made in China ~ artist Abraham Hunter ~ 500 pieces

I enjoyed doing this puzzle.  The colors were distinct enough, and the piece outlines didn’t overwhelm the picture in the end (unlike some of the earlier puzzles from this box). Sky only gave me a little trouble, the grass with leaves scattered all over was more tricky. If you look in the middle, there’s one piece off to the right of the horses that isn’t in the right spot. But I couldn’t find the other piece out of place to switch it with! And here’s evidence of how dull my brain was these past few days- when I was putting together the border I thought: why is there a giant snail in this picture?

It took me a while to realize it was a roll of hay on the hillside! Here’s the others next to it.


from neighborhood free exchange

made in China ~ artist Abraham Hunter ~ 500 pieces

I felt a bit dubious about doing the last four puzzles in this box, the 500-piece ones. I thought if the 300’s drove me so crazy with all the false fits, this would just have more of that. But actually, they were okay. The pieces felt sturdier, I think a tad larger than in the 300 puzzles. The sky wasn’t too bad.  A few false fits, but peering close I could actually see the paint stroke texture from the original painting, and figure out which ones went where. I didn’t mind the close concentration of that, with some music in the background. This one has brighter colors, which made putting it together actually kind of enjoyable again. I struggled with the path- had to rearrange the part below the turkeys several times (and move them up in the picture) before I got it right. Plus the bottom edge was wrong in a few places. And the textured fields, the grass splashed with sunshine, all that abstract tree foliage- okay, there were plenty of areas that slowed me down! But I liked it this time.


from neighborhood free exchange

Wings of Fire Book 2

by Tui T. Sutherland

Second book in this series. I didn’t find it quite as good as the first one, but I’m willing to continue and see where this goes. The five young dragons who are supposed to fulfill a prophecy and end the dragon war, are on their way into the undersea kingdom of the Seawings tribe. This book is narrated by Tsunami, who feels certain that her mother the Seawing queen will gladly welcome her home. (They should have realized from Clay’s reception by the Mudwings not to expect too much). Of course it doesn’t go smoothly. Tsunami can’t communicate with the other Seawing dragons, who have their own language to use underwater. Misunderstandings abound. Everyone is suspicious of her companions, because some of them are from rival tribes. The customs and manners of the palace dragons are unfamiliar, and Tsunami quickly gets separated from her friends. She tries to fit in and please her mother, but something’s not quite right. The story quickly dives into a mess of court intrigue and a long-standing murder mystery. I have to say the ending reveal was quite clever. I was getting a tad tiresome of it all by that point, though. Some things were totally unexpected (like the sea queen being a writer who foisted her stories on everyone) and made me laugh, other plot twists I saw coming from far off.

It still bugged me a bit that the dragons talk a lot like people but oh well. And there continues to be random sudden violence. Again, didn’t bother me in this story about dragons in warring tribes, but kind of surprising seeing that the books are aimed at kids? at least the bright covers make you think so. One of the dragonets discovers she had unknowingly killed her own father in the past, and has to deal with that horrible guilt. There’s also flippant, casual mention of suicide that makes me uncomfortable. I did like how Tsunami showed some character development through the story. She starts off very brash and headstrong, but by the end has learned to curb some of her impulsiveness and take her friends’ opinions more into consideration. Sadly the other characters felt a little flat to me- but I suppose it makes sense that a story narrated by an adolescent would be completely wrapped up in that one individual. In the end, the hidden palace is attacked and our five dragonets barely escape with their lives. They do make it out, leaving the sea kingdom a bit wiser- and with an unexpected new companion.

Rating: 3/5
296 pages, 2012

More opinions: Charlotte’s Library

anyone else?

made in China ~ artist Abraham Hunter ~ 300 pieces

This one was the easiest so far, next to Spring Mill. The brighter colors are more distinct so I only had trouble with the reddish tree foliage and a dark corner on the lower left. Then ran into a problem I’ve seen other people mention but never had happen to me before- this puzzle had two exact duplicate pieces! Better than missing some. Assembly:
from neighborhood free exchange

made in China ~ artist Abraham Hunter ~ 300 pieces

Very pretty picture with the flowering trees but it was slow going to put this together. It wasn’t quite as frustrating as the fireside (pink sky) one, so I actually started to enjoy puzzling again in quarantine. I’m not quite sure if all the pieces on the right with the hazy white edges, or the ones on the left with the pink blossoms, are in the right place, but it was close enough!
from neighborhood free exchange

a Guide to Living with Gluten Intolerance

by Sylvia Llewelyn Bower

This book was written by a nurse who has celiac disease. It has two co-authors who wrote some of the chapters: Mary Kay Sharrett, a dietician who ran a support group for celiac patients at a children’s hospital, and Steve Plogsted who is a pharmacist specializing in helping patients avoid gluten in medications. Like other books I’ve read about celiac disease and/or gluten intolerance, this starts out by defining the condition, describing how a diagnosis is obtained, and outlining how to successfully live gluten-free. How to change your eating habits, read labels more carefully, source gluten-free foods, maintain a gluten-free kitchen (whether living solo or sharing space with others), deal with eating out and social events, how to help your children stick to a gluten-free diet if needed, and so on.

A lot of this is familiar information to me by now. Things that were new to me: the entire chapter on a skin affliction linked to celiac disease, dermatitis herpetiformis. The explanation of why gluten intolerant people often also have lactose intolerance (me included).  Ideas on what to consume after an accidental exposure, to help your body recover faster. New recipes are always appreciated, I will be copying some of these down and trying them out! Some of the tips on keeping kitchen areas free of contamination were helpful to me (though I’m not going to stick a huge sign over my dedicated cutting board, I think that would be too much for my family). I also appreciated that this book discussed the presence of gluten in medications (though it sounds like the risk level is very minimal), and dealt extensively with the emotional upheaval of dealing with celiac disease. Both from having an undiagnosed malady for most of your life (and maybe the discouragement of everyone around you thinking you’re a hypochondriac), and then the shock of a diagnosis, how overwhelming it feels to need to change everything, how isolating and frustrating to have to avoid something so ubiquitous- the social aspects. There are a lot of personal stories in this book- from children, teens and adults. From people who knew they were celiac from a young age, to those who found out after decades of struggle with their health. I appreciated those stories. Some of them I really could relate to, others described an experience very different from my own- whether in the symptoms experienced or the interactions with people around them- but all of them I learned something from.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5
216 pages, 2014

made in China ~ artist Abraham Hunter ~ 300 pieces

This was the hardest puzzle of the lot (I’m actually on the last one now, so I can say that definitely). I spent an entire day on it only getting halfway, then gave up after re-doing the sky half a dozen times. So frustrating. I almost just dumped it back in the box unfinished. Then shifting it onto another surface saw how two sections fitted together differently and decided to look at it again later. Did Dogwood Cottage and then came back to this one. I had fewer headaches and better concentration on the second attempt (two days later), so was able to finally get the sky right (more or less) probably a few pieces are in the wrong spot still though haha. I have to say though, it felt very satisfying to actually finish it! But I am glad I will never do this one again. I think of it as the pink sky nightmare.

There’s two pictures of the completed puzzle, because I couldn’t find an angle to eliminate glare.

from neighborhood free exchange

made in China ~ artist Mary Pettis ~ 300 pieces

I thought I would like doing this puzzle with the deer, but it was my first frustration. Indistinct sky and foliage and all that soft color, not really enough contrast. It was really hard to distinguish where things go. The sky was particularly aggravating. I rearranged pieces in there over and over, and still not quite sure they’re all in the right spot! Even more disappointing, was the look of the final puzzle when done. I spent an entire day on it, off and on (using a panel of foam core as a temporary working surface on my bed). All put together, the picture is still so soft in colors, that the piece edges stand out more than anything. So it just wasn’t one I admired much, on completion.

Apologies, that some of my photos are out of focus. Wasn’t the best of working conditions!

from neighborhood free exchange

From Wolves to Our Best Friends

by Mark Derr

This book seemed right along with my interests- it’s about how wolves formed a partnership with ancient humans that morphed them into domestic dogs. There’s some interesting ideas in here, including criticism of what people think the fox fur-farm experiment tells us, and a repeated debunking of the idea that long-ago wolves tamed themselves by hanging around early settlement trash heaps. Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish reading this book. It speculates a lot, on very very long-ago events or circumstances, with such scant evidence even I was scratching my head. I started skimming and skipping those parts that went on and on about archaeology finds, but then found that the rest of the text really rambles in circles. It’s very repetitive, self-contradictory and confusing. I started just picking out the segments that were anecdotal examples of dog or wolf behavior, but even those parts often didn’t make much sense to me, or demonstrate what I suspect the author thought they did. I assumed it was just me, my thinking bogged down by illness, that I can’t comprehend this book right now. But then glanced at some reviews online, and found there’s a lot of readers who had a similar experience. And people with a lot more knowledge about prehistory and where extinct fauna lived at different time periods, poked a lot of holes in this text. Knocked it down completely, I’d say. So I don’t feel bad at all to just shrug and put it aside now. I’ve read much better (and more clearly written) books on this subject, though sadly can’t point directly to them at the moment. Will add links to other titles at a later date, when I can recall the other books better.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: Abandoned
287 pages, 2011

made in China ~ artist Abraham Hunter ~ 100 pieces

So far this one is my favorite of the ten puzzles, it just looks the best when finished. The colors are crisply defined with nice contrast. It’s a pretty little puzzle and actually gave me a bit of a challenge (though on a normal day probably wouldn’t!) I’ve seen this one in a larger size online, there’s a 1,000 piece version that also has more picture. The bigger puzzle has deer one one side and bears on the other (with cubs playing in the stream) that were cropped out of this little one.

from neighborhood free exchange


All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it


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