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Book Review: Dash Away All – Christmas in July Leads to Murder

Dash Away All

Merry and Bright Handcrafted Mystery Series Book #3

By Christina Freeburn

 Merry is as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. She has been hired to work on a movie that features Luna Carmichael, the grand dame of television Christmas movies. Supplying the set with handcrafted Christmas items is Merry’s dream come true – until people start dying.

Arriving in her Christmas themed RV and Ebenezer, a very vocal and opinionated guinea pig, Merry is ready to get crafting. Anxious to meet the woman she idolizes, she is surprised to find Luna demanding, self-centered and downright mean to some of those working for her. Keeping a low profile is the best defense, but Merry finds it difficult to keep her curiosity at bay. She is soon knee deep in a murder investigation to the chagrin of the local authorities. Sticking to the crafting she is hired to do and keeping away from the investigation is in her best interest. The amateur sleuth could become a target if she doesn’t stop snooping.

Anytime of the year it is fun to read a Christmas themed cozy mystery. Especially if it is set in July, which makes it interesting and opens up more possibilities than the usual holiday books offer. Ms. Freeburn expertly weaves the different types of crafts Merry creates with an intriguing plot. The whodunit unfolds perfectly in the pages, encouraging the reader to read one more chapter to see what happens next.

The characters are interesting and most of them appear to be hiding something. I enjoyed finding out things about the characters throughout the book. This helped me start putting the pieces of the puzzle together, but kept me wondering who the murderer was until the final pages.

Cozy mysteries are interesting, easy to read and are about everyday people you might know. Dash Away All ticks all of those boxes and more. This is the first book I have read by Ms. Freeburn, but it will not be the last. While it is the third book in The Merry and Bright Handcrafted Mystery Series, I was not confused or lost at any time. It works well as a standalone novel. Like me, you will probably seek out the previous two books, Not a Creature Was Stirring and Better Watch Out as well as her other series of six books; The Faith Hunter Scrap This Series.

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: Grow Kind – The World Needs More Kindness

Grow Kind

By Jon Lasser and Sage Foster-Lasser

Illustrations by Christopher Lyles

Kiko loves to work in her garden. She shares the veggies, flowers and fruit she harvests with her friends and neighbors. She even shares with the grumpy man that shouted at her dog.

She also shares with others she does not know. The homeless person Kiko and her mom encounters on the way to school is very happy to receive the kindness of fresh produce. On show and tell day, Kiko brings fresh snacks to everyone in her class. Sharing her harvest makes everyone happy.

The message of this story is sweet and kind and the illustrations are adorable. I am a bit confused when trying to put it in the one of the usual “boxes” for children’s books. It has more words that illustrations so I hesitate to label it as a picture book. Some of the words are too difficult for an early reader. I do like the message and the question at the very end for children; “How do you grow kind?”. This emphasizes the heart of the message and gives caregivers a springboard to open the conversation with young children to think about others. I feel that the author wants the important people in the child’s life to read Grow Kind with and to them. In this egocentric world, it is refreshing to see a book that gently reminds children and their caregivers just how much a simple act of kindness can impact the giver and the recipient. We need more kindness.

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: We Came Here to Shine – Historical Fiction Takes Readers to the 1939 World’s Fair

We Came Here to Shine

By Susie Orman Schnall

Vivi Holden and Maxine (Max) Roth are two different women on very different paths in life. Little did they know that they would become best friends amidst the awe and wonder of the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City.

Max is a fledgling writer trying to make her way in a man’s world. The summer internship she covets is working for the New York Times. Her reality is being assigned to write the daily newspaper for the World’s Fair by her professor at NYU. Unfortunately, she is not the only one assigned to the Fair. Charlie, a fellow classmate will be working along side of Max. Charlie is assigned all of the coveted articles only because the boss feels women are better at organizing rather than actually being good writers.

Vivi is an actress that has been sent to NY from LA to become the lead swimmer in the Aquacade production. With an impossibly short time to learn the routine and the fact that she has not been in a pool since high school, she is up a creek without a paddle. To make matters worse, the person assigned to teaching her the difficult routines has been filling the role Vivi is taking. The only reason she has agreed to the part is because her manager has promised her the lead in a film as soon as the Fair closes.

Max and Vivi meet after listening to feminist Elizabeth Dorchester’s speech at the Democracity exhibit at the Fair. They quickly bond as both are inspired by the message of equality for women. Soon they are sharing their hopes, dreams and frustrations with each other. Vivi’s manager holds her life and career in his hands and Max’s editor holds her fate as a serious reporter in his. Both women will need to struggle and claim the path in life they want and need to take. Unfortunately, most women in 1939 are at the mercy of the men that employ them. Unbeknownst to them, both girls will become part of the movement to change the mindset of men and women alike as they fight for their personal rights to be heard.

We Came Here to Shine is like stepping into the past on a guided tour with friends. The characters are realistic and interesting. I enjoy the depth of each of the girls. They are dealing with not only equality issues, but deep personal issues as well. The World’s Fair looms bigger than life for the characters as well as the readers. The innovations that are detailed in this fascinating book are fun to experience with the characters. What is now outdated or taken for granted is all brand new for Vivi and Max as well as those who attend the 1939 World’s Fair.

This is the second book I’ve read by Susie Orman Schnall. I love the nod to the other book I read, The Subway Girls, that Ms. Orman Schnall weaves seamlessly into We Come Here to Shine. Her knowledge and research paint a beautiful background for her characters in both novels. I highly recommend both of these books. Both of them have solid, interesting plots that take

the reader back in time. Actual events in history are combined with interesting fictional people creating two of the best historical fiction novels I have ever read. I highly recommend them.

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: Murder, She Encountered – Fun and Informative Historical Cozy Mystery

12.25.19Murder, She Encountered

By Peg Cochran

Elizabeth Adams, is a woman before her time. She is a crime photographer at the Daily Trumpet in New York City and works closely with veteran crime reporter Ralph Kaminsky. Today no one would blink an eye at a woman photographer, but in 1939 that is virtually unheard of. She is a career woman when almost all women married and stayed home to raise children.

The reporter and his photographer are on the way to the World’s Fair, where a robbery has just been committed. But when they arrive to get the details for a story, a dead body is found. Is this crime connected to the robbery or is it unrelated? Both Biz (as Kaminsky calls Elizabeth) and Kaminsky are on the trail. The story takes them in and around the World’s Fair as well as New York City.

While working the clues to the crimes at the World’s Fair, Kaminsky has a health scare. Unlike other women of the day, Elizabeth jumps right into the investigation, much to everyone else’s dismay. They might just be right when she puts herself in danger. Hopefully the reporter and his favorite photographer will live to write another story.

All of the details Cochran adds to this historical cozy mystery are fascinating. From the nickel and dime subway rides to the high heels Elizabeth wears to crime scenes, the reader is pulled into the past. The setting of this novel is brilliant. Bodies among the new inventions that we now consider relics of our past really pulls the reader into the past and the story. I love learning new facts about the World’s Fair that Cochran tucks in this perfect cozy mystery.

This is the third book in the Murder She Encountered Series. It is the first book I have read in the series, and I found it fun and interesting. I was not confused or lost by jumping in the middle of the series. It is also the first book I have read by the prolific cozy author, Peg Cochran. She is the author of several cozy mystery series. I am excited to read the others in this series.

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: Make in a Day Crafts For Kids – Fun Projects

Crafts For Kids

By: Cintia Gonzalez-Pell

Kids love crafts. Every kid I’ve encountered, including my own sons and grandsons love to make things out of paper, string, paint, glue…pick any medium and they have probably used it. So I was very excited to see a book of 15 fast and fun projects.

Definitely written with older children in mind, these crafts include Painted Animal Gift Boxes, Colorful Yarn Dreamcatchers and Decorated Wooden Bangles. Each project will require adult supervision as well as a list of supplies.

Younger kids could probably make some of the crafts, but will need more than a little bit of help. I would say the easiest is the Artist Abstract Painted Canvas. For this you will need a small stretched canvas, acrylic paint, removable stickers, painter’s tape and of course brushes, water and something to protect the table you are working on. Your child will begin by painting a colorful abstract background. When it dries, apply the stickers and painter’s tape. Then paint over the entire surface with white acrylic paint. When dry, remove the tape and stickers and your child will have a really cool abstract work of art to hang or their wall or give to a loved one as a gift.

Older children might like to create Fruity Plant Pots. Using paint markers, they can create these one of a kind works of art. If they don’t want to use the designs in the book, they can create whatever makes them happy to keep for themselves or give as gifts. Younger children could create these with a bit of help as well.

If you want to make something for the youngsters in your life, the Painted Animal Gift Boxes are adorable. This craft requires sketching the faces, painting the background, and then adding details like pompoms, felt ears and googly eyes. As previously stated, an older child may be able to create these, but younger kids might be frustrated with the various steps and fine motor skills needed.

Over all, there are some great ideas in Crafts For Kids. Kids and adults will love making gifts and decorations for their homes.

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: Girls of Yellow – Haunting New Thriller

Girls of Yellow (Elise D Jong/Sami Ali Book1)

By Orest Stelmach

A Dhimmi is a non-Muslim that lives in a Muslim region. He or she is allowed to retain their own faith, but is constantly persecuted, much like the Jews in Nazi controlled areas during WWII. Police Major Sami Ali lives and works in Budapest, where dhimmis are hated and many are enslaved. It is common practice for young girls to be taken from their homes or sold to people who groom them to become obedient to their masters. Ali has taken a vow to hate all Christians and Jews, so when he has to investigate the murder of a young, blonde dhimmi he is expected to sweep the murder under the carpet. Maybe it is because he has a young daughter at home, or maybe he feels compassion in a dispassionate world, it just seems wrong to ignore her death. Whatever the reason, he begins a real investigation into her death, and finds out she is not the first young, pretty blond dhimmi to be murdered.

Elise De Jong is in Budapest on official business. She works as a translator, but today she is on a mission of her own. Her sister was sold at birth by their drug addicted mother. De Jong has traced her to a religious slave training school, and is desperately trying to contact her to clandestinely take her away from slavery before it is too late.

Ali and De Jong meet in unfortunate circumstances. They are both living lies and each true to themselves no matter the outcome. Their unlikely alliance might be the only chance each of them has to find the answers they both seek.

I have to admit that the first few chapters were slow for me. It is understood that the background of the wars, rules for the Muslim countries and settings has to be established. I am so glad I didn’t give up. When the pace picked up, the characters came alive. By the time I got to the end I could not read fast enough to find out what would happen next. Book 2 of the series will be set in the “land formerly known as the United States”, so I am anxious to read it also.

This is the first book I have read by Mr. Stelmach, but not the first he has written. He writes thrillers and mysteries and is the author of the Nadia Tesla series, which are Kindle #1 bestsellers and have been optioned for film development. We need to read them now! Everyone knows that the book is so much better than the movie.

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

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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