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: This Private Plot by Alan Beechey

Leave a comment

This Private Plot  by Alan Beechey

Poisoned Pen PressThis Private Plot

ISBN-978146202407

305 pages Genre: Mystery

Alan Beechey’s latest, This Private Plot,is a wonderful romp. His character,  Oliver Swithin, is a children’s book author that is currently working on a trivia book. We travel with him to his childhood home in a small village appropriately named Synne, which I am pretty sure is pronounced “sin”. Swithin is with his girlfriend, a police officer that reports to Swithin’s uncle, who is also on holiday in Synne.

While out on a naked midnight romp in the “Shakespeare Race” an authentic turf maze, our couple finds Dennis Breedlove, a former children’s television personality, hanged. The police think it is suicide, because a blackmail note is found. It turns out that Breedlove is actually the blackmailer.

Swithin is on the trail of the killer. Several trails actually. Convinced that one of the blackmailers is the killer, Swithin tries to match up suspects with the nursery rhymes Breedlove used to identify them. With the help of his girlfriend and unheeded warnings from his uncle to stop, he discovers that Synne has more than its share of secrets. They include a strange writing group run by the Vicar, a couple which may be the same person, a recluse monk and possibly his own family.

All of sleuthing is going on while Swithin’s brother is trying to prove there were two William Shakespeares and his uncle is starring in a local theater production of Hamlet. There are great tidbits of information on Shakespeare as well as other bits of trivia shared by Swithin while this story unfolds.

Beechey is a master of double-entendre. From names such as Lesbia Weguelin (to which I read “let’s be a wigglin’) to the name of the actual town. Swithin talks often about living in Synne. More than once, I stopped to read a particularly funny line to whoever was near me at the moment.

This mystery is so wonderfully British in the spirit of Agatha Christie with the humor of P.G. Wodehouse, I simultaneously laughed and was intrigued. At times, this book was a bit bawdy, but never graphic, I did not find it offensive. Deliciously tangle plot that is perfectly tied up by the end of the book, with a beautiful, unexpected twist at the end.

This is the third book in Beechley’s Oliver Swithin Mystery Series. It was the first one I’ve read and worked very well as a stand-alone mystery. Swithin is an endearingly wacky character. I want to see more of him and the other characters that Beechley skillfully brings to life  .

 

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 Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil

Leave a comment

The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club

byBeach book Gil McNeil

We meet Jo MacKenzie when she is moving out of her London home. Her life changed forever with the death of her husband. The only problem is, her life would have changed anyway, because he was leaving her for the woman he was having an affair with. He told her upon his return from a business trip, promptly left her and unfortunately died in a car accident on the way to meet his lover.

Jo can no longer afford to continue her life in London, and doesn’t really want to. Her grandmother offers her a lifeline. She has a small cottage in a tiny village by the sea that Jo and her two small sons Archie and Jack can move into. Gran is also ready to retire and hand over the family knit shop to Jo, so the small family travels to an entirely new life.

Adjusting to a new home and job is difficult enough, but Jo has to contend with the ghost of her cheating husband, keeping him alive in the boy’s memories, all the while unable to express her anger and pain he caused her before his untimely demise. For years she had been covering his inadequacies as a husband and father and it appears she will have to do so the rest of her life.

Don’t mistake the overall theme of the story as sadness, that is far from the reality of the plot. Jo enjoys her quieter life away from London. Her friend, a television news personality, frequently comes to visit, bringing her own kind of crazy caring chaos that only a best friend can creates.

A domineering mother, grandma, sons and newfound friends round out her new life. Her children are delightfully ordinary. Bickering and teasing each other, getting into typical little boy trouble and begging for a dog.

Throughout all of the changes in her life, the knit shop becomes her constant source of satisfaction and growth. She makes subtle and not so subtle changes to the shop and inventory, forms a “Stitch and Bitch” group and becomes a private consultant-on-call to a famous resident of the village.

This thoroughly engrossing novel was a delight to read. Then characters have varied, interesting lives and goals, which work together in this small village. Readers can genuinely connect with them because most of them are ordinary people going about their ordinary lives, just making their way through their world. It is heartwarming to watch their growth and adaptation to the challenges they face, not always winning, but carrying on anyway.

You may think that you would have to know about or be interested in knitting to enjoy this book. I don’t believe you have to know a thing about it, there aren’t any technical issues that would prevent your enjoyment even if you have never picked up a pair of needles or a ball of wool.

I loved this book. My thanks go out to my daughter-in-law Andrea for giving it to me last Christmas. McNeil has written several books, including a newly published novel A Good Year for the Roses. I’m adding it to my wish list for next Christmas.

Published by Poisoned Pen Press

ISBN-10:1-4013-4080-6

404 pages

Genre: Fiction

 

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

Book Review: Muzzled by Eileen Brady

Leave a comment

Muzzled (A Kate Turner D.V.M. Mystery) Product Details

Eileen Brady

Poisoned Pen Press

ISBN-9781464201844

219 pages Genre: Mystery

 Eileen Brady’s first novel is the pick of the litter when it comes to new cozies out for the summer. Muzzled has a fast moving plot with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing.

Dr. Kate Turner, Oak Falls Veterinary Hospital’s newest employee has her hands full. She knew filling in for old Doc Anderson while he took a cruise around the world included making house calls.  However, finding dead bodies while working at his small, upstate New York clinic was never part of the deal.

During a routine house call checking on champion Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Kate walks into the bloody scene of their owner’s deaths. This is much more than she bargained for. The deaths are quickly deemed a murder/suicide, but she has her doubts and sets out to prove to the authorities they were mistaken. She was right, but unfortunately, this puts her on top of their list of suspects. Especially after another person is shot and the weapon is found in Kate’s possession.

The list of suspects and motives grows, drudging up secrets kept for years by the residents of Oak Falls. Meanwhile, Kate goes about her daily routine of the busy veterinary practice.  Will she end up being the next victim, as she gets closer to discovering the secret that will reveal the killer?

As if she did not have enough going on, unwanted men intrude to complicate Kate’s solitary life. They include her ratty ex that shows up causing problems, a cat loving scary biker dude and a hunky Italian who is engaged to someone else. Could one of them end up being her love interest? I cannot wait to read more about them in the Brady’s next book.

Brady layered eccentric characters and pets throughout her novel. Kate can interact with this crazy crew of human and furry friends and foes as stand-alone elements or within ongoing spots of humor and interest in future books of this series. One of my personal favorites is Little Man. He is a well-dressed Chihuahua, for whom owner Daphne (appropriately Daffy for short) sews “his and her matching” outfits.

Muzzled is a 2013 Discover Mystery Award Winner. Once you read it, you’ll discover why. It is a doggone good mystery!

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: Now You See It by Jane Tesh

1 Comment

Now You See It

Jane Tesh

Poisoned Pen Press

ISBN-9781464201967

230 pagesNow you see it

Reviewed by Laura Hartman

Genre: Mystery

Camden’s renowned singing voice is not the only thing missing in the latest book in the Grace Street Mystery Series. Randall is hired to find a missing diamond bracelet for a local socialite. Then a priceless magic box once owned by Harry Houdini disappears, plunging Camden and Randall knee deep in mysterious world of local illusionists when they attempt to find it.

Fuel is added to the fire because the Finch brothers were holding a contest involving the box, which offers a piece from their magic collection to the person who wins. An ongoing rivalry among the magicians also hinders the search for the Houdini relic. Then one of the magicians winds up dead, and Randall’s girlfriend Kary goes undercover as a magician’s assistant to help him solve the case.

Randall has more on his mind than finding the lost items and solving a murder. His personal life is more stressful than his PI business. Kary will not marry him even though she loves him because they cannot agree on something very important. Kary wants children and Randall cannot get over the accidental death of his daughter, Lindsey. Pictures of her break his heart, and he recently received a DVD with Lindsey’s last dance recital on it that he cannot bring himself to watch.

Cam has finally decided to pop the question to his longtime girlfriend Ellin but literally does not have the voice to ask her. He is afraid she will turn him down. Shelia Kirk, the wife of a new sponsor, has taken over Ellin’s show and office leaving behind chaos and craziness.  The forceful woman has some crazy new ideas for the Psychic Service Network TV station and Ellin is not happy.

All of the elements of this book come together magically by the last page. It was fun to see how each part of the separate, yet connected plot came to a satisfying conclusion. It is fun to learn some little known facts about Houdini and magicians in general

I liked Tesh’s characters in Mixed Signals. I loved them in Now You See It. Maybe I knew them better, or maybe their vulnerability had me pulling for them to solve the mystery and overcome their personal demons to find happiness.

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 © 2013 Laura Hartman

Book Review: Outrageous October by Barbara Levenson

1 Comment

Outrageous October

Barbara Levenson

296 pages

Reviewed by Laura Hartmanoutrageous_october_book_cover

Outrageous October is the third book in Barbara Levenson’s Mary Magruder Katz Mystery series. The book opens with a year-old murder in High Pines, Vermont. How could Miami criminal defense lawyer Mary Katz possibly get involved with a cold case half a country away?

Mary Katz’s law office in Miami is successful. She is happy and content living with her fiancé Carlos, a hot Latin that she is crazy about and her beloved German Shepherd Sam. After winning a court case, she calls Carlos to make a dinner date to celebrate. He begs off saying he has a business meeting. Not wanting to dine alone after her day, she calls a girlfriend to join her for dinner. Unfortunately, they choose the same restaurant that Carlos has chosen for his “business meeting” with his ex-wife.

Mary runs out of the restaurant distraught. Her friend has a home in High Pines, Vermont, and suggests some time and distance might help Mary heal her broken heart. She agrees, packs up Sam and leaves without allowing Carlos to explain. She returns his engagement ring with a note that explains she cannot live with a man that lies to her. The only person that knows where she is going is her friend, whom Mary swears to secrecy.

Sam and Mary arrive in the tiny Vermont town where everyone knows her name because her friend had to announce her arrival to the caretaker of the home where she is staying. She soon finds out that small towns have no secrets, but mysteries surround her.

Due to a wrong turn on the unmarked mountain roads, she accidently stayed in the wrong home the first night. It happened to be the home in which the murder happened the previous October. Sam barks and growls at suspicious noises and a locked upstairs door. Is someone in the house? Is it haunted? Why is there an SUV parked in the barn one day and gone the next?

Mary moves to the right home with the help of her new friends in High Pines. These friends include Dash, a handsome lawyer that could use an extra lawyer to help with his caseload. Mary agrees to take a case that seems straightforward, but becomes entangled with seedy characters and possibly a murderer. Dash has more in mind than a business relationship, but Mary is still in love with Carlos, even though he shattered her heart.

Levenson weaves a plot that is full of energy and draws the reader in with unanswered questions and emotions that tie up neatly before the end of the novel. Her colorful characters are interesting and intriguing, coming to life on the page. This is the first book by Levenson I’ve read, but it easily can be read as a stand-alone novel. I plan to read the previous two books in the series, Fatal February and Justice in June. The fourth in the Mary Magruder Katz Mystery Series, Neurotic November is due out this winter. Mystery fans looking for a new series should try Ms. Levenson’s books.

Copyright © 2013 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: Let It Be by Chad Gayle

Leave a comment

Let It Be

Chad Gayle

Published by Bracket BooksLet It Be (A Novel) [Slide]

ISBN-978-0-9886610-0-4

220 pages

Reviewed by Laura Hartman

Genre: Fiction

Michelle leaves her husband for the second time with her son Joseph and daughter Pam. They move to “flat, dry” side of Texas, near her brother, Chuck. Joseph hates the tiny two-bedroom home his mother rents. He hates his sister being in charge during the day while their mother works as a secretary. And most of all he hates being away from his father, Bill.

The days turn into weeks as Pam adjusts after finding a neighborhood girl she can hang out with. Joseph, still unhappy, finds comfort by withdrawing into his room to sketch pictures of superheroes, dinosaurs and the occasional nude. He is biding his time until he can go live with his father.

Bill soon shows his true colors when he comes to pick up the kids for a visit and roughs up Michelle when she angers him. Joseph is too young to understand the implications of his father’s actions; he still hopes and plans to be with his father as soon as possible.

Michelle meets a man that makes her smile again, but Joseph cannot or will not see the reasons why she would leave his father or start dating. The sacrifices she has made to keep her family safe are not yet evident to her youngest child. However, she does what she has to do to keep her family safe and happy, even at her own expense.

Chad Gayle’s debut novel pulls the reader into the lives of Michelle, Pam and Joseph with one of the best opening lines I’ve read, “When my brother was ten years old, he almost killed a man.”. I had to find out how a young boy could almost kill someone. Was it intentional? Was it an accident? But most of all, why?

Gayle masterfully wove the point of view back and forth between his main characters. The chapters are set to the tracks of The Beetles’ Let It Be album. The songs are the soundtrack and salvation of his characters. It was impossible to get McCartney’s voice out of my head as I read this book. References to the lyrics in comparison to the character’s lives made the book deeper and connected me by music to them.

I am looking forward to Gayle’s next novel, wondering if it will be based upon a different album, group, or something entirely different. Either way he has proven to be a writer whose works I want to read more of.

Copyright © 2013 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

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

Knitting on Dartmoor

A Tattered Copy

You're bound to find something ......

jenknittingaround

knitting, traveling and the stuff that happens in between

LittleChurch

Knitting, knitting patterns, knitting accessories

robinnewmanbooks.wordpress.com/

www.robinnewmanbooks.com

Single Stitch

EVERY JOURNEY BEGINS WITH A SINGLE STITCH – A KNITTING BLOG

My Aberdeen Garden

My Scottish garden and further afield.

Estate un Rato

Interesantes posts de diversos temas

Erika Wassall here... The Jersey Farm Scribe

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

Cay Mayo writes

Let me tell you a secret—I'm having a love affair with paper. Sometimes it is so brilliant it's hard to read. Other times it has as much substance as smoke. But the one thing it's never—is silent, because these fingers like to flap.