December Book Reviews

So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, and thriller. Check back each month for new reviews. I would love your recommendations so please drop them in the comments!

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A Bend in the Stars – Rachel Barenbaum

Synopsis: Set in Russia in 1914 and the solar eclipse, A Bend in the Stars tells the story of Miri Abramov and her brother, Vanya. War is looming in Germany and life under the Czar, in Russia, for the Jewish people is becoming increasingly difficult. Faced with an impossible choice, they make a place to escape, along with Miri’s fiance, Vanya.

But before they can act, war breaks out, separating the family. Miri is forced to take on a dangerous journey in order to reunited with her brother and fiance, who are seeking out an American scientist who is capturing the eclipse.

This book is beautifully written. I found myself engrossed from beginning to end. I found myself reading more slowly in order the savor it. The story is action-packed from beginning to end. Miri is a fascinating and relatable character, overcoming incredible odds to pursue her passion for medicine. The plight of Russian Jews is sensitively and accurately depicted. I highly recommend this book.

Oliver Loving: A Novel – Stefan Merrill Block

Synopsis: A story of grief and love, Oliver Loving tells the story of a Texas town shattered by tragedy, leaving young Oliver in a coma for ten years. The story explores the effects of the event on Oliver’s family as each tries to cope with what happened to him as well as an unrequited love interest, Rebekkah Sterling. The family is given new hope for Oliver’s recovery thanks to new tests. But this also serves to bring back the pain of the past.

Beautifully written prose tell an incredibly emotional story that really captures the reader. The exploration of how each family member, Oliver’s father, mother, and brother, has managed to cope with this life altering tragedy makes this a compelling read.

The Keeper of Lost Things – Ruth Hogan

Synopsis: After losing a keepsake from his fiance forty years ago, Anthony Peardew becomes a keeper of lost things. He picks up the lost, the misplaced, the dropped and seeks to return them to their owners. At the end of his life, he bequeaths this mission to his assistant Laura, along with his house.

Lonely and recovering from a divorce, Laura moves into the mansion and discovers new friends in her neighbor’s daughter, Sunshine, and a gardener, Freddy. Both assist her in honoring Anthony’s mission: returning lost items to their owners.

This is a warm and witty read that had me laughing out loud in parts. The story has just enough twists and turns to keep the reader engaged. The back story of a character named Eunice was artfully threaded through the narrative. It’s wonderfully engaging read.

The Red Tent – Anita Diamant

Synopsis: Told from the perspective of Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah, The Red Tent is a re-imagining of biblical story of the tribe of Jacob. Dinah tells of life in her father’s camp and growing up under the watchful eye of her mother and the other women in the camp, her coming of age and joining the sisterhood of the red tent. It is a story of love, loss, and overcoming difficult circumstances as Dinah passes from childhood to adulthood.

This is a book I pull out to re-read at this time every year. A character who is barely a footnote in biblical text to brought to life. Anita Diamant’s story of the women in Jacob’s tribe, their sisterhood, and support of each other is wonderfully captivating. This story is a wonderfully familiar old friend.

Enter for a chance to win The House on Maple Street

There’s still time to enter the Goodreads giveaway of The House on Maple Street. Enter for your chance to win 1 of 100 Kindle edition copies. Full rules, terms, and conditions are available on at The giveaway closes December 5th.


The Reviews Are In

The House on Maple Street is now available and it is getting great reviews! In celebration, I’m offering a giveaway through Click here to enter for a chance to win a copy of the Kindle edition. Full details, terms and conditions are listed on The giveaway closes on December 5th, 2019.

From Readers’ Favorite:

“When you’re a writer, the characters you create become your best friends. You live with them, dream about them, obsess about their perks and anomalies and you help them, through words, to bring their stories to life. But when the characters surround a mysteriously lovely house, the one on Maple Street with the charming white picket fence, the intensity of the plot thickens. Evelyn is doing research on this house. It’s become something of an obsession. Each new clue leads to a disturbing dead end. But when a grad student, Hillary, moves into the room just down the hall from her and starts talking about people in the house that no one else has seen or heard, then the plot gets increasingly eerie and unsettling. Who are these people Hillary talks about? And how do they fit into the unfolding story and the slowly evolving highlights of Evelyn’s research?

Heidi Slowinski’s novel, The House on Maple Street, is a cleverly crafted, double-plotted story, an unexpectedly enticing story within a story. Multiple plots are carefully constructed, leading the reader along through the strange happenings that Hillary witnesses to the compelling research that Evelyn is doing on the house, which, in effect, is a character in its own right. The characters are well developed and the reader instantly feels at ease with each character, knowing their

strengths and weaknesses and whether or not they can be liked and trusted. Friendships evolve and develop, adding a cohesive blend to the cast. There is lots of action, mystery and, of course, a few ghosts.”

Reviewed By Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers’ Favorite

The House on Maple Street is available on Kindle and in paperback. Click here to get your copy!

The House on Maple Street

Hello Reader!

It is with surpassing pride that I announce the release of my first novel, The House on Maple Street!

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Excited for a fresh new start, Hillary Altman is about to begin her first semester of graduate school at small New England college. Ever the procrastinator, Hillary waits to the last minute to find housing. But fate smiles upon her, when she takes a room in a picturesque Victorian home, run as a boarding house. But Hillary quickly finds, that all is not as it seems at The House on Maple Street

The Kindle edition is currently available for pre-order. It will be released on November 21st. The book will be available at no additional charge to users of Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Lending Library, also on the 21st. It’s available in paperback and might even turn up in your local bookstore (fingers crossed). Reviews are appreciated!

This has been an incredible journey. Thank you for supporting my work!

Cover Art!!!

Happy Friday! I was going to postpone sharing this but I just couldn’t wait. I am delighted to share the cover art for The House on Maple Street.

Cover Art

This was the result of a collaboration with an amazing friend and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. There is so much meaning in the various elements. I can easily picture Hillary Altman sitting in front of the window on second floor. The various clippings, in the background, were inspired by Evelyn Burke and her research on the house. The shading and colors elude to the secrets the house holds. It just captures the story so perfectly!

The books is being released this weekend. Be watching for updates!

New Book Review

Happy Sunday dear reader! The House on Maple Street is undergoing final edits. Check back later in the week for the unveiling of the cover art. It’s coming along beautifully and I’m so excited to share it with you!

My Writing Space

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Today I’m reviewing a recent read, The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware. The story opens with Rowan Caine, in prison, seeking a new attorney after she was convicted of murder. She goes on to explain her story of accepting a nanny position in the Scottish Highlands and the twists and turns that led to the death of one of her young charges.

The entire story is a letter to an attorney Caine is seeking to represent her in an appeal and goes into great detail of everything that occurred during her time working for the family living in Heatherbrae House. There is also a great deal of time spent on the historic home having been updated to a smart house in a way that just felt odd. It’s a lot of detail to pack into a letter to an attorney, who likely would not have taken the time to read all of it. And many of these details were irrelevant to her case.

Overall, the story takes quite a while to build before racing to the finish. This was the first work I have read by Ruth Ware and while not my favorite thriller, I will look for other works by her.

For more reviews on my most recent reads, visit What I’m Reading.


Good afternoon dear reader! I took a week off last week but am back with new and exciting updates. My manuscript for The House on Maple Street is undergoing final editing and still on track for release by the middle of this month. I can’t wait for you to read it! I’m also looking forward to unveiling the cover art very soon.

You may have also noticed, I have made some updates on my site. Primarily, to make it easier to navigate and more convenient for you to follow. You’ll also see updates on what I’ve recently added to my Goodreads bookshelf. Check out the new What I’m Reading page for reviews on some of my favorite titles. I’ll be updating the page monthly with the latest books on my reading list.

I’ve also launched a new bookstagram account on IG with the handle @hs.reads. I’m looking forward to sharing my love of all things literary on a new platform. It’s also a fun way to take my photography in a different direction. Do you bookstagram or have a favorite that you follow? Please comment them!

An Interview with Evelyn Berke

Good afternoon, dear reader! If you are a regular reader of my blog, You’ve had the opportunity to meet Evelyn Berke. Today, you’re going to chance to learn a little bit more about her in a special interview. Evelyn plays an interesting role in The House on Maple Street through her research into the history of the boarding house where she is a tenant.

Evelyn, thank you for joining us today. Why don’t we start with you telling us a little bit about yourself.

Of course. Thank you for having me. My name is Evelyn Berke. I’m originally from the mid-west, from a town I guarantee you have never heard of. I moved to the east coast about five years ago to work at JC as the head librarian.

Wonderful. What made you select JC?

Well, it was a combination of things. First, the area where JC is located has a very active historical society. I’m very passionate about doing research on the stories behind historic buildings. So I knew that would be a great fit. Then I saw the gorgeous Victorian home on Maple Street, while I was apartment hunting, and I knew this was going to be the right fit.

Did you research the history of the house?

I did. It was a really challenging project actually.

Why don’t you tell us a little more about it?

Well, the house was built by a well-known family in the area. The Browns. But it was abandoned in the early 1950s. It then sat vacant for many years until my current landlord bought it as an investment property. The whole story is really very interesting.

You said this was a challenging project. What were something of the things that made it a challenge?

Any time you do a research project into a historic building, there are always going to be challenges. But in this case, tracking down articles and other information about the family proved particularly difficult. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I have an affection for microfiche!

That does sound challenging. Can you tell us what happened to the Browns?

No, I’m afraid I can’t. You’ll have to read about them in the book.

I’d like to thank Evelyn Berke for taking the time to join us today and giving us a little more insight into her role in the upcoming book.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little interview with Evelyn Berke. I’m also pleased to announce The House on Maple Street is targeted to be released on November 17th. I will update in my next post. The book will be available on Amazon on Kindle and in paperback.

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A Sneak Peek

Good afternoon, dear reader! You are finally getting a sneak peek at The House on Maple Street. If you are a regular reader of my blog, then you’ve already met our heroine, Hillary Altman. Hillary is living in a boarding house, while attending graduate school. In the section of the book I’m sharing today, Hillary is trying to get her breakfast together, in the shared kitchen and she has a frightening confrontation with her landlord, Keith.

The incident is broken up by one of Hillary’s neighbors, Dr. David Immerman, head of the History department at the same college Hillary attends. Dr. Immerman, who I look forward to you meeting when the book is released, tends to keep to himself, generally. Up to this point in our story, he really hasn’t been particularly warm toward Hillary. Reader, I give you a portion of Chapter 10 from The House on Maple Street:

Hillary couldn’t move. Her pulse was pounding in her ears. She had to think. Her mind was jumped to imaging what was about to happen. She had to do something. She thought about screaming but his hand would be over her mouth before anyone would hear her. The butter knife she had been using was too far out of reach. She pressed herself forward into the cabinets in front of her. She couldn’t get into the drawer. She didn’t know what was in it, even if she could. She felt Keith shift closer to her again.

“You want to be friendly, don’t you,” his breath hissed in her ear. She pushed her body forward, tighter against the counter. His gut was still touching her. She couldn’t move away.

“Good morning,” came a loud voice from the doorway to the dining room. Hillary lifted her eyes to see Dr. Immerman standing there, taking in the scene. “Is everything alright in here?”

Keith immediately backed away. Hillary straightened away from the counter, still tense, not taking her eyes off Dr. Immerman.

“Just saying good morning to my tenants.” Keith’s tone was casual.

Hillary didn’t say anything. She grabbed her plate, the knife, and a napkin. She moved to the other end of the kitchen. Hillary filled the coffee cup she had set out before making a swift exit from the kitchen. She’d take her coffee black this morning. She hurried down the hall and up the front stairs, not taking a breath until she had closed the door behind her, in her room. She stood there, her plate in one hand, coffee in the other. She closed her eyes, panting from the adrenaline, her heart racing. Hillary squeezed her eyes tighter, trying to calm herself. A large tear escaped from each eye and rolled down her cheek. The sudden knock at her door caused her tense all over again.

“Hillary, it’s Dr. Immerman. Are you alright?” he called.

Hillary relaxed again, taking a few breaths before she could respond. “I’m fine,” she managed.

“Are you sure?” he asked in a raised voice.

“Yes, I’m fine,” she replied again, her breakfast still in her hands.

“I’d like to talk to you about what happened. Will you open the door? I’ll stay out in the hallway.” His voice was concerned.

Hillary looked around her room. She placed her breakfast on her desk before opening the door. His face was one of fatherly concern and compassion.

“It’s okay,” she said avoiding his gaze. “You can come in, if you want to.” She moved aside so he could enter her room.

“Are you sure?” he asked. “I can talk to you from here, if you’d rather.”

“No, it’s alright. You can come in,” she responded.

He stepped past her, through the door, glancing around the unkempt room. Her bed was still unmade and there was a pile of laundry on the floor. Papers were strewn across her desk, by the windows and a stack of books sat haphazardly on a small table beside the bed. Dr. Immerman wished he had stayed in the hallway.

“Please sit,” she said, closing the door.

He pulled the chair out from her desk, turning it around before seating himself. She perched herself on the edge of her unmade bed, not meeting his gaze. He turned to pick up her coffee off the desk and handed it to her.

“Here. Have a sip of this,” he urged.

Hillary took a sip of the bitter coffee, easing back further onto the bed and folding up her legs in front of her. Dr. Immerman waited patiently in silence.

“When you’re ready, can you tell me what happened?” Dr. Immerman asked her.

“Nothing happened, really,” she replied, settling her coffee cup in her hands. “I was getting my breakfast and he was suddenly there. He started teasing me. He had just moved next to me when you came in.”

“Do you want to file a report? I’ll make a statement, if you do,” he offered.

Hillary just shook her head. She was humiliated. All she wanted was to be alone.

“Men get away with things like that if you keep silent,” he said. His tone had turned less patient.

“I’m fine,” she responded. “Nothing happened.” Hillary stood up at this. “If you’ll excuse me, I’d like to get some work done and eat my breakfast.” She moved across the room to the door, opening it. “Thank you for your concern.” She didn’t look at him.

Dr. Immerman rose from her desk chair. “Alright.” He crossed the room to the door. He stopped in front of her. “If you need anything, let me know,” he told her before moving back into the hallway.

“Thank you,” she said quietly before closing the door.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this taste of what’s to come with the release of my book. I haven’t set the official release date just yet. But I’m still targeting mid-November. Check back for more updates!

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Good afternoon! I’ve transitioned from writing mode to editing mode, getting The House on Maple Street ready for release, in mid-November. I’m really looking forward to sharing it with you!

Someone recently asked me what inspired me to write and how I came up with the idea for the book. As I’ve shared before, I did attempt a novel once before and failed spectacularly because I didn’t prepare. This time, it was cleaning out a closet. Seriously. I was chatting with a friend while cleaning a closet and the next thing I knew, I was starting work on the book.

I absolutely love mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels. So when I started in on my own work, there was no doubt in my mind, I wanted to write a mystery. Add a quip about there being people living in my house I haven’t met yet when clearing out too much stuff from a closet. And The House on Maple Street was born. The fun of writing a mystery novel is finding ways to drop little hints and clues, which I hope you’re going to enjoy.

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It’s done!

Good afternoon, dear reader. I am excited to report I have finished my draft of The House on Maple Street! There is plenty of editing and formatting to do before it’s ready for publishing. But I am still on track for a mid-November release. I can’t wait to share it with you. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.

This has been an incredible journey so far. When I first started working on this project, it was an abstract thought, that I was actually going to write a novel. One that I would actually finish and put out into the world. Unlike that file that is still collecting dust in the archives of an old laptop somewhere. I have learned so much! But I know I have a lot more to learn as I move forward into the next phases of this process. I appreciate that you’ve shared this experience with me thus far.

In the coming weeks, I will be releasing an excerpt from the book, to give you a taste of the story before it’s release. I’m also really looking forward to releasing the cover art, once that process is complete. And of course, I will finally be announcing the official release date of the book. Please be sure to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss out on updates.

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