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Book Review: The 9 Ghosts of Samen’s Bane – Fast Paced Fright

The 9 Ghosts of Samen’s Bane

By D. A. Schneider

Mild mannered Adrian Dillard decides to join a venture to revitalize passenger train travel at the suggestion of a good friend and entrepreneur. Everything seems to be going well until a tragically fateful night leaves over a hundred people dead and Adrian becomes a vessel for 9 young ghosts. The dead kids have a mission to complete, but need the help of a person who is still alive to carry it out. Adrian is hesitant and afraid, but he is more afraid of what the spirits that inhabit his body will do to his pregnant wife and young son if he does not do what they ask.

They come to him in dreams at first, but soon they manifest themselves to explain how they need Adrian to vanquish their evil enemy – Samen. Appalled at the thought that he has to play a part in an epic battle of good and evil, Adrian resists. He defends his reluctance by reminding the 9 that he is a mere mortal, unequipped for a showdown with the devil. They quickly assure him that they each have supernatural powers that they can teach him use to vanquish their enemy. Even though he is scared silly, he has to try. So begins his transformation from dad to demon hunter.

This is not your classic story of good and evil. First of all, kids are in charge of the plan to eliminate Samen. Granted they have super powers, but they are still unruly children at times. Adrian is the perfect choice to go from zero to hero because he has a lot at stake. Unfortunately, his reluctance and gentle nature make him an unlikely savior. The deeper he gets involved with the 9, the more questions he has. His intuition is telling him that they are hiding something from him. Little things begin to not add up, especially when he does a little investigating on his own. Will this get him killed? He doesn’t know, but what will happen to the world if he doesn’t at least try?

The 9 Ghosts of Samen’s Bane is fast-paced, unpredictable and an absolute hoot to read. Of course, there are dead people milling about, and there is a force that is trying to end mankind.  There is also humor in the juxtaposition of Adrian battling with dead people during the night and going Christmas shopping at the mall with his family.

If you are a fan of Christopher Moore, you will love this book. This is the first book I have read by Schneider, but will not be the last. Luckily, he is a prolific writer, so he has a list of books just waiting for me – and you – to discover.

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

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Book Review: Christmas Ornaments to Crochet – Create Beautiful Christmas Decor

Christmas Ornaments to Crochet

By Barbara Christopher

Deck your halls by creating these lacy, delicate ornaments for your Christmas tree. You can use them instead of bows on packages or hang them just about anywhere throughout your home to brighten up the season for pennies. You will be able to make a flurry of snowflakes in an afternoon or while you are watching your favorite Christmas movie.

There are step-by-step instructions for each of the patterns. From snowflakes to tiny stockings, each ornament works up quickly. By changing the size of thread you use, the size of the ornament can be adjusted without changing the pattern. The author suggests that the designs look best if they are crocheted tightly, so you may have to go down a size needle to make sure your stitches are tight enough.

Once the ornaments are finished, you will need to starch them to make them stiff enough to use them for decorating. Ms. Christopher explains how to make your own sugar starch, but recommends commercial boilable starch. Don’t let this necessary step deter you from creating these delicate designs. My grandmother made doilies much the same as these ornaments. Having watched her starch and block them in my childhood is a warm and comforting memory, so I honestly cannot wait to crochet and starch some for Christmas this year.

I recommend this book for experienced crocheters only because of the size of the project. If you are a novice, I would suggest that you make a scarf or hat with yarn and a larger hook before using thread and small metal hooks. But don’t let me rain on your parade if you want to jump in with both feet and create some of these beautiful ornaments no matter where your skill level.

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: Making Christmas Bright With Papercrafts : Inexpensive and Adorable

Making Christmas Bright with Papercrafts

More than 40 Festive Projects

By Alice Hornecke /Dominik Meibner/Sabine Seyffert

Bring Christmas cheer to your home with these beautiful papercrafts. From decorating your home to entertaining guests and gifts for loved ones, Making Christmas Bright with Papercrafts. A little bit origami and a little bit of stencil work along with craft paper, scissors and glue you will be ready to dive in to create over 40 craft projects.

The designs are different levels. You can fold an adorable Christmas tree from plain green napkins for your holiday table for pennies. Maybe you would like to create pretty packages to hold yummy Christmas cookies out of craft or corrugated paper.

Christmas on a budget is easily achieved by creating decorations, gifts and advent calendars. Make your own Christmas cards, bows for gifts and wreaths. Because there are over 40 projects, there is something for everyone at every skill level. Many of the projects can be completed by children with help from an adult or older child.

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 Book of Two Ways – Another Masterpiece from Jodi Picoult

The Book of Two Ways

By Jodi Picoult

Dawn Edelstein is content with her life. She loves her husband, Brian, and their teenage daughter. Dawn is a death doula, helping others move from life to death with care and respect. A part of her misses the life she had in Egypt before her mother died. As she goes about her life, a part of her heart is still amid the ancient burial sites and Wyatt, the man she left behind.

Everything changes in a split second when Dawn survives a deadly plane crash. She is given the choice to fly anyplace in the world. Will she go home to her family, or go back to Egypt to find the life and man she loved so deeply. Dawn does not know if Wyatt is still in Egypt, but she feels the pull of her earlier life. Conversely, her daughter is everything to her so she cannot imagine life without her. Either way she must make a choice that will hurt someone she loves.

The ancient Book of Two Ways is estimated to be 400,000 years old. Per the Smithsonian website, archaeologists found the illustrated stories in Egypt on a fairly recently unearthed sarcophagus dating back to 2010 BC. It illustrates two ways for the dead to make their way to the afterlife by land or by sea. Life is full of choices; we make them every day. Much like the ancient Egyptians, Dawn must choose a path that may or may not be the life she wants in the end. Life holds no guarantees.

I loved this book. The relationships of the characters and situations they find themselves in are multilayered and interesting. Each chapter pulls the reader further into the lives of Dawn, Brian, Wyatt and the choices all of them make. As with all of Jodi Picoult books, the end was not what I expected, but was perfect and satisfying.

Picoult is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, and for good reason. This prolific author creates characters and stories like no other I have read. The depth and diverse topics she tackles are informative and often spark my interest to find out more about the subject matter discussed.

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: Clay Play! Animal Favorites – Creative Fun For All Ages

Clay Play! Animal Favorites

By Terry Taylor

You can create a zoo full of cute clay animals with Terry Taylor’s Clay Play! Animal Favorites. Using Polymer clay and simple tools like dowels, paper clips and pipe cleaners, you can create a menagerie of real and mythical creatures.

Taylor begins with the basics of Polymer clay. She provides detailed instructions with colorful pictures as well as diagrams. My favorite beginner tip is to rub a bit of hand cream on your hands before you begin to keep the colors clean and the clay from sticking to your hands.

Each individual animal has two pages of instructions. There is a material list, written directions and a page of pictures showing each stage of completion from beginning to end. Polymer clay is then baked, so adult supervision is needed if your child wants to create with you.

Of the 29 adorable projects, it is hard to pick a favorite. They are all cute and colorful. The lion, penguin and sloth are super cute, as well as the panda and frog. The personality shines through for each animal with the adorable expressions on their faces.

I highly recommend this book of adorable critters. The instructions are so well written it guarantees your success. If you don’t want to use Polymer clay, you could use regular clay or Playdoh with your children. The animals will not last like the baked Polymer, but you and your children will have hours of fun making and remaking the land and sea creatures in this 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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Adorable Fruits and Vegetables to Crochet – Over Twenty Patterns

Adorable Fruits & Vegetables to Crochet

By: Marie Clesse

Beautiful color pictures of luscious looking veggies and fruit fill the pages of this pattern book. Lemons to leeks, peas in a pod, pumpkins and more are included in the colorful pages of Adorable Fruits & Veggies.

Step by step, easy to read instructions for over twenty colorful fruits and veggies are included for beginners and seasoned crafters to create. Cotton yarn is suggested, but other yarns can be used. There is a handy paragraph with substitutions and adjustments to the size crochet hook needed. You will also need stuffing and other basic craft materials such as scissors and pins.

If you have never crocheted or uncertain about some of the techniques, there are simple, step by step instructions with illustrations to get you started. These include single, half-double, double and triple crochet and how to work in the round or crochet in rows.

Proficient crafters will find the instructions simple and straightforward. The author also adds the approximate amount of time it takes to complete each project. The front cover of the book recommends using these fun fruits and veggies as “Delicious Decorations for Your Table”. As soon as I saw them, I thought immediately of making them for some of the young children in my life. Kids love to play make believe with plastic fruits and vegetables, why not make them out of yarn that can easily be popped in the washer and dryer instead? You may have to make several of each because they will love playing with them.

I recommend this book to all crochet lovers from beginners to seasoned veterans. The size of each project is perfect to take along with you to work on and is fast and easy. Most crafters have bits of yarn in their stash that can be used to create fun, soft, washable fruits and veggies with the instructions in Adorable Fruits and Veggies.

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: 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: 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: Never Talk to Ravens: Perfect Life Lessons Without Preaching for Young Readers

Never Talk To Ravens

By M. L. Furry

After a bit of teasing from his friends about how big his feet grew over the summer, Xavion snapped. He knew better than to fight with his friends, but he was tired of the comments. Giant feet were great for jumping, but people were always tripping over them and Xavion was super tired of hearing about them. So, when his friend shouted names at him on the playground, he fought back by yelling “four-eyes” at one of his friends with glasses.

Xavion felt bad as soon as he said it, but Mrs. Barnes heard him, so he is stuck in time-out for five recesses in a row. He got tired of watching the other kids play and decided to rest. Falling asleep quickly, he was awakened by a kangaroo tugging on his sleeve. Confused, Xavion thought the he might be dreaming.

Soon he finds out the kangaroo’s name is Jamieson; he is straight from Australia and needs Xavion’s help. Each day, during recess, Jamieson returns to Xavion and tells him about how he got tricked by some Ravens and really wants to get back home. Between the two of them, they hatch a plan.

Never Talk To Ravens is an engaging and entertaining illustrated chapter book for kids ages 7 to 10 to enjoy. The focus on kindness, helping others and actions leading to consequences are important issues for children to understand and work through. I really love that Never Talk to Ravens allows children to understand the concepts of the issues, yet does not bonk them over the head “do this, not that”. It allows kindness and helping others to subtly sink in as children read the story.

I really enjoyed the story, characters and message in Never Talk to Ravens. It is perfect for the age group intended. If you have younger children, they would most likely enjoy you reading it to them. I am excited to see it is the first book in the Xavion and Jamieson Adventure 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: The Courier – Heart Pounding Thriller

The Courier

By Gordon J. Campbell

To say Gregg Westwood is having a bad day is an understatement. His secure job as a medical supply rep in Japan has been abruptly terminated.  After the bad news, he stops at one of his favorite watering holes, the Officer’s Club on the United States Airforce base in Tokyo. Gregg joins a couple of acquaintances for a drink. This decision will change his life.

These two men purportedly working for the US government’s finance and accounting group are actually members of a US intelligence agency. Over lunch the next day they offer Gregg a job as a courier. It is fast and easy money for what they describe as a mini vacation, traveling to other countries business class, delivering parcels than returning home to his family.

Gregg accepts the offer and is soon off to deliver the package. What he hasn’t bargained for are the assassins on his tail. He has unwittingly become a huge part of stopping an international drug ring, having street thugs attempting to kill him and will be called on to rescue someone he dearly loves before his job is complete. Before the last pages, Gregg will transition from courier to mercenary out of necessity and self-preservation. This is the beginning of his new life.

To say The Courier is a fast-paced thriller does not do it justice. The action never ends and it perfectly compliments the plot. Just when you think Gregg is going to be captured or killed, he lives to fight another day like a modern-day James Bond.

The characters are diverse and engaging. Some of them are decidedly creepy and determined to get a literal boatload of illegal opioids into the US. Adding reality to the character’s profiles brings them to life on the pages.

The Courier is destined to become a best-seller and I envision a blockbuster movie in the future. As we all know the book is always better than then film, so enjoy the masterful story before it hits the big screen. This is the first book I’ve read by Campbell and the first book in a series. I cannot wait to read the next Gregg Westwood boo

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review. See it here: https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/the-courier-gordon-campbell

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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