Book Reviews – My Opinion

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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

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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: Justice in June by Barbara Levenson: Fast Paced Mystery

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Justice In June

Barbara Levenson

301 pages

Justice In June is the second book in Barbara Levenson’s Mary Magruder Katz Mystery Series. The book opens with a dead informant and criminal defense attorney Mary Magruder Katz getting a call from Judge Elizabeth Maxwell asking for a meeting ASAP.

Judge Maxwell asks Mary to defend her in a hush/hush case that could ruin her career or possibly send her to jail. Added to the extra stress of possibly losing the case, Mary might have to depend on her ex to retrieve some information that could point her in the direction of the real criminal instead of the judge. Unfortunately, this information may cost Mary more than an uncomfortable liaison with the guy that dumped her.

While fretting over the fate of her case with the judge she has more issues. Her hot Cuban boyfriend, Carlos, asks Mary to see why they are holding a friend of his family, Luis Corona, after an altercation on an international flight. Thinking this is just a case of mistaken identity or some other reasonable explanation, she agrees. Within a few hours, she finds herself knee deep in a federal case. The feds are accusing Corona of terrorism and are preparing to move him without benefit of a lawyer or a hearing. Kate sees him for a brief time before the Secret Service arrives. When she leaves the jailhouse, she walks into a barrage of TV and newspaper reporters asking her why she is defending a terrorist.

Meantime, Carlos has a group of people suing him for not having the condos that his company is building completed on time. Additionally, someone just might be trying to hurt Mary. She does not know if it is from one of her current cases, one of her past cases or just some random acts of violence. She is exhausted and understandably so. Mary has more defendants than she has time for and more troubles then there are gators in the Everglades.

As you can imagine, this novel goes from zero to 60 as soon as you turn the first page. To say it is fast paced is an understatement. Levenson does not sacrifice great writing for speed, she keeps up no matter how fast the plot is moving and no matter how many twists and turns it takes.

Her characters are believable and easy to care about. I want Mary to come out the winner, and feel awful when she has so much on her plate she starts forgetting things like court dates. Who hasn’t had that kind of week? At least mine don’t include death threats and my mom not talking to me because she thinks I am defending a terrorist.

This is the second novel I have read by Barbara Levenson. I read her third Mary Magruder Katz novel, Outrageous October last year and loved it. I have not read the first in the series, Fatal February, but still plan to do so.  The fourth in the Mystery Series, Neurotic November will be available in September 2014. Each book of this series can easily be a stand-alone novel. As you have probably noticed, I read Levenson’s third, then second, then will probably read the fourth, then first book of this series. I don’t feel as though I’ve been confused or missed anything by not reading them in order. Let’s face it, who doesn’t enjoy eating dessert before dinner sometimes, but it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy dinner also because I ate in a different order.

In my review of Outrageous October, I urged mystery fans looking for a new series to try Ms. Levenson’s books, and still stand by that recommendation. Both of the books I have read in this series are well written, keep me guessing and have characters I care about. Mary, Carlos and Sam the dog can entertain mystery lovers for as many books as Levenson is willing to write for us.

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: Montooth 3 Red Cross of Gold by Robert Jay

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Montooth 3 Red Cross of Gold

Robert Jay

Cloverleaf Corporation

ISBN-978-0-989117-0-4

512 pages

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Monthooth 3, Red Cross of Gold is the third book in the Montooth series by award winning author Robert Jay. He begins this book with The Crew – a group of high achieving high school students on the cusp of graduation. The story continues through their college years, ending in graduation and the beginning of their adulthood.

The main story line is laid out for the reader in the first chapter when an experienced archer commits a murder. This sets the stage for Carty (the main character of the series) to be accused of the crime. She and The Crew have to find the real killer in order to save her from arrest.

There are several other stories within the main storyline. First, there is the story of Montooth as told to The Crew by Sally, a woman that was a witch in one of the previous books, but now a close friend. Montooth , a giant Florida alligator is the star of a group of fables written by Sally’s ancestors. This story features bees and bears. It is a typical fable with a moral at the end.

There are also two large sections of history interspersed with the book. One is the story of hidden gold and a society called the Templars of Scotland, dating back to 1307 and the more recent history of the overthrow of Cuba’s government. Both portions of history tied to the main story. The Templars via Sally and her family fortune and Cuba by Elena, Carty’s best friend and roommate, explain various plot points and turns. To me, this book felt like it should have been broken up into two novels as the first half is almost a separate story from the half about Cuba.

It wasn’t difficult to pick up the characters or backstory without reading the previous books in the series. What was difficult for me was the long sections of history that read like a textbook instead of a novel. It became rather dry to have so many pages of history without referring to the main story or characters, especially the chapters about the Templars. The Cuban portion was a bit more interesting because Elena and her brother were a part of the story at times.

As a work of fiction, the footnotes at the back of the book are not my favorite. Footnotes on the page don’t interrupt a reader as much has having to page back 400 pages to find the right reference. I understand the author’s need to explain history and people outside the text, but a work of fiction calls for the footnotes on the same page.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves delving a bit deeper into history than the typical historical novel.

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 © 2014 Laura Hartman

Book Review: Chesapeake Crimes, This Job Is Murder

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Chesapeake Crimes: This Job Is MurderChesapeake Crimes, This Job Is Murder

Edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman and Marcia Talley

Wildside Press, LLC

ISBN-13: 9781434440600

165 pages

$4.39 ebook & $11.69 paperback at Amazon.com

Reviewed by Laura Hartman

 Genre: Mystery

 This Job is Murder is the fifth collection of short stories from the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Each of the 14 short stories in this collection is a stand-alone gem. Collectively, it is a struggle to see which story shines the brightest; I can’t pick a favorite when I loved them all.

They each feature a character that has an awful boss and/or job.  The charm of a collection is everyone has small windows in his or her life in which you have time to read one. They allow us to escape our active lifestyles for a few minutes of relaxation and enjoyment.

All of the stories are different; choosing a few to highlight was difficult.

“Keep it Simple” is not only the title of the story by Sheri Randall, but the motto of the first bad boss in the book.

C. Ellet Logan tosses a PI who can’t boil water into the mix at a cooking completion in “Alligator is for Shoes”.

“Next Stop, Foggy Bottom” had the best twist at the end; kudos to author Karen Cantwell.

Mediation sooths ruffled feathers in divorce cases. In “Murder by Mediation”, Jill Brelsau’s characters find the opposite to be true.

“Mean Girls” by Donna Andrews features a bad boss and awful coworkers. I loved hating all of them.

These short stories are condensed bites of reading pleasure with all of the depth of plots and characters of a full length novel. Almost everyone can relate to one or more of the characters. I hope you don’t relate to one of the bosses – if you do, mend your ways.

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 © 2012 Laura Hartman

Where Do You Read???

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The Huffington Post has interesting articles for readers. I am sure other publications have wonderful articles too, but Huffington intrigues me by sending little teasers to my email. Of course I signed up for said emails because who doesn’t like a little tease now and then?

Today’s Huffpost Book email was titled: A Strange Place to Read. Hum, interesting enough to check out. They are asking famous authors where they like to read. Fun and weird all at the same time.

That got me thinking. I am actually like Sam I Am. I will read books with a fox, in a box, on a train, in the rain….you know the words, don’t pretend otherwise! Anyway, I suppose the one place I read most is in bed. All is quiet in the house, the hubby and dog are both snoring next to me. Ah life is good indeed.

But I also read in the car a lot. Especially on vacation. I don’t know how many times hubby has complained that I am missing the ocean view, beautiful fall colors or scary mountain road that is barely wide enough for the car because my nose is in a book. To be honest, it only happens when I am at a really good part. 🙂

Then there is the bathtub on cold winter nights. During a bad Midwest winter, I end up with lots of books that are wrinkled on the bottom from getting too close to the bubbles.

In the spring and fall I can spent all afternoon on my fabulous wooden porch swing that my dad made when I was a little girl. As a matter of fact, I used to spend entire summers laying on that same swing reading library books by the dozens. Now I am way too tall to lay on the swing, but sitting on it suits me just fine.

 

 

 

Where do you read? In a tree? With a bee? Upside down? With a clown?

Just for fun, let me know!

GenReviews and Picture Books

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I just finished reading “The Donors” by Jeffrey Wilson. It was so intense I shut the windows to keep the demons out when I read it late at night! My review should be complete and uploaded within a day or two. Check out Tony Burton’s Genre Fiction Reviews site at http://www.thegenreview.com.

Feel free to check out my previous reviews and those of others I am humbled to share the page with.

It is a great site to get honest reviews of mainstream and newbie novels.

If you have a book you’d like reviewed, contact Tony via the website.

Regarding the picture book genre, I the second draft of my latest picture book, Eli’s Spots, is in my crit group and ready to send out to houses as soon as I get their feedback and tweek it one last time.

“Jumping Joey” is going out tomorrow. It’s been out 3 times now. One editor liked the main character so that is a plus!!

My productivity has increased exponentially now that I gave up Farmville. For anyone familiar with this facebook game, you know how many hours a week it can suck out of your life. I used to work the farm for an hour or 2 a day. Then I realized I could get the same relaxation from writing during that time, and it actually made me feel better than I did after clicking on animals to feed them and crops to harvest.

Farmville is fun diversion, but writing is a better choice for me.

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