping, thinking the good guys are finally safe Cornell ramps up the action again. The excitement and tension created puts the reader in the jump seat right next to the fearless pilots of the Dragonfly.

Dragonfly is so much more than battles, Cornell touches on the occult, a sect of Ancient Druids, a connection to the Royal Family and a love interest or two. It was satisfying to have a woman RAF Pilot expertly fighting against the enemy. I think the YA audience will love this book. It has something for everyone. History wrapped in mystery draped in SciFi makes Dragonfly a fast-paced winner.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the beautiful artwork of Jose “Cutangus” Garcia, Jordy Lakiere and Andrew Lounds bring the scenes to life.  The illustrations at the beginning of each chapter as well as the vintage photographs enhanced my reading experience to the next level. I can imagine Dragonfly as a summer blockbuster at my local theater in the not too distant future.

 

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

Ancient Alaskan Mystery: Book Review – The Spirit and The Skull by J.M. Hayes

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The Spirit and The Skull

By J.M. Hayes

Poisoned Pen Press

184  pages Genre: Mystery

Surviving in Paleolithic times was a daily struggle, almost impossible as an individual. Bands of undocumented immigrants, calling themselves The People, depend on each member of the group to survive. They place their trust in Raven their aging Spirit Man for guidance from the Spirit World. As the narrator of the novel, he allows the reader to see his strengths as well as his shortcomings as he tries to set The People on the right path.

He returns from a scouting mission to find one of the leaders of The People dead. Murder is unheard of and an unspeakable action among them, yet it has happened. Raven has the task of finding the killer so the remaining leaders can either banish or kill him. This task becomes more complicated than he first imagines after finding a doll much like a voodoo doll with the body. This could mean there is an evil spirit or witch among them.

His investigation of the murder unearths secrets of The People that he does not want to become known, worried that this would only compound the problems the band is having. Unsure of his actual ability to find the murder, he begins having dreams in which he is only a skull in modern times.  He is not sure if it is a dream or a glimpse into his future, but either way it is disturbing.

As if Raven did not have enough complicating his life, he encounters who he believes to be the Goddess, Mother Earth. She tells him he must go back to his band and find the murderer. This has to be completed within the next 24 hours. His urgency compounded with yet another murder; he sets events in motion that will change the lives of The People forever.

Hayes does a fabulous job of showing the reader everything in Raven’s world. He brings the reader into the world of Raven and The People with vivid details of both every day events and rituals believed to be part of the immigrant’s lives.

The reason I loved this book is the fact that it is so different from most murder mysteries. Hayes masterfully takes the reader to ancient times then draws you back to modern day with Raven’s dreams or visions. At times the plot was moving so quickly, I could hardly wait to turn the page to see what happened next.

Google Images from www.seattlepi.com

Google Images from http://www.seattlepi.com

Be sure to read the afterword about the inspiration for writing The Spirit and The Skull. Maybe the Spirits spoke to him while he slept close to the Arctic Circle so he could bring this mystery to life for our enjoyment.

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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