Book Review: Cats in Origami – Cute and Clever

Cats in Origami

By: Nick Robinson

In the intro to Cats in Origami, the author explains that he chose cats for this book because he wanted to capture that fluid motion of these beautiful creatures. He states that in the origami world, “…cats are rather rare and were usually flat, quite lifeless designs.” His designs are full of life and motion, bringing the featured felines to life.

With full color pictures as well as the obligatory pages if instructions, you will be able to create 20 amazing projects. If you are a novice, I suggest you grab some practice paper after reading the type of paper you need to be successful and then turn to the pages detailing folds and techniques. There are only four pages of these and just like any other new craft or art, it is probably best to practice to ensure success.

All of the designs are cute and much to my delight some of them can be very useful. For example, the Cat Envelope design paired with the Cat Card will be perfect for your cat loving friend’s birthday card. There are two different cat boxes, Cat in a Box and Cat Box. I can picture both of them done with holiday paper holding a tiny treasure for someone special.

My favorite design is the Neko Bookmark. In Japanese, “Neko” means cat. These adorable bookmarks will help you save the place while reading and can easily be slipped in a cookbook or diary to hold your place. If you are giving a book as a gift, make it more personal by creating a Neko Bookmark to accompany it.

While many origami books are for all ages, the detail of most of these designs may be difficult for a younger child. That being said, adults and teens should have no trouble following the explicit directions given by Mr. Robinson as well as the other contributors to Cats in Origami. Be sure to check out the Credits and Biographies sections to see which designer created your favorite cats as well as their history in origami.

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: Under a Dark Sky – Everyone Has Secrets – Some of Them are Deadly

Under a Dark Sky

By Lori Rader-Day

When Eden Wallace finds out her late husband had a reservation for their tenth year anniversary at Straits Point International Dark Sky Park, conflicting emotions boil inside her. Leaving Chicago to travel to a place where the night was king was not something she wanted to do. Since Bix died, she could not be in a dark room and venturing outside after dusk was physically impossible for the young widow.

Out of a sense of duty, like the military wife she had been, she decides to spend the week her husband mysteriously planned for them before his death. Upon her road weary arrival, she finds another couple in the house Bix reserved. That is when they all find out that the house has been rented to Eden as well as six strangers, who were college friends, for the next week. With night drawing near, Eden cannot drive back to Chicago, but plans to leave first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, one of the seven occupants in the house is murdered that night, most likely at the hand of one of the remaining six.

As the outsider, Eden is immediately under suspicion. The local police begin questioning her and each of the friends. They are not under arrest but must remain together in the house until things are sorted out. When tragedy strikes again, the tenuous link between all of them begins to crumble and secrets come to light.

Under the Dark Sky has everything a reader needs and more. The characters are engaging and realistic. I loved the way bits of the characters’ back stories are parceled out to the reader. The timing is perfect and just like meeting someone new, you only know what that character wants to share with you until they begin to open up. Everyone has secrets, some of them deadly. And last, but certainly not least, the setting is absolutely perfect. Not only the home that the seven main characters are thrust into sharing, but the Dark Sky Park itself plays a major role in the mystery.

This is the first book I have read by author Lori Rader-Day, but is the fourth one she has written. Under the Dark Sky is deservedly nominated for several awards. I highly recommend this book and would give more than five stars for this page turning mystery if that were possible. As the characters tell us in the book, there are an infinite number of stars in the sky. This author has earned them.

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

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder from Scratch – Delicious Culinary Cozy

Murder from Scratch

By Leslie Karst

Restaurant owner, chef and part-time amateur sleuth Sally Solari is back and things are heating up both in and out of the kitchen. First of all, one of her cooks has an attitude. Brian has been on edge, and it is affecting his co-workers in a less than desirable way. Maybe he is worried about Sally going into joint ownership of Gauguin, the restaurant she inherited from her aunt, with Javier her head chef. And secondly, her father calls with an unusual request. Apparently a relative by marriage has been found dead by her twenty-year-old blind daughter Evelyn. Italian family ties are strong, even if you have not seen a relative in years, you still help them. So Sally’s dad brought Evelyn to his house because she has nowhere else to go. She is more than welcome, but her service dog has made Sally’s dad’s allergies kick into high gear. Of course Sally welcomes Evelyn and her dog into her home. She is looking forward to getting to know her better.

When Evelyn begins to tell Sally about her mother’s death ruled a suicide, the girls soon realize foul play is most likely what happened. Apparently Evelyn’s mom was a gifted chef and had recently struck out on her own, leaving a disgruntled boss behind.  Then there are the suspicious co-workers that might be hiding something. Before long the suspect list becomes longer than the specials menu at Gauguin and Sally is determined to prove her aunt’s death was not an accident or suicide, but a well-planned murder.

Detective Vargas warns Sally to stay away from her list of suspects, knowing it is futile. He just wants her out of harm’s way. When he asks her to call him by his first name, Sally wonders if he may want to have a more personal relationship. Speaking of personal relationships, her ex-boyfriend Max is apparently seeing someone. She has mixed feelings about the whole thing. They are just friends, right? Then why is she upset about him seeing another woman?

This is the fourth book in this series, but the third I have read. Somehow I missed the first one, but have added it to my reading list. There are references to the previous books, but reads fine as a stand-alone novel if you have not read the previous books.

If you read my reviews, you know by now I am a fan of cozy mysteries. I know they are not War and Peace, but no one ever intended them to be. Karst delivers an intriguing plot with lots of suspects, characters that come to life in the pages and a satisfying end to the story. It is all a reader can ask for and more. I learned many things in Murder from Scratch about how blind people navigate through their lives as well as what it is like to work in and run a restaurant. And as a bonus, there are recipes at the end of the book for some of the dishes discussed in the novel.

I highly recommend this series if you are a mystery lover, crazy for cozies or just love a good plot without the blood and gore. You will not be disappointed.

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 Reviews: Chronicles of a Radical Hag – How Well Do We Really Know Anyone?

Chronicles of a Radical Hag

by  Lorna Ladvik

Haze Evans, columnist for the Granite Creek Gazette suffers a massive stroke at the beginning of Chronicles of a Radical Hag but the book is filled with her words and opinions on life. Haze has been writing columns for as long as anyone can remember. Sometimes her columns are lighthearted in nature, but most often with her strong opinions about social issues of the day. She takes on topics that others might shy away from, and gives her own personal take on everything from abortion to assassinations while making each topic even more personal by sharing her life stories bits and pieces at a time.

Susan, the editor of the paper decides to run Haze’s columns while her favorite columnist is hospitalized. Susan’s high school age son Sam is enlisted to work for his mom by reading through Haze’s columns to see which ones would be appropriate to run as well as the responses Haze received on the topics. He is an introverted teen with a lot on his mind, mainly the recent affair his father has had which lead to his parents separation.

Sam soon becomes engrossed in Haze’s columns, advice and the people who love and hate her opinions. The Gazette readers are finding a new side of their favorite columnist by reading Haze’s opinions from years ago. This interest has encouraged the local high school kids to really discuss issues in their English class instead of the usual disinterest in the meaning of text. Some of the kids have even begun writing – pen to paper – writing down their opinions and thoughts.

While Haze seems to have opened her life to her readers, Sam uncovers some things that she has never shared. The further he digs he realizes that one of the secrets could have an impact on his family. But honestly, we cannot know everything about a person, each of us has something we don’t share with others that might surprise even the best of friends.

Ms. Ladvik creates a town of engaging characters, old and young. As the reader gets to know each of them, it is easy to see why they behave like they do. Watching them grow and learn is a gift to the reader. It gives us hope for the change that true dialog with others whether written or conversing can initiate.

This is the first book that I have read by Ms. Ladvik, but not the first she has written. When I popped over to her website, I found that this is her 15th book. How I could have missed her engaging writing style reminiscent of Fanny Flagg is beyond me. I will be adding the other 14 to my reading list.

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: Sweet Girl Undone – Engaging New Series By NY Times Best-Selling Author

Sweet Girl Undone

By Denise Swanson

Lucy Wheeler loves her life as a special education teacher in Cedar Vale, Illinois. Sure the town is small and not many eligible bachelors are ripe for the picking, but she has her bestie to hang out with and her family close by.

Known as “the nice girl” Lucy rarely makes waves. Normally she is excited about the new school year starting, but after receiving the principal’s memo outlining all of the assignments for the year she realizes that he is taking advantage of her good nature again. Her frustration is calling for a quick trip for ice cream with her best friend and fellow teacher Delaney. The sweet treat ends with a serious discussion about the state of Lucy’s love life.

Lucy needs to start dating. She is in a rut that is comfortable but lonely. Ever since the college breakup via text with the love of her life she has been drifting in the love department. She doesn’t want to admit, even to herself, that she still cares about him. Making matters worse, Curt, her ex, is now the Pastor at the church she attends. In her eyes no one can measure up to him even though he broke her heart. If she opens up to him, will he respond or make her even more miserable by rejecting her again?

New York Times best-selling author Denise Swanson is well represented on my bookshelf with her Scumble River Mystery cozy series. I love her books and even though I am not usually a fan of romance novels, I enjoyed the characters and settings in this prequel novella of this new series. I can’t wait to read more about Lucy, Delaney and the rest of the gang. It is always fun for me to read about the places in Swanson’s books as I am from the Chicago area and recognize the local landmarks.

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

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Book Review: The Mystery of Ruby’s Mistletoe – Delightful Historical Cozy Mystery

The Mystery of Ruby’s Mistletoe

By Rose Donovan

Spending the holidays with the aunt that disowned her after her father’s death was definitely not on Fina’s list of things to do. But when the constable showed up at Oxford looking for her best friend Ruby, the girls need to get away from the college before one or both of them spend the holidays in jail even though neither of them has committed a crime.

Fina used to love her Aunt Millicent, known to most as Lady Shillington. But after Fina’s brother was wrongfully hanged for the murder of Fina’s father. Lady Shillington cut all ties with Fina and her mum after the trial, so it came as a surprise that she would invite Fina for the holidays.

Because Fina knows her brother was innocent, she and Ruby decide to find the real killer when visiting the village for the holiday. Unbeknownst to them, Lady Shillington has invited all of the people involved with the untimely deaths to celebrate the holidays at her home.

Fina, Ruby and their friend Pixley are locked in a snowbound mansion with the person or persons that are undoubtedly the murderer or murderers. Will someone else die before Christmas dinner is served? Fina and her friends must find the killer but who can they trust to help trap the guilty person or persons?

This historical cozy mystery set in the 1930s it is full of red herrings, twists and turns. Like all cozies, the murder is not graphic and the gumshoes are college students not police inspectors. But do not discount the detailed hunt for the killer using the only tools available to solve crime in the early 1900s, which pretty much amounts to good old brain power.

Reading Ms. Donovan’s book is reminiscent to one of my favorite authors, Dame Agatha Christie. Setting up the suspects in a snowbound house, asking them to meet in the drawing room and the cleverly satisfying conclusion was extremely satisfying. I can picture Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot nodding at Ms. Donovan saying “Well done!”

This is the sixth book in the Ruby Dove Mystery Series. It is the first one I have read. It works fine as a standalone novel, but there were some references to previous cases that escaped me. That is okay, because the reader in me will seek out the five previous books so that I can be privy to the inside jokes between Ruby and Fina as well as learn about their previous cases that were referenced in The Mystery of Ruby’s Mistletoe.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received an Advanced Review Copy (or ARC) on Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Plotting for Murder – Book #1 in New Cozy Series

Plotting for Murder

By Tamra Baumann

Moving back to Sunset Cove was never part of Sawyer Davis’ plan. She is a chef, not a bookstore owner. Unfortunately, the death of her mother brought her back home, at least until she can figure out how to access the monies from her mom’s trust fund that are tightly held by her conniving uncle. The only thing her mother’s brother wants is the other half of the family’s money instead of  just the half he deserves. Her mom left some clues as to how Sawyer can use her inheritance to buy her own restaurant, but will she ever be happy in the small town she escaped from when her fiancé left her at the alter?

She is overwhelmed with the trust fund restrictions, the crumbling home she now lives in, running the bookstore that was her mother’s passion. Oh, and trying to figure out just where her life is going. Her mother has been lovingly meddling from the grave. She leaves a riddle for Sawyer to solve that promises funding for the restaurant she longs to open. Her mom has arranged for a puppy to be delivered, and to top it off, she has arranged for two men to become necessary in Sawyer’s life, one new and one from Sawyer’s past.

Gage, the lawyer in town assigned to help her is handsome, kind and doesn’t hide his attraction to Sawyer. To make matters worse, the sheriff is Dylan, the gorgeous guy who got cold feet and ran out on her. Sparks begin to fly but Sawyer does not have time for romance with either of them. Unfortunately, her life and livelihood depends upon working with these two men. And just when she thought life could not get more complicated, someone is murdered during book club at her store. Sawyer isn’t about to hide in a corner waiting for something to happen. She begins her own investigation much to Dylan’s chagrin. Lucky for her, there are plenty of locals that love to gossip, so she enlists her book club buddies to help catch the killer. Who can she trust? Will the killer strike again and will Sawyer be the target?

Plotting for Murder has all the essential elements of a great cozy. The setting is interesting, small town America is a treasure trove of small shops full of quirky characters and adorable men vying for her attention, Sawyer is surrounded by a rich cast. It is fun to meet them and see the connections they have to Sawyer’s past.  I am looking forward to seeing how they will grow and evolve during the series. One of my personal favorites is Cooper, the puppy. He is a gift from Sawyer’s mom from beyond the grave and hopefully will play a part in solving the mysteries to come.

This is the first in the Cozy Mystery Bookshop Series by award winning author Tamra Baumann. It is also the first book of Ms. Baumann’s I have read. It is no secret that I love cozy mysteries and to find a new series is like Christmas morning for this bibliophile. I’ll be watching for the next one in this series as well as checking out the other cozy series written by Ms. Baumann.

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

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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