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Book Review: The Scorpion’s Tail

By Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Rookie FBI Special Agent Corrie Swanson is assigned a case involving someone trying to dig up relics from a ghost town in a remote region of New Mexico. She is dispatched to meet up with the local sheriff, Homer Watts, who has been wounded in a shootout with the looter. The biggest concern is the dead body that was dug up along with the relics – one of them is extraordinary.

Corrie calls in Nora Kelly, a senior curator at the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute to help sort out the relics associated with the body, which just may have been a long-ago murder. Before long, Corrie and Nora discover more than they have bargained for. More than a few people will go to any length to keep anyone from discovering the secrets held by the corpse.

This fast-paced thriller kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. The characters are interesting, each of them brings his or her own special knowledge to the table. Corrie is growing as an FBI agent, but not without making mistakes along the way. It was fun to have a guest appearance from one of Preston and Child’s other series pop up unexpectedly.

I am a huge fan of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s writing. The fast-paced, intriguing thrillers are their specialty, and this series is one to follow and enjoy. The Scorpion’s Tail is the second book in the Nora Kelly & Corrie Swanson Series. I suggest reading the first book in the series (Old Bones), which was excellent as well, but it isn’t absolutely necessary as The Scorpion’s Tail reads as a standalone novel. I enjoyed both of them immensely.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman.

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Book Review: 3-D Paper Craft – Personalize Your Space on a Budget

3-D Paper Craft

Create Fun Paper Cutouts from Plain Paper

By Yoko Ganaha & Piggy Tsujioka

Wall art needn’t be expensive. Yoko Ganaha & Piggy Tsujioka will show you how strong and beautiful 3-D Paper Cutting can be. Your designs will add personalized POP to your walls, personalizing your space for pennies.

Several different alphabets, flowers, holiday items such as snowflakes and pumpkins can be created from drawing paper. They suggest using 80# (2gsm) paper. Then copy the page of the pattern you choose, enlarging it as needed. Each pattern has the creases shown for you to copy to the back side of your paper, then fold accordingly.

There are diagrams, pictures and detailed instructions to allow you to succeed in creating fabulous, one-of-a-kind wall art for pennies. Tips and tricks such as when and where to us a tracing wheel, hole punch and ordinary household glue are included in the instructions.

Adults and teens can easily create these fun paper cutouts. But that doesn’t mean your children can’t help pick out a design for you to put on their wall, or make a collage to hang from their ceiling. The smaller designs could be used to decorate a stunning Christmas tree. The possibilities are endless and extremely economical and fun to make.

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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: What You Wish For – Can Dreams Come True?

What You Wish For

By Katherine Center

School Librarian Samantha Casey is happy in life, but not in love. She adores her job in the small, private school and the children she teaches. Her co-workers are kind, fun and have accepted her into their fold with open arms. The little community on Galveston Island, Texas is just what she is searching for after fleeing her last job. She loved the school she worked in, but after falling for one of the most amazing men she had ever met, his rebuff was too hard to live with. She moved to a small town and immediately felt at home and loved her new job at Kempner School.

After the devastating death of her boss Max, the principle and founder of Kempner School, everything changes in the small community. His replacement is named, and is none other than Duncan Carpenter, the man Sam fell head over heels for at her previous job. Not only will he be her boss, but the fun-loving crazy dressing man she knew is gone. And the new Duncan is sucking all of the joy out of the new school and town she now calls home. He is threatening to change everything she loves with new rules and joyless tactics based upon keeping all of the children safe in the eventuality of violence that he experienced firsthand.

Max’s widow Babette seems to be allowing all of the changes, but she is willing to hatch a scheme with Sam and a few friends to convince Duncan to enjoy, not fear life. In doing so, Sam will have to spend more time with Duncan, which makes her uncomfortable, but she’ll do almost anything to keep Max’s legacy alive.

What You Wish For is a deep, yet fast and easy to read novel.  It deals with love, loss and the devastation of a school shooting (that is presented as a memory of one of the characters). Ms. Center also writes of love, joy and happiness. The kindness of the characters as well as the love the residents of the town have for each other and the school will remain with you long after the last pages are read.

This is the first book I have read by Katherine Center and I absolutely loved it. I will seek out her previous seven books and add them to my list. The message of hope and love is especially important now, I highly recommend this book.

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 Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop – Another Gem from Fannie Flagg

The Wonder Boy of Whistle Stop

By Fannie Flagg

Some of the beloved characters of “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” are back and a new generation has grown up in Fannie Flagg’s latest gem. She tells stories of the past, weaving them with the current happenings in places near and far from the ghost town Whistle Stop has become.

The heart of this book is “Bud” Threadgoode, the adopted son of Idgie, birth son of Ruth, both of whom owned and ran the Whistle Stop Café. Bud is grown now; we get to meet his daughter Ruth in this book and follow his uneven path back to the life he loved.

Flagg takes the reader back in time from the 1930’s to present time, filling in the backstory of all the characters old and new. The short, snappy chapters are like sitting around with your favorite aunt telling you stories about your family’s past. The ease of transition from 1935 to present day is masterfully done and easy to follow.

The richness and difference of personalities shines through. Idgie has a heart of gold, but is not without problems. Ruthie is loved but challenged by the new family she marries into and Bud has lived a long and fulfilling life in spite of having lost an arm in an accident as a child.

I am a huge fan of Fannie Flagg’s books. Her style is easy to read and comforting because the message isn’t one of everything going right for the characters, but how they adapt, adjust and enjoy life no matter what happens, both good and bad.

This is the fifth book I have read by Ms. Flagg. I will never tire of her style, characters and the way she approaches and tells her stories. I highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys women’s fiction, general fiction, cozies and southern fiction.

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: Origami Fold-By-Fold

Origami Fold-by-Fold

John Montroll

Novice and seasoned origamists will enjoy learning and practicing the ancient art of Origami with this easy to learn instruction book by John Montroll. He introduces the reader to the craft with designs that range from simple to very complex. The brief history of paper folding provided by Montroll is interesting and teaches us that origami has roots in China, Japan and Germany.

You must begin your journey to becoming proficient by learning the symbols (lines and arrows) and basic folds. The author has written clear instructions that includes step-by-step color illustrations of each fold. He then begins with a simple fish. My favorite easy creation is the scallop. You could use it to make adorable place cards for a summer get-together.

As you go further into the book, the difficulty level increases. There are elephants and other zoo animals, sharks and even a sunken dodecahedron. First of all, I didn’t even know what that was (it is one of several stellated icosahedrons of 60 equilateral triangles). I had to look up stellated icosahedrons – it is a geometric shape. The sunken dodecahedron is as difficult to make (57 steps) as it is to say, but I seriously want to make one now that I know all about them.

Just when I thought I’d seen every kind of origami creation, Montroll taught me I have much more to learn. Both novices and experts will enjoy creating paper art with Origami Fold-by-Fold. If you make a stellated icosahedron, please send me a picture. I’d love to see it.

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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Second Home – Page Turning Beach Read

The Second Home

By Christina Clancy

Wellfleet on the shore of Cape Cod houses the heart and second home of the Gordon family. It also is the place of the explosive event that rips the family apart. Based upon lies, pain and heartache, it seems as though the rift is insurmountable. Eventually the grown children, Poppy, Ann and Michael must confront the past in order to see the possibilities of the future.

Ann is the oldest, most logical and on the path she has walked since she was a child. She is a good student with lots of friends and activities to keep her busy and happy. Poppy lives in Ann’s shadow, but she adores her. Things begin to unravel for her during her teens as she finds a new group of friends that are into drugs and the carefree lives of the surf scene. Michael came to the family when he was in high school. He is a close friend of Ann’s, and when his mother dies, Ann’s family adopts him. Bright and ambitious, it is just the leg up he needs to go to college. Until that fated day in Wellfleet when his world began to crumble.

Brilliantly written in first person, alternating between Ann, Poppy and Michael, the reader is pulled into the thoughts and actions of the characters. Misunderstandings and lack of communication between the main characters creates tension and conflict but they must come together after tragedy hits the family.

I love this fast-paced novel. The plot is intricate, yet easy to read. The characters are fully developed and interesting. The setting in Wellfleet makes me long to visit the shore.

It is hard to believe that The Second Home is Christina Clancy’s debut novel. The richness of the text and the depth of the story will have readers clamoring for more. Hopefully she will favor us with another novel in the near future.

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: Bad Love Tigers – “Live Dangerously, Have Fun – Don’t Die”

bad love tigersBad Love Tigers

By: Kevin L. Schewe MD.FACRO

The Bad Love Gang is back with guns blazing to save the world. Their motto is “live dangerously, have fun – don’t die”, which sums up their crazy, time traveling adventures.

Amidst spies, assassins and aliens, the gang travels around the United States and China on their current mission. Bouncing from the 1970’s to the 1940’s BB, Browmar, Bucky, Waldo and Tator have the honor of meeting with President Roosevelt very shortly before his death. During this meeting they discuss the White Hole Project (time travel) and shock FDR by reintroducing him to Bucky, who was assumed dead the first time the White Hole Project was used.

With FDR paving the way for them and the rest of the Bad Love Gang as they travel to several key cities working undercover to complete their mission. One of the stops was personal for Bucky. He needs to see his parents as they were notified that he was missing in action and presumed dead. One of their destinations is the infamous Area 51 and a spot in China that observers claimed to see a space ship much like the one in the states. Arriving there in time to contact the aliens, will change the gang’s lives forever.

Schewe brings page turning action and drama from the first pages to the last. His characters are quirky and funny, cracking jokes amidst missions that will impact each of them as well as the world as we know it. It is fascinating to read the historical facts interwoven with the time traveling fictional characters. I was particularly interested in learning more about Allen Wright, a real-life hero that flew missions in China in the 1940’s. Yes, I did look him up and he was an amazing man. I love a work a fiction that takes this leap to further engage the reader and provide an opportunity to read more about the historical facts and figures mentioned along the way.

I suggest reading Bad Love Strikes, the first book in the series before this one, but if you want to jump in and read the books out of order, I don’t think you will be overly confused or lost. Getting to know the characters in the first book gives the reader a foundation for the second. Like the first book, the author gives us a sound track which includes songs from the 50s to the 70s. It is fun to listen to the music the characters are enjoying while reading, pulling the reader further into the story.

Bad Love Tigers is the second book in The Bad Love Series by Schewe. It is appropriate for teens, young adults and adults. If this book was a movie, I’d rate it PG13 as there is language as well as references to sex, but nothing explicit.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Scott Lorenz in conjunction with Westwind Book Marketing in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Spent Identity – Solid Mystery with a Side of Romance

3.25.20Spent Identity

By Marlene M. Bell

Annalisse Drury needs the fresh air and open places that her brownstone in Manhattan cannot provide. Luckily, she has the perfect outlet, the family farm she grew up on in Goshen. As a small child her parents died, so she came to live with her beloved Aunt Kate. Unfortunately, when she lived with them, Kate’s now dead husband and two obnoxious children reminded her constantly that she would never be a part of their family, no matter how much Kate cared and loved her.

When she arrives at the farm for the weekend, Annalisse realizes that something is bothering Kate. Annalisse finds a letter from Kate’s son stating he is selling the family farm out from under his mother. Heartbroken and furious, Annalisse vows to stop him. Unfortunately, when a dead body is found in the barn by the hired hand, they all must leave the farm per the sheriff until the investigation is complete. They head over to Annalisse’s boyfriend’s estate, which is fairly close to the farm. Kate disappears right after she and Annalisse arrive. Annalisse and Alec, her boyfriend, are soon on the hunt to find her missing aunt. Luckily, Alec is wealthy. He calls in a private investigator to assist in the search. Annalisse and Alec soon realize they are also in danger. Will they live to find Kate? Who is behind the killing and kidnapping? Are the two crimes related?

This fast-paced mystery combined with the slow burn of romance features a solid plot and interesting characters. Revenge is served up with a side of tension, twists and turns making readers fear for the outcome, all the while trying to figure out what would happen next. Ms. Bell serves up a surprising and satisfying ending that mystery lovers will adore.

Spent Identity is the second book in this series, but the first one I’ve read. In the first few chapters, the author summarizes the background needed to make sense of the relationships between the main characters. It works well as a stand-alone novel, I was not confused or lost. I recommend Spent Identity to everyone that loves mysteries, thrillers and a bit of romance.

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/spent-identity-marlene-bell) in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Riley – Relationships are Complicated


By Paul Martin Midden

Author Riley Cotswald is tired of her marriage. Cameron, her soon to be ex-husband, is married to his job and in the last few years they have slowly drifted apart. Even though they have separated, life doesn’t seem that much different, other than opening up new possibilities for different relationships with others.

 When she makes a snap decision to sleep with a man she barely knows, Riley’s life becomes a nightmare. Her one-time lover believes they are going to have a relationship. When she turns him down, he wants to make her pay for what she has done to him. He fantasizes about being with her again as well as getting even with her for hurting him.

Her best friend Jennifer is there for her, suggesting Riley might want to contact a local women’s shelter to see what steps she can take to stop the man she thinks is stalking her. Mildred, the director of the shelter, immediately bonds with Riley and offers to help her. She recommends a private investigator, surprising both girls, but they soon realize it is a necessary step in moving on.

Riley is an easy to read, yet complicated book about these new and old relationships and how these interactions touch and change both Riley and all of the other characters. Like most people, all of their relationships are complicated.

As an author, Riley spends much of her day inside her own head. She takes the reader along for the ride, adding even more depth to the novel by creating a fascinating story within the story. This gives the reader two books in one. The complexity of the story and characters for Riley as well as the book Riley is writing is a double treat for readers.

This is the first book I have read by Paul Martin Midden and I loved it. I cannot wait to read his previous books. I highly recommend it.

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: Shake Down – 5th Book in an Entertaining Cozy Series

Shake Down

The Elliott Lisbon Mystery Series #5

By Kendel Lynn

Daphne is missing. She never arrived at her best friend and roommate Juliette’s wedding shower and she is the maid of honor. Everyone is worried that something bad has happened to Daphne, but she has previously disappeared for a few days when she wanted clear her head. As the hours turn to days, the worry machine ramps up.

Enter Elliott Lisbon, PI-in-training and the director of the Ballantyne Big House. In addition to the private quarters, the Ballantyne is known for the charitable events it hosts. Now Elliot – known to her friends as Elli, has a huge event to orchestrate, Juliette’s wedding the following day and a new case – she has to find the missing maid of honor.

There is an interesting twist in the case involving Juliette, Daphne and Tucker, the groom-to-be. They are former contestants on a reality show, Down the Isle. That is where the trio met and Juliette “won” when Tucker chose her from all of the eligible young ladies on the show to marry. What are the odds of a TV reality show creating a happily ever after for two people who didn’t know each other before filming starts? Some of the relationships may work out, but others could turn deadly.

Sea Pine Island, South Carolina is the perfect setting for this cozy mystery. The small island feel as well as the nod to the preservation of sea turtle nests added depth to this cozy mystery. The twists and turns in the case were neatly wrapped up by the end of the book, which I really like even when it is part of a series.

As the fifth one in The Elliott series, the plot was easily a read-alone mystery. I was confused in the first few chapters because I couldn’t figure out if Elliott was a man or a woman. And her best friend Sid also confused me gender wise until I came upon the pronouns identifying them both as female. I can only assume other avid readers get a picture in their heads of the characters which is not easily done if you don’t know if they are men or women.

I am a true fan of cozy mysteries and Shake Down ticks all the boxes. The characters, setting and plot are engaging and interesting. I didn’t see the twist at the very end, so kudos to Ms. Lynn for her plotting expertise; delivering an “aha!” moment for her readers. This is the first book in the series and the first book written by Ms. Lynn that I have read.

 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. https://www.edelweiss.plus/#sku=1635115876&g=4400&page=1

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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