Book Review: Love From Boy – Roald Dahl’s Letters to his Mother

Love from BoyLove From Boy

Roald Dahl’s Letters to His Mother

Edited by Donald Sturrock

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Penguin First to Read in return for my fair and honest review. Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

This is a fascinating collection of letters Roald sent to his mother from 1925 to 1965. He begins writing to his mother from St. Peter’s School, followed by Repton School in Derby. He then traveled to Nova Scotia, Norway, Canada, Tanganyika, Kenya, Iraq, Egypt, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Texas, and New York and back to Buckinghamshire. From these posts the reader gets an inside look at historical events and Roald’s opinions of what he sees and experiences.

Before I read this book I pictured him as a writer, toiling away at his desk on some of my favorite books. He actually was a story teller in the letters to his mother, painting pictures with his words about the places where he lived and worked.

We also see his compassion. He was worried about his mother finding out how horrid the conditions were at the boarding school. Disease was rampant and the teachers were, in many cases abusive. He wanted to spare her from concern so sugar-coated many of the events when mailing her weekly letters home.

He was also concerned for his family’s welfare. Roald repeatedly implored his mother to move to the countryside so she and his siblings would be out of harm’s way once the inevitable bombings of the war began. She never left her home, but thankfully was okay. He had access to items that were unavailable in England due to the war and frequently wrote asking her and his sisters for lists of things they needed him to send to them.

He experienced sadness and loss in his personal life. One of his children died at a very young age from an illness and another was in an accident, leading him to become a co-inventor of a shunt for children with brain injuries.

If you haven’t read any of his books that aren’t for children, you may be surprised by the salty language in his letters. But if you have read My Uncle Oswald, you might not be. It is a very funny, and quite bawdy.

I truly cannot pick out one or two of my favorite letters, there are just too many. He met dignitaries and presidents. And he dined with movie stars and the owner of the famed Hope Diamond – who wore it to dinner which Roald found a bit too much. He worked with Walt Disney!

If I haven’t convinced you yet, Roald was a gifted photographer and many of his photos as well as some of his drawings are included in this book. It is an amazing compilation of newsy letters that were saved by his mother, enabling the reader to glimpse into life as Roald experienced it. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in history, Roald Dahl, WWII or Hollywood.

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Book Review: Knitted Toys – Must Have for Knitters

knitted toys.peg
Jody Long’s first knitting book is a grand-slam! This book is everything a knitter wants in a book of patterns. There are 20 different patterns included. Each of them have clear, easy to read and understand instructions. The amount of yarn, other supplies and gauge are included to help new and experienced knitters succeed.

There are smaller, easier projects like Squishy Beach Balls and Sebastian the Starfish. Some patterns have color work, which I personally love to do. The instructions are easy to follow even for a beginner. This could be the perfect time to try intarsia if you haven’t before.

At the beginning of the book there are several pages of information and definitions. Be sure to read them. A needle conversion is included, UK and US needles are both listed. The amounts of yarn (with suggestions as to the type to use if you aren’t using the exact yarn as the author) are listed in yards and meters as well as ounces and grams depending upon what country you are knitting in or more comfortable with.

Most knitting books have one or two patterns that are cute. Every single one of these 20 knitted toys are adorable. It is hard for me to highlight a few favorites, but here goes – and this does not by any stretch of imagination mean I don’t like the others.

The first one I plan on knitting is Mrs. Hopper the Rabbit. She is absolutely charming, wearing a sweater and holding a basket with carrots inside. She is 11 inches tall and will make a perfect gift for Easter.

Primrose the Nighttime Teddy has a nightcap and nightgown and Rusty the Puppy looks so squishy and cute I can just see a toddler cuddling up with these two for a nap.

Most knitters have yarn in their stashes with would more than complete one or more of these terrific toys. The patterns would make perfect take-a-long projects because each piece can easily be stashed in a purse or backpack. I like to knit during my lunch hour at work and will definitely be carrying these projects with me .

I highly recommend this book.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from NetGalley 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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Book Review: Write to Die – Perfect Legal Mystery

Write to DieWrite to Die

By Charles Rosenberg

Rory Calburton is in a tight spot. He is the newly promoted partner at his law firm, which is the primary council for a major movie studio. Currently, the studio is embroiled in a lawsuit involving this year’s blockbuster movie which is scheduled to release within days. Rory is called to the studio by the head honcho, Joe Stanton to discuss the case. But Joe won’t be discussing the case or anything else because Rory finds him dead.

This was the tip of the iceberg of Rory’s bad luck. His boss, Hal Harold, is the prime suspect in Joe’s death. Now the lawsuit brought against the studio by former star Mary Bloom might take a bad turn with Joe no longer in the picture. Rory’s headaches multiply when he not only has to defend the studio, but his boss in front of a less than friendly judge.

Enter another wild card in the form of a brilliant young assistant; Sarah Gold. Fresh out of law school, an admirable internship and a shady few years of bartending, Sarah jumps into the investigation a bit too eagerly. Now Rory has to research the lawsuit before the blockbuster hits the big screen, defend his boss from a murder and keep Sarah from doing something so far over the edge of legal that could get them both thrown out of the firm and possibly into jail.

Write to Die is a fascinating romp through the court system. The mystery of who killed Joe Stanton is well played and was impossible for me to figure out until the last few pages. The clues were all there, it was just a matter of connecting all the dots. Much to my delight, I did not figure it out until the last chapters.

Rosenberg writes the story with a noir flavor set in modern day. The “good ‘ol boy” mentality of the film studio and law firm was very reminiscent of a noir story of the 1950’s. But, if you are not a noir fan, no worries, the modern day setting as well as the antics of Sarah will pull you back into a world with cell phones and tracking devices.

The characters were interesting and well-developed. Pieces of back ground and history were fed to the reader in small bits so as not to overwhelm the actual story. It was like getting to know an acquaintance who soon

became a friend. By the end of the book, some of them were close friends of mine, but a few had secrets that I am dying to find out. Maybe I will find out in the next book with these characters. I certainly hope there is a sequel.

It is always delightful for a reader to find a new author he or she likes. The smart, easy to read dialog and story Rosenberg gives us makes the book interesting and a fast read. This is his fourth book. He is a practicing lawyer in LA, which allows him to add realism to Write To Die that keeps the readers involved and interested in how the trial as well as the personal relationships are going to work out.

Copyright © 2016 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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Children’s Book Review: Starr and the HIgh Seas Wedding Drama – Terrific Series for Girls

Starr book 3Starr and the High Seas Wedding Drama

Written by Lynn Woolley

Illustrated by Karen Wolcott

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley & the publisher in return for my review. Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

Starr Rubio’s Abuela has a surprise for the whole family. She is going to take them on a cruise. But the surprises didn’t end there, Abuela was getting married to Walter. His family was coming on the trip also. Things got even more exciting for Starr when she found out that she and Walter’s granddaughter were going to be flower girls.

But when Starr met Ivy, she soon discovered they were very different. Starr was excited about Abuela falling in love and getting married. Ivy wasn’t happy with the changes that would take place when her Grandpa married Starr’s Grandma. Could these two girls become friends?

Starr and the High Seas Wedding Drama is the third book in the Flower Girl World Series chapter book. The story moved along quickly with plenty of tension to keep younger readers engaged. There were a few words in Spanish sprinkled throughout the text, with glossary and pronunciation guide at the end. Sharing other cultures is a great way for children to want to learn new languages as well as cultures.

I feel the characters would be easy for young girls to identify with. The feelings, experiences and interactions were very true to life.

I would recommend this series for children that can read chapter books by themselves. It is also appropriate for a bit younger age group to have parents or caregivers read it aloud to them, especially if they are going to be flower girls in a wedding.

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Book Review: Lazy Crafternoon – Tons of Cute, Affordable, Easy Crafts

Lazy CarfternoonLazy Crafternoon

by Stella Fields

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley  & Capstone in return for my review. Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

Lazy Crafternoon made me want to pull out the craft supplies, call a few friends and have a fun crafty day. Fields has compiled a collection of crafts that are easy to make, useful and don’t cost an arm and a leg.

She begins with explaining supplies and how to use them. They are common in most if not all households (scissors, glue, paintbrushes) or easily purchases at your local craft, hardware or even grocery store. The most exotic thing she discusses is decoupage glue, so you won’t have to order something from an expensive craft house to complete her projects.

The projects are divided into different sections:

Accessories includes headbands, decoupaged shoes (I cannot wait to do this to a pear of my favorite flats that are looking tired!) and a diffuser necklace that uses essential oils to name a few. There are a total of 10 crafts in this section.

Decorate gives the reader instructions for ribbon wreaths (think Christmas gift!), no sew pillows and cute flower pot makeovers. There are a total of 14 crafts in this section.

Study is the section of school supplies that can be used for many other purposes also. My favorite in this section is the cinch sacks – they can carry so much more that books – think knitting! They are perfect for the project on the go. There are a total of 10 projects in this section.

Celebrate is all about party decorations and gifts wrappings. The coolest trick to make wrapping paper with a lint roller will absolutely be used this Christmas in our house! You can celebrate with all 11 of the projects included here.

Food is the final section. Why food in a craft book? Remember the title is Lazy Crafternoon and in order to have a Crafternoon you have to add friends and food to complete your day. There are 7 crafty type recipes that look yummy and perfect for your crafternoon or for giving or just plain enjoying yourself. The one I can’t wait to try is sun tea in mason jars. How fun to personalize each one for the person that is going to enjoy it?

Overall, this is the best, most versatile craft book I’ve read lately. The ideas are fresh, easy and Fields reminds us how fun it is to spend time crafting with good friends and of course good food. This is written for teens/young adults but adults will find plenty of projects they will want to do – I did!

Watch for Lazy Crafternoon at your local bookstore or online, it is available on August 1, 2016 but can be pre-ordered now.

 

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Book Review: My First Knitting Book – Projects for Beginning Young Knitters

My First Knitting BookMy First Knitting Book

by Hildegarde Deuzo (Author), Marina Orry (Translator)

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley in return for my review. Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

My First Knitting Book features clear, easy to understand instructions for new knitters. There are written instructions, diagrams and pictures to help any type of learner complete over a dozen easy projects. The basic knit and purl stitches as well as increases and decreases are detailed. The importance of gauge, which varies from person to person and is dependent on the type/weight of yarn as well as the size of needled you use is not addressed until the very end of the book. Hopefully readers will not just pick out a project before reading the whole book first.

The project instructions include the yarn type needed, needle size and easy to follow diagrams to complete things like scarves, a pouch and a stuffed owl toy.

This book is appropriate for older children (with help from an adult) to adults, but most of the projects are geared to children and younger teens.

While My First Knitting Book has all the mechanics included, I don’t find this book standing out from most other knitting books for new knitters.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

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Book Reviews: All These Perfect Strangers – Truth or Lies? You decide!

all these perfect strangersPenelope (Pen) Sheppard is a lot of things. Honest is not one of them and most importantly I am not sure she is even honest with herself. She shares little bits of herself to the psychiatrist the courts have ordered her to see. Pen shares other bits of herself to her family and smaller bits to her college “friends”. Last of all she parcels out the bits she wants the reader to know in very small increments – often leaving out vital details that we find out in the last few pages.

These bits are what keep the readers interested in the story. She appears to be the victim, falsely accused of crimes she did not commit. But she has personal knowledge of them. Is she making up stories to give the psychiatrist what he wants to hear? Is this personal knowledge or her version of reality? There are tons of questions throughout the book as the reader sees Pen in her current day world and the one that came crashing down a few months previously, after several murders.

The small town Pen grew up in was not as forgiving as the authorities, so when she came back after the trouble at college, most of them didn’t want anything to do with her. She had to come back to see Frank, because her lawyer has arranged for the psychiatrist she worked with in the past to help her work through the terrible injustice that was inflicted on her. The lawyer is requiring a report to “demonstrate her pain and suffering” to support her case against the university. The three years since she has been in Frank’s office have been a short while for him, but a lifetime for Pen.

The rest of the story unfolds as he asks her to bring weekly journal entries to him, telling her side of the events that led her to his door again. Pen is reluctant, but knows it is her only chance of moving on, so she opens her heart up on the pages and her side of the story is finally pouring out of her. But will she actually share all of this with Frank or anyone else?

The truth and lies tangle to tell a story with twists, turns and surprises. If the reader pays attention, Pen tells you that she isn’t exactly telling the whole truth all of the time. Those bits and pieces of truth can lead to assumptions that may or may not be true. You won’t find out until the end. Then you will have the “ah ha!” moment what all great mysteries need to satisfy their readers.

Clifford’s characters are gritty and real. I didn’t always like Pen – but I don’t think I had to in order to enjoy the novel. As a matter of fact, I think not liking her gave me a better perspective of her character.

All These Perfect Strangers is Clifford’s first novel, but she is the author of several award winning short stores.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Random House ChatterBox Monthly Mystery 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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