Book Review: We Hope for Better Things – History Wrapped In Mystery

We Hope for Better Things

By Erin Bartels

We Hope for Better Things is a remarkably memorable story that winds through the lives of a family from the civil war to today. Focusing on three women that are more alike than different, the story alternates between them giving the reader characters and a story that spans 150 years. Each of these women are vastly different, but still curiously alike.

Mary is a young woman who has to take care of the family farm while her husband is fighting in the civil war. Without thinking of the consequences, he sends a freed slave to Mary and asks her to help keep him from harm. Her husband doesn’t stop there; she soon has a house full of men, women and children who are recently emancipated or on the run from their former owners. The backlash in the community is only one of the problems she has to contend with. Mary soon cares deeply for one of the men sent to her home.

Nora falls in love in the turbulent 1960’s. Her life was forever changed when she meets a young, talented photographer. Will she be willing to give up her family, her wealth and her comfortable life to be with a man who loves her, but society does not approve of?

Lastly there is Nora. She works as a successful journalist but is abruptly fired after standing her ground about a story she is passionate about. Randomly, a man contacts her about her Great-Aunt Nora. Since she is adrift in her professional life, she travels to see her aunt. There she unwittingly begins to dig into her family’s past. She has no intention of staying in the house that has been inhabited by Mary and Nora, but the deeper she digs the closer she feels to them and the ghosts of our nation’s past. Her investigative nature will not let her stop digging until she solves the mystery of the past she encounters

The characters are interesting and full. They come to life on the pages, pulling the reader into each of their lives and stories. As the author masterfully alternates the lives of the three women, I read long into the night to find out what was happening in the different decades. The farm house each of them lived in further links the women together as it whispers of the past and adds hope for the future.

Erin Bartels gives her readers a gift wrapped in history, shrouded in the past and present race relations in the United States. Her beautiful prose pulls readers into the story and lives of the characters. This is her first novel, and I am anxiously awaiting her second novel that will be published in fall of 2019.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Bookish and the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review and Giveaway – Adorable Baby Knits by Jody Long

Adorable Baby Knits

25 Patterns for Boys and Girls

By: Jody Long

Jody Long has compiled a fabulous collection of knit patterns for babies in sizes 0 to 18 months. Adorable Baby Knits begins with handy information for all knitters. For example, she tells us how to substitute yarn, the equipment needed, walking the reader through a few basic stitches, her preferred cast on and other general information on the patterns. An abbreviation dictionary page is also included to ensure success with her patterns.

The variety of patterns offers options for both veteran and new knitters. Each pattern is rated by the skill level, on a scale from the easiest (1) to the most challenging (4). The patterns each have a box at the beginning with easy to access information. It includes the list of materials needed, the measurements as well as the gauge with a reminder to “TAKE TIME TO CHECK GAUGE”. As a knitter, you know the importance of checking your gauge even though you would rather jump into the project with a wing and a prayer. But nothing is as frustrating as working diligently on a project only to have it be too big or too small for the recipient of your gift.

 There are sweaters, booties, hats and a simple baby banner. I plan to make more than one of the sweaters, but the baby banner has me thinking of other uses for the project. The instructions are given for four blocks – A, B, Y and a heart. It makes an adorable banner for a baby shower. But how about using the blocks separately to make cute and useful baby washcloths? For a baby shower, the decoration can be given to the mom to use them to bathe her newborn instead of buying a cute paper banner that will be discarded. Or you could make more of the squares and create a baby afghan by knitting or sewing them together.

All of these patterns look cute and fun to knit. My favorites, which are so hard to choose since I love almost every pattern, are the Sheep Sweater and the Cabled Cardigan.

I am very excited to offer a free copy of Adorable Baby Knits to one lucky person. Dover Publications has graciously sent me an extra copy to give to one lucky knitter. All you have to do to enter for the give-away is one or more of the following:

  1. leave a comment on my blog post (writeknit.wordpress.com)
  2. leave a comment on Twitter (lh171)
  3. leave a comment on Facebook (Laura Hartman)

For each of the above, you will get one entry in the drawing to be held on Wednesday, January 20, 2019. The winner will be posted on my blog, twitter and Facebook. The winner must be a resident of the continental United States. Good luck!

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Dover Publications in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter – Fascinating Novel and Author

The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter

By Linda Lo Scuro

Recently retired, Maria has extra time on her hands. While her husband Humphrey spends his days working as an investment banker, she now has to find other things to occupy her time. Her daughters are grown and out on their own, so when Maria’s cousin calls and asks her to check in on her aunt, she reluctantly agrees. For years Maria has kept her distance from her family. There are some shady dealings dating back several generations connecting them to the Mafia. All Maria knows for sure is that one of her aunts and mother despised her and abused her as a child leaving her bitter and a bit afraid of them.

When visiting the aunt that was kind to her as a child, Maria finds herself falling into the family business. Just on the fringe shouldn’t hurt anything. Besides she has a few scores to settle and her aunt has offered help. As she spends more time with her aunt, Maria begins to slide into the habits of the previous generations. She can solve problems that others are having with the help of family. She tries to keep her extended family away from her husband and children; there is no need for them to know the history she has always hidden. But when one of her immediate family makes an irreversible decision, help from the Mafia may be the only way to right the wrong. Or at least cover it up.

I loved this book. The transformation of Maria was remarkable to read. Ms. Lo Scuro does a fantastic job filling in the sordid past of Maria’s family and blending it in with the present day characters. Will visiting her Sicilian family turn this upper-middle class Brit into the person she has always feared she may become? Perhaps it was inevitable.

Linda Lo Scuro is as mysterious as Maria. Because this was the first book I’ve read by this author, I Googled her name to find out more about her. What I found out about Linda Lo Scuro is exactly what she wants us to know. This is not her real name and she will not be giving interviews. You can follow her on social media under her pseudonym, but her real persona will not be revealed. I admire her decision as well as her determination to stay anonymous amid the clamor of writing a truly remarkable and memorable novel. I think she is as interesting as her novel, which makes this a double win in my reading world.

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 © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder Over Mochas – Newest Java Jive Cozy Mystery

Murder Over Mochas

By Caroline Fardig

There is nothing worse than having your lying, cheating, thief of an ex-fiancé show up at your job, unless you are Juliet Langley. She clocked him right in front of her customers at Java Jive before he could finish his plea for her help. Never known for her subtlety, everyone in the coffee shop could tell she hated the man she just punched. After her boss settles her down, she agrees to meet up with Scott, the infamous ex, even though she was still understandably not happy to meet with the man that took all her money and caused her to lose her business. Not to mention he broke her heart.

Things go from bad to worse when they meet as Java Jive closed that evening. Juliet was still steaming, but her boss Pete who is her best friend is there to keep her in check. Scott arrives looking rather sick, but is determined to enlist Juliet’s help finding his missing wife. Something shady is going on here and Juliet wanted no part of it. But when Scott collapses and dies right in front of Pete and Juliet she has no choice but to investigate. Especially since a detective holding a grudge attempts to pin a murder charge on Pete and Juliet.

Against everyone’s better judgement, Juliet pairs up with her on again off again boyfriend police detective Ryder to find the real killer and kidnapper. As the case unfolds, bribery, illegal kickbacks and stolen drugs muddy it up. But soon the investigation turns from frustrating to dangerous as the real killer may be targeting Juliet to keep her from finding out his secrets.

Juliet is a great main character for a cozy series. She is smart, funny and has more man trouble than she wants or needs. She has a neighbor that is basically a friend with benefits and Ryder is now dating her girlfriend. Juliet really doesn’t want him anymore, but sometimes the memory of what they had for a while haunts her. Then there is Pete. Good hearted, adorably cute and there for her no matter how crazy her life gets. They both have feelings for each other, but she is afraid to commit to a relationship and ruin their great friendship.

Caroline Fardig knows how to keep a cozy mystery true to form. Her books are funny, entertaining and always have a twist in the plot to keep her readers guessing. It is no surprise she is a USA Today bestselling author. With an interesting list of past professions; including funeral parlor associate and church organist, she sounds as interesting as her characters. This is not the first book I’ve read by Farding, and will not be the last. I highly recommend this book and series for cozy mystery fans.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Red Address Book – Best Book I’ve Read This Year

The Red Address Book

By Sofia Lundberg

As the book opens, Doris is a Swedish woman in the twilight of her life. She has a nursing service come in to help her once a day, but the caregiver is simply getting the job done without caring about the person she is paid to help. Doris is kind, but doesn’t bother to interact. The caregiver doesn’t notice. Doris’ body is betraying her with weakness, but her mind is still sharp and her memories clear.

There are two things Doris does interact with. One is the computer phone call to her niece in the States, which happens every day. Both of the women delight in seeing the other from around the globe and sharing their lives. The other is the red address book that her father gave her for her tenth birthday in 1928. Just by opening the pages and scrolling through, she can walk through her past and relive the good and the bad of all the years.

At this stage of her life, Doris’ red address book holds many names of the dead. As each friend or family member passes away, she draws a line through their name and writes in one word. DEAD. She has lived a full and interesting life and has accepted the fact that her life is soon to be over. Her niece realizes that her beloved aunt is failing fast, and makes the journey to see her one last time. Her bittersweet journey will open her eyes to the woman Doris once was and still is until her last breath.

Lundberg skillfully takes us from past to present by using the entries in Doris’ red address book to tell us of the people she has encountered and events that have happened in her long and interestingly colorful life. Not all of the experiences have been good – but each of them has shaped Doris into the strong woman she remains to be today.

Oftentimes as people get older they are not seen as the young, vibrant person they were before age slowed them down. I have been fortunate to have close older family members tell me about their lives, just like Lundberg does for Doris. By the end of the book, I had laughed and cried with her as if she was an Aunt I was truly fond of.

This is the first book Sofia Lundberg has written and I am excited to see what this promising author does next. The former journalist that resides in Sweden is an author to put on your radar. I have read hundreds of books this year. Some of them fantastic, some mediocre, some made me want to chuck them across the room for various reasons I won’t mention. But hands down, The Red Address Book is the best book I have read this year. Do yourself a favor and get it now. Share it with your friends and read it for your book club. Tell me what you think!

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Happy, The Journal – Find Your Inner Joy Daily

Happy, The Journal

By: Fearne Cotton

 Fearne Cotton gives the best description of this journal on the cover: “A chance to write joy into every day and let go of perfect” It is a journal that is so much more than blank pages. I don’t know about you, but I have journals that have more empty than full pages. January starts out fine, but about spring my inspiration gives way to spring, then summer and dribbles down to nothing the rest of the year.

Happy will inspire and encourage you to not only journal, but will help you embrace the joy in your life. Sometimes the joy in everyday life is hard to find when you are living it. Looking back to crazy days when my kids were little and money was tight I can see the joy now, but then it was hard to embrace.

There are no blank pages staring at you when you open Happy. January 1st begins with the simple instruction: “Time for that cosmic order list. Write out your wish list for the year ahead….but as if each one WILL happen.” How cool is that!? Every page has some type of inspiration to keep you feeling positive about your day, and consequently your life.

Some days you are asked to doodle a picture. Don’t worry, no one will see it if you make a stick figure or paint a Picasso. This is your journal to keep to yourself or share. Too often we are too hard on ourselves. This journal may give you the inspiration and encouragement to believe in yourself and become someone who is happy more often than not. Who knows what goals you can accomplish in 2019 and beyond? Sometimes we just need that Happy push to make some dreams come true.

There are also full pages of important things to contemplate each month – I like to think of them as profound billboards – throughout the book. A few of my favorites include the following:

           “The first step in getting what you want is getting rid of the things you don’t want”

            “Happiness is handmade”

            “Don’t call it a dream, call it a plan”

With January right around the corner, this is the perfect time to order this book. But there isn’t a year anywhere on this book so if you start it in August and let it roll into a different year, go for it! These are your dreams, your goals and your joy to find in your own way.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Dover Publications in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Art & Craft of Handmade Books – Ancient Art Techniques for Today’s Crafters

The Art & Craft of Handmade Books

By: Shereen Laplantz

 What is a book? The author of The Art & Craft Of Handmade Books acknowledges books can be described differently but we will go with her definition for the sake of this review. Laplantz defines books as “must contain elements, such as panels or pages, and should follow a sequence.” I too, believe that sums up a book.

In this book about making books, you will find a glossary that will enable you to familiarize yourself with the craft of bookmaking. We are not talking about writing a book – although your handmade book may contain prose that is your own. Or it may contain only pictures or quotes you want to add from famous poets. The possibilities are endless.

You will learn what materials are needed. Some are specialty items, but no worries. There is a recipe to make your own wheat paste if needed for your creation. Just remember that each handmade book is a work of art and should be treated as such.

Some of the book are made using calligraphy, others will use rubber stamps and yet others may only be pictures. All of the patterns, in various styles, are fully explained with illustrations as well as written instruction.

Beginning with the basic Concertina which only uses a 6 x 28 inch piece of paper, you can create a mini masterpiece to keep or share with someone you care about. I love the variation of a Concertina in a Matchbox. This tiny book is sure to be treasured by the recipient for years to come.

My favorite design is the Tassel Book. It is constructed by creating a 16 panel Concertina that is joined together. It creates the shape of a star when looking from the top. Adding a ribbon to the top of your book it can be hung as a decoration (I’m thinking Christmas) to delight friends, family and yourself. Panels that open can be added for an extra element of surprise and beauty.

Handmade books may take a little finesse to create. But honestly these are not popsicle stick snowmen (which are great in their element) but fine works of art to be shared and enjoyed by friends and family. I plan on trying my hand at some simple Concertinas to make a few Christmas books for the special people in my life next year. This type of art is a throwback to a time when all books where created by hand instead of being sent over the internet to your favorite electronic device instantly. It is nice to know some still create one of a kind works of art in the form of books still today.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Dover Publications in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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