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Book Review: Milk Soaps – Make Your Own Luscious Soaps

Milk Soaps

By Ann-Marie Faiola

Soap making has been around for years. My grandma used to make it out of lye and ashes and dad always complained it did the job but it wasn’t necessarily easy on your hands. Store bought soap used to be a luxury. Now we purchase soaps in many different colors, shapes and scents from stores, but I prefer handmade soaps. Local artists create wonderful soaps, many of them unique with colors and ingredients that smell fabulous. They are often pricy and there is a reason for this. There is a lot of work that goes into making your own soap, but if you read Milk Soaps, you will have step by step instructions to help you succeed if you would like to give it a try.

A balance of a high-pH substance such as lye or sodium hydroxide and oil will make soap. But the process is not quite that easy. A “carrier liquid” is needed, most of the time water is used, but true to the book’s title, the recipes in this book will use milk. You can use any kind of milk. I loved the chapter on the different types. Most memorable are camel and make your own nut, grain and seed milks. There are special techniques for working with milks in soap, one of them outlines how to use frozen milk.

Why does the author use milk instead of water? It is all about the lather. With milk soap, the lather is creamier and the foam is finer and silkier. Milk is a natural moisturizer to soothe and soften your skin.

Ms. Faiola includes 35 skin-nourishing recipes. She gives the reader detailed lists of items needed as well as how to safely use lye. It is an extremely caustic substance and should always be used with the proper safety equipment and attire. Dressing like a lab scientist not only looks cool, but keeps you safe from getting lye on your skin or in your eyes.

Making soap is complicated. Milk Soaps gives you all of the written instructions, tips and tricks to create your own fabulous soap. It is interesting to read even if you don’t want to make your own soap, it will give you information that you can use to choose the perfect soap from your local artisan or farmer’s market. If you do choose to make your own soap, you may find it is fun and all of your friends and relatives will love helping you try out new scents and color combinations.

After reading this book and seeing the work soap making entails, I understand the reason for the price of handmade soap, and appreciate the work that the soap maker has put into each bar of soap. Soapmaking is truly an art.

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 Night Window – Heart Pounding Thriller

The Night Window

By Dean Koontz

Wainwright Hollister is a man who always gets what he wants by whatever means he has to employ. Now he is the ringmaster of sorts for the adjusted people rightly named the Techno Arcadians. After an injection that alters their brains, Hollister can control their actions. They are puppets playing to his grand plan of taking over the United States – then most likely the world.

Jane Hawk has been on his trail since the senseless suicide of her husband at Hollister’s hand. But the stakes are high. She no longer works within the law enforcement community. She had to go rogue since Arcadians have infiltrated all forms of government from local cops to the highest political offices. She is relentlessly searching for a way to stop them before they ruin the country and closer to home, the rest of her family. Jane will do anything to save her son.

In this fifth book of the Jane Hawk series, she teams up with an unlikely ally, computer geek Vikram Rangnekar. She doesn’t ask for or want his help, but she needs him. Rangnekar has been working in the background for some time unbeknownst to Jane setting up what could be the only way to infiltrate Hollister’s army from within. With grave reservations, she puts her trust in Rangnekar and the two of them begin what will either be the end of the Techno Arcadians or the end of Jane and possibly the world as we know it.

The Night Window is the fifth book in the Jane Hawk series. I have read two of the previous books, and have always felt I knew enough of the background provided in each of them to understand exactly what was going on. Koontz is one of my favorite authors, his characters and plots have a depth that most authors only aspire to. But that being said, his books read like the page-turning thrillers that they are. Sometimes I need to slow myself down to appreciate his beautiful analogies and turns of phrase. He is the Michelangelo of prose, painting masterpieces with his words. For example, here is how he creates the vision of snow in the reader’s mind: “Snow raveled now in countless skeins through the loom of the day and formed a pristine fabric”. So be sure to take your time, even though the pace is fast, enjoy the sheer beauty of the writing.

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: Beginner’s Guide to Colorwork Knitting – Fun for Experienced and New Knitters

Beginner’s Guide to Colorwork Knitting

By Ella Austin

New and seasoned knitters will enjoy the patterns and techniques in Beginner’s Guide to Colorwork Knitting. Basic patterns are included for items such as a scarf, socks, hat and reversible cowl. The key to this informative book is how to work with color and master new techniques to create beautiful knit items.

My favorite part of this book is the depth in which the author goes to ensure success with colors. If you have ever knitted with two colors that are both beautiful, yet find the finished product not pleasing to your eye, Ms. Austin gives you the tools to create the color combos you are searching for. To start, look for things in nature, art, food or honestly anything that catches your eye. I don’t know anyone that likes to swatch, but swatch the colors together and see if they are pleasing to your eye.

Easy to read info regarding hue, value, saturation will make you look at your yarn in a different light. Tidbits of information will help you create the knitted fabric you are picturing. My favorite is to take a black and white photo of your two colors to see if the combination has enough contrast to make the pattern pop. It is easy to do with your smart phone. Most of them have the option of turning your photo to black and white. On my Samsung, I just take a picture, go to edit, and then click on the icon on the bottom that shows three connected circles. It will then change the colors of the picture across the bottom of the screen and one of them is black and white. If your colors bleed into each other making it all look the same, you may want to try another swatch.

All of the patterns are written out and charted so no matter which you prefer to use, the author has you covered. The tutorials on what could be confusing instructions in other publications are perfectly clear and easy to follow. Pictures are included as well as step by step instructions to ensure your success. It is always beneficial for me to see an actual picture instead of a drawing when learning a new technique or in the tricky part of a pattern. The patterns are great, but the star of this book is colorwork and the color techniques you will learn.

Adding the new dimension of color to your knitting will make it pop in ways you may not have imagined. A simple or difficult pattern will transform with the colors you use. Armed with the information in Beginner’s Guide to Colorwork Knitting you will be creating works of art with your needles and yarn.

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: Foiled – Kid’s Action and Adventure Book Not to be Missed

Foiled

By Carey Fessler

Best friends cannot keep secrets from each other. That is why Billy has to show Kate, his next door neighbor and bestie what his dad brought him home from work. Kate is interested, but she is in trouble for not doing her chores and has to wait until later to see it. When she finally gets to see the pieces of foil Billy has, she is amazed that it flattens out by itself when either of them crumple it up. Billy’s dad is in the military, and swears Billy to secrecy because he wasn’t supposed to bring the foil home with him.

Little did they know those tiny pieces of foil would lead them on a wild adventure. They have to escape capture from an agent with the CIA, drive cars and fly an airplane. Will they ever be reunited with their families? Will the CIA agent catch them and take away the magic foil? Are there aliens involved?  There are so many questions, and all of them are answered in due time in this action filled story that will have kids and grownups cheering for the good guys and happy with the ending.

Foiled is set in the late 1940’s near Roswell, New Mexico. It is based on facts and spiced up with fiction. As a kid, I remember them talking about Roswell, the UFO and the aliens that everyone speculated had landed in the 40’s. It was still a mystery when I was a kid in the 1960’s. Today, it is still a mystery of sorts and the author explains the true facts she includes in her story and the things that are fiction at the end of the book.

I am far past 9 years old, but thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was interesting and fun to read. The throwback to party line phones, 4 digit phone numbers (yes, I remember my 4 digit number from those days) makes you realize you have traveled back in history. The lack of computers, cell phones, tracking devices and all other things that ruin good action novels these days are not included because they did not exist.

Per Ms. Fessler’s website, her books are action adventure books for children 9 and older. It is fabulous that she puts an approximate age range as a guide for parents and others who love and buy books for the young people in their lives. It makes it so much easier to choose a great book that the kids will enjoy.

This is Carey Fessler’s fourth book, but the first that I’ve read. I highly recommend it for the youngsters in your lives (be sure to borrow it after they are done).  Just imagine the great conversations you can have about history and what the world was like when you were growing up after you have both read it.

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: Going Home – First Book in a New Series

Going Home

By Judith Keim

Violet (“Lettie”) has been in the foster system her entire life. She has had the necessities of life, but living with very strict, religious foster parents, she longs to live a life of her own. So the minute she is old enough, she sets out on her own for San Francisco. The 1970’s are full of free love and drugs, neither of which she is really a part of. A few months later she is hungry and out of cash, but her fortune changes when she meets a Kenton Chandler, who offers her food and a job if she will go with him to Oregon. She hesitates but decides it just might be her salvation.

Kenton is full of surprises. His father owns a fledgling vineyard and he is going home to work in the family business. As soon as Lettie arrives there with him, she feels as though she is home. She has finally found a place that she loves and embraces the land and the people she meets. Times will not always be easy for her, but knowing she is surrounded by everything and everyone she loves she knows she will spend the rest of her life there.

It is easy to jump into the interesting world of wine making, and the surrounding vistas are vividly brought to life in this novel. I would have liked some more information about the winemaking process.

I enjoyed the characters, they are believable and multidimensional. The only problem I had with this book was the timespan. It begin in the 1970s and progresses through three generations in a 256 page book. Sometimes I wanted more details. Major events were mere paragraphs. In order to pull me into the story and characters, I would have loved more details. It seemed at times the plot was getting in the way of the story.

Going Home is the first book in the Chandler Hill Series. This is the fifth series for prolific fiction series author.

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: Murder Over Mochas – Newest Java Jive Cozy Mystery

Murder Over Mochas

By Caroline Fardig

There is nothing worse than having your lying, cheating, thief of an ex-fiancé show up at your job, unless you are Juliet Langley. She clocked him right in front of her customers at Java Jive before he could finish his plea for her help. Never known for her subtlety, everyone in the coffee shop could tell she hated the man she just punched. After her boss settles her down, she agrees to meet up with Scott, the infamous ex, even though she was still understandably not happy to meet with the man that took all her money and caused her to lose her business. Not to mention he broke her heart.

Things go from bad to worse when they meet as Java Jive closed that evening. Juliet was still steaming, but her boss Pete who is her best friend is there to keep her in check. Scott arrives looking rather sick, but is determined to enlist Juliet’s help finding his missing wife. Something shady is going on here and Juliet wanted no part of it. But when Scott collapses and dies right in front of Pete and Juliet she has no choice but to investigate. Especially since a detective holding a grudge attempts to pin a murder charge on Pete and Juliet.

Against everyone’s better judgement, Juliet pairs up with her on again off again boyfriend police detective Ryder to find the real killer and kidnapper. As the case unfolds, bribery, illegal kickbacks and stolen drugs muddy it up. But soon the investigation turns from frustrating to dangerous as the real killer may be targeting Juliet to keep her from finding out his secrets.

Juliet is a great main character for a cozy series. She is smart, funny and has more man trouble than she wants or needs. She has a neighbor that is basically a friend with benefits and Ryder is now dating her girlfriend. Juliet really doesn’t want him anymore, but sometimes the memory of what they had for a while haunts her. Then there is Pete. Good hearted, adorably cute and there for her no matter how crazy her life gets. They both have feelings for each other, but she is afraid to commit to a relationship and ruin their great friendship.

Caroline Fardig knows how to keep a cozy mystery true to form. Her books are funny, entertaining and always have a twist in the plot to keep her readers guessing. It is no surprise she is a USA Today bestselling author. With an interesting list of past professions; including funeral parlor associate and church organist, she sounds as interesting as her characters. This is not the first book I’ve read by Farding, and will not be the last. I highly recommend this book and series for cozy mystery fans.

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 Red Address Book – Best Book I’ve Read This Year

The Red Address Book

By Sofia Lundberg

As the book opens, Doris is a Swedish woman in the twilight of her life. She has a nursing service come in to help her once a day, but the caregiver is simply getting the job done without caring about the person she is paid to help. Doris is kind, but doesn’t bother to interact. The caregiver doesn’t notice. Doris’ body is betraying her with weakness, but her mind is still sharp and her memories clear.

There are two things Doris does interact with. One is the computer phone call to her niece in the States, which happens every day. Both of the women delight in seeing the other from around the globe and sharing their lives. The other is the red address book that her father gave her for her tenth birthday in 1928. Just by opening the pages and scrolling through, she can walk through her past and relive the good and the bad of all the years.

At this stage of her life, Doris’ red address book holds many names of the dead. As each friend or family member passes away, she draws a line through their name and writes in one word. DEAD. She has lived a full and interesting life and has accepted the fact that her life is soon to be over. Her niece realizes that her beloved aunt is failing fast, and makes the journey to see her one last time. Her bittersweet journey will open her eyes to the woman Doris once was and still is until her last breath.

Lundberg skillfully takes us from past to present by using the entries in Doris’ red address book to tell us of the people she has encountered and events that have happened in her long and interestingly colorful life. Not all of the experiences have been good – but each of them has shaped Doris into the strong woman she remains to be today.

Oftentimes as people get older they are not seen as the young, vibrant person they were before age slowed them down. I have been fortunate to have close older family members tell me about their lives, just like Lundberg does for Doris. By the end of the book, I had laughed and cried with her as if she was an Aunt I was truly fond of.

This is the first book Sofia Lundberg has written and I am excited to see what this promising author does next. The former journalist that resides in Sweden is an author to put on your radar. I have read hundreds of books this year. Some of them fantastic, some mediocre, some made me want to chuck them across the room for various reasons I won’t mention. But hands down, The Red Address Book is the best book I have read this year. Do yourself a favor and get it now. Share it with your friends and read it for your book club. Tell me what you think!

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 © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: What if an Octopus Followed Me Home? – Learn About Putting Others First in this Charming Picture Book

What if An Octopus Followed Me Home?

By Pamela D. Beverly

Illustrated by Dirceu Veiga

Julius has a new friend, Mack the octopus. Even though mom isn’t sure about letting Mack, stay she agrees to one overnight visit to see how it goes. They have a great time playing hide and seek, building with blocks and swimming in the bathtub.

When Julius goes to school the next day all he can do is think about his friend at home in the swimming pool. But something is wrong with Mack. He needs salt water, not water in a backyard pool.

Even though Julius loves Mack and Mack loves Julius, they both realize they need to do what is best for each other. That means they cannot live together but can still be friends.

Beverly’s delightful children’s book is perfect to teach children that it is great to be friends with others that are different. It will also reinforce thinking of the needs of other people or octopuses before themselves. Like all good children’s books, it is a great springboard for more discussions with your children.

I loved this book. The story is cute, yet has underlying values that all children need. The illustrations are colorful and cute. It is a book that is likely to be read over and over again, each time the child and reader will love it.

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

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Knockout Knit Hats and Hoods – Perfect for a Quick Gift!

Knockout Knit Hats and Hoods

By Diane Serviss

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.

Knitters – grab your needles! Diane Serviss has created a collection of knit hats and hood patterns that will make you race to your stash or local yarn shop. There are patterns for every style, each with explicit, easy to read instructions that novice knitters as well as seasoned veterans of the craft can enjoy.

Her introduction, How to Use This Book is straightforward and easy to comprehend no matter what your level of knitting is. She explains how to make changes in needle size to accommodate different knitter’s gauge as well as the different types of needles available and how each is used differently.  Yarn substitution guides will help when you are using stash yarn – which is the yarn that all knitters have in the house from other projects as well as some perfect yarn we had to buy but haven’t used yet.

The pictures of each of the 30 hats and hoods are featured before the patterns. When you choose a pattern, if there are special stitches involved, detailed instructions are included. For example, the Red Vine Cable Beanie (on my list to make) includes Right twist (RT) with a paragraph of instructions on the stitch if you are unfamiliar with it. Additionally, there is a reference section at the end of the book with pictures and step-by-step instructions from casting on to binding off and everything in between.

I chose to knit the Wildflower Fields Beanie. Using some stash yarn I completed it in less than two days. It was fast, easy and turned out perfect. As a member of the Fox Valley Knitters Guild, I participate in Charity Challenges each month. October we are knitting hats and scarves for the Elgin Community Crisis Center ( www.crisiscenter.org), so I was excited to find this beautiful, quick pattern to knit up and donate. I hope to finish a few more before our next meeting.

Whatever your style is, you will find the perfect pattern in this book. It is available on October 1, 2018, just in time to begin holiday knitting. I know more than one of these beautiful hats will find its way under our Christmas tree this year.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Forbidden Door – Superb Suspense

The Forbidden Door

By Dean Koontz

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.

Former FBI agent Jane Hawk is back with a vengeance in the fourth installment of Koontz’s bestselling series. With law enforcement and the Techno Arcadians both searching for Jane and her young son, Travis, she has been forced to do things she never imagined doing before. She will do anything to save five-year-old Travis and the world as we know it.

Sure, there are things in this world that need to be changed, but not this way. Hordes of people look “normal” but have actually been altered by an injection of a Nano machine that takes over their brains to help the Arcadians create a perfect, supreme society. Part of their job is culling the herd so to speak, which includes murder and in some cases, suicide.

Jane has a personal stake in this game. Somehow they got to her husband and she will move heaven and earth to keep them away from anyone else she loves. She knew he would have never killed himself, so she started investigating and found out scores of people who were happy and productive also mysteriously committed suicide. As an FBI agent, she had resources available to help look for the reason why this happened, but now that she has become the most wanted person in the United States she has to move in the shadows. Keeping one step ahead of the bad guys both known and unknown is exhausting but Jane is relentless in her mission. Unfortunately, the Arcadians are ramping up at a frenzied pace and becoming more and more reckless causing things to begin going horrifically wrong.

The novel moves from Jane’s point of view to the Arcadians, both getting closer and closer to each other until the final confrontation of the book. As the tension rises, the forces of good and evil clash, determined to fight to the finish no matter what the cost.

Koontz is one of my favorite authors of all time. He delivers solid plots that are so realistic they can terrify you page after page. His descriptive style is absolutely stunning without dropping over the ledge of pretention. Foreshadowing is done artfully, such as …”lightning rips the fabric of the night, and thunder speaks against the window glass.” Seriously beautiful writing page after page without intruding or overpowering the plot is one of his specialties. Much to my delight, The Forbidden Door is no exception.

This is the fourth book in the Jane Hawk series, the fifth and last book, The Night Window, will be available in 2019. This is the second book of the series that I have read. Koontz does a great job of bringing the reader up to speed in an early chapter, so I never felt lost or confused.

I have read many of this award-winning author’s books, my favorite being the Odd Thomas series. The Jane Hawk series comes in a close second. Both series are totally different but are extremely well written and highly entertaining. When looking through the list of Koontz books to see which ones I would choose to be favorites, it was almost impossible. It is much like trying to pick a favorite child – I love them all for different reasons, each of them is amazing in their own way.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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