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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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Book Review: My Little Crocheted Christmas – Adorable Decorations and Gifts to Crochet

My Little Crocheted Christmas

Festive Projects to Make the Season Bright

By: Doerthe Eisterlehner

Most people that crochet have stashes of yarn. Little bits that are too much to throw away, but not big enough to make a blanket or scarf. My Little Crocheted Christmas will help you clear out your stash by creating adorable Christmas gifts and decorations. From cute little pencil toppers to cozy wrist warmers you can create lovely handmade gifts and decorations with very little yarn.

Each project has beautiful color pictures as well as step-by-step instructions. The difficulty level is clearly listed as well as the list of materials needed.

The patterns are grouped together in sections. The first section is “Sweets” which includes a wreath and Advent Calendar to create. Next comes “Gift Ideas”. These include an adorable stuffed fox, finger puppets and a cute cozy for the coffee lovers on your Christmas list. Lastly is “Decorations”. I love the little Santas and snowmen. They will make a cute addition to a wrapped gift and then can be used as ornaments after the gift has been opened.

There are bells and ornaments as well as an entire crocheted Nativity scene. It would be perfect for small children to play with during the holiday season and perhaps all year. When my children were young, they wanted to touch and play with Christmas decorations.  We always had a few they could play with because that keeps everyone happy. The Nativity set is perfect for youngsters to touch and play with – nothing breakable and just the right size for small hands.

Eisterlehner’s book is just what crocheters need to kick off the holiday season and clear out their stashes. There are projects that range from beginner to experienced, with a wide variety of projects to choose from.

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: Paper Animals in Action – Make a Moving Menagerie for your Kids

Paper Animals in Action

By: Rob Ives

How would you like to create a paper Flying Pig for your kids? You can create that and many more animals with Ives’ Paper Animals in Action. By using household items like clothes pins and paperclips along with the model parts included in the book, you will love the menagerie of moving paper animals you can create to entertain your children or grandchildren.

By opening and closing the clothes pins, your child will be able to make a goose fly, a penguin flap his wings and a dog nod his head. There are twelve different animals, with step-by-step instructions for adults to create them.

The instructions are clear and easy to follow. By reading through the instructions as well as looking at the step-by-step color illustrations, adults will have no problem making each of the paper animals. I suggest surprising your youngster with the completed animal unless he or she is extremely patient.

Each animal will have to be cut out, scored and folded. Paperclips need to be bent and glue has to set. While the construction is not difficult, I know my grandchildren would be hopping around “helping” and asking when it would be done. They do not have the patience to wait for glue to dry, nor should they be expected to at their ages.

My suggestion would be to create a few of these adorable paper animals after your child goes to bed. He or she will be delighted to wake up to a zoo of moving animals to play with.

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: Tracking Game – Latest in the Timber Creek K-9 Series

Tracking Game

A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery

By Margaret Mizushima

Deputy Mattie Cobb is called away from a community dance and the arms of Cole, the man she has fallen in love with, to investigate a suspicious fire. Upon reaching the scene, Mattie and her K9 partner, Robo, find something far more sinister. One of the locals is found dead next to his burning vehicle and another respected member of the community has a head injury after being hit with shrapnel from the explosive fire. To make matters worse, they soon discover this was no accident.

So begins the trail of lies and deceit that Mattie and Robo have to follow to bring the criminals to justice. Other crimes are revealed which leads to the Timber Creek sheriff’s department bringing Glenna Dalton, the new wildlife manager in their area, into the picture. It will take all of them working against the clock to prevent another killing, not to mention apprehending the person or persons responsible for all of these crimes.

Meantime, Mattie and Cole’s relationship has heated up. Not wanting to push her, Cole is patient but open about his love for her. Mattie knows she loves Cole, but cannot say the words he so longs to hear. Her family history has built a wall around her heart. She truly loves Cole and must learn to move beyond her past to take steps towards their future.

Tracking Game is a fast-paced mystery. The plot unfolds beautifully throughout the story, urging the reader to read just one more chapter late into the night.  I love mysteries with several viable suspects and this book delivers. Mizushima gives us suspicious locals and outsiders of the community. Any one of them could be the killer, but you will have to wait until the last chapters for the bad guys to be satisfyingly revealed.

This is the second book I’ve read in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series. Previously I read Burning Ridge, the first book in the series. Somehow, I missed the other books, but I did not feel confused by not having read the entire series in order. Tracking Game reads fine as a stand-alone. But if you love the plot and characters as much as I do, you will undoubtedly want to read all of the books in the series.

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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