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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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Book Review: Blood on the Chesapeake – Page Turning Mystery

Blood on the Chesapeake

By Randy Overbeck

Darrell Henshaw is new to the Chesapeake Bay area. He needs a new start from the ghosts of his past as well as distance from his former fiancé that apparently thought monogamy was an option, not a requirement of their relationship. Much to his delight, he is hired at the local high school as a history teacher and the football coach. He is settling in just fine until he starts getting the familiar prickling in the hairs on the back of his neck. There are spirits in the school that are not at rest searching him out. He tries to ignore the feelings and strange happenings, but the restless ghost needs Darrell’s help and isn’t going away any time soon.

Meantime, he is really enjoying connecting with the kids in his history class. It isn’t easy, the diverse group doesn’t really like the newcomer and most of them dislike history in general. But Darrell brings a spark of life to the classroom they cannot ignore. By assigning a report that will delve into the local area’s past the students begin to engage, but strangely enough the community and school leaders seem reluctant to participate. Could they be hiding something? Darrell may be flying too close to the flame to notice he might ignite something that cannot be extinguished. And he might die trying.

But Darrell is far from all work and no play. He has found a new friend to hang out with, Al. Also a teacher at the school, Al lightens up the mood by telling bad jokes that make you groan and chuckle. Most of them are rated G so you can tell them to your kids. And then there is Erin. Darrell is not looking for love again, but she has caught his eye and just might be the one to thaw his heart.

Overbeck’s characters are interesting and engaging. Darrell has a bit of OCD going on, reminding me of the Monk series by Lee Goldberg. It is endearing and a bit comical, but the reader will quickly know that Darrell has to wash his hands twice and dry them on precisely three paper towels. His newfound girlfriend Erin, is much more carefree. She is the perfect balance to the baggage Darrell brings into the relationship but she is ready for the challenge. The other character that stands out for me is the medium/lady of the evening, Natalia – I hope to see more of her in the next book in the series.

I loved this paranormal mystery by new author Randy Overback. True to his main character, the events taught to the class about the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are factual, but the places and dates are not per the Author’s note at the beginning of the book. So technically it is a paranormal historical mystery – but whatever box you want to check about this book, be sure to include it on the must read list.

A prolific writer of trade journals and professional texts, Overback’s first novel, Leave No Child Behind is the 2011 Silver Award for Thriller of the Year winner. It would not surprise me one bit to see Blood on the Chesapeake winning awards in the near future also. The title page of Blood on the Chesapeake, adds “The Haunted Shores Mysteries”. Because this is Mr. Overbeck’s first novel in the series, we can assume there will be more to hear from Darrell and Erin in the future. The Chesapeake area is rich in history, therefore, must be rich in ghosts that need their help. I am excited to add this new series to my list of must reads, and recommend picking up your copy today.

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 Review: Beautiful Press-Out Butterflies – Taking Paper Airplanes to a New Level

Beautiful Press-Out Flying Butterflies

By: Richard Merrill

Beautiful Press-out Flying Butterflies takes paper airplanes to a whole new level. By following the simple instructions on the first page, you and your child can create a squadron of brightly colored, detailed butterflies. Each of them has information as to where in the world that particular butterfly lives as well as interesting facts.

Not all butterflies eat the same nectar. For example, the Julia butterfly can be found from Brazil to Texas and Florida but in the summer migrates to Nebraska. It usually eats nectar from the Lantana flowers, but also alights on caiman’s heads (relatives of crocodiles) irritates the caiman’s eyes with their proboscis then drinks the tears. That is one brave butterfly!

Each page will teach your child about butterflies. Then with a few simple folds and a coin (to help balance your butterfly when it soars, your child will spend countless hours flying them indoors and outside.

Merrill dedicates his book to his late grandfather, Dr. A. I. Good, who was an avid lepidopterist (butterfly expert). Thanks to Dr. Good’s inspiration, we can all learn about and enjoy butterflies with this enchanting book.

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: A Christmas Revelation – A New Holiday Novella

A Christmas Revelation

By Anne Perry

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.

London 1868. Nine-year-old Worm knows what hunger and cold feels like. His life has gotten a bit better, he no longer lives on the streets but in a free clinic for women of dubious occupations. Squeaky, the bookkeeper, has a past that will forever haunt him, but for some reason has a soft spot for Worm that he tries hard not to let show. But when Worm comes home and tells him a beautiful girl has been taken by a couple of ruffians, he gets drawn into the mystery and danger that he worked so hard to get away from.

Squeaky tried to dissuade Worm from searching for the taken girl by telling him that Christmas was in a few days. The boy has heard the church bells on Christmas day, but did not know anything else about the celebration. Squeaky pulled out old memories, and successfully convinced Worm that they could pull off a celebration for the staff and current residents of the clinic. The good news was Worm was very excited to help with decorations and the tantalizing descriptions of the Christmas feast made his mouth water. But the bad news for Squeaky is that Worm is still determined to help the girl and cannot let it go.

So begins a journey for the both of them, winding through the worst parts of London in the darkest of winter nights. First they have to find her, which was not an easy thing to do. Against all odds they locate her and even manage to speak with her. She claims she is not being forced to remain with the two men, but Worm does not believe her. In order to free her, the unlikely duo has to pull in favors from unsavory characters, go places no child should ever see and risk their lives.

Perry’s characters come alive on the pages. Victorian Christmas traditions are masterfully woven throughout the mystery of the beautiful woman to lighten up the intensity of the story. Squeaky and Worm, along with the rest of the staff of the clinic decorate, plan the menu and even have time to search out a special gift for the special day.

The story is one of hope and redemption, even in the toughest of times. The characters are scruffy and often thought of as lower class. They may not have money but they do have the important qualities that matter most. They care about each other and strangers, share what they have even if it isn’t much and find happiness within the world they live in.

This is an unusual Christmas story, but one that will become a favorite.  I am a fan of all things Christmas and it was refreshing to read a novel with a new twist on the age old story of love and redemption.

Internationally renowned, award winning author Anne Perry is best known for her Historical novels; most noted are the Monk Series and Pitt Series. She began writing annual Christmas novellas in 2003, and has written one every year since, including The Christmas Revelation available November 9, 2018. This is the first Christmas novella I have read by Perry, but have enjoyed many of her other books. I encourage you to read A Christmas Revelation; it is a quick and thoughtful Christmas tale that will leave you thinking about the story and characters this holiday season.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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