Monthly Archives: January 2020

Book Review: Michael Recycle Meets Borat the Space Cat – Early Reader with a Powerful Message

Michael Recycle Meets Borat the Space Cat

By Ellie Patterson

Illustrated by: Alexandra Colombo

Michael Recycle Meets Borat the Space Cat is the fifth book in the Michael Recycle series. Recommended for 6 to 8-year-old children, the characters champion recycling and eco-friendly practices for children and adults.

Borat, the Space Cat, arrives on earth to tell the woes of his planet, Splearth, that is doomed due to global warming and overuse of natural resources. Now there is a countdown clock telling readers about the eminent demise of planet earth if things don’t change.

Children need to know about these serious issues, and Patterson writes a fun adventure with a serious undertone. The characters working hard to save planet earth is admirable. Kids love a page-turning adventure.

I liked the characters and loved the colorful illustrations. The rhyming felt forced to me, the story would have been fine without it. The target age group, if mature enough to hear about the very serious subject of global warming is most likely past rhyming text found in books for younger children.

This is the first book in the series that I have read. I recommend reading it with your child in case he or she has questions or fears about the heavy subject matter.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder Off the Page: A Full Serving of Who Done it with a Side of Cozy Mystery

Murder Off the Page

By Con Lehane

Raymond Ambler and his close friend Adele have solved a few murders before. This time the amateur sleuths are taking it personally. One of their close friends, bartender Brian McNulty, is wanted for murder and is on the lam. They are certain McNulty is innocent, but Mike Cosgrove, the officer in charge of the case, thinks differently. To complicate matters, Cosgrove, Ambler and Adele are more than acquaintances, they have “worked” other cases together, much to Cosgrove’s displeasure.

McNulty contacts Amber, asking him to look in on his elderly father and gives him little to no information other than he is innocent. As more bodies pile up, it is beginning to look worse for McNulty by the day. The dead woman at the center of all this has led a secret life in the open confusing police and McNulty’s friends. Her husband claims to know of her infidelities and looks the other way. Suspects are piling up like cord wood and the deeper Cosgrove and Ambler dig, the more disturbing the victim’s life becomes. Unfortunately, McNulty isn’t off the hook. He refuses to turn himself in and is on a personal mission to find the real killer himself.

Murder Off the Page is the third book in the 42nd Street Library Mystery Series. Both Adele and Ambler work in the Library and the plot winds in and out of the Special Collections reading room, painting the picture of a place I want to visit. Even though it only exists in Lehane’s pages, the Library is another character I adore.

Ambler and Adele are cantankerous and charming respectively. They have a close friendship and at times are on the verge of a deeper relationship. Miscues and misunderstandings have left them as close friends for the time being. I love the way that their interactions adds to the plot. Murder Off the Page is a full serving of who done it with a side of cozy mystery.

This is the second Lehane book I have read. Previously I read and thoroughly enjoyed Murder in the Manuscript Room which is the second book in the series. Both of the books read well as standalone novels, but I am sure you will enjoy reading this entire series, and like me, search out his other works, a trio of mysteries featuring bartender Brian McNulty that were written before the 42nd Library Mystery Series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from publicist Maryglenn McCombs in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Unexpected Spy: True Story Ripped from Today’s Headlines

The Unexpected Spy

By Tracy Walder; Jessica Anya Blau

Tracy Walder began life with hypotonia, known as a “floppy baby syndrome”. The odds of her walking were nearly impossible, and the odds of her becoming a dancer, a sorority girl, a CIA agent or an FBI agent were too crazy to consider. Yet, that is exactly what she did. But not without determination, hard work and confidence in herself.

Her mother can be credited with never giving up when doctors did. She worked with Tracy until she got stronger and finally walked on her own. Unfortunately, the kids at school were not kind to her. She had few friends and kept to herself. Her mind was and is brilliant, so it was no surprise that she entered USC and became a member of a sorority. What does come as a surprise to her and everyone else is that on a whim she filled out a card at a job fair for the CIA. Even more surprising is they called her back and recruited her.

The CIA was intense, but Tracy loved the fact that she was making a difference even if no one would ever be able to know the specifics of her job. But the intensity became too much, 9/11 weighed heavily on her and tracking terrorists left her sleepless. When she saw recruiting literature for the FBI she thought about having a home and family instead of the travel the CIA required. Again, she sent in her resume and was recruited. But the FBI has a different mindset when it comes to women operatives. After a few years, she decided to leave the bureau and begin the career she had dreamed about since she was a child, teaching.

Tracy’s fascinating story gives readers an inside glimpse of the CIA, FBI and what it is to be a woman in these male dominated professions. Part of her story has been redacted, there are many pages with ~~~~~~~~~~  in place of words. These signify information that is classified. Tracy submitted The Unexpected Spy to the CIA’s Publications Review Board. It was approved with the aforementioned redactions.

The Unexpected Spy reads like a spy novel, but is so much more impactful to the reader because it is based upon her life and the true events in our recent history. I loved it and am in awe of this courageous and adventurous woman.

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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Remembering Ethan – Beautiful Book that Helps Children Work Through Grief

Remembering Ethan

By Leslea Newman

Illustrated by Tracy Nishimura Bishop

Sarah’s big brother Ethan died. She thinks about him and misses him all of the time. Her Mommy and Daddy won’t talk about him, so she thinks they do not miss him. Buttons, her cat, is the only one that seems to understand how sad she is.

One day she is so lonely and frustrated, she goes into Ethan’s room and sits down at his desk. She writes his name all over a paper and then draws a picture of Ethan giving Buttons and her a double piggy-back ride. But when she puts the picture on the fridge, her mommy and daddy get really upset.

Later, Mommy and Daddy are sitting on the couch and have placed the picture she drew on the wall over the fireplace. Daddy explained that they were very sad, but her picture helps them remember Ethan. Then they looked at pictures of their whole family, especially Ethan and remember how much they love him.

This touching picture book is heartbreakingly beautiful. The feelings that Sarah has as well as her parents are gently there for the reader to think about, especially if they have lost a loved one. Telling the story from Sarah’s point of view gives a voice to the feelings children may have after losing a sibling or other special person.

After the story is a section for parents or caregivers about dealing with and processing the grief of a child after the loss of a sibling. I sincerely hope you don’t have to deal with this reality in your life, but if you do, this book will help.

I highly recommend this book for all children and parents. Unfortunately, death touches all people and coping can be especially difficult. Be it the loss of a pet, a grandparent, neighbor or someone else your child is connected to, Remembering Ethan will help you help them and you cope with the loss.

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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Off-Beat Cinder Ella Who Wants Her Shoe Back…Without the Prince

The Off-Beat Cinder Ella Who Wants Her Shoe Back…Without the Prince

By Anne Murray

This modern-day fairy tale is all about Cinder Ella AKA Cheyenne and her mean stepmother and stepsisters. She has the same troubles as the old version of the story, has to clean up after the awful new wife and new siblings her father brings into the house, there is a dance, a shoe and a prince-ish guy that comes looking for her. She also seems to have figured life out by the end and will live happily ever after without the prince.

Moving through the story at breakneck speed, Cheyenne/Cinder Ella is much more mature than the suggested age group. It is written for 7 to 12-year-olds and is more suited for the older end of this age group due to the vocabulary. Let me make it perfectly clear that there is nothing inappropriate at all, but the maturity level to understand words such as obligatory, endorsed, drudgery and taffeta would be lost on most 7-year-olds.

The illustrations are enchantingly beautiful, bringing the characters to life. It isn’t a graphic novel, nor is it a picture book. The 7 and 8-year-olds would love the illustrations, but most 12-year-olds don’t need illustrated books.

The conclusion of The Off-Bead Cinder Ella Who Wants Her Shoe Back…Without the Prince is my favorite part of this book. She lives happily ever after on her terms, which is the best way for anyone to be truly happy.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery (https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/the-off-beat-cinder-ella-who-wants-her-shoe-back-without-the-prince-anne-murray) in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Oldest Student – How Mary Walker Learned to Read

The Oldest Student,

How Mary Walker Learned to Read

By Rita Lorraine Hubbard

Illustrations by Oge Mora

Mary Walker was born into slavery in 1848 and always dreamed to be free. At fifteen, she and her family were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. As fabulous as freedom was, she still worked long hard days for very little money.

She really wanted to learn how to read, but there was no time for that. She received a Bible that she cherished but could not read. The time she would have spent learning to read was taken up with working and raising her family. She still longed to make sense of the squiggles she saw in books.

At age 114, she was living in a retirement home. A new reading class was announced in her building and Mary was determined to follow her dream of learning to read. She studied long and hard and finally the scribbles turned into words. She could read her beloved Bible. The US Department of Education proclaimed she was officially the nation’s oldest student.

The Oldest Student shares the true-life story of an amazing American, Mary Walker. The easy to read story is perfect for children ages 5 to 9, but not limited to this age group. It will spark inspiration to children who may be having trouble with reading or learning to do something else they are struggling with and inspire them to never give up just like Ms. Walker.

Award winning author Rita Lorraine Hubbard is also the author of several other books. One of which, Hammering for Freedom, I have read and enjoyed.

Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Between a Rock and a Deadly Place – Debut Cozy Series a Must Read

Between a Rock and a Deadly Place

Cedar Fish Campground Series: Book One

By Zoey Chase

Thea Pagoni’s decision to leave her law practice and take over her grandparent’s campground surprised the locals and maybe even Thea herself. She needs a change after the ugly divorce from her husband. So, after the death of her beloved grandmother, the fond memories of Cedar Fish Campground from her childhood brought her back for that fresh start. What she didn’t count on was the poor condition of the campground, the lack of competent help and the murder that happened within days of her arrival.

The police don’t seem to care about finding the murderer. The locals are full of gossip about the dead woman, which leads to bad publicity for Cedar Fish Campground. Thea and Hennie, who seems to be a fixture at the campground, decide to do a bit of investigating on their own. Lucky for them, Nolan Cade. the newly hired handyman/security guard is a former cop as well as former military. The fact that he is drop dead gorgeous was not missed by either of the women.

The plot thickens when Thea receives a threat to stop sticking her nose in where it doesn’t belong. She is close to finding the murderer, and is determined to find him or her. She has to do this in order to carry on her family’s legacy, but will she live to bring the campground to its former glory?

Between a Rock and a Deadly Place is a fast-paced cozy mystery with a cast of interesting characters. There are secrets in Thea’s past that haunt her, but she is doing her best to work through them. Hennie is a hoot – she has many surprising characteristics that amused me as I got to know her. Nolan, like Thea, has a history he is trying to get past. Don’t overlook his brilliant mind because beneath the good looks is a smart, caring man.

There is humor laced throughout the book. Small towns are often known for their quirkiness and Outer Branson is no exception. Ricky, the baby racoon, is adorably naughty adding to the comedic side of the solid story.

his is Zoey Chase’s first book. I assumed she was a seasoned cozy author with dozens of books  penned because Between a Rock and a Deadly Place is the perfect mix of mystery, romance, quirky characters and an interesting setting. I can’t wait for the next book in her series as well as many more to follow.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery (https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/between-a-rock-and-a-deadly-place-zoey-chase) in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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