Book Reviews – My Opinion


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 – 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.


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)


Shameless Self-Promotion: The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping

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I wonder how authors promoted books to the masses just a few short years ago? Understandably there were wonderful publishers and publicists that put authors and books in the news with reviews, interviews and advertisements. I can’t imagine how hard it was for authors just starting out to be heard, let alone read by more than a few people.

Now it is so much easier to get your name out. Last week the anthology with my short story in it went live. The publisher is awesome – Yea Untreed Reads Publishing!!! – J. Alan Hartman (no relation!) is really putting it out there. Look for it online at the Untreed Reads Store, Amazon in six countries, Barnes and Nobles, and Apple’s iBook Store.

I will TOTALLY understand of you stop reading this blog right to check it out: The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping (my story is Perfect Pumpkin Pie – but all of them are really, really good).

Welcome back.

Now a days, they have a whole big bunch of newfangled ways to promote your books. Of course you know about blogs if you are reading this. It is a great way to get the word out to people you don’t know (yet) and who don’t know about you as an author (yet). And after writing and publishing a blog entry,you can tweet it and post it on Facebook.

I’ve just spent the last hour before writing this on Twitter. Reading, making new connections, tweeting back new followers. It is very cool to talk to people instantly via social media sites. And sometimes creepy, but I’m not going there in this post. I’ve found in the twitter world you get many more followers if you follow, so go forth and follow. You’ll read some interesting short thoughts. I’m @lh171

My Facebook page is mostly personal posts. If you looked at my history, you can see life during Farmville and life after Farmville. It was taking up way too much of my time so I had to let the crops go. No more bazillon posts of “please help me finish this quest”, etc. I have to admit I do still play Words with Friends and have been known to play Bejeweled Blitz, but who doesn’t? 🙂 But now I’m adding book info for anyone that may need to know.

Back to publicizing my story. I am on GoodReads, you can find me at I am a huge fan of GoodReads. Great way to find new authors, read reviews and sign up to win free books.

Last but not least, I have an author page on Amazon. I’m at Stop by and learn a bit about me. Make a comment, Like me if you like.

Wow, all of this talking about me is exhausting. I’m more of a “write about anything other than me” kind of gal. But, the book is great, and so are the authors, and they all deserve any extra promotion I can get out there.

Thanks for hanging in to the end. If you haven’t done so already, go out and see all about me and The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping.

How do you promote your work? Let me know!

Bio for Plum Tree Books

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The hardest thing for me to write is a bio. All writers need them. Some publishers want short, one paragraph bios. Others want long, detailed pieces of me to put on their website. I am not complaining, it is good to get out there and promote my writing, but most of the time I hide behind it.

Anyway, my latest adventure is joining Plum Tree Books ( ) as a children’s book reviewer. I am so excited to be a part of this group.  My pic and bio will be added soon, hopefully my first reviews will be posted as well.

I decided to add my bio below to give you all TMI regarding my writing life. Be sure check out Plum Tree Books!!!!

My life has been extraordinarily ordinary. Raised by a loving family, I was never without the necessities of life. From earliest memory my parents, grandparents and aunts read to me, told me stories and encouraged me to become an avid reader. Money wasn’t plentiful, but life was filled with love, fun and books.

Looking into myself to see who I’ve become today I see several evolutions as my life changed. I married my high school sweetheart, who is still my sweetheart after 36 years. I spent the next years as a stay at home mom and volunteer. Our life was crazy and busy and filled the occasional trip to the ER for bonked heads and broken arms. I would not have traded it for the world.

When my youngest son entered high school, I entered college, terrified that I would not be able to keep up with students my son’s ages. Facing my fears was one of the best choices I have ever made. I discovered that I could learn as well as the rest of my classmates. Writing was my new love. I wrote papers as though Stephen King was going to critique them. Essay tests were my specialty! I took as many English classes as possible, writing my way to graduation while working a full time job.

Fast forward to today. I work full time as an analyst, not a writer.  We spend as much time as possible with our grown sons and daughter-in-laws while I impatiently wait for grandchildren to read to.

And I write. I write short stories, I write magazine articles, I wrote a column for our local paper for three years with great satisfaction and very little pay.  I write book reviews and I write yet to be published books for children. I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Short Mystery FictionSociety.

I currently review books for The GenReview My work has appeared in Flashshot, Daily Short Fiction and Penwomanship Magazine.  Ma Cook’s Willow, is included in Tree Magic, which is now available as a free download from Sunshine Press

My short story Crazy is available as an audio story at Sniplits and is included in A Woman’s Touch: 11 Short Stories of Murder and Misdemeanors  available on Amazon at

Catch up with my world and my musings on twitter @lmh171

A Woman’s Touch: 11 Stories of Murder and Misdemeanors [Kindle Edition]

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Have you ever checked out Sniplits at  How can you not love downloadable short fiction? If you sign up for the weekly newsletter, you’ll receive a free story every week. I may be biased because not only is one of my short stories (Crazy) available for download – it is included in one of the three ebook anthologies published by Sniplits 🙂  Check ’em out on Amazon!

All that info circles back to the ebook vs print copy and adds audio books to the discussion.

In addition to Sniplits downloads, I listen to Book Radio on the way to work. It makes my hour commute bearable.

I guess any and all forms of books are fine with me. This weekend I’ll start sending out my Children’s Book, Jumping Joey to any and all possible publishers where it might just find a home. Keep your fingers and toes crossed.

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