Monthly Archives: December 2018

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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Book Review: Easy Bird Origami – Fun Facts, Beautiful Birds and Origami to Create

Easy Bird Origami

By: Tammy Yee

Easy Bird Origami is not your ordinary origami book. Each page has a full color picture of the bird for you or your child to create. There are instructions for flying birds and standing birds. Each sheet will specify which type of bird you are creating, and both flying and standing instructions are clear, easy to understand and have illustrations to help you picture the correct way to fold your birds.

The thirty pre-printed bird designs are colorful and detailed. But before you start creating your flock, be sure to read the information on the back of each page. It will tell you the name of your birds, the place in the world they are found and interesting facts about each.

These are not your ordinary sparrows and robins. Not so say there is anything wrong with the everyday birds I see at my feeder, but it is fun to learn about new birds that we might see on vacation far from home.

From Tanzania to New Guinea, to the Americas to Africa you will learn about interesting birds and their habitats. For example, the Sociable Weavers live in historic nests on the African Savana. Some of the nests are up to 100 years old and up to 500 birds live together in these huge communal nests year round.

The Common Bullfinch can imitate songs. In fact, a bullfinch named Bullie was famous for greeting guests by whistling “God Save the Queen” for visitors as they entered Lawton Hall in Cheshire England. Upon his death in 1853, a poem was written and placed on a tombstone that still stands today for tourists to read outside of the old hall.

A little closer to home, the American kestrel can be found from the Arctic Circle to South America.  These are one of the smallest hawks in the world, very colorful and are designed for speed. The can dive at speeds up to 65 miles per hour and during courtship perform complex flight maneuvers to get the female’s attention.

The beauty of each bird is highlighted on each page. Maybe you and your child will create a flock to hang from their bedroom ceiling. Or maybe you will use each detailed bird as Christmas decorations on your tree next year. Perhaps you will set a few on your dresser or on your desk at work.

Easy Bird Origami will make a wonderful gift. I plan to get a copy for my seven-year-old cousin. She loves every animal and bird. Since last summer she has gotten into origami and now it is one of her favorite things to do. As a new reader, she will enjoy the fun facts about each bird before making her flock.

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: What if an Octopus Followed Me Home? – Learn About Putting Others First in this Charming Picture Book

What if An Octopus Followed Me Home?

By Pamela D. Beverly

Illustrated by Dirceu Veiga

Julius has a new friend, Mack the octopus. Even though mom isn’t sure about letting Mack, stay she agrees to one overnight visit to see how it goes. They have a great time playing hide and seek, building with blocks and swimming in the bathtub.

When Julius goes to school the next day all he can do is think about his friend at home in the swimming pool. But something is wrong with Mack. He needs salt water, not water in a backyard pool.

Even though Julius loves Mack and Mack loves Julius, they both realize they need to do what is best for each other. That means they cannot live together but can still be friends.

Beverly’s delightful children’s book is perfect to teach children that it is great to be friends with others that are different. It will also reinforce thinking of the needs of other people or octopuses before themselves. Like all good children’s books, it is a great springboard for more discussions with your children.

I loved this book. The story is cute, yet has underlying values that all children need. The illustrations are colorful and cute. It is a book that is likely to be read over and over again, each time the child and reader will love it.

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

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: New Cat Cozy Mystery

Fool’s Moon

By Diane A.S. Stuckart

Ophelia and her brother Brandon have been dumped unceremoniously in a cardboard box far from home. The two cats lived with an old woman who loved and took care of them. Then something bad happened to the old woman and her mean son put them in a box and took them to a place they have never been to before. The cats are not used to traffic, other animals and having to find their own food. Fortunately for them, they find new owners but were lost to each other.

Ruby is now Ophelia’s human. She is a Tarot card reader, and Ophelia seems to have a knack for helping her out with her readings. When the housekeeper from the old woman’s house comes to have her fortune told, Ophelia and Ruby think that the old woman’s death may not be an accident.

Ophelia’s unlikely new canine friend Zuki is willing to help her find her Brandon and help solve the mystery of who killed the kind old woman Ophelia and Brandon loved. This decision will put all of them in danger. Especially after someone else turns up dead.

This cozy mystery is told from the point of view (POV) of the animals. This includes Ophelia, Brandon, Zuki and other assorted stray dogs, birds, chickens and fish. It is not a children’s book, but almost reads like one. The content of murder and complexity of the plot to find out who the murderer is would not be for children.

I love animals. Books featuring them are among my favorites. I loved the cozy series The Cat Who by Lillan Jackson Braun. I knew what the cats were thinking but the POV was from the human characters.  For me, they work well as sidekicks, even when they save the day by biting or jumping on the bad guy I can go with it. But for me, having the point of view totally from the animal’s perspective did not work. It is different and some of you may really get into it.

Reading the Tarot cards and explaining them was interesting. Who doesn’t like a little bit of fortune telling in a novel? It is a great way to foretell disasters waiting to happen. I would have enjoyed more of that part of the story instead of animal conversations.

All in all, Fool’s Moon has a solid plot and fits the bill for a cozy mystery. Just because I wasn’t fond of the POV, it doesn’t mean you won’t love it. This is the first book in the new Tarot Cats Mystery Series by Diane A.S Stuckart, aka Ali Brandon. She is a New York Times bestselling author with her Black Cat Bookshop Series. I plan to read the first book in the Black Cat Bookshop series because I loved her style of writing, but could not get past the children’s literature nod of writing from the cat’s POV in the Tarot Cats Mystery.

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 © 2018 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Delicate Crochet – Beautiful Crochet Patterns for Experienced Crocheters

Delicate Crochet

By Sharon Hernes Silverman

Crochet can be many things. All of which are beautiful, useful, warm and cozy. It is art made with a crochet hook and usually yarn. When I think of crochet I think of warm blankets, hats and mittens. I have crocheted each of these items over my years of enjoying the art of crocheting.

Delicate Crochet has introduced me to a whole new kind of crochet. Light, lacey, feminine crochet that is delicate and elegant. Of course I have seen the lace doilies my grandma made with cotton thread. They are beautiful and I have many of them she made over the years. But I have never seen shawls, scarves and other garments made of soft, lightweight yarns.

In Elegant Crochet, eleven designers created lace crochet patterns using traditional crochet stitches that any experienced crocheter would have no problem following at home. The projects vary from wraps to mitts to a Tunisian crochet cardigan. Each of them has detailed instructions, with charts as needed. There are full color pictures that highlight each project.

If you feel more comfortable working with patterns that remind you more of traditional crochet, the v-neck cardigan may be your first choice. It is created with openwork motifs (read beautifully lacy granny squares) and raglan sleeves. This is the perfect take along project with beautiful results.

At the end of the book, basic crochet techniques are spelled out completely with accompanying pictures. That being said, as comprehensive as they are, this book is not filled with patterns that are for beginners. But I you are ambitious and have never picked up a crochet hook in your life but feel you want to start on a delicately beautiful shawl or sweater, I will not be the one to rain on your parade – go for it. Conversely, experienced crochet crafters might be challenged by some of the patterns but all of them are so beautiful, they are worth the time and effort to use a lusciously soft and delicate yarn instead of sturdier worsted so often called for in crochet patterns.

As soon as the dust settles from the holidays, I plan to start making the Iced Silver Fox  Sweater designed by Kristin Omdahl. It is worked with a size F hook and features a delicate diamond motif on the front and back. It is meant to be worn over a solid top or turtleneck that will showcase each stitch.

Delicate Crochet is a book that will give you many patterns to choose from. Accept the challenge that might put you out of your comfort zone but will expand your crochet skills. Either way, this is a great book to have in your library as well as the perfect gift for the crocheters on your list.

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

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Past Tense – New Jack Reacher Novel

Past Tense

By Lee Child

Lee Child’s fan favorite character, Jack Reacher, is back. He is in a tiny town in Maine looking for his roots. The home of his family may have the charm of small town America, but tiny towns like this can be clannish and Reacher is an outsider. But never one to back down from a challenge, he quietly researches his family. That is up until circumstances radically change in the blink of an eye putting a target on his back.

One of the many skills he has is hearing something wrong in his environment that will wake him out of a dead sleep. The domino effect of him investigating the noises he heard and coming to the rescue of a woman in trouble becomes his problem faster than a heartbeat. This act of kindness, done in only a way Reacher could, lands him on the wrong side of the law in a town he needs to stay in to help find his family. He understands it is a longshot, but never one to shy away from a challenge, he is determined to finish what he came to accomplish.

Meanwhile, a young couple from Canada is traveling through the area with a car that should be in the junkyard instead of on the road. When it gives them too much trouble to continue on, they are forced to stop for the night. Lucky for them it is by a small motel. But their luck soon turns bad as they find out the car will take more time to be fixed than they thought. Basically trapped in the small secluded motel, they become more and more uncomfortable. Soon it is clear something is desperately wrong with their situation. The owners appear to be keeping the couple isolated from others which makes them afraid of what might happen next.

Soon Reacher and the couple will meet. But when someone else brings weapons to the party, everyone knows bullets will fly and men will die.

I am a fan girl of Lee Child without apologies. His characters, quite notably Jack Reacher, are full of life and energy. They pop off the page with life. The perfect plotting will leave you guessing right up to the end. You will find yourself reading late into the night to see what happens next.  Spoiler alert – Reacher survives the book. But of course all Reacher fans know that going in. Much like James Bond, he lives to die another day and we all expect him to.

Because Child is one of my favorite authors, I have read many of his books. My favorite is always the one I have just finished.  Each time I read one of his books, I am reminded how he can pull me into the story with his eloquent turns of phrase that never intrude on the story he is telling. If you have only seen Jack Reacher on the big screen, invite him further into your life by reading one – or all of Child’s books. You will enjoy the depth of the character and story so much more. In my opinion, the book is always better than the movie.

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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