Rollover by Susan Slater Keeps the Reader Guessing

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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

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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

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault In Our Stars

John Green

Penguin Books

313 pages Genre: YA

 

Seventeen-year-old Hazel Grace Lancaster is dying.  She tells us in the first chapter. “…depression isn’t a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.”  Due to her depression and dying for that matter, her mother and doctor want her to be in a support group. She grudgingly goes, pretends to listen then escapes back home to enjoy the latest addition of her favorite reality show.

Ironically, the only friends she really can relate to are those in the dreaded support group. Isaac who has a rare cancer that will leave him blind and his friend Augustus Waters, a newcomer to the group, make her feel as normal as she can while dragging her ever present oxygen tank behind her.

Augustus was once a star basketball player until cancer claimed one of his legs. He is a video playing, wise cracking guy. Hazel opens up to him in a way she has not connected with anyone in a long time. She tells him of her favorite book, Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. It haunts her because Van Houten ends the book in the middle of a sentence and Hazel feels she has to know the end before she dies.

Van Houten lives in Amsterdam. Gus and Hazel end up connecting with him, but find the source of her obsession may just not be worthy of either of their efforts.

The most striking thing about this book is the concern Hazel has for her parents after she is gone. She is afraid they will divorce or maybe even curl up and die themselves because they no longer have anything to focus on after caring for a dying child for the last several years. This was not an egotistical assumption on her part, she is afraid she has robbed them of their lives.

Wise beyond her years, Hazel also wishes people will look at her and not see someone with cancer. She just wants to be Hazel Grace. That is so profound for a young adult novel. Hazel is wise beyond her years. Not afraid of dying, she is afraid of what her dying will do to anyone close to her. She feels like a bomb ready to explode so she keeps everyone she can at arm’s length so they won’t be hurt when she dies.

I highly recommend this book to young adults and adults. I especially recommend this book to anyone who has or has had a child with a serious illness. Speaking firsthand, it is difficult not to worry, coddle, make exceptions for and obsess about a sick child. Even when they get better, it is hard to see them as well. We need to look beyond the illness and at the person. No special treatment, no worrying about what they eat or don’t eat even though it is hard to treat them like their siblings.

Kudos go to John Green for writing a wonderfully emotional book from the viewpoint of a dying teenage girl. If I could give it more than five stars, I absolutely would.  If you have seen the movie, I beg you to read the book. Everyone has heard “the book is better than the movie”. Even though the movie was good (aside from the teens loudly trying to out- sob each other) but so many important plot points were left out,  you need to read this book.

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

Book Review: The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil

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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: Panthers Play for Keeps by Clea Simon

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Panthers Play for Keeps (A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir)Panthers Play for Keeps cover

By Clea Simon

Poisoned Pen Press

ISBN-978059588703

243 pages Genre: Cozy Mystery

 Dog walker Pru Marlowe is a modern day Doctor Dolittle. She not only knows what dogs, cats, ferrets and other assorted animals are thinking, she can communicate with them without speaking via her thoughts if necessary. That is, of course, if they allow her in. Unwilling animals can block communications if they chose to.

This peculiar talent comes in handy when she is out training Spot to be a service dog, who happens to lead her to a dead body in the woods. The woman appears to have been killed by a mountain lion, puma or some other large cat that curiously have not been in the area for years.

Pru’s cranky cat insists that a big cat killed the woman, but Spot says there is something more nefarious going on. She believes him, and when she finds out the victim is an employee of the man that Spot is going to be helping, she uses that connection to do some sleuthing of her own.

Jim Creighton, the detective on the case is Pru’s sometimes boyfriend. Their relationship has more challenges than most. Spot’s foster mom has amorous intentions toward Jim, and even worse, Jim doesn’t know about Pru’s “gift”. He suspects something odd is going on when she gets information that would seem impossible to know and will not reveal her sources. How could she tell the practical police detective that she gets inside info from people’s pets?

Unfortunately, for Pru, she is putting herself in danger by trying to find the killer on her own, pushing Jim further away as the killer closes in.

The plot was full of twists, turns and red herrings. This makes for a quick, interesting read. The unusual gift of Pru’s ability to get information to solve crimes as well as learning every day facts is interesting and different. For instance, she finds out the “real” names of the dogs she walks, not the silly names humans gave them.

This is the fourth book in Clea Simon’s Pru Marlowe series. It started off a bit confusing to me as I read it as a one-off mystery, it took me a chapter to realize the animals were talking to Pru. There is history between Pru and Jim as well as with a rich gentleman/gangster that weaves in and out of the story. While some books give too much back-story for those who have not read the previous books, I feel this one doesn’t quite give me enough.

In the end, I found the twist on pet mysteries intriguing, and just might go check out the first three books in the series to get the real scoop on Jim and Pru’s relationship. If you prefer (or equally love) felines, Simon also writes two different feline mystery series.

Copyright © 2014 Laura Hartman

picture from cleasimon dot com

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: Muzzled by Eileen Brady

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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: The Second Letter by Robert Lane

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The Second Letter

The Second Letter

Robert Lane

Mason Alley Publishing, LLC

ISBN-13:9780615841885

323 pages Genre: Mystery

 

Robert Lane opens The Second Letter in 1961with a hand-carried letter delivered to the widow of a Secret Service agent. Dorothy Harrison lives a good life in Florida, and follows the instructions of her dead husband’s friend, a CIA agent, regarding the letter. Is it about her husband’s death or just a government secret that could be used against the United States?

Along with her gardener, she hides the letter in a safe place. They do not open it, intuitively knowing it contains secret government information that could affect the Secret Service or other government agencies. And possibly information about her husband she doesn’t want to know.

Fast forward from 1961 to present day.  Dorothy Harrison’s home is now a museum. It is broken into one night without an apparent robbery.

Enter Jake Travis, an ex-military man living on Florida’s coast. His ex-Army commander contacts him with an “off the books” mission. Find the mysterious fifty-year-old letter that was taken during the Harrison Museum robbery.

It is being held by Raydel Escobar, a shady millionaire that is attempting a trade with the IRS – they get the letter, he gets the tax evasion charges dropped as well as the slate wiped clean of all the money he owes the government.

Travis is on Escobar like a dog on a meat truck. With the help of his girlfriend Kathleen his neighbor Morgan, and his partner Garrett they get close to Escobar, discovering he has many secrets that are much worse than hiding money from the IRS.

The question is, how far will Travis go to retrieve a letter that is possibly of no consequence today? He may be risking his relationship with Kathleen and the lives of those closest to him if he keeps hounding Escobar and his associates.

I loved this book. The first of I hope many from Robert Lane. His characters are sharp, witty and have a depth that many authors can’t or don’t often give them. Travis has a tortured soul. We get glimpses into his past through his comments and actions. He treads softly around alcohol must have been a problem for him at one point in his life. Escobar is the character you love to hate. He has an unusual soft side that shows up when least expected. There is a fabulous tie-in to the 1960’s in Escobar’s choice in music. It becomes the soundtrack of the book, reminding the reader where the story started and where it will circle back to end.

Lane uses dialog and descriptions beautifully. For example, of all the ways to describe the hot Florida sun, Lane chooses “…I lowered the blind to block the sun that assaulted our bodies like white bread in a toaster”. This is just a small sample of the authority and realism he commands with his words.

He must be amazing sharp-witted, because I suspect the voice of Travis is close to his own. Humor and sarcasm go hand in hand when Travis opens his mouth. This often gets him in trouble, but he does not really seem to mind.

If this is a glimpse into the head of Robert Lane, I’d love to attend a dinner party where he is in present and sit back and listen. Maybe even verbally spar if the occasion warrants – but I accept defeat in advance.

His next book, Cooler Than Blood is scheduled for release Fall 2014. I will be the first in line to get it.

 

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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