Book Reviews – My Opinion

2 Comments

book stack

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

Leave a comment

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…

View original post 467 more words

Book Review:The Richebourg Affair

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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

1 Comment

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

1 Comment

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

1 Comment

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.

Rollover by Susan Slater Keeps the Reader Guessing

1 Comment

 

Rollover

Susan Slater

220 pages

Rollover by Susan Slater is the second book in the Dan Mahoney mystery series. Mahoney, an insurance investigator from Chicago, is sent by his company to Wagon Mound, New Mexico because a client’s necklace was stolen during a bank heist. United Life and Casualty will have to pay out a half a million dollars if the claim is valid, so they send out the best investigator they have.

Before Mahoney makes it into town, he and his Rottweiler, Simon are in a horrible accident that lands the investigator in the hospital. Simon is missing and Mahoney cannot communicate. Elaine, Mahoney’s girlfriend flies in to be with him. She helps him recover and stays to help him investigate the theft because he needs a hand and she really cares for him.

Mahoney talks to Gertrude Kennedy, the owner of the missing Tiffany necklace. It is a beautiful antique sapphire and diamond necklace designed by her grandfather as a gift to her grandmother. It has survived the fateful trip on board the Titanic. Gertie and her daughter Penelope really want Mahoney to find the necklace rather than pay the insurance money because it is priceless to them.

Things start heating up when Mahoney finds more questions than answers during his investigation. The thieves tunneled into the safe deposit box room instead of into the safe. The set up to the theft had to take so much time, it was quite possibly an inside job. For a tiny town, there is more than the usual number of suspects. Add attempted murder, kidnapping and an actual murder and this case may be too hot for Mahoney to handle.

Slater based her work of fiction on an actual unsolved bank robbery at the Norwest Bank in Wagon Mound, New Mexico in 1998. Like her fictional characters, the robbers tunneled into the safe deposit room instead of the safe. Unlike her work of fiction, the real bank robbery was never solved.

http://www.poisonedpenpress.com/five-oclock-shadow/

http://www.poisonedpen press.com/five-oclock-shadow/

I loved the story, pace and characters in this mystery. All of the craziness in the small town setting was totally believable, by the end of the novel, I suspected everyone except Mahoney and Elaine. The pace was faster than a rollover accident, I couldn’t put it down until I read one more chapter. Until Ms Slater writes her next book in the Dan Mahoney series, I will read her other books, Flash Flood, Five O’clock Shadow and O to 60. I suggest you do too.

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

Find Your Wings like the Women in The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

1 Comment

The Invention of Wings

By Sue Monk Kidd

Penguin

369 pages

Genre: Southern Historical Fiction

http://suemonkkidd.com/

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is one of the best books, if not THE best book I have read this year. It is the story of Sarah Grimke, daughter of a Charleston judge in the early 1800s. Even as a young

It is also the story of Hetty Handful Grimke, the young slave girl that was given to the unwilling Sarah on her 11th birthday. The girls grow up at the same time and place, but they were forever separated by their positions in society. No matter how kind Sarah was in private to Hetty, she still slept on the floor, was punished by Sarah’s mother for infractions, and was not free.

Secretly, Sarah teaches her to read. Because it is against the law for slaves to read and write, it becomes a blessing and a curse to Hetty.

Sarah’s father is indulgent with his library and amused by her abolitionist views until they start disrupting his life. Seen as a young woman who does not know her place, the liberties formerly given to her are taken away. Her hopes of becoming a lawyer are dashed. Distraught, she rebels further, but to no avail.

Sarah and Hetty continue to chafe against the chains (both figuratively and literally) that society imposes upon them. When Sarah begins shaping her younger sister with her anti-slave views, her mother takes desperate measures to put a stop to any activity she deems unseemly for a young woman of her stature.

Sue Monk Kidd based this work of fiction on the lives of two very real sisters, Sarah and Angelina Grimke were abolitionists, writers and members of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the United States. The Grimke girls are fascinating, intelligent revolutionaries that continued working towards freeing slaves no matter what sacrifices they had to make to do it.

This book is painfully intense at times. The dialog and descriptions of the torture of slaves gave me chills as I read them. I cannot imagine the horror of having my child whipped for some minor infraction. This novel has many layers, some beautiful, some that will bring tears to the reader’s eyes, but all are necessary to tell us the whole story of Hetty and Sarah.

Be sure to read the author’s notes at the end of the book. She tells us which parts of the book were taken directly from Sarah’s writings and letters, which characters were based directly on real people and gives the reader more resources regarding the Grimke family. The Invention of Wings is an exquisite novel. Sue Monk Kidd combines the stories of Sarah, Hetty and Angelina as skillfully and beautifully as Hetty’s mama stitched her story quilts.

I am a huge fan of Sue Monk Kidd. I’ve read The Secret Life of Bees, The Mermaid Chair and Traveling with Pomegranates. Like The Invention of Wings, each of her novels pulled me in from the first page and didn’t let me go until the last. Her lastest is no exception.

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

Do Not Avoid Avoidable Contact by Tammy Kaehler

Leave a comment

Avoidable ContactBook Review: 

Avoidable Contact  (A Kate Reilly Mystery)

Tammy Kaehler

Poisoned Pen Press

296 pages Genre: Mystery

Kate Reilly, racecar driver and coincidental sleuth, is back in Tammy Kaehler’s third book in the series. Avoidable Contact is set in Florida, during the “24 Hours of Daytona” race that combines drivers from NASCAR and American Le Mans Series (ALMS). They are driving prototypes and custom cars like the Corvettes that Kate’s team drives. The race also allows drivers that are not exactly professional drivers, but have qualified and won enough other races to participate in this one.

Before Kate hits the track, her boyfriend Stuart is critically injured by a hit and run driver. He is in surgery, with a small chance of survival so his role of the Series Vice President of Operations has to be covered by a couple of shady characters so the race can go on. Kate decides she will do her stints in the race because she cannot do anything other than win for Stuart.

To add to her distress, her estranged birth father, whom she just met at the end of the second book of the series, has his racing team there to compete also. Her obnoxious cousins as well as half-sister are also there, which add another layer of distraction for Kate. She is not comfortable around her family in any situation, and is worried they might be part of the illegal activities that are going on.

As the race gets going, Kate learns that Stuart’s hit and run might not have been an accident, and it could be someone from the Series that attempted to kill him. Stuart’s condition,  as well as rumors of bribes, send Kate into a race with time to find the guilty person before the enod of the car race. She may have to team up with an unlikely ally to get the job done.

Like the 24-hour race, this book is paced a bit slower than the last in the series. The drivers, drive competitively throughout the race, but do not kick it into overdrive until the last few hours because the drivers and cars have to last for the entire race. Because the book was only set at the racetrack, it did not have the change of setting or the lapse of time to add interest. I suspect someone more into racing than I am would have enjoyed the details of the race more.

What I loved was the way Kaehler added text messages instead of dialog or phone calls in places that were appropriate. This mixed it up a bit to add interest and it really worked for me. The last few chapters, like the race it was about, were fast paced and nail biting. The action on and off the track is roars to a conclusion as the checkered flag is waved.

I liked Avoidable Contact; there are plenty of suspects in cars and around the pits to keep the mystery lover in me guessing until the last chapters.

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.

Older Entries

Creating Through the Pain

writing, inspiration, RSD advocacy, with a sprinkling of whimsy

Making Things Work

Tales From a Cabinetmaker's Life

Tim Stout

Writer & Editor

Cold

The way revenge is best served; the way a war was fought; the way a story should be told. ©

French Twisted Woman

Paris in Pennsyltucky

Hiking Photography

Beautiful photos of hiking and other outdoor adventures.

Dartmoor Yarns

Tales about a creative life on Dartmoor

MIDDLE-GRADE MOJO

Middle Grade books and Middle-Grade authors

jenknittingaround

knitting, traveling and the stuff that happens in between

LITTLECHURCH

the knitwear designs of Cheryl Toy

robinnewmanbooks.wordpress.com/

www.robinnewmanbooks.com

My Aberdeen Garden

My Scottish garden and further afield.

ESTATE UN RATO

Mini magazine online

Erika Wassall here... The Jersey Farm Scribe

Author, Freelance Writer, Entreprenur... LIVER of life