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Book Review: Inspired Shawls -Stunning Patterns for Knitters

Inspired Shawls

15 Creative Patterns for Year-Round Knitting

By Laura Zukaite

Inspired Shawls is Fashion Designer Laura Zukaite’s brain child. She has created 15 stunning shawl patterns that range from easy to expert. All of her creations include beautiful color photographs, diagrams, charts and detailed, easy to read instructions. General abbreviations are listed at the end of the book, but any special abbreviations/instructions are conveniently printed on the first page of the pattern along with the gauge so you don’t have to keep flipping back and forth to the end of the book as you are knitting.

The beauty and diversity of these patterns is a knitter’s dream. Some of the shawls, like the Catagena and Nazca are as delicate as butterfly wings. Others are colorful and warm. I love the Geo Aztec Shawl. Knitted in DK/Light Worsted weight, with adorable tassels on each end makes this fun and functional shawl a favorite.

There is an interesting page about Ms. Zukaite’s design journey. Born in Lithuania, she learned to knit as a child. Now living in New York, she has studied at Parsons School of Design and has designed for Gap and Ralph Lauren to mention a few. She has published patterns in various knitting magazines and is the author of Lux Knits, Lux Knits; The Accessories as well as Inspired Shawls. I love the color, patterns and the inspiration in Inspired Shawls.

I highly recommend this book to knitters from novice to expert level. Happy knitting!

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: Stepping Stones – Easy to Read, Hard to Forget

Stepping Stones

A Memoir of Addiction, Loss and Transformation

By Marilea C. Rabasa

Marilea is a daughter, mother, teacher, former ambassador’s wife, bulimic and alcoholic. She also suffers from depression. The road to her recovery is complex and heartbreaking at times, but uplifting and encouraging. Family history of alcoholism, addiction and mental illness plays a part of her journey as well as the journey she and her children follow.

This memoir does not whitewash the pain and suffering of Marilea and her family, nor does it make excuses. She allows the reader into her world that is a contradiction at times. She is elegant and intelligent at functions as an ambassador’s wife, but after the party is over, she will binge and purge in seclusion. Like her mother before her, the problems with alcohol are hidden from her family – or so she thinks.

Her lifelong struggle is not easy, addiction often wins. Sheer determination and the will to survive gives her the courage to follow the program she finally embraces. Just like you and me, each day she must make choices that affect her as well as those around her. Marilea bares her soul about her previous and current choices without pulling any punches. Her honesty is refreshing.

Written in short chapters (some only a page or paragraph long), Marilea writes about the good, bad and the ugly. Her fast-paced memoir is easy to read, but hard to forget. From her childhood to her retirement she shares her joy and pain, love and losses with candor and true stories of her life.

I recommend Stepping Stones to all readers. Every person knows someone who has an addiction or suffers from mental illness. Marilea’s journey to the place she is today is heartwarming and encouraging. I loved this book.

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: 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: Cat in My Pocket Embroidery

Cat in My Pocket Embroidery

Ten Purrfect Projects

By Hiroko Kubota

Born from need, continued with love, Kubota creates hand embroidered cats. With her newly published book, Cat in My Pocket Embroidery, she shares her knowledge and artistry, allowing us to recreate her fun felines.

From choosing the proper threads to use (single strands of size 25 embroidery floss) to the proper fabric (plain weave, nonstretch and smooth such as linen or cotton) is thoroughly discussed. Other items needed to complete your project are needles, an embroidery hoop, transfer paper, pins and a seam ripper. The author gives readers recommendations for each of the tools needed. Also included are ten cat templates to trace or photocopy to ensure your success.

Stitching techniques, starting and finishing have step-by-step instructions as well as photos and illustrations to ensure a successful outcome to your project. Kubota recommends starting one of the first three projects before branching out to the remaining seven. Each of the first three have between forty-six to forty-eight steps. The remaining seven projects have fewer steps, because you have already learned the proper way to introduce color and texture with your stitches.

I recommend this book to experienced embroiderers. But if you are a novice stitcher and feel compelled to embellish a shirt, purse or tote with one of these adorable cats, do not let me dissuade you. The instructions, images and illustrations are clear and concise. If followed, anyone with a little practice are destine to be successful.

As most crafters acknowledge, it is as much the enjoyment of the creative journey as it is the appreciation of the finished product. Kubota states, “I am pleased to say I am not the only person who appreciates the warmth, personality, and individuality of handcrafted products…”. I could not have said it better.

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: 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: Sayings and Expressions Stained Glass Patterns

Sayings & Expressions

Stained Glass Patterns

By Anna Croyle

Sayings & Expressions brings us beautiful designs to be created using stained glass. There are 40 contemporary designs including two styles of alphabets and numbers. Additionally, there are beautiful designs including flowers and sayings such as “Home Sweet Home” and “Gone Fishing” with cute and quirky things like cats, bees and fish. My favorite is the “Tasting Room” that spotlights wine and grapes.

If you are a stained-glass artist, you will enjoy the inspiration and designs included in this book. But if you are a novice, you will need to find a book with actual instructions, not just designs. The author suggests Stained Glass Craft Made Simple by James McDonell, which includes general instructions, tools and materials needed for beginners.

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: Side Trip – Join Joy and Dylan On A Trip You Will Never Forget

Side Trip

By Kerry Lonsdale

Guilt drives Joy to live her sister’s best life instead of her own. All of her choices in life hinge on this question: “What would Judy do, say or wear”. That is how she finds herself on a road trip, marking off the Route 66 Bucket List her dead sister created several years ago.

What Joy or Judy didn’t plan on is a stranger accompanying her on the trip. Against her better judgement, Joy picks up a man in Ludlow, California. Dylan is a musician, desperate for a ride after his car breaks down at a tiny roadside diner. Joy feels sorry for him and agrees to take him to his next stop. Their mutual love of music allows Joy to lower her defenses and agree to take Dylan to the rest of his gigs on Route 66 and drop him off at the airport before meeting her fiancé in New York. The only caveat is he has to accompany her on the side trips along the way that will allow Joy to complete the Bucket List. He agrees and so begins an adventure like no other for both of them.

Both Dylan and Joy have secrets and baggage. They have lives outside of the VW Bug that transports them through the heartland of the United States. As the miles roll by, they become closer. If only Dylan didn’t live his life in California and Joy didn’t have a fiancé, they might act upon their growing attraction. Road trips cannot last forever. Theirs is quickly coming to an end.

Ms. Lonsdale takes the reader along for the ride with her characters. We hear the music in the Bug as well as in the seedy bars Dylan sings in at night. She makes us long for the warm rains that are made for dancing with abandon that the travelers encounter one afternoon.

The strong characters are engaging, interesting and could be someone you know. The road trip itself is much more than a setting, coming alive on the pages as we travel along on Route 66. The plot has some twists and turns I did not expect, but absolutely loved.

This is the second book I have read by Kerry Lonsdale, and so far, my favorite. I really enjoyed her previous book, Last Summer, but I could not put Side Trip down, I loved the entire ride of reading this book; the characters, setting and plot. It has a hint of romance, a bit of mystery and ticks all the boxes for woman’s fiction and it is the perfect summer read. I highly recommend Side Trip; you won’t want to miss it. If you are a fan of Jodi Picoult, you will love Kerry Lonsdale’s books.

In addition to Side Trip, Ms. Lonsdale is an Amazon, Wallstreet Journal, and Washington Post bestselling author of the Everything series (Everything We Keep, Everything We left Behind and Everything We Give) as well as her standalone novels Last Summer and All the Breaking Waves.

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: Wreaths for Every Season – 24 Projects to Wow You

Wreaths for Every Season

24 Projects to Make Throughout the Year

By Stasie McArthur

There is nothing more welcoming than a beautiful wreath on your front door. It is fun to change wreaths with the seasons and holidays throughout the year, but let’s be honest, it is expensive to purchase ready made wreaths.

Stasie McArthur has solved this problem by writing Wreaths for Every Season. It includes twenty-four patterns for you to create at a fraction of the cost of store-bought wreaths. She reminds us that inspiration can be found everywhere, so keep your eyes open for everything that would look fabulous on your personalized handmade wreaths.

She lists the basic supplies need, such as paint, floral wire, tie wraps and pipe cleaners. To get started browse through her book, checking out the beautiful color photos to see what inspires you. The material list is included for each wreath, as well as step by step photos and written instructions to complete them. Make them your own by choosing flowers, fabric and bows that will make your wreath unique.

This fun and useful book will allow you to create stunning one-of-a-kind wreaths. You may want to create one for a friend of family member. I highly recommend this book to everyone that likes to add a personal touch for everyone that enters their home to see and enjoy.

 

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: 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: Origami Boxes – Fun and Useful

Origami Boxes

Dover Publications

Origami is cute, fun and offers beautiful things to create from paper. The patterns in Origami Boxes are simple, easy to construct and useful. I don’t know about you, but I like to put gifts in boxes and wrap them instead of using bags with tissue paper. I know it is faster and easier to use bags, but unwrapping a gift in a box is so much more fun for the gift and giver.

You can create the small boxes you need by using the step-by-step easy instructions included in this book. There are several different types of boxes, such as a flat box, a box with a hinged lid and a fortune purse. It is fun to give a small treasure in a hand made box of your own creation.

There are general instructions for novice and seasoned origami masters, as well as specific instructions for each of the eight boxes created by experts. As a bonus, there are 200 sheets of origami paper in various colors and patterns. You will soon have an array of beautiful boxes for small gifts in magnificent florals, soothing solids and eye-catching geometric designs.

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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